Update: TPM reports that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) has "no objections" to the Senate voting on the bill today, and will not attempt to block or delay it. He added, "There's nothing to be gained from delaying this vote one day or two days."
Update 2: Politico reports that the Senate will be voting first on the bill, sometime Wednesday afternoon or early evening.
Senate leaders have forged an 11th-hour deal to end the government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, and House Speaker John Boehner is expected to bring the bill up for a vote, Politico and other media outlets reported Wednesday morning. If the bill passes and arrives on President Obama's desk by the October 17 deadline, the US government will reopen until January 15, and the debt ceiling will be raised until February 7, delaying the budgetary and debt ceiling crises and leaving President Obama's signature health care bill largely intact.
Many concessions that tea partiers attempted to extract from the Obama administration in exchange for reopening the government and raising the debt ceiling are not expected to be included in the bill. Conservative Republicans had, over the course of the budget fight, demanded a one-year delay to Obamacare, a delay or repeal of the act's tax on medical-device manufacturers, and a "conscience clause," which would have allowed employers to block their employees from buying health insurance that covers birth control. None of those measures are expected to appear in the Senate's bill. The only concession Republicans seem to have won is a slightly stricter set of rules for verifying the incomes of Americans who are receiving subsidized health insurance under Obamacare.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the final bill won't include a GOP proposal that would stop the Treasury Department from using extraordinary measures to raise the debt ceiling. But it will include back pay for federal employees who missed paychecks during the shutdown and establish a committee tasked with working out a longer deal ahead of the new January 15 and February 7 deadlines. The bill also reportedly includes a provision that could make it harder to use the debt ceiling as a bargaining chip: At the next deadline, Congress would be required to pass a bill if it wants to block the ceiling from increasing. Otherwise, the ceiling would go up automatically.
The House is expected to vote on the proposed bill first, which would allow the Senate to skip some of its cumbersome procedures and quickly move to a final vote. Politico calls this "an extraordinarily risky play" because the majority of House Republicans are expected to oppose the bill. However, Robert Costa of the National Review reported that Boehner has agreed to pass the bill with mainly Democratic votes. There's still a chance that Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) could go rogue and filibuster the bill in the Senate, dragging out the debate past the October 17 deadline, but his office has not said whether or not he will do so, according to the Wall Street Journal.
If you went into Starbucks for a soy latte this week, you might have noticed something a little unusual. In response to the debt ceiling and budgetary crisis, the coffee chain urged Americans to sign petitions asking Congress to fix these problems—without specifically proposing how. This isn't the first time that Starbucks has dipped its corporate toe into politics. The company's CEO, Howard Schultz, openly supported President Obama in 2012, and over the last few years, the company has turned its attention to voting rights, election donations, and sequestration—with mixed results. Occasionally, Starbucks takes a political stand that packs the same punch as a cup of strong coffee, like when it resolutely offered health care benefits to same-sex couples, filed a petition in support of overturning the Defense of Marriage Act, and progressively refused to cut worker hours or benefits ahead of Obamacare. But just as often, the company is criticized for running kumbaya political campaigns that mainly exist for Starbucks' bottom line.
"One of the enduring fantasies of the pundit class…is that all we need to fix our economic problems is to get the great and the good together and bypass those pesky elected officials," Paul Krugman wrote of Starbucks' 2012 debt ceiling campaign. "But the reality is that the business leaders intervening in our economic debate are, for the most part, either predatory or hopelessly confused…Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, exemplifies the hopeless confusion factor." Zack Hutson, a spokesman for Starbucks, tells Mother Jones that "Starbucks is not a policymaker…but we do believe we can bring people together to make their voices heard."
Here are six Starbucks campaigns that failed to live up to the hype:
1. The Pay It Forward Campaign
Last week, if you bought the customer behind you a cup of coffee, Starbucks might have given you a free cup, as part of its three-day long "Pay it Forward" campaign. This was intended to help solve the debt ceiling and budget crisis by sparking a "connection that helps bring us all a little closer at a time when showing our unity is so important." Starbucks also placed petitions in 11,000 US stores, asking Congress to reopen the federal government, avoid default, and "pass a bipartisan and comprehensive long-term budget deal." Hutson says the company is not offering a specific solution as to how those things should be accomplished, noting that Starbucks wants to "work through our elected leaders [and] encourage the kindness and civility we want our elected leaders to model." The petitions will be delivered to Congress and the President today.
Marshal Cohen, chief retail analyst at the NPD Group, which does consumer market research, told the Associated Press that the Starbucks campaign doesn't have any demands attached to it, like impeachment, so it's unlikely to make any difference. "Will it work on the political level? No. Won't make a dent. Will it work on the commercial end? Absolutely."
Starbucks directed customers to learn more about the issue by visiting "Fix the Debt," a group that, according to the Washington Post, pushed for "higher tax revenue, lower government spending, and cuts to Social Security and Medicare and was criticized for masking its conservative backing and attempting to drive money to the 1 percent." Hutson says that Starbucks wasn't "advocating for a specific policy solution with Fix the Debt" but notes that "we are supportive of the campaign's aspirations for a meaningful, long-term, bipartisan solution."
3. The "Leading Through Uncertain Times" Campaign
Long before the government shutdown crisis, and the 2013 debt ceiling crisis, and the sequestration crisis, there was the 2011 debt ceiling crisis. That was the first time Republicans threatened President Obama with default if he did not make budgetary concessions. In response, Starbucks went ahead with a campaign to get business leaders to pledge not to donate to any political campaigns until Washington came up with a long-term deficit deal, garnering support from over 100 business leaders. Some saw it as a galvanizing step in the right direction, but critics pointed out that the campaign didn't explicitly bar donations to super-PACs, which is where a lot of the big money comes from, and Starbucks employees and shareholders (excluding Schultz) didn't abide by the pledge. Starbucks investors also rejected a shareholder proposal to stop the company from making political contributions, forming its own political PAC in the future, and donating money to lobbying industry groups.
"This was an awareness building campaign, since we have 70 million customers a week coming through our stores," says Hutson. But Starbucks has no plan on establishing a super-PAC in the future, and, he says, "as a company we rarely make political campaign donations." After the campaign, Congress failed to come up with a long-term budget deal, setting the stage for the 2013 crisis.
4. The Anti-Gun Stance
This was less a campaign, and more a political intervention. Following severalincidents where customers brought guns into Starbucks and accidentally discharged the weapons—as well as pressure from gun control groups like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence—Starbucks decided to take a stand on gun control. Sort of. This fall, Starbucks changed its official policy to one that asks customers to leave guns at home, even in states with open carry laws. However, Schultz told the New York Times that Starbucks was not going to actually ask gun-toting customers to leave, nor post signs in the store explaining the new policy. "I don't think we need to post signs. The respectful request has been made clear and people are abiding," Hutson says, but he admits there's also no way to measure for sure whether more people are leaving their guns at home.
"We appreciate the fact that Starbucks realizes the problem that armed patrons present to the safety of other customers in their stores, but do not believe that their initial steps of discouraging guns in their stores goes far enough," says Robyn Thomas, executive director for the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. "Starbucks could easily ban guns in their stores by simply posting a sign which lets customers know that guns are not allowed and then enforcing that rule as do other chains like Peet's Coffee and Tea, California Pizza Kitchen, and Disney."
5. The Free Coffee for Voting Campaign
Before the 2008 election, Starbucks released this ad, with the slogan, "If you care enough to vote, we care enough to give you a free cup of coffee," set over a sweeping piano score. The offer was redeemable on November 4. Starbucks was hardly the only store making the offer; Krispy Kreme, Chick-fil-A, and Ben & Jerry's offered free swag too. But Starbucks revoked its offer after reports surfaced that the deal could violate election laws, deciding instead to give out a free tall brewed coffee to anyone who asked for it. Those pesky election laws didn't stop other companies from offering free stuff to Americans who flashed an "I Voted" sticker. That's probably because, as Slate pointed out, the Department of Justice was unlikely to do any prosecution.
6. The Way I See It Campaign
In 2005, Starbucks launched "The Way I See It" campaign, printing quotes on its coffee cups from notable figures. Some of them were politically controversial:
The quotes drew ire from conservative groups, but some atheist groups were also peeved with one cup's anti-evolution message. Starbucks spokeswoman Audrey Lincoff told the Seattle Times that the campaign did not set out to take a political stand, and it didn't matter whether the people quoted on the cups were Democrats or Republicans. Starbucks considered the campaign "successful" but quietly disbanded it after two years, because "we redesigned our logo and subsequently the cups," says Hutson. Today, there's scant evidence on its website that "The Way I See It" ever existed.
Last month, krokodil, a highly addictive drug that eats through human skin, made its first known appearance in the United States, with two casesreported in Arizona. Now, use of krokodil—which has been nicknamed the "zombie drug"—has spread to the Midwest. The Herald-Newsreports that five people have been treated for symptoms associated with krokodil use at the Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, Illinois, which is located about 40 miles from the Windy City.
Dr. Abhin Singla, director of addiction services at the Joliet hospital, told CBS 2 that one of the patients was a 25-year-old longterm heroin user who started using krokodil about a month ago. Singla notes, "When she came in, she had the destruction that occurs because of this drug, over 70 percent of her lower body."
As we reported last month, krokodil, which is Russian slang for Desomorphine, has a similar effect to heroin, but it is significantly cheaper and easier to make. Its main ingredients are codeine, iodine, red phosphorous, paint thinner, gasoline, and hydrochloric acid. It's far more addictive and deadly; krokodil users tend to only live two or three years. When the drug is injected into the skin, it often causes gangrene, forcing the skin to rot away, and causes speech problems and erratic muscle movements. Singla told the Beacon-News, "If you want to kill yourself, (using) this is the way to do it." (For gruesome and totally NSFW images of the health effects of krokodil, go here.)
Singla told the Herald-News that the krokodil users believed that they were getting heroin and were given the other drug instead. Most said they obtained the drug in Chicago—not Joliet. Three of the patients were "middle-class white women in their early to mid-20s" and the other two were men, one 22 and the other 32, with arm wounds, according to the paper. The 25-year-old remains in intensive care, and "two others have left the hospital against medical advice because they were afraid of prosecution." Krokodil is a new synthetic drug, so it is not yet a controlled substance, according to a DEA spokesperson.
Until this fall, the drug had never been seen before in the United States. However, the drug has been prevalent in Russia. In the first few months of 2011 alone, the Russia's Federal Drug Control Service confiscated 65 million doses of the drug.
The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) is not currently investigating the reported emergence of krokodil in the US. "We have not received any sort of specimen in any of our labs," DEA spokeswoman Dawn Dearden tells Mother Jones. But, she adds, "we're keeping an eye out on the trends across the country, and if and when we need to get involved, we certainly will."
Perhaps you've heard that if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling by October 17 the United States will face an unprecedented financial default. The way some Republicans talk about the consequences of passing that threshold, you might think that hitting that limit might not be all that bad (Florida's Ted Yoho, in fact, thinks it would be beneficial). But sober-minded economists are describing the ramifications of a default with terms usually reserved Roland Emmerich flicks—like "apocalypse." The full economic fallout of defaulting are unknown. "It's a little like asking how many people will be killed if there's another terrorist attack," says Isabel Sawhill, a budget expert at the Brookings Institution. But we do know that as early as October 22 the US government will run out of money to pay its bills and federal spending will have to be cut by about 32 percent, according to an estimate by the Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC). That's when Americans of all stripes would start feeling the pain in many different ways. Here are 16 of them:
1. Social Security payments will be delayed, possibly cut. According to President Obama, in the event of a default the US government will have no choice but to delay Social Security checks. The government owes $12 billion in Social Security payments on October 23 and an additional $25 billion on November 1. At some point between October 22 and November 1, the BPC predicts that the US government will have exhausted its borrowing power and will either have to start severely delaying its bills or sort through the millions of different payments it makes each month—on everything from national parks to the FBI—to figure out which ones to stop paying. That's when Social Security could see sustained cuts.
2. Federal employees will be screwed…even more. Furloughed federal employees haven't been paid since the government shutdown began on October 1. Congress is unlikely to end the shutdown without raising the debt limit, meaning furloughed staffers would be unlikely to receive paychecks anytime soon.
Many college students consider it an accomplishment if they beat their hangovers and make it to class on time. But last year, Nelson Kanuk, a freshman at at the University of Alaska–Fairbanks, sued his state for failing to reduce carbon emissions or slow climate change. Last week, the Alaska Supreme Court agreed to hear Kanuk's appeal, becoming the first high court in the country to take up such a case. (You can view the full hearing, which took place in a high school auditorium, here.)
Kanuk hails from a remote Yup'ik Eskimo village called Kipnuk, which is accessible primarily via river. Due to melting permafrost, the riverbank that protects Kanuk's family's house from floods softened, and some 13 feet of their front yard was swallowed up by the rushing water. The family has since been forced to move about 100 miles away.
"[My village] is not really connected to the outside world, but I was always interested in what's going on all around us, I was curious in climate change and how it was affecting us," Kanuk says in a video put out by the environmental group helping with the lawsuit, Our Children's Trust. "I didn't realize how bad it was. When I finally understood what climate change was, I thought, what can I do to help?"
Kanuk's legal argument hinges on what's called the "public trust doctrine" which holds that there are natural resources (like lakes, or places where the states issues hunting permits) that can't be subject to private ownership, and as a consequence, states have a responsibility to protect them so that they can be enjoyed by future generations. Kanuk and his six co-plaintiffs claim that the atmosphere falls under this doctrine, and although the air hasn't been "threatened" before, "throughout history, law has evolved as courts respond to unforeseen, often urgent, circumstances."
Kanuk isn't the first person to bring a climate change lawsuit against a state—or even the first teenager. Lawsuits are also pending in 12 other states, including Montana, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Arizona, New Mexico, Washington, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Oregon, and also in federal court. The environmental group working with Kanuk, Our Children's Trust, has been helping teens bring many of these lawsuits, and in Kansas, the plaintiff was only 14. But so far, only a trial court in Texas has backed the plaintiffs and the case is now facing appeal, according to Alaska Public Media. A decision in Kanuk's case is expected in a few months.