The First Legislation Project Success

by: Chris Bowers

Thu Jan 22, 2009 at 13:05


Yesterday, we had our first success in the progressive legislation monitoring project. Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio said that he would try to push Senator Byron Dorgan's S 195 in the banking committee, in order to increase the amount of oversight and transparency in TARP. In conjunction with a few state blows, we had been preparing an action alert for either today or tomorrow to call members of the Senate banking committee and ask them to help push S 195 through. Since Senator Brown gave me the assurance we were seeking form those phone calls, for the time being we can put direct action on S 195 on hold. Of course, since there is no guarantee it will pass, we will continue to monitor the situation as it develops.

After our article on Senator Brown's comments yesterday, the Drum Major Institute posted a comparative analysis of S 195 and its counterpart in the House, HR 384. The basic thrust of the analysis was that HR 384 was superior to S 195, since the latter lacks provisions on how the money should be spent, and thus cannot guarantee money will be spent to mitigate foreclosures. I actually agree with this analysis, even though I intend to keep pushing S 195. My hope is that, in the event that S 195 makes it through committee, that amendments can be offered to the bill before it passes through the chamber.

The problems with S 195 also reveal a feature of the progressive legislation monitoring project that I should point out: we will only be working with bills that have already been introduced to Congress, not with theoretical legislation.  Further, the only specific tweaks we will suggest to any of the bills that we support will be in the form of amendments, and those amendments will also have to be legislation that was previously introduced to Congress. For example, Senator Diane Feinstein's S 116, requiring that $10 billion in TARP money go to state and local governments who lost money by investing in certain financial institutions, would be one possible amendment to S 195 we might try to push.

More in the extended entry.

Chris Bowers :: The First Legislation Project Success
The reason we are focusing on legislation that has already been introduced is two-fold. First, getting a bill introduced into Congress is a major step in the legislative process, and by focusing only on bills already introduced we reduce the number of steps required to help pass any legislation. Second, I would rather the project not become a wonky, theoretical discussion of legislation. Given the amount of time involved in such discussions, and the disagreements those discussions can potentially sow, we simply can't sit around and write legislation by committee. We need actionable items that are, in the jargon of our time, "shovel ready."

This is a project to focus on the best of the possible legislation, rather than the best legislation in theory.  In the case of HR 384 and S 195, we are trying to make the best out of a bad situation, and do so with the legislative tools available to us. Personally, I would have pushed for the TARP money to be denied entirely until HR 384 had passed both chambers and been signed into law. However, since that wasn't possible, we are simply following the paths available to us. It isn't perfect, but it is the best we can do in the short-term.

Anyway, we are going to take a brief respite from focusing on TARP oversight and transparency. Today and tomorrow, I am going to return focus on HR 104, the John Conyers bill to investigate Bush administration crimes. Speaker Pelosi has already voiced support for the bill, and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse is making a lot of noise about the need for such investigations. I will try to find out if Senator Whitehouse intends to introduce a bill to mirror HR 104 in the Senate.


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Can you contact Merkley's office, Chris? (0.00 / 0)
As I noted in Quick Hits, Merkley is on both Budget and Banking.  

Would be good to contact him (0.00 / 0)
although I imagine if Sherrod talks to him Jeff will be on board.  

[ Parent ]
Once again, (4.00 / 1)
You are awesome, this initiative is awesome, Openleft is awesome.  I know that's not helpful, per se, but this is really exciting.

How about a Whip Count web tool? (4.00 / 1)
Hi Chris,

I recently posted a diary, "How about a 'Whip Count Web Tool' for the PLM project?".  

From the post:


...to me, the bigger problem is logistical.  We need to track numerous bills, in numerous committees, between two houses of Congress populated by hundreds of legislators.  To effectively move bills out of committee, we need to be able to track not just bills' co-sponsors, but also the statements of legislators and their staff about whether they plan to support a bill, oppose it, or stay out of it entirely.  

This is the kind of problem that deserves an elegant but efficient web technology solution - we should create an open-source web-based application that would:

*list all House and Senate Committees and their membership;

*allow folks like Chris to input key legislation to be tracked in each committee; and most importantly,

*enable groups of Netroots activists to record congresscritters' anticipated support or opposition for legislation, in a tracked wiki-style format, with documentation (links to quotes, staff spoken to, time, etc.).

I'd love to hear your and others' thoughts about this...
- Would it be useful?  
- How hard would it be to set up?  
- Are there other tools or resources we should harness first/instead?

It might be a valuable contribution to other progressive online campaigns, too.  


too bad (0.00 / 0)
difi didnt fall of the balcony the other day.

how about state pensions which made bad investments find their own way to fund themselves. bad enough we're propping them up with undervalued raw cash injections to the banks. WERE ALREADY BAILING OUT THE BOND HOLDERS! isn't 700B already enough for Difi and the bankrupt state of california?

this is all the wrong focus - trying to cut up a pie which never should have been baked. where is the focus on nationalizing these banks and forcing a debt for equity cram down?

~* the * Will * to go on *~


On/Off topic (0.00 / 0)
Chris you didn't happen to be in the Rayburn building yesterday did you? I could have sworn either you or your dead ringer was going through security while I was on my way to the appropriations committee hearing.  

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