Tag Archives: Harry Reid

Hero of the Week Award, November 22: Democrats in the U.S. Senate

22 Nov

GraphCongratulations to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D – NV) and the Democratic caucus in the U.S. Senate. After years of abuse and obstruction by the GOP, they finally said, “ENOUGH.” Unable to get a simple up-and-down vote on three recent nominees to the DC Circuit Court, Reid made it clear that the Republicans had violated both the spirit and letter of every agreement made in the past few years about Presidential nominees. Even some long-standing holdouts — like Sen. Feinstein and Boxer of California and Sen. Leahy of Vermont — realized that this level of obstruction must be stopped. It’s about time.

I think it might be helpful to have a  brief history lesson: In 1917 the Senate created a method for ending filibusters, the cloture vote. It originally required a 2/3 majority and was revised down to a 3/5 majority. Both filibusters and cloture votes were used sparingly. In 1975, the non-speaking filibuster arrived, creating the model we’ve seen grow over the past few years. Just saying one intended to block a vote counted as a requirement for cloture. Even then, however, use was relatively rare.

Since President Obama took office, the Republicans have done everything they can to obstruct him. Their extraordinary use of the virtual filibuster has served as a way to nullify his election and especially his re-election–it is difficult for me not to see a racist agenda here. They didn’t like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau but couldn’t repeal the law, so they filibustered the President’s nominees. (That resulted in the election of Sen. Warren of Massachusetts, so they shot themselves in the foot with that one!) They want to keep the federal courts as conservative as possible, so multiple judges have been blocked. One might ask, one should ask: this type of block voting says two things: one, the GOP is not interested in serving all citizens of the United States, and two, where is there room for independent thinking and creating partnerships?

The so-called Nuclear Option that changed the rules only required a majority vote and it succeeded. For the rest of this Congress, any Presidential nominee except for Supreme Court justices will only require a simple majority to be approved. That ends a major logjam and takes a critical piece of obstruction away from the GOP. Given how broken the filibuster is, something more might be needed, but this is an excellent start. I might suggest that something more to be removing John Boehner as the Speaker of the House.

Of course the GOP is screaming with rage, even though they could have stopped the rules change simply by sticking to the agreements they had made. It’s amusing to note that one of the biggest whiners, Sen. Mitch McConnell (R – KY), threatened the very same thing when Democrats invoked far fewer cloture votes on Pres. Bush’s nominees. Hypocrisy much?

This change is long overdue. Big thanks to the trio of senators who have pushed hard to help make the Senate work again, Tom Harkin (IA), Jeff Merkley (OR), and Tom Udall (NM).

A related honorable mention goes to the ever wonderful Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D – NY). She’s been pushing hard for reform in military justice protocols to help stem the tide of sexual abuse and assaults. When senior Democrats pushed to water down her bill, she stood firm and now has majority support for real reforms.  Gillibrand is one of the best civil servants the United States currently has.

Bigot of the Week Award: August 3, House Democrats Opposing Tax Fairness

3 Aug

Bigot of the Week

This week 19 House Democrats put self-interest ahead of leadership and bailed on a key piece of legislation. Last week Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid exceeded all expectations and crafted a brilliant deal that allowed a great tax cut compromise to pass the Senate. The bill extended the cuts for taxpayers making less than $250,000 a year, protecting the middle class during the fragile economic recovery. By ending the cuts for those with higher incomes, it also introduced greater fairness into the tax system–truly a broken clock moment for our Harry Reid.

The bill was unlikely to pass in the House, of course, but it sent a strong message. The Republicans in the House shot it down on Wednesday — big shock. Sadly, 19 Democrats voted against the bill, joining the Republican chorus of class warfare. The majority of the 19 Representatives who crossed the aisle were so-called Blue Dog Democrats (or what I like to call Tea Bag Democrats), a loose caucus of “moderate and conservative” Democrats. Many are also in tight re-election contests or in badly gerrymandered new districts. These are not sufficient excuses.

It is a given that most Republicans will not vote for the Democrat. It is also true that the Senate approach to the tax cuts is very popular (polling at or above 60%), especially with independent voters and in swing states. What these 19 cowards have done is sold out the middle class and the most vulnerable for a callous political calculation. Why should Democratic voters in their districts care about showing up at the polls if they are offered a choice between two people who vote against them? Why should independent voters prefer a Democrat if that person voted against their preferences? Shame on you, Representatives! Bad dogs!

Personally, I am sad to see Rep. Kurt Schrader from Oregon’s 5th District on this list and grateful that the recent redistricting moved me into Rep. Blumenauer’s district. Oregonians are hurting, Rep. Schrader; why did you vote against 98% of them?

Hero of the Week Award: July 27, Christian Bale

27 Jul

Hero of the Week

This week’s hero is another Celebrity Gone Right story. In the aftermath of the shootings in Aurora, CO, there were many heroes. First responders, police investigators, hospital personnel, and friends and family of the victims all did their part to minimize the horror of the situation. One man with a connection to the incident that was both central and peripheral was actor Christian Bale, star of the Batman feature playing in the theatre.

While it’s clear that Bale, DC Comics, and Warner Bros. have no direct responsibility for the actions of a crazed gunman, Bale decided to use his celebrity to engender some healing. Many studio executives, the director, and other actors made wonderful statements of condolence. Bale quietly went to Aurora and visited each of the victims. He also took time to visit hospital staff and some of the first responders. Warner Bros. made it clear that the decision to go to Aurora was Bale’s, not a publicity department arrangement. Bill Voloch, interim president of the Medical Center of Aurora noted the value of the visit.

It was good for the patients. We hope it was therapeutic for them, and all the staff really appreciated him coming.

It’s a simple thing, perhaps, but it shows a humanity that rarely gets celebrated in the hype of summer films or in the 15-minute celebrity status gained by the perpetrators of such crimes. Bale’s kindness was noted by comic aficionados, local, and national media.

Honorable mention this week goes to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Regular readers will know that TSM is hardly Reid’s biggest fan given his compromise and capitulate strategies when dealing with Senate Republicans. This week, however, Reid scored a major victory. In a deal with Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Rancid Tea Bag, KY), he got both a Democratic and Republican tax break bill onto the floor for a simple majority vote. With the filibuster removed, the Democratic plan passed (51 – 48!) while the Republican rich-get-richer plan failed. While the Senate bill, which extends middle class tax credits and the tax breaks for Americans making less than $250,000 per year, will be DOA in the House, Reid’s strategy crafted an important pre-election contrast between the governing priorities of the two parties. Nicely done, Senator!

Government Shutdown Reality Check

26 Feb

Rage ≠ Responsible Government

As most Americans know by now, the budget debate deadlock in Washington could easily lead to a shutdown of the Federal government. If a budget (or continuing resolution) is not passed before Friday, March 4, the shutdown will occur. President Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Speaker of the House John Boehner have all said that they want to keep this from happening. If it does, however, the responsibility will land squarely on the partisan grandstanding of the House.

Sen. Reid and the President have both made it very clear that they will not be blackmailed by the Tea Party minority in the House. The recent budget passed under Boehner’s leadership includes a lot of red meat for the Teabaggist base and not a lot of substantive cuts that indicate a real desire to reform government or reduce deficits (or create jobs, for that matter). The partisan attacks on abortion rights, women’s rights, public broadcasting, and health care reform make very little budgetary difference and create a poison pill that will stop the proposal cold in the Senate. Rather than negotiating in good faith, the House seems bent on creating a train wreck of petulance.

So what would really happen if there is no budget compromise and the Federal government shuts down? Let’s look at some facts:

  • Federal workers would not be paid during the shutdown. They would receive retroactive pay (with no interest) once government is running again. Contractors (all the jobs shoved off the Federal payroll by Reaganite “smartsizing”) get nothing. Members of Congress get full pay and benefits with no delays because their pay is authorized by the Constitution. As so often happens, the more you make, the less you lose.
  • The wars will go on. Funding for active military efforts is exempted. Processing of military benefits claims, however, will freeze. You can fight, but you’d better not leave service or get injured.
  • Federal parks, museums, and other cultural centers will close, depriving all Americans of access to their cultural history and natural beauty.
  • Processing of passport and visa applications and renewals will halt. This will have a major impact not just on vacations that families have already paid for, but will affect business as well.
  • Social Security payments will be made, but new applications and any support functions will be halted.
  • Aid and grant payments to states will be halted, creating even deeper holes in already crippled state budgets.
  • Toxic waste cleanup at over 600 Federally-designated sites will be halted.

Of course, the ripple effect of a shutdown is even more complicated. Everyone knows what it’s like to get back to work after a few days off. It takes time to get caught up. When the whole business of government has to recover at the same time, it could be weeks before things are running smoothly again, even if the shutdown is relatively brief.

And what about those Tea Party priorities? Since the Federal money has already been disbursed, Planned Parenthood will not shut down if the government does, nor will Public Broadcasting. Instead, millions of decent, hard-working civil servants will be furloughed, reducing household spending and injuring American businesses, while House Republicans draw their pay and enjoy their Federal healthcare, abdicating their responsibility to govern. The shutdown is such bad government, in fact that even Michele Bachmann (R – Can’t Find It On A Map) has said it’s a bad idea. You know your leadership strategy is lousy when it crosses the Bachmann line.

How'd that last shutdown work out, Newt?

The last major shutdown was something of a standoff between then President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich. At the end of the day, the Republican congress that forced the standoff came out very badly indeed. Gingrich’s infamous petulance cost him credibility and resulted in national ridicule.

If this House chooses to paralyze the country again, choosing misguided principle over hard facts, the blame falls squarely on Boehner and his Tea Party cohorts. The President and the Senate must not make their tax cuts mistake again and should continue to stand firm on a responsible budget. Compromise with fiscal terrorists? I prefer not to.

(Some research for this story done with thanks to The Christian Science Monitor, MSNBC, CNN, and The Huffington Post. I was initially inspired by the lighthearted but hard-hitting Feb. 25 Tom the Dancing Bug strip.)

Wednesday’s Word of the Week

2 Feb

I take great pleasure introducing Lex Kahn as a regular contributor to The Solipsistic Me.  Lex will now be doing his regular Wednesday’s Word of the Week.  I’m certain you will enjoy it as much as I.

WebWordWarrior’s Wednesday Word of the Week:

This week’s word is BIPARTISAN. It seems like such a friendly word, doesn’t it? We use it to imply that there is some sort of cooperation happening. But what does it really mean?

of, relating to, or involving members of two parties (Merriam Webster Online)

Well, that doesn’t mean much at all! Our Congress certainly has two parties, so their actions are, by definition, always bipartisan. A few members of Congress, like the recently retired Arlen Specter, are even bipartisan all by themselves.

Fortunately, we have a colloquial definition that implies some level of cooperation is involved. That’s why we hear “bipartisan” used so often, especially by the Republicans in Congress. Unfortunately, there is a vast divide between the use of the word and the practice of the speakers.

One need only look at the behavior of the Republicans in the Senate to understand that when Mitch McConnell says he wants a bipartisan solution, he really wants the Democratic majority to give in to the wishes of the Republicans. Sure, two parties are involved, but there is no real negotiation or compromise. Instead, needed legislation is watered down to meet the demands of a party that isn’t interested in that legislation in the first place.

Sadly, we now have a truly bipartisan Congress, with each chamber controlled by opposing parties. That should lead to real dialogue, shouldn’t it? The Republican-controlled House must carefully consider the legislation it passes on to the Senate and vice versa. Sadly, no. House Republicans have made their agenda quite clear: to spend two years blocking progress and making President Obama unelectable in 2012.

An election putting the Republicans back in full power would take the “bi” out of bipartisan. What does that leave us with?

Partisan: a firm adherent to a party, faction, cause, or person; especially one exhibiting blind, prejudiced, and unreasoning allegiance

Now that sounds a lot like the Republican method of governance.

Mitch: You will do as I say! Harry: Teamwork makes decisions easy.

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