Tag Archives: DC establishment

Yes, Having A Democrat Running A Democratic Committee Would Be A Catastrophe

Howie Klein notes that the next in line for the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, should Charlie Rangel succumb to his ethical struggles, is progressive Pete Stark.  This has many on Capitol Hill in a tizzy: including those who should have the loudest voice in determining Democratic chairmanships, anonymous operatives and industry lobbyists.

Next in seniority to Rangel is Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Fortney (Pete) Stark, D-Calif., who is given virtually no chance. “The conventional wisdom is he would have a tough time getting elected chairman,” said a Democrat close to leadership. From suggesting Republicans were sending troops to Iraq to die “for the president’s amusement” to referring to a former GOP lawmaker as a “little fruitcake,” Stark is prone to gaffes, sources said. “The guy behind [Rangel] is just not tenable. Republicans would have a field day,” an industry lobbyist said, while noting the business community would “go nuclear. It would just be open warfare.” A more viable pick might be Ways and Means Trade Subcommittee Chairman Sander Levin, D-Mich., who is next in seniority, although sources cautioned the cerebral Levin may be too deliberate for the high-profile job. Levin also appears to relish his duties at the helm of the trade panel. He is also seen as very much in tune with the labor movement, although industry sources said Levin was someone they could work with, as opposed to Stark. Also, the Democratic Caucus still largely respects the seniority system, the Democratic strategist said. “If you make the decision that Stark is too out there, then I don’t see how you go over Sandy,” he said. “He’s been a loyal member, and nobody would doubt he’s got the intellectual and legislative expertise for the job.”

As Matt Stoller notes, there are NINE anonymous sources in this article.  You’d think the people who presume to control Congress and who gets selected for particular committees wouldn’t be so cowardly, would you?  But of course, they just want to be behind the curtain, impervious to political pressure.

As a contrast, Pete Stark is open and honest about his views.  He has paid his dues and he’s next in line for the job.  His “radical” policy ideas include making health care accessible and affordable for every American and opposing a giveaway to the financial services industry.

Howie explains the double standard at work here:

Do you recall any of the Inside the Beltway types viewing a Republican appointee to any job thru the lenses of how that person might be accepted by working families or by organized labor? Or did I miss the issue where CongressDaily suggested that Elaine Chao might be the world’s absolute worst Labor Secretary because she loathes working people and doesn’t recognize their aspirations as legitimate or worthy of her attention?

Did anyone ever question whether one of Congress’ biggest corporate shills on environmental issues, Dirty Dick Pombo, would be unqualified to be Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee because he was unanimously loathed by every single environmental group in the country? And what about that issue of CongressDaily– or any other daily– that pointed out that maybe Joe Barton (R-TX) shouldn’t be chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce because the $1,315,660 in legalized reported bribes he’s taken from Big Oil over the years is far more than any other member of the House, more even than notorious Big Oil puppets like Don Young (R-AK- $964,763), Steve Pearce (R-NM- $804,815), Tom Delay (R-TX- $688,840), and Pete Sessions (R-TX- $582,264), and that all the green energy groups feel that Barton is an integral part of the energy problem in our country and decidedly not part of the solution? No, I must have missed it too.

Indeed.  This might be a good time to contact the Speaker and tell her that Democrats up for Democratic committee chairs shouldn’t be subject to a veto by industry.

Feinstein’s Epic FAIL

As bad a week as it’s been for John McCain, it’s been a TERRIBLE week for Dianne Feinstein.  She watched in the Senate Judiciary Committee as Attorney General Michael Mukasey, who she voted to confirm, put on as bad a performance as Alberto Gonzales ever did, covering for the Administration’s criminal actions, from torture to politicization of the Justice Department.  Then, of course, there was the FISA vote, where she bowed to President Bush and voted to participate in a coverup.  Despite this public statement just two weeks before the vote:

I believe the court should not grant immunity without looking into the legality of the companies’ actions. So if there is an amendment that does support this, I would intend to vote for it.

When it came down to voting on precisely that amendment, she weaseled her way out of it.

Amendment Number: S.Amdt. 5059 to H.R. 6304 (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978)

Statement of Purpose: To limit retroactive immunity for providing assistance to the United States to instances in which a Federal court determines the assistance was provided in connection with an intelligence activity that was constitutional.

Feinstein (D-CA), Nay

And of course, she voted against stripping immunity, for cloture, and for the final bill.

Then there’s this water bond which is more of a true compromise for DiFi, but still includes funds for building dams, and ignores unspent water funds from a 2006 bond issue.  So the idea is to borrow on top of the borrowing.

Courage Campaign is considering whether or not to push censure, but CREDO Action isn’t waiting to voice their displeasure.  From an email:

On July 9th, sixty-nine senators voted to gut the Bill of Rights. They voted to hand President Bush the power to spy on Americans without warrants, and to grant retroactive immunity to the telecoms who allegedly helped him break the law in the past.

No wonder the Associated Press headline following the bill’s passage read, “Senate bows to Bush.”

So why does a president with the lowest approval ratings since the advent of polling have the power to eviscerate the Constitution?

Because Sen. Feinstein gave it to him.

We can’t undo what our senators have done. But we can tell them that we can’t believe they’d rather protect President Bush and his law-breaking cronies than the civil liberties of all Americans.

Click here to tell Sen. Feinstein that you are watching, that you are disappointed, and that you won’t sit idly by while our Congress destroys our Constitution.

After you sign the petition, please be sure to tell a few friends.

It’s really the establishment mindset, afraid of being labeled weak and then bowing to the opposition party’s demands, and not recognizing the irony, that must be stopped.  And there’s no greater symbol of that mindset than DiFi.

UPDATE: (Bob)  With rumors swirling that a Federal Grand Jury is poised to indict Don Perata, this has also the week that Perata has been telling anyone who will listening that the FBI investigation is a political witch hunt. Which, if true, means DiFi’s infamous statement that he, “is not Alberto Gonzalez” in announcing her support for Mukasey’s confirmation looks all the more ridiculous. Perata defenders like Roger Salazar and Jason Kinney and Bob Mulholland can use the above link to cast their votes to hold Feinstein accountable. Interestingly, Mukasey’s confirmation blunder was cited specifically in the previous censure push when Art Torres put his credibility on the line defending her. And this week DiFi undermined that credibility with retroactive immunity caving at the same time CDP credibility was threatened with the Perata handout which rationalizers say was necessary because of Mukasey. Accountability matters.  

Rep. Jane Harman (D-Elite)

It is well-known that, shortly after elements of President Bush’s illegal warrantless wiretapping program was divulged by the New York Times in December 2005, Rep. Jane Harman wasn’t happy.  She went on Meet The Press shortly thereafter and blasted the paper for leaking the details.  But we did not know that she actively sought to cover up contents of the program PRIOR to the Pulitzer Prize-winning story.

Eric Lichtblau, who along with James Risen broke the story, has a new book coming out which details the wrangling between the NYT and the Administration which caused a one-year delay in the revelation of the warrantless wiretapping program in the press.  During that time, Lichtblau ran into Jane Harman in the Capitol.

In his book, Lichtblau tells how a few months after the story was held, he happened to be covering a House hearing where he heard Rep. Jane Harman (D-CA) argue passionately for stronger civil liberties safeguards in the reauthorization of the Patriot Act.

Lichtblau saw this as an opportunity to question Harman about the warrantless wiretapping program, since Harman, as a member of the “gang of eight,” was one of the four Democrats who’d been briefed on it. He writes:

I approached Harman with notepad in hand and told her that I’d been involved in our reporting the year before on the NSA eavesdropping program. “I’m trying to square what I heard in there,” I said, “with what we know about that program.” Harman’s golden California tan turned a brighter shade of red. She knew exactly what I was talking about. Shooing away her aides, she grabbed me by the arm and drew me a few feet away to a more remote section of the Capitol corridor.

“You should not be talking about that here,” she scolded me in a whisper. “They don’t even know about that,” she said, gesturing to her aides, who were now looking on at the conversation with obvious befuddlement. “The Times did the right thing by not publishing that story,” she continued. I wanted to understand her position. What intelligence capabilities would be lost by informing the public about something the terrorists already knew – namely, that the government was listening to them? I asked her. Harman wouldn’t bite. “This is a valuable program, and it would be compromised,” she said. I tried to get into some of the details of the program and get a better understanding of why the administration asserted that it couldn’t be operated within the confines of the courts. Harman wouldn’t go there either. “This is a valuable program,” she repeated. This was clearly as far as she was willing to take the conversation, and we didn’t speak again until months later, after the NSA story had already run. By then, Harman’s position had undergone a dramatic transformation. When the story broke publicly, she was among the first in line on Capitol Hill to denounce the administration’s handling of the wiretapping program, declaring that what the NSA was doing could have been done under the existing FISA law.

What comes through in this exchange is that the elites in Washington have far more fealty to each other than the public.  Harman has come around; she argued strongly against the program and was one of the leaders in the House fight to amend FISA responsibly last week.  Now we’re seeing a likely stalemate on that issue, and George Bush is almost certain not to get what he desperately wants, amnesty for the telecom companies and a rejection of the lawsuits against them which could reveal even more about the program.

Still, we have this portrait of Harman, eager to cover up, convinced that what she is told must stay secret has to stay secret, untrained in the Constitution enough to see that warrantless wiretapping is unnecessary under FISA and in defiance of the Fourth Amendment.  It’s relieving a bit that the past few years, with the help of the blogosphere, have given many in the Congress an education on the document they swear to uphold and defend.  It’s also completely sad.