On June 19th California Congressman Mike Thompson voted against a Senate amendment to H.R. 2642, the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2008. The amendment was passed anyway with 268 Yes, 155 No, and 12 not voting and apparently added $165 billion to the omnibus bill specifically to fund the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The full bill had passed the House on June 15th, 2007, that is right, one year ago, and then passed the Senate on September 6, 2007, but has been a political football ever since. I don't think the vote on the amendment means much, it is just political maneuvering [see Washington Post comment below]. The final bill will have the war money in it, and some members will cast symbolic votes against it, depending on their electoral and fundraising needs. If you want to see a mess, look at the amendments proposed for this bill.
In more decipherable votes ...
Mike Thompson joined 408 of his fellow congresspersons to vote 409 to 15 for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration Authorization Act of 2008 [H.R. 6063], expanding NASA's operations. While I like the space science program in general, I have to wonder why a supposedly fiscally conservative Blue Dog Democrat would be spending so much money on such a non-essential program when the nation is running such a massive budget deficit.
He also voted Yes on the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act [H.R. 5781], which passed the House with 278 Yes, 146 No votes and 10 not voting on June 19. This bill provides that 8 of the 12 weeks of parental leave for newborn babies made available to a Federal employee will be paid leave. Some of this is accumulated sick leave or vacation pay. I think it is great that people are able to spend a lot of time with newborns, but why give a privilege to federal employees that is denied to the rest of us? And why does Mike Thompson have a great medical insurance plan at taxpayer expense, but refuse to support universal, single-payer health insurance that would lower total national health insurance costs and provide for good medical services for all?
The FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Amendments Act of 2008, H.R. 6304, shields telecommunications companies from private lawsuits, extending the government's ability to eavesdrop on everyone. According to the Washington Post, this resulted from the Democrats bargaining with President George W. Bush, getting "domestic spending additions to an emergency war funding bill. Taken together, the bills -- two of the last major pieces of legislation to be approved by Congress this year -- suggest that Bush still wields considerable clout on national security issues but now must acquiesce to Democratic demands on favored domestic priorities to secure victory. The war spending bill, for example, includes $162 billion for the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan and an additional $95 billion worth of domestic spending." H.R. 6304 passed the House by a vote of 293 Yes, 129 No, with 13 not voting. Mike Thompson voted No. By party, 105 Democrats and 188 Republicans voted Yes, while 128 Democrats and one Republican voted no.
For those of you who wonder why 105 Democrats would vote Yes for a Republican bill that George Bush wanted, know that votes are often stage-managed. Nancy Pelosi had to promise enough votes to pass this bill and the funding of the Wars, otherwise the whole corrupt bargaining system that is the Federal government might collapse. So she got some domestic spending in return for assigning Democrats in safe or relatively conservative districts to vote with the Republicans. Democrats in liberal, anti-war districts could then vote against these measures, without endangering the corrupt bargain. They are terrified that genuine anti-war candidates might pull off enough votes to upset their otherwise-guaranteed re-elections. Thompson, who has a long record of voting with George W. Bush and the Republicans, is facing a serious challenge from Green Party candidate Doctor Carol Wolman.
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Mike Thompson is the current elected member of the United States House of Representatives for California's 1st Congressional District.