Came across a new blog today that shows great promise. It’s called U.S. House Digest, and plans to provide a daily summary of the House’s activities in everyday, digestible language. Go take a peek. I was planning to hit on a few of the highlights of the “First 100 Hours” plan and found this during my searches.
Votes so far and summaries of issues:
Roll Call #1 – Attendance. Just like kindergarten. Everybody showed up. “Present”-435. “No Vote”-0. Now that we’re all here, let’s get down to business.
Roll Call #2 – Election for Speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi wins, 233-202, on straight party lines, over John Boehner. How much trouble do you think you would be in if you crossed over on this vote? But seriously, John Boehner? From Abramoff ties, to Foley blind eyes, this guy has got lobbyist slime dripping all over him. I mean, handing out donation checks from tobacco companies on the House floor, while colleagues were discussing how to vote on tobacco subsidies? Nice.
Then they started in on deciding what would be the Rules of the House for the 110th Congress.
Title 2 of the Rules addresses the ethical standards that members must adhere to. The changes to previous rules include: ban on gifts from registered lobbyists, clarification of value of gifts of sporting event tickets, limits on lobbyists paying for travel and lodging expenses for congressmen, development of annual ethics training for members and employees. This section also, quite randomly, includes a laudable change of some committee names back to their previous names before the Newt Gingrich-led 1994 revolution made changes. Some of these changes emphasize the agenda of the party, such as the change of the Committee on Resources back to the Committee on Natural Resources. The Committee on Government Reform is now the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. That kind of stuff.
Roll Call #7 on Title 2, passed 430 to 1, with 4 no-votes. Who was the brave soldier who stuck up for the right to take gifts, flights, and whatever else he could get his hands on? Dan Burton (R) IN-05. Another real peach. He’s been there for 24 years, during which time he has fathered a child outside of his marriage, fought against extension of the Voting Rights Act for minorities and been accused of demanding a $5,000 bribe from a Pakistani lobbyist. Oh yeah, and he’s a loud spokesperson for the “vaccines cause autism” camp, despite the fact that they don’t. Loser.
On Friday, they came back with more rules establishment.
Title 3 of the Rules addressed how votes would be held. Last year, the weasles, err, Republicans would keep votes open longer than the standard 15 minutes if they needed to twist extra arms. Not so this year. Last year, the Republican House and Senate chief weasles might go into a conference committee to hammer out some agreements on bills and then sometimes, not even let Democrats see the new bill revisions before it went up for a vote. Not so this year. Now the minority party must be provided with a copy of the new conference report and no conference report other than the one they were provided with can be considered. Roll Call #8 on this one carried 430-0.
Title 4 of the Rules takes aim at earmark expenditures. There were over 15,000 of these pet projects in 2005, costing over $47 billion. These are things like the famed $223 million for the “Bridge to Nowhere” in Alaska. These special expenditures will need to be identified publicly, along with the name of the member who proposed them. This section also reinstituted the “pay as you go rule” whereby if you propose a spending increase, you have to raise taxes to pay for it, and if you propose a tax cut, you have to propose spending decreases to accompany the cut. Many of the more budget-minded Republicans went along with this one, so Roll Call #9 carried 280-152. You can take a peek to see which side of the pork your Republican stands on.
Title 5 of the Rules was a real grab-bag. Section 502 – Minority party members are granted more deposition powers over subpoenaed witnesses. Section 503, 504, 505 – Technical trivia.
Sections 506 through 510 were fun, though. Despite Democratic pledges to reverse the recent Republican tradition of shutting out the minority party from making changes to legislation, there are a few items that will be read, briefly debated, and then voted on, take-it-or-leave-it. These carved-out items include: 9/11 commission recommendations, stem cell research, the minimum wage and prescription drugs. This part prompted a bit of wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The remainder of this section was technicalities with the exception of the part where lobbyists will be banned from the Congressional gym. That part, and the Republicans’ opposition to it, conjures up really creepy images of the kind of deals that get made in saunas in bad movies.
Well, the GOP was united in their fight to continue to get sweaty with lobbyists, but lost Roll Call #11 232-200, with three members non-committal on the whole thing.
And after that they decided to call it a day. They’re in recess until Tuesday, Jan. 9. I think that the 9/11 Commission recommendations are next up on deck.