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Obama's Very First Federal Bill

By vouchey in News on Mar 29, 2005 7:04PM

Sen. Barack ObamaYes, yes, yes. We're on the bandwagon. U.S. Senator Barack Obama is a wonderful man. Illinois citizens are lucky to have such a great senator, so smart, so good looking, so many prospects for solving our nation's ills.

And we genuinely mean this. Really.

But dangit, we're really sick and tired of the constant fawning press coverage. It continued today with announcement of his very first piece of federal legislation, a bill calling for increasing college Pell Grants from $4,050 to $5,100. It was one of his campaign platforms, and a darn good one at that. Obama's bill would break the current three year freeze on Pell Grant levels, and outdoes President George W. Bush's proposed $100 increase.

A fine first piece of work, really. Sen. Obama is sending a nice middle-of-the-road message with his legislation, which he is sure to follow up with during his planned tour of Illinois colleges. We also like the fact that he is using this piece of legislation (which has yet to be entered into the Senate Calendar, or assigned a bill number - see Obama legislation here) to introduce his new, under-reported senate blog.

But despite what Schoolhouse Rock taught us, it isn't that easy to pass a bill, and even if you pass one, it doesn't mean that you'll get what you asked for. After all, Pell Grants require spending, and Sen. Obama's legislation entails an authorization, not an appropriation (which is where the money is). Also, while raising the Pell Grant ceiling is certainly good, last year about 900,000 people were cut from Pell Grant eligibility, and most still on the rolls got nowhere near the ceiling amount. So in a way, Sen. Obama's legislation is just a gesture, rather than an action -- perhaps his college speaking tour will help create some momentum.

So a few thoughts for comparison: Nexis shows that in the past six months, Obama has gotten 248 mentions in the U.S. major papers. Senior Illinois Senator Dick Durbin? 162. Number of bills and resolutions sponsored in the U.S. Senate this session by Sen. Obama? Two. By Sen. Durbin? 17. None of this measures anything meaningful, but it sure is interesting to think about.