Posts tagged ‘Healthcare’

Why U.S. Attorneys and FBI Brass Support Washington’s Marijuana Law


Law

The state of Washington is expecting to generate more than $500,000 a year from taxation of legal marijuana sales to adults. And that’s not counting the savings from no longer arresting people for possession.

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by Mark Cooke, Doug Honig

posted Nov 16, 2012

The authors are employees of the ACLU of Washington.


Photo by M.L. Ullate.

Voters in Washington state, along with those in Colorado, made history on Election Day by passing laws that legalize, tax, and regulate marijuana for adults age 21 and over. Washington’s law, Initiative 502 (I-502), passed with a 55-45 margin, sending a clear message that the public is ready for a change in policy. We hope the adoption of these laws will be a watershed moment in how the United States deals with marijuana.

In Washington state, there were almost a quarter million arrests of adults for marijuana possession over the last 25 years.

I-502 makes possession of limited amounts of marijuana (1 oz. or less) lawful for adults under state law. As of December 6, 2012, adults will no longer be subject to arrest under state law for possessing marijuana.

During a year-long rule-making process that will end in December 2013, the State Liquor Control board will create a tightly regulated system that licenses the production, processing, and selling of marijuana. Marijuana will be sold in stand-alone stores that are very similar to Washington’s familiar
hard-alcohol stores. Private entities licensed by the state will produce, process, and sell marijuana, and it will be taxed at each step along the way.

The ACLU has long opposed the War on Drugs and its criminalization of marijuana. ACLU support for I-502 is part of our broader work of criminal justice reform. Our state and nation’s unfair marijuana policies have damaged civil liberties in many ways – eroding constitutional protections against searches and seizures, putting large numbers of individuals behind bars for nonviolent crimes, and disproportionately targeting people of color.

In Washington state, there were almost a quarter million arrests of adults for marijuana possession over the last 25 years. And though African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans combined constituted 14% of Washington’s population, they were 25% of the people arrested for marijuana possession between 2001 through 2010.

Washington state’s Office of Financial Management estimated that legalization could yield nearly $2 billion dollars over five years to public coffers.

The initiative came at a time of growing recognition that marijuana prohibition is a failed policy that consumes law-enforcement resources much better devoted to dealing with violent crime. I-502 gained broad support not only from social justice organizations and civic leaders, but also from health care professionals and some law enforcement officials.

Endorsers included two former U.S. attorneys, the former head of the Seattle’s FBI office, Seattle’s City Attorney, and both candidates for Sheriff in King County, which includes Seattle. Opposition from law enforcement officials in the state was muted, reflecting in part that many of them recognize the futility of current marijuana laws. The Children’s Alliance, a statewide advocacy group, also backed 502 because of the impact of marijuana arrests in breaking up families and harming communities of color.

Another factor in winning support was that the initiative’s sponsors acknowledged that marijuana is not a harmless substance. I-502 was drafted to mirror the success we’ve had in reducing tobacco use over the last two decades. Indeed, the initiative directs more than half of the tax revenue derived from legalized marijuana to health care, drug prevention, and public health education. This potential funding is substantial: the state’s Office of Financial Management estimated that legalization could yield nearly $2 billion dollars over five years to public coffers.

Of course, marijuana use remains a crime under federal law. Supporters of I-502 are hopeful that the federal government will not interfere with the implementation of the law, in light of the fact that the measure takes public safety and public health very seriously. Proponents of the new law want to look forward to working with federal officials in a spirit of collaboration and cooperation to ensure that it is fairly implemented. We point out that law’s tight regulation of marijuana will improve public safety and increase respect for law enforcement. Resources can be shifted to deal with violent crime, and police will no longer be seen as making arrests for a law widely regarded as unfair. We urge federal officials to respect the will of our state’s voters and not enforce federal laws against Washington residents who are obeying state law.

The campaign for I-502 shows how a well thought-out, pragmatic approach to criminal justice reform can lead to change considered unthinkable just a few years ago. Washington and Colorado look forward to operating as laboratories for a better public policy for marijuana use.


Mark Cooke and Doug Honig wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. Mark is Drug Policy Advocate and Doug is Communications Director for the ACLU of Washington.

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Whites with No Diploma Live Shorter Lives – Truthdig


For White People Who Vote REPUBLICAN You Have Alot To Think About

Whites with No Diploma Live Shorter Lives – Truthdig.

Life expectancy for the least-educated Americans has shrunk by four years since 1990, a reminder that social inequality is not just a matter of having fewer things than those who are better off than you.

Exactly why the decline occurred isn’t understood, but a rise in prescription drug overdoses among white youths, higher rates of tobacco use, growing obesity and a lack of health insurance were offered by researchers as possible explanations.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The New York Times:

The steepest declines were for white women without a high school diploma, who lost five years of life between 1990 and 2008, said S. Jay Olshansky, a public health professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the lead investigator on the study, published last month in Health Affairs. By 2008, life expectancy for black women without a high school diploma had surpassed that of white women of the same education level, the study found.

White men lacking a high school diploma lost three years of life. Life expectancy for both blacks and Hispanics of the same education level rose, the data showed. But blacks over all do not live as long as whites, while Hispanics live longer than both whites and blacks.

“We’re used to looking at groups and complaining that their mortality rates haven’t improved fast enough, but to actually go backward is deeply troubling,” said John G. Haaga, head of the Population and Social Processes Branch of the National Institute on Aging, who was not involved in the new study.

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California Tries to Lead Way on Health Law – NYTimes.com – California to Pave the way for Single-Payer


California Tries to Lead Way on Health Law – NYTimes.com.

SACRAMENTO — The meeting came to order, the five members of the California Health Benefit Exchange seated onstage with dozens of consumer advocates and others looking on. On the agenda: what to name the online marketplace where millions of residents will be able to shop for medical coverage under President Obama’s health care law.
Related

Times Topic: Health Care Reform

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Max Whittaker for The New York Times

Peter Lee

An adviser presented the options, meant to be memorable, appealing and clear. What about CaliHealth? Or Healthifornia?

Or Avocado?

“I am kind of drawn to Avocado,” declared Kim Belshé, a member of the exchange’s board of directors, which is hustling to make dozens of decisions as

Why Medicare Cards Still Show Social Security Numbers – NYTimes.com


Why Medicare Cards Still Show Social Security Numbers – NYTimes.com.

A Medicare identification card.The New York TimesA Medicare identification card.

Images of a woman waving her Medicare card on television at the Democratic convention last week in Charlotte, N.C., prompted the folks at Credit.com and others to ask: Why do Medicare cards still have Social Security numbers on them anyway, when access to the numbers can post a risk of identity theft?

The answer is that the federal government has been dragging its heels for years on making a change, because, according to various reports from the agency that oversees Medicare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, it would be both expensive and complex technologically to re-issue cards with new identification numbers.

According to testimony from a C.M.S. official before Congress in August, “transitioning to a new identifier would be a task of enormous complexity and cost and one that, undertaken without sufficient planning, would present great risks to continued access to health care for Medicare beneficiaries.”

About 48 million Americans carry Medicare cards that use their Social Security number as part of their health-claim number.

In a report issued in 2006, C.M.S. said it would cost $300 million to remove SSNs from Medicare cards. Then, in an updated report last November, it said it would cost at least $803 million, and possibly as much as $845 million, depending on the option chosen. Much of the cost, the agency said, was for upgrading computer systems not only at the federal level, but also at the state level, for coordination with Medicaid systems.

But the Government Accountability Office said in its testimony to Congress in August that the methods and assumptions that C.M.S. used to develop its costs estimates “raise questions about their reliability.”

“Lack of action on this key initiative leaves Medicare beneficiaries exposed to the possibility of identity theft,” the G.A.O. said. It recommended that C.M.S. select an approach to modify or remove the numbers from Medicare cards and develop an “accurate, well-documented cost estimate.”

According to the G.A.O., C.M.S. agreed with its recommendations and will conduct a new estimate with improved methodology. That’s likely to take some time. So don’t expect Medicare cards free of the numbers anytime soon.

Meantime, the AARP and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse suggest making a photocopy of your Medicare card, cutting it to wallet size and cutting out the last four digits of your Social Security numbers. Carry the photocopy in your wallet instead of the actual card. (You’ll still need your original card the first time you visit a provider, because they’ll likely want a photocopy of it).

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Civil Rights Under the Democratic/Republican Uni-Party | New Progressive Alliance


Civil Rights Under the Democratic/Republican Uni-Party | New Progressive Alliance.

Submitted by ed2291 on November 9, 2011 – 11:47am

In our history there have been times when civil rights have been suspended, such as the Civil War and World War II, but they have always been during the War only and some sort of due process remained. What we have now is a situation worse by both the length – over ten years – and extent of deprivation of constitutional rights. We should examine just some of the specifics.

Wikipedia says, “Extraordinary rendition and irregular rendition describe the abduction and extrajudicial transfer of a person from one nation to another. “Torture by proxy” is used by some critics to describe situations in which the United States has transferred suspected terrorists to countries known to practice torture.” This goes to our very soul as a country. Of course it has been shown that torture does not work, but it should be obvious to everybody that this is wrong. Bush started this and Obama openly continues it.
Obama can give everyone in Gitmo their day in court. Restoring habeas corpus is totally at his discretion, and he has chosen not to.
For over half of his first term in office Obama had defended the DOM in court.
Guantanamo remains open.
The Patriot Act was renewed for another four years with no significant objection from either republicans or democrats. This means 13 straight years of restricted Civil Rights through the suspension of the constitution. Both Bush and Obama have authorized spying and in some cases killing American citizens. Both republicans and democrats in Congress voted overwhelmingly for it. Congress then by an overwhelming majority passed the National Defense Authorization Bill further suspending the US Constitution and Obama signed it.

Obama has been far more active than Bush in using the DOJ to imprison whistleblowers such as DeChristopher for exposing an illegal fossil fuel land grab, Manning for wikileaks exposing the lies of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and Thomas Drake for exposing the dishonesty and corruption of the NSA.

The recent agreement shoved down the throats of 49 State Attorney Generals immunized banks from being charged with manufacturing evidence, and using both forgery and perjury to illegally foreclose on homes. This brings into question whether the rule of law can still be enforced in this country.

If it was wrong under Bush, it is still wrong under Obama. If it is wrong for republicans, it is still wrong for democrats. The solution is simple. Go back to the constitutional guarantees we had prior to 2001. Obama with the enthusiastic support of the democrats has maintained or expanded all civil rights violations Bush started. We should not ignore this and support him just because he is a democrat. Real change will come only when we abandon the two party system.

References
1-Criminalizing free speech
2-“Obama bans war criminals, except our own”
3-Did Obama Order Tar Sands Protesters Jailed?
4-Obama’s FBI Targets Ant iwar.com
5-Bush 2.0: 100 Ways Barack Obama Is Just Like George W. Bush
6-President Obama Has All The Legal Authority He Needs To Make Recess Appointments Right Now
7-Dept. of Interior Recommended Federal Charges vs. DADT Protesters – 3 Hours Before They Demonstrated
8-Torture Decriminalized: How the State Department Provides Space for the Culpables’ Book Tours
9-Department of Justice Files Writ of Mandamus Against Judge in Dan Choi Case
10-Department of “Justice”?
11-The ACLU on Obama and Core Liberties
12-BART Police Arrest Journalists, Cite KGO, KTVU at BART Protest. Homeland Security Present
13- Targeted Killing Program: America’s Shameful Response to 9/11
14-DoD Persecutes Guantanamo Guard Who Talked About the Torture
15-Choi Legal Team Responds to DoJ Petition for Writ of Mandamus
16-Freedom Is Not Free at the State Department
17-Obama: A disaster for civil liberties
18-Free Speech and Civil Liberties in the PR Age of Obama
19-Obama DoJ Trying to Codify Lying to Judges Over FOIA-Requested Docs Now: WTF?
20-Obama Witch Hunt Against Polar Bear Scientists Takes New Twist – 2nd Scientist Asked to Take Lie Detector Test
21-GOP and Tea Party on Obama’s Foreign Policy “Successes”
22-Bookburning USA: Obama’s Traitor Troops Trash OWS Library as his EPA Awards Book-Burners for Outstanding Recycling
23-Feds Raid Washington State Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
24-Homeland Security Coordinated 18-City Police Crackdown on Occupy Protest
25-The Sound of Democrat’s Silence on Civil Liberties
26-You Can Crush the Flowers, But You Can’t Stop the Spring
27-Thought Crime in Washington
28-Passing Defense Senate Bill: Dianne Feinstein’s Tortured Explanation
29-The Obamanable President: UPDATED
30-Obama and the Rule of Law
31-Obama Crowned Himself on New Year’s Eve
32-ACLU trashes Obama over indefinite detention and torture act
33-2012′s Civil Liberties Apocalypse Has Already Happened
34-ACLU Sues Obama Administration over Assassination Secrecy
35-Repulsive Progressive Hypocrisy
36-The White House’s Dangerous Dance With the Birth Control Mandate
37-George Will Stands Up for Justice in the Don Siegelman Case
38-URGENT Immediate Action Needed! Help Prevent Obama’s Goons from Further Torturing US Rights Observers in Bahrain
39-Obama Administration Asks Supreme Court to Dismiss ACLU Challenge to Warrantless Wiretapping Law
40-Those Weak Losers Who Care about “Law”
41-Pity the Poor Judges
42-Foreclosure Settlement a Failure of Law, a Triumph for Bank Attorneys
43-WikiLeaks: Disgraced Judge Said He Was Targeted for Investigation After Ruling Against Halliburton
44-Murder Is Legal, Says Eric Holder
45-HR 347: The Anti-Occupy Law
46-Weaponizing the Body Politic
47-Obama’s Vile Assassination Doctrine
48-Obama Justice Department Suffers a Monumental Failure
49-Legal Experts Destroy Rationale for Obama’s Assassination Policy … And Slam Democrats for Supporting It
50-Obama Signs Anti-protest Trespass Bill
51-The Terrorists are Winning: The Erosion of Civil Liberties in America
52-Sending Americans Into Exile — the Obama Way
53-Obama’s Personal Role in a Journalist’s Imprisonment
54-Anti-Occupy Bill (H.R. 347) Unanimously Passed and Signed By POTUS
55-New Obama Executive Order Seizes U.S. Infrastructure and Citizens for Military Preparedness
56-A New Age of Enemies
57-Where is Obama as Police Brutalize Citizens?
58-What About Misconduct in the Don Siegelman Prosecution?
59-Native Americans Protest Keystone XL From A Cage –
Activists compelled to stay in enclosure miles from President’s pro-oil event
60-Tim DeChristopher Transferred Out of “The Hole”, But Questions Remain
61-New Counterorrism Guidelines Gives Authorities Vast Access to Private Info of Innocent Americans
62-US Government Keeping Data on Americans with No Connection to Terrorism
63-The Obama DOJ and Strip Searches
64-75% of Americans Support Workplace Protections for GLBT Folks. Obama is not one of them.
65-Legal Atrocities
66-Creating a Prison-Corporate Complex
67-Investors Want Disclosure of Corporate Political Contributions and Lobbying Expenditures
68-Supreme Court: Law Says Organizations Cannot be Sued for Torture
69-Torture on Trial
70-More Federal Judge Abdication
71-Jailed for $280: The Return of Debtors’ Prisons
72-Labor Dept. Cancels Child-labor Proposal
73-Income Inequality: Physical Health and Life Expectancy
74-On Memorial Day Weekend, America Reckons with Torture
75-Obama’s War: Criminalize the Left
76-FOIA Revelations Show Administration Role In Occupy Crackdown
77-Obama Defies Federal Court Ban On NDAA Indefinite Detention
78-How Pensions Violate Free Speech
79-The Great Charter, Its Fate, and Ours
80-Feds Wait Until Late Friday To Admit That, Yeah, They Ignored The 4th Amendment
81-Obama Administration Stonewalling UN Questions about Abuse of Occupy Protesters
82-Impunity at Home, Rendition Abroad: How Two Administrations and Both Parties Made Illegality the American Way of Life
83-John Cusack & Jonathan Turley on Obama’s Constitution

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How to Fix Health Care Without the Mandate: Put Single-Payer On the Table by Sarah van Gelder


What happens if the Supreme Court strikes down the “individual mandate” in the health care reform law?

Commentators ranging from former Labor Secretary Robert Reich to Forbes Magazine columnist Rick Ungar agree: Such a decision could open the door to single-payer health care—perhaps even make it inevitable.

We don’t need to assume that our health care policy must be designed to maintain the health-industrial complex.

This may be the best news about health care in years. Because ever since Republicans convinced the Obama administration to drop the “public option” in the Affordable Care Act, health reform has been in trouble. True, most Americans favor many of the provisions of Affordable Care Act. But the overall plan rests on forcing you and me to buy insurance from the same companies that have been driving up the costs of health care all along—the same companies that have been finding creative ways to avoid covering needed care, shifting costs on to patients, and endlessly increasing premiums and out-of-pocket expenses for all of us.

Forcing all Americans into a failed system is bad policy, and it’s not just President Obama’s opponents who say so.

What the Doctors Ordered

When the Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to the Affordable Care Act brought by 26 state attorneys general, one of the supporting briefs came from an unexpected source—a group of 50 doctors who believe that single-payer health care is the way to cover everyone and contain costs. As a model for a revamped health care system, they point to Medicare, which covers millions of seniors while devoting just 2 percent of expenditures to overhead (compared to as much as 16 percent for private insurers).

In spite of all the fear about government involvement in health care, Medicare is enormously popular; in a recent poll, two-thirds of Americans oppose changing Medicare to something more like private insurance. In the Medicare model, as in Canada’s single-payer system, health care providers are in private practice, but the government acts as insurer, covering everyone. The money for the program comes from payroll taxes.

This model is just one of a variety of ways that industrialized countries provide universal coverage; only the United States does not yet offer universal coverage at all, and the impact of our fragmented, privatized approach ripples throughout the economy and into the lives of families that face bankruptcy and exclusion from needed treatment.

While we in the United States spend far more on health care, per person, than any other nation, we’re way behind other wealthy countries when it comes to our actual health. The residents of 25 other countries—all of which spend less on health care than we do—can expect to live longer, on average, than U.S. residents. In a recent study of 19 industrialized countries, the United States came in last when it came to averting preventable death. Researchers say that amounts to more than a 100,000 avoidable deaths each year.

We devote 15 percent of our economy (by GDP) to paying for health care (or $6,402 per person each year), and still leave millions without coverage. In contrast, the French spend 11 percent of GDP on health care (or $3,374 per person) and cover everyone; the French live two years longer, on average, than Americans, and have better health by all key measures.

Follow the Money

If we’re spending so much for poor results, where is all the extra money going? Private, for-profit health insurance companies spend big on overhead: covering the paperwork and arguments about who will cover what, finding ways to avoid covering people who might require costly services, disputing charges from health care providers. They spend money on marketing and on lobbying Congress, federal regulators, and state lawmakers. They pay dividends to shareholders and they pay executives six- or seven-figure compensation packages. No wonder premiums keep rising.

None of these costs are incurred by Medicare or other national insurance programs.

Asking each of us to choose among competing plans is like playing against the house in a casino—it might seem as though you’re getting choices among slot machines, but really, the odds are stacked against you.

Some argue that patients are better off with competing insurance companies because that gives them a choice. Perhaps this is true of a patient who spends many hours required to read the small print in competing insurance plans, producing spreadsheets to track the multiple variables, guessing what sort of coverage they and their family will need in years to come, and hoping that they made the right choice when an unexpected accident or illness means their life depends on the bet they made. On the other side, insurance companies have battalions of lawyers and adjusters making bets about coverage, co-pays, and deductibles—coming up with ways to cover less.

Asking each of us to choose among competing plans is like playing against the house in a casino—it might seem as though you’re getting choices among slot machines, but really, the odds are stacked against you whatever choice you make.

Where choice really matters to most people is in choosing health care providers. In France, where public financing of health care is the rule, patients actually have more choices among doctors than do Americans, who must choose among health care providers preferred by their insurance company.

So the doctors who are calling on the Supreme Court to strike down the individual mandate are on to something. Instead of locking us in even more tightly to an inefficient private insurance system, which has built-in incentives to take more of our money and do less for us, they argue we should switch gears. We’re spending $200 billion more per year than we would need to under a single-payer system, they say. We pay more out-of-pocket than other countries, and the Obama Affordable Care Act wouldn’t fix that.

What do Americans Want?

In poll after poll, a majority of Americans have expressed support for single-payer health care or national health insurance. This is true in spite of the near media blackout on this topic, and the failure of most national politicians to even consider single-payer as an option (the Obama administration and Democratic leadership in Congress excluded single-payer advocates from the key summits and hearings leading up to the passage of the health care bill).

In Massachusetts, which has had time to try out policies very similar to those in the Affordable Care Act, over 5 percent of the population remains uninsured. And, according to the doctors’ brief, local initiatives calling for single-payer health care passed by wide majorities in all the Massachusetts districts where they were on the ballot.

Vermont has adopted a single-payer health care plan, and the California Assembly twice passed single-payer, only to have it vetoed by the governor.

Single-payer health care, in short, is far more popular than the political establishment likes to admit—while requiring individuals to purchase health coverage from private insurance companies is wildly unpopular across the political spectrum. According to a recent poll, only a third of Americans favor the individual mandate, but 70 percent favor expanding the existing Medicaid program to cover more low-income, uninsured adults.

Here’s something to ask yourself: If you’re on Medicare now, would you give it up to move to a private insurance plan? If you’re not now covered and you could sign up for Medicare today, would you?

Medicare for All

That contrast offers a good starting point. We don’t need to assume that our health care policy must be designed to maintain the health-industrial complex and their lobbyists in the manner to which they have become accustomed. Instead, we can expand Medicare to cover more and more age groups, until everyone is covered. We could all then have access to a program that keeps overhead low, is wildly popular among its clients, and is similar to programs in Europe, Canada, Japan, and elsewhere that have excellent records of cost containment, universal coverage, and great health outcomes.

So what happens if the Supreme Court overturns the individual mandate or—as now seems possible—rejects the entire package? Such a move could turn out to be a great boon to those who doubt the wisdom of relying on private, profit-focused insurance companies to cover us when we get sick. It could offer us the opportunity to get the sort of proven universal coverage we can count on.


Sarah van Gelder wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonproifit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Sarah is co-founder and executive editor of YES!.

Interested?

Real Family Values
9 progressive policies to support our families.

“The Single-Payer Train Has Left the Station”
Wendell Potter, a health insurance executive-turned-critic, on what Vermont’s new law could mean for American health care.

The Road to Real Health
Health care’s just part of the picture. Five policies that would be good for our health, happiness, and wallets.

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Reader Comments

Universal Health Care

Posted by Dilys Collier at Apr 06, 2012 08:14 PM
We Canadians love it even if it isn’t perfect. USA Republicans seem to consider Canadians “socialists.” We aren’t; our country is still run on a capitalist economic system (unfortunately). Socialism is an entirely different economic system. That’s not us. Our geographical circumstances determine our culture. During our extreme Canadian temperatures, we literally can live or die depending on whether we co-operate with one another. We don’t believe in leaving an injured Samaritan on the side of the road and passing by on the other side. Instead, we believe in offering assistance to everyone (regardless of colour, gender, or religion) by ensuring basic available health care to all.

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How to Fix Health Care Without the Mandate: Put Single-Payer On the Table by Sarah van Gelder.

Arizona Lawmaker: Women Should ‘Watch An Abortion Being Performed’ Prior To Having It | ThinkProgress


CUSHING, Okla. – U.S. President Barack Obama firmly defended his record on oil drilling Thursday, ordering the government to fast-track an Oklahoma pipeline while accusing Congress of playing politics with a larger Canada-to-Gulf Coast project.

Deep in Republican oil country, Obama said lawmakers refused to give his administration enough time review Calgary-based TransCanada’s controversial 2,700-kilometre Keystone XL pipeline in order to ensure that it wouldn’t compromise the health and safety of people living in surrounding areas.

“Unfortunately, Congress decided they wanted their own timeline,” Obama said. “Not the company, not the experts, but members of Congress who decided this might be a fun political issue decided to try to intervene and make it impossible for us to make an informed decision.”

Facing fresh criticism from Republicans who blame him for gas prices near US$4 a gallon, Obama announced Thursday that he was directing federal agencies to expedite the southern segment of the Keystone line. The 780-kilometre line will run from Cushing, Okla., to refineries on Texas’ Gulf Coast that would remove a critical bottleneck in the country’s oil transportation system. The directive would also apply to other pipelines that alleviate choke points.

“Anyone who says that we’re somehow suppressing domestic oil production isn’t paying attention,” Obama said, speaking at the site of the new Oklahoma project.

Republicans said the moves were little more than a publicity stunt, arguing that it wouldn’t help TransCanada (TSX:TRP) build the pipeline any sooner. Construction is expected to begin in June with completion next year.

“The American people can’t afford more half-measures on energy from the president. No matter what he says, the reality is he killed the Keystone pipeline and the energy production and 20,000 jobs that went with it,” said Kirsten Kukowski, a Republican National Committee spokeswoman.

Environmentalists were also critical. Susan Casey-Lefkowitz of the Natural Resources Defence Council said Obama’s move was “downright foolhardy to cut corners on safety reviews for permitting” the Texas-to-Oklahoma line, “especially when the industry has a history of oil spills.”

Obama’s order urges speedy review of the Cushing project and directs federal agencies to incorporate previous environmental studies of the Keystone proposal that included the southern route.

The use of previous studies should help move the project forward more quickly than if a review of the project started from scratch, although it’s unclear exactly how much time the expedited review will save.

Republicans call the president’s actions a belated attempt to take credit for a project over which he has relatively little control. While federal agencies such as the Army Corps of Engineers and the Interior Department play a role in the approval process for the domestic portion of the pipeline, states have a more direct say in approving the route.

The full Keystone pipeline became a political flashpoint late last year when congressional Republicans wrote a provision forcing Obama to make a decision, and environmental groups waged a campaign to kill the project. Obama delayed the project in January.

Obama has been highlighting his energy agenda this week in Nevada, New Mexico, Oklahoma and later Thursday in battleground Ohio, a trip that reflects the degree to which high gas prices have begun hitting consumers in their pocketbooks.

For Obama’s advisers, rising gas prices pose a threat to his re-election bid because they could undermine the benefits of a payroll tax cut that he made the centerpiece of his jobs agenda last fall — Congress approved the tax cut extension in February — and throttle the economic recovery.

Republicans view rising gas prices as emblematic of Obama’s energy record and hope to tag him with the blame even though no president has much control over prices at the pump. Gas prices have risen more than 50 cents a gallon since January in response to a standoff over Iran’s nuclear program that has threatened to disrupt Middle East oil supplies.

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum, campaigning at a Harvey, La., company that services oil rigs, said Obama’s administration should open more federal lands for leases to boost U.S. oil production and revenue for the federal government.

“Here’s an opportunity for us in this country to do something about it: increasing jobs, lowering energy prices, decreasing the deficit, all of the things you would think the president of the United States would be for,” Santorum said.

Mitt Romney, Santorum’s chief rival for the Republican nomination, has labeled Obama’s top energy advisers as the “gas hike trio,” urging the president to fire three Cabinet secretaries because of the high prices.

Obama was ending the day with a stop in battleground Ohio, talking about automobile research and development at Ohio State University in Columbus. The president has cited his decision to raise fuel efficiency standards to 55 miles per gallon for new vehicles by 2025 as an important step in conserving oil and saving consumers at the gas pump.

Obama has repeatedly invoked his decision to rescue General Motors and Chrysler from collapse with billions in federal aid, a move that saved hundreds of thousands of auto assembly and supplier jobs in Ohio, Michigan and elsewhere. Romney opposed the bailout, and Obama’s team intends to make it a stark contrast between the two candidates if the former Massachusetts governor wins the GOP nomination.

 

Arizona Lawmaker: Women Should ‘Watch An Abortion Being Performed’ Prior To Having It | ThinkProgress.