Monday, August 01, 2005

Ms. Meyer Goes to Washington

Well my goals were not as lofty nor my accomplishments as hard-won as Jimmy Stewart's Mr. Smith, but I did get to see the Senate floor during my weekend visit to Washington D.C. John suggested that I get a gallery pass from one of my Senator's offices, a privilege which, unbeknownst to me, allows visitors to sit in the gallery above the Senate floor or House floor where bills are debated and voted on.

I got to watch as amendments were introduced by Democrats and Republicans to the Republican-sponsored gun bill, a piece of legislation that protects gun companies from lawsuits that implicate the company in gun violence. My two immediate objections to this bill were:
  1. It sets a dangerous precedent because it allows Congress to determine justiciability, which is whether the case is appropriate for settlement in a court of law, and which is better determined by a court rather than by a blanket law from Congress.
  2. It should not be a top priority. With all of the problems we have in this country right now, from state budgets to health care to education to a war, should a bill that panders to the NRA be anywhere near a top priority--one of the last bills that Congress grinds out before its August recess?
Anyway, it was still exciting to watch, and I spent about three hours watching among others Ted Kennedy, Orrin Hatch, Jack Reed (D-RI), and Larry Craig (R-ID) debate the bill. Kennedy was probably the best orator, and I thought it was just interesting to get exposure to the actual debate that goes on in Congress, even it doesn't cause many Senators to become apostates.

Since I also came during a time of several amendment votes and a vote on the bill itself, I got to see just about every Senator on the floor. For the most part, it seemed like the Democrats talked with Democrats and the Republicans with Republicans, but I saw Ken Salazar (D-CO) and later John Kerry talking with Orrin Hatch and Barack Obama talking with Craig. Obama was pretty social and said hi to most people. Diane Feinstein (D-CA), one of the leaders in making amendments to the gun bill, was walking around talking seriously to people. At one point she and Hatch sat down to look over something in a folder. Dick Durbin, the Democratic Senator from Illinois and Senate Minority Whip was on the floor a lot both smiling and appearing to work pretty hard. Majority Leader Bill Frist looked tense. Usually the whispers I heard in the gallery were from people pointing out John Kerry or Hillary Clinton and one woman who pointed out Obama as the guy "who gave that good speech at the Convention." I'm sure many Senators were hoping that recess would begin that evening rather than Saturday or Sunday, and fortunately it did.


Gary said...

Nice blog...

Perhaps a priority might be figuring out how to reduce number of people killed by guns every year, instead of worrying about who might sue who afterwards. Weird.

Elaine said...

Thanks for the comment Gary, and good point. Republican (and some Democrats) priorities regarding guns are screwed up in this country. I appreciate your comment!

william t nelson said...

Senate recess = recess appointment time!!