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John Kline's Record

Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Rowley Record: Rowley Hits a Klinker

From today's Star Tribune:

Rep. John Kline demanded and got an apology Monday from his Democratic rival, Coleen Rowley, for a doctored picture on her campaign website depicting him as Colonel Klink, a bumbling Nazi prison camp commandant in an old TV comedy series.


Rowley, a retired FBI agent, said she would phone Kline to apologize.

"I'm going to say that ... it was in bad taste. ... This was a Nazi uniform and I didn't grasp that impact, and I apologize for any bad feeling that he got from that," she said in a phone interview. "But I would not apologize for thinking that his representation of our [Second] district has been incompetent. I think that many, many things that John Kline has uttered have been incorrect."

Okay, first things first. Rowley showed poor judgement in approving the use of the photo on her website. The photo was in poor taste. A congressional campaign should be about issues and ideas, not mocking caricatures of your opponent.

That said, Rowley's opponents are blowing this thing way out of proportion. For one thing, although they claim to be shocked at how awful the photo is, they sure seem to be fond of it.

For another . . . um, it was intended to humorously mock Kline, not call him a Nazi. See, the names happen to be quite similar: "Colonel Kline", "Colonel Klink", get it? And really, Colonel Klink isn't a Nazi, he's a 1960's sitcom character (and the character wasn't even a Nazi, just a member of the regular German military).

But the real meat of the issue is the way Rowley responded when John Kline expressed his anger. She immediately took down the photo, posted a public apology on her web site, and made an effort to contact Kline to apologize to him personally. What's more, she could easily have blamed it on a staffer or volunteer (anyone remember Mel Martinez?), but she didn't. She took personal responsibility for the conduct of her campaign.

Care to know the name of someone who hasn't taken responsibility in this manner, on an issue which mattered more than a clownish photoshopped image? John Kline. Unfortunately I can't link to it, but this is from the October 20, 2000 edition of the Pioneer Press:

The Republican Party of Minnesota aired a so-called contrast ad on Kline's behalf. It alleges Rep. Bill Luther, the three-term Democrat, voted against smaller class sizes in schools, teacher merit pay and tenure reforms.

The best face that can be put on these charges is that they grossly twist the circumstances of a 1999 vote in Congress. A fair analysis is that the ad sets out to tell a lie and does so.

In July 1999, the House was voting on the New Teachers and Training Programs legislation, which had several parts. A key difference between the Republican majority's bill and the version most Democrats, including Luther, voted for was that the Democrats were backing President Clinton's proposal to hire 100,000 new teachers in addition to features in both versions of the bill on merit, tenure, class size and other federal commitments to public education. The Republican version wanted to end certain federal education programs and substitute block grants to the states.

Luther voted for the Democratic version, which didn't pass but did include performance standards for teachers hired with federal money, the Clinton teachers, added $100 million in federal money for charter schools, and left tenure reform up to states.

So the reality is not that Congressman Luther is against improving and supporting public education, as the ad on behalf of Kline says, but that Luther didn't vote for a Republican version of how to deliver federal aid to schools.

Scot Crockett, Kline's campaign manager, said Luther did take the vote and that they stand by the allegations in the ad.

When the state GOP ran a misleading ad on Kline's behalf, an ad which, according to the Pioneer Press, "sets out to tell a lie and does so", Kline didn't disavow the ad or even choose to distance himself from it by claiming that his campaign has no control over what the state GOP does (like Bush did with the Swift Boat Veterans last year). When given the opportunity to take responsibility for his campaign and disavow sleaze tactics, he instead chose to "stand by the allegations".

Rowley made a poor choice in letting that photo get on her web site; I will be very disappointed if she makes a similar error in judgement in the future. But when it comes to things like ethical behavior and accountability, there is a clear difference between the candidates, and it's not favorable to Kline.

Monday, January 30, 2006

The Kline Record: The 2005 Congressional Record

Having summarized John Kline's floor activity as presented in the Congressional Record in 2003 and 2004, we now start to close the gap and document what he did in 2005. Using his first term in Congress as a guide, we should be able to finish this task before the Steelers battle the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.

Kline kicked off the 109th Congress in January 2005 in his usual feel-good, symbolic and ineffectual manner by leading the Pledge of Allegiance on January 20th, then saluting the Lakeville High School Panther Band on January 25th.

But then Kline got serious, and practically did more in the first 9 days of February 2005 than he did in his entire first term. Specifically, he reported at length about his recently completed trip to Iraq and Afghanistan, led debate on H. Con. Res. 36 to require colleges and universities to permit military recruiters on campus, and spoke in favor of a nonbinding resolution to allow the Department of Defense to continue to support the Boy Scouts, even though the Boy Scouts organization discriminates against gays. He was so preoccupied with all of this that he neglected to honor Ronald Reagan's birthday for the first time in three years (I'm sure he won't make the same mistake this year).

Actually, the Boy Scout speech is pretty much John Kline standard airy fare, so I'll publish that speech here, then address the other two speeches in more depth in subsequent posts:

Madam Speaker, I rise today to express my strong support for the Boy Scouts of America and the right of the Department of Defense to continue their support of this proud organization.

The Boy Scouts of America enjoys a long tradition of excellence. For nearly a century young men have joined the scouts, and have come away with essential life skills and character building experiences. Many of my colleagues here today claim alumni status in the Boy Scouts and credit their scouting experience in the development of a commitment to civic responsibility. I am proud to include myself in this group. And, I am especially proud that my son, now a major in the U.S. Army is an Eagle Scout.

The Department of Defense has long shared in the support of the Boy Scouts and their mission of preparing young people to make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes. Unfortunately, a small group threatens to put in jeopardy the well-being of this outstanding organization for the purposes of political grandstanding.

I stand today with my colleagues to encourage the Department of Defense to continue their critical support of the Boy Scouts of America, and protect their constitutional right to free speech.

One thing that I missed on my first reading of this speech is that Kline appears to be arguing that the Department of Defense has a "constitutional right to free speech" (read the opening and closing paragraphs carefully). The Constitution protects the right of individuals to express themselves, but I don't believe there's a constitutional lawyer in the country who would argue that units of the federal government enjoy the same protection, especially when the "speech" in question is really indirect financial support of a private organization.

Setting that aside, Kline defends a conservative position without addressing the main objection to it. Sure the Boy Scouts has a "long tradition of excellence". Sure the Scouts prepare young people to "make ethical and moral choices over their lifetimes". The problem, which Kline ignores, is that the Scouts only allow you to participate in this tradition of excellence and benefit from their moral guidance if you happen not to be gay. If you are unfortunate enough to be a gay teen, then the Scouts want nothing to do with you. And as a private organization, it is their right to maintain membership requirements as they see fit --- but the federal government shouldn't support an organization which actively practices discrimination.

If the Boy Scouts had a policy banning blacks or Hispanics, no one would even consider drafting such a resolution, much less speaking in support of it. And if the Boy Scouts banned Baptists, conservatives like John Kline would be leading the charge to have the group sent to Guantanamo Bay. But since the Scouts reject gays, a group the religious right loves to marginalize, John Kline and the rest of the Republicans in Congress can't wait to support them, and charge their detractors with "political grandstanding".

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Kline Record: 2004 Year in Review

Here's a complete log of freshman congressman John Kline's floor activity during his second full year in the House of Representatives:

  • January: Served as Speaker Pro Tem on January 21.
  • February: Made his annual speech recognizing Ronald Reagan's birthday.
  • March: Served as Speaker Pro Tem several times, and responded to a somewhat unfair attack on George Bush's military record with an unfair attack of his own.
  • April: Used the House floor to launch an unfair and nakedly partisan election-year attack on John Kerry, and to tell an inspiring story about a soldier qualifying to serve in Iraq after losing a leg in Afghanistan.
  • May: Did another stint as Speaker Pro Tem, honored the retiring Lakeville City Administrator, and claimed that he and other Republicans deserve credit for introducing limited flexibility for students with disabilities to NCLB.
  • June: Decried $336 million worth of waste in the Pell Grant program, paid tribute to the first Minnesotan killed in Iraq (11 months after the fact), did a stint as Speaker Pro Tem, eulogized Ronald Reagan and saluted the UM women's hockey team for their national title.
  • July: Did a stint as Speaker Pro Tem.
  • August: None. (Congress did not convene in August.)
  • September: Was Speaker Pro Tem at least 5 times and spoke in support of a resolution honoring the families of service members.
  • October: Spoke in opposition to reinstating the draft.
  • November: Served as Speaker Pro Tem once again and handily won re-election.
  • December: Led the Pledge of Allegiance at least once and honored retiring Minnesota Commissioner of Veterans Affairs, Jeff Olsen.

It's hard to believe, but in terms of floor activity it appears that John Kline accomplished even less in 2004, an election year, than he did in 2003, his first year in Congress. Although he only made three speeches which could fairly be called "policy speeches" both years, in 2003 he presented actual legislation and discussed it on the House floor three separate times. Additionally, Kline made a total of 10 "feel good" speeches honoring a collegiate athletics team, retiring bureaucrat or Ronald Reagan in 2003, but only 7 such speeches in 2004, along with two speeches attacking Democrats.

I wonder if Kline will continue this "do nothing" trend in 2005?

John Kline's Summer Vacation: 2004

Having worn himself out in June 2004 with a personal-best four floor speeches, John Kline kicked back for the month of July, contributing nothing in the way of floor speeches while serving as Speaker Pro Tem just once, on July 20.

Congress did not convene in August, 2004.

In September 2004, John Kline once again served as Speaker Pro Tem on the 7th, 13th, 14th, 15th and 28th. And on September 22, he spoke in support of a resolution honoring the families of members of the Armed Forces.

On October 5, Kline spoke in opposition to a bill which would reinstate the draft.

On November 19, Kline once again served as Speaker Pro Tem.

On December 6, Kline led the House in the Pledge of Allegiance, and made a speech honoring Minnesota Commissioner of Veterans Affairs, Jeff Olsen, on the occasion of his retirement.

Apart from the anti-draft speech, I think it's fair to say that John Kline's summer vacation in 2004 ran for the entire final six months of the year.

Oh, and one more thing: on November 2, 2004, Kline was re-elected to Congress by a whopping 16-point margin. Rather impressive, given his lightweight record of achievements in his first term.

Here's the October 5 anti-draft speech. Note that for all he does to extol the virtues of today's all-volunteer army --- points which may well be perfectly valid --- he completely ignores the underlying reason why Democrats proposed reinstating the draft in the first place: that America doesn't have the troop strength required to fight all the wars George Bush seems intent on fighting, and it is disproportionately underprivileged Americans who join the military because they have few other options. This problem hasn't gotten any better in the last year and a half.

  • Mr. Speaker, I rise today in strong opposition to H.R. 163 and urge my colleagues to overwhelmingly reject not only this election year "scare tactic" but the increasingly archaic policy of universal conscription.
  • Since the founding of our nation over two hundred years ago, the U.S. military has reluctantly used conscription to rapidly fill the ranks of an often undermanned and under funded military force in the face of grave national threats. Today, we live in a nation united under a single representative government that has faced and defeated the global threats of fascism and communism. A vital component of these victories was the evolution of the U.S. military from a garrison force, reinforced by conscripts in times of national emergency, to the present-day, all-volunteer military which now ably defends our nation from the deadly violence of international terrorism.
  • Like a large portion of our population, I am old enough to recall America's last attempt at conscription. More significantly, as a junior officer in the Marine Corps near the end of the Vietnam conflict, I witnessed first-hand many of the unfortunate repercussions of the military draft policy--the migration of a drug culture into the ranks, race riots, and the lack of unit camaraderie that leads to mission success.
  • I am proud to say that when I finished my 25-year career in the Marine Corps, those problems had completely disappeared or been reduced to statistical insignificance. Today's all-volunteer military, forged in the tragic "lessons learned" of Vietnam, has repeatedly demonstrated its professionalism and ability to defend America's national interests. The men and women of this well-educated and well-trained force serve our nation because they choose to do so. Today, we honor their service and ensure their continued success by voting to maintain the best-equipped, best-trained, and all-volunteer, Armed Forces.

The Kline Record: June 2004

June 2004 was a relatively busy month for John Kline. I'll paste in most of the floor speeches he gave, but here's the summary:

  • June 2: Decried $336 million of waste in the Pell Grant program, and called for stricter oversight (I imagine I'll have more to say about this later).
  • June 2: Paid tribute to Jim Hergott, the first Minnesotan killed in battle in Iraq. Private Hergott fell in July 2003, so one has to wonder why Kline waited nearly a year to provide this tribute.
  • June 8: Acted as Speaker Pro Tem once again.
  • June 9: Paid tribute to Ronald Reagan after Reagan's death.
  • June 22: Paid tribute to the University of Minnesota Women's hockey team for their National Championship.

Once again, I have to point out: this is hardly meat-and-potatoes legislating. Apart from the Pell Grant stuff, none of this has anything to do with governing the country, and although it's good to root out and eliminate wasteful government spending, that's hardly central to making America a better place to live.

I'm roughly halfway through Kline's congressional record now, and it's hard to avoid the conclusion that the guy's a lightweight; a man who enjoys making the ceremonial gestures expected of a member of Congress, but not truly interested in nuts and bolts legislating.

Which, I would argue, is another reason to send someone else to Washington this November.

Anyway, here are the speeches he gave in June. First, on waste in the Pell Grant program:

Mr. Speaker, as another member of the Washington Waste Watchers, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight just one example of what we are now learning to be the vast amount of waste throughout our Federal Government. Unfortunately, no Federal agency is immune to this waste, even those that are implementing the Nation's most important Federal programs.

One particularly troubling example of waste is found within the Pell grant program. $336 million in Pell grants were improperly dispersed to applicants that understated their income in 2001. Let me be clear, American taxpayers spent $336 million in Pell grants for applicants that were not eligible.

Not only does this represent a terrible misuse of taxpayer dollars, the expenditure of these funds denies the legitimate financial assistance provided by Pell grants to the thousands of students who truly need and deserve this help.

Mr. Speaker, we belong to a Congress that has brought unprecedented increases in Federal funding to our schools. Yet the administrators in my district continue to ask why have I not seen that money. I should not have to report to the administrators, teachers, and parents in Minnesota that the money they need to provide the quality education our children deserve is not available because it has been wasted by an inattentive Federal bureaucracy.

We have got to put an end to this harmful waste. Unfortunately, some of our colleagues on the other side of the aisle would prefer to ignore this waste and simply complain about, quote, lack of funding for Pell grants. Rather than crack down on the ineffective bureaucracy responsible for this waste, they would like to create more funds by raising taxes on hard-working American families.

My colleagues and I in the Washington Waste Watchers have a more responsible approach. It begins with eliminating the waste in government spending and creating more efficiency in Federal programs.

The budgets passed by the House Republicans both last year and this year make great progress toward our goal of eliminating waste. Last year's budget led to a report that highlighted between $85 and $100 billion of wasteful spending. This year's budget instructed committees to reduce or eliminate the most egregious examples of waste.

Mr. Speaker, American taxpayers deserve better than to have their hard-earned paychecks squandered by an irresponsible bureaucracy in Washington. I ask my colleagues on the other side of the aisle to join us in creating a better Federal Government, not making it bigger through more tax increases, but helping us to expand services for those who truly need them by eliminating the waste.

Here's his tribute to Private Jim Hergott:

  • Mr. Speaker, on this Memorial Day we honor the sacrifices of a new generation of heroes who gave their lives unselfishly for the safety and security of our Nation and our world.
  • Private Jim Hergott is one of these brave young Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice in pursuit of democracy, freedom, and liberty.
  • Last July, Private Jim Hergott became the first Minnesotan killed in action in Iraq. A graduate of Shakopee High School, Private Hergott was struck by a sniper while guarding the National Building Museum in Baghdad.
  • Private Hergott has set an example of service to which few will be called and for which all are grateful. Jim Hergott will be missed, but his contributions endure.
  • We enjoy the blessings of living in America as a result of men and women throughout our Nation's history who toiled, sacrificed, and struggled to ensure we would have an unparalleled quality of life.
  • These blessings remain with us today as a result of the men and women who continue to toil, struggle, and sacrifice on our behalf.
  • We owe a debt of gratitude to Private Hergott and all of the fallen heroes of this generation and those who came before. I ask you to join me in honoring Private Hergott and remembering his fellow heroes to whom we owe so much.

Finally, here's his speech eulogizing Ronald Reagan:

Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to rise and join my colleagues in expressing my love and admiration and respect for President Ronald Reagan. I very much appreciate that here on the House floor last night and today colleagues from both sides of the aisle have stepped up to express their respects. I think that is an important thing. It is an indicator of what a truly great man, a great President, a great leader we had in Ronald Reagan.

Those of us who had the privilege and honor of working closely with President Reagan, and I was very fortunate that in his first months in office I had the position of being his Marine Corps aid and carrying the nuclear football, the codes, traveling with him, and having the opportunity to share some thoughts, it usually was him sharing the thoughts and me listening in rapt attention, but what a wonderful man.

When you were with and near Ronald Reagan, it really was morning in America. I never knew any one of us who worked with him or anyone who was in his presence that could not feel his love for life, his love for our country, his unstoppable optimism. And on the one hand he was, as we have heard many of our colleagues say, friendly, loveable, affable, ready with the joke; and on the other hand he was truly a man of steel.

He had a wonderful vision for America, a vision as he articulated of a city on the hill, a beacon of hope and opportunity for the world. And his resolute determination that we would not continue in the impossible impasse of the Cold War, the very Cold War that necessitated me and my colleagues to carry those nuclear codes; he refused to accept that as inevitable and he set out with the determination that is hard to imagine today, to end that impasse, to win the war, to defeat the Evil Empire. I was proud to serve with him.

I just want to express my love to him and my love to his family.

The Kline Record: May 2004

Here is John Kline's record as reported by the Congressional Record for May, 2004.

On May 18, he served as Speaker Pro Tem once again.

On May 19, he paid tribute to Bob Erickson of Lakeville, Minnesota, on the occasion of his retirement as City Administrator.

On May 20, he made a speech touching on trade with India, unborn children, World War II and, of course, as it was an election year, accusing Democrats of making unfair attacks on George Bush. But the point of the speech appears to have been to emphasize a provision of the No Child Left Behind Act which permits limited flexibility for testing of children with disabilities --- note how after criticizing Democrats for their supposedly "partisan" attacks, he only shares credit for changes to NCLB with his colleagues on his side of the aisle:

Mr. Speaker, I have been sitting here for some time this evening listening to the discussion and I am struck by the tone. We have had speakers from both sides of the aisle rise to discuss different things. I notice that my colleagues from this side of the aisle have risen to celebrate an anniversary of World War II, to talk about an important economic and trade issue with the developing nation of India, to talk about the tragedy of the pain of unborn children and my colleagues from the other side of the aisle have taken every occasion with every speaker to make outrageous claims and to engage in vicious partisan attacks against the President of the United States and the Republican Party and it saddens me.

But tonight I wish to join my colleagues from this side of the aisle in a celebration. As we celebrate the anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision this week, we have an excellent opportunity to recognize some of the vast improvements made in the quality of education available to America's children over the past 50 years.

In the Brown v. Board of Education case, the doctrine of "separate but equal" education for different groups of students was found to produce unequal results and was ruled unconstitutional. On this important anniversary, Mr. Speaker, we are working to ensure another group of students, our special needs children, receive the same high quality education available to every child in Minnesota and America.

Because no two students are the same and no two schools face identical challenges, one of the most important elements in any Federal education law is flexibility. I am pleased to share with my colleagues one of the many ways in which our committee, the Committee on Education and the Workforce, has worked with the Department of Education to enhance that flexibility for our schools. Following implementation of the No Child Left Behind education law, teachers and administrators expressed concern and many of them to me over the last year that special needs children were required to pass the same tests as their non-special needs counterparts. At the same time parents of special needs children expressed concern that exempting their children from testing altogether would eliminate the ability to monitor their progress. To address these competing concerns, the Department of Education issued a rule providing States and school districts with the flexibility to provide alternate tests to determine the adequate yearly progress for children with the most severe disabilities. Under the rule, alternate tests can be administered only to children with the most significant cognitive disabilities, only 1 percent of all students, or about 10 percent of students with disabilities. All other students with disabilities will take either the regular State assessments or assessments aligned with State standards designed to compensate for the child's disability.

Because it prohibits States and schools from excluding students with disabilities from accountability systems, the No Child Left Behind provides parents of these children with something they have never had before, the right to know whether their children are getting the education they deserve, what every parent wants.

I believe we are making great strides toward improving the quality of education available to every child in America. I remain committed to addressing the concerns of parents, teachers and administrators as we seek to not only maintain but to build on this quality. I look forward to continuing the fight to provide the necessary flexibility to accommodate those States and those schools who wish to participate.

Leaving no child behind means leaving no child behind, not "no child except children with disabilities." On this important anniversary, Mr. Speaker, we are living up to that promise.

While Kline is correct that many students with disabilities require specialized instruction, and specialized testing, the provision he touts here doesn't seem to go far enough. There is some confusion about the numbers, too. While Kline states that the exemption applies to roughly 10% of students with disabilities --- close to the 9% number cited by the Department of Education --- we find that more than a year later, Education Secretary Margaret Spellings has expanded the exemption to include 3% of all disabled students. What is clear, though, is that the change of which Kline proudly boasted in May 2004 wasn't enough to "live up to the promise" of leaving no child behind.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The Kline Record: The Inspirational Story of Christopher Chandler

Speaking in support of staying the course in Iraq and offering our troops "all levels of support", John Kline offers the truly inspirational story of Christopher Chandler. And that's great, but shouldn't he be arguing for more and better body armor instead?

Whatever. My only other comment is that four months into the legislative session in 2004, Kline has so far managed to recognize Reagan's birthday for the second consecutive year, make two unfair speeches in support of Bush's re-election campaign, and argue for "staying the course" in Iraq by telling the lengthy tale of an Afghanistan vet who stuggled to return to duty after losing his leg.

When is Kline going to say anything about policy in 2004?

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to talk about the heroes, not in the large sense, but in the individual sense, the heroes that we have in this war, fighting in this war in Afghanistan and in Iraq. And, specifically, I would like to share the story today of just one of the many committed Marines. And I know that the gentleman's son is in the Marines, and we share some common bond here; but one of the Marines that is serving today in Iraq has an incredible story.

I was talking to the commandant of the Marines this week. He was in an airplane, I think he said at 48,000 feet. It is amazing how we fly these airplanes these days. He was telling me the story of Sergeant Christopher Chandler. I wanted to share that today because it is a story of resolve, determination, love of country, and love of the American people. It is an example that we see in other men and women in uniform, but this one is particularly special.

I have got some notes here to make sure I get the dates and times right. In November of 2001, Sergeant Christopher Chandler answered the call to service in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. Less than one month into this assignment, Sergeant Chandler stepped on a land mine while providing security for an explosive ordnance disposal unit in Kandahar, Afghanistan; and he lost a leg.

Sergeant Chandler was one of the first service members injured in the global war on terrorism after the attacks on 9/11 and the first American to be awarded the Purple Heart in Operation Enduring Freedom. Despite the severity of his injury, he refused to let the incident diminish his resolve.

Following the incident, Sergeant Chandler was evacuated to Walter Reed Army Medical Center where he received treatment and was outfitted with a prosthetic leg.

Neither his injury nor the immediate danger he experienced were able to stifle the determined spirit of Sergeant Chandler. Upon completion of physical therapy, he re-enlisted in the Marine Corps and requested a seat in the U.S. Army jump school.

His request was met, as I am sure you can imagine, with some resistance. He was informed that no exceptions could be made for any physical limitations. He would be required to complete every task and fulfill each training requirement at the same level of excellence as everyone else attending that jump school.

He accepted the challenge. He excelled. He was able to demonstrate to the physical evaluation review board that he was fit to return to full active duty without limitations. He became the first amputee to complete Army jump school.

The story is not over. In December of 2003, Sergeant Chandler graduated, exceeding all expectations by being selected the noncommissioned officer honor graduate of his class.

Today Sergeant Chandler is serving our Nation bravely as a member of the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance in Iraq.

It has been said that the truest test of a man's character is not what he does with success, but what he makes of defeat. For generations, the Marine Corps has trained recruits with this type of determination and instilled the courage in its men and women to move forward when those around them have faltered. Sergeant Chandler is a leader, but he is not the only one.

Thousands of terrific men and women have answered the call to serve because they know how important this service is to the security of America and to a stable world. And these brave men and women deserve to know that they have our unconditional love and support.

In those discussions with the Commandant of the Marine Corps, as I mentioned earlier, and he has just returned from Iraq only just a couple of weeks ago, he shared with me the single most asked question about the families of the American and women serving at every level and by the men and women themselves in the Marine Corps. And the question is, Do we still have the backing of the American people?

He answers unequivocally yes. We need to make certain that stays so. These men and women who face danger each day on our behalf see and hear the same newscasts that we do. We cannot allow the morale of our troops to be diminished by these negative reports.

Mr. Chairman, you are absolutely right. We have to stay the course. We have a responsibility to make our support known, our emotional, financial, all levels of support to every man and woman who serves this Nation. We owe them no less. We cannot show any weakening of resolve.

It is a commitment that we have to Sergeant Chandler and to all the Marines and soldiers serving over there.

I know, Mr. Chairman, you are giving them your unqualified support and I pledge mine, and I ask my colleagues and the American people to do the same.

The Kline Record: More Election-Year Slime

Oy. Not content to answer attacks on Bush's military service by mischaracterizing them as attacks on our troops, on April 22, 2004, Kline took to the House floor to slime John Kerry. Specifically:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today with many of my fellow veterans in this body to bring attention to a serious decision facing our Nation. Very soon the American people will be asked to make an important choice. We will be asked to decide who will best lead our Nation for the next 4 years. One candidate, John Kerry, would claim to have the best interests of America at heart. However, Mr. Kerry's history tells a different story.

Thirty-three years ago today, he stood before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee disparaging, disparaging our brave servicemen and -women as murderers. Yet today in pursuit of the Presidency of what he called a "hypocritical" Nation, he boasts of his service alongside them.

Every man and woman who has stood in defense of our Nation deserves our thanks. But John Kerry's service does not excuse him from joining ranks with Jane Fonda and others in speaking ill of our troops or their service then or now.

On the anniversary of these outrageous claims by John Kerry, I believe we must remind the veterans of our United States Armed Forces, past, present, and future of our appreciation, of our thanks for their service to our military and our Nation.

My first and most critical objection to Kline's statement is that it is naked partisanship. Kline certainly isn't speaking on any legislation facing Congress, and he's not (as is his specialty) introducing meaningless legislation honoring a college athletics team. Republicans like to talk about concepts like "decorum" and "comity" in the House and Senate, usually in the context of accusing Democrats of ignoring them. There is even a rule in the House (frequently ignored) that members of the Senate are not to be mentioned by name. And there is a supposed understanding that Congress is not the place to make statements for partisan advantage.

So there's that.

But beyond that, this is more standard GOP-issue slime. What Kline is referring to is Kerry's testimony regarding the Winter Soldier Investigation into allegations that hundreds of U.S. soldiers participated in war crimes in Vietnam. It's understandable that the Winter Soldier stories are controversial, and are of particular concern to Vietnam veterans like Kline. The important distinction to make is that Kerry never said that all U.S. soldiers in Vietnam were guilty of war crimes, even though that is how Kline and other of Kerry's opponents choose to characterize his statements. Rather, he only reported to the Senate on what he personally had witnessed in Vietnam, and what more than 100 Vietnam veterans and civilians personally admitted to seeing or doing while in Vietnam.

I don't know anything about Kline's experience in Vietnam. I have no reason to believe he committed war crimes, and indeed he may not have witnessed any. But Kline can't claim to know what Kerry's experience was, nor that of the 100+ others who testified in the Winter Soldier investigation. And it is beyond dispute that American troops did commit war crimes in Vietnam, and they were not isolated incidents. Certainly we know that today's military is capable of engaging in any kind of subhuman behavior.

Kline has no basis for doubting, much less condemning Kerry's statement apart from his certainty that Kerry's claims are outrageous --- and the fact that it is no doubt personally embarrassing for Kline to have served in a war where such atrocities were committed by Americans. Too bad. Both men served in Vietnam, and I have no reason to doubt that they both served honorably: they have each earned the right to speak out on that war in the manner they see fit. But Kline's condemnation of Kerry in an election year on the floor of the House of Representatives is the basest form of partisan sleaze attack.

The Kline Record: Slime and Defend

Although I don't support John Kline and disagree with almost everything the modern Republican party does, I was until recently impressed with the fact that Kline never stooped to smear attacks for partisan advantage. Then I read his remarks from March 9, 2004. The nickel summary is that in responding to an attack that DNC chair Terry McAuliffe made on Bush's highly dubious military service record, Kline chose to distort McAuliffe's remarks into an attack on 193,000 members of the National Guard.

Anyone who was awake during the 2004 election cycle is familiar with this tactic: a Democrat attacks or criticizes Bush, and Republicans respond by claiming that Democrats are attacking our troops. It is standard Republican playbook sleaze, and this time Kline spewed it on the floor of the House.

I don't want to re-hash the argument about Bush's service record here; I will only summarize it by stating that Bush was unable to account for almost an entire year of the time he was supposedly serving in the Texas Air National Guard (TANG), and didn't seem to eager to answer questions about it. Bush was unable to produce a single former TANG member who could credibly report having served with him. Given the fact that rabid Bush supporters were doing everything they could to cast doubt on John Kerry's military record, it was only fair for Bush's opponents to question his. And it was only fair to emphasize those questions when Bush was unable to acceptably account for his whereabouts.

This is what Terry McAuliffe did in February 2004. While he may have gone over the line by calling Bush AWOL and stating that "Bush never served in our military", that's what a party leader is supposed to do: make partisan attacks. And whatever else one might think of McAuliffe's charges, they were clearly leveled at George Bush, not at any member of the active-duty military or National Guard. And yet, look how John Kline chose to spin McAuliffe's remarks on the floor of Congress:

Mr. Speaker, we hear many outrageous claims and public discourse today on the floor of this House and outside of this House, and the integrity of the President of the United States is impugned over and over again, and we simply do not have time to address all of those issues; but today I rise to address an unacceptable offense against the men and women of our National Guard and the Commander in Chief-of-the United States military.

As my colleagues may know, Mr. Speaker, last month the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Mr. Terry McAuliffe, attacked President Bush by claiming he was AWOL, AWOL from the Alabama National Guard. He also cheapened the service of the men and women of the National Guard by saying that President Bush, as a member of the Guard, never served in our military.

In the time that has passed since Mr. McAuliffe made his unfounded charge, the President has produced military records which reflect his service and honorable discharge in the National Guard.

Mr. Speaker, the President has had the opportunity to exonerate himself; and I believe the men and women who have served their country, our country, as members of the National Guard deserve to be exonerated as well. Mr. McAuliffe's comments discredit, discredit the sacrifices of tens of thousands of National Guardsmen and -women and is a slap in the face to their service, to their families.

I believe the men and women of our National Guard serving this very moment in Afghanistan, Iraq and throughout the globe, including many Minnesotans serving in Bosnia, would disagree with the sentiment that they are not serving their country. More than 193,000 National Guards members and Reservists are currently serving in the war on terror, and over 129,000 are overseas.

While in Iraq last fall, I had the good fortune to spend time with members of the Minnesota National Guard who provided transportation in and out of Baghdad, and I would say it was the best transportation in and out of Baghdad. These men and women are steadfast servants of our military and our country who have given up their own freedom to ensure liberty for others. Whether on the front lines or serving in support roles, these brave Americans are the difference between terrorism and freedom. If that is not service to our country, Mr. Speaker, I do not know what is.

This week, yet another National Guard unit from Minnesota will depart to serve our country, another National Guard unit will depart to serve our country; and I challenge anyone to question the sacrifice of these Guardsmen and -women and the families they are leaving behind.

As a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, I take offense to Mr. McAuliffe's demeaning the characterization of our National Guard. His baseless insinuation diminishes the National Guard as an institution, and he owes an apology to the Guardsmen and -women in uniform serving our country and protecting their fellow Americans.

Mr. McAuliffe's comments represent the worst of election-year politics. It is deplorable for anyone, much less the leader of a national party, to denounce, degrade, and dishonor a fighting force that is at this moment fighting for freedom and democracy around the world.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend the men and women of our National Guard and say thank you. We love you; we are with you.

As I said before, this is a familiar tactic. McAuliffe attacked Bush's military record, in an admittedly unfair way, and in his response, Kline spent the majority of his time refuting a nonexistent attack on our armed forces. Republicans are very adept at spinning Democrats' words into attacks on our troops, even though you can read every campaign speech from every Democrat for the past two election cycles, and you won't find such an attack anywhere. It's a Republican tactic called "Slime and Defend", sliming your opponent while wrapping yourself in the flag and hiding behind the military. Look for it to rear its ugly head, unfortunately, in the 2006 campaign. Just don't be taken in by it.

And one more thing. If I were a member of the National Guard, I would be more concerned about the fact that National Guard units routinely receive equipment inferior to what those in the regular military receive. Of course, I expect it will be a good long while before John Kline gives an indignant floor speech about that.

The Kline Record: More From the Congressional Record

On January 21, 2004, John Kline once again served as Speaker Pro Tempore. That's the whole Kline record for that month.

The whole Kline record for February 2004 was Kline's annual ode to Ronald Reagan on his birthday:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to join my colleagues in honoring a man who will forever remain a symbol of the American dream.

I had the great good fortune and high honor to serve as military aide to President Reagan during my time in the United States Marine Corps. As the officer assigned to carry the "nuclear football," I had the opportunity to observe the President in a wide variety of situations.

Ronald Reagan was already well known before he entered the Presidential field. Through a variety of careers, his thoughtful, caring nature and engaging personality were well established. Friends and colleagues alike recognized him as gifted, some would say the "great communicator," who was as accomplished a listener as he was a speaker. Strong in character and always quick with a joke, the best joke teller I ever knew, candidate Reagan, Governor Reagan, earned the allegiance, trust, and respect of a Nation and was elected as our 40th President.

What struck me almost immediately when I began my service to President Reagan was the strong sense of leadership he exuded. Perhaps more than any other leader in contemporary history, President Reagan knew when to trust his staff and when not to allow his beliefs to be swayed. On routine matters, President Reagan displayed enormous confidence in his staff, I am proud to say, including me. When told, for example, "Mr. President, please stand here," he agreed affably. On matters of substance, however, he was guided by unwavering principle and would not be moved.

President Ronald Reagan applied this principle to the many challenges he faced. The economic policy of Reaganomics was met with initial skepticism and scorn, but its success validated his vision of how to address the faltering economy he inherited.

In international matters, his unflinching opposition to communism led to its demise and earned the enduring allegiance of former adversaries. This principled vision inspired men and women of all political persuasions to put the best interest of our Nation ahead of their respective political parties. By holding to his vision of America as a beacon for the rest of the world, he brought freedom, hope and opportunity to millions here and abroad.

Today we honor President Reagan for his achievement, his leadership and his enduring example. Happy birthday, Mr. President, and thank you.

You can tell that Kline has a year in Congress under his belt at this point; his bloviating has gained greater volume and rhetorical flourish.

Kline was Speaker Pro-Tem for most (all?) Tuesdays in the month of March. His only other action in March was to play a part in George Bush's election-year "I was honorably discharged from TANG so shut up about my military record" policy. More on that in the next post.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

John Kline Claims a Dubious First

Let's just look at a few excerpts from recent editions of the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

On January 7th:
"What I think we need out of this is stability and consistent leadership," said Kline, the first of the Minnesota Republicans to speak out. "It's my hope that Tom DeLay will recognize that he needs to concentrate his efforts and attentions on [his] legal battles."


Kline said his decision was spurred by Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff's guilty pleas to conspiracy and fraud charges in Washington and Miami this week. Abramoff agreed in return for leniency to become the star witness in a Justice Department influence-buying inquiry that could touch implicate several House members.

"Is Tom DeLay involved in this?" Kline said in a phone interview. "What's the extent of his involvement? What about his staff?

"The very fact that all those questions are being asked makes it more difficult for us to focus on policy and get going down the road [and] makes it less likely that Mr. DeLay's legal troubles will be resolved" soon, he said. "The climate right now is bad. It's bad for my party."

To which a reader (Neil Weikart) responded on January 10:

Rep. John Kline, in a Jan. 7 news article about the Tom DeLay/Jack Abramoff situation, said, "The climate right now is bad. It's bad for my party." He illustrates the problem and shows that he still does not "get it."

While it may be bad for his party, the problem is that it is very bad for our country.

Kline was not elected to represent only the Republican constituents in his district; he was elected to represent everyone in his district.

Republicans and Democrats alike must wake up. We need bipartisanship to solve our nation's problems.

To which Kline responded on January 13th:

In response to the Jan. 11 letter, "It's about what's good for us, not the parties," I would like to point out to the letter writer that I was the first member of the Minnesota Republican delegation to break with my party's leadership and to ask Tom DeLay to permanently step aside as majority leader, because I saw a problem that was bad for my constituents, our country and the Republican Party.

Yes, on January 6th, Kline was the first Republican in Minnesota's congressional delegation to call for DeLay to step down. Mind you, Kline wasn't the first to denounce DeLay's corruption or the systemic corruption in the Republican leadership, because he didn't do that. The "problem" he referred to in response to Mr. Weikart's letter was, specifically, that questions about DeLay's legal status "makes it more difficult for us to focus on policy".

Of course, Kline can't publicly recognize DeLay's guilt, despite the fact that DeLay has basically admitted he is guilty of money-laundering, because then he would also have to return $31,000 in campaign money he received from DeLay. Kline can't even admit that someone indicted for a felony has no business retaining a leadership position in the U.S. Congress, because in November 2004, the Strib reported that John Kline was "perfectly comfortable" with letting an indicted DeLay continue as majority leader. And Kline can't seriously pose as a crusader for cleaning up Congress, since he is strongly pushing for Ohio congressman John Boehner, a man best known for distributing tobacco money on the floor of the House, to take over DeLay's job.

Republicans have basically turned the U.S. government into an arm of big business. Republicans shovel tax breaks and deregulation at the K Street lobbyists, who return a small portion of that to the GOP when elections roll around, to make sure these crooks stay in power. Any Republican in Congress who claims not to know this is either lying or too stupid to keep his job --- and that includes John Kline.

Kline wasn't the first to denounce DeLay's corruption; he was just first out the door when the party was busted.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Missing Your Medicare Drug Benefits? Thank John Kline

On January 1, the prescription drug benefit of the Republicans' much-vaunted Medicare bill kicked in. In just 16 days, at least 19 states have had to step in to pay the drug costs of their poor and elderly due to massive confusion and impenetrable bureaucracy from the federal government.

Here's a vivid description from the Los Angeles Times:

California officials ordered emergency action Thursday to cover drug costs for 1 million elderly citizens, many of whom have been denied life-saving medications or charged exorbitant amounts because of glitches in the new federal prescription drug program.

The action by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration capped a day in which the Medicare prescription drug program — one of President Bush's signature domestic policy initiatives — came under sharp criticism from members of Congress and governors of both major political parties.

Critics said the program, which Bush has touted as the most significant advance in Medicare in 40 years, was fast becoming a public health emergency. California officials said that as many as one-fifth of the 1 million elderly, poor or disabled state residents who were switched into the federal program on Jan. 1 could be wrongly denied their medications because of flaws in the program.

Minnesota is among the 19 (and counting) states which have had to step in to take up the slack. Here's what our Republican governor had to say in the January 15th edition of the Strib:

So far, hundreds of low-income Minnesotans have been affected by a computer glitch that mistakenly cut them off from access to subsidized drugs.

"The implementation of the new program by the federal government has been awful," Pawlenty said before signing the executive order. He said the state was stepping in as a stopgap measure to help patients who are especially vulnerable.

How is it possible that a plan that president Bush announced with such fanfare more than two years ago could turn out to have such disastrous results?

How is it possible? Because actually helping people get affordable prescription drugs (or improving Medicare more generally) was never the point of the bill:

It was clear back in 2003, when the Bush administration rammed this bill through the Republican Congress, that the purpose was not to devise an affordable prescription drug program for seniors. Rather the administration wanted to help two friendly industries, the pharmaceutical companies and the HMOÂ’s; and to get bragging rights for the 2004 election that Bush had helped seniors. Few voters would grasp just how bad the law was, since its effective date was deliberately put off until 2006.

So, in what way in John Kline responsible for this? Apart from the fact that he voted for it, there's also the fact that he stood silently by while the Republican leadership rammed the final bill through the House in just over 26 hours, holding the voting open for a record 2 hours, 51 minutes while they twisted arms and attempted bribes to bring reluctant Republicans into line. When the congressional leadership has to bribe its members to vote for a bill, you know its good legislation.

And who is more corrupt, the Republican leadership doing the bribing and armtwisting, or the members of the Republican caucus who sit passively and watch it happen?

What about John Kline, who wrote a letter to the Republican leadership just days before the vote, asking that the leadership follow House rules and wait a full 72 hours from the time the bill was released from committee before holding a vote, but didn't speak up to defend his request when it mattered most? Kline wrote:

The general public will evaluate not only what Congress does regarding Medicare and prescription drugs, but the way in which it does it. A bill proposing such substantive changes to the Medicare system and costing an estimated $400 billion over the next decade deserves the careful and thoughtful consideration of all Members.

Indeed Mr. Kline, the public will evaluate what you did, and what you failed to do, back in November 2003. You're getting your report card now, and it doesn't look good.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Kline Calls for DeLay's Ouster, But Keeps DeLay's Money

John Kline's name has been in the news a lot recently, first calling for Tom DeLay to permanently remove himself as House majority leader, then publicly declaring his support for Ohio congressman John Boehner to be his replacement. The most complete statement I've been able to find that John Kline has made about DeLay is the following:

The situation is that Tom's legal situation doesn't seem to be reaching clarity. There are stories of more indictments or questions associated with Jack Abramoff. And I think that Tom DeLay is going to have to concentrate on that.


We've been in this tenuous uncertain situation now since last year, and the end date for that remains unclear. And that's a very tough way to go forward and do business and set an agenda and enact serious legislation. You need people who are confident that they're going to be in that position through the Congress to do that job. And right now, we don't have that. We just have this uncertainty about when Tom Delay would return to that leadership position.

Let's focus on that word 'clarity'. What exactly about Tom DeLay's legal situation is unclear to Kline?

There's certainly no ambiguity about DeLay's guilt. He hasn't yet been convicted, and he may yet weasel out of it, but it couldn't be clearer that he's guilty of money-laundering; he admitted as much two months ago:

At that session, DeLay acknowledged that in 2002 he was informed about and expressed his support for transfers of $190,000 in mostly corporate funds from his Texas political action committee to an arm of the Republican National Committee in Washington and then back to Texas, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition that they not be named.

Those transfers are at the heart of the prosecutor's investigation of the alleged use of corporate funds in the 2002 Texas elections, in violation of state law. In the prosecutor's view, DeLay's admission put him in the middle of a conspiracy not only to violate that law but also to launder money.

That's pretty clear, isn't it? What's more, DeLay made this admission in negotiations with Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle when DeLay was contemplating a plea-bargain, in which he would plead guilty to a misdemeanor.

DeLay was planning to plead guilty. You wouldn't expect that from a man who has "always acted in an ethical manner within the rules of our body and the laws of our land" as DeLay claims he has done. You also wouldn't expect that DeLay would knuckle under to an "unabashed partisan zealot", which is how DeLay describes the Democrat Earle, maintaining that Earle is simply engaging in a partisan witch hunt.

Funny thing about that. Yesterday, Texas' Court of Criminal Appeals refused to throw out the charges against DeLay, even though every single judge on that court is a Republican. Those Republicans see right through DeLay's song and dance; they know a crook when they see one. I'm going to guess that the Republican Kline, originally from Texas himself, can see through DeLay's act, too. Yet he bemoans the lack of 'clarity' in DeLay's legal situation. What can he possibly mean by that?

Only this. Like most Republicans, Kline can ill afford to be publicly supportive of DeLay, since he is clearly guilty of money-laundering, and is likely to meet with more indictments as the Jack Abramoff story unfolds. Kline in particular has reason to be concerned, since he almost certainly voted last January to weaken House ethics rules so that DeLay could keep his leadership position, and since even now, after this public faux-repudiation of DeLay, he's holding on to $30,000 he received from DeLay's PAC.

Since Kline needs a reason to distance himself from DeLay, yet he still can't acknowledge DeLay's guilt, he's decided that the pressing need to "set an agenda and enact serious legislation" requires that the embattled Republican leader step aside. Never mind that Kline has waited a year --- half a Congressional term --- to reach this conclusion, and never mind that fourteen months ago Kline was, in the words of his chief of staff, Steve Sutton "perfectly comfortable" with letting DeLay keep his leadership position, indicted or not. By the most miraculous coincidence, two days after Jack Abramoff cops a plea with the Justice Department, Kline decides that DeLay's legal problems can't distract Congress from The People's Work for a day longer, and so signs a letter calling to elect new leadership.

No doubt Kline is hoping that voters will read his words and conclude that Kline stood up for clean, ethical government. Don't forget that this was just a PR trick on Kline's part. And don't forget that Kline still has $30,000 of DeLay's money.

Monday, January 02, 2006

The Kline Record: 2003 Year in Review

In the previous post, we discussed how Kline failed to stand up for his principles when the Republican leadership strongarmed the Medicare bill through the House. But Kline wasn't silent for the entire month of November: in addition to his praise for Bush's economic policies, he also took to the House floor to honor Rice University's baseball team and St. John's football coach John Gagliardi, the all-time winningest coach in collegiate football.

Kline was, however, silent for the entire month of December, 2003.

So, to recap, here's a complete log of freshman congressman John Kline's floor activity during his first full year in the House of Representatives:
  • January: None.
  • February: Gave speech honoring Ronald Reagan's birthday, and another honoring Texas congressman Sam Johnson.
  • March: Gave speech supportive of troops in Iraq on the day after the invasion, and introduced his HEROES act, which basically encourages the Secretary of Education, colleges and universities, and lending institutions to give our troops a break when they're trying to get an education. In true small-government fashion, it doesn't actually mandate anything.
  • April: Led the Pledge of Allegiance on April 1, and then led 'debate' on his HEROES bill.
  • May: Proposed an amendment to a bill modifying the 1998 Workforce Reinvestment Act. The amendment passed by a voice vote but the bill was ultimately shelved. Also gave speeches praising Verna Ziegenhagen, John Weaver, and the University of Minnesota Hockey team. And he talked about his HEROES act one more time, this time as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.
  • June: Praised the Women's Ice Hockey team at the University of Minnesota at Duluth, and stated his strong support for repeal of the estate tax.
  • July: Praised the U.S.-Singapore Free Trade Agreement.
  • August: None. (The House did not convene in August.)
  • September: Removed his name from H.R. 1078, a bill "To establish academies for teachers and students of American history and civics and a national alliance of teachers of American history and civics, and for other purposes."
  • October: Praised our fighting men and women who had participated in Operation Restore Hope in Somalia.
  • November: Credited Bush's economic policies for some good economic news, praised the Rice University baseball team, honored John Gagliardi, and remained silent while the House Republican leadership ramrodded bad Medicare policy through Congress.
  • December: None.
Finally, there is a footnote I should add, just to make the record complete. On at least a half-dozen occasions, possibly more, John Kline served as Speaker Pro Tempore, which means that he ran the proceedings of the House of Representatives. At first it struck me as odd that a freshman congressman should be given control of the floor, and so frequently. But when I checked through the Congressional Record, I discovered that no fewer than 53 different members of the Republican caucus took their turn in the driver's seat for all or part of 125 out of the 135 days the House was in session in 2003. I'm guessing this is because actually running the House operations is a tedious business, so Dennis Hastert foists it off on someone else as often as he can.

So, Kline got his fair share of the grunt work.

The Kline Record: Kline (and 40 other Republicans) Sit Passively While the Leadership Rams Medicare Reform Down Their Throats

And now we come to an ignominious part of John Kline's record; not something he said or did in Congress, but something he failed to do.

Many of Bush's supporters say that you may disagree with Bush on the issues, but at least he stands up for what he believes in. In fact, to my frustration, there are some who voted for Bush in spite of the fact that they disagree with him on the issues, because he stands up for what he believes in. To those Bush supporters I say: keep a close eye on congressman John Kline.

In the days just before Thanksgiving 2003, the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives was pushing to suspend the rules which provide lawmakers a minimum of three days to review all legislation prior to voting on it. There were many bills the leadership wished to act on, but chief among them was the Medicare bill providing (among other things) prescription drug benefits to seniors. The situation was described by Democrat Jim McGovern of Massachusetts:

Mr. Speaker, this bill, if I understand correctly, was filed at about 1:20 a.m. this morning and under House rules, Mr. Speaker, all Members of this House, Democrats and Republicans, are supposed to have 3 days, 3 days to review any conference report so they can actually read what is in it so that they will know what, in fact, that they are voting on. It is obvious, as has been the case so many times over and over, that the Republican majority is choosing to ignore the rules of this House and it is particularly disturbing that they have chosen to do so once again with regard to a bill that I think is so very important.

Yeah, yeah, so a Democrat accuses the Republican leadership of dirty tricks; so what else is new? How about this: 41 Republican members of the House, including freshman congressman John Kline, had written a letter to the Republican majority leaders requesting the same three-day review period:

We write to request that if the Conferees on the Medicare Prescription Drug and Modernization Act of 2003 report to the House a Conference Report, copies of the text of the Conference Report, the text of the explanatory statement, and the text of Congressional Budget Office cost estimate for the Conference report be made available to all Members at least three calendar days after filing (excluding Saturdays, Sundays, and legal holidays, unless the House is in session on those days) and prior to consideration of the Conference Report or to any measure reported from the Committee on Rules providing for the consideration of the Conference Report.

The general public will evaluate not only what Congress does regarding Medicare and prescription drugs, but the way in which it does it. A bill proposing such substantive changes to the Medicare system and costing an estimated $400 billion over the next decade deserves the careful and thoughtful consideration of all Members.

Allowing Members adequate time to properly evaluate the Conference Report will avoid a needless and difficult internal fight on the Rule, and allow Leadership to concentrate its efforts on final passage of the Conference Report. It will also lead to more public confidence in the legislative process and greater acceptance of that process' final product.

Therefore, while some of us are likely to support and others to oppose the Conference Report on H.R. 1, each of us strongly urges you to abide by regular order and provide at least three calendar days for Members to review the Conference Report and materials necessary to properly evaluate the Conference Report.

John Kline not only signed his name to this letter, but his was the first name on the letter. So one would naturally assume that Kline would also be the first Republican member of the House to speak up and join Jim McGovern in requesting that House rules be followed and a 3-day review period be observed prior to voting on the Medicare bill.

However, one would be mistaken. None of the 41 signees were willing to openly defy their leadership on the floor and stand up for what they wrote in that letter. So the rules were suspended, and around 3:00 AM on November 22, less than 26 hours after the final bill was released from conference committee, it was put to a vote on the House floor. This was the infamous vote which was held open for a record two hours 51 minutes, during which Michigan Republican Nick Smith was threatened and bribed in an effort to change his "no" vote (to Smith's credit, he held his ground). And in the months that followed, we learned that an administration actuary was threatened with the loss of his job if he told Congress the true estimated cost of the bill, and even later learned that the bill would drain billions of dollars from state governments. This in addition to the downsides of the legislation which were known at the time it passed.

Of course, it's possible that the Medicare bill still would have squeaked through the House even if the leadership had followed the rules, given everyone three days to read the bill, and allowed Republicans in their caucus to vote their conscience. But you have to wonder why the Republican leadership was so determined to pass the bill before anyone had had the chance to read it.

You also have to wonder if things would have turned out differently if John Kline, or any of the 40 other Republicans who had asked their leaders to follow the rules, had stood up and defended their beliefs on the floor on November 21.

Update: In the original post, I wrote that Nick Smith changed his vote after being threatened and bribed. In fact, he held his ground and still voted against the bill. The management regrets the error.

November 2003: Kline Asserts Bush Economic Plan is 'Doing Exactly What it Was Supposed to Do'

Recent posts have reviewed John Kline's activity in Congress as presented in the Congressional Record, and a couple of posts ago I asked ". . . didn't he have anything to say about major issues facing the country during the summer of 2003?" During his first ten months in the House of Representatives, freshman congressman Kline's contributions on the floor were infrequent and typically full of fluff.

Finally, on November 5, 2003, Kline gave a sustained speech praising Bush's handling of the economy. It even included facts and empirical data, resources he had previously only used when praising some collegiate athletic team on its most recent national title. But on this day, Kline proudly proclaimed that ". . . the President's Jobs and Growth Package is doing exactly what it was supposed to do," and had some numbers to back up his claim.

I don't have too much to say about this speech; I'm merely reproducing it here in order to provide a full accounting of John Kline's record (that is, after all, why I'm here). But I just wanted to make a few observations.

Kline argues that Bush's economic plan was working in the fall of 2003 because of the strong 7.2% GDP growth rate in the third quarter of 2003, which is impressive, and it makes good political sense for a Republican House to give credit for this strong performance to the Republican president's policies. The problem is, it's far too easy for someone like me to point to the lackluster economic performance 9 months later and ask why the president's policies have lost their magic. Kline also notes that from the beginning of January 2003 through November 5, 2003, the U.S. stock markets gained roughly $2 trillion in value. The problem with that is that someone like me can ask Kline why, with Bush's wonderful economic policies in place for the past 2 years, the stock market has increased in value by less than three percent. In fact, it's been pretty well stagnant.

Anyway, we can play these statistical games endlessly. The bottom line is, there were some positive economic indicators in the fall of 2003, and Kline put himself on record as giving Bush's tax cuts, etc., the credit for them. Here's his speech:

Mr. Speaker, I thank the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Mario Diaz-Balart), my distinguished colleague, for yielding, and more importantly, most importantly, for his leadership on this issue and so many issues. It is such a pleasure to serve with such a fine gentleman.

Mr. Speaker, I rise today, of course, to join he and my other colleagues in sharing the really great news what we are seeing in the United States economy. As you heard from the gentleman from Florida (Mr. Mario Diaz-Balart) and the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Hensarling), the United States economy grew at the astonishing rate of 7.2 percent in the third quarter. The highest rate since 1984. That warrants the repetition that we are giving it this evening.

It is a sign that the President's Jobs and Growth Package is doing exactly what it was supposed to do. And I am so pleased to have been a part of this Congress to help make this a reality. That package that we passed this year helped to generate our growth spurt by bringing economic activity to a higher level. That was exactly the purpose. This, in turn, increased the incomes and the living standards, the living standards for American workers. Not just the living standards for the rich, the living standards for American workers. And, in addition to this incredible, astonishing growth, we have seen other important indicators of a reviving, in fact, a rapidly growing economy.

My colleague, the gentleman from Texas (Mr. Hensarling), mentioned that home ownership has reached the highest level ever, the highest level ever. And since the beginning of this year, the value of the United States stock markets has increased $2 trillion. Two trillion dollars. That is money in retirement accounts and 401(k)s and IRAs and mutual funds. That is real wealth to Americans. Disposable income is up 5.8 percent.

And, just as predicted, when you let the American workers, businesses, and families and individuals keep more of their own money, when you tax it less, and disposable income goes up, other good things happen. Manufacturing goods are up. Shipments of durable goods are up. Consumer confidence is, you guessed it, up. Things are looking up and there is more to come.

Mr. Speaker, the point has been raised that jobs are not as high as we would like them to be, but I am here to tell you that they are on their way. This economic indicator always lags, and we are already starting to see signs that the labor market is beginning to improve. Claims for unemployment insurance are down.

My colleague from Texas mentioned that 57,000 new jobs are were created in September. Progress is evident. We have more work to do. And the good news is that the President and the leadership in this house never planned to rest on its laurels.

The President, the administration, the House, has a plan to further strengthen the economy and create more jobs. Six easy points that the President has articulated, and it bears repeating tonight for our discussion. We want to ensure an affordable and reliable energy supply, and we are working on passing an energy bill; we want to reduce the burden of frivolous lawsuits on our economy; streamline regulations and reporting requirements; make health care costs more affordable and more predictable; open new markets for American products; enable families and businesses to plan for the future with confidence by bringing consistency and predictability to the system.

Mr. Speaker, this Congress and this President recognized a need and responded. We are already seeing signs of success and more to come. I am so pleased to be here with you tonight and to be part of this Congress and this team working for a better, stronger America.