Interesting tidbits from Washington Beat…
ATTACK OF THE DUCKS
The lame duck Congress continues its massive party on Capitol Hill, passing the food safety bill and pushing the DREAM Act – which would give illegal immigrants citizenship if they promise to attend college for two years or join the military. The bill rings in at a cost of $6.2 billion per year, with Sen. Jeff Sessions, Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee, calling it “poorly drafted, filled with loopholes" and encouraging of "future illegal immigration.”
A second major agenda item, the extension of the Bush tax cuts, was settled only after President Obama realized Republicans were serious about allowing the cuts to extend to all Americans – not just those making over $250,000 – and conceded by pushing through an extension of welfare benefits as well.
The drama came to a head this past Saturday, when Democrats held a meaningless vote to affirm that Republicans wanted a tax cut extension for everyone and Democrats wanted one only for those making under $250,000. The Saturday session resulted in no new legislation or any progress on the issue but instead was held to reaffirm Democratic talking points for the next election. Allowing the cuts to expire for only those making under $250,000 would’ve saved the government $700 billion, but allowing the cuts to expire for everyone would’ve saved the government $4.6 trillion. In other words: taxing the rich wouldn’t have saved that much, and the Democrats were mainly engaged in a rhetorical argument.
November's unemployment rated climbed from 9.6% to 9.8%, in a searing rebuke to economists’ predictions, who had forecast the same rate or a decrease in the rate due to other economic indicators. Most companies aren’t hurting; their profits are up, but they’re just sitting on the cash and making their workers produce more in less time. Between 15 and 27 million people are unemployed, with the average workweek sitting at 34.3 hours.
ASSANGE UNDER ASSAULT
Julian Assange turned himself in to British authorities after Sweden demanded he testify about two alleged instances of sexual assault in Stockholm this past year. It seems as though his loose sexual mores are much more damning than his ability to unleash reams of state secrets. Though formal charges have not yet been made, the move is a game-changer for the provocateur, who is still surfing on the blowback from his most recent WikiLeaks release.
A cottage industry of Assange supporters has cropped up to prevent his prosecution on other security-related grounds. Assange has released an encrypted file that hundreds of supporters have downloaded, and if he is insulted, Assange will release the password. That unleashes another round of secret information, much of it having to do with corporate America.
ARSENIC IS DELICIOUS
NASA's latest scientific discovery found that life can exist without six elements that were previously thought to be required. Instead, arsenic can be substituted for phosphorous, one of those previously "required" six elements, as revealed in a recent NASA finding out of California. The discovery has sparked talked of a “shadow biosphere” previously unknown to the scientific community, that would mark a significant addition to the theory of evolution.
START TREATY STILL UP FOR GRABS
President Obama approved the treaty months ago, and the Senate has just taken up the cause, sparking division in the Republican caucus about not only national security but political partisanship. START would call for a reduction in U.S. nuclear arms, in exchange for Russia reducing the level of their arms as well. The timing and extent to which the weapons would be reduced is objectionable to Arizona Republican Jon Kyl. He claims Obama is being too cavalier with U.S. weapons stockpiles and wants more concessions out of Russia.
Not so, says Indiana Republican Sen. Richard Lugar, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Preventing the treaty from going through would pointlessly chip away at U.S. – Russian relations, and is a natural extension of previously-agreed-to terms. Critics think that Republican opposition is centered around opposing President Obama and call it a campaign ploy.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK
Anthony “Van” Jones, President Obama’s former Special Advisor for Green Jobs, during a speech to students this week:
"…we are going to go into a tough period, a potential nightmare scenario, where we are going to be getting as a nation more and more ethnically diverse, more and more culturally diverse, more and more sociologically diverse, BUT less and less economically prosperous. …and you have opponents in this country who see the same scenario, and their answer is ‘fear the diversity’; their answer is ‘attack the diversity’; their answer is ‘squeeze back on the immigrants’, ‘squeeze back – attack the muslims’. Worried that somebody’s going to marry somebody who is the wrong gender, ‘attack the diversity.”
-Jillian Bandes is Townhall.com’s National Political Reporter