Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. Republicans may finally push Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to fix the filibuster. After last month's so-called gentleman's agreement between Senator Reid and Mitch McConnell, a few of President Obama's nominees finally cleared the Senate. But, Republicans couldn't keep themselves from going right back to their old tricks. Republican lawmakers are already threatening to block each and every one of the President's nominees to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Right-wing lawmakers appear united behind Senator Chuck Grassley, who has proposed legislation to eliminate several seats on the important court. Republicans say that the D.C. Circuit is overstaffed, but Democrats contend that Senator Grassley's effort is just a ploy to hold on to that court's conservative majority. According to Republican lawmakers, the D.C. Circuit handles less cases than many other circuit courts around our nation, and thus does not need as many justices. However, the D.C. Circuit is responsible for deciding the constitutionality of many important executive decisions and appointments. Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy said, “The D.C. Circuit decides some of the most important cases in our nation, with significant impact on the lives of all Americans. This court must be allowed to operate at full strength.” Yesterday, the Senate Judiciary Committee narrowly approved Patricia Millett in a party line vote. Every single Republican on the committee voted against her. It's quite possible that Republicans will stage a filibuster to prevent her from being confirmed by the entire Senate. That would bring us back full circle to Senator Harry Reid's promise to change the Senate rules on confirmation votes. It's anyone's guess as to whether Senator Reid will live up to his threat and reform the filibuster this time, or if Republicans will be allowed to continue blocking presidential appointments that have been held up for years.
In screwed news... Thanks to the skyrocketing cost of higher education, students will lose $4 trillion dollars of wealth throughout their lifetimes. A new report from the think tank Demos found that each student who takes out $50,000 dollars to pay for college will face a lifetime loss of wealth of $200,000 – four times more than the cost of paying for school. The burden of college debt prevents many from buying homes, increases the chance of defaulting on loans, and makes students unable to save for retirement. Recent graduates are also facing a lack of full-time, good-paying jobs, making it even harder to repay loans and save for the future. These financial strains impact students immediately, but also have long-term effects on our economy. As more and more of students' income goes to paying for an education, they're not spending that money on goods and services. This isn't just a student problem, it's a national problem. Students, their families, and many other Americans want politicians to get to work and do something about the soaring cost of higher education.
In the best of the rest of the news...
It turns out that blocking any and all legislation isn't a popular idea – even in Kentucky. New Public Policy Polling numbers released yesterday show that the majority of Kentucky voters disapprove of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's job performance. And, poll numbers looks fairly promising for Alison Lundergan Grimes, who officially entered the Senate race against McConnell this week. Of course, Senator McConnell dismissed the results, saying, “George Soros and the Obama Allies are up to their same old ticks. They have concocted another fictitious poll that has no basis in reality, held it for ten days, and released it at the perfect time in the news cycle to help their upstart liberal candidate.” Unfortunately for McConnell, PPP was applauded for their accurate polling in the 2012 election cycle, and several other recent polls by other firms have shown similar results. The fact is, even in the red state of Kentucky, voters want politicians who do more than say “no”.
Yesterday, it was announced that Edward Snowden is being granted asylum in Russia for one year. White House spokesman Jay Carney said, “We are extremely disappointed that the Russian government would take this step despite our very clear and lawful requests in public and private that Mr. Snowden be expelled and returned to the United States.” Several lawmakers from both sides of the aisle also expressed outrage over Russia's decision. State Department spokeswoman, Marie Harf, spoke to Russian Television, and stated that the U.S. government doesn't want the issue to “negatively affect our bilateral relationship,” and added that the asylum decision “behooves us to evaluate where the relationship is.” It's being reported that President Obama is reevaluating whether to attend a summit in Moscow next month. And, Mr. Snowden made a statement via Wikileaks, saying, “over the past eight weeks, we have seen the Obama Administration show no respect for international or domestic law, but in the end the law is winning.”
And finally… Here in the U.S., we may not be able to drink on the job, but a Portuguese court says tipsy garbage men may be better workers. A three-judge panel in Porto, Portugal has ordered a trash company to rehire an employee who was caught drinking on the job – and pay him 14 months' worth of back wages. The judges ruled that the garbage man had not broken any rules by having a few beers with lunch, because the company had no such rules! The verdict on the court's website read, “It is to be noted that with alcohol, the worker may forget about life's hardships...and the public may even consider that this happy worker is a very efficient, excellent and quick remover of scrap.” The judges even ruled that the waste removal company should set a blood alcohol limit for workers, rather than using a zero tolerance policy. In addition to judges believing a little booze may make for better workers, they said, “let's admit it, their work is unpleasant.”