Tuesday, March 08, 2005

GOP: The Pro-Crime Party

(Apologies in advance to my ASZ compatriots - bumping to the top until 4PM today.)

Is there any question that the Republican party is beholden to the oligarchs? There shouldn't be, particularly after yesterday's machinations in the halls of power.

As you may be aware, an anti-consumer, pro-oligarch bankruptcy reform bill is proceeding through the Senate. It's going to be coming to a vote once all of the procedural maneuverings are completed. If you need the details and plenty of horror stories from a very studied and academic point of view, Josh Marshall is facilitating the discussion with an excellent boutique section of Talking Points Memo devoted exclusively to this draconian legislation.

Here's kind of where things stand as of yesterday evening:

Two amendments to the bill were offered yesterday, both which would have raised the minimum wage. One was pro-worker, offered by Democrats and fronted by Ted Kennedy (D-Ma) and one was pro-oligarch, offered by Republicans and fronted by Rick Santorum (R-VA/PA).

Kennedy made the stellar argument that if congress is going to go once step shy of creating workhouses and debtors prisons by passing bankruptcy legislation that creates (for all intents and purposes) indentured servants, then the government at least owes the lowest end workers a decent living wage. It should be noted that even Kennedy's amendment didn't get the minimum wage to poverty level, but it was in excess of $2 / hour.

Santorum, on the other hand, offered a phased in $1.10 increase an hour, removed the ability of states to mandate their own minimum wage, and removed the floor for service industry workers who rely on tips (current minimum wage for this class of workers is $2.13 / hr).

Both amendments were defeated, for different reasons. The Democratic initiative came close to passing; the GOP farce wasn't even close.

So, the bankruptcy bill comes down to Chuck Schumer's (D-NY) amendment that would prevent persons convicted of crimes from discharging civil judgments, levied as a result of the crimes, in bankruptcy court. And the GOP is interpreting this amendment as a pro-choice amendment, because quite a few anti-abortion rabble rousers have been convicted (and received civil fines) for such things as burning abortion clinics, threatening and harassing clinic workers, violating restraining orders, maintaining "hit lists" on abortion providing doctors, and the actual murder of doctors. That's how the GOP is casting Schumer's amendment in an attempt to defeat is.

The end game is that if Schumer's amendment passes (which, in an ideal world it should), the bankruptcy bill is essentially dead. Many GOP senators will vote against the bankruptcy bill simply because of the pro-choice implications if the Schumer amendment is attached.

Here's an urgent shout out to every one of ASZ's readers to pick up the phone today (this morning, if possible), and contact BOTH of the Senators from your state, regardless of their party or pro/con view of the amendment. Avoid discussion of the bankruptcy bill itself. The conversation on the Schumer amendment should be cast thusly:

If this amendment fails, it is a clear indication that Republicans are pro-crime.

Forget the abortion end of it. Failing to pass the Schumer amendment would mean that crooks such as Jeffrey Skilling of Enron could discharge any civil judgments levied against him personally for his con job at Enron, and the millions / billions lost to shareholders and Enron employee pensions. And that's just wrong.

Again, if the Schumer amendment fails, THE GOP IS PRO-CRIME.

Please make the calls today, the earlier the better, and if you can, contact both your Senator's local and Washington, DC offices. Click here for all senatorial office contact information.

Lastly, leave a comment below after you've made the contact, and let us know what the staffer you talked to said.

Update, 11:30AM: Spoke to Sen. Corzine's office a few minutes ago - the bill is expected to receive a cloture vote this afternoon, which means that the GOP is going to try and preempt a potential filibuster by Chuck Schumer (D-NY). The bottom line - make those calls at lunchtime. It's that important. Make your voice known, as useless as it may seem:

1. Say your name, and that you're one of Sen. X's constituents.
2. Ask what the Senator's position is on the bankruptcy bill.
3. Express your opposition, and state this is a terribly anti-family bill.
4. Express your SUPPORT for the Schumer admendment.

It's that easy. Quick, cheap, and easy. Make your voice heard.

Update, 2:15PM EST - Hmmm. This is turning into almost a live blogging event. Anyway, the Schumer Amendment failed, 46 - 53. Cloture vote is scheduled almost immediately. If you can make another call, please get in touch with your Senator again quickly, urging a vote of "NO" on cloture of this bill.

(Apologies to any pedants who picked up the earlier typos; I was rushing to get this posted.)