Challenging the Status Quo
by FRANK SALVATO
August 28, 2009
With the death of US Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) the Democrats lose their sixty-seat filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. This will make the passing of Obama agenda legislation – specifically healthcare – more difficult until Massachusetts seats its next Junior Senator, who promises to be a Democrat. The loss of even one Democrat in the Senate is cause for concern for Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) because he has a rogue element within his Democrat caucus, the Blue Dog Democrats. In Washington, it is all about counting the votes at any given moment on any piece of legislation. As they say, politics makes for strange bedfellows.
In the US House of Representatives the Democrats have a lock on the majority. According to the Office of the Clerk of the US House of Representatives, the congressional profile stands at: 256 Democrats, 178 Republicans, 0 Independents and 1 Vacancy. These numbers give the Democrats, as a party, a 78 vote majority in the House.
In the Senate, Democrats have a lock on a majority as well: Democrats number 57, Republicans have 40 seats, and Independents and Independent Democrats have one seat each.
In addition to the fact that it matters which party is in the majority, in both chambers of Congress, it also matters who the parties elect as their leaders.
In the Senate, the majority of Democrats elected Harry Reid (D-NV) as their Majority Leader. The minority Republicans settled on Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as their leading voice.
The 256 Democrat members of the 111th Congress voted to seat Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) as the Speaker of the House and de facto Majority Leader, although the literal title belongs to Steny Hoyer (D-MD). The Republicans voted to seat John Boehner (R-OH) as their Minority Leader.
In both chambers, it would seem, Democrats have the power in all things and there is nothing that can be done to skew that reality. This perceived reality, of course, depends on all Democrats always voting the party line. This is not always the case and we are seeing a perfect example of this in the health care insurance reform initiative currently under way.
As our Legislative Branch was set-up by our Framers, the US House of Representatives was to serve as the immediate voice of the people; the “people's body.” In contrast to the Senate, each elected representative has a lesser number of people to represent and is, therefore, more accessible to his or her constituency. It is also true that the relationship between Congressman and constituent is more direct in that no person has ever become a member of the US House by appointment or any means other than standing for election by the people. It is because of this direct relationship to the voter – to We the People – that the Framers empowered the Constitution to grant sole authority to the House to originate all bills relating to finance, and subsequently to levy taxes and spend government money.
Today, the Legislative Branch of the federal government has moved to incorporate intra-party political factions into the execution of government. This is absolutely antithetical to the original intent of the Framers of our Charters of Freedom – The Declaration of Independence, The US Constitution and The Bill of Rights – in that it places a greater importance on special interest and ideological groups than it does on providing superior constituency service.
Today – and especially within the Democrat Party – we are experiencing government by factional coalition. Within the Democrat Party a number of special interest groups – or caucuses – exist:
- Progressive Caucus
- Black Caucus
- Blue Dog Democrat Caucus
- Asian Pacific American Caucus
- Hispanic Caucus
- LGBT Equality Caucus
- Moderate Democrats’ Working Group
- New Democrat Coalition
And these are just a very few of the many that exist. As you can well see, special interest is alive and well on the floor of the US House of Representatives.
Membership numbers in these special interest groups vary from highly effective to the roll of almost being ceremonial in nature. The Congressional Taiwan Caucus counts 151 members in their caucus. The Blue Dog Democrats number 52. The Congressional Black Caucus has 44 members and wields a significant amount of clout when it comes to House legislation. In contrast, the Congressional Center Aisle Caucus lists just four members, the executive board and two former House leaders, among its membership.
But the single-most effective special interest group existing in the US House of Representatives today is the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC). The CPC has 83 members to its group and is co-chaired by Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA). Every one of the CPCs members is either a Democrat or caucuses with the Democrat Party.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) was a member of the CPC special interest group but resigned when she became Speaker of the House. Ethically, the Speaker and senior House leadership shy away from taking part in any official caucus memberships. But this does not mean that House leadership isn’t toeing the line for special interest. In fact, Nancy Pelosi’s entire agenda centers on the special interest “wants” and “desires” manifest in the Congressional Progressive Caucus:
- Social and economic justice
- A non-discriminatory society
- Priorities that represent the interests of all people, not just the wealthy
- Cuts in “unnecessary” military spending
- A progressive tax system targeting the wealthy and corporations
- A substantial increase in federal funding for social programs
- Universal access to affordable, high quality healthcare
- Living wage laws
- The right of all workers to organize into labor unions
- The abolition of significant portions of the USA PATRIOT Act
- The legalization of same-sex marriage
- A complete pullout from the war in Iraq
- A crackdown on corporate welfare and influence
- An increase in income tax rates on the wealthy
- Tax cuts for the poor
- An increase in welfare spending by the federal government
As you can see, these specific items have been and are now at the forefront of just about every piece of legislation coming out of the House, courtesy of the professional-grade arm-twisting of Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and the CPC, along with like-minded special interest caucuses, i.e., the Congressional Black Caucus, the LGBT Equality Caucus, etc. They have even crafted significant pieces of legislation behind closed doors, and some say in collusion with outside special interest groups, usurping the long-established committee process (Read: the ‘Stimulus Bill’).
In essence – and more alarmingly, in reality – 83 elitists comprising the Congressional Progressive Caucus, 83 political and ideological neo-Marxist activists, have hijacked the Democrat Party and are running roughshod over the whole of the United States House of Representatives in the Democrats’ name.
That number, 83, has been bothering me. How is it that 83 neo-Marxists – a majority of whom are from California (15) and New York (10) – can literally takeover a legislative body that seats 435 voting members?
Maybe I have been studying Karl Rove a bit too much or maybe I have been channeling Lee Atwater, but the truth be told, we do not have to accept the status quo.
While the notion of a GOP majority in 2010 is a pleasant thought, in reality it is a pipe dream. Rational political analysts see that the Republicans will pick up seats in 2010, but that capturing the majority in the House would be at the extreme end of victory.
If the House GOP were long of vision, steel of spine and politically aware, and I suspect that many are, they would craft an alliance with the Blue Dog Democrats that would guarantee a Blue Dog Speaker of the House in 2010 in return for select committee chairmanships. This move would not only depose Nancy Pelosi and the CPC as the oligarchic power in the House, it would terminate the ability of the neo-Marxist movement to pursue their agenda in the House and keep destructive legislation from ever becoming law. Who knows, maybe it would facilitate the CPCs ejection from the Democrat Party.
Yes, politics makes for strange bedfellows. But in the end, it is everyone’s duty to protect the US Constitution from enemies both foreign and domestic. Right now, the Congressional Progressive Caucus stands as an enemy to the Constitution.