The California state Senate was once -- a few decades ago -- a very clubby, almost nonpartisan, place, and one of its unwritten rules of decorum was that neither of the political parties would overtly attempt to unseat an incumbent senator of the other party.
H.L. Richardson, a very conservative senator from Southern California on a mission to shake up the Capitol, ignored the rule, and in the 1976 and 1978 elections masterminded successful challenges to two liberal Democratic senators, generally accusing them of being soft on crime.Read More
Nancy Pelosi crashed through a glass ceiling when she became the first female House speaker a year ago. That turned out to be the easy part.
The reality of leading a bitterly divided Congress at odds with a Republican White House is that victories are difficult and disappointments many. Chief among them for the liberal San Francisco Democrat was failure to deliver on her biggest goal: ceasing U.S. combat missions in Iraq and getting troops on their way home.
A great many unkind things have been said about our current Congress -- many of them merited.
But nothing this august body has done this session has more exemplified its meddling ineptitude than its decision to phase out incandescent light bulbs, of all things, beginning in 2012.
As explained by Reuters in a recent report, the measure signed by President Bush on Dec. 19 requires lighting to use "up to 30 percent less energy," effectively outlawing the brilliant device engineered 125 years ago by Thomas Edison.
Democrats running Congress for the first time in more than a decade faltered at key points this year as they grudgingly passed important bills opposed by many, or even most, of their House members. When Republicans were in charge, they generally avoided a similar fate.
Republican solidarity also forced House Democrats to abandon a campaign promise to avoid new deficit spending by paying for new programs with tax increases or budget cuts.
Congressional Democrats accomplished important goals this year but they need more cooperation from Republicans, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Saturday.
The Democratic majorities in the House and Senate cut middle-class taxes, raised the minimum wage and took other steps to help working families, Reid said in the Democrats' weekly radio address.
Democrats tried to do more, but President Bush and his GOP allies in Congress thwarted them while siding with tobacco firms and "big oil companies," said Reid, D-Nev.
The Senate is holding special one man sessions throughout Christmas and the New Year to prevent President George W. Bush from making appointments without the approval of the Democratic majority.
With the bang of a gavel, Democratic Senator Jim Webb declared the first session open on Sunday morning before closing it seconds later, without any of his colleagues present in the hall.
The brief ceremony will be repeated every two to three days until January 18, when lawmakers resume their work after the Christmas and New Year's holidays.
Congress, that irrepressible spending machine that is held in lower public esteem than even the current war-strapped president, has been busy stuffing constituent Christmas stockings full of goodies and if you happen to be one of the lucky ones, the coming year should be a good one. That is if George W. Bush doesn't issue an order to his troops to ignore most of the outlandish projects tacked on to the $555 billion omnibus appropriations bill just passed and the $459 billion defense appropriations measure adopted last month.
The demise of the bridge to nowhere notwithstanding, Sen. Ted Stevens and other Republicans remain the kings of pork-barrel spending, proving that GOP mastery of "earmarks" can withstand public scorn, a president's rebuke and even a Democratic takeover of Congress.
The Democratic-controlled House is expected to give President Bush an end-of-session victory in his yearlong battle with anti-war lawmakers over Iraq by approving $70 billion for U.S. military operations there and in Afghanistan.
The vote Wednesday also would represent the final step in sealing a deal between Democrats and Bush over how much money to provide domestic agencies whose budgets are set each year by Congress. The Iraq funds have been bundled with an omnibus appropriations measure to create a massive $555 billion package that Bush has signaled he will sign.
The Senate is poised to take up a $516 billion measure to fund 14 Cabinet agencies and troops in Afghanistan, with President Bush likely to sign the measure if his GOP allies can add up to $40 billion for the war in Iraq.
Senate leaders would like to wrap up debate Tuesday, though GOP conservatives may balk, unhappy with spending above Bush's budget and a secretive process that produced a 1,482-page bill with almost 9,000 pet projects sought by lawmakers.