Category Archives: Government

Describes goings-on within the U.S. government, including policy, important bills, presidential actions, and the like.

House of Representatives to Consider Banning use of Federal Funds Against Soda Industry

Representative Scott DesJarlais, a freshman Republican from Tennessee, has introduced legislation in the House of Representatives that aims to “prohibit the use of federal money for advertising campaigns against any food or beverage deemed safe and lawfully marketed under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act,” according to his site

DesJarlais’ view is that “The government is reaching too far into our lives in trying to regulate personal habits.” The congressman also cited the need to protect products “made by American workers.” As an example, according to CNN Money, the Coca-Cola company employs about 140,000 people worldwide, though much of the company’s business and manufacturing takes place overseas. The American Beverage Association claims its industry provides “more than 227,000 jobs” in America. 

The director of public health in Los Angeles County, Dr. Jonathan Fielding, opposes the legislation, stating, “we need to educate people about what’s in the food they eat.” He also points out that the federal government has sponsored effective ads warning against the dangers of smoking that helped change American perceptions of the practice. 

The California Center for Public Health Advocacy has published an infographic (pdf) with statistics about the relationship between soda intake and obesity.

Sources and further reading:

 http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/02/03/lawmaker-wants-ban-on-taxpayer-funded-ad-campaigns-against-sodas-junk-food/?test=latestnews#ixzz1mK4fXL52

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/nationnow/2012/02/congress-anger-anti-obesity-ads-soda.html

http://reporting.sunlightfoundation.com/2012/No_government_money_to_criticize_soda/

 

Police Pepper Spray Protesters at UC Davis

Watch this video and decide for yourself whether the officers were justified.

Source: http://boingboing.net/2011/11/18/police-pepper-spraying-arrest.html

Bills to Curb Online Piracy Currently in Committee

The PROTECT IP Act, in long form the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act of 2011, is currently under review by the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Act proposes to allow content industries more powerful tools to sue and shut down websites that violate copyrights. The bill is sponsored by Pat Leahy, D VT, and it has received the backing of entertainment giants such as the Recording Industry Association of America and the Motion Picture Association of America. A similar bill, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) was recently introduced in the House of Representatives with the goal of appeasing technology companies by requiring court approval of a suit against third parties; however, technology companies, led by Google, have written to the Committee voicing strong opposition, asserting that the bills in their current states, while supporting a worthy goal, go about it in the wrong way. They argue that the measures the bills would put in place give copyright holders too much power to attack legitimate content providers, whose operating costs would be greatly increased by the increased necessity to police their services and censor user-submitted content. They also contend that these regulations would kill jobs in the growing technology industry, a major part of America’s economy. Additionally, they say, measures already in place, such as the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, among others, give adequate protection to content producers. The bills currently have wide bipartisan support, but are extremely unpopular in the public, sparking massive resistance shown in social network and blog posts, with serious mentions even making their way to humor sites such as Memebase. The backers of the bills contend the new regulations are necessary. Bob Goodlatte, R, VA, a co-sponsor of SOPA, states:

“Intellectual property is one of America’s chief job creators and competitive advantages in the global marketplace, yet American inventors, authors, and entrepreneurs have been forced to stand by and watch as their works are stolen by foreign infringers beyond the reach of current U.S. laws. This legislation will update the laws to ensure that the economic incentives our Framers enshrined in the Constitution over 220 years ago – to encourage new writings, research, products and services – remain effective in the 21st Century’s global marketplace, which will create more American jobs. The bill will also protect consumers from dangerous counterfeit products, such as fake drugs, automobile parts and infant formula.”

Sources:

http://www.opencongress.org/bill/112-s968/show

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stop_Online_Piracy_Act

Senate Rejects Bill to Repeal Net Neutrality

The Senate voted today, 52-46, to reject a Republican-backed bill to repeal “net neutrality” regulations. These regulations forbid Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from giving preference to certain sites over others, for instance by allotting more bandwidth to favored sites to improve their speed. President Obama has vowed to veto any bill that would repeal the regulations. Verizon, together with other internet companies, intends to take the matter into court.

Source:

http://paidcontent.org/article/419-senate-shoots-down-attempt-to-repeal-net-neutrality-rules/

House of Representatives Votes to Reaffirm “In God We Trust” as National Motto

The official motto of the United States has been “In God We Trust” since 1956. Today the House passed, 396 to 9, the resolution proposed by Randy Forbes, a Virginia Republican to reaffirm the slogan and “encourage the public display of it in all public buildings, public schools and other government institutions.”

Those For:

“As our nation faces challenging times, it is appropriate for members of Congress and our nation – like our predecessors – to firmly declare our trust in God, believing that it will sustain us for generations to come.” — Rep. Forbes

Forbes also claimed the measure was necessary for clarification following a speech in which President Obama stated, “Our motto is, ‘E pluribus unum.'”

Those Against:

“Instead of facing these challenges and creating jobs to help American people make sure they have a roof over their head and food on their table, we are debating whether or not to affirm and proliferate a motto that was adopted in 1956 and is under no threat of attack.” — Rep. Bobby Scott, D. Va.

Others claim the measure is in violation of the First Amendment, which contains this clause: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

Sources and Further Reading:

Fox News

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/11/01/house-votes-to-reaffirm-in-god-trust-as-official-us-motto/#ixzz1cVMzOD4k

Discover Magazine’s Bad Astronomy

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/badastronomy/2011/11/01/in-the-constitution-we-trust/

The Bellingham Herald

 http://www.bellinghamherald.com/2011/11/01/2253332/lawmakers-reaffirm-in-god-we-trust.html#ixzz1cVK6VsDW

FAA Restored Temporarily

Guest Post by Elana Dure

THE ISSUE:
After the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) operating authority expired on July 23, Congress entered a stalemate over financing the agency and as a result FAA had a temporary shutdown which left around 74,000 employers out of work. The stalemate hindered thousands of construction projects in airports around the country. However, even without pay dozens of employers offered to continue working in order to keep the airports safe for travelers.

THE RESOLUTION:

As a result of the stalemate, the government lost approximately $30 million tax dollars a day because FAA could no longer tax travelers. Because of this loss along with the loss of many American jobs, the Republican dominated House of Representatives passed a bill that will temporarily fund FAA until Sept. 16, with the stipulation that the bill still cuts the funding of 13 rural airports, cutting $16.5 million. Under pressure from President Barack Obama, the Democratic ruled Senate passed the bill on Friday, Aug 5.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said: “This agreement does not resolve the important differences that still remain, but I believe we should keep Americans working while Congress settles its differences and this agreement will do exactly that.” Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood (Republican) said: “This is a tremendous victory for American workers everywhere.”

Sources: BBC, New York Times

Debt Crisis Resolution in Sight

UPDATE: The Senate has passed the debt bill, with less than twelve hours to go until the U.S. would have run out of money to pay its bills. The President is expected to sign the bill later today. The bill cleared the Senate with 74 votes for and 26 against.

UPDATE 2: President Obama signed the bill into law shortly following the bill’s approval in the Senate.

The House of Representatives today passed a bipartisan bill to raise the debt limit and cut spending as a last-ditch effort to avoid a default on the government’s debt. Such a default would lead to the potential loss of the United States’ AAA credit rating, resulting in increased interest rates that could threaten the American (and in turn the global) economic recovery. The bill must become law by the end of Tuesday, August 2nd, to avoid the default. The democrat-led Senate will vote on the bill Tuesday at 12:00 noon. The bill raises the debt limit by $2.4 trillion and cuts $2.1 trillion over a period of ten years.

The vote breakdown:

269 for, 161 against

Democrats:

95 for, 95 against

Republicans:

174 for, 66 against

Both extreme right-wing and extreme left-wing representatives were unhappy with the bill, conservatives because they felt savings were not high enough, and liberals because the plan relied on cuts alone and did not include increased revenue from taxes. Members of the tea party opposed raising the debt ceiling at all.

President Obama stated that the bill was a “serious down payment,” though not the one he would have preferred.

Formerly, the Republican-leaning plan from Speaker of the House John Boehner died in the Democratic senate, and the Democrat-friendly plan authored by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was killed by the Republican-dominated House.

The cuts will not affect certain social programs (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid). The bill makes $900 billion in cuts over 10 years, and requires a 12-member committee to draft additional cuts of up to $1.5 trillion over the same period. The so-called “balanced budget amendment” is part of the bill as well. It requires the legislature to vote on this at a later date.

Compiled from BBC reports. For further reading, just about every news service has covered this extensively.

Chesapeake Bay Cleanup Plan In Jeopardy

 

The Basics:

An EPA plan to clean up the Chesapeake Bay by implementing stricter regulations across its watershed has met with resistance from Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Virginia, who proposed an amendment to a government funding bill that would block the use of federal money to support the plan. Goodlatte cites business and agricultural interests, while the EPA maintains the bay is too ecologically important not to preserve. The House of Representatives approved a short-term spending plan in February with similar language. All Virginia democrats opposed the plan, and all republicans save Rep. Rob Wittman voted for it. Goodlatte’s plan would extend the ban to at least September.

Those For:

  • Backed mainly by Republicans, led by Goodlatte
  • “The city of Lynchburg estimates that, if they’re required to filter storm water, which is one of the goals of the EPA, it will cost them $300 [million] to $500 million to do that. Just imagine what that’ll do.” — Rep. Bob Goodlatte
  • “[The EPA is] trying to take control from the states the ability to manage these watershed improvement programs, which have historically and clearly been under the Clean Water Act for states to do.” — Goodlatte
Those Against:

  • EPA supported mainly by Democrats, including President Obama
  • “How unfortunate that Congressman Goodlatte, who represents one of the states that would benefit most from a healthy Chesapeake Bay, is seeking to torpedo the bay restoration plan before its ink is scarcely dry,” — William Baker, Pres. Chesapeake Bay Foundation
  • Environmentalists call the plan “the bay’s best and last chance for restoration.”

This post compiled from stories in the Roanoke Times and the Lynchburg News and Advance.
Further reading: