Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Will the leaders in Congress stand up, please.

By Carol Gee

Today's the very last set of Democratic primaries to be held this year. And aren't we relieved! After South Dakota and Montana voters make their choices, as they have every right to do, the country can move into its next phase. As it has turned out, the highest ranking Democrats in the party serve in Congress. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) will step into action in the next few hours, urging their party super delegate senators and representatives to announce their candidate preferences. The three presidential candidates are senators. Holding even lower public approval ratings than our already thoroughly discredited current president, their leadership will be essential to victory for Democrats in November. Today's post offers a few news items regarding what is happening in this Congress. From Politico.com this (6/3/08) story explains: "Super Delegates predict quick primary end." To quote:

As the Democratic nomination marathon neared a potential finish line, key senators said the results of Tuesday’s South Dakota and Montana primaries will have a domino effect on uncommitted superdelegates – quite possibly clinching the nomination for Barack Obama.

With only 31 total pledged delegates at stake in the two states, Obama cannot win enough in the final two primaries to reach the 2,118 necessary to clinch the nomination.

The highest ranking Democrat has made her mark already. Though many wish Speaker Pelosi had not ruled out a presidential or vice-presidential impeachment, I can understand her decision as one of pragmatism. She was a newcomer to the position, and not yet familiar with what would actually be possible to pull off. But that does not mean she has been shy about exercising power. Politico.com (6/3/08) has the story,"Pelosi concentrates power in office," by John Bresnehan. To quote:

Pelosi says she feels a “natural gravitation to the floor,” but there’s more to it than that: The speaker’s propensity to speak reflects her determination to lead from the front, not the rear, of her caucus.

Since taking the gavel in January 2007, Pelosi has consolidated power in the speaker’s office. She has overruled influential chairmen such as Reps. John Dingell (D-Mich.) and Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) on key issues such as global warming and children’s health insurance, bringing legislation directly to the floor without committee approval.

She personally forced through a rules change creating a new Office of Congressional Ethics, despite loud complaints from veteran lawmakers in both parties. She ran a recent Iraq war funding measure through the House as an amendment, an unusual procedure that allowed Democrats to bypass the powerful Appropriations Committee while providing political cover for anti-war members who opposed the funding measure.

All the money is sinking into Iraq. No wonder people remain upset with Congress being so inept at handling their power of the purse. An earlier article from Yahoo! News* (on May 23), revealed that there is a huge amount of military spending unaccounted for. Congress, alone, has the kind of oversight authority to do something about this disgustingly disheartening news -- that is unfortunately not really a surprise to many of us. To quote:

The Pentagon cannot account for nearly 15 billion dollars in payments for goods and services in Iraq, according to an internal audit which members of Congress blasted Friday as a "shocking" accountability failure.

Of 8.2 billion dollars in US taxpayer-funded defense contracts reviewed by the defense department's inspector general, the Pentagon could not properly account for more than 7.7 billion dollars.

Congress needs to investigate whether the military has been compromised for propaganda purposes by the White House. That same day, 5/23, Firedoglake's Jane Hamsher's activist newsletter held out this opportunity to get involved, if you are still interested in doing something about the "Propaganda Pundits," as Hamsher calls them. To quote her idea:

For the first time in our history, the American military has turned its operational apparatus upon the American public. And it's high time that it stop.

We're teaming up with some other groups like Freepress to send a letter to the five members of Congress - Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Armed Service Committee Chair Ike Skelton, Senate Armed Service Committee Chair Carl Levin and House Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs Chair John Tierney - who can start up Congressional hearings on this despicable program. Add your name to the letter:

Life will feel a bit more politically normal after today. Congress may be in the news a bit more frequently, as it should be. The mainstream media has gotten too focused on the horse race between Clinton and Obama. Congress has begin debate on landmark climate change legislation, reported out of Senator Barbara Boxer's (D-CA) environmental committee. The bill's sponsor, Independent Senator Joe Lieberman has called for citizen activists to let those who represent them in Washington know how they feel about the proposed new cap and trade program. Lieberman will need a few more votes to override the threatened veto by our current president. Kudos to both for standing up on this vital issue.

*Hat tip to "betmo" at life's journey.

(Cross-posted at South by Southwest.)

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