Monday, May 17, 2004

State DFL shoots their hostage 

Most times, when a party is entrusted with public power they will leave office having some victories, something to deliver to their constituency. There will be a press conference in which accomplishments are ticked off; lately it seems they all have to come with customized background signage which slogans of triumphal inanity.

So what victories have the Minnesota DFL dragged home this term in return for their control of the state Senate? Not much, it appears. It couldn't pass a bonding bill. It couldn't get any leverage on budget issues, and it allowed itself backed into a corner on gay marriage so that the Republicans have a great issue to go into the 2004 House elections. The agreement to reduce the DUI limit to 0.08 was inspired to collect the $100 million federal bribe rather than anything to do with public safety. The best that could be said was said by David Strom of the Minnesota Taxpayers League:
...contrary to the pretensions of most of us who live and breathe politics, the state will carry on just fine without legislative intervention. The budget deficit was small, the bonding bill has some important initiatives in it, but they will be passed next year, and the state already has the will and the tools to deal harshly with the worst sex offenders. And honestly, a number of truly stupid initiatives died this legislative session�including massive tax increases on businesses and some pretty awful boondoggles.
The DFL had one power exclusively, which was the power to confirm commissioners. And at 3:40 in the morning a few hours before they adjourned, the Senate on a straight party-line vote rejected Cheri Pierson Yecke.
The vote against Yecke came as a surprise. In recent days, Republicans were voicing confidence that she would survive this political storm, which included a contentious committee hearing and a negative recommendation by the Senate Education Committee. Even early Sunday as the Senate took up the confirmation debate, agency spokesman Bill Walsh and Republican senators thought several DFL members would end up voting for Yecke. The commissioner, who had been keeping a relatively low profile in recent months, was not at the Capitol during the debate but heard of it by phone from Walsh as it took place.

Yecke said she was shocked when she heard the vote tally. She said Senate Majority Leader Dean Johnson, DFL-Willmar, told her in a private meeting earlier this month that he would not call up her confirmation for a vote unless she had the votes necessary to prevail. But Johnson said he phrased it more as a challenge to Yecke to go out and gather the needed votes as opposed to a pledge that her job was safe.
Who is helped by this? Does it really do the DFL any good to show that they have no conception of leadership? Is this going to get them to a special Well, behold one person happy the hostage got shot.
There are no words that will do to congratulate the coalition members on our victory. Despite the laughable attacks that called us a "well funded" effort, your patriotic fervor, days and months of hard work, and smart leadership paid off.
The teacher taliban congratulate themselves on passing a compromise social sciences bill that they cannot possibly have read yet (they weren't finalized until 9:45pm Saturday night and voted on less than twelve hours later) and as best anyone can tell uses the science standards that come from December 2003. (See the Senate Journal, page 5217.) That is to say, they do not know what they are rooting for except the taking of a hide.

These are the faces of the hostage takers.

And this is the face of their gunner.

Remember them when you vote for your local school board and for Senate.

UPDATE: Captain's Quarters puts it nicely:

They used her as a straw-man for Pawlenty's policies, a corruption of the advise-and-consent role envisaged for the Senate. Whether you like Yecke or Pawlenty has become a secondary consideration now. The Senate has established a precedent for usurpation of the executive's privilege of nominating people that intend on implementing his policies, a precedent that they will live to rue, I'm sure, as soon as the situation is reversed.

Besides, what happens now is that Pawlenty will nominate a new Education Commissioner, but still one who will implement Pawlenty's policies. The Senate's action is, in the final analysis, an empty and bitter gesture.
And Penraker wonders if we'll see those "Columbus was no hero" placemats at a PTA bake sale sometime soon?