October 17, 2017

New York Times/CBS News Poll: Unity on Issues Falls to Politics

That disconnect could explain why Democrats and Mr. Obama are still struggling to translate public support into tangible political backing for their initiatives. Americans did not give Mr. Obama high marks for his handling of those issues — even though more than two-thirds of Americans over all, including a majority of Republicans, disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are handling their job.

“I’m for stricter gun laws, but the reason I favor the Republicans over the Democrats and the liberals on gun laws is because they have always been against the Second Amendment and the right to own guns,” said Jim Hensley, 69, a Republican from Grandville, Mich., in an interview after the poll was conducted.

“Yes, I believe the Republicans should have voted for background checks, and they should not legalize automatic weapons,” Mr. Hensley added. “I was against the repeal of the ban on automatic weapons, and I don’t support the N.R.A. But it’s like marriage. You stick with your wife no matter what, and you don’t just ditch your political party on one issue.”

Two weeks after a bipartisan measure that would have expanded background checks for gun buyers was defeated in the Senate, nearly 9 in 10 of those surveyed said they favored background checks on all gun buyers, and 6 in 10 said they were disappointed or angry with the vote.

On immigration, 83 percent of respondents said they supported a path to citizenship for the 11 million immigrants already in the country illegally, as long as certain requirements — like paying fines and back taxes, passing a criminal-background check and learning English — were met. And nearly 6 in 10 favored a combination of cutting spending and raising taxes to reduce the federal deficit, echoing the plans being pushed by Mr. Obama and Congressional Democrats.

Yet Americans are closely divided on whether Republicans would handle these issues better than Mr. Obama, the poll showed.

Both stricter gun laws and an immigration overhaul received strong support from Republicans, with 86 percent favoring background checks on all potential gun buyers, and 83 percent favoring a path to citizenship if certain requirements were met. Last month, a bipartisan group of eight senators proposed such immigration legislation, which would offer a 13-year path to citizenship, as well as require certain border security measures.

Only 41 percent of those surveyed approved of Mr. Obama’s handling of gun policy, and 52 percent disapproved. Americans were about evenly divided on whom to trust to make decisions about gun laws and an immigration overhaul — Republicans in Congress or the president.

Rick Buckman, 52, a Republican and an electrical engineer from Dallas, Pa., said that while he supported stricter gun legislation, he did not necessarily approve of the president’s approach. “I was really ticked off that the law didn’t pass,” Mr. Buckman said. “But I thought it was wrong of President Obama to get in front of the public and use people who had been damaged by gun violence as props.”

Mike Brady, 68, a Democrat and semiretired lawyer in Farmington Hills, Mich., viewed the Republicans’ opposition to the gun control legislation as self-serving. “Well, Obama’s trying his best to do the obvious right thing for the country, but he’s been roadblocked extensively for political reasons by people who even among themselves would take a different position,” he said. “So it’s cynical, unprincipled obstructionism.”

The poll also showed that 57 percent disapproved of Mr. Obama’s handling of the federal budget deficit. Thirty-six percent of respondents supported reducing the deficit by cutting federal spending.

Though churning support for his agenda remains a problem for the president, according to the poll, Congress is struggling with overcoming its own unfavorable image. Three-quarters of Americans disapprove of the way Congress is handling its job, the poll found, and nearly 9 in 10 said most members of Congress were more concerned with serving special interest groups than helping the people they represent.

“It’s like the gladiator sports, where the emperor keeps the people entertained, even though we’re starving,” said Roberta Hughes, 61, of Elizabeth City, N.C. “But real people are losing out in real ways when they enact the drama.”

The nationwide poll of 965 adults was conducted from April 24 to April 28 on land lines and cellular phones, with a margin of sampling error of plus or minus three percentage points.

Nearly 6 in 10 Americans said they would vote for a candidate who did not share their views of immigration. Only 4 in 10 said they would vote for a candidate who did not share their views on gun control — seemingly making immigration a less controversial issue at the voting booth, for now, than gun legislation.

“Stricter gun laws might help with some of the out of control people who randomly go around shooting others or killing themselves,” said Debby Warnock, 44, an independent from Pueblo West, Colo. “I do favor background checks, though some of the people who have killed others had clean backgrounds.”

She added: “I personally don’t care whether Republicans or Democrats make the decisions as long as it’s in the best interest of our country.”

Megan Thee-Brenan, Dalia Sussman and Marina Stefan contributed reporting.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/05/02/us/politics/poll-finds-strong-support-for-tightened-gun-laws-and-path-to-citizenship.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bernie Sanders, a Voice for Shielding Entitlements

He had a cup of coffee and a bowl of oatmeal in a Senate cafeteria, marched into the chamber and began talking. He talked for so long — railing for 8 hours 37 minutes about economic justice, the decline of the middle class and “reckless, uncontrollable” corporate greed — that his legs cramped. So many people watched online that the Senate video server crashed.

Today the issue of tax cuts for the wealthy is once again front and center in Washington, as part of the debate over how to reduce the federal deficit. And Mr. Sanders is once again talking, carving out a place for himself as the antithesis of the Tea Party and becoming a thorn in the side to some Democrats and Mr. Obama, who he fears will cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits as part of a deficit reduction deal.

A number of Congressional Democrats agree with Mr. Sanders that “no deal is better than a bad deal,” but he may be the most vocal.

He is emboldened by his recent re-election with more than 70 percent of the vote — “Seventy-one percent, but who’s counting?” Mr. Sanders said — and he appears to be making a little headway. Mr. Sanders has been pressing Mr. Obama to take Social Security off the negotiating table, and the White House now says changes to the retirement program should be considered on a “separate track” from a deficit deal.

“I think maybe he has learned something,” Mr. Sanders, 71, said of the president, who is 20 years his junior. “After four years he has gotten the clue that you can’t negotiate with yourself, you can’t come up with a modest agreement and hope the Republicans say, ‘That’s fair, you’re O.K., we’ll accept that.’ He’s reached out his hand, and they’ve cut him off at the wrist.”

The Senate is a polite place, so Republicans have little to say about their colleague from Vermont with the thick Brooklyn accent. (He acquired it growing up in Flatbush.) After four years of accusing Mr. Obama of practicing “European-style socialism,” they are hardly enamored of a man who actually embraces European-style socialism, and who carries a brass key chain from the presidential campaign of Eugene V. Debs, who ran in the early 1900s as the Socialist Party candidate.

“Bernie?” Senator John Cornyn, the Texas Republican, said with a raised eyebrow and a sly smile. “He’s one of a kind.”

Vermont Republicans are a bit more pointed. Richard Tarrant, a businessman who ran against Mr. Sanders in 2006 and was trounced, agrees with him that taxes should rise for the rich. But he sees his former opponent as a populist “advocating class warfare” and raising “false hope” about programs that are unsustainable.

Mr. Sanders, who has a habit of answering questions with questions, says it is Republicans who are engaging in class warfare.

“Do we really say we’re going to balance the budget on making major cuts in disability benefits for veterans who have lost their arms and legs defending America, while we continue to give tax breaks to billionaires?” he thundered, without pausing for breath. “Is that what the American people want? They surely do not, and only within a Beltway surrounded by Wall Street and big-money interests could anyone think that is vaguely sensible.”

Mr. Sanders, who on Wednesday was appointed chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee, has 28 of the Senate’s 51 Democrats with him on keeping Social Security out of the deficit talks; all signed a letter that he and the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid, sent to the president. In the House, 104 Democrats — more than half of the caucus — signed a similar appeal. And 13 Senate Democrats, plus Mr. Sanders, signed a second letter demanding that entitlement programs be spared “harmful cuts.”

To Mr. Sanders, “harmful cuts” means any cuts in benefits. He says that entitlement spending should be trimmed only by wringing out inefficiencies. Many budget experts say that is unlikely to produce as much savings as the president and Republicans want. But Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat, believes that Mr. Sanders has some silent support.

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/14/us/politics/bernard-sanders-a-voice-for-shielding-entitlements.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

House Republican Leaders Agree to Extend Tax Cut Temporarily

Under a deal reached between House and Senate leaders, the House will now approve as early as Friday the two-month extension of a payroll tax holiday and unemployment benefits approved by the Senate last Saturday, and the Senate will appoint members of a House-Senate conference committee to negotiate legislation to extend both benefits through 2012.

House Republicans — who rejected an almost identical deal on Tuesday — collapsed under the political rubble that has accumulated over the week, much of it from their own party, worried that the blockade would do serious damage to their appeal to voters.

The House speaker, John A. Boehner, determined to put the issue behind his party, announced the decision over the phone to members on Thursday, and did not permit the usual back and forth that is common on such calls, enraging many of them.

After his conversation with lawmakers, the speaker conceded to reporters that it might not have been “politically the smartest thing in the world” for House Republicans to put themselves between a tax cut and the 160 million American workers who would benefit from it, and to allow President Obama and Congressional Democrats to seize the momentum on the issue.

The agreement ended a partisan fight that threatened to keep Congress and Mr. Obama in town through Christmas and was just the latest of the bitter struggles over fiscal policy involving House conservatives, the president and the Democratic-controlled Senate.

Under the deal, the employee’s share of the Social Security payroll tax will stay at the current level, 4.2 percent of wages, through Feb. 29. In the absence of Congressional action, it would revert to the usual 6.2 percent next month. The government will also continue paying unemployment insurance benefits under current policy through February. Without Congressional action, many of the long-term unemployed would begin losing benefits next month.

In addition, under the agreement, Medicare will continue paying doctors at current rates for two months, averting a 27 percent cut that would otherwise occur on Jan. 1.

The new deal makes minor adjustments to make it easier for small businesses to cope with the tax changes and prevents manipulation of an employee’s pay should the tax cut extension fail to go beyond two months.

The House, which is in pro forma session, could seal the deal Friday unless a member raises an objection on the floor; the Senate would then do the same. If an objection occurs, Mr. Boehner will summon the full House back next week for a formal vote, he said.

Mr. Obama, who has reaped political benefits from the standoff, welcomed the outcome.

“This is good news, just in time for the holidays,” he said in a statement. “This is the right thing to do to strengthen our families, grow our economy, and create new jobs. This is real money that will make a real difference in people’s lives. ”

In the end, the agreement seemed a clear victory for Mr. Obama and the Democrats — at least for now. They managed to change the narrative from one about Mr. Obama making a concession — he agreed to a provision in the bill to speed the approval process for an oil pipeline — to one about stonewalling House Republicans, who have spent much of the year holding the upper hand of divided government.

Democrats have been quick to exploit the issue. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee this week unleashed automated phone calls, some of which were recorded by the Democratic strategist James Carville, in the districts of 20 targeted House Republicans.

The onslaught will continue. “This is a defining moment,” said the head of the committee, Representative Steve Israel, Democrat of New York. “This by itself doesn’t necessarily alter the political landscape, but the chronic chaos and repeated extremism will help us win back the House.”

The push to find a quick resolution was touched off Thursday by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, who had negotiated the two-month extension. After a few days of silence, he called on the House to accept a temporary continuation of the tax cut, and to extend unemployment pay, as long as Senate Democrats committed to quickly opening negotiations over a yearlong agreement.

Robert Pear contributed reporting.

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 22, 2011

Because of an editing error, an earlier version of this article misstated the amount of the average tax break for a family making $50,000 a year. The break amounts to $40 each paycheck; not $40 a week.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=8870562dcdf2250f8bb0d259a80f3805

Shareholders Approve Massey Energy Sale to Alpha

Many coal analysts say the future of the merged company is bright because economic growth in China, Brazil and other developing countries has tightened world supplies of metallurgical coal, which is used for making steel, and driven up prices.

Only four countries export metallurgical coal, also known as coking coal, and the newly merged company will be one of the few mining firms in the world that has access to sufficient port and rail infrastructure to expand exports substantially over the next several years.

The takeover of Massey by a competing Appalachian coal company came about after Massey was battered by legal troubles after an explosion in April 2010 at its Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia in which 29 miners died. It was the most lethal United States mine accident in 40 years.

Michael J. Quillen, Alpha’s chairman, said in an interview that Massey operations would need to adopt Alpha’s safety procedures and culture and that important changes in management personnel would be announced in the next few days.

“There are obviously going to be some challenges,” Mr. Quillen acknowledged. “It’s going to take a little while to integrate something as massive as the Massey asset. We need to go in and understand all of their operations.”

In recent weeks, Alpha has come under criticism from union leaders, mine safety experts and senior Congressional Democrats for a decision to retain three senior Massey managers, including Baxter F. Phillips, Massey’s chief executive, who had been president at the time of the Upper Big Branch accident.

An official investigation into the accident by a panel appointed by the former governor of West Virginia blamed Massey’s management for the accident, saying it had “operated its mines in a profoundly reckless manner.”

Massey executives have long argued that the explosion was caused by a natural large methane release into the mine chamber, not bad safety procedures.

J. Davitt McAteer, the former federal mine safety chief who led the West Virginia inquiry, said in an interview that retaining senior Massey executives “certainly doesn’t help make a dramatic and abrupt change in safety culture.”

“The question for the new owners,” he added, “is where is the strong message that this heralds a new day in mine safety and health?”

Mr. McAteer said that several Massey executives that were expected to remain with Alpha had declined to testify before his group or federal and state investigators.

Mr. Quillen said Alpha was listening to the criticism. “There will be some announcements clarifying the management structure in the immediate future,” he said. “There’s definitely going to be some changes made.” He declined to be more specific.

The Massey side of the company will need to “adapt to the Alpha personality and not vice versa,” he said. “It’s not going to be Massey with another name.”

Mining industry analysts said Alpha had a good record of blending prior acquisitions into the company and the merger was likely to succeed.

“If they completely integrate their safety procedures into Massey, then I don’t think there will be a problem,” said Justin Molavi, an energy analyst at IBISWorld, a market research firm.

David Khani, director of research at FBR Capital Markets, said Alpha faced multiple challenges, including declining production at Massey’s mines, rising operational costs and conflicts with federal regulators.

But Mr. Khani said Alpha was up to the task and the transition could be worked out over a year or so. “They are smart managers and they are very professional,” he said of Alpha’s leadership.

The merger will make Alpha the mining company with the second-largest coal reserves in the country, after Peabody Energy, with about five billion tons. It will have the third-largest reserves of metallurgical coal in the world after BHP Billiton and Teck Resources of Canada.

But Alpha will also inherit more than a dozen lawsuits filed by families of the Massey miners who were killed in the Big Branch disaster.

The deal was completed a few hours after separate votes at meetings of Alpha and Massey shareholders. The merged company will keep the Alpha name.

The votes came a day after courts in Delaware and West Virginia refused requests by different shareholder groups to block the sale.

In the West Virginia suit, shareholders said that Massey managers had engineered the sale of the company to protect themselves from liabilities connected to the Upper Big Branch disaster. They also said that Alpha had quietly agreed to hire several Massey executives conducting an internal investigation of the accident.

In the interview, Mr. Quillen did not deny that Alpha discussed the possibility of hiring Massey executives as part of the merger talks. “That doesn’t mean you are going to hire all of them,” he said. “The other side is going to say ‘What about my people?’ That’s a common occurrence in any acquisition of any size.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=3acd9f10a2ea1bb68a5867d7abea6113

Labor Board Plans to Sue 2 States Over Union Rules

In a letter sent on Friday, the labor board told those states that it would invoke the United States Constitution’s supremacy clause in asserting that the state constitutional amendments conflict with federal laws and are pre-empted by those laws. One federal official said the lawsuits would be filed in the next few days.

The Arizona and South Dakota constitutional amendments were promoted by various conservative groups worried that Congressional Democrats would pass legislation allowing unions to insist on using card check in organizing drives, meaning that an employer would have to recognize a union as soon as a majority of workers signed pro-union cards. Under current law, private sector employers can insist that secret ballots be used when unions are trying to organize.

Unions like using card check because it makes it easier to win unionization campaigns. Organizers can gather signature cards quietly until they get a majority of workers, making it more difficult for an employer to mount an opposition campaign. Congressional Republicans blocked passage of the card-check bill.

In January, the labor board threatened to sue four states, including South Carolina and Utah, which also have constitutional amendments barring card check. But in a letter sent on Friday to the four states’ attorneys generals, N.L.R.B. officials said they were suing just two states to conserve legal resources.

The labor board’s acting general counsel, Lafe Solomon, said the government reserved “the right to initiate a suit against the other two states at the appropriate time.”

N.L.R.B. officials evidently hope that victories in the Arizona and South Dakota cases would serve as precedents to invalidate the South Carolina and Utah prohibitions.

In an interview, Tom Horne, Arizona’s attorney general, criticized the board’s planned suit, saying, “I find it shocking that they do not believe in the fundamental principle of democracy that people have a right to a secret ballot.” He said that while federal pre-emption might apply to laws passed by Congress, it should not apply to the labor board’s decision allowing card check to be used in some unionization campaigns.

South Dakota’s attorney general, Marty J. Jackley, said he respectfully disagreed with the board’s analysis, adding that he did not believe the agency “has the authority under circumstances like this to sue a state.”

Last week, the N.L.R.B. infuriated South Carolina officials when it announced that it was bringing a case against Boeing that seeks to press the company to move an airline production line from a nonunion plant in South Carolina to a unionized facility in Washington State. The labor board said that Boeing had unlawfully moved the production line, originally planned for Washington, to retaliate against unionized employees there for engaging in repeated strikes.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=0c186524a0b85778a8b0847b73803bc3