If you're like me, you may have lost sight of what the Dems were doing in their first 100 hours while you were paying attention to all the troop surge talk. So, let's go over it, lest you miss out on the entertainment.
This picture pretty much says it all:
Yesterday on the Senate floor, Majority Leader Harry Reid was caught pulling out every stop to kill his own party's plan for earmark reform.
To Speaker Nancy Pelosi's credit, House Democrats recently passed ethics legislation that included provisions making earmarks more transparent. ... The ethics reform offered by Senate Democrats contained none of these tougher earmark provisions. So Senate Republicans, led by South Carolina's Jim DeMint, cheekily took the identical language of the House earmark bill and offered it as an amendment to the Senate version. Numerous Democrats instantly denounced it, apparently unaware (or unconcerned) that the language had been sponsored by Ms. Pelosi.
Dick Durbin, the Majority Whip, threw a fit on the Senate floor and offered a motion to table it (kill it)...
Senate Leadership tried to kill a bill that House Leadership supported and passed. Harry Reid and Dick Durbin are basically saying that they want their pork no matter what, even if it embarrasses their own party.
So when the motion to kill the bill came to a vote, Durbin and the Democrats lost! [ed. note: At this point, the Senate erupted. The chair, who I think was Maria Cantwell, banged the gavel repeatedly to bring the room to order. The Democrats were frantically performing triage in an attempt to recover.]...
Anyways, a reliable and friendly source in the Senate is telling me, "This is absolutely amazing. Senate Dem Leaders are twisting arms and defying Senate precedent in order to reverse an earmark reform vote that was based on Nancy Pelosi’s proposal."
Read the whole thing for color. Hmm, question for Dem feminists-- would a Pelosi-passed bill have been treated with so little respect by her male counterpart in the Senate if she were a man? This was quite the public smackdown of her leadership in the House on an important, campaign-promise issue. Of course, Democrats, by virtue of not being Republicans, are incapable of ever show anything but the utmost respect for women in a professional setting. Kinda like Bill Clinton.
After the move to kill the DeMint language failed, Democrats refused to allow the amendment to be approved by voice, a normal procedure, and an hour later Reid called the entire Senate to the floor to beseech them to reconsider. He did not set a time for a final vote.
"It's important that the Senate rules be amended slowly and with careful, bipartisan deliberation," Reid said, stressing that the House didn't spend much time on its version and the Senate approach was "so much better."
Smart moves by these guys (and Pelosi and House Dems) for actually supporting the reform they promised on a no-brainer of an issue:
Among the Democrats siding with DeMint were possible presidential candidates Barack Obama, D-Ill., and John Kerry, D-Mass., freshmen Jim Webb of Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, who faces a tough re-election bid in 2008.
But why, oh, why, mightn't Reid be in favor of strong earmark reforms? This from Bob Novak's column on the Republicans' plans to offer a tough-on-earmarks "Reid amendment" (ouch) this week:
The proposal follows the revelation that Reid's four sons and his daughter's husband all have been lawyers or lobbyists for special interests. While Reid has declared they are barred from lobbying for their clients in his office, there is little doubt they have taken advantage of their close proximity to a powerful senator.
An example is provided by earmarks that have sent millions of federal dollars to the University of Nevada at Reno. Reid's son-in-law, lawyer Steven Barringer, was a paid lobbyist for the university. In general, Republican reformers see Reid illustrating the nexus between legislators and special interests, in his case mainly real estate, gambling and mining.
More on Reid's connections, here.
I'm not sure of the fate of the "Reid amendment" plans, since DeMint and Reid have come to an agreement on the DeMint amendment:
“Senator Reid and I have reached a bipartisan agreement on earmark disclosure that is even stronger than what I had originally proposed."
If this is what a honeymoon-period win looks like for Senate Democrats, I'm gonna enjoy the 110th Congress.
Pelosi's not exactly the picture of detachment from special interests, either. Looks like everyone has to pay the new minimum wage except for Pacific Islands whose economies rely largely on Star Kist Tuna, whose parent company is headquartered in San Francisco.
Points awarded to North Carolina Rep. Patrick McHenry for this shot: (emphasis mine)
During the House debate yesterday on stem-cell research, Mr. McHenry raised a parliamentary inquiry as to whether an amendment could be offered that would exempt American Samoa from stem-cell research, "just as it was for the minimum-wage bill."
A clearly perturbed Rep. Barney Frank, the Massachusetts Democrat who was presiding, cut off Mr. McHenry and shouted, "No, it would not be."
"So, the chair is saying I may not offer an amendment exempting American Samoa?" Mr. McHenry pressed.
"The gentleman is making a speech and will sustain," Mr. Frank shouted as he slammed his large wooden gavel against the rostrum.
Video of Frank's tantrum, here.
Pelosi's spokesperson says she was never lobbied by StarKist.