Monday, January 25, 2010

Arkansas Blue Dog Marion Berry Throwing In The Towel


It was mid-November, 2005 when the GOP was trying to ramrod a Robin-Hood-in-reverse budget through the Republican-controlled House. Way back then there were still a small handful of an extinct breed of Republicans-- the kind that had enough of a sense of conscience that they didn't want poor people or people down on their luck to just go die. All 200 Democrats voting that day rejected that truly horrible "deficit reduction" bill-- and they were joined by 14 Republicans and the House's one Independent. Only 5 of those Republicans are still in Congress. Amazingly, the Blue Dog coalition held firm to a sense of cohesion with the Democrats and the bill scraped by 217-215. But for me, what was remarkable about that day was how one of the most well-liked good ole boys in the House, Arkansas Blue Dog Marion Berry, staggered up to the podium (Berry was virtually never sober in Congress since first being elected in 1996) and in the midst of the bitterness and acrimony of the day-- with far right fanatic Jack Kingston (R-GA) calling the Blue Dogs "lap dogs"-- leveled a finger at one of the most laughable inept of the Republican leaders, Adam Putnam (R-FL) and spontaneously dubbed him a "Howdy Doody-looking Nimrod." Although the bill passed, cutting 220,000 people off food stamps, allowing states to impose new costs on Medicaid beneficiaries, squeezing student lenders and freezing Pell Grants, cutting aid to state child-support enforcement programs, cutting funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program but guaranteeing more and bigger tax breaks for a tiny fraction of multimillionaires, the "Howdy Doody-looking Nimrod" moniker stuck and helped drive Putnam out of the leadership and out of Congress.

Today ole Marion, still drunk, is announcing that he will be retiring from Congress, the second of Arkansas' 3 Democratic congressmen to do so. His district includes the state's Democratic heartland along the Mississippi River and his departure-- along with Vic Snyder's-- leaves only Mike Ross, the most right-wing and the most corrupt of the lot left. Once a Democratic bastion in the South, all 4 Arkansas congressional districts voted for McCain over Obama-- Berry's 59-38%-- and this year could well be the coup de grĂ¢ce for Democrats in the state. Blanche Lincoln is absolutely unelectable and if Democrats don't persuade her to retire (ala Chris Dodd) that is a certain GOP pickup. I wouldn't bet on Ross holding onto his seat nor the Democrats necessarily holding onto Berry's. If Lt Gov. Bill Halder or General Wes Clark runs for Snyder's Little Rock seat, there's a shot they could save that one.

Mark Pryor may wind up with no one to talk to-- except maybe a talking snake.

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