Progressive Breakfast for July 31

Morning Message

The NLRB’s McDonald’s Ruling Is A Big Win For Low-Wage Workers

The National Labor relations Board (NLRB) ruled Tuesday that employees who work at McDonald’s are employees who work for McDonald’s. This is actually a big deal because it means that McDonald’s’ low-wage employees can start going after the larger company for issues like wage theft and ultimately could organize themselves into a union.

Bank of America Fined

Bank of America Ordered to Pay Nearly $1.3 Billion in Mortgage Case. New York Times: “A federal judge has ordered Bank of America to pay nearly $1.3 billion in penalties for its role in defrauding Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac into buying thousands of  defective mortgages. The penalty handed down by Judge Jed S. Rakoff of the Federal District Court in Manhattan on Wednesday comes after a jury in October found Bank of America liable for selling the questionable loans to the government-sponsored entities in the run-up to the financial crisis. The jury also found a top manager at Bank of America’s Countrywide Financial unit liable for the sale of the loans, which were originated as part of a program nicknamed the ‘hustle,’ which linked bonuses to how fast bankers could originate loans.”

Bank of America faces $1.3 billion fine for Countrywide’s risky mortgages. Christian Science Monitor: “A federal judge imposed a $1.3 billion civil penalty against Bank of America on Wednesday for its role in selling risky mortgages to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that were advertised as safe investments. The fine was against Countrywide Financial, which Bank of America purchased in 2008 as the financial crisis was unfolding. It is the latest legal ruling against Wall Street. … In his blunt ruling, Judge Jed Rakoff said the program was ‘driven by a hunger for profits and oblivious to the harms thereby visited, not just on the immediate victims but also on the financial system as a whole.’”

Congress Races on Highway, VA Bills

Congress races to finish veterans, highway bills. AP: “Congress is racing to wrap up legislation addressing chronic problems at the Veterans Affairs Department and a shortfall in highway money ahead of its five-week summer break. Deep divisions cast doubt on any resolution to the surge of immigrants at the border. The institutional split of a Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate has added up to inaction, especially in a midterm election year with control of the Senate at stake. In the final days before leaving Washington, lawmakers have struggled to compromise on a handful of bills to deal with the nation’s pressing problems amid overwhelming partisanship.”

House approves bill overhauling VA health care. CBS News: “The House has approved a compromise bill to refurbish the Veterans Affairs Department and improve veterans’ health care. The 420-5 vote Wednesday sends the bill to the Senate, where approval is expected by the end of the week. The $16.3 billion measure, which was unveiled Monday by the chairmen of the House and Senate veterans affairs committees, is intended to help veterans avoid long waits for health care, hire more doctors and nurses to treat them and make firing senior executives at the VA easier.”

Border Bill Update

Border battle: House GOP moves to block Barack Obama. Politico: “House Republicans will vote to rein in the Obama administration’s power to halt deportation for undocumented immigrants — a surprise move that comes as they struggle to attract support for their bill to address the crisis at the border. The new plan, described by multiple GOP aides Wednesday evening, comes as House Republicans were unable to lock up 218 GOP lawmakers to vote for the $659 million emergency funding package.”

Tea party opposition puts fate of House Republican border bill up in the air. Washington Post: “The fate of a Republican proposal to address a brewing immigration crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border was cast into doubt Wednesday after a tea party senator lobbied against it to House members. The effort by Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), who made his pitch to a group of House Republicans in a closed-door evening meeting, marked another direct shot at attempts by Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) to deal with the influx of illegal immigrants arriving from Central America.”

Kevin Drum lays out how Republicans are about to blow up emergency border funding: “Basically, Cruz is trying to rally House conservatives to vote against Boehner’s stopgap bill unless it also kills DACA, the so-called mini-DREAM executive action that halts deportations of children who have been in the country for many years. If he succeeds, then no funding bill will pass before Congress goes on vacation. That’s why the Obama folks are in crisis mode. We can’t just starve the kids who have come across the border, after all, and that means Obama is once again forced to be the grown-up in the room. Your Republican Party at work, folks. George Washington would be proud.”

Border Crisis Continues

Immigration courts speed up hearings for children caught at the US border. US News and World Report: “Immigration courts are speeding up hearings for the tens of thousands of Central American children caught on the U.S. border after criticism that the backlogged system is letting immigrants stay in the country for years while waiting for their cases to be heard. There are 375,000 cases before the immigration courts and many immigrants wait months or years for a hearing. Instead of bumping children to the back of that long line, the courts are now giving each child an initial court hearing within three weeks, according to the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. A spokeswoman for the courts didn’t answer questions about how many children’s hearings had been set under the new plan, or which courts had scheduled additional hearings.”

Writing in Dissent, Alexander Main points out that the Central American child refugee crisis was “Made in the USA”: “Right-wing pundits here in the United States have asserted that the border crisis is “not our responsibility.” The evidence on the ground in the Northern Triangle suggests the contrary. The economic and trade policies that the United States has supported in Mexico and Central America have resulted in the displacement of millions of workers and economic stagnation. The militarized drug war that the United States has promoted and funded in Mexico and Central America has further unleashed repressive, abusive security forces and undermined the civilian institutions that might hold them accountable. It’s time to change our policies toward these countries in their interest and our own.”

Report: Most Child Migrants With Attorneys Show Up for Immigration Court. Colorlines: “In recent weeks, conservative lawmakers and anti-immigrant hawks have repeated a common refrain over the current unaccompanied minors crisis: that 90 percent of children who are released to family while they await immigration processing never show up for their immigration hearings. Children are being let loose into the country and fading into the shadows of the nation’s undocumented population, so the story goes. In fact, for children who have attorneys, the opposite is true. Indeed, 92.5 percent of children with attorneys are present at immigration hearings, according to numbers released this month by the Transnational Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. Just 27.5 percent of children without an attorney succeed in showing up.”

House GOP Votes To Sue President Obama

House Republicans vote to sue Barack Obama over Obamacare. The Guardian: “The Republican-led US House of Representatives has cleared the way for a lawsuit accusing Barack Obama of overstepping his authority in carrying out his healthcare reforms. The 225-201 vote, along party lines, to authorise the suit will allow House lawyers to draft legal documents over a five-week summer recess starting on Friday. … The suit is expected to claim that the president, a Democrat, exceeded his executive authority in making unilateral changes to the Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Republicans argue that by delaying some healthcare coverage mandates and granting various waivers, he bypassed Congress in violation of the US constitution.”

 US House Approves Bill to Sue Obama. VOA News: “After a day of drama in the chamber, the U.S. House of Representatives has approved a bill on a party-line vote that authorizes the House to file a lawsuit against President Barack Obama. House Republicans say the president violated the Constitution in 2013 by changing his signature health care reform law without getting approval from Congress. Democrats say the bill is a political stunt designed to undermine the president’s legitimacy. It was a day of impassioned debate on the House floor about the state of American democracy. House Republicans say Democratic President Barack Obama has openly bragged on several occasions that he has a pen, and if Congress will not act to solve problems, he will act on his own on issues such as immigration and health care.”