Good afternoon, Daily Kos readers. This is your afternoon open thread to discuss all things Hill-related. Use this thread to praise or bash Congresscritters, share a juicy tip, ask questions, offer critiques and suggestions, or post your manifestos.
On a programming note, this entry is going to be a bit thin and probably rather bitter. The Federal Government is closed for the second day in a row, costing $100 million in lost productivity. Tomorrow's not looking very good, either. Now I'm from Pennsylvania but this is getting ridiculous. And it really isn't helping that a quarter of the district's snowplows are out of order.
Anyway, all the news that's blah, blah, blah...
If there is one silver lining to Snowpocalypse2010, it's that Congress won't be in session.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday signaled he could appoint nominees to key federal posts while Congress is on break next week.
At a rare appearance during Tuesday's press briefing, Obama criticized the upper chamber for hanging up a number of those appointees so far -- a moot manuever, he added, seeing as the chamber often grants "overwhelming support" to those candidates when their final confirmation votes arrive.
Ultimately, the president's remark was an indirect reproach of Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who imposed a blanket hold on all of those nominations last week.
Okay, the current situation is not really a recess and this probably won't happen this week. However, the break for President's Day is a recess. Keep in mind, though, that a recess appointment is not the best option and the job security sucks:
The key downside of these appointments -- irrespective of political comity -- is that those installed by the president can only serve a year or two (it depends on the post) without congressional confirmation.
And the author of this article speculates that this strategy might not be Constitutional:
Article II, Sec. 2, of the Constitution says, "The President shall have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting Commissions which shall expire at the End of their next Session." Note that it says, "the recess," not "a recess."
In the early days of the country, framers saw recesses that could last months and wanted presidents to be able to fill key positions temporarily in emergency situations without the Senate's "advice and consent." There's a lengthy break following the final adjournment for the legislative session. This is "the recess." The provision was not about giving presidents the authority to circumvent Congress when the White House felt like it.
Of course the author even admits that this is not the current understanding of the term "recess," though we should take the long view on this.
It also turns out that Shelby lifted his holds on 70 nominees last night, but will probably still filibuster.
C-Span has the full video of the President's press conference today.
As a sidebar, Ben Nelson is continuing to make us wonder why he has a "D" after his name:
Late yesterday, Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE) announced that he would not vote for cloture on the nomination of former AFL-CIO and SEIU attorney Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), effectively joining a Republican filibuster. Republicans have been using Becker’s nomination as a proxy battle over the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA) — which would level the playing field for workers who want to form a union.
Rest in Peace
Congressman John Murtha died yesterday from complications of gall bladder surgery. A Democrat from Pennsylvania and the chair of the House Subcommittee on Military Appropriations, The Washington Post decided to remember him as a master of pork.
Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.), a Vietnam War veteran who staunchly supported military spending and became a master of pork-barrel politics, died Monday at Virginia Hospital Center. The 19-term lawmaker died from complications of gallbladder surgery. He was 77.
Elected to Congress in 1974 from a southwestern Pennsylvania district that has been economically devastated by the decline of the nation's coal-mining and steel industries, the gruff and jowly Murtha was beloved by his constituents for tapping billions of dollars in federal money to seed new industries there.
Critics dubbed Murtha, the chairman of the powerful subcommittee that controls Pentagon spending, the "King of Pork" for the volume of taxpayer money he could direct to the area around his home town of Johnstown. Most of the largess came in defense and military research contracts he steered to companies based in his district or with small offices there.
Thank you for your service, sir.
My next thought is for the economy of the region. I wonder if some of those small offices will close and the other companies relocate. That would be pretty cold and a slap in the face, but I predict that some will move on to greener pastures.
We also have to look at who will replace Rep. Murtha. Governor Ed Rendell is looking at holding the election on the already scheduled primary election day of May 18. This is a rather conservative district, but there is still hope for a Democrat. Here's the District 12 map. Obama did not win that region. However, this map (that your's truly made) shows that Senator Bob Casey Jr. did just fine there. So there is hope.
Health Insurance Reform
These two stories appeared in the Washington Post today and are presented without further comment.
Americans spread the blame when it comes to the lack of cooperation in Washington, and, in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, most want the two sides to keep working to pass comprehensive health-care reform.
Nearly six in 10 in the new poll say the Republicans aren't doing enough to forge compromise with President Obama on important issues; more than four in 10 see Obama as doing too little to get GOP support. Among independents, 56 percent see the Republicans in Congress as too unbending and 50 percent say so of the president; 28 percent of independents say both sides are doing too little to find agreement.
Leading House Republicans raised the prospect Monday night that they might refuse to participate in President Obama's proposed health care summit if the White House chooses not to scrap the existing reform bills and start over.
The Shadow Budget
Right around the time that President Obama met with Republicans in Baltimore, Rep. Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and ranking member of the Budget Committee, offered a budget proposal that really does not have the blessing of the GOP leadership. Ryan seems willing to lick the third rail of politics while standing in a bucket of water with this budget would slash Social Security and Medicare.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, however, thinks it would be a grand idea to debate it and I don't disagree.
Democrats aren't letting Republicans run away from the GOP shadow budget--a Social Security and Medicare slashing bill sponsored by their top budget guy, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). But they don't want the issue to disappear from view--in fact, they want it to be a defining issue of the 2010 election. And as such are trying to frame it just right--elevating Ryan and his proposal to magnify the differences between Democrats and Republicans.
"We definitely view this as a real gift as far as allowing us to finally have a real debate with Republicans on the issues," a Democratic leadership aid told me today. "I think the president when he did his q and a with the Republicans, exposed them and their ideas and it's been something that--it has been difficult for us to do over the last year because we've been so busy passsing legislation, we haven't been able to engage Repubs on their ideas and where they'd take the country."
Let's move past the death panels nonsense. Democratic proposals won't kill grandma. Cutting her Social Security and Medicare will.
Mocking Global Warming and Sarah Palin
We have a bipartisan mockfest in the Most Important News of the Day™ today.
Jim Inhofe used his grandkids to build an igloo on the National Mall yesterday, calling it Al Gore's new home.
Now, after hundreds of thousands of people lost power, several people have been killed, and states of emergency declared in West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware, Sen. Jim Inhofe’s (R-OK) family has joined in the mockery, building an igloo on the National Mall and calling it “Al Gore’s New Home“
Because the fact that DC has a lot of snow is the final proof that global warming/climate change is not real and as a result there is no point in reducing dangerous greenhouse gases. Also, it's okay to use kids to make a political point.
Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs made fun of Sarah Palin's cheat notes on her hand.
It looks like I'm snowed in again. Have at it.