Of all the various blocs and gangs that have been formed in Congress this year, Senators Bayh, Conrad, Feinstein, Lieberman and Warner have managed to form the most regressive one yet. Currently, these five Democrats are demanding that Speaker Pelosi hand over all relevant Congressional power to an independent commission that will be allowed to slash and partially privatize Social Security and Medicare, or else they will allow the United States to default on its debt.
Senators from both parties on Tuesday put new pressure on Speaker Nancy Pelosi to turn the power to trim entitlement benefits over to an independent commission.
Seven members of the Senate Budget Committee threatened during a Tuesday hearing to withhold their support for critical legislation to raise the debt ceiling if the bill calling for the creation of a bipartisan fiscal reform commission were not attached. (...)
(...) Congress is under pressure to raise the cap on what the federal government can borrow by mid-December. If the debt ceiling is not raised above its current $12.1 trillion mark by then, the government will exceed its borrowing limits and will be forced to default on the debt. Economists have warned that the inevitable result would be a lowering of the U.S. credit rating, triggering substantial increases in the interest rates the government is already paying.
But before Tuesday's hearing was over, Sens. Conrad, Gregg, Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) publicly vowed to vote against raising the debt ceiling if a budget reform commission bill doesn't come along with it.
The Republican threats don't matter, since only Democrats are needed to pass the bill.
Let's review the threat that these five Democrats are making:
They will allow the United States to default on its debt, which will vastly increase the overall amount we have to pay on our debt
Speaker Nancy Pelosi turns over Congressional power on Social Security and Medicare to an unelected commission that will almost certainly propose deep cuts in Social Security and Medicare entitlements. Keep in mind that if deep cuts to Social Security and Medicare pass under a Democratic trifecta, the party would be doomed at the ballot box for years to come.
This is completely insane, and there is no choice but to call this bluff.
Let's see these five Democratic Senators explain to the entire nation why they allowed the country to default on its debt. No matter how safe their seats appear to be, no Senator is going to win reelection after making the entire country default on its debt Their rationale does not matter. Being blamed for making the country default on its debt-especially after all five of these Democrats voted in favor of the Wall Street bailout and are demanding that Social Security and Medicare be cut-will be the effective end of their political careers.
Go for it, guys. Form your national suicide pact. Tell the country that you are demanding deep cuts in Social Security and Medicare, or else you will personally cause the United States debt to double. Let's see how well that message plays on the air.
Last week the Department of Veterans Affairs, bowing to months of pressure from voting rights groups and elected officials, revised its rules concerning voter registration drives to allow such activities if certain conditions were met.
Two months ago, at the most recent meeting of the Pennsylvania State Democratic Committee (I hold a seat on the committee), there was a contentious vote on whether or not to pass a resolution calling for the impeachment of Bush and Cheney. The resolution was not passed. In fact, it wasn't even voted on. In a move reminiscent of recent happenings in the US House of Representatives, there was, instead, a motion to table the bill, which narrowly passed by about a 55-45% margin (the exact margin is difficult to tell, since it was conducted visually by having people stand up in favor or opposition). Back in June, there had been a successful motion, passed with roughly two-thirds support of the committee, to send the resolution back to the issues committee.
After the motion went down, I started talking with a couple other young, progressive reformer friends of mine who had also won seats on the committee last year (four of us car pool to the meetings). The main business of the meeting was to nominate a candidate for superior court, since a new opening had appeared since the primary election. Apparently, the executive committee had met the night before, and worked out a deal for the new nominee, which the rank and file members of the committee were then expected to ratify. It wasn't the candidate either I or my group of friends wanted, and we were pretty angry that no one was doing anything about this. In between the impeachment vote and the executive committee fueled nomination, I had also been chewed out in the Philadelphia caucus for blogging about the goings on in the Philadelphia caucus, which makes me wonder if I am in jeopardy for re-election, even now with Michael Nutter as mayor. So, needless to say, I wasn't very happy at that meeting, and my friends and I lamented how the Republican state committee had rejected the judicial nominee their executive committee put forth, because s/he was pro-choice or something. Even though our principles were opposed, we admired that they would stick by their principles instead of just doing what their executive committee told them to do. That was a party that stood for something and where the rank and file held the executive accountable, rather than the other way around.
I have been kind of down about my position on the state committee ever since that meeting, since I feel like pretty much everything I have tried while on the committee has failed. From increased transparency (which has basically just resulting in getting yelled at), to holding party office elections every two years instead of every four years (I discovered that was a local matter, not a state one), to freeing up Philly caucus members to vote however they wish in the general sessions (I thought we had won on that one, until this meeting), it hasn't worked as well as I had hoped. Also, even though they did listen to me very closely, the party even went with a different proposal to revamp their Internet outreach than the one I proposed. However, word of a resurgent state party in California today brings a smile to my face. Progressive state committee members in the Golden state are going to introduce a measure censuring California Senator Diane Feinstein at their state committee meeting this weekend:
Whereas Senator Dianne Feinstein voted to support the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey as United States Attorney General, thereby elevating to the highest position in law enforcement a man who refused to renounce the right of the President to resort to torture and who refused to recognize waterboarding as a form of torture, and by this action Senator Feinstein failed to oppose President Bush and failed to stand for the ideals of the Democratic Party, which abhors torture and stands firmly against its use by the United States at all times and places; and
Whereas Senator Feinstein voted to confirm Judge Leslie Southwick for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit despite his clear record of racism and gender discrimination, thus failing to stand firmly with the Democratic Party, which supports gender equality and opposes racism in any of its manifestations; and
Whereas these examples are far from the only instances where Senator Feinstein, after seeking and securing the support and endorsement of the California Democratic Party, has failed to support the policies and principles of our party;
Therefore be it resolved that the California Democratic Party expresses its disappointment at, and censure of, Senator Feinstein for ignoring Democratic principles and falling so far below the standard of what we expect of our elected officials.
Good for the state committee members putting forth this resolution. This is one of the strongest moves to hold their leaders accountable that I have seen from a local Democratic Party in a long time. It is the sort of fighting, principled action that gives me renewed faith in my endeavors in Pennsylvania. If Feinstein is going to approve all of Bush's nominations, and also assist in passing things like FISA, it is up to local Democrats to lead the charge in holding her accountable. I am very glad to see that many are willing to do just that, and I hope this resolution passes this weekend.
Let's hear it for fighting, grassroots Democrats. The silent revolution is alive and well.