Commentary Magazine


Topic: Maria Cantwell

Butt Out and Do Your Jobs

The New York Times reported earlier this week that two members of Congress–Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell and Republican Representative Tom Cole–planned to “send a strongly worded letter” to the commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell, urging him to support changing the name of the Washington Redskins because it offends Native Americans and others.

Senator Cantwell, Democrat of Washington State and chairwoman of the Indian Affairs Committee, said in an interview that lawmakers would “definitely” examine the NFL’s tax-exempt status and other ways to pressure the league.

“You’re getting a tax break for educational purposes, but you’re still embracing a name that people see as a slur and encouraging it,” Ms. Cantwell said. The NFL can “no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur,” Cantwell and Cole said.

Wherever you stand on the name of the Washington franchise, to have Members of Congress weigh in on this is silly and inappropriate; and to have them threaten to use the law to punish the N.F.L. unless it bows to their wishes is troubling. Clearly they have too much time on their hands. 

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The New York Times reported earlier this week that two members of Congress–Democratic Senator Maria Cantwell and Republican Representative Tom Cole–planned to “send a strongly worded letter” to the commissioner of the National Football League, Roger Goodell, urging him to support changing the name of the Washington Redskins because it offends Native Americans and others.

Senator Cantwell, Democrat of Washington State and chairwoman of the Indian Affairs Committee, said in an interview that lawmakers would “definitely” examine the NFL’s tax-exempt status and other ways to pressure the league.

“You’re getting a tax break for educational purposes, but you’re still embracing a name that people see as a slur and encouraging it,” Ms. Cantwell said. The NFL can “no longer ignore this and perpetuate the use of this name as anything but what it is: a racial slur,” Cantwell and Cole said.

Wherever you stand on the name of the Washington franchise, to have Members of Congress weigh in on this is silly and inappropriate; and to have them threaten to use the law to punish the N.F.L. unless it bows to their wishes is troubling. Clearly they have too much time on their hands. 

How about this modest proposal: Before members of Congress weigh in on issues they have no business in, they actually perform the tasks that are properly theirs? Here’s another alternative: Congress cease and desist from telling the NFL what to do about the names of their teams until its public approval rating exceeds, say, 25 percent (right now it’s at 13 percent).

There are a lot of reasons to be frustrated, discouraged, and/or disgusted by members of Congress these days. Believing that they have an official role to play when it comes to the team name of an N.F.L. franchise (one that has been affixed to the Washington franchise since the 1930s) is yet one more.

Senator Cantwell and Representative Cole have nothing to teach the rest of us on this matter. They should butt out and do their jobs. 

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You Have to Kill It First — and Then Make a Deal

Matthew Dowd tries to make the case on health-care reform that “passage of a bill by the Democrats at this point will be politically damaging to both the president and congressional Democrats. Conversely, defeat of the legislation is much more likely to hurt Republicans in Congress.” But his reasoning collapses on itself.

If, as he argues, Democrats will suffer by passage of a bill that is overwhelmingly unpopular and rightly suspected to hike taxes, increase the deficit, and worsen care, then Republicans will be rewarded not hurt for helping to stop the freight train. Moreover, Dodd’s advice –“a health-care bill that draws real bipartisan support” — depends on the defeat of ObamaCare. Not until the current bill in all its horridness is killed will Democrats be willing to compromise on a more limited set of commonsense reforms.

And that suggests a way out for the Red State Democrats, including Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and a few others who have found significant aspects of the Reid bill unacceptable. Recall that Senators Evan Bayh, Maria Cantwell, Amy Klobuchar, Lincoln, and Nelson all voted to strip out taxes on those making less than $200,000. And Nelson and Webb voted against the nearly $500B in Medicare costs. Nelson objects to the abortion subsidy. (And right-to-life groups remain unimpressed with Reid’s “compromise.”)  So it’s within their power and that of some of their colleagues, who’ll certainly face the wrath of voters if they vote for this monstrous bill, to offer that alternative after refusing to vote for cloture.

That’s how compromise and bipartisan deals get made. Only when the narrow majority get the idea that they can’t run roughshod over the rest by rushing to a vote and cutting off debate is there room for dealing. Only then can a bill emerge that will spare a growing list of vulnerable Democrats — including Harry Reid — from extinguishing their own political careers. But first, in the words of Howard Dean, they have to kill the bill.

Matthew Dowd tries to make the case on health-care reform that “passage of a bill by the Democrats at this point will be politically damaging to both the president and congressional Democrats. Conversely, defeat of the legislation is much more likely to hurt Republicans in Congress.” But his reasoning collapses on itself.

If, as he argues, Democrats will suffer by passage of a bill that is overwhelmingly unpopular and rightly suspected to hike taxes, increase the deficit, and worsen care, then Republicans will be rewarded not hurt for helping to stop the freight train. Moreover, Dodd’s advice –“a health-care bill that draws real bipartisan support” — depends on the defeat of ObamaCare. Not until the current bill in all its horridness is killed will Democrats be willing to compromise on a more limited set of commonsense reforms.

And that suggests a way out for the Red State Democrats, including Ben Nelson, Mary Landrieu, Blanche Lincoln, and a few others who have found significant aspects of the Reid bill unacceptable. Recall that Senators Evan Bayh, Maria Cantwell, Amy Klobuchar, Lincoln, and Nelson all voted to strip out taxes on those making less than $200,000. And Nelson and Webb voted against the nearly $500B in Medicare costs. Nelson objects to the abortion subsidy. (And right-to-life groups remain unimpressed with Reid’s “compromise.”)  So it’s within their power and that of some of their colleagues, who’ll certainly face the wrath of voters if they vote for this monstrous bill, to offer that alternative after refusing to vote for cloture.

That’s how compromise and bipartisan deals get made. Only when the narrow majority get the idea that they can’t run roughshod over the rest by rushing to a vote and cutting off debate is there room for dealing. Only then can a bill emerge that will spare a growing list of vulnerable Democrats — including Harry Reid — from extinguishing their own political careers. But first, in the words of Howard Dean, they have to kill the bill.

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