Thursday, May 05, 2005

While you weren't watching

You may have missed it, what with TV's wall to wall coverage of the MJ (I refuse to write the name) trial or the idiotic "Runaway Bride" coverage, but Congress last week fulfilled its arguably most important constitutional roll by passing a 2006 budget.

Now politicians may complain about the press, but in this case the media have been especially co-operative in not exposing the travesties of the 2006 budget to the light of day.

And why is the budget such a travesty? David Broder writes in today's Washington Post, on the US deficit:

The budget envisages the national debt increasing by $683 billion next year; by $639 billion the second year; by $606 billion the third year; by $610 billion the fourth year; and by $605 billion the fifth year.
On Social Security:
What does the budget do for Social Security? It transfers the roughly $150 billion "surplus" in Social Security taxes over this year's Social Security payments to help pay the bills for this year's government spending and to finance the additional $106 billion in tax cuts the president wants to hand out. [Emphasis mine]
Of course the press is perhaps to be forgiven their inattention given the bum's rush this $2.6 TRILLION spending bill ws given in congress.
How much time did the House and Senate spend on the final budget plan? The agreement took up 36 closely printed pages of small type and columns of figures in the Congressional Record. It was finished on Thursday morning, April 28, and brought to the floor that afternoon -- thanks to a waiver of a House rule that such conference reports "lay over" three days so members can scrutinize them. The ostensible reason for the haste was that the Senate planned to take a week's vacation starting the next day, and the budget was already two weeks behind the statutory deadline.
Yes indeedy, heaven forbid that congress put off a vacation for a day or two to fully consider its legislative duty. And besides, if their'd been time taken for real debate the press might have noticed (a guy can dream can't he?).

To me, though, the most incredible part of this saga is the vote itself:
This budget passed with only Republican votes, 52 to 47 in the Senate, and 214 to 211 in the House. And here's another thing you probably don't know. The 10 House members who missed the vote were seven Democrats and three Republicans. Four of the seven absentee Democrats are members of the Congressional Black Caucus.

If all 10 had voted with their party, as was likely, this budget would have failed by a single vote. You have to wonder what important business kept these legislators away.
The names of the absent congresscritters are: Clyburn (D-SC, Cunningham (R-CA, Doggett (D-TX), Filner (D-CA), Flake (R-AZ), Ford (D-TN), Jefferson (D-LA), Paul (R-TX), Rothman (D-NJ), Towns (D-NY).

If one of the above happens to be your representative I urge you to contact them and ask.

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