Progressive Breakfast for July 30

Morning Message

“Spread the Bread, Mr. President”: Sign A ‘Good Jobs’ Executive Order

When a recent study by the Russell Sage Foundation revealed that the median American household had lost a third of its net worth in the decade between 2003 and 2013, while those at the very top saw significant gains, it was the latest evidence that the economy has gotten so out of balance that only a dramatic intervention can right it. That is why commuters heading to Capitol Hill on Tuesday morning saw dozens of low-wage workers, mostly women, outside Union Station in a protest to demand that President Obama sign a “good jobs” executive order.

Senate Nears “Highway Cliff”

Senate steps closer to ‘highway cliff’. Politico: “The Senate has passed a bill to rescue highway and transit funding that House Speaker John Boehner says he won’t accept, keeping the specter of a ‘highway cliff’ alive with just days before Congress is set to leave for its August recess. With both chambers having passed different versions of the bill, lawmakers will now engage in a staring contest until one side blinks. What’s at stake is federal funding for transportation projects across the country, which are in jeopardy as long as Congress is at odds.”

Senate Tires of Patching Highway Programs. ABC News: “The Senate delivered an unexpectedly strong vote Tuesday in favor of taking action later this year to resolve the chronic funding problems that have bedeviled highway and transit programs, a sign that Congress may have reached the limit of its patience with short-term fixes. The bill, which passed 79 to 18, provides $8.1 billion to keep the federal Highway Trust Fund — the chief source of highway and transit aid to states — solvent through December. That’s enough time, supporters said, for Congress to return to work after the November election, when partisan fervor will have cooled, and make the politically difficult decisions on whether to raise federal gas taxes or find some other means to shore up the fund.”

NLRB Says McDonald’s Liable For Workers

Ruling Says McDonald’s Is Liable for Workers. New York Times: “The general counsel of the National Labor Relations Board ruled on Tuesday that McDonald’s could be held jointly liable for labor and wage violations by its franchise operators — a decision that, if upheld, would disrupt longtime practices in the fast-food industry and ease the way for unionizing nationwide. Business groups called the decision outrageous. Some legal experts described it as a far-reaching move that could signal the labor board’s willingness to hold many other companies to the same standard of ‘joint employer,’ making businesses that use subcontractors or temp agencies at least partly liable in cases of overtime, wage or union-organizing violations.”

McDonald’s: Regulator Says It’s a ‘Joint Employer’. ABC News: “McDonald’s says it has been notified by a labor regulator that it can be named a “joint employer” for workers in its franchisee-owned restaurants. The decision by the National Labor Relations Board was being closely watched because it could potentially expose McDonald’s to liability for the working conditions and practices in its franchisees’ stores. It also puts pressure on the world’s biggest hamburger chain at a time when protests for higher wages in the fast-food industry have captured national attention. McDonald’s and other fast-food companies have repeatedly said they are not responsible for determining wages and other terms at their franchised locations.”

Climate Change Takes Center Stage

President Barack Obama’s climate push takes center stage. Politico: “The Obama administration and its supporters fanned out around the country Tuesday to press the case for acting on climate change, arguing on the Hill, at packed Environmental Protection Agency hearings and in a new White House report that the price for doing nothing is far too high. The climate offensive reflects liberals’ growing belief that reining in greenhouse gases is a winning political issue among Latinos, women and young people, especially if framed as a boost for public health and the economy — even as moderate Democrats struggle to defend President Barack Obama’s policies in key states that could flip the Senate in November.”

White House climate change report: Act now, or pay later. The Christian Science Monitor: “A new White House climate change report warns of the economic costs of delaying action on global warming. It comes as the EPA begins public hearings on controversial power plant regulations aimed at curbing climate change. The longer the world waits to act on climate change, the more costly it will be to rein in the environmental impacts of releasing heat-trapping gases into the atmosphere. That’s the conclusion of a White House report on climate change released Tuesday. It comes on the same day the EPA begins public hearings on controversial power plant regulations that critics say will raise energy costs and do little to curb global warming. “

Sanctions, But No “New Cold War”

Barack Obama: ‘Not a new Cold War’. Politico: “President Barack Obama on Tuesday announced escalated U.S. sanctions against Russia in the energy, arms and finance sectors, turning up the heat as European countries agreed to take their strongest steps yet targeting Russia over claims it is fomenting unrest in Ukraine. … Asked by a reporter if the standoff amounts to a new Cold War, Obama said it was not. ‘It’s not a new Cold War,’ the president said. ‘What it is a very specific issue related to Russia’s unwillingness to recognize that Ukraine can chart its own path.’”

UK must be ready to pay Russia sanctions price – Hammond. BBC News: “The UK will pay an economic price for imposing sanctions on Russia, Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond has said. But he said the “pain” would be no worse than in other EU countries and would be worth it to curb ‘Russian aggression’. Details of the latest EU sanctions package will be announced later on Wednesday. It is likely to include a new list of Russian oligarchs who are to face asset freezes and travel bans. There will also be measures aimed at the the oil sector, defense equipment and sensitive technologies.”

Russia’s Central Bank Supports Sanctions Targets. ABC News: “Russia’s central bank promised to support financial institutions hit by U.S. sanctions as stocks took a tumble in Moscow on Wednesday. In an online statement, the bank promised to “take adequate measures” to support targeted institutions. Russia’s state-owned VTB bank — Russia’s second-largest — was down 0.5 percent on Wednesday morning.  Other major banks that were left unscathed by sanctions — such as the country’s largest, Sberbank — were trading higher. Russia’s MICEX benchmark index added 2.3 percent from its previous closing. U.S. officials said Tuesday that roughly 30 percent of Russia’s banking sector assets are now constrained by sanctions.

VA Secretary Confirmed

Senate confirms Robert McDonald as VA secretary. CNN: “The Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed Robert McDonald, a former corporate CEO and an ex-Army officer, as the next Veterans Affairs secretary. He replaces Eric Shinseki, who resigned in May amid an unfolding scandal at VA medical facilities. The vote was 97 to 0. McDonald takes over a massive bureaucracy with more than 300,000 full-time employees still reeling from allegations of delayed care and alarming mismanagement at major medical facilities.”

Senate unanimously confirms Robert McDonald as VA secretary. Washington Post: “The Senate on Tuesday unanimously confirmed former Procter & Gamble chief Robert McDonald to be the next secretary of the troubled Department of Veterans Affairs. Tuesday’s vote is a rare example of swift, bipartisan action by the Senate to address pressing problems. Obama nominated McDonald on June 30, and the Senate Veterans Affairs gave him a warm reception during his confirmation hearing last week.”

Impeachment Problems For The GOP

Impeachment, on G.O.P. Lips, Animates Base of Democrats. New York Times: “The talk of impeachment has had a catalytic effect on fund-raising for the Democratic campaign committee, which raised $7.6 million online through more than 400,000 donations since Mr. Boehner announced the lawsuit against the president. That works out to an average of $19 dollars per donation, which Mr. Israel attributed to concern among the party’s base. ‘It’s having the unintended consequence of moving our base in a midterm election and also moving persuadable voters to us in a midterm election,’ Mr. Israel added.”

Speaker Boehner Shoots Down Impeachment Talk, Blasts Democrats for Pushing It. ABC News: “Speaker John Boehner shot down talk of impeachment once again today — raising his voice as he blamed Democrats for trying to push the idea for political gain. ‘We have no plans to impeach the president. We have no future plans,’ Boehner said, answering a question from ABC News at a news conference. ‘Listen, it’s all a scam started by Democrats at the White House.’”

Drew Courtney at Right Wing Watch catalogs impeachment rhetoric on the right, and says calls for impeachment from the GOP base puts the party in a tricky spot: “Nearly two years into President Obama’s second term, a do-nothing Republican Congress is focusing on its next project: the 2014 midterm elections. But that effort might be complicated by increasing pressure from the party’s base to turn Congress’ energy to impeaching President Obama. The impeachment call, which has existed on the right-wing fringe since the start of Obama’s presidency, has picked up steam in recent weeks as it has been endorsed by right-wing media figures, activists and elected officials. This has put Republican congressional leaders in a tricky spot as they attempt to placate their base without alienating moderate voters.”

GOP Border Crisis Plan Falls Short

House G.O.P. Plan on Border Crisis Is Well Short of What Obama Seeks. New York Times: “House Republicans on Tuesday unveiled their plan to stem the surge of undocumented child migrants from Central America at the southern border, proposing to spend $659 million — well short of the $3.7 billion President Obama seeks — to ease the humanitarian crisis after weeks of internal divisions and just days before Congress adjourns for its five-week August break. The legislation, on which Republicans hope to hold a vote on Thursday, comes in response to Mr. Obama’s request this month for emergency supplemental funds to address the situation at the border, and it would also allocate far less than the Senate Democrats’ $2.7 billion plan.”

Cruz opposes House border bill. Politico: “Ted Cruz and other Senate conservatives are urging rejection of the House border security package, miffed that it excludes language prohibiting expansion of President Barack Obama’s deferred action policies. Cruz has urged House and Senate Republicans to rally around his proposal to attack Obama’s Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals, an administrative change Obama made in 2012 to halt the deportation of some young immigrants.”

Dems eye linking immigration reform to border bill. Politico: “Senate Democrats are actively warning they may try to attach the Gang of Eight’s comprehensive immigration reform bill to the package if House Republicans pass a pared-down funding bill for the border crisis. … ‘If they pass that, maybe it’s an opening for us to have a conference on our comprehensive immigration reform, if they’re finally sending us something on immigration,’ Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters.”