Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Congressional rounds

There's lots of super-fun-pak news about Congress today. Firstly, after struggling mightily to bring to the floor extensions to the reduced rates on dividends, capitol gains and the AMT, last month the Senate voted in the $70 billion tax cut measures for their well-heeled compatriots. After that challenging effort, Congress stepped up to the public trough, again, and rewarded all of its prized members with $3300 pay raise. Bill Frist was notably absent in calling for an "up-or-down" vote on the matter of congressional pay raises, as they are now automatically added to members' salaries, which no doubt come about because of a firm belief in the fine, fine "people's work" Congress has done and continues to do.

Not to be outdone in this casuistry, Dennis Hastert's back room pork-barrelling has just taken on a new dimension as it now looks like his $207 million earmark for the Prairie Parkway will hugely boost the value of his own nearby property. His investment trust has already transferred the 138 acres to a development company, whose 1600 new homes will now boast convenient access to the new highway. Also conveniently, the local county board has now approved an access road for lucky new residents. Thank heavens for Denny Hastert, these lucky few must be saying, for providing them with such a conveniently located road. A conveniently located, $207 million road.

And then we have the oxymoronically-referred congressional ethics committee (aka, House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct) now looking like it has been up to its members' armpits in free flights generously donated by a number of corporate "sponsors." Indeed, over the last five years, the ten member panel have enjoyed $1 million worth of luxury air travel, which saw them no doubt attending in various ethics workshops around the world.* These would be the same folks who are about to recommend changes to rules that govern privately sponsored travel. It appears that the Democrats on the panel out-flew their fellow GOP members by a margin of 4-1, certainly feeling that, since they didn't get in on any of Abramoff's largesse, hell, they might as well take a few trips. Get it while the gettin's good, as they say.

Furthering Congressional Democrats' efforts to remain aloof and disconnected from the general public's disgust with their feckless party, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has now come out and said that the DSCC will "fully support" the much-reviled Leiberman (D-Ct) regardless of whether Leiberman wins the primary or not. Ahh, the party of the people.

So, there's the state of the day of your Congress, folks. Doing the people's work.

* One interesting note within this story jumped out at me. Though the Center for Public Integrity only mentions it, the most expensive trip during this time was taken by Christopher Caron, who is the legislative director for Rep. Tom Cole (R-Ok). For further discussion of this notable item, see the follow-up post.


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