Monday, January 22, 2007

Spotlight pointed at NBL Walz while OOS Bachmann spins

Regardless of your opinion of Tim Walz political viewpoints, you have to admit this guy is no shrinking violet.

The spotlight is firmly focused on Congressman Walz. No, I am not referring to his giving the Democratic Radio Address last week, nor his TV debate with Republican Party 2008 Presidential candidate, Duncan Hunter on Hardball. What I am referring to is his House Committee assignments.

Walz has been assigned to the Committee on Agriculture, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

These committees are not going to be easy assignments.

The main legislation in the Agriculture Committee will be a new Farm Bill. The Washington Post has been running articles for over two years on inequities in the current legislation and editorialized about it as Congress convened. Lame Duck Bush, who now all of sudden realizes that deficits do matter, will complain about the high cost, trade objections from the World Trade Organization, and of course, the appropriateness of subsidies. In the end, something will get resolved, and no matter how well Walz fights, the Republican challenger will claim that Gutknecht would have done a better job and that farmers made a mistake electing Walz.

The Transportation Committee is behind the 8-ball thanks to the previous Congress. FY2007 SAFETEAU-LU bill, like many other spending bills, was left incomplete by the 109th Do-Nothing Congress. Through a continuing resolution, projects were kept afloat, but based on overall budget imbalances and the desire to achieve a balance budget, Transportation funding could be jeopardized. Overall, the Federal Aid Highway Funding is technically facing cuts of $4 Billion dollars that would impact 192,000 jobs (Minnesota's portion is just under $50 Million dollars and 2,370 jobs.) Restraints on earmarks may help in the future, but current projects may be partially underway and difficult to terminate. Once again, there will be a resolution, but since Don Young (Republican – Alaska) still has clout within the committee, the likelihood of cutting Alaskan pork-barrel projects may be difficult without effecting all other 50 states’ projects. Since Transportation projects generally are years in the making and Gutknecht was never good at getting projects for Minnesota, Walz will be blamed. In many ways, SAFETEAU-LU should not be a budgetary problem … motorists pay gas taxes that Congress redistributes … the key is to ensure that Minnesota gets in return what Minnesotans paid in. Reviewing the FY2005 SAFETEAU-LU bill, I compared the Iowa projects to the Minnesota projects and it was easy to see that our Congressmen did not get fair value. Leaving road projects aside, DM&E presents a real challenge … if Walz (and Coleman) affect major changes, they will be viewed favorably by many voters; if not, once again, Republicans will claim that Walz is ineffective. Lastly, the Transportation Committee needs to address port safety and incoming cargo inspections. In summary, another difficult committee assignment.

The Veterans’ Affairs Committee may seem to be the easiest assignment. But with 47,657 wounded (so far) in Iraq/Afghanistan, the care for our soldiers will be daunting. There is generally agreement of the need to boost veterans' health spending by $3 billion. Pentagon officials argue another $4 billion is needed for housing and other construction projects, while $700 million is needed to meet the healthcare needs of active-duty military personnel. In summary, the demand for dollars is there, the question is where will Congress get the money?

Customarily, first year Representatives are limited to two committee assignments, so why did Walz get three ?

Simple answer – NBL.
The Democratic leadership recognizes a Natural Born Leader. Walz may be the exception that will work for the betterment of the District even if his votes do not please everyone. His assignments reflect someone who is truly working without considering re-electablity. Funny, but the main characterization that I heard during the campaign was that Walz was just another teacher who would go to Washington to spend money on schools … looks like he is truly interested in caring for the country as a whole.

Now as the First District has a NBL Congressman, Minnesota’s Sixth has an OOS Congresswoman.

The first few weeks of the session has found Michelle Bachmann Out Of Step with Majority.

By Majority, I am not referring strictly to the Democratic Majority in the House. But before I discuss the 110th session of Congress, let us recall how the Hastert-Delay Congress operated. The House was managed by a “Majority of the Majority”. During caucus meetings, if a majority of the Republicans wanted a bill brought forward, then it would. If not, it just languished … such as the bill to negotiate drug prices which had support, but only the support of a minority of Republicans. Now, in the new Congress, Republicans feel free to vote their conscience and district sentiments.

The first six bills passed by the House have had an average of 62 Republicans joining with the Democrats.

For illustration, the House voted on HR 5 to cut the interest rate on many student loans in half. The legislation would lower the rate from 6.8 percent to 3.4 percent in stages over five years for need-based loans. The proposal would cost nearly $6 billion and affect nearly 5.5 million students who get the subsidized loans each year. Although all Democrats voted to approve this legislation, the Republican vote was 124 to 71 – a clear Majority of Republicans thought this was good legislation. Bachmann voted against this legislation stating "Unfortunately, this bill does nothing to help lower-income students pay for the skyrocketing cost of college tuition.” A nice Spin answer … ignore over five million students and blame it on the bill not being more expansive.

Bachmann might become the Mistress of Spin based on her inability to define where she stands on the “surge” troop question. The Star-Tribune has a great recap of SpinMistress. What we know is that Bachmann supports Victory in Iraq … what we don’t know is what strategy she supports although as President Bush told Jim Lehrer on the News Hour that the current course was a “a slow failure.”

Now, let's look at the committee assignments for Representative Bachmann. She has been appointed as the 32 ranking member (out of 33 Republicans) to the Financial Services Committee. The Financial Services Committee is chaired by Barney Frank, who George Will described as "what today's liberalism looks like when organized by a first-class mind", and Frank should provide an excellent debate advocate for how widing income inequalities have caused insecurities of millions of families … but then again, Bachmann is already concerned about the lower-income families.

It is interesting that John Boehner has also announced that he currently has vacancies on the Government Reform and Science & Technology Committees (those committees were previously served by Gil Gutknecht) – quite an accolade that even Boehner doesn't have confidence to give her more than one committee.


Anonymous said...

This is a terrific comparison. Thanks!

Ollie Ox

Anonymous said...

At least Bachmann voted with the Majority once this year, while Kline has voted the 'wrong' way on every vote I've watched. But should we reallly expect more from a lawmaker that was sent to DC in her high heels to protect the rights of the unborn? Do Sixth District residents expect her to do any more than serve as the guardian of the prehumans?