Thursday, August 6, 2009

The Daily Strike-8/6/09-Confirmed

Good evening and welcome to the Daily Strike, on what was a historic day in Washington. Today was also the last day one chamber of Congress was in session until early September, so look forward to some interesting August recess features in the blog.

SOTOMAYOR: The Senate today confirmed the nomination of Sonia Maria Sotomayor to be the 111th Justice on the Supreme Court. Sotomayor will be sworn in Saturday as the first Latina, and only the third woman Justice in our country's history. There's been so much else going on the news lately, and there wasn't any real controversy to this nominee, so Sotomayor's nomination has been put on the backburner. It's unfortunate, because her confirmation is a truly significant achievement for our country, and reaffirms the American dream; that with hard work and dedication, there is no limit to what you can achieve. It may sound a bit cheesy, but as she's confirmed, I think it is important to step back and appreciate living in a place where a girl who grew up in public housing in the Bronx now sits as one of nine Justices on the Supreme Court.

The vote on the nomination went just as expected, with 68 Senators voting yes, and 31 voting no. All 59 Democrats (and Democratic-leaning Independents) who were present voted in the affirmative. Senator Kennedy (MA) is still unable to make it to the Senate chamber. Amazingly, Senator Robert Byrd (WV), a full 92 years old and suffering from several recent illnesses, was wheeled into the chamber to record his "aye" vote. Senator Mikulski (MD) just had surgery on her leg, and was also brought in on a wheel chair to vote. The 9 Republicans who voted yes were Collins (ME), Snowe (ME), Martinez (FL), Lugar (IN), Voinovich (OH), Alexander (TN), Bond (MO), Gregg (NH) and Graham (SC). Interestingly, 4 out of these 9 will be retiring next year. The other 31 Republican Senators voted no, and will now face the wrath of Hispanic voters who will wonder how they could turn down such a qualified, inspiring nominee, especially when their main basis of opposition was a couple of snippets from old speeches, and an unproven theory that she was a "judicial activist."

An interesting side note about the vote was that the result was announced by the newest Senator, former comedian Al Franken (D-MN). When the Senate is conducting normal business, majority freshmen will alternate presiding over the chamber so that they can become acquainted with Senate rules. Usually, however, for really important votes, the President Pro Tempore will sit in the chair and announce the final tally. The President Pro Tempore is Robert Byrd, who is probably physically unable to announce a roll call vote, so I guess they decided to let Franken continue his regularly scheduled shift.

President Obama spoke right after the vote, hailing the confirmation as a historic step in America's push to become a "more perfect union." The confirmation is a significant political victory for the President. He was able to get his first nominee on the court with very little controversy, and he was able to elevate someone who the country can be proud of. I admit it, I'm on the Sotomayor bandwagon, and I'll be very happy to see her sworn in by arch conservative Chief Justice John Roberts.

THE SENATE: After the Sotomayor vote, the Senate had to deal with the Cash for Clunkers program before it skipped town. Cash for Clunkers, of course, was a program approved in June that allows people to turn in gas guzzling cars and get a $4500 rebate towards a purchase of a more fuel efficient car. The program was so popular that it ran out of money quickly. The House appropriated an additional $2 billion last week, and then adjourned for the recess. The Senate therefore, could not make any changes to the bill if it wanted to send something to the President's desk.

A lot of Senators, including Democrat Tom Harkin (IA) and a handful of Republicans, acted like they didn't know about this restriction, and insisted on voting on several amendments before final passage. Here's a rundown of the amendments:

-The Harkin amendment, which I support, would only allow people making under $75,000 to take advantage of the program. It's a good idea, but not worth scuttling the whole bill over. The amendment was tabled 65-32 (with Harkin mysteriously voting to kill his own amendment, I'm assuming it was some sort of parliamentary maneuver even I wouldn't understand).

-Next, was a Republican substitute, offered by Senator Kyl (AZ) which would have conducted a study on the effectiveness on the program instead of doling out more cash. What would a study accomplish? We're trying to get people buy cars to jump start the economy! Why top something if it's clearly working? The amendment failed 40-57. Democrats Bayh (IN), McCaskill (MO), Nelson (NE) and Warner (VA) voted yes, while Republicans Bond (MO), Brownback (KS) and Collins (ME) voted no.

-Next was an amendment from Senator Gregg (R-NH) to "prevent generations of tomorrow from paying for cars today." I assume he was trying to make a clever point about the deficit, but I don't know what the practical implications of the amendment would be. Anyways, it failed by a vote of 46-51, and it needed 60 votes anyway because it violated budget rules. Fiscal "hawk" Democrats Bayh (IN), Bennet (CO), Conrad (ND), Lincoln (AR), McCaskill (MO), Nelson (NE) and Warner (VA) couldn't resist.

-Then two joke amendments from two joke Senators, Coburn (OK) and Clown (LA) that sought respectively to redirect funding from the program to worthy charities, and to set a date for ending the TARP program. Coburn's amendment I could understand if he was actually serious about spending public money for charitable purposes, but I know he isn't, and that he was just trying to prove that Cash for Clunkers is not a necessary program. Clown is just a clown. The amendments each failed 41-56.

-Finally, an amendment from Senator Isakson (GA), which dealt with his pet issue of tax credits for home purchasers. A worthy cause, but again, not worth killing the bill. The amendment failed 47-50 (it needed 60 to pass).

After all of these amendments were disposed of, the bill finally passed this evening by a vote of 60-37, and will be sent to President Obama's desk immediately for his signature. Republicans Alexander (TN), Bond (MO), Brownback (KS), Collins (ME), Corker (TN), Snowe (ME) and Voinovich (OH) voted yes. Democrats Leahy (VT), Nelson (NE) and Warner (VA) voted no. Nelson and Warner are both moderate Democrats who always want to seem thrifty with the taxpayer's money, but Leahy is usually a reliable liberal. I don't know why he voted in the negative.

Congress is now officially in recess, and will not return until September 8th. We will give a comprehensive review of the Congressional session so far later this weekend.

That's it for us today, a toast to Sonia! See you tomorrow and LEAVE COMMENTS!

1 comment:

  1. A fantastic day for America and all who have faith in humanity and reality of democracy. All cheer Sonia!