A few minutes after the scheduled 9 a.m. start, and Max Baucus has launched into his opening statement, declaring, “This is a balanced package.” At each place on the press tables is a stack of papers several inches deep.
I got here about a half-hour early and was not surprised to see what looked to be a couple hundred people standing in line. What I was surprised to discover (having not actually covered one of these things in a while) was this:
People had been lining up for 24 hours. But they were not the lobbyists whose well-paid hindquarters will actually occupy the few dozen precious seats that are set aside for the public in this room. It turns out there are services these days where you can pay someone to stand in line for you. I counted at least three of them: Linestanding.com; Washington Express, and J.E. Holdings. One woman, who was about a hundred people back, told me she had gotten here last night. A man near the front had a bedroll and what looked like most of his earthly belongings with him. In a bad economy, you do what you have to.