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 manifestos.
Happy St. Patrick's Day. Grab a bottle of Jameson's and a draught of Guinness. I think you're going to need it.
This is an open source project, so feel free to add your own insights. Here's the news I found lurking around the Internets...
Jobs Bill passes
Let's step into the way back machine and recall when Jim Bunning pulled off a one-man filibuster on the jobs bill. Technically, he objected to the unanimous consent agreement to bring the bill to a vote. Remember that? It was the ultimate example of majority does not rule. It made us long for the heady days when the Senate only required 60 votes for passage.
Well, good news, everyone:
The Senate cleared an $18 billion jobs bill for President Obama's signature Wednesday, a down payment on what Democrats hope will be a significant election-year investment in boosting the economy.
The measure passed 68-29, with 11 Republicans joining all but one Democrat present -- Sen. Ben Nelson (Neb.) -- in support. The bill had already passed the Senate once but the House tweaked it, requiring the second Senate vote before it could go to the White House. President Obama has praised the legislation in the past and plans to sign it.
Raise your hand if you are shocked at the only Democratic defection.
Dennis Kucinich is a "yes"
Speaking of one person gumming up the works, Rep. Dennis Kucinich held a press conference today to announce that he will vote for the health care bill.
Maverick liberal Rep. Dennis Kucinich announced Wednesday he will vote in favor of healthcare reform, handing Democrats a crucial vote.
The Ohio lawmaker and perennial left-wing presidential candidate made the announcement at a Wednesday morning press conference two days after President Barack Obama personally lobbied him during a flight to Ohio on Air Force One to switch his vote.
Kucinich voted no on the 2009 House healthcare bill and has lambasted the Senate’s healthcare bill as worse than the lower chamber's version.
No word on whether he plans to run for president in 2012 in an effort to get .07 percent of the primary vote.
What, you may ask, about the other 434 House members? Not many of them called a full press conference to announce their vote regardless of whether they are opposing it from the left, right, or out of left field. The Hill has a running tally that they update fairly often. They assume no Republican support and have calculated that the Democrats can only lose 37 defections. As of now, they have 36 firm "no" votes, 19 likely "yes" and 50 "undecided." I looked over the firm "no" votes and I can find five possible persuadables (Michael Arcuri, Marion Berry, Jerry Costello, Harry Teague, and Luis Gutierrez if the immigration language is changed) and two others (Chris Carney and Joe Donnelly) who could become "yes" votes if we can convince them that abortion is plenty restricted under this bill.
More health care tidbits
Several key House votes hinge on what exactly the health care bill will do to the deficit in the next two decades. Several of the 50 "undecideds" will likely vote "no" if the bill will not significantly reduce the deficit.
And we are still waiting for the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to score the bill, but Joe Barton took to Facebook to tell us that the score came in over $1 trillion. Of course, there is no context about what that would actually do to the budget. Anyway...
Congressional Democrats rushing to push President Obama's health-care initiative to final passage this week hit a new snag Tuesday, as the final piece of the package was held up by concerns that it would do too little to reduce the nation's budget deficit.
While Senior Democrats downplayed the significance of the delay, saying they were still hoping to unveil the package Wednesday and clear the way for a vote as soon as Saturday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) alluded to the latest hurdle for the legislation in an afternoon news conference. She said Democrats were still waiting for congressional budget analysts to determine whether the package -- which contains an array of amendments to the health-care bill aimed at winning over wavering House Democrats -- would meet the party's deficit-reduction goals.
"It is very important to us that this legislation be fiscally sound -- that is, save $100 billion in the first 10 years and $1 trillion in the second 10 years. That is our goal," Pelosi said. "We want to come as close to that as possible. In fact, we insist that we will. . . . The numbers have to add up to drastic deficit reduction as we go forward."
Once the CBO numbers are released, the House Rules Committee will meet to set the rules of the debate. Various news sources have them meeting anytime between this afternoon and Friday. The Rules Committee webpage has not announced a meeting yet.
Meanwhile, the committee's ranking member and former chair David Dreier of California
thinks he's a Senator has vowed to do everything in his power to stop the committee from adopting the "Slaughter Solution" (aka the self-executing rule; aka deem and pass).
Fair warning: this article is from one of those sites that has a problem with the liburl media.
(CNSNews.com) – House Rules Committee Ranking Republican David Dreier (Calif.) said he is committed to doing "everything I possibly can" to prevent Democrats from using House procedural measures to pass a health care bill without actually voting on the bill.
In an exclusive interview with CNSNews.com, Dreier, a past chairman of the House Rules Committee, said he was committed to exposing a legislative tactic he described as "outrageous."
"I am resigned to do everything I possibly can to bring down this rule," Dreier declared. "I’ve been working overtime to do that."
Well all righty then. Just one small problem. If the "Slaughter Solution" is so outrageous, then why would the Republicans have used it so often while Dreier was the chair of that committee?
Republicans have been railing against the proposed move by House Democrats to combine a vote on the Senate version of the health care bill with a vote on a bill to make changes to that bill under budget reconciliation -- a tactic they are calling the "Slaughter Solution," after House Rules Chairman Rep. Louise Slaughter.
But it's worth noting that this "Washington power grab" was used 36 times by House Republicans in 2005 and 2006, when they last controlled Congress, according to the Brookings Institution's Thomas Mann.
"The reauthorization of the Patriot Act, the Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, the Deficit Control Conference Report; all kinds of major measures have been approved through self-executing rules, which means the House votes indirectly rather than separately on these measures," Mann told NPR. He also noted that Democrats used the maneuver 49 times in the following Congress, which they controlled.
But I'm sure that the Brookings Institution is a bunch of far-leftists, therefore their facts don't count. (Actually Brookings is center to center left).
One fact is clear. The health care bill is not law yet. Still, the Republicans are acting fatalistic and are already planning to repeal the bill should they take back Congress in the midterms.
Can Republicans win election this fall by campaigning to repeal the health-care legislation now nearing passage in Congress?
Even as House Democrats search for the votes to send the bill to President Obama, dozens of Republican lawmakers and candidates have signed a pledge to back an effort to repeal the bill, should the GOP take control of either house of Congress after this fall's elections.
Started by the conservative activist group Club for Growth, the "Repeal It" movement first won the backing in January of some of the most conservative Republicans in Congress, such as "tea party" favorite Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). It has since expanded to include some of the party's Senate candidates in liberal-leaning states such as New Hampshire and Illinois.
Well, they can at least prove what we have been saying all along. If they do repeal what progress we have made on this issue, it is clear that the Republican Party cares more about their corporate buddies than in making sure sick people can get the care they need.
Finally, the Miami Herald has an interesting piece about the Rules Committee and Dennis Cardoza's role.
The last time we had a fight over state's rights, 618,000 people died. That is not stopping state legislatures, in both red and blue states, from asserting authority implied by the Tenth Amendment.
Whether it’s correctly called a movement, a backlash or political theater, state declarations of their rights — or in some cases denunciations of federal authority, amounting to the same thing — are on a roll.
Gov. Mike Rounds of South Dakota, a Republican, signed a bill into law on Friday declaring that the federal regulation of firearms is invalid if a weapon is made and used in South Dakota.
And in some cases, according to the Tenth Amendment Center, the politics of states’ rights are veering left. Rhode Island, Vermont and Wisconsin, for example — none of them known as conservative bastions — are considering bills that would authorize, or require, governors to recall or take control of National Guard troops, asserting that federal calls to active duty have exceeded federal authority.
Meanwhile, Virginia Attorney General and all-around homophobe Ken Cuccinelli plans to sue the federal government to make sure that Virginians are not forced to buy health insurance.
The Healthcare Freedom Act awaiting Gov. Bob McDonnell’s signature will put Virginia in a better position to challenge mandatory health care insurance.
Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, who was in Martinsville early Tuesday to discuss work force and economic development, public safety and health care, said the legislation approved in the recent General Assembly session "will give us more basis to challenge" a federal insurance mandate if one is approved.
Federal law usually trumps state statutes, Cuccinelli said.
However, if McDonnell signs the health care act and the federal insurance mandate is approved, "I intend to file suit" to challenge the law’s constitutionality, he said.
Much of the authority for federal regulation, particularly things like gun control and the narcotics laws, comes from the commerce clause. Technically, this gives the federal government broad authority to regulate activities that cross state lines. In the case of South Dakota guns, for example, everything to do with the manufacture of the gun would have to happen in the state. That starts with the mining and smelting of the iron ore to final assembly. Then there is the problem of regulating the bullets. Even then, the state would be on shaky legal ground. The courts have ruled, for example, that there is a chance that marijuana grown, processed and consumed in the same state could cross state lines. Therefore, the feds have the authority to bust someone for intrastate marijuana production and use.
The more broad problem is that the Tenthers by and large only seem to assert states rights on issues they care about. South Dakota might assert their gun rights under the Tenth amendment, but what about the odious federal laws about marijuana prohibitions and the Defense of Marriage Act?
The point is that there is a good legal basis for challenges under the Tenth Amendment, but one should be consistent and fight for all rights, not just the ones you want.
In one final example of how that can cut both ways, Hawai'i is thinking about metaphorically telling the Birthers to go to hell.
HONOLULU -- Birthers beware: Hawaii may start ignoring your repeated requests for proof that President Barack Obama was born here.
As the state continues to receive e-mails seeking Obama's birth certificate, the state House Judiciary Committee heard a bill Tuesday permitting government officials to ignore people who won't give up.
Global Warming Senate procedures
So are you sick to death (pun unabashedly intended) of the endless debates over the procedures to pass health care reform? Once this thing is finally passed and signed, we have a whole new issue for David Waldman to tackle.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday that he wants to move forward on energy and climate legislation but that the procedural pathway for the measure is uncertain.
Reid spoke to reporters after former President Bill Clinton used an appearance at the Senate Democrats’ weekly caucus lunch to argue that such a measure is key to the U.S. economy.
"We know we have to do something with energy. The issue before us is how do we do it," Reid said in the Capitol.
The good news is that David knows what he is talking about. The bad news is that David has to be up an into a C-Span studio at 7:30 on a Sunday morning to get some face time while the founder of Red State gets a cushy job as CNN's new talking head.
This is March 17. Happy St. Patrick's Day from this half-Mick. The one thing that is certain in Washington is that the Irish diplomats will have at least one meeting with the president, mostly because it looks good for the press. Barack O'Bama did indeed take a meeting with the Prime Minister of Ireland today.
From quite naturally, the Boston Globe:
President Obama’s "great-great-great-great-great" Irish grandfather imparted the gift of gab, so he opened the Friends of Ireland luncheon at the Capitol today with the traditional blarney.
"Today is a day we speak with pride of being Irish-American -- whether we actually are or not," Obama said, to laughter. "I am pleased to say that I can actually get away with it, and I’ve got the Taoiseach here to vouch for me."
Obama can trace his Irish lineage through his mother’s family to County Offaly, the same county, coincidentally, that Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen, who was in attendance, was born. Obama learned of his Irish ancestry during the presidential campaign.
And from the Irish Times of Dublin:
US president Barack Obama said today that he and Taoiseach Brian Cowen see signs of economic stabilisation on both sides of the Atlantic but more work is needed for job creation.
Mr Obama spoke to reporters during a meeting in the Oval Office with the Taoiseach to celebrate St Patrick's Day.
"On both sides of the Atlantic we are seeking stabilisation of the economy, but we want more than stabilization," Obama said. "There are a lot of people out there who are still hurting, still out of work."
Be safe out there and remember this toast:
May your glass be ever full,
May the roof over your head be always strong,
And may you be in heaven
Half an hour before the devil knows you're dead.
Or if that isn't political enough for ye, here's how things would have went down if Ireland had joined the invasion of Iraq.