“In the Bible, God tells us for everything there is a season, and for me, for now, this season of being an elected official has come to a close. I do not intend to run for president in 2008.” Americans — and Sam Brownback — rejoice (and the stray cats of Tennessee lament) as former Majority Leader Bill Frist announces he won’t be running for president in 2008. Now he can delve full-time into his favorite hobby: cutting things…
Pathetic…these guys really have no shame. In yet another desperate and disgusting bid to pamper the rich by stealing from the poor, Catkiller Frist and the Senate GOP try to game the Senate Dems into backing a repeal of the estate tax by coupling it with a long-overdue minimum wage hike. To put this ploy in perspective, a recent report “concluded that the estate tax reduction would cut government income by $753 billion in the first 10 years, forcing lower spending for Medicaid, food stamps and unemployment insurance, which help low-wage workers.” Update: Thankfully, the bill failed on a 56-42 cloture vote, three shorts shy of the necessary 60 (Catkiller switched his vote to enable reconsideration later.)
And, in quite related news, new Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson admits the Dubya economy has been leaving people behind: “‘Many aren’t seeing significant increases in their take-home pay. Their increases in wages are being eaten up by high energy prices and rising health care costs, among others.’“
“One Saturday night, Karyn recalled, ‘we were supposed to go to a movie. He walked out in his scrubs.’ Instead of taking Karyn to the theater, Frist brought her to the operating room. ‘To see the human body alive — without a heart in it.'” I’ll admit to getting a ridiculous amount of run out of the Catkiller Frist meme over the past few years., and sometimes I’ve even wondered if it’s a cheap shot. But then my sister Tessa e-mailed me this “heartwarming” puff piece about Senator Frist, and good God, the man is a certifiable freak show. “‘In medical school, Frist cut out a dog’s heart and held it in his palm. It continued to beat for a slippery minute. ‘Watching it beat, the beauty of it,’ Frist recalled. ‘I decided I would spend my life centered around the heart.’” Um….what? This guy is our Senate Majority Leader? “During congressional breaks, Frist, 54, has been known to fly to Africa to operate.” I shudder to think.
“My guess is that something will pass this year. In the end, no one wants to be against decency in an election year.” In order to increase his standing among social conservatives and protect his right flank for those all-important 2008 primaries, Catkiller Frist has started angling for a strict broadcasting indecency bill. The bill “would increase indecency fines on broadcasters and threaten to take away their licenses after three violations.”
The Senate reaches a compromise on immigration reform that splits the middle between the Frist-Tancredo hardliners and the Kennedy-McCain moderates. “Under the agreement, the Senate would allow undocumented workers a path to lawful employment and citizenship if they could prove — through work stubs, utility bills or other documents — that they have been in the country for five years. To attain citizenship, those immigrants would have to pay a $2,000 penalty, back taxes, learn English, undergo a criminal background check and remain working for 11 years.” But critics argue that the five-year distinction is a hard one to determine or enforce, and has been since it was first put into law in 1986. Update: Things fall apart.
“There is no issue outside of civil rights that brings out the kind of emotions we have seen.” After a weekend of significant grass-roots protest further suggests the political perils of immigration reform for both parties, the Senate Judiciary Committee votes 12-6 to support a bill by Senators Kennedy and McCain that promotes the more moderate Dubya-backed vision of reform, such as a guest-worker program, over that of the hardline GOP border-security crowd such as Frist and Tancredo. “A confrontation between the Senate and House Republicans now appears inevitable.“
“‘The short-term politics of this are pretty clear. The long-term politics are pretty clear. And they’re both at odds,’ said Mike Buttry, a spokesman for Sen. Chuck Hagel.” With Republican unity already shattered by Dubaigate, the contentious question of immigration reform threatens to divide Dubya and the GOP anew, as 2008 hopefuls Frist and Tancredo attempt to outflank Dubya on the right on the issue of border security, while McCain tries to shore up his standing with the Bushies. “For Republican presidential candidates, immigration offers up a difficult choice: Appeal to conservatives eager to clamp down on illegal immigration who could buoy your position in the primaries, or take a moderate stand to win independents and the growing Latino vote, which could be vital to winning the general election.”
“This conduct is right in the strike zone of the concept of high crimes and misdemeanors….We, as a Congress, have to stand up to a president who acts like the Bill of Rights and the Constitution were repealed on Sept 11.” On This Week, Senator Feingold calls for a censure of Dubya for, “openly and almost thumbing his nose at the American people,” continuing the NSA warrantless wiretaps. (The censure resolution is here.) Catkiller Frist — flush from his straw poll win over the weekend — responded by calling the censure a “terrible, terrible signal” to give the evildoers. It’s “terrible” to show respect for the rule of law? Get real. It’s about time somebody in the AWOL Senate stood up to this administration’s repeated abuses of power. Update: Feingold writes more on the censure. (Via Medley.)
“‘I look around,’ Mr. Lott said, ‘and think, “Am I the only one who thinks this is stupid?”‘” Hearings into Katrina, foreign affairs, and other matters of state are postponed as the Senate commits to a day of stunt votes by both parties, mainly because Catkiller Frist had more pressing business — a fundraiser, of course — the prior evening. “Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska, said, ‘It’s sort of arrogant of us, isn’t it, scheduling them and then not keeping our appointments?’“
This just about drives me up the wall. Threatening to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory yet again, Minority Leader Harry Reid loses his nerve and apologizes to Senate Republicans for daring to insinuate they’ve been on the make. “The release [since edited down], titled, ‘Republicans cannot be trusted to end the culture of corruption,’ triggered sharp complaints from GOP officials, who said it violated Senate decorum and brought campaign-style mudslinging into the Capitol.” Aw, shucks. Really? As the WP pointed out: “As partisan attacks go, the statement was hardly the most scathing seen on Capitol Hill lately.“
If anything, the problem with this release is that it used a blunderbuss when it should’ve used a stiletto — It’s clear somebody on Reid’s staff just spent a day cutting-and-pasting old DNC talking points. The George Allen noose anecdote or Inhofe-on-Global-Warming, for example — both are reprehensible, but both have nothing to do with Abramoff-style corruption. (While I’m at it, the line “I thought I’d seen the last of corruption when I helped clean up Las Vegas thirty years ago” is an unbelievable groaner. I know you faced down car bombs and all, but really, Vegas is hardly a beacon of purity nowadays.)
That being said, these charges, however off-topic, are true and in the public record, so what’s the problem? And when was the last time you heard Senate Republicans apologize for anything? Catkiller Frist owes us at least two sorrys by this point, and that’s right off the top of my head. For Pete’s sake, Sen. Reid, you’re supposed to be our leader. Start acting like it. At the very least, don’t even bother posting tough-minded press releases if you feel you’re going to have to disavow them within 48 hours. If you don’t want to get your hands dirty, then pass the reins to someone else.
Wary of increasing public opposition to the Iraq war and spurred to action by a Democratic amendment advocating a specific timetable for withdrawal, Senate Republicans craft legislation calling for an Iraq exit strategy. “On the Iraq resolutions, the Democratic and Republican proposals say that ‘2006 should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty, with Iraqi security forces taking the lead for the security of a free and sovereign Iraq, thereby creating the conditions for the phased redeployment of United States forces from Iraq’…The White House is also directed ‘to explain to Congress and the American people its strategy for the successful completion of the mission in Iraq.'” Unfortunately, with the exception of quarterly reports to Congress on the war effort, the language of the proposal is not binding. Update: It passes, 98-0 (Lamar Alexander and Governor Corzine didn’t vote.)
“Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist says he is more concerned about the leak of information regarding secret CIA detention centers than activity in the prisons themselves…’I am not concerned about what goes on [in the prisons] and I’m not going to comment about the nature of that,’ Frist replied.” Unbelievable. The same guy who blew a gasket over a closed-door Senate session last week couldn’t care less what goes on behind closed doors in secret, illegal CIA gulags. (I guess he figures it couldn’t be much worse than your average day at the Frist family animal shelter.)
Republicans…they never stop surprising me. The nation discovers that, contrary to our most basic principles, the CIA has a series of secret, illegal gulags around the world, and how do GOP leaders respond? They want to know who told the press. (Mind you, this is after stonewalling investigations into prewar intelligence and the Plamegate leak for many a year.)
To be fair, not all GOP Senators are with them on this. Said Gang of 14 member Lindsey Graham (R-SC): “Talk about not seeing the forest for the trees. The real story is those jails…I’d like to know why we’ve got secret prisons and what oversight precautions we have.” And Trent Lott (R-MS) believes that a Republican is likely responsible for the leak, after hearing about the prisons from Mr. Torture himself, Big Time Dick Cheney. “‘Every word that was said in there went right to the newspaper,’ Lott said. ‘We can’t keep our mouths shut.‘” But, perhaps Catkiller knows this, and suspects one of his probable primary opponents? (LA Times story via Quiddity.) Update: Wheels within wheels…Was the leak investigation letter accidentally leaked? Regardless, Pat Roberts has put the kibosh on a congressional investigation…for now.
“‘I think really for our viewers it should be understood that I put this into a blind trust,’ Frist replied [in January 2003.] ‘So as far as I know, I own no HCA stock.’…Two weeks before that interview, M. Kirk Scobey Jr., a Frist trustee, informed the senator in writing that one of his trusts had received HCA stock valued at between $15,000 and $50,000.” Fifteen trustee letters obtained by the Post, describing sales and purchases of HCA stock, indicate Frist’s been lying about his “blind” trust for years. Poor Catkiller…I bet Iowa suddenly seems a million miles away…