DISCLAIMER: While it is based on an unbiased report of actual events, this is not a news report; this is an editorial, spun shamelessly from my own point of view. I don’t feel the need to be “fair and balanced,” and I shouldn’t be read as such. The numbers don’t lie, but my interpretations are my own. I urge you with all my soul to read the raw data and come up with your own.
So in the interest of “real news,” I decided this morning to do a little independent research online about what US Congress did yesterday, February 1, 2017, a day when our country is in a squawking tizzy as much as it has ever been before, a day when we the people are looking to them with bated breath and wringing hands to either protect us from the crazies or protect the crazies from us, depending on our party affiliation. This stuff was not hard to find; you can go to C-Span and watch video of it and get a little abstract of everything they actually voted on, and you can go to the Congressional Record and get a transcript of everything that was said, plus all the documents that got put on the table. Online. Every day.
I’m from South Carolina, so I’m focusing on the legislators from here, but anybody from any state can see a breakdown of all the votes and see what their own people did.
So to start with the House of Representatives, the stomping ground of Jim Clyburn, Jeff Duncan, Trey Gowdy, Mick Mulvaney, Tom Rice, Mark Sanford, and Joe Wilson. They began with the “Morning hour,” where representatives got up and made speeches, some as long as an hour, some as short as one minute. There was much talky talk about the Muslim ban and President Trump’s policies in general—heartbreaking tales of stranded children and nasty remarks about Steve Bannon. Al Green from Texas got up and invoked the sacred spirit of Dr. King to bitch one more time about the Republicans holding up Merrick Garland’s appointment to the Supreme Court. Mr. Thompson from Pennsylvania talked about how sad he was that a guy named Scott Graves wasn’t going to be staff director for the House Agriculture Committee ‘cause he’s awesome and the committee’s awesome, and he was very, very sad. And Mr. Lipinski from Illinois got everybody up to speed on National Catholic Schools Week. And then they went to lunch.
After lunch, they prayed. They tried to approve the journal of the day before, but they didn’t have a quorum, which means all the people who voted later hadn’t gotten back from lunch yet. They said the Pledge of Allegiance. Then they had more short speeches for and against Trump policies (more for after lunch than there had been before—the Trumpians rise late, apparently), plus speeches about a North Carolina newspaper that’s just the bees knees and the new chancellor of the University of Tennessee.
Then they voted 231 to 191 to overturn an SEC regulation requiring drilling and mining companies to disclose payments to US and foreign governments. Let’s think about that for a second – they didn’t vote to say these companies could or could not give money to the US or foreign governments. They voted to say that WHEN these companies DO give money to the US or FOREIGN governments, THEY DON’T HAVE TO TELL ANYBODY ABOUT IT. How in East Hell could this POSSIBLY be in the best interests of the American people? (For their answer, I direct you to the convoluted debate in the Congressional Record, and if you can make sense of it, you’re a better woman than me.) And how did our brave men from South Carolina vote? Messrs. Duncan, Gowdy, Rice, Sanford and Wilson all voted for; Mr. Clyburn voted against; Mr. Mulvaney . . . . didn’t vote.
Then they voted 238 to 194 to get rid of former President Obama’s rule to protect streams and drinking water from coal mining waste. (Because apparently fish, ducks, and school children are all f*ckers who can fend for themselves.) Messrs. Duncan, Gowdy, Rice, and Wilson all voted for; Mr. Clyburn again voted against, and apparently Mr. Sanford has close friends in the fish and duck community because he crossed the aisle and voted nay, too. Mr. Mulvaney . . . . didn’t vote again.
In short, anything that places any kind of oversight or restriction on corporations making money is bad, bad, bad, no matter what evil it might prevent in practical terms for actual human beings. Business (every pun intended) as usual.
After all that boring stuff was done, they went back to savoring the sounds of their own voices for a bit, including a Moment of Silence for the victims of the Quebec terrorist attack. Then Speaker Paul Ryan (who skipped the morning session altogether) read out the new rules for the Homeland Security Committee, which included a neat little revision whereby TWO MEMBERS now constitutes a quorum on anything that the Constitution doesn’t specifically say it can’t. Two. Two members can now vote on stuff on a committee for a shadow agency within the government which basically supersedes every other branch of our federal government, including any and all civil liberties promised by the Constitution. Two.
From what I could tell, these rules were accepted with no fuss at all.
Meanwhile, over at the Senate, home of Senator Lindsay Graham, who likes margaritas, and Senator Tim Scott, whose black life matters whether the Capitol security guards like it or not, it was all about cabinet confirmations. There was much talk about Betsy DeVos, but the only vote was the one that confirmed former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. And both of our men on the ground voted yes. Now I get that they’re both Republicans. But where’s all that pushback we’ve been hearing about from both of them against the President’s policies? I was as pleased as anybody to see Mr. Graham burn Trump on Twitter, good for him. But if he’s still going to vote to confirm a Secretary of State who will obviously place the interests of Big Oil at the tippy tippy top of his priority list in all foreign policy for the next four years, his Tweets mean precisely squat. And I am genuinely outraged that Senator Scott has had problems in the past getting access to the Senate floor. But now that he’s in there, I’d love to see him do something besides follow white privilege down the primrose path to America’s global ruin.
And where are the Democrats? Home, washing their tights?
We have to pay attention. Congress would love to blame every ill on Il Douche while they keep silent vigil over their own comfy nest. They want to slag him out in the world then silently turn away and let him do what he wants in the rooms where it counts so they don’t lose campaign funds and support for their own pet projects. We can’t let them play this game any more. We have to let them know we’re watching. We have the tools to thwart them as close as our own Facebook wall; it’s time we learned to use them. Don’t just accept my take on this one day; start checking for yourself. Because if we let things go on as they are, we’re screwed. And in our information age, ignorance is no excuse.