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Democrats tempted to vote for this sham because they're scared of 30-second ads that accuse them of opposing lobbying reform ought to ask themselves whether they really think so little of their constituents. As for Republicans willing to settle for this legislative fig leaf, they ought to listen to Rep. Christopher Shays (R-Conn). "I happen to believe we are losing our moral authority to lead this place," Mr. Shays said on the House floor last week.
The GOP leadership wanted to claim the mantle of reform without actually enacting any reforms. Sadly, eight Democrats--enough to switch the outcome on a razor thin vote--took the bait. They are:
Barrow, Boren, Boswell, Cuellar, Marshall, Matheson,Melancon,Taylor (MS)
Of the anti-reform eight, seven are conservative Blue Dog Democrats, six voted for the bankruptcy bill, five voted for the GOP energy bill and so-called tort reform and two members (Cueller and Matheson), voted for all three, plus CAFTA. At least Cuellar got a primary challenge this election cycle.
The Democratic leadership tried its best to keep members united. But at the end of the day, the seventeen Republicans voting nay were braver than the eight Democrats voting yea.
To understand what the sham lobbying "reform" bill that the House will likely pass today will do, you need to understand what it won't do. The only reason Congress is talking about lobbying reform is because of Jack Abramoff and his Fedora-studded guilty plea last January. Yet the so-called reforms in the "Lobbying Accountability and Transparency Act" will do absolutely nothing to prevent the next Abramoff, as this valuable chart from Public Citizen shows.
Moreover, as Public Citizen recognizes: "Corruption by lobbyists and lawmakers does not begin or end with Abramoff; it is a systemic problem. There are many more Jack Abramoffs peddling their wares on the Hill."
Yes. Don't forget about prostitutes at the Watergate servicing Republican members of Congress and CIA aides. Abramoff may be too technical, but hookers everyone can understand.
UPDATE: The final bill passed around 5:30 on a 217-213 vote. Nineteen Republicans voted with the Democrats in opposing the bill. Eight Dems voted with the GOP leadership. Will post their names once I have them. If those eight held the line, sham bill might've failed.
At least one GOP lawmaker is paying attention to L'Affair Abramoff: Ohio Rep. Bob Ney. Time is running out for the former "Mayor of Capitol Hill."
Dennis Hastert pushed the Ohio Congressman from his House Administration Committee chairmanship following Abramoff's DC indictment in January. Since then, a game of wait and see has transpired between Ney and the law.
Ney's statute of limitations in the Abramoff Sun Cruz casino fleet investigation expired last Thursday, with the Justice Department opting for an expanded corruption probe. Ney's lawyer says his client will learn in "a month or two" whether he faces criminal charges. Multiple guilty pleas from Abramoff and his aides ID'd Ney as the bribe-taking "Representative #1."
That's probably why $96,500 of Ney's 250,098 campaign dollars last quarter went toward legal fees. Or why Congressional Quarterly recently changed Ney's re-election prospects from "Lean Republican" to a tossup, with internal GOP polling showing Ney losing to either of his Democratic challengers. Or why the pretrial motion in the federal investigation into indicted Bush Administration official David Safavian argues that Ney underreported the cost of his golf trip to Scotland with Abramoff and Safavian by $12,000.
Like his former mentor Tom DeLay, Ney's got some 'splainin to do. With the Ohio primary approaching tonight, National Journal reports that "well-placed Republican strategists say it's time for House Majority Leader John Boehner to tell Ney to resign."
On May Day, hundreds of thousands of people demanding rights forundocumented immigrants marched down Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles,the epicenter of this burgeoning national movement. The sky was clearand blue and the breeze was mercifully cool as it took more than twohours for all the marchers to make their way down the office-towercanyon of Wilshire Blvd. to the rally site, packing the six-lane streetfrom curb to curb and making lots of cheerful noise. It was athrilling afternoon; in many ways the most overwhelming demonstrationI've ever seen.
The marchers, estimated by the police at 400,000 people, were almostall Mexican-American and mostly young. The advance guard consisted ofa brigade of adolescent boys on short bicycles doing wheelies whilethey shouted the march slogan, "Si se puede!" ("Yes we can!"). Thencame the seemingly endless throngs of kids, families, and groups, manycarrying handmade signs: "We may be immigrants/But we are hardworkers"; "You might hate us/But you need us"; "This land is yourland/This land is my land"; a guy in a Dodger cap held a sign thatsaid "Let our people stay!", and another young guy's sign said, "DeportArnold/Not my homies."
The key organizing groups carried huge banners: "Hotel Workers Rising", UNITE-HERE, plus the Garment Workers Center, the Instituto de Educacion Popular, the Day Laborer Project, Pacific Islanders for Immigrants' Rights, Columbianos por una Reforma Migratoria Justa, the Organization of Hot Dog Vendors in Solidarity, and the LA Taxi Workers Alliance, who rode in three yellow cabs. People for the American Way had a big banner and six people behind it, three of them talking on cell phones.
This was one of two competing immigration May Day protests held in LosAngeles, with different organizers and different politics. Themonumental Wilshire Boulevard march had been called by labor unions,immigrant rights groups, the pro-immigrant Cardinal Roger Mahony, andthe new Latino mayor AntonioVillaraigosa, as an alternative to another march held at noondowntown, the "Boycott" march, which called on immigrant Angelinos toboycott school and work to show what would happen to LA on a "daywithout immigrants"--although more of the signs called it "Un Dia SinLatinos," or the admirably bilingual "Primero de Mayo, A Day without aMexican." The "boycott" march, which demanded "nothing less than fullamnesty" and "full rights for all immigrants," had virtually noinstitutional support, except for small left-wing groups likeANSWER-LA.
The unions, the immigrant rights organizations, the cardinal and themayor opposed the boycott out of a concern that it would alienatemainstream voters and members of Congress. As an alternative theyorganized an after-school, after work, afternoon march, with much lessradical demands than "full amnesty." This "We Are America"coalition instead calls for "legalization with a path to citizenshipfor hard-working immigrants," plus "an effective visa program forfuture immigrants that protects their rights and includes a path tocitizenship" - basically the McCain-Kennedy bill.
The all-important Spanish language radio DJs, whoproved to be the secret force behind the massive March 25 demonstrationthat stunned Anglo LA with its size and intensity, did not support theboycotts. Instead they joined the mayor and the cardinal in calling onkids to stay in school today and come to the afternoon march.
But the hundreds of thousands marching in LA today probably didn't caremuch about the different politics of the two marches, as Marc Cooper has argued. (See his report and photos here.) And when the mayor and the cardinal tell kids not to boycott school forthe day, many find it hard to resist defying authority, especially forthis cause.
The downtown march four hours earlier had an estimated 250,000 people.As the march stepped off at noon, the side streets were full of vendorsgrilling sausages, peppers and onions. These marchers were alsocheerful, peaceful, and mostly young--many very young, alongside theirparents. The signs showed that marchers know about the keylegislation, a lot more than the great majority of Anglos. "Alto a laHR 4437" was apopular sign, and many young women wore tank tops that said "Contra4437" - referring to the bill passed recently by the House, officially"HR 4437," that would make undocumented aliens into felons.
When hundreds of thousands take to the streets on a day like today, weare witnessing the birth of a movement for social justice of historicproportions. What I remember best is a somber ten-year old girl whomarched by with her Mexican-American family, carrying a sign that read"We Are Not Criminals." That summed it up for me.
In the hours before the kick-off the Day Without Immigrants activities,it feels like today's protests are going to be once again of historicproportions.
Here in Los Angeles, the probable epicenter among the 60 or cities inwhich events are planned, officials are expecting crowds that couldsurpass the half-millon who rocked the city on March 25. Several majorthoroughfares are scheduled to be shut down. Numerous employers arealso shuttering for the day.
As the case in other venues, there are mixed views here about whatstrategy should best be pursued. The local Catholic cardinal, theMayor, organized labor and the most prominent among immigrant advocategroups are supporting an after-work rally and march (a position thatoverlaps with mine). A coalition of smaller groups are advocating awalkout from jobs and schools and a noontime rally. Beneath thesurface of that disagreement is a mostly un-reported struggle forleadership over the mushrooming movement.
Most likely, however, these differences will be over-ridden by sheer,massive numbers. The media is not very likely to make much of adistinction between the two camps (nor will most of the participants).That's OK. And rather inevitable, given what I also think will be abreathtaking turnout both here and Los Angeles and nationwide.
This next wave of demonstrations--a movement way and I mean way beyondthe control of any single force--comes as new polls show continuingevolution of public opinion in favor of comprehensive immigrationreform. That shift raises the stakes of the May Day demos. My fingersare crossed that they will go off as peacefully and as effectively asthe big demos of the past weeks. Some wild cards are students who arelikely to ignore the calls of the Cardinal and of Mayor AntonioVillaraigosa to not blow off school. As a former young person myself, Ican readily attest to youthful impetuousness!
There's also a fringe of "revolutionary" sects who traditionallycelebrate May Day by trying to wrestle with the LAPD. These groupletshave attached themselves to today's events--but let's hope they don'twreck it for others (as masterful they are in the fine art ofwrecking).
There's no question in my mind that we are in the midst of an historic,new social movement. It's taken decades to build and reach criticalmass and it is still going to take years to mature and fully pay off.So far, the cool-headed long-term strategists have dominated. My wishis they continue in the leadership of the movement.
The political establishment is still, for the most part, clueless.Entrenched hypocrisy has so long been the official policy that fewpolitical leaders are fully prepared to deal with this emgergingreality. And not just the establishment, I might add. Much of theliberal and progressive left is having difficulty getting their armsaround all this. The ignorance and confusion, for example, surroundingthe notion of a guest worker program is simply stunning. A whole loadof lefties are stuck believing that this is a proposal for a newbracero program. Their ideological stiffness has blocked them fromdoing any real research on the matter and learning, it should bestressed, that liberals from Ted Kennendy to Raul Grijalva have beentoiling away to make these program proposals smart, comprehensive andguarantors of labor rights (Oh well, I'm not gonna go on about this. Ifyou haven't read enough of this elsewhere to understand what'shappening, I'm not about to convince you with one blog past). I willnote in passing that at this weekend's past state Democratic Partyconvention the issue of immigration never came up! During his numerousconvention appearances, the words immigration and immigrant didn'tcross the lips of Phil Angelides, the state treasurer and gubernatorialcandidate officially endorsed by the Party (his rival, Steve Westly,however, forthrightly endorsed legalization of the undocumented alreadyhere).
In short, if there are no severe disruptions or provocations, today'scoast-to-coast demonstrations should be more compelling, undeniableevidence of the integral role that "illegal aliens" play in our veryvibrant economy and societal fabric. With some luck they will help moveforward some concrete, achievable, practical and sensible measures thatwill help legalize those whom we allow to work for us but whom werefuse to recognize or acknowledge.
P.S. The always wonderful-to-read Gustavo Arellano weighs in with thismini-profile of self-proclaimed boycott leader Nativo Lopez. Required reading.
Los Angeles is expected to be the epicenter of toay's nationwide "Day Without Immigrants" protests and rallies. Local officials have said they are bracing for a turnout perhaps larger than the mega-rally of March 25, which brought a half-million pro-immigrant demonstrators into downtown Los Angeles.
Similar demos and rallies are planned Monday for some sixty cities. And in many of them--as in Los Angeles--there's an active internal debate over which tactics should predominate. Organized labor, the Catholic church and some of the leading immigrant advocate groups in LA have argued to ignore and eschew calls for an economic boycott and a school walk-out, claiming they might be politically alienating at a time when public opinion is shifting in favor of immigrants. These groups have organized their own after-work rally to compete with the pro-boycott events scheduled for midday and organized by smaller groups.
The internal movement debate, however, seems likely to be blurred and overridden by sheer numbers. The call for a May 1 action seems to have struck a nerve and, according to various reports, there are many employers (including major meatpacking and poultry companies) who will be voluntarily closing their doors for the day.
Any way you cut it, we seem to be amid a rapidly building and historic social movement whose scope and contours seem impossible to anticipate. Keep tuned here from an on-the-scene report from colleague Jon Wiener.
John Kenneth Galbraith died at the age of 97, shortly after 9:00 on Saturday night.
America has lost a great and iconoclastic economist, thinker, writer and political figure.
As William Greider wrote in The Nation last year, the striking quality about "Ken" Galbraith--the man and his work--" is how forcefully the books he wrote across nearly fifty years speak to our present circumstances."
Read Galbraith "to recognize the many important matters--society's condition, for instance--excluded from the brittle, math-obsessed economics that poses as hard science. Study Galbraith's critical voice in the serious public policy debates of his time to appreciate what is missing from today's politics and media. Listen to Galbraith address such taboo subjects as corporate power to understand what honest economists and politicians should be confronting now."
Galbraith, who never shied away from the (relentlessly demonized)term liberal, was also a man of wonderful and droll wit whose fluid prose and pithy notes delighted and inspired.
As Richard Parker's fine biography, John Kenneth Galbraith: His Life, His Politics, His Economics reminds us, Galbraith never lost his critical-minded, unconventional and truly liberal-minded temperament--a quality that ensures so many of his books (a staggering forty-eight) remain remarkably relevant to the present.
As we wrestle with his loss to our society and politics, let's celebrate how this great man (and at 6 foot seven he did seem great in so many ways) never ceased to act on behalf of the common good, common sense and powerless people.
Even figuring out the terms of debate for legislation is a tough task for Republicans these days--as the fight over lobbying reform in the House illustrated yesterday. First the GOP leadership introduced a rule to prevent reformers from offering amendments, then they pulled the rule from the House floor fifteen minutes later. They didn't have the votes. Then they did. When they reconvened to vote again, no one knew for sure. At the end of the day, the rule passed 216-207. Translation: Republicans 1, Democracy 0. A supposedly "open government" bill will come to a vote next week under closed debate. For those interested in backroom legislative minutia, here's yesterday's (sub-only) synopsis from National Journal's Congress Daily:
A last-minute agreement between House Speaker Hastert and Appropriations Chairman Lewis salvaged the lobbying and ethics overhaul package Thursday, but not before exposing divisions across the Republican Conference.
Following a two-hour afternoon Conference meeting, Hastert and Majority Leader Boehner were prepared to pull the trigger on a procedural vote that appeared destined for failure amid opposition from a united bloc of GOP appropriators.
The decision to put the rule up for a seemingly hopeless vote was against the wishes of Rules Chairman Dreier, who crafted the legislation at Hastert's request, and Majority Whip Blunt, who has never lost a procedural vote on the floor.
However, GOP leaders and appropriators appeared at a stalemate after appropriators balked at a commitment Dreier made to Lewis Wednesday that a bill would not come out of conference that did not include changes agreeable to the spending panel.
Tensions flared in leadership after the Conference meeting as leaders and their aides scrambled to reach an agreement just as debate resumed on the floor--with the widely held expectation that the rule vote would fail.
Several GOP leadership sources said Hastert was furious with Lewis and appropriators who remained opposed to the bill despite commitments to extend the overhauls in conference.
Defeating the rule would make it increasingly difficult for the House to pass a bill in the future, and Hastert has put a high priority on the legislation. Leaders were also concerned that the failure to pass the rule would open the door to a barrage of Democratic criticism and undermine the GOP leadership team.
"That case was made," said Republican Conference Chairwoman Deborah Pryce of Ohio. "Not only [would it undermine] the leadership, but the whole majority."
An hour before the vote, Hastert and Boehner huddled in another meeting with appropriators, including Lewis and Rep. Tom DeLay, R-Texas. This time, Lewis accepted the commitment to fix the bill in Conference.
Walking out of the meeting, Lewis remarked, in classic Washington-speak: "The Speaker is a very persuasive man."
In the ongoing fight to clean up Congress, the reformers won a minor victory when the House Republican leadership was forced to yank its bogus lobbying "reform" bill off the House floor today.
The move came shortly after Democrats Louise Slaughter and Jim McGovern, both on the House Rules Committee, spoke out against a rule to close debate on a supposedly "open government" bill. When Chairman David Dreier realized he didn't have the votes to pass the rule, he simply yanked it from consideration. As Slaughter told Dreier at a Rules hearing yesterday, "Everybody in this town has beaten up on your bill."
Members of the House Appropriations Committee, led by powerful chairman Jerry Lewis, wanted earmark reform to extend to tax and spending bills. GOP moderates, led by Chris Shays, were unhappy about the steady weakening of an already-toothless piece of legislation. Democrats were virtually united against its passage. And Republican Rep. Joel Hefley, who Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert booted as chairman of the House Ethics Committee in February 2005 after the panel rebuked Tom DeLay three times, was going to speak on the Democrats side.
Rather then face another humiliating defeat for the House Leadership, Dreier pulled the plug. No word yet on when it will resurface. As McGovern, a stalwart progressive, said today: "The Republican Leadership's so-called 'reform' bill deserves to collapse under the weight of its own hypocrisy."
UPDATE: House just reconvened to debate lobbying reform rule for one hour.
As the Senate considers another emergency supplemental appropriations bill to fund the occupation of Iraq, U.S. Senator Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, has proposed an an amendment that would require the redeployment of U.S. forces from the country by the end of this year.
"Our country desperately needs a new vision for strengthening our national security, and it starts by redeploying U.S. forces from Iraq," Feingold explained. "Our military has performed valiantly in Iraq, but the indefinite presence of large numbers of U.S. forces there tends to weaken our ability to fight the global terrorist networks that threaten us today."
Feingold, who in June, 2005, became the first senator to call for an exit strategy, won the support of 40 Senators in November, 2005, for an amendment that proposed a flexible timetable for the withdrawal. His current amendment, while pressing for a deadline for a general withdrawal, maintains a measure of flexibility with regard to limited initiatives that might continue beyond December 31. In other words, it is a moderate proposal that will be opposed only by those who n-- whether they admit it or not -- have embraced the concept of open-ended occupation.
"Our current path is unsustainable," says Feingold. "While this amendment recognizes the need for certain U.S. forces to be engaged in counter-terrorism activities, the training of Iraqi security services, and the protection of essential U.S. infrastructure, it also recognizes that the President's current strategy in Iraq is undermining our nation's national security."
The Feingold amendment tests all senators. It asks Senate Democrats to stop playing games and make a clear commitment to opposing the Bush administration's policy of permanent warmaking. It asks Senate Republicans -- especially those, such as Rhode Island's Lincoln Chafee and Nebraska's Chuck Hagel, who have been critical of the war -- to make an honest break with the White House.
The American people now recognize that the war was a mistake. They understand that an exit strategy is needed. If the Senate fails to back Feingold's proposal, it will not be the Wisconsin Democrats who stands outside the political mainstream, but, rather, those senators in both parties who cannot bring themselves to chart a course indepedent of that misguided one dictated by George Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld.