Friday, June 28, 2013

Arizona’s Freshmen Reps: What’s Going On Here?


Kirkpatrick, Sinema & Barber all voted with the Republicans for CISPA

Is Steve Israel or Steny Hoyer calling the shots, or did Arizona’s three freshman reps reach these cynical heights all on their own? It’s hard to say, but my bet is on Israel or Hoyer. Or maybe it's the New Dem operation. Otherwise, it’s hard to fathom the votes we’re seeing from Kirkpatrick (AZ-01), Barber (AZ-02) and Sinema (AZ-09).

Regardless, the progressive base in Arizona (and, yes, there is one) is not amused. Blog For Arizona features a collection of progressive bloggers. At the start of the session, that group showed admirable restraint in the wake of Sandy Hook. Strangely enough, the reaction to that tragedy by Ron Barber, who took a bullet in Tucson two years earlier, was to pay homage to the Second Amendment. They could have jumped all over Barber, and few would have blamed them. Instead, they mounted a petition campaign to encourage Barber to lead the charge for sane gun laws. Barber actually responded positively for awhile, then went silent once out of the spotlight.

But the admirable patience of Arizona’s progressives has worn thin. It’s easy to understand why. Start with United Solutions, a supposedly "bi-partisan" group of freshmen reps that is about two-thirds Republican. And, no, we’re not talking moderate Republicans here. Joining the group were Arizona’s Kirkpatrick and Sinema. Here’s Sinema bragging about her membership (and lying about the composition of the group, which is far more heavily Republican than she lets on, and her role in founding the group, which was actually formed by lifelong Republican/New Dem Patrick Murphy and far right North Carolina Republican Robert Pittenger):

It was about that time that Bob Lord, posted this at Blog For Arizona: AZ Freshman Reps Sweep Gold, Silver and Bronze. Lord was referring to the Progressive Punch scores of the Democratic Freshman class. In that group, Kirkpatrick was worst, Barber was second worst, and Sinema was in a group tied for third worst.

Since then, the Arizona freshmen have continued to follow Steve Israel’s lead, or perhaps their own worst instincts, and the fire from the progressive community has grown more intense. Craig McDermott, who also posts at Blog For Arizona, wrote an open letter to the freshmen on the House Financial Services Committee, a group that includes Kyrsten Sinema, explaining that doing bad work for good reasons still is doing bad work. Donna Gratehouse at Democratic Diva expanded on McDermott’s theme, urging constituents not to be accepting of bad work, whether for good reasons or not. What had these freshmen done? Basically, they’d voted for legislation drafted almost entirely by Citigroup’s lobbyist, exempting vast swaths of trades from regulation under Dodd-Frank. A few weeks after the vote, Wall Street lackey and Democratic fundraising leader Joe Crowley led the freshmen on a tour of lower Manhattan, including receptions at both Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase.

Pamela Powers-Hannley at Blog For Arizona has been more direct in her criticism of Sinema, actually titling one post, Sinema Too Republican? Votes to Reduce Banking Regulations, in which she implored progressives to put the pressure on:
Not only has Sinema not supporting the Robin Hood Tax, her recent vote exempts many Wall Street trades from any regulation. This is the wrong direction for the American people. How many Wall Street bankers live in CD-9? How many people who would benefit from the revenue generated by the Robin Hood Tax live in CD-9? It's time for Sinema to do the math. Voting with Wall Street is a vote against her constituents in Arizona.

If you live in CD9, it's time to call Sinema and tell her you thought you were voting for that fiery State Senator-- not the banksters' handmaiden.
We see you, Rep. Sinema
Powers-Hannley’s depiction of Sinema may have been too specific. She appears to be doing her best not to be just the banksters’ handmaiden, but the handmaiden of corporate America at large. Amazingly, she and Barber voted with the Republicans for the failed Farm Bill, which would have cut $20 Billion in food stamp assistance, a huge chunk of which is going to children. Here’s E.J. Dionne, explaining the rank immorality of the legislation for which Sinema and Barber voted:
The bill the House voted down would have cut food stamps by $20.5 billion, eliminating food assistance to nearly 2 million low-income people, most of them working families with children or senior citizens.

This alone should have been bad enough to sink the bill. But then Republicans pushed through an amendment by Rep. Steve Southerland, R-Fla., to toughen work requirements in the program. Work requirements sound reasonable until you look at what Southerland’s amendment was actually designed to do.

As Robert Greenstein, the president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, explained, Southerland’s proposal violated “the most basic standards of human decency” because it made no effort, as other work requirements have in the past, to create employment openings for those who “want to work and would accept any job or work slot they could get, but cannot find jobs in a weak economy.”

In fact, noted Greenstein, a longtime advocate of nutrition assistance, the amendment barred states “from spending more on SNAP employment and training than they do now.” And it created incentives for states to throw people off food stamps by letting their governments keep half the SNAP savings to use for anything they wished (including, for example, tax cuts for the wealthy).

In a more rational political world, progressives and smallgovernment conservatives might join forces to slash subsidies for agribusiness and wealthy farmers while containing market distortions bred by price supports. But when Rep Jim McGovern, D-Mass., proposed an amendment to restore some of the food stamp funding by reducing spending on crop insurance, it was defeated.

And Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., exposed hypocrisy on the matter of government handouts by excoriating Republican House members who had benefited from farm subsidies but voted to cut food stamps.

The collapse of the farm bill will generally be played as a political story about Boehner’s failure to rally his own right wing. That’s true as far as it goes and should remind everyone of the current House leadership’s inability to govern. But this is above all a story about morality: There is something profoundly wrong when a legislative majority is so eager to risk leaving so many Americans hungry. That’s what the bill would have done, and why defeating it was a moral imperative.

Sinema signing on to a bill that would leave Americans, including many children, hungry, is stunning, given her background. If you heard her stump speech during her 2012, you would know about the years she spent during childhood living in an abandoned gas station. That story was the centerpiece of her speech. Based on that experience, Sinema would explain, governmental assistance is giving people in need a hand up, not a handout.

Finally, just last week, the House Financial Services Committee approved H.R. 1135, a bill to repeal the provision of the Dodd-Frank Act that requires public companies to report the ratio of their CEO pay to median worker compensation. As expected, the Republicans voted in lockstep for the amendment. But five of the twenty-eight Democrats did as well.

The pay ratio reporting requirement was a threat to the exorbitant pay CEO’s currently enjoy. Allow folks to compare the ratio of CEO pay to worker pay from one corporation to another, and CEO pay might be brought back to Earth. That’s why corporations had been working overtime to delay and dilute the regulations needed to implement the pay ratio disclosure. And they’d been successful on that front. But H.R. 1135 would solve this little “problem” for CEO’s entirely. And the argument for the amendment truly is Republican-esque. The pay ratio reporting, you see, would involve too much paperwork. Here’s committee chair Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) defending the amendment, according to Emily Chasan of the Wall Street Journal:
"I assume there is an infinite number of ratios some investors would find helpful to their decisions," Mr. Hensarling said. Companies might as well be required to calculate the ratio of workers with or without college degrees, the ratio of old versus young workers, or the ratio of office supplies purchased from big box retailers to local suppliers, he joked.
The individual votes on this atrocity were not easy to track down, but here they are. And who was among the five Democrats New Dems whoring for contributions from America’s CEOs? Why Arizona’s Kyrsten Sinema, of course, doing her best to make sure the great-great grandchildren of America’s CEOs never have to experience life in an abandoned gas station.

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At 2:32 PM, Anonymous torridjoe said...

It really has surprised me (well, only sort of) that there has been virtual radio silence around the unbelievable number of House Democrats who were ready to cut TWENTY BILLION DOLLARS from food stamps. I've lost track of the number of times Congressional Democrats have signed onto something truly retrograde and harmful--to their own base!--and were only saved by the even more retrograde desires of the teabaggers in the House. If the GOP ever figures out how to take Yes for an answer, things will get a lot worse.


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