Congress vs Pelosi’s Personal Agenda

By Stanford Matthews
Blog @

By now everyone should know that the approval ratings of the President and Congress tanked months ago. The bad blood between Democrats and Republicans in Congress was again on display in Washington this week. The President urged Congress to pass a bill to amend the FISA Act to accommodate anti-terror efforts of the executive branch. The request delayed the start of the ‘district work period’ or summer vacation for Congress. The House passed the bill with 227 YEAS and 181 NAYS. Not surprisingly 186 Republicans voted in favor with 2 voting no. While 181 Democrats voted against it, 41 Democrats voted in favor of the FISA changes. Unfortunately, at the time this post was written the details of the 60-28 passage in the Senate were not available from Congressional websites. With 50 Democrats, 48 Republicans and two independents, a guess at the voting of 60-28 would indicate at least a dozen YEA votes belonged to Democrats or independents.

Why then is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi planning on fighting the bill’s outcome in November especially when the FISA changes only last to February? What about the Democrats in the Senate who voted in favor of the bill? What about the 41 Democrats in the House that voted in favor of the bill? Are they not part of the Democratic party leadership’s often promoted new direction for America? At the very least the voting indicates the two parties agendas are not unanimously agreed to by each party’s membership. If the vote on S.1927 was to show a party line vote, only two Republicans defected while 41 Democrats disagreed with their party on this issue. Again, the details on the Senate vote were not available beyond the total vote count.

Pelosi Seeks to Change FISA Bill
By Tim Starks, CQ Staff
Aug. 5, 2007
Despite the win President Bush scored on legislation expanding the administration’s eavesdropping authority, Democrats appear determined to make it a temporary victory.

Barely an hour after the House voted, 227-183, to clear the legislation (S 1927) late Aug. 4, Speaker Nancy Pelosi released a letter calling on the Judiciary and Intelligence committees to “send to the House, as soon as possible after Congress reconvenes, legislation which responds comprehensively to the administration’s proposal while addressing the many deficiencies in S 1927.” The legislation expires in February.

Since the report above indicates a divided Democratic House caucus it would not be hard to believe Pelosi will spend time twisting arms of Democrats who voted for the bill in the House. Likewise it would be expected that Harry Reid will apply pressure to Democratic Senate defectors. It is difficult to believe that Pelosi is fighting this on principle. The ratings that reflect public disapproval of Congressional performance with a Democratic majority in both Houses is a more probable cause of Pelosi’s intentions to defeat a bill that just passed. In Washington, politics trumps principle nearly every time. If one can control the politics, the principles don’t matter as you then have the votes to push your agenda.

The article below from the Indy Star discusses Pelosi’s meeting with ‘liberal journalists’ and exposes its own likely liberal bias by attributing the reversal of majority in last year’s midterms to matters that are provided without any supporting evidence. One giveaway is a reference to ‘Pelosi’s agenda’ when describing Washington as the status quo and even long tenured Democrats as obstacles. One politician in a position of authority within Congress pushing an agenda that may be more personal than a matter of consensus may explain part of the reason for low Congressional ratings. A problem that is also present in the White House. The President’s desire for amnesty for illegal aliens being the most obvious example.

Some have lauded the passage of an ethics reform package while others have pointed to the lack of properly addressing the problems of pork and earmarks. Another troubling aspect of Pelosi’s agenda is her claim after the midterms that the Dems would ‘drain the swamp’ and end the ‘culture of corruption’ she blamed entirely on the GOP. A report from Bloomberg and another from a SF CBS affiliate point to Pelosi’s affection for earmarks.

Pelosi Risks Losing Support by Funding Pet Projects (Update1)
By Brian Faler and David Rosen
Aug. 6 (Bloomberg) — U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last year that she would be happy to “do away with” the practice of funding members’ pet projects, though she knew it wasn’t “realistic.” This year proves how right she was.

Thousands of so-called earmarks still adorn spending bills, including 15 from Pelosi in a defense measure. Their continued popularity shows how difficult it is to change a system that allows members to bring federal money home for their constituents. Polls show Democrats aren’t getting credit for what they say is a major overhaul of the earmark system.

There is also plenty of the typical local applause for spending federal money for state projects in California.

08/05/07 7:35 PDT
Mayor Gavin Newsom on Friday thanked U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for her work in requesting federal funding for San Francisco programs aimed at enhancing public safety, reducing homelessness, and improving public transportation.

The programs have garnered preliminary approval by the U.S. House of Representatives and will next be considered by a House-Senate conference committee, according to the mayor’s office. Final approval is anticipated in November.

Some measures include upgrades to the city’s crime lab and community justice center, improved services for inmates in transition to society, and housing and medical services for the homeless.

The transportation measures would include $12 million for the proposed Central Subway, another million for Muni bus restorations, and improvements to traffic signals on Market Street.

The Democrats continue to lob criticism on the Republicans while the GOP returns fire and summons enough opposition to thwart the majority’s legislative agenda. It is unrealistic to expect either party to suppress political maneuvering in favor of attending to the nation’s business. While humorous retorts by some in the media and the public suggest Congress’ month off means they can’t screw anything up for a while is small comfort. If they really attend to any district work during their ‘district work period’, perhaps it will offer reasons to alter their current practices that translate to better governing this fall. You have better odds of hitting the lottery than witnessing any improvements in Congress this fall.