Friday, January 30, 2009

The Daily Strike-1/30/09-Steele, Vocab IV

Good Friday afternoon and welcome to the Daily Strike! No votes in Congress today, but some interesting stuff going on, starting with the election at the RNC:

RNC ELECTION: Michael Steele has been elected the next chairman of the Republican National Commiteee on the sixth ballot by a vote of 91-77 over Katon Dawson. Incumbent chairman Mike Duncan led the first two ballots, but dropped out after losing support on the third ballot. Former Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell dropped out after the 4th ballot, and threw his support (and 15 votes, most likely) to Steele, in a somewhat surprising move, considering that Blackwell is considered far more conservative than Steele. Michigan GOP chairman Saul Anuzis dropped out after round 3, leaving the final contest between Steele and South Carolina GOP Chairman Katon Dawson. This was quite the contrast for RNC members: a black, outsider from Maryland, or a white Southerner who used to belong to an all-white country club.

The Republicans made the absolute right choice in my view. Steele not only can help the Republican party overcome its stereotype as a regional, ethnocentric party, but also has proven to be media friendly(he's frequently on Fox News, and he argues the conservative agenda quite well). He even came reasonably close to winning a U.S. Senate seat in Maryland in 2006 during a Democratic wave. I predict that Steele will be an effective, reasonable voice of the Republican Party, far more so than any other of those candidates would have. If I were a Republican, I'd much rather have Steele's face out there than Rush Limbaugh or Sean Hannity.

This, of course, will not even come close to solving the GOP's inherent problems with minority voters. Afterall, this is the party that has given us Justice Thomas, Rep. J.C. Watts, Condi Rice and Colin Powell, and they have maxed out at about 11% of the African American vote in Presidential Elections. File this election under the "could have been a lot worse" or "breathe a sigh of relief" category for national Republicans.

LABOR DAY: The biggest news out of the White House today was the creation a commission on middle class issues to be led by Vice President Joe Biden. The first meeting will take place next month in Philadelphia, and the task force will focus on creating jobs, especially in the green energy sector. Obama and Biden both took some shots at Bush during the morning Press Conference, with Biden saying to labor leaders, "it's nice to finally welcome you back to the White House." Obama also overturned three Bush executive orders:

-one which would require federal contractors to offer jobs to current workers when contracts change

-one which would make it more difficult for federal contractors to discourage union activities.

-and the one I mentioned yesterday about discontinuing a policy that allows businesses to inform workers in union jobs that they are not required to join a union.

These are minor, but important steps in shifting the balance between business and labor. Labor didn't even have a place at the table when Bush was in office.

MORE ON GREGG: New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg confirmed today that he is in the running for Commerce Secretary. Democrats are clamoring at the idea of adding a new Democratic Senator, and Republicans (apparently) are urging Gregg to reject the offer. I read somewhere that the governor of New Hampshire, John Lynch, is the type of guy who would appoint a Republican in Gregg's place to prove his bipartisan potential. Even if that were the case, New Hampshire's new Senator would certainly be a more reliable vote for Democrats than Judd Gregg, who is pretty much a down-the-line conservative. We'll see what happens with this. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Obama will be making a decision "soon," whatever that means.

COMING ATTRACTIONS: Obama will spend this weekend at a couple of social events. One is the annual Alfalfa Dinner in DC, and Sarah Palin will be there. That should be interesting. He's also apparently going to be watching the Super Bowl with a bipartisan delegation from Congress.

On Monday, the Senate takes up the nomination of Eric Holder. More on that on Monday in the Weekly Strike. The Senate will then consider its version of the stimulus bill. The House will most likely work on finalizing a budget that lasts until September of this year.

VOCAB IV: Today's term is "Quorum Call" (the Senate version). When watching CSPAN2, you'll frequently see that the Senate is in a quorum call, and there will be some classical music playing in the background. A quorum call is ordered, technically, to take attendance and establish a quorum. However, in practice, it is used to temporarily delay proceedings when no Senator wishes to speak. Thus, the Senate almost always goes into a quorum call if there is a long break between speeches. When a Senator sees that no one else on the floor wishes to speak, he will say "I wish to note the absence of a quorum." The presiding officer will ask the clerk to call the roll. She usually only calls the first name on the sheet (poor Mr. Akaka) and the chamber is silent until someone wishes to speak. To end the quorum call, a Senator must say, " I ask unanimous consent that the call of the quorum be rescinded." Oftentimes Senators forget to say this and just start talking. This creates an awkward situation in which the presiding officer must remind the Senator that " we are in a quorum call."

One interesting note from someone whose been inside the Senate chamber, they don't ACTUALLY play classical music during quorum calls. It's deathly silent in there. The classical music is courtesy of CSPAN so we have something nice to listen to before the next Senator comes to the floor and wishes to speak.

Have a great weekend!

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