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February 13, 2009

Mr. Boehner has a Tantrum

Posted in: Republicans,Stimulus

000d2p2t.thumbnail.jpgOh, dear. Mr. Boehner’s all sad again. 

It appears that the Republicans just haven’t had enough time to review the finished version of the stimulus plan, and he thinks that stinks a really lot. 

To the point that he’s forgotten to use his words, and he’s throwing things. 

Bother. I really hate it when that happens. Like, for instance, when the Republicans controlled the Senate, and this happened

  

Lobbyists for Eli Lilly & Company, the pharmaceutical giant, did not have much luck when they made the rounds on Capitol Hill earlier this year, seeking protection from lawsuits over a preservative in vaccines. Senator Bill Frist, Republican of Tennessee, tucked a provision into a bill that went nowhere. When lawmakers rebuffed a request to slip language into domestic security legislation, a Lilly spokesman said, the company gave up.

Now, in a Washington whodunit worthy of Agatha Christie, the provision has been resurrected and become law, as part of the domestic security legislation signed on Monday by President Bush. Yet in a city where politicians have perfected the art of claiming credit for deeds large and small, not a single member of Congress — or the Bush administration — will admit to being the author of the Lilly rider.

”It’s turning into one of Washington’s most interesting parlor games,” said Dave Lemmon, spokesman for Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, who has promised to introduce legislation to repeal the provision. ”There’s a lot of guessing, a lot of speculation as to who did this.”

Well, maybe not so much a mystery

The legislative history:

1. Frist offered a bill to get Eli Lilly off the hook on thimerosal in the Senate. No hearings were held.

2. That provision appeared in neither the House nor the Senate version of the Homeland Security bill as passed before the election, since it has nothing to do with homeland security.

3. After the election, a version of the Homeland Security bill was reported out by the conference committee, with several special-interest goodies, including the thimerosal language, that hadn’t been in either the House bill or the Senate bill.

4. There’s no mystery about who put it in: Armey did. But Armey had no particular interest in the thimerosal stuff. The "mystery" is who asked him to put it in. Frist, the author, specifically says he didn’t, though Armey says he put the language in after consulting with Frist. But no one will say who asked to have it inserted. The natural suspect is Mitch Daniels, the Director of OMB; the early reports were that the pressure came from "the White House," and Daniels is an ex-officer of Lilly and planning to go back to Indiana, where Lilly is based, to run for governor.

5. The Frist version had a necessary conforming amendment to the Internal Revenue Code. The Armey version, the one that passed, didn’t. As a result, the bill as passed blocks all lawsuits and directs the claims to the Vaccine Injury Compensation Program, but the VICP trust fund is still barred by law from paying any such claim.

6. All the thimerosal claims are time-barred by the terms of VICP. Neither the Frist version nor the Armey version deals with that.

FYI, it turns out that, per MB at Wampum, the thimerosal provision was even less fragrant than that.

So the Frist provision was inserted into the law without it ever having been read or voted on by anyone in either house outside the conference committee, which was at the time completely controlled by Republicans. The congress was told to vote on the thimerosal immunity Frist had repeatedly attempted to get forced into law on an up or down vote with the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security. Even at that, Dennis Hastert was forced to offer to revisit the provision to get the bill passed, and it was stripped in 2003.

The conference committee, Mr. Boehner. Nobody read it and nobody voted on it and your own party shoved it into a national security bill in the conference committee.

WADR, Mr. Boehner, just shut up. 

Thanks.


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