A Political Stunt? Like Repealing ACA?

This got hung up somewhere, but it is still just as valid today when Congress still has not accomplished anything of note while the parties squabble with each other as it was when I wrote it before the shutdown….

Shutdown: Congress shouldn’t get paid during standoff, Va. rep says | WTOP

But McConnell called it a “political stunt” and said it would be useless to allow a vote that wouldn’t get Trump’s signature. The GOP lawmaker said simply, “This would not produce a result.”

In 2012, I wrote a post on the House of Representative’s 33 vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act. At the time I questioned why the Party of No was wasting the tax payer’s time with a show vote that would not result in anything more than, well a show vote.

Fast forward six years, and we have a Senate that seems to think show votes are a waste of time, and therefore, they will not do it. Except that this time, the vote is not a show vote. It is an adult, bringing a bill to the floor of the Senate, to be voted on to end the government shutdown. And this time, it is likely that even if the President does not sign the bill, there will be enough votes to override any veto he might threaten. That is what is scaring the Majority Leader. He is worried to his marrow that he has lost control of the Senate on this particular issue. Especially when the same Senate, not forty-eight hours before the shutdown began voted in favor of the same bill as the House has presented them.

I am beginning to think that this may actually be the definition of insanity.

The Realities of Contract Work

About three months after the longest government shutdown in history came to an end, leaders of companies and unions representing federal contract workers are speaking out, asking for legislative changes to ensure that their employees are guaranteed back pay if another shutdown occurs. WTOP

The latest Federal Government shutdown lasted thirty-five days and affected eight hundred thousand contractors, everyone from the men and women that empty the trash, to the men and women that write the software that fly the unmanned aircraft used by the military.

I ask that we work together to find a way to enact legislation that will treat the contractor workforce just as their federal workforce counterparts are treated —Leidos CEO Roger Krone.

Mr. Krone’s supposed concern for his employees notwithstanding, this is about the money Leidos and other federal contractors lost during the shutdown. Let me explain how it works. A contractor is a body with a value attached to it. That value is a combination of their salary, their benefits, and a number of other factors at play within the company that is loaning their services to the Federal Government. What is called the loaded rate. That loaded rate would astound you (or perhaps not – that $10,000 toilet seat. That was as much the cost of labour as the cost of materials). If I am employed at an annual salary of $130,000, I would be making about $60/hour. Now, we add to that the overhead costs, etc from the company and I am being sold to them at a rate of $120/hr.

This is about the money, and not the money lost by the contractors.

The argument or at least the parallel is that the Federal Employees got their money, the contractors should too. I am of two minds about this. I can see the argument that the Federal workforce was involuntarily furloughed. In labour law, it is slightly different from being laid-off, but the effects are the same. If Ford had furloughed a line, those employees would not be paid for their time off. Similarly, the contractors would not be paid.

Companies are often left with two choices during a shutdown, he said: pay their employees and go out of business, or withhold pay and see their workforce leave them.

He is correct. Contractors actually live on a very small margin with Federal contracts. And they do have a significant risk that their employees will walk out on them if they are not paid. And that is the risk of contracting in general. You take a job with a contractor knowing that at some point your contract will expire. Some companies recognize this, make allowances for it, and protect their employees, to a certain extent, while others are less concerned. In fairness to Leidos, they tend to protect their employees, but they have lost their margin over the thirty-five days, through no fault of their own because the government (the paymaster) was not doing their job.

How this compensation should be addressed is not a simple issue. Being paid to not work is not going to be successful. And 800,000 federal contractors did not work for thirty-five days. Unlike Federal Employees, contractors had the option of looking for work or taking unemployment, or annual training or leave. I am not sure contractors should expect back pay. But as a former Federal contractor, I can feel their pain. There is no easy solution.

Adults In Charge

In report, Mueller says Congress could take action on Trump obstruction

While most of official Washington is busy losing their minds today over the release of the Mueller report, this particular call out caught my attention.

“The President’s efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful, but that is largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests.”

What is harrowing to me, is that, had people like former chief of staff John Kelly not been in their jobs, then the current President of the United States would and quite likely could have been successful in interfering in the investigation and quite likely would now be facing some form of repercussion.

This begs the question. What other orders have they declined to carry out, and to the betterment of the country or the detriment of the President?

There is no question that the current President lacks certain qualities we might expect in a President. Worse, this President seems to not want to be President, yet clearly thinks that since he is, the Government should be run like a company, not a nation. And as a nation, the United States is paying the price. And will continue to pay the price for generations to come. History will not be kind to number 45, but what worries me, is now that the adults have been cleared from the room, what sort of havoc will be wrought on the country. I am not sure the nation is ready for it.

Barn Door, Meet Horse

Trump Organization to use E-Verify for worker status checks | WTOP

“We are actively engaged in uniforming this process across our properties and will institute E-verify at any property not currently utilizing this system,” Eric Trump, executive vice president of the Trump Organization, said in a statement provided to The Associated Press. “As a company we take this obligation very seriously and when faced with a situation in which an employee has presented false and fraudulent documentation, we will take appropriate action.”

One has to wonder, once the Trump Organization has resolved the situation if they will return to hiring falsely documented personnel or actually hire properly documented personnel. If there is another round of bankruptcies, we will know what they chose. And then how they returned to the old way of doing things.

A Legitimate Reason?

OPM: Unpaid essential personnel must show up or risk AWOL status | WTOP

If an employee has a legitimate reason for the absence, the agency could place the person on furlough, but AWOL employees can face appropriate consequences based on the discretion of the agency.

Gee, what could a federal employee use as a legitimate reason for not reporting to work, when they are being ordered to report and not actually getting paid for coming to work. Hm, let me think, let me think. Oh, I know! How about Amendment 13, Section 1 of the United States Constitution?

1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.

I guess being essential, working without pay, for the United States Government, in the event of a shutdown is…punishment for a crime?

Failing that, not being able to pay for gas, or transit is also something I would accept. After all, many TSA worksites are not exactly conveniently located to public transit.

And The Stupidity Keeps Coming.

Trump says solution to shutdown impasse ‘so simple’ | WTOP

“I’m not looking to call a national emergency,” Trump said Monday. “This is so simple we shouldn’t have to.”

The President is correct. The solution is quite simple. The Senate needs to vote on the bills already passed by the house. That means the Majority Leader needs to man up and bring them to the floor. Let them stand or fall on their own merit and let the President sign or veto them as he wishes. This will show the country who is really causing 800,000 Federal workers to miss paycheques, put their credit history at risk, and, according to the Bureau of Revenue of Maryland:

The state’s Bureau of Revenue Estimates said Monday in a report that each biweekly payroll those residents are not paid results in about $778 million in lost wages. That results in roughly $57.5 million less in combined state and local income tax withholding and $2.1 million less in sales tax collections. WTOP

And that is just one state’s lost taxes.

Yes, Mr. President, the solution is so simple.

Pot, Meet Kettle

GOP Rep. King loses committee posts over racial remarks | WTOP

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell denounced King earlier Monday, saying, “There is no place in the Republican Party, the Congress or the country for an ideology of racial supremacy of any kind.”

Let us recall statements by the sitting GOP President following the riots in Charlottesville, Virginia in August of 2017:

Mr. Trump defended those gathered in a Charlottesville park to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. “I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups,” he said. “Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.” NY Times

Now, you can argue that 45 is not supporting racial supremacy, but I can argue even more that he sure is not, by his actions so far, saying there is no place for this sort of ideology. So Mitch, when you are digging a whole, the best way to save yourself is to stop digging.

Say What?

Exclusive: Trump team should be allowed to ‘correct’ final Mueller report, says Giuliani | TheHill

Rudy Giuliani says President Trump’s legal team should be allowed to “correct” special counsel Robert Mueller’s final report before Congress or the American people get the chance to read it.

Just when you think you have heard the most ludicrous statement come out of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, someone comes along and says something even more jaw droppingly stupid.

As a prosecutor, how many times did Mr. Giuliani let the defendant correct his indictment before he presented it to the courts? Because that is exactly what the Mueller report will be, an indictment of the current President of the United States. Whether it leads to additional legal or Constitutional charges should be the decision of the bodies best qualified to make them. The President’s lawyer is not one of them.

I certainly hope that the adults in the room prevail.

Can We Do Te Same For Pastrami and Bacon?

Industry wary of alternatives tries to protect a word: meat | WTOP

Nebraska lawmakers will consider a bill this year defining meat as “any edible portion of any livestock or poultry, carcass, or part thereof” and excluding “lab-grown or insect or plant-based food products.” It would make it a crime to advertise or sell something “as meat that is not derived from poultry or livestock.”

As more and more marketing people try to get the general public to fall for their new and improved usually faux healthy product, like nut water, or margarine, instead of milk, or butter, the blurring of the lines between what we know it is and what the marketing doublespeak wants us to believe it is will only get broader.

Even foods that should be clearly delineated, like bacon, seem to now come with qualifiers, and the qualifiers are rather odd. I have yet to encounter the full shift I have seen with coffee (you now have to explicitly say you want your coffee hot), but I do not think we are far away. When I order pastrami, being asked to define whether I want beef or turkey probably makes several in the smoked meat business cringe. Bacon now comes as pork (the so far default), turkey, or tofu (when you are eating something called tofu, bacon is the last thing that comes to mind).

Many people have decided to cut meat out of their diet. That is just fine. However, please, do not confuse your need to follow rabid diet models with the public’s need to be able to identify their food. Meat only comes from animals, milk from cows or goats, and keep your ground up nuts out of my water. I need them for my Chex Mix.

The Party of No

House passes bill that would end shutdown, but Senate unlikely to take up

By a vote of 240-188 along mostly partisan lines, the House passed the bill and sent it to the Republican-controlled Senate as part of Democrats’ latest strategy to end partial government shutdowns at many federal agencies that began on Dec. 22. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has not indicated a willingness to bring the bill up for a vote.

For the last two years, the House, Senate, and Executive have been controlled by the Republicans. For the past two years, the party of No has had control of all aspects of the government. During that time, they have not passed any significant bills related to border security. Now, suddenly, at the eleventh hour, the party of No suddenly needs to pass a bill containing $5bn for a wall. It no longer matters what this wall is made of anymore. $5bn is just the entry, like a gateway drug. And this is such an important issue, that the party of No has decided to shut down the government and not reopen it.

Let me be clear. The bills that are being passed are identical to the proposals the Republican-controlled Senate passed which did not have the $5bn in it anyway. Now, suddenly, the House bills are not good enough, and the Party of No in the Senate is refusing to bring them to the floor. Why?

The answer is pretty simple. The Republican-controlled Senate is afraid that if they bring these bills to the floor, the Senate will pass them, at a veto-proof level, and Majority Leader McConnell will look like an ass. This is now beyond the temper tantrums the President is throwing. This is a full-blown ass-covering exercise. And 800,000 federal workers are being held over a barrel because of it.