Archive for April, 2011

April 18, 2011

First Three Months Report

It is three months into the 112th Session of Congress, and though there is some evidence of progress toward changing the direction of the Federal Government away from a disastrous course, it is not certain. A number of freshman and Tea Party Caucus Representatives and Senators have taken principled stands with their votes, as have some Blue Dog Democrats who are from conservative districts and states.

The slight amount of influence the new crop has had on the leadership of both parties is indicative of how much work is necessary to overcome entrenched interests and business-as-usual attitudes in the established ruling class.

Republican House Members with the three highest Tea Party scores are Connie Mack (FL-14), Tom Graves (GA-9), and Raul Labrador (ID-1). Those Republicans with the three lowest scores are: Joseph Heck (NV-3), Steven LaTourette (OH-14), and Walter Jones (NC-3). Democrat House members with the top three scores are: Dan Boren (OK-2), Jim Matheson (UT-2), and Mike Ross (AR-4). The three lowest Democrat scores belong to John Conyers (MI-14), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL-20), and Elijah Cummings (MD-7).

It must be noted that Debbie Wasserman Schultz has been named Chair of the Democratic National Committee by President Obama, and her extremely low voting score is indicative of the general mood of the Democratic Party. Her leadership of the DNC is certain to take the party to a radical political position, far to the left of many in the party, and may presage some defections among the more moderate Democrats who are attuned to the mood in the country in a more conservative direction.

Republican Senate members with the four highest Tea Party scores are: Rand Paul (KY), Mike Lee (UT), Mike Crapo (ID), and James Risch (ID). Republicans with the four lowest scores are: Lisa Murkowski (AK), Mark Kirk (IL), Susan Collins (ME), and Lamar Alexander (TX). Democrat Senate members with the four highest scores are: Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Joe Lieberman (I-CT), Joe Manchin (WV), and Ben Nelson (NE). There are seven Democrats who have a score of zero: Daniel Akaka (HI), Dick Durbin (IL), Daniel Inouye (HI), Patrick Leahy (VT), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Harry Reid (NV), and Chuck Schumer (NY).

April 18, 2011

House Votes to Consider Ryan Budget Plan

On Friday, April 15th, 2011, the House voted 235-193 to consider and debate Rep. Paul Ryan’s long-term budget proposal, establishing the budget for the United States Government for fiscal year 2012 and setting forth appropriate budgetary levels for fiscal years 2013 through 2021.

House Concurrent Resolution 34 is a pro forma measure, meaning that it has no force of law, even if the Senate were to ratify it, which is highly unlikely. It is merely a starting point of debate over the direction of the Federal Budget in the years to come, and for this reason, I will not consider the votes made by House members on this bill in their scores.

April 18, 2011

Senate Rejects House Concurrent Resolution to Defund Planned Parenthood

On Thursday, April 14th, 2011, the Senate voted 58-42 to reject House Concurrent Resolution 36, which was appended to H.R. 1473 to defund Planned Parenthood for the remainder of FY2011.

Republican Senators Scott Brown (MA), Susan Collins (ME), Mark Kirk (IL), Lisa Murkowski (AK), and Olympia Snowe (ME) joined all Democrats in opposition to the measure.

April 14, 2011

Senate Ratifies FY2011 Continuing Appropriations Bill

In the late afternoon of April 14th, 2011, the Senate ratified H.R. 1473, the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 which the House had passed 3 hours earlier. The vote was 81-19, with four Democrats joining 15 conservative Republicans in voting against it. The four Democrats voted no on the grounds that it cut spending too much ($20-25 billion), and the conservatives voted against it because it did not cut spending enough. The measure now proceeds to the President for his signature.

The fifteen Republicans who held firm to their principles were:
Coburn (R-OK), Crapo (R-ID), DeMint (R-SC), Ensign (R-NV), Graham (R-SC), Hatch (R-UT), Inhofe (R-OK), Johnson (R-WI), Lee (R-UT), Paul (R-KY), Risch (R-ID), Rubio (R-FL), Shelby (R-AL), Toomey (R-PA), and Vitter (R-LA).

April 14, 2011

House Passes Full Continuing Appropriations Bill For FY2011

On Thursday April 14th, 2011, the House passed H.R. 1473, the Department of Defense and Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act, 2011 by a bipartisan vote of 260-167.

The bill is a substitute for the previously passed H.R. 1363, which only funded the Department of Defense until September 30th, 2011, the end of the fiscal year. If H.R. 1473 is ratified by the Senate, and signed by the President, there will be no more continuing appropriations measures for the rest of this fiscal year, and Congress can concentrate on drawing up the budget for FY2012. The CBO estimates that the budget measure costs taxpayers between $20-25 billion over the next 10 years less than if it were written in accordance with the outlays spent in FY2010. A separate interpretation of the CBO’s analysis asserts that the cost savings amounts to only $352 million for this current fiscal year.

Fifty-nine conservative Republicans joined 108 Democrats in opposition to the bill, as it was seen as capitulation to the pressure put on the Republican leadership by the Senate and the President in the negotiations of the last weekend. The 81 Democrats who joined the moderate Republicans in favor of the bill are generally considered moderate to conservative “bluedog” Democrats, and their stand with Speaker Boehner’s leadership may presage a bipartisan voting bloc at odds with Tea Party House members who are becoming uncomfortable with Boehner’s ease at reaching across the aisle for his own political gain.

The Tea Party Caucus under the leadership of Rep. Michele Bachmann assumed after the 2010 elections that they would be able to hold a linchpin position in the House, and keep the more fiscally moderate Republicans in line with them, in opposition to the Democrat minority. It was not foreseen that the Republican leadership would abandon them and their fiscally conservative position to garner support among moderate Democrats in order to pass irresponsible budgetary measures.

If the Speaker’s political tactic of reaching out to moderate Democrats in lieu of the conservative members of his own party continues in the FY2012 budget proceedings, it is assured that he will lose all support by Tea Party members in his reelection effort, and be replaced in the next Congressional session.

To see whether your own Representative voted in a responsible manner, go here for the vote tally.

April 14, 2011

House Defunds Prevention and Public Health Fund

Th House voted 236-183 on H.R. 1217, which defunds a slush fund of the HHS Secretary, the Prevention and Public Health Fund. The Fund is a part of the Obamacare bill, and its broad language allowed the Secretary of Health and Human Services to disburse large amounts of taxpayer money to NGOs and private groups to study and practice preventive health care with little oversight. The CBO estimates that the measure will save taxpayers $6 billion from 2012-2016, and an additional $10 billion from 2017-2021.

Four Democrats joined the Republican majority in its passage: Altmire (PA-4), Boren (OK-2), McIntyre (NC-7), and Peterson (MN-7).

April 14, 2011

House Amends Continuing Resolution to Defund Planned Parenthood

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011, the House revised H. R. 1473, the Continuing Appropriations bill, to say that no funds from this appropriation may be used to fund Planned Parenthood for the remainder of FY 2011. House Concurrent Resolution 36 passed by a vote of 241-179, with five Democrats joining the Republicans in support of the measure. They were: Boren (OK-2), Costa (CA-20), Donnelly (IN-2), Ruppersberger (MD-2), and Shuler (NC-11).

April 14, 2011

House Disapproves FCC Rule to Regulate the Internet

On April 8th, 2011, the House voted 240-179 on House Joint Resolution 37 which disapproves the FCC determination that the Internet is effectively a communication transmission mechanism, and as such is subject to regulation by the FCC in a manner like phone services.

Two Republicans, David Reichert (WA-8) and Scott Rigell (VA-2) voted against the measure, while six Democrats joined the majority for the measure: Bishop (GA-2), Boren (OK-2), Peterson (MN-7), Schrader (OR-5), Scott (GA-13), and Thompson (MS-2).

April 13, 2011

House Concurs on Senate Amendment to Continuing Appropriations For Defense Dept.

Saturday April 9th, 2011, the House voted to concur with the Senate amendments to H.R. 1363 which added $14.8 billion for the Departments of Transportation and HUD to the original bill. The purpose of the original bill was to fully fund the Defense Department for the remainder of the fiscal year to September 30th, 2011 so as to remove military pay as a political football for the remaining continuing appropriations negotiations of this fiscal year.

The concurrence was passed by a vote of 348-70, with 28 Republicans joining 42 Democrats in opposition to its passage. The President signed the bill into law the same day.

April 13, 2011

Senate Ratifies HR 1363 Continuing Appropriations

On Friday April 8th, 2011, the Senate ratified H.R. 1363, with an amendment that increased the amount of appropriations by $14.8 billion in the Departments of Transportation and HUD until April 15th, 2011. The measure was not formally voted on, but passed by unanimous consent. Sen. Rand Paul (KY) rose to object, but the presiding officer ordered the ratification as passed by unanimous consent without a rollcall.

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