I've lost respect for David Obey
A quick return to Louisiana news. Rep. David Obey (D-WI) is the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. I just got this e-mail alert from The Hill:
House Appropriations Chairman Dave Obey (D-Wis.) said Friday he canceled meetings with a New Orleans delegation because a Louisiana lawmaker had defied party leadership on a procedural vote the night before...
"When people are consistently hitting the red button on procedural votes, that gets to me," Obey said in an interview.
"I announced yesterday in caucus that anybody who wants to routinely vote against the leadership on procedural grounds, don’t ask me to see their visiting firemen when they’re in town."...
Since winning back the House, Democrats have struggled with how to enforce party discipline on procedural votes. Republicans have flummoxed them with tactics called "motions to recommit" that kill or amend priority Democratic bills. Usually, such tactics force Democrats from conservative districts to take tough votes on issues like gun rights or national security...
What happened was, Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA) voted against a procedural motion from Speaker Pelosi to vote on an ethics bill. Obey says members can vote however they want on the actual bills, but on procedural matters they must blindly play follow the leader. "There are minimal dues we pay in this place. You get your seat from your district. You get your committee assignment from your party."
While I understand Obey's frustration with the bottlenecked system, this form of retaliation is embarrassing, short-sighted, and harmful. First of all, striking back at Melancon by turning away a New Orleans delegation doesn’t even make sense: Melancon doesn't represent New Orleans. His district was hard hit by Katrina – it includes Chalmette and the coastal counties – but it does not include the actual city of New Orleans. Second of all, even if Melancon did represent New Orleans, it’s absurd to shut out the voice of hundreds of thousands of distressed Americans because you feel personally insulted by one man. I find that egomaniacal, undemocratic, uncompassionate, and downright immoral. Finally, I'm appalled to see Obey's statement about district vs. party. I've always been a fan of that Chuck Hagel quote, "I took an oath of office to the Constitution, I didn't take an oath of office to my party or my president." Obey’s leadership role gives him a job, not an elite status. Blinded by power or not, he’s still one man better than no one else, his ego’s arguments to the contrary notwithstanding.
Shame on you, David Obey. You've done good work in the past, but not today.
You do have a beard, though. That's pretty cool.