October 4, 2013



BCA President and CEO Urges Spending Reform   


The government shutdown has been on the minds of Alabama's elected officials in Washington, D.C., and business leaders in Alabama. Here are some of their sentiments about the shutdown, government funding, the Affordable Care Act, which the House overwhelmingly voted 230-189 to defund, and partisan politics.


Business Council of Alabama President and CEO William J. Canary, in an interview on WSFA Channel 12 in Montgomery, said a government shutdown is "not the best course to take" because the economy is still fragile.


"The debate should be in Washington about spending and the approaching debt ceiling ... we're talking about a government that spends $11 billion each day with revenues of only $6 billion. Spending and borrowing is where the focus needs to be" Canary said.


The U.S. Chamber of Commerce called on Congress to end the shutdown. The BCA is the exclusive affiliate of the U.S. Chamber. Canary's interview can be viewed here.


U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Mobile, called on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to negotiate with the House on a resolution to defund Obamacare. "Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, the lead Senate author of the health law, described its implementation as a 'train wreck'," Sessions said. "House Republicans are working to spare American workers from this train wreck. But Leader Reid and President Obama are building a fortress around the law - even as more and more train wrecks are discovered in the 2,700-page bill no one had time to read."


U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, is the sole member of the Alabama congressional delegation to vote for the Affordable Care Act that the GOP-led House seeks to defund. "The government shutdown is the sole creation of the House Republicans," Sewell said. "The GOP had a chance to avert the government shutdown but chose political brinkmanship over responsible compromise. Our national economy should not be held hostage to partisan games."


U.S. Rep. Robert Aderholt, R-Haleyville, said the House passed a Continuing Resolution "to keep the federal government funded and to stop the train wreck that is the President's unpopular health care law, not once, not twice, but three times and did so with bipartisan support." "It is time for the Senate and the President to put politics aside and come to the table so we can end this government shutdown and protect Alabama families and small businesses from Obamacare," Aderholt said.


U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, wrote Dan Strodel, Chief Administrative Officer of the U.S. House of Representatives, asking that his congressional paycheck be withheld until the federal government shutdown ends. "During the current lapse in appropriations please withhold my pay until the government is operating again," Rogers said.


U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, R-Vestavia Hills, says the Affordable Care Act is causing negative consequences including reducing employee hours to part-time status, 29 hours a week. He said Alabama would feel the impact of a government shutdown. "So far this year, the House, months ago, passed appropriations bills for national defense, energy and water, homeland security, military construction, and veterans affairs," he said. "Instead, the Senate and White House use a federal government shutdown to coerce the House of Representatives into spending money America does not have on a socialized medicine program that does not work, and that a majority of Americans do not want."


U.S Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, urged Senate passage of a continuing resolution to keep the government open, but the Senate rejected it 54-46. "Tonight the House again acted to keep the government open and to protect the American People from the harmful and unfair effects of ObamaCare," she said. "I remain hopeful that Democrats in the Senate will put aside foolish pride of authorship on the healthcare law and recognize that it is fundamentally flawed, poorly implemented, and not ready for prime time."


The BCA and 250 other organizations signed a letter to the House and Senate urging passage of a continuing funding resolution so that federal spending won't be interrupted. The letter also implores Congress "to act expeditiously to raise the nation's debt limit." "It is not in the best interest of the employers, employees or the American people to risk a government shutdown that will be economically disruptive and create even more uncertainties for the U.S. economy," the letter states.



The National Association of Manufacturers on Thursday announced formation of a task force of business and manufacturing leaders who will discuss 21st Century growth and workforce challenges in the global marketplace. NAM Board Chair Doug Oberhelman, chairman and CEO of Caterpillar, in announcing the task force said pressing issues include the gap between worker skill preparedness and manufacturing needs, and the lack of graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields that are important to the manufacturing sector.

"A strong manufacturing base is a critical foundation for strengthening the American economy, and to be successful, a strong manufacturing economy requires a highly skilled workforce," said Oberhelman.  "The future of manufacturing is intrinsically tied to our ability to develop and build a 21st-century workforce," said NAM President and CEO Jay Timmons.

NAM said its Task Force on Competitiveness & the Workforce will be led by Chip Blankenship, president and CEO of GE Appliances, and will include 15 NAM Board members. The task force will begin working in January to identify common problems and solutions and develop proposals with public- and private-sector groups.

The Business Council of Alabama is the exclusive representative to the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM).



Some of the Obamacare sign-up state health insurance exchanges are asking unusual questions for applicant security, such as what band poster you had, Politico is reporting. The exchange sign-up period began Tuesday with glitches and little actual participation. New York's health insurance exchange asks: "What band poster did you have on your wall when you were in high school?" California's asks what was your favorite World Series? If you don't like a World Series you can enter the color of your first cat. No dogs. "They ask about first kisses, favorite professors and colleges you applied to but didn't attend," Politico reports.

All kidding aside, Politico reports that privacy activists plus Republican lawmakers are worried about the security of health and personal data in signing up on line for Obamacare, such as fraud, identity theft, and breaches. "Effective password protection doesn't address all the data privacy issues in the vast enterprise that is Obamacare," Politico reports. The federally run exchange that Alabama has opted for, asks potential Obamacare enrollees about their "favorite cuisine," their grandmother's nickname and their most beloved childhood toy. But for millions who cannot log in, "that's no laughing matter," Politico reports.


Officials locked down the U.S. Capitol briefly on Thursday after police shot and killed a woman in a sedan following a chase that began at a White House barricade and ended more than a mile away near the Capitol. The woman was identified as a 34-year-old Stamford, Conn., mother of an 18-month-old baby who was in the vehicle with her.

Reuters quoted an official saying there was no apparent connection to terrorism and was an isolated incident that caused the Capitol lockdown of about 30 minutes. The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate were in session on a budget impasse on the third day of a government shutdown. The shooting occurred three weeks after a government contractor killed 12 people and wounded three at the Washington Navy Yard near the Capitol before police killed him.

Capitol Police Chief Kim Dine said a woman in a black Infiniti had "attempted to pass a barricade" near the White House and struck an officer, the New York Times reported. Dine said the vehicle sped away, struck a police car on Capitol Hill, and then a barricade. "They ran all the red lights," a witness said. An injured police officer was taken to a hospital by helicopter. "We have no information that this is related to terrorism or is anything other than an isolated incident," Dine said.


U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus says he will not seek reelection in 2014

Bachus' Office 9/30 "Bachus, the dean of the Alabama House delegation, said he will not seek re-election after serving eleven terms as the representative for the Sixth District. He said he will devote his full energies to his legislative duties and serving his constituents during the remainder of his current term.  


Congressman Bachus stated, "It has been the greatest privilege imaginable to serve as the representative of the people of Alabama in the United States House of Representatives. It is an honor that I never dreamed could have been possible for me and the words 'thank you' are far from adequate. But as Ecclesiastes 3 says, to everything there is a season and I feel in my heart that now is the time for me to announce this decision and allow others to have the opportunity to serve.


"This was a family decision, because my wife Linda, our five children, and our seven grandchildren have always been my biggest source of support, strength, and joy. Since I will continue to be the representative for the Sixth District until the end of my term, I do not consider today a 'goodbye'.


"Bachus was first elected to the U.S. House in 1992. As Chairman of House Financial Services Committee, he became the first Republican from Alabama to chair a House committee since 1873 and the first Alabamian to chair what was historically known as the Banking Committee since Representative Henry Bascom Steagall in 1931."


Millions try health insurance exchange on first day     

The Hill (Baker 10/02) "The primary website for ObamaCare enrollment hit 4.7 million visitors in its first 24 hours, the Health and Human Services Department said Wednesday. The site, healthcare.gov, was still functioning slowly Wednesday after an initial rollout Tuesday that was fraught with technical problems. HHS said it has expanded the site's capacity, although some consumers would still have to wait to access the site. 


"HHS spokeswoman Joanne Peters said the department expects Wednesday's Web traffic to be about the same as Tuesday's. 'While this overwhelming interest is continuing to cause wait times, there will be continuing improvements in the coming hours and days,' she said. In addition to the 4.7 million Web hits, HHS logged 190,000 calls to enrollment hotlines and 104,000 requests for live Web chats, Peters said. The window to enroll will remain open for six months, and consumers have until Dec. 15 to sign up for coverage that begins Jan. 1 - the earliest date new plans would take effect. 


"Healthcare.gov displayed basic error messages Tuesday that said the site was unavailable, but on Wednesday afternoon, the site redirected to a 'holding page' that allowed visitors to hold their place in line. Healthcare.gov is the portal to compare coverage options in the 34 states where the federal government is operating the new insurance marketplaces." (White House spokesman Jay Carney could not say how many have enrolled in Obamacare, the Weekly Standard reported.)  

Obama Threatens Social Security    

Business Insider (LoGiurato 10/3) "Early Thursday morning, Potomac Research Group analyst Greg Valliere predicted that if the debt-ceiling deadline grew closer, President Barack Obama would play his 'trump card' in the debate. He would remind seniors that if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling, seniors wouldn't get their Social Security checks. GOP strategists like Karl Rove surely know that it's just a matter of time before President Obama throws a game-changer - warning senior citizens that their Social Security checks won't be mailed because of John Boehner, Valliere wrote in a note to clients. 


"A few hours later, Obama did just that during a speech at M. Luis Construction Company in Rockville, Md. He spent much of the speech warning that while the ongoing government shutdown was damaging, failure to raise the debt ceiling by an Oct. 17 deadline would be even worse. 'In a government shutdown, Social Security checks still go out on time. In an economic shutdown - if we don't raise the debt ceiling - they don't go out on time,' Obama said. 'In a government shutdown, disability benefits still arrive on time. In an economic shutdown, they don't.' 


"Earlier on Thursday, the Treasury Department warned in a big report that breaching the debt ceiling could inflict economic calamity 'more severe than any seen since the Great Depression.' 'The United States has never defaulted on its obligations, and the U.S. dollar and Treasury securities are at the center of the international financial system', the report said. The Treasury says that the debt ceiling needs to be raised by Oct. 17 to avoid potential default on some U.S. obligations. After that date, the Treasury would have only approximately $30 billion to meet all of its commitments. On some days, expenditures can go as high as $60 billion."


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