Congress is back in session. It is time to cross your fingers again, that they will somehow manage to avoid throttling each other across the aisle, to keep the government from shutting down, and to supply the military with the basics.
Senator McCain has not shown up in the Senate for some time. It will be interesting to see if he makes any votes at all. It is just as well because it would be just more of the inepitude we have come to expect from both McCain and Bush. He has been otherwise occupied with his campaign, an extremely partisan quasi-reformer now basking in the glow of another partisan quasi-reformer, Governor Sarah Palin. We are quickly learning the truth about the senator's choice for Vice-President and it is not pretty. Juan Cole's asks on 9/9/08: "What's the difference between Palin and Muslim fundamentalists?" The truth is that Palin tells lies, as here described in Memeorandum and at Think Progress, 9/8/08: "Lies To Nowhere: The McCain Campaign’s Inaccuracies On Palin’s Bridge To Nowhere Support." It begins,
From the day he named Gov. Sarah Palin (R-AK) to be his vice presidential running mate, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has been citing Palin’s opposition to the infamous Bridge to Nowhere as the prime example of her ability to stand up to lobbyists and wasteful spending. That claim has been repeatedly debunked.
Senators and House Members who do show up will also be very preoccupied with campaigns. We will see partisan wrangling over the smallest things. Yesterday's argument* was about whether to return money borrowed by Treasury 8 years ago to the Highway Trust Fund, to pay for the repairs now in progress, as requested by the Transportation Secretary. A Republican Senator had objected, claiming it must go for Iraq. This headline from Yahoo! News (9/7/08) describes it well: "Returning lawmakers make Capitol a campaign stage," By JIM ABRAMS. To quote:
The House and Senate reconvene Monday after back-to-back political conventions, both parties eager to use the three-week session to show voters why their candidates are the ones to fix the economy and lower energy prices.
The only matter of business that must be accomplished is passing a bill to keep the government running from Oct. 1 through the Nov. 4 election and until Congress returns. Even that might not be easy. Republicans are threatening to block the spending bill if Democrats do not give them a vote on ending a quarter-century freeze on new offshore drilling.
. . . With 179,000 U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Democratic leaders would like to pass a Pentagon spending bill so they can tell voters that the military's basic needs are covered until October 2009.
We are very lucky because a few congressional leaders are at least trying to be involved in the nation's best national security interests. The following two articles illustrate that.
1) Oversight is still happening -- from the 9/8/08 "Daily Muck" at TPM Muckraker, a quote :
Leading members of Congress are demanding more information about the FBI's seven year investigation into the anthrax killings, . . . In a letter to FBI director Robert Mueller, Democratic congressional leaders argued that there were many lingering questions for the FBI to continue to investigate. Ivins committed suicide while under investigation this July. (New York Times)
2) The fight over congressional subpoenaes is still in the hands of the courts. Congress lost this last round, we learn from TPM Muckraker (9/5/08): "WH Gets Temporary Stay for Testimony," by Kate Klonick. To quote:
The latest in the back and forth between Harriet Miers and the House Judiciary, . . . We have the order here, full text after the jump.
Fortunately Republicans are capable of seeing the light, but most of them have left Congress. However, a number of them have joined an organization called Partnership for a Secure America. (The list includes some heavy hitters): Howard Baker, US Senator (R-TN) 1967-85; Nancy Kassebaum Baker, US Senator (R-KS) 1978-97; Slade Gorton, US Senator (R-WA) 1981-87, 1989-2001; and Warren Rudman, US Senator (R-NH) 1980-92. Tomorrow is the scheduled release of the PSA's "WMD TERRORISM REPORT CARD." The Washington Post has the story on the report itself.: "In WMD Report, U.S. Gets a C." It looks as if the next Congress has its work cut out for itself. To quote:
Group of Ex-Officials Says Terrorism Threat Remains Real. . . The report comes as the Democratic-controlled Congress has established a panel to expand U.S. and international programs designed to counter use of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists.
Former Clinton State Department official Wendy R. Sherman, a member of the congressional panel, called the partnership's report a "helpful and useful tool."
"Our report will deepen both the assessment of the threat today and what we can do about it," Sherman said. The group is scheduled to issue its report by November.
Some Republicans still know "What Patriotism Looks Like." Yesterday The Washington Note's Steve Clemons, of the New America Foundation, announced a meeting with Lincoln Chafee in Washington today that I would just love to attend. To quote,
Tomorrow, Tuesday, at 12:15 pm, I will be chairing a meeting at the New America Foundation with former Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-RI).
Chafee, who is now a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Watson Center for International Studies at Brown University, is now a political independent and author of the book, Against the Tide: How a Compliant Congress Empowered a Reckless President.
Chafee helped launch Republicans for Obama along with philanthropist and former Bush 2000 campaign New York co-chair Rita Hauser and former Congressman Jim Leach.
So I am back to watching the U.S. House and *Senate sessions on C-SPAN. Most of it will be boring and useless. But it is what we have on TV these days. I much prefer it to what the mainstream media has to say as they parrot the Republican line for gullible voters. Most of their "best" people are either inane, biased, lazy, co-opted, or afraid. I guess I'll go Biblical, too. It seems the thing to do. So I say, "Forgive them; they know not what they do."
View my current slide show about the Bush years -- "Millennium" -- at the bottom of this column.
(Cross-posted at The Reaction.)
My “creativity and dreaming” post today is at Making Good Mondays.