Thursday, December 22, 2005

So Where Was Emanuel?

The other day, Lynn Sweet had an article on Emanuel's arm twisting on the Sensenbrenner immigration bill:
Friday, the House approved an immigration bill by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) that most Democrats regarded as anti-immigrant and needlessly punitive. It is unlikely to survive in the Senate. The measure was approved 239-182, with 36 Democrats voting with the GOP majority.

"As painful as it is for me to come to this conclusion, after careful examination of all of the events last Friday I have come to the conclusion that indeed the chair of the DCCC either asked, encouraged or cajoled people to vote for the Sensenbrenner bill," Gutierrez told me.


The Hill, a newspaper covering Congress, ran a story Tuesday about how members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and their allies were "furious" that Emanuel and Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) were lobbying incumbents who were GOP targets next year to vote "yes" on Sensenbrenner.


Emanuel, on vacation, released a statement after I asked his office whether he lobbied anyone for a vote: "I voted against the Sensenbrenner bill and have opposed it every step of the way.

So is this how we defeat the Republicans and take back the House? Vote with them on terrible bills like this? How do we contrast the Democratic Party from the Republican Party when we do this? Do we vote against it before we vote for it? That worked so well in 2004.

But the comment that gets my attention is that on Monday Emanuel was "on vacation." Are you kidding me? Congress was in session. He's suppose to be there to serve, not taking a vacation. Is he following Bush's lead here? What's worse, Emanuel seems to be on vacation during one of the most important votes this year - the vote on the Republican pushed Budget Bill that cut funding for social programs while giving tax cuts to the rich. Six Democrats missed this vote. The bill passed by six votes. For the head of the DCCC to miss this vote is inexcusable. Sirota has more:
The Washington Post reports that when asked, Emanuel's spokeswoman said "Emanuel had a family obligation." Is that code for "on vacation?"

This is a really important question that Emanuel needs to answer - and I should say, it is still possible he had a good reason, and if he does, then I will stand down (though it better be a pretty compelling reason considering Republican Rep. Joe Barton managed to make the vote 4 days after being hospitalized for a heart attack). Democrats should know whether the guy who is supposed to be leading the charge to take back the House was loafing around on vacation when the most important votes of the year were being cast - votes where, the more Democrats who vote for against the bills, the more vulnerable Republicans have to vote for it and potentially open themselves up to criticism on the campaign trail.

So we're waiting, Congressman Emanuel, for a real explanation. Because it's time to know whether vacation is more important than stopping a bill that slashed an incredible $40 billion out of Medicaid, child care assistance, and other key priorities.

Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), one of the six missing Democrats, has since explained her absence. She missed the vote due to a death in her family. That is most certainly a reason to miss any vote, even an important vote like this one. But we are still waiting to hear from the other five Democrats, and most notably, the head of the DCCC, Rep. Rahm Emanuel.