Monday, 20 August 2007

Michael Martin

While the Speaker of the House of Representatives is a partisan figure - belonging to and advocating the point of view of the majority party, the House of Commons Speaker is expected to be the servant of the House, particularly backbenchers - and shun their previous political party. In fact it is usual for a retired Speaker to be given a peerage - and in the House of Lords they sit as Cross-benchers. Michael Martin has been Speaker since 2000, and has indicated that he wishes to continue in the job after the next General Election. His election was controversial, because Conservatives claimed there was an informal rule that the two major parties took turns to provide the Speaker. Betty Boothroyd, his predecessor, had also been a Labour MP. (In fact the tradition was only of 30 years length).

Speaker Martin comes from Glasgow (b 3rd July 1945), the city he represents. [Currently Glasgow NE, before the last redistricting in Scotland it was a Glasgow seat known as Glasgow Springburn]. He was a sheet metal worker at Rolls Royce Aero Engines, who played an active role in his union. He entered Parliament in 1979. After serving on the Speaker's panel - chairing House of Commons committees, he became Deputy Speaker in 1997. Earlier he had served as Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) to Denis Healey.

In his spare time Mr Martin's interests are hill walking, folk music, local history - and he plays the Highland pipes. His son (he also has a daughter) is the Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Glasgow Springburn constituency.

Michael Martin is the first Catholic to be the Speaker since the Reformation. The House of Commons elected its first Speaker in 1376 - and Mr Martin is the 156th person to hold that position. By virtue of his position he has a residence within the Palace of Westminster. Each day before the Commons starts business the Speaker's Procession makes its way from the Speaker's House - via Central Lobby - to the Chamber.

Further information about the Speaker can be found at http://www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/m02.pdf

Friday, 17 August 2007

Nancy Pelosi

While Parliament and Congress are taking a break, Washminster will profile some of the key players in each legislature. Please do post any comments or additional information. Our first subject is Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives in this 110th Congress.

Ms Pelosi represents the 8th District of California, which covers most of San Francisco. She moved to California with her husband, Paul - who was originally from the Golden State.

The future Speaker was born into politics. Her father, Thomas D'Alesandro, was himself a member of the House of Representatives when Nancy was born. After serving in the House between 1939 and 1947, he was Baltimore's mayor for 12 years. She attended Trinity College in Washington DC, majoring in Political Science. Ms Pelosi was an intern for Maryland's Senator, Daniel B Brewster, working alongside Steny Hoyer, now Majority Leader in the House of Representatives.

After moving to California she played an active part in the political life of the State, chairing the California Democratic Party in the early 1980s. Elected to Congress for the first time in June 1987, she has worked her way up to the top of the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives. She was elected whip in 2001; Minority Leader in 2002 and when the Democrats regained the majority for the 110th Congress she became the first female Speaker. The scholar and commentator Norman Ornstein has described her as one of "the most savvy political figures around".

Ms Pelosi has set the record for the longest continuous period of service in history on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Personal Website: http://www.house.gov/pelosi/
Speaker's Website: http://speaker.gov/
Blog: http://www.speaker.gov/blog/

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

Ministerial Residences

In the United States there is the White House; Camp David; Number One Observatory Circle for the Vice President - in the UK there are a number of ministerial residences.

Number 10 Downing Street contains a residential flat, as does Number 11. Number 10 was originally offered as a personal gift to Sir Robert Walpole, which he declined for himself but accepted as a residence for the First Lord of the Treasury [now the formal title held by the person popularly known as the 'Prime Minister']. Number 11 has been the official residence of the Chancellor of the Exchequer since 1828, though Brown and Blair swopped flats in 1997.

The official country residence of the Prime Minister is Chequers, an Elizabethan mansion which was bequeathed to the nation in 1917 by Sir Arthur Lee MP, a soldier, diplomat & politician (and husband of an American heiress)who eventually became Viscount Lee of Fareham (1868-1947). It rests at the foot of the Chilterns not far from Princes Risborough.

Chevening in Kent has become the country residence of the Foreign Secretary, although the Earl of Stanhope left it to the nation in 1967 on condition that 'it was occupied by either the Prime Minister of the day, a Cabinet Minister or a descendant of King Charles VI'. It is a 115 room mansion in an estate of 3,500 acres near Sevenoaks. Some people believe that it was designed by Inigo Jones.

Dorneywood in Buckinghamshire has been regarded as the country residence of Chancellors of the Exchequer, though Deputy Prime Minister, John Prescott had use of it between 1999 and 2006. It is built in the Queen Anne style, but only in 1920. It has provoked mixed feelings - a former Deputy Director of the Conservative Research Department wrote in a letter to the Times - "Then (1950s), no one seemed to want it. Anthony Eden lived there briefly, but spent most of his weekends on the telephone to Chequers bickering with Churchill over foreign policy. Harold Macmillan, the next in line, turned it down. Eventually, however, it won the heart of Willie Whitelaw, even though Alan Clark, visiting him in 1986, ticked him off rudely for liking "this dreary redbrick house in flat country". However the BBC reported that, "When Alec Douglas-Home became prime minister in 1963 he was said to be reluctant to forsake the property for the antique surroundings of Chequers."
In London there are three ministerial flats in Admiralty House and Number 1 Carlton Gardens is regarded as the official London residence of the Foreign Secretary.

Hillsborough Castle, a mansion located in County Down, is the official residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

According to this week's Sunday Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2007/08/12/nhomes112.xml the allocation of residences has not yet been finalised, claiming "When ministers return from the summer recess, a scramble for properties reminiscent of the most cut-throat battles of the Monopoly board will commence."

The House of Commons Library has published a paper on ministerial residences which is available at http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/notes/snpc-03367.pdf

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Senator Hits Constituent

A rare 'man bites dog' story! In April 1917 the respected, 66 year old Senator Henry Cabot Lodge was in the newspapers for a very unusual reason. He hit one of his constituents! (even John Prescott didn't go that far).

The context was the fevered atmosphere before the United States' entry into the first world war. On the day of the fight President Wilson was to attend Congress to ask for a declaration of war. Anti-war campaigners had converged on Washington from around the country. Officials directed protesters to see their own Senators and Representatives. A delegation from Massachusetts went to the office of Senator Cabot Lodge. Graphic accounts of the confrontation are to be found in the Boston Daily Globe of 3rd August [Headline - Lodge on Top in Fist Fight: Stiff Blow to Jaw Floors Alexander Bannwart], which reported "The Senator was called to his door to hear the arguments of the visitors. There were harsh words and then blows were exchanged between the Senator, aged 67 [in fact he was a few weeks short of his birthday] and Alexander W Bannwart, 36 years old, of Dorchester, Mass, born in Switzerland of Swiss-German parents".

The delegation of seven included at least two ministers, and one woman - Mrs A M Peabody.

Both Senator Cabot Lodge and Mr Bannwart claim the other hit first. Mrs Peabody's account was that "the Senator said, 'the pacifists are cowards in talking of anything else'. Mr Bannwart then broke in and said, 'it isn't the pacifists who are cowards: it is the war people who are cowards'. Senator Lodge came out and went up to Mr Bannwart and said, 'If you call me a coward you are a damned liar' and Mr Bannwart replied, 'I might return the compliment'. Senator Lodge then struck him in the face, a frightful blow - the Senator was frightfully angry. Mr Bannwart struck him, and then a messenger rushed out and, seeing Senator Lodge falling back against the door, jumped on Mr Bannwart and pounded him till blood flowed from two cuts in Mr Bannwart's head"

Alexander Bannwart told a reporter, "I had no idea he was going to strike me. He just hauled me off and hit me as hard as he could. Then half a dozen fellows had a fine time trying to finish me off. That messenger boy had an especially good time"

Senator Cabot Lodge's account was that in response to being called a coward, "I went forward, up close to him and said, 'You're a Liar'. He struck me and I struck him". the Authorities believed Cabot Lodge's version which was backed by another Senator.
Bannwart had been born in Basel, Switzerland and had come to Boston whilst a boy. He attended Andover Academy and Princeton. He played baseball for the Lowell Club in the New England League, eventually assuming control of the club. He had joined after the club had been through a long losing struck, and was nicknamed, then known as 'Al Winn'.
Senator Cabot Lodge was the great-grandson of Senator George Cabot who sat in the Senate in the 1790s. Cabot Lodge was elected to the House of Representatives in 1887 where he sat until 1893 when he became a Senator, serving until his death in 1924. As chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he was the leading opponent of President Wilson's plan for the United States to be a member of the League of Nations. His grandson was also a Republican politician - a Senator; Nixon's running mate in the 1960 election and Ambassador to South Vietnam during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Moving Houses

Nothing looks as established as the sites of the four Houses that this blog follows - the House of Commons; the House of Lords; the House of Representatives and the US Senate - though all have moved.

Parliament once met wherever the King was, but over time Westminster became its exclusive site. The House of Lords was the first to have permanent accommodation. It met in the Painted Chamber for State Openings of Parliament and normally sat in the White Chamber. The House of Commons only gained its own chamber in the late 1540s - St Stephen's Chapel.

The Great Fire of 1834 destroyed most of the Palace of Westminster, and new chambers were built on the current sites. In 1941 a bomb destroyed the House of Commons and it met in the Chamber of the house of Lords until the current Commons chamber was opened in October 1950. In the meantime the Lords met in the Robing Room at the southern end of the Palace.

Congress has met in three cities. It's first home was Federal Hall in New York. From March 1789 until August 1790 the House of Representatives sat in a room on the first floor whilst the Senate met on the second floor (thus making it the 'upper house').

Philadelphia's County Courthouse, renamed Congress Hall, was the home during the 1790s. Again the House sat on the first floor and the Senate on the second floor.

When Congress moved to Washington in November 1800 on the North Wing of the building had been built. The House moved onto the 2nd floor of the west side while the senate took up residence on the 1st floor, on its eastern side. In 1801 a temporary wooden structure was put up on the foundations of the South wing. It looked like, and by all accounts, felt like an oven - which became its nickname.

The House returned to the North Wing in 1804 whilst a permanent South Wing was constructed. In March 1807 they moved into a chamber on the second floor.

This lasted only until August 24th 1814 when the British burned down the Capitol Building. For the next few years Congress had to sit in a building which stood on the current site of the Supreme Court. It was often refered to as the 'Old Brick Capitol'. The House met on the second floor and the Senate on the 1st.

In 1820 the rebuilt Congress Building reopened. The House sat in what is now Statuary Hall. The Senate returned to its chamber (which was from 1861 - 1935 the supreme Court, previously the Court occupied a basement room below it). With the rapid expansion of the United States these chambers had become too small and two new wings were added in the decade before the Civil War. The House moved into its present chamber in December 1857, whilst the current Senate was occupied from January 1859 (though troops moved in during a recess in 1861 - when they left a few weeks later the chamber was described as filthy and "alive with lice."

Sunday, 12 August 2007


Washington Redskins won their game - 14 to 6, but only snatched it in the last three minutes of the game (With only 3 minutes 3 seconds on the clock the Redskins were trailing 14-0!!!). Full stats are available at http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/live/NFL_20070811_WAS@TEN

The other big result overnight (in British terms) was the Romney win in the Republican Straw poll in Iowa. The former Massachussets Governor is claiming a great victory, but

* the big guns did not participate - Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson & John McCain stayed away
* Romney outspent everyone else - bigtime
* only 14,302 votes were cast, compared to almost 24,000 when the poll was last taken in 1999

The significant result was that right wing conservative, Senator Brownback, was forced into third position.

You can read more about the straw poll at
(Boston Globe) http://www.boston.com/news/nation/articles/2007/08/12/romney_trounces_gop_field_in_iowa_straw_poll/?page=2
(Kansas City Star) http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics/story/228416.html
(Daily Kos)http://www.dailykos.com/
(Huffington Post) http://www.huffingtonpost.com/huff-wires/20070811/iowa-straw-poll/
(Romney) http://www.mittromney.com/News/Press-Releases/Ames_Victory
(Huckabee) http://www.mikehuckabee.com/index.cfm?FuseAction=Blogs.View&Blog_id=274
(Brownback) http://www.brownback.com/s/Home/tabid/127/Default.aspx

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Washington Redskins

Tonight the Washington Redskins play their first pre-season game of 2007. They travel to Nashville for a 8pm (1am Sunday in the UK!!!!) start against the Tennessee Titans. The Redskins website can be found at http://www.redskins.com/. If you can't watch the game on TV (say you are a Brit to refuses to further add to the Murdoch wealth) you can follow the game on the internet at http://www.triplexespnradio.com/ (radio commentary) and full ball by ball scores on http://www.nfl.com/scores/

The Redskins began as a Boston team - set up in 1932, playing at "Braves Field", the Baseball stadium. They took the name the 'Boston Braves'. When they moved to Fenway Park the following year, they changed their name to the 'Redskins' (Fenway Park is the home of the Boston Red Sox).

In 1937 the franchise moved to the Capital, becoming at last the 'Washington Redskins'.

The Redskins last won a Superbowl in 1992 - you can read the Washington Post report on this victory at http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/sports/redskins/longterm/1997/history/allart/xxvi.htm.

Here's hoping that the team will return to its winning ways.......soon!

Friday, 10 August 2007


55 new members of Congress - freshmen - were elected to the House of Representatives last November (42 Democrats & 13 Republicans). House Leader Steny Hoyer has posted a video about the activities of the Democrat freshmen.

There is a website about the Democrat Freshmen at http://www.democraticfreshmen.org/index.php?option=com_frontpage&Itemid=1

The Congressional Research Service published a paper on the numbers of freshmen by party for each Congress in 2005, which can be found at

Thursday, 9 August 2007

John Dixwell (JD)

I live in a close just off Coton Park Drive, a road that takes its name from the nearby Coton House, now a management training centre.

Coton House was once the home of the Dixwell family. Edward Dixwell lived there at the beginning of the 17th Century - his youngest son John (1607-1689) was a Member of Parliament; a judge in the trial of Charles I and a signatory of the King's death warrant.

We don't know how much time John spent in the house near Rugby, but it is believed that he was brought up in Kent by his uncle, Sir Basil Dixwell of Brome. In 1646 he was elected as the MP for Dover.

The trial of Charles I was held in Westminster Hall. A description of the trial can be found at http://history.hanover.edu/courses/excerpts/212trial.html. It is claimed that the death warrant was signed in a room in the cloisters of St Stephens, where one of the offices of the Parliamentary Labour Party now stands. [Fiona Gordon, the Prime Minister's Political Secretary had her office in the room when Director of Political Services and Secretary of the PLP].

John Dixwell's signature is the last but one in the fifth column on the death warrant - a facsimile of which is currently on display in the Robing Room of the Palace of Westminster.

When the monarchy was restored in 1660 Dixwell fled to Prussia. It was a wise move - the 'regicides' who had died had their bodies dug up and abused; 24 ended up in royal dungeons, some being executed in particularly unpleasant ways - while just a dozen escaped. Little is known of Dixwell until he turned up five years later in New England. He settled eventually in New Haven, Connecticut - where he took the name 'James [sometimes 'John'] Davids', some knew him just as 'JD' and he described himself as a retired merchant. It was only on his deathbed that his true identity was revealed.

Dixwell died on 18th March 1689 and was buried on the New Haven Green between the (Center) church and the site of what is today, Yale University.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Balls Bluff

The American Civil War battle of Ball's Bluff was of little military significance - hence it is not as well known as Gettysburg; Antietam or the two battles of Bull Run - but it had important political consequences.

The battle was fought on Monday October 21st 1861, in the first year of the Civil War. Northern forces had suffered their first major shock in July at the first battle of Bull Run (known by the Confederates as first Manassas - [an explanation of the different names given to battles can be found at http://www.civilwarhome.com/battlenames.htm]). They had been confident of smashing the Confederate forces and marching on to Richmond - but were routed and returned, in a great hurry to Washington DC.

As concerns about the conduct of the war increased, there was another disaster at Balls Bluff, a few miles from Leesburg in North Virginia (30 miles as the crow flies from the centre of Washington) - upstream on the Potomac.

Intelligence had been received that General Joe Johnston was preparing to leave Leesburg. A small force under Brigadier General George McCall crossed over to the Virginia side of the Potomac to investigate, advancing as far as Dranesville (about 10 miles from Leesburg). On the Maryland side Brigadier General Charles P Stone was given orders to "keep a good lookout upon Leesburg to see if this movement has the effect to drive them (the Confederate forces) away. Perhaps a slight demonstration on your part would have the effect to move them."

A small party led by Captain Chase Philbrick carried out a reconnaissance during the night of 20th October, who reported seeing about 30 tents about a mile or so from Leesburg, but no camp fires or sentries (he was mistaken - there was no camp). Stone saw an opportunity for a raid. Part of the operation involved sending Colonel Edward Baker with a small force up Balls Bluff. He was given discretion to retire the troops if they came under fire or to bring reinforcements over the Potomac to secure the site. Baker chose to push as many troops as he could across the river and up the side of the cliff. Having organised the troop movements he made his way to the top of Balls Bluff. It was now about two o'clock in the afternoon. Federal forces were in an open field whilst the confederates were out of sight - some even climbing trees to get a good position from which to fire.

The result was a disaster for the Federal forces - and when Baker was walking in front of his men on the left of the Federal lines a group of confederate soldiers dashed out of the woods and one of their number, a big, red-headed man in shirt sleeves, shot directly at Baker with his revolver, killing Baker instantly.

The assassin was himself killed and Baker's body was taken down to the riverside. From that point on the disaster escalated. The confederates charged and many federal soldiers fell as they tried to make their retreat down the steep slope of Ball's Bluff. It also became obvious that there were insufficient boats to evacuate the troops. Days afterwards bodies of men drowned in the Potomac began to wash up in Washington itself.

The political significance of the Battle was that Colonel Edward D Baker was a serving US Senator, and close friend of the President, who had named his second son 'Edward Baker Lincoln' (1846-1850).

When the 37th Congress returned for its second session in December, critics of the conduct of the war called for the establishment of a committee "to inquire into the disasters of Bull Run" and Ball's Bluff. After discussion a resolution was passed "that a joint committee of three members of the Senate and four members of the House of Representatives be appointed to inquire into the conduct of the present war; that they have power to send for persons and papers, and to sit during the recess of either house of Congress"

So the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the Present War" was established. As I have mentioned in earlier posts, this committee was very controversial and some regard it as an example of the dangers of legislative committees attempting to micromanage Executive functions.

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

What are the limits on Free Speech?

"We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

How far is the 'unalienable right' of 'liberty' to be protected when the liberty claimed is freedom to speak or otherwise express oneself? The first amendment says "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petitionthe Government for a redress of grievances."

But there are many dilemmas to be faced - particularly when one person's speech threatens either the rights or interests of another individual, or the security and interests of society generally.

In Britain yesterday two important judgments were delivered in the Royal Courts of Justice. The editorial in the Independent says -

"Yesterday was a rare good day for free speech in Britain. The High Court granted the Heathrow operator, BAA, an injunction against three of the protest groups that are organising this summer's climate change camp outside the airport, but this falls far short of the type of restrictions the company originally wanted to impose on activists. Meanwhile, in another chamber of the same court, it was ruled that the police restrictions that have been placed on Westminster's most famous anti-war protestor, Brian Haw, are unlawful. "

Your comments are appreciated.

Monday, 6 August 2007

Fight Club

Politicians today seem well behaved compared to their predecessors. The red lines in the Chamber of the House of Commons are a reminder of the days when members would resort to sword fighting. Fights broke out on the floor of the House of Representatives. In February 1927 the following resolution was submitted by Representative James A Gallivan (Democrat, Massachusetts )

Whereas the physical exercise of hostile encounter by means of human fists is becoming of daily occurrence in the House of Representatives; and

Whereas such encounters are being conducted in an irregular manner, with small regard to race, weight, reach, height, or classification of Members to insure equality and fair fighting; and

Whereas most of the principal communities of the United States have boxing boards or commissions, whose duty it is to regulate the sport and insure fair play: Therefore be it

Resolved, That a committee be appointed by the Speaker of the House, who shall be chairman ex officio, to be known as the Boxing Board of the House of Representatives, to have full authority in the arranging of bouts between Members according to weight, corporeal and mental, age, and experience; and it be further

Resolved, That said board shall arrange to hold the bouts in Statuary Hall, under the paternal eyes of the fathers of the Republic, and under no circumstaces shall said board authorize bouts either in the House of Represetatives or before committees of the House unless contestants sign written agreements, approved by the chairman, to abstain from hair pulling, profanity, and tobacco chewing, and the use of wrist watches or flasks; and be it further

Resolved, That the Honorable William D Upshaw, of Georgia, is appointed permanent referee of all bouts held under the jurisdiction of said board, his salary and expenses to be paid out of the contingent fund of the House."


Note - William David Upshaw was a congressman from Georgia nicknamed "Billy Sunday of Congress" who was a strong advocate of prohibition (In 1932 he was the Prohibition Party candidate for the Presidency) - he became known as the "driest of the drys." and had been instrumental in making Georgia the first 'dry' state in the South. He fought to eliminate the teaching of evolution from public schools. When he was 18 years of age he fractured his spine and was crippled. He was confined to bed for the following 7 years, and afterwards was reliant on crutches. He served in Congress from 1919 to 1927.

In February 1951, at Calvary Temple, Los Angeles, the Rev. William Branham of Jeffersonville, Indiana was holding a healing meeting. After Branham was carried, exhausted from the pulpit, the pastor of the Temple returned to announce, "Brother Branham says 'The Congressman is healed!'". Upshaw laid aside his crutches and enjoyed the full use of his legs until his death in November 1952.

Saturday, 4 August 2007


It's not often that I recommend an opinion piece in a newspaper, but I'll make an exception for Martin Kettle's article in today's Guardian entitled "Don't do it, Gordon - that snap election is a siren song".

Whilst election day is fixed in the United States, in Britain polling day follows the dissolution of parliament by the Queen. She follows the advice of her Prime Minister (except in the exceptional circumstance when Parliament has not been dissolved, and it is the 5th anninversary of the first meeting of the Parliament, whereupon dissolution is automatic). A Prime Minister has the tremendous power (and responsibility) of selecting Election Day.

Rumours of an early election - perhaps even later this year! - have become louder. Gordon Brown has proved popular and the Tories appear in disarray.

The advantages of calling an election while your party is unchallenged in the polls are obvious. There has also been a campaign challenging the 'legitimacy' of Brown's premiership - since he was not the leader of the Labour Party at the time of the 2005 General Election. This campaign is in my view bogus. All precedents are against it - the legitimacy of Chamberlain; Churchill; Macmillan; Douglas-Home; Callaghan and Major was not undermined by the fact that they succeeded the election winning Premier without calling an immediate General Election! In any event, we do not directly elect the Prime Minister - the leader of the party with a majority in the House of Commons is invited to be the Prime Minister.

So should Gordon call an early election? Read Martin Kettle's article - and post your comments here.

Martin Kettle's piece can be found at


Friday, 3 August 2007


The last few days before Congress breaks for the summer have been intense. Last night the House rose at 11.18pm. There are a number of hearings and both Houses are due to sit. According the Washington Post scheduled business will be:-

In session.

Senate Armed Services (8 a.m.): Meets to receive a closed briefing relating to the treatment of detainees. 222 Russell.

Meets at 9 a.m. for legislative business.

House Judiciary (1 p.m.): Immigration, Citizenship, Refugees, Border Security, and International Law Subcommittee holds a markup of H.R.738, Private Bill for the relief of Manuel Bartsch; H.R.2575, Private Bill for the relief of Mikael Adrian Christopher Figueroa Alvarez; H.R.2760, Private Bill for the relief of Shigeru Yamada. 2141 Rayburn.

House Armed Services (9 a.m.): Meets to receive a classified briefing from Defense Deputy Secretary England. Note: There will be a stakeout in the Rayburn horseshoe lobby. 2118 Rayburn.

House Administration (10 a.m.): Task Force Investigating the 2006 Election Contest in Florida's 13th District holds a hearing on the progress of the Government Accountability Office's investigation into the election. 1310 Longworth.

Washminster will be published over the summer - though perhaps not every day! Keep 'tuning in'.

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Don't miss this video

I have just come across a superb video - 'Brownback Girl' - enjoy!


(this blog post is not an endorsement of Sam Brownback or any other presidential candidate!!!!)

Here Comes Summer

Congress is about to break for summer - and the Democratic Majority Leader has published a summary of the work of the 110th Congress. It is available at http://majorityleader.house.gov/docuploads/110thSevenMonthProgressReport.pdf

The Republican minority has a different take on the work of this Congress. Their paper is available at http://republicanleader.house.gov/brokenpromises/index.html.

The last few days are certainly proving controversial, with claims and counterclaims about breaches of promises. Steny Hoyer, the House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (MD) released the following statement after Republicans refused to complete a unanimous consent agreement on the FY08 Agriculture Appropriations Bill:

"Democrats have worked for two months in good faith to complete the 12 FY08 appropriations bills under an open process according to the agreement reached between Mr. Boehner, Mr. Obey and myself last month.

"We completed 10 bills under this agreement and brought the eleventh, the Agriculture Appropriations bill, to the Floor under an open rule.

"But last night Republicans breached the agreement. Again today, Democrats offered to negotiate a unanimous consent agreement on the Agriculture Appropriations Bill - but Republicans refused to come to agreement. Republicans know full well that without a unanimous consent agreement, Democrats will have to bring this bill to the Floor under a different rule. It is clearly Republicans' desire to force that situation so that they may criticize the process and try to score political points, rather than work on important policy and allow Congress to move the people's agenda.

"Republicans will claim they are victims, but it is a self-inflicted wound about which they will complain. Republicans have made it clear that they choose partisanship over proceeding with the people's business. Democrats have exercised patience but we will not allow the business of the House to be ground to a halt. It is unfortunate that Republicans - at the 11th hour of this process - have put their political goals ahead of what is good for the people."

Yesterday both Houses considered bills related to Children's health cover - I watched the House debate on C-Span, unfortunately the time difference meant I got to sleep VERY late, but it was well worth viewing. A visit to the websites of both leaders will reveal the intensity of feeling over the issue - which was very evident last night.

Wednesday, 1 August 2007

How to be a Senator

'The Hill' Newspaper is one of the regular, and very useful, publications about Congress. It is available in hard copy in Washington DC and can be accessed through the internet at http://www.hillnews.com/. On its website there are a number of interesting and informative videos.

The most recent is a short video of Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland. He was elected to the Senate last November, after serving in the House of Representatives for the Baltimore area since 1986. Aged 23 he was elected to the Maryland House of Delegates, and became its Speaker before election to the House of Representatives.

In this video he discusses the challenges and opportunities of being a Senator, making some interesting contrasts between the two Houses.

The video can be seen at