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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.
Jon Tester

Max Baucus Again Helps Kill Filibuster Reform

by: Bob Brigham

Thu Jan 24, 2013 at 12:57:12 PM MST

Unlike Senator Jon Tester, who was a loud and proud co-sponsor of filibuster reform, Max Baucus helped kill the measure behind closed doors, resulting in the fake "reform" that won't fix the broken United States senate.

This is not just a major blow to functioning government, it is a major blow to accountability. The filibuster has been a loophole corporate senators like Baucus have used to tell naive constituents that they are on their side, all the while letting savvy lobbyists know that they are with them. Shady senators don't want to be held to account, and nowhere was this more evident than in the debate over filibuster reform:

At Tuesday's closed-door caucus meeting, [Oregon Democrat Jeff] Merkley was upbraided by [Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid for breaking unspoken Senate rules and naming specific senators in a conference call with Democratic activists last week, according to sources familiar with the exchange.
Not only do some senators not want to be held to account in the senate, they don't even want to be named as killing senate reform behind closed

And who was named by the sponsor of reform as being one of the problem votes preventing filibuster reform? Max Baucus, of course.

Not only does Senator Baucus not want you to know he again helped kill reform, he doesn't use the filibuster himself. There have been all kinds of opportunities for him to stand up to incredibly awful ideas, like DOMA & Iraq & the Patriot Act & REAL ID & the bailouts & Bush judges. But not only did he not filibuster, he voted in favor of all of those.

Fixing the senate's filibuster problem is first going to require fixing the senate's Max Baucus problem.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Dennis Hasn't a Clue

by: Rob Kailey

Mon Dec 12, 2011 at 16:17:38 PM MST

Having just returned from Washington DC and a meeting with Dennis Rehberg, the blogger and twitterer ILIKEWOODS reports this to a post from Don Pogreba:

You all want to hear this! I went to DC last week and I and my 8 other friends found out that Rehberg doesn't plan on dumping that border bill! He told us in about a half an hour interview that he thinks we still need this bill!

His reasons are as follows:

1. I asked him if he could site the last time we had a gun Runner caught smuggling guns into the border? He told me that I didn't know it but smuggling guns and an Illegal sex slave business was thriving in and around Glacier Park! That there were tons of reports on this very thing!

2. Even though I used to work for the BLM and I was the first person in the nation to write the fire fighting agreement for the BLM and Forest Service 30 years ago.... that their were no convenance acts between the agencies, even though I knew they have been in place for criminals and other such matters, for about the same amount of time as the my fire act was! And that the borders between us and Canada are not to be trusted!

3. That Canada is a hotbed for terrorist activities were arab badmen could come poring through the border at any second, and giving the top hundred miles to Home security, would only further jobs in the state by companies that didn't need to follow those pesky EPA rules any longer!

The man also tried to tell us he never utter that Pell grants were welfare for students, and that he wrote a Jobs bill recently.... but he couldn't remember the particulars of the bill and neither could his Communications director... but he knew it would bring Montana out of the Hole!

The man is a complete nut, and truth couldn't be found passing his lips that day! Any one who allows this man to become one of this states next senators is a nut case themselves and no friend of MONTANA

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Apples and Oranges

by: Rob Kailey

Wed Jun 08, 2011 at 16:21:48 PM MST

I certainly don't want to make it a habit to link to conservative leaning websites, but in this case, Jack the blogger has well earned it.  He pin-points the battlegrounds on which the Senate election of next year will be fought.

I have a few disagreements with him.  I think his concern for Great Falls is a bit of personal bias.  Tester's appeal among Veterans is growing, and that could heavily weight Cascade county.  And I think he follows raw statistics a little too closely in the case of Stan Jones regarding Burns performance in Yellowstone County.  Still, he doesn't succumb to what has become something of a pet-peeve of mine.  Jack uses election statistics from 2006, but does not interpret 2012 purely through the lens of that election.

That would be the point of this post.  Tester's detractors, right and left, tend to use 2006 as a baseline (pun greatly intended) for what will happen in next year's election.  If I were to present the fact that since the passing of the 17th amendment, Montana has only elected 2 Republicans to the Senate, and that bodes well for Tester, most would see that trope for what it is.  It is a pointless statistic, factual but irrelevant.

Many of the claims being made on blogs and in the news are similarly factual but irrelevant.  The most egregious, of course, is that Tester only beat Burns by 3,562 votes.  Be afraid of that tiny margin.  No.  Dennis Rehberg is not Conrad Burns, who by all accounts was far more amiable and likable than Rehberg is in person.  (I personally can attest to that, though I abhor what Burns accomplished more than I laugh at what Rehberg has never done a damned thing of value.)  Jon Tester was a newb challenging an incumbent.  In this race, both Rehberg and Tester are incumbents in their own fashion, with Tester holding the seat in contest.  There is no comparison with the vote tally of 2006, leading to 2012.  None.

The second great trope is that Tester had a problem raising money in 2006.  That's true.  If not for Pearl Jam, and how I love them for this, Jon Tester's campaign would likely never have gotten off the ground.  This election is much different.  In the first several months of this year, Jon Tester has raised 1.5 million smackeroos. Dennis raised slightly more than $500,000, but put a lot of his own personal wealth into the campaign to report a war chest of over a million bucks.  This bears no relation to 2006.  What is surprising to me is the leftward reaction that Jon Tester is being bought for campaign dollars; that reaction coming angrily from the very people who cry loudly that they won't contribute to the Tester campaign until he becomes all and everything they expect.  This, strangely enough, is one of the things that can adequately be compared to the election of 2006, in a particular sense.  Jon Tester, an untried candidate, got the endorsement of Montana's large union organizations and padded his election campaign with their moneys.  The AFL-CIO and other Montana unions are already fundraising for Tester's reelection.  Strangely, this is discounted by those who wish to point out Tester's newly acquired corporate sponsors.  I do wonder why.  This is the sense in which the election of 2012 will have nothing to do with the election of 2006.  Those who wish to point, and they are many, to Jon's money issues from the previous election had best be coherent enough to accept that money won't be the problem this year.

The state has changed.  As Jack the blogger points out, certain counties are predictable.  I'm not nearly as convinced as he is.  In 2006, Gallatin County and Missoula county over performed.  In 2010, Butte-Silver Bow and Deerlodge county radically underperformed.  So did Gallatin.  In 2010, Montana took a very hard turn to the right.  This cannot be expected to continue.  What is clearly dissimilar from 2006 to 2012 is that 2006 was an off-year election.  2012 isn't.  We will be voting for Governor, we will be voting for statewide offices and we will be voting for the President of the US.  More to the point, many will be voting for state legislative office based on the pathetic performance of the 2011 legislature.  Turnout will be radically different from 2006.  Comparisons from those hoping to promote the foolish fantasy of voter fraud, or those concern trolling about Jon Tester, will get swept away in the actual vote of 2012.  We will find out which Montanans care, and which don't.

I hope that most of the progressives in the state give up the idea that Jon Tester's support is based on a minimal constituency given 2006.  He may win, he may not.  But the apples v. oranges thing is getting really old.  The future is what it is, and we can affect it.  Or we can rely on poor comparisons to the past.  Your choice, of course.

Discuss :: (11 Comments)

MT-Sen: Jon Tester Should Kill The Patriot Act

by: Bob Brigham

Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 17:28:17 PM MST

Unfortunately, the House of Representatives just voted to extend The Patriot Act. Congressman Dennis Rehberg has been disgraceful on the issue. Follow that link, it's approaching malpractice that the DSCC and MDP aren't already running ads against him on it.

But instead of just pointing out how awful Rehberg is on yet another issue, Senator Jon Tester should widen the contrast by leading the fight against renewal of The Patriot Act.

He shouldn't vote against it, or try to make it less bad, he should man up and kill the "emergency powers" granted to the president almost a decade ago. He's a senator, he can shut the place down and bring all legislation to a standstill until Patriot Act supporters call uncle and give up their attacks on Americans' civil liberties. He shouldn't settle for Leahy's still awful bill, he should end The Patriot Act once and for all.

Tester would earn a great deal of respect for defending our civil liberties. And every day of the battle would highlight Rehberg's fascist tendency to cave to GOP leadership's attacks on our rights.

Come on Senator Tester, fight to win on this. And realize, the only way to win is to kill it outright.

Update:  Both Senators Jon Tester and Max Baucus joined 7 other Democrats, Independent Bernie Sanders and 2 Republicans in voting against the extension.  ~ Rob Kailey

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Arizona Republic: Montana pols could imperil wolves

by: Matthew Koehler

Mon Feb 14, 2011 at 12:01:54 PM MST

Today the very mainstream Arizona Republic editorial board took Senator Tester and Congressman Rehberg to task for "trying to look more appealing to anti-wolf factions" in Montana.  The entire editorial is below.  It's well worth a read to see how other parts of the country view Montana politics, and also to see how either Rehberg's Idaho and Montana Wolf Management Act of 2011 or Tester and Baucus'  Delisting Gray Wolves to Restore State Management Act of 2011 would negatively impact endangered species recovery in other parts of the country, and for far more than just wolves.

In response to the introduction of Rehberg's bill, Defenders of Wildlife - a very respected, mainstream voice for wildlife and habitat conservation - issued this press release "Rehberg sets the stage for nationwide wolf eradication".

Meanwhile, when the Tester/Baucus bill was introduced last fall, Defenders had this to say, "Senate bill would short-circuit Endangered Species Act protection for wolves: New legislation could set back wolf recovery, undermine federal protections for wildlife."

Montana pols could imperil wolves
Arizona Republic - Editorial, Feb. 14, 2011

Montana's 2012 Senate race could doom wolves in Arizona. It's politics. And it stinks.

The long-fought effort to restore endangered Mexican gray wolves to the wilds of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico is threatened by posturing between two politicians. Montana's Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, who intends to run for Senate, are each trying to look more appealing to anti-wolf factions in that state. Wolves are pawns.

Let's be clear: The situation for the Mexican gray wolves is very different from that of wolves in the northern Rockies. Wolves in the northern Rockies are in far better shape than the 50 Mexican gray wolves who stand between the species' survival and its elimination in the wilds of the Southwest. These wolves need more protection, not less.

Wolves in the northern Rockies are much more plentiful, yet efforts to remove them from the endangered-species list were overturned by court decision last August. Since then, Tester has been trying to satisfy the concerns of those who are not happy about the increasing numbers of wolves in Montana and its neighboring states.

Legitimate concerns about wolves need to be addressed. But Tester's efforts late last year included a move to simply exclude those wolves from the Endangered Species Act - not through a bill that could have been debated, but as part of a larger omnibus bill.

Rehberg is upping the ante. As a newly announced candidate for Tester's Senate seat, Rehberg says the federal government should have no say in state wildlife issues. This is nonsense.

The Endangered Species Act is a recognition of the value of species diversity as part of every American's national heritage. States don't trump that national interest. Yet Rehberg wants Congress to exclude all wolves - including those in Arizona and New Mexico - from protection under the Endangered Species Act. Environmental groups say this effort could also be tacked onto a larger bill without debate.

Both these efforts circumvent the role of Congress as a place to openly debate matters that affect the nation. They also run around a careful process for species delisting that is built into the existing law of the land.

This approach could create a precedent of excluding animals based on politics instead of biology. It would neuter the Endangered Species Act, which is recognized as one of the world's premier environmental laws. Rehberg's scheme would doom the Mexican gray wolves.

Democrats - including the Obama administration - have been allowing Tester to build his states' rights bona fides as he seeks re-election. The president and Democrats in Congress should show some spine and serve a higher interest than Tester's political future.

The American people benefit from a healthy Endangered Species Act and a healthy population of wolves - including Mexican gray wolves.

Discuss :: (8 Comments)

Words Matter.

by: I can't fight this feeling

Tue Jan 11, 2011 at 07:43:46 AM MST

( - promoted by Rob Kailey)

Right-wing radio personality/shock jock(and former GOP staffer) Aaron Flint is taking, according to him, a "tongue in cheek" look at the tragedy in Arizona on Twitter.

But what this reminded me of was Flint's earlier mockery of the presence of law enforcement at congressional events here in Montana.  From his blog:

No mention, of course, by the New York Times during their "he's a well grounded man" piece of the fact that the Senator felt he couldn't even hold an invite-only meeting in towns like Scobey and Glasgow without inviting the presence of armed guards. LINK

Or...

Especially considering the fact that the last time Tester showed up in Daniels County- he held an invite only meeting in which his staff requested the presence of law enforcement. LINK

There are other examples on his blog.

I'm glad that Tester, on the other hand, is taking the high road and worrying about us, his constituents.  In this morning's Billings Gazette: "The senator said he wanted people attending his public events to be safe."

The only way to curb this type of rhetoric, to change the discourse in our country, is to hold those making outlandish comments accountable. Contact Flint's boss at the Northern News Network, State Senator Taylor Brown at the state capitol: (406) 444-4800.

Because words matter.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Progress Means Doing Things

by: Matt Singer

Tue Dec 21, 2010 at 08:32:39 AM MST

It has been fascinating watching the criticism aimed at me for basically being insufficiently pro-DREAM. I headlined my piece on Jon that he is wrong on the DREAM Act. I first called him out publicly on immigration in 2007.

But here's the thing, DREAM is a great piece of legislation. I love it. But is it "quite possibly one of the best pieces of policy" of the last four years? Is that defined in that it was all good and no bad? Because if we're talking on net good, the ARRA and TARP kept millions of people unemployed and staved off a great depression that would have crushed the American Dream for millions of families. The ACA marked the first time in American history that we accomplished comprehensive health care reform and laid the groundwork for getting to affordable health care for all -- one of the biggest social justice issues of our time. The passage of DADT repeal marks the first time, I believe, that LGBT civil rights legislation has passed Congress (I could be wrong on this). We saw huge victories on student aid. Lilly Ledbetter. Financial reform.

If you call yourself a liberal or progressive and don't consider this a landmark session of Congress, you need to think long and hard about how change in this country actually happens. Read more history.

Abraham Lincoln was a racist and a tortoise. He also ended slavery in the United States. FDR cut deals with racist southern Senators. He also established Social Security, one of the most important anti-poverty programs and the keystone of America's social insurance system. Both of these leaders had loud, angry critics from the left who insisted that their politics would result in crushing failures. They're now among our heroes.

Our leaders are imperfect. They always have been. But we've made change, always, by fighting one vote at a time.

Moving Jon Tester on immigration reform, if we can do it, is a process that will take years of focused work. One or two rounds of angry phone calls is such an inadequate response without bigger planning. And if the end game here is to oust Jon Tester, you'll actually see the next wave of Montana policymakers get worse on issues that we care about.

This isn't just about what Jon Tester owes our communities. It's about what we, as organizers, owe our communities: strategies that lead to victories. I don't get disgusted by policymakers who cast bad votes. I get disappointed. And I don't get disgusted by my friends and allies in the movement who execute poor strategy. I just get disappointed.

Democracy is hard. It will always be hard. Those of us who tend to be outspent should actually be grateful that small bursts of political pressure have as little of an impact as they do. If electoral threats always moved US Senators, we'd never win a vote.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Jon Tester was Wrong on DREAM, but Markos is Wrong on Tester

by: Matt Singer

Sun Dec 19, 2010 at 16:52:36 PM MST

When I tweeted that yesterday, one of my more political friends asked why I was even bothering. Markos, after all, was just a blogger. This may just be one blogger taking another one too seriously, but after seeing a lot of digital ink hit my Twitter and Facebook feeds, I wanted to offer a few meditations on the whole thing, while also noting (and emphasizing) my pleasure that both of our Senators voted to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell and further noting (and emphasizing) that Rep. Rehberg opposed both DADT repeal and the DREAM Act.

Let me just say on one level, I get all of it. This stuff sucks. I penned a fairly lengthy open letter to Jon when he was sworn in, highlighting some concerns I had just that Jon's early friends were being ignored during the transition. This, of course, is different. It is a breach of substance, not of process.

It also isn't a surprising one. I think I first criticized Jon's stance on immigration about a year after he took office. His vote on DREAM came as little surprise to me. He's been (in my view) wrong on immigration policy as long as I've known him and Montana's political environment has given him no incentive to rethink his stances.

That being said, the warpath mentality stemming from this bill bothers me, not because of what it might do to my friend Jon Tester but because of what it might do to progressives in Montana. Jim DeMint has been fighting hard to kick out anyone in the Republican Party who doesn't fit his worldview. Frankly, without hardliners like DeMint, Democrats might have lost the Senate. (Of course, without DeMint, we would have lost it to a less-crazy Republican Party).

I'm old enough to remember when Markos was against litmus tests. He actually sold me on not being a hard-liner on every policy matter that came up. His work (with some others) is a big part of why I'm so "flexible" today, so here are just a few things I'd encourage others frustrated with this stuff to keep in mind:

  • Change Comes "Slow" Even When It is "Fast." We're in a period of rapid change. The last two years have been among Congress's most productive. That said -- it feels absolutely glacial when experiencing it in the 24-hour news cycle. When we consider historic periods of "rapid change," we gloss over the entire 1960s as though it didn't take 10 years.
  • We've Had Some Huge Victories this Congress. The repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, the first comprehensive health care reform in history, ARRA, Lilly Ledbetter, etc., etc.
  • Montana is Montana. There's an old joke about Missoula -- that it's nice and only 15 minutes from Montana. Missoula also stands out as the only historic Dem stronghold that held this legislative election. If you think that every Dem eyeing holding or winning statewide office isn't looking at an election where we lost House seats in 3 Reservation districts, Butte, and the heart of Helena, then you've misjudged how political actors behave.
  • Jon Tester is Jon Tester. He's a great guy -- smart, genuine, honest, down-to-Earth. He's also not a Paul Wellstone, Barbara Boxer, or Sherrod Brown. He actually disagrees with them and me sometime. The only painful thing I see in the criticism of Jon is that he's entirely a calculating political machine. Jon's no naif, but he really gives a shit about this stuff.
  • We Didn't Do Our Job. To be honest, I had read one news story in Montana about the DREAM Act (and seen virtually no tweets or Facebooks about it) prior to the vote. John Adams wrote a great piece about a UM student who would be affected. But here's the deal -- you can't fail to organize and build a campaign on an issue for something longer than a couple weeks if you genuinely want to move a U.S. Senate office. At the request of friends, I asked both Senators where they stood on this issue and got word early that they didn't see eye-to-eye with me. Springing vitriol after a vote is unfair -- especially to a friend.

Progressives who love Montana need to be thinking real hard about what they're doing to transform it. I've seen some incredibly smart, hard-working friends step up and run for office and win in 2010 -- in a very bad year for Democrats. There have also been some inspiring policy victories of late at the local level. But here's a secret: there's a lot of work to do in Montana to win public opinion on a bunch of things we care about. Immigration and the environment probably top that list. One of those movements has real resources in Montana; the other doesn't (I'll let you guess which is which).

As for my friend Markos, he (like me post-move) doesn't have a vote in Montana. My sense is that Jon Tester gets re-elected, in part because he sometimes angers us. We have a chance in the Governor's race, but whoever wins that will also sometimes disappoint us. But the difference will be night-and-day. Keep your eyes open during this next legislative session for the stuff that is happening.

A couple days after the 2010 election, I got an email from a friend asking whether I thought he should step up and run in 2012. What I know is that progressives need to be on the attack -- and not against our too-few allies in elected office in Montana. We need to go prove that our values and ideas can win elections. That's how change happens in a democracy.

I think this qualifies pretty well as a rant. And, I'm sure, I'll soon be told how wrong I am. What I know, though, is that politics is the slow boring of hard wood. Progress is hard. Once made, though, it is rarely turned back. So we keep working. Upwards, onwards.

Discuss :: (11 Comments)

Tester Thursday

by: Rob Kailey

Thu Dec 09, 2010 at 16:17:01 PM MST

Don't panic.  There is no intention of making this a weekly feature.  ;-)

It would appear that our junior Senator has been on mind of the Montana online a whole lot here of late. For myself, it began with Pogie's post showing Jon favorably positioned heading into the 2012 election cycle.  It seems the man is somewhat popular.

Tester posts a 50-40 job performance mark, putting him in the top ten among the senators PPP has measured this year. That is particularly impressive, considering that Republicans outnumber Democrats by nine points in this sample, and even independents are more prevalent.

Pogie kicks this game off with a very simple and pointed observation:

Senator Tester’s going to face a tough challenge in 2012 and he’s occasionally disappointed some of us on the left, but it’s encouraging that he seems largely to have escaped the displeasure directed at Senator Baucus by maintaining pretty close adherence to the values that got him elected in the first place.

That certainly sets our themes.  Tough challenge,  dissapointing to the left, and distance from Baucus.  So let's see what others have to say.  Follow me down below.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 762 words in story)

Thank you for FOOD!

by: Rob Kailey

Wed Nov 24, 2010 at 16:26:50 PM MST

I've been meaning to post about this for several days, but now seems like the best of times.  What has Jon Tester done for you lately?  How 'bout this.  How small farmers defeated agribusiness on food regulations.

Okay, I'm uncertain if that's really a defeat so much as support for real small business in an economy that favors the glorification of the huge.  But still, if the House accepts Tester's amendment, then small producers will still have a little weapon to use against
the conglomerates that seek to consume them, and, quite literally, force mass produced food down our throats.

Yes, it is a simple fact that small producers can still endanger the public with tainted food.  Please consider this.  The threat posed by small producers is very limited.  The return for quality absorbed by small producers makes their risk very high as well.  So it serves them to produce a quality product and get the most distribution possible.  This seems like a free market solution that all could embrace, as long as Congress doesn't require the casual turkey producer to be subject to the same rules as Butterball.

So, yea food!

Discuss :: (17 Comments)

Senate GOP filibusters DADT repeal

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Sep 22, 2010 at 12:27:18 PM MST

The news:

The Senate on Tuesday voted against taking up a major military bill that would allow the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" policy, disappointing advocates of allowing gay Americans to serve openly in the armed forces...

According to the Times report, Republicans said they opposed the bill failed because  "procedural reasons." Democrats attached DADT repeal to the military reauthorization bill...along with  the DREAM Act.

Of course, John McCain's been stumping in recent days specifically against DADT. And it's election season, and some Republicans are using gays to whip up the base.

Still, it's a stupid policy. The WSJ:

In the meantime, it's worth noting that there are an estimated 48,000 homosexuals on active duty or the reserves, many of them in critical occupations, many with distinguished service records. If they pose any risk at all to America's security, it is, paradoxically, because DADT institutionalizes dishonesty, puts them at risk of blackmail, and forces fellow warfighters who may know about their orientation to make an invidious choice between comradeship and the law. That's no way to run a military.

And it's worth remembering that this bill failed with 56 votes, thanks to the filibuster and Republican political gamesmanship.

And it's worth noting that both Sens. Jon Tester and Max Baucus voted to end the filibuster, for the DREAM Act and against DADT.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Keep the farm, Jon

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Aug 11, 2010 at 10:52:16 AM MST

The New York Times likes Jon Tester:

Every 15 minutes of a senator's waking life in Washington is fully scheduled with meetings, hearings and votes, and much of the rest is devoted to a frantic search for money to fuel the next campaign. "Of any free time you have, I would say 50 percent, maybe even more," is spent on fund-raising, Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa told the New Yorker recently in a scathing portrait of an overstressed and utterly ineffective legislative body, one that measures acts of real significance in the single digits per term.

So it was refreshing to hear how Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat of Montana, is spending his summer vacation. While other senators drove the campaign trail, dialed for dollars or lounged on a beach somewhere, Mr. Tester went home to his farm and harvested wheat....

If more members had a life outside of campaigning and lawmaking, it might help put petty political disputes in a little perspective. Sit high up in the cab of a combine, stare out at an endless vista of swaying grain, worry about wheat futures and drought - your opponent a leaf-eating insect - and, suddenly, it should seem a little ridiculous to block an important piece of legislation back in Washington just because it would give the other party a victory.

First, while I've certainly had my legislative and ideological differences with Montana's junior Senator, there's no doubt he's the real deal. He's exactly what he seems: a farmer from Big Sandy. That's why we elected him.

Second, I'm glad the Times likes that Jon has a farm to put legislating in perspective. But as an advocacy strategy for Senate reform, wishing for more Senate farmers is a bit unrealistic. For starters, as my economic-obsessed friends might phrase it, all the incentives encourage a different kind of Senator. Senate campaigns are expensive, and growing more expensive all the time.

But it's not just the money: the inside-the-Beltway crowd - including the Times' talking heads - don't take blue collar candidates seriously. Remember, Jon wasn't favored to win his primary. The Beltway crowd liked the other John. And the state of politics - the incredible divisiveness brought on by the political right since the 60s and 70s - demands a different kind of Senator, one that's obsessed by the daily message, the political squabbling, the 5-second sound byte. You can blame the media for that too, rags like The Hill supplanting coverage by DC-based local reporters.

Here's hoping that Jon keeps the farm.

Discuss :: (9 Comments)

Tester, Baucus obstruct Senate reform

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Jul 28, 2010 at 08:25:31 AM MST

Holy smokes! According to this Hill article, "Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate are pushing for filibuster reform at the start of the new Congress next year."

Great, right? Fantastic! What I've been calling for...for ages! Let's get it started -

What's that? There are Democrats that oppose this? "Five Senate Democrats" said they wouldn't support filibuster reform, and "another four lawmakers say they are wary about such a change"? What? How's that? It must be what Steve Benen said, that "most of the support" for filibuster reform "comes from newer members of the chamber, but it's the Dems who've been around for a while...who are most inclined to keep things the way they are, regardless of the consequences to the institution or the country, right?

It's a reminder that no one wants to give up a weapon they might want to use themselves someday. Republicans are abusing procedural rules now to undermine a progressive agenda, and some Dems are no doubt thinking they'll be able to abuse those same rules down the road.

Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) told The Hill, "I think we should retain the same policies that we have instead of lowering it.... I think it has been working."

I don't know what Senate Akaka has been watching, but it doesn't sound like this one.

With the Senate Democratic majority due to shrink, and Republicans becoming more hysterically conservative, these anti-reform Dems are inviting a disaster -- a government incapable of passing legislation.

So when we hear Max Baucus opposes filibuster reform, we shouldn't be surprised. After all, as a "moderate," he's one of the Senators you have to custom-tailor a bill for in order to avoid a filibuster. Pork! Pork! Pork! For Montana! And an effective roadblock to pass any law that would protect or benefit ordinary Americans over Baucus' constituents. Like WellPoint, say. Or maybe, as former Senator Fritz Hollings claims, the filibuster allows Senators to do more fundraising. Ending the filibuster would crimp the fundraising of the Baucuses of the Senate.

But not someone like Tester, right? Not a freshman Senator elected on a wave of populist progressive fervor. Whose supporters slogged in the rain to ensure he represented Montana as a reformer in the US Senate? That he do his best to help end the bitter partisanship that marred Congress in recent years? That he work for the people of the state, and not the varied deep-pocketed interests that have held the Senate - and the country - hostage?

Wrong.

Sen. Jon Tester, a freshman Democrat from Montana, disagrees with some of his classmates from more liberal states.

"I think the bigger problem is getting people to work together," he said. "It's been 60 for a long, long time. I think we need to look to ourselves more than changing the rules."

Seriously, I'm flabbergasted.

Speechless.

I mean, where do you start with this? Yes, the filibuster has been in effect for a long time. But its use for standard legislation is a new and radical change:

But even a cursory glance at the proceedings of the 110th Senate shows something is clearly different this time. Republican leaders are evoking filibusters at a torrid pace, seemingly intent on blocking nearly every piece of legislation that comes across their desks, even measures with wide Republican support.

During the Legislature's first session, which ended in January, the majority was compelled to invoke 78 cloture votes, an average of more than one a week. And things seem to be repeating themselves in the second session, with 44 cloture motions as of June 13, for a total of 116 so far in the 110th Congress.

By contrast, the previous record was 61 cloture votes during the entire 107th Congress of 2001-2002. Republicans are on track to triple that total by the time the second session closes next year.

Compare that to earlier sessions of Congress. Between 1917 and 1963, "the procedure was invoked only five times."

A quick glance at the history of the filibuster shows that, in its original inception, it wasn't intended to block votes on legislation, but to foster debate. Senators had to actually debate on the floor to delay a vote on a bill until 1975, when the "virtual" filibuster was allowed. Now, all you need to do is announce you're filibustering, and - voila! - 60 votes are required.

Rachel Maddow:

Republicans now have a defacto standing filibuster on practically everything. They've made so that passing anything in the Senate requires sixty votes, a super majority every time. This situation has never existed before. This was not the situation in any previous Congress ever. Really. I know the beltway reporting makes it seem like sixty is normal. This is the way it's always been. Democrats did it too when they were in the minority.

It is not true. This really has never happened before in the history of the U.S. Senate....

Under current Senate filibuster rules, Montana's Mike Mansfield couldn't have forced Strom Thurmond to continue debate indefinitely on the Civil Rights Act of 1957, thus ensuring its passage after a 24-hour marathon speech by the segregationist.

And Michael Tomasky reminds us that requiring a supramajority on all votes was distinctly not what our nation's constitutional architects envisioned for a functioning national legislature. "[The Senate] was never supposed to prevent action when clear majorities backed something,
writes Tomasky, "as frequently happens today." And he quotes James Madison, "opposing supramajority requirments in all but a few cases (treaty approval, ouster of members)":

In all cases where justice or the general good might require new laws to be passed, or active measures to be pursued, the fundamental principle of free government would be reversed. It would be no longer the majority that would rule; the power would be transferred to the minority.

So, no, Senator Tester, this is decidedly not how the Senate has historically gone about its business, and the current filibuster has not been around a long time.

As for "getting people to work together..." I'm not sure what Tester means by that. Getting Republicans to support Democratic legislation? Um...you'd have thought even Senator Tester's short-lived experience in the US Senate would show him the folly of that kind of thinking. This isn't the Montana legislature of a decade ago, Senator Tester.

Today's Republicans are deliberately sabotaging legislation that would ameliorate the nation's economic woes with an eye on worsening the economy for the 2012 elections. Today's Republicans are deliberately sabotaging any climate change legislation, wooing the money and support of energy conglomerations and paying lip service to AM-radio-fueled Beckian paranoia. These are not people you can work with, Senator Tester.

This is not why we elected you US Senator for the state of Montana.

Discuss :: (7 Comments)

Three strikes, and we're out of political will

by: Jay Stevens

Mon Jul 26, 2010 at 06:31:36 AM MST

The freefall has begun. The US Senate has abandoned any notion of passing any kind of meaningful reform, and seems to be content to sit tight and watch the 2010 elections. Over the past week, the Senate has punted on some major issues that essentially say they're done.

To wit:

The Cobell settlement was rejected by the US Senate. It was stripped from a war-funding bill. Harry Reid blamed Republicans, but as Indian Country Today's Rob Capriccioso pointed out, plenty of Democrats had to oppose the amendment for it to fail cloture, 46-51. Republicans - led by Wyoming's John Barrasso - do keep trying to "modify" the settlement in ways Cobell opposes, but it's unclear if the filibusterers here were voting against the settlement, or tacking on unrelated additional spending (there were other domestic measures in the bill besides the Cobell settlement) to the Afghanistan funding bill. So, it either failed because the Senate opposes the settlement, or because they're beholden to deficit hawks. Either way, it's a fail for the Senate.

Cobell is bringing the settlement back to the House. As Gwen Florio notes, the "most recent deadline - there have many, with many delays - for congressional approval of the settlement is Aug. 6."

From a planetary perspective, the Senate abandoning of a climate change bill is even worse. Harry Reid said simply he doesn't have the votes to pass a bill. Worse still, the abandonment of the climate in the Senate presages a complete collapse of any political will to work on climate issues:

The result is an undeniable defeat in stemming climate change in this country. It echoes overseas also with other countries wondering about American resolve on a global issue. The high-wire deal struck in a climate change conference last year in Copenhagen to reduce emissions by 17 percent by 2020 looks very far away.

But the wreckage isn't complete. California will face a challenge to its AB32 law cutting greenhouse emissions on the ballot in November. Also, GOP gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman wants to hit the pause button on the law if elected. Keeping this law on the books becomes a higher priority than ever.

The Obama administration may also take an extra step in the battle by using existing federal laws to crack down on carbon emissions, a regulatory showdown it wanted to avoid with the legislative package that's now dead. Whether it has the will to do so, after the Senate defeat, remains in doubt.

Spectacular fail.

Finally, Republican Senators tried to block the US DoJ from challenging the recent Arizona immigration law. It failed, but the bad news here is that both Jon Tester and Max Baucus voted with Republicans on the issue. It's an astounding vote, frankly. For starters, the bill attempts to dictate to Justice what cases they should pursue. For another matter, while Tester has always been hawkish on immigration, the Arizona law is irreconcilable with the kind of individual civil liberties issues Jon's always championed in the past. How can you be an outspoken opponent of Real ID - and a supporter of Arizona's immigration law? Real ID at least has the benefit of being applied uniformly to all citizens, while Arizona's papers check would be haphazardly applied without document standards, and by local authorities with all of their biases and no oversight. And Tester, at least, has an election coming up and a history of drifting towards nativist positions on immigration. What's Baucus' excuse here?

As Netroots Nation friend Paul Hogarth blogged today, the Senate is where "progressive legislation goes to die."

If there's one major frustration leading into November, it's the U.S. Senate - where Republicans have obstructed practically everything that passed the House. Reid came to the Conference on July 24th - right after announcing we "don't have the votes" for comprehensive climate change reform this year, only adding insult to injury. One panel on filibuster reform suggested we're in a constitutional crisis, but Reid himself wouldn't commit to any specific solution.

And the solution?

But rather than give up, Al Franken reminded the netroots that Senators elected in 2006 and 2008 with their help are a "coalition of the impatient" - and represent a new generation of more progressive Democrats. Bloggers are needed this November to add to their ranks, in order to change the Senate.

Well...it's a nice thought. And I do think our progressive resurgence moved too quickly, allowing too many politicians from earlier eras of appeasement staff the chairs of vital Congressional committees. We do need better representatives.

But I'm still staggered - especially on climate change - how spectacular our political failures have been.  

Discuss :: (18 Comments)

Cowgirl on Schweitzer rumors

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Jul 21, 2010 at 14:04:26 PM MST

Cowgirl addresses Brian Schweitzer's claim he isn't interested in running for Senate:

My take is that even if Schweitzer is interested in the Senate-and by all accounts, he is not, since he makes fun of the institution seven days a week-he would not be researching his chances against Max Baucus in a race four years from now. Politicians don't poll that far ahead, ever.

As for Chuck's anecdote about Baucus being pissed at Schweitzer for working up the crowd at the Obama event last summer by calling for universal healthcare, that story has been making the rounds for a while. Baucus gave a speech about the importance of compromise, etc., and then Schweitzer then razzed up the crowd by calling for a Canadian health system, and then Baucus supposedly got in his face and told him he was, by giving such a speech, destroying the entire health-care policy endeavor. UPDATE: A commenter found the speech on youtube! You can watch it here....

Overall, I think the rumors are nonsense. As to Tester, Schweitzer spent a fortune in political capital on Tester's campaign, raising money, barnstorming across the state, and appearing in ads wiith Jag, his dog, talking about what a great Senator Tester would be. And Tester is a great Senator,  and progressives love him, and he and Schweitzer seem to have a strong relationship. S o that part of the rumor has little basis. Nobody I know has ever even heard it. As for a Baucus-Schweitzer showdown, that's far off but it is definitely buzzed around inside the beltway. Baucus has reason to fear Schweitzer because Schweitzer gets Democrats excited, and gets progressives excited too. However, my prediction is that by 2014, one of these two men will have moved on to become a judge, an ambassador, a cabinet officer, a CEO, a Congressman, or maybe even a presidential or vice-presidential nominee. I honestly can't imagine Baucus and Schweitzer vying for a Senate seat in a primary. So while the rumor is fun, it is probably an empty one.

So there you go.  

Discuss :: (9 Comments)

Schweitzer ruling out a Senate bid

by: Jay Stevens

Mon Jul 19, 2010 at 13:50:40 PM MST

Charles Johnson is convinced:

I asked Schweitzer if planned to run against either Tester or Baucus for the Senate, as the rumors have him doing.

"That sounds like silly talk to me," the governor replied. "I've got 2½ years of this job, and it's the most challenging and most interesting job on the planet. And I really have no interest in being part of the United States Senate. I like to get things accomplished on a weekly and monthly basis, and I know that in the U.S. Senate, it takes a long time to accomplish things."

I followed up by asking Schweitzer: "So you're ruling out running for the U.S. Senate."

"Yeah," Schweitzer said.

I pressed him further: "So you would never run for the Senate?"

"Never's a long time, but I have no interest in being in the United States Senate," Schweitzer said.

Huh. Whaddya know? I've heard the rumors, too, and even followed some of the intra-party sniping. So...if the Guv is going to bow out...why the coal letter? Why the sniping at the Democratic delegation? Why the smack talk about single-payer? Presidential bid? Jockeying for a cabinet seat? Habit?

Who knows...

Discuss :: (17 Comments)

Steve Daines v. Jon Tester?

by: Matt Singer

Thu Jul 08, 2010 at 12:14:41 PM MST

That's what the creator of a Facebook page wants, apparently.

Worth noting: Cindy Daines, Steve's wife, is a fan of the page.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

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.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)

Doing the right thing unexpectedly trumps politics

by: Montana Cowgirl

Wed Jun 23, 2010 at 17:19:36 PM MST

I don't know about you all, but it seems to me like it was about time Montanans got one of those faith-restoring moments when doing the right thing unexpectedly trumps politics and common sense actually prevails.

Last month you read here that Senator Ryan Zinke (R-Whitefish) had been considering pushing the ball forward on the international effort to save the Flathead and Glacier National Park from degredation created by proposed coal mining operations in Canada.

The word on the street up in the Whitefish, where this issue looms extremely large, is that Zinke will introduce a bond measure in the state legislature to accomplish this.  At the bottom of all of this is the filth and effluent and goo that would run off into the river and into the Montana Flathead valley if the Canadian mining were to go forward.  Max has been talking about it for 30 years but has never actually done anything about it. Tester doesn't seem much engaged at all.

Schweitzer got an MOU signed, but the progress stopped there because of the lack of a federal appropriation.

The Flathead Beacon is now reporting that there may be hope for moving forward with what it calls "the historic agreement banning natural resource development along the North Fork Flathead River, signed by Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer and British Columbia Premier Gordon Campbell" in spite of previously deadlines and current obstacles.

In a May 26 posting, the blog Left in the West reported on a rumor that Whitefish Republican state Sen. Ryan Zinke was planning to introduce a bond measure in the next Legislature to compensate the B.C. mining firms for their sunk costs if an agreement had not been reached on the payment by then. Reached last week, Zinke said he hasn't been involved in any negotiations and would need to learn more about the issue, but that he would contact Schweitzer to discuss such a measure if it is still necessary next year.

"I haven't talked to the governor's office on options, but it's not out of the realm of possibilities and I'd certainly consider it," Zinke said. "If we can't figure something out, then I would work with the governor to move on something."

Kudos to Sen. Zinke for giving a damn about his district and his willingness to work with the Governor to come up with a solution even though they aren't of the same political party.  Of course it's a smart political move on his part too, given that his name is in the mix for GOP gubernatorial candidate in 2012, as Jay notes below.

Discuss :: (1 Comments)
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