Friday, March 20, 2009

Where The Rubber Meets The Road (3/20/09)

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 (our U.S. House Rep from PA's 16th congressional district had another terrible week, and one of our senators has some 'splainin' to do, IMHO).


Public lands conservation. Voting 282-144, the House failed to reach a two-thirds majority for passing a bill (S 22) that would conserve tens of millions of acres of public land, mostly in the West.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: John Adler (D., N.J.), Robert E. Andrews (D., N.J.), Robert A. Brady (D., Pa.), Michael N. Castle (R., Del.), Charles W. Dent (R., Pa.), Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.), Tim Holden (D., Pa.), Frank A. LoBiondo (R., N.J.), Patrick Murphy (D., Pa.), Allyson Y. Schwartz (D., Pa.), Joe Sestak (D., Pa.), and Christopher H. Smith (R., N.J.).

Voting no: Joseph R. Pitts (R., Pa.).
You would think that, given the beauty of Lancaster County in his district, conservation is one issue where Pancake Joe would actually have a clue. Silly me.

Water and sewer programs. Voting 317-101, the House sent the Senate a bill (HR 1262) authorizing $13.8 billion over five years in grants and loans to help communities build and maintain sewage-treatment systems and $1.8 billion in federal funding over five years for programs to control sewage overflows. The bill also provides Great Lakes cleanup funds.

A yes vote was to pass the bill.

Voting yes: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Dent, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, Murphy, LoBiondo, Schwartz and Smith.

Voting no: Pitts.

Not voting: Sestak.
At this point, finding myself so utterly shocked over the fact that, apparently, Pitts is pro-sewage (I mean, seriously, what else would explain that vote?), I navigated to his web site to find out what else Pitts has had to say on “water issues.” And, to his credit (surprise, surprise), he actually has a section of the “Issues” portion of his web site devoted to “Water Resources.”

And here is what you will find…

As you can see, Pitts has had nothing to announce on the matter of “water resources” since OCTOBER 2000! And don’t bother to click on the “Conservation” link to find more information because the link is broken.

I honestly don’t know how many other ways I can describe what an embarrassment this man truly is.

Davis-Bacon act. Voting 140-284, the House refused to strip HR 1262 (above) of its requirement that the Davis-Bacon Act be applied to the bill. Davis-Bacon requires that workers on federally funded projects be paid at prevailing, or union-equivalent, wage levels for the particular region.

A yes vote was to remove Davis-Bacon rules from the bill.

Voting yes: Dent and Pitts.

Voting no: Adler, Andrews, Brady, Castle, Fattah, Gerlach, Holden, LoBiondo, Murphy, Schwartz and Smith.

Not voting: Sestak.
I guess the surprise here isn’t so much that Charlie Dent and Pitts voted no (I mean, OF COURSE Repugs have to oppose prevailing wage law – what, you think they’re “socialists” or something?). If there’s news at all, it’s that Castle, Gerlach, LoBiondo, Smith (and Holden) voted yes.

And by the way, guess who introduced this amendment? As noted here, it was Connie Mack The Fourth (what, was he in a Purple Haze or something…OK, I won’t go there again).


David Ogden confirmation. The Senate confirmed, 65-28, David W. Ogden as deputy attorney general. As the second-ranking official in the Department of Justice, Ogden will be responsible for the department's day-to-day management.

A yes vote was to confirm Ogden.

Voting yes: Thomas Carper (D., Del.), Ted Kaufman (D., Del.), Frank Lautenberg (D., N.J.), Robert Menendez (D., N.J.), and Arlen Specter (R., Pa.).

Voting no: Bob Casey (D., Pa.).
I have to tell you that I cannot imagine what is going on with Bob Casey Jr. at the moment.

First he voted to deny the District of Columbia government authority to enact laws restricting private ownership or use of firearms (here); then he voted to withhold U.S. contributions to the U.N. Population Fund unless Obama certifies that none of the money would reach countries or groups that coerce abortions or require involuntary sterilizations here (yes, I know about his “pro life” bona fides, but had the amendment gone through, it would have hurt programs to help young girls suffering from forced marriages or genital mutilation); next, he ends up linked to Evan Bayh’s ridiculous Blue Dog Senate Double Super Secret Club Of Moderates That I Try To Form Every Single Goddamn Session But Which Is A Particularly Bad Idea Now nonsense (here); and NOW, he ends up being THE ONLY DEMOCRATIC SENATOR to buy into this GOP scheme against a guy who, while he defended a firefighter who possessed a copy of Playboy (problem?), the guy who defended the firefighter also said the following (from here)…

"Child pornography is abhorrent,”…"Issues of children and families have always been of great importance to me."
I’ve tried to think of a delicate way to phrase what I’m about to say next, but I’m sorry that I cannot, so here it is…

Senator Casey, pull your head out of your ass and start voting like a GODDAMN DEMOCRAT!, OK?

$410 billion budget. Voting 62-35, the Senate ended GOP delay of a $410 billion appropriations bill (HR 1105) to fund agencies that have been on stopgap budgets since October. Later sent to President Obama on a non-record vote, the bill raises spending by 8 percent over comparable 2008 levels, with major increases in areas such as Securities and Exchange Commission regulation, K-12 education, health-care access, scientific research, renewable energy and energy efficiency, clean air and water, workforce retraining, and food and drug safety, while cutting many Bush administration initiatives. The bill eases restrictions on Americans' travel to Cuba and contains 8,570 Democratic and Republican earmarks totaling $7.7 billion.

A yes vote was to advance the bill.

All Philadelphia-area senators voted yes.
Well done, earmarks and all (time was short on this one).

Congressional pay raises. The Senate upheld, 52-45, existing rules by which members of Congress automatically receive a cost-of-living raise each January unless both chambers vote to deny it. This tabled (killed) an amendment to HR 1105 (above) requiring debate and votes on congressional pay raises. Members received a $4,700 raise in January 2009, increasing their salaries to $174,000. The underlying bill would freeze pay at that level until January 2011.

A yes vote was to keep congressional pay raises on autopilot.

Voting yes: Carper, Casey, Kaufman, Lautenberg and Menendez.

Voting no: Specter.
This is usually the portion of our program where I say “As always, screw you, Arlen,” but not today; kudos to Specter for trying to shed some light on this, and shame on the other five who want to keep this in the dark.

This week, the House took up a bill on volunteerism and national service, while the Senate (maybe) debated bills to preserve Revolutionary War and War of 1812 sites and protect certain public lands in their natural state (maybe Casey and Snarlin’ Arlen could find some extra bucks for this).

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