This week, President Obama released his budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2014. It represents the Administration's latest effort to reach across the aisle and work with Republicans to achieve long term deficit reduction. As with pretty much every other fiscal proposal the President has presented, it was met with criticism by most Republicans.
Many Democrats, myself included, have also expressed concerns about some aspects of the President's budget. I am very disappointed that President Obama has included chained CPI in his budget when it comes to calculating Social Security benefits. This would change the way cost of living is calculated for the purposes of determining benefits. I have always strongly opposed chained CPI as a standalone proposal and don't think it has any place in a Democratic President's first budget offer. Republicans have already rejected the President's budget so it is unlikely to come before the House for a vote in its current form.
Given my consistent opposition to this approach, some of you have asked why I haven't signed onto letters pledging to vote against any legislation that includes chained CPI. Here is my approach when it comes to pledges. As a rule, I don't pledge to vote for or against anything before I see a complete proposal. I almost never get to vote on simple, one issue bills. Almost every vote I take on the floor involves complicated, detailed proposals that include some good provisions and some bad ones. My main responsibility is to weigh the good and the bad in every proposal, then come to a decision. Virtually every vote requires such a judgment and compromise is essential to the legislative process. For me, the bottom line is this: I do not make promises that presuppose I know all the provisions that a comprehensive bill on a complicated matter will include. For example, I voted in favor of Health Care Reform even though there were several aspects of it that I opposed. It was an important step forward and the only option available. The same may be true about an immigration reform bill, a Social Security Reform bill or a Medicare Reform bill.
Now that President Obama has released his budget proposal, I think it is important to go on record expressing my disappointment with some aspects of it, most notably the inclusion of chained CPI. The President should have proposed what HE wants first and then started compromising. Instead, the President started by releasing what he calls a compromise proposal, one that the Republicans have already rejected. So who did he compromise with?
It should come as no surprise that I oppose chained CPI. I hope it also comes as no surprise that I remain open to true compromise if and when it becomes necessary and appropriate.
On Monday I spent some time at the Dorchester House Multi-Service Center, talking with staff and receiving an update on the center's activities. It opened in 1887 as a resource for low income residents and immigrants in Dorchester. Since the 1970's, the Dorchester House has also operated as a community health center. The health services offered range from primary and prenatal care to substance abuse treatment and help managing diabetes. The Dorchester House is so much more than a health center. Staffers offer credit counseling and financial workshops, sponsor recreational and fitness activities and provide youth services. The organization's teen center provides tutoring. The Dorchester House also operates an internship program for young people interested in learning more about specific career paths.
Like many organizations with similar missions, staffers at the Dorchester House are concerned about the impact of sequestration on their programming. With federal funds diminishing, it is becoming more and more difficult to meet the demand for services.
I also spent some time Monday at Hope House in Boston. Hope House is the oldest recovery facility in Boston, providing both inpatient and outpatient care. Patients have access to addiction treatment and behavioral counseling. Hope House offers 22 units of housing for those working to overcome addiction as well as the capacity for up to 80 inpatient beds. I had the opportunity to tour the facility and learn more about the services offered. I spoke with staff and with residents and appreciated the time everyone took to share their experiences.
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Today the House completed consideration of H.R. 1120: Preventing Greater Uncertainty in Labor-Management Relations Act. This bill would prevent the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) from operating due to issues over President Obama's use of recess appointments to fill vacant spots on the board. The courts are still in the process of working through legal challenges associated with the recess appointments. It is important to point out that President Obama's use of the recess appointment is no different than approaches taken dating back to the Reagan Administration. There have been over 300 recess appointments since the 1980's that have not been subject to such challenges.
H.R. 1120 basically prohibits the NLRB, which works with businesses and employees to address workplace issues, from acting on anything until the recess appointment challenge is resolved. That means problems between employees and management couldn't be resolved and issues regarding union elections or collective bargaining would be held up. I voted NO.