Tag Archives: Democrat

Back to Work to the People’s Business

Lawmakers are back to work this week after the long Labor Day recess. With elections just six weeks away and so many millions of Americans suffering poverty, unemployment, facing eviction, bankruptcy, hunger or without medical care, let’s take a look at how are representatives are going to prove to the voters that they take their jobs seriously.

In addition to prayers, committee meetings, general housekeeping and endless requests for things to be read into the record that didn’t actually occur, here’s what is on this week’s schedule in both chambers, I kid you not.

House of Representatives Senate
Resolutions, each requiring separate votes, expressing the sense of the House regarding…

  • Honoring what happened on 9/11/2001.
  • Honoring the Oklahoma National Guard service since 9/11/2001.
  • Honoring those who died on D-Day at the Battle of Normandy (1944).
  • Congratulating Miami Dade College on their 50th Anniversary.
  • Congratulating Michican Technology University on their 125th Anniversary.
  • Commending USC for winning the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championship.
  • Designating this week as, “National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week.”
  • Recognizing the 90th anniversary of the 19th Amendment.
  • Permitting of Members of Congress to administer the oath of allegiance to applicants for naturalization to take advantage of photo opportunities, which look really nice in campaign flyers and videos.
  • Recognizing the 50th anniversary of the legislation that created REITs.
  • Designating the Post Office located at 218 North Milwaukee Street in Waterford, Wisconsin, as the “Captain Rhett W. Schiller Post Office.”
  • Designating the last week of September as National Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Week and the last Wednesday of September as National Previvor Day.
  • Expressing condolences to and solidarity with the people of Pakistan in the aftermath of the devastating floods.
  • Designating the Federal building and courthouse located at 515 9th Street in Rapid City, South Dakota, as the “Andrew W. Bogue Federal Building and United States Courthouse.”
  • Designating the facility of the Government Printing Office located at 31451 East United Avenue in Pueblo, Colorado, as the “Frank Evans Government Printing Office Building.”
  • Designating the federally occupied building located at 1220 Echelon Parkway in Jackson, Mississippi, as the “James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, and Roy K. Moore Federal Building.”
  • Designating the Federal building located at 6401 Security Boulevard in Baltimore, Maryland, as the “Robert M. Ball Federal Building.”
  • Observing the fifth anniversary Hurricane Rita devastated the coasts of Louisiana and Texas, remembering those lost, etc.
  • Observing the fifth anniversary Hurricane Katrina, saluting volunteers, recognizing, remembering, reaffirming, etc.
  • Recognizes the value of recreational aviation and backcountry airstrips located on the nation’s public lands.

Legislation (note: in addition to the people’s new business, the House has 44 bills, which they passed in this session, was sent to the Senate and passed (all, but two by unanimous consent), but a final required vote in the House for them to become law hasn’t happened)…

  • Amends a law so that the Navy’s procurement contract for F/A-18E, F/A-18F, and EA-18G aircraft that expired in March and be extended until two weeks ago.
  • Amends the Made in America Promise Act of 2009 to prohibit Representatives and Senators from making a determination under the Act that is inconsistent with the Act on purchases made by their offices which bear a congressional seal – passed.
  • Amends a law to prohibit the Department from Homeland Security from procuring clothing, tents or natural fiber products directly related to national security that are not grown, reprocessed, reused or produced in the US unless they cannot be procured when they are needed.
  • Requires any person judged in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977 from being awarded a government contract unless the head of the agency awarding the contract wants to give it to them anyway and they tell Congress about the next month – passed.
  • Authorizes the GSA to allow the American Red Cross to distribute stuff the government bought during disaster response.
  • Amends a 2002 law that allows the Rural Utility Service to make energy efficiency loans, to make them interest free.
Resolutions, each requiring separate votes, expressing the sense of the Senate regarding…

  • Honoring the Oklahoma National Guard service since 9/11/2001.
  • Designating this month as “National Preparedness Month.”
  • Recognizing “National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.”
  • Recognizing the victory in the America’s Cup race.
  • Remembering Ralph Smeed.
  • Remembering Bobby Eugene Hannon.
  • Commending the entertainment industry’s encouragement of interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

Judicial Confirmation Votes

  • Confirmation of the nomination of Jane Stranch to be U.S. Circuit Judge for the Sixth Circuit (held hostage for 400 days). Judge Stranch was confirmed.

Procedural Votes

  • Four cloture motions were scheduled with respect to the Small Business Jobs bill (held hostage since June), which would create a $30 billion small business lending fund, funnelled though banks holding less than $10 billion in assets, and provide $12 billion in tax breaks to help small businesses grow and add new employees. Two Republicans, Sen. George Voinovich [R, OH] and Sen. George LeMieux [R, FL] voted with every Democrat in favor, making the other motions moot and allowing a vote on the bill.

Legislation (note: in addition to lobbyists’ new business, the Senate has 372 bills yet to be acted on in this session that have been passed in the house – most of them non-controversial and passed by an overwhelming and bi-partisan majority (only 16 of the 372 by less than 60% support), but are being held hostage in the Senate by secret holds, threats of filibuster by the party of no and legislative shenanigans)…

  • No votes are scheduled, but it is expected that the Small Business Jobs will be voted on late Thursday. Update: the bill passed on a 61-38 vote, Thursday, so they can go home for the weekend.
Acknowledgement: This post was inspired by and much of the content derived from OpenCongress.com – a non-profit, independent public resource. Other sources for this story include Senate.gov, ThinkProgress.org,





The verdict’s in

I was called for jury duty this week. Having polled the 300 jurors-in-waiting for Fulton County Court, our judgement was unanimous: if the price of voting is jury duty, we need to demand better candidates.

It is a tradition to bitch and moan about being called to jury duty, but with almost no exception, those of us summoned, recognized that jury duty is a humbling honor. Plus, it is a once a year chance to be in a room for a day filled with your peers.

I was again reminded of how diverse our citizen peers truly are. Beautiful people of all shapes, shades, sizes and political persuasion. Admittedly, my peer group was from voter registration rolls and are made of those who are old enough and take their obligations as a citizen seriously enough to vote, receive their mailed summons and show up for jury duty dressed suitably for court. Try as they might, the jury room staff had a tough time with the pronunciation of my Asian-Georgian, Middle-Eastern-Georgian, and Hispanic-Georgian brethren – often generating some good-natured chuckles and almost always requiring the spelling of the names that were called to have them recognized and answered.

I struck up a conversation with a woman from North Fulton during the time between announcements. Roughly half of Fulton County is “outside the perimeter” in a land similar to Cobb County, which generates high ratings for talk radio, Republicans and handgun sales. We immediately found our common ground: we both had been summoned to jury duty (OK, and both middle-aged and a few pounds past our prime).

I baited her about the current governor’s race, and she offered, “Georgia needs someone who could get something done – not like that Roy Barnes.”

I asked her what she thought those important things were. She responded, “like standing up for states’ rights.”

After suggesting that I didn’t trust the important issues with anyone at the state level, but preferred to count on the US Senate to not do anything, I asked her how “states’ rights” was going to do anything about the $2-3+ billion projected short fall in Georgia for the next two years and if she thought any of the candidates could do something about it, she said, “we need just need someone who’ll cut some of the spending.”

I asked, “like cut teachers, police and the like?”

She said, “No, but we need someone strong enough to get spending under control – certainly not Roy Barnes.”

I asked, “How does getting things under control do anything about deficit or keeping our teachers and police on the job, and since, Roy Barnes is Democrat and the Georgia House and Senate are solidly Republican, wouldn’t that actually be a good thing since he couldn’t get anything done anyway?”

Before she could answer the juror announcements began again. “I am going to call some of you to report to courtroom 2B. When you hear your name, let me know you are here and come up and get your number. Then go down to the first floor, but wait in the hallway and do not go into the courtroom. It-sas-so, It-sa-zo, Are-o-yo, Ar-o-ho, Lopez? I, L, E, A, N…”

At which point, a shy and blushing woman who appeared to be of Hispanic descent, rose and walked to the front. I turned to my North Fulton friend, saw her smiling proudly in support of another American, a Georgian, who was being called to serve. We don’t have an immigrant problem – not in Fulton or North Fulton – we have some laws that need to be changed so that those immigrants here illegally, can become citizens and join us for jury duty.

The Big Game

Political-Football

As we approach the college football rival week late this month, it is time to begin an even heavier use of sports metaphor to describe the game of political football. Two great rivals. 77th meeting*. Home field advantage: Democrats.

With only a few months left in the second quarter of this Congressional session, the Republican defense has kept health care reform, Wall Street regulation, don’t ask-don’t tell and the energy bills out of the end zone. While the gallant defensive effort has not put not Republican points on the scoreboard, their fans have cheered wildly, drowning out any sounds of the Democrat faithful.

Since their stunning early financial stimulus touchdown, the Dems have largely relied on misdirection and fakes to their star issues to fool the gang-tackling Republicans and grind out enough yardage to kick easy field goals on stem cell research; banning torture; passing the largest ever middle-class tax cut; putting Sonia Sotomayer on the Supreme Court; expanding SCHIP to 4 million children; making the morning-after available to 17-year olds; cutting drug costs to seniors by $80 billion; securing EPA authority to limit climate warming pollution; fast-tracking a CAFE standards increase; expanding college loan access and grants paid for by killing private lender subsidies; implementing grants for state merit pay for teachers; releasing Bush torture records; implementing executive lobby reform; expanding hate crime laws; bailing out Detroit; making it easier for women to sue for equal pay; mobilizing the greatest response in history to the H1N1 pandemic; passing tobacco regulation; expanding wilderness protection; and killing major and unneeded military appropriation programs.

Current score: Democrats: 67, Republicans: 0.

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*Based on sessions of Congress. First Republican elected to 34th Congress (1855-1856). Sincerely hope my math holds up under inspection.

Reading the fine print

Health Care OverhaulThe Baucus Bill (aka: what’s left of Obamacare-Hillarycare-Nixoncare-Roseveltcare (aka: Insurance-Lobby-Care-Less)) doesn’t go into effect until after (yes, AFTER) the next presidential election. November 2013? Right. Over 3 years from now. That’s the one, sorta. The non-health insurance “subsidies” in the bill (the health insurance companies will receive most of their subsidies earlier) Democrat-designed to make the mandate requiring we all have health insurance “affordable” (if you consider 20% of your income affordable) for those who are near or below the poverty line are tax credits. Hmmm. The benefit of Baucus health reform tax credits will arrive sometime around or after April 15th, 2015 – if you make enough. Long enough. This is what’s in the fine print.

Polling the choir

1pcbadges

Two new polls out find that people who still answer land-line phones and are willing to talk to pollsters are more likely to be confused by “Pro-Life” and “Pro-Choice” labels than in previous surveys – or is it the other way around? Hard to tell.

The news, of course, is that Gallup has announced a dramatic shift in how people label themselves on the abortion issue. A year ago, 50% chose “Pro-Choice” with 44% choosing “Pro-Life.” Gallup’s new survey shows those figures have flopped and now only 44% now choose “Pro-Choice” with “Pro-Life” coming in at 51%. A dramatic 7% increase for “Pro-Life” in one year. Something significant must have occurred this year. I wonder what it was?

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People choosing the label, “Republican” who also chose the label, “Pro-Life” increased from 60% to 70%. There was basically no change with “Democrats” coming in at 61% “Pro-Choice.” It seems safe to assume that the branding war conducted by axis of virtue (the church, Limbaugh and Fox), at least with Republicans, has tipped to the “Pro-Life” label. Or, has it?

Admittedly, “Life” trumps “Choice” on the importance list for almost everyone not specifically talking about a woman’s right to choose. As trick questions go, this has always been one. Let’s face it, most Americans couldn’t name their governor or find Washington, DC on a map (though, most could name the American Idol finalists), so it may just be that they guessed right (as in, far right).

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Perhaps we need to look at another survey. Gallup says those choosing to label themselves as “Republican” is down. Their most recent survey showed 27% of the people that agreed to answer their call, labeled themselves “Republican,” compared to 36% who labeled themselves “Democrat” – there is an even greater spread when Gallup included those leaning Republican or Democrat. No, that doesn’t explain it. Assuming, and maybe I shouldn’t, that Gallup reached a representative sample of “Republican” and “Democrat,” and the “Independents” split, the survey should have been overwhelming “Pro-Choice.” What other explanation could explain the results?

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Oh. I know. I know. I think, I know. Teacher call on me… Gallup calls are a sample of adults weighted by demographics (gender, age and race to match the accuracy of the US Census), but not party affiliation. The pollsters called about 15,000 homes with land-line telephones to get 1,015 to agree to the interviews, of which, they used 971. Federal law forbids pollsters from using computers to place calls to wireless phones and it is really, really expensive for surveys to have “people” dial to get enough people to agree to talk to a pollster. To Gallup’s credit, they also called a “supplemental sample” of cell-phone-only households which Gallup says is based on up to 15% of the population. Problem is, the number of households who don’t use land-lines is over 35% (according to the CDC survey). The CDC survey also found that those who do still use land-lines are older, dumber, whiter, richer, and, apparently, Republicans.

Whew. For a news cycle (AKA: a moment), I thought something significant had occurred.

From the  Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey:

  • 20% of US homes (21.3% in the South) no longer have land-lines. For people living together, but not married, the figure is 61%. For people living alone, it’s 28%. For renters, it’s 40%. For people under 30, it is 40%. And nearly 55% for people who are near or below the poverty line.
  • Add another 15% have both land-lines and cell phones, but take few or no calls on their land-lines, often because they are wired into computers – combined with wireless only homes, that means that over 35 percent of households – more than one in three – are basically reachable only on cell phones.
  • Add to that all the homes that have given up phones due to the economy since the survey was completed (December 2008).
  • The survey also reported that those still reachable by pollsters are 37% more likely to binge drink, less likely to have college degrees, more likely to live in rural areas, and much more likely to be non-Hispanic whites.

My Favorite Republican is now a Dem

arlen_221x300Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania announced today that he was switching parties and will become the newest Senate Democrat. Essentially stating that the Democrats have now moved far enough right to make him more comfortable on their side of the aisle (click here to read what he really said). With the polls closed in Minnesota and only a few more months of the marathon court version of the Last Comic Standing, Al Franken is likely to give the Dems the 60 votes needed for a filibuster-proof majority. No real celebration, of course, as that count includes Joe Lieberman.

The truth behind the spin for Specter’s switch is the more than competitive primary challenge by conservative, Pat Toomey and the Republican payback for his vote with the Maine Senators Collins and Snowe to pass the Democrats’ stimulus bill.

In case you missed my February 18th blog, I’ll repeat it here:

My Favorite Republican.

Not for what his career (can’t really forgive him for that), but for what he did last week. Cancer survivor Arlen Specter (rhymes with Lector) of Pennsylvania traded his stimulus vote to the Dems for $10 billion in increased funding to the NIH (which had been starved of funding during recent years) most of which will go toward funding 15,000 additional research grants (34% increase). Specter, who has been publicly threatened by Republicans with a primary challenge for doing so, was unapologetic when he said, “I think it’s scandalous that we haven’t done more to cure cancer.”

Bravo. Way to go Arlen. This is a big deal. Doing something of tremendous importance toward curing the diseases that are truly non-partisan. As a reward, I promise to try and quit pronouncing your name “Sphincter.”

The Audacity of Nope

America with shack face

It’s going to be hard to give up my idealism. Oh, pragmatism, neither hot nor cold, I will spew thee out of my mind (apologies to John and Revelation 3:16).

It has been so long. Was it JFK? LBJ? Or RMN who was the last Dem to hold the office? Matters little. They have taught us for so long to compromise that I might as well accept my fate. After all, the difficulty of reaching out across the aisle is dependent upon on how far you are away. I must find solace in the lyrics of the Stones that “if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.”

Short of the moments with my family, the election of Barack Obama is the greatest moment I’ve heretofore lived. I mean it with all my heart. I love to hear this brilliant man speak and to believe this his glowing face will be the symbol of American for the world. But we don’t want for tributes of this moment, my heart is elsewhere.

At this historic moment when all the planets are aligning (Obama, Democrat majority, the economic crisis, etc.) when it seems that all we need to do is reach out and we could touch the stars, the only reaching we are doing is across the aisle and to pick the pocket of our children to reward the hard work of thousands of lobbyists. At perhaps the only moment in our lifetimes when a blank check could be written and honored, we are choosing to use it to buy more roads, bailout banks, while only throwing a few coins in the can of the unemployed, the underemployed, the frightened, the homeless and the soon to be desperate. At a time when we could paint a new brilliant new landscape of dawn in America, we are choosing instead to touch up the shack face our hungover society is waking with after sleeping with Bush. Please don’t look in the mirror.