Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Students Against Jim Nussle press release

From the press office (yeah, right!) of the Drake Democrats:

College Students Launch Campaign Against Student Loan Cuts

(Drake University, Des Moines, IA – Feb. 14th, 2006) – There’s no love loss this Valentine’s Day between students at Drake University and Congressman Jim Nussle over Congress’ recent cuts to the federal student loan program. Students at Drake University will now pay, on average, $1,540 more for 4 years of tuition thanks to the cuts, and are directing their outrage at House Budget Chairman, Jim Nussle.

Nussle, also the front-runner for the Republican nomination for governor of Iowa, led the effort to cut $12.7 billion from higher education, including the largest cut to the federal student loan program in its history. The main change will come in the interest rates on Stafford loans, which will rise from the current 5.3% to 6.8%, causing students to pay thousands more on their loans for college. In response the Drake Democrats are launching their “Students Can’t Afford Jim Nussle” campaign this week to spread awareness about the cuts and hold Jim Nussle accountable for his actions.

Drake Democrats President Patrick Rynard criticized the massive cuts saying, “Jim Nussle is making college less affordable for middle-class families and forcing students to go into even deeper debt. What’s especially reprehensible is that the day after passing those cuts, House Republicans then called for another $60 million in tax cuts, mostly for the rich. This really shows the difference between the Republicans and the Democrats, considering not a single Democrat voted for the student loan cuts.”

The Drake Democrats have started collecting signatures for a petition to send to Jim Nussle, and already gathered nearly a hundred in just one hour. They will also hold a press conference tomorrow to explain more details of the campaign.

Also, students won’t be the only ones facing harder times, as the cuts also raised rates on PLUS loans, loans that parents take out for their children’s tuition. Sophomore Chris Woods is upset because “My parents are going to be paying more than they ever imagined thanks to Jim Nussle's bad budget. All they have ever done, like most parents, is support my efforts to pay for a quality education—but Jim Nussle doesn’t seem to care about that.” Students and parents can figure out exactly how much more they’ll spend by visiting the Drake Democrats’ website, www.drakedems.com."
More to come later. I'll let you know how much, if any, press coverage there is and how the press conference goes. Pictures possible as well, if I can borrow someone's digital camera.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Drake Democrats launch "Students Can't Afford Jim Nussle" campaign

From an advisory sent out by the Drake Democrats:

Drake Democrats Hold Press Conference to Announce "Students Can't Afford Jim Nussle" Campaign
Drake Students Outraged by $12.7 Billion in Higher Education Cuts

Students at Drake University and colleges around Iowa will pay thousands of dollars more on their federal student loans thanks to higher education cuts imposed by Jim Nussle last week in Congress.

The Drake Democrats plan to show that college students are paying attention to Nussle's efforts to make college less affordable, and are launching a "Students Can't Afford Jim Nussle" campaign. The campaign will inform students, parents, and the general public about the cuts, and work to hold Jim Nussle accountable for his actions.

Students will be very active in the next several weeks in this campaign, and the Drake Democrats will announce the specifics of it at a press conference this Tuesday.

WHO: Members of the Drake Democrats

WHEN: Tuesday, February 14th, at 10:00 AM

WHERE: Drake University, Olmsted Center, Pomerantz Stage (2507 University Ave)

CONTACT: For overall statements, Drake Democrats President Patrick Rynard (ptr003@drake.edu). For press details, Drake Democrats Press Secretary Kailyn Heston (kmh034@drake.edu). For further information, visit the Drake Democrats website: www.drakedems.com"
As Legislative Liaison, I'm part of this campaign, and will keep you, my loyal readers, informed of our developments. Stay tuned early tomorrow morning for a press release we'll be putting out coinciding with our press conference at 10 AM. More details should also becoming about the extent of Budget Chairman Jim Nussle's cuts and how they'll impact average students and parents with federal loans. Looking at the FY 2007 budget, things appear even worse.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Who's Not Helping Nussle in Iowa?

Who's Not Helping Nussle in Iowa?

Via Political Wire, some of the GOP wannabees aren't $haring the love:

When Nussle asked the political action committees of some possible 2008 candidates for donations, not everybody ponied up. Those who did, according to soon-to-be-released financial reports: Virginia Sen. George Allen $10,000; Arizona Sen. John McCain $5,000; Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback $2,000; and Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum $1,000. Who didn't: Tennessee Sen. Bill Frist, New York Gov. George Pataki, and Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. But, we're assured, Pataki and Romney showed their love by offering to help raise money...

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

More on Nussle and the Minimum Wage

To add onto the previous post, it turns out that Nussle has indeed voted against the minimum wage since expressing support for it in 2000.

The vote itself is wrapped up in layers of procedural mumbo jumbo, but here's how things shook out as near as I can tell (and I could be wrong on some details):

  1. House Democrats introduced a bill to raise the minimum wage. (H.R. 2429)

  2. House Republican leadership refused to allow a vote.

  3. House Democrats proposed/tried to propose the bill as an amendment to another bill.

  4. House Republican leadership proposed legislation denying them the ability to propose that amendment. (HR 351)

  5. Jim Nussle voted to deny them that ability. (House Vote 365)

I wonder how Nussle squares this with his claims that "It is important to have a livable minimum wage." Does he think that $10,300 a year (a yearly salary at minimum wage) is livable?

Nussle & the Minimum Wage - first against, for it, against it?

{Cross posted from No Nussle blog}

This just in, Democrats & union supporters are planning to place minimum wage increase ballot initiatives up for a vote in 2006 races in key states where incumbent Republicans are showing signs of weakness. There’s a great post from SusanG over at Daily Kos detailing the initiatives. In particular, I think (and SusanG concurs) that these sort of initiatives could serve as a strong counter to Republican attempts to use ballot initiatives on marriage to drive GOP turnout efforts. According to her post (from the Boston Globe):
Last year, both minimum wage increases on state ballots won overwhelmingly. Voters in Florida and Nevada -- two states that went narrowly for Bush -- overwhelmingly supported a higher minimum wage, giving ballot measures 71 percent support in Florida and 68 percent in Nevada. (The Nevada initiative must be approved again in 2006 before it can take effect.)
Democrats say they hope to replicate Republicans' success in 2004, when ballot initiatives banning gay marriage passed in all 11 states they were offered. The initiatives were credited with boosting GOP turnout in those states.

Now, the interesting question (for me, the No Nussle “guy”, at least) is where exactly Jim Nussle stands on the minimum wage. Back in 2000 when Nussle was running for reelection against Democrat Donna Smith in Iowa’s 2nd District he had this to say in a public debate (Telegraph Herald, Oct. 27, 2000):
Nussle and Smith took turns being the first to answer questions from a panel of reporters, with an opportunity to answer once the other candidate gave their rebuttal. Given the chance to ask Nussle a question directly, Smith said Nussle played the role of a fiscal conservative when he first went to Congress but voted to give himself $ 47,000 in raises over the 10 years. "Why are you part of the problem?" she asked. "You're not taking care of the most vulnerable in the nation." Nussle answered that just before the debate he voted in favor of a minimum wage bill that passed, and said, "It is important to have a livable minimum wage."

This is kind of confusing. The way I’m reading this statement, and it seems the way Nussle spoke it, is that Nussle would support a “livable minimum wage”. It’s further muddled by a Nussle vote back in back in 1996 that increased the minimum wage to the current $5.15/hour (Telegraph Herald, May 26, 1996):
MINIMUM WAGE: The House approved, 266 for and 162 against, an amendment to raise the minimum wage from $4.25 to $4.75 an hour on July 1 and to $5.15 a year later. The 90-cent increase was added to a bill (HR 1227) that, as later sent to the Senate, continues the requirement that businesses of all sizes pay the federally required minimum wage (next issue).

A yes vote was to raise the minimum wage.
Manzullo voted no.
IOWA - Nussle voted no.
Gunderson voted yes. Klug voted no.

EXEMPTION ISSUE: The House refused, 196 for and 229 against, to exempt the nation's smallest businesses - those with gross annual sales of less than $500,000 - from having to pay the minimum wage or overtime to future hires. The amendment was offered to a bill (HR 1227) that raises the minimum wage by 90 cents to $5.15 an hour (see previous vote).

A yes vote was to exempt small businesses from having to pay the minimum wage.
Manzullo voted yes.
IOWA - Nussle voted yes.

Back in 1996 it seems that Nussle believed that a “livable minimum wage” was somewhere BELOW $5.15/hour and also believed that small businesses should be EXEMPT from paying the minimum wage to future hires. I think this could be an EXCELLENT issue for Democrats to push Nussle on during the general campaign (if he beats Vander Plaats) as well as a great issue for them to focus on during the primary. One way to keep young people in-state is to pay them well. Higher minimum wages can attract better talent to the area as well as drive consumer spending. These are factors that can help attract better paying companies to the state as well as making the state an engine of regional economic development. This is besides the fact that a living wage is a SOCIAL JUSTICE ISSUE.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Nussle Holding Heating Hostage

LIHEAP is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. It's used to help provide home heating to those who otherwise couldn't afford it. With natural gas prices rising so dramatically this year, more money is needed to provide even the same level of heating as last year, nevermind population growth and a falling median family income.

Everyone in Congress recognizes this fact. But Republicans, with Nussle in the lead, have tried to use the needed funding increase to blackmail lawmakers into voting for other programs, including drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and cuts to child support enforcement.

With Democrats and a few renegade Republicans standing strong and forcing some of the worst (though by no means all) of these terrible ideas out of legislation, Nussle and friends have dropped LIHEAP support too. Consequently, no additional funds have been allocated for the program.

I don't know about you, but I would rather not have a governor willing to play politics with something so essential to Iowans as heat in the winter.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Nussle, Martial Law, & The GOP Budget [how the Grinch stole Xmas edition...]

Cross posted at the No Nussle Blog...
Sorry, but this post is going to come entirely from the Center on the Budget and Policy Priorities:
Under this procedure, longstanding House rules that require at least one day between the unveiling of significant legislation and the House floor vote on that legislation are swept away. Instead, under “martial law,” the Leadership can file legislation with hundreds of pages of fine print and move immediately to debate and votes on it, before Members of Congress, the media, or the public have an opportunity to understand fully what provisions have been altered or inserted in the legislation behind closed doors. This is the procedure the Leadership hopes to use today to muscle through these bills.

Basically, what this means is that Jim Nussle and the House Republican Leadership didn't want to have a truly open and honest debate about budget priorities. Nussle didn't want to actually have to DEFEND the proposals that he was pushing through congress. More below:
The budget reconciliation conference agreement reportedly cuts a variety of programs by about $41 billion over five years. It apparently contains provisions affecting millions of Americans, including changes in Medicaid, Medicare, student loans, child support enforcement, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, the foster care program, and others. Republican leaders have been meeting behind closed doors on this far-reaching legislation. At this time, few details are available on what the legislation actually does.

One of the most controversial provisions in the Senate version of this legislation — the provision that would open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling — evidently will be moved to the defense appropriation bill. The defense appropriation bill reportedly will also include a variety of other provisions unrelated to defense that were not in either the House- or Senate-passed versions of that bill.

Although the Leadership’s schedule calls for Members of the House to have to vote on these conference reports today, the Leadership has not revealed exactly what changes have been made in the reconciliation bill or exactly what matters
are being added to the defense appropriation bill. The plan appears to be to wait until the last moment this afternoon or evening and then have the House Rules Committee report rules that will allow the conference reports to go directly to the House floor — before the public, the media, or even Members of the House themselves have an opportunity to examine the revised legislation carefully.

This arouses suspicion that some of the changes that have been made to the reconciliation bill could be presented as a major easing of certain harsh and controversial provisions of the House bill even if the reality is different. It also creates concern that some special interest provisions may have been inserted into the bill, or some special interests may otherwise have been protected, in order to secure votes.

Indeed, preliminary Congressional Budget Office estimates of the budget conference agreement that are now circulating indicate that the conferees shielded the pharmaceutical companies and eliminated the principal Senate provision that was designed to curb overpayments to managed care companies (despite a call for that provision to be enacted by Congress’ own expert advisory panel on Medicare payments), while adopting substantial increases in the co-payments and premiums that low-income Medicaid beneficiaries may be charged. The CBO cost estimates indicate that the cuts resulting from the increases in co-payments and premiums are 90 percent as large over ten years (80 percent as large over five years) as the cuts in this area in the House bill. (The Senate bill contained no Medicaid cuts aimed at low-income beneficiaries.)

Use of the martial law procedure would enable the Leadership to seek to round up the votes needed to pass the budget reconciliation bill before a full picture is available of what the bill does. House Members also may be asked to vote on the defense appropriation bill before they have the opportunity to understand fully what has been inserted into it.

What is “Martial Law”?

The House leadership is using a parliamentary gambit to evade a longstanding House rule that is supposed to ensure that this kind of obfuscation does not occur. That House rule (Rule XIII(6)(a)) provides that a resolution (called a rule) reported by the Rules Committee cannot be considered by the House on the same legislative day that the rule is reported (except by a two-thirds vote of the House). This is supposed to ensure that Members of the House and the public have at least one day to examine and analyze what is in the legislation to be considered before they have to debate and vote on it.

To maneuver around this House rule and rush the revised reconciliation bill and defense appropriation bill to a vote before they have been fully examined, the Rules Committee reported a rule (H.Res. 632) on the legislative day of Saturday, December 17, that would waive the application of Rule XIII(6)(a). Instead, it would allow the Rules Committee to wait until the last minute — and not to report the rules governing consideration of the reconciliation and defense appropriations conference reports, or to release the conference reports themselves, until immediately before debate and votes on the rules and the legislation commences. This despite the fact that the budget legislation is expected to be hundreds of pages long.

This extraordinary procedure is known as a “martial law” rule because it suspends the normal procedures and safeguards and allows the House Leadership to operate in a more authoritarian fashion. It enables the Leadership to seek to ram a bill or conference report through before the Members have the opportunity to fully understand what they are voting on. Legislation that has far-reaching implications for millions of Americans deserves to be considered under a more democratic process. Waiting until the last minute to reveal what is in these two bills, and then “spinning” or potentially mischaracterizing changes to the reconciliation bill without Members of the House or the public having an opportunity to obtain a more objective review of what the legislation does, would be unfair to Members of the House. It also would be unfair to the millions of Americans whose lives could be altered by this legislation. It would represent a step toward reducing the degree of transparency and democracy in how this country is governed and how decisions are made.

So, what does this mean about Iowa politics? First, it shows how Nussle's calls for an "independent review" of the security of Iowa's prisons is bullshit. Nussle is not a fan of "open" and "honest" government, why would he want to allow real debate on the effects of budget legislation. Well, it might just open him up to criticism from other Iowa politicians (Grassley, Harkin, & Leach) that aren't necessarily kowtowing to the fringe elements of the Republican party that push legislation that's not in Iowa's best interests. Secondly, even Nussle's opponent - Bob Vander Plaats - has been attacking the approach:
Vander Plaats called that approach reckless, saying Nussle's budget cuts spending across the board, saves pork and pet projects and puts vital programs and the most vulnerable citizens at risk. Vander Plaats also says it take no intellectual firepower to create such a budget.

Monday, December 19, 2005

MORE: Nussle & the Budget - Hawk or Chicken?

I am continually amazed at the ability of House Republicans to proclaim themselves “champions or reform” or “deficit hawks”. Really, who do they think they are fooling. The new budget passed by the House is still a bucket of pork and handouts to Big Oil and other corporate sponsors of the GOP majority. Nussle goes around touting “reform & savings” after narrowly passing the budget proposal at his desk:
The U.S. House of Representatives on Monday narrowly voted to cut $39.7 billion from federal spending over five years, including health care and other social welfare, as part of a conservative push to contain these growing programs. By a vote of 212-206, the House, at the end of a rare overnight session, approved the spending cuts, which were opposed by Democrats. "We have a plan to reform the government and achieve savings," said House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle, an Iowa Republican. (12/19/05)

Now, like I always say, I’m for “reform” and “responsible” government, but that’s not what Nussle is really proposing. Cuts in Medicare/Medicaid, food stamps, and child support recovery are the programs that Nussle is targeting for “reform”…But, as an excellent post over at “Nussle Watch notes:
But no matter how draconian these measures are in a time of growing poverty and need, Jim Nussle is lying about the nature of the cuts. NONE of the provisions would reduce the virtually non-existent problem of "trafficking" or "fraud." Recent changes in the program have made it very hard to do that, namely putting benefits on an ATM-type card, called the EBT. Fraud & waste in food stamps is about a low as a governmental program can get. It's error rate is at the lowest point ever, and has declined for 6 straight years.

Instead, I think there are other areas that fraud & abuse can be squeezed out of. In particular, the Comptroller General of The United States and the General Accounting Office have a number of things they think are problems:
Comptroller General of the United States David Walker said there were three major obstacles to evaluating the latest financial statements. First, he said, there were "serious financial management problems" at the Department of Defense. Second, the federal government could not adequately account for balances between federal agencies. Lastly he criticized the government's "ineffective process" for preparing its consolidated financial statements. Walker's letter was contained in the Financial Report of the United States Government for 2005. (12/15/05)

The problem for House Republicans, though, is that if there were truly better accounting methods and a more effective process for preparing consolidated financial statements there would be no easy way to scapegoat the programs that they most favor cuts for. Plus, better accounting puts the Department of Defense and Homeland Security on the political hot seat. These are the agencies most often cited for fraud and abuse. Witness the Cunningham scandal. Maybe if we didn’t have politicians out there taking handouts from large corporate donors against the interests of their citizens…

I found an interesting little tool over at Open Secrets. Remember those votes on drilling in Alaska? Well, back in 1995 there was also debate about the importation of oil from Alaska’s North Slope as well as some discussion about the royalties that companies drilling offshore in the Gulf of Mexico were to pay to the federal government in exchange for drilling rights. Both of these involved big handouts to the oil industry. Additionally, you can clearly connect $7500 in Oil PAC contributions to Congressman Nussle in relation to these votes. Now, I’m not claiming that he was bought off or bribed or purchased, here. The thing is, the more we subsidize the “traditional” oil industry the more we discourage the move towards E-85 and E-10 Ethanol production in Iowa. If you want to see the results of the search – see them HERE