Thursday, August 04, 2005

Name your price....

An amendment was added to the energy bill that would ensure the continued export of weapons grade uranium to foreign countries. The material is used in medial reactors to create isotopes for medical procedures. The reactors, however, are not required to meet the same standards as U.S. facilities. The amendment was added by Senator Burr (R-N.C.) a recipient of large amounts of money from industry lobbyists.
The Burr Amendment -- named for its sponsor, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) -- would reverse a 13-year-old U.S. policy banning exports of weapons-grade uranium unless the recipients agree to start converting their reactors to use less-dangerous uranium. The Senate rejected the measure last month after critics in both parties warned that it would accelerate the worldwide proliferation of nuclear materials, but a House-Senate conference committee agreed this week to include it in the final bill
This came up earlier but other things had to be attended to. In the intervening time, Billmon over at Whiskey Bar has a scathing indictment of the level of overt corruption that has descended upon the Republican controlled Congress. While he in no way minces words when it comes to taking the few remaining Democrats to task, or the historic fact of corruption in Congress, he saves his best work for the current leadership, the Republican Party.

The New Republicanism was began its gallup to the top following the promise of Newt Gingrich and other Republicans that they would clean house and evict the gluttonous Democrats who had long been feeding off the public trough. What was quickly discovered in Washington (though has for some reason been left out of much of the reporting) is that the Republicans were not trying to drive out the Democrats for abusing their positions, but because they were taking up all the room.

Indeed there may even have been a bit of professional disgust at work as well. The Democrat-controlled congress had its pork and its corruption, but they never could have dreamed of the 19th century style grifting the Republican leadership knew was possible. As the lobbyist Jack Abramoff and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay have demonstrated, there is some serious money to be made if only you can drop any pretense of possessing scruples.

Abramoff went so far as to enlist the former wunderkind of the Christian Coalition, Ralph Reed, to lobby Christian groups to push the legislators to shut down tribal casinos. Abramoff then went to the casinos and promised to help get them up and running again, for a price.

DeLay has his own machine up and running. Nearly the entire lobbying enclave of Washington is now represented by Republicans. Some are former Congressmen, some are former staffers. DeLay let it be known that nothing would get done on the Hill unless the lobbying firms hired his people and contributed to his pet projects. A lobbyist is, by trade, unscrupulous and whatever is best for business is how it is done. DeLay knew that and he turned the tables on the lobbying groups.

Before, politicians felt they needed the lobbyists. The perks and contributions they provided allowed a successful Congressman to enjoy his position and keep his campaigns financed. DeLay showed the lobbyists that they needed him. No access means no work for a lobbyist.

While their success is impressive, the resulting atmosphere is one of unrestricted abandon. Once power and contributions become the only coin of the realm, any form of decorum went out the window. Bi-partisanship? Gone. Bribery on the floor of the House? In.

Now we have a case of the United States exporting material that we (allegedly) went to war to keep out of Saddam's hands. The industry's argument is that converting the medical reactors so they can use lower-quality uranium is very expensive and therefore it is easier to simply provide the higher grade material.

The current cost of the Iraq invasion is over $200 billion and over 1,800 American lives.

Any time you hear a Republican Senator say that national security is the number one concern of his, ask him how he voted on the Burr Amendment to the Energy Bill.

- Murphy

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