In today's On the News segment: Congressional Democrats are done waiting on Republicans; scientists are taking a closer look at the deep-sea impacts of the BP oil spill; a federal judge says Kentucky must respect same-sex marriages from other states; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Congressional Democrats are done waiting on Republicans. Yesterday, members of both the House and Senate said they're going to use a rarely-seen tactic to bring forward legislation. Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer suggested using a discharge petition to advance immigration reform, and House Democrats announced that they will use that same procedure to bring a minimum wage increase up for a vote. A discharge petition is a way to bypass Republican House Speaker John Boehner, who refuses to allow a vote on either of these measures. Last week, on MSNBC, House Minority Leader Steny Hoyer said, “They're the party of no. They're the party of repeal. They're the party that doesn't have the ear of the American public.” So now, his party is taking matters into their own hands. Although Democrats admit that this tactic may not be successful, Republican obstructionism has left them no other option but to try and force a vote on issues that Americans care about. Moving forward with these discharge petitions for higher pay and immigration reform will also put political pressure on Republicans, who will have to explain to their constituents why they would not even allow a vote on these important topics. Democrats know that the American people are sick and tired of this do-nothing Congress, so they're taking a chance on a long-shot maneuver to get to work on The People's business. They're putting pressure on Republicans to get something done, and we can help by making sure that all of our lawmakers know that we're watching.
In screwed news... Four years after the BP oil disaster, scientists are taking a closer look at the deep-sea impacts of that spill. Dr. Paul Montagna of Texas A&M University documented severe damage to the ocean floor over a nine-square-mile area, and moderate impact over an area twice the size of Manhattan. According to Dr. Montagna, the researchers identified “a footprint of the oil spill.” He said that they “saw increased hydrocarbons, increased metals associated with petroleum activity, and reduced diversity and abundance of some key indicator organisms.” In other words, scientists found higher levels of oil-related toxins, and fewer plants and animals. Although BP continues to claim that they've cleaned up their mess in the Gulf, Dr. Montagna says that the cold temperatures in deep water prevent toxic substances from breaking down. The damage isn't fixed, it's only hidden, and we may not ever know the full extent of this disaster.
In the best of the rest of the news...
A federal judge says Kentucky must respect same-sex marriages from other states. On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled that refusing to recognize these couples violates their equal protection under the law. Judge Heyburn wrote, “Once the government defines marriage and attaches benefits to that definition, it must do so constitutionally. [The government] cannot impose a traditional or faith-based limitation upon a public right without sufficient justification for it.” While this ruling is one more step towards LGBT equality, gay-rights advocates say we must keep up the fight. Evan Wolfson of the group Freedom to Marry said “It is wrong for the government to deny same-sex couples the freedom to marry the person they love; a freedom that is part of every American's liberty and pursuit of happiness.” State by state, our country is recognizing that freedom, and these discriminatory laws are being relegated to the dark parts of our national history.
According to RadCast.org, radiation levels are calm and steady around our country today, and most areas are not seeing any spikes in their readings.
Salisbury, Massachusetts if averaging 44 counts per minute, with highs of 77, and Woodbury, Connecticut is holding steady at 45 counts per minute. Craig, Montana is sitting at 41 counts per minute, with spikes of 56, and Lewiston, Idaho is reporting 33 counts per minute. Chico, California is averaging 31 counts per minute, with spikes of 54, Portland, Oregon is also reporting 31 counts per minute, and Seattle, Washington is sitting at 31, with highs of 43 counts per minute. RadCast.org
's alert level is 100 counts per minute, however they remind us that there is no such thing as a safe level of radiation.
On Wednesday, President Obama signed an executive order raising the minimum wage for federal workers, but a group of business leaders want everyone to get a raise. The so-called “Smart Capitalists for American Prosperity” are a group of investors, financiers, and business leaders who are calling for an increase to the federal minimum wage. They represent a portion of the top 1 percent who actually recognize that people can't survive on $7.25 an hour. The group is calling on Congress to raise the federal minimum wage to $10.10 an hour, and some of the wealthiest people in our nation say it should be even higher. Multimillionaire Ron Unz says increasing the minimum wage to $12.00 an hour “would drive up demand and increase revenue for businesses.” It's great news that federal contract employees will finally get a raise, but it's time for Congress to recognize that a living wage isn't only a moral issue, it's good economic policy.
And finally... Arizona Representative, Carl Seel recently authored some extreme anti-immigrant legislation, and Latino activists brought him a special present in response. The Republican's bill would make it a crime for an undocumented person to use any public resource, which immigration advocates say could even include public restrooms. So, on Tuesday, a group of activists tried to present Congressman Seel with a decorated toilet – which they named the “Russell Pearce Extremist Award” - to highlight his extreme legislation. The group marched to the Capitol to present Representative Seel with his award, but a staff member refused to accept it. One of the activists said, “We shouldn't have to show our papers to use the restroom.” Congressman Seel admitted that his bill is unlikely to pass, but said he needed to introduce it make a statement. I guess his bill said a lot about how to flush away the support of rational voters.
And that’s the way it is today – Thursday, February 13, 2014. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.