President Obama issued an executive order to prevent federal contractors from taking action against employees who discuss their salaries. The President also used his weekly address to underscore the need for equal pay between men and women in the same professions.
In the Senate, Democrats voted on the Paycheck Fairness Act, which was defeated by the Republicans. Senate hopeful Terry Lynn Land (R) stated that she opposed the bill “that would require that businesses have to post the pay of each individual so it was public”. The problem is that the bill contains no language about posting salaries. Women, however, would be able to ask employers for salary information about male workers.
Late night comedians Jimmy Fallon (Tonight Show) and Cecily Strong (Saturday Night Live) took turns poking fun at the Republicans.
With the closing of the first open enrollment period of the Affordable Care Act, the President defiantly stated, “The debate over repealing this law is over”. Flanked by Joe Biden in the Rose Garden, Obama announced that 7.1 million Americans have now signed up for private health coverage.
The number is remarkable given the disastrous roll-out of the HealthCare.gov website last fall. With a concerted effort to enroll people in the final week, however, the Administration reached its goal in the most unlikely manner possible. Celebrities such as Lebron James, Zach Galifianakis, and Ellen DeGeneres all helped the President raise awareness about open enrollment. With a flood of applicants in the final hours, however, the healthcare website once again crashed.
Senator Kelly Ayotte from New Hampshire faced withering criticism from her constituents at a town hall meeting. Ayotte voted against the compromise proposal reached by Senators Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Pat Toomey, R-Pa that called for limited background checks.
Amongst the crowd, Erica Lafferty, the daughter the principal killed at Sandy Hook Elementary leveled stern questions to the Senator,
“You had mentioned that day the burden on owners of gun stores that the expanded background checks would harm. I am just wondering why the burden of my mother being gunned down in the halls of her elementary school isn’t more important than that,”.
Ayotte countered that efforts should address mental health to prevent guns from falling into the hands of the mentally ill. She continued, “…we have fallen down on actually prosecuting gun crimes and violations of our current background check system.”
Democrats in the US Senate have put forward a budget. The proposal, which contrast to one submitted by the House Republicans, was brought by Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray, D-Wash. The plan calls for a 2% cut in spending over 10 years and new revenue of $975 billion over 10 years from, closing loopholes and cutting unfair spending in the tax code for those who need it the least”.
Although each plan is expected to pass along party lines some time next week, the path to reconciling the two budget plans remains unclear. For instance, the Republican plan calls for a repeal of the 2010 health care law, something that the Senate and the President are unlikely to support.
The positive aspect of this week is that there are now two (polarized) budgets that put the starting positions of the two parties on the table. Much of what is in each plan is for show, negotiation and politics. The path towards reconciliation has at least been started.