Goobergunch Political Report

3 August 2011

The “Satan Sandwich”

Goobergunch @ 23:00 PT
Posted in: Education, Money and Finance, The Congress, Transportation

So the Budget Control Act of 2011 is now law. I don’t really have anything to say about it that hasn’t been said on numerous other websites. But we can all rest now that the hard work of deficit reduction (READ: spending cuts) has been delegated to a “Super Congress”. (Deficit Reduction League of America? The Debt Avengers?) Should be fun to see who ends up on that committee.

Meanwhile, the FAA partial shutdown continues—and it’s going to keep continuing, as Congress has left town for the month. Awesome.

The next crisis will occur in two months, when the current fiscal year expires. I’m looking forward to seeing even more bills rammed through at the last minute without proper committee review, public comment, or anybody actually getting to read them before the vote.

The one good thing to come out of this mess:

Gabby Giffords in the House on Monday

30 June 2011

Senate Actually Passes Bill

So I haven’t had many posts on Congressional action lately. Really, it’s just felt pointless to put the effort into anything the House passes, as it’s controlled by Republicans who aren’t inclined to vote for anything that Senate Democrats or President Obama are likely to support. There’s not really much incentive to research and write up bills that aren’t likely to ever become law. Meanwhile, the Senate is gripped by rules that prevent it from doing anything without bipartisan support. Which means Republicans have to admit that they don’t have a majority in the Senate and can’t expect votes on all of their proposals. Of course, under Senate rules, amendments don’t have to be germane to the bill that they’re proposed to, so we get this:

Democrats are upset Republicans killed the EDA funding bill earlier in the week by loading it with dozens of non-germane amendments and voting down a procedure that would have brought debate to a close.  A Small Business Administration funding bill saw similar demise earlier in the year.

The EDA funding bill referred to was sufficiently noncontroversial that it was reported out of committee by voice vote without any committee member feeling the need to file additional views. If a bill like that can’t go through the Senate, don’t hold your breath for anything that’s actually somewhat contentious.

So what did the Senate actually pass today?

Presidential Appointment Efficiency and Streamlining Act of 2011 – Exempts certain presidential appointments to cabinet-level agencies, independent commissions, and boards in the executive branch from the requirement of Senate confirmation (advice and consent).

Establishes the Working Group on Streamlining Paperwork for Executive Nominations to: (1) study the streamlining of paperwork required for executive nominations, and (2) conduct a review of the impact of background investigation requirements on the appointments process.

Yeah, the one bill that the Senate actually managed to pass (79-20) is a bill to reduce the Senate’s workload. AWESOME. While this isn’t a bad thing considering how broken the Senate is, the country has some fairly major problems (say, the anemic rate of job creation) that are a bit more pressing.

But good news!

Mr. Reid (NV): Mr. President, it is often said that with liberty comes responsibility. We should take that responsibility seriously. I’m confident we do. That’s why the Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, the day after the 4th. We’ll do that because we have work to do. We’ll be in session that week—that’s next week, with—with our first vote on July 5. We’ll determine what time that vote will be, likely in the afternoon because of the travel problems of the previous day. There’s still so much to do to put Americans back to work, to cut our deficit and our economy back to work. It is really important that we do this. That moment is too important, the obstacle is too steep, and the time too short to waste. Even I hope my Republican colleagues will put politics aside and help Democrats fulfill Congress’s responsibility to the American people.

Good luck with that. Every indication is that the debt ceiling negotiations are at an impasse. I predict a week full of quorum calls.

Really, the Senate needs procedural reform so a majority can actually pass legislation. I appreciate the value of allowing open debate and amendments—I don’t want the Senate to be a mirror of the House, in which the majority can do whatever it wants—but there have to be safeguards to stop the minority party from completely blocking everything. The Senate leadership missed its opportunity to enact such safeguards in January. The country is paying a price for it now.

UPDATE [20:16 CDT by Goobergunch]: The Tuesday vote will be Yet Another Cloture Motion. This time it’s on the motion to proceed to S. J. Res. 20, authorizing the limited use of force in Libya. House prospects: If it even gets a vote, it’ll fail by an approximate vote of 123-295.

9 February 2011

H. Res. 72, the Bloviation Resolution

Goobergunch @ 09:00 PT
Posted in: The Congress

In case anybody was wondering about that resolution “directing certain standing committees to inventory and review existing, pending, and proposed regulations and orders from agencies of the Federal Government, particularly with respect to their effect on jobs and economic growth” I mentioned on Monday, it’s now been officially scheduled for a good nine and a half hours of debate. Oh, and no amendments are in order. Wouldn’t it be better to just adjourn for two days so that the committees in question can actually hold hearings instead of just talking about holding the hearings?

(If you’re keeping score, the committees involved are Agriculture, Energy and Commerce, Financial Services, Judiciary, Natural Resources, Oversight and Government Reform, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Ways and Means, which each get to control an hour of this yack fest; the Education and Labor and Small Business Committees get to split an hour.)

15 January 2011

We Now Return You To…

Booth: Why do these red-necks always have three names? James Earl Ray, John Wilkes Booth…
Oswald: Lee Harvey Oswald!

There have been plenty of calls for civility and toning down political rhetoric after the Tucson shootings, including a particularly beautiful one from President Obama on Wednesday night. Will they go anywhere? Let’s look at the House:

In the wake of the shooting spree in Arizona, Democrats pressed Republicans to change the name of their health care repeal bill — the bluntly titled “Repealing the Job Killing Health Care Law Act.”

No luck. A spokesman for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor says they’re sticking with that name.

At this point it seems pretty clear to me that Republican leaders aren’t interested in civility. A campaign cycle filled with violent imagery ended up with a Republican gain of 63 House seats, and the Glenn Becks, Sarah Palins, and Eric Cantors won’t change something that’s working for them. If a few innocent people die on the way, due to some people taking their comments literally, that’s too bad but ultimately is the price that gets paid for the victory of the far right. It’s easy enough to dismiss last week’s incident as the product of a deranged lone actor, and it’s premature at best to say that Jared Lee Loughner was actually influenced by any of the usual suspects. (Although I’m surprised I haven’t seen much talk about Loughner’s ramblings about currency. That’s a strain of thought I haven’t really seen outside of the Beck/Paul circles.) But there are plenty of actual examples of violence apparently influenced by the American far right—Digby has a good list. It’s completely reckless to continue talking about “Second Amendment solutions” and their ilk because even if you think it’s just a joke, you can’t guarantee that all of your listeners do.

Despite the one-sidedness of the actual violent incidents, apparently it’s not Democrats who are the real victims. Let’s hear from Sarah Palin:

But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn.

And now, to the Washington Times editorial page:

This is simply the latest round of an ongoing pogrom against conservative thinkers. The last two years have seen a proliferation of similar baseless charges of racism, sexism, bigotry, Islamophobia and inciting violence against those on the right who have presented ideas at odds with the establishment’s liberal orthodoxy.

Blood libel? Pogrom? Does the American Right—a group with substantial representation in both houses of the national legislature as well as most state governments—really think that they are the modern equivalent of Eastern European Jewry? That’s so amazingly stupid that it’s hard to know where to begin to refute it, but I think I’ll start with the bit where none of them are dying.

The latest civility push I’ve heard is the suggestion that Democrats and Republicans sit together at the State of the Union on the 25th. Personally, I don’t see the point in pretending that all of our political views are the same. Of course members of Congress should be willing to work together on issues of common agreement, and maybe even find a workable compromise that’s widely acceptable. That’s great. But there are quite a few issues that the parties greatly disagree with each other on. And that’s fine too. If Democrats and Republicans agreed on everything, there wouldn’t be much point to having an election. It’s a disservice to the American people to attempt to hide that. While admittedly the applause games at the State of the Union are a somewhat childish way of expressing these differences, it’s a better way of showing them then wasting 7 hours of the House’s time on a bill that will never become law.

If you want to look for actual bipartisanship this week, scheduled for Tuesday is H.R. 292. Under current law, when a public bill is introduced, 625 copies get printed and distributed. This means a lot of paper and ink get wasted on bills that aren’t going to go anywhere. H.R. 292 eliminates the automatic printing of bills, instead substituting an electronic distribution requirement. Members and committees can still get print copies if they ask for them. In the last Congress, a version of this bill picked up co-sponsors ranging from from Steve King (R-Western IA) to Jared Polis (D-Boulder, CO). Unlike H.R. 2, it may actually go somewhere in the Senate.

8 January 2011

Holy Fuck

Goobergunch @ 20:09 PT
Posted in: The Congress

Well, cancel that last post about next week in the House. After today’s atrocity in Arizona that’s not happening. Here’s hoping Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) and everyone else who has been injured today has a swift and successful recovery, and condolences to the loved ones of the six that died today. This is scary shit.

3 January 2011

A Quick Message to Eric Cantor

Goobergunch @ 17:50 PT
Posted in: The Congress
Tags: ,

I’ve been preparing for the new Congress, which convenes Wednesday at noon Eastern time, and one thing that’s really annoying is that the incoming House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor (R-Richmond North, VA) likes to put autoplaying YouTube videos welcoming us to various sections of his website. (Note: links may fail as early as Wednesday.) While this wasn’t particularly onerous when he was the Minority Whip (meaning that there was no real reason to ever visit his website), the new Republican majority means that he’s now actually presenting useful information.

While it’s easy enough to make the videos go away using AdBlock, it’s still poor web design to surprise visitors to your website with somebody talking at them. So please, Congressman Cantor—remove the autoplay.

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