Friday, March 11, 2005

With Us or Against Us

Yesterday, the Senate version of the bankruptcy bill passed with flying colors. What's just as important as the fact that the bill passed was the final box score: 74 - 25.

The lopsided tally means that a lot of Democrats crossed the aisle to support the dubious merits of what is arguably the most draconian piece of legislation put forth in the past 139 years. Here's a list of the Democratic Party members who just don't get it:

Blanche Lincoln (Arkansas)
David Pryor (Arkansas)
Ken Salazar (Colorado)
Joe Biden (MBNA)
Tom Carper (MBNA)
Bill Nelson (Florida)
Daniel Inouye (Hawaii)
Evan Bayh (Indiana)
Mary Landrieu (Louisiana)
Debbie Stabenow (Michigan) (This one is particularly galling)
Max Baucus (Montana)
Ben Nelson (Nebraska)
Harry Reid (Nevada)
Jeff Bingaman (New Mexico)
Hillary Clinton (New York, abstain)
Kent Conrad (North Dakota)
Tim Johnson (South Dakota)
Robert Byrd (West Virginia)
Herb Kohl (Wisconsin)

Let's take note of one name in particular on this list: Harry Reid, Senate Minority Leader. Seeing Reid's name on the list renders a little clarity as to why cloture didn't get voted down. Reid had no enthusiasm for making a stand on this bill, and made very little attempt to hold together enough of a block of senators to make this thing die on the Senate floor.

If the Democratic Party could not make a stand on a piece of legislation that disproportionately penalizes the lower and middle classes, what can we expect them to actually stand for?

The bottom line is that for many people, the bankruptcy bill was a non-starter, and I think the senators understood that there weren't going to be mass demonstrations in the street demanding defeat of this bill. There is such a stigma attached to personal failings or business failure leading to bankruptcy that no one talks about it in polite company. Financial hardship leading to bankruptcy court is commonly viewed as a result of lack of personal responsibility. That's how the argument was cast, and that's how the argument was won, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

But still, when our leaders take the side of big business simply because they know there is not going to be a howling mob with pitchforks and torches waiting for them outside of the Capitol Building, we've lost.

I know I've made a big deal out of this legislation over the past week. Here's why:   S.256 was a "canary in the mine" in assessing how much we could trust the Democratic Party leadership to do the right thing in standing up to other regressive legislation that's surely docketed in the near future.

We received our answer yesterday.

Now the fight against this bill turns to the House. There's not a snowball's chance in hell that the crooks and liars ethically-challenged GOP leadership in the House of Representatives will do anything other than rubber stamp the bill on its way to George Bush's desk. Tom DeLay has already signaled as much, and the bill is expected to be voted on in the House early next month. There's absolutely no reason for any Democrat in the House not to oppose this bill.

As with the Senate, we'll be keeping score in the House. It's becoming pretty clear which of the Democratic Party members in congress are actually representing their constituency, and who's not.