As we limp to Halloween and with the (gulp) midterm elections just ten days away, we must tie up some loose odds and ends that should not get lost because we’ve been too focused on the Strange Couple, Clarence and Ginni Thomas.
Let’s start with some hopeful news which might actually turn out to be downright cheerful news. Senator Dick Durbin (D, IL), the current Senate majority whip, was interviewed on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” and made some interesting comments about the Deficit Commission of which he is a member. He mentioned that in order for the Commission to recommend a proposal, there must be 14 of the 18 members to agree. In the current toxic and extremely partisan, pre-election atmosphere which will no doubt carry over into the lame duck session of Congress, it is extremely unlikely that the so-called “bipartisan” commission will come to any agreement which will whittle away the current Social Security system. This is what The Hill’s Blog noted about Durbin’s remarks: [Here]
Durbin's comments are an acknowledgment of the pressure the panel faces from both political parties, and suggest that the panel could release a proposal that is less ambitious than some believe.
[...] This week, over half the members of the House Democratic Caucus wrote to the president saying that they will oppose any cut to Social Security benefits.
The letter that the large bloc (136 members) of the House Democratic caucus wrote to the President was unequivocal: [Here]
If any of the [fiscal] commission’s recommendations cut or diminish Social Security in any way, we will stand firmly against them...We urge you to join us in protecting and strengthening Social Security rather than letting it fall victim to a misguided attempt to reduce budget deficits on the backs of working families.
It’s very comforting to read this brave statement, but will the individual Representatives stand by them with all the nonsense that the Republican plutocrats are throwing into the airways? We’ll have to wait and see--with our fingers crossed.
The next item concerns the Judicial Branch. (We can’t seem to escape it, can we?) Linda Greenhouse, who writes an occasional Op-Ed piece for the NYTimes, has alerted us to a growing problem in the federal judiciary system in an article titled, “Calling John Roberts.” [Here] Greenhouse points out that there is a current judicial vacancy crisis with 105 vacancies, 49 of whom are listed as “emergencies,” a formula, Greenhouse tells us, that involves the workload of the particular position and the length of time it has gone unfilled.
She tells us that “the number of “emergencies” has doubled since the start of the Obama administration.” [Here] Greenhouse believes that the responsibility rests partly with the President who has been slow to nominate people to the positions and partly with the Senate Democratic leadership which hasn’t pushed for the confirmation process although many of the nominees have received approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee.
However, the Senators of the Party of No! bear the principle onus for this shameful situation. The Senate recessed with 23 names left swinging in the breeze. A list of the 103 vacancies and the lack of nominees are stunning. [Here]
This is where Chief Justice John Roberts could enter the picture, if he wishes to and has the stomach for it. Greenhouse reminds us that a similar situation faced the Senate in 1998 when then-Chief Justice William Rehnquist (a Roberts mentor and a Republican) used his year-end report to criticize the Republican-controlled Senate for its inaction.
Once again it’s time for John Roberts to step up and do his job without sniffing the air to find out what is blowing in the wind from the Republican leadership and the Cato Institute. It would require Roberts to criticize Republicans. Hmmm....
Let’s stop here. There are other odd bits, but then again this is election time in which oddballs tend to get odder, bolder and ubiquitous. After the election, what will we do without Christine O’Donnell? I suspect she won’t fade away after she loses her Senate race. And if she wins, she will be in our face for another 6 years and it will be all of us who will have to fade away.