● The Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction (JSC), co-chaired by Senator Patty Murray (D/Washington) and Representative Jeb Hensarling (R/Texas), has admitted failure this afternoon.
● Late last week, to much fanfare, the leaders of the House and Senate agriculture committees announced agreement on a new multi-year Farm Bill package, highly favorable to specialty crops, that was to be inserted in the overall budget package to be approved by the JSC prior to Thanksgiving Day. The future of this stealth Farm Bill now is, to say the least, murky. My bet is that it is dead as a stand-alone proposal.
● Blame for the failure of the JSC is now in full bloom and the blighted flowers are being laid on various political doorsteps. The GOP blames free-spending Democrats, Majority Leader Harry Reid, and a passive President Obama. Democrats are focusing on a refusal on the part of Republicans to be realistic about the need for any new taxes, thus unfairly protecting its rich supporters.
● Last week I read Jack Abramoff’s memoirs: Capitol Punishment; The Hard Truth About Washington Corruption From America’s Most Notorious Lobbyist. You may remember this Washington, D.C., former Republican political operative for his going to jail in 2006 on political corruption charges arising from his work on behalf of tribal gambling. Two things of special interest to me from this largely forgettable book: 1. Abramoff gives quite a bit of coverage to his early lobbying career in Washington, D.C., while with Preston Gates Ellis and Rouvelas Meeds. This was a highly respected Seattle-based law firm, notable for having the father of Microsoft’s Bill Gates as a named partner along with Lloyd Meeds, a former Democratic congressman from the state of Washington. Preston Gates later merged in 2007 with a Pittsburgh law firm and became the current K&L Gates, which now has some 2,000 lawyers located in 39 offices; and, 2. Abramoff describes in detail the rise of a Republican operative, Grover Norquist. This is the same Norquist who created “The Taxpayer Protection Pledge” (No New Taxes!) signed by almost all Republicans currently in Congress and that is cited by many television talking-heads as a major difficulty for reaching bipartisan agreement by the JSC.
POLITICAL FRUIT: “White House spokesman Eric Schultz said the e-mail threads [related to the Department of Energy’s funding of Solyndra] were incomplete and out of context but supported the administration’s position that it had done nothing wrong. ‘Even the documents cherry-picked by House Republicans today affirm ….’” The Washington Post, November 10, 2011.