Category Archives: House of Representatives

Showdown for House Majority Leader

Soon-to-be Speaker Pelosi is apparently strongly backing John Murtha for majority leader over current Democratic whip Steny Hoyer. Murtha gained national prominence due to his vocal opposition to the Iraq war, but now people are discovering that he’s a pretty conservative Democrat. But wait, didn’t everyone know this? After all, plenty of people were loudly anti-war before Murtha spoke up, but the reason he got serious attention was precisely because he’s not very liberal—the media had treated the anti-war position as a sign of left-wing fanaticism until Murtha forced a change in the narrative. (By that time opposition to the war was already quite widespread.) Apparently that change didn’t last, if people are now assuming he’s liberal just because he’s anti-war.
Personally, I prefer Murtha for majority leader just for the sake of party unity and discipline. He is a close ally of Pelosi (despite their different positions on the political spectrum), while apparently Hoyer is a rival of the new Speaker. Since now would be an incredibly bad time for an intra-party power struggle, Murtha seems like the right choice.
(The second link above uses Keith Poole’s congressional rankings to establish Murtha’s position on the spectrum; Mason may be able to comment on whether he saw a similar result in his analysis.)

So this is what victory feels like

Yes! Despite my dire predictions the Democrats have finally proven that they can win elections, and have broken the GOP’s lock on the House of Representatives. The last couple of years of GOP governance have been worse than I had imagined, with the loss of the Geneva Conventions, habeas corpus, and the city of New Orleans, but the end of one-party rule should keep things from getting much worse.
Fire away with the subpeonas, Speaker Pelosi! (The Bush Administration is going to ignore the subpeonas, but it’s a start…)

Election 2006 Endorsements

My neglect of the blog continues but I really should post something about the election.

(Image via Pharyngula.)
My endorsements: Recently the Republican Congress passed a bill which legalized torture and suspended habeas corpus. I am endorsing every Democrat running for any office anywhere.
In California, we have the usual assortment of dumbass ballot initiatives. I am voting no on everything except 87 (taxing oil companies) and 89 (public election financing). I could perhaps be convinced otherwise (but you’ll need to do it before about 10am tomorrow).
I predict that Republicans will keep both houses of Congress. I think there’s no way the Senate will switch; the House seems more likely, but I think dirty tricks and rigged voting machines will put the GOP over the top.

They’ll have to change the Harvey Birdman song

In 2004 I was critical of liberals who declared their intention to leave the country if Bush was re-elected. However, recent developments have made me see it in a different light—there is something to be said for living in a country where habeas corpus rights are still respected. Note that Canada is not quite far enough away.
Senator Russ Feingold:

One of the most disturbing provisions of this bill eliminates the right of habeas corpus for those detained as enemy combatants. I support an amendment by Senator Specter to strike that provision from the bill. I ask unanimous consent that my separate statement on that amendment be put in the record at the appropriate point.
Habeas corpus is a fundamental recognition that in America, the government does not have the power to detain people indefinitely and arbitrarily. And that in America, the courts must have the power to review the legality of executive detention decisions.
Habeas corpus is a longstanding vital part of our American tradition, and is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.
As a group of retired judges wrote to Congress, habeas corpus “safeguards the most hallowed judicial role in our constitutional democracy – ensuring that no man is imprisoned unlawfully.”
Mr. President, this bill would fundamentally alter that historical equation. Faced with an executive branch that has detained hundreds of people without trial for years now, it would eliminate the right of habeas corpus.

However, Specter’s amendment failed 48-51. If “enemy combatants” don’t have habeas corpus then nobody does, because there’s no way for you to contest your classification as an “enemy combatant”. Welcome to 21st century America, where we do not have the legal protections enjoyed by 14th century English peasants.
Meanwhile, the torture bill passed the House 253-168. The lists of the 168 Representatives and the 253 America-hating supporters of tyranny can be found here.
UPDATE: Senate bill passes 65-34, which is a wider margin than I expected and underscores the lack of Democratic spine on this issue. The roll call is here.

I have had it with these motherfucking snakes in this motherfucking Congress

I haven’t blogged much about the torture legalization bill that Bush is trying to get passed, but it’s really pretty frightening. On top of making torture the official policy of the United States, it also tosses out habeas corpus for detainees, so the President can abduct someone and torture them in a secret prison, without having to provide any justification. Bush is already doing this illegally, but instead of exercising their ability to hold the President accountable, Congressional Republicans are rushing to give up their power to a lawless executive. Look, if representative democracy is too hard for these guys, and they’d rather live in a dictatorship, maybe they’re in the wrong line of work.
As I understand it, the original rationale for denying habeas rights to enemy combatants was the impracticality of providing due process to prisoners of war captured on a battlefield. The Bush administration has already undermined this by applying “enemy combatant” status to detainees who had no actual involvement in combat, such as Jose Padilla. Kevin Drum has the latest amendment to the torture legalization bill, which makes this official by redefining “enemy combatant” to include people who have “purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States”. So under this bill the president can accuse someone of supporting terrorists, have him arrested, detained in a secret prison, and tortured, without ever having to provide evidence against him. Of course this is grossly unconstitutional, but there’s also a provision that bars courts from reviewing the constitutionality of these procedures.
I can’t get over the fact that we as a country are about to legalize torture and arbitrary imprisonment. I thought America was better than this.

And there was much rejoicing

Tom DeLay is leaving Congress. I feel like I should have a bottle of champagne reserved for this occasion, but I honestly thought he would attempt to keep his seat even from a prison cell. Maybe I should throw a party when he officially resigns.
Ah, memories. DeLay was an important factor in turning me into the staunch Democrat I am today. I think the first time I heard of him was in 1999, when he was majority whip and blamed the Columbine shooting on the teaching of evolution. (I was just starting to follow politics around that time.) I figured something had gone seriously wrong with the Republican party if they were willing to put a guy like that in a leadership position. And that was before I knew about all the corruption.

DeLay! Indicted!

DeLay indicted, will step aside as majority leader
WASHINGTON (AP) — A Texas grand jury on Wednesday charged Rep. Tom DeLay and two political associates with conspiracy in a campaign finance scheme, forcing the House majority leader to temporarily relinquish his post.
DeLay’s attorney Steve Brittain said DeLay was accused of a criminal conspiracy along with two associates, John Colyandro, former executive director of a Texas political action committee formed by DeLay, and Jim Ellis, who heads DeLay’s national political committee.
“I have notified the speaker that I will temporarily step aside from my position as majority leader pursuant to rules of the House Republican Conference and the actions of the Travis County district attorney today,” DeLay said.

I honestly didn’t think it would happen—I figured DeLay was untouchably powerful.