Emotions erupted on the floor of the House of Representatives this afternoon as the right-wing-led Congress held open yet another vote to twist arms and pass a bill that would line the pockets of energy company executives. The House leadership held the five-minute vote open for almost 50 minutes until they could convince three lawmakers — Reps. Wayne Gilcrest (R-MD), C.W. Bill Young (R-FL) and Jim Gerlach (R-PA) — to change their minds. The bill passed 212-210. As the vote concluded, opponents of the bill chanted in unity: “Shame, Shame, Shame!”
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The vote was held on the “Gasoline for America’s Security Act of 2005,” a provision sponsored by Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) to nominally “expedite the construction of new refining capacity.” But the bill is essentially a giveback to the oil industry — Rep. Edward Markey (D-MA) called it a “leave-no-oilman-behind bill.”
The antics of right-wingers on the House floor today mirrored their previous strong-arm tactics in passing CAFTA and prescription drug legislation — “ bills that, like today’s, favored large corporations. In July 2005, the House passed CAFTA with a slim two-vote margin after holding the vote open for an hour and 45 minutes. In November 2003, in the dead of night, the House leadership passed the Medicare prescription drug vote by five votes after holding the vote open for three hours.
The Center for American Progress released a report today detailing the profiteering of oil executives while American families struggle with higher gas prices.
Today, the Nobel Committee issued a strong rebuke to the Bush administration by awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to IAEA head Mohamed El Baradei.
In response, the Secretary of State Rice said in a statement, “I congratulate the International Atomic Energy Agency and its Director General, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, on being awarded this year’s Nobel Peace Prize.” Last year, the administration was less generous with their praise. In fact, it launched a smear campaign to prevent ElBaradei from returning for a third-term as head of the nuclear watchdog agency.
In its efforts to bring him down, the administration leaked false intelligence about Egypt:
Diplomats in Vienna suspect the story circulating in the press about a clandestine nuclear program in Egypt is part of an American-led campaign to oust the head of the international agency charged with preventing the proliferation of atomic weapons. [New York Sun, 1/5/05]
And tapped his phone:
The Bush administration has dozens of intercepts of Mohamed ElBaradei’s phone calls with Iranian diplomats and is scrutinizing them in search of ammunition to oust him as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to three U.S. government officials. [Washington Post, 12/12/04]
Why did the administration want him out so badly? It disagreed with ElBaradei about Iraq’s nonexistent WMD program. El Baradei, if you’ll recall, turned out to be right.
Another Tom DeLay PAC has accepted money from “tainted sources.”
Why? Westar “improperly facilitated” the contributions. The contributions came from 6 Westar employees, but Westar was so involved in ordering/facilitating those contributions that the FEC considered it to be a single $2400 corporate contribution. Federal law bars political campaigns from directly accepting corporate money. (Note that two of the contributions came from Westar’s top executives at the time, David Wittig and Douglas Lake, who were recently convicted of looting $37 million from the company.)
DeLay’s relationship with Westar isn’t new. In 2004, the House Ethics Committee rebuked DeLay for an appearance at a Westar fundraiser and for creating the appearance that a donation to his PAC would result in “special treatment or special access to the member.”
Westar Energy was also indicted in 2004 for contributing $25,000 to DeLay’s TRMPAC, which was then sent along to the Republican National Committee as part of a $190,000 check. Allegedly, a list of candidates’ names and amounts they should receive accompanied that check, leading to charges that Westar Energy donated corporate money to political candidates.
Another day, another example of illegal corporate influence on the former House Majority Leader.
In the CBS poll that has Bush’s approval at 37%, another suprising figure sticks out. Asked to specify America’s most important problem, more respondents pointed to President Bush than to terrorism:
U.S. MOST IMPORTANT PROBLEM
War in Iraq
Economy and jobs
Three years ago today, President Bush visited Cincinnati to deliver a major address outlining the reasons for war, just as Congress was considering whether to vote in favor of giving Bush the authorization to attack Iraq. On October 7, 2002, Bush made a number of misleading and exaggerated statements about the Iraqi threat.
Three years ago today, it all started.
On October 7, 2002, President Bush gave a speech in Cincinnati “in which he made the case for war.” According to Condoleezza Rice, “a line had been there about the uranium issue and Saddam Hussein seeking uranium in Africa. And Director Tenet had called Steve Hadley and he told him…he told him I don’t think you should put that in the president’s speech.”
The reference was removed from his speech that day, but famously reappeared in a 16-word sentence three months later during the President’s State of the Union address. (Bush: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.”)
On July, 6, 2003, former Ambassador Joe Wilson wrote a column indicating that the Bush administration knew the claim was bogus in advance of the speech. The following day, the administration was forced to publicly acknowledge the President was wrong. The incident set into motion an aggressive effort at the White House to “slime” Wilson that culminated in a Robert Novak column which outed his wife, undercover CIA agent Valerie Plame. A criminal investigation followed, involving numerous administration officials, which is expected to conclude this month.
This morning, Karl Rove is scheduled to make his fourth appearance before the grand jury to answer questions about his involvement in the smear campaign. Three years after it all began, sources close to Rove say he and his legal team are “now genuinely concerned he could face [criminal] charges.”
Another new low for President Bush’s approval rating.