“It Is Absolute Chaos Up Here”

Posted on March 9, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

The sun was shining the other day on Capitol Hill as lawmakers went about the business of legislating. The proceedings were decorous and orderly as hearings were held, votes taken. And something actually got done: The House voted 217 to 201 to approve a $15 billion jobs bill.

Like an early spring, March arrived just in time after a February of utter discontent that left Congress and the rest of the government frozen in their tracks. “It is absolute chaos up here,” one experienced Washington lobbyist remarked.

As February dawned, Democrats in Congress and the President were still reeling from news that their once bullet-proof 60-vote super-majority in the Senate was lost when Republican Scott Brown won the Massachusetts seat held for more almost 50 years by Democrat Ted Kennedy. This was enough to push the President’s prized health care package to the back burner in favor of a modest jobs bill.

Brown came to town on Feb. 4 and was sworn in by Vice President Biden. But the next day it wasn’t just the legislative process that was paralyzed as a massive snow storm struck Washington. That lost weekend soon became a lost week as a second blizzard hit the region.

“Snowmageddon here in D.C.,” President Obama said as he addressed Democratic National Committee members in the middle of the onslaught. More than 30 inches of snow closed the federal government for a week and buried legislative action on the Hill. Guards, kids with sleds and the occasional cross country skier were the only signs of life on Capitol Hill.

The Democrats’ plans to seek quick action on the jobs bill was put on ice as the blizzard gave way to lawmakers’ week-long President’s Day vacation (which they like to call their “district work period”).

Capitol Hill hardly needed another jolt, but one came on Feb. 15 when Indiana Democratic Sen. Evan Bayh declared politics broken and said he would not seek reelection this fall. Still hung-over from their Massachusetts defeat, Democrats suddenly faced the likely loss of another precious seat.

But the thaw began on Feb. 24, when the House voted, 406 to 19, to strip health insurance companies of their exemption from federal antitrust laws.

The next day, the Senate took up and passed the jobs bill, which would give tax breaks to companies who hire people who had been out of work for 60 days or more. The measure passed 70 to 28, with 13 Republican votes.

While those actions may appear to represent a warming trend between Democrats and Republicans, don’t put your snow shovel away just yet. Democrats are returning this month to their massive health care reform package over the strong objectives of Republicans. Their plan is to move the bill forward under a procedure known as reconciliation which will prevent Senate Republicans from filibustering.

Reaction from the Republicans has been harsh; with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) predicting the maneuver will “have devastating consequences for the Democratic Party.” The chill, it seems, remains.

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Shocking story about Obama’s new healthcare enforcer – an SPN Headlines exclusive:


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