Salt Lake City Drinking Liberally

Promoting democracy in Utah one pint at a time.

February 20, 2009

Chris Buttars or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Verbal Bombs

So, I have already seen the intertubeweb blow up over the past hour after the breaking news that Senator Chris Buttars has been removed from his chairmanship in the Judiciary Committee – effectively killing his political power on the hill.

There are numerous factors that create power on Capitol Hill: how well you are able to talk to people to get what you want, your position within your own party, your ability to rally troops for a particular issue, and what committees you sit on. The first three are somewhat obvious – but committees are a tricky thing – some are more powerful than others, and all have the potential to make you new friends or enemies.

Committees act as a sort of halfway house for bills and are generally the only place that most bills will ever see proper debate – furthermore this is the only time that the public can provide direct input on any particular bill. Committees are specialized into various fields such as rules (the most powerful) to ethics (the least used); this specialization allows the hundreds of bills to be heard at any given time. What makes committees so important is that anywhere from 5-15 legislators sit on a panel and decide if the bill should even be heard by the full legislature – if it does not make it out of committee, the bill is dead.

Within committees, certain positions are more important than others. The most important position in any committee is the chairperson; they control the agenda and what bills will be discussed in the first place – if the chair does not like a bill, guess what, it ain’t going anywhere.

So now we come to Senator Buttars, former chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee – a relatively powerful committee because it is in charge of confirming judges after they have been suggested by the governor. This committee is one of the few places where all three branches of government intertwine and where the legislature has a distinct advantage. With removal from the committee, Buttars continues to hemorrhage political power; the downward slide started in earnest this time last year with his infamous “black baby” comment.

To put it perspective, my Senator, Luz Robles (a freshman, female, Hispanic, non-native English speaking, Democrat, whom I think is fantastic, by the way) now has more political power than Buttars if only because she is the Minority Caucus Manager in the Senate. I have more powerful representation on the Hill when compared it to West Jordan; and this is not due to simple luck of the draw, but because Buttars made statements that compromised his position.

And so here we are, West Jordan is represented by someone who made their district weaker. But don’t cry for them, it is not as if they did not know what they were getting themselves into when they chose to reelect Buttars in the first place; they took a gamble and they lost. Congratulations West Jordan, you have now become politically muted over the next three years, and you had the power to prevent it.

by @ 11:09 am. Filed under Local Issues

One Response to “Chris Buttars or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Verbal Bombs”

  1. Chino Blanco Says:

    Here’s footage of the actual press conference about Buttars:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uu0bziU8axA

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