Wednesday, January 03, 2007



This picture of Rep. Adam Putnam (R-FL) is not photo-shopped

Speaker Pelosi hasn't even gaveled the first session of the 110th Congress open yet and we already have a Whiny Bitch of the Year Award. And who's Little Miss Crybaby already? Well, think back a year or so ago, even before Republicans elected him their Conference Chair, when Florida lightweight Adam Putnam was first given the nickname, Howdy Doody-looking Nimrod. Best known for publicly bemoaning the loss of a significant number of what he so endearing calls "the white rednecks who go to church on Sundays" and for blaming that fall off on the only African-American Republican House leader anyone can recall-- ever (J.C. Watts)

You probably remember that one of the Democrats' strongest planks in the congressional elections they just swept was Pelosi's "First 100 Hours" promise." Democrats of all stripes and persuasions were promising to deliver-- and fast-- on a wide package of much-debated popular legislation that the Republican congressional leadership has consistently blocked from being enacted: an ethics overhaul (presumably one with teeth; we'll get back to you on that), a rise in the minimum wage, and stem-cell research legislation. There's nothing radical here and nothing that hasn't gone through lots of debate and all the committee procedures. GOP powermongers like Tom DeLay, Denny Hastert, John Boehner, Roy Blunt, et. al. have managed to ride rough shod on House procedures to keep all this stuff from being enacted.

In November American voters were clear; they want them enacted. So Speaker Pelosi decided to stick with Republican House rules for another few days, depriving the minority of the ability to offer amendments or participate meaningfully in legislating. Just another few days of totalitarian rules the Republicans have used against the Democrats for over a decade.

And that's where we find our Whiny Bitch. "The difference," whines Putnam, clearly fumbling and over his head, "is the important point here is that the American people were promised a new way of doing business in the 110th Congress. There was clearly a high level of frustration in the heartland about the way people viewed the workings and procedures in this building, and they were promised a fresh approach, a fresh start." Poor thing. Macacawitz he'll never be; but I have a feeling he'll do.


An old pal who used to work on Capitol Hill noticed the same whiny attitude all over the Republican caucus. She e-mailed me yesterday explaining convenient Republican "amnesia and disproportion (they don't get paid to be reflective)." It's important to place this accusatory caterwauling and self-victimization into the context of 16 years of quasi-fascist Republican rule in Congress which very nearly destroyed our representative democracy.

A healthy representative legislature depends on both informal and formal procedures. In other words, both the spirit of the law (civility, reciprocity, collegiality) and the letter of the law (statutes on the books). Both of these institutions have been altered and damaged over the past 15 years. The following items provide list of institutional process changes brought about by the era of extreme conservative rule: They illustrate a legislature where many of the formal accountability mechanisms of government are missing or broken:  
• For the entire 108th Congress, just 28 percent of total bills were open to amendment -- barely more than half of what Democrats allowed in their last session in power in 1993-94.
• The Rules Committee  blocked floor votes on legislation opposed by the Bush administration but supported by a majority of the House.

• The majority leadership gave Members 400 page bills with only a few hours to read them. Subsequently light changes in language-- with huge implications-- went undiscovered until the bill has been voted upon.
• Members inserted pork projects into the conference committee bills-- after congressional committee deliberations were finished… hence no chance for oversight.
• Rank-and-file Members had trouble even finding out when the Rules Committee met. This powerful committee frequently decided bills in hastily called, late-night "emergency" sessions, despite House rules requiring that the panel convene during regular business hours and give panel members 48 hours notice. In the 108 th Congress, 54 percent of bills were drawn up in "emergency" sessions.
• Minority members were not allowed into the room when final legislation was written. The majority even went to great extremes to deprive them from participating-- even hiding from them… One Democrat (appointed to the conference) even told of how he was forced to talk to lobbyists to find out what was in the bill since he had been denied entry…
• Little or no debate on security issues: one example, defense authorization… 3 weeks of debate in 1994… two days in 2003.
• the overall number of oversight hearings in the House-- excluding the appropriations committees-- dropped from 782 during the first six months of 1983 to 287 during the first six months of 1997. The falloff in the Senate between 1983 and 1997 is just as striking: from 429 to 175. (Auerbach UCLA research)

And remember, THEY CALLED THE POLICE on the Democrats at one point, for invoking a rule to read aloud a bill (in protest for having been given barely any time to consider it before voting).

So let's enjoy little Adam Putnam and his pissant pals' dramatic tantrums the week-- while the Democrats and any serious Republicans who want to participate without obstructing and who don't think they're still in control of the country's destiny, pass a reasonable minimum wage, get down to business on stem cell research-- yes, it's 2007, not 1007-- and start the process of cleaning up the worst ethical swamp in the history of Congress (courtesy of Tom DeLay, Roy Blunt, Dennis Hastert and the rest of Howdy Doody's patrons).

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At 11:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think a special exemption is in order. If Putnam will add mascara to his makeup, and if it's stipulated that Republicans can only introduce motions and amendments if they whine in falsetto voices while doing so, then they can participate.

The possibilities are endless and the photo ops priceless...

At 10:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was just gorgeous.

Happy, happy New Year!



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