Saturday, February 14, 2009

Stimulus Passes -- Signing Likely Monday, Solis Nomination Moves Forward, The DC Voting Rights Act

Stimulus Passes
The biggest single piece of legislation that President Obama had targeted in his first 100 days is now slated to become law Monday, as both the House and the Senate passed his stimulus package Friday.

In the House, as with the first round of this legislation, no Republicans voted for the package. 97% of Democrats supported it with 7 Democrats voting no and 1 Democrat (Rep. Lipinski) voting "present". In total, the final vote was 246-183-1 (1 present vote.)

In the Senate, with Ted Kennedy back recovering in Florida, there was zero margin for error. The bill needed 60 votes to survive a procedural point of order on emergency legislation. Harry Reid kept the voting open for a full 5 hours to allow Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) to fly back from his mother's wake on a plane chartered by President Obama to cast the 60th vote. The final role call was 60-38 with all Democrats and both Independents (Sen. Lieberman (ID-CT) and Sen. Sanders (S-VT)) voting in favor and joined by the same three Republicans (Sen. Snowe (R-ME), Sen. Collins (R-ME) and Sen. Specter (R-PA)) that brokered the original compromise. Recall from my earlier post that in the last congress, these were #3, #4 and #6 on the most moderate Senators list. They, along with other moderate senators like Sen. Lugar (R-IN) and Sen. Voinovich (R-OH) will likely be crucial in future legislative compromises to break fillibusters.

President Obama intends to sign the bill into law on Monday.

So, in his first month in office, Obama will have signed a 57% expansion in children's health insurance, a strong anti-gender discrimination law and this bill, the largest single expansion of government spending since the Great Society. In addition, he has issued major executive orders around government transparency, contracting and treatment of prisoners. Not a bad start, if it weren't for the mess his cabinet selection has been.

Solis Labor Nomination Moves Forward
Also this week, the nomination of Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) to be Labor Secretary moved out of committee in the Senate with only 2 Republicans voting "nay". A cloture vote on her nomination is scheduled for the middle of the week after next, and all indications are that she will win confirmation with probably only around 20 "nay" votes in the full Senate. Her nomination had been held up by Republicans who disliked her liberal views on labor and asked questions around lobbying activities and her husband's business taxes.

This still leaves Obama with two major vacancies in his cabinet -- Health and Human Services and Commerce. HHS he has yet to announce a replacement for Tom Daschle's withdrawn nomination. In Commerce, he has to try a third time after both Bill Richardson and Judd Gregg withdrew.

Obama mind as well take a little time at this point. Congress is on its President's Day recess until February 23rd, so he can take next week to make his new picks and announce them. I'm sure at this point, Obama just wants to get his team in place and move on.

The DC Voting Rights Act
Also on the congressional docket the week after next is the DC Voting Rights Act which would give Del. Elanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) full voting rights in the House of Representatives.

Let me lead off by saying that I think it is a silent crime that Washington DC is subject to federal income taxes and has no voting representation in congress. Territories such as Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands also have no representation, but it is largely by choice as they do NOT pay federal income taxes. Taxation without representation is a fundamental underpinning of our government and to have half a million people in the seat of the DC government without voting representation is awful.

Having said that, the DC Voting Rights Act is clearly unconstitutional. The constitution stipulates that the seat of government cannot be a state and that only states can have Representatives in Congress. DC is entitled to electoral votes in the presidential election, thanks to 23rd Ammendment, but no such Ammendment has been passed surrounding congressional representation. Such an Ammendment should be passed out of basic fairness to the people of DC, but until it is, the DC Voting Rights Act is unconsitutional and will likely be struck down by the courts.

If you like this site, tell your friends.

No comments: