Monday, April 15, 2013

A Trip Down Memory Lane: Which Progressives Stood Strong against Clinton's Bipartisan "Accomplishments"?

With the re-entry of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) into the national debate because of the current Supreme Court case, I thought it would be a good time to revisit some of the anti-progressive bipartisan "accomplishments" of Bill Clinton's presidency.  All too often, when a bill passes with majorities or near-majorities in both parties, it is probably working against the public interest and depriving people of rights.  Our current President's pathological desire for a Grand Bargain to take pennies from the rich and dollars from the poor demonstrates that anti-progressive bipartisanship is certainly alive and well.

As Bill Clinton's presidency and my years of elementary school overlapped almost perfectly, I was not particularly politically active or aware of the major legislation happening at the time.  However, from my readings of politics past and present, I would highlight the following four bills as the landmarks of the anti-progressive bipartisanship of the Clinton years: NAFTA, welfare "reform," DOMA, and the repeal of Glass-Steagall.  All except for NAFTA received the approval of over half the Democratic caucus in both houses: NAFTA had a slim majority of Senate Democrats and roughly 2/5 of House Democrats.

Democrats often like using the Clinton years as a foil for the Bush years because of the incidental prosperity of the 1990s; however, the Democratic shift to the right with Bill Clinton and the rise of the DLC give warrant to Rachel Maddow's description of Bill Clinton as "the best Republican president the country ever had" rather than a progressive Democrat.

Returning to the bills I noted above, I thought it would be interesting to see which progressives consistently voted against all four.


The North America Free Trade Act (NAFTA) passed 61 (27D, 34R)-38 (26D, 12R) in the Senate and 234 (102D, 132R) -200 (155D, 43R, 1 I, 1DFL) in the House.

The Senate Democrats who voted against this job-killing bill were the following:
Howell Heflin (D-AL), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Wendell Ford (D-KY), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), Carl Levin (D-MI), Donald Riegle (D-MI), Paul Wellstone (D-MN), Kent Conrad (D-ND), James Exon (D-NE), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Richard Bryan (D-NV), Harry Reid (D-NV), Daniel Moynihan (D-NY), John Glenn (D-OH), Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH), Harris Wofford (D-PA), Fritz Hollings (D-SC), James Sasser (D-TN), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Robert Byrd (D-WV), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV)

The list in the House, of course, is too long, but you can find it here.

Welfare "reform," the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act, passes the Senate 78 (53R, 25D) - 21 (all D).  It passes the House 328(225R, 100D, 2 D/R, 1DFL) – 101 (2R, 98D, 1I).

Despite a brief decline in the poverty rate in the late 1990s because of the good economy, the poverty rate has been on the increase even though the national TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) caseload has declined by 60 percent.  Welfare "reform" shifted the government's anti-poverty efforts from cost-sharing to block grants and remained blind to the state of the economy.
So who stood strong against the gutting of welfare?

21 Senators: Dale Bumpers (D-AR), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Christopher Dodd (D-CT), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Carol Mosley Braun (D-IL), Paul Simon (D-IL), Edward Kennedy (D-MA), Paul Sarbanes (D-MD), Paul Wellstone (D-MN), Robert Kerrey (D-NE), Bill Bradley (D-NJ), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Daniel Moynihan (D-NY), John Glenn (D-OH), Claiborne Pell (D-RI), Tom Daschle (D-SD), Pat Leahy (D-VT), Patty Murray (D-WA)

And 101 Representatives: 98 Democrats, 2 Republicans, and 1 Independent (Bernie, of course).  You can see the list here.

This year, the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which banned the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages or civil unions performed by the states, passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in both houses.

It passed the Senate 85 (53 R, 32 D)- 14 (all D).

The 21 Democrats who voted against DOMA were the following:
Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Diane Feinstein (D-CA), Daniel Akaka (D-HI), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), Carol Mosley Braun (D-IL), Paul Simon (D-IL), Ted Kennedy (D-MA), John Kerry (D-MA), Robert Kerrey (D-NE), Daniel Moynihan (D-NY), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Claiborne Pell (D-RI), Charles Robb (D-VA), Russ Feingold (D-WI)

It passed the House 342 - 67.  The 342 supporters consisted of 219 Republicans, 120 Democrats, 2 Democrats turned Republican, and 1 DFL'er.  The 67 opponents consisted of 65 Democrats, 1 Republican, and 1 Independent (Bernie, of course).    You can see the full list here.

In 1999, Congress passed the Financial Services Modernization Act, also known as the Graham-Leach-Blilely Act, also known as the repeal of Glass-Steagall, also known (by me) as the "Retroactive Legalization of Citigroup Act of 1999."  Crony capitalism and financial deregulation par excellence.

This bill passed the Senate 90-8.  The 8 progressive holdouts were the following:
Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard Bryan (D-NV), Byron Dorgan (D-ND), Russ Feingold (D-WI), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Richard Shelby (R-AL), Paul Wellstone (D-MN)

The "Retroactive Citigroup Legalization Act of 1999" passed the House 362-57.  The 362 proponents  consisted of 208 Republicans, 152 Democrats, 1 DFL'er, and 1 Democrat/Independent.  The 57 opponents included 51 Democrats, 5 Republicans, and 1 Independent (Bernie, of course).  You can read that full list here.  (Govtrack falsely categorizes George Miller as a Republican.)
If we go through all of the lists, then we find that only ONE Senator, Barbara Boxer, consistently voted against all four bills.

THIRTEEN Representatives voted consistently against all four bills:
Julian Dixon (D-CA) (d. 2000)
George Miller (D-CA)
Maxine Waters (D-CA)
Henry Waxman (D-CA)
Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) (r. 2013)
John Lewis (D-GA)
Cynthia McKinney (D-GA) (r. 2007)
Barney Frank (D-MA) (r. 2013)
John Conyers (D-MI)
Jose Serrano (D-NY)
Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) (r. 2013)
William Coyne (D-PA) (r. 2003)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

(Quick note: Because of the inevitable turnover in Congress, each bill would not be facing a vote from the same 535 individuals. Many of the well-known progressives in Congress today---Ellison, Grijalva, Schakowksy, Lee--arrived in Congress in 1998 and after, so they wouldn't be on record for all/any of the four.)

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