Another state is poised to join the 23 already known as “Right to Work” states – and of all places, it’s Michigan. Right now, the state legislature is debating a bill freeing employees from mandatory, automatic union dues payment – and the capitol building has been closed to union leaders, owing to concerns about capacity and pedestrian safety. The announcement came this morning from Lansing:
"I think this is what's best for Michigan," the GOP governor said while flanked by House Speaker Jase Bolger, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, Lt. Brian Calley and three union members who support the law.
"I do not view this as something against the unions," Snyder said, saying it's about making sure "workers have the right to [choose] who they associate with."
Unions worry the law could hurt their clout and finances as people choose to stop paying dues. But supporters say workers ought to have more control or freedom over whether they are forced to pay union dues.
Currently workers don't have to join a union. But if they don't, they still have to pay fees anyway. The legislation would no longer require employees to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
Supporters of right-to-work say states with such laws have an advantage recruiting some types of employers. They say adopting a right-to-work law would help bring more jobs to the state.
The fact that this policy is even under consideration right now represents a big shift in Governor Rick Snyder’s position on the issue. Previously, he’d been ambivalent toward a Right to Work law, viewing it not worth the political firefight that would likely ensue. Currently, only 18% of the state’s workforce is unionized, and the groups still have some serious political clout at their disposal.
However, Snyder cites the success Indiana’s economy has had since passing a similar law as the impetus for his change of mind on the issue, and refers to it as “workplace fairness and equity” instead, emphasizing the way it empowers employees. What’s more – perhaps most significantly – the proposal will have no effect on collective bargaining. From the governor’s explanatory blog post today:
Under freedom to work, Michiganders will have the freedom to choose whether or not to join a union. They won't be forced to pay union dues if they don't want to, and they won't lose their jobs because of it. And if they want to pay dues voluntarily, they have the freedom to do that, too.
There's one thing this proposal for workplace fairness and equality does not do, though. It does not end collective bargaining in Michigan. That bears repeating. Under freedom to work, Michiganders still have a guaranteed right to collective bargaining, as protected in federal law. What's more, this proposal has no impact on police or fire unions.
So, not exactly the epic crusade that occurred in Wisconsin last year, but certainly a big step for a state that’s long been beholden to the UAW et al. Should be interesting to see how the measure fares – and if it inspires any action elsewhere.
Back in January, President Obama made a controversial recess appointment while the Senate was in a pro forma session, and named Richard Cordray as head of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. While the Senate wasn't holding meetings, it also wasn't technically adjourned, and thus many Republicans took issue with the president's initiative. They sued the Obama administration in response, and today, that case came before the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Interestingly, the bench expressed skepticism not only of the particular appointment in question, but of the practice of recess appointments generally, arguing that unless Congress has adjourned for the term, they're not totally in recess. It's an unexpectedly hardline stance -- and some argue, unrealistic -- but nevertheless, two of the three judges hearing the case seemed to be in agreement over it.
“Once you remove yourself from the principles set forth in the Constitution — inter-session versus intra-session — you are adrift,” said Judge Thomas B. Griffith.
He was joined in his pointed questioning by Chief Judge David B. Sentelle, who said the clause in the Constitution giving presidents recess appointment powers refers to “the recess,” which he said suggests the one at the end of each year, not the breaks Congress regularly takes for holidays, weekends or other reasons.
If the court were to rule that way, it would upset the balance that has been maintained over decades, and would conflict with another appeals court’s precedent — though that didn’t bother Judge Sentelle.
“Forget about a century of precedent — go back to the Constitution,” he told Beth Brinkmann, the Justice Department lawyer who argued the case for the Obama administration.
On the other hand, Griffith wasn't even sure the court's opinion was necessary, and moreover, that the case's legitimacy was undermined by the overtly partisan plaintiffs.
Judge Griffith at one point questioned why the court should be involved at all in what amounts to a dispute between two other branches of government.
“Why drag us into it?” he said.
He also questioned the lawyers challenging the recess appointments, wondering why the Senate itself wasn’t contesting Mr. Obama’s moves. Instead, only Senate Republicans, who are the minority party, have sued.
So it's hard to tell how this will pan out, and there's still the possibility that it could head to the Supremes for final arbitration -- especially if the Court of Appeals bucks precedent and sides with the Senate Republicans. Should that be the case, a presidential power could essentially be redefined in the near future; however, it's unclear whether this court will ultimately side with them or the Obama administration.
This representative has been responsible for key foreign policy legislation and isn’t afraid to call the president out on the issue. Read a key excerpt from our recent profile of Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in Townhall Magazine!
From Townhall Magazine's December installment of Have You Met with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of Florida, by Kate Hicks:
GOP Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen knows firsthand the value of freedom. At the age of 8, she emigrated from Cuba to the United States.
“That’s really shaped a lot of who I am. Cuba’s not just a place you put on your passport,” she says. “It really helped to define me in my political positions forever, because I know that the fight for freedom and democracy are real goals, they’re not just theoretical.”
Now, she represents southern Florida’s new 27th district, home to many immigrants like herself.
“I have people who literally just got off the boat yesterday, and it’s pretty awesome when you talk to them and hear about their journey to the United States and what they think of this country,” she says. “It’s like a July 4th every day in South Florida, because you have people who are so patriotic and love this country and everything that it stands for.”...
As chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, she oversees review of almost all legislation pertaining to the subject, and has herself sponsored a number of key bills dealing with places like Syria, Greece, North Korea and Iran. In fact, President Obama actually has Ros-Lehtinen to thank for those “historic sanctions” against Iran that he loves to talk about—she was the sponsor of that bill.
“You [heard] him in the debates, saying ‘Oh, thank goodness we have these tough sanctions, and it’s because of my leadership in the White House,’ and I just about [choked] on my coffee,” she says. “He had absolutely nothing to do with it at best, and the reality is that everything he did when he was involved was to slow the process down, because he was still trying to negotiate with Iran.”
Ros-Lehtinen’s tenure as chair has been marked with a frustrating lack of communication from the executive branch on matters of national security. She also cites the Arab Spring and the 9/11 embassy attacks in Benghazi as instances where the administration refused to adhere to its promises of transparency.
“He goes on all the cool shows, and then that’s how we’re able to get information about the Benghazi attacks where people died, and we’re quoting him from the Leno show, or the David Letterman show, or “The View” show—I’ve never seen anything like this,” she says.
Read more about Ros-Lehtinen in the December issue of Townhall Magazine.
Well this is fun: the U.N. looks like it's attempting its own military build up, now expressing interest in procuring drones from member countries. Ostensibly for purposes of monitoring the situation in the DRC, the drones would nevertheless represent a new frontier in terms of the international body's available powers. The Weekly Standard reports:
"The United Nations wants to use drones for the first time to monitor fighting in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where Rwanda has been accused of aiding rebels," says the report, quoting U.N. officials.
The international body "is considering a range of ways to strengthen the capabilities of MONUSCO to protect civilians from the threat of armed groups in the vast area of eastern DR Congo," a U.N. spokesman says.
"Unarmed aerial vehicles, drones for monitoring the movements of armed groups, are one tool we are considering."
The spokesman, Kieran Dwyer, insists the U.N.'s use of drones would be done carefully.
"Of course, we would do this carefully, in full cooperation with the government of the DR Congo, and trialing their most effective uses for information gathering to help implement our mandate to protect civilians," says the spokesman.
"Ultimately, to introduce these, we would need the support of member states to equip the mission."
An unnamed diplomat says, "The UN has approached a number of countries, including the United States and France, about providing drones which could clearly play a valuable role monitoring the frontier. ... Clearly there will be political considerations though."
It is not clear whether any of the countries have agreed to work with the U.N. on the budding drone program.
It's hard to imagine that this plan will go too far -- after all, many developing nations don't particularly support drone usage as it is, and developed countries aren't likely to assent to this expansion of power. Still, it's cute (and maybe a little disturbing) that they're hoping to acquire drones.
Nearly three months after the lethal terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, the Obama Adminstration continues to pay lip service to transparency, but refuses to deliver. CBS News has requested a number of photos and documents that might provide a better idea of what, exactly, happened at the White House on September 11, 2012, but the administration won't cooperate.
CBS News first requested the images on Oct. 31. In the past, the White House has released photos showing US officials during national security incidents. A half dozen images related to the mission that captured and killed Osama bin Laden were given to the public last year. One depicts President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and members of the national security team gathered in the Situation Room on May 1, 2011.
A White House official referred our request regarding the Benghazi attacks to the White House Photo Office. On Nov. 1, an official there indicated she would process our request quickly, but then did not respond further. Finally, this week, the White House Photo Office told CBS News it would not release any images without approval of Josh Earnest in the White House Press Office. Earnest did not respond to our telephone calls and emails. [...]
In addition to the Benghazi images, CBS News has also requested, but not received, details concerning the president's and his staff's decisions during the attacks. Last year reporters were given details of the decision making, timeline and players regarding the Osama bin Laden raid as well as access to certain emails.
CBS News is also seeking drone and ground-level surveillance images and email communications and documents from the night of the Benghazi attacks. So far, none has been provided.
(H/t Breitbart News)
So despite Obama's promises in a recent press conference to "provide every bit of information we have," and get to the bottom of the matter, his press team has been remarkably unaccomodating. Of course, this does nothing but fan the flames of suspicion; if they've nothing to hide, why not release the photos?
Among the myriad Thanksgiving-themed reads out there today, the best comes from Lori Borgman at OnTheCulture.com: "Thanksgiving is Spelled C-H-A-R-A-C-T-E-R." She reflects on the oft-maligned Pilgrims, and the spirit of gratefulness and courage that they exhibited when trying to settle in America. Here's an excerpt, but it's worth reading the whole thing, and considering that "Thanksgiving is a habit of the heart."
The Puritans, despite pummeling by untrue stereotypes, were a most remarkable group of people. The fortitude and resilience they displayed were heroic. They knew hardship both in the old world and in the new. The Pilgrim-Puritan legacy is not really that long wooden table loaded with wild game and playing field games with the Indians. Their true legacy is character. They sustained faithfulness and thankfulness under dire circumstances. Despite what should have been crushing deprivation, they persevered and remained clear-headed visionaries. Puritan John Geree wrote that the Puritan motto was “Vincit qui patitur.” That is Latin for “He who suffers conquers.”
The Puritans embraced all of life as a test of their faithfulness. (Many do the same today, but flip the equation and test God’s faithfulness, not man’s.) The Puritans were thankful for the material gifts of the harvest and shelter, but they also knew that what was in abundant supply one season could be gone the next. More importantly, they were thankful to, and for, the Giver of the gifts.
Just another one of the myriad blessings many of us can be grateful for this Thursday: a Thanksgiving turkey. A new study from the Sunlight Foundation indicates that, thanks to economic hardship, more Americans than ever will be forced to set their Thanksgiving tables using food stamps -- hardly a budget that allows for an opulant feast on a day centered around dinner.
The Food Stamp Challenge, which challenges higher-income families to live as if they are on food stamps, estimates that a person on food stamps has a budget of about $1.25 per meal. In other words, a family on food stamps must buy an entire meal per person for less than the cost of an average cup of coffee.
This Thanksgiving, 42.2 million Americans will be on food stamps, according to the Economic Policy Institute. This is roughly the size of the populations of California and Connecticut combined.
Not surprisingly, feeding millions of Americans isn't cheap. The cost of the SNAP program last year reached $72 billion, the highest to date, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Although the election -- and subsequently, the rhetorical reminders of economic hardship -- are both over, these figures remind us that the reality is, many of our fellow Americans are still hurting. It's worth saying a prayer for those who are struggling, and certainly a reminder not to take a single bite for granted.
Today, House Republicans will choose a new conference leader, taking over for Rep. Jeb Hensarling (TX), who departs the position for the Financial Services Committee in 2013. Yet unlike last Tuesday’s contests, this on is a relatively pain-free election for conservatives, as both candidates vying for the position have solid records as conservative lawmakers.
Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA) and Rep. Tom Price (GA) both have their eyes on the job, and both have received high-profile support from other members in their respective bids. And, with 92% and 97% lifetime ratings, respectively, from the ACU, they’re both clearly well-suited to serve as one of the top faces of Republican leadership in the House.
Rep. Price made headlines with a major endorsement from Rep. Paul Ryan, while Rep. McMorris Rodgers has the backing of a number of highly-placed members of GOP Leadership, including Speaker John Boehner, as well as a number of committee chairs.
Townhall has obtained copies of their Dear Colleague letters, which request support from fellow Republican Members. Copies of both McMorris Rodgers’ letter on her own behalf and Ryan’s letter on behalf of Price are below. The House Republican Conference will vote this afternoon and select a one of the two as the new chair. Luckily for conservatives nationwide, no matter who wins, the cause will be in good hands.
I am writing today to ask for your vote to be the next Chairman of the House Republican Conference.
We must continue to put forward a bold vision of conservative reform, using traditional and new media and every channel available to reach America.
As your Vice Chairman over the past two Congresses, I have worked to be worthy of your trust and support. I am honored to have played a role in communicating our conservative agenda – to build an America that is strong, prosperous and free.
On the political front, I’ve helped recruit stellar candidates, raised over $1,000,000 to the NRCC, contributed over $300,000 to candidates and traveled to 51 Congressional districts in 22 states.
Two years ago, voters returned a Republican majority to Congress because they were frustrated that “hope and change” had brought nothing but the same failed Big Government policies of the past.
As your Vice Chairman and in my capacity as Governor Romney’s House Liaison, I’ve tried to give a strong public presentation of our agenda while providing an open forum behind the scenes where Members are respected and heard. If elected Conference Chairman, I’d like to continue and build upon this approach.
Growing up on the family orchard in Washington State, I learned at an early age – no one brings in an apple harvest on their own. It takes a lot of hands to get it pruned, thinned, picked and sold.
I believe the same principle applies to Conference. We’ve got some beautiful ideas ready for harvest but only by working as a team will we get it done.
Again, I humbly ask for your vote. I look forward to discussing my vision for the Conference – as well as your ideas and suggestions – at your convenience.
Cathy McMorris Rodgers
Dear Colleague –
Having crisscrossed the country over the last several months, I have seen firsthand the challenges we as a nation face. I have also seen the incredible spirit of the American people who are hungry for real leadership and ready to do what is necessary to put America back on a more prosperous path.
In the House of Representatives, we have an obligation and a real opportunity to produce and promote a positive and principled agenda for the American people. Over the past two years, we have offered bold solutions to our fiscal and economic challenges. We must not let up, but rather continue to focus our energy on doing what is necessary to empower individuals, families, and entrepreneurs.
Key to ensuring the success of our efforts will be having proven leaders at the helm of our policy and communication strategies. That is why I am asking you to join me in supporting Congressman Tom Price to be our next Chairman of the House Republican Conference.
I have had the privilege of working with Congressman Price on a myriad of different issues over the years, and I know he is uniquely qualified for the job of Conference Chairman. He was instrumental in drafting our House Republican budget. His vocal leadership on issues like health care, tax reform, and fiscal matters has been vital to our messaging and policy efforts.
No one will work harder than Congressman Price at building a strong and compelling communications and policy strategy that reflects the will of our membership and the needs of the nation.
Chairman, House Committee on the Budget
Actress and lefty activist Ashley Judd has long been a vocal supporter of President Obama; one look at her Twitter feed could tell you that. Now, some have speculated that she's mulling a run against Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for his Kentucky seat in 2014 -- and she doesn't deny it. Her statement to the Louisville Courier-Journal indicates that we might see the most high-profile Senate candidate since Al Franken (D-MN):
“I cherish Kentucky, heart and soul, and while I’m very honored by the consideration, we have just finished an election, so let’s focus on coming together to keep moving America’s families, and especially our kids, forward,” Judd said in a statement released by her publicist.
Judd is being touted by Democrats as a possible opponent for McConnell, the Senate minority leader who will be running for a sixth term.
“If you had an Ashley Judd-McConnell race, I think it would be as high profile a race as Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown,” U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth of Louisville said in an interview Wednesday, referring to the Senate race in Massachusetts.
Democrats like the idea of the fundraising power she could generate, although that same article notes that her opposition to coal mining could get her in trouble in a state that still relies on the industry. But as she even noted, the 2012 election is barely over. Thankfully, we have some time before this story really develops.
The presidential election is barely over, and yet already, U.S. relations with Iran appear to be rockier than ever. Indeed, CNN reports that fighter jets belonging to the rogue state fired on an unarmed American drone back on November 1 -- an incident just seeing daylight today.
The drone was in international airspace east of Kuwait, U.S. officials said, adding it was engaged in routine maritime surveillance.
Although the drone was not hit, the Pentagon is concerned.
Two U.S. officials explained the jets were part of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps force, which has been more confrontational than regular Iranian military forces.
The drone's still and video cameras captured the incident showing two [Iranian] SU-25s approaching the [U.S.] Predator and firing its onboard guns.
The Iranian pilots continued to fire shots that went beneath the Predator but were never successful in hitting it, according to the officials.
U.S. military intelligence analysts are still not sure if the Iranian pilots simply were unable to hit the drone due to lack of combat skill, or whether they deliberately were missing and had no intention of bringing down the drone. But as one of the officials said, "it doesn't matter, they fired on us."
The official confirmed the United States protested the incident but has not heard back from Iran.
The likelihood of a hot confrontation seems to increase by the day, and it's hard to imagine that an incident like this -- which is essentially muscle-flexing on Iran's part -- won't escalate into something deadlier in the years ahead. And the fact that the Pentagon kept this from the public for a week indicates that we can probably expect more of the same from the Most Transparent Administration Ever. His first term added Libya, and now, unfortunately, it's looking like Iran is unavoidable in the second. But this incident indicates it's only a matter of time before their guns aim a little higher, and their fire is more than symbolic.
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