Lunch With Jim And MarkNov 20, 2009
Not exactly, but I did check out the health care bill protest in front of the Richmond offices of Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb that started at noon and ended at 2:00. I arrived at Webb's office around 12:45 to a crowd of about 50 people. There were plenty of signs and flags — U.S. and Gadsden (i.e., Don't Tread On Me!). There was also a fair amount of horn blowing. Cars that is. Lots of drivers signaling their agreement. As for human spouting, there wasn't any. A nice, jovial, peaceful, conversational crowd, although an occasional agitator swung by to try to stir trouble. They were mostly ignored. Senator Webb's staff was very accommodating. They let people enter the office and provided us with forms to fill out to express what we were there for. One protester in the office writing his comments asked a staffer if he knew about an amendment that would require the 2,000-plus page Senate bill to be read in its entirety on the floor. He said, yes, and that the senator was in favor of that. We'll see if there's such an amendment, if it passes and what Senator Webb's eventual vote is. I asked him a procedural question and we had fun comparing General Assembly procedures to the U.S. Senate.
Then there was the phone. It didn't stop ringing. The poor receptionist couldn't get any work done.
"Good afternoon, Senator Webb's office. Yes, we're taking a poll on that today. Okay, against the health care bill? And your name, please. ..."
Call after call.
After mingling and promoting "Virginia's best political blog" ("I should know because I write it,"was my catch line) and walked down to Senator Warner's office, which is in a high rise. Very analogous to the two men. Webb, who fashions himself one of the common folk with his Southwest Virginia roots, has an office at street level. Warner, Mr. High Tech, very Northern Virginia high end, is waaaaaaaaaaay above it all in the SunTrust building. A staffer gave one of the organizers a pile of sheets that had room only for name, address, a box to check if you want to get on his e-mail list, and your concern. That's it. Small boxes and no more. At least Webb let you write to your heart was content. Not Senator Warner. He should at least learn the value of appearances.
There were more people at Senator Warner's office, although people walked the six or so blocks back and forth between the two, and lots of car honks (Main Street is busier than Franklin, anyway.) More networking on my part. Another great crowd, including former Virginia Senator Eva Scott of Amelia County. Everyone was concerned, but not panicked.
So, what if the Senate clears its first hurdle Saturday? Not to worry, but only to work harder. The process is long. Floor amendments, negotiations,procedural tactics, conference committee with the House, more debate and votes. The longer it plays out, with nothing to show for it, and the closer November 2010 gets, the hot passions of the left may very well turn to cold feet.