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Barack Obama
"Lincoln Sells Out Slaves"
by: Rob Kailey - Sep 13
If You Haven't Seen This
by: Rob Kailey - Apr 28
Impeach the President?
by: Rob Kailey - Mar 16
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.
US Senate

Report: Rehberg to challenge Tester

by: Matthew Koehler

Tue Feb 01, 2011 at 08:14:26 AM MST

This blog post from the Missoula Indy's Skylar Browning has all the details.  Apparently, Rehberg will make the announcement this Saturday at the Lincoln/Reagan Dinner in Helena. 

Discuss :: (19 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)

"In chaos, people don't listen to reason..."

by: Jay Stevens

Tue Aug 03, 2010 at 06:38:38 AM MST

Hey all. Sorry about the intermittent posting. There's been some travel, and a primary computer that desperately needs its hard drive wiped and the OS reinstalled. I'm half tempted to go back to Ubuntu; Vista has been a mess. But what about Windows 7? Has anyone used that, and been pleased?

Anyhoo - last week I lashed out at Baucus and Tester over their refusal to back Senate procedural reform. I stand by the lashing, and stand by the need for reforming Senate procedural reforms, and I've brought along my friend George Packer to bolster my case:

Like many other aspects of senatorial procedure, Rule XXVI, Paragraph 5 is a relic from the days when senators had to hover around their desks to know what was happening on the floor during the main afternoon debate. (The desks, some built as long ago as 1819, are mahogany, and their lids lift up, like those in an old schoolhouse; the desks of the Majority and Minority Leader are still equipped with brass spittoons.) In the press lounge, McCaskill said, with light sarcasm, "Somebody told me the rule is to make sure people pay attention to what's happening on the floor during debate and not be distracted by committee work. Clearly, it's an old rule."

The Republicans had turned this old rule into a new means of obstruction. There would be no hearings that afternoon; the general and the admiral would have to come back another day. Like investment bankers on Wall Street, senators these days direct much of their creative energy toward the manipulation of arcane rules and loopholes, scoring short-term successes while magnifying their institution's broader dysfunction....

Under McConnell, Republicans have consistently consumed as much of the Senate's calendar as possible with legislative maneuvering. The strategy is not to extend deliberation of the Senate's agenda but to prevent it. Tom Harkin, who first proposed reform of the filibuster in 1995, called his Republican colleagues "nihilists," who want to create chaos because it serves their ideology. "If there's chaos, things will tend toward simple solutions," Harkin said. "In chaos people don't listen to reason...."

On July 21st, President Obama signed the completed {financial reform} bill. The two lasting achievements of this Senate, financial regulation and health care, required a year and a half of legislative warfare that nearly destroyed the body. They depended on a set of circumstances-a large majority of Democrats, a charismatic President with an electoral mandate, and a national crisis-that will not last long or be repeated anytime soon. Two days after financial reform became law, Harry Reid announced that the Senate would not take up comprehensive energy-reform legislation for the rest of the year. And so climate change joined immigration, job creation, food safety, pilot training, veterans' care, campaign finance, transportation security, labor law, mine safety, wildfire management, and scores of executive and judicial appointments on the list of matters that the world's greatest deliberative body is incapable of addressing. Already, you can feel the Senate slipping back into stagnant waters.

Read the whole thing. Weep. The current obstructionism is not part of any Senate tradition. The Senate has become a dysfunctional body where professional fundraisers, not statesmen, rule. Bogged down by a 1,600-page procedural rulebook - with many rules therein written for another era with a different kind of Senator in mind - the Senate has stopped the legislative process for a country in economic and environmental crisis. This is our time, and the citizens have risen to the challenge. We've done our work.

If you are wondering why Democratic House members are in trouble this year, it's not because Americans are naturally more conservative. They're not. President Obama won his election on a progressive platform, as did the Senators and House members in 2006 and 2008, and the Republican congressional delegation still has approval ratings that rival Iran's. No, the reason that people are angry is the United States Senate. Change the Senate, modernize its rules, address the problems that face the country, and do the will of the electorate. It's that simple.

Discuss :: (3 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)

Murkowski Part II Rears Its Ugly Head

by: Lowell Feld NRDC Action Fund

Fri Jul 09, 2010 at 13:54:21 PM MST

On June 10th, we all celebrated the defeat of the Murkowski resolution, which would have gutted the EPA's ability to regulate carbon dioxide pollution.  Why we needed to defeat Murkowski was explained well by NRDC Action Fund Executive Director, Peter Lehner, who wrote the following prior to the vote:

EPA's proactive lead in greenhouse gas regulation is a critical aspect of the effort to reduce our rampant, destabilizing, and destructive dependence on foreign and offshore oil.  While the endangerment finding does not, in itself, prescribe regulations, it provides the legal basis for critical standards: EPA's proposed CAFE efficiency standard for light-duty vehicles is projected to save over 455 million barrels per year, and an anticipated standard for heavy-duty vehicles will save billions more.  Stripping EPA of its authority to implement these protections would increase our nation's dependence on oil and send hundreds of billions of dollars overseas.  We cannot afford this big step backward, especially as we watch more oil gush into the Gulf each day.

In the end, the Senate didn't take that "big step backward" on June 10th, as the Murkowski resolution failed by a 47-53 vote.   Many of us probably figured that was the end of this issue, and that the Senate would now move on to passing comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation.  Unfortunately, as is often the case in Washington, DC, it isn't that simple (let alone logical).

Today, clean air and public health are once again under an assault that constitutes, essentially, "Murkowski Part II."  The Wall Street Journal reported on June 22:

As U.S. Senate lawmakers attempt to determine the fate of energy legislation, an influential Democrat is boosting efforts to suspend a controversial greenhouse-gas rule passed earlier this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

After introducing a bill to impose a two-year halt on the new EPA rule, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from coal-rich West Virginia, is now working to round up supporters for his legislation.

It should go without saying that this is completely unacceptable.  As we all know, the public was outraged at Senator Murkowski's Big Oil Bailout bill.  They understood that this moved the country backward, not forward, and that it was exactly the wrong way to go given the energy and environmental challenges we face.  Through all our efforts, our phone calls and emails (and blog posts and tweets, etc.), we helped to kill Murkowski Part I.  Now, unfortunately, Sen. Jay Rockefeller is pushing Murkowski Part II, yet there's far less attention being paid to this effort than to the Murkowski's EPA Castration Resolution Part I.   People have a lot of other things on their minds, and they thought this fight was over back in June.  But, once they find out that this effort is baaaaack, like a monster in a cheesy horror movie, they are not going to respond positively.  

Of course, why would the public - which overwhelmingly supports taking action to promote clean energy and deal with climate change - ever respond positively to a proposal aimed at throwing away one of our key tools to cut pollution and protect public health?  And why would they respond positively now of all times, as oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico, as record heat waves scorch the United States, and as climate science is strengthened every day that goes by?  Last but not least, why would they support an effort to protect the corporate polluters and not all of us who are being hurt by that pollution?

The bottom line is simple: instead of wasting its time on legislation that will only move the country backwards - towards dirty energy forever - the Senate should be busy passing a bill that moves the country forward towards a bright future of green energy, clean tech jobs, energy security and climate protection.   Once our Senators hear that message loud and clear from all of us, Rockefeller's Murkowski Part II will be rejected by the Senate, just as Murkowski Part I was before it.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Tester: the good, the bad, and the ugly

by: Jay Stevens

Fri May 07, 2010 at 12:41:37 PM MST

Jon today has gotten some well-deserved attention for sponsoring the Public Information Act, which got a positive reaction from the White House:

White House spokesman Adam Abrams said the Obama administration has "set out from day one to create an unprecedented level of openness in government," including requiring faster access to documents requested under the Freedom of Information Act and the posting of government records online that weren't previously available, such as logs showing White House visitors by name.

And an amendment he proposed for the financial regulatory overhaul bill was adopted, 98 - 0:

Large banks would be forced to pay higher premiums for federal deposit insurance under an amendment the Senate added Thursday to the financial regulatory overhaul bill....

The FDIC currently insures bank deposits of up to $250,000. If premiums are based on total assets instead of domestic deposits only, large banks, which have huge asset holdings, would pay a greater share of deposit insurance premiums....

"Small community banks make rural America run," Tester said. "They don't deserve to be left holding the bag for the risky behavior of big banks."

That's the good.

Now the bad. In an opportunity to break up the biggest banks and cap their size, so as not to concentrate most of the nation's wealth in the hands of a few mega-financial institutions, thereby increasing the chance of financial collapse if they - as they did in the recent crash - speculate wildly, Jon sided with Max Baucus and Wall Street's finanical oligarchy, and voted "no."

Discuss :: (10 Comments)

A robbery in progress -- on the floor of the US Senate

by: Jay Stevens

Fri Feb 05, 2010 at 07:38:42 AM MST

Oh my!

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) has put an extraordinary "blanket hold" on at least 70 nominations President Obama has sent to the Senate, according to multiple reports this evening. The hold means no nominations can move forward unless Senate Democrats can secure a 60-member cloture vote to break it, or until Shelby lifts the hold...

According to the report, Shelby is holding Obama's nominees hostage until a pair of lucrative programs that would send billions in taxpayer dollars to his home state get back on track. The two programs Shelby wants to move forward or else:

- A $40 billion contract to build air-to-air refueling tankers. From CongressDaily: "Northrop/EADS team would build the planes in Mobile, Ala., but has threatened to pull out of the competition unless the Air Force makes changes to a draft request for proposals."...

- An improvised explosive device testing lab for the FBI. From CongressDaily: "[Shelby] is frustrated that the Obama administration won't build" the center, which Shelby earmarked $45 million for in 2008. The center is due to be based "at the Army's Redstone Arsenal."

As Ezra notes, that a Senator can do this reinforces the fact that the US Senate is the world's worst legislative body. Kossak mjoan thinks it's time for recess appointments. Josh Marshall thinks that this story might blow up in the Senate's face:

In this case, we're not dealing with a stand on partisanship or ideology or simple political shiv play which I guess can each be respected in their own place. This is more like just a stick up. Gimme my money and I'll give you your Senate back! Worse than a squeegee man and not much better than a bank robber, Shelby is shutting down the president's ability to appoint anyone to anything until he gets his way. In a sense Shelby's gambit is little different from what countless other senators of both parties have done in the past, using the senate rules to get the White House's attention to pry some money free from the federal government. But the scale is unheard and the moment is different. The only mystery about this one is which is more outrageous -- Shelby's hold or the fact that the rest of the senators of both parties allow it.

Perhaps, like so many other times, this will be today's outrage that is the new normal by tomorrow. But this are volatile times. And I wonder if this isn't the live wire in the gasoline.

I hope it is. That a supra-majority is required to pass any legislation is ridiculous, especially has the Republican party has transformed the filibuster into a pure political tool of obstruction. Certainly the Constitution intended no such thing. (But isn't it funny how the "constitutionalists" never talk about the filibuster?) Hopefully this is the story to bring the Senate's quirks front and center into the country's consciousness...  

Discuss :: (10 Comments)

Bullock testifies in US Senate about Citizens United

by: Jay Stevens

Tue Feb 02, 2010 at 21:41:45 PM MST

Montana's Attorney General, Steve Bullock, testified today in front of a Senate hearing on the likely effects of the SCOTUS' recent Citizens United decision.

Bullock warned that it's at the state and local level where we may most keenly feel the impact of Citizens United, and illustrated that point with Montana's early history when copper kings and political corruption ruled the day. Local elections are cheap and plentiful, and unrestricted corporate money threatens not only our state officeholders, they threaten the independence of state-level courts.

Here's the video:

Transcript below the fold.

There's More... :: (3 Comments, 953 words in story)

Reid Snowed in by Republicans

by: Jay Stevens

Thu Jan 14, 2010 at 08:22:39 AM MST

You don't say!

"As I look back it was a waste of time dealing with [Snowe]," [Sen. Harry] Reid is quoted as saying about the White House in a forthcoming New York Times Magazine piece, "because she had no intention of ever working anything out."

You know, Reid sounds genuinely surprised by this. I mean...he's been in the Senate, hasn't he noticed the record-setting filibuster pace the Republicans have set? Doesn't he understand the GOP would rather savage the country by blocking crucial legislation than stay out of power?

There was a lot of talk this election of ending the partisan rancor in Washington. People dug it. Obama ran a campaign on it. Only thing is, the GOP realized by upping partisanship a notch, they won't be the ones who catch h*ll.

The answer is, and always was, to go progressive and steamroll the GOP into obsolescence.  

Discuss :: (21 Comments)

The deeply flawed Senate health care bill: is it worth saving?

by: Jay Stevens

Thu Dec 17, 2009 at 09:42:36 AM MST

I haven't been writing much about the healthcare bill in Congress right now - I've been writing about this issue for months now, and all that happens is that it gets uglier and messier. A grind. Frankly, I have no idea how staffers and lobbyists deal with the schedule, the endless bickering, the soul-sucking compromises.

In the Senate, of course, the public option was dropped in favor of Medicare expansion. Which, well, I would take as a start towards "Medicare for all." But then Joe Lieberman stepped in, and they dropped the Medicare buy-in. And now, thankfully, Bernie Sanders says he won't vote for the bill without the public option or Medicare expansion. Howard Dean's also speaking out against the legislation:

If I were a senator, I would not vote for the current health-care bill. Any measure that expands private insurers' monopoly over health care and transfers millions of taxpayer dollars to private corporations is not real health-care reform. Real reform would insert competition into insurance markets, force insurers to cut unnecessary administrative expenses and spend health-care dollars caring for people. Real reform would significantly lower costs, improve the delivery of health care and give all Americans a meaningful choice of coverage. The current Senate bill accomplishes none of these.

Even the SEIU is balking at the bill.

FDL's Jon Walker has a nice post on the reasons why a lot of us feel the Senate bill unacceptable, and why killing it is a good strategy. Read it. It's pretty much how I feel about this thing. I see the bill as fatally flawed, offering the wrong incentives, mandating that individuals purchase deeply flawed and expensive health insurance that may not cover their healthcare anyway.

There are progressives who do still support the bill. John Podesta:

The Senate health care bill is not without its problems. But if enacted, it would represent the most significant public reform of our health care system that Congress has passed in the 40 plus years I have worked in politics. The bill will give health care coverage to a record 31 million Americans who are currently uninsured, lay a foundation that will begin to lower costs for millions of families, and provide all Americans with the access to adequate and dependable coverage when they need it most.

Nate Silver:

So, we've talked a lot about what the bill is not. It's not structural reform. What is it, then? At the end of the day, it's a big bleeping social welfare program -- the largest social welfare program to be implemented since the Great Society. And that's really what it's been all along: fundamental reform like single-payer or Wyden-Bennett was never really on the table. The bill comes very close, indeed, to establishing what might be thought of as a right to access to health care: once it's been determined that people with pre-existing conditions cannot be denied health care coverage, and that working class people ought to receive assistance so that they can afford health care coverage, it will be very hard to remove those benefits. It's the sort of opportunity that comes around rarely -- and one that liberals will greatly regret if they turn down.

(By the way, as I understand the bill, most of us will not enjoy the protections against pre-existing conditions, lifetime caps, etc. Most employer-based insurance won't be subject to those new regulations in the near future, although I believe they will eventually be rolled into those provisions.)

That's an argument that's hard to ignore. A greatly flawed bill will actually help millions. Still, I don't think that argument is enough to have progressives go belly-up at the kind of egregious deal-making that's currently going on in the Senate. Hopefully Senator Sanders will stand firm and find a few friends, and force this bill to improve.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

The all-too-familiar ritual

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Dec 02, 2009 at 20:29:18 PM MST

Jonathan Cohn, on health care reform:

It's no fun to watch this unfold. And yet this is the exactly the sort of drama you should expect for the next few weeks, as the Senate deliberations play out.

The bill Majority Leader Harry Reid introduced last week is not everything it could be--not by a long shot. And progressives will try their best to improve it. But the real battle will be an ongoing rearguard action, to fend off changes from the right--amendments that, in many cases, Republicans will support even though they have no intention of voting for the final bill. Abortion. Immigration. The mandates, for individuals and employers. You name it.

For progressives, victories are more likely to come in the form of ground not conceded than ground gained. Every day that legislation doesn't get worse is a day to cherish.

Discuss :: (4 Comments)

Senate health care bill released

by: Jay Stevens

Thu Nov 19, 2009 at 10:01:24 AM MST

The Senate health care bill is out.

Some of its provisions:

- A public option with a state opt-out clause

- Increase payroll tax on Medicare for high-income people

- A tax on high-cost, "Cadillac" health care plans

- Does not prohibit insurers from covering abortions, like the House bill's Stupak amendment

- The health-insurance exchange opens a year later than it would under the House bill, in 2014
More generous subsidies than under the Baucus bill

- $900B over ten years

Igor Volsky charted a comparison of the bill to both the Baucus bill and the House bill. Here's a short summary (pdf) of the bill. Or read the whole bill (pdf) and report back!

The support for cloture on the bill from Democrats Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu, and Ben Nelson is uncertain.


Discuss :: (2 Comments)

The public option fight is just beginning

by: Jay Stevens

Mon Oct 26, 2009 at 15:40:51 PM MST

So we got a public option in the Senate bill. The bill and its version of the public option is far from perfect - that it's opt-out at the state level is the least of its problems.  For one, it'd be available - along with the community standard provisions - to only a handful of consumers. And that's critical, for in order for the public option to be successful it needs to be national, and it needs to be big. Still, if this is the most conservative, weakest version of the public option  that could make it to the final Congressional bill - the worst-case scenario, if you will - that's not a bad thing.

Still, that it got in the bill is a huge victory for the progressive activists who fought for it. Huge. Despite being outspent by industry lobbyists, despite not garnering the frenzied media coverage that the Teabaggers did (memo to self: blog while armed), despite the attempts at marginalization by both Congressional and White House Democrats and the open hostility of some single-payer advocates, a lot of good people stirred up a big fuss, and a public option will be in the final bill.

We were wanted for door-knocking and phone-calling and t-shirt-buying and our votes, but we weren't wanted when it came time to craft policy. Well, despite the public option's relative insignificance (compared to say, real health care reform in the form of a single-payer system), we've forced a place a the table. And we're not going away. We'll be there for climate change legislation, immigration reform, bank regulation, Net Neutrality, consumer protection legislation, gay rights, tax reform, and on and on and on.

Get used to us.

Thoughts below the fold.  

There's More... :: (4 Comments, 600 words in story)

The political price of opposing a public option

by: Jay Stevens

Thu Jul 30, 2009 at 13:13:14 PM MST

The news:

In an apparent warning to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), some liberal Democrats have suggested a secret-ballot vote every two years on whether or not to strip committee chairmen of their gavels.

Baucus, who is more conservative than most of the Democratic Conference, has frustrated many of his liberal colleagues by negotiating for weeks with Republicans over healthcare reform without producing a bill or even much detail about the policies he is considering.

"Every two years the caucus could have a secret ballot on whether a chairman should continue, yes or no," said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), the chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee. "If the 'no's win, [the chairman's] out.

"I've heard it talked about before," he added.

I'm absolutely, 100-percent with Kos when he writes that it's "time to end the tyranny of the long-serving chairmanships." Committees are the largely unseen roadblocks to good legislation that makes the already conservative essence of Congress all the more conservative. It's a kind of sinecure, where a chair can be sure to squeeze out legislation friendly to his backers for votes on the floor.

Will it happen? There's nothing more sacred in the Senate than seniority, where plum assignments are handed out purely on the basis of Senate longevity. I guess you could argue that this method discourages the doling out of pork and projects to fellow representatives to win committee chairs - like in the House - but on the other hand, it also discourages any accountability. And that's exactly why this isn't likely to happen. That's one of the goals of the Senate - to reach a point where they don't have to worry about elections anymore.

Still, one can dream, can't he? In any case, it's good to see Senate Democrats beginning to stir.

Discuss :: (12 Comments)

GOP: in "triage mode"

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Oct 15, 2008 at 05:11:30 AM MST

Just yesterday I pointed out the rosy picture of the Senate; Democrats are poised to win as many as eight seats, and a supra-majority -- 60 seats -- isn't out of reach.

There are other recent signs of the coming political apocalypse for the Republican party.

For one, the lastest CBS poll shows a national 14-point lead for Obama in the presidential race. While Nate Silver explains CBS tends to be an outlier favoring the Democrats, there are at least seven polls showing Obama with a double-digit lead. Silver also points to the early voting results that show a massive lead for Obama; that the Democratic candidate leads in early voting is atypical in recent presidential races. Both in 2000 and 2004 Bush led the early voting by a modest amount.

This gloomy picture of the presidential race has the RNC diverting its new money to Senate races rather than to McCain's lackluster campaign:

The Republican National Committee, growing nervous over the prospect of Democrats' winning a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, is considering tapping into a $5 million line of credit this week to aid an increasing number of vulnerable incumbents, top Republicans say.

With party strategists fearing a bloodbath at the polls, GOP officials are shifting to triage mode, determining who can be saved and where to best spend their money.

"Bloodbath." "Triage mode." Nice.

Lest I forget the House, there, too, Democrats are expecting to make some serious gains. And there, too, Republicans are having difficulty funding races. News just broke that the House Republican election group -- the RSCC -- can no longer fund challengers and is concentrating its resources on protecting incumbents. Which means that Democrats are free to concentrate on their challengers.

Now that's not to say we should be overly confident. That's not to say that there's not a lot of work to do, especially locally for county and state races. But on a national level, the outlook is good.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

The state of the Senate

by: Jay Stevens

Tue Oct 14, 2008 at 09:15:07 AM MST

Nate Silver's post on this election's outlook on the Senate races reminds me I've been writing a lot about the presidential and local elections, and not much about Congressional elections across the country.

In short, things are lookin' mighty good for Democtrats. Silver's projections show that Democrats are favored to pick up eight Senate seats, in Alaska, Virginia, New Mexico, Colorado, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, and Minnesota. Count 'em up. If they do win all eight seats, that would give Democrats 59 seats -- counting Lieberman -- or one shy of a "supramajority" needed to avoid Republican filibusters, the bane of good, progressive legislation this session.

Additionally, Democrats are playing strong in three other Senate races, in Kentucky, Georgia, and Mississippi, all of whose Republican candidates are enjoying slim single-digit leads. Kentucky's Mitch McConnell, especially, has seen his lead plummet from double digits as the electorate responds to his cheerleading of the bailout bill.

Finally the bill is coming due for years of Republican misconduct and incompetence.

Discuss :: (0 Comments)

Tester's Energy Almanac

by: Jay Stevens

Fri Sep 12, 2008 at 21:47:17 PM MST

I got an email with video of Jon Tester on the Senate floor speaking about the upcoming energy bill, and the urgency and compromises needed to pass it.

In the speech he reiterates the importance of alternative and renewable energy sources, but also advocates drilling as a short-term "bridge" to a better energy infrastructure, comprised of wind, solar, geothermal, and cellusic ethanol.

There's More... :: (2 Comments, 531 words in story)

Tax credits for alternative energy to come before the Senate again

by: Jay Stevens

Fri Sep 12, 2008 at 10:51:42 AM MST

Time to see if Republican rhetoric on alternative energy is just that -- empty rhetoric -- because the tax credits so desperately needed for the burgeoning industry are back on the table:

The measure includes tax incentives for carbon sequestration, plug-in hybrid vehicles, conservation, wind energy, solar energy, nuclear energy and biofuels. It would extend expiring provisions and create some new breaks as well, with the costs offset largely by higher taxes on the oil and gas industry.

Baucus and Grassley want to inject their proposal into an upcoming Senate debate on energy policy, and it could get added to a bill that would expand offshore drilling.

Baucus and Grassley have tried repeatedly over the past two years to assemble an energy tax proposal that can get through the Senate. The closest they came was in December 2007, when a vote to limit debate on their plan came up one vote short of the 60 needed.

The House has repeatedly passed energy-tax measures, only to see them stall in the Senate, where Republicans have resisted Democratic efforts to offset their cost.

That's right; alternative energy tax credits were voted down by Senate Republicans, with support from presidential nominee, John McCain. Why? To protect the tax rates of big energy corporations.

Frankly we've down this road before with the AMT -- remember that? Senate Republicans have shown a willingness to fight tooth-and-nail to protect the tax rates of the richest among us, even if it means screwing over working families, the environment, and a balanced budget.

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Senate Republicans: handmaidens of the ultra-rich

by: Jay Stevens

Wed Jul 30, 2008 at 20:15:56 PM MST

What is wrong with the Senate Republicans? Do they want to become a cliche of themselves?

Today, Republicans blocked a bill that would have given ordinary Americans -- teachers, small businesses, and parents -- tax cuts, patched the AMT, and given tax credits to renewable energy projects...because these cuts and credits would be paid for by closing a tax loophole on hedge-fund managers and raising taxes on big corporations.

And Baucus was in the thick of things, trying to make the bill palatable to Republicans by adding some compromises to the bill, but Republicans stubbornly refused to support the bill, screwing the fledgling alternative energy industry, teachers, parents, and middle-class taxpayers, while piling on to our deficit.

I mean, are big corporations and hedge fund managers really supporting Republicans that much?

And, yes, consider this praise for our Senior Senator, for you well-"embrowed" supporters out there. This is good, progressive legislation that needs to be done, and Max was there trying to make it happen.

Discuss :: (16 Comments)

Ted Stevens indicted

by: Jay Stevens

Tue Jul 29, 2008 at 15:30:46 PM MST

Today's corrupt Republican news:

Sen. Ted Stevens, the longest-serving Republican in the U.S. Senate and one of the chamber's most powerful members, was indicted Tuesday in Washington for failing to disclose more than $250,000 worth of gifts that he received from businessmen who were seeking his help on federal issues and projects.

The Alaska delegation is particularly challenged by ethics. Laura McGann has a quick recap of what our northern neighbors' representatives have been up to.

Matt Stoller on why Senate Democrats defense of Stevens irks him:

The Senate is a damn club.  I'm not saying these are bad people, though some of them are, just that they are part of a rotten system that compels them to make immoral choices.  They deserve criticism for it, they are the MOST empowered parts of society.  The sooner we learn this the sooner we can start to fix it, but if you keep denying that these people are part of a corroded system it won't get better.  We're supposed to be smart activists, not blind obedient morons following elitist DC Democrats off a cliff.
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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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