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 manifesto. We'll be checking in all weekend.
On a programing note, we are looking to add a volunteer or two to take the load off of us as we do this project. There are no particular requirements other than posting some important Congress-related news.
This is an open source project, so feel free to add your own insights. Here's the news I found lurking around the Internets...
Barney Frank Rebuke You
Someone must have been reading kos' hate mail. All of the media outlets seem to be using the term "rebuke" in their headlines on this story. This is from the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — A leading House member issued a stern rebuke on Thursday of a former aide who had become an industry lobbyist after working on legislation to overhaul the nation’s financial regulations.
In January, a few weeks after the House passed the sweeping measure, the aide, Peter S. Roberson, left to work for the world’s top clearinghouse for over-the-counter derivatives.
The clearinghouse and others like it stand to gain billions of dollars in new business as a result of the legislation.
And this is the interesting part:
He (Frank) ordered his staff to have "no contact whatsoever with Mr. Roberson on any matters involving financial regulation" for as long as Mr. Frank was chairman.
In Washington, this is known as the "revolving door" problem. Hill staffers and bureaucrats will often take jobs with lobbying outfits. Three things to keep in mind: 1) lobbying pays a lot better than the government 2) the cost of living is pretty steep and 3) access is everything. So lobby shops will welcome former government employees and the Rolodexes that come with them.
Lobbying rules address the revolving door to a degree. House rules state that former House staffers have to go through a one year "cooling off period" before they can lobby on issues that they worked on in Congress or members and/or committees they worked for. The upshot is that Rep. Frank's directive to his staffers is exactly what he should say, though he is going further than House rules cover by forbidding staffers to talk to the lobbyist for as long as Rep. Frank is chairman, which could be a while.
Bloomberg News offers a bit more background on InternationalExchange, the company that hired Roberson.
March 29 (Bloomberg) -- House Financial Services Committee adviser Peter Roberson, whose job was to deal with banks and exchanges on behalf of Representative Barney Frank as new swaps legislation was crafted last year, has gone to work for Intercontinental Exchange Inc. as a lobbyist.
Intercontinental hasn’t previously hired lobbyists to work directly for the company. The exchange paid $410,000 to outside lobbyists last year and $520,000 in 2008 to firms such as Downey McGrath Group Inc., Patton Boggs LLP and Eisgrau Business Alliances PLLC, according to House and Senate lobbying databases.
"Anytime someone taps the revolving door, they’re paying a premium and as a business they’re doing so with a strategic purpose," said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Center for Responsive Politics in Washington. "To me it signals they’re paying to achieve a short cut to achieve their legislative agenda."
Bloomberg also points out that Roberson will at least double, if not quadruple his already generous salary. Still, he is in the poor house compared to some other heavy hitters in the lobbying business. The Washington Post notes that the best paid lobbyist in DC pulled down $4.3 million in 2008.
For what it's worth, The Center for Responsive Politics has the lobbying reports for InternationalExchange (all one word) posted here.
The Democrats are taking credit for the latest jobs report that shows the country actually added a few jobs last month.
Democrats sought to capitalize Friday on news that the economy added 162,000 jobs in March.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and President Barack Obama both hailed the $787 billion stimulus measure for spurring the creation of new jobs, the most the economy has seen in one month in three years.
"News that American job losses of nearly 800,000 a month under President Bush are now turning to job gains of 162,000 last month — most jobs added in one month in the past three years — is evidence that U.S. businesses are gaining confidence," Pelosi added.
It's not much in the grand scheme of things and this is the time of year when businesses start hiring anyway. Still, if the economy can sustain and add to these gains, we might be able to reduce that unemployment rate that is hovering just below ten percent.
The Republicans, who never met a tax cut or stimulus program they didn't like when they were in power, are saying the job growth had nothing to do with the stimulus bill.
The top House Republican criticized Democrats for taking a "victory lap" after the economy added more than 160,000 jobs last month, saying they are "out of touch with the struggles of working families and small businesses."
House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio said he’s encouraged about the jobs gains but said the 9.7 percent unemployment rate still shows the Obama economic agenda is falling short.
"Our economy will ultimately recover, but it will do so because of the hard work and entrepreneurship of the American people, not more wasteful Washington spending," Boehner said in a statement.
Because the Bush tax cuts worked so well.
I'm just throwing this out there because I haven't touched on it yet in this series.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Friday that if Republicans gain seats in Congress this fall, opponents of the new health-reform law might be able to repeal parts of it even if the GOP lacks a majority.
But he acknowledged there is "probably not" a chance of repealing the full measure while President Barack Obama is in office.
Speaking to a Louisville audience, McConnell said he is hopeful for GOP gains in the fall election, based partly on recent poll results.
Going back to high school civics, we learn that it takes a two-thirds majority of both houses to override a Presidential veto. Even if the Republicans win every Senate race in November -- and that won't happen under any but the worst circumstances -- the GOP still won't have the votes in the Senate in 2011. They would either have to pick up more seats or the White House in 2012 to do that and by that time, we will have a better grasp on how well the reforms are working and what needs fixed.
Still, that is not really a reason to celebrate since the Easter recess means more of the infamous Town Halls.
Some politically vulnerable Democrats are getting an earful from constituents about their yes votes on healthcare reform.
The criticism from constituents is not as fervent as the feedback members of Congress received at last summer's town halls. But some voters have let legislators know they were not pleased with the passage of healthcare reform.
Rep. Paul Kanjorski (D-Pa.), a GOP target who was a late yes vote, got involved in a heated exchange with one attendee at a recent event at a seniors center in Scranton that was caught on camera by a local television news crew. Kanjorski said, "Don’t let people scare you or stampede you into thinking that either your government did something horrendously wrong or that the system’s going to fail — because it’s not," he told WNEP-TV.
Unfortunately, it looks like the Democrats might lose some seats in 2010 anyway because the Republicans have convinced their base that this policy spends too much (it is actually projected to shrink deficits), sets up death panels (I'm looking for a job on one LOLs), and is a government takeover of health care (which it isn't unfortunately).
Remember Ross Perot? How about Dan Quayle?
Speaking of elections and dumbasses, Dan Quayle wrote an Op-Ed in the Washington Post. Here's what Captain Dipshit had to say:
Like many influential causes before it, the "tea party" movement appeared on the scene uninvited by the political establishment. Democrats in the White House and in Congress recognize it for what it is -- a spontaneous and pointed response to the Obama agenda -- but some Republican leaders still aren't sure what to make of it, as tea partiers have risen on their own and stirred up trouble in GOP primaries.
Sometimes in politics it's easier to recognize foes than friends, and this may be why Democrats have been quicker to figure out the movement's potential. They know that in November's midterm elections, Republicans will gain mightily from a growing discontent with the administration, which has disappointed the independent voters who made the difference for Barack Obama in 2008.
A close look at the tea party membership will find many of those independents who went for Obama but now regret it.
Never mind that Rachel Maddow has established that whether the actual tea partiers know it or not, their "grassroots" movement is pretty well funded, thank you very much.
I will give Quayle credit for one thing. He didn't misspell "potato."
And one other Tea Party note: Dede Scozzafava is writing her memoir of the special election in NY-23.
And this guy will probably get reelected
When most politicians get in trouble and are obviously guilty, they resign to "spend more time with the family." Not John Ensign of Nevada. Investigators are uncovering more damaging facts about his business dealings and bedroom trysts.
WASHINGTON — Senator John Ensign sought financial backing for a troubled Nevada energy company in 2008, and at the same time he urged the company to hire his mistress’s husband, according to people involved in the matter.
At the request of the company, P2SA Equity, Mr. Ensign had two senior aides contact one of the nation’s largest oil pipeline businesses, Kinder Morgan, about forming a partnership, two executives associated with the project said.
Mr. Ensign’s dealings with P2SA are at the center of a federal criminal inquiry into his efforts to line up lobbying work for Doug Hampton, a former top aide whose wife had an affair with the senator.
Ensign is up for reelection in 2012.
Will the real Blanche Lincoln please stand up
The Nation has an interesting piece about Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. Throughout the health care debate, the Democrats had no idea where she stood. Perhaps that's because she had no idea where she stood.
Describing Arkansas Democrat Blanche Lincoln's position on healthcare reform as a flip-flop doesn't do justice to her political flexibility. During a year of contentious debate on President Obama's signature domestic priority, she's been all over the map.
In July 2009, she offered her support for Obama's healthcare plan and his inclusion of a public insurance option. "Individuals should be able to choose from a range of quality health insurance plans," she wrote in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. "Options should include private plans as well as a quality, affordable public plan or non-profit plan that can accomplish the same goals as those of a public plan."
Yet two months later, after the public option came under fire from insurance companies and Tea Partiers, Lincoln changed her tune. "I would not support a solely government-funded public option," she said on September 1 in Little Rock. "We can't afford that." She vowed to filibuster any healthcare bill that included the public option she once supported, even though 56 percent of Arkansans backed the provision.
And this is one of the many reasons the Netroots are getting behind Bill Halter's primary campaign.
Good Friday's Most Important News of the Day™ comes from a post that a friend had on her Facebook page. This is not the usual snark or ridiculous Onion-like piece. This is an example of what happens when ideology trumps professionalism.
MOUNT DORA — A doctor who considers the national health-care overhaul to be bad medicine for the country posted a sign on his office door telling patients who voted for President Barack Obama to seek care "elsewhere."
"I'm not turning anybody away — that would be unethical," Dr. Jack Cassell, 56, a Mount Dora urologist and a registered Republican opposed to the health plan, told the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday. "But if they read the sign and turn the other way, so be it."
The sign reads: "If you voted for Obama ... seek urologic care elsewhere. Changes to your healthcare begin right now, not in four years."
His Congressman appears to be Alan Grayson. Read to the end of the story to read Rep. Grayson's reaction.
On that note, I wish you a good weekend.