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February 15, 2008

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If you're looking in order to assess what's really important to the candidates, you might check into any bills sponsored by Obama in Illinois. (Unless you have some reason that these would not reflect his priorities.)

Allison: no; it's just that I'm not sure how to find them, and I'm still slogging through the amendments I have found. Sigh. But thanks.

S.2722 : A bill to designate the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 170 East Main Street in Patchogue, New York, as the "Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy Post Office Building". Note: For further action, see H.R.4101, which became Public Law 109-256 on 8/1/2006.

We owe Lieutenant Michael P. Murphy, USN a lot more than a post office. We owe his successors in interest a withdrawal or a functional set of Rules of Engagement.

“When they find the bodies, the Taliban leaders will sing to the Afghan media. The media in the U.S.A. will latch on to it and write stuff about the brutish U.S. Armed Forces. Very shortly after that, we’ll be charged with murder. The murder of unarmed Afghan farmers.”
-Lieutenant Michael Murphy, USN, now dead

Very interesting post, thanks for doing the legwork on it.

My basic take on what the amendments show: Obama's show a legislator concerned about race and gender equality, improving education opportunities for low income students, ethical and transparent government and competitive bidding on government contracts, whereas Clinton's shows she really, really supports the troops.

Neither of them have done anything positive of much significance in the Senate. With a Republican President and either a Republican majority or razor thin Democratic majority in the Senate, there simply wasn't much opportunity for major legislation on their part anyway.

On the other hand, Obama did do some significant work in the Illinois Senate on health care and criminal justice while the other 27 years of Clinton's experience -- especially her role in health care reform in '93-'94 -- don't show anything that supports her claims to be a master of getting substantive, controversial bills passed.

Sorry, and I know you put in a lot of work on this, but this is essentially meaningless. Any piece of significant legislation must be introduced with co-sponsors, preferably many and bi-partisan, if it has any hope of passage. So by eliminating all bills they co-sponsored basically eliminated any value this might have had. The trick is to try and determine which bills they co-sponsored and took a leading role in moving through the legislative process. A very difficult thing to do but unless you can solve this riddle we won't be able to use legislative records to assess each candidate.

care to explain that logic again, dmh ?

OT - This, by a reader of Kleiman's site, is an interesting read.

DMH, she wasn't eliminating bills that had co-sponsors, but (because of the difficulty you mention) including only bills for which Obama or Clinton was the initial sponsor, as opposed to a co-sponsor. Some of these bills may very well have had "many and bi-partisan" co-sponsors. I think "meaningless" is far too strong a word to use there.

Thanks for this post. Just yesterday I was hoping someone somewhere would write about this.

Will you be updating this post? Or posting again with new information you find?

Use Thomas the legislative website of the Library of Congress (thomas.loc.gov). On the front, you can choose any bill by sponsor (which includes co-sponsors). Boom, easy list.

S.AMDT.4582 to H.R.5441 To prohibit the Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security (Transportation Security Administration) from removing any item from the current list of items prohibited from being carried aboard a passenger aircraft. Sponsor: Sen Clinton

Wait, what? I hope there's a good reason behind this.

Jackmormon, I found what she said after introducing it (no link because I can't figure out a way to get permanent links for the Congressional Record -- stupid Thomas!):

Mrs. CLINTON. Mr. President, this is an amendment which addresses the concerns raised by the Transportation Security Administration lifting the prohibition of passengers carrying onto our passenger aircraft sharp objects, including knives.

There is a considerable debate, led by the airline attendants and pilots, as to the wisdom of this rule being lifted. I ask the Senate to consider whether this is a good idea. We have been so successful in nearly 5 years in avoiding incidents on our airlines, in keeping our people safe on our airlines. If it ain't broke, why fix it?

This rule has worked. People are used to the rule. My goodness, we have had security people take steak knives out of people's handbags and suitcases. We have had them take out huge pen knives and switchblades. Why do we want to go back to that?

This is fascinating, thanks so much for making these lists. If only we lived in a world where each candidates website had such a list readily available.

It would also be very interesting to see the analogous list for John McCain. Seeing as this will be the first-ever presidential campaign between sitting Senators.

Martin: yes, that's how I generated this list. This was the easy part; the hard part is figuring out which of the bills and amendments they co-sponsored (but that were sponsored by others) they played a significant role in.

Brock: I hope to post on it again when I've gotten a better grasp of the co-sponsored legislation, but life, my actual job, etc., periodically intervene.

Also: I think Obama's record also shows he's concerned about vets. (See e.g. the amendment requiring screening of returning soldiers for TBI, and the one about homeless vets.) There is also a fair amount about Katrina.

But surely the TSA wouldn't lift the prohibition on knives! Why would anyone lift the prohibition on knives? What I'm hoping that amendment doesn't enact is the ever-multiplying list of prohibitions that we seem to live with today.

Why isn't Obama-Coburn (make available on the Web descriptions of all non-classified federal expenditures, passed in the 109th) on this list? It's described everywhere as "Obama-Coburn" e.g., here.

Curt, it's not there because Coburn is the sponsor in Thomas, and as Hilzoy said, there's no easy way to distinguish between co-sponsors who were involved in creating the legislation and those who signed on later (though people who were heavily involved will presumably be among those whose co-sponsor date is the same as the day the bill was introduced).

Hilzoy, I'm afraid there aren't a whole lot of shortcuts, but here's one: Thomas includes the date on which members became cosponsors. Original cosponsors are those signed on the day the bill is introduced. Anyone who's done significant work on the bill will be in that list, not signed on later. As dmb points out, though, that's a necessary but not sufficient condition of being a significant bill-developer.

Another indicator requires tedious review of the Congressional Record: the floor managers and main speakers during debate on initial stages of the bill usually include those who were involved in its development (and/or acknowledgement on the part of those who do speak).

Thanks for your work.

Aargh. Italics begone!

Nell: yeah, that's the one thing I have figured out: limiting myself to bills where Obama/Clinton were original co-sponsors (turns out it's even better to see who is included as a cosponsor in the Congressional Record, since that cuts out people who signed on later the same day.) I have been reading the CR to see who is mentioned by the sponsor, but, alas, that doesn't work for amendments, where people normally don't talk about that stuff. Sometimes, they don't do it even for bills.

Sigh.

Plus, there are a lot of co-sponsored amendments...

Another thought:

If you have any friends who work on Capitol Hill or in a lobbying entitity, they may have a subscription to the Congressional Quarterly that will let them do some searches for you.

CQ articles often are the only way that the backstory to amendments appears in the media.

This would be after you've narrowed down some bills where you suspect involvement but the CR doesn't help.

I suspect limiting the list to where they *sponsored* the bill is unfair to both. You're not going to see substantive legislation with only one sponsor, and with the Senate being a seniority-obsessed place, I doubt either could make top sponsor on any substantive bills. They're both pretty junior.

Curt: As best I can tell, there is always only one sponsor. This means that, as you say, it's incomplete, as I said in the post. It's just hard to get the rest sorted out.

I know there's a certain amount of inherent drudgery to life in Congress, but I'm wondering just how much important stuff might get done if the privelege/obligation of naming of landmarks and national holidays was taken away from the US Congress.

Why would anyone lift the prohibition on knives?

Because it's really silly. Before 9/11, it was legal to carry a small pocketknife with a blade 3" or less (IIRC). That's a useful tool and no more useful as a weapon than all sorts of other stuff that's still legal. The prohibition isn't worth the time and hassle of enforcing it or the inconvenience to passengers who forget to purge their pockets before they go to the airport.

Interesting. I browsed through looking at just the current Congress. As pretty much everything is stuck in some committee I couldn’t gauge how effective they were at getting their bills passed so I mainly focused on what they were proposing.

The first thing that struck me was that they both have a fair number (C=150, O=113). The second thing that struck me is that a lot of it is pure fluff from both of them. By fluff I mean resolutions that do nothing more than: “honoring and praising”, “recognizing”, “supporting”, “expressing the sense of the Congress”, “calling for”, “urging”, “congratulating”, “establish an Advisory Committee”, “condemning”, “celebrating”, “designating a date as”, “honoring and recognizing”, “commending”, etc. Probably that is completely normal; I haven’t compared their records to other Senators.

The one criterion I could use to gauge their effectiveness is how many cosponsors they managed to attract. Clinton has more submitted so I decided to look at the average number of cosponsors per bill/resolution/amendment:

C: 4.2
O: 4.17

So that’s a wash.

Then I looked at how many of their bills/resolutions/amendments have no cosponsors at all:

C: 43/150 (3.5)
O: 31/113 (3.6)

So that’s a wash.

Support of the military and veterans is important to me so I did tend to key in on that. (Expand health benefits; improve/monitor VA hospitals, housing assistance for low income vets, etc.)

C: 15
O: 10

I have to give that one to Clinton. Of course that’s just based on the summary. If I got into the meat of each I might find that Obama’s are more substantive.

Finally I decided to weed out all the resolutions and amendments – how many actual bills did each sponsor and how many of those would I personally support:

C: 92/40 (43%)
O: 55/20 (36%)

So that one goes to Clinton as well. No surprise there as Obama is certainly the more liberal of the two.

This is pretty meaningless to anyone else of course as it just reflects my own bias. But based on lunch-time research if it was based strictly on their sponsored bills in this current Congress I’d have to lean towards Clinton.

I did fumble around in there enough to conclude that you’ve set yourself quite a task here hilzoy.

OT: I hadn't looked at Larry Johnson's blog for a long time and hadn't realized he's become completely unhinged in his Obama bashing. ODS is every bit as real as CDS.

LSL's been off hinges for some time, now.

Slart, I admit I was never a regular reader -- only saw things people were pointing at -- so I'm sure I didn't have a random sample of his writing to base my opinion on. Still, I didn't expect this sort of absolute trash. I'm somewhat heartened to see that the MyDD diary hasn't made the recommended list.

For the most part, the box cutter gambit worked because everyone treated it like a run of the mill hijacking (wait around and everyone except maybe one unfortunate person is fine at the end) not because the hijackers had super-effective weapons.

Sebastian is getting at what I wanted to say about letting things onto airplanes. The fact is, 9/11 style hijack-and-crash-into-buildings-attacks were over before the fourth plane hit the ground that day.

I'm travelling next week, and I'm already irritated about the whole 1-1-3 nonsense. Last year I was going through security next to a guy who had a tube of toothpaste in his carryon, and that was his ONLY liquid/gel/etc. It was under 3 ounces. However, it was NOT in a 1 qt baggie, so the TSA lady was going to throw it out. Fortunately, I had an extra bag and gave it to him. This made everything ok. What kind of garbage security is this? The whole liquid restriction is bogus to begin with.

farmgirl - hear hear. And the whole world seems to have adopted this silliness, based on recent travels. In Hong Kong, my wife and I got off our flight from the U.S. where we had purchased a couple of waterbottles before getting on the flight. After getting off the plane in HK we went through another screening, where the bottles were discovered and thrown out. Just dumb.

And we are at a permanent "orange" level of security threat based on what?

Thirded.

Except, as far as I know, there's no evidence that box cutters were actually the weapon of choice.

Just dumb.

Yep. Six years ago, when we traveled from Orlando to Changsha, PRC to get my younger daughter, we went through screening to get out to the terminal area, and then we had to remove our shoes and have them manually inspected, again before we got on the plane.

We hopped to Houston where, never having left the security area, we had to undergo the same kind of inspection before boarding our flight to LAX. Of course, in LAX, we weren't inspected at all, because do we really care if a terrorist hijacks a China Air flight, and rams it into a building?

Yeah, stupid.

And then on the way back, we get the whole routine in reverse.

Vets are one of those funny issues where there is a flawed consensus.
Its easy to say "i am for vets" but any time you create a complex system designed to favour a sector of society you create problems.

Imagine if the government went to new Orleans after the storm and said
"I hear street sweepers work hard - all the street sweepers come up here and get your aid packages - everyone else, too bad."

of course vets could be underpaid or might choose to be paid in terms of 'state insurance' but it should be sorted out in a straightforward way.

And another thing, I haven't been selected for "extra" screening in a while (being a non-descript white male helps, I suppose), but don't they ask you which bags are yours when they do that? "Which bags are mine? Why, the two clean bags my accomplice just passed through the screening machine, not my actual two bags that contain the weapons."

OCSteve: you might be the only one who appreciates what went into installment 2, which I just put up. (As I said, I've been puttering on this for a while, so I didn't do it all today, thought I did go back to make sure no new bills had been passed since I started.)

I think Seb is completely right on this. It is nice to be able to write that.

Ugh,

I've been through the SSSS super duper extra special selectee screening (my driver's license expired on a trip and I neglected to bring my passport with me). I don't remember them asking that. The only difference was that I had to go through the new air puffing machine and they inspected all of my carry on luggage with their spectrometer swabs.

I hope I don't get asked any dumb questions at security this time or I'll really give them an earful. I think. The TSA staffers are tools and morons but they can ruin your life.

Though if an ICE agent asks me again why I'm still not an American citizen, this time I'll tell him the truth.

Turb - but did they pull you out of line while you were carrying your bags?

Ugh,

Yes. I was in the screening line and got the point where I had to show my ID and boarding pass to the first TSA agent. She directed me into the care of another TSA agent who lead me to the SSSS line and deposited me there.

After I made it through the air puffing machine (and maybe metal detector as well?), they told me to pick up my bags from the X-ray belt and deposit them at the swabbing station...this was all at IAD which has a bizarre security layout compared to more normal airports.

"LSL's been off hinges for some time, now."

What's "LSL"?

"I'm somewhat heartened to see that the MyDD diary hasn't made the recommended list."

What "MyDD diary"? What "recommended list"?

Did I miss some comments?

Turb - ah, a entirely separate line for the SSSS peep show. I think at DCA your bags go through the regular line and then if you are to go for extra screening they ask which ones are yours.

Gary - Leisure Suit Larry maybe?

If the hijackers really wanted to mess up air travel, they would've invented exploding pants.

they would've invented exploding pants

Heck, they wouldn't have to invent them, just draw a couple of realistic looking diagrams on a piece of paper and make sure they find their way into the hand of the U.S. security apparatus. We'd be placing our pants in a separate container on the scanner within a week and the "threat" level would be at purple.

From there, it's just a short step to the exploding underwear diagrams...

Gary, I'm not sure what LSL is, but from context I assumed Slart was talking about Larry Johnson. From googling I'd guess Ugh is right that it's Leisure Suit Larry (maybe a nickname applied by the "Plame was never covert" crowd).

I apologize for the cryptic reference to the MyDD diary. Somehow I thought I'd mentioned in my previous comment that I'd originally found Larry Johnson's latest Obama smear through a diary he posted on MyDD (a place I'm not really sure why I still visit). When I saw the author was "Larr Johnson" I assumed at first that surely it wasn't that Larry Johnson, since he wasn't a wingnut.

One of my problems with Clinton is that I don't like some of the solutions she's proposing. Take the interest rate freeze and foreclosure moratorium; it's a terrible idea. It's only purpose is to keep people in homes longer, who are likely to be foreclosed on at a later date anyway. The simple fact is, there are a lot of people who simply bought more house than they could afford, and won't be able to pay the amortizing rates at any interest rate. They, as well as the rest of us, will be better off if the foreclosure goes ahead now.

Much better would be to repeal the bankruptcy changes, and come up with programs to help people after they've lost their house to foreclosure. That would serve a useful purpose, and actually help people.

"Gary, I'm not sure what LSL is, but from context I assumed Slart was talking about Larry Johnson."

Ok. Thanks. I couldn't figure out how "LSL" could map to "Larry Johnson," so was baffled.

Actually, I still don't have a clue how "Leisure Suit Larry," a series of computer games I'm vaguely familiar with, maps to "Larry Johnson," but him being given some sort of derogatory label by some crowd for some political kerfuffle, I understand. Sort of.

Who calls who what name is not something I track at all, though, not being four years old.

(This is not a snap at people with more awareness of such than I have; it's a snap at people who think calling names is worthwhile.)

"Gary, I'm not sure what LSL is, but from context I assumed Slart was talking about Larry Johnson."

Ok. Thanks. I couldn't figure out how "LSL" could map to "Larry Johnson," so was baffled.

Actually, I still don't have a clue how "Leisure Suit Larry," a series of computer games I'm vaguely familiar with, maps to "Larry Johnson," but him being given some sort of derogatory label by some crowd for some political kerfuffle, I understand. Sort of.

Who calls who what name is not something I track at all, though, not being four years old.

(This is not a snap at people with more awareness of such than I have; it's a snap at people who think calling names is worthwhile.)

Someone was apparently searching for Flickr photos of Obama and posting comments pointing to their blog about how Obama is the Antichrist. I got one, but it's disappeared now. The account must have been deleted for spamming. I couldn't decide whether the blog was serious or a spoof, but that's the way the world is nowadays.

This is not a snap at people with more awareness of such than I have; it's a snap at people who think calling names is worthwhile.

I think the worst is "Doughy Pantload". Goldberg is so stupid there are better ways to refer to him (if one must) -- pointing out his physical flaws just makes one look stupid.

KCinDC:

apologize for the cryptic reference to the MyDD diary. Somehow I thought I'd mentioned in my previous comment that I'd originally found Larry Johnson's latest Obama smear through a diary he posted on MyDD (a place I'm not really sure why I still visit). When I saw the author was "Larr Johnson" I assumed at first that surely it wasn't that Larry Johnson, since he wasn't a wingnut.

Heh, you sound like me about 2 months ago. interestingly enough, it was on my regular rotation of blogs to check (along with TPM, TNR, Propsect, ObWings, pollster and Carpetbagger mainly), and then I went on vacation, and when I came back, I just stopped checking it. Not that I made a conscious choice at any given time; it was just forgotten, the habit broken, and since I no longer have any real urge to check there, if I'm not going via force of habit, I'm not going at all. I think I've gone over once or twice in 2008, mainly to see if hwc or jerome have committed suicide (which should, I think, be a real worry for hwc in particular of Hillary loses the nomination).

Anyone else find it amusing that Hillary Clinton sponsored Amendment #666?

Along with the 66.6% of the vote that she was reelected by?

A newbie here directed to this site by Andrew Sullivan's "The Daily Dish" - and all I can say is ...

Congratulations, kudos, praise, plaudits, encomiums, homage, panegyric, commendation, approbation, acclamation, adulation, applause, laudation, bouquets & a tip of the hat!

For a stellar research job.

I'm impressed ... I'm VERY impressed.

Interesting to note most important business each of them has under taken in USPS naming of facilities. Nothing really done on current national issues by either, so where is all this insight in how to move the nation forward?

Interesting to note most important business each of them has under taken in USPS naming of facilities.

That's an observation bereft of context, given that most legislation is of that nature.

Nothing really done on current national issues by either, so where is all this insight in how to move the nation forward?

Um, are you serious about that? Nuclear non-proliferation, FEMA trailers, etc. are no substantive?

Ben, could you point out a senator who has not sponsored legislation naming post offices? How much time do you think that takes up? Do you believe there are long drawn-out battles over these bills that distract the Senate from important national issue?

Also, have you read all of Hilzoy's posts on their legislation? In the later ones, she specifically excluded the sort of bills that have distracted you from commenting on anything substantive.

The only time wasted on naming post offices, etc is staff time (both the Senator's staff and the committee staff). In fact, all of the bills/admendments are done by the staffs with the Senator maybe showing up during the committee meeting if they felt it was going to be challenged.

I spent 2 years working at the Pentagon supporting Military construction projects. We'd get a list from the Military hierarchy what they needed built. By the time all of the Senators added the armorys to the list, we would be able to fund 1/3 of the projects that the military actually needed. Again, when the military contruction budget was being discussed, the Senator would pop in for 5 minutes, whisper to a few staffers to remind them why thier Senator had to support his armory, and then they'd be gone.

hilzoy - have been looking for this information for some time now - great job!

But why is this information not available directly from the campaigns? (Or god forbid, media people actually paid to spend time finding facts).

Hillary is all about her "experience" and Obama is all about "it's not just words" - wouldn't this just be evidence that could support each of their statements?

And yes - a McCain comparison would be nice for the general election.

And maybe this gives hilzoy a break - from the NYT - an analysis of Obama's legislative record from Illinois (bills sponsored and what happened to them):

http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2007/07/29/us/politics/20070730_OBAMA_GRAPHIC.html

There is an email circulating that grossly misrepresents Hillary's legislative record, as well as the record of Sen. Obama. (Various versions appear on the Obama campaign website here, here, and here.)

The email only gives Hillary credit for bills where she was the original sponsor and have also been signed into law. Here are the facts. In her time in the Senate, Hillary has sponsored 21 bills that have become law including:

— a bill that extended the availability of unemployment assistance.

— a bill which established a program to assist family caregivers.

— a bill that provided benefits to public safety officers who were killed or injured during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

But Hillary's accomplishments in the Senate are not limited to bill sponsorships. Among her many other legislative accomplishments:

— Hillary worked with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to expand access to health care for the National Guard and Reserve.

— Hillary passed an amendment that created a national program for teacher and principal training and recruitment.

— Hillary used Senate rules to force the Bush administration to make emergency contraception, also known as Plan B, available over the counter.

Meanwhile, the email gives Sen. Obama credit for every bill he introduced or signed on as a co-sponsor, whether or not they became law. The reality is, since Sen. Obama joined the Senate (applying the same standard the email applies to Hillary) he has sponsored two bills that have become law:

— a bill that sought to promote democracy in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
— a bill that named a post office.

"In her time in the Senate, Hillary has sponsored 21 bills that have become law including"

This is spam.

If you want to engage in conversation, do so. Robot spammers aren't interesting.

And "robot spammer" is not really the face you want to put on the Clinton campaign, apt as it may be.

Dear last commenter:

Had you read the post you're commenting on, you could have found that very same information -- and more! -- already contained within it.

I Finally found the gov website for primary sponsored obama bills

Here u go

http://www.ilga.gov/senate/SenatorBills.asp?MemberID=747&GA=93

THANK YOU!!!! This is amazing!

-A concerned voter

You have built a wonderful resource here - this information is essential for making informed decisions in the democratic process, and it's both remarkable and scandalous that these kinds of comprehensive, accurate, detailed lists aren't issued by the respective campaigns.

It seems roughly analogous to FDA requirements for nutritional information on processed foods: how can voters make an informed decision without basic information, such as, what did these Senators actually DO? What's inside the package?

Seems an awfully primitive form of democracy, lacking as it does in the public sphere such basic information as this. Pre-1906 in the food & drug analogy.

The citizenry is indebted to you, sir!

Just one constructive suggestion: in the textual flow (as it is now), I found it hard to pick out who is writing what. I found the separate dialogues hard to distinguish from each other. I'd suggest somehow making it clearer to readers who's saying what to whom, by the use of dividing lines or some other graphic device.

Thank you again for your valuable and important public service, and good luck with the work! I hope you can get a grant! (Have you tried GoogleGrants?)

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