Friday, September 22, 2006

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (9/22)

As reported in last Sunday's Philadelphia Inquirer, here is how Philadelphia-area members of Congress were recorded on major roll-call votes last week.

(Not much went on, apparently.)


Border fence. The House passed, 283-138, and sent to the Senate a bill to authorize construction of 700 miles of two-layered fencing along the nearly 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. The bill (HR 6061) does not fund the project, which is expected to cost $2 billion.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Michael G. Fitzpatrick (R., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.), H. James Saxton (R., N.J.), Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.) and Curt Weldon (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.) and Allyson Schwartz (D., Pa.).
I weighed in on this nonsense earlier (Tim Holden sure is an interesting “Democrat,” isn’t he?).

Prison industries. The House passed, 362-57, and sent to the Senate a bill (HR 2965) to enable the private sector to compete with Federal Prison Industries, a government corporation, for federal agency contracts now set aside for goods and services produced by federal inmates.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Fitzpatrick, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Pitts, Schwartz, Smith and Weldon.

Voting no: Andrews, Holden and Saxton.
From what I can read here, it looks like the plan is to allow outside companies to compete to make the products that are built by the inmates and delivered through Federal Prison Industries. It looks like this has bipartisan support also, since the companion piece of legislation was introduced by Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan in the Senate. I suppose the thinking is to help stimulate the economy through job creation (a big deal everywhere, but particularly in Michigan) and to reduce what is probably a government expense through FPI.

However, the only thing I care about in this is the safety of the prison guards who would be at risk if the inmates have too much time on their hands if their jobs are taken away because someone else can make the products they used to make for less (and personally, I know something about the whole “more for less” thing). I’m sure inmates vary in skill and ability, and it will take a highly skilled administrator to figure out what the inmates should do in the absence of FPI jobs that are lost due to outside competition (as it stands, the Bureau of Prisons falls under Abu Gonzales and the Department of Justice).

And I don’t know about you, but given this administration’s track record on managing of government agencies (Brown and Chertoff at FEMA, Jim Nicholson and veterans’ information disappearing at the VA, Tommy Thompson at Health and Human Services and the flu vaccine crisis a few years ago – we’re in that season again now of course), I don’t see anyone with creativity and/or ingenuity in sight. And I don’t want to find out that this is suddenly a problem by turning on the news and hearing about prison riots, OK?

I criticized Holden a minute ago, but he, Rob Andrews and Jim Saxton may turn out to be right here.


Airport screeners. Senators voted, 85-12, to remove a 45,000-employee limit on the number of Transportation Security Administration personnel who screen passengers at U.S. airports. The vote occurred during debate on a port-security bill (HR 4954) that was later passed, 98-0, and now goes to conference with the House.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted to remove the airport-screener hiring limit.

This week. Both chambers will take up bills to establish military tribunals for trying terrorist suspects.
And we've already received a preview of that, haven't we?

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