Tag Archive: Sen. Lautenberg

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.

There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch, but Christie Must Say No

The Port Authority of NY-NJ has just proposed exorbitant increases in crossing tolls and fares to take effect next month. Although Governor Christie shares the blame for these increases, he must use his authority to reduce them. In an email advisory, Tri-State Transportation Campaign explains,

“Governor Christie is relying on the Port Authority of NY-NJ to contribute $1.8 billion to pay for road and bridge projects that should be paid for by the state’s bankrupt transportation capital program. The Governor canceled one of the country’s most worthy transit projects, the ARC commuter rail tunnel, so he could redirect Port Authority’s monies for that project to his state’s transportation program.”

It’s great that our transportation fund will receive an infusion of $1.8 billion. It’s not so great that this income will be funded by a base fare increase of $1 (57% fare increase!) on the PATH line and a toll increase of $4 for EZ Pass and a surcharge of $3 to increase the rate from $8 to $15 for those who pay cash. The plan has to be approved at an Aug. 19 Board meeting and is subject to a veto by either the NY or NJ governors.

As a result of this arrangement Christie does not have to increase our taxes, but we pay the Free lunch bill through higher fares and tolls. He may not be technically raising our taxes but the impact on our cost of living is the same as the money comes out of our pockets. With NJ Transit service cuts and a 22% fare increase in 2010 this maneuver is all too familiar, and particularly difficult for those with less income. Furthermore, playing this game of how to raise money for our transportation fund is neither a viable nor long term solution.

Both the fare and toll increases are too high. Senator Frank Lautenberg says, “This is an outrageous proposal by the Port Authority. It’s yet another assault on New Jersey’s commuters. These increases are disproportionately punitive to New Jersey residents and fundamentally unfair. Even toll increases half of this size would be unacceptable.” Governor Christie should disallow these increases and insist that they be substantially reduced. Then the “free lunch” will have a fairer cost and reduce the burden on those who cannot afford it.      

“I Can’t Understand”

Hot summer streets and the pavements are burning.

I sit around trying to smile but the air is so heavy and dry.

Strange voices are saying things I can’t understand.

It’s too close for comfort. This heat has got right out of hand. – Bananarama: Cruel Summer

Not at all an upbeat beach song, but then the summer of 2011 does not seem like a Beach Boys moment. Maybe it’s just the heat, or maybe it’s those strange voices saying things I can’t understand.

Our governor just took a two-week vacation, interspersed with wonderful YouTube moments, but left New Jerseyans frazzled by a State Budget in which he not only vetoed critical items but reduced the budget further. I can’t understand.

Jason Francis, 32, has been living for the past six years at Cheshire Home, a Florham Park non-profit serving young physically disabled adults. Francis suffered a crippling spinal cord injury in 2003. Budget cuts are affecting nursing homes and specialty care facilities. I can’t understand.

At a hearing on Tuesday, a 5-year-old blind youth and his mother testified that he had not received Braille instruction in more than a month. The budget included cuts to the blind. I can’t understand.

The off-again, on-again Medical Marijuana Program appears to be restarted. After numerous, needless delays, one can only hope the governor will not come up with yet another reason to press the pause button.  I can’t understand.  

Allegations of computer hacking by News Corp. were raised by the NJ FLOORGraphics Company in 2004 and later referred to then Prosecutor Chris Christie. According to POLITICO, Senator Lautenberg believes Christie’s office launched an investigation but after several queries was unable to get a response, and a criminal case was never launched. I can’t understand.

In our urban cities “where the pavements are burning,” we had to listen to a lecture from our governor on “statutory oversight,” before he mentioned he was willing to restore funding. I can’t understand.  

And then there is this nasty, seemingly interminable, and ever-changing debate over the terms for carrying out the essential step of raising the national debt limit. I can’t understand.

I suspect there are perfectly obvious answers to these conundrums, but I’m too frazzled by the heat.

“Women’s Health Is Being Held Hostage By Ideology and Propaganda”

With the above words Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle (D-37) welcomed pink-attired attendees to a rally in front of a Planned Parenthood site in Englewood which no longer has sufficient funds to open on Tuesdays or Saturdays. Family planning and women’s health care are under assault both in the House where Republicans passed a bill to eliminate all federal funding for Planned Parenthood and in New Jersey where Governor Christie also opposed its funding. Senator Lautenberg said, “We’re going to make sure Planned Parenthood can continue serving the health care needs of families in New Jersey and across the country.”

Senator Lautenberg went on to say, “Planned Parenthood is under attack by Tea Party Republicans who have put their extremist ideology above women’s health.” A smaller contingent of opponents held a particularly nasty sign which said Planned Parenthood was aiding and abetting underage sex trafficking. Sen. Lautenberg engaged the protesters and quieted them as he asked if they support mammograms, cervical exams and other routine health services the agency provides.  more below…

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

News Roundup & Open Thread for Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Governor Christie presents his “State of the State” Address at 2:00 PM. today, and you can listen to it here or via NJN News.

The Why, Who, What, and Where about the speech.

Meanwhile FDU poll now shows Christie’s favorable-to-unfavorable opinion rating is 47%-39%. 53% of voters approve of the way he is handling his job as governor, while 36% disapprove.

Then later today you can get out your shovel or snow blower as our winter wonderland adventure is expected to resume.

In spite of tough questions from Weinberg, Sarlo, and Girgenti

Reform Jersey Now Treasurer Ron Gravino wins committee approval (7-5) as a Turnpike Commissioner.

Legislature abolishes COAH, 2.5% fee on commercial development,

and reduces some municipalities’ obligations to provide housing for low- and moderate-income families.

Progressive Assemblyman Dan Benson (D-Hamilton) takes oath of office,

and assumes position formerly held by now Sen. Linda Greenstein.

‘Back to Work’ and more, below the fold.

“What Do We Want? REPEAL! When Do We Want It? NOW!”

Yesterday the House successfully voted to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” – 250 to 175. Other Representatives crossed party lines, but our NJ members hued to their individual party’s position. Last week in a 57-40 vote the Senate failed to pass the repeal because it was three votes short of the needed 60. Our two Senators supported repeal. Only two Senators crossed party lines: Susan Collins (R-ME) voted “YES,” and Joe Manchin (D-WV) voted “NO.” There may yet be another vote shortly in the Senate. Among Republicans, Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Senator Olympia Snowe of Maine and Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana have indicated they could be open to voting for a repeal.

It is time for this rollercoaster nightmare to end and there to be justice for the LGBT community which serves so bravely but precariously in our armed forces. Only through a successful Senate vote during the current lameduck session does it appear likely that our New Jersey LGBT service men and women will be granted the respect, courtesy and rights due to them.

An Unusual Vote with Strange Bedfellows

Welcome to the new world of what the N.Y. Times called “The first concrete product of a new era of divided government and acid compromise.” What an unusual vote took place today on the U. S. Senate Floor – unusual because Senators so rarely vote on anything these days, they generally pass key bills with only about 60 favorable votes, as opposed to 81 in this case, Republicans voted in droves to support the bill, and strange bedfellows consisting of progressive Democrats and conservative Republicans voted against it. The bill in question of course is Obama’s compromise $858 billion Tax Plan which continues the current lower tax rates for two years for all Americans.

The two NJ Senators, who frequently vote the same, in this case begged to differ – each with his own principled stand. Sen. Frank Lautenberg voted against the bill because “Windfalls for the wealthiest of us [top 2% of tax payers] does not benefit our economy or create jobs – and they are what got us into this fiscal mess to begin with.”  Senator Robert Menendez supported the bill because in addition to preventing a tax increase for 98% of Americans and extending unemployment benefits, the bill “doubles the value of the child tax credit, provides a payroll tax cut worth $1,400 for the average New Jeseyan, extends two years of AMT relief, and extends tax relief for transit riders…”  

I congratulate Sen. Lautenberg for his principled stand which might not have been necessary had President Obama from the beginning taken a stronger position, including a veto-threat, against the unnecessary, wasteful give-way of reduced income and estate taxes to the very rich. Because the bill unsurprisingly had so much Republican support, Sen. Lautenberg had the luxury to vote “NO.” Otherwise, one can easily suspect he would have joined Sen. Menendez in voting “YES” for a bill which does indeed provide many benefits to lower and middle class Americans.

I salute other progressive Democrats who voted against the bill including Russ Feingold, Tom Harkin, Pat Leahy, Carl Levin and the two Udalls who were repulsed by the benefits being bestowed on the superrich. As strange bedfellows they were joined in their vote by Tom Coburn, James DeMint, John Ensign, and Jeff Sessions who alternately felt that the bill coddled the middle/lower class or excessively increased the federal deficit. The bill next goes to the House where there are fierce progressive Democratic opponents, but where in its present or slightly modified form it is expected to pass.