Close friends who I dearly love regard Chuck Schumer as one of the sleaziest Democrats in the Senate. So I tend to regard everything he says and does with a certain amount of healthy skepticism.
Take, for instance, his argument that Republican governors who are unconscionably indifferent to the plight of some of their constituents are not legally permitted to cherry-pick which provisions of the stimulus package they will accept:
Section 1607(a) of the economic recovery legislation provides that the Governor of each state must certify a request for stimulus funds before any money can flow. No language in this provision, however, permits the governor to selectively adopt some components of the bill while rejecting others. To allow such picking and choosing would, in effect, empower the governors with a line-item veto authority that President Obama himself did not possess at the time he signed the legislation.
That line-item veto bit is great political rhetoric, but the legal argument, of course, boils down to what Section 1607 permits and/or prohibits.
Before reading this section, I expected to find that that no language specifically permits or prohibits selectively adopting some components of the bill while rejecting others. However, focusing on the “no language permits” while ignoring the “no language prohibits” certainly made for good political theater even if the legal argument was suspect. I expected that would be the point of my post.
But, in fact, there is very clear language in Section 1607 that envisions what action a state legislature can take if a governor selectively rejects some components of the bill:
SEC. 1607. (a) Certification by Governor- Not later than 45 days after the date of enactment of this Act, for funds provided to any State or agency thereof, the Governor of the State shall certify that: (1) the State will request and use funds provided by this Act; and (2) the funds will be used to create jobs and promote economic growth.
(b) Acceptance by State Legislature- If funds provided to any State in any division of this Act are not accepted for use by the Governor, then acceptance by the State legislature, by means of the adoption of a concurrent resolution, shall be sufficient to provide funding to such State.
(c) Distribution- After the adoption of a State legislature’s concurrent resolution, funding to the State will be for distribution to local governments, councils of government, public entities, and public-private entities within the State either by formula or at the State’s discretion.
That section Section 1607 (b) is a killer. Chuck Schumer clearly has this ass-backwards. Given how much standing-ovation publicity Schumer’s comments received yesterday, how much uncritically enthusiastic attention, it’s shocking that — as of last night, at least — only one person in the whole world seems to have pointed this out. Not a single person from the mainstream media. And just one single blogger: Donny Shaw at OpenCongress (whose post I linked to above, both times). (At least, that was the result of several diligent Google searches I conducted last night.)
Funnier still is the fact that Section 1607 (b) was the subject of a post in the NYT‘s The Caucus blog by Kate Phillips on February 19. Keith Olbermann‘s Countdown reported on this section of the bill the same night:
The fourth story on the COUNTDOWN: Putting their national partisan future desires ahead of their constituents‘ bipartisan immediate needs. To say nothing of the reality gaps, state lawmakers in each case could overrule them and take the money anyway.
No one, apparently, remembered Phillips’ blog or Olberman’s report and connected the dots. No one who blogged or reported about Schumer’s letter bothered to conduct the basic due diligence of actually looking at the language of Section 1607. Aren’t you required to do that stuff if you’re a journalist or a serious, respectable blogger?
Those who didn’t do it include such serious, respectable bloggers as Josh Marshall at TPM, Ezra Klein at The American Prospect, dday cross-posted at Hullabaloo, Ryan Powers of ThinkProgress, and Ryan Grim of The Huffington Post.
It will be interesting to see if any of them publish “Oops!” posts or corrections today (and give Donny Shaw the credit he deserves).