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Tags: House Republicans

Jay Rosen on the Phony-Baloney ‘GOP Needs to Govern’ Assertion



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The astute media critic Jay Rosen — who as far as I know is neither a conservative nor a Republican — goes full J. Jonah Jameson on reporters’ lazy assertions that the GOP congressional majority needs to “show it can govern.” Rosen sets up several phrasings of this truism– from the U.K. Telegraph, The New York Times, and NPR Congressional reporter Ailsa Chang — before knocking them down:

These are false statements. I don’t know how they got past the editors. You can’t simply assert, like it’s some sort of natural fact, that Republicans “must show they can govern” when an alternative course is available. Not only is it not a secret — this other direction — but it’s being strongly urged upon the party by people who are a key part of its coalition.

The alternative to “show you can govern” is to keep President Obama from governing. Right? Keep him from accomplishing what he wants to get done in his final two years and then “go to the country,” as Karl Rove used to say, with a simple message: time for a change! This is not only a valid way to proceed, it’s a pretty likely outcome. Rush Limbaugh, certainly a player in the coalition, put it this way. The Republicans, he said, emerged from the 2014 election with

the biggest, and perhaps the most important mandate a political party has had in the recent era. And it is very simple what that mandate is. It is to stop Barack Obama. It is to stop the Democrat Party. There is no other reason why Republicans were elected yesterday.

Republicans were not elected to govern. How can you govern with a president that disobeys the constitution? How can you govern with a president that is demonstrably lawless when he thinks he has to be?

Limbaugh represents the populist wing of the party. How about the establishment? In a widely-cited editorial called “the Governing Trap,” National Review magazine was even more explicit.

(Apologies for the double blockquote.)

“Now keep in mind that for NPR correspondents like Chang, a ‘factual basis’ is everything,” Rosen writes. “They aren’t supposed to be sharing their views. They don’t do here’s-my-take analysis. NPR has ‘analysts’ for that. It has commentators who are free to say on air: ‘I think the Republicans have to show they can govern.’ Chang, a Congressional correspondent, was trying to put over as a natural fact an extremely debatable proposition that divides the Republican party. She spoke falsely, and no one at NPR (which reviews these scripts carefully) stopped her.”

The whole post is worth a read, not least because Rosen ends his posts with a really cool text warmer: an icon depicting his tiny NYU-smartypants glasses. I hope the can of worms Rosen has opened here will crawl toward other examples of assertion journalism that even careful thinkers about the news don’t notice. Reporters routinely call reinflation of house prices a “recovery” of the real estate market, the T.A.R.P. and/or stimulus an “economic rescue package,” Obamacare a “health care reform,” and so on, as if these are objective terms rather than nomenclature cooked up by particular beneficiaries in order to deny that there are two sides to every exchange.

Tags: House Republicans , Senate Republicans , Useless Republicans , 2014 Midterms

Miserly GOP House Passed Budget Increasing CDC Spending 8.2 Percent



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The DCCC unveiled advertising declaring “Republicans voted to cut CDC’s budget to fight Ebola. Republicans protect tax breaks for special interests.”

In January, that allegedly miserly and cruel and callous GOP-controlled House also approved a budget that increased CDC’s budget by a lot:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will see an 8.2 percent budget increase for fiscal 2014, thanks to a $1.1 trillion spending bill announced by Congress Jan. 13.

This influx of cash will raise the CDC budget to $6.9 billion, which is $567 million more than it received in 2013. This is more than the agency anticipated, because the president’s fiscal year 2014 budget request for it was just $6.6 billion — a decrease of $270 million from fiscal 2012.

Of the $6.9 billion, $1.3 billion was allocated to protect the United States from foreign and domestic threats, both intentional and naturally occurring. $255 million will go to support bio-defense efforts, and $160 million will be set aside for states to address their most pressing public health needs. The CDC will get $30 million for Advanced Molecular Detection (AMD), which will help identify potential disease outbreaks earlier and more accurately.

The harsh, merciless, tightwad House of Representatives passed the omnibus spending bill 376 to 5.

And if health funding is so vital, no matter the circumstances . . . remember when House Republicans introduced a bill to fund the National Institutes of Health during the government shutdown, and the Senate Democrats refused to consider it?

CNN’s DANA BASH: But if you can help one child who has cancer, why wouldn’t you do it?

SENATE MAJORITY LEADER HARRY REID: Why would we want to do that? I have 1,100 people at Nellis Air Force base that are sitting home. They have a few problems of their own. To have someone of your intelligence to suggest such a thing maybe means you’re irresponsible and reckless.

BASH: I’m just asking a question.

Tags: CDC , House Republicans

Obama: Republicans Need More ‘Economic Patriotism’



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House Republicans need more “economic patriotism,” President Obama suggested while making another call for Congress to pass his preferred policy initiatives.

“[W]e can make even more progress if Congress is willing to work with my administration and to set politics aside, at least occasionally, which I know is what the American people are urgently looking for,” Obama said Thursday at 1776. “It’s a sort of economic patriotism where you say to yourself, how is it that we can start rebuilding this country to make sure that all of the young people who are here but their kids and their grandkids are going to be able to enjoy the same incredible opportunities that this country offers as we have.  That’s our job.  That’s what we should be focused on.  And it’s worth remembering as we go into Independence Day.”

House Speaker John Boehner’s office has pointed out that the Republicans are doing things — 40 things, currently pending in the Senate — they just aren’t passing the bills that Obama wants.

“It’s clear President Obama is hopelessly out of touch – claiming House Republicans are ‘not doing anything’ just doesn’t fit reality,” Matt Wolking wrote at Boehner’s website. ”Surely by now he’s heard about our jobs bills ‘on the news’? After all, dozens of them are sitting in the Senate, being blocked by Democrats like Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.).”

 

Tags: Barack Obama , House Republicans

Leadership Race Vote Totals Kept Secret From Republican Conference



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House Republican leadership didn’t release the vote totals in Thursday’s leadership races to the press or even the Republican rank-and-file in an attempt to present a united front after House Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s unexpected defeat in the Virginia Republican primary exposed the fault lines between the Tea Party and establishment wings of the conference.

“They didn’t tell us the numbers,” North Carolina representative Richard Hudson, who supported Illinois representative Peter Roskam for whip against eventual winner Steve Scalise of Louisiana, told reporters after the vote. The candidates for majority leader and whip agreed before the vote took place not to release the vote totals, as has been the practice for the last four congresses, according to a Republican aide.

Roskam was the early favorite to replace Kevin McCarthy of California as majority whip, but Scalise outpaced him by mobilizing what a GOP aide described as a “grassroots” voting operation to convince the conference that he was the best choice. “He had, from what I understand, nearly 50 whips working for him,” the aide told National Review Online. 

McCarthy won his leadership race, but didn’t have the coattails to deliver the victory to Roskam, who was McCarthy’s chief deputy whip. After the results were in, Roskam moved to have Scalise declared the victor by unanimous consent.

“Everyone always gathers around our entire team and we did this time,” Rules Committee chairman Pete Sessions of Texas told NRO. “All the races were unanimous.”

That doesn’t mean everyone was perfectly happy. “I think this was our best shot to change leadership, not November,” Representative Justin Amash told reporters, referring to the regularly-scheduled leadership races that will take place at the end of the year. “Because in November the leadership team has the advantage of handing out committee assignments and chairmanships to win over votes. Right now, those positions are already locked in place, so it’s very difficult for them to persuade members the way they can a few months from now.”

Amash supported Representative Raul Labrador of Idaho for majority leader. “Raul, I’m confident, pulled very good numbers,” he said.

The new leadership team will have a chance to consolidate support, though. “I want them to succeed, and everybody that walked out of that room, I think, wants them to succeed,” Representative Steve King, who tweeted after Cantor’s defeat that he wants a majority leader who “have a record opposing amnesty” told NRO. 

“I think all the candidates said they were opposed to amnesty,” King said. ”Now, we just need to get to the point where we all agree on what that means.” The Iowa lawmaker said that several members of the conference emphasized that they want to see bills passed through regular order, as well.

King said that his “sense” was that McCarthy and Scalise both received “a solid majority” of votes. ”That means the conference is unified behind a majority leader and a whip; that’s a good thing,” he said.

Tags: Congressional Republicans , House Republicans

GOP Surrenders on Obamacare



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A prominent House Republican acknowledged Friday that Obamacare is unlikely to be repealed.

“We need to look at reforming the exchanges,” Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington State told the Spokane Spokesman-Review Thursday during a tour of eastern Washington.

McMorris Rodgers, a five-term congresswoman who delivered the GOP response to this year’s State of the Union Address, has been an important vote in previous attempts to repeal Obamacare. She is the chairwoman of the House Republican Conference and remains sharply critical of the unpopular health-care law, which next year will begin penalizing Americans who are unable or unwilling to purchase health insurance.

“It is a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach to health care,” she told the paper, adding that it reduces consumer choice and that even the individual mandate requiring people to buy insurance will not get full enrollment. Obamacare was originally advertised as a means to get the 44 million Americans who lack health insurance into the system, but it has so far seen 8 million enrollments — many of those replacement plans for people whose own health plans had been canceled as a result of the law.

House Republicans have voted 54 times to repeal the law, which was unpopular with the public at the time it was enacted and became much more so once it began to be widely implemented last year. Republicans have been hoping to make public discontent with Obamacare a central issue in the upcoming midterm elections. 

Tags: Obamacare , House Republicans

Another Assessment Pointing to a GOP House Majority in 2015



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The election-watchers over at the liberal blog Daily Kos take a look at the 71 U.S. House of Representatives races they deem most likely to be competitive in 2014. Their conclusion isn’t too different from my assessment last week that the open-seat races are occurring in districts friendlier to the GOP.

They rate two GOP-held seats as “lean Democrat”: California’s 31st district, currently represented by Gary Miller, and the open-seat race in Florida’s 13th district, where longtime congressman Bill Young passed away recently.

They also rate two GOP-held seats as “toss up”: Colorado’s 6th district, currently represented by Mike Coffman, and the open-seat race in Iowa’s 3rd district, where Representative Tom Latham is retiring. Eight Democrat-held seats are rated as toss-ups.

Nine GOP-held seats are rated “lean Republican,” and 21 GOP-held seats are rated “likely Republican.”

They rate two seats currently held by Democrats as “safe Republican”; the retirements of Mike McIntyre in North Carolina’s 7th district and Jim Matheson in Utah’s 4th district effectively ended Democrats’ hopes in those heavily GOP-leaning districts.

In short, barring some dramatic change in the nation’s mood, the makeup of the House in January 2015 probably won’t look all that different than it does today, with Republicans holding 233 seats and Democrats holding 200. (Two seats are currently vacant.)

Tags: House of Representatives , House Republicans

The Name ‘Pelosi,’ the Voldemort of Red House Districts



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Today’s Morning Jolt features a preview of the Benghazi hearings, praise for an NR colleague, and then last night’s big news . . . 

This Just In from South Carolina: HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!

Hey, Democrats. You just spent a bundle and lost . . . to Mark Sanford.

The argument that we can’t learn anything about 2014 from an individual special House race is generally true. But Alex Roarty of National Journal — a.k.a. that insider, non-conservative publication that National Review staffers are often mixed up with — repeats my point from yesterday: Democrats put a lot of money and effort into this race, against a Republican candidate they thought was uniquely beatable. (And in fact, he was. But “uniquely beatable” doesn’t always mean you will beat him.)

Now we see all of that Democratic spending gained nothing: $1.2 million in donations to Colbert Busch, more than $929,000 on independent expenditures against Sanford . . . FLUSH!

And there is a lesson for 2014: Mark Sanford managed to overcome the electorate’s wariness about him by emphasizing that a vote for his opponent was a vote for Nancy Pelosi and the Obama agenda. Red-state and red-district Democrats have always had a tough balancing act, emphasizing how they’re not like those other Democrats; Elizabeth Colbert Busch in the end just wasn’t a talented enough candidate to pull that off. (In short, she wasn’t that talented a candidate at all. “The Solyndra of the South,” as Nathan Wurtzel summarized.)

Any remaining red-district Democrats really have to run hard from Pelosi from now until November 2014.

Moe Lane:

This should have gone to the Democrats; but, well, there’s that pesky albatross. May Nancy Pelosi stay House Minority Leader, well, forever. . . . If they can’t win House seats in R districts under these circumstances, they won’t win ‘em under more even ones.

Betsy Woodruff was at the victory party:

There will be lots of analysis in the days to come about what this election means, but one thing isn’t up for debate: Mark Sanford knows how to campaign, and his win here is due at least in part to his tireless canvassing and cheerful willingness to ask for the vote of anyone who would listen to him.

When he arrived at the victory party, Sanford was in full-on retail-politics mode. I followed the former governor on the campaign trail the day before the election and wrote about his perpetual handshaking and small-talking. Winning the election doesn’t seem to have tempered his pace. When he arrives at the party, he laps around the front of the building (which, a server tells me, is more crowded than it’s ever been), posing for pictures and hugging supporters.

Two things are different from the day before, though: First, he’s wearing a suit instead of stained khakis and busted-up shoes, and actually looks like someone who might belong in the halls of the Capitol. And second, he’s got his oldest son, Marshall, in tow. He looks around for his son every minute or two — when he loses sight of him, he asks the nearest staffer, “Where’d Marshall go?” and whenever he gets a chance, he introduces the 20-year-old to supporters who haven’t met him.

Mark Sanford’s sister, Sarah Sanford Rauch, isn’t far behind. She’s one of his veteran campaign volunteers, and she’s outspoken about her support for her embattled brother. I ask her how she feels.

“Exhausted,” she tells me. “It’s the toughest race I’ve ever been in. I’ve helped out on a bunch of races, but this is the toughest, by far.”

“You wake up every morning and you look at the newspaper and you wait to see what anvil is getting dropped on your head each day,” she adds.

Somebody else is feeling the headache this morning.

In other words, while Pelosi has always had a handful of members who were likely to stray, she can expect even less agreement from members like Jim Matheson of Utah (R+16), Nick Rahall of West Virginia (R+14), Mike McIntyre of North Carolina (R+12), John Barrow of Georgia (R+9), and Collin Peterson of Minnesota (R+6) — and perhaps Ann Kirkpatrick of Arizona (R+4), Patrick Murphy of Florida (R+3), Pete Gallego of Texas (R+3), and Ron Barber of Arizona (R+3). Because if invoking Pelosi was key to Sanford overcoming the well-funded Colbert Busch, imagine how it will play in districts where the Republican doesn’t have Sanford’s baggage?

Tags: Mark Sanford , Elizabeth Colbert Busch , Nancy Pelosi , House Democrats , House Republicans

The 2014 Democrats: They Have No Opinions on Anything!



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Today’s Morning Jolt points out that some sources contradict a Washington Post report on sequester cuts hurting cancer patients; discusses whether the term “entitlements” helps or hurts effort to reform those programs, and then has this bit of political news on the early talk of the 2014 House races:

Vote Democrats in 2014: They Have No Opinions on Anything!

Keep the lead of this Washington Post article in mind when you’re told about the great liberal ascendancy that will continue in the midterms:

Democratic Party officials believe that Kevin Strouse is exactly the kind of candidate who can help them retake the House next year.

He’s a smart, young former Army Ranger — good qualities for any aspiring politician. But what party leaders really like is that Strouse doesn’t have particularly strong views on the country’s hottest issues.

Immigration? Tax policy? “Certainly I have a lot of research to do,” Strouse acknowledged in an interview Thursday as he announced his candidacy in a suburban Philadelphia House district.

Strouse’s candidacy reflects an emerging Democratic strategy for taking back the House from Republicans after the tea party takeover of 2010.

Like Elizabeth Colbert Busch, he appears to be following a strategy of never taking a stance that anyone, anywhere, might disagree with. “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way. Show them all the beauty they possess inside. Give them a sense of pride . . .”

Now, if liberalism were ascendant, and the electorate’s preferences were shifting strongly and dramatically to the left, why wouldn’t these folks be talking about the need for the government to do more, dismiss the claim that we need to dramatically reduce our spending, that President Obama is getting it right, again and again, and that they’ll eagerly return Nancy Pelosi to the Speakership?

You can argue that Colbert Busch is running in too Republican-leaning a district to give you a fair reading on that. But Kevin Strouse is running in Pennsylvania’s eighth district, basically Bucks County. It’s a D+1 district. With Barack Obama carrying the state by a healthy margin, and Bob Casey winning the Senate reelection handily, the GOP incumbent, Mike Fitzpatrick, won . . . 56 percent of the vote. Nearly 200,000 votes.

Also mentioned in the article: Sean Eldridge, husband of Facebook co-founder and New Republic owner Chris Hughes. Here are some of the highlights from the New York magazine writeup on his filing:

Yesterday Eldridge, 26, filed papers establishing a campaign organization that would enable him to compete for New York’s 19th congressional district seat in 2014 . . . 

Eldridge would be smart to stockpile more of that kind of credit in the local political favor bank. He was born in Canada and grew up in Ohio, and he and Hughes split time among a number of palatial residences — the kind of things that will help Gibson try to paint the novice candidate as a dilettante and carpetbagger. Gibson, 48, is a lifelong New Yorker and a talented campaigner with an appealing personal story, especially for a district that includes newly gentrified river towns like Hudson* but also covers a wide swath of depressed rural territory: He’s a former Army colonel who served four tours in Iraq and was awarded a Purple Heart…

November’s results showed that Gibson is formidable: He beat a Democratic challenger by six points even though Barack Obama carried the district by a substantial margin. Turnout is likely to be lower in 2014 — without a presidential campaign or a contested New York gubernatorial election — which could also hurt Eldridge’s chances.

There’s a lot of road between this moment and the 2014 midterms, but . . .  do Colbert Busch, Strouse, and Eldridge sound like the all-star team you would want to assemble to retake the House?

Tags: Elizabeth Colbert Busch , House Democrats , House Republicans , Kevin Strouse , Sean Eldridge

The Perils of Long-Term Forecasts in Midterm Elections



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The good news in the long-term outlook for House Republicans:

While Democrats have opportunities, they also have seats that will need defending.

At least 11 Democratic incumbents start off at risk: Arizona’s Ann Kirkpatrick and Ron Barber, California’s Raul Ruiz, Florida’s Patrick Murphy and Joe Garcia, Georgia’s John Barrow, Massachusetts’ John F. Tierney, New Hampshire’s Carol Shea-Porter, North Carolina’s Mike McIntyre, Texas’ Pete Gallego and Utah’s Jim Matheson.

Seven of these Democrats sit in Romney districts, and strong GOP recruiting in a handful of additional districts could make more Democrat-held seats (Minnesota Rep. Collin C. Peterson’s is a good example) vulnerable.

At this point in the cycle, Democrats probably need to put at least another two dozen additional districts into play — in addition to the ones I have cited above — and hold most of their own vulnerable seats to have a chance of netting 17 seats in the midterm elections. It’s a very tall order.

That’s Stuart Rothenberg, writing over at CQ/Roll Call today.

The bad news in the long-term outlook for House Republicans:

Over the past couple of weeks, at least three Republicans — House Minority Whip Eric Cantor (Va.), former Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.) and campaign consultant Tony Marsh — have raised the possibility of the GOP winning back the House of Representatives next year.

That idea is lunacy and ought to be put to rest immediately.

None of the three actually predicted that Republicans would gain the 40 seats that they need for a majority, but all three held out hope that that’s possible. It isn’t.

That’s Stuart Rothenberg, writing back on April 23, 2009.

Tags: House Democrats , House Republicans

The Crisis of Fiscal Leadership



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The prospects for serious fiscal reform in Washington look dire indeed, at least for the immediate future. Speaker John Boehner saw most of his caucus easily reelected, but he clearly was spooked by the Republicans’ drubbing in the presidential race and in key Senate races. The Republican steering committee announced its intention to strip key House conservatives of relevant committee positions. Senator Jim DeMint has concluded, not without reason, that he will be a more effective force for limited government as head of the Heritage Foundation than he could be as a leader in the Senate.

One of Rush Limbaugh’s key insights, and an oft-reiterated one, is that the Republican party functions best when the leader of the party also is acting as the leader of the conservative movement, e.g. Ronald Reagan in his day or Newt Gingrich in his. Right now, the Republican establishment is deeply at odds with conservatives, who once again find themselves playing the role of an insurgency in their own party. If my correspondence with National Review readers is any indicator, Boehner’s stock is not trading much higher than Barack Obama’s among limited-government true believers and deficit hawks. The coalition is indeed in disarray, and a crisis of leadership is upon us.

The implicit proposition of Boehner’s leadership has been that with President Obama in the White House and Harry Reid running the Senate, a go-along/get-along strategy was Republicans’ surest ticket to gaining the Senate, the White House, or both in 2012. When the party suffered a humiliating rout instead, conservatives’ already heated frustration came to a boil.

How to go about fixing this? As much as I admire Senator DeMint, he is mistaken that Republicans’ current troubles are the result of a failure to “clearly articulate the failures of liberalism and the common sense of conservative alternatives.” There is no shortage of conservatives who spend day and night clearly articulating the failures of liberalism and the good sense of conservative alternatives, from talk-radio populists to think-tank wonks and numbers geeks. While there have been some bad candidates, weak campaigns, and defective GOP leaders, that is always true. The fundamental problem is the Republican policy agenda.

A very large part of that problem is the focus on tax rates to the exclusion of many other economic goods. I do not wish to see a tax increase, on wages or on capital gains, for anybody. But if the top rate on incomes goes from 35 percent to 39.8 percent, that is not the end of the world. That is certainly not the hill Republicans should choose to die on. As policy, there are more important issues; as politics, it is worth noting that there are not very many voters who earn $388,350, the income at which the top rate kicks in. And many of the voters in that exalted bracket are not single-issue tax-rate voters. Single-minded and borderline fanatical insistence on this one issue, together with the pageantry of related pledges, has done a great deal to provide cover for the radicalization of the Democrats under Obama.

Compare the 2012 debacle with the conservative triumph of 2010. It is true that there were a great many anti-tax voters in 2010 — with some making the “tea” in “tea party” an acronym for “Taxed Enough Already” — but the proximate cause of the 2010 win was a very strong popular reaction against a radical increase in government spending and government intrusion into the economy: the stimulus, Obamacare, and the bailouts of Wall Street and Detroit (though this last reaction was slightly deferred). President Obama was at the time arguing for the preservation of the Bush-era tax rates, at least for the $250,000-and-under set, which, as Kate Trinko points out, means that Democrats then and now are defending the great majority of the Bush tax cuts. The Democrats were allowed to escape their reputation as tax-raisers, and Republicans put themselves in the position of cementing their reputation as the party of the rich. (Of course here “rich” means high-income people who didn’t make their money in Hollywood, in government, in ambulance-chasing, in academia, or, for the most part, on Wall Street, but let’s not let reality get in the way of a good political narrative.)

Republicans, as I have recently argued, have a great deal more to offer the country than tax cuts. They might ask: Do we wish to see our country’s energy sector continue to grow, and to see America displace Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer? The country will answer “Yes,” and Republicans should be ready with a list of specific policies to ensure that this happens. Republicans might ask: Do we wish to create a great many more solid career opportunities for the very large share of our young people who are not headed for MBAs, law degrees, or information-technology jobs? The country will answer “Yes,” and Republicans must be ready with a solid policy agenda. Ask the country if it wants to end subsidies to politically connected businesses, and it will answer “Yes.” Be ready. Instead, Republicans have been asking if the country is ready to put everything on hold to forestall a relatively small tax hike for households with incomes approaching $400,000 and up, and the country has answered “No.” The country is wrong to want to raise taxes for reasons having to do more with envy than economics, but certain human realities have to be accounted for in politics.

As for the more difficult questions, such as whether the country will protest if the Republicans attempt to reform entitlements by changing the indexation benchmark from wages to prices — a reform that would save billions of dollars without actually cutting the current benefits of one person — the answer is not obvious, but then that is the nature of hard questions. But it will be easier for conservatives to do the hard thing if they have an agenda that emphasizes the great many relatively easy and popular proposals that conservatives can and should support. But that is going to take deft and imaginative leadership of a sort that we have not lately seen from Republican leaders. John Boehner has not been the catastrophe that many fiscal hawks accuse him of being, but it is not clear that making the best of a bad hand is the most we can or should hope for. 

Tags: Fiscal Armageddon , House Republicans

Redistricting, Not the Cause of the Continued GOP House Majority



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Below, I mentioned:

The media is speaking increasingly loudly about the president’s mandate; what they fail to realize is that every member of the House GOP thinks he was reelected (or in the case of the new members being seated in January, elected) with a mandate to oppose all tax increases because they’re economically destructive.

This has caused some lefties on Twitter to argue that the GOP only held its House majority because of gerrymandering.

But that’s not true, or at least there’s quite a bit of evidence against it. For starters, there were states where Democrats controlled redistricting and benefited, like Illinois, and places like California that redrew old incumbent-friendly lines and where the Democrats picked up additional seats. Heading into the election, most analysts felt the most recent round of redistricting added up to a wash between the two parties. Also, there were states where Republicans controlled redistricting and still lost seats, like New Hampshire and Utah; clearly redistricting isn’t a magic wand that can protect any House GOP incumbent or rising star like Mia Love.

But don’t take my word for it; take the assessments from left-of-center guys like Jonathan Bernstein, Eric McGhee, and Kevin Drum; one of the calculations they examine concludes that redistricting can be credited with seven of the Republicans’ 234 seats. If we had just used the old lines, John Boehner would still be speaker, just with a smaller majority.

McGhee concludes that

even under the most generous assumptions, redistricting explains less than half the gap between vote share and seat share this election cycle. . . . We have argued that incumbency is a likely culprit, but as Dan Hopkins recently pointed out, Democrats also do worse because they are more concentrated in urban areas. They “waste” votes on huge margins there, when the party could put many of those votes to better use in marginal seats.

What happens is that a lot of House Democrats in urban districts win by wide margins, sometimes 90–10, while House Republicans won their suburban and rural districts by much closer margins.

The current popular vote in the House races adds up to about 50.29 percent for the Democratic candidates and 49.7 percent for the Republican candidates. You could redraw the district lines to give Democrats a winning percentage in 218 districts with those figures . . . but the new lines would be as jagged, awkward, and bizarre as the ones we have now.

Tags: House of Representatives , House Republicans , Redistricting

The State of the Fiscal Cliff Negotiations



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I discussed the Republicans’ options for the fiscal cliff negotiations on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” this morning.

1. President Obama is convinced he will walk out of this crisis with an extremely sweet deal. His opening offer:

President Obama offered Republicans a detailed plan Thursday for averting the year-end “fiscal cliff” that calls for $1.6 trillion in new taxes, $50 billion in fresh spending on the economy and an effective end to congressional control over the size of the national debt.

The proposal, delivered to the Capitol by Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, mirrors previous White House deficit-reduction plans and satisfies Democrats’ demands that negotiations begin on terms dictated by the newly-reelected president.

The offer lacks any concessions to Republicans, most notably on the core issue of where to set tax rates for the wealthiest Americans. After two weeks of talks between the White House and aides to House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), it seemed to take Republicans by surprise.

What is fascinating about the way the Democrats and the media discuss the tax-hike option is that these forces believe not only that Republicans should break their word on their explicit, oft-repeated pledge to oppose tax increases, but that they shouldn’t even act like it is a big deal. It’s bad enough to break a promise in exchange for some otherwise unthinkable policy concession from the opposition, but the Democrats and media believe the GOP should break their promise in exchange for really nothing.

I asked folks on the Right yesterday on Twitter whether there was any policy concession that Obama could offer that would make a tax hike worthwhile; some said no, some offered some extremely unlikely options (“repeal Obamacare!”). Probably the most realistic option would be some sort of significant cut to an entitlement program that Democrats once deemed sacrosanct and untouchable, something that infuriated their base as much as a tax hike would infuriate Grover Norquist and the GOP’s anti-tax-hike base. At least then Republican lawmakers could say to their base, “We broke our promise, but that concession got Democrats to accept cuts to entitlements they swore they would never accept, as well. We both had to accept things we didn’t want to save the country from a fiscal disaster.”

But for now, and for the foreseeable future, there is no indication that Obama thinks he’ll have to make a major concession to reach a deal.

2. Democrats are completely convinced that enough Republicans in Congress will cave and acquiesce to almost everything they want as the cliff approaches. They have some recent historical examples to provide encouragement in this belief.

3. Democrats are completely convinced that if no deal is reached, the Bush tax cuts expire, and sequestration takes effect, Republicans will get most of the blame. This is probably largely correct, but I think they’re whistling past the graveyard on the consequences to an Obama presidency if 2013 dawns with tax hikes, defense-spending cuts, and another recession.

This morning, MSNBC’s Richard Wolffe said that I am saying Obama wants to go over the fiscal cliff — either I was unclear in my wording or he’s reading something into my comments that isn’t there. I think Obama doesn’t really want to go over the cliff, but he’s convinced that if we do, his opponents will suffer the consequences worse than he does.

4. For the GOP, a deal on Obama’s terms is probably worse than sequestration. The middle will not suddenly like the GOP a lot more because they embraced tax increases for the rich. Even if they did, it’s unlikely they would gain enough ground to offset the damage such a move will do among a betrayed and enraged party grassroots. As I said this morning, “Once the Republicans become the party of tax increases, why do we need them? They become indistinguishable from the Democrats.”

The media is speaking increasingly loudly about the president’s mandate; what they fail to realize is that every member of the House GOP thinks he was reelected (or in the case of the new members being seated in January, elected) with a mandate to oppose all tax increases because they’re economically destructive.

The biggest obstacle to all of the options for real deficit reduction and real entitlement reform is that the public doesn’t really think they’re necessary; they think a few tax hikes on the rich will do the trick. Perhaps it’s best to let taxes go up for everyone, from the highest earners to the lowest earners, and let the public see how little that changes the numbers.

If the Bush tax cuts expire, the House GOP must introduce and pass one across-the-board tax cut bill after another, watching Harry Reid bottle them up in the Senate or Obama veto them. Obama will insist that he wants middle-class tax cuts, and the House GOP is holding them hostage . . . a very familiar argument. The voters had the chance to change this dynamic; they chose to keep everyone in place.

Tags: Barack Obama , Fiscal Armageddon , House Republicans

Obama, Tackling the Fiscal Cliff with Campaign Rallies



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From the Thursday edition of the Morning Jolt:

Obama Deals With the Fiscal Cliff with the Only Tool He Knows: Campaign Rallies

In light of this . . .

President Barack Obama plans to make a public case this week for his strategy for dealing with the looming fiscal cliff, traveling to the Philadelphia suburbs Friday as he pressures Republicans to allow tax increases on the wealthy while extending tax cuts for families earning $250,000 or less.

The White House said Tuesday that the president intends to hold a series of events to build support for his approach to avoid across-the-board tax increases and steep spending cuts in defense and domestic programs. Obama will meet with small business owners at the White House on Tuesday and with middle-class families on Wednesday.

The president will visit the Rodon Group on 2800 Sterling Drive in Hatfield. The president’s visit will cap a week of public outreach as the White House and congressional leaders negotiate a way to avoid the tax increases and spending cuts scheduled to take effect Jan. 1. The trip will mark Obama’s first public event outside the nation’s capital since winning re-election. 

. . . I’m not sure Obama really understands negotiating.

So, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Obama’s rallies for the “balanced approach” — a.k.a. tax hikes, defense cuts, and the slightest of deck-chair rearrangement on entitlements — are a phenomenal success. Let’s assume he gets a decent number of tuned-in Americans — beyond his usual diehard supporters — to call in to Congress. Let’s assume that those folks don’t live in districts with House Democrats who are already aligned with the president’s view on this.

(Notice that Obama is attempting to sway House Republicans by heading to a district represented by a Democrat, Rep. Allyson Schwartz.)

Those Obama fans will be calling the offices of House Republicans who are:

1)      Safely reelected in a year when President Obama won nearly 65 million votes nationwide, thus looking pretty darn safe for a low-turnout midterm election in 2014, and thus unlikely to lose their seats anytime in the next few cycles;

2)      Defeated in this year’s elections, and thus free to vote however they like, not caring what those constituents are demanding; or

3)      Retiring, and thus free to vote however they like, not caring what those constituents are demanding.

Obama doesn’t seem to realize that the time he had leverage with the House Republicans was before these elections, when they might have felt some pressure to “get something done” and demonstrate that they can tackle tough problems like debt and entitlements. President Obama now has much, much less leverage than he did before the elections, and all of the rallies in the world aren’t going to change that.

What is Obama going to do, denounce Republicans for not acquiescing to his agenda? He’s been doing that for four years. What, is he going to put the GOP brand in the toilet? It’s already there!

If you’re a House Republican, what incentive do you have to give ground on tax increases that you think will be damaging to the country? The only significant one is the conclusion that going over the fiscal cliff will inflict worse damage on the economy. And that’s a pretty big one, but it may or may not be worth violating the Grover Norquist pledge, infuriating the base, and giving a diehard, no-holds-barred opponent in the White House exactly what he wants.

Here’s Keith Hennessey, arguing that economic reality will force Obama to accept a deal much less to his liking than he’s letting on:

If there is no bill, the U.S. economy will probably dip into recession for much/most/all of 2013, and it’s impossible to predict whether such a recession would be short-lived.

A 2013 recession would be terrible for the country and terrible for the Obama Presidency. It would limit the President’s options across his entire policy agenda, economic and non-economic.  And it could define and dominate his entire second term.

President Obama believes #1 and #2, and therefore avoiding the risk of triggering a recession with his veto is an even higher policy priority than his fiscal policy goal.

The President wants to get things done. He cares more about his own chances for policy success (across the entire breadth of his agenda, whenever he figures out what it is) than he cares about relative political blame.  A scenario in which Republicans get most of the blame for a veto-triggered recession is still a loser for him if it means he can’t accomplish his second term goals.

Here’s Erskine Bowles, arguing we have a two-in-three chance of going over the cliff:

Erskine Bowles, co-chairman of the bipartisan Simpson-Bowles commission assembled by the White House to deal with the national debt, said he believes that there’s only a one-in-three probability that Congress will reach an agreement on the so-called fiscal cliff before the Dec. 31 deadline.

“We have a real crisis, and I think it would be insane to reach the fiscal cliff, but I think that there’s only a one-third probability of Congress getting something done before Dec. 31,” Bowles said.  “You all know what it means if we don’t, if we go over the cliff — I think you’ll see economic growth slowed by as much as 3 to 5 percent. That’s obviously enough to put us back into a recession.”

Bowles was a bit more upbeat about the chances for a deal after the deadline passes.

“I’m certain we’ll get it done in the lame duck” session of Congress, he said. “I think it’s about one third that we’ll go over the cliff and people will come to their senses pretty quickly. But I think the real problem is if we go over the cliff and we don’t do anything immediately, and that’s also a one-third probability.”

Ed Morrissey looks at a new Washington Post poll on Americans’ views of dealing with the fiscal cliff and is left groaning at the scope and scale of the denial:

The only broad consensus for action is the populist tax-hike option which will solve less than 10% of the problem, and two-thirds won’t even take a basic step like mildly indexing retirement eligibility to life expectancy in order to reduce costs in the biggest fiscal train wreck of the federal budget.

If we could trade marginal tax-rate increases for real cuts in spending and actual entitlement reform that would end the long-term problems in Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, I’d take that trade, if somewhat reluctantly.  This poll shows that Americans still have not come to grips with the scope and size of the problem . . . or even basic math.

I heard this anecdote from Jonah, and Marc Thiessen summarizes it: “After he was defeated for re-election in 1989, New York Mayor Ed Koch was asked if he would ever run for office again.  ’No,’ Koch replied.  ’The people have spoken . . . and they must be punished.’”

Look, America, this year, you knew which candidate was the candidate of bigger government and higher taxes and which candidate was the candidate of smaller government and lower taxes. You voted for the tax-hike guy. Now all of our taxes will go up in January, because Republicans refuse to play along with the charade that our fiscal house can be put in order just by taxing “the rich.”

Think of the coming double-dip recession as a grand, national teachable moment.

Tags: Barack Obama , Fiscal Armageddon , House Republicans

Ohio Redistricting Ensures Messy Democrat Primaries Next Year



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Over in Ohio, the redistricting plan is moving forward. The state is set to lose two congressional seats, and their state delegation will probably include one and perhaps two fewer Democrats in January 2013. The state now includes 13 Republicans and five Democrats.

Steve Chabot and Jim Renacci, elected in 2010, will enjoy more heavily-Republican districts, as will Steve Latourette. A heavily-Democratic seat is being created in the center of Columbus, but Steve Stivers and Pat Tiberi will enjoy more heavily-Republican and more suburban districts.

As for the Democrats, they face two significant challenges from the new lines. The first big headache for Democrats:

Republican and Democratic sources say that in Northeast Ohio, the plan will shift Copley Township Democrat Betty Sutton into a largely Republican district that’s being constructed to favor the re-election of freshman GOP Rep. Jim Renacci of Wadsworth.

As the Cleveland Plain-Dealer notes:

The western Cuyahoga County power base of Cleveland Democratic Rep. Dennis Kucinich will become part of a district that snakes along Lake Erie from Toledo and is designed to favor the re-election of longtime Toledo Democratic Rep. Marcy Kaptur.

Primaries after redistricting are like Thunderdome: Two incumbents enter, one incumbent leaves.

Tags: Dennis Kucinich , House Republicans , Marcy Kaptur , Ohio

Steny Hoyer on House GOP: ‘They Want to Shoot Every Bullet They Have at the President.’



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President Obama, in Tucson, earlier this year: “The loss of these wonderful people should make every one of us strive to be better, to be better in our private lives, to be better friends and neighbors and co-workers and parents. And if, as has been discussed in recent days, their death helps usher in more civility in our public discourse, let us remember it is not because a simple lack of civility caused this tragedy — it did not — but rather because only a more civil and honest public discourse can help us face up to the challenges of our nation in a way that would make them proud.”

Steny Hoyer, this morning: “I think we’re playing Russian roulette with the nation’s credit-worthiness. Unfortunately, all the chambers seem to be loaded on the House side. They want to shoot every bullet they have at the president.”

Why, it’s almost as if nobody on the Left really cared about violent rhetoric, and the entire brouhaha after the Tucson shootings was to villify Republicans or something.

UPDATE: I’m reminded that Hoyer may just be following his party’s leader on this note: “Obama says the debt ceiling should not “be used as a gun against the heads” of Americans to retain breaks for corporate jet owners or oil and gas companies.”

Tags: Barack Obama , House Republicans , Steny Hoyer

Where I Suspect the GOP Will Fall Short . . .



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My House picks are up; my thanks to the web guys for what I am certain was a formatting ordeal. I note the dark blue that is supposed to signify Democrat takeovers of GOP-held seats looks a lot like black on some of them.

In short, here are the six Democrats who I predict will win currently GOP-held House seats: Hulbard in Arizona’s 3rd district, Carney in Delaware, Garcia in Florida’s 25th district, Seals in Illinois’s 10th district, Richmond in Louisiana’s 2nd district, and Miles in Michigan’s 3rd district.

Why these seats? While I wouldn’t be surprised to see the GOP win in any of them, it is candidate’s baggage in Arizona, sheer heavily-Democrat district demographics in Delaware, Illinois, and Louisiana, close polls and bad vibes in Florida, and random unexpected setback (with a bit of murmurs about a divided local party) for the GOP in Michigan.

Keep in mind, I have been wrong in the past, and could be wrong again.

But every once in a while, I’m on-the-nose . . .

UPDATE: The entire political world has spoken as one to tell me that by predicting a surprise GOP loss in Michigan’s 3rd district, I must be indeed be gargling with Maker’s Mark again.

Tags: House Republicans

A Coming Attraction



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Posting is light as I work on a giant, giant, giant look at the House races. If you’re wondering, “will you include an update on [X competitive race]?,” the answer is yes.

Tags: House Republicans

In the Past Three Weeks, Polls Have Shown 39 GOP House Challengers Ahead



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A poll lead in October does not guarantee a win by a GOP challenger. But it’s certainly a good sign.

Just looking at the polls released since September 30, there are currently 36 Democrat-held seats where the GOP challenger is polling ahead of the Democrat, in most cases an incumbent. This does not count the races where the GOP challenger trails by only a few or within the margin of error, or obviously races where no polls have been conducted.

Going back another week, we could throw in Rick Berg in North Dakota, who has led consistently but no polls since late September, Daniel Webster’s bid against Alan Grayson in Florida’s 8th district, and Tom Reed’s healthy lead in New York’s 29th district, Eric Massa’s old spot.

Republicans need 39 to take control of the chamber.

AL-2: Public Opinion Strategies puts Martha Roby ahead by 2.

AR-1: The Hill puts Rick Crawford ahead by 12.

AZ-1: The Hill puts Paul Gosar ahead by 7.

CA-11: Survey USA puts David Harmer ahead by 6.

CO-4: The Hill puts Cory Gardner ahead by 3.

CT-5: CT Capitol Report puts Sam Caligiuri ahead by 6.

FL-2: A National Research poll puts Steve Southerland ahead by 16.

IL-11: The Hill puts Adam Kinzinger ahead by 18; a poll released by Democrat Debbie Halvorson puts him up by only 5.

IL-14: A Tarrance Group poll puts Randy Hultgren ahead by 6.

KY-6: The Tarrance Group puts Andy Barr ahead by 1.

MD-1: The Hill puts Andy Harris ahead by 3.

MI-1: The Hill puts Dan Benishek ahead by 3.

MI-7:  The Hill puts Tim Walburg in a tie.

MI-15: Rossman Group puts Rob Steele ahead by 4.

NH-1: University of New Hampshire puts Frank Guinta ahead by 10.

NH-2: The Hill puts Charlie Bass* ahead by 3.

NM-2: The Hill puts Steve Pearce ahead by 4.

NV-3: The Hill puts Joe Heck ahead by 3.

NY-19: Siena puts Nan Hayworth up by 3; Iona has her tied with incumbent Democrat John Hall.

NY-23: Public Opinion Strategies puts Matt Doheny ahead by 14.

NY-25: A McLaughlin & Associates poll puts Ann Marie Buerkle ahead by 1.

OH-1: A Survey USA poll puts Steve Chabot ahead by 12.

OH-15: The Hill puts Steve Stivers ahead by 9.

OH-16: The Hill puts Jim Renacci ahead by 3.

PA-3: Mercyhurst College puts Mike Kelly ahead by 7; The Hill puts him ahead by 13.

PA -7: Franklin & Marshall puts Meehan ahead by 3; The Hill puts him ahead by 1; Monmouth puts him ahead by 4.

PA-8: Monmouth University puts Mike Fitzpatrick ahead by 5.

PA-10: The Times Leader puts Tom Marino ahead by 6.

PA-11: The Times Leader puts Lou Barletta ahead by 2; Franklin & Marshall puts Barletta ahead by 7.

SD-AL: Rasmussen puts Kristi Noem ahead by 3.

TN-8: The Hill puts Stephen Fincher ahead by 10.

TX-17: An OnMessage, Inc. poll for Bill Flores shows him ahead by 19; a poll for Democrat Chet Edwards shows Flores ahead by 4.

TX-27: An OnMessage Inc. poll for Blake Farenthold puts him up by 8.

VA-2: The Hill puts Scott Rigell ahead by 6.

VA-5:  Survey USA puts Robert Hurt up by 11; The Hill puts him ahead by 1.

WA-3: Survey USA puts Jaime Herrera ahead by 3; The Hill puts her ahead by 2.

WI-7: The Hill puts Sean Duffy up by 9.

The only GOP incumbents whom I have seen trailing are Joseph Cao of Louisiana and Hawaii’s Charles Djou, trailing by 1 in the Daily Kos/PPP poll.

UPDATE: I originally included Hawaii’s 1st district, where The Hill puts Djou ahead by 4, but he’s an incumbent Republican, not a challenger.

* For a moment, I had Charlie Batch listed; I guess that would make Charlie Bass the backup quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Tags: 2001 , House Republicans

The Rick Pitino Approach to the Pledge



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Two bits from this Morning’s Jolt . . .

. . . of all the reactions to the new GOP Pledge, this one, posted to the Corner by Kathryn, set me off the most.

While I support their attempt at redefining government, the politicians once again proved they cannot do anything with simplicity and eloquence.

I read again the Declaration of Independence after reading The Pledge and was struck by The DoC’s brevity and clarity — two pages versus twenty some odd for The Pledge.  The one launched the greatest nation the world has ever seen and the other……only time will tell.

Really? It’s not as brief and clear as the Declaration of Independence? It’s not as good as one of the most important and powerful political documents in human history? Setting the bar a little high, are we?

I’m reminded of an infamous statement from basketball coach Rick Pitino, when he decided to bluntly tell reporters and fans that the Boston Celtics team he was coaching wasn’t as talented as past legends and that expectations had to be ratcheted down: “Larry Bird is not walking through that door, fans. Kevin McHale is not walking through that door, and Robert Parish is not walking through that door.”

Well, Americans, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams are not walking through that door. We’ve got a pretty good crop of GOP House candidates running this cycle, and this was the basic platform that they could run on in all 50 states and a couple hundred House districts.

The rest of the Pitino’s rant might apply to our current circumstance as well: “I wish we had $90 million under the salary cap. I wish we could buy the world. We can’t. The only thing we can do is work hard. And all this negativity that’s in this room sucks . . . I’ve been around when Jim Rice was booed. I’ve been around when Yastrzemski was booed, and it stinks. It makes the greatest city in the world lousy. The only thing that will turn this around is being upbeat and positive like we are in that locker room . . . And if you think I’m going to succumb to negativity, you’re wrong. You’ve got the wrong guy leading this team.”

Let’s go get ‘em, guys! . . . Of course, the Celtics went 36-46 that year.

And the Addenda . . .

The other night on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show, we were mocking the new CNN show — it’s technically called “Parker/Spitzer”, not “Client Number Nine at Eight” and Hugh observed that instead of Kathleen Parker and the whore-mongering former governor you could make a more interesting show by picking any two speakers on the National Review Post-Election Cruise. He picked, at random, Phyllis Schlafly and Andrew Breitbart, which seemed like a surefire formula for fireworks.

Try it at home, it’s fun: James Lileks and John Derbyshire: Sunshine and Gloom!

Andrew McCarthy and Rob Long: Law and Order and Cheers!

The Goldbergs, Jonah and Bernie!

Bernard Lewis and Greg Gutfeld! Let’s pair a British intelligence officer in World War II and the world’s preeminent expert in Islam with a former editor of Maxim!

Tags: 2010 , House Republicans

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