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Editorial
Obamacare’s gift to the GOP PDF Print
Friday, November 15, 2013 9:51 PM

WASHINGTON — In spite of everything — the GOP’s internal scrimmages, the government shutdown, the party’s transparent attempts to derail Obamacare — Republicans keep getting second chances.
The question is, can they handle prosperity? Do they even know what to do with it?
With the myriad problems besieging Obamacare, from the non-rollout to the minuscule number of enrollees in the health insurance exchanges, this is no time for gloating. Rather, it is time for Republicans to get very, very busy with their own ideas for across-the-board reforms.
The party of “no” must become the party of “we can, too!” This doesn’t mean sacrificing core principles, though some could use a little shelf time. It does mean picking battles Republicans can win and avoiding skirmishes that further alienate centrists and minorities.
Forget building a larger tent, which increasingly looks like a pup for two white guys and a flashlight. Ditch the tent and build a coliseum. Install Doric columns, if you like, and grab an obelisk on your way to redemption. At no extra cost, here’s an inscription for the keystone: Waste not, want less. Waste not this moment; want less than perfection and aim for the possible.
This was always House Speaker John Boehner’s battle plan, but he finally concluded that leading his conference where it wanted to go was preferable to inciting a civil war. In a recent interview, Boehner told me he thinks at least some of the better-death-than-compromise caucus had come around to understanding that attaching Obamacare to the continuing resolution, resulting in the government shutdown, was the wrong tactic.
Even so, “at least some” may not be enough. And who knows what Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has up his sleeve as new deadlines loom for budget and debt-ceiling negotiations early next year?
In the meantime, House and Senate Republicans have a small window, while Obamacare is hugging the shoals, to show why their ideas are best. Americans frustrated with Congress and disappointed by the president are primed for someone to pick up the bullhorn and say, “We hear you.”
It’s too bad “compassionate conservatism” has become tarnished because compassion is what is needed in today’s GOP playbook: Compassion for the hungry whose food stamps House Republicans excised from the farm bill; compassion for 11 million immigrants who are prisoners in illegal limbo; compassion for gays, lesbians and others seeking protection against workplace discrimination.
These are not such difficult choices in the scheme of things. How to guarantee that Iran can’t weaponize its nuclear capability? That’s tough. Not so tough: Helping the poor feed their families, finding a path for citizenship along with other immigration reforms, extending equal protections to individuals whose sexual orientation should not be a firing offense.
The Senate also has passed a comprehensive immigration bill with the help of 14 Republicans that contains a relatively strenuous path to citizenship that includes paying back taxes and fines, and getting in line behind others seeking citizenship. Hardly a giveaway. Even so, some Republicans aren’t on board with the path to citizenship. Although Boehner told me he hopes to get an immigration bill to the House floor next year, others say 2014’s midterm elections make this unlikely.
Phooey.
What’s really not likely to happen is a Republican White House — ever — without Latino voters. There’s only so much Republicans can accomplish when they control only half of one-third of government. Consider that the biggest states with the largest concentrations of Hispanics — Florida, California, Texas and New York — also convey 151 of the 270 electoral votes needed to be elected president.
Appealing to Latinos doesn’t mean Republicans have to pander or bow to President Obama’s wishes. It means doing the right thing. Even though a slim majority of Americans (53 percent) think most immigrants here illegally should be deported, according to a Reuters/Ipsos online survey last February, a more recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll found that 65 percent favor a path to citizenship if it requires essentially what the Senate bill proposes.
The draconian option of deportation would be an unlovely sight. Not only would families be torn asunder, but America’s crops would wither on the vine, as they did in Alabama after that state’s crackdown prompted a sudden, mass exodus. Yet again, unyielding principle prevailed over common sense and survival.
Time is of the essence if Republicans hope to refresh their image in the public square. Picking battles wisely, acting compassionately, creating rather than negating is the only way forward. Jar the hardwoods, campers, there’s daylight in the swamp.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

 
Helping ensure Ohio's returning troops find work PDF Print
Saturday, November 09, 2013 9:00 PM

BY U.S. SENATOR

SHERROD BROWN

 

Ohio’s heroes who fought for our country shouldn’t have to fight for a job when they return home. Unfortunately, many do. And it’s not right.

Recently, at the SuperJobs Center in Cincinnati, I met Marianne Linardos, a Hamilton native and a Navy veteran who struggled to find full-time employment after returning from serving our nation in the military. Following eight years of unsuccessful job searching, Linardos took things into her own hands — quite literally. She made herself a sign that read, “Hire Me” and walked through the streets of her hometown, with the hopes that a potential employer would see the sign and offer her an opportunity to prove that the skills she developed while serving could be translated into a civilian job.

 
A sorry state of affairs PDF Print
Saturday, November 09, 2013 9:00 PM

WASHINGTON — President Obama is no lip-biting, tear-streaking, chin-trembling apologist.

When he said he was sorry for the health care mess-up in an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd, he performed the mea culpa as well as — if not better than — anyone in recent history. With Trumanesque resolve, he may as well have said, “The devalued dollar stops here.”

He’s sorry that some people have been inconvenienced by HealthCare.gov’s computer disaster. He’s sorry that some people have lost the policies he promised they could keep. He’s sorry that the Affordable Care Act wasn’t adequately “crafted.”

 
Farm Bill should address rural America's needs PDF Print
Wednesday, October 30, 2013 8:14 PM

BY JOHN CRABTREE

Center for Rural Affairs

 

With the Farm Bill finally moving forward, the Center for Rural Affairs urges the House-Senate Conference Committee to ensure that the bill address the needs of family farmers, ranchers and small towns while also protecting our natural resources.

The Committee must reform the farm safety net, including farm program payments and federally subsidized crop insurance. There are important provisions included in one or both bills that will provide needed reforms to these programs. These reforms should move forward into the final bill. We urge the conferees to: adopt the historic payment limits and “actively engaged in farming” reforms adopted in both bills with substantial bipartisan support; accept the Senate’s modest reduction in crop insurance premium subsidies for millionaires; include the Senate’s Sodsaver provision that protects against destruction of prime grasslands and native prairie nationwide; and reject the House provision to obliterate the farmer and rancher protections provided by the Packers and Stockyards Act.

Real federal investment in helping small towns and rural entrepreneurs has fallen by half over the last decade. The Conference Committee should reverse this trend with direct funding for the Value-Added Producer Grant program at its historic level of $20 million annually and increase direct spending for the Rural Microentrepreneur Assistance Program, which provides loans and technical assistance to rural small businesses, to $10 million annually.

These reforms and investments have broad support in Congress and perhaps more importantly, throughout rural and small town America. They should be included in the final Farm Bill.

Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.

 
Preventing the coming debt crisis PDF Print
Saturday, October 26, 2013 12:00 AM

BY US SENATOR ROB PORTMAN

 

Over the last thirty years, a debt limit debate has been a time for sober reflection for members of both parties. Raising the debt limit is, by definition, a sign of failure. It means that our government is spending more money than it brings in.

That’s where we are today. The federal government borrows roughly twenty cents for every dollar it spends. Hitting the debt limit is the equivalent of maxing out on our nation’s credit card, and without an extension, we aren’t able to pay our bills. It’s no secret how we got here—the greatest act of bipartisanship over the last few decades has been Republicans and Democrats alike overpromising and overspending.

To keep our nation from going into default, the Congress passed and the President signed a short-term debt limit increase this week that will allow our government to borrow enough money to pay our bills through early February. But how to deal with the debt limit in the long-term remains a thorny issue.

There are some who are calling for so-called “clean” debt ceiling increases. They want to raise the debt ceiling, put it on autopilot, and be done with it. Only in Washington would that make sense. A business in Cleveland that spends too much money can’t simply take out another loan. A Cincinnati family whose teenager maxes out the credit card doesn’t just ask the company for a higher limit. Instead, they sit down and take a hard look at the spending that got them in the situation, and they do something about it. Washington, D.C. could learn a lot from the people of Ohio.

What drives America’s deficits? Mandatory spending, the part of the budget that includes vital, but currently unsustainable programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. Mandatory spending already makes up two-thirds of the federal budget, and it is rapidly growing. With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every day, Obamacare—a new entitlement—coming online now, and health care costs continuing to rise, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) warns us that spending on health care entitlements will more than double over the next ten years. In fact, CBO projects entitlement programs will be responsible for 100% of growth in future deficits. If we are going to avoid a coming fiscal catastrophe for our children and grandchildren—with higher unemployment, higher taxes, and higher interest rates—we need to act now.

History shows us the way. Over the last 30 years, the debt ceiling has inspired Republican and Democratic presidents alike to engage in negotiations, working with Congress in order to come to a bipartisan consensus on how to allow the government to continue to borrow while addressing the underlying problem of overspending. In fact, in the past three decades it is the only thing that has worked: the debate over raising the debt limit has been the only time Congress and the president have reduced spending in any meaningful way—whether it was the Gramm-Rudman cuts in 1985, the Andrews Air Force Base Agreement in 1990, the 1997 Balanced Budget Act, PAYGO rules, or the Budget Control Act of only two years ago.

Those negotiations need to begin anew, and they need to begin now so we have plenty of time before the debt limit is hit again in February. It’s time to deal with the underlying problem of overspending. It’s this overspending that caused us to reach the debt limit in the first place. It’s overspending that will cause us to reach it again next year, and no amount of extraordinary measures or financial imagination at Treasury can stop that from happening.

Over the past two weeks, the President and Senate Democratic leadership have repeatedly promised that if we raised the debt ceiling, they would negotiate on spending. The ball is now in the President’s court. Now it’s time for the President to finally engage. It’s time for him to come to the table, to meet with us in good faith.

A good place to start would be the mandatory spending reforms President Obama has already agreed to in his budget, savings that add up to more than $600 billion over the next decade. We need to engage in pro-growth tax reform that gets this economy growing again and gets Americans back in a job.

The president says he doesn’t want to be held hostage over the debt limit. He’s not; he’s being given an opportunity to lead, using his own proposals.

Reaching consensus on these issues will take tough negotiations, and Republicans and Democrats won’t agree on everything. But the American people sent us here to get things done. Using President Obama’s own proposals, let’s take the first steps toward entitlement reform and onto some common ground to break the gridlock in DC and finally do something about our unsustainable spending.

 

 
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