Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Last Call For Orange Water

Of course House Speaker John Boehner wasn't planning on bringing up any legislation that might strengthen water regulations after last week's massive West Virginia coal chemical spill that contaminated the water for 300,000 people.  Why, that's just silly.

"We have enough regulations on the books. What the administration ought to be doing is their jobs," Boehner said at a weekly press conference on Capitol Hill. 
While Boehner said that somebody ought to be held accountable for the failure in oversight, the Speaker explained his party was focused on eliminating "cumbersome, over-the-top" regulations that were "costing the American people jobs." 
The site's tanks, owned by Freedom Industries, don't fall under an inspection program and the chemicals stored there weren't considered hazardous enough to require permits before they leaked into the Elk River nearby.

Huh.  The administration should be "doing their jobs" huh.

The site of a West Virginia chemical spill that contaminated the water supply for 300,000 people operated largely outside government oversight, highlighting gaps in regulations and prompting questions on whether local communities have a firm grasp on potential threats to drinking water. 
The storage facility owned by Freedom Industries Inc. on the banks of the Elk River was subject to almost no state and local monitoring, interviews and records show. The industrial chemical that leaked into the river, 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, isn't closely tracked by federal programs. A state regulator had said earlier that, before last week's spill, environmental inspectors hadn't visited the site since 1991. On Monday, the state said it had located another inspection from 2002 related to a remediation project done by the site's previous owner.

It's almost like Republicans are doing everything they can to weaken regulations and to starve the agencies supposedly in charge of oversight so that they can't do their job.  After all, inspections of underground tanks full of dangerous polluting chemicals (being stored near a river that provides drinking water to hundreds of thousands) occurring more than once every 20-25 years or so is burdensome on our poor corporate masters.

As far as the folks in West Virginia who still can't drink the water, well, America and Freedom.

Meanwhile, here in Cincy...

Cincinnati plans to shut down intake valves along the Ohio River to protect the city's drinking water from a chemical spill in West Virginia. 
Mayor John Cranley announced Monday that the valves will be shut down for at least 20 hours beginning Tuesday night. Cranley says that will allow the water to pass the city without any chemicals entering the drinking supply. 
The city plans to use a reserve of 60 hours of treated water, built up specially following the West Virginia spill.

So yes, this affects more than just the people of West Virginia, but people in multiple states.  Like Southwestern Ohio.  You know, where John Bohner's district is.  Perhaps Orange Julius should give a damn, as this is affecting his own constituents who live and work in Cincinnati and Dayton and get their water from the Ohio River.

The Core Of Cory Booker

Over at TNR, Ryan Cooper asks why Sen. Cory Booker is "trying to undermine President Obama" on Iran sanctions despite last weekend's agreement to move forward with a six-month interim deal starting Monday.

American and Iranian negotiators came to an agreement Sunday on a six-month deal to put the Iranian nuclear program on hold in exchange for easing sanctions slightly, in the hopes of reaching a more permanent agreement in the interim. Meanwhile, at last count, 59 senators are supporting a bill that would impose new sanctions—among them Cory Booker, the brand-new New Jersey senator. President Barack Obama has threatened to veto it. 
The bill's supporters insist that they're simply trying to improve the U.S. negotiating posture. On Twitter, Booker insisted that he favors a peaceful solution, adding, "I'm 4 additional sanctions if current negotiations fail 2 start or fail 2 work." A senior aide told Joshua Hersh and Ryan Grim, "The goal isn't to disrupt things, it's to make Iran even more willing to make serious concessions by making them aware of what will happen if they don't." 
This isn't credible. First of all, the administration presumably has some idea of what's best for its negotiating position, and it has been lobbying furiously against new sanctions. Second, the timing is suspect—these senators hurriedly drew up this bill only after the breakthrough in negotiations was announced. Third, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif himself said new sanctions would signal a lack of good faith that would kill any long-term agreement. 
No, this bill is an attempt to kill the Iran deal, whether Booker and company admit that or not. No other explanation makes half as much sense.

Yes and no.  Booker's "good cop, bad cop" explanation is overly simplistic, but so is "He's undermining the President".  The reality is a lot more complex.

This is Booker's first major Israel vote as a Senator, and like it or not, Democrat or not, a Senator from New York or New Jersey in post-9/11 America is going to take the hard line again Iran, even if he's a dove like Booker.  This is as much a regional political reality as Jay Rockefeller being nice to King Coal, Mary Landreiu and Mark Begich being nice to offshore drilling, and Harry Reid (or Booker himself now) respecting the casino gaming industry.

Secondly, I have a problem calling Cory Booker specifically out over this.  Why not the other Senate Dems backing this bill, including Schumer, Gillibrand, and Menendez?  No offense, but if the issue is bowing to AIPAC, Schumer and Menendez in particular have a hell of a lot more to answer for.  Booker just got to the Senate...and he never would have if he didn't toe this particular line.

Cooper ends with this:

The activist left has been disappointed by much of the Obama presidency, wrong-footed in the face of an austerian coalition between the center and an energized, reactionary right. But from New York to Los Angeles, there is clearly some new momentum on the left. If these Senate Dems manage to kill the Iran negotiations, or push us into yet another Middle East catastrophe, none of them will ever be president.

He's correct on that account. The activist left was disappointed in Obama from day one, of course. But I'm going to say that if Iran wanted to kill these negotiations, they'd find an excuse to do it, and hanging that on Cory Booker's neck is almost as bad as continuing to be disappointed in President Obama, who got this deal done in the first place.

I don't agree with it.  But that's how the game works.  You can either play the game and try to change it, or let the Republicans run it.  I'm going to go with the former.

A Supreme Amount Of Trouble

It looks like President Obama's power to make recess appointments is about to have some very strict limits placed on it by SCOTUS if Monday's oral arguments are anything to go by.  Lyle Denniston:

Seeming a bit troubled about allowing the Senate to have an on-off switch on the president’s power to temporarily fill vacant government posts, the Supreme Court on Monday indicated that it may yet allow just that. Even some of the Justices whose votes the government almost certainly needs to salvage an important presidential power were more than skeptical. 
A ninety-three-minute hearing on the Constitution’s grant of power to the president to make short-term appointments to fill vacancies was at times a somewhat anxious exploration of whether history or constitutional text should govern the extent of that power. On balance, text seemed to be winning out, and that appeared to favor the Senate more than the White House. 
Perhaps the most unfortunate moment for presidential authority was a comment by Justice Stephen G. Breyer that modern Senate-White House battles over nominations were a political problem, not a constitutional problem. Senators of both parties have used the Constitution’s recess appointment provisions to their own advantage in their “political fights,” Breyer said, but noted that he could not find anything in the history of the clause that would “allow the president to overcome Senate resistance” to nominees.

If Justice Breyer is openly saying that he can't find any reason for the President's power of recess appointments to not be limited to strictly the time between Congresses rather than whenever Congress isn't actively in session, then any recess appointments the President may wish to make will be limited to a few days every two years, the next window being in January 2015 and that's it.

Should the GOP get control of the Senate, nobody will get confirmed or appointed, and Republicans will be free to keep executive branch positions unfilled for two years.

And there won't be a thing the President will be able to do.

That should scare the hell out of you.

This particular battle looks to be over before it even began.


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