Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Daily Strike-8/4/09-Rallying the Troops

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike. Make sure you read The Big Picture's very strong review of the previous week, and look forward to his monthly entry judging President Obama's progress on key issues as he enters his 7th month in office.

RALLYING THE TROOPS: Today was the President's birthday, and he can ask for no greater present than the support and cooperation of Senate Democrats. The 60 member Democratic caucus had lunch at the White House today, and both the President and Senate Democrats came out of the meeting feeling positive. Majority Leader Reid said that the President talked about the importance of health reform, and that there was unanimity in the caucus that health care needs to pass this year. They even got Max Baucus to say that while he prefers getting a bipartisan bill out of the Senate, he recognizes the urgent need to get reform done. I hope he sticks to this promise. I think it's very important to remind some Senate Democrats what team they're on, and that their political fate, and the fate of the country, rests on their President.

TOWN HALLS GONE WILD: Over the past couple of days we've seen more and more staged outbursts at town hall meetings with Democratic Congressmen, staged by right-wing interest groups and conservative activists. They have managed to make a scene now, as they planned all along, at several local events across the country. You can watch countless YouTube clips from the past few days that show these awkward confrontations. On the one hand, I think that these antics could backfire on conservatives, because they could come off as a discredited loony fringe. It happened late in the Presidential campaign last year, when people at McCain-Palin rallies started shouting "terrorist" and "communist" when President Obama's name was mentioned. On the other hand, the media loves and sympathizes with angry old white people. Oftentimes, the extreme action of a few can seem to represent the public will, even when it doesn't. It reminds me of when Republican staffers stormed the Miami-Dade vote counting headquarters in 2000 to stop the Florida recount. You can't underestimate the power of a disruptive, angry mob. I think the strategy, as outlined well last night by Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis, should be to bring people who have suffered under our current health care system to each one of these events, and make the angry protesters engage in these antics in front of their face. It's a lot harder to act disrespectful when you're yelling at a cancer patient who was denied treatment because of a pre-existing condition.

BUBBA TO THE RESCUE: In a very interesting story, Bill Clinton went to North Korea today to help facilitate the release of two American journalists. The President met personally with Kim Jong Il to help negotiate the terms of the release of Laura Ling and Euna Lee. It was the first time that an American representative has met with Kim Jong Il this decade. The former President apologized to Kim Jong Il for the behavior of the two journalists who had illegally entered the country. Kim Jong Il offered the journalist a full pardon, and they are on their way home. The White House insists that Clinton did this as a private citizen, but it's clear that administration was supportive. There will be a lot of ideological talk about about how we shouldn't be negotiating with tyrants, but try telling that to the families of these two women, who would have spent the next 12 years doing hard labor.

THE SENATE: The Senate today finished consideration of the Agriculture appropriations bill, before moving on to the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor, which will occupy the chamber for the next several days. So far, 57 Senators have committed to support the nomination, which ensures that Sotomayor will be confirmed by the end of the week. The debate started tonight with speeches from Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and ranking Republican Jeff Sessions (R-AL). Most Senators will get the opportunity to speak on her nomination before a vote occurs, possibly Thursday or Friday.

As for that Agriculture bill, it passed by a large margin of 80-17. 16 Republicans joined Evan Bayh (D-IN) in voting no. The bill must be reconciled with the House version before it goes to President Obama for his signature. Prior to a vote on final passage, the Senate considered several amendments:

-First, the Senate voted against an amendment from Senator McCain to eliminate watershed and flood prevention programs. Some times I don't know whether John McCain can differentiate between the "wasteful spending" items he tries to cut from every bill. The amendment failed by a vote 27-70, on a vote that did not fall along party lines.

-Next, the Senate rejected a Coburn (OK) amendment to eliminate funding for duplicate digital conversion efforts in the department. Pay money now, save later. It's a pretty simple concept, Senator. The amendment failed 37-60.

-Third was a Coburn motion to send the bill back to committee for major changes in funding levels. This failed by a vote of 32-65.

-Finally, the Senate agreed to a Sanders (Socialist-VT) to increase funding for the Farm Service Agency. The amendment violated budget rules, so it needed 60 votes to pass. It got exactly 60 votes, with 37 senators voting no.

That's it for tonight, see you tomorrow!

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