Separate and UNEQUAL

This is a video that I hope everyone watches. We now live in a bifurcated country. Though we can celebrate the immense progress that was made in states like Maryland and Washington in pursuit of Marriage Equality, the agony of oppression is still deeply felt across our country. This powerful new video by the Campaign for Southern Equality shows just how much we’ve left to do before the United States can be a true land of the free.

Please share this video.

Coalition EXPOSED: Post Cliff, The House GOP’s new reality

Well, now we know. Thanks to tireless work on behalf of Vice President Biden, President Obama, and Congressional leaders, the big bad Fiscal Cliff was officially averted. After a rousing show of Senate Bi-Partisanship, the ‘Fiscal Deal’ was also approved by the House 257-167.

Most pundits today are talking about the deal, and about how “disappointed” they are, or about how “terrible it was for the country. But I’m actually very VERY happy about last night’s House vote. It may have been the best gift ever delivered to the Obama administration, and to the country. Here’s why…

All but 16 Democrats voted for the bill, and that’s as expected because Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has a great relationship with her caucus. We all knew that Speaker John Boehner’s caucus was split, with a majority of them oppsing him at every turn. But what we didn’t know until last night, was exactly where those fault lines lie.

Now we do.

Boehner’s decision to cave and bring the bill to a clean vote was a total game-changer for the White House and for Democrats. Of the 257 yes votes, 85 of them were Republicans. This is it!! This is the group of people that actually listen to the Speaker, and most importantly, are willing to listen to others and put country before party. The official roll call tells this tale like the best of political novels. For the first time since the “Hastert rule” was enacted, a party caucus was knowingly split up by its leadership. As a result, we now see the House GOP for what it really is… a two-party coalition in which John Boehner is actually part of the minority. On one side, you’ve got roughly 150 members that grab all of the attention, and on the other side you have 85 members that want to WORK. 85 members that are (at least briefly) capable of putting the interests of the country above the sanctity of their party.

Many of those members are what you’d expect… blue state Republicans like New Hampshire’s Charlie Bass, or those that have their eye on future offices like Illinois’ Aaron Schock, knowing that bipartisanship is a necessary step were he to run for Governor or Senator of a bifurcated state. And some of them were just people that actually respect Speaker Boehner’s leadership and trust the decision of the caucus… the “old school” politicians. After 3 years of the Tea Partiers hogging the spotlight, we were suddenly reminded that the GOP isn’t completely over-taken… at least not yet.

Now sure, out of those 85 some of them would never do this again. They would never join up with Democrats to help the President. But there’s likely a good 40 to 50 of them that the public can now target to get our government in the right direction again. And as long as Boehner keeps his Speakership in the 113th, Congress will be able to pass important things like Immigration reform and simplification to the tax code.

Republicans and Democrats will always have differences, but we shouldn’t be so far apart that we would allow our country to go to ruins. Sadly, that faction is alive and well within the GOP… some of them care nothing more for the well-being of the United States as long as their narrow viewpoint is advanced. But what we learned on the first night of 2013? That’s not all of them. There are still reasonable, hard-working, SANE people in Congress that want this country to succeed, and are willing to compromise even if they don’t always agree with the views of others. There’s still people in the House of Represenatatives that want to legislate, and not just waste people’s time.

In normal voting procedure, the Speaker of the House does not actually cast a vote. But sometimes, when they think it’s needed (like then Speaker Nancy Pelosi casting a vote for the Affordable Care Act), they will vote. Last night, Speaker Boehner cast a vote, eventhough he knew that enough of the other members of the caucus would join Democrats. He knew the bill would pass, but he voted anyway. Why would the Speaker do that?

If I were a betting man, I’d say that Boehner’s vote was a signal. He’s communicating to the President and Senate that he’s one of the “good guys”. Or at least that he’d like to be.

But in order to be a truly good guy, Mr. Boehner needs one other thing… COURAGE. One vote is simply not enough to save the reputation of the 112th Congress. And letting bills like the Violence Against Women Act and vital aid for Hurricane Sandy victims die in the House is not courageous. It’s wrong. I hope the Speaker finds more courage in the 113th Congress, and FAST.

Hail To the VEEP

For and foremost, I want to wish everyone a very Happy New Year. Great to have made it to 2013!!

One thing is clear today… Washington is finally doing some WORK. After a painful campaign year in 2012, and a shameful Lame Duck session, the United States Congress has now gone over the Fiscal Cliff. As of today, the Bush Tax Cuts have expired FOREVER, and we are now under the largest tax rate the nation has had in over 10 years. It’s done folks, the clock has run out.

Of course this isn’t what anyone wanted… Neither Democrats or Republicans wanted tax rates this high (at least not yet), or cuts this steep to defense and social services. Just like our hangovers from last nightMs New Years’ Eve, we now have to face the consequences of our Congressional actions. Unemployment benefits have now been cut off for nearly 2 million Americans, and it’s unacceptable to let them starve. In other words, now we need some help.

In for the rescue come Vice President Joe Biden. Apparently, some jobs are too big for even the President to negotiate. And when it comes to Congress m, those jobs now fall to Joe Biden.

What we sometimes forget about our distinguished VP? Before 2009, he was a in the United States Senate for 36 years. Had he not become VP, he would actually be the most senior Democrat in the Senate. That seniority is proving to play a critical role to the future of our nation. Knowing the gravity of the situation, Minority leader Mitch McConnell actually called on Biden to come in and close the deal for the Senate. As a result, Senators reached a compromise and were able to pass a the fiscal cliff deal on a shocking 89-8 vote. If you’ve followed Congress over the last few years, you’ll know that bi-partisanship of this magnitude doesn’t happen often.

Of course Joe Biden has been a critical partner to President Obama at almost every turn. He helped restore the faith of the Progressive Caucus in a shrewd move to clarify the White House position on same sex marriage. Sure President Obama came out in support of marriage equality last May, but only after Biden endorsed it a few days prior on a Sunday talk show. This put the President against a wall, and thankfully he chose to side with the arc of history. Since that pivotal moment, the cause for marriage equality has entered a new realm of victory with endorsements by Civil Rights organizations, and wins in the mere state-wide referenda. Sure history will talk about Obama’s leadership on the issue, but let’s not forget who actually toppled the first domino.

Now let’s not kid ourselves… This isn’t a great bill, and the struggles are far from over. The House has yet to vote on the legislation. But now, with weight of Republican support from the Senate the House will knows that rejecting this bill would be electoral suicide. So the prospects look good at the moment. (Look for updates as this is developing rapidly.)

But in either case, the Vice President has proven his worth today. After forcing the President’s hand on issues like same-sex marriage, clobbering Sarah Palin and Paul Ryan in debates, and being a tireless champion for the working class, it’s time for us all to raise a glass to Mr. Biden.

Hail to the Veep.