The retiring Congressional stars show how much Washington needs free agents
Three retiring Capitol Hill superstars show that we need free agents, not just strong parties.
John Dingell had an amazing 58 years in the House. For that, the NRA is grateful.
The drab Amtrak depot in Detroit, Michigan, was recently the venue for a truly surreal scene: A Republican governor accepted—gratefully—a check from the Obama administration. This was not just any federal funding, either, but $200 million for that most Europhiliac of abominations: passenger rail. Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Ohio’s John Kasich, and Florida’s Rick Scott had all rejected the money. But here was Rick Snyder, the state’s new Republican governor, standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Carl Levin, John Conyers, and John Dingell, beaming genially and brandishing a giant check.
In response to the shooting in Tucson, Democratic Senator Frank Lautenberg and Representative Carolyn McCarthy have introduced a bill to ban high-capacity magazines like the one that was used in the killing. If this measure goes anywhere, it would be a major break from recent history. That’s because, for the past ten years or so, neither party has wanted to tackle gun control. Of course, it’s no surprise that Republicans have opposed tightening restrictions. But why did Democrats give up on the issue? The high-water mark for modern gun policy came in 1999.
One of the rules of thumb of this blog is that, when politicians offer political advice to their opponents, it is probably not genuine. So it is with a jaundiced eye that I read numerous leading Democrats serving up quotes about how terrified they are that Republicans will shut down the government in an attempt to de-fund the Affordable Care Act: "I am real concerned," Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) said. "We do operate on yearly budgets that could exact great harm if they are dedicated to that proposition. You still have to work with the Senate.
This is the third of a five-part series explaining, in remarkable detail, how Obama and the Democrats came to pass health care reform. (Click here to read parts one and two.) Be sure to come back tomorrow for the fourth installment, which reveals how Obama saved the House bill and what Olympia Snowe really wanted until the very end. House Money It was Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, who had tried to get tough with the manufacturers of biological drugs.
When the president and his closest advisers huddled in the Oval Office last August, they had every reason to panic. Their signature piece of legislation, comprehensive health care reform, was mired in the Senate Finance Committee and the public was souring on it. Unemployment was on the march, and all this talk about preexisting conditions and insurance exchanges barely registered above the Fox News pundits screaming, “Death panel!” Suddenly, health care reform was under attack everywhere—even in the West Wing. All week, the group had debated whether to scale back the reform effort.
When Democrat Bart Stupak announced he'd be supporting health care reform, thanks to an agreement on abortion rights, a reporter asked Stupak if he'd consulted with fellow Michigander, John Dingell. "Yes," Stupak smirked, "Mr. Dingell had a piece of me last week." He went on to explain that the two had been in close contact. "I kept him apprised of what I was doing," Stupak said, "and he kept me apprised of the need to move forward." Stupak may simply have been paying homage to Dingell, who has been something of a mentor over his career.
Pushing for universal health care is the family business for Congressman John Dingell of Michigan. During the 1940s, his father, John Dingell Sr., sponsored the Dingell-Wagner-Murray bill, widely considered the first formal proposal for national health insurance. Today the son delivered one of the day's best lines, one that sent a message to skeptics on both the right and the left: ..the last perfect legislation was the Ten Commandments. This bill isn’t perfect, but it is a giant leap forward.
The White House has released some more details about Thursday's Blair House meeting: Who will be there and the shape of the table where they'll all be sitting: The President will be seated in the middle of one side of the hollow square, with the Vice President, Secretary Sebelius, and congressional Leadership seated alongside him.