Tuesday, December 27, 2011
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., was appointed on Dec. 21 by House Speaker John Boehner R-Ohio, to serve as one of eight House "conferees" to renegotiate differing tax and unemployment insurance plans passed by the House and Senate.
Walden's appointment came as part of a last minute House rejection of a bipartisan Senate bill - a move largely viewed as a debacle by political pundits from both sides of the aisle.
By the late evening of Dec. 22 the skirmish between House Republicans and most other legislators had come to an end, with the House agreeing to pass the Senate bill in conjunction with a crafted compromise proposed by Republican Senator Mitch McConnell.
Walden has been a strong advocate for the House bill and is a close confidant to Boehner. He was selected to play a key role within those negotiations.
Following the Dec. 22 agreement, Boehner was quoted as saying, that the House Republicans' refusal to compromise on the short-term extension "may not be the smartest thing in this world ... but our members waged a good fight."
The Senate had earlier passed a hard-won bipartisan plan to extend expiring payroll tax cuts and unemployment benefits for two months, allowing negotiators time to agree to a yearlong plan.
"Neither side got everything they wanted, but we forged a middle ground that passed the Senate by an overwhelming bipartisan majority," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in a statement.
However, Boehner, who originally appeared to back the Senate bill, and his colleagues in the House including Walden, ultimately rejected that plan Dec. 20, scuttling a deal cut between the White House and Senate Republicans.
The newly-agreed Senate short-term extension plan will keep the payroll tax rate at the reduced 4.2 percent rate through February while other details of Obama's jobs plan could be negotiated.
If agreement had not been reached, the payroll tax rate would have reverted to 6.2 percent on Jan. 1 and long-term unemployment benefits will expire without an extension.
Early on Dec. 22, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., stepped in with what would become the compromise proposal.
McConnell's plan entails a House agreement to approve the Senate's two-month extension on the payroll tax cut with a simultaneous agreement from the Senate to begin immediate negotiations for a yearlong extension. Obama has also agreed to sign off on the the compromise.
President Obama, in a speech to in-home caregivers on Dec. 15, had urged the House to pass the Senate bill, saying, "Congress should not and cannot go on vacation before they have made sure that working families aren't seeing their taxes go up by $1,000 and those who are out there looking for work don't see their unemployment insurance expire."
The House's last-minute refusal to pass the Senate bill, as led by Boehner, forced renewed negotiations across the two houses of Congress right up to the Christmas holiday wire.
As the House Republican's initiated their last minute scuffle, Walden said in a press release, "I for one am glad the House is back in session this week working toward an agreement with the Senate on tax reductions and unemployment extension with reforms."
Walden's press release did not address the reported influence of tea party members on the House's decision to thwart the Senate bill.
According to a Dec. 21 article in the Associated Press, "House conservatives - including newcomers supported by the small government tea party movement - used a conference call" on Dec. 17 to express their objection of the measure.
"I've never seen us so unified," said Rep. Louie Gohmert, of Texas, as he left a two-hour, closed-door meeting Dec. 19, where Republicans firmed up their plans for the Tuesday Senate bill rejection.
According to the White House staff blog supporting the Senate bill payroll tax cut, the Obama administration stated, "If Congress fails to extend this tax cut, the typical family making $50,000 a year will have about $40 less to spend or save with each paycheck. Over the year, that adds up to about $1,000."
According to an article by Joseph Lazzaro in the International Business Times, "Most economists agree that a failure to pass the payroll tax reduction would lower U.S. GDP growth, as the reduction increases take-home income of working class and middle class employees - two groups likely to put the extra money to use quickly if not immediately, thereby stimulating economic activity.
"In all, about 160 million Americans would benefit from the payroll tax reduction extension, and most Americans would see a $750 to $1,500 annual tax increase without the reduction extension."
With the Dec. 22 agreement in place, Walden issued a follow-up statement saying, "We will continue to work hard toward a long term solution in January and February, and I am hopeful we can reach consensus on stronger policy for the American people - after all, that's what they sent us here to do in the first place."
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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"
Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge