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Why Lobbyists, Lawmakers of Lincoln's Time Look Familiar Why Lobbyists, Lawmakers of Lincoln's Time Look Familiar

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Why Lobbyists, Lawmakers of Lincoln's Time Look Familiar

Steven Spielberg's Lincoln, if you haven't already read Jill Lawrence's review, features the 19th century ancestors of contemporary K Street.

Gucci Gulch? Not exactly. 

Spielberg's lobbyists are boozy, rough, mustachioed hired guns. (See? Lobbying has come a long way.) Lincoln hires them to twist lame-duck lawmakers arms' to pass the 13th Amendment. 

Even though times have changed, Spielberg's portrayal of politicking from the Civil War era will probably look somewhat familiar. Lawrence explains why: 

The bald jobs-for-votes bargaining in Lincoln would be illegal now under the Civil Service system. The insults hurled on the House floor back then were more colorful. Although the “incentives” and language are different, the process is not unfamiliar to any follower of modern politics.

The late-Sen. Arlen Specter held out for $10 billion in Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill to fight cancer. Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins insisted on shrinking the overall package. They provided votes 58, 59, and 60 to get it passed.

Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska was the 60th vote on health care reform after extracting restrictions on abortion funding and a promise that the federal government would pay the entire cost of the Medicaid expansion required by the law. Forever. Only in Nebraska.

 Then there was President George W. Bush’s Medicare prescription-drug program. Leading up to the the 2005 vote, the administration suppressed an unpalatably high cost estimate. On the House floor, during that unprecedented three-hour vote, GOP Rep. Jo Ann Emerson of Missouri hid on the Democratic side of the chamber to evade her party’s vote counters. Then-Rep. Nick Smith of Michigan charged that he was told that his son, running to succeed him, would not receive the GOP endorsement if he voted "nay."


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