Coburn's Obstruction Wins the Day in the Senate

Early today Senator Tom Coburn, a member of the Grand Obstructionist Party from Oklahoma, objected to a request to dispense with the reading of an amendment offered by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont proposing a single-payer system. Though normally a courtesy that is almost always granted to fellow senators, the petulant Tom Coburn forced the Senate clerk to read aloud a 767-page amendment to healthcare reform legislation, paralyzing action on the chamber floor as Democrats approach their self-imposed Christmas deadline. It would have taken at least eight hours to read the amendment.

Senator Sanders has now withdrawn his amendment. From The Hill:

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Wednesday withdrew his single-payer healthcare amendment after Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) initiated a procedural maneuver to shipwreck the measure.

Coburn earlier in the day forced the Senate clerk to read aloud Sanders's 767-page amendment to the Senate healthcare bill in an effort to halt the healthcare debate.

Sanders, a self-described "democratic socialist," spoke on the Senate floor to announce the withdrawal of the measure.

"The day will come, although I recognize it's not today, when the U.S. Congress will have to vote to stand up to ... all those who profit every single year off of human sickness," Sanders said. "That day will come."

Sanders's decision to withdraw the amendment will stop the reading and allow debate to continue.

The amendment would have extended Medicare coverage to all who wanted it.

Their obsession with free markets, that aren't free, will destroy this country. To protect the narrow interests and profane profits of the insurance industry, they are willing to condemn thousands to an early grave. Their lack of empathy for the rights of the poor and their disregard for the decline in American living standards under their rule is beyond comprehension. Here's their record:

When Clinton left office nearly 11.6 million children lived in poverty, according to the Census. When Bush left office that number had swelled to just under 14.1 million, an increase of more than 21 per cent.

The story is similar again for access to health care. When Clinton left office, the number of uninsured Americans stood at 38.4 million. By the time Bush left office that number had grown to just over 46.3 million, an increase of nearly 8 million or 20.6 per cent.

The trends look the same when examining shares of the population that are poor or uninsured, rather than the absolute numbers in those groups. When Clinton left office in 2000 13.7 per cent of Americans were uninsured; when Bush left that number stood at 15.4 per cent. (Under Bush, the share of Americans who received health insurance through their employer declined every year of his presidency-from 64.2 per cent in 2000 to 58.5 per cent in 2008.)

When Clinton left the number of Americans in poverty stood at 11.3 percent; when Bush left that had increased to 13.2 percent. The poverty rate for children jumped from 16.2 per cent when Clinton left office to 19 per cent when Bush stepped down.

It is probably pointless to note that the most effective healthcare programs in the United States are single payer systems. The best kept secret in the country is the healthcare provided by the Veterans Administration, a single payer system.  So extending a successful program that saves lives and cuts costs is a naturally an object of GOP disdain simply because it is government-run. Their love of free markets will kill us all.

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What's the Holdup?

Well, in a word the GOP, the party of obstructionism. If you can't get your way, paralyze government. Here are some of the holdups:

Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky is holding the nomination of Miriam Sapiro for U.S. trade representative because the Canadian Parliament is considering a ban on adding candy flavorings to cigarettes; Senator George V. Voinovich is blocking Robert Perciasepe for deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency because according to the Senator the agency is underestimating the cost per household of proposed climate-change legislation; and the master of obstructionism Senator Jim DeMint is holding up  the vote on Erroll Southers to head the Transportation Security Administration over concerns the nominee would undermine safety by allowing airport security screeners to unionize.

Republicans also are tying up the nominations of Martha Johnson for administrator of the General Services Administration, Tom Shannon for ambassador to Brazil, Alan Solomont for ambassador to Spain and Paul Anastas for EPA assistant administrator.

More background on the Southers holdup from the Washington Times:

Sen. Jim DeMint has locked a "hold" on President Obama's pick to head the Transportation Security Administration over concerns the nominee would undermine safety by allowing airport security screeners to unionize, the latest in a series of appointments stymied by Republican objections that are increasingly frustrating the Senate's Democratic majority.

The South Carolina Republican single-handedly put the brakes on the nomination with a "hold" - an informal practice by which a senator can keep a nomination or legislation from going to the Senate floor. It is virtually the only weapon left in the minority's arsenal to affect the chamber's business now that Republicans don't have enough votes in their caucus to mount a filibuster on their own.

Mr. DeMint blocked the vote on Erroll Southers, a top cop at Los Angeles International Airport, because he says the nominee is ducking questions about whether he would consider reversing current policy by opening the door to unionizing the security screeners.

Critics say the change would jeopardize national security by imposing union work rules that could hamstring the government's ability to quickly adapt to evolving terrorist threats.

"It's very simple. Giving union bosses control over security at our nation's airports is dangerous and will harm our ability to respond to serious threats," Mr. DeMint said. "If President Obama's nominee will not commit to putting homeland security above the whims of union bosses, it should give everyone serious concern."

Mr. Southers, assistant chief in charge of security and intelligence at the Los Angeles airport's police department, pledged he would not support any policy that compromised security. But he has avoided giving the "yes or no" answer Mr. DeMint wanted on the union question.

Mr. DeMint, ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's aviation operations, safety and security subcommittee, has kept his hold on Mr. Southers tightly focused on the nominee's reluctance to address the union question.

Mr. Southers avoided giving a definitive answer on the subject at a confirmation hearing and in an exchange of letters with Mr. DeMint.

While not saying whether he supported unionization, and noting he had previously worked as a chief officer in a unionized law enforcement agency, Mr. Southers pledged in an Oct. 14 letter to Mr. DeMint that he would put safety first in all decisions at TSA.

He said in the letter that he would not "support, recommend or endorse any system, practice or procedure that would potentially compromise the safety and security of the flying public."

Mr. DeMint characterized the response as an attempt to "hide behind rhetoric."

And Senator DeMint is attempting to disguise his visceral hate of unions as a matter of national security.

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Uganda's Anti-Homosexuality Bill Linked to US Christian Group

Peter Tachell writing in The Guardian finds the British Commonwealth of Nations is but a Commonwealth of homophobes. Indeed, apart from perhaps Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia, gay men are most severely persecuted in the former British colonies now independent that make up the Commonwealth. Of the 53 current members of the Commonwealth, more than 40 still criminalize same-sex relations, mostly under anti-sodomy laws that were originally imposed by the British government in the 19th century, during the period of colonial rule. The most draconian laws are found in The Gambia, Nigeria, Guyana, Sierra Leone, Bangladesh and Jamaica. But these pale in comparison to a bill now making its way through the Ugandan Parliament that makes sodomy a capital offense. That's shocking enough, but the bill has ties to a conservative US Christian group whose members includes the high and mighty of American politics of both political parties.

The Anti-Homosexuality Bill 2009 is going through Uganda's Parliament after receiving its first reading last month. According to Clause 2 of the Bill, a person who is convicted of gay sex is liable to life imprisonment. But if that person is also HIV positive the penalty - under the heading "aggravated homosexuality" - is death. The mere touching of another person with the intent to have gay sex is punishable by life in prison. The bill also criminalizes advocacy of LGBT issues. Membership of LGBT organizations and funding for them, advocacy of LGBT human rights and the provision of condoms or safer sex advice to LGBT people will result in a minimum sentence of five years and a maximum of seven years for "promoting" homosexuality. Nor are gay Ugandans who flee their country safe. The bill has provisions for extra-territorial jurisdiction. The law, if passed, will also apply to Ugandans who engage in homosexual behavior while living abroad. Violators overseas will be subjected to extradition, trial and punishment in Uganda. There are estimated to be 500,000 gay people in Uganda, from a population of about 31 million, according to gay rights groups.

This weekend on the margins of the Commonwealth Conference being held in Port of Spain, Trinidad, both British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper told President Museveni of Uganda that legislation was "unacceptable." They might also have a chat with Senator John Ensign, Senator Tom Coburn, Senator Charles Grassley, Governor Mark Sanford, Representative Bart Stupak and Representative Joe Pitts among others because they are all members of a radical Christian group called The Family. The group which dates back to the 1930s more recently came to our attention for the shenanigans surrounding the affair of Nevada Senator John Ensign and the Congressional boarding house on C Street, but according to Jeff Sharlet, author of The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power, The Family is connected to the proposed anti-gay legislation in Uganda.

The Family, also known as The Fellowship, was founded in the United States in 1935. According to its founder, Abraham Verene, God came to him one night in April 1935, and told him that Christianity has been focusing on the wrong people, the poor and the suffering, "the down and out". Instead, God commanded him to be a missionary to and for the powerful, the "up and in", who could then pass off the blessings to everybody else. The group does not maintain a website and prohibits its members from speaking about its activities. The group is now run by Doug Coe. The group is also the sponsor of the annual National Prayer Breakfast that has been attended by all Presidents since Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Here's Doug Coe in action:

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