Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The Daily Strike-2/24/09-Pre-Speech Update

Good evening! Of course today's major event will be President Obama's address to a joint session of Congress tonight. We will cover that in depth with a Late Night Strike, with views and analysis from a few of our bloggers to the speech and the Republican response from Bobby Jindal of Louisiana. For now, let's talk about what happened earlier in the day.

SENATE: The Senate took two key votes today. The first was a cloture motion to proceed to consideration of a bill granting a House seat to the District of Columbia (and a temporary one for Utah). While the motion technically just permits the Senate to debate the bill, it's adoption makes the bill's passage a foregone conclusion. The motion required 60 votes to pass, and thus was done to test whether the bill would break a Republican filibuster. The motion was adopted by a vote of 62-34. All Democrats voted for the bill except for Senators Baucus (MT) and Byrd (WV). My impression is that both Baucus and Byrd are institutionalist and sticklers for the rules. Byrd is infamous for his strict adherence to the rules and structures of the Senate. Republicans voting for the motion:

-Cochran (MS) (That's a surprise, he's usually a mainstream conservative)
-Collins (ME)
-Hatch (UT) (He's cool with his state getting an extra House seat!)
-Lugar (IN)
-Murkowski (AK)
-Snowe (ME)
-Specter (PA)

If the bill passes the Senate later this week, it goes to the House, where it shouldn't face any trouble. President Obama will sign the bill into law. The question then becomes whether the bill will withstand a court challenge. As we talked about the other day, the constitution does say that Representatives The scome from "the several states," and DC is not a state. I'll go more into the legal issues once I consult with Sister Strike about this. It looks like the final bill will mandate expedited legal consideration so the constitutionality of the bill is determined before DC would elect its first Representative in 2010.

The second key vote was on confirmation of Hilda Solis to be Secretary of Labor (finally!). Republicans dropped procedural challenges to her nomination earlier in the day and agreed to a vote on final passage this afternoon. Republicans had expressed concerns about her previous work with a labor rights group (that makes her MORE qualified in my view), her vague statements on The Employee Free Choice Act (a bill to make it easier for workers to unionize) and her husband's tax problems. But after all that, Solis was confirmed surprisngly easily today by a vote of 80-17. All of the "no" votes came from Republicans. I'm frankly surprised at some of the "yes" votes, which include Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, John McCain and his sidekick Lindsey Graham, and Georgia's Saxby Chambliss. Solis will try to restore a department brutally damaged during the last eight years, when it was run by Elaine Chao and big business. Solis' confirmation is a victory for progressives. She has a staunchly pro-labor record, and has an inspiring story as the daughter of Mexican immigrants.

Her confirmation also brings the number of outstanding open cabinet positions to two: Commerce and HHS. Former Washington Governor Gary Locke is expected to be nominated for Commerce tomorrow. She also will be forced to resign her seat in the House, which will bring the whole number of representatives to 432, with the Democrats holding a 254-178 advantage. The two other vacant seats are those of White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel and appointed New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. Gillibrand's seat, as we've talked about before, is the only one that will be closely contested.

HOUSE: The House disposed of many bills under suspension of the rules today. The most interesting was a bill to ban the domestication of primates. Surprisingly, 95 Representatives voted against this bill (93 of them Republicans). The House also voted to name a post office and recognize Black History month. It moves tomorrow to consideration of a bill to fund the federal government through September. The House will consider the bill under a rule prohibiting amendments. Therefore, Republicans won't be able to bring up 80 votes striking funding from Amtrak, the National Endowment of the Arts etc. The Republicans will be able to vote on their own alternative through a motion to recommit the bill to committee.

IRAQ: Obama is expected to release the details of his Iraq plan in the next couple of days. The plan will apparently have most troops out in 19 months (three months longer than his campaign promise). He also will leave behind a residual force, which will include some combat forces. This seems to be a water-downed withdrawal that is a compromise between Obama's campaign rhetoric and the demands of the Pentagon brass that the U.S. not withdrawal "precipitously." This is very disappointing news to many of us who had hoped he wouldn't budge on this issue. I realize it's a complicated issue and the state of affairs in Iraq is fragile, but he can't morally justify continuing this war. His political rise was launched by his principled opposition to the war almost seven years ago. Let's just hope he never sacrifices that strong moral compass.

That's it for now, but we'll update you all later tonight!

No comments:

Post a Comment