Sunday, January 11, 2009

Arizona's week in Congress

This past Tuesday, the 111th session of the United States Congress began with much of the normal procedural routine that occurs at the beginning of every session. Additionally, there were a few measures that passed that were definite slaps at the outgoing Bush administration.

And all in all, the votes of the AZ delegation broke along strictly partisan lines.

On Tuesday, the House convened and the first order of business was selection of the Speaker. As expected, incumbent Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) easily defeated Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), 255 - 174. (AZ: Democrats Giffords, Grijalva, Kirkpatrick, Mitchell, and Pastor voted for Pelosi; Republicans Flake, Franks, and Shadegg voted for Boehner) After that, the House debated and approved H. Res. 5, its rules for the new session by a vote of 242 - 181 (with Ed Pastor, of all people, crossing over to vote with the Republicans. Otherwise, the AZ delegation followed party lines - Democrats for, Republicans against.

On Wednesday, the House approved two "open government" measures related to Presidental records and Presidential libraries.

H.R. 35, an act that would override a Bush administration executive order that basically allowed former Presidents or their family members to stop the release of any Presidential records that they saw fit. It passed 359 - 58, with all of AZ's Democrats supporting the measure and all of AZ's Republicans opposing it.

H.R. 36, an act to require disclosure of info about contributors to Presidential library organizations. It passed 388 - 31, again with all of the Democrats in the AZ delegation supporting it and all of the Republicans opposing it.

On Thursday, there was a joint session of Congress with no votes cast, but it may have been the most important meeting of the session - it accepted the results of the Electoral College balloting that officially means that Barack Obama will be the next President of the United States.

Whoooo hoooo!!!


Anyway, back to the boring stuff...

On Friday, the House started on actual legislative business.

It considered and passed H.R. 12, the Paycheck Fairness Act by a vote of 256 - 163. Giffords, Grijalva, Kirkpatrick, Mitchell, and Pastor voted in favor; Flake and Franks against; Shadegg not voting.

It also considered and passed H.R. 11, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009, by a vote of 247 - 171. As with H.R. 12, Giffords, Grijalva, Kirkpatrick, Mitchell, and Pastor voted in favor; Flake and Franks against; Shadegg not voting.

Congressman Grijalva gave a floor speech on H.R. 11, available here.

Lastly, the House considered and passed H. Res. 34, a resolution "recognizing Israel's right to defend itself against attacks from Gaza, reaffirming the United States' strong support for Israel, and supporting the Israeli-Palestinian peace process." The resolution passed 390 - 5, with 22 answering 'present'. Among AZ's delegation, Flake, Franks, Giffords, Kirkpatrick, Mitchell, and Pastor voted in support, Grijalva was 'present', and Shadegg was still absent. Flake, Giffords, Kirkpatrick, Mitchell, and Shadegg are all cosponsors of H. Res. 34.

Congressman Mitchell submitted a statement for the record (called "Extensions of Remarks) on H. Res. 34, available here.

Congressman Franks gave a special order speech on the subject, available here.

Ummm...Harry Mitchell's statement was brief, positive, and reasonable (in a word: "statesman-like"); Trent Franks' was, well...not. In fact, it seemed to be as much 'anti-Muslim' as it was 'pro-Israel.'

In other Mitchell news, he sponsored H.R. 156, a bill to block Congress' automatic pay increase and submitted a statement regarding it to the Congressional Record, available here. The text of the measure isn't available online yet, though the list of cosponsors is: Flake, Giffords, and Kirkpatrick from Arizona are among those cosponsors.

In light of the cratering economy and skyrocketing unemployment, most people from across the political spectrum think that this is a brilliant idea, and that Congress should make at least a symbolic statement of standing with and supporting those Americans who are suffering from the effects of the economy. What remains to be seen is if a majority of Congress feels the same way.

Don't bet on it.

The Senate was fairly quiet - it had no recorded votes.

The House reconvenes on Tuesday at 12:30 p.m. (D.C. time)


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