Saturday, March 20, 2010

Update During House Rules Committee Recess

The House Rules Committee has finished the hearing portion of today's meeting, and are taking a brief recess. I spent the last several hours listening to arguments surrounding the various amendments that congresscritters are attempting to attach to the reconciliation bill.

There is nothing unexpected to report right now. It has all been fairly typical health care talking points.

One interesting conversation took place after Congressman Franks began speaking about abortion. He chastised "Democratic leaders" for wanted to force tax-funded abortion on the country. Congressman McGovern made it a point to interrupt and state his objection. Congresswoman Foxx then picked up where Franks left off, declaring explicitly that she knew exactly what in the bill funds abortion.

At that point, Congressman Hastings posed a question for all the congresscritters in the room, show us what in the bill funds abortion? (Most progressive knew long ago that women's reproductive health care would not be covered by any Federal reforms, just a reality of the politics)

There was a noticeable pause, and when the silence was broken Congresswoman Foxx was reading a response to his question from what we can only assume was a letter written by the National Right to Life (she mentioned said letter only minutes before this). Hastings cut her off in the middle to ask what she was reading from, stating that he asked for someone to show him the language of the bill that funds abortion. Foxx never answered what it was she was reading from, but did not continue.

One of the funnier moments, to me, was when Congressman Franks made an analogy about a highway of history littered with failed attempts by the Government to manage. I found it especially adorable that he would use a highway, arguably one of the most successful government run programs in history, to bash government run programs.

Anyways, I will likely have to head back in soon, then again the staff told me we could be on recess for hours (will the metro still be running when I get out of here, or am forking over the cash for a cab?).

Friday, March 19, 2010

If Boehner Says So

House Minority Leader John Boehner is giving his friends on the other side of the aisle some advice, which I am sure is based entirely on his desire for them to succeed:
House Minority Leader John Boehner says this weekend’s votes on healthcare reform will haunt Democrats through November’s election and mean “sacrificing a big number of their members” to meet President Barack Obama agenda.
You just know this advice is golden, given the advice he gave his conservative friends back in 2008:
House Minority Leader John A. Boehner says Sen. John McCain's presidential bid provides long coattails for his party to regain seats in traditionally conservative districts that Republicans lost in 2006.
Remember that stomping the Republicans gave the Democrats in '08, when McCain's coattails devastated Democratic down-ticket races? That sure was a tough election year for the blue side of the aisle.

DADT and Desegregation of the Armed Forces

I was originally writing something up on the conservative response to Lt. Dan Choi’s arrest when I wrote this sentence: “If conservatives want us to stop equating their homophobia to the racism that the civil rights movement experienced, they should stop using the same talking points.” I decided to write the following instead of a typical conservatives-freak-out-at-liberal-activism post.

Let us play a game. I am going to give you a quote about the bigotry of the armed forces. I will redact all names, dates, and any words along the lines of "homosexual", "gay", "sexual orientation", "black", "negro", "race." You try to guess what kind of bigot these perfectly rational arguments came from, homophobic or racist! Sounds fun, right?

Come out and play... (answers below, no cheating, no google)
1) "Somehow we think the United States Armed Forces can thrive in their true mission — fighting wars and protecting our shores — without being diverted into the dubious business of [redacted] 'pride'."

2) "To change would destroy morale and impair preparations for national experiments should be tried . . . at this critical time."

3) This proposal "would be tantamount to solving a social problem which has perplexed the American people throughout the history of this nation. The Army cannot accomplish such a solution and should not be charged with the undertaking."

4) "Experiments to solve social problems would be 'fraught with danger to efficiency, discipline, and morale'."

5) "The Army is not a sociological laboratory; to be effective it must be organized and trained according to the principles which will insure success. Experiments to meet the wishes and demands of the champions of [redacted] for the solution of their problems are a danger to efficiency, discipline and morale and would result in ultimate defeat."

6) "A [redacted] survey of...Army personnel revealed that 32% completely opposed [redacted], and 61% opposed [redacted] if it meant that [redacted] would share sleeping quarters and mess halls.
Can you guess which of those quotes are about desegregating the military and which are about repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell?

I will give you a hint, only one of them are about DADT. Can you guess which one? Not too easy, right? Here are the answers:
1) Peter LeBarbera responding to Lt. Dan Choi's arrest.

2-5) Defense Studies Series: Integration of The Armed Forces 1940-1965 by Morris J. MacGregor, Jr.

6) Lesbians and Gay Men in the U.S. Military: Historical Background (the quote I took happens to be from the section on the desegregation of the armed forces)
LGBT rights advocates often take a lot of crap for comparing the two human rights movements. Yet the argument that the two movements are incomparable is as grounded in reason as claiming they are without differences. While the struggles and specific hindrances differ greatly, the underlying hatred is the same. The fear of a people unknown is the same. The bigots’ arguments, devoid of merit as they are, are the same.

Did desegregation of the armed forces disrupt unit cohesion, as many military experts warned would happen? Not in combat zones. Did African Americans continue to experience prejudice in the armed forces? Absolutely. Was there majority support amongst the armed forces for desegregation? No. Was there majority support amongst civilians for desegregation? No. Was there a fear that desegregation could have a negative impact on the best armed forces in the world? You bet your ass there was. Was there a fear amongst white soldiers of sharing quarters with people of a difference race? Indeed. Was desegregation the right thing to do, even if all those fears came true? Damn straight.

It was the right decision, if for no other reason than this: “Serving with Blacks appeared to make White soldiers more accepting of integration.” If serving with open homosexuals will make straight soldiers more accepting of differing sexual orientations, that would be a beautiful thing.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

AFL-CIO: Not Ready For Explicit Primary Threats

Just hopped off the conference call with Richard Trumka from the AFL-CIO.

This morning, the AFL-CIO leadership voted in overwhelming favor (higher than 90%) of "active support" for the current health care proposals in the face of slight changes to the excise tax agreement.

What that term "active support" entails is unclear. Earlier today Greg Sargent's blog, the Plum Line, reported that a source inside the AFL-CIO told him they were ready to directly threaten primary challenges.
The AFL-CIO source sends over the list of House Dems who are being targeted:
Dennis Cardoza, Jim Costa, Daniel Lipinski, Stephen Lynch, Michael Michaud, James Oberstar, Steve Dreihaus, Charlie Wilson Marcy Kaptur, John Boccieri, Zack Space, Tom Perriello, Jason Altmire, Christopher Carney, Paul Kanjorski, Tim Holden, Jerry Costello, Alan Mollohan, Nick Rahall, Kathy Dahlkepmer.
The source says that the threat of a primary or third-party challenge will be implicit, particularly since the AFL-CIO is already supporting Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter’s primary challenge to Blanche Lincoln.
Count on any threats regarding an election to be taken seriously when they come from Trumka. However, when asked about that on the conference call, Trumka stated that they are not prepared to make threats.

Whether or not the term primary comes up, we cannot say, but undecided House members should be expecting calls from labor during the final push. One can imagine that this sentiment, which Trumka expressed on the call, will come up: "We would have preferred it 60 years ago."

As for his meeting with the President last night, he refused to disclose any details, but said the President has his full permission to do so if any reporters happen to ask.

Health Care Stalled - Excise Tax Is Back?

This morning could bring a change in whip counts. On Wednesday, President Obama met with Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO to discuss the return of the excise tax debate after the Congressional Budget Office returned less favorable results than expected. Reports are that the AFL-CIO will hold a meeting today, and what they say to the public afterward is of incredible importance.

The Unions passionately staked out a position against the excise tax when it was first debated months ago and progressives have increasingly complained that Democratic leadership makes concession after concession without favor returned from conservative colleagues. With credible whip counts predicting a narrow victory for the future prospects for health care reform, the AFL-CIO could likely pull enough votes to end this. The AFL-CIO has certainly played a part in a lot of elections, and will likely play a part in several more. By no means are they married to the Democrats. If they called on the legislators they helped elect to oppose this bill, you can bet that candidate wants AFL-CIO help in the next campaign. That obviously gives them one big bargaining chip.

The question is, does the President have a carrot he could give them that is significant enough for them to endorse the bill with an increased excise tax and would the President be willing to use that carrot? Ultimately, the AFL-CIO needs to answer to their members. Their members will not be happy with a tax on their health care plans.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

[UPDATE] Grandstanding at the Rules Committee

UPDATE: Just got off the phone with C-Span, they confirmed our research. Congressman Dreier was incorrect when he claimed that C-Span covered the House Rules Committee meetings when Medicare Part D was "rammed down our throats" at 3:00am. We have reached out to Congressman Dreier's office for a response and await their reply.

Today, I sat in on the Rules Committee hearing. It was a rather arcane meeting today to authorize suspension bills to be brought to the House floor over the next couple days and the weekend. Currently, House rules prohibit suspension bills from being brought to the floor between Thursday and Sunday without the rules committee specifically allowing it. (Why? I am still trying to figure that out.)

While authorizing suspension is what they were supposedly there to negotiate, barely a word was spoken about it beyond reading the language of the resolution. Republicans, all of whom voted against authorizing suspension, never made the case against it. Instead, we spent the hour or so listening to arguments about how much c-span coverage there would be and whether or not Congressman Dreier ran a more, or less, transparent rules committee. In other words, we spent a while listening to Dreier complain that this meeting was not being aired on C-Span.

A big moment of disagreement came when Congressman McGovern thanked the Chairwoman (Congresswoman Slaughter) for running a more transparent rules committee than Dreier. McGovern made the claim that the Republicans, led by then Chairman Dreier, rammed Medicare Part D through the rules committee without cameras. This claim was outright refuted by Dreier.

Luckily, we do not have to take their word for it (whoever you would choose to believe). C-Span just recently finished uploading almost all of their 23 year archive to their website. We found only six programs from the rules committee of the 108th Congress. Of those six, exactly zero were on health care in general, let alone Medicare Part D specifically. Since it is now after regular business hours, we will have to wait until tomorrow for verification from C-Span, but it appears that Congressman Dreier was mistaken. And frankly, to find only six rule committee programs available during the reign of Chairman Dreier is in itself a statement on how transparently he ran things.

In all fairness, McGovern may have overstated how transparently the rules committee is run by Chairwoman Slaughter. C-Span has four rules committee programs in their online archives for the 111th Congress, about on track to reaching, you guessed it, six. A fairly conservative number if we are talking transparency.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Final Breitbartocalypse Report: Interview with Institutional Left

Here it is, our last report on the disaster that is the Breitbartocalypse. We've got more from our in-the-field reporter, as well as an exclusive interview with the Policy Director of the Institutional Left™:

Don't forget to check out our report from this morning.

And our report from last night.

The Breitbartoclypse touched down on the east coast at around 12:00am this morning. At this point, we've lost all contact with our in the field reporter and our secured location can no longer broadcast. Twitter remains one of the only tools of communications for individuals to get word out from inside the disaster zone. It appears that the last of the liberal media has crumbled. We've had all sorts of crazy rumors flying across the news desk today, which me made sure to report immediately and without the slightest verification.

We are now some 17 hours into a new reality, a conservative uptopia. The offices of the Institutional Left™ have been occupied by the Family and they are preparing their first initiative: the Texasification of all US School Books.


We've got our first report since the arrival of the Breitbartocalypse:

We have secured a location just outside the expected disaster zone to broadcast out of for as long as possible. We'll have reporters in the field, and experts in the studio bringing you the most extensive coverage and best analysis as the destruction happens.

The country first learned of the impending Breitbartocalypse only weeks ago, when Andrew Breitbart, conservative talking head, warned us that the Institutional Left™ was on the brink of disaster.

Check Sum of Change tonight at 6:00pm for our first report as the chaos ensues!!!

Monday, March 15, 2010


It's almost here...

Are you prepared for a post-breitbartocalyptic world?

We have secured a location just outside the expected disaster zone to broadcast out of for as long as possible. We'll have reporters in the field, and experts in the studio bringing you the most extensive coverage and best analysis as the destruction happens.

The country first learned of the impending Breitbartocalypse only weeks ago, when Andrew Breitbart, conservative talking head, warned us that the Institutional Left™ was on the brink of disaster.

Check Sum of Change tomorrow morning at 6:00am for our first report as the chaos ensues!!!

DFA's Last Ditch Push for the Public Option

I spent today on Capitol Hill, tagging along with a group of Democracy for America volunteers from around the area. They came to speak on behalf of DFA members from all across the country and urge key legislators to sign on to the Polis-Pingree letter. That letter, which you can read in full here, calls on leadership to include a public option through reconciliation. You can also view the full list of legislators who support this path forward.

The group I stuck with visited some 15 offices today. At most offices, we found the Legislative Assistants that would normally take health care meetings to be unavailable. The few Legislative Assistants we did speak with came across very supportive yet tired. I got the sense that they are ready to get this fight done.

It is impossible to say what, if any, effect this last minute action had. No new members signed on to the Polis-Pingree letter. They did, however, get verbal confirmations from several folks, including Representatives Charles Rangel, Robert Andrews, and Henry Waxman.

This is an all-hands-on-deck week, with most people predicting legislation to be signed into law by the end of the weekend.