Few Portents of Bipartisanship in D.C.
No Voter Is an Island
Censoring the Census Bureau?
Bush-Cheney Ready to Rumble
Katherine the Great

Few Portents of Bipartisanship in D.C.
Burning Bush

No matter what members of Congress tell the media, there are few if any signs of bipartisanship on Capitol Hill as Bush prepares to take over the government. On Sunday's Meet the Press, House minority leader Dick Gephardt refused under prodding from host Tim Russert to say Bush was the "legitimate" president of the U.S. On This Week, Senate minority leader Tom Daschle said he approved of efforts by the media to do independent vote counts in Florida, adding, "We already know Al Gore got more votes in the popular election." Jesse Jackson insisted more openly that Bush was not legitimate, since, he said, legitimacy "comes from the consent of the governed."

As for the conservative Republicans who narrowly rule Congress, House majority whip Tom DeLay said conservatives would push Bush's agenda. "For the first time in 50 years, we have both houses and the White House. The difference now is that they won't have a Democratic president to veto this stuff," DeLay told The Washington Times last week.

Members of the Black Caucus are in no mood to deal with Bush. Some will boycott the inauguration. "I will definitely not go [to the inauguration]," New Jersey congressman Donald Payne told Roll Call. "How can I go when the legal apparatus put in place by [Bush's] campaign disenfranchised my people to exercise their God-given right to vote? His [inauguration] party is not a place for me." Putting Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice in top positions in his administration doesn't assuage Black Caucus members. And the mere presence of Cheney as vice president infuriates them. "Dick Cheney voted to keep Nelson Mandela in prison and against Head Start," Payne said.

Don't count on conservative Southern Democrats jumping ship and joining Bush to give conservatives a wider majority in the House. Louisiana senator John Breaux, the most visible of these Blue Dog Democrats brushed off Bush's bid to join the cabinet. Numbering 30, the Blue Dogs aren't a force to be trifled with. And, in the past at least, they have not shown any liking for supply-side tax cuts, which is what Bush is proposing. They have resolutely fought for a balanced budget as a means of reducing the debt and, along with it, the nation's enormous interest payments, and to shore up Social Security. In their view any budget surplus ought to be applied to reducing the debt. The Blue Dogs are extremely cautious about setting in motion any tax cuts until basic government programs like Medicare are adequately funded.

Finally, congressional Republicans can end up tying themselves in knots in their efforts to manipulate committee chairmanships and duties so as to benefit conservatives. For example, Republicans want to strip the House Commerce Committee of oversight responsibilities on finance issues as a way to cut off once-powerful Michigan Democratic congressman John Dingell, the chairman under Democratic rule. Dingell still considers the Commerce Committee his fiefdom and has used its oversight investigations as a tool against corporate wrongdoing.

No Voter Is an Island

As the Florida election mess amply demonstrated, the litany that every citizen has the right to vote is a joke. In an article last week, the Los Angeles Times described some of the ways the United States systematically denies people the vote.

In New York City, metal-lever voting machines—each one containing 27,000 parts—are so old they are no longer made. Similar machines in Louisiana can be rigged with a screwdriver, pliers, and a cigarette lighter. "In Texas 'vote whores' do favors for people in return for absentee ballots. Sometimes canvassers or consultants, as they prefer to be called, simply buy the ballots. Failing all else, they steal them from mailboxes," the paper reports.

There are more people registered to vote in Alaska than there are people of voting age. In supposedly advanced Oregon, more than 36,000 voters sent in ballots signed by someone else. Students in Wisconsin claim they voted four times. In Louisiana, the former elections commissioner pleaded guilty recently to a kickback scheme with a voting-machine dealer. And in New York City a dumbfounded Voice reader wrote in saying he had witnessed election officials in Brooklyn snoozing while four people crowded into a voting booth, each voting twice.

Censoring the Census Bureau?
Another Undercount

Despite the voting mess, there is little interest in making sure people of voting age get a chance to cast a ballot. In fact, the drive to extend the voting franchise likely will reach another impasse early in the Bush administration, when Republicans try to block a counting method that would include large numbers of minority citizens in the reapportionment and redistricting process.

Population counts are made by the Census Bureau. But because the Bureau's count is likely to be less than the actual population, it will release a second set of population numbers in early 2001, which will be scientifically adjusted for this undercount.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the raw-count numbers must be used in reapportionment—i.e., determining how many congressional seats a state has—but it left open the possibility that the scientifically adjusted numbers, arrived at under a method endorsed by the National Academy of Sciences, could be used for state legislative redistricting: redrawing actual district lines in accordance with the population.

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