It's an area - your title! - that I'm keen to explore.
In a couple of pieces on the topic in general, I was doubtful that a blog like this one (devoted to process, and generally lacking expertise in the topics dealt with by legislation) could do much more in engaging with legislative process than to explain what the Sam Hill was going on in the Capitol - insofar as we could figure it out ourselves, that is!
Obviously, a blog like yours is rather differently placed when it comes to the problems of the coal industry.
How you leverage that expertise and constituency, I'm not sure: I'll leave others with experience to comment.
But - looking at the energy bill as it's taking shape, there seem to be a host of divisions on particular proposals waiting to be exploited by groups wanting to stymie it. (Always an easier proposition to kill a bill that trying to pass one in a particular shape.)
A couple of Hill pieces (here and here) are suggestive of the difficulties that managers are going to face in both houses - but particularly in the Senate, of course.
No doubt at this very moment, interest group opponents of particular privisions that they fear will be in the bill are playing parliamentarian trying for checkmate in a deft series of moves. Hard to see bloggers not always being on the outside looking in in that sort of discussion, more's the pity!
The mere fact that we are having this discussion, however, is, I think, a clear sign of a growing maturity in the sphere: surely it won't be the last.
I'm perfectly happy to stipulate to DeLay having no credit side.
My thoughts were rather with the debit sides of the two guys. And both were considerable.
My impression is that Johnson was not a bad rep when it came to helping out his constituents - though it helped being a New Dealer when it came to ingratiating himself with FDR, given that, by the time LBJ arrived in the Capitol, the tide was moving in the opposite direction.
And, by the time of the landslide, he'd moved a fair way himself in that direction.
As for civil rights - the key actors in securing the passage of the CRA of 1964 were Bull Connor, Lee Harvey Oswald and Everett Dirksen.
Not wanting to rain on anyone's parade, but - how in any meaningful sense, however rarified, did Tom DeLay steal TX-10 from LBJ?
After all, Doggett won the seat in 94 under the Dem gerrymander that DeLay strove to emulate a decade later!
And - if ever there were a pair of Congressional bad actors, it was DeLay and LBJ: it wasn't just the landslide and the brown envelopes from Brown and Root. There was the small matter of KTBC, and how the FCC kept Johnson as the monopoly broadcaster in Austin for two decades and more. (Coincidence? I think not!)
It's heartening to see that there's realism in rural areas, and among farmers, on the current system.
What has me puzzled are the MCs (particularly in the House) who have no significant agricultural constituency (some districts are more or less concreted over!) and who (my impression) are indifferent to the quality of the food their voters eat, which is greatly affected by the farm subsidy system!
Perhaps it's the thing that a small group of folks feeling intensely on a subject (agribusiness) trumps a vast mass who have no definite feelings because life doesn't force them to have any.
The funny thing is that (if understand things aright) the Senate, which skews heavily agricultural in giving two senators to the emptiest of states, is prepared to vote for Grassley-Dorgan; presumably, then, any doubt over it making the conference report must come from a fear of what the House would do - where I'd have thought agribusiness would have had a harder time to move votes.
Will G-D get a floor vote in the House? Is Pelosi happy that it shouldn't? Should Reid bring the Senate bill to the floor first, and get G-D added before the House takes up Peterson's bill?
If G-D is barred from a floor vote, perhaps the GOP (to make mischief, not to improve the bill, natch!) might offer G-D as the instructions in the motion to recommit on the Peterson bill? (That is, if MTRs are still allowed by then!)
If G-D gets into the text of the House bill, I think I'm right in saying (needs checking!) that House conferees (even if Peterson, and Peterson clones) couldn't, according to the rules, bludgeon their Senate colleagues into taking it out.
I'm not sure - I've barely looked at the GOP in the Progressive era, comparatively little in any era!
Just taking a quick squint at the DW-NOMINATE scores of senators (unreliable, but to hand!), it's notable that, in TR's first midterm (the 58th), we have the perfect ideological separation of the parties that we have today: no GOP more liberal than the most conservative Dem. (I can recognize no names of any GOP I'd identify as remotely Progressive!)
Moving forward to Wilson's first midterm (the 64th), again, we have perfect separation: LaFollette is the most liberal GOP, with Norris one place back and Borah five places.
In Harding's midterm (the 68th), LaFollette is more liberal that 14 Dems! Brookhart (IA), Frazier (ND) and Norris also cross the line.
It's noteworthy that, in all three Congresses, the dozen or so most liberal senators are from the Confederacy. In the 68th, for instance, Carter Glass, one of the pillars of the proto-Conservative Coalition in the 30s, was the 14th most liberal!
Part of the trouble in accounting for these numbers is, I suspect, that the volume of what one might call Progressive (still less, liberal) legislation on which roll call votes were taken was not that great.
Most of my information on the likes of Norris and Frazier comes from Drew Pearson's Washington Merry-Go-Round - not exactly a scholarly work, but one I've had knocking around the house for ages. The picture he paints is of a bunch of loners largely ineffective in building coalitions with those (how many?) with whom they might have done so.
Meanwhile, in the House, the only liberal GOP name from the 20s that I recognize is LaGuardia - which I put down to the crazy NYC brand of GOP that gave us Rockefeller, Lindsay and Bloomberg!
So the answer is - I don't know! Another research topic...
What the Dems have been is busy doing nothing: having nominal control of the legislative branch (they clearly don't really control the Senate), makes it incumbent on them to go through the motions, provide copy for journos who write on Congress, form the basis of MCs' ra-ra diaries in DKos, and all that jazz.
It's a stalemate, the worst sort of divided government, only corporate welfare can bridge the aisle.
Reid and Pelosi really haven't done that bad a job on Iraq, judged by the standard of what other Dem leaders might have done if dealt the crappy hand they picked up in November.
The Dems won the election talking big on Iraq. (New Direction was certainly neither modest nor cautious on Iraq, as I recall.)
And what's there's been is a paradigmatic piece of Congressional kabuki, starting with the nonbinding resolutions, that no one wised up ever thought would amount to anything. (Some less wise might have been misled.)
The only alternative was a confrontation with Bush, which this bunch were never up for.
So (my guess) some who voted for the Dems in November will feel misled; and others just exhausted and dispirited, for all they discounted the Dems doing anything much on Iraq in casting their votes.
Plus there hasn't exactly been much progress on anything else in the Dem agenda.
And all this before the Jefferson Circus gets going properly.
Perhaps (not my field) the Dems could have managed expectations better, got over that there was nothing doing on Iraq but voters blame the Founding Fathers.
(I jest: I'm sure there are Dem Luntz's who'd have had words that work that might have worked. Might have been tried, at least!)
Or perhaps the Dems were bound to slide in popularity, just as they were bound to not confront Bush. (Not in the first six months of the Congress, at least.)
I'm pretty sure I did a piece way back (can't find it) which looked at the House Rules, and came to the conclusion that there's nothing that could require Jefferson to do anything different as a result of being indicted.
The Dem Caucus rules aren't public. Perhaps there's something in there that would let him be kicked out of the Caucus.
Even if there were a clear rule to that effect, the problem for Pelosi is political: has she got the support needed to get him removed, and to endure the consequences of doing so?
Or wouldn't she prefer to play for time, much like they're doing for Iraq?
I've not really spent much time on the GOP in the 20s; my placeholder notion is that the progressives were basically Western sole traders like Borah and Nye who Dem progressives found it hard to work with.
(Not that the 20s were free of progressive moments: there was the Child Labor Amendment and McNary-Haugen (more than once!). But nothing much that threatened the Wall Street-Main Street GOP who made up most of the Congressional party.)
FDR had the Depression to keep Dem conservatives in line, plus (increasingly) their fear of his popularity. Patterson's Conservative Coalition book shows just how shy they were to go against New Deal measures, and how long it took for rebellions to work (most of them didn't, at least in the pre-war period).
The Southerners were a funny bunch - the VA pair of Glass and Byrd were the hardest line anti-New Dealers from the start, but Bilbo was a sure vote.
I see there was a CQpiece from May 15 headed End of the Line Is Near for Federal Funding of Abstinence-Only Sex Education - which I suspect I saw then, said to myself Duh! and moved on.
The piece is talking about Title V grants, and says that the authorization for these grants runs out at the end of June. It doesn't mention CSEA.
A Pelosi mouthpiece is quoted as saying
The Speaker supports funding for both abstinence and comprehensive sexuality education. We must get at the root of the problem by reducing unintended pregnancies through sex education and access to contraception.
Not exactly a bright line drawn there!
I'm not sure when the Labor-HHS apps bill will be emerging from the subcommittee (I see Obey is the chairman) - but I doubt they've got long to make up their mind on CSEA.
(Piece on the abstinence-only programs in the FY07 Labor-HHS bill.)
If Pelosi doesn't think she can take a stand on this, what does she think she might take a stand on?
Some good points made: the idea that who a subsidy benefits is not necessarily the guy who receives the check is pretty important, for instance.
And - I knew that farmers had crappy contracts from processors, but I didn't realize that the birds themselves belonged to the processors!
Plus - I have to say I'm conflicted about the idea of taking the tariff off Brazilian ethanol: devoting entire US states to the production of ethanol feedstock seems crazy; but if that's the only way the farmers are going to get a decent cut, perhaps that's how it has to be.
The best thing would be to curb the exercise of Big Food's monopoly power and move to cellulosic ethanol: the latter, as I understand, is a good few years off technologically; the former sounds like pie in the sky, given the stranglehold Big Food and its friends have on loadsa MCs.
(Will our leading Dem prez candidates pledge to vigorously pursue criminal and civil antitrust action against Big Food, I wonder?)
There's something of a precedent, perhaps, in the Robinson-Patman Act, which was designed to protect one kind of small business (shops) from the depredations of monopoly competitors.
The farmers' problem is with monopoly customers - but the abuse of power is comparable.