Friday, March 23, 2007

Wyden & Reid Video on Timber Payments: Gordon Who?

By now most of you should have heard about the deal wrangled by Ron Wyden with Majority Leader Reid and Senators from other Western states receiving significant "county timber payments" money. It really is a magnificient deal, one that in my view should--once and for all--indicate to rural Oregonians which Senator is talking the talk, and which one is walking the proverbial walk. It does cut Oregon's share of the total pie, but not until year four of the five year extension--and this year gives counties about 80% of what they were getting. Considering that they were preparing to deal with 50% or even 30% in a best case scenario, they have to be doing cartwheels at the moment.

Sure, with the newfound power of the majority it became easy to shut Gordon Smith out of the discussions and thus deprive him of a selling point for his re-election campaign, and to the uninitiated this may seem like a petty political move that fails to recognize Smith's own committment to restoring the payments. But the truth is that it DOES reflect his committment--virtually nonexistent until he had personal skin in the game (ie, it had direct bearing on his 2008 campaign).

Think about it: Smith had roughly 5 years where he was in the majority and the payments needed either an extension or a rework. Where was he on the news then? And when Wyden was bringing his bills up in 2005 and 2006, did Smith join him on the bill or on the media's dais talking about his support for rural counties? Hell no. But suddenly after the 2006 elections, he was all over the news about it, even going so far as to pull the meaningless filibuster stunt in January, essentially forcing Wyden to do the same. Did he actually do any work trying to scare up Republican votes for this or other legislation as part of a trade or compromise? Doesn't look like it.

So the fact that a deal was reached entirely among Senators with Ds after their names isn't surprising, nor is it untoward. There's still more work to do to get it passed into law, but I think Wyden's confident now that it will end up somewhere else if the Iraq supplemental fails or is vetoed. And that's the bottom line that should drive the partisan evaluation of this issue:

*Republicans did nothing, and Smith seemed unconcerned, when they held the majority.
*Once Democrats got the majority, a deal got done.

Here's a short video of Ron and Reid {.ram file} that talks a little bit about what went into the process, how urgent things really are, and the great cooperative result that emerged. And not a sign of Gordo! Nice try, but you won't get this particular feather to put in your cap and tickle the electorate with next year. As it should be.