Tag Archive: Sen. Menendez

News Roundup and Open Thread for Thursday, August 8, 2015

Tonight at 9:00pm is Fox’s debate between the so-called top ten Republican presidential hopefuls, and the winner will be: drum roll … Fox Corporation which will gain huge publicity, viewership and ad revenue. Will the Fox questioners ask Christie about his record in NJ? How will he fare? Do we really care?

Lower amount needed in short-term loans may bode well for NJ economy: “Somewhat brighter fiscal outlook may put pressure on Christie to accelerate payments into pension fund.”

NJ Hospitals lead nation in penalties for high readmission rates: Federal agency penalizes problematic readmission rates by reducing Medicare reimbursements.

Anger in portions of Jersey City’s African American community: results in former Gov. Jim McGreevey being kicked out of a meeting because they were not consulted on the location for a new prisoner re-entry center.

New Jersey won’t increase the weight of state tests (10%) on teacher evaluations in the coming school year: a relief for educators whose reviews are based in part on students’ scores.

NJDEP wants to allow PSEG Nuclear to continue drawing water from the Delaware River: Environmentalists argue that recycling cooling towers are needed to stop the killing of large numbers of marine life.  

Another “hold your nose” vote to avert a government shutdown

Update Sun. 8:30 am: The Omnibus 2015 federal spending bill passed the Senate Saturday night 56 to 40 averting a government shutdown. Both Senators Menendez and Booker joined progressives and others and voted against the bill. Sen. Booker said the bill would roll back regulations in the Dodd-Frank Act, compromise truck safety, and interfere with the rights of Washington, D.C. residents to change their marijuana laws. Sen. Menendez said, “The rollback of critical Wall Street reform provisions puts taxpayers on the hook to bail Wall Street out again. Moreover, this last-minute add-on – a poison pill written by large financial institutions – sets the table for more attacks on the protections I fought to put in place following the financial collapse.”

Not so long ago the NJ legislature used to have an annual Christmas tree bill which was sprung upon the membership and laden with all sorts of holiday goodies inserted by individual legislators. This week in the House of Representatives with little more than two days to review the bill, leadership sprung their $1.1 trillion Christmas tree bill to fund the government next year and avert a federal shutdown.

The bill narrowly passed 219 votes to 206. Many Republicans did not like the bill for the generic reason that it calls for “too much government spending,” and because the act does not explicitly block President Barack Obama from implementing his Executive Order on immigration. Republicans voted 162 in favor and 67 against.  Many Democrats did not like the bill because it weakens Dodd-Frank consumer legislation and because it increases substantially the amount donors can contribute to political parties. Democrats voted 57 in favor and 139 against.

The House Speaker Republican John Boehner never had enough Republican votes to pass the bill, so he relied on support from Democrats. The White House vigorously lobbied Democrats for passage as did Steny Hoyer, Democratic Whip. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi spoke out and voted against it. Five of our NJ Democrats refused to “hold their nose” and vote for it and instead voted against it.  

Immigration Reform: Poisoned Pinatas and Gruel

I regret to say that the I oppose the immigration bill passed by the Senate and abhor even more what the House proposes. Like DOMA and “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” this bill if enacted will be scorned in years to come. Democrats are supporting it, just as Oliver Twist ate his porridge, and some Republicans are supporting it because they enjoy watching Oliver Twist eat the gruel.

Republicans have hurled so many poisoned darts at the immigration reform pinata that if it were to burst open, its fruit would be harmful and unsafe to citizens and immigrants alike. The incredibly onerous path to citizenship and the obscene costs added for border security are ludicrous. So many absurd requirements have been added to the bill that one thinks the issue is not to increase border security so much as a deep antipathy toward immigrants and a path to citizenship. Add to that list: hatred toward Obama, determination to scuttle or weaken any Democratic proposal, a narrow view of the interests in a congressional district, and suicide ideation.

Enter Senator Jeff Chiesa, one of Christie’s closest confidantes and acolytes. He owes so much ( 4 or so high-level jobs) to the Governor that when he knows what Christie wants it is unlikely he will do otherwise. Christie presumably found the gruel appropriate for his own gubernatorial and presidential efforts. Sen. Chiesa voted YES because “This bill strengthens border security, E-verify and better identifies visa overstays through an improved entry/exit system.” No mention of concern over the plight of immigrants nor a path to citizenship.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D), of Hispanic origin, a strong supporter of progressive immigration policy, and a member of the “Gang of Eight,” which crafted the bill, said, “This is the culmination of a long journey for me. I’ve been blazing a pathway to citizenship that would keep families together and give them a chance at a better life — and this bill does that. The road has been fraught with the same obstacles – the same pitfalls and prejudices — that have stood in the way of every generation of immigrants who wanted nothing more than a pathway to acceptance and opportunity.”

In the meantime, the immigration pinata in the House of Representatives is getting little attention. Roll Call reports, “Speaker Boehner reaffirmed his commitment to House Republicans on Wednesday that he would not bring up the Senate bill for a vote in the House.” Apparently the bill is not awful enough to merit the House’s attention. Methinks the man blusters too much and perchance will allow a vote. If so it could be on a House bill which is all border security and no path to citizenship.

Between poisoned pinatas and lousy gruel we are offered an inedible meal. Our Congress now is no place to enact reasonable, sensible legislation. S.744, the Comprehensive Immigration Reform bill, passed 68 to 32, with 14 Republicans voting in favor, and is now headed to the House.

Jeff Chiesa: Senator Today; NJ Supreme Court Chief Justice Soon?

U.S. Sen. Jeff Chiesa on Monday joined Sen. Bob Menendez (D) and enough Republicans to reauthorize the agriculture program. He joined some Republicans and not Sen. Menendez in opposing a pilot program for internet projects in rural areas. On Tuesday he joined Sen. Menendez and many Republicans to vote against invoking cloture on the comprehensive immigration bill. He then voted again with Senator Menendez and many Republicans to proceed to the immigration bill. In all cases he was within a Republican comfort zone. A key question is how he will vote on a final immigration package. It seems unlikely he will deviate substantially from positions favored by the Governor and Republicans in general.

When he leaves the Senate this Fall Chiesa has many options including returning to the Administration. He could also join a law practice bringing with him his high-power connections and experience in government. An intriguing possibility is that if Chiesa is interested, our Governor might nominate him to the Supreme Court. With his level of experience, gravitas, record and respect a Democratic Senate will have a harder time denying him the position. An even more more intriguing possibility is that the Governor might soon nominate Chiesa to be Chief Justice.

Under New Jersey’s revised 1947 Constitution, new state Supreme Court Justices initially serve a seven-year term and then can be reappointed and attain tenure. (There is also a mandatory retirement age at 70.) Stuart Rabner is the current Chief Justice, appointed by Governor Jon Corzine in 2007. His term expires on June 29, 2014. Until 2010 every Justice appointed under this system had been subsequently granted life tenure. Nonetheless, in 2010 the Governor declined to re-appoint Supreme Court Justice John Wallace. The Governor did not assert any lack of “good behavior.” Rather he claimed it was his prerogative to re-appoint, and he said he wished to have someone else more in tune with his philosophy.

The Senate led by President Steve Sweeney was so offended by the Governor’s blatant politics and disrespect toward an accomplished jurist that it refused to hold a hearing on the Governor’s intended replacement until Justice Wallace’s normal retirement in March 2012.

Following the dubious precedent the Governor set with Justice Wallace, he could choose to deny Chief Justice Rabner tenure and nominate current Senator Chiesa as Chief Justice on or after June 30, 2014. A Democratic Senate would once again be infuriated. However, the Supreme Court is short two Justices now, and the Governor’s replacement nominees include one Republican and one avowed Independent who nonetheless was recently appointed to another position by the Governor.

This is just another reason for Democrats to unify our party and work hard to create broad Democratic victories in November. With Christie as governor,  a Republican Senate would be a portal to assure a Republican Supreme Court and one possibly led by a Republican Chief Justice. What a difference an election can make.

Failure of Our U. S. Senate To Pass Gun Legislation

A sad day for people who believe we need stronger gun violence laws. Some 90% of the public support strengthened background checks. As President Obama pointed out, about 90% of the Democrats in the Senate today agreed with the public. 90% of the Republicans disagreed, and they will have to live with their decision. Some Republican Senators may have avoided a primary from a candidate further to the right, but some may yet lose their seat  to a more moderate candidate in touch with a broader public.

In spite of being ill NJ Senator Frank Lautenberg was on the floor and received applause from his colleagues when he voted in favor of the initial key Manchin Amendment No. 715. It was designed to ensure that all individuals who should be prohibited from buying a firearm are listed in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and provide a responsible and consistent background check process.” The amendment received 54 votes in favor, including that of NJ Sen. Menendez, but needed 60 votes for passage. Sen. Lautenberg’s amendment No. 714 to regulate large capacity ammunition feeding devices received only 46 votes in favor. To see the votes on all amendments go here.

President Obama said this evening, “Those who care deeply about preventing more and more gun violence will have to be as passionate, and as organized, and as vocal as those who blocked these common-sense steps to help keep our kids safe.” He vowed that this effort is not over.

In the meantime it is now up to our New Jersey Legislature to show the courage so absent from many U. S. Senators.

NO! to the P.A.’s Toll And Fare Hikes

The Port Authority’s lack of a clear plan for using its proposed increases, its failure to substantiate the threat of possible bond down-grading, and its opaque financial information, all argue against the exorbitant toll and fare increases proposed. Different interests including those of consumers, local labor/business groups, PA management, and bi-state politicians all collide in this perfect storm.  

Gateway: Can the Leopard Change its Spots?

    “I’ve said all along that I think we need a second tunnel under the Hudson River,” – Governor Chris Christie (02/07/11)

Christie further stated that he is “thrilled” with the new Gateway tunnel proposal, “pointing out that it addresses his concerns: the planned tunnel won’t end deep below Macy’s, New Jersey taxpayers won’t be on the hook for cost overruns and the federal government will take the lead.” If indeed he feels that way, it is time for the leopard to change its spots.  

There is much uncertainty about the Gateway project as no study has yet been conducted. Whether Amtrak, much maligned by Republican congressmen including NJ’s Scott Garrett, can raise sufficient funds is unclear. Among other financial contributors neither NY state nor NY City officials were at the press conference with Senators Lautenberg and Menendez. Nor have we heard yet from  NYNJ Port Authority leaders or the federal government. Christie was not at the event.  

Vice President Joe Biden yesterday announced a comprehensive six-year plan to invest $8 billion in expanding Americans’ access to high-speed passenger rail service. This type of thinking could not only benefit Gateway, but it represents the vision we expect from our leaders. Christie too frequently is stuck in the simplistic conservative mode of cut, cut, cut as opposed to displaying a creative, positive vision. Can the leopard change its spots?

more below