Lawmaker News

Limping into the Break

As Congress limps into the July 4th break with its lowest approval ratings in history, a broken appropriations process bedeviled by allegations of corruption, an energy bill that Mike Burgess rightfully called a "lethargy bill," a failed attempt to reform our immigration laws and a lack of progress on ethics reform, most Americans have to wonder why they gave the reins to the Democrats.

The new Democratic majority has proven itself adept at breaking promises, entangling itself in knots and angering not only Republican partisans, but its own base.

What does it have to show for its efforts? A minimum wage increase that was stuck onto a war spending bill. Incredibly, it was the Democratic leaders who stuck that provision into the bill, causing their own top presidential candidates to vote against it. So, on their top accomplishment, their standard-bearers voted no. 
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Bush's Evil I's

Republicans hate the immigration bill and are beginning to hate the war. Yesterday was another terrible day for President Bush, as Sen. Richard Lugar's (R-Ind.) criticism inspired other GOP critics and House Republicans closed the door on immigration reform. In a 114-23 vote of their conference House Republicans resolved that "we stand together in united opposition to any bill that rewards illegal behavior with amnesty." With only 23 Republican votes there isn't much House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) could do to help Bush push immigration through the House, even if she liked him.

There is no way for White House officials to rationalize what Lugar did. Lugar, ranking Republican and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is likely the most credible voice on foreign policy in the Republican Party today, "unimpeachable," to use a favorite Washington word. He doesn't lower himself to partisan skirmishes, and his comments do not amount to a defection to the Democratic side of the debate. Listen to his plea: He is asking Bush to lead on this so the Democrats don't, and he wants a redeployment and a U.S. presence in Iraq, not a withdrawal. 
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Bad News Times Two

Bad timing continues to infect the campaign of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). As the former front-runner braces for another quarter of disappointing fundraising and all the inevitable political metaphors of life-support and death vigils that accompany bad news for him these days, he was blindsided by the Supreme Court. Besides an immigration signing ceremony, the last thing the McCain campaign needed this week was another spotlight on the campaign finance reform law that he championed and that is anathema to the very people he now so badly needs.

The ruling, which will once again permit last-minute advertising by interest groups that use names of candidates, isn't good news for any candidate but hits McCain twice.
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A Victory By Any Other Name...

The Golden Tongue Quote of the Week goes to House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) for trying to spin his way out of admitting Democratic defeat yesterday in the face of a GOP victory to oppose secret earmarks.

The Washington Times reports:

“Despite their minority status, Republicans this week used a series of procedural moves to stall the first of 12 spending bills to protest the Democrats' decision to only permit earmarks in Conference Committee.

"'The truth is, we controlled the floor this week,’ said House Minority Whip Roy Blunt, Missouri Republican.

“But Mr. Hoyer said his party ‘had control of the floor at all times. We chose not to exercise that control.’” 
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Subpoena Games

Here we go again. Just when you thought that congressional Democrats had overplayed their hand and failed to deliver on the promises they made to the American people, they’re back to playing partisan politics once again. At second blush, have they ever stopped since Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has wielded the Speaker’s gavel? (By the way, Six for ‘06 appears to be 0 for 6 in ’07, but I digress.)
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An Indelible Stain on the Floor

This week finds House Democrats struggling to address their earmark problem, that perennial stain on the floor they thought they could finally scrub clean after all these years. What they had scrubbed along the way was their original promise to expose every special spending item, and now Republicans have their backs against the wall. It practically makes losing on Iraq war votes seem fun.

But there are other messes, too. I learned from listening to Rep. Mark Kirk's (R-Ill.) radio address over the weekend that there is an additional ethics matter the new majority has backed away from, and it isn't pretty. 
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The Tailor-Made Scandal

Sure, it was a stretch for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to say that time had run out on a critical debate over immigration reform because the U.S. Senate had to move on to the no-confidence vote on Alberto Gonzales. The attorney general certainly inspires confidence in no one, but any real attempt to impeach him or force his resignation would obviously begin in the Judiciary Committee, where ranking Republican Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.) seems ready to help. Democrats held their vote, which failed like they knew it would, but they dragged vulnerable Republicans on the record, just like they wanted to.

Was it Reid's idea or that of Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), chairman of the Oversight and Courts Subcommittee of Judiciary and of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee? The firing of U.S. attorneys from the Department of Justice has turned out to be just the sort of scandal the new majority needs to cement its fragile 51-49 majority in the next election, and not only is Schumer leading the investigation into the firings, he is leading the party's campaign. No matter how you shake it, as he hunts for facts he is hunting for dollars and votes.
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Bye-bye, Dollar Bill

For Democratic Congressman William Jefferson (La.), the other shoe finally dropped. But the real question is: What took it so long?

It’s been almost two years since federal investigators found $90,000 hidden in the freezer of his Louisiana home. If you ask me, they should have put this guy away a long time ago.

But make no mistake about it. The case of William Jefferson is far different from the case of Tom DeLay. The former is an isolated case of one member of Congress using his office for personal gain — and getting caught.

DeLay, on the other hand, is but one link in a long chain of Republican congressmen, all tied to crooked lobbyist Jack Abramoff, and all willing to trade legislative favors in return for campaign cash and other goodies. So far, only DeLay and Bob Ney have fallen — but others are bound to follow.
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Down, Down, Down

According to the Washington Post, ratings for congressional Democrats are going down, down, down. Apparently, their base is unhappy with them because they haven’t done what they said they would do on Iraq: End the war.

But the poll numbers also show that less than 20 percent of the American people think we should pull out right now. So the Democrats lose either way. If they pass legislation to pull out now, they risk losing the people. And when they don’t, they lose their base. Not a good position to be in.

Democrats have a host of other problems. The indictment of Bill Jefferson and the new majority’s inability to make real progress on ethics reform (this is hardly the most ethical Congress in history, as promised by Speaker Pelosi) means they are beginning to lose the independents.  
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