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Democrats in dissent

prettysoon2

Not long ago the U.S. Senate refused to accept an amendment to the stimulus bill by Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) that would have reformed some CPSIA provisions and delayed the implementation of others. Last night it rejected a similar DeMint effort in the form of a budget amendment, and this time there was a roll call, which confirmed that the rejection was largely along party lines: every Democrat voted against the measure except for Sens. Mark Begich (Alaska), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.), and Ben Nelson (Neb.), while every Republican voted in favor except Susan Collins (Maine), John Cornyn (Tex.), Mike Johanns (Neb.), Mel Martinez (Fla.), and John McCain (Ariz.). Independent Bernie Sanders (Vt.) voted against, while Sens. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) did not vote.

Following Wednesday’s rally on Capitol Hill, small business people who fanned out to visit their Senators brought back many encouraging-sounding stories of the favorable “We hear you!” “We get it!” reactions they had received visiting the offices of Democratic Senators like Roland Burris (Ill.), Joseph Lieberman (Conn.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), and Charles Schumer (N.Y.). Whether or not anyone in those offices hears or gets the outcry, it sounds as if the members even more clearly hear and get a different message: that of party discipline.

Kimberly Payne feels oddly hopeful: “The original vote on the CPSIA was nearly unanimous – this one was 39-58. I call that progress!”

The WSJ editorializes on the law again today, its third, concentrating this time on the youth motorcycle/ATV ban. More: Montana senators fiddle while small businesses perish (Mark Riffey, Flathead Beacon); the rally and the Democrats (Rick Woldenberg).

Public domain image: Yankee Mother Goose (1902), illustrator Ella S. Brison, courtesy ChildrensLibrary.org.

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Who says we never praise Democrats? Via Scheuerman, New Jersey’s Democratic governor Jon Corzine has vetoed a law that would have created unlimited noneconomic damages in wrongful death cases:

“[U]nlimited damages … could have a significant impact on state and local budgets, since government entities are not infrequently named as defendants in wrongful death suits, and there are similar concerns as the State undertakes efforts to attract and grow businesses here.”

“Unfortunately, I do not believe that this bill in its current form strikes a fair balance that would avoid using a strict monetary valuation of a person’s life while also addressing the adverse effect of allowing unlimited and unpredictable damages.”

He urged the Legislature to consider alternatives “granting more flexibility for courts to reduce excessive non-pecuniary damage awards and defining non-pecuniary damages less expansively.”

[NJ Law Journal/law.com; earlier: Jan. 9]

Why Norm Pattis won’t be voting for John Edwards (Nov. 28)(via Elefant).

“The Lieberman Purge”

by Ted Frank on August 16, 2006

Off-topic, I add to the punditocracy’s surfeit of blather on the Connecticut Senate election at National Review Online.

One thing I didn’t mention in the article that is on topic for this site is that Lieberman is one of the few prominent federal Democrats still in office that is generally willing to stand up to the trial bar. If Lamont does supplant Lieberman, the trial-lawyer takeover of the Democratic party (commented on a year ago by Walter) will be all but complete.

Update: Walter reminds me of his 2000 Wall Street Journal op-ed on Lieberman’s record on liability reform.

The Brennan Center at NYU Law School would typically be found on the opposite side of many or most of the views aired on this page. Which makes it all the more broad-minded of them to have invited me in as the speaker tomorrow (Tuesday) at their periodic lunch series at their Manhattan offices (161 Ave. of the Americas, 12th floor, (212) 998 6730.) I’ll be speaking to the question: “Should Progressives Favor Curbing Litigation?” and arguing the affirmative, naturally. Reservations: 212-992-8647 or email ab145 – at – nyu – dot – edu with a subject line of RSVP: Conversations.

A reader asks, in the wake of our discussion of Dr. Dean’s 1988 letter, whether other candidates have spoken out on tort reform.

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The Class Action Fairness Act, a version of which has already passed the House with White House support, may be brought to the floor of the Senate tomorrow, but Democratic leaders are saying they have enough votes lined up for a filibuster to prevent its passage (Jesse J. Holland, “Supporters looking for more votes to help class action legislation past filibuster”, AP/San Francisco Chronicle, Oct. 20; Helen Dewar, “GOP Pushes Vote to Curb Class-Action Suits”, Washington Post, Oct. 21; Heather Fleming Phillips, “Group tries to rein in lawsuits”, San Jose Mercury News, Oct. 21). If so it’s a shame, the more so as some of the most persuasive argumentation for the CAFA has come from New Democrat circles, especially from Walter Dellinger, solicitor general during the Clinton Administration, now a professor at Duke Law and partner at O’Melveny & Myers (home of our co-blogger Ted Frank). (“The Class Action Fairness Act”, Progressive Policy Institute, Mar. 11). “The states whose courts have honorably decided not to play class action games are, contrary to fundamental federalism principles, being forced to transfer authority over their citizens’ claims and the interpretation of their own laws to other states whose courts seem to have an insatiable appetite for such lawsuits,” according to Dellinger. See New Democrats Online, “Breakthrough in the Courts?”, Feb. 19; “Compromise on Class Action Reform”, May 1.

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