Sunday, February 6, 2011

Catch XXII Redux

Dear Children:
It didn’t get much ink given the sturm und drang of the last two years, but Senate leaders have come to an informal compromise over Rule 22; the rule covering the use of the filibuster discussed previously. Don’t think that tenderheartedness has broken out, though. The accommodation results from a new situation on the ground, so to speak. This Senate now has 53 Democrats and 47 Republicans which puts the possibility of cloture out of reach for both parties. Filibuster as a delaying tactic as opposed to a killing tactic is off the table. In other words, a filibuster would take the form of the filibuster of old where a member needs to identify himself and hold the floor for the tactic to work. The chance of it becoming a party-wide tactic is diminished.

Mr. McConnell and Mr. Reid looked out from Lookout Mountain and saw a Senate where nothing gets done. This was the situation that existed in the second Clinton administration and directly resulted, along with a booming economy, in the paying down of the national debt at an extraordinary pace. God forbid that should happen again.

So they tried it out on the Aviation Policy Bill. Aviation Policy has been bouncing around the Congress since Mr. Reagan broke the Air Traffic Controller’s Union.

You’ll be happy to know that Chicken Little was wrong. When the measure came up, Mr. Reid permitted a flood of amendments from the floor including repeal of healthcare. None of the amendments passed because the Aviation Policy bill had been thoroughly vetted in committee over the last two and a half decades or so.

This was just the first try of what Senator Schumer called procedural civility.

There are a number of things in its favor, not the least of which is the Presidential election. For the mid-terms, most Republicans ran against Nancy Pelosi’s heavy-handed tax/spend ways and healthcare. Mr. Obama is the likely issue in 2012.

Anything can and will happen. For now, though, a little peace is welcome.

I’m just sayin’


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Characters Welcome: Ralph Hall

Dear Children:

For those of you who prefer a few facts to inform your positions, Ralph Hall Republican from the 4th District (Rockwell) of Texas, may not be your man. That’s nothing remarkable in the lower chamber and would not warrant our attention if he weren’t the new Chairman of the House Science and Technology Committee. That particular committee is charged with encouraging “scientific advancement" as "one of the keys to U.S. competitiveness in a global marketplace." We will look into the specifics later.

For now, attend to the notion of a reliable vote in Congress. We have already learned how the seniority system works. Please apply all the negative aspects of that system to this character. Believe the hype. A reliable vote coupled with a chairmanship is the most valuable thing a lobbyist can own short of the Speaker. Do not think, however, that Congressmen are “owned” in the sense that they are obliged to do whatever their lobbyist “owner” requires. The system is much more subtle than that. In your mind form an atom with a nucleus and orbiting electrons. The dense material is a vote while the electrons that circle are The Congressman, the lobbyist or interest group and money.

The reliable vote attracts and holds the Congressman, the money and the lobbyist. It forms a very stable system. Everything is in balance and no one can tell what brings about that balance. Did the Congressman come first with his natural political inclinations and moral gyroscope or did the lobbyist make a persuasive case for one position or another? Or, is money the stabilizing force as between Congressman and lobbyist? I don’t know and I don’t care.

The fact is that a set of circumstances have come together to make a reliable vote possible. That reliable vote, in its turn, replicates itself endlessly over the thousands of issues that bawl and holler for attention each year over the 30 years since Mr. Hall went to Washington.

Figuring all this out can be daunting. The National Rifle Association and the Israeli Political Action Committee are well known as is the National Education Association and The American Hog Producers. They each have their own ratings that are a pretty good at clueing us to reliability on the gun, Zionist, teacher and oinker fronts. But what is The Eagle Forum and (I dare you) what is the Alliance to Stop the War on the Poor? Maybe you can guess what Arc is up to.

Whatever you may think these outfits are about, their ratings are very important in the reliable vote sweepstakes. Mr. Hall is a prince among reliable voters. To be sure, most members of Congress are reliable voters. The system works to make the money flow, the lobbyist employable and counting the Congressman’s nose in advance of a vote is made tranquil and effortless.

It also obviates the pesky rigors of persuasion, attentive listening or thoughtfulness. That’s where Ralph Moody Hall comes in. To put this particular character in the chair that oversees the government’s science and technology effort is a painful reach. He was once quoted as saying that he could do anything his grandson’s computer could do – wait for it – only slower. He was also the elegant gentlemen who got perilously close to killing the Science and Technology bill last year by inserting a provision that permitted federal employees to view porn on their office computers. He has serious questions about global warming fears. Why? You see, he has these serious questions and doubts man’s activities could affect nature one iota.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t know nothin’ about no global warming. I do expect more from those whose decisions will affect your Hawaiian Tropic expenditures.

I’m Just Sayin’