Thursday, October 2, 2008

Senate Words to Remember

On Tuesday morning I consulted John Nichols' post to The Beat on the Web site for The Nation to cite the salient observations of Lloyd Doggett, John Culberson, and Joe Baca in opposition to the Treasury bailout proposal. The preceding day the House of Representatives had sustained the wisdom of these observations by voting down the proposal. Unfortunately, the Senate did not pursue the same course of action. Instead, they chose a path of capitulation paved by "sweetening" (the approved euphemism for putting lipstick on a pig) the measure with amendments targeted directly at bringing in more votes (with enough "sweetener" to do the same for a second vote in the House).

If on Tuesday I felt it wise to honor those whose blend of logic and rhetoric led the way to victory, this morning it is just as wise to honor those who saw the pig for what it was in the face of defeat. Here is another set of remarks from the Senate floor, extracted from this morning's post on The Beat, identified again by who said them:

Alabama Republican Richard Shelby [Republican counterpart of Banking Committee Chair Christopher Dodd and supporter of Dodd's now abandoned conviction that getting it right was more important than getting it done quickly]: "I agree we need to do something. [But] we haven't spent any time figuring out whether we've picked the best choice."

Wisconsin Democrat Russ Feingold: "It fails to offset the cost of the plan, leaving taxpayers to bear the burden of serious lapses of judgment by private financial institutions, their regulators, and the enablers in Washington who paved the way for this catastrophe by removing the safeguards that had protected consumers and the economy since the great depression. The bailout legislation also fails to reform the flawed regulatory structure that permitted this crisis to arise in the first place. And it doesn't do enough to address the root cause of the credit market collapse, namely the housing crisis. Taxpayers deserve a plan that puts their concerns ahead of those who got us into this mess."

Vermont Independent Bernie Sanders: "The bailout package is far better than the absurd proposal originally presented to us by the Bush administration, but is still short of where we should be. If a bailout is needed, if taxpayer money must be placed at risk, if we are going to bail out Wall Street, it should be those people who have caused the problem, those people who have benefited from President Bush's tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires, those people who have taken advantage of deregulation who should pick up the tab, not ordinary working people."

Sanders is a member of the Budget Committee and may well have been the only member of the Senate to try to bring a viable alternative to the floor for debate. I watched him on C-SPAN last night, fighting for his position to the last by proposing to squeeze an amendment of his own in among all those "sweeteners." The "sitting President" of the session (whose name I forget but was not Richard Cheney) put the amendment to a voice vote; and it certainly sounded as if Sanders' voice was the one lone "Yea" coming from the Senate floor. What does it mean that 74 Senators (including both Presidential candidates) could not endorse what he was trying to say?

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