Saturday, April 03, 2010

Legislative Calendar

While we were all watching Congressional leaders introduce "the honorable man from the great state of" in favor of health care reform, or "the gentle woman who has been an invaluable member of our committee" against the same, the world kept turning. Iraq was busy counting its votes, Haiti was still trying to dig out from their earthquake and Greece was still trying to figure out its finances. And in the category of the stuff that really counts, Sandra Bullock was deciding enough was enough and will reportedly start divorce proceedings in her five year old marriage.

Still, regardless of which side of the health care debate you were on, it's over for now. I say "for now," because the Republicans are gearing up to try and mount a repeal effort. That means that debate will continue as to whether or not the legislation just passed will or will not do anything to tame the beast that is the medical care status quo in this county. But as a practical matter, at least for the time being, it's been signed into law, and so we can all get back to seeing what Sarah Palin is writing on her hand this week.

And what about Congress itself? With no more single topic on its agenda, it's free to revert back to smorgasbord that is the legislative calendar. That could mean action on issues ranging from energy to national security to education. And perhaps, like me, you're curious as to which priorities will now move front and center to be debated and acted upon.

For instance, Representative Mike Honda of California is set to ask for passage of House Resolution 267. This bill recognizes the "cultural and historical significance of Nowruz," an Iranian festival which marks the beginning of Spring and the first day of the Iranian New Year. Representative Todd Platts of Pennsylvania is putting his political capital on the line in pushing through HR 4395. This legislation "expands the boundaries of Gettysburg National Military Park to include the Lincoln Train Station." And Representative Susan Davis, also from California, offered up HR 1128, which goes out on a limb "thanking Vancouver for hosting the world during the 2010 Winter Olympics and honoring the athletes from Team USA."

But just to show how nothing is easy in government anymore, one need look no further than the resolution proposed by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. Hoyer, who represents the Old Line State, proposed a decree "Congratulating the 2009-2010 University of Maryland Men's Basketball Team, Greivis Vasquez, and Coach Gary Williams on an outstanding season." It was the kind of routine declaration usually offered up without objection for the home town folks.

Not so in this case. California Representative John Campbell, a Republican, while saying that he "didn't want to cast any aspersions on any Terp fans or anything like that," noted that he had offered a similar resolution for the University of California at Irvine back in October, congratulating them on winning a men's volleyball championship. However, he said, Hoyer had "pulled that resolution from the floor." He went on: "Therefore, those kids who won that national championship were not able to get the same recognition that apparently today these players for Maryland, who are just in the playoffs, are going to receive." (Actually, the bill was pulled by fellow California Representative George Miller, reportedly over a feud regarding support for water rights in the Golden State.)

Then it got really ugly. Campbell continued, "Finally, Mr. Speaker, I have here the sports section from today's Washington Post. I will read from the front page where it says that according to a study, Maryland had the lowest graduation rate, 8%, among the 65 NCAA tournament teams. Given that this is being put forth in the Education and Labor Committee, if we were going to look at all the 65 teams in the NCAA championships, should we be considering the academics of the teams that are in or not in?" Hoyer's office shot back, "Whether it's health care, job creation, or basketball, Republicans aren't for anything." And so it goes: largely along party lines, the bill finally passed by a vote of 279 to 132.

And that's just college sports. Thankfully, Congress has decamped for 2 weeks, giving members a chance to head back to their districts and hopefully cool down. By the time they come back, perhaps China will have made peace with Google, the nuclear arms deal with Russia will be almost final and Israel might have a compromise with regard to the new settlements. Most importantly, the Final Four will be history, so perhaps we can now focus on the important stuff, like the start of the baseball season.


Marc Wollin of Bedford finds C-Span fascinating and troubling at the same time. His column appears regularly in The Record-Review and The Scarsdale Inquirer.

No comments: