2011-08-03 / Political Page

Historic Debt/Default Bill Gets Final Approval

President Barack Obama yesterday announced final passage by the U.S. Senate of the national debt ceiling compromise legislation, thereby averting a ruinous national default.

The president was expected to sign the historic bill into law later in the day. The House had previously passed the bill on Monday by a vote of 269 to 161.

In announcing the compromise bill passage, the president also made a strong pitch for tax increases for the wealthy, which was not in the bill that passed. In addition, he made a strong appeal to Congress to pass job creating legislation to get the economy moving.

One of the no votes was cast by Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx).

In a prepared statement Crowley declared: “Speaker [John] Boehner and House Republicans voted to do one thing today and one thing only: waste what little time we have left voting on an unbalanced, partisan and reckless bill.”

Boehner, who negotiated the deal that ended the crisis with Obama, said after the vote: “We are cutting spending, we are spending less money next year in discretionary spending than we spent last year. You haven’t heard that kind of a statement before around this town.”

Crowley, however, added in his statement, “The American people deserve better. In fact, they’ve asked for better. The majority of Americans want a comprehensive solution that will address our nation’s debt, begin the process of re-balancing the federal budget, promote economic growth and create jobs.

“What we cannot afford is the one note approach offered by the Republicans. It not only kicks the issue of addressing our debt down the road, but puts at risk the U.S. economy’s long-standing reputation as the gold standard economy throughout the world.

Crowley concluded: “Democrats stand ready to put forward a balanced, bipartisan compromise. Unfortunately, Republicans are only negotiating among themselves.”

The bailout plan passed by the House and the Senate would reduce government spending by more than $2.1 billion during the next 10 years and would extend the borrowing authority of the Treasury Department. The initial increase in the debt would be $400 billion to stave off default. An additional $500 billion borrowing is authorized through to February.

Obama had made the increase in the debt limit one of his primary goals in the extended deliberations.

The president also had asked for a tax increase for the most wealthy wage earners, but Boehner opposed it vehemently and no tax increase is included in the compromise settlement.

Most of the spending cuts are in the defense budget, Medicare may be cut slightly, but Social Security and Medicaid face no reductions.

CALL FOR NO CUTS IN SOCIAL SECURITY: This past Sunday, while last minute negotiations on avoiding default were going on in Washington, Assemblymember David Weprin (D–Little Neck), state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D–Whitestone) and Councilmember Karen Koslowitz (D–Rego Park) pleaded for no reductions in Social Security benefits for seniors.

Weprin, the Democratic candidate for the 9th CD seat previously held by Anthony Weiner, was joined by two Democratic colleagues in front of the Rego Park Social Security Administration office to make their plea.

“It is absolutely crucial that Social Security benefits are not disrupted and that seniors’ financial security is not threatened by politicians in Washington,” Weprin said. “Many seniors live on fixed incomes and rely upon their Social Security income to pay for their day-to-day expenses including groceries and medications.”

Stavisky pointed out that for the past two years there has been no cost of living increase in Social Security benefits. And Koslowitz said, “It’s critical that we protect Social Security recipients, many of whom rely on their monthly check for every day, basic needs.”

As the nation neared the August 2 deadline for raising the debt ceiling to avoid the first default in U.S. government history, the trio of lawmakers cited the need for a bipartisan compromise on the debt ceiling.

Weprin, who faces Bob Turner of Rockaway Park in the September 13 special election, ripped “The House GOP’s insistence on a balanced budget amendment and their recent infatuation with playing chicken with the economy is part of a long line of radical GOP proposals.”

TURNER SUPPORTS BUDGET COMPROMISE: Bob Turner, Weprin’s opponent in the 9th CD special election, came out in support of the balanced budget amendment, citing it as addressing this country’s long term debt, job creation and the economy.

“The United States is borrowing 40 cents of every dollar it spends,” he said in a prepared statement, adding “that debt is strangling economic expansion and job creation in New York and elsewhere.”

If elected, Turner said his, “Chief priority will be fixing this economy, and that begins with addressing the nation’s longterm debt. Toward that end, I will support a Balanced Budget Amendment in Congress. America’s future—the future of our children and grandchildren—will remain in doubt until we cap spending in this country to reasonable levels. Doing so will stabilize U.S. markets and put job creating capital back into the market place.”

Under the compromise plan raising the debt limit to avoid default, there’s a provision that before December 31, both houses of Congress must vote on sending a balanced budget amendment to the states, this requires a two-thirds majority.

Turner also took a rap at Weprin, calling him “a career politician” who has sought four public offices in two years. He also charged the Assemblymember and ex-city councilmember with overspending in every office he has held. Weprin was Finance Committee chairman in the council for all of his eight years there. Turner closed by challenging Weprin to join him in supporting the Balanced Budget Amendment.

Addressing the Balanced Budget Amendment at the Rego Park rally for Social Security continuance (see earlier part of this column), Weprin stated:

“The House GOP’s insistence on a balanced budget amendment and their recent infatuation with playing chicken with the economy, is part of a long line of radical GOP proposals, including the Ryan Budget and the Cut/Cap/Balance plan which would eliminate Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as we know it.”

GIANARIS APPLAUDS DI NAPOLI/LIU MTA AUDIT: Meeting this past Sunday at Queensboro Plaza in Long Island City with State Comptroller Tom Di Napoli and City Comptroller John Liu, state Senator Michael Gianaris (D–Astoria) applauded their joint audit of the MTA.

The audit found, Gianaris said, that the MTA is leaving subway riders in the dark about wasteful and unproductive service diversions, which are increasing and over budget with little explanation or instruction to riders.

Gianaris, a commuter advocate, stated: “The MTA must make greater efforts to compensate communities for the seemingly endless number of disruptions-shuttle buses based on six-year-old data are insufficient.”

The lawmaker applauded Di Napoli and Liu “for taking charge of this problem and look forward to working to make subway travel a better experience”.

MALONEY: ‘MUST KEEP GRAND STATION P.O. OPEN’: Citing the urgent need for the continued operation of the Grand Station Post Office at 45-08 30th Ave., Astoria for residents and businesses in the bustling Steinway Street district, Congressmember Carolyn Maloney (D–Queens/Manhattan) had this message for U.S. postal officials:

“It’s an important part of the community; without it postal customers would not have access to the full array of postal services without traveling longer distances. Closure of Grand Station is particularly ill-conceived given the large numbers of seniors and immigrants living in the neighborhood, and I will fight any effort to deprive Astoria of this vital facility.”

Alluding to reports that the United States Postal Service (USPS) was considering shutting down the busy station, Maloney declared:

“It is critical that local residents and businesses make sure their voices are heard by the United States Postal Service on this important question. In the coming months I will be joining with other government and civic leaders to alert Queens and Long Island City residents about the potential threat to the Grand Station Post Office, and to encourage them to respond to survey by the USPS and others measuring the degree of support the local community is providing to their post office.”

Toward that end, Maloney and 36th AD Democratic District Leader Costa Constantinides were among those asking the public to join a rally in front of the Grand Station P.O. which was held on August 1. Joining Constantinides at the rally were state Senator Michael Gianaris and Assemblymember Aravella Simotas.

Constantinides, who also serves as president of the Queens Young Democrats, said, “The closure would create significant problems for Astoria residents especially our seniors, families and the disabled. This decision would impact all of us through longer lines and worse service at other locations. Astoria shouldn’t have to suffer because of bad decisions made in Washington.”

The Grand Station Post Office serves the 11103 zip code.

LIU: ‘CITY BANKING COMMISSION NO HELP WITH FORECLOSURES: Clashing again with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Comptroller John Liu charged that the mayor-controlled NYC Banking Commission is “missing an opportunity to help New Yorkers facing foreclosure”.

Liu charged that the three-member commission, made up of the mayor, the Fiance Commissioner (who’s also appointed by the mayor, and the comptroller) rubber stamps approvals of depositories, in which all of the city’s money must be deposited.

Speaking out after the Commission voted to designate 35 financial institutions as depository banks, Liu stated that the commission “rubber stamped a motion to assign these banks the privilege to serve as depositories without first considering what, if any, role they are playing in the current foreclosure crisis. This obscure but powerful commission had the opportunity to engage financial institutions in a dialogue on how to keep New Yorkers in their homes and they blew it by giving these banks a free pass”.

Liu said most New Yorkers have never heard of the Banking Commission, “which is controlled by City Hall”, but he promised, “As a result of today’s development my office will be working with the City Council to enact legislation aimed at holding banks designated as depositories accountable to New York City homeowners and taxpayers. In addition, my staff will be analyzing ways to restructure the commission in order to better serve New Yorkers.”

Liu said that in March, his representative on the Banking Commission, Deputy Comptroller Alan van Capelle, sent a letter to his fellow commission members outlining “specific questions to be added to the designation forms required to be filled out by the banks.

Although the proposal was in accord with all city rules covering the commission and authorizing it to request information regarding foreclosures and other banking activities, “the mayoral-controlled commission voted to not support the measure”, Liu said.

CROWLEY: ‘EXPAND ACCESS TO CHILD HEALTH CARE’: Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/The Bronx) and U.S. Senator John Kerry (D–Massachusetts) announced introduction of the Children First Act, to increase access to stable and affordable child care for low income families.

Crowley said that if enacted, the new law would greatly benefit New York, where the average price of full-time care in center-based settings total $13,630 for an infant and $10,541 for a pre-schooler. More than 40,000 New York City families are currently on a waitlist for child care subsidies, Crowley said.

“For many parents, the skyrocketing costs of child care place a significant burden on family budgets that are already stretched thin,” Crowley pointed out. “Working parents should have affordable options when it comes to ensuring their children are safe and well-cared for during the day.

“Unfortunately, options are both limited and increasingly expensive. That’s why I’m pleased to join Senator Kerry in the effort to help more families access affordable, quality and reliable child care.”

Under the legislation, mandatory funding from 2012-2014 would increase federal child care funding by $7.2 billion over a 10-year period, allowing approximately 212,000 more children to have access to safe and affordable child care, Crowley said.

GENNARO PROMISES $750,000 FOR POMONOK SECURITY CAMERAS: In a response to a deadly shooting at the Pomonok Houses facility in Flushing, Councilmember James Gennaro (D–Fresh Meadows) pledged to secure $750,000 in city funding to be used to install security cameras at the Flushing housing project.

Gennaro, whose district includes the houses, made the pledge at a July 20 Town Hall Meeting at Pomonok which state Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D–Whitestone) co-hosted.

Gennaro said, “The Pomonok community was shaken to its core by the terrible violence on July 2, where one woman was killed and three others were wounded in two shooting incidents.

Gennaro added, “The people of Pomonok have pledged to become the eyes of law enforcement—to protect their community by communicating anything of a suspicious nature to the police.”

Then he pledged, as that area’s council representative, to secure the $750,000 for the security cameras.

Stavisky pointed out that security cameras “serve not only as a deterrent, but also as a prosecutorial tool”. The lawmaker said other anti-crime materials, such as improved lighting, and crime reporting by the public should be encouraged to assist police in doing their jobs.

SUNNYSIDE, WOODSIDE REZONING APPROVED: Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer (D–Woodside) reports that the city council voted to approve the rezoning of Sunnyside and Woodside, with the aim of preventing development that is out of character while protecting the low density nature of much of the area.

The twin rezonings were a top priority objective for Van Bramer when he ran for election in 2010. Then last June he held a Town Hall Meeting to elicit community input for the project. The lawmaker also collaborated with several entities, including the City Planning Commission and the local community board to develop the plan and push it toward completion.

“One of the most exciting aspects of this rezoning is the lifting of restrictions of sidewalk cafes along Queens Boulevard while also allowing for small unenclosed cafes on portions of Skillman Avenue, which will be a great help to small businesses,” Van Bramer explained.

Van Bramer singled out City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Queens Councilmembers Mark Weprin (D–Oakland Gardens) and Leroy Comrie (D–St. Albans) for their assistance on the project, also Community Board 2 and the community “for making this a reality”.

CROWLEY PRAISES YOUNG DEMS: As the Queens County Young Democrats passed the 100th paid member milestone in July, firming up its standing as the second largest Young Dems organization in New York state, Queens Democratic County Leader Joseph Crowley paid tribute to the group’s steady growth and as a growing arm of the Democratic movement in the borough.

Crowley, who doubles as Congressmember for Queens/The Bronx stated: “Over the past few years, the Queens County Young Democrats (QCYD) have played an integral role in increasing awareness of progressive issues, recruiting new participants into the political process and taking an active part in electing Democrats who represent their ideals. The recent milestone of 100 active members and the second largest enrollment of any chapter in New York state is a testament to all the hard work of all members and especially the leadership of QCYD.

“I look forward to working with the Queens County Young Dems on advancing the principals of the Democratic Party and keeping our borough in Democratic hands for years to come.”

On July 21, the organization, headed by President Costa Costantinides, recently held its July meeting. Among those attending were the 9th CD congressional candidate Assemblymember David Weprin, Assemblymember Francisco Moya (Corona), Councilmember Daniel Dromm (Jackson Heights) and Assembly candidate Phil Goldfeder (Rockaways).

Constantinides stated, “Our mission is to give the young people of Queens a voice in the political process and help elect Democrats throughout our borough. We are excited to stand with our leader, Congressmember Joseph Crowley.”

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