Josh Marshall

Josh Marshall is editor and publisher of TalkingPointsMemo.com.

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H.R. 3763 is Rep. George Miller's bill to overturn President Bush's Gulf Coast Wage Cut. The bill currently has 171 co-sponsors, all of them Democrats. So if you want want to know where your member of Congress stands on this issue, that's a good place to start.

Over at Auction House, Ellen Miller explains why that indictment of David Safavian had Rep. Ney's (R-OH) name written all over it.

I heard from a member of Sen. Obama's staff this afternoon. And as you'd expect, the senator does oppose the president's Gulf Coast Wage Cut.

I've also gotten more than a few emails from present and former hill staffers, many of them friends, on this matter of calling and trying to find out where your member of Congress stands on a given issue.

So a few words.

First, as many of these folks point out, the folks who field phone calls from the public are often interns or new hires working for more or less dismal wages. They are often under instructions not to get into conversations about what their boss's position on an issue probably is until the press or communications folks have put together a release or some definitive statement.

This doesn't change the essential calculus of the importance or utility of trying to get the person who represents you to tell you where they stand on a key issue. But it is a good reason, as I'm sure you already are, to be polite and courteous with the person on the other end of the phone because their hands are often tied in terms of what they're allowed to say.

So, briefly, be nice.

Having said that, though, members of Congress generally like to keep their options open as much as possible. On many issues, all things being equal, they'd just as soon not take any position at all, certainly not a definitive one.

And it is telling (with all respect to my friends) that on an issue so clear-cut on the substance and so potent on the politics that so many Democratic offices still don't know what the issue is even about when constituents call -- or at least haven't prepared a statement from the member or senator.

Voters have every right to ring up their member of Congress and ask where they stand on a given issue. And they should get answers -- not just have their opinion marked off as for or against on the issue in question.

So yes, a bit of understanding is in order. Maybe your Rep. or Senator is still putting together a statement. And maybe the person answering the phone doesn't know the boss's position or doesn't want to say before they've been given the go-ahead.

But this is a clear-cut issue. You are not a bystander. You're part of the process. And asking your representatives where they stand puts them on notice that you're watching and want answers.

Rep. Charles Taylor (R) of North Carolina tells constituents why he supports the Gulf Coast Wage Cut.

See if you can identify the key points of bamboozlement ...

Thank you for contacting me to inquire about the suspension of the Davis-Bacon Act. I always appreciate hearing from constituents and greatly benefit from knowing your views.

Davis-Bacon dates from 1931 and states that workers employed in a project involving a government contract must be paid the local prevailing wage rate. As you are certainly aware, the President issued a proclamation which suspends the requirements of the Davis-Bacon Act in the areas of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Alabama affected by Hurricane Katrina. The Davis-Bacon Act has been suspended from time to time in accordance with federal law (40 U.S.C. Section 3147) which states that the President may suspend the act during a national emergency. President Roosevelt suspended the Act in 1934 in order to deal with administrative adjustments with regards to the New Deal, for example. President George H. W. Bush suspended the Act in 1992 to expedite construction contracts in the recovery areas in Florida, Louisiana, and Hawaii in the wake of hurricanes Andrew and Iniki. It should be noted that the provisions of the 1974 Stafford Act, which empowers FEMA to repair and rebuild after a natural disaster, reject the application of Davis-Bacon to repair or reconstruction projects involving state or local public facilities, private nonprofit facilities, and owner-occupied private residences following a major disaster. Simply put, for more than thirty years Congress has held on a bipartisan basis that national recovery from severe natural disasters must take precedence over matters of locally prevailing wages in the construction industry.

Suspension of Davis-Bacon to facilitate the rebuilding of the devastated Gulf Coast was the right judgment call. Hurricane Katrina stands as the worst natural disaster in our nation's history. As public and private resources are marshalled at unprecedented levels to assist its victims, now is the time to put aside matters of political self-interest and instead focus on rebuilding as a nation. No one could rationally argue that the victims of hurricane should be forced to wait for months, if not years, in temporary shelters while the Washington labor union bosses flex their special interest muscles. Congress built into the Davis-Bacon Act the power to set aside its prevailing wage provisions at times of the most dire of national emergencies -- even the most selfish union apologists must agree that the victims of Hurricane Katrina deserve such consideration at this moment.

Although you and I may disagree regarding this matter, I hope that you will continue to write and share your thoughts with me.

Remember, Taylor was the <$NoAd$>guy who couldn't come up with a straight story for his constituents about whether or not he cast a vote on CAFTA.

We'll be having more on this shortly. But as you may know, the wife of yesterday's arrestee, David Safavian, is chief counsel for investigations for Rep. Tom Davis's Committee on Government Reform.

Here's her December 9th, 2003 recusal letter. This was when President Bush appointed Safavian to his job at OMB. Another interesting question is what the plan was when he was at GSA.

Unfortunate (from a reader trying to get word about her representatives' stance on the Gulf Coast Wage Cut) ...

This is the first time I've ever contacted my congressional representatives' offices, and I can't believe how frustrating it is. I haven't been able to get a straight answer on Schakowsky, Obama, or Durbin. These are hard-core Democrats--it shouldn't be that vexing of an issue. But the people who answer the phones don't have a clue what I'm talking about, and they don't offer to forward me to someone who does. If anything, they say they'll take my comments and pass those on--hardly reassuring when they don't have the slightest idea about the issue to begin with.

This is experience is kind of depressing. It's making me realize how little influence we mere citizens really have.

Can we do <$NoAd$>better?

Anti-Gulf Coast Wage Cut Republicans?

As we reported yesterday, Reps. Ferguson (R-NJ) and Capito (R-WV) seem to be leading up the list of Wage Cut Wigglers, members of Congress unwilling to give their constituents any clear answer on whether or not they support the president's Gulf Coast Wage Cut.

But Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ) is circulating a letter among House Republicans calling on the president to rescind the Wage Cut.

TPM Reader MDT found out about the letter this morning when he called the office of Rep. James Walsh (R-NY), whose staffer said the congressman was planning to sign.

We're waiting to hear more from Rep. LoBiondo's office. We'll let you know when we hear.

Is your Rep. a Wiggler? Let us know.

House-Senate Katrina probe dies as Dems refuse to participate in GOP-controlled probe.

Mammalian biologists cite development as new evidence for late-stage testiculogenesis.

Yep, it was already pretty obvious. But if you want any more evidence that the feds are trying to flip David Safavian, check out this new AP story.