You need to know this. On Tuesday, House Republicans failed to pass their own plan to raise the debt limit, and the Senate stepped back in to lead negotiations. Senate leaders agreed on a final proposal, which funds the government through January 15th, raises the debt ceiling through early February, establishes a budget committee, and requires income verification for Americans who qualify for subsidies under Obamacare. In addition, the Senate bill includes backpay for furloughed workers, and a provision that requires a two-thirds majority vote to disapprove a future debt ceiling increase. That provision, now known as the McConnell Rule, will prevent the debt limit from being used as a bargaining chip in future negotiations. This morning, Speaker John Boehner finally agreed to bypass the Tea Party, and allow a vote on this Senate plan in the House – something he could have done weeks ago to prevent the government shutdown and the risk of a world-wide economic collapse. Moderate Republicans and Democrats can now join forces in the lower chamber to approve the legislation, and move it on to the Senate for final approval. However, the risk of default doesn't end there. Once the bill moves to the Senate, it's possible that Tea Party senators like Ted Cruz or Mike Lee could filibuster the measure. It would then be left up to moderate Republicans to cross the aisle and join Democrats to form a filibuster-proof majority. There are only hours left until our nation hits the debt limit deadline, and there is still a lot of work left to be done. Stay tuned.
In screwed news... On Tuesday, the Supreme Court announced that it will hear a case challenging the EPA. The question at issue in the case is whether the Environmental Protection Agency can regulate greenhouse gas limits for large refineries and power plants. The justices declined to hear a broader challenge, which questions the EPA's power to regulate air pollution at all, but this case could still impact the agency's ability to reign in greenhouse gas emissions. Essentially, if the Justices rule in favor of the industry groups who brought the case, the EPA would lose its ability to consider carbon emissions when corporate polluters want to build new factories or expand old ones. While the Environmental Protection Agency would still have authority to set limits on air pollution, they would no longer be able to head-off the problem by preventing a plant from being built in the first place. It may not sound like this case has a huge impact on regulating pollution, but it's one of many attempts to chip away at environmental regulations. We should be strengthening these regulations, and promoting the construction of newer, cleaner plants, but the five conservative members of the Supreme Court may soon make that a lot more difficult.
In the best of the rest of the news...
The Supreme Court isn't the only group trying to dismantle our environmental regulations. In Ohio, the American Legislative Exchange Council is pushing a bill to weaken renewable energy standards. But, local veterans are pushing right back. A group called Operation Free, which is made up of veterans, military families, and national security experts, is fighting to uphold clean energy standards in that state. Ohio's renewable energy requirement passed in 2008, and it ensures that utility companies provide one quarter of their electricity from alternative energy by 2025. However, State Senator Bill Seitz has put forward an ALEC bill which would allow utility companies to exempt themselves from the renewable-energy requirement. Zach Roberts, a National Guard veteran and the Ohio director of Operation Free, said that the ALEC bill “would completely defeat the purpose of having a renewable energy standard.” So, Operation Free has mounted a public campaign against Senator Seitz's bill, explaining that the renewable-energy requirement saves utility customers money, and helps diversify Ohio's energy sources. Mr. Roberts said, “It is in Ohio's best interest to make sure that we have as many types of energy at our disposal in order to be as secure as possible. Doing anything short of that is failing the state.”
Ireland is making corporate tax dodgers pay up. That nation's Finance Minister, Michael Noonan, announced Tuesday that companies will no longer be able to incorporate in Ireland without being taxes there. The now-closed tax loophole has allowed large companies like Apple avoid paying billions in corporate taxes. By funneling profits through Irish and Dutch subsidiaries, Apple was about to send their profits straight to tax-havens in the Caribbean virtually tax free. Last year alone, the tactic saved the company more than $2 billion dollars in U.S. taxes alone. As Ireland implements their sixth round of austerity measures, they are finally putting an end to corporate tax dodgers refusing to support their nation in a time of need. The new measure will go into effect at the beginning of 2015, but it's unclear whether Ireland will also increase their corporate tax rate to bring in some much-needed revenue for the government. Perhaps our government could learn something from Ireland, and start demanding that U.S. corporations pay their fair share here as well.
And finally… On Wednesdays, it's common for co-workers and friends to wish you a happy “Hump Day.” But, that phrase has become a disruption in a Connecticut middle school. Teachers at Vernon Center Middle School have started discouraging that phrase since a Geico commercial featuring a talking camel went viral. Apparently, students in that school started mimicking the commercial on Wednesday's, by asking their friends to guess what day it is. However, the kids found it so amusing, they didn't limit it to mid-week. According to the school's superintendent, “some sixth grade boys have been using the phrase so much it's becoming disruptive, and the kids aren't just yelling it in the hallways on Wednesday, it's everyday.” Many of the boys were called to the principal's office and scolded for their constant shouting. How happy is the school staff now that the students aren't yelling in the halls? Well... happier than a camel on “Hump Day.”
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