What it took to get our troops the benefits they earned (Rep. Bruce Braley)

On Thursday I was pleased to announce that long overdue policy guidance was released by the National Guard Bureau which will ensure that Iowa's Army National Guard and Reserve members are finally paid the "Respite Leave" payments they were promised when they completed the longest deployment since World War II in 2007.

For some of us, this change in policy has been a long-time coming. Over the last two years, I've joined with my Congressional colleagues in bipartisan, bicameral efforts to pressure the Department of Defense to expedite their bureaucratic delays, and to pass the necessary legislation to pay soldiers these benefits.

During this long process, I always had the help and support of my amazing staff, and together we made this one of our top priorities.


Government led recession (Rep. John Campbell)

We can debate exactly what caused the near economic collapse in the fall of 2008, but clearly over leveraging and excessive risk taking by consumers, banks, and “non-banks” was a major contributor. The economy continues to have a drag caused by deleveraging and fallout from the losses incurred during that period. The U.S. Federal government prevented that collapse by putting the imprimatur of the United States Treasury on a lot of private debt in order to stop the run. It worked because the world markets had a tremendous level of trust in the full faith and credit of the United States government.

But the shoe may soon be on the other foot. Federal spending as a percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is now over 25%. The last time the government represented that much of the economy, we were building B-29 bombers to drop their payloads on Japan and Germany. As a result of the economic downturn, taxes collected are only about 15% of GDP (whereas 19% has roughly been the average for the last 40 years) hence the huge deficits.

And that’s only the federal government. State and local governments now comprise (roughly) an additional 10% of GDP. So combined, government at all levels in this country now account for over 1/3 of economic activity in the country. I happen to think that this is way too much but we can debate that point at another time. The point here is that government at all levels now represent a much larger part of the economy than they ever have before, outside of a World or Civil War.


Recovery Act: saving and creating jobs, laying the foundation for economic growth (Rep. George Miller)

One year ago, our nation was headed toward an economic collapse, shedding an average of 600,000 jobs a month. State and local budget cutbacks were putting teachers' jobs -- and our students' education -- in peril. Our economy was in need of emergency triage that would immediately begin to save and create jobs and lay the foundation for longer-term economic growth. One year after its enactment, it is clear that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is meeting these core goals.

To date, the law has already created or saved two million jobs and helped our economy grow at its fastest rate in years. It has funded more than 300,000 education jobs, keeping teachers in classrooms and children and students of all ages learning. It has helped minimize harmful cuts at public colleges and universities and provided students with larger Pell Grants to pay for college.


No Deal

Senate Republican obstructionists are working overtime to block the interests of working people. Today we hear the White House and Senate have cut a deal with Republicans that will keep President Obama's nominees off the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) for even longer.

The NLRB's job is to protect workers' rights--but for more than two years it has been functioning with only two members instead of the five it should have. Working people need an NLRB that can enforce the National Labor Relations Act--not one hobbled by vacancies.

President Obama's nominees--Craig Becker and Mark Pearce--are highly qualified, well-respected labor lawyers who were nominated seven months ago, in July.

But Senate Republicans have ignored the working people they represent and blocked the appointments.


The Story That No One Will Tell (Rep. Grayson)

The story that everyone wants to tell is that the Democratic Party is disheartened and disintegrating. Teabagger Republicans are juiced up and on top. Or so the media says, over and over again.

But the House candidate who raised the most money in the entire country during the last FEC reporting period -- $860,000 in three months -- is not a teabagger. He is not boosted relentlessly by Fox News. He's not even a Republican. He doesn't think that the Earth was created 6000 years ago, that President Obama was born in Kenya, or that global warming is a hoax.

This House candidate also, remarkably, had the largest number of contributors. Over 15,000 individuals contributed, many of whom have given time after time, whatever they could. The House candidate who raised the most money did so without French-kissing lobbyists, without flattering the idle rich, and without reaching into his own pocket.

The House candidate who raised the most money, from the most people, is an outspoken populist who tells it like it is on the war, on jobs, and on health care. His website is called In the 100,000 e-mails that he has received this year, the most common refrain is, "You are saying what I've been thinking."

I know who he is. Because he's me.

But no one has reported that the House candidate who raised the most money, from the most people, is a proud Democratic populist. No one.

There are something like ten thousand political reporters in this country, maybe more. The information above is readily available. Anyone could have visited an official government website,, any time this past week, and seen it for themselves. We did our part -- we sent out two news releases, both local and nationwide. But in lieu of any actual reporting in the media, there is instead what Simon & Garfunkel vividly described as the "Sounds of Silence":

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence.

The political reporters camped out in D.C. often act like a giant Xerox machine for the fib factory known as the national Republican Party. Recently, they saw fit to report (and repeat, and repeat) the Republican Party's crackpot claim that we are withholding a secret poll with bad news in it for us. (We aren't; there is no such poll, but the Republican Party is soooo good at manufacturing plausible lies.) Not one word from those reporters, though, about what would seem to be an irresistible "feel good" story -- that thanks to People Power, that brash, plain-spoken Democratic Congressman from Orlando is the Number One fundraiser in the country. Nothing about that.

The fact that an unapologetic progressive Democrat could amass such support, not by trading favors for money, but by striking a chord with so many ordinary people, refutes the pervasive meme of Democrats divided and despondent. Particularly when it's a Democrat who says that "you can't beat a Republican by being one." Particularly a Democrat who quotes Harry Truman and Howard Dean: "If you run a fake Republican against a real Republican, the real Republican will win every time."

Freshman Democrat Alan Grayson, number one in the country. The story that no one will tell. It doesn't fit their preconceptions. So you're just not going to hear about it.

Unless you happen to read the Huffington Post.

Cross-posted from The Huffington Post


Immigration reform: The multi-trillion dollar question (Rep. Honda)

The tide seems to be turning in favor of comprehensive immigration reform, despite populist trends that might suggest otherwise. President Barack Obama's ability in 2010 to hammer out reform has been helped by some unusual suspects. Democrats, already on board the reform bandwagon, are even seeing some conservatives rally for similar reform measures. These new voices, along with recent polling that puts the majority of the American public in favor of a legalization process for our 12 million undocumented immigrants, bodes well for a nation in desperate need of a new immigration policy. This president, unlike his predecessor, will not shy away from needed reform as it is the right thing to do economically, the right thing to do politically, and the right thing to do morally.

In the throes of America's recession, Obama must do everything in his power to weigh the fiscal pros and cons of any policy decision. Immigration, unsurprisingly, brings with it formidable fiscal implications. Keeping immigrants here or sending them home can save or cost taxpayers dearly, depending on what course is chosen.

A study conducted last month by University of California, Los Angeles, Professor Raul Hinojosa-Ojeda, for example, finds that any deportation plan of America's undocumented immigrants would cost our country's gross domestic product a whopping $2.6 trillion over the next 10 years. Conversely, if we embrace comprehensive immigration reform, we add $1.5 trillion to the U.S. gross domestic product over the next 10 years. Hinojosa-Ojeda also projected that the economy would benefit from a temporary worker program, which would raise the GDP by $792 billion.


Keeping the long-term fiscal picture in mind (Rep. Hoyer, Rep. Miller and Rep. Welch)

Everyday, our children are accumulating debt and interest they'll spend their lives paying off, curtailing their ability to meet challenges and invest in the future. How do we get our country out of its $1.35 trillion hole?

Democrats have faced that question before when having to clean up other people's mess. Part of the answer lies in a simple principle: our country must start paying for what it buys. That idea is called pay-as-you-go, or "PAYGO," and it means that all new tax cuts and entitlement spending must be paid for by finding savings elsewhere, keeping those policies from adding to our deficit. This week, the House can vote to stop the growth of our deficit by sending a PAYGO law to President Obama's desk.

We're confident in PAYGO, because we've seen it bring down deficits before. Like President Obama, President Clinton entered office facing large deficits left over from the previous administration -- but by the time he left office, those deficits were replaced by a $5.6 trillion projected surplus. PAYGO was a part of that success: as President Obama observed in his State of the Union Address, "the pay-as-you-go law...was a big reason why we had record surpluses in the 1990s."


No terror trials in civilian courts

Sen. Lindsey Graham’s bill to keep 9-11 terror trials out of civilian courts is exactly what’s needed.  The fact is President Obama needs to do more than just change the location of the trial of accused 9-11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed - he needs to utilize military tribunals – the most appropriate forum to bring these accused terrorists to justice.

This shouldn’t be about a change of venue.  It should be about a change in policy.  It’s time to do what Sen. Graham’s bill requires – no Justice Department funds to be used for the prosecution of 9-11 terror suspects in civilian courts.  Not in New York City.  Not on U.S. soil.

Giving accused terrorists the same rights as those afforded to U.S. citizens is not only offensive but represents a dangerous move that puts our national security at risk.  Putting accused terrorists on trial in civilian courts would limit – and even exclude – important evidence – place our intelligence gathering techniques at risk – and even give terror suspects a platform to spew hate and incite more violence. 


The Big Question: Will the budget deficit be an issue for voters?

Some of the nation's top political commentators, legislators and intellectuals offer insight into the biggest question burning up the blogosphere today.

Today's question:

With a $1.27 trillion deficit projected by economists, will approving President Barack Obama's $3.8 trillion budget hurt Democrats in November?

Some background reading here.

(Read today's responses after the jump)


Winning Back America (Rep. Mike Pence)

What a difference a year makes.  A year ago, Democrats expanded their majorities in Congress on the coattails of President Barack Obama’s historic election.  The chattering class was giving Republicans no chance of stopping the freight train of big government the Democrat majority was planning as the solution to every problem facing the country.  

But the history of last year tells a different story.  House Republicans stood courageously together, offering common sense solutions to address our nation’s challenges, and worked hard to slow down the big government liberal agenda that was being forced on the American people.  

The fight started before the president even took the oath of office as Democrat leaders charted a course for the country that put special interests in the driver’s seat and the American people in the back.  As the president’s own chief of staff once said, “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.” With that in mind, Speaker Pelosi and President Obama moved quickly to impose radical change on a country that didn’t want it.