S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

What's to like about these legislators?

With a Democrat in the White House and majorities in Congress, the political stakes are particularly high for Congress because of its lower approval ratings. I am not one of those who consistently rates Congress low, though I am often mad at them for one thing or another. I like Congress and I have my favorites, about whom I post today.

Senator Ted Kennedy (D-Mass) may see the results of his decades of work on health care reform for millions of uninsured Americans. According to Politico's feature , Kennedy almost single-handedly kept the idea of universal health care alive for 40 years, working with 7 presidents. To quote:

Exactly 40 years ago, Sen. Ted Kennedy popularized the idea of universal health care, saying the country needed a program “capable of bringing the same amount and high quality of health care to every man, woman and child in the United States.”

. . . Despite a legislative portfolio bulging with accomplishments that position him as the father of the modern health care safety net, the one that matters most to Kennedy — guaranteed health coverage for every American — has remained stubbornly out of reach.

. . . Now, his own yearlong battle with brain cancer is lending a dose of urgency to finally finish what he started decades ago, when personal and family health crises compelled him to embrace the cause.

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. This summer Senator Leahy will shepherd the Supreme Court nomination to replace Justice Souter through his committee and then on the Senate floor. Senator Leahy has advocated for a non-judge to be the next Supreme Court justice. The Ranking Republican member of the committee, until recently, was Senator Arlen Specter, now a Democrat. Republicans named far right wing Senator Jeff Sessions as Ranking Member until the next Congress, and then it will be Senator Chuck Grassley, one of my favorite Twitterers. Leahy's fine intellect, patience and even-handedness will be sorely tested as Sessions carries the water of opposition to anyone the President nominates. To quote CQ Politics: ". . . it will also be interesting to see not only how Sessions handles the media attention but how he gets along with the strong-willed chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Democrat Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont." Rep. John Conyers, (D-Mich) is Leahy's counterpart in the House. A fierce fighter for justice and protector of the underdog, Rep. Conyers recently oversaw his Judiciary Committee's proposed expansion of the hate crimes law. It is also reported that Rep. Conyers will hold hearings on the torture memos.

Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill), according to CQ Politics, ". . . who chairs the Crime and Drugs Subcommittee, is expected to introduce legislation to equalize crack and powdered cocaine sentences. Durbin called the disparity “both unjustified and unjust.” Durbin makes an excellent Whip and probably helps the beleaguered Majority Leader, Harry Reid who is not included in my favorites. I do like both Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif) and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (DMD), who have their hands full handling the House's Blue Dog Democrats, fiscal conservatives. There are also several of my favorite senators who are relatively new: Senator Jim Webb (D-VA), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI).

Representative David Obey (D-WI) chairs the House Appropriations Committee. He takes his role very seriously and is willing to buck President Obama on basic issues. Politico gives a good example, the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan, which brings Vietnam to mind for this irascible "old bull" of the House. To quote:

Chairman Dave Obey said he was “very dubious” about the chances of success in the region and wants a “fish or cut bait” assessment in a year’s time that will determine how long the U.S. continues on this path.

“It gives the president one year to demonstrate what he can do,” said the Wisconsin Democrat. “It gives him ample resources.”

. . . “The president feels obligated to give it a shot, and we’ll help him give it a shot for a year,” Obey said. “At the end of the year, I want to have a hard-nosed, realistic evaluation based on the performance standards we’re talking about.”

. . . Five standards are listed, including the performance of Pakistani forces with respect to counterinsurgency operations and the ability of the government to control the territory within its borders — where the Taliban has already made significant inroads.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif) took over the Energy and Commerce Committee last fall from its former chairman, John Dingle of Michigan. Ambitious and feisty, Waxman is pursuing an ambitious climate change bill, according to Politico. But it is an uphill battle with lots of opposition because of his strong support for a cap and trade program that would require utilities to produce more power from renewable energy sources. And people from the South need to include hydroelectric power and nuclear energy, about the only reliable sources in the region. This will require Waxman to work hard for the compromise necessary to pass the legislation, as well as make it palatable to the Senate. To quote:

Waxman and Massachusetts Rep. Ed Markey delayed the start of a much-anticipated markup last week so they could have more time to iron out major concerns with the legislation among Democrats on the subcommittee considering it.

Moderate Democrats from the Rust Belt, coal states and the South have lined up to make changes to the legislation before Waxman and Markey unveil it. Many of these moderates — tapped by Waxman’s predecessor as chairman, Michigan Rep. John Dingell — sit on the subcommittee drafting the bill.

. . . Waxman got a boost Thursday when Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, whose panel could claim jurisdiction over the bill, agreed to work with whatever product the Energy and Commerce Committee passes.

. . . Democratic leaders in the Senate acknowledged earlier this year that they don’t have the votes to move a so-called cap-and-trade measure, but the White House still seems committed to moving something — if only as a negotiating tool for the next round of negotiations over a global treaty.

What's to like about these legislators? The senators and members of Congress spotlighted today have certain traits in common: dedication, resiliency, intellect, a capacity to be bipartisan, a clear view of fiscal responsibility, respect for the rule of law, and liberal values regarding "the least among us." These are public servants upon whom you can usually count.

[Post date - May 5, 2009]

See also Behind the Links, for further info on this subject.

Carol Gee - Online Universe is the all-in-one home page for all my websites.

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betmo said...

nice to see for a change. all the msm covers are the whiny obstructionist right wingers or the lobbyist shills- pelosi and reid.

Carol Gee said...

betmo, I am taking a page out of your book, trying to post more positive material, without it being a puff piece.
Thanks :-)