Morning Report 7/30/05
America's Plumb Bushed
More guns, more highways, more pork. And now it's recess.
I feel like I done died and gone to hog heaven—after reading this morning's Washington Post roundup of yesterday's doin's on Capitol Hill.
Here's how the Post's Charles Babington and Justin Blum describe it:
- After years of partisan impasses and legislative failures, Congress in a matter of hours yesterday passed or advanced three far-reaching bills that will allocate billions of dollars and set new policies for guns, roads and energy.
The measures sent to President Bush for his signature will grant $14.5 billion in tax breaks for energy-related matters and devote $286 billion to transportation programs, including 6,000 local projects, often called "pork barrel" spending. The Senate also passed a bill to protect firearms manufacturers and dealers from various lawsuits. The House is poised to pass it this fall.
Combined with the Central American Free Trade Agreement that Congress approved Thursday, the measures constitute significant victories for Bush and GOP congressional leaders, who have been frustrated by Democrats in some areas such as Social Security.
There was only one Bubba in the last administration. Now we're overrun with them. And some of even are even feeling like martyrs after working so hard on a hot summer's day.
Take Trent Lott. Booted out of the Senate leadership in December 2002 because he dared to voice his fondness for Strom Thurmond's handling of Negroes, Lott is still a senator—I say, a senator—from Mississippi in good standing. In today's Post, the poor fella talks about the rough day of work on Capitol Hill yesterday:
- "Finally, by pure exhaustion, we're going to stagger across the finish line, emaciated and without much to brag about. The only way we got the energy bill was to pick a lot of the meat out of it. This is not a particularly impressive bill."
That depends on how you look at it. As the Post story also notes:
- The bills approved this week won varying degrees of support from Democrats, with most of them opposing the trade pact and gun bill. The energy bill passed the Senate 74 to 26, but Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) denounced it as a missed opportunity to lower gasoline prices and reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil.
Even some senior Republicans said the transportation and energy bills passed largely because House and Senate leaders loaded them with pork-barrel projects and jettisoned contentious measures coveted by conservatives, such as opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Congress will consider the drilling proposal separately later this year.
The GOP did such a great job that Congress won't even have to shove aside that Alaska-drilling debate to take up the nagging question of John Bolton's still-hanging appointment to the U.N.
Back in the spring, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Richard Lugar did as much as any Republican in his position could be expected to do, as far as dragging his heels on the Bolton appointment.
But all that maneuvering didn't matter. That's because the Cheney regime is going to go ahead and give Bolton the 'ol recess appointment. All George W. Bush has to do is wait until Congress officially skedaddles. Another Post story, this one by Peter Baker, tells it:
- Bush will be free to use his recess appointment power as soon as Congress leaves town this weekend, and the White House has told allies to expect such a move, possibly before the president heads to Crawford, Tex., on Tuesday for his own summer break. A recess appointment would put Bolton at the United Nations until the next Congress convenes in January 2007.
If Bush goes forward, it would be the first time a president has sent an ambassador to the United Nations with a recess appointment, and it would be seen as a rare act of defiance of the Senate's role in confirmations. Senate Democrats argued that it would leave Bolton a politically weakened force in representing U.S. interests before the world body. It also would sour the environment as Bush woos some of the same Senate Democrats to support his choice for Supreme Court justice, John G. Roberts Jr.
Over in Iraq, meanwhile, there's no recess. The high temperature today in Baghdad was 118, but it's expected to cool off to 109 tonight before getting hot again tomorrow.
Those nighttime breezes will be a relief, especially after 11 people were blown up today. Here's an excerpt from the CNN midday roundup:
- The most dramatic strike Saturday took place near the Iraqi National Theater, where people from the nation's civil community institutions were developing demands for the committee writing the constitution.
A suicide car bomb killed six people, including three police officers, and wounded 26 others.