I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson of Capitol News Connection. This Week in Congress...The theme was, ‘to have and to hold.’
Staunch advocates for D.C. voting rights had high hopes of at long last achieving their goal. They held on to that vision for over a year. Just as the bill seemed to be on the verge of reaching the House floor for a vote:
HOYER: We will NOT be considering H.R. 157, the District of Columbia House Voting Rights Act.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer delivered the announcement Tuesday morning. It was last-minute maneuvering that sank the bill. New gun-rights language did its job politically: it exceeded the compromise that Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton was willing to make to achieve D.C. voting rights; it also rendered compromise moot anyway, because too many anti-gun Democrats would be unwilling to vote for the new version.
Meanwhile in the Senate, Democrats had plans to move ahead with various confirmations and perhaps even getting a financial regulatory bill to the floor. Republicans would spend the week using "holds." Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), blasted them for it.
McCASKILL: If you wanted to oppose somebody no problem… that’s your right as a Senator. But own it. Own it.
The rules allow for holds to be placed anonymously. But after a fixed period of time, a lawmaker has to go on record and give an actual reason for the objection. It doesn’t take a master-strategist to beat the system. The minority party simply sets up a kind of ‘round-robin’-bucket-brigade, lifting one secret hold just in time for the next colleague to place a new one. McCaskill drilled back on the floor this week, with Minority Whip Jon Kyl speaking for the opposition.
McCASKILL/KYL: I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to executive calendar number 501, the nomination of Gloria Valencia... "I object." The nomination of Benjamin Tucker... "I object." The nomination of... "Mr. President, I object."
This went on pretty much all week. Each party has played this card when the deck was stacked in the other’s favor. And gambled away valuable time in the process...
Song: "You’ve got to know when to hold’em. Know when to fold’em. Know when to walk away..."
Speaking of knowing what to do with money...the quest for financial regulatory reform would almost – but not quite – produce a bill this week. A handful of Senators continued to negotiate behind closed doors. Everybody sparred in front of the cameras – frequently over the bill’s $50 billion set-aside for dealing with firms in crisis.
Democrats were, by their own admission, slow to counter the toxic effects of the Scarlet B – as in "bailout." Virginia Senator Mark Warner tried to clarify why this money would not entice firms to grow ‘too big to fail.’
WARNER: We put in place a resolution process that basically is a death sentence for these firms.
Even "resolution process" lacks a certain something in the way of visceral urgency. So Democrats started using "liquidation fund" instead.
It’s Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid who holds the cards, and apparently the dealing’s done. The time for counting – of votes, anyway – has come:
REID: I ask unanimous consent that at 3 p.m. Monday, April 26, the Senate proceed to consideration of calendar number 349-S-3217, a bill to promote the financial stability of the United States...
Elsewhere in Congress next week, the multi-partisan trio of John Kerry of Massachusetts, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, prepare to unveil a climate change bill in the Senate on Monday.
And Congress takes up the matter of mine safety with a Senate hearing on Tuesday. Of course, there will also be more nominations...to have or to hold...
That was This Week in Congress. I’m Elizabeth Wynne Johnson, Capitol News Connection.