Exile Dino Chairs?
Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) has an excellent idea: Senate Democrats should vote every two years on whether to strip committee chairs of their gavels, the Hill reports:
“Every two years the caucus could have a secret ballot on whether a chairman should continue, yes or no,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. “If the ‘no’s win, [the chairman’s] out.
Harkin didn't mention Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), but ThinkProgress.org noted that Senate Democrats have been frustrated with the cloud of secrecy surrounding Baucus’ negotiations with Republicans over the health care reform legislation, as the Republicans receive regular briefings on the discussions while Democrats have been largely left out in the cold. That prompted one senator to warn that “[a]t some point, [Baucus is] going to have to worry about getting Democratic votes.” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) told MSNBC’s Countdown last night that he is worried that Baucus’ strategy to convince Republicans to embrace reform is misguided:
I go back to 40 years ago when the Medicare bill passed. People like Bob Dole, Strom Thurmond, Donald Rumsfeld, Gerald Ford, as Members of Congress, they all opposed it. The fact is, in those days, the Democrats moved forward, they didn’t worry about 'we have to have X number of Republicans,” their mission was: we’re going to get a good Medicare bill. … That needs to be our charge, not “we need a bipartisan bill.”
Joe Lieberman (ID-Conn.), chair of the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said he'd oppose such a proposal. Steve Benen of Washington Monthly commented, "That's not too big a surprise -- if it's his gavel on the line with a secret-ballot vote from his colleagues, Lieberman might have to give up his chairmanship, too. Which, he added, was "All the more reason to look favorably on the idea."
Crap Cut Here
A blog called Please ... Cut the Crap deconstructs many of the Right Wing Lies on the House Health Insurance Bill.
The job isn't over 'til the paperwork is done
There is a lot of fulmination over reports that Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is nearing agreement with Republicans on a health-care compromise that would reject a public option and cut out an employer mandate. But as Ezra Klein notes at his Washington Post blog, Baucus has been working with three Republicans and two other Democrats.
“In a Senate of 60 Democrats and 40 Republicans, the health-care reform bill is being written by three centrist Democrats, one centrist Republicans, and two conservative Republicans. And until last week, Orrin Hatch was in the room, too.
“This is not the Finance Committee's bill. This is the Max Baucus Committee's Bill. And there's not a liberal -- or even a Democrat traditionally associated with health-care policy -- working on it. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of Finance's health subcommittee, is not included in the negotiations. Nor is Ron Wyden, who has written the Healthy Americans Act. Chuck Schumer isn't in the room, nor is John Kerry, Debbie Stabenow or Maria Cantwell.
“The question is whether Baucus's final product will matter. Rockefeller and the other Democrats on the committee have felt excluded from the negotiations and will want major changes before they can sign onto the final product. Then the Finance bill will have to be reconciled with the more liberal legislation built by the HELP Committee. Then it will have to go to the floor, where it will need the support of people like Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders and Sherrod Brown just as much as it will need Ben Nelson and Evan Bayh. And then, if it passes those tests, it will have to be reconciled with the House's legislation. ...”
Now is the time to call your senators and representative to strengthen their resolve to make sure that the health reform bill contains a strong public option, a mandate that employers either provide insurance or contribute to their workers' coverage and a provision for states to implement their own single-payer plan if they wish (see our editorial).
Find out where your members of Congress stand on the public option at StandWithDrDean.com. Contact them via the elected officials lookup provided by the California Nurses Association, which supports a single-payer solution, such as expansion of Medicare to cover everybody. Also see our health reform resource page.
UPDATE: As Howard Dean told Tom Hartmann today, the insurance companies and other health industry interests will be carpet bombing members of Congress over the August break in a last-ditch attempt to derail reforms, so it's especially important to contact your members of Congress.
Sessions at the Crossroads
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) issued an opening statement Monday morning in the Supreme Court confirmation hearings of Sonia Sotomayor that is so misleading it requires serious analysis. Glynn Wilson offers a few of the highlights with explanatory remarks.
Jeff Sessions leads the charge against Sotomayor
When the Senate Judiciary Committee convenes Monday to begin hearings on President Barack Obama's first nominee to the US Supreme Court, Glynn Wilson notes that the American people will learn much about Sonia Sotomayor, an appeals court judge from New York who will most likely be confirmed to replace Justice David Souter. Sotomayor would be the first Hispanic jurist on the high court. But they may not know a thing about the senator who is expected to enter the national limelight for the first time as the lead inquisitor in her confirmation, who faces grave political risks for his party if things are mishandled and go wrong.
Single-payer health care gets hearings in the House and Senate
Actually more of a hearing in the House Health, Employment, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee, where four of the five witnesses favored single payer, than in the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, where one of 24 witnesses favored single payer. But at least she wasn't arrested. David Swanson reports on the single-payer hearings in Truthout.
Populism is Not a Style, It's a People's Rebellion Against Corporate Power
Jim Hightower writes about the historically grounded political doctrine (and movement) that supports ordinary folks in their ongoing democratic fight against the moneyed elites.
Get Serious About Mideast Peace
Now that Barack Obama is in charge of US foreign policy, he should start discussions with Iran and Syria, as well as other Arab neighbors, in an effort to bring Palestinian authorities and Israel to the negotiating table to implement a two-state solution with secure borders.
The US should guarantee the survival of the nation of Israel, and the $3 billion in military aid we send annually to Israel has helped it build the strongest military in the region, but we must not continue to enable atrocities against Palestinians, as exemplified in the recent punitive strikes in Gaza.
Both Israel and Hamas--the ruling party in Gaza--are at fault in the conflict, but in this case it looks like a matter of who hit back first. Hamas--frustrated with the longstanding Israeli blockade of Gaza--broke a cease fire and started firing rockets into Israel in December. Israel reacted predictably and disproportionately in a punitive campaign against Hamas that created a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Israeli forces destroyed civilian neighborhoods it accused of harboring militants as it did in Southern Lebanon in a failed 2006 campaign. That was supposed to wipe out Hezbollah fundamentalists who, like Hamas, are supported by Syria and Iran. Instead, Israeli overkill in South Lebanon ended up giving Hezbollah new prestige in the Arab world.
Once again, as Israeli forces shelled Gaza neighborhoods, including schools, mosques and at least one UN sanctuary that Israel claimed was being used as a base of Hamas activity, Israel looks like the bully to the rest of the world, Hamas is viewed as the victim and its leaders have acquired legitimacy in the eyes of Palestinians at the expense of the more moderate and secular PLO/Fatah party that rules the West Bank
Peace will continue to elude as long as neither side appears to be interested in achieving it. But the peace accord in Northern Ireland after 900 years of conflict there should give hope in a land where the main grudges date back only 60 years to the partition of Palestine by the United Nations to create a Jewish homeland.
During his inauguration speech on Tuesday, Obama pledged a new approach to the Muslim world, saying "To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect."
Agence France-Presse reports that Obama promised to work towards a "durable peace" in the Middle East during a phone call to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday, Palestinian officials said. Obama assured Abbas, who also is chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization and a Hamas rival, that he intended "to work with him as partners to establish a durable peace in the region," Abbas's spokesman Nabil Abu Rudeina told AFP.
Obama told Abbas that the president was the first foreign leader he called since taking office, Rudeina said.
That's an encouraging sign.
UPDATE: (From ThinkProgress): Former Sen. George Mitchell, who handled the Northern Ireland peace process, is being eyed by the Obama administration to be a top diplomatic envoy to the Middle East. In 2001, Mitchell produced a report on the Middle East which recommended that Israel freeze all its settlement activities. Without a freeze, a cessation of violence would be “particularly hard to sustain,” he argued. While Mitchell’s impending appointment is earning a great deal of praise, the Anti-Defamation League’s Abe Foxman complains the diplomat is too fair and balanced for the post: “Sen. Mitchell is fair. He’s been meticulously even-handed....So I’m concerned. I’m not sure the situation requires that kind of approach in the Middle East.”
That's the problem. As Kevin Drum notes at MotherJones: "But Abe: you're not supposed to say this in public."
Change we can believe in