Joe Sestak and Allyson Schwartz Vote to Continue the War Unabated

Sigh. I leave for a couple weeks, and the Phillies go haywire, police embarass themselves talking openly about making up charges against Philly citizens, and two of our Congresspeople decide that they should stand against their constituents, and with the most unpopular President in history.

While Bob Brady, Chaka Fattah and Patrick Murphy all voted the right way, I think it is pretty important to note that Allyson Schwartz and Joe Sestak voted this week to continue to give President Bush a blank check in Iraq. Sestak followed that terrible vote up by also voting for warrntless wiretapping and immunity for phone companies who helped the Bush administration illegally spy on Americans. Great... Sestak was my favorite Dem candidate last cycle. He spoke clearly about the need to get out of Iraq, he stood up to the President, he advocated for healthcare. I honestly thought we had found 'the guy' with him. But, this has just been one more incredibly disappointing vote. A hugely unpopular war, a hugely unpopular president, and a hugely unpopular bill (warrantless wiretapping and immunity), all of which Sestak has decided to stand with.

And then we have ol' Allyson Schwartz, who way-back-when (before the popularity of the internets and such), was considered a rising progressive star. But since then, over and over, she has shown that when the chips are down, she is just not on our side. And yet, despite her vote for the Bankruptcy Bill, despite her vote for the Patriot Act, version 2, and despite her willingness to continually give George Bush a blank check for Iraq, Rep. Schwartz is rumored to be running for Senate in 2010.

Schwartz relies on a lot of old school Philadelphia liberals for support, because in a different world, she used to be one. If she runs in a Democratic primary, it is going to be our job to make sure they know how ridiculous she has become, and she no longer deserves their money or support. (Of course, we then actually need a progressive challenger for the seat, but that is a whole other issue.)

And again, it is worth noting that Patrick Murphy, Bob Brady and Chaka Fattah voted against a blank check for Bush, against warrantless spying, and against these two bills.

Update: As noted below, Patrick Murphy voted for warrantless wiretapping. Grrrreat.

schwartz: credit where credit's due

at least schwartz voted against the telecom immunity. i am shocked brady did, since he's normally in the tank for comcast. that said, pretty depressing day--vote to extend the war AND telecom immunity. as glenn greenwald quipped, "Did I mention that the Democrats currently control both houses of Congress?"


Murphy voted "Yea" on new FISA and telecom immunity.

Less than half the caucus voted against both FISA and appropriations. Looks like, once the leadership made their deals, the waters needed to be muddied so that the anger from the base would be more evenly distributed.

a little more complicated

It's a little more complicated than this, Dan.

With the war funding vote, we also got:

1) A 13 week extension of Unemployment Compensation benefits
2) More money to pay for vets to go to college
3) Postpones new Medicaid regulations that would have made it unnecessarily difficult for people to get healthcare coverage (a Nixon era strategy -- if you can't end the program, make it a nightmare to qualify).

If you take the view that the legislation was going to pass anyway so you might as well use it as an opportunity to get something for our side, it's not a horrible vote. Bush would not have signed Unemployment Compensation Extensions in any other way, in the opinion of folks working on that issue in D.C.

Looks like the House deal will go. We didn't get as much as we'd hoped, but it's pretty good.

This Too Will Pass, for the guts in your cerebrum.


I'm not feeling you. So, other things were tacked on. So what? It is a Democratic House, they can vote on anything they please.

Put it like this: How many members of the progressive caucus voted for this? Why did Fattah and Brady vote no?

it's the calculus

If the calculus said that a war funding bill would pass and that there was no way domestic spending would get approved in anything but a war funding bill because it's the only thing White House cared about, then you vote with the Domestic Spending.

Funding the war seems, to me, inevitable at this point. An Unemployment Comp Extension was by no means inevitable and people are really hurting here right now.

I also have no doubt that because the Dems control the house they gave a green light to safe seat people to vote against the war for their own reasons so they could say they did, and made other people help them accomplish some Democratic priorities.

It seemed pretty clear that the Dems didn't think they could override a veto to pass Unemployment Comp extensions and that they sure as hell couldn't get the President to delay his own Medicaid regs any other way, so they used Bush's one priority to get some things for the home team.

It makes sense to me. A war funding bill was never not going to pass. The Dems sure as heck weren't going into November saying that they left the troops hangin'.

This Too Will Pass, for the guts in your cerebrum.

And this is why Schwartz and

And this is why Schwartz and Sestak both issued statements saying that while they deeply oppose the war, and would prefer not to continue funding it as-is, they simply had to in order to get this much-needed domestic spending.*

*They didn't. (Unless someone knows something I don't.) Because like a lot of Dems in relatively competitive districts, they're willing to let their actions be interpreted in the most favorable light of the person interpreting them, and unwilling to risk anything on a potentially controversial vote.


Everyone who thinks their vote wasn't just CYA voting so they didn't have to be pinned with a "doesn't support the troops label," please raise your hand.

Funny, I was going to make a comment to that effect, read your first paragraph and thought I was wrong, and then read your second paragraph to realize that you were being sarcastic.

And I'll add

Democrats in competitive districts trying to cover themselves is fine. It's not my favorite thing in the world, but it's an understandable motivation and at times a solid political strategy.

The thing is, and I think this is the heart of Dan's point above, that Schwartz was elected as a progressive Philadelphia/Montco congresswoman, and Sestak was elected as a strongly antiwar Dem whose credibility was helped by his military credentials. Schwartz wasn't elected to park for a few terms in the House, taking safe votes so she could take on Arlen Specter. And Sestak wasn't elected to be a conventional wallflower Dem. It's embarassing that as junior reps they've both gotten paced by Patrick Murphy, who FISA vote aside, has been a highly visible antiwar voice and arguably more progressive than expected, despite what most people would say is a tougher Bucks County district.

Can't quite agree on that one, though

Democrats in competitive districts trying to cover themselves is fine. It's not my favorite thing in the world, but it's an understandable motivation and at times a solid political strategy.

Given that CYA voting by Democrats in Congress such as Clinton gave the Bush administration the support they needed to launch the invasion, I'm not inclined to overlook political expediency on such issues. Ironically, although Clinton thought such a vote would be a solid political strategy for future political battles, it may well have turned out to be her downfall.

So just to be 100% clear

Folks on here would rather we got some votes against a war funding bill than passing unemployment comp extensions and preventing roadblocks to people getting Medicaid?

This Too Will Pass, for the guts in your cerebrum.

A legitmate question

And one worthy of debate. But yes, I think that the system of trading votes on one important issue for votes on other important issues is a strategy that, in the long run, doesn't get us very far. Admittedly, that's easy for me to say because I'm not collecting unemployment right now - but I'd rather see issues fought on their own merits, and trust that over time we'll have a better system as a result. Still, I'm not unsympathetic to your preference for maximizing real gains as a trade-off for "moral" but likely largely symbolic victories.

But there is another issue here: the question of why Schwartz and Sestak actually voted the way that they did. You have developed a pretty elaborate theory: Dems in control parceled out votes on the issues based on a cohesive strategy intended to promote the best outcome on ideological principles. I'm not so generous. My guess is that political posturing is a far more likely "calculus." And on this issue in particular, political posturing by Dem legislators who wanted to appear "tough on terrorists" was a completely disastrous strategy.

Come on

Brady, what are you talking about? Because you have decided the only way we get unemployment comp extensions is like this, it becomes the gospel? Because I don't think we should continue to give Dubya a blank check for the war, I therefore must be against more people getting medicaid? When did you stop beating your wife?

In the Democratic controlled House of Representatives, the Dem leadership can schedule any vote, on any issue, at any time. To act as if there was no choice in the matter, because this stuff was tacked on, is not accurate.

Again, why did 151 Democrats- 2/3rds of the caucus, including virtually all the progressives- vote against it?

Going with the word in DC

The Employment Law people in DC seem to think it's the only way. I'm trusting them. We definitely were encouraging people to make calls backing the extension.

Bush would have vetoed it any other way. Sure it would have passed, but he would have nixed it. You might think it's unfair for me to put it that way but you'd need to support your case that it could have gotten through another way better.

I'm telling you, the word on the street was the war funding bill was the only way.

I'm not trying to be a jerk about it but I also think it was unfair of you to post your criticism of the these two electeds without acknowledging the compromises cited in all the news coverage that I've seen around these votes.

It was NOT a straight war funding vote.

This Too Will Pass, for the guts in your cerebrum.


You didn't answer... So, again, why did just about every progressive Democrat vote against it? Why did 151 Dems oppose it?

I guess because they could

If the votes were there to pass it then they got a pass. Some wanted to, some didn't. My guess is a lot were glad they didn't have to but would have if circumstances had been different.

I didn't mean to make a big fight out of this but I do think it's worth pointing out that these decisions aren't simple ones.

I can turn this around: how do you see the Congress overcoming a Presidential veto of domestic spending in any other form?

This Too Will Pass, for the guts in your cerebrum.

Oh, of course. You didn't

Oh, of course. You didn't mean to start a fight when you said that if you oppose a blank check for an endless war, you must be against poor people? I mean, I know I was obviously ignoring all the turmoil that Schwartz was going through. After all, I saw right on her website that she talked about how tough this decision was:

Oh. And then there is Sestak, who says this:

By voting in favor of both amendments included in H.R. 2642, the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2008, Congressman Joe Sestak (PA-07) gave our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan the materials they need to be safe by allotting more than $160 billion to the Department of Defense and supported expanded GI Benefits for Veterans education. Stating that the war is a tragic misadventure that must end, but in the appropriate way, Congressman Sestak voted for funding necessary to protect the troops until they can be safely redeployed.

Ah, he sounds very chagrined and clearly did it for the UC benefits.

You know too much about how this works- there is a shitty bill that people will assume pass. People tack on riders, despite knowing they still oppose the bill and will vote against the overall bill. That doesn't mean the overall bill magically becomes good.

Here it is the war, and there is a pattern of blue dog Democrats voting for for exactly this bill and that this will pass. So, a few good things get tacked on, making the best of a really crappy situation.

The problem is by definition you are absolving Democrats of a situation that they put themselves in, by already showing they were unwilling to only fund bills that led to withdrawals.

And, on your point about passing good legislation: I would say the first thing you should do is put things up by themselves, and forcing vetos and votes against the veto for at-risk republicans, of which there are many. And then repeating, over and over.

it makes sense to me, it doesn't to you

I don't know what else there is to say.

This Too Will Pass, for the guts in your cerebrum.

News from Schwartz and Sestak

Here are the latest news items from Schwartz's site:

News Room
June 2008
* (June 19, 2008) Southeastern Pennsylvania Congressional Delegation Members Announce $2.45 Million Grant for SEPTA to Buy Hybrid Buses
* (June 19, 2008) Schwartz Fights to Protect Middle Class Families from Unfair Tax Hit
* (June 12, 2008) National and Local Open Space Leaders Praise Schwartz for her Leadership on Open Space
* (June 11, 2008) House Passes Major Plan to Strengthen Amtrak
* (June 11, 2008) Schwartz, Lautenberg, Brown Work to Expand Health Care Coverage to all American Children
* (June 3, 2008) MEDIA ALERT: U.S. Rep. Schwartz Reports Back on Trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan

What is missing?

Sestak at least mentions it, although with a statement that basically says he would like to end the war, but is unwilling to fight with a President who opposes that. By his logic, if we get McCain, who would also veto a date for withdrawal, Sestak will keep on supporting it.

And, Sestak does mention UC benefits at the bottom of his release, but, read the release. Does that seem like why he said yes? He sure doesn't say anything even remotely like that.

In her defense

Schwartz didn't run as a progressive. We may have expected her to be one, we may have thought that the moderate campaign rhetoric was just meant to get her through a tough open seat election. But by and large, she's voting according to the way she campaigned.

Where's the love

Where is the love for Bob Brady. Check his voting record out against anybody's. 100% AFL-CIO, 100% in 2007 with NARAL. Highly rated by the ADA and low with the NRA. Against the Patriot Act, war funding and the bankruptcy bill. Yet no love for him here.

Some Kinda Love

I think virtually all of us like Bob Brady the Congressman, and most of us like Bob Brady the human being. It's usually Bob Brady, the head of the local party, who takes a lot of heat here; and as a party chair his record is, for many progressives, a little more mixed.

But, at least speaking for myself, it is all out of love; love for the city, love for the party, love for the country, love for principles, and often love for the people. It's just that nagging, displeased, contentious sort of love, on both sides.

But you're right, Lou. We should call home and tell Mom we love her more often.

I started and ended my post

I started and ended my post by noting that he and Fattah voted the right way...

Except on some environmental issues, Brady is a very, very reliably progressive vote in Congress. But, as Tim says, issues that most of us have with him is not about his record as a Congressman, it is as the head of the City Committee.

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