The Masters of the House

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Donkey pulling house

Pulling the House to the left [Augusta R. Toppins]

After assembling a reading list for the new Democratic majority, we’re talking to House members themselves.

Massachusetts Represenative Barney Frank, who will soon chair the Financial Services Committee, will be on. As will Congressman Tom Lantos of California, who will head the International Relations Committee. No definitive word back from the offices of Charles Rangel, John Conyers, or Henry Waxman, but we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

More soon…

Update, 11/15/06 2:40pm

Henry Waxman is unavailable, as is John Conyers, whose staff did tell me today that the congressman is a huge fan of public radio. Maybe next time.

But Issac Newton “Ike” Skelton IV of Missouri has signed on. Skelton, who is expected to chair the Armed Services Committee, told George Will that his agenda boiled down to three things: “Oversight, oversight, oversight!”

Update, 11/15/06 6:23pm

Late additions! Charles Rangel of New York, soon to be the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, says he’s love to be on. And we’ll end the show with Carol Shea-Porter, New Hampshire’s incoming Congresswoman, to hear about the opposite end of the experience spectrum. She had her first day of orientation yesterday; our other guests have had a combined 115 years.

Barney Frank

U.S. Representative, D-MA

Tom Lantos

U.S. Representative, D-CA

Charles Rangel

U.S. Representative, D-NY

Ike Skelton

U.S. Representative, D-MO

Carol Shea-Porter

Incoming U.S. Representative, D-NH

Extra Credit Reading

Richard B. Schmitt and Richard Simon, Democrats Are Set to Subpoena, LA Times, November 10, 2006: “Rep. Ike Skelton knows what he will do in one of his first acts as chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the Democratic-led House: resurrect the subcommittee on oversight and investigations … Skelton (D-Mo.) intends to use it as a forum to probe Pentagon spending and the Bush administration’s conduct of the Iraq war.”

Stirling Newberry, The Center of Attention, TPM Cafe, November 12, 2006: “We are now seeing from Time, Newsweek and other outlets a recycling of that same theory – namely that the Democrats, because of the ‘conservative’ tilt of the new freshman class are going to have to be ‘moderates’. This prediction is just as off base. The American people voted for change, not for slight tweaking.”

Keith Kreitman, Democrats May Urge Contact With U.S. Adversaries, The Washington Post, November 10, 2006: “The incoming chairmen of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House International Relations Committee — Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Rep. Tom Lantos of California, respectively — have long argued that the administration’s approach to dealing with adversaries has hamstrung diplomacy.”

Kelly Pakula, Lantos Welcomes Resignation, The San Mateo County Times, November 9, 2006: “‘I don’t think self-imposed isolation is a useful policy. Even the most powerful nation needs friends and allies and supporters globally.'”

Charles P. Pierce, To Be Frank, Boston Globe, October 2, 2005: “[Frank says] ‘I know the rules of the House as much as anybody. I am a wonk about how to get things done, more than about what to do.'”

Engram What Americans Think about the Democratic Plan for Iraq, Back Talk, November 15 2006: “Sadly, John Murtha and John Kerry and the rest of the Democrats seem more likely to confirm their worst fears by confirming al Qaeda’s theory of America.”

Related Content

  • Japan does not have a dual citizenship policy, so many people, like myself, have lived here on a Permanent Resident Visa for many years. We have been treated as half-citizens in a sense. Though not allowed to vote, we are given some privileges not granted other visa holders, such as possessing a Resident Identification Card not requiring a fingerprint and the ability to use the citizen’s queue at airport immigration. Pressure from the Bush regime has greatly helped undermine our position and the government here, as part of the “war on/of terror”, is about to treat us, and all visitors, like potential criminals and terrorists, though we have deep root in the community. On the issues of fingerprinting and photographing all foreigners, the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations argues since fingerprinting foreigners goes against a constitutional requirement to treat people with respect, the proposed policy should be canceled.

    The Abe regime here is also looking into changing Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, the “No War” clause, and the present foreign minister, Aso, is stirring things up on the issue of Japan going nuclear.

    What I would like to ask Tom Lantos is 1) whether as head of the International Relations Committee he will use the US’s considerable influence to pressure governments to protect the rights and privileges of all members of a society rather than encourage governments to repress people, and 2) whether the Democrats will try to forge a different relationship with Japan and if and how they will endeavor to contain the hawks now in power here?


    On Fingerprinting:

    On Article 9:

    On the Nuclear Issue:,CST-EDT-ref11a.article

  • One comment on the title of this show, David. I thought the masters of this house were the citizens and that the members were the caretakers? Does calling them “masters”, even in jest, not perpetuate an attitude that they are above the constitution and the people they serve?

    Please correct me if I have misinterpreted.

  • Another problem with using the term Masters of the House is the female equivalent… Mistresses of the House? Madams? due to gender prejudice and tawdry slights that are built right into our language the female equivalent to the term Master might make a person wonder just what sort of House you are talking about.

    May I suggest using the non-gender specific and respectable term Chairperson?

  • I can’t tell you how thrilled to hear about Nancy Pelosi’s plans to sharply curtail lobbyist giving and influence. I think the best opportunity for the Dems to maintain and expand their majority is to establish a clear positioning as the Clean party, the party that will make sure that elected representatives serve the people instead of themselves.

    In support of this, they need a slogan to which it is hard to think of a competing slogan (I think that the “pro life” tag is great, since the opposite is almost necessarily lacking). Maybe a slogan incorporating “Clean” would be good, since it implies the other party isn’t.

  • rc21

    To avecfrites; ”Clean ”That might be hard to do with rep Alcee Hastings up for a key post. Also Ted Kennedy being one of the parties leaders does not inspire one to think of a clean party. Throw in Harry Reids shady dealings, Chuck Schumers aides dirty and illegal dumpster diving involving Michael Steele in MD, and well I think you get the picture. As Roger once said “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss”

  • 1st/14th

    To avecfrites; ‘’Clean ‘’That might be hard to do with rep Alcee Hastings up for a key post. Also Ted Kennedy being one of the parties leaders does not inspire one to think of a clean party. Throw in Harry Reids shady dealings, Chuck Schumers aides dirty and illegal dumpster diving involving Michael Steele in MD, and well I think you get the picture. As Roger once said “Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss”

    Come now … that cant be true, after all I never once heard Chris Mathhews talk about ANY of this.

  • Hey, you don’t find yourself, you make yourself. If the Dems want to be Clean, they can take steps in that direction. They can keep the questionable folks out of leadership posts, enact tigher rules going forward, etc. — things the Republicans had the chance to do but never did.

  • Here is a link to a photo of Washington State’s Senator Patty Murray, the newly elected Conference Secretary. October before the war in Iraq started I went to one of the big marches in Washington DC. We went to Senator Murray’s office to thank her for voting against giving Bush the war powers. She was not there at the time but I saw her tennis shoe collection. When Patty Murray first ran for the Senate she was derided by her opponent as being “just a Mom in tenny runners”. In response she held up a pair of tenny runners and said she was going to run all the way to the Senate. And she did. She now has a gift and honorary tennis shoe collection in a display case in her Senate office. I’m very happy to see how far she has run… the Mom in tenny runners from Washington State.

  • oops, I guess you’re talking about the House here not the Senate. But I’m just so glad we get to change both!

  • Sutter

    I’d be interested in hearing the guests’ views on how the new Congress plans to “manage” globalization, if at all. It seems to me that one of the less-noted consequences of the change will be a (further?) shift away from the neoliberal approach to the world economy. This certainly seems true on the Senate side, and I suspect it will be true on the House side as well. Do the new chairs expect a more concerted effort to prepare America’s workforce for the new global economy? Will we see more focus on worker retraining? More tax credits and whatnot for college education? Can we reach consensus on baseline mininimal environmental and labor standards to ensure “fair trade” without too badly undermining “free trade”? Or will we focus (wrongly in my view) on protectionism and hide our heads in the sand while we fall further behind?

  • Sopper14

    This new coming reality is still so stunning my head is spinning with questions and possibilities, but off the top of my head:

    -In light of stultifying deficits and an overwhelming commitment in Iraq, what do the Dems plan to do with respect to funding Federal land management and conservation agencies like the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service? At the field level, these agencies have been cut or flat-funded for several years and are strangling. What’s the outlook?

    -What might the Dems do to restore the basic processes of democracy like putting the interests of citizens ahead of lobbyists and ensuring fair and verifiable elections?

    -Any plans to manage the broadcast spectrum (TV and radio) as a public resource and in the interest of the public rather than solely as an avenue for commercial exploitation?

    So many more, but if you could pose just one of these questions, I’d be grateful.

  • lymelaw

    I’ll say here what I said before the election: To the Dems– be careful what you ask for. While I am a straight-ticket supporter, no-one has a monopoly on wisdom. Core operating principal should be “keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.” They’ll never see it coming. That goes for dealing with the discredited former majority and with Iran and North Korea. Make the Shrub use his veto pen…if it still works. Enough. Peace.

  • rc21

    To sopper14: Are you advocating government control of the media?

  • weirdmaps

    I have a question for Mr. Rangel (who I have a lot of respect for):

    How about an end to the earmarking bonanza?

  • plnelson

    In support of this, they need a slogan

    Give us a break. We’ve had enough slogans. The whole problem with American culture is that Americans confuse gesture and symbolism with concrete facts. If gesture and symbolism could do the trick, the whole Mideast would be a peaceful democracy by now.

    No more slogans. The only things that matter are actual behavior. Given Pelosi’s support of Murtha, with his ethical issues, I’m not expecting big improvements from the Dems. Don’t forget: The Democrats were not elected because they are smart, decent, kind, or clean. They were elected ONLY because they are not Republicans in this election year. Neither party has cornered the market in sleaze.

  • Can we get Mr. Frank to comment on taking the financial services industry out of the new bankruptcy laws, where down-and-outers get to spend their first few grand – post bankruptcy – learning how to manage debt from the very industry that put them there in the first place?

    Would anyone like to comment on rolling back the tax break for the wealthy on cap gains? Just to get this one started, is there any reason why those who benefit the most from the actions of the federal government shouldn’t be required to give something back when they’re dead? What’s wrong with a Death Tax anyway, they didn’t pay anything while they were living…

    Any chance we can save college students from starting life with huge debt burdens only to find menial minimum wage jobs awaiting them? How about extending Ch 11/13 protection to them as well? Or at least the possibility of the same type of debt restructuring that we extend to foreign countries.

    And what about Social Security, pensions and the coming retirement doom?

  • plnelson

    “This new coming reality is still so stunning my head is spinning with questions and possibilities”

    I still don’t know why anytone thinks there’s anything stunning or earthshaking about the recent election!

    Elections are like the weather – ever notice how local TV stations love to really hype up weather events – “The Storm of the Season!” with grave looking reporters on location in front of crashing waves at the beach or reporting from some deep underground bunker “Storm Central” control room? Nowadays they have dramatic music and graphics to go with their breathless rports.

    I’ve lived in New England all my life. We get storms here. Big deal. When I was 4 I once had to be evacuated from a beach house by the Coast Guard, but as an adult I drive a 4WD vehicle, keep an emergency kit on hand, and own a whole-house generator, and that’s all. I get on with my life – I go to work, go shopping, and do my daily activities, and pay no attention to over-hyped routine events like weather.

    Don’t get suckered-in by the media! Little, if anything will change. We have no good options in Iraq so don’t expect the Dem’s to pull a rabbit out of THAT hat. And the only changs they are likely to make to taxes involve some minor twiddling with brackets and deductions, so the budget deficit isn’t going to just evaporate. On social issues the Dem’s are not far from the GOP, and anyway have no money to throw at major issues like health care. so don’t hold your breath there. They might make some meaningless symbolic gesture on energy or the environment, but do the math: the sheer magnitude of those issues is way beyond anything either party has the guts to tackle.

    So, bottom line: don’t be a sucker. This is a medie event. Replacing Tweedle-dumb with Tweedle-Dem is not going to make much practical on the ground difference.

  • plnelson, I too am skeptical that any real change is likely. No amount of daydreaming, sloganeering or downright hucksterism is going to change the dynamic of the body politic especially in DC.

    Nevertheless, the sooner the issues that are the current topic of so much media frenzy are proposed in the national debate, the sooner a mediocre and most likely incompetent program for relief can be fostered and/or rejected. Whereupon a new round of discussion and inept attempts at augmentation will no doubt issue.

    Except in times of perceived emergency, such as the current administration’s focus on war, our system of government is slow, ponderous, corrupt and unproductive. Like evolution, over time, change eventually does take place, inevitably and with many false starts and dead ends. To promulgate the evolutionary metaphor further, not only does the organism itself change but the environment changes as well, the one in complement to the other over painfully long and difficult to perceive epochs.

  • rc21

    With the current state of leadership in both parties I advocate for gridlock. The less these two parties acomplish the better.