Saturday, June 20, 2009

Partisan-Looking Appropriations, Angry Gay Rights Activisits, Kent Impeached, Iran Continued, Obama Approval Update

The Appropriation Process Beings with Partisan Sniping
The House has begun its appropriations process for the fiscal year that begins in October, and the first of the departmental appropriations bill -- the bill funding the seemingly not-so-controversial Departments of Justice and Commerce provides a striking example of just how large the partisan divide still can be. Democratic leadership made the decision to severely limit amendments, angering House Republicans, who, in turn, voted against the bill 149-24. Of course, the Democrats are demonstrating that they don't need Republican help to get things through the House (the bill passed 259-157 on the strength of Democratic votes.) And it isn't like this is the most partisan bill ever passed (after all, 24 Republicans voted for it and 8 Democrats against it.) But limiting amendments that might actually pass the Democratic-dominated body seems downright undemocratic, and the kind of practice that Pelosi and company used to decry when they were in the minority. Amazing how both partisans can do full 180s on the power of the ruling party when the balance of power shifts.

The appropriations process is long and this is just the first step. After passing the House, each appropriations bill will move to the Senate, which will have a lengthier debate about each because of the rules of debate (60 Senators have to vote to invoke cloture and limit debate.) Then, a conference committee will have to reconcile the two versions and a final version of the bill will have to pass both houses.

Often, the process is not finished by the start of the fiscal year in October and the congress has to pass temporary continuing resolutions to keep agencies funded in the mean time.

Gays to Obama: We Are Mad as Hell
Despite President Obama's efforts to reach out to the gay community by providing some federal benefits to gay partners, the gay community is mad.

They are mad that there has been no movement on gays in the military (see my previous blog: The Worst Law in the Land), they are made that he has not moved to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act (which, among other things, allows states to not recognize gay marriages from other states) and they are still mad that Rick Warren spoke at the inauguration.

They certainly have a point, President Obama has been less than a stalwart promoter of gay rights. But, he never really claimed to be a gay rights advocate and I think what we are learning is that these issues frankly aren't that important to him.

I think the President is on the wrong side of history here and is missing a cultural revolution that is happening at the state level to promote gay rights. That is shame. But not that unexpected.

Judge Kent Impeached
In some high drama, the House has unanimously voted to impeach Judge Samuel Kent of the U.S. District Court in Texas after he pled guilty to sexually assaulting two women, but refused to resign his post, stating that he wanted to contineu to draw his salary for another year.

Are you kidding me? You just got convicted of a felony but think you are entitled to another year of free money from the tax payers?

In order to remove Kent from office, the Senate will have to conduct a trial and vote to remove by at least a 2/3rds margin. I hope they move quickly.

This is the first impeachment passed by the House since Bill Clinton was impeached on charges of lying under oath about his affair with Monica Lewinsky.

Iran -- President Obama on the Sidelines
As protest continue in Iran and the Iranian government threatens bloodshed if they continue, President Obama has remained largely silent on the topic. He has started to come under fire from some for not taking a more active role.

My question is: what possible good would a more active role play? President Obama claiming the election was rigged (without real evidence, although most experts agree it was) would only inflame the Arab world against continued U.S. intervention. Right now, this is a grassroots uprising -- if President Obama speaks out it is a western-led conspiracy.

Obama Approval Update
No big shifts in President Obama's numbers in the past week and a half. He is holding at an approve minus disapprove of 26.9%. He has been in the 25% to 30% range since mid-May.

Broken down monthly, he continues to show a lower average in June than in May (every month of his presidency have seen his numbers decline, albeit slowly.)

Looking by poll sample type, we see:
Adult Americans: +29% Approval
Registed Voters: +31% Approval
Likely Voters: +9% Approval

This is the first time that we have seen the Adult Americans and Registered Voters numbers inverted with Registered Voters being more approving. This could be a statistical anamoly (Likely Voters still show much lower numbers) or it could suggest some poll methodology divergence. Either way, we'll keep an eye on it.

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