As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Reporting The Good News Out Of Washington

Yesterday I threw a little fit about the Democrats and 2008. I do understand that the battle of the progressive movement to take the country back is a long-term process, and nothing's going to happen right away. The rise of the big-money elites in the Presidential primaries is worrisome. But closer to home, on the legislative side, there are some encouraging developments, one of the biggest being that the Speaker of the House is prioritizing the Employee Free Choice Act (h/t Randy Bayne):

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) vowed today that passage of the Employee Free Choice Act will be a top priority when Congress returns from the Presidents Day recess.

In a press conference in San Francisco, Pelosi said House Democrats, as part of their first 100 hours agenda, passed an increase in the minimum wage and now it’s time to restore the right of American workers to join a union without harassment from employers.

The San Francisco event was part of a weeklong series of actions around the nation as workers met with members of Congress and community leaders to push for passage of the Employee Free Choice Act (H.R. 800).

I remember talking to a lot of people saying that EFCA had no shot of passing this year. Obviously Pelosi believes in it enough to try and get it through the House, and I think she'll succeed. Of course everything slows down in the Senate. But there are more progressives and populists there than ever before, and I think this could be a vote that, if we can't win, we can at least pin on the other side.

Another positive is the extent to which Barney Frank gets it about the economy:

MARKETPLACE: If you look at the numbers, sir, if you just look at unemployment, and inflation, and gross domestic product, the economy seems to not be doing so badly. Why do you feel the need for this conversation now?

FRANK: Well, because the economy and the people in the economy are not identical. Then, we have this problem with even President Bush acknowledged last week that inequality has been increasing. Now, inequality is necessary in the capital system. It performs a lot of important functions. But the problem has been that the real wages, take home pay for the average worker, and I'm talking about the great majority of workers, has been somewhat negative. It's actually declined a little bit. We have a good Gross Domestic Product. But it has unfortunately . . . the increase has gone disproportionate to a very small number of people.

There's little solace average folks can take in growth if they never see any of it. I'm heartened to see the head of the House Banking Committee understand this.

And look at this:

Lawmakers moved to rein in the insurance industry Thursday by introducing legislation in the House of Representatives and Senate to repeal the industry's federal antitrust exemption.

Senate Minority Whip Trent Lott, R-Miss., a fierce critic of the insurance industry's response to Hurricane Katrina, joined Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and ranking member Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., on the Senate floor to introduce the bill. In the House, Rep. Gene Taylor, D-Miss., Rep. Pete DeFazio, D-Ore., Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-La., Rep. Walter Jones, R-N.C., and others announced the introduction of identical legislation.

"Federal oversight would provide confidence that the industry is not engaging in the most egregious forms of anti-competitive conduct - price-fixing, agreements not to pay and market allocations," Leahy said. "Insurers may object to being subject to the same antitrust laws as everyone else, but if they are operating in an honest and appropriate way, they should have nothing to fear."

Bipartisan support! Incredible!

And there's this:

real leadership shined through Thursday morning in Washington when Senator Byron Dorgan, Chair of the Democratic Policy Committee, backed by Senators John Kerry and Patrick Leahy, followed through on his commitment to rein in contracting fraud and abuse that has been the hallmark of the Bush/Cheney/Halliburton outsourcing of their private war in Iraq.

At Thursday's press conference, Senator Dorgan announced introduction of the Honest Leadership and Accountability in Contracting Act of 2006.

The bill follows months of hearings led by the DPC when the Republican controlled Senate patently refused even to hear that Halliburton, Blackwater, CACI, Titan and others were raping the taxpayers of this country while making an ill-planned invasion into a full-fledged disaster, assuring that the only real winners in Iraq would be those companies that had sufficiently close ties to the White House to earn them a free ride in a war that leads us daily closer to the brink.

These are tangible differences between the DLC Third Way style of governing and the way the current majority in the Congress is going about their business. I don't know if we'll see all of these, or any of these, come to pass: but I am glad that there is more room in Washington for progressive policy ideas. This will only grow over time, as the dead weight either shapes up or ships out. You will see a gradual evolving of the Democratic majority into a progressive majority over the next decade, because the progressive movement is holding them accountable. When this will rise to the level of Presidential politics, I don't know. But a new farm system for the major leagues is coming into DC, so the odds are good that some prime prospects will be allowed to go to the show.

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