One of the more interesting intersections between the Internet and politics has been the ascendancy of political videos on YouTube. The phenomenon exploded this fall when the video of former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.) calling a staffer for now-Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) "macaca" likely cost him the election. But the flurry of political clips didn't subside with the election – this week three of the 20 most-viewed videos and three of the 20 top-rated videos feature members of Congress or parodies of them.
Shooting up the charts, for example, is this video of Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) positively railing against Republican members of the Senate last week. They were holding up the minimum wage increase bill in hopes of extracting concessions for impacted businesses. Kennedy exploded with anger, asking, "Do you have such disdain for hardworking Americans that you want to pile all your amendments on this? ... What is it about working men and women that you find so offensive that you won't permit even a vote... we don't want to hear any more from [Republicans] for the rest of this session about permitting and not permitting votes in here when you're denying a vote on the most simple concept, an increase in the minimum wage. We don't want to hear any more about that. This is filibuster by delay and amendments. I've been around here long enough to know it when I see it and when I smell it." To get an idea of what Kennedy was so incensed about, check out Congresspedia's page on the minimum wage increase bill, which includes details on the amendments. (The bill, incidentally, just passed a cloture vote and is headed to a final vote on Thursday or Friday.)
Last Wednesday, the House approved a rule change granting the four House delegates and the resident commissioner of Puerto Rico partial voting rights on the House floor. A similar rule was implemented in 1993 by a Democratic majority, but repealed in 1995 after Republicans took control of Congress. The resolution passed largely along party lines, 226-191.
In his State of the Union Address Tuesday night, President Bush asked Congress to not condemn his plan to send 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq off the bat, but to "give it a chance" first. In the face of widespread and growing public opposition to both the plan and the war itself, however, many members are voicing their discontent with Bush’s policy, and some are trying to stop it.
Freshman senator and rising Democratic star Jim Webb (D-Va.) delivered the main Democratic response to Bush's speech (response text). He spoke of the rising income inequality in America and the growing pressure globalization is putting on the middle and professional classes. He stopped short, however, of offering any detailed plans beyond noting that the House had passed the first minimum wage increase in 10 years. On the foreign policy front, Webb delivered a strong rebuke to Bush's troop "surge" plan:
We need a new direction. Not one step back from the war against international terrorism. Not a precipitous withdrawal that ignores the possibility of further chaos. But an immediate shift toward strong regionally-based diplomacy, a policy that takes our soldiers off the streets of Iraq’s cities, and a formula that will in short order allow our combat forces to leave Iraq.
The Harvard School of Public Health released a study Thursday revealing that the amount of nicotine in cigarettes has increased significantly since the major American tobacco companies signed the Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) in 1998. Predictably, Philip Morris (PM), in a media release available at their web site, denies the study results. The U.S. Surgeon General in 1988 warned that nicotine is as addictive as heroin and cocaine, but these drugs don't have decades of sophisticated R&D behind them aimed at heightening their addictiveness. Cigarettes, among the most highly engineered consumer products in the world, deliver nicotine into more people's bodies more times every day than aspirin. Still, they remain unregulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
In only forty-two hours of floor time, the Democratic-led House successfully passed all six of its "first 100 hours" initiatives. The final bill, the CLEAN (Creating Long-Term Energy Alternatives for the Nation) Energy Act of 2007, passed in a 264-163 vote last Friday. If approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Bush, the bill would do the following: