Corker Uncorked

Speak to Power reports on the “stunning admission” in from TN Republican Senator Bob Corker that “breaks the long-standing 11th Commandment, ‘Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.’”

In a Politico article, Corker talks about the GOP strategy with the upcoming debate on a bill that would reform the financial services industry, and how he feels the current GOP strategy of “OBSTRUCT, OBSTRUCT, OBSTRUCT!” isn’t going to work on a bill that the public largely stands behind, even if they’re not clear on the specifics.

From the article:

Corker said Republicans lost their leverage when they failed to rally around the emerging deal on which he and Dodd were working until several weeks ago. Corker suggested that the lack of enthusiasm from his colleagues about those talks played into Dodd’s decision to cut short his work with Corker and move a bill to committee.

“Had everybody come together around that bipartisan negotiation, and I think had Chris [Dodd] seen that other Republicans would actually join in at that time, he might have continued on. But I think the fact that didn’t occur … the die was cast,” Corker said.

“I don’t think the polarity [of health care] will exist around this bill, and I think that again a major strategic error has occurred.”

It seems as if Senator Corker is one of the guys in a “shiny political celebrity high-profile” job that wants to actually get something done. Too bad he picked the wrong party to join.

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Summary: Featuring guests Judy Norsigian, Our Bodies Ourselves co-founder and Executive Director; and Karl Frisch of Media Matters for America.

Links: Our Bodies Ourselves, Public Responsibility in Medicine & Research, Media Matters for America

A Black Eye, Part 1 The intro, the end of the world on celluloid, recounts possibilities (or impossibilities), Republican hypocrisy in Sumner County, plus the Media Matters for American Smackdown with Karl Frisch, in which he packs a whole lot of Sarah Palin in a short time. [38.3MB download mp3]

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A Black Eye, Part 2 A really big “oopsie” followed by a whole lotta backpedaling by Tennessee’s U.S. Senators Alexander and Corker, political performance art by Palin and her friends insults truth, justice and the American way, more health insurances woes keep us from the American dream, and our interview with Judy Norsigian, a hero of the women’s movement. [36MB download mp3]

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Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker make an appearance in the Tennessean this morning in which they attempt to explain their vote against an amendment to a Defense Appropriations bill that would let corporate plunderers off the hook for rape.

The amendment, introduced by Senator Al Franken, would deny taxpayer dollars in the form of defense contracts to any company that asks employees to sign away their right to sue.

Their explanation? “We voted against the amendment because it was overly broad, banning arbitration in too many cases where it would benefit employees.”

Gasp! Too much benefit for employees? We can’t have that now, can we.

But this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this kind of elitism from the two gentlemen from Tennessee. They also voted for an amendment “that prohibits funds…from being used to directly or indirectly fund the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)” – an organization that fights for living and minimum wage legislation and increases, registers low- and moderate-income and minority citizens to vote, and counsels first-time home buyers.

For Senators Alexander and Corker, it’s this: “Large, national-treasury raiding and war profiteering defense contractors? Good! Working people trying to maintain a tenuous hold on the American Dream? Bad.

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Summary: Featuring guests Elliott Ozment, immigration law attorney; Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall; and Karl Frisch of Media Matters for America.

Immigration Nation, Part 1 Nevermind the boy not in the balloon, there’s real news afoot. Ty Cobb 2.0, a healthcare reform package out of committee in the Senate, Senator Al Franken gets his first amendment passed by a roll call vote no thanks to Tennessee Senators Lamar Alexander and Senator Bob Corker who would rather let corporate plunderers off the hook for rape, Tennesseans deserve fair and accurate elections, and an interview with immigration law attorney Elliott Ozment, who covers the controversial 287g program up for reauth in the Metro Council, why he used to serve on the Sheriff’s Immigration Advisory Council for the program but doesn’t anymore, the basic civil and human rights inherent in the immigration debate, Juana Villegas, and what he thinks would be a good solution to crime prevention in Nashville’s undocumented immigrant population. [21.3MB download mp3]

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Immigration Nation, Part 2 We hear from you, our listeners, as well as another immigration attorney, Sean Lewis, about immigration matters, and conclude that we are not looking at immigration reform as comprehensively as we need to. And we talk to Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall, the man behind the controversial 287g program, to get his take on why the program is important, how it does or doesn’t work, accusations of racial profiling, and why it’s coming before the Metro Council once again. Plus, it’s an abbreviated version of the Media Matters for American Smackdown with Karl Frisch, in which he packs a whole lot of funny in a short time. [24MB download mp3]

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Jamie Leigh Jones testifies.

Jamieleigh Jones testifies.

While working in Iraq in 2005, Halliburton/KBR employee Jamie Leigh Jones was brutally gang-raped by her co-workers and left for a day locked in a shipping container. Her employment contract said that she was not allowed to sue – her allegations could only be heard in private arbitration.

Last week in his first legislative effort, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) proposed an amendment to a Defense Appropriations bill that would deny taxpayer dollars in the form of defense contracts to any company that asks employees to sign away their right to sue.

Sec. 8104. (a) None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used for any existing or new Federal contract if the contractor or a subcontractor at any tier requires that an employee or independent contractor, as a condition of employment, sign a contract that mandates that the employee or independent contractor performing work under the contract or subcontract resolve through arbitration any claim under title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or any tort related to or arising out of sexual assault or harassment, including assault and battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress, false imprisonment, or negligent hiring, supervision, or retention. (b) The prohibition in subsection (a) does not apply with respect to employment contracts that may not be enforced in a court of the United States.

30 Republicans voted against the amendment and voted for protecting ginormous profit-making defense contracts for KBR/Halliburton, including Tennessee Senators Lamar! Alexander and Bob Corker. Click on each of the links to send them a nice note or call Sen. Alexander at 202-224-4944 and Senator Corker at 202-234-3344.

Senators Corker and Alexander no doubt agreed with the twisted and flat-out wrong logic of Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama who argued that “The Congress should not be involved in writing or rewriting private contracts…that’s just not how we should handle matters in the United States Senate.” Given that the United States government was the other party in the contract, that would be exactly the kind of thing Congress should be involved in.

Senators Alexander and Corker did, however, vote for an amendment “that prohibits funds…from being used to directly or indirectly fund the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN)” – an organization that fights for living and minimum wage legislation and increases, registers low- and moderate-income and minority citizens to vote, and counsels first-time home buyers.

If you’re keeping score at home for our two Senators it would be, Rape – 1, The American Dream – 0.

And if you think the sexual assault of women by defense contractor employees is a one-time occurrence, think again.

(H/T: HuffPo)

UPDATE: More from Joe Powell.

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I’ve already written a little about my own situation with regard to healthcare. I’m not particularly concerned, but let’s review the scenario:

I recently resigned from an employer to start a new business. Having a thorough personal understanding of the importance of health insurance (ranking it just underneath food and just ahead of rent/mortgage in terms of financial priorities), I planned to enroll in an individual plan. I also have a pre-existing condition, which makes any change to my insurance circumstances somewhat of a hurdle. So right now, I face:

  • getting approved for the individual plan for which I applied, albeit delayed while underwriters (at the same provider!) re-review my medical and health history because of my pre-existing condition, which has never resulted in the need for access to healthcare
  • or, getting denied for the individual plan for which I applied, forcing me to rely on COBRA, which not only is extremely expensive but also expires after 18 months

At the moment, my situation is not an emergency. It could become extremely expensive in the short term if I’m denied for the individual plan for which I applied, but I’m not too worried about being declared to be uninsurable, although that is a slight risk, as it is for all Americans. But is this health security?

And this brings me to my point. The primary reason we need health insurance reform in America right now is to ensure that Americans have adequate health security in a world with better diagnostics and rising healthcare costs. As life expectancy has increased, so has medical technology and information improved. We know more about chronic conditions now, and we have data that gives us a better grip on epidemiology. And there are epidemics. Everything from diabetes to cancer. And right now we operate in a world where, for most Americans, health insurance benefits are a function of employment and employers, and private insurers prefer working with groups rather than individuals, from among whom they’re quite satisfied cherry picking.

Here’s the thing about healthcare. Unless we achieve some type of actual health insurance reform, every single one of the 47 million uninsured Americans who is uninsured because they are uninsurable as designated by a private insurance company will continue to lack access to health insurance until they have spent down their assets–cash, house, investments–to poverty level, which allows them to qualify for Medicaid. They must then remain at a function of the federal poverty line– lest they become ineligible for Medicaid–until they qualify for Medicare at age 65. The alternative is to keep one’s assets and hope that one can just keep living long enough to survive visits to the emergency room when things get really terrible because that’s the only place that has a mandate, and the mandate is just to stabilize emergency conditions. And don’t forget: They’ll still bill you later.

So let’s be clear: Every American who gets an unexpected diagnosis just before changing jobs, or while covered under COBRA, lives with the extreme risk that they will lose access to insurance. Every American who actually has private insurance, maybe even likes their plan, might not realize that that plan likely carries a lifetime maximum in terms of what the policy covers. Maybe $1m. Maybe $5m. Or an annual maximum. Or a high enough deductible that, if an injury or illness preventing work occurs, might become punitive when extended across 30 years.

Our system of healthcare in America right now is the best in the world… for healthy Americans! For unhealthy Americans, it becomes a nearly guaranteed system of oppression. This is why some form of universal healthcare is a necessity. Because anything short of that is a systematic short circuit of the American dream for anyone who winds up injured or ill. This is why we’re all in this together. This is why we either need to pool our risk in a national consensus of some kind to ensure that no unhealthy American is left behind. Or we need a better idea that I haven’t yet heard.

So I want to hear from a Republican who opposes anything a Democrat proposes regarding health insurance reform: What do you say to the 47 million Americans without access to health insurance? What do you say to the hundreds of millions of Americans who are not independently wealthy and rely on meaningful health security to remain healthy and working? I get that you want to give ‘em all a tax credit. I get that. I’ve read John Mackey’s 8 Whole Foods Half Healthcare reforms that would lower costs, and not a single one of ‘em solves the problem of access to insurance when you’re uninsurable. So what else ya got, Republicans, because a tax credit ain’t gonna cut it in terms of keeping 47 million Americans out of poverty and ensuring that all Americans have health security. But I get this sneaking suspicion that you don’t actually care.

In the meantime, the Affordable Health Choices Act (in the Senate) and America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (in the House) provide an opportunity to expand health security to millions more Americans. Consider contacting Lamar Alexander, Bob Corker, and Jim Cooper and encouraging them to support these bills.

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Who has healthcare? Healthcare, healthcare, healthcare, and...healthcare.

Who has healthcare? Healthcare, healthcare, healthcare, and...healthcare.

Bob Corker was on Squawkbox today to introduce The Resolution Reform Act of 2009 (S1540), common sense, bi-partisan legislation to give the FDIC the ability to “wind down” bank holding companys. Not sure why this admitted step towards “broader regulatory reform” by the federal government sits well with this Tennessee Republican, but it does.

At the end of the segment Corker is asked about healthcare reform and his plans for the break and, while showing that despite dipping his toes into bi-partisanship waters he’s still a partisan hack at heart, he admits he “wants” healthcare reform.

“Look, I am..actually..want to see appropriate healthcare reform take place and I think there are ways of certainly creating access for all Americans to have affordable healthcare in a way that is budget neutral. We can do that through the employer exclusion. The notion, though, of taking 400 billion dollars from Medicare which is insolvent and everyone knows that it is and taking that money to leverage a whole new healthcare system is ridiculous and it’s hard for me to believe that this administration is proposing that…trying to get states to expand Medicaid. In our own state of Tennessee what has been proposed is over 400 million a year…but we can solve this in an appropriate way hopefully in September after people get an earful back in their states we’ll come together.”

Doh! If only he would have stopped at “I think there are ways of certainly creating access for all Americans to have affordable healthcare…” and then left out the part about a whole new system being “ridiculous” and giving the people an “earful” – which, in partisan double speak means, “while we’re on break we’re being dispatched to spread lies and false information to the people back home so they become afraid of reform.”

It’s nice that Senator Corker, who I’m sure has a fine health insurance plan, finds it so easy to reduce the debate to dollars and cents while ignoring, as Ezra Klein points out from his reading of T.R. Reid’s “The Healing of America: A Global Quest for Better, Cheaper, and Fairer Health Care,” the moral case for health care and the “ethical obligation” our society has to our uninsured.

We know why such arguments are missing from Senator Corker’s Squawkbox appearance – because his party has defined the terms and are trying to control the debate. They have made it OK for it to be all about the dollars and cents and ignore the moral arguments.

But why, Klein asks, is the Obama administration allowing them to get away with it?:

The economic case for health-care reform requires a really radical version of reform. Single-payer, say, or the Wyden-Bennett Healthy Americans Act. The consensus Democratic health-care plan — the basic approach that the Obama campaign committed itself to and that Democrats in Congress are pushing — is primarily a coverage plan. It has some cost-saving features on the margins, but it’s primarily a way of getting to universal coverage. You can argue for that plan in primarily moral terms, with some economic arguments around the margins. But the administration has been pushing it in primarily economic terms, with some moral arguments around the margins. And now they’re caught in that dissonance.

And why is the Obama administration ignoring the successful efforts used by countries like Sweden and Taiwan and described by Reid in his book, that overcame political opposition so they could “rebuild their patchwork health care sector’s into national health-care systems…”?

Both countries decided that society has an ethical obligation — as a matter of justice, of fairness, of solidarity — to assure everybody has access to medical care when it’s needed. The advocates of reform in both countries clarified and emphasized that moral issue much more than the nuts and bolts of the proposed reform plans. As a result, the national debate was waged around ideals like “equal treatment for everybody,” “we’re all in this together,” and “fundamental rights” rather than on the commercial implications for the health care industry.

If Senator Corker is going to come back to Tennessee with his numbers, then we need our Democratic representatives to come back and make the moral case for healthcare reform. Because as our guest Molly Secours said this morning, if we had the political will to reform healthcare, we’d find the money in 5 minutes.

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Tennessee Senator Bob Corker (R, the Fightin’ Transplants!), also known as the “Senator from Nissan,” sent out an update from his office today and his version of events surrounding the auto industry crisis are a little different (aka more partisan than necessary) than the one in this week’s extraordinarily comprehensive New Yorker story. Compare and contrast.

From Sen. Corker:

In December our office tried to broker a deal that would have resulted in bipartisan support and provided a viable road map for General Motors to move forward. As we worked through that plan, every stakeholder agreed to shared sacrifice except the United Auto Workers, where we met resistance. In fact, somehow in offering a plan to help the company survive, one that made common sense and would have garnered bipartisan support, I became public enemy No. 1 with the UAW and the AFL-CIO.

A little more detail from The Road Ahead: Smyrna, Tennessee, vs. Detroit, by Peter J. Boyer (The New Corker Yorker), reveals that “except the UAW” is not quite accurate:

The Republican leadership asked Corker to introduce his plan as an amendment that would supersede the House bill, and Corker and [Senate Banking Committee Chair] Dodd began frantic negotiations with the union, representatives of the bondholders, and the automakers. Corker says that the union agreed to accept stock for cash for its VEBA [Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association] trust, and key bondholders indicated that they would accept an equity swap. Alan Reuther, the U.A.W.’s Washington lobbyist, agreed to put his workers on a par with those of the transplants [Nissan, Toyota, and Honda], but refused to commit to the 2009 deadline. The Republicans wouldn’t support the bailout without the timeline in place, and the Corker amendment was shelved. The House proposal was debated that night, and it, too, went nowhere.

A little red meat from the Senator:

We do know the results now. In one fell swoop, our government has taken over a company — it fired the CEO, replaced the board, is involved in making decisions about which plants will survive and what kind of cars they will make, and now appears to be directing the company to bankruptcy. In bankruptcy, the same UAW contracts that were the focus of our negotiations in December would change dramatically and bondholders would take huge write-downs on their investments. Unfortunately, because these steps weren’t taken in December, billions of taxpayer dollars are now down the drain and more stringent, draconian measures will be put in place.

Not really “one fell swoop,” says Boyer. The current administration had a little help:

A week later [the second week in December 2008], Bush [President George W.] announced that the Treasury Department would lend G.M. and Chrysler $17.4 billion, on terms that generally accorded with Corker’s plan. “Look, I got all your stuff in there,” Bush told Corker in a telephone call that day. In exchange for the loan, to be paid in installments, the government required G.M. and Chrysler to achieve the VEBA and bondholder debt reductions, and to have a plan by March 31st to bring costs in line with those of Nissan, Toyota, and Honda.

Also from Boyer, why a little interference might be necessary to protect our investment:

In late February, [Obama auto task force advisers] Bloom and Rattner began studying the industry, and what they learned was sobering. They learned, as just one example, that G.M.’s dealership-distribution system is hopelessly our of proportion. Honda has thirteen hundred dealerships in the U.S., and Toyota – G.M.’s chief rival – has about fifteen hundred. G.M. has more than six thousand dealers who are protected by state franchise laws. It will cost the company billions of dollars just to reach parity with the Japanese-owned companies.”

And according to Boyer, Senator Corker doesn’t think Barack Obama is really all that bad:

When Barack Obama took the oath of office, he found himself overseeing the biggest industrial restructuring in history, largely on Corker’s terms. “Obama has a tremendous opportunity,” Corker said, “I think this is one of those defining moments for him.”

Magnanimous Corker:

Regardless of what got us here, the members of the UAW across Tennessee are my constituents, and though they may have disagreed with my approach this fall, there should be no doubt that I want the very best for them, their families, and the many people throughout our state who depend on the auto industry.

Self-serving Coker from Boyer:

When the automakers first came to Washington, the Southern Auto Belt senators, including Corker, had generally agreed about the proposed bailout. For reasons of ideology (let the marketplace rule) and self-interest (the U.A.W. had donated heavily to their opponents), they were inclined to let Detroit fail. Corker’s voice had been the most prominent in the first round of hearings, but when they ended, he felt he still didn’t know enough to advocate for bankruptcy. On December 1st, the beginning of the week that the second round of hearings was scheduled to be held, Corker flew to New York for a series of meetings with auto-industry analysts and G.M. bondholders….When Corker returned to Washington, he began to work out an alternative to bankruptcy.”

The Senator from Nissan has actually done some good work in this area but until he stops manipulating facts so he can demonize the groups who donated heavily to his opponents and/or slap inappropriately used epithets on the President, he’s wasting his time.

The New Yorker article touches on so many things: Tennessee history (Sam Ridley and Smyrna), Nissan history, Nissan in Smyrna history, Detroit history, GM history, U.A.W. history, labor practices at the Smyrna plant, labor practices at the Big 3 plant, the role of both unions and management in the demise of the Big 3, jobs banks, etc.

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Senator Creepy (R-TN)

During a piece on Hillary Clinton’s confirmation hearings, John Stewart zeros in on the creepiness that is Senator “Choo Choo” Corker. (It’s way at the end so in the meantime enjoy the skewering he gives “President” Kerry and “President” (H.) Clinton).

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