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Barack Obama
"Lincoln Sells Out Slaves"
by: Rob Kailey - Sep 13
1 Comments
If You Haven't Seen This
by: Rob Kailey - Apr 28
5 Comments
Impeach the President?
by: Rob Kailey - Mar 16
15 Comments
It's the system, stupid!
by: Jay Stevens - Oct 24
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Rob Kailey is a working schmuck with no ties or affiliations to any governmental or political organizations, save those of sympathy.
Congress

Max Baucus: Connoisseur of Revolving Door Corruption

by: Bob Brigham

Mon Jan 14, 2013 at 13:00:06 PM MST

"Baucus' Finance Committee passed a bill in August extending 50 expiring deductions and credits for favored industries. At Obama's insistence, the Baucus bill was cut and pasted word for word into the cliff legislation."
-Timothy P. Carney, The Washington Examiner, January 6, 2013

"Now to be honest, there were a couple in there I was not happy with. One that's come out in the press, quite frankly, I'm not very happy with, and I don't know how it got in there."
-Senator Max Baucus, Great Falls Tribune, January 11, 2013

Major tax cuts were extended for giant corporations -- while the average Montana was stuck with a $900/year in increased taxes -- and the person responsible is claiming he doesn't even know how his staff put it in there for his former staff?

This is why last night Bill Moyers referred to Max Baucus as, "a connoisseur of revolving door corruption."

The Baucus revolving door cabal numbers in the dozens. In fact, his last revolving door scandal was less than a month ago. There was another Baucus revolving door scandal only six weeks ago. And another Baucus revolving door scandal only six months ago. Last year, Baucus had a revolving door scandal on tax policy. In the previous congress, there was his revolving door scandal on climate change. And of course, who could forget the obscene revolving door scandal during health care reform. And these are just some of the highlights from this term, which is only 2/3 of the way done. And Baucus is in his sixth, 6-year term in DC.

Montana voters rightfully retired Conrad Burns for his culture of corruption. Unfortunately, Montanans are still represented by the most corrupt member of the United States Senate.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Congressman Rehberg Too Scared of Tea Party to do His Job?

by: Matt Singer

Tue Sep 20, 2011 at 15:23:40 PM MST

Montana's Congressman has a John Boehner problem -- two members of his Republican majority on the subcommittee he chairs think his budget is too big, presumably because it doesn't condemn all orphans to starvation or something. This presumably explains why Dennis has repeatedly cancelled his bill's markup. He doesn't have the votes to get something passed.

In other words, Congressman Rehberg hasn't been doing his job because he didn't do his job (assembling the votes needed to pass the budget).

But here's the other likely explanation: in a Republican Congress where everyone is scared of the Tea Party, Rehberg is keeping his profile low on a fight between the establishment and the Tea Party. The last thing he needs right now is a Tea Party challenger in his primary for bucking the Paul Ryan kill-Medicare budget. But he also can't tow the Paul Ryan kill-Medicare budget line without sinking his chances in the general.

So far--this gambit has largely avoided media coverage. We'll see if that changes in the near future.

Discuss :: (6 Comments)

A Clear Statement of Principles

by: Rob Kailey

Mon Aug 01, 2011 at 14:50:50 PM MST

After a pleasant weekend spent mostly away from the 'Tubes, I awoke this morning to much wailing and gnashing of teeth over the fact that the Congress may be close to passing a budget/deficit/debt resolution bill.  No one seems happy with it, and I'm not either, even though the specifics remain illusive.  Paul Krugman thinks it's a disaster.  Booman attempts to see the glass as half full.  A valid point of contention is the call for a "Super-Congress", 12 special folk who have the ability to make or break the nation's economic future .. to a point.  That's insidious and likely not very Constitutional.  An invalid point of contention is that Congress is enacting the wrong policy, the point about which Krugman is very shrill.  I agree that this austerity push is the wrong direction for economic policy, but that isn't the claim being made.  The claim at hand is that these people don't have the authority to do this contrary to the people's needs and the people's will.  Yes, they really do because ~we~ gave it to them when ~we~ elected them.  Just ask the voters in Wisconsin.  Sometimes politicians lie.  Okay, most of the time, politicians lie.  It's often helpful to remember political reality is what it is, and saying you want to do something you fail to do is not always a lie.  That's because, quite simply, others carrying the authority ~we~ gave them might just disagree.

As of this writing, the Senate will pass this deficit reduction 'compromise'.  Nate Silver is handicapping that the House won't.  I'm not going to bother linking to Twitter because that could all change in the next hour.  But what is, or at least should be, clear is that Congress is pursuing this effort.  That is as it should be.  Not the result, of course, but the effort certainly.  What has struck me strongly through this whole debate is the importance given to one man, truly desperately, by both the right and the left.  This is all about President Obama.  We have been lied to, duped, by a meme far beyond the idea policy should be what we want it to be.  We have been duped into thinking that we have a unitary executive.  I can't count the number of times I have written that the President is the executor of the will of Congress, and that Congress is the representative body of the American people.

All sorts of progressive folk this past two days are writing that they will never again vote for Barack Obama.  I'm not disagreeing with them.  I just think they're following a path set by the right that will damage the country far more than accepting the austerity thematics/dramatics.  These folk are buying into the idea that we have a unitary executive.  They have accepted what the right has worshiped as gospel for at least 30 years.  They think we have a king we can vote for.  We don't.  In fact, we have a populace that increasingly accepts that we don't have a role in governance, and we elect 'leaders' who have no principles by which to govern.  We blame the President for not being what he/she was never meant to be.

Alex Knapp makes really great points:

Any prioritization scheme amounts to the Treasury making de facto appropriations decisions.

   I think this is worrisome. But on the other hand, it goes to a trend in our politics that has been escalating since the 1960s. More and more, Congress has been willing to simply forego its role in making policy to the President. This trend has only been highlighted during the Obama Administration, because Obama, more than any President in recent memory, has been deferential to Congress' role as policymaker. We saw that in the Health Care Bill and Stimulus Packages, and we're seeing it now in the debt ceiling fiasco. The result is an almost desperate flailing by Congress to get the President to do something. That's a bad thing for Constitutional governance.

   ...

   Third and finally, however, there's a lot of rhetoric in conservative circles about fidelity to the Constitution. Well, it's clear who's supposed to originate budget and revenue related policy: Congress. Not the President. Congress. All the Constitution allows is for the President to veto budget laws. Yes, we've established a tradition of the President putting forth policy, but it's just that - a tradition. And not a healthy one.


That's the point that keeps getting missed with the frustration, desperation and agitation over this debt ceiling fiasco.  It isn't Obama's job to fix this problem.  It wasn't his job to fix health care, or DADT or DOMA.  It isn't the job of the President to "fix" Congress.  It's ours.  And holy crap have we dropped the ball.  'Fixing' Congress should be the clear principle we follow.  After all, it's stated very clearly in the Constitution that that's our job, our goal and our agreement by which we will live with ourselves in this country.

President Obama has already said that this debate may be the one that 'gets him fired' next year.  If the 'Tubes are to be believed, it will be.  To me, that's fine.  He's already done more for the effort of forcing Congress to represent in 3 years than any President I remember in the last 30.  He's tried to get Congress to do it's job.  We progressives love to talk about how we want to hold politicians "accountable".  Obama has actually attempted to do that.  I respect that effort.  It won't make me vote for him; I have other reasons to do that.  But his efforts speak clearly to my principles, chief among them supporting the rule of law as defined by the Constitution.  I don't like this budget "compromise", which is more of a capitulation.  But if we want different, perhaps we'd be better served by getting the Tea Party and corporate Republicans out of our governance.

I've no interest in having the same tired arguments about how corporations force every hand in the voting booth save our special digits, when we bother to bring them.  There is no point to discussing how big money purchases our politicians.  If all that caterwaul is universally true, then there isn't a damned thing we can do anyway, and all this smack talk about how Obama is dead to our principled selves is just ego blather.  Our politicians will do what we want when ~we~ remember who they serve and why.  They take an oath to serve the Constitution.  It's hard for them to remember that, I'm certain, when the electorate forgets that we implicitly serve the Constitution as well, as it serves us.  A unitary executive doesn't serve anyone, and there is strictly no principled point to demanding that it will.  That's where the Republican/Tea Party fails the principles of the Constitution.  If the American people didn't agree with them, the Overton Window wouldn't be drifting to the right.  I wonder why many on the left are so willing to follow those lemmings off that cliff.

I haven't any doubt that there will be those who read this and say to themselves "He's just a Demorat/Obamabot defending President Betrayer".  Hardly.  Turner, over at 4 &20, sarcastically asked:

   Would President Bachmann please you?

My answer:  Yes, IF I could have a Congress that actually represented the will of the people, and was actually capable of accomplishing anything.

(X-posted at A Chicken Is Not Pillage)

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Rehberg Votes to Close Off Access to Hunting & Fishing

by: Matt Singer

Mon Jul 25, 2011 at 17:07:39 PM MST

16 grassroots sportsmen organizations are asking Congressman Rehberg to rethink his recent vote to cut the Land and Water Conservation Fund by 80%. What sort of lands are we talking about? From the groups' press releases:
In Montana over the past 45 years, LWCF has provided approximately $408 million to help protect clean water, wildlife habitat, and working landscapes, and provide access for hunting and fishing. Thanks to LWCF investments, Montanans can enjoy the Flathead and Gallatin National Forests, Red Rocks and Charles Russell National Wildlife Refuges, Bighorn Canyon, Meeteetse Spires, Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Swan Valley, the Rocky Mountain Front, as well as close-to-home recreational opportunities across the state.
Mark this as yet another in a long recent line of strange attempts by Montana's lone Congressman to play every side of conservation issues.

For example, after introducing legislation that would have just said that the ESA doesn't apply to gray wolves (a much further-reaching solution than the Tester rider, which simply held that a previous Dept of Interior solution fit within Congress's intent, contrary to a court ruling), Rehberg had the temerity to criticize Tester's much more restrained solution for not allowing access to courts (pretty reasonable given that the Tester bill clarified legislative intent, not calling any Constitutional principles into question).

Of course, for Rehberg, of all people, to be complaining about lack of access to courts is unbelievable. The jester of a Congressman has made big news for suing the city of Billings for not making his dead grass priority #1 during the 4th of July but also has introduced bills to restrict normal citizens' access to the courts over legitimate claims.

Consider this my standard, irregular rant for Left in the West and your latest reminder that Congressman Rehberg is a lousy public servant. Smart money says that tomorrow he'll be taking credit for hunting access he's denying today.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Rehberg, Unsurprisingly, Votes for Big Oil Tax Breaks Again

by: Matt Singer

Thu May 05, 2011 at 09:58:13 AM MST

Yesterday, we asked if Congressman Rehberg really meant it when he said that subsidies to big oil were really on the table when it came to addressing the deficit. Asked and answered. Just now, Rehberg voted to maintain giant tax breaks for the world's biggest oil companies, at a time of record profits (and gas prices).

Two predictions:

  1. Montana newspapers won't have time to cover this on their news pages since reporting is underfunded.
  2. Montana opinion pages will give him space to talk about how he firmly believes everything must be on the table, despite all evidence being to the contrary.
Discuss :: (1 Comments)

What Rehberg is Promising

by: Matt Singer

Thu Jan 20, 2011 at 21:43:04 PM MST

Recently, Montana's lone Congressman pledged to start a spending showdown:
"I'm going to fulfill my promise to the people of Montana, that to the best of my ability I will defund Obamacare if we're not able to repeal it," Rehberg said in a telephone news conference.
Sam Stein is now looking at what would happen in that situation:
Democratic lawmakers tell The Huffington Post that they increasingly expect Republicans to try and freeze funding for the health care law. Such an attempt would face the same institutional hurdles as a straight repeal vote: a non-compliant Senate and a president wielding a veto pen. But whereas the repeal bill's death would mean -- in practical political terms -- absolutely nothing, the inability to pass an appropriations bill could have far-reaching effects.

"They are potentially setting up a situation where they will bring government, all of government, to a screeching halt," Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) said Wednesday. "Not because of the debt ceiling. This is beyond the debt ceiling ... If they think they are going to have the end game of their appropriations bills be that they drive health care reform into an early grave ... they are literally setting up a full stop for almost everything we will possibly do this year."

"I am real concerned," Rep. Charlie Gonzalez (D-Texas) said. "We do operate on yearly budgets that could exact great harm if they are dedicated to that proposition. You still have to work with the Senate. So what happens when you reach that kind of impasse? We have this gridlock ... There is no doubt in my mind that the Republican leadership ... has already charted a course. They are very disciplined and very good at what they do."

Americans for Limited Government interviews and promotes Denny Rehberg and his efforts to set up this showdown.

Look, I'd feel better about this if Rep. Rehberg ever indicated he had any idea what was in the health care bill. Pogie catches him making up more shit today abut the law. This stuff is just infuriating.

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

CREDO Calls Out Denny Rehberg: Support Health Care Reform or Refuse Your Own Coverage

by: Matt Singer

Thu Jan 20, 2011 at 11:33:26 AM MST

Montana's junior Congressman has been positioning himself as the number one opponent of the Affordable Care Act. Using his new role as an Approps subcommittee chair to obstruct progress. His approach is so lame that the Helena Independent Record basically editorialized that he has no substance.

That explains why CREDO has Rehberg on their list of Hypocrites in the House. Montana's millionaire US House member has no problem taking taxpayer-funded health coverage for himself (and using it to fix himself up following his alcohol-fueled accidents) but would deny health insurance reforms that are a meaningful first step toward affordable coverage for millions -- and the bending of the cost curve downwards.

It takes a special kind of hubris to take taxpayer-funded health insurance while denying help to anyone else. But Congressman Rehberg has never lacked for hubris. Take a moment to send him a fax courtesy of CREDO.

Update -- A bunch of other groups are jumping on-board a similar effort nationally. Huffington Post has details:

A coalition of Democratic groups and progressive bloggers launched a new campaign on Thursday focusing attention on Republican members of Congress who voted to repeal health care reform while getting their own coverage on the taxpayer's dime.
Daily Kos and Blue America are raising money to do local radio buys to spread the word on this.
Discuss :: (15 Comments)

What will, what could, what should.

by: Rob Kailey

Mon Nov 15, 2010 at 16:07:05 PM MST

Call it lazy blogging if you wish, but this post is certainly going to be a link dump.  Don't hesitate to follow any of them, as your own ideas may form and scream for expression on account.

The Lame Duck session of Congress has now begun.  In truth, I hate that fowl term.  Do these politicians have any less power than they did before Nov. 2nd?  Of course not.  "Lame Duck" is simply handy perception management, and it appears to be needed now more than ever.  Congress will undertake the 'work' of naming post offices and roads, lauding villages which managed to remain solvent for a particular and arbitrary number of years, and otherwise feigning interest in what the American people want.  (I used to only refer to the Senate as the Clown Circus, but now that the House appears poised to be the yipping poodle jumping through flaming hoops for the red nosed ones, I think I'll just extend that term to the entire Congress.)  What the American people really want is Deficit Reduction.  Oh wait, no they don't.  Still ...

The only meaningful thing that the Clown Circus has to tackle before the end of the year concerns revenue, the Bush Tax Cuts.  What the majority of American people want is to repeal the cuts for the wealthy, or let them all expire.  Here's your data.  Notice that of non-voters, the highest percentage wanted to repeal all the tax cuts.  Make of that what you will, but it's not on the table.  That I can guarantee. Something will be done, if only for the political sake of doing something, and the White House/Democrats appear poised to capitulate to Republican demands to extend all the tax cuts.  It could be argued that temporarily extending all tax cuts would lead to a future fight over the permanence of just tax cuts for the not-so-wealthy. Uh, no.  This strangulation of the government's revenue stream is precisely what is dragging this country to hell, and that most definitely favors the Republicants to further the effort to get well rid of that ... person ... in the White House.  The time for the fight is now.  That's what the Left wants, and what should be.

However, it can't be done.  Lame Ducks are lame, and the Teapublicans run the show.  Not.So.Fast.  No, they really don't.  Not in this session they don't.

As if in evil Kabbalistic confluence of forces, late last week the cat-food Deficit commission released their suggestions for how to screw the middle class while fostering our betters to new heights of financial security.  We've dug us a big ole hole of debt, and what is to be done?  Well, let's see.  Here's an overview, and nobody seems to like this.  My opinion, of course, but it seems way too top heavy on cutting and lite by far on revenue.  The Republicants love to equate governmental budgeting with family finance.  Allow me a relevant anecdote.  Every time I have found myself in fiscal trouble (often) I have cut my spending even for essentials, which often makes things worse.  I have also struggled to increase revenue.  Several times in my life I've held two jobs.  I have always, successfully, sought to improve my position through promotion.  Notice please how simply that equation works.  Cutting expense while, sometimes radically and painfully, increasing productivity.  What a marvelously simple thing.  Yet that isn't what is 'could be' to the cat-food commission.  What they seek is to cut the reward for productivity, while scattering the pain of expense more broadly among those who can least afford it.  Well, I'm glad we had this talk.

What will be will be.  But I'm not completely disenchanted with fantasy, so let's us see what you'd do.  Given that the rich and privileged will do what the rich and privileged do, how would you, given the power, deal with the deficit ... fourth or fifth on the priority list of America as it is?  How would you solve our budget crisis?  I did it through defense cuts, and increase of revenue.  Your turn.

Here's where the real link dump comes.  I love MetaFilter.  I truly do.  And comments like this are why.  kluiless offers more compressed knowing than I could ever offer in a post here.  Read it, follow the links and tell us what you think.    

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

The Structural Defects of Congress

by: Matt Singer

Mon Oct 11, 2010 at 12:40:35 PM MST

Ryan Lizza has a dazzling whirlwind tour of the failure of the U.S. Senate to pass climate legislation -- a failure that some of Lizza's sources indicate will set a hard carbon cap back years (huge victory for ice caps yearning to be oceans).

Climate change suffered from a lot of problems: a trio of backers who are possibly uniquely unsuited to passing major legislation, a crowded plate of legislation moving forward, and an issue that uniquely moves the right but moves only a relatively elite segment of the left.

Beyond that, it really suffered from what I'll simply call the U.S. Senate. Coming off of the 2008 elections, voters handed Democrats 60 U.S. Senate seats (one by the narrowest of margins). But unlike most foreign countries, our parties (especially the Dems) are fairly big tents and a number of members feel very little need to follow the party line.

In addition, there is a lot of good reason for minority parties in the U.S. (as elsewhere) to stand against the majority party.

So add all of this up and combine it with the filibuster and the tendency in American politics is to reward the most self-interested, short-sighted, and least competent lawmakers. It was the filibuster that gave us the Cornhusker Kickback in the health care bill - the special package of goodies that Ben Nelson demanded in exchange for his vote. It also resulted in the ridiculous Gang of Six negotiations that resulted in watered-down legislation but no Republican votes for the measure.

There's an important lesson here -- from virtually any policy experts' viewpoint, the health care bill would have been improved by passing a bill that only required 51 votes instead of 60.

The next Congress will have an option to bring back the ability of a Senator to call the question (a rule that existed in the early years of the Senate). There are other reforms that could be considered, some stronger (abolish the Senate), some weaker (water down the cloture, but keep it in place). But the body would be wise to abolish the rules. It is making our nation ungovernable. A nation that cannot solve collective challenges without unanimous consent is a nation that will not long survive.

Discuss :: (3 Comments)

Congressman Rehberg Still Planning on Fighting Access to Health Insurance

by: Matt Singer

Tue Oct 05, 2010 at 08:10:07 AM MST

Interesting article in Politico about the potential rise of Denny Rehberg to the chairmanship of the health subcommittee of Appropriations in the House if the Republicans assume control of the chamber.
In contrast, Rehberg wanted to kill the law. He both offered and supported Republican amendments to repeal the whole law or deny funding to pieces of it. "Denny will continue to support efforts to deny funding the bill," said his spokesman, Jed Link.

All Republicans on the subcommittee supported motions for repeal or defunding this year, but the amendments failed to pass after the votes fell along party lines. A House Republican aide said there's no reason to think Republicans on Appropriations wouldn't continue on the same path in the majority.

Let's just keep in mind what Rehberg would be trying to de-fund -- the establishment of health exchanges, basically competitive marketplaces for people to more easily and understandably buy insurance; subsidies for small businesses and the self-employed, the people who don't currently benefit from any of the other big subsidies for insurance in this country; and research into improving efficiency in the health care system.

That's what the money in this bill basically goes to do. So if Rehberg is taking funding away, it is all basically in the cause of either immediately or in the long-term making health insurance more expensive and more difficult to buy.

I have to admit, I had no idea Rehberg had risen to a level of seniority on any committee remotely related to health care. His statements on the issue have repeatedly indicated his ignorance on how the current health care system and the bill that passed Congress work. Forget the Montana angle, it is a bad day for America when a charlatan controls the purse strings.

Update -- And Young Invincibles and CAP have tackled this issue in broader light -- wondering why Republicans are campaigning to take away health insurance coverage.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Rough Labor Day News

by: Matt Singer

Mon Sep 06, 2010 at 07:05:39 AM MST

Rough news for workers this year. Nationally, average personal income fell last year 1.8%.

Missoula managed to slide less than the national average, but still say a decline. Billings slid .1% more than the national average. Great Falls actually managed to buck the trend but only barely.

The Fed and Congress should act. This country still needs more stimulus. Inflation is not a risk right now. Years of a stagnant economy is a very real one.

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

Show Up and Speak Up for Climate Change Legislation

by: Heather TaylorMiesle NRDC Action Fund

Tue Aug 10, 2010 at 12:21:23 PM MST

Congress is heading back home for the August recess this week. Apparently our Senators need to rest after they failed to take up both a clean energy and climate bill and an oil spill bill.

Legislative inaction must be more tiring than I realized.

Still, I don't view this month as a cooling off period. If anything, it's time to turn up the heat.

Over the next few weeks, Senators will be holding "town hall meetings" in their states. Last year, these meetings came to define the health care debate. This year, they could help us reshape America's energy policy.

If you are like me and you are still stunned that the Senate refused to pass a bill that would have created nearly 2 million new American jobs, put our nation at the forefront of the clean energy market and helped end our addiction to oil, then go to a town hall meeting and tell your lawmakers what you think.

Tell them that it is in America's best interest to embrace clean energy now.

And while you are at it, please tell them to block attempts by some Senators to weaken the Clean Air Act-the 40-year-old law that has saved hundreds of thousands of lives-in an effort to further delay reductions in global warming pollution.  

Some naysayers claim that voting on visionary legislation is a risky proposition when we are this close to an election. They are wrong, and history proves it.

As I wrote in a recent blog post, 13 of the most powerful environmental laws were passed during the fall of an election year or in the lame duck sessions following elections.  

We can pass comprehensive clean energy and climate legislation this fall, but only if we demand it of our lawmakers.

Use this August to make your voices heard. You can find your Senators' schedules by checking their Senate websites, as well as their candidate websites - Republican or Democratic.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Is it a lawsuit? How is the city insured?

by: Matt Singer

Wed Jul 14, 2010 at 11:50:56 AM MST

Very fascinating video of back-and-forth between a couple Missoulians and Congressman Rehberg over the fire "complaint and demand for jury trial," which Congressman Rehberg describes as not a lawsuit (this seems to me to be a bold claim or a wholesale re-definition of the term lawsuit, but my lawyer friends may be able to clarify this).

One of the Congressman's questioners was Jason Wiener, a member of the city council, who also clarified that Montana cities are by-and-large self-insured, so despite saying that the costs here will be borne by an insurance company, it seems pretty clear that they'll hit the services of Billings (like the Fire Department) at a time of difficult funding of municipal services.

This is the real problem with lawsuits like this. A lawsuit over some temporary property damage threatens to undermine fire services whose first priority is to save lives.

Update -- A commenter asks if critics of Rehberg's lawsuit here would deny access to the courts for people. I'm seriously torn here. I'm not really sure that fire departments should ever be liable for negligence in a situation where there was neither structural damage nor human injury. Fire departments are asked to juggle a lot of competing demands. They really should prioritize protection of human life. As with so many questions, the answer here can't either be "lawsuits GOOD!" or "lawsuits BAD!" but what makes for reasonable lawsuits. I'll also note that I don't really have a problem with a country where someone can file this claim. But that doesn't mean that the rest of us shouldn't be free to discuss the details, especially when the action was undertaken by a public figure who works for us.

Discuss :: (10 Comments)

Lessons from the "Enlightened Eight": Republicans Can Vote Pro-Environment and Not Get "Tea Partied

by: Heather TaylorMiesle NRDC Action Fund

Wed Jul 14, 2010 at 10:18:06 AM MST

On June 26, 2009, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 219-212 in favor of HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES).  Only eight Republicans - we'll call them the "Enlightened Eight" -  voted "aye."  These Republicans were Mary Bono-Mack (CA-45), Mike Castle (DE-AL), John McHugh (NY-23), Frank LoBiondo (NJ-2), Leonard Lance (NJ-7), Mark Kirk (IL-10), Dave Reichert (WA-8), and Christopher Smith (NJ-4).  

Republicans voting for cap and trade in the year of the Tea Party?  You'd think that they'd be dumped in the harbor by now.  Instead, they're all doing fine.  In fact, to date, not a single one of these Republicans has been successfully primaried by the "tea party" (or otherwise).  Instead, we have two - Castle and Kirk - running for U.S. Senate, one (McHugh) who was appointed Secretary of the Army by President Obama, and five others - Bono-Mack, LoBiondo, Lance, Reichert, Smith - running for reelection.

Rep. Lance actually was challenged by not one, not two, but three "Tea Party" candidates.  One of Lance's opponents, David Larsen, even produced this nifty video, helpfully explaining that "Leonard Lance Loves Cap & Trade Taxes." So, did this work?  Did the Tea Partiers overthrow the tyrannical, crypto-liberal Lance? Uh, no. Instead, in the end, Lance received 56% of the vote, easily moving on to November.

Meanwhile, 100 miles or so south on the Jersey Turnpike, Rep. LoBiondo faced two "Tea Party" candidates - Donna Ward and Linda Biamonte - who also attacked on the cap-and-trade issue.  According to Biamonte, cap and trade "is insidious and another tax policy... a funneling of money to Goldman Sachs and Al Gore through derivatives creating a carbon bubble like the housing bubble." You'd think that Republican primary voters in the year of the Tea Party would agree with this line of attack.  Yet LoBiondo won with 75% of the vote.  

Last but not least in New Jersey, Christopher Smith easily turned back a Tea Party challenger - Alan Bateman - by a more than 2:1 margin.  Bateman had argued that "Obama knows he can count on Smith to support the United Nations' agenda to redistribute American wealth to foreign countries through international Cap & Trade agreements and other programs that threaten our sovereignty." Apparently, Republican voters in NJ-4 didn't buy that argument.

Across the country in California's 45th District, Mary Bono-Mack won 71% of the vote over Tea Party candidate Clayton Thibodeau on June 8.  This, despite Thibodeau attacking Bono-Mack as "the only Republican west of the Mississippi to vote for Cap and Trade."  Thibodeau also called cap and trade "frightening," claiming that government could force you to renovate your home or meet requirements before you purchase a home.  Thibodeau's scare tactics on cap-and-trade clearly didn't play in CA-45.

Finally, in Washington's 8th Congressional District, incumbent Rep. Dave Reichert  has drawn a Tea Party challenger named Ernest Huber, who writes that Cap and Trade "is widely viewed as an attempt at Soviet-style dictatorship using the environmental scam of global warming/climate change... written by the communist Apollo Alliance, which was led by the communist Van Jones, Obama's green jobs czar." We'll see how this argument plays with voters in Washington's 8th Congressional District, but something tells us it's not going to go over any better than in the New Jersey or California primaries.

In sum, it appears that it's quite possible for Republicans to vote for comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation and live (politically) to tell about it.   The proof is in the primaries.

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Montana Dems Go Up on the Tubez!

by: Matt Singer

Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 14:55:39 PM MST

Don Pogreba isn't the only one taking shots at Congressman Rehberg's lawsuit. The Montana Democratic Party has a Google Ad buy (noticed this the old fashioned way -- saw a Google ad, clicked it, charged the Dems probably a nickel or so) leading to this page.

The landing page calls the lawsuit "Rehberg's Personal Bailout."

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Pills, IUDs, and Diaphragms (for free), oh my!!!!

by: Matt Singer

Tue Jul 13, 2010 at 09:52:43 AM MST

In light of yesterday's story, I thought some would find this interesting, while others might not.

Dana Goldstein reports that conservative groups are, unsurprisingly, freaking out over provisions in the health care bill that require coverage of that nasty little beast called contraception.

The conservative groups are particularly worried that a birth control coverage mandate could include teenage girls and young women covered under their parents' health insurance plans. "People who are insured don't want to pay for services they don't need or to which they have moral objections," said Chuck Donovan, senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation. "Parents want to have a say over what's covered and what's not for their children."
Quelle Whoreuer!

This raises an important question: just what are the expectations to be a "senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation?"

And more:

Experts expect the Department of Health and Human Services, led by pro-choice Obama appointee Kathleen Sebelius, to spend the next six to 18 months researching women's health before releasing new guidelines for women's "preventive health care." Under the new law, services and medications defined as "preventive" must be offered to customers of new insurance plans free of co-pays-whether that insurance is employer-provided or purchased on the individual marketplace, whether inside or outside of the new, subsidized health insurance exchanges.
Good for the administration, good for the health care bill, and, in a different sense, good for women and men.

Let's just hope this gets implemented correctly.

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Getting America Back to Work

by: Matt Singer

Fri Jul 02, 2010 at 08:44:46 AM MST

The voices are getting shriller.

Paul Krugman, Nobel prize winning economist:

We are now, I fear, in the early stages of a third depression. It will probably look more like the Long Depression than the much more severe Great Depression. But the cost - to the world economy and, above all, to the millions of lives blighted by the absence of jobs - will nonetheless be immense.

And this third depression will be primarily a failure of policy. Around the world - most recently at last weekend's deeply discouraging G-20 meeting - governments are obsessing about inflation when the real threat is deflation, preaching the need for belt-tightening when the real problem is inadequate spending.

[...]

And who will pay the price for this triumph of orthodoxy? The answer is, tens of millions of unemployed workers, many of whom will go jobless for years, and some of whom will never work again.

Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO:
Face it: The private sector's job-creating machine is dead in the water. The private sector created only 83,000 jobs last month. That's better than losing 700,000 jobs a month, as we were when Bush left office, but it's not enough to put America back to work. And unless Americans are earning paychecks and spending to pump fuel into our economy, there's not going to be a continued recovery.

But every effort to dig us out of our 10.5 million jobs hole is being stymied by budget hysteria. And it is hysteria. I'm not saying the federal budget doesn't need attention--it does, but over the long term. Right now we have an immediate jobs crisis. And unless we address it now, we'll only make the nation's economic conditions worse.

Members of Congress who pay lip service to the deficit, undermine stimulus, and create long-term holes by supporting things like the elimination of the Paris Hilton Estate Tax (e.g. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin) do our country a grave disservice. You couldn't address your household budget by taking your new 4-wheeler and boat off-budget (wars) and quitting your second job (estate tax) while cutting out fresh vegetables (infrastructure and education) in the name of austerity.

This is rambling now, but the bottom-line is the same: the political philosophy of the TEA Party, copied by so many members of our Congress currently, is a recipe for the destruction of our nation in both the short- and the long-term, as it drags out our current recession and lays the groundwork for the decline of our nation by failing to make the basic investments in our people and our infrastructure that we will need to have a competitive economy.

Despite winning everything over the past several years, too many Democratic leaders still act like sad sack losers who got the shit kicked out of them. They've been predicting their own defeat for every election of their lives. And the started anticipating defeat this fall basically when the last Congress started.

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Why Rehberg Can't Balance the Budget

by: Matt Singer

Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 12:52:41 PM MST

One of my biggest takeaways from Saturday's session was a reminder to myself to give credit to earnest people with whom I disagree. One of the big takeaway messages supported by the whole group basically encouraged Congress to look past partisanship -- a goal that I agree with (even as I struggle with it).

But there's something very frustrating about engaging in politics with people who pay lip service to big challenges and even lie about history. Here's an AP writeup on Congressman Rehberg's budget solutions:

Rehberg, a Republican seeking his sixth term as Montana's lone representative, said slashing taxes on corporations, capital gains and payrolls while balancing the budget is the solution. He said those types of measures were used in 1961, 1981 and 2001.
Some of this stuff is just silly. Capital gains tax rates are already very low when compared to tax on income. But the really annoying thing is that "cut taxes" and "balance the budget," as though such a thing is possible. Even worse is that Rehberg cites history (and the AP lets him get away with it).

Now, it is true that tax rates were cut in 1961, 1981, and 2001. JFK pushed to cut the top marginal rate, for example, to something like 33% higher than the current rate. JFK did this while continuing to run surpluses and pay down the debt.

But let's look at what happened in 1981 and 2001:

We cut taxes and...didn't balance the budget.

Look -- in the near term in particular, I have absolutely no problem running deficits. Hell, I think we should run deficits. But planning for the long-term by advocating for specific tax cuts and only vaguely referencing spending cuts is not a plan to balance the budget. It is really just a very limited plan to expedite a great transfer of wealth from poor to rich in this country.

But the question of how to balance the budget is one we can have a serious discussion about. I had one of those on Saturday. Sadly, it looks like our Congressman had the opposite kind of conversation - absolutely nothing but empty rhetoric and misleading information.

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Saturday's Budget Forum -- The Good News

by: Matt Singer

Mon Jun 28, 2010 at 09:26:02 AM MST

I was one of about 65 participants at Saturday's budget session here in Missoula. Cowgirl wrote it up earlier -- and it has received attention elsewhere. But after participating, I want to note that even if Pete Peterson's intention was to start a national drive to undermine Social Security and Medicare, he may have just done precisely the opposite.

Let me note that I was at a pretty ideologically diverse table. Our group included a few Missoula non-profit types like myself, a successful businessman who lives in the Bitterroot, a retired teacher, and several people who I think can be fairly called "tea party" activists, including one fairly prominent leader in Western Montana.

Despite those divergent viewpoints, the process, the facts, and our discussion led our table to what I think was a pretty forward-thinking approach to the long-term budget difficulties our nation faces. Namely, we supported a carbon tax, significant comprehensive tax reform (end deductions, lower rates, simplify the process, and pay down the deficit), a financial transactions tax, cuts to defense spending, the removal of the income cap on social security payroll taxes, and a few other measures.

Showing my trademark optimism, I predicted that the new health care bill would work better than CBO predicts to rein in federal health care expenditures on its own (meshing with a long history of CBO scoring items in a conservative way, as they should).

But long story short, a bunch of people showed up to a 6 hour budget discussion, evaluated a whole bunch of options, and nationally voted overwhelmingly for really positive solutions.

I left pretty convinced of a few things. First, that we should be organizing more events to educate people about the state of the budget and challenging them to find solutions -- at both the state and the federal level. Second, that it really is still possible to have meaningful political dialogue with people with pretty divergent views -- especially when there is a common task to be achieved, not simply a debate to be had.

The full national results are here. I don't think they read like a lefty wet dream of how to address our common challenges. But I do think they represent a pretty reasonable set of principles we can move forward with. I can quibble with some of the specifics -- I'm not inclined to raise the retirement age on social security, at least not across the board. But the broad sweep isn't bad. And for a set of compromises reached across the nation by 3,500 people, I'm actually fairly impressed.

Finally, Congress should take heed -- when this group was asked whether the federal government should take more immediate action to reduce unemployment, even if it increased the near-term deficit, the answer was a strong "Yes!" Give the Senate's recent inaction, folks in DC should pay a bit more attention.

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Rehberg's Taxpayer-Funded Dishonesty

by: Matt Singer

Fri Jun 25, 2010 at 13:40:58 PM MST

Our Congressman's use of his office's resources continues to amaze. In addition to using his taxpayer-funded office to encourage people to vote in an election where he faced two primary opponents, Congressman Rehberg is now using tax dollars to lie to Montanans about the health care bill he opposed.

From his latest email, a survey on how to deal with healthcare costs:

If they had been included in the new law, which provision(s) do you think would have helped reduce health care costs? (Choose as many as you want)

  • Lawsuit Reform
  • Allowing insurance companies to compete across state lines
  • Letting small businesses pool their resources like larger corporations and government
Here's the problem. Under reform, insurance companies can compete across state lines and small businesses (and individuals) will pool their purchasing power.

Under the federal bill, states can sign off on eachothers' regulations and allow policies licensed for sale in, say, Montana to be sold in California, provided California's state government thinks that is kosher. In other words, it allows for increased competition while maintaining states' rights. What Rehberg is really calling for here is for the federal government to gut Montana's ability (and every other state's ability) to regulate insurance at all. The federalists in the tea party should be rightfully outraged at this proposal.

As for pooling purchasing power, small employers will soon purchase through the exchanges, which are basically places for employers and individuals to buy in a competitive marketplace and leverage their collective purchasing power. I'm not really sure what other model the Congressman would support. A number of us already "pool" our policies through programs like Chamber Choices. The exchanges do this on a much larger scale and with far more competition.

So there's reality. It's a far cry from what our Congressman is proposing.

I'd also love for him to be upfront about the fact that he wants to undermine Montana's ability to regulate insurance and to move that authority to the federal level alone. I'm sure that would be popular with his base.

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