Thursday, October 18, 2007

The House of Representatives is brimming with bipartisan pride this week...

[A bit of a rant ahead...]

...with their consideration and passage, usually by voice vote or overwhelming majority, of a number of bills.

A closer examination of the record, however, shows that only the Republicans in the House have anything of which to be proud, dubious though that pride may be.

Let's see...

Monday was spent debating non-controversial facility-naming, memorial, and "we hate XYZ disease" bills.

Tuesday was filled with more of the same, with the additional consideration and passage of the high-sounding "Free Flow of Information Act" and a motion complaining about the "withholding of information relating to corruption in Iraq."

Wednesday was devoted to another memorial and to consideration and passage of the Federal Railroad Safety Improvement Act and the RESTORE Act (aka - FISA update bill).

Today, Thursday, a vote to override the President's veto of the SCHIP renewal bill was on the agenda.

So why are the Republicans proud of their week's work?

...The "disease" bills have no actual appropriations attached to them; they can take credit for the passage of the bills (mostly by voice vote) without having to pay for it. Wouldn't want anything to divert funds from the President's war in Iraq.

...The "Free Flow Of Information Act" is all but toothless (government or commercial attorneys can pierce the shield almost at will), and the 'sense of Congress' motion concerning information about corruption in Iraq *is* utterly powerless.

Both bills were passed by overwhelming margins; the Republicans will use the votes to claim that they support Constitutional protections of the freedom of the press and are against corruption in Iraq.

What they won't say is that they tried to kill both bills by strongly opposing the Rules resolutions that permitted and controlled debate on the bills and by supporting motions to recommit the bills.

The divisions on those efforts fell almost perfectly along party lines.

...The railroad safety act *was* a non-partisan bill, and though it too passed by a large margin, was similarly opposed by the Republicans fighting the Rules resolution and with a motion to recommit.

...As for the RESTORE Act, with its increased oversight of the President and his administration?

It was simply pulled from the floor, beaten back without even a vote.

...And today's coup-de-grace? The House, *led* by 154 Republicans, upheld the President's veto of SCHIP.

The truly sad part of all of this? The fact that the SCHIP veto override debate vote was the *cleanest* of the week - Congress passed a good bill, Bush vetoed it, and more than 75% of the Republican caucus joined together to protect that veto.

The bottom line is that is something the Democrats can take some pride in. They did their jobs. They fought for the best interests of their base, their constituents and constituents' children, and crafted a reasonable and effective bill. Bush and the Republicans fought for their base, corporate interests.

While the Republicans may spend the weekend crowing about their victory in this particular political battle, in the long run, it only contributes to the further electoral marginalization of the Republican Party.

Unfortunately, the SCHIP loss is the *only* thing that the Democrats in Congress can be even the slightest bit proud of this week.

Everything that did pass was either meaningless pap or watered-down to the point that it might just as well be meaningless pap.

Last night (10/17), on the "Live with Dan Abrams" show on MSNBC, there was another "Phoenix freezes over" moment that ties in with this.

Pat Buchanan, of all people, said something that was accurate and insightful.

From the transcript linked above (emphasis mine) -
No, what the president is saying he says the Congress agree with you, it‘s hyperbole but the Congress has acquiesced in the Bush policy. Resistance has been broken.

He was speaking about the war in Iraq and the efforts of Democrats in Congress to rein in or end that war, but his statement is true in many areas other than the conduct of the war.

In all practical terms, the majority of Democrats in Congress have surrendered to the Bushies.

Congressional leaders, when wondering why their job approval poll ratings are so low, should consider that when they were given control of Congress in the 2006 elections, it was to change things for the better in a very broken D.C.

Not to be "Republicans-lite" and appease or even actively collaborate with the Bushies (no, I haven't forgotten the 41 Democrats, mostly Blue Dogs, who sided with the President during the August FISA vote.)

In the end, the most disappointing thing about this Congress isn't the fact that they haven't succeeded in ending the war or in reining in Bush; it's that for the most part, they aren't even seriously trying to do so.

End rant.