In today's On the News segment: Yesterday, Senate Republicans dropped their filibuster and allowed an up or down vote on extending the Bush tax cuts for 98 percent of Americans; a Japanese newspaper is reporting that plant operators still face a number of hurdles before they can decommission the Fukushima nuclear plant; President Obama spoke tough words on gun control Wednesday night in a speech at the Urban League in New Orleans; Chicago is now the latest city to approve a resolution to amend the Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Mitch McConnell blinked. Yesterday – Senate Republicans dropped their filibuster and allowed an up or down vote on extending the Bush tax cuts for 98% of Americans. In a vote of 51 to 48, with no Republicans supporting the measure, Democrats extended the Bush tax cuts for all Americans making less than $250,000 a year. Another bill – proposed by Republicans – to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% of Americans was defeated. Thus, the burden shifts to House Republicans – who plan to vote in the coming weeks on legislation to extend the Bush tax cuts for the richest 2% of Americans as well – a move the Senate has just rejected and a move that President Obama has promised to veto. So now, the only viable option to prevent tax hikes on ALL Americans at the end of the year is the Senate's bill, which calls on the Romney super-rich in America to pay their fair share in taxes again. Time to call your Member of Congress if they're a Republican, and tell him or her to not hold middle class tax cuts hostage.
In screwed news...500 days have now passed since the Fukushima nuclear crisis in Japan began. And one thing's clear – it's still an extremely dangerous situation. A Japanese newspaper is reporting that plant operators still face a number of hurdles before they can decommission the plant and officially close the book on the crisis – and it could take decades. Those hurdles include trying to determine why 8 million becquerels of radioactive cesium still continues to pour out of reactor number 2 every single hour. Also, half of all the critical thermometers on site are malfunctioning because they've been damaged by high temperatures and high humidity within the plant. There are numerous cooling water leaks. Plus, water contaminated with radiation is accumulating in the basements of the reactor building. And, plant operators still have no clue how they're going to remove massive pools of highly radioactive spent fuel from the roofs of the reactors. As the newspaper reports, "Not only will that work be unprecedented, but the work will also have to be done in an environment of high radiation levels." Oh, and then there's the situation with reactor 4, which could collapse at any moment, triggering a worldwide nuclear disaster worse than Chernobyl. Let's hope nuclear regulators in America are paying attention.
In the best of the rest of the news...
President Obama spoke tough words on gun control Wednesday night in a speech at the Urban League in New Orleans. One week after the Colorado massacre, the President urged common-sense gun controls like full criminal background checks for gun purchasers and new measures to ensure the mentally ill can't buy guns. The President also hinted that he'd support a ban on assault rifles saying, "AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals." President Obama sounded more like Senator Obama, who had a much tougher stance on gun control, supporting a ban on all semi-automatic weapons as a state senator, and as a U.S. Senator voting down legislation to protect gun manufacturers and sellers from lawsuits when someone is killed using their products. Despite the conspiracy theories coming from the NRA and other gun interest groups, gun rights in America have expanded under President Obama. Let's hope Members of Congress grow a spine, say no to the NRA's blood money, and enact some much-needed gun controls to curb this epidemic of gun violence in America.
Chicago is now the latest city to approve a resolution to amend the Constitution to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision. The resolution, approved unanimously by the city council, states: "We, the Mayor and the members of the Chicago City Council of the City of Chicago, call upon the United States Congress to propose and send to the states for ratification a Constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United v. Federal Elections Commission." Chicago now joins 280 cities and six states that have approved similar resolutions to amend the Constitution. Get your city involved, too – go to MoveToAmend.org.
New numbers out show just how damaging Pennsylvanias now Voter Suppression ID law will be to our democracy. According to the Philadelphia City Paper – 20% of legal voters in the state do not have the kind of photo ID required to vote under the new law. And, in the city of Philadelphia alone, a whopping 43% of the voting population will be ineligible to vote as a result of the law. Of course, the majority of those who'll be barred from voting are minorities, seniors, students, and low-income Americans – people who generally vote for Democrats. Which, of course, is why when Republicans state Speaker of the House Mike Turzai said the new Voter Suppression ID law will help deliver the election to Mitt Romney, he wasn't joking. It's time to fight for a federal right to vote in America – and put an end to this partisan attack on Democratic voters that the Koch Brother's ALEC organization is pushing nationwide.
When it comes to auto sales, the United States is leading the rest of the world. Automakers in China, India, and Europe are struggling with falling sales, but the United States is surging. In the first half of this year, auto sales in Chine rose a mere 2.9%. But, in the United States, auto sales are up 15%. According to estimates, the U.S. is on track to sell 14.5 million cars this year – the most in five years. It wasn't too long ago when Detroit was on the verge of collapse. President Obama stepped in and took bold action to rescue American auto manufacturers – while Republicans like Mitt Romney criticized his efforts. Now we know the right course of action was taken.
And that's the way it is today – Thursday, July 26, 2012. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.