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.
Here in the District, it's snowing. Really effing hard. Again. The city is shut down and Congress is out of session. Want to see how bad it is? Click here. The government has ground to a halt and snow in DC "proves" there is no global warming. Somewhere a teabagger is experiencing the ultimate in human pleasure.
Anyway, here's a few items floating around the Internet news machine today.
Committee Chair Realignment
Following the passing of House Subcommittee on Defense Appropriations Chair John Murtha of Pennsylvania, there will be two new subcommittee chairs.
Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) will likely take the helm of the House appropriations subcommittee that controls Interior Department and EPA spending.
He would replace Rep. Norm Dicks (D-Wash.), who’s poised to assume chairmanship of the defense spending subcommittee in the wake of Rep. John Murtha’s (D-Pa.) death.
This is important for several reasons. Dicks is moving to the Defense chair from Interior and Environment. Dicks represents Washington's 6th District in the state's northwestern corner. Just across Puget Sound is the headquarters of Boeing. Dicks was one of the members of Congress who got caught up in the PMA scandal, which also created political headaches for Murtha and Moran. They were all cleared by the Office of Congressional Ethics.
The Office of Congressional Ethics has ended its investigation into the relationship between Rep. Norm Dicks and an influential defense lobbying firm and recommended no further action, the Washington state Democrat said Friday.
The investigation focused on whether the congressmen had accepted campaign contributions from PMA’s political action committee, clients and employees in exchange for earmarks in congressional spending bills or other official actions. The lobbying firm, which has closed, is reportedly under investigation by the Justice Department for possible criminal violations.
PMA was a lobbying organization representing the defense industry. The President's FY 2010 defense budget totals $663.8 billion, which is more than half of all discretionary federal spending.
Dicks assures us that it is all okay since House rules demand greater transparency:
In an interview Monday, Dicks vigorously defended earmarks, saying the process has become more transparent and accountable. For instance, members of Congress are instructed to disclose earmarks they request. But large numbers still go unreported through semantics sleight of hand and other loopholes.
In addition, Dicks said, any federal agency is supposed to have veto power over earmarks directed for its benefit — such as when a company receives a contract to supply unwanted equipment to the Pentagon. By definition, earmarks are spending that an agency has not requested.
Moran, for his part, is taking over a panel that controls spending on federal lands. It is a bit odd that an Easterner chairs the subcommittee that controls spending for land that is almost entirely in the West. There is a more important point, though. The Interior Department's Minerals Management Service oversees offshore drilling. Moran has consistently opposed plans for drilling off the Virginia coast and the appropriations bill has historically been the vehicle for renewing offshore drilling bans.
This could be an interesting local fight between Chairman Moran and Governor Bob McDonnell. This story is from April, 2009:
Under a Bob McDonnell adminstration, Virginia would be the first state on the eastern seaboard to drill for oil and natural gas 50 miles off the coast, when the feds allow it starting in 2011.
Charlie Wilson has died.
Former Rep. Charlie Wilson, a longtime congressman from eastern Texas and the inspiration for a film about a U.S. covert operation in Afghanistan during the 1980s, died Wednesday at the age of 76, according to local media reports.
Rep. Wilson was known as a heavy drinker and womanizer. He was also a strong supporter of the Mujahedeen rebels who battled the Soviets in Afghanistan. Wilson was also a member of the House Committee on Defense Appropriations and was able to use that position to steer weapons and money to the Mujahedeen. That support, notably stinger missiles that took down helicopters, is a major reason why the Soviets were forced out. It also created the power void that allowed the Taliban to take over.
All of these incidents were detailed in the film Charlie Wilson's War, which I highly recommend.
DeMint Tweets; Kerry e-mails; the polar bears weep
Let's start here:
RT @JimDeMint It's going to keep snowing in DC until Al Gore cries "uncle"
12:46 PM Feb 9th from web
As I noted in the introduction, it's freaking cold and snowy in DC (and Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York). Therefore, we have no business discussing Global Warming. Well, as the US Global Change Research Program points out:
Continued warming is projected, with the greatest temperature increases in summer. The number of very hot days is projected to rise at a faster rate than average temperatures. Average annual temperatures are projected to rise 4.5°F under a lower emissions scenario and 9°F under a higher emissions scenario with a 10.5°F increase in summer and a much higher heat index.
Quality of life will be affected by increasing heat stress, water scarcity, severe weather events, and reduced availability of insurance for at-risk properties.
It's winter, geniuses.
As several commenters have pointed out, weather does not equal climate.
The good news, though, is that John Kerry says Climate Change legislation is not dead:
Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) says those who think climate change legislation is dead for the year are “dead wrong.”
Those who think blizzards and record snow falls in Washington will make it tough to move a global warming bill are guilty of "inside the beltway" thinking, Kerry said.
"The inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom that this issue has stalled is dead wrong," Kerry said in a statement e-mailed to The Hill. "This is not and never has been a partisan issue, and Senators Graham, Lieberman, and I will continue building consensus on both sides of the aisle with all those willing to engage to create jobs, advance our security interests, reduce pollution, and make America more competitive,” said Kerry, a key advocate of a climate change legislation.
No actual movement on the bill, of course, since no one is actually home at the Capitol, but here are a few more bits of interesting climate change links...
Media Matters: Politico serves up some Al Gore/global warming Drudge bait
Center for American Progress: Progress from the Copenhagen Accord
"The Constitution v. The Catch XXII"
Senator Tom Udall of New Mexico has only been in the Senate for a year, but he is already so irritated with the filibuster, which the minority party has used to force a sixty vote threshold on almost everything, is calling for a Constitutional solution to effectively end the filibuster.
His resolution (.pdf link) would:
Resolved, That upon the expiration of the Standing Rules of the Senate at the Sine Die Adjournment of the 111th Congress, the Senate shall proceed in accordance with article I, section 5 of the Constitution to determine the Rules of its Proceedings by a simple majority vote.
That would not eliminate the filibuster, but it would force each new Senate to reauthorize its use every year by a simple majority. Not perfect, but it's a start and is doable.
Virginia House of Delegates: First Line of Defense Against the Antichrist
The Most Important News of the Day™ was going to tell you all about how Scott Brown, whose Senate tenure extends back a full week, is going to write his memoirs...
...but then the Virginia House of Delegates went and came up with something even better:
Del. Mark L. Cole (R-Fredericksburg), the bill's sponsor, said that privacy issues are the chief concern behind his attempt to criminalize the involuntary implantation of microchips. But he also said he shared concerns that the devices could someday be used as the "mark of the beast" described in the Book of Revelation.
"My understanding -- I'm not a theologian -- but there's a prophecy in the Bible that says you'll have to receive a mark, or you can neither buy nor sell things in end times," Cole said. "Some people think these computer chips might be that mark."
To the Democrats in Fredericksburg, I think you know what to do.