Yesterday I watched the Republican convention. It was an enjoyable evening listening to Fred Thompson, Rudy Guliani, and Mike Huckabee, even though I didn’t agree to many of the things they said. The highlight of the evening, of course, was Sarah Palin, and I liked her combativeness and personality, even if I didn’t agree with much of what she said either. A common theme among the speakers yesterday was Barack Obama’s supposed lack of experience for the Presidential office as compared to Sarah Palin. It amused me to hear this, but it also got me to want to write this blog about Obama’s experience in government. I got this information from the book The Almanac of American Politics 2008.
Barack Obama was a member of the Illinois Senate from 1996 to 2004. In 2004 he was elected to the United States Senate, capturing 70% of the general state election vote. He is a member of the Foreign Relations Committee; the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee; the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committe; and the Veteran’s Affairs Committee. These are the subcommitttes that he is a member of: the African Affairs; the East Asian and Pacific Affairs; the European Affairs (which he chairs); the International Development and Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs and International Environmental Protection; the Children and Families; Employment and Workplace Safety; Ac Hoc Subcommittee on State, Local and Private Sector Preparedness and Integration; Permament Subcommittee on Investigation; Permament Subcommittee on Investigations; and Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, and International Security. He is also a member of the Congressional Black Caucus, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, the Northeast-Midwest Senate Coalition, and the Senate Manufacturing Caucus.
During his time in the Illinois Senate, Obama played an important role in welfare legislation, on the state earned income tax credit, and on the 2003 ethics legislation. In 2003 Obama successfully pushed for a law requiring electronic recording of interrogations and confessions in homicide cases, arguing that it would ensure convictions in a majority of cases. He voted to allow retired police to carry concealed weapons and against allowing people who used banned handguns to defend against intruders in their houses to be exempt from prosecution for possessing the guns. He sponsored a bill against job and housing discrimination against gays and got a study of racial profiling in traffic stops.
In the United States Senate, Obama introduced a bill to increase the maximum Pell grant to $5100. He pushed successfully in the Foreign Relations Committee to get $25 million for research and response to avian flu and got the support of Chairman Richard Lugar. Barack worked with Lugar to add shoulder-fired missiles, abandoned land mines and other conventional weapons to the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program. He worked with Republican Sam Brownback on reponse to the slaughter in Darfur. He co-sponsored a comprehensive immigration package with Republican Mel Martinez. He worked on investigating no-bid contracts to recover from Hurricane Katrina with Republican Tom Coburn. He sponsored a bill for a 50% tax credit for gas stations that installed E-85 pumps with ethanol fuel. He co-sponsored a bill for funding for Mississippi river locks and dams. He sponsored with Kentucky’s Jim Bunning a coal liquefication bill. He and Dick durbin challenged a Defense Department’s shutdown of new wind farms in Illinois. With Hillary Rodham Clinton he sponsored a bill to encourage health professionals to disclose errors early on and analyze them. He worked on changing Senate ethics rules with John McCain.
These actions show involvement in foreign affairs, energy, civil rights, and better government. These are good experiences for a Presidential office that is heavily involved in all those issues.