Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Yesterday, President Obama dared Republicans to continue their obstruction by announcing three nominations to the DC District Court of Appeals. His nominees are U.S. Circuit Court Judge Leon Wilkins, Georgetown law professor Cornelia Pillard, and Patricia Ann Millett, a partner at the prestigious law firm Akin Gump. This announcement comes just two weeks after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid threatened the so-called "nuclear option" if Republicans continue to obstruct President Obama's nominations. Right on cue, the Republican leadership in the Senate signaled they may put Senator Reid's threat to the test. At his weekly press conference, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell questioned, "the appropriateness of confirming these three judges," but dodged a question about whether the nominees should be filibustered. Senator McConnell also repeated one of the newest GOP talking points about the nominations, saying, "I think the issue is, if there is one, with regard to the D.C. Circuit, is whether this circuit court – which is apparently less busy than all but one circuit court in the nation – needs to have a full complement of judges." Anticipating such remarks, President Obama addressed that same talking point in his press conference earlier in the day. He said, "When a Republican was President, 11 judges on the D.C. Circuit Court made complete sense. Now that a Democrat is President, it apparently doesn't. Eight is suddenly enough." President Obama called on Senate Republicans to stop the obstruction, and give these nominees a fair up-or-down vote. We will all have to wait and see whether that will actually happen. Stay tuned.
In screwed news... New Jersey Governor Chris Christie will waste $12 million taxpayer dollars in a blatant move in increase his chances of reelection. Yesterday, Governor Christie announced he has called for a special election to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated with the passing of democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg. That special election will be held just three weeks before voters will decide whether Governor Christie should be elected for another term. Rather than spending millions of taxpayer dollars on a special election, Governor Christie could hold both votes on the same day. However, he knows that the vote for Senator Lautenberg's seat will increase democratic voter turnout, and lower Christie's chances of being reelected. The Governor could have also appointed someone to serve out the remainder of Senator Lautenberg's term, but doing so would have risked angering voters. His politically self-serving solution will be a huge financial burden on New Jersey, which is already struggling under the financial strains of storm repair and sequester budget cuts. With only three weeks between the elections, it's unlikely that New Jersey voters will forget about his $12 million dollar cop out.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Connecticut won't wait for Congress to require the labeling of genetically-modified food. On Monday, that state became the first in our nation to pass legislation requiring GMO labeling, however the bill will not take effect until four other states pass similar regulations. Because Monsanto is known for over-zealous use of the courts to bully any attempts to regulate them, this additional requirement is meant to ensure that there is a coalition of states to defend against any court actions by Monsanto. Governor Dannel Malloy issued a statement about the additional provision, saying, "This bill strikes an important balance by ensuring the consumers' right to know what is in their food, while shielding our small businesses from liability that could leave them at a competitive disadvantage." As states like New York and Vermont are also considering similar GMO legislation, Connecticut's "four state" requirement could be met quickly. Only a week ago, the U.S. Senate voted down a federal GMO labeling bill, but states like Connecticut are saying that consumers shouldn't have to wait for an obstructionist Congress to act before knowing what's in their food.
Thanks to Obamacare, small businesses in California will be refunded over $36 million dollars from that state's biggest insurance companies. The healthcare law's so-called "80/20 rule" requires insurance companies to spend at least 80 percent of premiums on actual medical services. In 2011 alone, this same rule provided Americans with $1.5 billion dollars in insurance premium rebates. According to The Think Progress Blog, Blue Shield of California will pay back $24.5 million dollars to its customers, and Anthem Blue Cross will refund another $12 million. Consumer advocates are cheering the return of premium payments to businesses and workers, but they also argue that insurance companies should not be overcharging in the first place. In an interview with the L.A. Times, Jon Fox, of the California Public Interest Research Group Education Fund, said, "Health insurers should work to cut upfront premiums, rather than reimburse consumers afterward. Millions of dollars in rebates are a clear sign that health insurers are overcharging consumers." California is one of a few states that cannot negotiate or reject insurance premium rate hikes, but the Obamacare 80/20 rules will ensure that rate increases aren't just adding to insurance company waste.
And finally... Many Americans chastise House Republicans for living in the past and promoting policies reminiscent of the 1950's. However, two upcoming votes in the U.S. House of Representatives show the GOP will settle for returning to 2009, when the poverty activism group ACORN was still in existence. That's right – not one, but two scheduled votes this week will focus on rejecting funding for ACORN, even though the program was disbanded three years ago. In a government funding bill presented on May 28th, Representative John Culberson of Texas included language stating, "None of the funds made available in this Act may be distributed to ACORN or its subsidiaries or successors." The very next day, Representative John Carter of Texas extended the ban to "any prior appropriations Act." Amid the frustration over House Republicans wasting more taxpayer time and money on another useless vote, Representative Alan Grayson of Florida mocked the Republicans, saying "Is it too late to defund Saddam Hussein?"
And that's the way it is today – Tuesday, June 5, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.