Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Grading the new Chair of the House Veterans Affairs Committee
[C.I. note added Feb. 10th morning of, I wrongly referred to Stephanie Mudick as "Susan" in the notes I took on yesterday's hearing. As a result of my mistake, so did Kat, Ava and Wally in their posts last night. It was my error. My apologies.]
Today we attended the first oversight hearing of the House Veterans Affairs Committee of this Congressional session. The 2010 mid-term elections flipped the balance of power and Republicans now control the House. So former-Chair Bob Filner is now Ranking Member while Republican Jeff Miller is now Chair.
I'm going to focus on Jeff Miller.
First, I'll give him a grade for today: B.
And that may be generous to some. I don't dispute that I'm grading in part on the fact that this was his first time chairing this hearing and that the same approach a month or two from now would earn a lower grade.
His biggest problem is likely going to be appearing dispassionate and unconnected to the struggles the veterans face. Steve Buyer did not run for re-election in 2010. Had he run and won and ended up Chair, he would have had no problem expressing outrage. (He was often my favorite member in hearings of the last two years just because he didn't have the stomach for long winded excuses and didn't try to pretty up his reactions.)
Jeff Miller came off as laidback.
Is he an apologist for Big Business. As a Democrat, I suspect he could be. Many non-Democrats (and non-Democrats and non-Republicans) feel all members of Congress are pretty much an apologist for Big Business. And they may be right.
But let's assume for this entry that he's not. He needed to demonstrate that and one of the easiest ways was in making clear where he stood.
The Committee heard about the unlawful mortgage practices of JP Morgan Chase and, specifically, heard from one couple (Captain Jonathan and Julia Rowles) about the way they were harassed and their lives harmed and they heard from Susan Mudick who is a JP Morgan VP.
Miller seemed sincerely interested in the Rowles testimony. But he really didn't confront Mudick. He may not see that as his role. If that's the case, I will be increasingly less impressed with him as the months go by. The American people are suffering. The banks are swimming in profits. When a bank has broken the law, you need to show the American people that you are disturbed by that and I do not feel that Miller adequately conveyed that.
I do feel that he conveyed that he was sincerely interested in what had happened to the Rowles.
At one point, during Bob Filner's questioning on the first panel, Miller interrupted. I don't remember Filner doing that as a Chair. Miller didn't interrupt rudely, he was perfectly polite, and his question was an important one (was JP Morgan Chase the bank that the Rowles had taken their loan out at -- no, it wasn't) and established an important detail in the testimony. (The banks are reselling these mortgages.)
I tend to recoil at a Congressional hearing when I hear "Mrs." No one's there as a "Mrs." in my opinion.
I prefer "Ms."
Julia Rowles was billed as "Mrs." And that was her choice (I did check).
While it may be her choice to be billed that way and while it may be respectful to include that, it's also true that she has a first name and I never learned it from Chair Miller. Not in his opening statement, not in his remarks or questions.
"Mrs. Jonathan Rowles" or "Mrs. Captain Jonathan Rowles" or "Mrs. Rowles" really isn't acceptable. She's Mrs. Julia Rowles and she was there to provide testimony (and did an amazing job of that) and I think all witnesses should have their first name registered and stated.
I might have upped Miller's grade to an A- if that had taken place.
Closing with C.I.'s "Iraq snapshot:"