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The LiberalOasis Blog
The daily view from the oasis

November 24, 2004 PERMALINK
Time For A Discharge Petition?
(posted Nov. 23 11:15 PM ET)

The intel reform bill isn't the first popular bipartisan bill Speaker Dennis Hastert tried to kill because it upset his "majority of the majority."

Here's Hastert, in a speech given last year, recounting a previous legislative battle:

On occasion, a particular issue might excite a majority made up mostly of the minority.

Campaign finance is a particularly good example of this phenomenon.

The job of Speaker is not to expedite legislation that runs counter to the wishes of the majority of his majority.

As in campaign finance reform, our majority thought it was a bad bill that weakened the party structure and promoted abuse by special interests.

...

So we fought the efforts by advocates of campaign regulation to pass it.

They did what they thought they had to do, getting enough signatures to sign a discharge petition.

I made them go through that process twice in order to prove two points.

First, I wanted my troops to know I opposed the bill.

Second, I wanted to let them know that I had no choice but to schedule the legislation.

I was not going to abandon my party’s position under any circumstances.

If you recall, a "discharge petition" is way to force a bill onto the floor, by getting a majority of congresspeople to sign the petition.

We know there are at least 218 votes for the intel reform bill.

We know there are practically no prospects for a workable compromise.

We know the House Republican Caucus is in "a lot of turmoil," following the vote on the DeLay rule (according to David Brooks).

(And here's some more House GOP turmoil to savor: "Deep in the transportation section of this year’s omnibus spending bill, Rep. Ernest Istook…punish[ed] 21 Republicans who wrote him a letter in support of $1.8 billion for Amtrak.")

Conditions seem pretty ripe for another discharge petition.

At minimum, even if the petition effort falls short, it will show how serious Democrats are about defeating terrorism.

At best, it will succeed at improving our intelligence apparatus, and give Hastert another leadership failure to wear as a badge of honor.

Click here to contact your Representative and ask for a discharge petition.

November 23, 2004 PERMALINK
Minority Rules
(posted Nov. 22 11:45 PM ET)

Perhaps the most stunning part of the intel reform debacle is that the Speaker of the House admitted he had the votes to pass it.

Just not enough GOP votes to avoid making the Dems look good.

From the NY Times:

[Speaker Dennis] Hastert did not want to split his caucus and did not want the bill to pass with less than "a majority of the majority," said his spokesman, John Feehery.

"What good is it to pass something," Mr. Feehery said, "where most of our members don't like it?"

Well, there is a little thing called "the public good."

But that requires putting governing ahead of politics.

And that's not how the GOP got to where it is, so why start now?

Of course, saying the bill doesn't have support of the "majority of the majority" is a fancy, self-serving way to say a loud minority is opposed.

And that when a loud minority is opposed, it's important to wait -- as Senate Majority Leader Frist said -- until we "get it right".

Hmm. Does Frist apply the same logic to, say, judicial nominations?

Not exactly. As he said on CBS' Face The Nation this Sunday:

...let's take a nominee from the president, who has majority support in the Senate, and let's deny senators the opportunity to vote. It's wrong.

Any attempt to claim simple majority rule is a consistent principle of the GOP is now shot to hell.

So when the GOP tries to use it later, it should be quickly shoved down their throat.

We all know the Framers wanted the minority to have rights, to prevent a tyranny of the majority.

The question for the public to judge, both with today's intelligence reform and tomorrow's judges, is not if the minority has a right to object. Of course they do.

Instead the question is, what is the quality of the minority's objections?

Is the Pentagon's loss of turf, and lack of unrelated provisions on undocumented immigrant workers enough to warrant delay on the intelligence reform the 9/11 Commission says is "essential"?

And should the Senate roll over for activist right-wing judges who want to turn the clock back on equal rights, labor protections and environmental protections?

QUICK HIT

So It Is Privatization After All

Sen. John McCain didn't get the memo about the Republican charade to pretend their Social Security plans shouldn't be called "privatization".

Last Thursday, at the Loeb First Amendment Award Dinner in New Hamphire (aired on C-Span's "Road To The White House '08"), there was this exchange with an audience member:

Q: Will privatizing Social Security be a priority for you going forward?

...

McCAIN: ...Without privatization, I don't see how you can possibly, over time, make sure that young Americans are able to receive Social Security benefits.

And the charade dies.

UPDATE (6/13/08): Video of McCain's "privatization" remarks are here. And video of McCain on 6/12/08 claiming he "never" supported privatization can be found here.

November 22, 2004 PERMALINK
The Sunday Talkshow Breakdown
A weekly feature of LiberalOasis
(posted Nov. 21 10:15 PM ET)

Governing sure is hard work.

GOPers struggled on Sunday to explain their failure on intel reform, and the attempt to sneak in a provision to make people's private tax returns available to certain congressional committees.

Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist, whose '08 prez prospects sink lower with every congressional embarrassment, took the biggest brunt yesterday on CBS' Face The Nation.

Because he tried to spin, with a straight face, questions from Bob Schieffer like:

I would guess that a lot of Americans are pretty disgusted this morning when they woke up and read in the newspaper that the Congress was unable to come to agreement on the reforms that the president said were a priority ... to reorganize the intelligence community.

What do you say to them?

Elsewhere on Sunday, GOP message discipline broke down.

Sen. Pat Roberts on Fox News Sunday and Sen. John McCain on NBC's Meet The Press looked relatively less pathetic than Frist as they sought to salvage some shreds of dignity.

McCain, of course, is used to sticking it to his party when it's for the greater good/serves his own career.

But Roberts is more often a party hack, so it was a notable expression of sincere frustration when he said:

...there's been a lot of opposition to [intelligence reform] from the [start].

Some of it is turf, you know, quite frankly.

Some of it is from the Pentagon.

Some of it, quite frankly, is from the White House, despite what the president has said.

Frist didn't quite have the same level of candor yesterday.

In fact, he blatantly lied at least twice.

First, on the private tax return provision:

BOB SCHIEFFER: Do you even know who put it in the bill?

FRIST: I personally don't know...

Oh really? Here's what the AP reported:

Frist referred to the bill Saturday night as the "Istook amendment," and congressional aides said it was inserted at the request of Rep. Ernest Istook Jr., R-Okla.

Second, Frist was being questioned about judicial nominations, and the possibility of the "nuclear option" -- arbitrarily changing Senate rules to ban filibusters of judges.

(Frist strongly implied he would go nuclear if Dems kept filibustering.)

Then Frist was asked about his past filibustering activities:

SCHIEFFER: Senator, a group called The American Progress Action Fund sent me a question to ask you...

... "Senator Frist, if you oppose the use of the filibuster for judicial nominations, why did you vote to filibuster Judge Richard Paez when President Clinton nominated him to the 9th Circuit?"

So you've done it.

FRIST: Filibuster is used--and it's called cloture, as you know.

SCHIEFFER: Yes.

FRIST: Filibuster, cloture ... as a scheduling, or to get more information, is legitimate.

But not to kill nominees.

He was not killed by us, he was confirmed.

Yes, he was confirmed, but no thanks to Frist.

He not only supported the filibuster that was part of a four-year delay on his nomination, but supported a parliamentary move to kill Paez's appointment even after the filibuster was broken.

From the report "Turning Right" by the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund:

The first attempt to consider Paez's nomination on the floor of the Senate was rejected by a Republican filibuster in September 1999.

Fifty-three Republicans, including Senators Hatch and Frist, voted in support of the filibuster, therefore denying a vote on Judge Paez's nomination.

Another six months would pass before the Senate again turned to Judge Paez's nomination.

On March 8, 2000, Senate Democrats finally succeeded in breaking the filibuster, thus paving the way for a floor vote.

However, the following day, conservative Republicans moved to indefinitely postpone consideration of the nomination.

This motion was rejected, although 31 Republicans supported it, including Senator Frist.

Judge Paez was finally confirmed by a vote of 59 to 39—more than four years after his nomination.

Points to Schieffer for at least asking the question, but he didn't bother to follow-up and explain the full story, letting Frist off the hook.

Though after the beating he took, perhaps that was just chivalrous.

QUICK HIT

How 'Bout This Guy For DNC Chair?

Here's Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. on CNN's Late Edition:

Democrats need to focus on two areas: message and organization.

We must take the time to create and articulate guiding principles that withstand the test of time.

And not just see this process as every two years and then four years and six-year election cycles.

...[Dems are] going to have to develop not just a quarterback...

We're going to have to build a winning team that includes a lot of players on the bench and a lot of races throughout the South, throughout the Western states, throughout the Midwestern states, in order to be effective...

...And we can take a play right out of the Republicans' notebook...

...Why don't Democrats fight for education of equal high quality and health care as state-ballot initiatives at the local level?

The Blog Wire
Tracking the liberal blogosphere

Daily Kos: "Who's Istook and why does he want your tax forms?"

AmericaBlog: "Washington Post printed bitterly homophobic magazine supplement" (via Atrios)

The Stakeholder quotes Pelosi: "Many of the Republicans were out there ... masquerading at home as moderates and voting here for the rightwing radical agenda ... They got away with it once, but now that we ... will shine the spotlight on their voting patterns, people will see that they are not the moderates they advertise themselves to be at home."

Angry Bear takes on Greenspan's recent remarks

Air America now on 40 stations

Juan Cole: "Did Fallujah Sink the Elections?"

**************

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