Sunday, December 14, 2014
Sen. Elizabeth Warren Speaks The Uncomfortable Truth About What Our Government Has Become
It was supposedly just another continuing resolution to keep the government operating while Congress tries the to perform the most important task entrusted to the Congress under the Constitution, which it has proven itself repeatedly incapable of doing: adopting a federal budget. Like other continuing resolutions, this one had a bunch of spare parts known as riders, which lobbyists are paid big bucks to coax lawmakers into attaching to continuing resolutions without much public debate, and for which members of Congress are rewarded with handsome campaign contributions.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) rose to the occasion, unlike most of her colleagues in the House and Senate, and called out one of the worst of these riders for what it was. One particularly offensive rider inserted into the legislation by CitiGroup's lobbyists guts the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which was enacted by Congress following the 2008 financial meltdown and resulting large bank bailouts. There were many bad riders, although this one said the most about everything that is wrong with Congress today.
The CitiGroup rider essentially allows banks to gamble on risky derivatives inside their taxpayer-insured depository institutions, thereby increasing the risk of future bank failures that taxpayers will be forced to bailout. CitiGroup, as Sen. Warren pointed out in her floor opposing the continuing resolution, received a half trillion dollars in bailout funds from the federal government following the 2008 financial meltdown. Warren called out the clout CitiGroup has at Treasury, the Federal Reserve and the White House because of all of the current and former high-level government employees who have or are currently working for CitiGroup.
Proving what a tool for Washington lobbyists he's become, Sen. Lindsay "Missy" Graham (R-SC) went to the Senate floor to chastise Warren's speech against the bill. "If you follow the lead of the senator of Massachusetts … people are not going to believe you are mature enough to run the place," Graham said. "Don’t follow her lead. She’s the problem." In other words, the American people are the problem, not the Washington lobbyists and the members of Congress like him who are beholden to them instead of their constituents.
Unfortunately, the Senate followed the House in approving this horrible legislation on a 56-40 vote. Both of Indiana's senators, Dan Coats (R) and Joe Donnelly (D), voted with the Wall Street bankers who obviously are more important to them than their Hoosier constituents. All but three of Indiana's representatives voted for the continuing resolution, which passed the House narrowly on a 219-206 vote. The three no votes included Andre Carson (D), Marlin Stutzman (R) and Pete Visclosky (D).
There were other bad riders in this bill to be sure. As seemingly a quick payoff for the Wall Street gift, Congress has raised the limits on what individuals can contribute to political party committees from $97,000 to as much as $777,000. Trustees of private pension plans will be permitted to cut benefits to people who have already retired. Trucking companies will be allowed to let their drivers work up to 82-hour work weeks, which will most assuredly make our highways less safe to drive. Pell grants to students are being cut so more money can be given to student loan contractors who have already caused a great deal of harm to student borrowers. Indiana-based Anthem will save tens of millions of dollars under a provision that will allow it to count "quality improvement" measures toward their mandatory health spending requirements under the Affordable Care Act. It also allows the government to continue providing aid to Egypt's military-run government. None of the riders benefit average Americans, which proves just how meaningless you are to your members of Congress.