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Tags: Senate Democrats

Senate Democrats Vote to Reject Keystone, Elect Bill Cassidy in Runoff



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From the midweek edition of the Morning Jolt:

Senate Democrats Vote to Reject Keystone, Elect Bill Cassidy in Runoff

In the end, Senate Democrats really didn’t care whether Senator Mary Landrieu came back to join them or not.

In a dramatic vote, the Senate rejected a controversial new energy pipeline Tuesday evening, dealing a serious blow to the re-election prospects of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) and leaving Republicans itching for a fight next year on the issue.

On a 59 to 41 vote, Landrieu lost her bid to pass legislation meant to compel the Obama White House to approve the nearly 1,700-mile, $7.6 billion Keystone XL pipeline, which if built would deliver 830,000 barrels of oil a day from western Canada into the American heartland.

Already six years in the making, the Keystone fight has become the rallying cry for Landrieu, a three-term senator facing a run-off election Dec. 6. For the past week she has placed a political bet on her ability to pass the legislation as a demonstration of her clout in the Senate.

Keep in mind, most of her colleagues voted “no” even with the implied-but-never-quite-explicitly-stated threat of a presidential veto! And they still wouldn’t vote to give Mary Landrieu an alleged “accomplishment” before the runoff! Why are they so disinclined to help her out? What, does she owe them money? Do they owe her money?

Democrats voting to build the Keystone pipeline included Begich, Bennet, Carper, Casey, Donnelly, Hagan, Heitkamp, Landrieu, Manchin, McCaskill, Pryor, Tester, Walsh, and Warner.

Begich, Hagan, Pryor, Walsh and almost certainly Landrieu will not be there next year. If all 54 Republican Senators vote for Keystone, that means if all of the above Democrats vote for it again, it will pass with 63 votes.

And then President Obama will probably veto it.

Dana Perino asks, “Dems are in organizational free fall. NEVER should’ve taken vote. Why go through the pain & draw so much attention to issue while losing?”

Tough night, senator.

Tags: Mary Landrieu , Keystone Pipeline , Senate Democrats , Bill Cassidy

Hillary, Not That Invested in Saving Democrats This Year



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From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Hillary, Too Busy Preparing to Pose for Vogue to Tape Ads for Vulnerable Democrats

There are a lot of reasons why Hillary Clinton is more vulnerable as a 2016 presidential candidate than the conventional wisdom thinks — although I suppose the conventional wisdom might be catching up.

Bloomberg News observes:

Though she’s traveled the country for Democrats, headlining rallies from Colorado to North Carolina, Clinton has not lent any of her star power to any televised campaign ads. It’s a strange discrepancy: While Clinton is one of — if not the most — requested surrogates for Democratic congressional campaigns, many seem far less seem eager to put her in their television ads.

Even the spot for Grimes, a long-time family friend of the Clintons, was online-only — a far less expensive proposition for a campaign than actually buying time to place an ad on television. And it used footage captured two weeks ago at a rally Clinton held for Grimes in Louisville, rather than any new video . . . 

Hillary Clinton’s spokespeople refused to comment on her ad appearances, or lack of them. But people close to the former first couple say they’ve been turning down requests from candidates to star in ads, fearing that if they cut a spot for one, they’d have to do them for everyone who asked. Those people say former President Bill Clinton is annoyed by several unauthorized usages of his image in ads.

So what is Hillary doing with her time these days, instead of cutting ads?

Is Hillary Clinton about to make her return to the cover of Vogue? Confidenti@l has learned that the presumed presidential candidate and Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour visited Michael Kors’ studio for a fitting. We’re told the power trio huddled in Kors’ office at his Bryant Park HQ, studying a “rack of clothes.” Clinton (l.), who was with longtime aide Huma Abedin and a person our spy describes as a “huge bodyguard,” has graced the cover of the fashion bible once before. She was on the December 1998 cover, in velvet Oscar de la Renta, as First Lady in a shoot by Annie Leibovitz. Last year at an opening for a de la Renta retrospective at the Clinton Presidential Center in Little Rock, Ark., Wintour said, “All of us at Vogue look forward to putting on the cover the first female President of the United States.”

Democrats are on the verge of an awful midterm election, gobs of Democrats are hanging on by their fingernails, and Hillary’s getting ready to pose for Vogue. If you’re one of those dedicated, door-knocking, flyer-distributing rank-and-file grassroots Democrats, how does it feel to have a front-running nominee who’s less dedicated to electing members of your party than you are?

Like the giant speaking fees (for Chelsea too!), the gargantuan wealth built during a life in “public service,” and the backslapping deals at the Clinton Foundation, these little anecdotes add to the narrative that the Clintons are dedicated first and foremost to “Clintons Inc.” and to others — even political allies — second.

What’s working for Hillary this coming cycle is that it’s hard to see any of her potential rivals turning into the next Barack Obama. Even if there’s an argument to be made to Democratic presidential primary voters that Hillary is too old, too establishment, too tied to Washington, too tied to the Obama administration’s failures, not sufficiently connected of the party’s vengeful populist id the way Elizabeth Warren is . . . who, other than Warren, could come along and play Obama next year? Martin O’Malley? Brian Schweitzer? Joe Biden? Come on.

Tags: Hillary Clinton , Senate Democrats , 2016

Ted Cruz Slams Obama Plan to Install Attorney General with Voted-Out Senators



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Senator Ted Cruz blasted President Obama’s recent decision to install a new attorney general during the lame-duck Senate session between next month’s election and the swearing-in of the new chamber in January.

“Under no circumstances should a partisan attorney general be confirmed during a lame-duck session,” the Texas Republican said Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union. “We should not be confirming an attorney general during a lame-duck session with a bunch of senators who have just been voted out of office. The confirmation should occur in January or February, when we have the new Senate where every senator will be accountable to the voters. I don’t think we should be meet for a lame duck at all, because lame ducks are really where Washington imposes its agenda instead of listening to the American people.”

Cruz, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, expressed optimism that the Republican party may gain a majority in the elections. “Nothing’s certain in politics,” Cruz said, “but I think it’s far more likely than not that we will retake the Senate and retire [majority leader] Harry Reid.”

Tags: Ted Cruz , Senate Democrats , Sunday Shows October 19 2014

Washington Post: Vote for Mark Warner Because He’ll Raise Your Taxes



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Today’s Washington Post endorsement of Democratic Virginia senator Mark Warner is not surprising, but the editorial board’s case against Republican challenger Ed Gillespie is a revealing window on how people think in the city that takes what America makes:

We understand that Mr. Gillespie, who faced a competitive GOP primary, is loath to alienate Republican hard-liners. Yet his opposition to any new taxes — read: any compromise — is exactly the sort of promise that produces congressional paralysis and would defeat a bargain to cure the nation’s fiscal ills . . . 

Mr. Gillespie, a former lobbyist, national and state GOP chairman and top adviser to President George W. Bush, has deep political and policy experience. Unlike many Republicans who have been content to attack Obamacare, he proposed an alternative — albeit one that would offer far less protection to vulnerable patients.

Mr. Gillespie has the skills to be a bipartisan player in the Senate, as Mr. Warner has been. Yet by promising never to compromise on taxes, he has taken himself out of the hunt for an exit from America’s fiscal impasse.

If only the voters — who are constantly telling pollsters that they’re fed up with Washington business as usual and forcing lifelong politicians to make improbable claims to “outsider” status — were as reasonable as the Post’s editorial board. The argument seems to be that what’s good about Gillespie is that he is another get-along-go-along pol; but unfortunately, he’s not quite as easy as Warner.

The equation of “new taxes” with “compromise” — which the paper should really be embarrassed to make after the stunning non-apocalypses of the budget sequester and the partial shutdown of some non-essential government services last year — also elides a point the two campaigns have been arguing over. Though Warner claims Gillespie signed the tax pledge created by Americans For Tax Reform’s Grover Norquist, and his campaign even flooded the press room with literature to that effect at Monday’s debate, Grover himself has shot that story down. As Post Virginia reporters Jenna Portnoy and Laura Vozzella point out, “Norquist tweeted late Monday that Gillespie did not sign the pledge: “Gillespie told me he would not sign pledges. He didn’t. He told the people of Virginia he wouldn’t raise their taxes. He won’t. Warner did.’”

The ed board’s case for Warner also mentions his successful governorship, “ability to cross partisan lines,” and the fact that many people still think he’s John Warner. (OK, not that last one.) But the only case against Gillespie is his opposition to “new revenue” to “tackle the nation’s fiscal problems in a balanced way.” In fact, as Ohio University economist Richard Vedder demonstrated in a 1980s study that has been repeated with the same results many times since, every dollar of tax revenue raised leads to more than one dollar of new spending by Congress. Studies of revenue-based deficit reduction efforts in other countries have shown the same.

Gillespie has closed some of his very wide polling gap against Warner, but other than a September Quinnipiac poll that showed him trailing by nine points, he has never come within double-digits of the incumbent. But the power of incumbency is not a ratification of bad math. Raising taxes only makes the country’s fiscal problems worse. Americans know that. Washingtonians don’t.

Tags: Mark Warner , Taxes , Senate Democrats , Senate Elections , 2014 Midterms

The Great Big End-of-September Midterm-Election Roundup



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A really long excerpt from the Morning Jolt today, to get you in the midterm mood . . . 

The Great Big End-of-September Midterm-Election Roundup

We’re weeks from Election Day. I have bad news and good news for Republicans.

I am told by some campaign consultants that for much of the past two years, Republican donors have felt a malaise. You see it in both the individual campaign fundraising numbers, the committee fundraising numbers, and the spending by outside groups.

A lot of wealthy Republican donors – or even a not-so-wealthy Republican donors – are asking if it’s worth it. They dug deep to help out their favorite candidates in 2012, and watched their guys lose – Romney, of course, but also a slew of seemingly winnable Senate races. They’re not sure their donations do much good. They’re increasingly wondering if the American political system is a lost cause, if the electorate has become addicted to Democrats’ vote-buying spending programs, too tuned out to care about scandals, oblivious to serious problems and getting their political views shaped by Hollywood and pop culture.

This doesn’t even get into the issue of fearing an IRS audit or being publicly demonized, like the Koch brothers.

Of course, this depression, malaise, and hesitation can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

After being burned by the surge in Democrats’ get-out-the-vote efforts in 2012, pundits, pollsters, and prognosticators are understandably jittery about projecting GOP victories. When things looked grim for Obama’s reelection in 2011 and early 2012, his campaign simply went out and registered more voters among demographics likely to support the president.

One big push was among African-Americans . . . 

The campaign has, for example, a major initiative aimed at turning barbershops and beauty parlors into voter registration offices. This week, Kimora Lee Simmons’ E! Network reality show, “Life in the Fab Lane,” carried a campaign ad at the bottom of the screen reminding citizens to register to vote . . . 

And while Obama’s campaign talks little about its field efforts, there’s a quiet buzz of excitement about the shape of new voter registration. One junior Democratic staffer doing last-minute registrations in a swing-state suburb Monday told Politico that though his area was about 10 percent black, new registrants that day — the final day to register — were about half black.

Early statistics provide tentative support to the notion of a black voter surge disproportionate even to the massive turnout expected across the board in November.

And another key group was Latinos, particularly in Nevada, Virginia, and Florida:

For almost every battleground state on the map, Obama’s team can marshal data, showing they’ve registered impressive numbers of new voters and increased the weight of Latino and black voters in the electorate. Where Republicans anticipate less enthusiasm from minority voters than in the 2008 election, Obama’s team expresses total certainty that there will be more non-white voters at the polls this year than ever . . . 

A Latino Decisions poll at the start of October found Obama leading Romney among Nevada Latinos by 63 points — even more than his national lead. As both parties work to run up a lead in early voting, the Obama campaign said Thursday that “two in three Nevada early voters are women, young people, African-American or Latino.”

Obama’s using comparable math in other states, like Virginia, where a winning Obama coalition would rest heavily on the state’s expanding Latino and Asian vote, an already-significant African American population and strong support from women in Northern Virginia. In Colorado and Florida, too, the president hopes a similar formula applies.

It worked wonders for Democrats, as we saw. The turnout rate among blacks exceeded that of whites for the first time.

After 2012, Democrats boasted that the terrific hyper-micro-targeting, get-out-the-vote operation was now fully operational, and would assure victory everywhere and forever, or at least until Republicans could start winning a significant number of minority votes. Of course, there was a hitch in that theory: Can you get the voters of the Obama coalition to show up when Obama wasn’t on the ballot? They didn’t for Jon Corzine, Creigh Deeds, Martha Coakley, nor a slew of Democrats in the 2010 midterms.

But the first test run, in 2013, offered a bit of a hiccup. First, Democrats wrote off the gubernatorial race in New Jersey against Chris Christie. Then the Virginia governor’s race offered another imperfect testing ground, Based on the enormous fundraising advantage, and the unpopularity of the government shutdown, Democrat Terry McAuliffe should have won in a landslide, and led in the polls all summer long. But one month before Election Day, Healthcare.gov debuted and promptly melted down – and the political environment changed rapidly. Terry McAuliffe, big-time favorite, eked out a victory by 2.5 points.

Was that a sign that the Obama turnout machine can work, even in a bad political environment? Or does McAuliffe’s thin margin indicate that he had built up enough of an enormous advantage to hold on? Or was Ken Cuccinelli – the Northern Virginia state attorney general who had built up a reputation as a social-conservative crusader – a uniquely bad candidate for the circumstances of that year?

Even if the Obama turnout machine can still work . . . how much does it help in states with limited numbers of African-Americans and Hispanics? Some of the Southern states – Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina have somewhat sizeable African-American populations. Only Colorado has a sizable Latino population. But beyond that, it’s some deeply white states: Alaska, Iowa, Arkansas, West Virginia, Montana, South Dakota . . . 

And will these groups of voters show up for just any candidate? Can you get African-American voters to come out in huge numbers for Michelle Nunn? Can you get Hispanic voters to come out in huge numbers for Mark Udall?

There’s this ominous indicator: “Democrats have invested several million dollars in both North Carolina and Colorado for this ground game. Republican spending in those states so far has tended to focus on broadcast advertisements and direct mail.”

For what it’s worth, there are some fissures between the organizations claiming to speak on behalf of Hispanics and the most endangered red-state Senate Democrats:

“The advocacy organizations want people to vote, and I want people to vote, but if you’re a Latino in North Carolina, and the president delayed his decision to help Kay Hagan in her election, why would you go vote for Kay Hagan?” said Gary Segura, Latino Decisions co-founder. Hagan, a Democrat, is in a competitive race against Republican Thom Tillis.

Anyway, on to the indisputable good news for Republicans: In just about every Senate race that matters, last week brought at least one highly regarded poll showing exactly what a Republican wants to see.

In Alaska, Dan Sullivan has led the past four polls.

In Arkansas, Tom Cotton has led 11 of the past 13 polls.

In Colorado, Quinnipiac put Cory Gardner ahead, 48 percent to 40 percent.

In Iowa, the Des Moines Register poll put Joni Ernst ahead, 44 percent to 38 percent. NBC News’s Andrea Mitchell is openly calling Democrat Bruce Braley “a terrible candidate.”

In Louisiana, a runoff between Democrat incumbent Mary Landrieu and Republican Bill Cassidy is virtually assured. Cassidy led the last four polls of the runoff.

Those five, just right there, along with the expected GOP wins in Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia, would give the GOP a eight-seat pickup. Republicans could lose in Kansas and still keep the Senate. In Kansas, voters are still digesting the fact that the Democrat dropped out and getting to know “independent” Greg Orman. No one has polled this race in ten days, and the GOP is pulling out the stops to save Pat Roberts.

And we’ve got more races to go . . . 

In New Hampshire, CNN had Scott Brown tied with Jeanne Shaheen.

In Michigan, Republicans can be frustrated that Terri Lynn Land hasn’t led any poll recently. But Democrat Gary Peters’s share of the vote is actually declining from the mid-40s to the low 40s, with a lot of undecideds left out there.

In North Carolina, Thom Tillis can’t quite get the lead over incumbent Kay Hagan, but she’s consistently in the mid-40s or even low 40s – a very precarious spot for an incumbent.

Beyond Kansas, Democrats hopes for picking up a GOP seat are evaporating. In Georgia, David Purdue has led four of the past five polls. In Kentucky, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has led every poll since June.

In the House, everybody’s expecting a small gain for Republicans. Larry Sabato:

We talked to senior Democrats and Republicans involved in the House contests to inform this report, as well as some of our fellow analysts and journalists (all were given anonymity so they could speak freely). We asked each source to give his or her best guess as to what the net change in House seats would be on Election Day. The guesses were generally in the range of a five-to-eight seat GOP net gain — the same as ours — with a low guess of Republicans adding two seats to a high guess of Republicans adding nine.

So 235 to 240, maybe 245 House Republicans? A nice total, probably pretty close to the natural ceiling for the GOP.

We can go over the gubernatorial races tomorrow. But the bottom line is, the ingredients are coming together for not just GOP control, but potentially a big, big year for Republicans. But it requires everybody to get active and give 110 percent between now and Election Day.

Tags: Midterms , Senate Democrats , Senate Republicans

Senate Democrats: We Won’t Vote on War Until After the Election



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Of course:

Senate Democrats plan to debate and vote on a broad resolution authorizing military strikes against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) after the election, dodging the danger of angering liberal voters this fall.

CLUCK-CLUCK!

Above: Democratic senators emerge from the caucus room and announce their decision to postpone a vote on military action until after the election.

Tags: Senate Democrats , ISIS

Four Senate Democratic Incumbents Look Really Vulnerable



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If I wanted to help GOP Senate candidates and had limited resources, I would be pouring my efforts into Colorado, where Cory Gardner is trailing a little too consistently considering the quality of the candidate and the overall GOP environment . . . 

 . . . Iowa, where Joni Ernst is very close, but not quite there, and a new poll puts her down by 5 . . . 

 . . . and Michigan, where Terri Lynn Land has a one-point lead in the latest poll, but has otherwise trailed slightly.

Note that only Gardner is running against an incumbent. An incumbent senator in the mid-40s or lower is probably in deeper trouble, because the voters have known that senator for at least six years and the opinion is probably tougher to change. Right now, Senator Mark Udall of Colorado is at 45.5 in the RealClearPolitics average.

Surprises can happen, of course. Senator Harry Reid finished with 45.3 in the RealClearPolitics average in 2010, and won reelection with more than 50 percent of the vote. But that year Russ Feingold of Wisconsin finished with a RCP average of 45 percent, and finished with 47 percent to Ron Johnson’s 51.9 percent. Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas finished with an abysmal 35 percent in the RCP average and got 36.9 percent on Election Day. In Colorado, Michael Bennet finished with 46.3 percent in the RCP average, but his Election Day finish with 47.7 percent was enough for a narrow victory over Ken Buck.

Here’s the current RCP average vote percentage for some of the vulnerable incumbent Senate Democrats this year:

Mark Begich of Alaska: 42.7 percent.

Kay Hagan of North Carolina: 42.5 percent.

Mark Pryor of Arkansas: 42.2 percent.

Mary Landrieu of Louisiana: 38.7 percent (in an open primary).

Polls put Republican Senate candidates Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Thom Tillis (North Carolina), Tom Cotton (Arkansas) and Bill Cassidy (Louisiana) slightly ahead right now. For a challenger, if you’re enjoying a small lead in September over an incumbent polling in the low 40s, you’re in a pretty good place.

In case you’re wondering, here’s how some safer senators are performing:

Mark Warner of Virginia: 51 percent.

Jeff Merkley of Oregon: 50.3 percent.

Al Franken of Minnesota: 50 percent.

Dick Durbin of Illinois: 49.7 percent.

Cory Booker of New Jersey: 49 percent.

Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire: 47.7 percent.

There’s been some buzz among conservative blogs that Durbin and Booker are vulnerable. I suppose that depends upon how you define “vulnerable.”

UPDATE: Stu Rothenberg, moments ago:

While the current Rothenberg Political Report ratings don’t show it, I am now expecting a substantial Republican Senate wave in November, with a net gain of at least seven seats. But I wouldn’t be shocked by a larger gain.

That’s a scenario easy to picture: Republicans keep the red seats they’re defending (Kentucky, Georgia, and some would argue Kansas), take care of business in the three safe pickups (South Dakota, Montana, and West Virginia), and then clean up in the four red-leaning, Democrat-held seats listed above, Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, and North Carolina. That adds up to a seven-seat gain; Iowa, Colorado, and Michigan would be the most likely pickups after that.

Tags: Senate Democrats , Senate Republicans

Senate Democrats Accidentally Admit They Don’t Want Their Jobs



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If indeed, as Politico reports, Senate Democrats want President Obama to “make immigration changes through executive action” — changes that they themselves are not willing to vote for in legislative form… why do they want to be Senators?

At that point, you’re no longer a representative of the people, crafting legislation and law through the constitutionally-established process that dates back to the founding. You’re the Executive Order Cheerleading Squad.

Why would anyone vote for a lawmaker who wants to completely abandon their role in the process of making law?

Apparently he doesn’t really want his job.

Tags: Senate Democrats , Immigration , Barack Obama

With Midterms Four Months Away, Dashboard Is Blinking Red for Democrats



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Big week ahead! The first Morning Jolt of the week kicks off with “Reform Conservatives” getting the rock-star treatment, a prescription and a forecast for a Conservative Insurgency, a 1980s-minded pep talk for the Right, and then this look ahead to November . . . 

With Midterms Four Months Away, Dashboard Is Blinking Red for Democrats

John Couvillon of JMC Enterprises in Louisiana examined the turnout in states that had contested primaries for both Democrats and Republicans in statewide races this year and four years ago — 14 states so far.

Here’s what he found, compared to four years ago:

Republican enthusiasm (percentage-wise) is stronger than it was in 2010, and (2) overall turnout volume is lower than in 2010, although Democratic turnout volume has deceased far more than Republican turnout.

Republicans made up 55 percent of the turnout four years ago; this year they’re 63 percent of the turnout. Of course, Democrats may have a particularly boring or lopsided set of primaries this cycle.

Politico concludes:

With four months until Election Day, Republicans are as close to winning the Senate as they’ve been since losing it in 2006. They’ve landed top recruits to take on first-term senators in New Hampshire and Colorado, nominated credible female candidates in open-seat contests in Michigan and Iowa, protected all of their incumbents from tea party challenges and thwarted more conservative candidates that could have hurt the GOP’s chances in states like North Carolina and Georgia.

You notice how it feels like Obamacare dropped out of the news, right? Don’t worry. You’ll be hearing about it again in the fall:

Most state health insurance rates for 2015 are scheduled to be approved by early fall, and most are likely to rise, timing that couldn’t be worse for Democrats already on defense in the midterms.

. . . With Democrats looking to hang on to Senate seats in many Republican-leaning states, they’ll be hoping that the final numbers don’t come in anywhere near the 24.6 percent hike that report from the anti-Obamacare Heritage Foundation projected for a family of four in Arkansas, or even the 13.1 percent increase in Alaska or 12.4 percent in Louisiana.

So far, although no state has finalized its rate, 21 have posted bids for 2015. Average preliminary premiums went up in all 21, though only a few by double digits.

We know the Democrats will want to change the discussion to a new set of issues — climate change! Infrastructure spending! Workplace inequality!

But the “shiny object” strategy may not work well with so many worsening crises at home and abroad, as Da Tech Guy notices:

It’s hard to fathom now, but one of the major issues of the 2012 presidential campaign was Mitt Romney’s 15-year leadership of the Boston-based private equity firm Bain Capital, which he co-founded.

Two years later President Obama, who of course defeated Romney in ’12, faces multiple crises, including scandals involving IRS targeting of conservative groups, deadly waiting lists at VA hospitals, as well as a collapsing Iraq, Russia’s seizure of Ukraine, a still stagnant economy, and 300,000 illegal alien children crossing over our lightly watched southern border.

None of these hotspots have anything to do with Bain Capital, other than, remotely, the rotten Obama economy.

Above, the rabbit that attacked President Jimmy Carter
in his canoe on April 20, 1979
, is pardoned by President Obama

at the White House Fourth of July ceremony.

Tags: Barack Obama , Senate Democrats , Midterm

Jindal: ‘It’s a Mistake to Assume Democrats Will Never Vote for Repeal.’



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More from my interview of Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal Wednesday, discussing his proposal to repeal and replace Obamacare:

Geraghty: How does your proposal differ from the repeal-and-replace proposal from the Republican Study Committee, or other plans and ideas from Republicans on Capitol Hill?

Jindal: There absolutely are proven concepts that are common in a lot of different conservative plans — lawsuit reform and other elements like that I think are very attractive. But I do think there are some things that are unique about this plan.

One, it’s comprehensive; it does include premium support in Medicare. It does include the global grants for Medicaid. It does include state reforms on certificates of need and provider scope to provide more supply-side competition. It includes the state grants — $100 billion to states — so there’s a strong federalism component.

With the tax equity, by doing the standard deduction, it drives more efficiency in health care.

I also think it’s a good thing that there are conservatives and Republicans talking about health care. I think there needs to be more of that. Unlike the Left, we don’t have to all march behind Obamacare or behind one plan. I think there’s a good thing there’s a competition and a bunch of different ideas. As somebody who spent much of my career in health-care policy, I hope more Republicans will talk about health-care policy.

We intend all of AmericaNext’s products to be “open source code” — we hope folks use it, there’s no pride of authorship. They can cut and paste it, they can borrow it, adapt it, put it in their plan. This is advancing the conservative debate. The president likes to say that there is no alternative to replace Obamacare with — he needs to stop saying that! The reality is there is an alternative. He can debate us on the merits, but there is a substantive, specific alternative.

Compared to Obamacare’s baseline, ours reduces premiums by $5,000. His actually took the previous marketplace and increased it by $2,100 for a family. The reality is, our plan, I believe, actually delivers what he promised back in 2008 better than his plan does. In 2008, he talked about the need to reduce health-care costs, he opposed the mandate when Senator Clinton proposed it, and since ‘08 he’s talked about the need to keep your plan and your doctor. His plan doesn’t do those things. Our plan actually does.

Geraghty: There are some elements of Obamacare that even the most staunch conservatives are wary about repealing entirely – lifetime limits, pre-existing conditions, or things like that. If there are some parts we don’t need to take away, do we really need to repeal the whole thing? Can you do partial repeal?

Jindal: No, we’ve got to repeal it. Take it out by its roots. The whole thing needs to go. This plan gets rid of the tax increases, Medicare cuts, and doesn’t replace those tax increases or Medicare cuts. When it comes to the insurance-market reforms, we give $100 billion to the states with very few strings, except we do tell them that they’ve got to guarantee they’ll provide coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. You can do that with high-risk pools, reinsurance, there are a lot of ways to do that. But secondly, we also tell them, you’ve got to use these dollars to lower premiums in their marketplace.

I think that one of the mistakes that the Left makes is that it doesn’t trust people. It doesn’t trust local government. The reality is, that if there are good insurance reforms, they’ll be adopted at the state level.

In Louisiana, it is state law, for example, that kids up to 24 can be carried on their parents’ plans. Not every state agrees with that. But the point is that states are in a better position to make these decisions.

[In 2011 Louisiana’s legislature passed, and Jindal signed into law, a bill that allows children to remain on their parents’ plans until age 21, or age 24 if the child is a full-time student, or continuously if the child is disabled.]

A lot of insurance companies said, before the Supreme Court case, that even if Obamacare were struck down, they weren’t going backwards on those provisions anyway. The Left doesn’t want individual consumers to select their own health-care plans; they don’t want states to make these decisions. I think one of the big mistakes of Obamacare is this one-size fits all benefits approach, regulatory approach from the federal government telling us how we buy health insurance.

One of the things that the cross-state sale of insurance will do under our plan is that as states consider these mandates, benefits, or other restrictions, it will force states to be more cognizant of what it does to the premiums. Now you’ll actually have real competition. The Founding Fathers intended for the states to be laboratories of experimentation. Let’s let that work.

Geraghty: So you’re fine with children staying on their parents’ plans until age 24 or 26?

Jindal: I’d say I’m fine with states being able to make that decision. I don’t think the federal government should dictate that decision. Now, different states can make different decisions. What’s happening right now is that states have been shielded from the consequences of their decisions. There isn’t that competitive pressure to reduce costs, reduce mandates or even examine if the costs outweigh the benefits.

If you adopted these reforms, and you empowered individuals to buy their own health care and made it more affordable, it might cause a lot of states to reexamine whether they needed these restrictions and regulations.

Geraghty: President Obama is going to be sitting in the Oval Office until January 2017. As far as he’s concerned, Obamacare is working fine. Occasionally he’ll say he’s willing to listen to ideas to reform Obamacare, but he never gets all that specific about what he wants to reform. Is it realistic to think that anything in your plan can end up on his desk, or that any of it can be signed into law by President Obama? Or is it really just setting up a blueprint for what Republicans could do in 2017?

Jindal: One, I do think you’ve got to win the debate first. We’ve got to have this debate. We have to go out and show that there is a good alternative. But absolutely there are things that can be done. We don’t need to forget that this president forced this bill through with parliamentary maneuvers and on a party-line vote. There’s a lot that can be done. The reality is you’re seeing more and more Democrats running away from this law, especially those facing their own reelections.

I think it’s a mistake to assume Democrats will never vote for repeal, and that Democrats will never vote for different provisions. I think the reality is they’re about to pay a pretty big political price for supporting this bill. You’re going to see more and more Democrats open to this — as they see the bill isn’t doing what they promised it was going to do.

It’s odd to have a president say it’s a good thing to have over two million fewer Americans in the work force. It’s odd for a president to say, “You know what, you’re not going to be able to keep your doctor. Maybe I shouldn’t have said you were going to keep your health care plan.” It’s odd when the president said, very specifically, not vaguely, “I’m going to cut your premiums $2,500″ and the CBO says they’re going to go up $2,100.

I wouldn’t underestimate how many Democrats will start running from this law and looking for opportunities to repeal and replace. I wouldn’t want to negotiate with ourselves and say, “No, we can’t get this done.” But even before we pass this law, we’ve got to win the debate. We’ve got to persuade folks and show them there’s a better way.

Geraghty: Periodically, conservatives will say we really have to separate the employer from health insurance. That way it will be more portable, and easier for people to take their health insurance from one job to another job. It seems that one of the experiences of Obamacare is that people don’t always like having choices, and that in fact a lot of people don’t like to think about health insurance any more than they have to. Your plan pushes in the direction of separating health insurance from employment. Are Republicans ready for a backlash on that aspect?

Jindal: My takeaway from Obamacare is that people do like choices, but they don’t like to be forced to do things they don’t want to do. We do ease away from that job lock by giving people the ability to have a portable deduction. We also do through association plans that can be sold across state lines with ERISA protections to give them more choices. We do make it easier for people to buy their health care through the individual and other marketplaces.

We’re very explicit about this: This is going to be a voluntary and gradual transition. This is not going to be an overnight, dramatic, and forced transition from employer-provided health care. The reality is, folks can continue to get their health care through their employers. This is one of the benefits of making it a standard deduction, as opposed to some of the other alternatives that are out there. You can still get your health care through your employer, and most people probably still will, in the short term. That doesn’t change overnight. But what you have is a gradual transition where now if people change jobs, they can go to the individual market without exhausting COBRA. If they want to buy through their churches or unions or their social membership multi-state clubs, they can do that and get those ERISA protections.

It’ll be easier to buy [Health Savings Accounts], it’s be easier to bring those tax-advantaged accounts with you from place to place.

It’s also going to be easier for employers to provide health care – because now they can contribute to a wellness account on a tax-advantaged basis or an HSA with varying deductibles, or they can allow you to use your savings in your HSA to pay your premiums, which they couldn’t do before.

I think it actually makes it easier for employers who want to continue to provide the health care, but it also makes it easier for folks that are changing jobs or changing states that don’t want to be job-locked.

You may have seen that new study out today from larger employers talking about the thousands of dollars per employee that Obamacare is going to cost them over the next several years. So it’s not just small employers, but big employers are waking up to these costs, too.

Geraghty: I notice you used the term “job lock” twice. I presume you mean staying in a job because you need the health insurance. But I presume you recall Nancy Pelosi lamenting how terrible it was that people getting locked into jobs . . . 

Jindal: I think she was talking about them going and becoming artists or whatever and not working. What I’m saying is that when you change jobs, or move jobs, you should be able to take your health care with you.

Geraghty: Who advised you on this?

Jindal: Chris [Jacobs, policy director for America Next]. A lot of people. We’ve talked with a number of folks — conservative governors and lawmakers and health-care-policy folks. This is something we’ve been working on for a while. But it also comes from my career of thinking about and writing health-care policy. Premium support, for example, goes back to my year on the Medicare commission in the 1990s. I like to remind folks, we’re the ones who came up with the idea of applying premium support to Medicare, and the [center-left think tank Democratic Leadership Council] endorsed it that year. Now the Left likes to call it this radical, fringe idea, but the reality is that this has been something that has been around for several years, and the [American Medical Association], the Mayo Clinic, the Wall Street Journal — several mainstream folks endorsed this concept way back when.

The global grant on Medicaid reform is something I’ve been talking about with governors for quite some time. It’s not just Republican governors, Democratic governors are very frustrated with what they see coming out of [the Center Medicaid Services] and HHS in D.C. When you look at the market reforms, I’ve been talking to folks in the industry, patient-advocacy groups, and asking, “All right, if we were do these things differently, how should we do these things?”

Tags: Bobby Jindal , Obamacare , Senate Democrats , Health Care

Just Don’t Pull a Duke, GOP Senate Candidates



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From the first Morning Jolt of the week . . . 

Nate Silver: Republicans Are ‘Slight Favorites’ to Win Control of the Senate

The good news for Republicans: Nate Silver, the former New York Times, now ABC-affiliated statistics guru who a lot of lefties believe has near-divine attributes of clairvoyance, updated his assessment of the 2014 Senate races:

We think the Republicans are now slight favorites to win at least six seats and capture the chamber. The Democrats’ position has deteriorated somewhat since last summer, with President Obama’s approval ratings down to 42 or 43 percent from an average of about 45 percent before. Furthermore, as compared with 2010 or 2012, the GOP has done a better job of recruiting credible candidates, with some exceptions.

The caveat: Nate Silver also wrote that Duke had a 92.9 percent chance of beating Mercer in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

Above: Nate Silver, hard at work in his laboratory.

Silver notes:

Especially in recent years, Democrats have come to rely on groups such as racial minorities and young voters that turn out much more reliably in presidential years than for the midterms. In 2010, the Republican turnout advantage amounted to the equivalent of 6 percentage points, meaning a tie on the generic ballot among registered voters translated into a six-point Republican lead among likely voters. The GOP’s edge hadn’t been quite that large in past years. But if the “enthusiasm gap” is as large this year as it was in 2010, Democrats will have a difficult time keeping the Senate.

When I say that, I’m a wishful-thinking over-optimistic spinning partisan hack. When he says it, it’s Science™!

For what it’s worth, the Democratic grassroots takes Nate Silver extremely seriously:

For the last few months, FiveThirtyEight editor-in-chief Nate Silver has been largely absent from the political forecasting scene he owned in the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections.

But that hasn’t stopped the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee from sending at least 11 fundraising emails featuring Silver in the subject line over the past four months, even as Silver was building the foundation for his new website that’s launching Monday and was not writing regularly.

It’s all part of a digital fundraising game that will increase in intensity as the election draws nearer, as candidates, political parties, and other groups bombard their email lists with messages designed to draw contributions.

Silver’s latest take could get Democrats fired up and determined, or it could leave them dispirited and panicked. Monday morning, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee issued a memo declaring, “Nuh-uhhhh!”

Tags: Senate Democrats , Senate Elections , Senate Republicans , Nate Silver

Senate Democrats: Why Didn’t Someone Tell Us Obamacare Would Cut Medicare?



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From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Senate Democrats: Why Didn’t Someone Tell Us Obamacare Would Cut Medicare?

The National Republican Senatorial Committee points out that North Carolina senator Kay Hagan and other vulnerable Senate Democrats are now whacking the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid . . . for enacting changes required by Obamacare. Hey, Senator Hagan, if you want to blame someone, blame the foolish or dishonest lawmakers who voted for the law!

Wait a minute, that’s you!

In 2009, Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) promised North Carolinians who depend on Medicare that she was going to “protect Medicare” and that they would “not see a drop in their Medicare coverage.”

But in 2010 Kay Hagan voted to slash Medicare Advantage to pay for ObamaCare. (H.R. 4872, CQ Vote #72: Motion agreed to 56-42: R 0-40; D 54-2; I 2-0, 3/24/10, Hagan Voted Yea)


In North Carolina 463,159 seniors depend on Medicare Advantage plans (28% of all Medicare enrollees).

According to America’s Health Insurance Plans, in North Carolina, seniors on Medicare Advantage plans experienced cost increases and benefit cuts of an estimated $50-60 per month as a result of this year’s 6 percent cut to the program due to ObamaCare.

Now, as North Carolina seniors are being crushed under the weight of ObamaCare and as her own poll numbers plummet, Kay Hagan admits in a letter to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid that she cut Medicare for seniors after promising North Carolinians that they wouldn’t “see a drop in their Medicare coverage”

Hagan’s letter reads: “We write to raise serious concerns about the Medicare Advantage (MA) 2015 rate notice and the impact further cuts may have on the millions of individuals enrolled in the program,” the senators write. “We are strongly committed to preserving the high quality health plan choices and benefits that our constituents receive through the MA program. Given the impact that payment policies could have on our constituents, we ask that you prioritize beneficiaries’ experience and minimize disruption in maintaining payment levels for 2015.”

Senator Kay Hagan, left, with a supporter of Obamacare.

Tags: Kay Hagan , Senate Democrats , Obamacare , Medicare

Senate Democrats, Obediently Toeing the White House Line



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From the Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Senate Democrats More Likely to Nod Approvingly at Obama’s Proposals Than a Collection of Bobblehead Dolls

The NRSC is chuckling:

Last week, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) sent out a press release with a peculiar new message: “At a time when all voters are sick of Washington partisanship, independence and willingness to put the state ahead of national party are among the most important attributes for successful candidate,” they wrote.

While this is one instance where we agree with their assessment, it’s an extremely harmful message for Democratic Senatorial candidates who have consistently championed President Obama’s agenda for the last five years. As you may have seen, new percentages released today illustrate that Democratic Senatorial candidates have done just the opposite.

For example, the Congressional Quarterly (CQ)/Roll Call, shows that Hagan voted with President Obama 96% of the time in 2013, despite the fact that a majority of voters disapprove of him in North Carolina. In fact, President Obama’s approval rating is struggling to top 40% in North Carolina according to recent polls. That doesn’t sound like the “independence” that the national Democrats say makes a successful candidate.

Additionally, these Democrats are a part of the most partisan caucus in recorded history. According to CQ, Senate Democrats voted unanimously on 52% of the party unity votes in 2013 — an all-time high for either party in either chamber, up from 40% in 2012.

So, let’s see how often those Red State Senate Democrats voted with the President’s position, shall we?

Presidential support level for Mark Pryor, Arkansas? 90 percent!

Mark Begich of Alaska? 97 percent!

Mary Landrieu of Louisiana? 97 percent as well!

Mark Udall of Colorado? 99 percent!

Jean Shaheen of New Hampshire? 99 percent!

Al Franken? A perfect 100 percent!

For perspective, even Harry Reid only voted with Obama’s position 90 percent of the time.

Alleged independent-minded Mark Warner of Virginia? 97 percent. Heck, even Bernie Sanders of Vermont only hit 94 percent!

There are clones that show more independence than this crop of Senate Democrats.

Exhibit A.

You can find the whole list for Congress here.

Tags: Senate Democrats , Barack Obama

How High Is the Price to Repeal the Medical-Device Manufacturer Tax?



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Amy Otto:

The GOP needs to fight against the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act, not the medical device tax. Yes, I know the medical device tax hurts companies and, thus, people. We get it. Basic economics. But it doesn’t matter. We are already the party who is known to defend corporations from taxes — and we need to be the party that defends people. . . . Further fighting the Medical Device tax hands Obama his post-shutdown talking points: “the GOP shut down the government to get tax breaks for big business” and our brand will remain the same losing one it’s been for some time. It’s a trap.

Of course, later on Otto writes, “it would have been easier to just let Obamacare fail on its own and not watch party poll numbers drop, but good people defend other Americans when they are about to get run over by a train wreck.” Some would argue that the device tax is bad policy, and bad policy is worth fighting, no matter how the president will attack you afterwards.

But in this fight, we have one party that has been fighting the device tax tooth and nail, and the other party has largely fought to keep it. A few Democrats have opposed the device tax, and say they want to repeal it, but they’re not willing to take on their leadership over it and say, vote for a continuing resolution that included it. As Harry Reid said, “Some of the biggest supporters for doing away with the stupid tax — I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have said that — doing away with that tax have told me they won’t support that on CR.”

Either way, in that light . . . why would medical-device manufacturers ever give another dime to another Democrat?

In fact, why would any medical company donate to Democrats?

Tags: Obamacare , Senate Republicans , Senate Democrats , Harry Reid

Three House Republicans, Running Strong in 2014 Senate Races



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What a mess! The government is shut down, the polling numbers for Republicans are terrible, half the party is at the throats of the other half . . . the hopes for retaking the Senate in 2014 must be lost, right?

In a quartet of polls conducted in the final week of September (before the shutdown) things didn’t look so bad.

Let’s see how bad things look in Alaska . . . 

Q: If the election for U.S. Senate were held today, would you prefer to vote for: the Republican 
candidate or the Democratic candidate?


Republican: 45%


Democrat: 35%


Someone Else: 8%


Not sure: 12%

Well, that’s intriguing. Sure, Mark Begich (D., Alaska) will probably run ahead of a generic Democrat, but the narrative du jour is that the shutdown and fight in Washington is ruining the Republican brand.

“But that’s a generic ballot!” Democrats will object. Up against named challengers . . . Begich leads GOP lieutenant governor Mead Treadwell 43 percent to 42 percent, he leads Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan 43 percent to 41 percent, and he leads 2010 Senate candidate Joe Miller 55 percent to 28 percent.

Then in Louisiana:

Q: If the election for U.S. Senate were held today, would you prefer to vote for: the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate?

Republican: 45%

Democrat: 41%

Someone Else: 4%

Not sure: 10%

Incumbent Democratic senator Mary Landrieu leads Republican representative Bill Cassidy . . . 46 percent to 44 percent. Keep in mind, Cassidy is one of those so-called extremists in the House Republican caucus.

Okay, how about Arkansas?

If the election for U.S. Senate were held today, would you prefer to vote for the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate?

Republican 40%

Democrat 37%

Someone Else 2%

Not sure 20%

Head-to-head against GOP representative Tom Cotton (an NR favorite), incumbent Democrat Mark Pryor gets 45 percent to Cotton’s 42 percent. Keep in mind, Cotton is also one of those so-called extremists in the House Republican caucus.

A poll conducted on week into the shutdown found:

In the latest survey of 603 likely Arkansas voters, Pryor leads Cotton 42% to 41% with 17% of voters undecided. The poll, which was conducted on Tuesday, Oct. 8, has a margin of error of +/-4%.

Three incumbent Democratic senators in red states, topping out in the mid-40s; two of whom are up against Republican House members. It’s early, but that’s not a great place to be. Of course, Democrats might chalk that up to an anti-incumbent mood.

So let’s peek in West Virginia, where there will be an open-seat race . . . 

Q: If the election for U.S. Senate were held today, would you prefer to vote for the Republican candidate or the Democratic candidate?

Republican 48%

Democrat 36%

Someone Else 4%

Not sure 12%

Head to head, Representative Shelley Moore Capito, Republican, leads Natalie Tennant, Democrat, 51 percent to 34 percent. And yes, we have another member of the House Republican Caucus, doing well in a Senate race.

So the mess in Washington might be wrecking the GOP’s image . . . but there’s not yet much evidence that the muck is splashing onto those red state Senate challengers.

(Note: This post was edited after initial posting to reflect the dates of the polls.)

Tags: Senate Democrats , Mead Treadwell , Paul Begich , Tom Cotton , Shelley Moore Capito

Good News! Harry Reid Passed the ‘National Chess Week’ Resolution!



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This weekend, you’ll hear a lot of senators, particularly Democratic senators allied with Harry Reid, insist they’re doing everything possible to end the government shutdown.

They were in session yesterday, until shortly after 5 p.m…. but did not hold any votes. Around midday Saturday, the House of Representatives passed a resolution 407-0 to ensure back pay for federal workers furloughed because of the shutdown. 

The Senate is not slated to resume work until 2 p.m. Monday; at that time in the afternoon, they will begin their “morning business” (really) and not hold any votes until 5 p.m. 

On Friday, the Senate found time to pass a resolution “Designating the week of October 7 through 13, 2013, as “National Chess Week” to enhance awareness and encourage students and adults to engage in a game known to enhance critical thinking and problem-solving skills.”

Tags: Harry Reid , Senate Democrats , Government Shutdown

Save the Earth, Recycle the Opposition’s Filibuster Arguments



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The Tuesday edition of the Morning Jolt features unprintable words about San Diego mayor Bob Filner, new fundraising numbers in Virginia’s Senate race, a thought on stereotyping after the George Zimmerman trial, and then this thought on the “nuclear option” before the Senate . . . 

Save the Earth; Recycle the Opposition’s Old Arguments on the Filibuster

Ah, filibuster debates. So predictable.

Every Republican who wants to keep the filibuster and the current rules in place, just cite the arguments of this guy:

What [the American people] don’t expect is for one party — be it Republican or Democrat — to change the rules in the middle of the game so that they can make all the decisions while the other party is told to sit down and keep quiet.

The American people want less partisanship in this town, but everyone in this chamber knows that the majority chooses to end the filibuster. If they choose to change the rules and put an end to democratic debate, then the fighting and the bitterness and the gridlock will only get worse.

We need to rise above the “ends justify the means” mentality because we’re here to answer to the people — all of the people — not just the ones that are wearing our particular party label.

If the right of free and open debate is taken away from the minority party, and the millions of Americans who asked us to be their voice, I fear that the already partisan atmosphere in Washington will be poisoned to the point where no one will be able to agree on anything. That doesn’t serve anyone’s best interests, and it certainly isn’t what the patriots who founded this democracy had in mind. We owe the people who sent us here more than that – we owe them much more.

Those words are from then-Senator Barack Obama, speaking April 13, 2005.

Then again, maybe they can point to the arguments of this other guy:

The filibuster is not a scheme and it certainly isn’t new. The filibuster is far from a procedural gimmick. It’s part of the fabric of this institution we call the Senate. It was well-known in colonial legislatures before we became a country, and it’s an integral part of our country’s 214-year history. The first filibuster in the United States Congress happened in 1790. It was used by lawmakers from Virginia and South Carolina who were trying to prevent Philadelphia from hosting the first Congress.

Since then, the filibuster has been employed hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of times. It’s been employed on legislative matters, it’s been employed on procedural matters relating to the president’s nominations for Cabinet and sub-Cabinet posts, and it’s been used on judges for all those years. One scholar estimates that 20 percent of the judges nominated by presidents have fallen by the wayside, most of them as a result of filibusters. Senators have used the filibuster to stand up to popular presidents, to block legislation, and, yes, even, as I’ve stated, to stall executive nominees. The roots of the filibuster are found in the Constitution and in our own rules.

That, of course . . . is Senator Harry Reid of Nevada back in 2005.

Come on. We all know that any Senate Majority Leader with more than 50 votes but less than 60 votes is going to want to get rid of the filibuster, and any minority leader is going to want to keep it. Neither party has held 60 or more U.S. Senate seats since 1979. Democrats came close in the 111th Congress (the delay in Al Franken’s swearing-in, and the deaths of Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd, all complicated the Democrats’ effort to control 60 seats) ; the Republicans had 55 in the 109th Congress. For the foreseeable future, most Senate majorities will have between 50 and 60 votes.

If you’re Harry Reid, the current intolerable situation means you need to hold your 53 votes together, keep Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine on board, and then get five Republican senators to go along. That may not be easy, but it’s hardly “Mission: Impossible.” Put simply, pick five out of the following: Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Mark Kirk of Illinois, Susan Collins of Maine, Jeffrey Chiesa of New Jersey, Rob Portman of Ohio, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina. As we all know, John McCain of Arizona, Marco Rubio of Florida, Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, and Orrin Hatch of Utah have been known to buck the party line, depending on the issue.

The 60-vote threshold makes sense depending upon the piece of legislation or the importance of the nominee; it’s usually a bad idea to have a sweeping change rammed through, over sizeable objections, by a bare majority. Call us when the minority demands 60 votes for renaming a post office.

Don’t listen to me, listen to Thomas Jefferson: “Great innovations should not be forced on a slender majority.”

Or for a more modern assessment, try Daniel Patrick Moynihan:

Back in 1993, when Hillary Clinton first tried to reform the nation’s health-insurance system, Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan warned about the difficulty of getting such a gargantuan bill passed: “The Senate has its own peculiar ecology,” he told me. “Something like this passes with 75 votes or not at all.” Moynihan was then chairman of the Finance Committee, the Senate’s natural choke point for big social-engineering schemes. He was worried that the Clintons, especially the First Lady, were being stubborn, trying to jam their bill through with a bare majority rather than build a bipartisan consensus.

Of course, if you subscribe to President Calvin Coolidge’s belief that “it is more important to kill bad bills than to pass good ones,” the filibuster is a beautiful, noble tool.

Tags: Harry Reid , Barack Obama , Senate Republicans , Senate Democrats , Filibuster

Gun Control ‘Deserves a Vote.’ Low Bar, Isn’t It?



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A point about last night’s allegedly stirring moment, when Obama listed “background checks that make it harder for criminals to get their hands on a gun” (already illegal), banning guns for resale to criminals (already illegal), banning “massive ammunition magazines” (define “massive”) . . .

. . .  and then in the emotional climax, he declared, “Each of these proposals deserves a vote in Congress . . . Gabby Giffords deserves a vote! The families of Newtown deserve a vote! The families of Aurora deserve a vote!”

Notice Obama says the proposals “deserve a vote” — not that they must be passed.

If you genuinely believe that, say, Senator Dianne Feinstein’s renewed assault-weapons ban will save innocent lives — that, literally, lives hang in the balance — doesn’t that make Democrats who oppose it, like Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, heartless monsters who would rather see American children die than cross their allies?

And wouldn’t that apply to the other red-state Senate Democrats who are iffy on the legislation? Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Independent Angus King of Maine?

How can Obama deem it morally imperative that the legislation be voted upon, but not morally imperative that it pass?

And by the way, who would be holding up the vote in that chamber? Not the Republicans. Nope. Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, sets the floor schedule.

Of course, Obama is trying to thread the needle of demonizing the NRA, most anti-gun-control Republicans, and most gun owners, without actually demonizing any of the Democrats who he knows (or strongly suspects) will vote against those proposals.

Tags: Barack Obama , Gun Control , Senate Democrats

Juan Williams’ Bold Prediction of a Democratic Senate Supermajority



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At the end of a fairly predictable those-crazy-tea-partiers-are-costing-Republicans-Senate-seats op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Fox News contributor Juan Williams makes a bold prediction:

The fight for the future of Republicans in the Senate rests on whether ideologues or establishment politicians win control of the party. Right now, the ideologues are winning. At this rate, President Obama will have a 60-member super majority in the Senate for his last two years in the White House.

The Democrats will begin the 113th Congress with 53 Democratic senators and two Democrat-aligned independents, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Angus King of Maine. So they would have to win five additional seats in 2014 to make Williams’s prediction come true.

Two years from now, 20 Democratic senators will face their electorates (or retire and see open-seat races) and 13 Republican senators will do the same.

Among the Democrat incumbents who may retire: Senators Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey, Carl Levin of Michigan, and Dick Durbin of Illinois. Several Democrats who narrowly won in 2008 will face their electorates again, this time in the significantly lower-turnout environment of a midterm election: Al Franken in Minnesota, Mark Begich in Alaska, and Jeff Merkley in Oregon.

On the flip side, any Republicans who were elected or reelected to the Senate during the Obama win of 2008 will be tough to dislodge. Of the 13 Republicans who won Senate bids that year, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell had the smallest share of the vote, with 53 percent of the vote in Kentucky. The second-smallest was John Cornyn with 55 percent in Texas.

Obviously, the Senate elections of 2014 are a long ways away. But file Juan Williams’s piece away for future reference.

Tags: NAACP , Senate Democrats

Democrats Lacking Top-Tier Challengers In Most Senate Races



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It’s obviously early in the 2012 cycle, but the good news for Republican chances to retake the Senate is that they already have big-name, experienced candidates gearing up in just about every state that is expected to feature a competitive race. Democrats are gradually increasing their numbers, but some members of their party are already worrying about slow recruitment: Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., wants members of his party to stop waiting for recovering Rep. Gabby Giffords and begin a Senate bid sometime in the next month.

The biggest name isn’t always the best name; just ask Floridians about their Senate primary last year. But an early entry by a popular House member or lawmaker who has already won statewide helps put Republicans’ minds at ease; they can rest assured that barring some surprise twist – like, say, Christine O’Donnell beating Mike Castle in Delaware! – they’ll at least have strong enough candidates in place to make the Democrats earn any Senate wins this year. If you put as many good candidates in as many states as possible, you’re in position to maximize your wins if your party has the wind at its back on Election Day.

First, in the four seats of the retiring Senate Democrats…

Daniel Akaka of Hawaii: Right now, former Rep. Ed Case and State Sen. Donna Mercado Kim are in on the Democrats’ side. The GOP outlook depends heavily on the interest of former two-term Gov. Linda Lingle.

Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico: Democrats have their big name, Rep. Martin Heinrich, with a few other state officials making noises. The GOP has former Rep. Heather Wilson, as well as a few others.

Kent Conrad of North Dakota: Republicans have Public Service Commissioner Brian Kalk, who is currently the only candidate who has filed papers.

Jim Webb of Virginia: Republicans have former Governor and Sen. George Allen as well as Jamie Radtke and a few other local figures; Democrats have former Gov. and DNC Chair Tim Kaine.

Elsewhere, 16 Democrat incumbents are currently seeking reelection in 2012. Republicans do not yet have prominent challengers to Dianne Feinstein of California, Tom Carper of Delaware, Bob Menendez of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Herb Kohl of Wisconsin. (There’s some speculation that Kohl might retire.) Republicans are still looking for a top-tier candidate to run for the open seat in Connecticut, where Joe Lieberman is retiring. Of course, in a presidential year, most of those states will be difficult territory even for a strong GOP candidate, with the possible exceptions of West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The states with Democrat incumbents and at least one promising GOP challenger:

Bill Nelson of Florida: Republicans have several candidates, depending on how broadly you define, ‘big-name’: Florida State Senate President Mike Haridopolos, former state Rep. Adam Hasner and former Sen. George LeMieux.

Debbie Stabenow of Michigan: Former Michigan GOP chair Saul Anuzis and Secretary of State Terri Lee Land are considering bids.

Claire McCaskill of Missouri: The GOP options include former state senator and state treasurer Sarah Steelman, as well as former congressional candidate Ed Martin.

Jon Tester of Montana: Rep. Denny Rehberg, who has won multiple times statewide (since his congressional district is the state).

Ben Nelson of Nebraska: Two big names for Republicans: State Attorney General Jon Bruning, state Treasurer Don Stenberg.

Sherrod Brown of Ohio: At least two promising options for Republicans: State Treasurer Josh Mandel and former Secretary of State Ken Blackwell.

Bob Casey, Jr. of Pennsylvania: Obviously not an easy state for Republicans, but if Dicks Sporting Goods CEO Ed Stack is serious about his interest, the he would have the financial resources to give Casey a real race.

There are several states where the GOP chances of victory are pretty small, but they’ve still got interest from a promising candidate or two:

Ben Cardin of Maryland: Obviously a tough state even in non-presidential years, but one of the GOP candidates is Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Eric Wargotz. You may scoff at his 36 percent in last year’s Senate race against Barbara Mikulski, but that’s the highest share of the vote any Republican has gotten against her since 1986.

Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota: None so far, although local Republicans are hoping to see a Michele Bachmann bid.

Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island: He’s not a ‘big name,’ but keep an eye on entrepreneur Barry Hinkley, founder of the software firm Bullhorn.

Bernie Sanders of Vermont: Obviously, this is a very tough seat for the GOP to win, but they have a promising candidate in state Auditor of Accounts Tom Salmon.

Three Republicans are retiring and creating open seat races:

Jon Kyl of Arizona: Republicans have Rep. Jeff Flake, who so far enjoys the field to himself. No Democrat has filed papers; obviously, many Democrats are yearning for a bid by Gabrielle Giffords. Rep. Ed Pastor is reportedly thinking it over.

John Ensign of Nevada: Both parties are likely to nominate an incumbent U.S. House member: Republicans have Rep. Dean Heller; Democrats have Rep. Shelly Berkley.

Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas: Republicans have a small army of candidates: Former state solicitor general Ted Cruz, former Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams, former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, current Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones, and former secretary of state Roger Williams.

As revealed this weekend, Texas Democrats are likely to nominate retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez.

Finally, at this point, seven Senate Republicans are seeking re-election; none of them have attracted what most would consider a “top tier” challenger.

Dick Lugar of Indiana: He’s likely to face a tougher challenge in the GOP primary from Richard Mourdock. For the Democrats, there has been talk that Rep. Joe Donnelly may run for Senate, particularly with his House district’s new lines looking less favorable to him. But Donnelly is reportedly also mulling a gubernatorial bid. So far, no Democrats have filed for this race.

Olympia Snowe of Maine: Like Lugar, she has primary opponents already (Scott D’Ambrose and Andrew Ian Dodge) but no Democrat opponent yet.

Scott Brown of Massachusetts: Right now, the biggest-name challenger for the Democrats is Robert Massie, who ran for Lieutenant Governor in 1994. Several members of the state’s House delegation have been mentioned as potential candidates, but none have filed papers yet.

Roger Wicker of Mississippi: No Democrats have filed for the seat yet. 

Bob Corker of Tennessee: No Democrats have filed for the seat yet.       

Orrin Hatch of Utah: The only Democrat who has filed for the seat is Chris Stout, a Salt Lake City accountant.

John Barrasso of Wyoming: No Democrats have filed for the seat yet.  

Tags: NRSC , Senate Democrats , Senate Republicans

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