In today's On the News segment: The White House is circulating a draft immigration bill similar to the bipartisan immigration plan that came out last month; Sen. Lindsey Graham suggests taking health coverage away from 30 million Americans just to avoid cuts to the military; thousands rallied against the partial privatization of health care in Spain yesterday; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. President Obama's pushing full speed ahead on the long list of goals he set for his second term. Just since his State of the Union speech, less than a week ago, he's already put forward a plan for universal preschool, called on Congress to vote on gun regulations, started forming a voting rights commission, and now he's tackling immigration. According to USA Today, the White House is circulating a draft immigration bill, which would create a new visa for undocumented immigrants living in our nation, and shorten the path to legal residency to eight years. The draft bill also includes more security funding, and would require businesses to use a new system to verify the immigration status of new employees. The bill is quite similar to the bipartisan immigration plan that came out last month, but Republicans are criticizing the President's plan anyway. Florida Senator Marco Rubio said any legislation that didn't include Republican input would get no support, saying, "If actually proposed, the president's bill would be dead on arrival in Congress." Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said the draft legislation was proof that "the president doesn't want immigration reform." These statements are just more evidence that Republicans will vote against any legislation that President Obama puts forward, even when it's made up of their own ideas. A spokesman for the White House said that the administration has not prepared a final bill to submit. Let's hope that Congress can pass their own version of an immigration bill, so that they won't oppose a commonsense path to citizenship, just because the President supports it.
In screwed news... Senator Lindsey Graham is very worried about the sequester. But, he isn't worried about the cuts to programs like WIC and Head Start. He isn't worried about job losses or federal employee furloughs. Nope, he's worried about defense contractors. So much so, that he's suggesting taking health coverage away from 30 million Americans just to avoid cuts to the military. During an interview on Fox News Sunday, Sen. Graham was asked about the looming sequester and he replied with his suggestion, saying "if you want to look at ways to find $1.2 trillion in savings over the next decade, look at Obamacare, don't destroy the military." But Sen. Graham has opposed every idea to avoid the sequester put forward by Democrats, or the President. It appears the Republicans don't really care about the devastating austerity looming in the sequester... they just care about using the cuts to attack Obama. Oh, and if their buddies in the defense industry don't get hit with the across-the-board spending cuts – to Republicans, that's just an extra bonus.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Thirty five thousand people rallied in Washington, D.C. this Sunday to call for immediate action on climate change. The rally was put on by numerous environmental activist groups, like the Sierra Club and 350.org. People came from dozens of states around our nation to help form part of a "human pipeline," which was meant to highlight action the Administration can take right away to protect our environment – reject the Keystone XL pipeline. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, spoke at the event, saying, "There is no time for half measures...we have to start leaving carbon in the ground." Just recently, the President called on Congress to pass bi-partisan legislation on climate change, or, he said "if Congress won't act to protect future generations...I will." Well, participants of the largest environmental rally ever just said they don't want the President to wait for our broken Congress to act. Obama can make a change immediately to protect our future generations. He can stop the Keystone XL pipeline from pumping toxic tar sands oil through our communities. Tell the President you want this done now. Go to TarsandsBlockade.org.
Another protest also made headlines yesterday, as thousands rallied against the partial privatization of health care in Spain. In the third so-called "White Tide" demonstration, protesters in 16 Spanish cities took to the streets carrying banners saying, "public health is not to be sold, it's to be defended." Health care privatization is just one of the crippling austerity measures being imposed to cut that nation's debt. One civil servant, Javier Tarabilla, spoke out against the privatization, saying, "This is pillaging of our public services, looting something we've all contributed to through taxes, to give it to private companies to run for profit." Here in America, we should all be paying close attention to the riots and protests in response to the privatization of the public commons in Spain. Not only are the austerity measures there crippling the nation's economy, but they're making it more difficult for Spanish citizens to survive. It's time to fight back against the Republican austerity measures taking hold here in our country, before they devastate our economy – just like they've done in Spain.
And finally... Drug agents in Union County, Illinois found themselves in a sticky situation over the weekend. Responding to a tip about a potential meth lab, the agents raided Laura Benson's home, however, the only substance being cooked up was maple syrup. Benson's neighbor called in the tip after seeing a collection of tubes and buckets they thought looked suspicious, and the Sheriff's department swarmed the house. Apparently, the Bensons have been making the syrup for about five years, but this is the first time it's gotten such a big reaction. Miss Benson says that the family is grateful for their attentive neighbors, and she said, "I just want to put their minds at ease, and let them know it's maple syrup. And they're all welcome for pancakes if they want to come over." Drug agents say the hunt continues for the nation's biggest syrup king-pin, so be on the lookout for Mrs. Butterworth.
And that's the way it is today – Monday, February 18th, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.