Kevin Drum looks back at the record of the newly ascendant Republican Congress and finds they've done a lot of amazing things
in just five days. Let's see, they gave committee chairmen the right to give Congressional staffers the authority to look at anyone's tax return, revoked a rule forcing committee chairmen to step down should they be indicted, killed the 9-11 reform bill and thereby wasting millions of dollars and months of work by the 9-11 commission. Oh, they even appropriated funding to buy Bush a yacht (I had no idea he was so nautical -- Crawford is landlocked).
Good work, guys. But that's not all. Kevin fails to include an amazing piece of legislative magic: adding an anti-abortion rider to the omnibus spending bill
Congress reached final agreement last night on a $388 billion spending bill funding 13 government departments and dozens of domestic agencies in 2005, after last-minute objections from abortion rights advocates threatened to delay or derail the entire measure.
House passage came on a vote of 344 to 51. Later in the evening, the Senate gave its approval, 65 to 30.
The bill, consisting of more than 1,000 pages and weighing 14 pounds, codifies the stingiest budget for domestic departments since the late 1990s. Although a few favored agencies, such as Amtrak and NASA, were spared cuts, the measure bears evidence of a new austerity in domestic spending, brought about by soaring budget deficits and the rising costs of war and counterterrorism programs.
The abortion battle erupted after Senate negotiators on the huge spending package unexpectedly agreed to a House-backed provision that opponents described as part of a broad strategy by Republican social conservatives to "chip away" at abortion rights. It would bar federal, state or local agencies from forcing doctors, hospitals, insurers, HMOs or other health care entities to provide abortion services or referrals.
"Roe v. Wade is the law of the land, but Republicans are gutting it step by step," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Republicans denied that the legislation would restrict access to abortion and said it is intended only to prevent government agencies from "intimidating" health care entities that did not perform abortions or provide training or referrals.
I expect we'll see a lot of this sort of thing. With Republicans in overreach mode, along with the pressure being exerted by Radical Clerics
, House Republicans, aided and abetted by their increasingly Right-leaning colleagues in the previously more moderate Senate, will be cynically pulling all kinds of stealth moves to add social legislation to unrelated bills.
The imagination reels as we ponder the future...
. Just weeks into the new session, the year's major agriculture subsidies bill was voted on. The "2005 Family Farm and Archers Daniel Midland Relief Act" was passed despite the loud protestations of Democrats and a few moderate Republicans who object to a provision requiring parental notification for any women under the age of 25 seeking an abortion. The president signed the bill in a Rose Garden ceremony.
. Democrats fought hard but, ultimately, unsuccessfully, an item in the omnibus Transportaion bill, which provided $18 billion dollars for a subway system in Anchorage, Alaska
. While attention focused on the need for such a system, let alone the feasibility of building it in the permafrost, a little-known rider was added to the bill, providing $2 billion for the research and development of faith-based prenatal care programs for the nation's teaching hospitals, secular or otherwise. The President indicated he would sign the bill upon his return from surveying the pyramid being built in his honor in the Alaskan National Wildlife and Oil Reserve.
. A bill authored by Christopher Shays, R-Conn., and Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., intended to address the current crisis in college sponsorship funding
, was passed today over the objections of the law's sponsors. The final bill, the focus of intense but secret negotiations, contained two addenda that Democrats and a few Republicans objected to. "To codify 'under God' in the Pledge, and to require it -- by law -- to be recited in all schools and sporting events is bad enough," said Pelosi. "But to also add, "and His Chosen Lawmakers, the Republican Party,' is beyond the pale." Even Joe Lieberman was disturbed by the bill's final contents, particular the clause which requires a school prayer invoking the help of Jesus be said before all high school football games. "It's Joebectionable to break down our long history of religious tolerance in this country, recognizing all faiths. I just wish they'd let us be in the same room when they negotiate these things. We'd sit quietly. In a corner." The President is expected to sign the bill aboard his yacht.
. Democrats were shocked to read today the official proclamation from the President giving clemency to turkeys, "Revelation" and "Rapture." Amid the text, which traditionally is released by the White House prior to the Thanksgiving holidays, was a call for Congress to immediately enact his proposed bill, which the White House is calling, "The Leave No Date Behind Act." The Act, according to sources close to the President, would require any woman planning to enter a Planned Parenthood clinic to receive approval from any man who has ever dated her. Dennis Hastert promised a special session of Congress that would get the bill passed before the Christmas holidays.