Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland’s coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama’s administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can’t say I wasn’t warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year’s political events are welcome in this thread.

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Locke and Salazar undo damage to Endangered Species Act

It’s so refreshing to have a president whose administration sometimes produces good news below the radar. Earlier this week,

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke announced that the two departments are revoking an eleventh-hour Bush administration rule that undermined Endangered Species Act protections. Their decision requires federal agencies to once again consult with federal wildlife experts at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration before taking any action that may affect threatened or endangered species.

The Sierra Club’s Lay of the Land blog provides some background:

On its way out the door, the Bush administration bulldozed through rulemaking protocol and effectively eliminated Section 7 from the Act.  This is the section that mandates independent scientific review for any project proposed by a government agency.  By eliminating this section, the authority to determine how a project would effect an endangered species would be not in the hands of the expert biologists at US Fish and Wildlife or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but rather in the hands of those who are proposing the project.  So essentially the Department of Transportation would be able to determine if the highway that they really want to build would negatively impact any endangered species.

The Democratic-controlled Congress deserves some of the credit for restoring the Endangered Species Act, because the 2009 omnibus appropriations bill approved in February empowered Locke and Salazar to revoke the Bush administration’s rule change. In a Republican Congress, that kind of provision never would have made it into the omnibus bill.

Add this to your “elections have consequences” file.

The Sierra Club is calling for comments to Salazar thanking him for restoring the Endangered Species Act and urging him to withdraw another last-minute Bush administration rule:

As you know, another harmful and controversial rule was finalized in January which sought to limit protections given to Polar Bears under the Endangered Species Act.  This rule, designed to ensure that oil and gas drilling offshore could proceed in the polar bear’s fragile Arctic environment, limits the extent to which science and the full range of cumulative impacts to the polar bear and its habitat can even be considered.  

I hope that you will continue to value the role of science by also taking advantage of the opportunity to withdraw the controversial polar bear rule.

Click here to send an e-mail message to Salazar, which you can personalize if you like.

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