Thursday, March 29, 2007

Gordo AWOL as Timber Payments Passes

As many may know by now, the deal crafted by Ron Wyden and other Western Senators for extending county timber payments has passed into the Iraq Supplemental Bill, which itself passed today and was sent for likely veto by the President. Wyden appears cautiously optimistic that the deal will survive into another bill if the supplemental is vetoed, perhaps even a standalone now that the current version has 75 Senators supporting it.

But a curious thing happened as members debated and then voted on the amendment. Keep in mind, we're talking about over a billion dollars on the line for Oregon and some of its poorest counties. And the discussion was ongoing in the context of the most monumental Congressional funding bill in quite a long time. The Senate doesn't rebuke the President on an active war every day, you know.

So it was a pretty eventful afternoon, with issues of grave importance to Oregonians being decided. Where was Gordon Smith, avowed moderate and helpful public servant? Where was the guy who staged a lamely planned filibuster on the issue earlier this year? Where was the guy who couldn't find a mike or a notepad fast enough when the subject came up AFTER the 2006 elections (as opposed to before)?

If you can produce tape of Smith on the floor during the time over two days when the county payments amendment was being debated--all the way up until the time that he responded to quorum and voted Yea--please let us know. We never saw him, and our inquiries to sources on the Hill found no evidence that he was there...which is might curious, given the unpredictable timing with which the amendment came up. For him not to be there for ANY of the discussion, much less to speak on behalf of the program for Oregonians, would have required a level of luck and circumstance I'm not necessarily willing to grant him. Frankly, I think he bailed on it, and us.

Why? Because I think poor Gordo is not probably sleeping well these days, trying to reconcile what's left of his spine and brain with the express train into hellish political defeat that George Bush is conducting. He may also be pissed that the Democrats put together a plan for the payments and he wasn't part of it--although we hear that he was actually offered a space in the negotiations, and simply never responded. (Which raises a whole host of other questions--why the hell would he suddenly not want to be involved, in order to burnish his theoretical moderate cred?)

I haven't looked extensively, but I've read three stories on the amendment's passage and Smith doesn't provide a quote for any of them. WTF? He couldn't have been afraid of his caucus; they voted for it by and large as well. So what? Anyone? Bueller?

Update, 3/30 9AM--
OK, now I have looked more extensively--and still no sign of Gordon, in stories here, here, here, here, and also here. And if you're looking for more information about how the deal shakes out, Wyden's got a good primer on the deal at Stand Tall for America. And finally, I said Oregon has over a billion dollars on the line, but that's not quite accurate--what I should have said is that they have nearly TWO billion on the line, at $1.8bil over the five years. Think about that again--two billion dollars, and our junior Senator goes all Patrick Swayze in Ghost on us? Or could actually SEE Swayze in that movie. Nevermind.