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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Don't blow it, Democrats: Stand up for Iowa women

Looking ahead to the 2010 elections, I’m concerned  that Iowa Democratic leaders will try to coast on our party’s voter registration advantage and well-organized early voting effort.

As I’ve written before, I believe Democrats need to have big successes to show for 12 years of control of the governor’s office and four years of a legislative majority. Democrats have posted net gains of seats in the Iowa House and Senate for four straight elections now. Voters are going to ask what have we done for them lately, especially if the country is still in recession 18 months from now.

Trouble is, the budget outlook continues to deteriorate. Deep cuts to education and other popular programs are expected when Governor Culver submits his revised draft 2010 budget to the legislature. Iowa’s budget problems are nowhere near as bad as those faced by some other states, but they’re bad enough to prevent legislators from throwing money toward every good idea.

For those reasons and more, it’s important for Democrats not to blow it when they have a chance to do something tangible (yet inexpensive) for a key voter bloc. You know how they say, “When women vote, Democrats win?” Now Democrats in the Iowa legislature have a chance to return the favor. I enclose part of an action alert the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women sent out on Wednesday:

We need your help today to contact your legislators on all three issues.

   * SF 137 Being the first state in the nation to extend the Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to the state level

(The House and Senate have passed different versions and are working to reach consensus.)

   * HF243 Tripling the number of women making decisions that impact our communities by requiring gender balance on local boards and commissions

(Passed the House and now deferred on the Senate Floor for later action. Local government officials have been contacting legislators, urging them to oppose the bill “because it would be difficult” to achieve gender balance.  Please contact your Senators!)

   * Justice Systems Appropriations bill: Keeping Iowans safe by restoring a $4 million state appropriation to fund victim services

For more information on any of these issues, please visit our policy page. Also, you might want to listen to yesterday’s Talk at 12 on Iowa Public Radio, which featured discussion on the wage discrimination and gender balance bills and the issue of women running for office.

If your representatives are Democrats, please contact them about these issues. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act is a no-brainer. Frankly, refusing to pass it would be a tremendous insult to all the women who have worked so hard for so many years to elect Iowa Democrats.

It’s false to imply that Iowa lacks enough talented women to serve on boards and commissions.

There aren’t many well-organized interest groups working the phones to demand appropriation for victim services, but cutting those funds would cause real suffering.

It’s time for our leaders to step up and show that when Democrats vote, women win.

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Iowa Democrats supported fair pay for women

The Democrats representing Iowa in the U.S. House of Representatives did us proud today.

The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act (background here) passed by a mostly party-line 247-171 vote (roll call here).

Also, the Paycheck Fairness Act passed 256-163 (roll call here).

As expected, Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack and Leonard Boswell voted yes on both measures. Republicans Tom Latham and Steve King voted no on both.

So, King and Latham don’t care if women get paid less than men for doing the same job.

Also, they don’t see anything wrong with a 2007 Supreme Court ruling that said women have less than a year from the employer’s initial discriminatory act to file a lawsuit seeking redress. Never mind that it may be years before a female employee finds out that her boss is systematically paying her less than male colleagues doing the same job at the same performance level.

Now both bills head to the Senate, where Democrats should be able to break Republican filibusters, especially if Al Franken and/or Roland Burris have been seated by the time the votes take place.

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Action: Tell Congress to support fair pay for women

I received this message from the Iowa Commission on the Status of Women.

Information provided by the National Women’s Law Center:

This is the moment we’ve been waiting for. The U.S. House of Representatives is poised to act as soon as this week on fair pay for women – and we need your help.

Especially during these tough economic times, women need equal pay for equal work to ensure self-sufficiency and dignity. Please contact your Members of Congress now!

The House is expected to vote soon on the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act – key bills that would give women the tools they need to challenge pay discrimination. The Senate may follow with a vote as soon as early next week.

Please contact your Members of Congress today with a clear message: It’s time to sign, seal and deliver pay equity for all women by passing fair pay legislation immediately, so that President-Elect Obama can sign it into law during his first few days in office.

You can e-mail your lawmakers, or call the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. Ask the operator to connect you to your Senators and Representative. When you’re connected to their offices, tell the person who answers the phone:

1.   I am a constituent. My name is __________.

2.   I urge you to vote in favor of the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act, and to oppose any weakening amendments and any motions to recommit.

3.   Thank you for supporting fair pay for women.

For background on what happened to Lilly Ledbetter and why this law is needed, read this diary by Daily Kos user Femlaw, a civil rights attorney.

Here is the roll call from a 2007 House vote on this measure. All three Democratic representatives from Iowa voted yes, while Tom Latham and Steve King voted no. If you call the offices of Bruce Braley, Dave Loebsack or Leonard Boswell, please indicate that you know they voted for this bill in 2007 and would appreciate their continued support.

If you live in the fourth or fifth Congressional districts, you may want to be armed with more talking points about why this is a good idea. I don’t expect Latham or King to change their stand because of phone calls, but it can’t hurt to let them know that their constituents are watching and are paying attention to this issue.

Senate Republicans filibustered the bill last spring. Even then, there were 56 votes in favor. Since Democrats picked up eight Senate seats, we should have enough votes to break a filibuster this year (even if Republicans temporarily block the seating of Senator Al Franken because of Norm Coleman’s unfounded election contest).

You probably won’t be surprised to learn from the Senate roll call that Tom Harkin voted yes on the cloture motion (to bring the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act up for a vote), while Chuck Grassley voted no on cloture (to filibuster the bill). If you call Grassley’s office, urge him to stop obstructing this important bill.

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