I've been pretty vocal about my distaste for the weak leadership exhibited by the Democratic Party--can you imagine if the Republicans were handed the kind of political environment the Dems have been handed? They would crush their opposition--but the Democratic Party just seems incapable of finding a voice...
But, one of the people down there in the Beltway that has fire and a willingness to wade into a fight is Rep. George Miller (CA). Miller, as the ranking member on the House Education And The Workforce committee, has been outstanding in trying to protect the pension system, which is under a withering assault by corporate America.
Now, Miller is taking it right to the president. You may remember how, six weeks ago, Bush invoked emergency powers to suspend the Davis-Bacon Act in the Katrina-effected areas; Davis-Bacon requires the payment of prevailing wages on federal contracting. Miller is going to force a vote in the House on the suspension by using a clever parliamentary tactic.
Yesterday, he introduced a Joint Resolution under the 1976 National Emergencies Act, which provides for fast track action by Congress when the President unilaterally suspends a law. The ACt is actually 30 years old and, according to Miller, "this is the first time that a lawmaker has ever invoked its fast track procedures. By law, Congress must act on the Joint Resolution within 15 calendar days.
Here's what Miller had to say: "This extraordinary action is necessary because the Republican leadership is failing to fulfill its responsibility to investigate the wages being paid in the Gulf and to honor the will of at least half of the members of the House that oppose the President's wage cut to hard-working Americans helping to rebuild roads, bridges, schools and hospitals. The President has exploited a national tragedy to cut workers' wages, a long-sought goal among his right-wing cronies. The prevailing wages along the Gulf Coast were already among the lowest in the country. How does the President think that $11.01 per hour is too much to pay a dump truck driver in New Orleans or that $7.45 an hour is too much to pay a pipe layer in Mississippi? It is amazing that the President and Republicans in Congress see no problem with awarding billion-dollar no-bid contracts to cronies like Halliburton, but think that local workers in the Gulf struggling to get back on their feet after Katrina are being overpaid."
Good for Miller. I wonder if some of his toughness could rub off on some of his party colleagues?