Overheard before Bwog’s final final:
Guy: So did you read that New York Times article today—
Gal: Dude, it’s finals. I have no fucking idea what’s going on in the world…
Guy: [unleashes death stare] Never mind then.
Girl, it’s okay, we sympathize. Between the finals frenzy and holiday hullabaloo, Bwog basically forgot it was a national citizen. But meanwhile the lame duck Congress wasn’t actually that lame—dare we say it soared like an eagle? Democrats, though shaken by loss of control, cooperated and compromised. Apparently, lots happens when congresspeople stop procrastinating/filibustering because they want to go home for Christmas. And according to Republican Sen. Kyl, the respect of Christmas was on the line. Post “shellacking,” Obama and his jolly elves delivered, as they racked up points on the legislative scoreboard. Read on if you feel it’s finally time to get your brain wheels rolling again.
P.S. Bwog probably shouldn’t be your go-to source for national news, so we’ve Wikipedia’d everything because you were going to anyway and added an assortment of amusing links. If you think we left out an important reference or opinion, tell us and we’ll add it in: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010: This fight has been terribly complicated. After the Democrats passed their healthcare bill this spring, the Republicans, led by Sen. McCain, made a vague vow to filibuster all Democratic legislation unless Bush tax cuts were extended. Democrats reluctantly agreed to continue tax cuts for those making over $250,000 in exchange for a grab-bag of stimulus plans: $56 billion in unemployment insurance extensions, payroll-tax cut and a business-investment tax cut. This was one of the most bipartisan, yet controversial legislative efforts of this year, but surprisingly, when the final whip counts went around, it was the Democrats who had trouble getting votes in line. Austan Goolsbee, White House Chairman of Economic Advisers and spookiest name award recipient, explains the compromise on the “White House White board.” Note: they didn’t choose a chalk board.
- Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010: After failing to amend this year’s Defense Authorization bill with a provision that would repeal DADT, Sen. Lieberman introduced the straight up repeal bill. Republicans valiantly filed for a filibuster, but the cloture motion was passed 63-33, and the final vote came to 65-31. Back in the day, the West Wing covered the DADT debate and Colbert took himself to task in Formidible Opponent.
- New START: The new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty would reduce the nuclear stockpiles of the United States and Russia and resume the inspections frozen when the old START treaty expired last year. Despite support from former Republican Secretaries of State and other national-security big wigs, the Senate GOP wasn’t on board at first. McCain succeeded in playing politics with nuclear superpowers until Sen. Reid finally got minority leader, Sen. McConnell, to bring the treaty up for a vote. With a count of 71-26, including 13 Republicans in favor, the nuclear arms pact was approved. Perhaps some recognized the bilateral treaty was potentially more effective than the current early detection system.
- James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act: Passed over Republican filibuster, the bill provides $7 billion in financial aid and healthcare for 9/11 first responders. Dr. No (Sen. Coburn) attempted to block the funds because he didn’t think it was worth adding to the deficit. Still, championed by NY democratic senators Gillibrand and Schumer, the act passed the Senate with a voice vote. What’s more, the NYtimes credits comedian Jon Stewart, the “modern-day equivalent of Edward R Murrow,” with the bill’s success. A few months ago, Stewart’s pal Rep. Anthony Weiner put on quite a show in the House. Then during the Senate debate, the Daily Show host campaigned for Zadroga while none of the other news outlets were even reporting on it. The Atlantic has a helpful roundup of the “bill’s lessons.”
- Food Safety Modernization Act: The food safety bill expands the reach and regulatory powers of the Food and Drug Administration so you won’t eat e coli. Most significantly, the legislation gives the F.D.A the teeth to order, not just request, recalls of contaminated food. If you never want to eat again, watch the documentary Food Inc. (you can stream it on Netflix!), which exposes the FDA’s failure to check the massive corporations that control the food industry.
- Poll Palooza: Only a month and a half after the midterm election, public opinion seems to validate these late initiatives. A recent CNN poll tracks Obama’s approval rating at 56%. Congressional Democrats are more popular (44%) than congressional Republicans (42%). On lack of cooperation, 46% blame Republicans versus 28% against Democrats.
- Fun Filibuster Facts: Republicans broke the filibustering record in this session of Congress. Now Senate Democrats wanna revise the rules. In a letter to Majority leader Harry Reid, they proposed a few alterations to the sacrosanct and stalemate-inducing practice. Dems suggest filibustering shouldn’t simply require a single senator to raise his hand, but a majority. If you’re interested in this “irritating but vital tradition of the senate,” the Economist explains its history.
- Jimmy McMillan is running for President: The man behind “The Rent is Too Damn High” party is taking aim at the White House. He plans to run in the Republican primary, but has said he’ll drop out of the race if Obama appoints him for some federal job. Ah, the spoils system..
And so it goes.