Calmes: The Jan. 6 committee did the country proud but it hasn’t changed our calcified politics
Published: Sunday, December 6, 2012 at 12:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 5, 2012 at 3:58 p.m.
It’s rare to find a bill that gets less bipartisan support. It’s even rarer to find an issue that got less attention than the one on which the House and Senate have taken action, and yet did the nation a service.
This year’s vote on a measure that would boost the minimum wage and make it easier to unionize was a case in point. The vote was just the first step. This bill will be considered for floor action on the final day of the session. It’s expected to pass the House easily (if not the Senate), and then, with a veto unlikely, will be introduced as a constitutional amendment in the November 2016 election year.
That’s a lot of time to watch, but also a short window. And it will have made for an education in the art of the politics.
The House bill was brought by Democrats, led by Dwayne Jones, D-Houston, and James Mitchell, D-Galveston. The Senate bill was led by Republican Rep. John Carter, R-Round Rock (though he left the GOP when he won his seat in the Texas House). But the two measures were not entirely alike. The House’s provisions included $9 billion more for unemployment benefits and $8 billion for job training, while the Senate bill included more than $17 billion for unemployment benefits and less job training.
That distinction was important. In a democracy, there are lots of ways to get something done. The House and Senate bills were very different, and that difference helps in understanding how this measure made its way to the floor.
When Congress passes a budget, it cuts spending and raises taxes. But in 2011, the tax cuts were so unpopular that the House and Senate needed to find a way to make them appear to be spending increases to get them through.
The House and Senate bills got different ways to do that. The House bill did it by taking from the top the tax cuts and giving it to the middle. The Senate by raising