Nation editor-at-large and host of MSNBC’s All In with Chris Hayes.
"Everybody, this is not an April Fools joke," said Sen. Reid yesterday in an announcement with Sen. McConnell. "This is important ...and the only way it's going to be solved is for us to work together. The time has come for us to legislate."
(Sometimes a spring break does wonders to clear the mind.)
By noon today, Sens. Dodd and Shelby are expected to produce a bipartisan housing bill, subject to amendment by both sides. And after the GOP stonewalled the issue all last month, Sen. Isakson (R-Ga.) urged Republicans leaders to move quickly on an agreement. "You can play that game when it doesn't matter. But people's lives, their fortunes, their largest single asset is at stake," he said.
Meanwhile, frustrated cities are taking action in their own hands. Last week, Philadelphia suspended sales of foreclosed homes; Cleveland and Baltimore are considering similar actions.
As I wrote earlier this month, under the leadership of Rep. Cohen (D-Tennessee), an apology for slavery and Jim Crow is currently making its way through Congress. Now on the state level, in a bid for "reconciliation and healing," Florida has issued a landmark apology for its role in American slavery. Since just last year, five other states have passed similar resolutions, including New Jersey, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Alabama.
In case you missed it, there was a stellar moment in a related House hearing last December, in which Cohen deftly interrogated a witness who criticized the notion of a US apology. To me, this particular exchange got to the heart of the matter:
COHEN: The United States permitted slavery, made it legal....For a hundred years thereafter [we] made people unequal citizens. For 100 years we perpetrated, perpetuated that racism and that badge of slavey! It was a second-class slavery system!WITNESS: Now when you say we....COHEN: We're a country.WITNESS: Well, I don't look at it that way.
In other words: the United States is proud to accept full credit for its virtues as a country, but none of the collective responsibility for its sins.
Watch the clip here:
This week, Congress returns from its two-week hiatus to tackle the HIV/AIDS, Tuberulosis and Malaria Reauthorization Act in the House, as well as housing legislation and HR3221 in the Senate (the latter which deals with programs related to energy independence, carbon emissions, and green jobs). In the House, Republicans and Blue-Dog Democrats may try and force a vote on the SAVE Act, which would beef up border patrol with 8,000 new guards, and require all employers to opt into the federal E-Verify system. Before departing for spring break, Republicans had gathered 181 of the 217 signatures necessary to bring the measure to a vote (which would force an uncomfortable election-season showdown that reportedly, McCain has made quiet efforts to discourage).
With Gen. David Petraeus returning to the Hill next week to deliver a Senate report detailing affairs in Iraq since the surge, Democrats and Republicans will also spend much of the week preparing for the upcoming Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committee hearings. Sen. Joseph Biden (D-Del.) will hold hearings on the cost and long-term outlook for U.S. involvement in Iraq; given the deteriorating state of the economy, expect House and Senate Democratic leadership to try and emphasize the war's costs at home.
Meanwhile this morning, as he departed for a NATO summit in Europe, President Bush said lawmakers have a "lot of work to do," and urged Congressional effort on what he called "vital priorities," incuding passing FISA reform legislation, modernizing the Federal Housing Administration, and approving a free-trade agreement with Colombia.
Darcy Burner opened this afternoon's conference call on the Responsible Plan to End the Iraq War by quoting an unlikely ally: General Petraeus, who declared last year that "There is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq."
When it comes to ending the war, it's not surprising so much attention has focused on military presence and troop timetables. With the current administration, it's tough to see how else to demand accountability except through concrete deadlines.
But while candidates like Chellie Pingree face attacks for the Plan's failure to endorse a withdrawal date, as Matt Stoller argues, even if Congress successfully imposed a timeline, the war would continue via the use of more mercenary soldiers and covert operations. A fixation on such deadlines detracts from an examination of the diplomatic, political and economic reasons why we entered Iraq in the first place--and, to no small extent, why we're still stuck there. On the other hand, as the Plan argues, engaging international institutions to rebuild Iraq's economy, working with Iraq's neighbors and tackling contacting reform--those efforts might be more substantive.
The Plan's other priorities include ending signing statements and--because the war's conception was by no means just a Congressional or executive failure--encouraging more diversity in media. In short: the Plan doesn't want to simply end the war, it also wants to end the mentality that got us into war in the first place.