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Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Liberal Case Against The Liberal Case Against Dennis Kucinich

I'm not surprised to see a braniac at Salon try to muster a bogus argument against Kucinich, saying he's an ineffective legislator, but I am a bit disappointed that Steve Benen has swallowed it uncritically:

Just look at this section from the biography on his congressional Web site:

In Congress, Kucinich has authored and co-sponsored legislation to create a national health care system, preserve Social Security, lower the costs of prescription drugs, provide economic development through infrastructure improvements, abolish the death penalty, provide universal prekindergarten to all 3, 4, and 5 year olds, create a Department of Peace, regulate genetically engineered foods, repeal the USA PATRIOT Act, and provide tax relief to working class families.

Notice that the bio never says whether any of that legislation actually passed. In fact, according to the Web site GovTrack, of the 97 bills Kucinich has sponsored since taking office in 1997, only three have become law. Ninety-three didn't even make it out of committee.

Wow, only 3.09% of his sponsored bills passed, and 95.88% haven't made it out of committee.  Sounds pretty bad, eh?

If you don't examine stats for other lawmakers, then it might sound awful, but you might look further at the GovTrack site.  You'll find that the average success rate for Congress is a whopping 4.97%.  And 85.43% of sponsored bills go nowhere.

So he's not average.  Proving...nothing.

Look at Democratic Congressman Robert Andrews from NJ: since 1991, his sponsored bills were lost in the quantum singularity 98.91% of the time, and a mere 0.36% passed.  Democratic Senator Robert Menéndez loses 95.24% of his bills in the ether, and has watched 1.10% make it into law since 1993.  Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, 94.12% and 2.52% since 1995.  Barbara Lee since 1997?  95.00% and 0.83%.

Now consider the types of bills Kucinich sponsors.  Medicare For All.  Preserving Social Security.  Lowering drug costs, abolishing capital punishment, establish a Dept of Peace, repealing the PATRIOT Act, cutting taxes for the working class.

Maybe instead of laughing about how few bills Dennis has magically made laws with his elvish powers, we might wonder why Democrats as a whole don't seem interested in working hard to pass good, progressive legislation.  You know, the stuff they should be standing for.


PS--An interesting study looked at gender differences in the 103rd-105th Congresses and found that male sponsored bills passed 5.24% of the time, while female's bills had a 3.16% success rate.

March 13, 2010 | Permalink


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I'm very happy with my member of Congress, Barbara Lee.

Posted by: Mike Goldman | Mar 13, 2010 2:08:15 AM

It's wonderful that Kucinich is willing to fight the good fight for important (but, in most cases, lost) causes. The problem is that he doesn't seem to know when the battle is over. His vote against HCR will not strike a blow for single payer or any other health care ideal. His vote will be recorded by history as a vote against health care reform and a vote with the republicans. In the final analysis, his motivation is irrelevant.

With the money Bernie Sanders got for community health centers and the promise to limit premiums through reconciliation, this bill promises to be good enough, imo, to pass without a public option. To vote against it on principal is to miss an historic opportunity to be part of what will probably be the last major social reform. Hate to see Kucinich left in the dust of history.

Posted by: mb | Mar 13, 2010 5:29:50 AM

MG - Unpossible. She is clearly ineffective. LOOK AT THE STATS, MAN!

mb - I would hope that Medicare for All, repealing USA PATRIOT, et al, are not lost causes. If they are, then so are we.

And is the battle for HCR over? Really? This will be the last major social reform? If this bill passes we should stop fighting? Not from where I sit.

As I've said, I will celebrate the good things in this bill and use them as the foundation for moving forward, but as it stands it's awful, even if there were a meager, watered down compromise of a compromised PO as the House passed. Preventing states from implementing their own single-payer systems until 2017 is a killer, not to mention guaranteeing insurance companies a captive audience with mandates.

Why is it that the Dem leadership falls over itself to appease the likes of Stupak, but does nothing for the Progs? Maybe it's time to stand for what's right instead of looking for a progressive scapegoat who is scuttling half a shit sandwich.

How else is Kucinich going to get his ideas play? By threatening to kill what is anathema to them. If the Dem leadership really wanted a PO, it would include it in the reconciliation bill, but it is gone. So now Dennis has the choice of voting for something that entrenches insurance companies, throws women under the bus and sets back the cause of single-payer with the Section 1332 bullshit, or holding the line for what's right and possibly getting concessions on other things.

Imagine a Democratic Party that saw the value in progressive principles, promised to get Grayson's Medicare Buy-in a floor vote, promised to move up the state waiver date, etc. Then maybe he could vote for this monstrosity. If he gets nothing, he has to follow through and vote against, and I hope he does. I disagree that it won't strike a blow for single-payer: he's stopped an effort to dilute meaningful reform, forced the leadership's hand, and stood for an ideal as important as civil rights and rejecting war.

Time for Cortes to burn his ships (he didn't in real life, but the actual story fits well, too) to motivate the crew. Kill this bill, HCR doesn't die--HCR is more than any single piece of legislation and the struggle will continue no matter what fate this bill suffers. But if the Dems are desperate enough to "pass anything" then maybe they can finally muster their will and use their majority to pass HR676 or HR4789.

Posted by: NTodd | Mar 13, 2010 8:44:13 AM

HR4789 is the vehicle now. I believe it can only be passed under reconciliation. Therefore, the way this has to proceed is as follows. The Senate bill must be passed. Then an omnibus reconciliation package. Then HR4789. But we need a guarantee of a vote on HR4789 before ANYTHING passes.

Posted by: Mike Goldman | Mar 13, 2010 9:39:35 PM

The reason Cortes didn't really burn his ships is that it was a really bad idea. Still is -- even metaphorically.

And yes, the HCR battle is over for now. The war will continue and I think the reforms in this package will be the beginning of the end of the current system. Regardless, there will be other days to fight for Medicare or Medicaid for all (personally I think we'll get there eventually.) Now is the time to move the reforms we've been able to get forward.

Posted by: mb | Mar 14, 2010 4:02:50 AM

Over? No. HR4789 is HCR.

Posted by: Mike Goldman | Mar 15, 2010 4:00:19 AM

IMO, the battle is over -- certainly it is vis a vis a public option or anything like it. All that's left is the mopping up and body count -- that's ongoing.

There'll be some horse-trading during the reconciliation process but the leverage is not with Kucinich -- it's with the blue dogs. Satisfying Kucinich makes Pelosi's job harder with the conservaDems, so she's likely to ignore him. Ergo, his obstinacy just allies him with the GOP and marginalizes him -- not a place I'd want to be. But if you're K-dog, I guess the margin feels like home.

Posted by: mb | Mar 15, 2010 9:54:59 AM

I'd say the battle isn't over since Grayson has introduced his bill and immediately got 50 cosponsors, and Bernie's going to offer an amendment during reconciliation. And we still must fight Section 1332 lest state efforts are hindered. It's only over if we give up, as we did on single-payer and a strong PO long ago.

I find it to be a strange world where the fight is somehow over on a civil rights issue. I find it a strange world when a Member stands for what is right gets him labeled as being on the margin and allied with the GOP, but people who actively aid and abet watering down what's right with GOP ideas are not.

Posted by: NTodd | Mar 15, 2010 12:19:20 PM

Gotta agree again with Todd and object to this kind of defeatism that is completely unproductive, mb. HR4789 will give every American the right to buy into Medicare. That's a good public option.

Posted by: Mike Goldman | Mar 15, 2010 10:48:54 PM

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