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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.
Max Baucus

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)

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.

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2012 DNC Convention: Brian Schweitzer Takes Charlotte by Storm

by: Bob Brigham

Tue Sep 04, 2012 at 21:57:44 PM MST

This is a testament to Governor Brian Schweitzer's reputation as a straight shooter. And to the caliber of his operation.
Brian Schweitzer at the DNC Convention, Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer

Dave Barry says the very least we could do is elect Schweitzer president:

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- There is an innocent explanation for how I wound up on the floor of a bar with the governor of Montana.
In addition to being a governor, Schweitzer is a rancher who raises heads of cattle. I asked him if he has ever castrated one.

"Hell yes!" he said. He then proceeded to tell me, in extremely explicit detail, how he did it. The more he talked, the more enthusiastic he got; finally he got down on the bar floor to demonstrate his technique. He was down there for several minutes. I squatted next to him, taking notes and becoming increasingly faint. I was very grateful when he finished. (His conclusion was: "And then you throw them in a bucket.")

After the castration lecture, Gov. Schweitzer presented both Jay and me with official Montana governor belt buckles, which are made of solid metal. This is now the manliest thing I own. Gov. Schweitzer is leaving office in January; if we don't elect this man, at bare minimum, president of the United States, we are even stupider than I think we are.

With the polls showing that Schweitzer would beat Max Baucus by double-digits, this is a week the national press are looking beyond 2014, to 2016.

Discuss :: (5 Comments)

The Max Baucus Response to Citizens United: A Constitutional Amendment of Fake Reform

by: Bob Brigham

Wed Jul 25, 2012 at 09:58:37 AM MST

Montana Cowgirl breaks the news that Max Baucus is spending money to push his Constitutional Amendment, and rightfully points out the absurdity of it:

I hate to kick a guy when he's down, but not if he is asking for it.  It is really absurd that Max Baucus has now jumped on the anti-Citizens United bandwagon.

A few days ago, a Montana democrat forwarded to me an e-mail from Max Baucus, railing against "big money in elections," and describing the urgency with which America must "stand up against it."   Then I was played a robocall from Baucus, saying mostly the same thing and urging voters to unite behind him in his quest to "help fight the influence of big money in Montana" or something silly like that.

It's unfathomable that Max Baucus would chose to join the fray on this issue, for he is just about the last person on earth that should be decrying the influence of corporate money in American elections.  Baucus is one of the most prolific raisers of corporate money in the United States Senate, if not United States Senate history.  He has raised, literally, millions of dollars from the many powerful industries that must kneel before him when they want something from the Senate Finance Committee, of which he is chair-Banks, Drug Companies, the Media Industry, and just about every multi-billion-dollar interest that wants special treatment under the law.  And, Baucus' office staff have frequently walked back and forth through the revolving door, writing legislation that affects large industries, leaving to become lobbyists or corporate honchos for those same industries, and then returning later to write some more legislation.

All of that is true, it is absurd for one of the most corrupt members in the history of the senate to say he's trying to get corporate money out of politics.

Until you look at what he's actually trying to do. Since he's wants to amend the Constitution, is he trying to fix it by clarifying that money does not equal speech or that corporations are not people? Of course not. He's just saying that congress and states could - if they wanted - set caps on their elections.

Even if it passed, would this fix anything? No. Would it stop somebody from being as corrupt as Max Baucus? Of course not. Is it a transparent attempt to co-opt the real reform movement with fake reform? Yup. Should you be offended he thinks you're so dumb you'll fall for it? Indeed.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

2012 MT-Sen as Practice for 2014 Max Baucus Retirement Party

by: Bob Brigham

Wed Jun 13, 2012 at 11:31:32 AM MST

Looking back at the weekend's Montana Democratic Party Convention, I can't help but wonder if this year's senate campaign between Jon Tester and Denny Rehberg is little more than practice for the 2014 primary against Max Baucus.

One of the top arguments against Denny Rehberg is all of his votes for the Patriot Act. If you're a Democratic Party activist and volunteer to write a letter to the editor against Rehberg, it's quite likely you'll be asked to complain about his support for the Patriot Act. The same practice Democrats will get this year whacking Rehberg for his Patriot Act support will come in handy next cycle when it's time to hold Max Baucus accountable for his support of the Patriot Act. It's the same argument, all you have to do is switch the names.

Another big topic iss the REAL ID Act. Same thing, another example of Montanans hating something Rehberg did, campaigning on it all year and getting practice to hold Max Baucus accountable for being as wrong as Rehberg.

Iraq War? Ditto.

Cosiness with big money special interests? Baucus is even worse.

PhotobucketBush Tax Cuts? Rehberg just voted for it, Baucus was so instrumental pushing it through the senate that he was rewarded with a photo-op by "getting" to stand right next to Bush when he signed it into law.

In short, this entire year is practice for the 2014 Max Baucus Retirement Party.

Now I don't know if Brian Schweitzer will primary Baucus. I doubt he knows. I do know that if he runs, he wins with a huge, double-digit margin.

Because it's not just the current race that is reminding everyone of the problem with Max Baucus chairing the Senate Finance Committee, all you have to do is read the news.

The latest Max Baucus scandal that everyone is talking about is the emails released that show how Max Baucus blocked reform to allow the reimportation of prescription drugs and prevented Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices. How is that going to stack up in a Democratic primary against the guy who made a national name for himself by taking busloads of seniors to Canada to get the exact same prescription drugs for lower prices?

And now Max Baucus says he's going to do a major overhaul of the tax code? Come on. Everyone knows this is just a transparent play to raise big corporate bucks. He's saying he's going to do major reform, but won't say how? That's like putting a for-rent sign on his senate office, it's a clear signal to everyone with a loophole that they'd better pony up to Max. With everyone familiar with his transactional approach to legislation, it will work. He's going to raise a boatload of money off this stunt.

But will it really matter? In Montana, is there really much of a difference between running a $5 million campaign and a $20 million campaign? At a certain point, there aren't just diminishing returns, but backfire as voters are reminded by his over-saturation of how Max got his money. I don't think anyone in politics doubts that if Brian Schweitzer runs against Max that the good guv will be easily able to raise enough money to run a solid campaign. No, he won't raise as much as Max, but he can raise enough. And with every left of center organization with an email list chomping at the bit to take out Max, he'll have lots of nationwide support.

I don't even think it takes a figure as beloved as our governor to beat Max. Sure, as the most popular elected official in the state, Schweitzer would start out with a big lead in the polls (he's again up by double-digits in the latest poll). But after spending all this year making the arguments against Denny Rehberg that are the same arguments against Baucus, Montana Democrats will be primed for change. Forty-years in DC is too long and it shows.

And if Montana Democrats don't replace Baucus as the nominee, it's likely we'll lose the seat. Baucus got lucky in 2002 with an opponent who dropped out of the race and again in 2008 with an opponent who never even really joined the race. But it's foolish to plan on Baucus being lucky enough to again run unopposed and with his record and negative approval rating, Democrats are toast if he's the nominee. Especially considering Max can't even relate to voters on the stump anymore, he can barely even read off a tele-prompter anymore.

We're going to have to wait until the snow starts melting next spring to see who steps up to challenge Baucus. But Montana Democrats don't have to wait to practice the campaign, we just have fight Denny Rehberg.

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

2014: Brian Schweitzer would "crush" Max Baucus in Democratic Primary

by: Bob Brigham

Wed Jul 06, 2011 at 09:35:01 AM MST

( - promoted by Rob Kailey)

Last month, David M. Drucker had a story in Roll Call looking at all of the talk of Governor Brian Schweitzer primarying Max Baucus in 2014 for the Democratic Party senate nomination.

Now, we have the first public poll numbers on how such a race would look. Public Policy Polling conducted a survey of 333 usual Democratic primary voters, with a 5.4% margin of error:

Looking way ahead to the 2014 election Brian Schweitzer would crush Max Baucus in a primary contest if Montana Democrats went to the polls today, 51-34. The general perception is that if this race happened Schweitzer would rely on support from the left to defeat Baucus for being too much of a centrist. That's not actually how the numbers play out though. Schweitzer leads across the ideological spectrum but his biggest advantage is with moderates at 28 points (55-27), followed by a 12 point advantage with 'somewhat liberal' ones at 50-38 and then 11 points leads with 'very liberal' (52-41) and 'somewhat conservative' (44-33) voters.

Schweitzer is also up double-digits over Baucus with women (48-36), even bigger with men (55-32).

Governor Schweitzer started his career in politics wanting to go to DC and serve in the senate. Here's his chance. Also, probably the best/only chance for Democrats to hold the seat as it makes sense for Democrats to vote against Max Baucus, as he does more destruction as Chair of Senate Finance then he adds benefit. Baucus needs to go.

UPDATE: From The Hill:

Franklin Hall, a senior adviser to Schweitzer posted the poll on his Facebook page and flagged it for friends on Facebook as "very interesting".

Very interesting indeed.

Discuss :: (13 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)

Baucus Sides with Big Oil and Coal, not Montanans

by: Turner

Sat Oct 16, 2010 at 09:26:49 AM MST

( - promoted by Jay Stevens)

[On Oct. 15, "Urserious" responded to a recent posting of mine by including a commentary made on PBS by UM Professor emeritus Tom Powers.  In it Powers raises important questions about Max Baucus's loyalties.  Powers also questions the assumption that oil and coal jobs are an important part of our state's economy.]

Powers' Commentary

Last week Montana Senator Max Baucus appeared to side with Republicans and a handful of coal-state Democrats in opposition to the US Environmental Protection Agency using the authority that the US Supreme Court has said EPA has to regulate greenhouse gas emissions under the Clean Air Act.

Baucus was quoted as saying that the regulation of greenhouse gases was too important and complicated to trust to just a federal agency. Instead, that regulation should remain the business of the US Congress where different regional and industrial interests can be balanced. Congress, of course, has not been able to muster the votes to pass any climate protection legislation, and with Republicans expected to be significantly more powerful in Congress after the mid-term elections, there is little chance a greenhouse gas emission control bill will be produced by Congress any time soon. No EPA greenhouse gas regulation may effectively mean no greenhouse gas regulation at all for the indefinite future.

Because Baucus is a member of the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works, his apparent opposition to allowing EPA to adopt regulations controlling greenhouse gas emissions was big news in Washington DC. One of the Capitol's influential daily newsletters, Environment and Energy, explained Baucus' waffling on the regulation of greenhouse gases by saying: "Baucus is wary of efforts to limit carbon emissions, as coal mining, coal-fired electricity and oil refineries dominate his state.

It is true that Montana has lots of coal and continues to produce significant amounts of petroleum and natural gas. It is also true that a half-dozen large coal mines are operating in the state, shipping that coal to coal-fired generators across the nation. That coal mining also supports six coal-fired generators here in Montana including Colstrip's four generators. We also have oil refineries in Billings, Great Falls, and Laurel. We have high voltage transmission lines delivering the electricity we generate to the West Coast, a petroleum products pipeline stretching across much of the state connecting some of our refineries with the states to the west and a variety of natural gas pipelines crisscrossing the state. Clearly energy production, transformation, and transmission are a significant part of Montana's economy. But are we "dominated" by these energy industries?

That description, of course, is not just a shorthand way for Washington DC insiders to try to make sense out of why our representatives vote the way they do. It is also a description that increases the political power of those very fossil fuel sectors in Montana, giving them more leverage to either block or change any proposed greenhouse gas regulations or legislation. That, actually, is what Baucus meant by saying that regulation of greenhouse gases should be done in Congress where heavy emitters of greenhouse gases can better get their economic interests taken into account.

For that reason, it is important to investigate the extent to which Montana is actually economically "dependent" on coal mines, coal-fired electric generators, and oil refineries. The answer to that is that we have "little" and "shrinking" economic dependence on those energy industries. The Montana Coal Council tells us that in 2009 about 1,150 people were employed in coal mining in Montana. That sounds like a lot of jobs, but there were about 625,000 jobs in Montana in 2009. The coal mining jobs represented about one out of every 500 jobs, less than two-tenths of one percent of all jobs. In petroleum refining, we have about 1,100 jobs, about the same as in coal mining. If we look at electric generation, the 2002 and 2007 Economic Census indicate that the employment in electric generation was about 450, but about 150 of those jobs were associated with hydroelectric generation, leaving about 300 workers engaged in fossil fuel-based generation. Clearly that is even a smaller sliver of the total Montana economy, one out of every 2,000 jobs. If we add all of the coal mining, coal-fired electric generation, and petroleum refining jobs together, there are about 2,600 jobs associated with these energy sectors. That is, these sectors provide one out of every 250 Montana jobs or about four-tenths of one percent of total jobs.

To call this a "dominant" position in the Montana economy is more than a stretch, it is at the very limits of hyperbole. One can, of course, start using multipliers to inflate this number. But any reasonable multiplier would leave us accounting for less than two percent of the Montana's jobs. It might be better to be worrying more about the other 98 percent of jobs if we are really concerned about the future of the Montana economy.

Just as important, we could ask how many of the new jobs that have been created in Montana over the last 25 years were created in these energy sectors. Over the last quarter century, Montana added almost 220,000 jobs, over a 50 percent increase. During that time, employment in coal mining declined by over 300. Employment in coal-fired generation also appears to have declined as automation reduced the necessary work force. On the other hand, employment at our oil refineries expanded by 200. So overall, these three energy sectors lost a couple of hundred jobs while the over all economy was expanding dramatically. Just in health care, for instance, almost 30,000 new jobs were created, more than doubling that workforce.

It is important that we focus clearly on the economy we actually have and the sources of economic vitality that have actually been supporting the expansion of employment opportunities. Our continued fascination with the view through the economic rear-view mirror leads only to confusion and bad public economic policy that allows a tiny sliver of economic participants to distort public policy to protect their private interests at the expense of the rest of the population and the economy.

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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)

Pennsylvania political donors win Montana pork

by: Jay Stevens

Mon Aug 23, 2010 at 08:35:17 AM MST

This should get interesting, I hope:

The head of the firm that won a $64 million federal stimulus grant to install a new fiber-optic network in Gallatin County is part of a Pittsburgh family that owns property at the exclusive, gated Yellowstone Club at Big Sky and is involved in a similar development nearby.

James Dolan Jr., the manager of Montana Opticom, also owns property at Big Sky, including a lot at the private Spanish Peaks housing and golf course community - which, so far, is home to the only customers served by Opticom, a small broadband firm based in Gallatin Gateway.

Opticom, which won the $64 million award Aug. 4, serves about 300 customers at the Spanish Peaks development.

The Bozeman Chronicle explains the specific objections to Opticom's deal:

...in the days after the award announcement, local Internet service companies began to question the wisdom of the government's funding decision.
Those companies say the area in question is far from underserved and that the feds have wasted stimulus funds on a project that will only duplicate work they have already done to lay broadband infrastructure in northwestern Gallatin County....

The size of Opticom's award and the company's ties to a Pennsylvania firm did not sit well with Scott Johnson, president of Global Net in Bozeman.
"For $64 million, they could fill in 90 percent of the (broadband coverage) holes in this state," Johnson said. "There can't be a single person with any kind of background that looked at this and didn't go, 'Wait a minute'"...

Johnson also said giving the money to a company with out-of-state ties is a slap in the face to purely Montanan businesses whose infrastructure work is not being subsidized by the government....

Garrett Talbot, general manager of Bridgeband Communications in Bozeman, said he couldn't understand how the USDA could look at northwestern Gallatin County and deem it either "unserved" or "underserved" with broadband.
"I'm questioning how the USDA awarded it when the services already exist," he said. "That area is already lit up."

As Dennison's report points out, Dolan and his father are big political donors - mostly to Republicans. Both Denny Rehberg and Max Baucus wrote letters to federal officials in support of Junior Dolan's telecomm bid, despite his company's size and inexperience.

Rehberg's hypocrisy on this is especially glaring. As Dennison noted, Rehberg both "voted against the stimulus funding bill and has criticized it as wasteful spending." But then how can you let slip by an opportunity to do a party donor a big favor? Rehberg also forwarded a million-dollar earmark for Junior Dolan's company, despite his avowed antipathy of all things earmark-y.

As for Baucus' motivation? Maybe he just prefers the Yellowstone Club set. That would go a long way in explaining a lot of his policy decisions.

The Bozo Chron's Michael Becker wonders why the Dolan family political contributions are relevant - "since there's no apparent evidence of misdeeds, why are the Dolans' political donations news?" - but because the earmark was so egregiously misappropriated, it would seem Dolan family connections landed them a slab of pork to gnaw. It may not be illegal, but that doesn't mean it doesn't stink.

Discuss :: (10 Comments)

All quiet at the public meeting

by: Jay Stevens

Tue Aug 17, 2010 at 09:21:34 AM MST

Hm. Interesting:

Here are two ways in which the summer of 2010 differs from the summer of 2009: First, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., spent close to three hours here last week at a public meeting where he took questions from all comers on everything from federal spending to veterans' benefits - something he did not do last year. Second, far from the raucous town hall-style meetings of 2009 that nearly derailed the Democrats' efforts to overhaul the American health care system, Baucus, a key author of that bill, encountered a crowd that was cordial, thoughtful and probing in its questions - but certainly not hostile.

Gee, I wonder what the difference is? Could it be that the "raucous" meetings last summer were, in part, staged?

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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?


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.


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)

Haters will hate

by: Jay Stevens

Mon Jul 12, 2010 at 12:39:22 PM MST

So, er, why is Baucus joining the Republican chorus criticizing President Obama's recess appointment of Medicare chief, Donald Berwick?

Not because he opposes the appointment. According to the report, Baucus "did not object" to the appointee, and said he "looked forward to working with the Medicare agency" under Berwick's tenure.

Nope. It's "principle":

"I'm troubled that, rather than going through the standard nomination process, Dr. Berwick was recess-appointed,'' Mr. Baucus said.

"Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee, and answered,'' Mr. Baucus said.

The Finance Committee was still vetting Mr. Berwick and had not scheduled a confirmation hearing.

Which completely ignores that Republicans have been using secret holds and other byzantine and mysterious Senate procedural rules to block or delay confirmation of many of Obama's nominations. And completely ignores, as Jamelle Bouie notes, that the Senate confirmation system is essentially broken:

...there was a time when confirmations were fairly quick. In a 2004 paper, Marymount University political scientist Margaret Tseng found that the average time between nomination and confirmation has grown steadily since the 1960s. When President Kennedypresented a nominee, he could expect confirmation within a few months at most. By contrast, President Clinton waited upward of nine months before many of his nominees entered service.

While some of this is political -- high polarization has made the confirmation process a battleground for political advantage -- it's also true that the 100-member Senate isn't particularly equipped to deal with the sheer size of the executive branch. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Senate could expect to confirm a few dozen nominees. Now the Senate must confirm thousands of nominees, the majority of whom don't benefit from the full attention of the Senate. Republican obstructionism has compounded the problem, but even if GOP senators were more deferential to the president's choices, you would still have to contend with too little time and too many nominees.

So...why the fuss from Baucus? Does his cozy relationship with Chuck Grassley cause Baucus to contort in paroxysms of triangulation whenever the Iowa Republican winks? Or is Baucus' aversion to those pesky single-payer advocates who interrupt his committee hearings so great that any hint of "expressed admiration" for a government-run health care system cause Montana's senior Senator to lash out irrationally?

Or is Baucus really principled?

Ha-ha, joking aside, whatever Baucus' motivation, his joining Republicans in criticizing Obama is an ill-considered and untimely bit of rhetorical triangulation, to say the least.  

Discuss :: (6 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.

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Trout must hire lobbyist

by: Montana Cowgirl

Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 11:13:52 AM MST

Reminiscent of when Denny Rehberg famously told an eastern Montana county to go hire a lobbyist if it wanted to get federal money to pave a local road (even suggesting the name of a lobbyist that they ought to hire), last week Max Baucus could be seen in the newspaper saying something similar.

For the first time in 35 years, there is agreement between Montana and Canada to permanently forbid mining and exploration in a beautiful and wild area next to Glacier and Waterton Parks. All that is needed is 17 million dollars from Congress to seal the deal. Yet last week Baucus stated publicly, and incredibly,  that the request for the appropriation "came in the wrong form".  This claim merits serious examination.  As far as I can tell, there is no such thing as a "form" for requesting federal money. When a state needs something from the federal government, the Congressman/Senator is supposed to bring it home.  Plus, Baucus could be heard saying recently that he has been working very hard on this environmental issue for 35 years.

It is a very peculiar state of affairs that no doubt traces to the ego-bumping between Schweitzer and Baucus. Some activists on this issue hope perhaps Tester can do better. Nobody expects Rehberg to do anything, of course.  The best part is that Max Baucus's staff continues to send out press releases describing Max as "America's most powerful senator."

The fish in the North Fork of the Flathead, which will be killed off by coal sludge if this deal falls apart, clearly do not understand that they need either a high-powered corporate fish lobbyist, or must write fish checks to the Baucus campaign, in order to see that their home is protected.  

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Purely Hypothetical, of course, but - The best candidate for the Republicans for US Senate is:
Corey Stapleton
Dennis Rehberg
Marc Racicot
Champ Edmunds
Steve Daines
Harris Himes
Kreyton Kerns


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