Lugar: 13,000 Votes and a Few More to Go

Indiana Sen. Richard Lugar may be in his final year of representing our state in Washington, but his place in history earned another footnote last week when he cast vote number 13,000.

Congratulations and thank you — words that will be repeated often between now and the end of the year. A few facts regarding the latest milestone:

Lugar is in 10th place on the all-time Senate voting list, having passed earlier this year former senator and current Vice President Joe Biden (D-DE) who cast 12,959 votes.
Lugar has maintained a better than 98 percent attendance record during his more than 35 years of Senate service.
There have been 1,931 individuals to serve in the United States Senate since it was convened on March 4, 1789. On January 3, 1977, Lugar was the 1,705th Senator sworn into the Senate.
On May 1, 1996, Lugar became the longest-serving senator from Indiana when he surpassed Daniel Wolsey Vorhees (1877-1897).
Active Senators who have cast more than 13,000 votes include Daniel Inouye (D-HI) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who cast his 14,000th vote at the same time as Lugar’s milestone.  

Lugar has served with all the senators on the all-time top 10 list:
Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) 1959-2010                  18,689
Strom Thurmond (R-SC) 1955-2002                16,348
Daniel K. Inouye (D-HI) 1963-present              16,265
Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA) 1963-2009          15,236
Ted Stevens (R-AK) 1969-2008                       15,033
Ernest Hollings (D-SC) 1967-2004                   14,194
Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) 1975-present              14,000
Pete V. Domenici (R-NM) 1973-2008                13,666
Claiborne Pell (D-RI) 1961-1996                       13,214
Richard G. Lugar (R-IN) 1977-present              13,000

Filibuster: Changing the Magic Number?

Recent reading included a short piece about a potential change to the filibuster law. If pursued, it would not come without controversy.

For those following the goings-on in Washington over the past couple of years, 60 has been the magic number for the Senate to cut off debate on legislation that lacks bipartisan support (which has been harder to find than "insert your own joke here"). Republicans have used their now 41-seat minority to block action on several issues, while Dems have offered various "perks" to gain support. The current party in power wants to lower that number to 55.

It can be done on the first day of the next session. Vice President Joe Biden can overrule the certain GOP objection and set the stage for the rule change, but how will voters react in 2012? Will they take it out on the Democrats as a "power grab?" The determining factor might be the final tally after this November’s election. A 54-46 majority might be enough to convince Dems this is their only course of action in order to achieve their objectives.

By the way, there was no cloture (the official name for the filibuster rule) before 1917. Debate could not end as long as one senator was willing to keep talking on the Senate floor. The original cloture required 67 votes; Democrats lowered that number to 60 in1975. 

Coming Clean on Coal Energy

Ben Smith of Politico blogged today about Joe Biden’s remarks in Ohio regarding coal plants in America. That is, that there shouldn’t be any. This seems to back up what he said last year during the primaries, according to Smith’s blog:

"I don’t think there’s much of a role for clean coal in energy independence, but I do think there’s a significant role for clean coal in the bigger picture of climate change," (Biden said) last year. "Clean-coal technology is not the route to go in the United States, because we have other, cleaner alternatives," he said, but added that America should push for a "fundamental change in technology" to clean up China’s plants.

Meanwhile, as if on cue, the McCain campaign countered today by issuing a press release insisting their candidate will protect coal-based jobs in the U.S. via a new coalition:

The coalition will help spread the message about the importance of clean coal technology and the advantages of tapping the country’s vast coal reserves. As part of John McCain’s "all of the above" energy plan, the Lexington Project, clean coal will be a strong component of the drive to energy independence. In addition to providing domestic energy, the coal industry is a key part of the economy in several states.

This is topical for me as I was in Crawfordsville just last week interviewing the manager of Crawfordsville Electric Light & Power — the city’s public utility company — for an upcoming member spotlight in BizVoice. He stressed to me the importance of clean coal as a future energy source in Indiana. He explained that our best minds need to be working on this in the future for the good of both the state and the nation. It’s also worth noting that the Indiana Chamber has a longstanding position that clean coal needs to be part of the energy mix in our state.

Obviously, this is just one of many issues voters will base their support on this election season and just a minor point/counterpoint in the grander scheme of the 2008 electoral dance. However, it seems the two tickets have drastically different opinions on these matters — or at least different rhetoric.