Monday, March 13, 2006

Flying Under The Senate Radar Last Week

I try to keep you posted daily on all the goings on in the U.S. Senate but some things fall through the cracks for one reason or another… Here they are.

Check out that master of compassionate conservatism, Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK), opposing funding for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program for the elderly and disabled.

“I want to help those people who cannot help themselves, but I have also discovered that there is very limited authorization for us in the Constitution for us to be paying the heating bills of people in this country," said Coburn. "There is no such thing as compassion when you are using somebody else's money to offer compassion.

And here I thought that’s exactly why a civilized country collects a few dollars from those doing well – to take care of our brothers and sisters who need a hand. Silly me.

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Here’s Senator Byron Dorgan (D-ND) lashing Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff on the Senate floor when discussing the Dubai ports deal.

"So he actually makes the case, the head of our Homeland Security agency, that allowing the management or the takeover of our six major port facilities, seaport facilities, would strengthen America's security,” said Dorgan “That is an unbelievable statement. I will describe why he says it. He said: ‘Assuming the deal would go through, we intend to have a deep look into their practices, certainly in the U.S. ports.'"

What gives Dorgan so much pause is his concern about either the impotence or utter incompetence that Team Bush’s Homeland Security function demonstrates when a “deep look” was not taken before the deal was about to be consummated.

“So they apparently haven't had a ‘deep look’ into their practices before the deal goes through,” continued Dorgan. “This is a circumstance where most of the American citizens understand what is being proposed and very strongly react to it in opposition.”

Dorgan then goes on a tear about the total lack of port security right now, citing the fact that less than five percent of the 5.7 to 5.9 million containers entering the U.S. are inspected while, as Dorgan comments, we go to the airport and watch airport security “wanding some little 6-year-old boy, spread eagle against a wall because he set off the buzzer.”

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Senator John Ensign (R-NV) took to the floor to comment on the economy, saying “our economy is thriving,” adding “The common-sense tax relief that we passed in the Senate and that the President signed into law have fueled our economy and driven it to new heights.”

Clarification for Ensign: President Bill Clinton presided over the biggest economic expansion in U.S. history, created 23 million new jobs and left office with a large budget surplus. Only a delusional Republican could say that Bush has taken the economy to “new heights” with little net job creation since taking office and a massive budget deficit to show for his ill-advised tax cuts.

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Listen to Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) talking about how lobbying reform limiting lawmakers to a $50 meal with lobbyists should not be that hard for them to take:
On my way over to the floor, I passed a couple of security guards and Capitol police. I asked them how often lobbyists had bought them a meal. Surprisingly, they said none. I talked to the young women who help us on the elevators on the way up. I asked them: Has a lobbyist ever bought you a meal? The answer was "no."

In cities and towns all across America, it turns out people pay for their own lunches and their own dinners, people who make far less than we do, people who cannot afford their medical bills or their mortgages or their kids' tuitions. If you ask them if they think that people they send to Congress should be able to rack up a $50 meal on a lobbyist's time, what do you think they are going to say? You ask them if they think we should be able to feast on a free steak dinner at a fancy restaurant while they are working two jobs to put food on the table. I don't think we need a poll to find out the answer to that one.

If people are interested in meeting with lobbyists or having dinner with lobbyists, they can still do so. It is very simple. You pull out your wallet and pay for it.
Doesn’t seem so hard does it?

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Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) introduced a bill (S. 2385) to allow veterans disabled in combat to collect both their military retirement pay and disability compensation. The proposed legislation gives soldiers who had hoped to make the military a career, but were discharged prematurely for an injury sustained in combat, the right to receive the retirement pay they would have gotten if they could have remained in the service.

“This is the right thing to do,” said Reid. “These veterans have been forced into retirement, and we need to take care of them.”

Let’s see how the support-the-troops types on the other side of the aisle respond to this one.