Goobergunch Political Report

22 January 2011

A “Read the Bill” Progress Report

Goobergunch @ 18:00 PT
Posted in: Public Printing and Documents

One of the big complaints that Republicans and various other right-wing forces had was that the public wasn’t getting enough time to read and comment on bills before they went to a vote. Last Tuesday, the House unanimously passed H.R. 292, which was introduced Wednesday of the previous week. One would think that this is enough time to read and comment on a fairly short bill before it was put to a vote. One would be wrong.

The trick here is that H.R. 292 was passed via a “motion to suspend the rules and pass, as amended”. The text of the amendment wasn’t, to my knowledge, provided on any public website prior to the vote—and it made some fairly major changes. The original bill, found here, would have eliminated the automatic printing of bills and substituted an electronic distribution requirement; members and committees could still get print copies if they ask for them. Contrast the text of the bill that the House actually passed. The bill now keeps all of the automatic printing except for the copies that each members of Congress gets. Those copies are eliminated, and members can’t get print copies even by request.

For this bill, the changes don’t do much for those of us living outside of the Beltway. But for some other bill, surprise amendments might make a real difference to many Americans. And of course, not many people actually care about bills on the “suspension of the rules” list, as those tend to be non-controversial anyway. While I’m still going to look over that list every week, I’m saving the more detailed bill discussions for bills that don’t need a two-thirds vote to pass.

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.

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