In a rebuke to the few Blue Dog remnants that have been calling for her ousting, Speaker Nancy Pelosi announces her intention to run for Minority Leader in the 112th Congress. “[D]riven by the urgency of protecting health care reform, Wall Street reform, and Social Security and Medicare, I have decided to run.“
This is excellent news. As I’ve said here before, Speaker Pelosi has gotten things done on the Hill, and the blame for what happened Tuesday does not fall on her shoulders. To the contrary, she was often the only Democratic leader putting up a fight. Also, there is historical precedent: Twice during his long Speakership, Sam Rayburn cooled his heels as Minority Leader, waiting out the GOP blips. As the linked article points out, if Pelosi emulating Rayburn somehow encourages Obama to consider becoming more Trumanesque, well, all the better.
“The president told Democrats that making change happen is hard and ‘if people now want to take their ball and go home, that tells me folks weren’t serious in the first place.’” As part of a continuing pattern of late, President Obama tells Rolling Stone that progressives need to stop whining about the way things are going and get happy, because, in what’s become a new talking point, “If you look at the checklist, we’ve already covered about 70 percent [of the 2008 campaign promises.]” (70%?! Uh, can I see this checklist?)
Anyway, this latest weird effusion against the base has already been well-critiqued and well-answered many times. See, for example, Glenn Greenwald and David Dayen: “I’ve never seen a politician run an election with the message ‘Don’t be stupid, quit your bitching and vote for me.’” I would only add two things:
1) As it turns out, the unhappy Dems among us are more likely to vote, so perhaps berating them for not clapping enough is not altogether productive. (Unless, of course, the WH is doing it as a Sistah Souljah bank shot to get independents, on the classic establishment premise that indies love hippie-punching.)
2) I’d love to live in a world where progressive bloggers have the power to move ginormous voting blocs, I really would. But it takes a certain type of top-down, Beltway-obsessive mentality to think that’s what’s going on here. The biggest reason voters are depressed is because the economy is, quite obviously, not doing so well at the moment, and people are feeling the pinch. And, that aside, most Obama voters don’t need blogs to tell them that this administration, on all too many fronts, hasn’t lived up to its promises.
If this White House wants to engage the base (and I really, really hope they do, for reasons personal, professional, and patriotic), then, for Pete’s sake, don’t browbeat and lecture the Left for being disappointed — Try to make them less disappointed! Give them some red meat, respond to their concerns, and, you know, do the things you were elected to do. Why this even has to be said is beyond me.
As you no doubt know by now, and like his White House correspondent’s dinner speech in 2006, the inimitable Stephen Colbert came to the Hill on Friday to deliver his expert testimony on the plight of migrant workers, a topic the media would otherwise have completely ignored in favor of whatever crazy thing Sarah Palin tweeted today.
For those making the ridiculous argument that Congress was horribly besmirched by Colbert’s satirical testimony, I have two words: Twain and Elmo. For everyone else, it was very funny and, as per Colbert’s usual m.o., spoke truthiness to power. “[I]t just stands to reason, to me, that if your coworker can’t be exploited, then you’re less likely to be exploited yourself. And that, itself, might improve pay and working conditions on these farms, and eventually, Americans may consider taking these jobs again.”
“I don’t know what my biggest contribution has been. I think it has been simply showing up for work every day, trying to fight the good fight for average people…But I leave more discontented when I came here because of the terrible things that have been done to this economy by political leaders who allowed Wall Street to turn Wall Street banks into gambling casinos which damned near destroyed the economy.“
On the eve of his retirement, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee David Obey has some choice words for the administration, and himself. “I think the more important thing was what was my biggest failure…our failure to stop the ripoff of the middle class by the economic elite of this country, and this is not just something that happened because of the forces of the market.”
“[T]o the extent that the ‘liberal left’ is upset at the President, it’s because they are seeing a great opportunity slip away in real time. The only one that told the base that they could change America from the bottom up and bring forth a transformative new era of leadership is Barack Obama. If he didn’t want one, he shouldn’t have said anything.“
In response to the most recent disparaging of liberal and progressive blogs by “senior administrative official” to his or her media lap dog of choice, FDL’s Dave Dayen gets to the heart of progressive consternation with Team Obama: “Nobody had a bigger challenge coming into office than Barack Obama but nobody had a bigger opportunity. And liberals like myself are generally peeved that the opportunity has been squandered. Yes, squandered.” Yep, sounds about right.
In very related news, with the passage of financial reform in the Senate today, The Prospect‘s Kevin Drum gets off a zinger about Obama’s legislative accomplishments thus far. I think, overall, this president could have accomplished much more than Drum’s biting joke suggests — most obviously on executive power issues like torture and indefinite detention. (Or, put another way, I just get irritated with people who throw up their hands and say the problem with our politics is entirely structural when you have an ostensibly-lefty president saying patently dumb things like this. Choices matter, and this administration makes terrible ones.) All that being said, Drum’s comment was still worth a (rueful) laugh regardless.
Republican Rep. Joe Barton, the Ranking Member of the Energy & Commerce committee, decides to use the out-loud voice and genuflects before BP’s Tony Hayward, causing all kinds of messaging trouble for Republicans today. (Then again, if they had a problem with Barton openly professing his fealty to his biggest donor, maybe they shouldn’t have put it in today’s talking points.) In any case, this one was right over the middle of the plate for the WH today. [Pic via Greg Greene.]
“We need to train an army of Ninja Cats. Cats are natural born hunters and predators, and it is known that they indeed have 9 lives, many more than the typical human life (being one). They are also excellent at hiding themselves and would be ideal for sneaking into countries and assassinating communist leaders to lessen the ever growing threat of communism, finding key terrorist leaders and shattering the global terrorist network.”
As a highly entertaining Reddit thread well put it, “House Republicans turn to the Internets for suggestions on new legislation. Internets reacts exactly how you’d expect.” The lack of their own ideas aside, the fact that nobody on the GOP saw this egregious messaging #fail coming from a mile away speaks volumes about their Internet savvy. Series of tubes! (FWIW, here’s the counter-argument — More than anything, it’s a list-builder.)
“Last week, Congress decided it would not confront Too Big To Fail, the single gravest threat to our collective financial security. But there are still several key Wall Street reforms worth fighting for–reforms that must be enacted before the next crisis hits, with or without a big bank break-up. And fortunately, key Senators have authored amendments dealing with each one.” In HuffPo, Zach Carter delineates the most worthwhile progressive amendments to financial reform still up for debate in the Senate. A good encapsulation of the state of play.
“There’s got to be more to life than explaining Senate procedures to angry constituents or begging Blue Dogs to do what they ought to do by rote.” After forty fighting years in the House, David Obey — formidable Wisconsin progressive, master of both legislative arcana and the harmonica, and powerful Chair of the Appropriations Committee — announces his retirement at the end of this term.
Obey’s exactly the type of guy you want in Congress — he’s got his priorities straight and was never afraid to fight for them — and he will be missed. “He pondered retirement before, but stayed on because he was angry at what he saw as the ‘arrogance’ of the second President Bush. ‘I was determined to outlast him,’ he said.“
Update: Chairman Obey’s full official statement is definitely worth a read. “I am, frankly, weary of having to beg on a daily basis that both parties recognize that we do no favor for the country if we neglect to make the long-term investments in education, science, health, and energy that are necessary to modernize our economy…I do not want to be in a position as Chairman of the Appropriations Committee of producing and defending lowest common denominator legislation that is inadequate to that task and, given the mood of the country, that is what I would have to do if I stayed.
I am also increasingly weary of having to deal with a press which has become increasingly focused on trivia, driven at least in part by the financial collapse of the news industry and the need, with the 24-hour news cycle, to fill the air waves with hot air. I say that regretfully because I regard what is happening to the news profession as nothing short of a national catastrophe which I know pains many quality journalists as much as it pains me. Both our professions have been coarsened in recent years and the nation is the loser for it.“
The WP‘s Paul Kane profiles the inimitable Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. “Some historians list her alongside Rayburn and his successor, John W. McCormack, as among the most influential speakers in the annals of Congress.” (What, no love for Joe Cannon? C’mon now, American history doesn’t start in 1945.)
In any case, from my ringside seat here in the belly of the beast, it’s pretty clear: Speaker Pelosi gets things done. “After Scott Brown’s special-election victory…some pushed for a scaled-down version of health-care legislation to draw Republican support. Pelosi balked. In a moment that has come to define her speakership, Pelosi mocked a scaled-down bill as ‘Eensy Weensy Spider’ health care.”
Since I was talking to old friends on Facebook yesterday and realized once again that few folks outside of DC have a good sense of what’s actually in the recently passed health care bill, here’s a handy interactive graphic that delivers the what-for for the first year. There’s also a handy embed code there for wider distribution (but sorry, the death panel protocols are still classified. You’ll learn them when they come for you.)
“‘Access for kids who have pre-existing conditions, who would be against that?’ Blunt asked a group of health care professionals in Springfield, MO. ‘But access for adults who’ve done nothing to take care of themselves, who actually will have as I just described every incentive not to get insurance until the day that you know that you’re going to have medical expenses–that’s a very different kind of story.‘”
Thanks, Roy! Republican congressman and ostensible chair of the “GOP Health Care Task Force” Roy Blunt actually comes out in favor of repealing the ban on denying coverage for pre-existing conditions, one of the few provisions in the recent health care law that usually garnered bipartisan support. For its part, leukemia declined to comment.
So, as you may have heard, the House passed the health care bill 219-212 late last night. It was a long and busy weekend, and a long and busy week is ahead, formulating the death panels and whatnot. Still, we’ve been talking about this bill since I got here last July, so it feels quite good to finally get this done. Now, let’s make it better. (Pic via here.)
Of course, this is not to say we’re anywhere near the clear on the jobs front. Not only is there some frightening new data around about the length of unemployment in this downturn, The Atlantic‘s Don Peck makes a compelling case about how this new jobless era will transform America: “The unemployment rate hit 10 percent in October, and there are good reasons to believe that by 2011, 2012, even 2014, it will have declined only a little…The worst effects of pervasive joblessness–on family, politics, society–take time to incubate, and they show themselves only slowly. But ultimately, they leave deep marks that endure long after boom times have returned.“
“[L]ong before Hollywood discovered the Texan, he cut a wide swath through the House, always playing the roguish ladies’ man and macho militarist…[His] frequent, much more sober-styled partner was Democratic Rep. John Murtha, the Pennsylvania powerhouse who chaired the defense subcommittee so important to CIA funding for the Afghan cause. And the fact that both have died now within days of each other punctuates the end of a major chapter for the House left behind.“
“The Chamber spent much of its money in 2009 on campaigns that worked — it scared the Senate away from considering a version of the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade legislation, and an argument can be made that its cutting ads on health care (with money taken from some insurance companies) helped to undercut support for the legislation.” You think? In a shape-of-things-to-come moment even before Citizens United goes into effect, the Chamber of Commerce outspent both political parties in 2009.
“According to The Center for Responsive Politics, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and its national subsidiaries spent $144.5 million in 2009, far more than the RNC and more than double the expenditures by the DNC.” But corporate spending isn’t a problem or anything.
“The whole thing basically went like that: Republican asks obnoxious question rooted in Glenn Beck-ian talking points; Obama swats it away, makes the questioner look silly, and then smiles at the end. It got so bad, in fact, that Fox News cut away from the event before it was over.”
My issues with the SotU notwithstanding, the president’s sallying back-and-forth with House Republicans on Friday clearly indicate that, whatever our problems are within the party, the GOP are just not ready for prime-time right now. (I also get the sense that this will mark the definitive end of the Republican’s goofy “teleprompter” meme.) [Full transcript.]
To his credit, the president made his political opponents seem like the blatantly hypocritical ideologues they in fact are. Which begs the “common ground” question once again: Why should we try to meet the “Party of No” halfway, particularly when we know that they move the goalposts every single time you try to take them seriously?
“The ‘death panel’ episode shows how the news media, after aiding and abetting falsehood, were unable to perform their traditional role of reporting the facts. By lavishing uncritical attention on the most exaggerated claims and extreme behavior, they unleashed something that the truth could not dispel.” In the NYT, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) reviews the sad, sordid tale of Death Panel fear-mongering by the GOP this past summer.
In very related news, it seems the Republican National Committee’s health insurance plan, contra all their rhetoric on Stupak, has not only covered abortion services for the past eighteen years — it includes end-of-life counseling, a.k.a. the “Death Panels” of Sarah Palin’s nightmares. These folks really have no shame.
“In the official record of the historic House debate on overhauling health care, the speeches of many lawmakers echo with similarities. Often, that was no accident. Statements by more than a dozen lawmakers were ghostwritten, in whole or in part, by Washington lobbyists working for Genentech, one of the world’s largest biotechnology companies.“
As a speechwriter in the House, I’m sort of a rare bird…but perhaps I shouldn’t be: An estimated 42 Members — 20 Dems and 22 GOP — get caught lifting industry talking points for the health care debate. Suggested TP’s make the rounds all the time, of course, but they’re usually meant to be guidelines, not taken word-for-word. Oops.
“[L]ives are what’s at stake in this debate, and moments like this are why they sent us here — to finally meet the challenges that Washington has put off for decades; to make their lives better and this nation stronger; to move America forward. That’s what the House did last night when it brought us closer than we have ever been to comprehensive health insurance reform in America.“
After many months of work and a long Saturday of debate (not to mention quite a few flagrant and ridiculous GOP lies along the way), the Houses passes the Affordable Health Care for America Act 220-215. (Joining 219 Dems was one solitary Republican, Anh Joseph Cao of William Jefferson’s old seat, and he voted after the bill had already crossed the 218 threshold.) And, much thanks to the people who have fought for it all this time, H.R. 3962 passed the House with the public option bloodied but still intact.
Alas, the skeleton at the feast was a successful gambit by the heretofore unknown pro-lifer Rep. Bart Stupak to use the necessity of health care reform to fundamentally alter the status quo on abortion. (Best tweet of the day, btw: “‘Stupak’ sounds like a political action committee for morons.”)
Stupak forces like to say they’re just upholding existing law with this amendment, which already states that federal funds will not be used to pay for abortions. But, in fact, this amendment goes further — it prohibits not only the public option but private insurance companies who operate in the exchange from offering abortion services to people who receive subsidies. Or, in other words, low-income women are going to be S.O.L. for starters, with mission creep ultimately denying more and more women reproductive choice and/or necessary medical procedures. (Stupak to women — don’t miscarry.)
On one hand, the good news is that Stupak’s gambit is pretty much dead in the water in the Senate — even the GOP isn’t warming to it. (And, while maintaining the usual “above-the-fray approach”for now — big surprise, I know — Obama has telegraphed he’s not a supporter of the idea.)
On the other, the Stupak situation shows one of the problems we now have as the majority party. Here we have a scion of the “Family” on C-Street playing shenanigans with critical Democratic legislation at the eleventh hour…and he was joined by 63 other Dems in getting the amendment passed. In fact, many of these look to be CYA votes by ostensible pro-choicers to shore up their moderate bona fides.
Even more troubling, 21 of the final 39 Democratic votes against health care reform voted for Stupak — i.e., they voted to screw up a bill they had absolutely no intention of supporting in the end. (Conversely, twenty Dems in GOP-leaning districts did the right thing — they voted against Stupak and for passage. They are listed here.) Simply put, these 21 are why primary challenges were invented.
Until congressional Democrats learn that bucking their left is just as — if not more — dangerous than prostrating themselves before the right, they’re going to continue to play these reindeer games. (To be clear, in almost all cases, it’s not like these holdouts’ issues with the bill came from the left.) And until these often craven middle-of-the-roaders feel the wrath of the stick as well as the carrot, we are going to remain locked in this dismal feedback loop where important bills are in danger of being endlessly watered down into “moderate” mush. (See also: no Single Payer, no Medicare +5.) And that’s just not change we can believe in.
Aside from the Recovery Act, the House hasn’t held as important a vote all year. And, if certain Dems can’t find a way to support critical Democratic legislation — legislation tempered to meet their approval, in fact — when the time comes, then don’t expect the progressive base to have their back just because they have a D by their name. The time to suffer such fools has passed.
In any event, Round 1 completed. Round 2, the Senate…
“In short, it’s no time to be despondent about the fate of the public insurance option. For sure, pegging rates to Medicare and obligating Medicare providers to accept these rates would be far preferable, and a public plan with negotiated rates may do less to keep the insurers honest and drive down costs. But it’s still immensely valuable to give Americans an out — another choice — to let the insurers feel the heat of not being the only game in town. The fierce and continuing opposition of the insurance industry suggests that they think that a public option will prove a serious counterweight in an increasingly consolidated private market.“
In TNR, Jacob Hacker and Diane Archer make the case anew for a public option, specifically the one that made it into H.R. 3962. If all goes well, the House bill — recently endorsed by the AARP and the AMA — will get a vote tomorrow. (Yep, it’s a work day.) Update: Or later. Here’s the hold-up.
“When 22 senators started working over the first health care overhaul bill on June 17, the news cameras were pointed at them — except for NPR’s photographer, who turned his lens on the lobbyists. Whatever bill emerges from Congress will affect one-sixth of the economy, and stakeholders have mobilized. We’ve begun to identify some of the faces in the hearing room, and we want to keep the process going.” Clever, clever: Also on the health care front, an NPR photographer initiates a game of find-the-health-care-lobbyist. “Know someone in these photos? Let us know who that someone is.“
“‘This is landmark legislation that is going to make the credit card marketplace more transparent and more fair for millions of consumers,’ said Travis B. Plunkett, legislative director for the Consumer Federation of America. ‘In particular, it’s going to prevent credit card companies from suddenly and unjustly increasing interest rates which is pushing many consumers with credit card debt into bankruptcy.’” The Senate passes legislation aimed at reining in the more blatant and arbitrary instances of credit card usury by a vote of 90-5, with a bill expected on President Obama’s desk by Memorial Day.
This sounds like a clear step in the right direction…but funny how times change, isn’t it? It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that many of these same Senators passed the 2005 bankruptcy bill, which dug the financial hole deeper for millions of Americans in the name of an easy buck for the credit card industry. Better late than never, I suppose.
“‘There will be people in districts all over the country that will wonder why, when there’s a good bill to get the economy moving again, we still seem to be playing political gotcha,’ White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said in an interview.” Well, so much for the post-partisan era. Despite several attempts at across-the-aisle diplomacy by the new administration, the House passes President Obama’s stimulus bill 244-188 without a single Republican vote. Sigh.
Perhaps a little history lesson is in order. Journey with me, if you will, back to 1993, the last time a new Democratic president tried to work with this same crew of jokers on a new, recession-busting economic plan. As you may remember, Clinton’s 1993 budget also passed the House and Senate without a single GOP vote. Let’s see what the Republicans had to say back then (courtesy of some old, off-line research of mine):
Dick Armey (who, btw, made an embarrassment of himself on national television last night): “This bill would grow the Government…shrink the economy” and “will mean fewer jobs for ordinary Americans.” [Congressional Record, 8/5/93]
Newt Gingrich: The bill will “kill jobs and lead to a recession” that would “force people off of work and onto unemployment and will actually increase the deficit.” [Houston Chronicle, 8/7/93, 1993; AJC, 8/6/93]
Bob Dole: The bill “would take America in the wrong direction.” [WP, 8/4/93]
Ronald Reagan (yes, they wheeled him out with talking points): The bill will “only cause the deficit to increase and will likely wreck any hopes for economic recovery.” [“Just Say No to Clinton’s Package,” NYT op-ed, 8/3/93]
Rush Limbaugh: True to form, the GOP’s poster boy bet the DNC $1 million on the air that three of the following five things would happen by 1996: 1. The deficit would grow. 2. Unemployment would rise. 3. Inflation would swell. 4. Interest rates would surge. 5. The President’s approval rating would fall below 45 percent. [ James McTague, “Off to the Races,” Barron’s, 3/18/96]
Well, I’m sure I don’t need to remind you of the untold economic devastation that was the remainder of the Clinton years. (If you’re keeping score, Rush went 0-for-5, and never paid up.) As it turns out, just as with Boehner this time around, the GOP had decided beforehand they weren’t going to vote for any Clinton bill. As Bob Woodward notes in The Agenda (p. 109), Dole told Clinton this three weeks before the bill was even proposed.
Then as now, the modern Republican party doesn’t seem to understand the first thing about basic economics (their right-wing dogma precludes any grasp of Keynesianism, I guess.) They don’t seem to “get” rudimentary American history. (I’ve seen so many dumb things written about Herbert Hoover and the 1937 “Roosevelt recession” — which was caused by spending cuts and fiscal retrenchment by the FDR admininstration, not “over-regulation” — by right-wingers of late that it’s hard to even know where to begin.)They don’t seem to understand basic politics. (The American people have obviously voted for action, and a path away from Dubyanomics. Getting in the way of this bill won’t “reboot” their party in any way, shape, or form.) At this point, it’s an open question whether they can distinguish their asses from their elbows.
So…can we please stop spoon-feeding these guys now? The GOP has proven yet again that they’re not looking to play ball. If they want to be on the wrong side of the problem as usual, let them. It’s useless to spend any more time bending over backwards to accommodate their lousy, discredited ideas and inchoate, faith-based economic beliefs. It’s time to move on.
“‘It’s just astounding — the very arrogance,’ said Cynthia Canary, director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform and a close observer of state politics. ‘And yesterday he was saying there’s not a cloud in the sky.‘” Poised on the brink of a new Democratic era in Washington as we are, what better time to see the cobwebs cleared out of some our own party’s shady corners? First indicted and pretty clearly crooked congressman William Jefferson, much like his GOP counterpart Ted Stevens, went down to a surprising defeat in Louisiana against GOP challenger Anh “Joseph” Cao. And, of course, in today’s big news, Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich has been charged with all manner of crooked schemes by former Libby prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, including brazenly trying to pawn off Obama’s Senate seat to the highest bidder. (“[It's] a f**king valuable thing, you just don’t give it away for nothing.“)
Well, good riddance to both. Any way you cut it, this is addition by subtraction for our party. (And for the potential conspiracy theorists out there, Slate‘s John Dickerson has a good post on why the President-elect “comes off as good as he could possibly have hoped for: He’s behaving well even when you don’t think anyone is watching.” And, with a tip of the hat to Al Smith and Tammany Hall, Politico‘s Ben Smith ably discusses how Obama kept his independence from the Chicago machine back in the day.)
“‘If you turn the clock back two or two and half weeks, you could make a plausible argument that if a couple of things go our way we will lose three to four Senate races,’ said one Republican strategist. ‘Now we will lose six to eight.’” Reeling from both the economic collapse on Wall St. and the ensuing shenanigans surrounding the bailout — which passed on its second try yesterday, despite continued opposition from a majority of the House GOP — the Republicans prepare to be ousted en masse in a month. “Polling in most Senate races over the past 14 days has shown a five-point decline for the Republican candidate, the strategist said.“
Update: “‘Before the economic crisis, we had a number of races moving our way,’ said Matthew Miller, communications director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. ‘But now we’re seeing Republican numbers plummet.’ GOP officials largely agree. ” Is 60 in the Senate now in sight?
As I said here, I’m not all that happy about the nation having to subsume the risk, and ride to the rescue of, the many banks and Wall Street types that profited massively from these obviously suspect mortgage deals. But, what else is there to do? As with so much else occurring over the past eight years, it befalls us now to clean up the mess left by the free market fundies of late. I just hope we learn something from the economic consequences of this latest binge of free-market fraudulence, before they grow too dire. To wit, whatever the corporate-funded right tells you about self-regulating markets, we need, and will continue to need, real refs on the field.
Update: Uh oh. The bailout compromise dies in the House, prompting the Dow Jones to swiftly tank 700 points. “The measure needs 218 votes for passage. Democrats voted 141 to 94 in favor of the plan, while Republicans voted 65 to 133 against. That left the measure with 206 votes for and 227 against.“
As the TIME article linked above noted before the vote, “the candidate with the most riding on Monday’s vote is McCain, who backed the concerns of conservatives in the House over the initial agreement…[I]f a majority of the House Republicans don’t vote for the measure, McCain could lose political face. ‘If McCain cannot persuade them, it is hard to portray him as a leader,’ said Clyde Wilcox, a political science professor at Georgetown University.” So, that’s the silver lining, I guess. But the bad news now, alas, is considerably worse.
“The Democratic leadership’s agreement to commit hundreds of millions of dollars for more secret operations in Iran was remarkable, given the general concerns of officials like Gates, Fallon, and many others. ‘The oversight process has not kept pace — it’s been coöpted’ by the Administration, the person familiar with the contents of the Finding said. ‘The process is broken, and this is dangerous stuff we’re authorizing.‘”
In related news, The New Yorker‘s venerable Sy Hersh reports that the Dubya administration has been stepping up covert activities in Iran…and Congress is once again going along for the ride. “In other words, some members of the Democratic leadership…were willing, in secret, to go along with the Administration in expanding covert activities directed at Iran, while the Party’s presumptive candidate for President, Barack Obama, has said that he favors direct talks and diplomacy.“
“There is widespread agreement among Democratic and Republican observers that the GOP is headed for a loss of seats in the fall. But the depth of those losses remains a point of real debate, as more and more Republican districts appear to be vulnerable while the GOP campaign arm continues to struggle to match its Democratic counterparts in fundraising.” In both the House and Senate, it seems, 2008 is looking to be a rough year for the GOP.
At long last, some movement on the persecuted prosecutors front. As the Republicans walk out in a huff (after disrupting Tom Lantos’ memorial service — classy), the House votes to hold Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten in contempt of Congress. “The citations charge Miers with failing to testify and accuse her and Bolten of refusing Congress’ demands for documents related to the 2006-2007 firings.”
“The wealthiest 1 percent of Americans earn more than 21 percent of all income. That’s a postwar record. The bottom 50 percent of all Americans, when all their wages are combined, earn just 12.8 percent of the nation’s income…If the Democrats stand for anything, it’s a fair allocation of the responsibility for paying the costs of maintaining this nation. So far, neither the Democratic candidates for president nor the Senate Democrats have shown much eagerness to advocate this fundamental principle. It seems the rich have bought them out.” Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich laments the cooptation of the Democrats by the super-rich. “It turns out that Democrats are getting more campaign contributions these days from hedge-fund and private-equity partners than Republicans are getting. In the run-up to the 2006 election, donations from hedge-fund employees were running better than 2-to-1 Democratic. The party doesn’t want to bite the hands that feed.“
Score another one for legalized corruption (and lament anew what passes for Democratic leadership these days): Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tells private-equity firms they don’t need to fear a tax hike this year. “[P]rivate-equity firms — whose multibillion-dollar deals have created a class of superwealthy investors and taken some of America’s large corporations private — hired dozens of lobbyists, stepped up campaign contributions and lined up business allies to wage an unusually conspicuous lobbying blitz [against a tax hike]…Several prominent lawmakers expressed surprise to find that the managers’ profits, known as carried interest, were taxed as capital gains, for which the rate is usually 15 percent. That is less than half the 35 percent top rate paid on regular income.“
Some good news on the domestic policy front: Pushed forward by a veto-proof majority in Congress, Bush signs a Democratic Pell Grant increase into law. “The increase in financial aid is designed to come from cuts in subsidies that the government makes to banks, totaling roughly $20 billion…Bush at one point threatened to veto the bill on grounds that it included hidden costs and was an expensive expansion of federal programs.” In addition, an expansion of the State Child Health Insurance Program is now on Dubya’s desk after passing the Senate 69-30 and House 265-159, and also looks to become law despite the White House’s original opposition. “Bush and GOP leaders said the measure would push children already covered by private health insurance into publicly financed health care, while creating an ‘entitlement’ whose costs ultimately would outstrip the money raised by the bill’s 61-cent increase in the federal tobacco tax. But Republican opposition is increasingly isolated.“
And if passage of affordable college education and child health care bills by Dubya — however reluctantly — isn’t through the looking glass enough for ya, check this out: “The world must cut emissions or sacrifice the planet, Condoleezza Rice, U.S. Secretary of State, told a meeting of governments on Thursday, in the most strongly worded statement on global warming yet made by the US administration….Her words reflected how far US rhetoric on climate change has moved in the past six months.”
Update: Ah, there’s the Dubya we know and…know. Despite its bipartisan backing, Bush vetoes the child health insurance bill, arguing that it was an attempt to “federalize” medicine. “‘I think that this is probably the most inexplicable veto in the history of the country. It is incomprehensible. It is intolerable. It’s unacceptable,’ said Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Massachusetts, who pleaded with Republicans to help overturn the veto.”