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.


The Big Question: Did Obama help Coakley?

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:

Will President Barack Obama's decision to campaign on behalf of state Attorney General Martha Coakley in Massachusetts help her win? Why or why not?

(Read responses to today's question after the jump.)


Where do we go from here? (Sen. Bernie Sanders)

One year ago the nation gave a collective sigh of relief as the worst and least popular administration in modern American history came to an end. Not only was the Bush administration heading out the door, but the Republican Party was reeling from two consecutive elections in which it suffered massive losses at all levels.

With a huge taxpayer bailout attempting to prop up a reckless and greedy financial system on the verge of collapse; with 700,000 workers a month losing their jobs in the worst recession since the 1930s; with the continuation of a war in Iraq that we never should have gotten into; with a rapidly increasing national debt caused largely by that unpaid-for war as well as tax breaks for the rich; and with the continued refusal to address or even acknowledge the crisis in global warming, the American people were ready for change.

In Senator Barack Obama, Americans at every level reached out to an inspiring young leader who, through a brilliant campaign, brought enormous energy into the political process. Young people who had never given much thought about elections were not only registering to vote in record-breaking numbers, but their newly-tapped idealism was leading them to actively participate in the campaign. Workers and their unions, who were victims of corporate greed and the ongoing collapse of the middle class, were determined to elect political leadership which represented ordinary Americans, not just the wealthy and large corporations. Women, who had battled for eight years to maintain the reproductive and legal rights they had struggled for over generations, were eagerly awaiting an administration that was on their side. Seniors, who were tired of hearing about Republican efforts to privatize Social Security and Medicare, wanted a president who understood the importance of those vital federal safety-net programs. And minorities and people of color, some of whom had experienced the hurt and humiliation of American apartheid, were ecstatic that the dream of a non-discriminatory society was taking a giant step forward. The result: With a strong voter turnout Barack Obama was elected president; the Democrats picked up 21 seats in the House and seven in the Senate (eight by the time Al Franken survived a recount and court challenge).

That was then, one very long year ago. Where are we now?

Today, having already experienced decisive losses in governors' races in New Jersey and Virginia, the Democratic prospects for 2010 appear bleak. Polls show President Obama's approval numbers sagging and some recent "generic ballots" show Republican candidates ahead of Democratic candidates -- a huge turnaround over the course of the year. Perhaps most ominously, these new polls show that "enthusiasm" and "interest in voting" among Republicans is far higher than with Democrats. Given that off-presidential year elections (voter participation could fall by 50 million this year compared to 2008) are often dominated by older and more conservative voters, a particularly low voter turnout among Democrats this fall could result in disaster for them. Why has this occurred? What can be done within the next few months to turn this scenario around?

In my view, the Democrats -- including the President -- have absurdly continued to stumble along the path of "bipartisanship" at exactly the same time the Republicans have waged the most vigorous partisan and obstructionist strategy in recent history.

Instead of making it clear that the first two years of the Obama administration would be about digging the country out of the incredible mess that Bush's eight years left us in, (deep recession, financial collapse, record-breaking deficits, disintegrating health care system, two wars, lack of respect from the international community, neglect of the environment) President Obama, incredibly, has enabled tens of millions of Americans to now believe that Bush's failures are his as well.

Unlike FDR in 1933, who consistently denounced Hoover's Republican policies as the cause of the country's perilous condition, Obama appears very reluctant to be "partisan" and point out to the American people the cause of our current crises. Can one imagine Barack Obama, for example, telling the American people as Roosevelt did in 1933, that he "welcomed" the hatred of the "economic royalists" whose greed had devastated the country?

In response to Obama's genteel and bipartisan outreach, the Republicans have undertaken a campaign of rhetorical savagery unprecedented in recent memory. The Right-Wing echo chamber of Fox News and talk radio, to which the Democrats have no equivalent and no interest in developing one, have implied that Obama is an "illegitimate" president not born in the United States, that he is a friend of terrorists, that he is an anti-white racist, that he rules unconstitutionally and that his administration reeks of Chicago-style corruption. And those are the respectful attacks!

In the overwhelmingly Democratic Senate the situation has been equally dismal. There, the Senate Finance Committee created a "Gang-of-Six" process which included three Republicans -- two of whom (Grassley and Enzi) are extremely conservative -- to determine the shape of health care reform. Amid cries of "death panels," "socialized medicine," "government takeover of health care," etc. etc. the meetings dragged on and on and on. On the floor of the Senate, the situation has been even worse. The Republicans have played the most obstructionist role ever with a record number of filibusters and other delaying tactics. The Republicans recently even voted temporarily to deny funds to our troops in the field of combat as a way to delay health care reform. They are also unanimous in opposing the increase in the debt limit, which if not raised, would likely cause the collapse of both the American and the international financial systems.

The result of all this is that Democrats of every stripe and many independents are perplexed, dispirited and sometimes disgusted. Constituency after constituency has been ignored or rejected. Some examples:

Progressive activists are angry that a Medicare-for-all single-payer approach was totally ignored during the health care debate. They also cannot understand how, despite overwhelming support for a strong public option in health care reform, there will not be one in the final bill. Trade unionists, many of whom voted for Obama and against McCain because of the latter's position on taxing workers' health care benefits, are apoplectic that Obama and Senate Democrats now support the McCain position. Women are outraged that the Democratic House was put in the position of having to support major restrictions with regard to abortion rights. And seniors, who for the first time in 45 years will not be receiving a Social Security COLA, are responding to the hypocritical Republican attacks about "cuts" in Medicare.

Now, I may not be the greatest political strategist in the world but I don't know how you win elections by ignoring the ideas of the progressives who have worked hardest at the grass-roots level for your political victories, or the trade unions that have provided significant financial support and door-to-door volunteers for Democratic campaigns. I am not aware how you succeed politically when you insult women, who far more than men consistently provide you with great margins of support. How do you preserve a big majority in Congress when you fail to be aggressive in protecting the interests of seniors, a huge voting bloc in off-presidential year elections? In other words, it should not surprise anyone that the Democrats are in serious trouble.

The time is short but I believe that the Democrats still have the potential to turn the tide, reverse their fortunes and bring out large numbers of their voters in the coming election. Here are some important steps forward that I believe should be undertaken in the coming months.

Perhaps most importantly, let Obama be Obama. Bring back one of the great inspirational leaders of our time who is more than capable of taking on the powerful special interests and rallying the American people toward a progressive agenda and a more just society. We have too quickly cast aside the audacity of hope as being too audacious. We need to aspire to more, not less: health care for all, education for all, a secure retirement for all, a world at peace, and a nation bound together by looking out for what the Constitution called "the general welfare" rather than a series of special interests looking out for their own financial wellbeing.

Pass the strongest health care reform legislation as soon as feasible -- making it clear that it will be significantly improved in the near future. While it was a tragic mistake to believe that a strong bill could pass under the provision that required 60 votes -- there was a procedural route which would have required only a simple majority -- this legislation does contain a number of provisions that will profoundly help tens of millions of Americans in every state in the country. It is a bill that can be successfully defended in a campaign because, whatever its many weaknesses, it is an indication that we are finally, after countless decades of futility, moving forward. A president and a party that can provide insurance for 31 million more Americans is far preferable to most voters than a party that only says "No."

Pass a major jobs bill which creates millions of new jobs rebuilding our infrastructure and moving our energy system in a different and sustainable direction.
At a time when we have the most inequitable distribution of wealth and income of any industrialized nation, this bill must be progressively funded. This means taxing the super-rich - the very people who George W. Bush served so assiduously -- in order to make life better for the average American family.

Pass legislation allowing workers to have the right to join unions without unfair and illegal opposition from their employers.
If we are going to reverse the race to the bottom, workers must have the right to engage in collective bargaining.

Boldly address the economic and financial crisis which has left 17 percent of our workforce unemployed or underemployed. This means that the Democrats must be prepared to take quick and decisive action against Wall Street and other Big Money interests whose uncontrollable greed have lowered our standard of living and wreaked havoc on the middle class. Among other actions we should: Pass a strong anti-usury law which limits the interest rates that banks charge on credit cards. We must break up those huge financial institutions which are "too big to fail:" if they are too big to fail, they are too big to exist. We must significantly increase transparency at the Federal Reserve, and replace Chairman Ben Bernanke, a major economic advisor in the Bush administration, with a progressive economist who understands that one of the Fed's core missions is full employment. We must either limit, or levy high taxes on, the bonuses paid by financial institutions.

In the midst of these terrible economic times, we must continue the effort, which Democrats have already pushed, to strengthen the safety net.
If the Republicans oppose these efforts, we must make this a major campaign issue. Millions of Americans face unemployment, hunger, homelessness and a desperate existence. This includes senior citizens living on inadequate Social Security benefits, people with disabilities and disabled veterans. In these difficult times we cannot turn our backs on them.

Enact Senate reform. It is extremely undemocratic that 41 percent of the U.S. Senate can thwart the will of the American people, the President, the House of Representatives and a strong majority of the Senate. While individual senators will always have great clout, no one senator should be able to bring the United States government to a halt at one of the most perilous periods in American history.

In January 2009, we inaugurated a new president and swore in a new Congress with large Democratic majorities in the Senate and the House. Our nation seemed poised on the brink of a decade of progressive government, a new ascendancy of hope and change after eight disastrous years of Republican dominance.

One year later, the new electoral majority is disintegrating under the weight of continuous Republican attacks and, more importantly, an unwillingness of both the Congress and the President to rally the American people behind the kind of fundamental changes they were anticipating as a result of the election.

We can learn from the past. The last time our nation faced economic challenges as great as our own, Franklin Roosevelt embraced progressive social policies and major financial and economic reform. The nation did not ignore or forget his commitment to help American families, provide aid to the disadvantaged, and take on the moneyed powers of Wall Street. Roosevelt's greatest political legacy was to build a coalition of Americans from across the country who understood that, if they stood together under a progressive banner, life could be better for the average person. Now is the time to remember that lesson. 

Cross-posted from Huffington Post


How the GOP gets its mojo back (Rep. Tom Price)

Few New Years have come in with as much contempt for the past year as 2010.  While so many were promised change in 2009, the futility of runaway government crippled our national productivity.  Unbridled spending led only to rising unemployment; unchecked intervention into our financial system gave us frozen markets; all while those in charge in Washington were immovably preoccupied with a massive and intrusive health plan that Americans simply do not want.

Two thousand nine may just, however, end up as the year that served as the catalyst to a great political revolution that will mark a return of conservatism, founding principles, and positive solutions in place of a power-obsessed and partisan Congress.  In their overzealous reach for permanent government expansion, the Democrats running Washington have inspired a remarkable rebellion of the American people that provides Republicans an historic opportunity to be given the privilege of leading the House of Representatives once again.

Recapturing the more than three dozen seats needed for a Republican majority is an enormous task.  However, with the American people starved for leadership and solutions, and a team able to provide both, nothing is out of reach.  If we are to succeed, though, it will require an aggressive effort that shines light on the failure of our current course, demonstrates how prosperity is actually created, and reaches far with a bold platform. And, as we all make a renewed commitment to the basic principles that we know created our nation’s great success, this effort must include outreach to the folks who have joined the Tea Party movement.

To set the stage for a 2010 victory, first, Republicans must stay on offense.  A party that was considered dormant just one year ago now leads Democrats on the generic ballot test.  That isn’t because we’ve been timid.  House Republicans, most notably my colleagues in the Republican Study Committee, led a fight in 2009 to hold Democrats accountable and provided contrast with bold solutions of our own.  Wherever taxpayers and freedom are being sacrificed in the name of bigger government and liberal social goals, Republicans, in and outside the beltway, must again be vocal and take the principled fight to the Majority.

Providing a check on Washington’s runaway agenda is a basic step toward renewal, however, simply being the opposition is inadequate to bringing about a real political revolution.  Speaker Pelosi and President Obama have done a great job reminding Americans why they dislike Democrat policies.  Now we must demonstrate why Republicans are worthy of the public trust once again.

In the coming months, Republicans must lay out a new agenda for the American people.  This platform must speak to the real challenges people are facing and the policies that will help solve these problems.  We must rally around common sense ideas like a more fair and simplified tax structure that allows Americans to keep more of their hard earned money, an end to the bailout culture, a streamlined government that does not strangle our job producers with mandates, taxes, and bureaucratic red tape, and a smaller budget that respects Americans’ wallets and recognizes the dire threat of a bankrupt Washington.

Our new commitment to America must not be limited only to traditional Republican territory. As the health care debate has shown, when our fundamental principles are applied to any issue and communicated effectively, the American people will choose conservative solutions, because conservative solutions are American solutions.  America remains a center-right nation, and we must not be afraid to put forth a positive vision for all issues that concern families, like education, housing, health care, energy, values, immigration, and the environment.  By embracing fundamental American principles, we will be able to communicate that Republicans are once again a national party of broad and dynamic solutions.

Just as our solutions need not be limited to base Republican issues, neither should our communications be limited to traditional Republican constituencies.  The solutions we propose benefit all Americans, so we should embrace opportunities to present them to all Americans, including younger voters, the African American, Hispanic, and Jewish communities, and so many others.  The concerns of these communities – the economy, health care, security – are no different than those of any other Americans, and our solutions are no less appropriate.  It is said power goes to those who show up and lead, and it’s time we show up in places outside of our comfort zone.

Reaching new audiences, however, does not mean we back away from the ideas through which we have become the greatest nation in the history of the world.  And no group understands better than the Tea Party movement that certain principles, not political parties, solve problems.

If we are to bring conservatism back to the Capitol, Republicans must embrace all who are committed to those common principles, including the Tea Party movement.  The energy, enthusiasm, and commitment they exhibit are virtually unprecedented and should inspire us to champion our roots.  To ignore, or do battle with, a group that has shown such a remarkable ability to turn out in the fight for freedom would be tragically unwise.  Instead, we should work together to promote our common ideas.  We must be able to fight for what makes us Republicans – limited government, lower taxes, and greater freedom – if we are expected to follow through on our broader commitment to America.

The course for a Republican resurgence in 2010 cannot be perfectly charted in January, but we know it must be guided by this commitment.  If we are to achieve what one year ago was considered by most to be impossible, we must engage early and often with the American people who today crave new bold leadership and real solutions.  Through hard work, outreach, and principle, we can make next New Year a time of celebration of American principles and conservatism, rather than a time of regret.

Rep. Tom Price is a Republican Member of Congress from Georgia and chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

Cross-posted from The Daily Caller


The Big Question: What will be the fallout after Reid's 'Negro' remark?

John Feehery: Politicians react poorly when they smell blood in the water...blood is in the water over this silly comment .

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

Today's question:

How will Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's recently revealed "Negro dialect" remark affect his leadership of the Senate and his reelection race?


Pennsylvania's Joe Lieberman (Rep. Joe Sestak)

This is what happens when we play politics instead of standing up for our principles.

After the House passed health care reform with a strong public option to provide real choice and savings for Americans, Joe Lieberman has killed the public option in the Senate and threatened reform as a whole. He's even refused excessive compromises, including a public option "trigger" and allowing Americans to buy into Medicare at age 55 -- a position he advocated only months ago.

It's a shame that the most important piece of the Democratic agenda has been hijacked by a member of the Democratic Caucus representing a solidly Democratic state, but it's not surprising.