Market-based cap on torture lawyers

Incredibly interesting days here in the nation’s capital. With so many urgent public policy issues hitting the fan, coming home to roost and appearing on one’s plate, we are all going to need personalized copies of Metaphors and Clichés for Dummies just to stay plugged in.

Everyone in D.C. has some public-policy skin in the game, with folks all over town throwing elbows trying to get a seat at the grown-ups’ table for what is stacking up to be the most active period of government action since the New Deal.

Some of the grown-ups already at the table — House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and committee Chairmen Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), George Miller (D-Calif.) and Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) — trekked to the White House on Wednesday morning for a meeting with President Obama on the granddaddy of public-policy challenges: healthcare reform.

Alluding to the fact that Democrats now control the presidency, Senate and House, astronomer in chief Obama, flanked by the leaders in the White House driveway, said “the stars are aligned” to get healthcare reform now. The president said he wanted legislation “this year” — said it twice to reinforce the urgency as he sees it. It is a little early to say whether this plays out like Hillarycare of 1993 and the GOP revolution of 1994, but it is a scenario that GOP insiders are definitely thinking about.

Getting their Phil

Walking (almost bouncing) with Capitol Hill leaders as they approached the cameras Wednesday was former Waxman Chief of Staff Phil Schiliro, who now heads Obama’s congressional lobby shop. Given the serious heavy lifting required of Obama’s multi-pronged legislative efforts, the president could not have selected a better, more capable guy to lead his outreach on Capitol Hill.

Schiliro seems to be having the time of his life, and could be seen chatting Waxman up as they left the White House and made their way to a news conference in the driveway. Schiliro, the quintessential behind-the-scenes workhorse, peeled off from the group just before the VIPs assembled at the cameras.

Heading the president’s House lobbying effort is another longtime Capitol Hill staffer, Dan Turton, former Majority Leader Dick Gephardt’s (D-Mo.) top floor guy, and most recently chief of staff at the House Rules Committee.

The indefatigable Turton is a combination whirling dervish and perpetual-motion machine who has that ability to seem as though he is never in a hurry as he makes his daily rounds on Capitol Hill. Not a day goes by without my bumping into Turton popping into or out of this or that office or meeting.

Turton moves around the halls of the Capitol like a faithful fisherman checking his nets and crab traps. When he gets to the end, he starts all over again. The guy simply never quits working it.

I’m not sure how much money Turton and Schiliro are earning these days, but based on the sleep deprivation and time spent on their feet I wouldn’t be surprised if some lawyers considered it a form of torture. Based on the number of hours these guys put in, I would bet their hourly take-home pay doesn’t average much more than the minimum wage.

Talking about torture

Senate Judiciary subcommittee Chairman Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseDemocrats rip Barr over IG statement: 'Mouthpiece' for Trump Trump brings pardoned soldiers on stage at Florida fundraiser: report Overnight Energy: Pelosi vows bold action to counter 'existential' climate threat | Trump jokes new light bulbs don't make him look as good | 'Forever chemicals' measure pulled from defense bill MORE (D-R.I.) gaveled a hearing Wednesday titled “What Went Wrong: Torture and the Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush Administration.” No need for perfect SAT scores to get a sense of what Whitehouse is up to. After the hearing was over, South Carolina Republican Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamGraham: FBI investigation in 2016 turned into a 'criminal conspiracy' This week: House impeachment inquiry hits crucial stretch Senate braces for brawl on Trump impeachment rules MORE (possibly the best inquisitor in the Senate) offered: “What did you learn from this panel? You have four lawyers and you have eight opinions.”

The name game

Congratulating Waxman and House Energy and Commerce Committee Democrats for their work on the energy bill, I couldn’t help but notice during that Wednesday newser at the White House that Obama has starting slipping in a new phrase to discuss the controversial “cap-and-trade” provisions of the Waxman energy bill. The president, no doubt aware of successful GOP efforts to label the provision “cap-and-tax,” lifted a page from the old “death tax/estate tax” playbook when he said: “And I once again call on Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution.”

Got that? No more cap-and-trade or cap-and-tax, OK, people? From now on, “Market-based cap on carbon pollution.” And yes, this may show up later on a Mills on the Hill quiz.

You can reach Jim Mills at