Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Wood Dale’s Mayor correctly questions Roskam’s ability to get federal dollars for vital Il-6 tranportation project

I just noticed an article in Saturday’s Daily Herald discussing an important Il-6 transportation project, the long-planned major overhaul of Wood Dale’s notorious intersection of Wood Dale Road, Irving Park Road and the train tracks.

While I am in general fascinated by transportation planning (this is actually true, I studied Urban Planning at the University of Illinois), what I want to call your attention to is the following excerpt with quotes from Wood Dale’s mayor Ken Johnson:

And with the influential Henry Hyde of Wood Dale now retired from Congress, Johnson said he was skeptical about Washington ever coughing up the remaining funding needed.

"Can we count on a freshman congressman (Republican Peter Roskam of Wheaton) in a minority party to get us $30 million?" Johnson said. "Our federal people tell us no, so we'll just have to hope we can use that $11 million we already have to increase safety some other way."

The mayor and his federal people are correct. Roskam doesn’t have the influence of Hyde to deliver for the people of IL-6 and never will. This is not just because he is a freshman member in the minority. Henry Hyde was in the minority for most of his career, but was effective in gaining influence and respect because he wasn’t just a rubber stamp who blindly followed his party. Hyde, while very conservative, served his country in war and was able to cross the isle to support gun control and family leave legislation. We’re still waiting for Roskam to demonstrate some ability to be an independent voice and not just a rubber stamp. Until then residents of Il-6 will suffer the consequences.

Raising Money from Terrorists

The DCCC has some great info how the National Republican Campaign Committee (NRCC) has taken money from an accused terrorist financier and refused to donate this money to charity. This is despite the fact that the National Republican Senate Committee (NRSC) already has. The DCCC goes on to list the 22 Republican Reps who have taken money since the accused terrorist started donating money, and of course Rep. Roskam is among them. As the saying goes, “You can tell who a person is by the company they keep.” Rep. Roskam should do the glaringly obvious right thing and call on the NRCC to donate this money back. If they do not, we should call on him to donate his portion of this terrorist money to charity.

One thing Roskam and NRCC should NOT do is just give the money back. I’ve heard some suggestion of that from the media, and this has always struck me as silly. Just because the money is tainted and shouldn’t be used to further your conservative political agenda doesn’t mean you should return it to an accused terrorist. We would all be much better having that tainted money do good for a charitable cause. Since Sneaky Pete claims he cares about seniors so much that he won’t even collect taxes from oil companies and with seniors facing such high prescription drug prices as a result of members like Roskam forbidding the government to negotiate for lower prices, I think we should call on him to donate the money to a charity that helps seniors buy prescription drugs. Any other suggestions on what charity this terrorist money should go to?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Roskam’s ineptness – needs to ask Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board what they do

Take a look at this rather hilarious exchange from a House Financial Services Committee hearing with Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Ben Bernanke. Basically, Rep. Roskam asks him what the Federal Reserve Board does. Now I know there is no such thing as a stupid question, but one would expect an elected Congressman to have a basic knowledge of this sort of thing. Remember, he has a full staff and is on the Financial Services Committee! Its amazing he wasn’t laughed out of the hearing. I wish I could get a video of this so I could see the look on Bernanke’s face as he was answering. I also wonder what the more than 60,000 professionals working in finance in the Sixth District would think of the fact their elected Representative sitting on the Financial Services Committee actually had to ask the Chairman what the Federal Reserve Board does.

REP. PETER ROSKAM (R-IL): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, I'm a new member of Congress and a new member of the committee, and I have appreciated the detailed questions that my colleagues have asked.

I guess I would ask a broader question, and that is, you know, it seems to me that economic strength and weakness, success and failure, is mysterious in a lot of ways. And it's difficult for somebody outside of this arena to gaze in and really discern all the factors that go into a good successful mix. And I know there's really nobody that can do that.

But for purposes of this committee and future committees that have this responsibility of oversight for you, Mr. Chairman, and the Fed, what are the things that you're responsible for? What are the tools that you have at your disposal? And could you sort of -- and maybe, in an Econ 101 sort of fashion in the remaining four minutes, just break that down and say, "Look, these are the things that we frankly have no influence over but are just off the table." I think that would help me and maybe some other members of the committee in the future.

MR. BERNANKE: Well, the Federal Reserve has multiple responsibilities. The one that's best known is our responsibility for monetary policy, which we use to pursue the congressional mandate of price stability and maximum sustainable employment.

It's important that the Federal Reserve be independent and be able to make independent decisions about interest rates in order to preserve the credibility of the central bank. However, it is also important that Congress exert oversight over the Federal Reserve to make sure that we are following our stated mission and that we are pursuing coherent and rational plans.

The other areas include banking, where we are involved in developing the new capital (accord ?), providing various guidances and regulations together with the other banking agencies. And there we are more like the other agencies in terms of the kinds of responsibilities we have.

We have considerable responsibility in the consumer protection area -- that's come up a lot today -- for various regulations that provide disclosures to consumers on credit cards, on mortgages, and that provide some tools to address predatory lending or high-cost lending. And there we are -- like other agencies, we are given instruction by the Congress, by the law, in terms of what the Congress wants us to achieve and with what instruments. And then it's our job to implement the regulations that will most effectively accomplish Congress's goals.

So we have a range of activities, all of which fall under the oversight of Congress, obviously.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

NY & Iraq

Lot of things have been happening the past week to report on – the biggest of course is Roskam delivered his floor speech and vote on the Iraq war resolution last week. I would written on this sooner, but I myself was taking advantage of the 3 day weekend to leave work a little bit early on Friday and head to New York with my girlfriend. It was a really interesting to go see ground zero and all the construction around where the World Trade Center used to be. Of course, all this got me thinking about a few things on the Iraq debate.

First of all, and it bears repeating, is the fact that Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 attacks. The Republicans often try to link Iraq to 9/11, but the two are completely unrelated. Along those lines, I find it very interesting that the cities directly targeted by 9/11, NY and Washington DC, both overwhelmingly reject Bush and his Iraq policy. The good people of NY do not want to see their city attacked again. Their lives are literally at stake, but they realize that a surge of troops in Iraq will do nothing to make them safer at home. Rather it will only put others at risk.

The reason I was able to get off work and go to NY in the first place was that Monday was a Presidents Day holiday to celebrate George Washington’s Birthday. I think anyone listening to the Iraq debate should have been required to read his farewell address first. In it he warned against the U.S. getting involved recklessly in foreign entanglements. His warning of "do not go abroad in search of monsters to slay lest ye become one," should still be heeded even today.

Anyways, below are Roskam’s comments on Iraq. What do you think of his comments and of his vote to rubber stamp Bush’s Iraq policies?

Mr. ROSKAM. I thank the gentleman for yielding.

Madam Speaker, we are here to debate a House Concurrent Resolution, and the root verb of ``resolution'' is resolute. I just want to challenge the House today to consider the resolution of our enemies. I would like to read three quotes to you.

Resolved, by Samba bin Laden. The whole world is watching this war, and the two adversaries, the Islamic nation on the one hand and the United States and its allies on the other. It is either victory and glory or misery and humiliation.

Or how about this? Resolved, in the al Agenda charter: There will be continuing enmity until everyone believes in Allah. We will not meet the enemy halfway, and there will be no room for dialogue with them.

Or how about this, and I am paraphrasing: Resolved, from Samba bin Ladens deputy, who said that the plan is to extend the jihad wave; to expel the Americans from Iraq and extend the jihad wave to secular countries neighboring Iraq, clash with Israel and establish an Islamic authority.

Is there anybody among us who doubts the resolve and clarity with which our opponents are speaking? I don't.

I think what is lacking today in our conversation is the consequences of failure. The previous speaker used the words ``victory'' and ``success.'' He had a very low view of them, and I understand his characterization of those words. He said we have heard those words before. That is what the gentleman from New Jersey said.

But, do you know what? We will hear the word ``failure'' when it is used in the context of this challenge that is before us.

There is no question that there has been great difficulty that has gone before us in this fight. There is no question that there have been great mistakes that have been made, and I am wholeheartedly in favor of us acting as a coequal branch of government and calling for benchmarks and demarcation and holding the administration accountable for its decisions.

But if we fail in this, if we pull out, if we retreat, if we yield, what will happen? Is there anybody really who thinks that Iran, for example, will be less provocative? Is there anybody who thinks that al Agenda will be less provocative?

If we fail, extremism in this world, will it be ascendant or will it be descendant?

Madam Speaker, I close with a simple question, and that is, we need to ask, What is it about this resolution that will do one of two things? Does this encourage our troops, or does this discourage our enemies? I would suggest that this resolution, while it is serious, oh, it is very serious, it is not substantive. This is the ultimate expression of legislative passive aggression. It offers no substantive alternative.

Madam Speaker, I rise in opposition, and ask my colleagues to do the same.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Sneaky Pete strikes again

Sneaky Pete is at it again. Last time I wrote about him he was introducing and bragging about an amendment that he previously voted against (and that doesn't do anything). Now he is cosigning letters urging legislative provisions that he previously voted against. It appears his hypocrisy knows no bounds.

What I’m referring to is the fact he just cosigned a letter written by Republican swing seat battler Heather Wilson urging Pelosi to immediately pass the Senate’s legislation to raise the minimum wage. In the letter they say specifically,

“We believe it is past due for a raise in the minimum wage, which is why many of us joined in supporting a stand-alone minimum wage bill in the House. . . .

. . . we believe considering the Senate amendment is the quickest and most effective means of giving low-income workers a pay increase. Workers who make $10,700 per year while working 40 hours a week do not care if a bill to increase their wages originates in the House or Senate, or if such legislation includes tax incentives for their employers. They simply care if their wages are raised.

Madam Speaker, we believe it is time the minimum wage is increased and a bipartisan solution is within reach. We urge you to bring this compromise package to the House floor for a vote and raise the minimum wage without further delay.”

I agree with the letter's underlying premise that the minimum wage must be increased. The problem is that hypocrite Roskam voted against raising the minimum wage in the first place. The Republicans have been in power for over 10 years without once raising the minimum wage and now hypocrite Roskam is telling Speaker Pelosi, who with Democrats has made raising the minimum wage one of her top priorities, how workers need to have the minimum wage raised immediately. How someone can have the audacity to sign such a letter after voting against raising the minimum wage is beyond me.

Sneaky Pete needs to be asked if he thinks it is so important for the minimum wage to be raised immediately regardless of what else such legislation includes, why did he vote against it? And why do I have this sinking feeling that hypocrite Roskam will end up voting against raising the minimum wage when it finally gets out of conference? We’ve already seen during the last campaign how this guy will flip-flop and say anything to anyone to get elected, but his voting record shows through his hypocrisy and reveals the compassionless extreme conservative he really is. His record speaks for itself and we're not letting him fool us with his empty talk.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Roskam passes meaningless amendment he previously voted against

Sneaky Pete is at it again. Yesterday his office sent out a press release praising his work in passing an amendment that he claims will save taxpayers $10 million. He goes on to talk about how great alternative fuels are, despite the fact he voted last month against collecting taxes owed from oil companies to fund development of alternative fuels.

The problem is that his amendment and press release is a complete farce. If I can get wonkish for a second, his basis for claiming to have saved taxpayers $10 million is that his amendment makes the new spending conform to pay-as-you-go (known as pay-go) budget rules, which requires new spending to be offset by reductions in spending (or increases in revenue) elsewhere. But the thing sneaky Pete doesn’t mention is that the House already passed pay-go budgeting rules. I know he is a new member and all, but how is it possible he missed the fact that the Democratic led House of Representatives already adopted pay-go budget rules for all of their legislation – a rule he voted against? Here are just a few samples out of the tons of articles and media devoted to this:

House Adopts Pay-as-You-Go Rules” Washington Post, 1/6/07.

Day Two: House passes new budget rules. Democrats push to increase spending only with cuts in other funding” MSNBC, 1/5/07.

Congresswoman Melissa Bean Hails Return to Pay-as-you-go Budget Rules,” from the office of Roskam’s neighboring congressional colleague, 1/5/07.

So basically, sneaky Pete offered an amendment to follow rules that everyone already agreed to follow – and is now trying to claim credit for it. There is a reason why his amendment passed by voice vote, which signifies that not a single member objected to its passage. That reason is because it doesn’t do anything new. The only reason he was even allowed to offer such an amendment is because the non-controversial bill (it passed 400-3) came to the House floor under an open rule which meant there were no limits on amendments that could be offered, no matter how pointless they were. If there were limits I assure you that such a pointless amendment would have never been allowed.

And what makes bragging about this pointless amendment especially ridiculous is the previously mentioned fact that Roskam actually voted against the original pay-go budgeting rule which passed last month 280-152. So he literally voted against this rule before he submitted an amendment for it. Talk about flip-flopping.

All of this brings me to a completely all together different subject. Some of you may noticed me use the term sneaky Pete throughout this post. I’ve actually adopted this from a reader who used this nickname on an earlier comment. I’ve been thinking for quite some time that we need a good nickname for Roskam – and sneaky Pete certainly sums him up in regards to this amendment. I haven’t been able to come up with anything catchy myself, especially as I do not want to make any personal attacks on this blog. The purpose of this blog is strictly to follow Roskam’s votes and policy. In that vein, the sneaky Pete label here refers to his legislative actions in bragging about an amendment that 1) doesn’t do anything and 2) is in support of a rule he previously voted against. But does anyone else have any suggestions for a good label/nickname? Keep in mind “way too conservative Roskam” isn’t very catchy – although it is certainly true!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Roskam already cozying up to lobbyists

Its not taking Roskam long to adopt to the Republican culture of corruption – what do we expect from someone who is protégé of the indicted Tom Delay? The Roll Call reports that tonight he is having a fundraiser hosted by lobbyist Erick Gustafson (Mortgage Bankers Association) at the swanky steak house Charlie Palmers. If Roskam wants to spend his time cozying up with lobbyists at posh steak houses, that is up to him. But when it results in votes against the interests of middle-class Illinois residents – then its time for us to step in. We’re watching. If he keeps voting with his lobbyist friends that he makes at $1,000 cocktail reception and steak dinners, we will make sure his constituents know. All donations made tonight should eventually be available in a future FEC report, so I’ll be sure to update you all later on the roster of high paid lobbyists that attend.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Illinois to move primaries to Feb. 5th?

Just read an interesting article in today’s The Hill regarding Michael Madigan’s proposal to move the Illinois primaries to Feb. 5th. As they point out, doing this would have implications in congressional races. It would force a challenger to organize sooner and will force both Roskam and a potential challenger to raise more money for the longer campaign operation. A bright side is it will allow more time for any wounds to heal if there is a primary battle on the Democratic side, something Roskam is likely to avoid on the Republican side.

However, I wouldn't overestimate the importance of this either. Regardless of the primary date, Roskam is still vulnerable. As Rep. Bean’s spokesperson observes, “Her record is the same in January as it is in March.” The same is true with Roskam. The wrong votes he as already cast will still be wrong no matter the month of the primary!

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Global Warming cited as "unequivocal"

So the big news the past few days has been the new report by hundreds of scientists on global warming declaring its existence “unequivocal” and man-made. Meanwhile, Al Gore had his global warming movie, an Inconvenient Truth, nominated for an Oscar. Even President Bush acknowledged global warming in his recent State of the Union address. Despite Exxon’s attempts to discredit science through bribery, it seems like everyone is at least on board that global warming is a problem and now we can start working for constructive solutions. Except for Rep. Roskam that is. What does he think about global warming? At a debate late year, he drew heckles from the crowd when he called global warming “junk science.” This is someone out of touch with reality and too conservative for Illinois.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Record profits for Exxon

Exxon Mobile just announced that it has posted the largest annual profits by any U.S. corporation ever - $39.5 billion! Good thing Rep. Roskam broke a campaign pledge and voted to give Exxon extra subsidies rather then to actually tax them and use that money for sustainable energy independence. But on the bright side, at least in Roskam's world seniors should have a better retirement. Back in the real work, my Grandmas and I still aren't celebrating and rejoicing at this news.

$140,000 cash on hand

The new FEC campaign figures were released earlier today, and it looks like Roskam had about $140,000 in the bank at the end of 2006. Hope to take a look later at where he raised some of these campaign funds from. But no one should get their hopes up that dumping him will be easy, he has plenty of time to raise more money and he himself made close to $700,000 in 2005 and has ample personal funds to dip into.

Roskam continues to vote out of step with Il-6

Rep. Roskam continues to be a rubber stamp for the Republican leadership too conservative for Il-6. Yesterday's out of touch vote was for a Fiscal 2007 Continuing Resolution, which in layman’s terms is the spending budget for 2007 that was needed because the Republicans failed to complete a budget when they were in power. This resolution would basically continue the 2006 budget but with added funding for veterans' health care, the National Institutes of Health, tenant-based housing vouchers, Pell Grants, and military housing allowances.

The bill passed overwhelmingly, 286-140. While I don’t have polling data, I think most Americans would support continued 2006 spending with these needed additions. But not Roskam – he once again joined the minority of hard line conservatives with his dissenting vote. Seeing him once again vote against the majority of Americans and his Congressional colleagues, I thought it would be interesting to look at the most recent polling to see how Roskam’s other early votes compare to public opinion. Not surprisingly, it is clear the Roskam is voting way too conservatively and is out of touch with the majority of Americans and Il-6 residents.

Now to be fair, there is very little Il-6 specific polling out there so most of the polls I cite are national polls. But lets face it, Il-6 is a battleground district in the Chicago suburbs so we would tend to be pretty similar to the rest of the country. None of the polls are really even close, but if anyone can give me a reason why Il-6 would be so radically different from the rest of America, I’m all ears. And remember, Wheaton college enrollees make up only a small part of the electorate and even there they now allow dancing – so you’ll have to come up with a better reason then that!

Anyways, without further ado I’d like to present Roskam’s early voting.

Minimum Wage – Jan. 10th – HR 2
Despite the fact 86% of Americans support raising the minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, Roskam still voted no. It passed the House overwhelmingly, 315-116.

Stem Cell Research – Jan. 11th – HR 3
Overall Americans support using stem cell research to help cure diseases by a nearly 2-1 margin with 61% in support against only 31% who oppose such a measure. All of the leading Illinois Universities strongly supported allowing this critical research. Even State House Republican Leader Tom Cross recognizes the popularity of using stem cell research to find cures, "Stem cell research has bi-partisan support in both chambers, just as it has overwhelming support across the state and across the country." Despite Roskam’s no vote, it sailed through the House 253-174.

Medicare Part D – Jan. 12th – HR 4
79% of Americans support having Medicare use its bulk purchasing power to negotiate for lower prescription drug prices while only 17% are in opposition. Does Roskam side with American seniors and the 79% who would like them to have access to cheaper prescription drugs? Of course not. Despite Roskam siding with the pharmaceutical industry, the bill easily passed the House 255-170.

Energy – Jan. 19th – HR 6
Already written several posts about this vote. Despite Roskam’s no vote, it passed by over 100 votes, 264-163.

Not that it was needed, but there you have it. Further proof that Roskam is out-of-touch with his constituents and too conservative for Il-6.