Friday, May 27, 2011

Reader Comment – Bipartisan HR 908

An anonymous reader objected to my characterization in this morning's blog of the bipartisan support (or lack thereof) of HR 908 in the Energy and Commerce Committee yesterday. Anonymous points out that there were five Democrats who voted for the final measure, better than the ‘couple’ that I had guessed at. I am glad to have that clarifying information; it is a shame that it wasn’t included on the Committee web site. I guess that it is just another case of open political discourse happening more in theory than in practice.

Bipartisan Support

Anon then went on to note that what is important is that “there is now a House bill reported out of committee with notable Democratic support, which will provide momentum for a IST-less bill to gain additional support by both parties when it reaches the House floor”. While I always prefer to see legislation that appeals to the moderates of both parties (it is less likely to see the ‘other’ Party try to undo it when they resume power), I didn’t see much effort in this bill to achieve that goal.

Adopting the whistleblower or worker participation amendments would have been a very low cost (both politically and monetarily) method of attracting middle ground Democrats. And, as I have said on a number of occasions, I think that it is possible to construct an IST provision that could be acceptable to industry, if the effort was taken.

Having said that, five Democrats signing on in a Committee vote is significant. It is much better than the straight party line vote that attended the passing of HR 2868 in the 111th Congress. Of course it doesn’t help much when the Democratic co-sponsor publicly discusses his misgivings with the legislative process. That plus the fact that the Republican leadership has historically done a much better job of maintaining support for the partly line than the Democrats have ever been able to do. Well, maybe five Democrats isn’t that impressive.

Premature Discussion

Anonymous closes his comment with a politically questionable statement; “Any talk about what may happen in the Senate is premature until the House approves either 908 or 901.” Back when the minority Republicans were about stopping HR 2868 they could afford to take that short view of the situation. They should, however, learn the lesson taught by the Democrats on that bill. The failure to take the long view of what could get passed in the Senate ended up with the House passing a bill that completely pleased their base, but was never even looked at in the Senate.

If the chemical industry and their Republican supporters really want to get a long period reauthorization of CFATS, then they had better learn that politics requires a longer view than the next vote. Robert Heinlein called politics the ‘art of the possible’. Anyone that forgets that is just posturing; accomplishing nothing.

For HR 908 or HR 901 to become law, they would need to be passed by the House in such a form that they will be considered by the Democratically (loosely) controlled Senate. This means that they need to include a sop to Sen. Collins (R, ME), who effectively controls the Homeland Security Committee on this topic. It will also require provisions to defuse the opposition of the core Green-Labor Democrats. Failure to take this into account will lead to another two years of relying on budget measure extensions while the House passed pure industry bill sits waiting to be considered in the Senate.

Chairman Upton has not apparently learned this yet. Chairman King are you listening?

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