Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The Daily Strike-4/29/09-Your Congress at Work

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike on this very busy Wednesday. The President is scheduled to give a press conference at 8pm EDT to talk about his first 100 days in office, as well as the administration's efforts to combat the spread of the swine flu. We will bring you full coverage of that speech in a Late Night Strike. If you want our analysis of the President's first 100 days, see the entry below. AND PLEASE LEAVE SOME COMMENTS!

THE BUDGET RESOLUTION: Congress today approved the annual budget resolution today, giving President Obama a very important victory. The $3.4 trillion budget blueprint largely mirrors the President's February request. It also includes reconciliation instructions which will allow for Obama's ambitious health care plan to pass the Senate with only 51 votes. The budget is typically a new President's earliest chance to significantly change federal policy and national priorities. Obama already did that with the stimulus package, but today passage of the budget was the next key step in enacting Obama's agenda.

The House voted on the conference report accompanying the resolution this morning. The final vote was 233-193. 17 Democrats joined all Republicans in opposition. The delinquent Democrats were Barrow (GA), Boren (OK), Bright (AL), Childers (MS), Foster (IL), Griffith (AL), Kratovil (MD), Kucinich (OH), Markey (CO), Marshall (GA), Matheson (UT), McIntyre (NC), Minnick (ID), Mitchell (AZ), Nye (VA), Taylor (MS) and Teague (NM). This is your usual Blue Dog cast, with the exception of Kucinich, who will never vote for money that could possibly be used to fund wars.

The Senate agreed to the conference report by a vote of 53-43 this afternoon. The most interesting part of the Senate vote was that Arlen Specter (PA), a Democrat as of yesterday, voted against his new party's signature budget proposal. Not exactly the best way to acclimate yourself to your newfound political co-patriots. Specter joined Bayh (IN), Byrd (WV), and Nelson (NE) as Democrats in opposition. Nelson and Bayh voted against it because of their "fiscal conservatism." Byrd almost certainly voted against it because he is a Senate institutionalist who doesn't like using reconciliation procedures. It almost goes without saying that every Republican voted no.

The resolution does not have to be signed by the President. The next step is for House and Senate committees to draft 13 separate appropriations bills that reflect the parameters of the budget outline.

The House also passed a bill today changing the definition of Hate Crimes to include those involving gender or sexual orientation (note the difference here between "sex" and "gender"). The bill has been pending since the death of Matthew Shepard (a gay student murdered because of his sexual orientation) in Wyoming almost ten years ago. In fact, Shepard's mother was on hand for the debate and vote. I'm just sorry she had to listen to this drivel from Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC).

This wasn't even the most absurd commentary today from House Republicans. The infamous Steve King (R-IA) sarcastically suggested that the bill should protect pedophiles, as if they are morally equivalent to homosexuals. Other Republicans repeatedly claimed that the bill is punishing "thought" and would prevent religious groups from exercising free speech. Of course, it does no such thing. In fact, the bill specifically says that it does not apply to any one's first amendment right to free speech. Meghan McCain would be cringing watching old, Southern House Republicans defending bigotry for three hours.

The House first had to vote on a Republican motion to recommit, which would have applied a death penalty punishment for hate crimes, and expanded the definition of hate crimes to include members of the armed forces and police officers. Of course, this motion was a cynical ploy to try and kill the bill. Now they can say that Democrats don't want to protect the military. The motion to recommit failed 185-241. 25 Democrats voted yes, while 16 Republicans voted no.

The bill itself passed 249-175. Interestingly, the vote wasn't completely along party lines. There are still a bunch of southern Democrats who aren't quite there yet on the whole gay rights thing. 17 Democrats voted no. Conversely, there are 18 reasonable Republicans who don't think homosexuality is tearing down this country.

The most interesting no vote on the Democratic side came from Artur Davis of Alabama, an African American running for governor of conservative Alabama. Talking about selling your soul to get elected.

THE WHITE HOUSE: The President's biggest event today (before the press conference) was a town hall meeting in Missouri, in which he discussed his first 100 days in office. The best part of the meeting was when he criticized those conservative tea parties on Tax Day, saying they were organized by a "cable channel that doesn't like me very much." He said that if they want to have a serious conversation about fiscal responsibility, fine, but don't disingenuously say that this reckless spending started with the President's stimulus package. I certainly enjoyed seeing the President take a slap at the anti-tax tea parties, but I tend to think he shouldn't stoop to their level. Obama also said that he is not a miracle worker. The coming months will require hard choices and sacrifice. Of course, the President also used the event to highlight his accomplishments.

That's it for us today. Join us later tonight (or tomorrow morning) to talk about the President's press conference.

1 comment:

  1. so I was checking the house roll call, and saw "Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act," clicked to the link and was a bit shocked that 175 say nay?? then read the bill in details, and I'm still scratching my head - this is not about whether one supports guy or not; it's not personal values; it's about human lives!! I know the list is long, but there should be a separate blog entry to list these 175 names - shame on them!

    first 100 days: still a long way to go, generally I like the way President handles things so far. I give President Obama a A-