The Republican Party faces a major decision in the coming weeks. Should they shutdown the government in an attempt to achieve budget reductions from the Obama administration, or should they attempt to strike a deal with renegade Democrats? Even if a bipartisan budget is vetoed by the President, it would outline the GOP’s deficit reduction vision for the 2012 campaign. Continue reading
The major issue on Capitol Hill this week is Friday’s expiration of the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. If the debt is not cut or the ceiling raised, the government would have to be shut down on March 4th. The situation is similar to the 1995 confrontation between President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich when the government was shut down twice. Continue reading
PHOTO: Gov. John Hoeven (R-ND) is heading towards a landslide victory in his campaign for the U.S. Senate. The platform he advocates is the complete opposite of the incumbent Democrat.
In the contest to replace retiring liberal Sen. Byron Dorgan (D), the GOP has a tremendous lead, and this is now regarded as a safe Republican seat. In a poll out this morning, Gov. John Hoeven (R) is leading state Sen. Tracy Potter (D) by a staggering 73% to 23% margin.
Dorgan became the state’s only Congressman in 1980, and has been in the Senate since 1992 where he is Chairman of the Democratic Policy Committee. The retiring Senator is a strong opponent of multi-national corporations and free trade. He is author of the protectionist bible, Take This Job and Ship It: How Corporate Greed and Brain-Dead Politics Are Selling Out America, and was often a fixture on the former CNN program Lou Dobbs Tonight. Continue reading
If State Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) wins the special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s vacancy on January 19th, several Democrats might be relieved. The Senate balance would become 59 to 41, and a few moderates would no longer be on the hot seat. They would not be pressured to provide the crucial 60th vote necessary to pass the health care reform bill and other legislation.
Among lawmakers who might breath a sign of relief if the GOP’s Brown wins are Senators Blanche Lincoln (AR), Ben Nelson (NE), Joe Lieberman (CT), Kent Conrad (ND), Mary Landrieu (LA) and Evan Bayh (IN).
These lawmakers worked as a team to stop the House passed version of the public option.
Lieberman spoke for many of them, “If the public option plan is in there, as a matter of conscience, I will not allow this bill to come to a final vote because I believe debt can break America and send us into a recession that’s worse than the one we’re fighting our way out of today.” The Senators won on the public option, Nelson and Landrieu cut lucrative side deals with Majority Leader Reid, but since then the lawmakers have had to cope with outraged voters back home.
Nelson is running 30% behind Gov. Dave Heineman (R-NE) in a hypothetical 2012 matchup, and has said it was a mistake to take up health care this year. Lincoln is 10 points behind her GOP challengers, and Lieberman has seen a 25% drop in his approval rating. It is no wonder all of these Senators are far from happy with the health care bill which passed the Senate.
The pressure on them to once again vote in favor of health care reform is enormous. Every one of these Senators has already made statements questioning the fiscal soundness of the bill. The lawmakers are also well aware of the gimmicks used to get the bill through the Senate. The increased taxes go into effect immediately but people will have to wait until 2014 for benefits. They also realize the bill is not deficit neutral, nor will it save money in the long run.
Finally, if Brown does win on Tuesday he should thank Senator John Kerry (D-MA). Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) was in office when Kerry began his 2004 presidential campaign. Democrats thought Kerry could win the presidential election, and they did not want Romney to have the power to appoint a Republican to fill a Senate vacancy until 2006. They changed the law to require a special election rather than a gubernatorial appointment in the event of a vacancy. If the law had not been changed Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) could have immediately appointed a Democrat to fill Ted Kennedy’s vacancy.
Moderate Democrats understand public opinion polls and that is a major reason why the Obama agenda is sinking on Capitol Hill. Democratic Senators Kent Conrad (ND), Max Baucus (MT) and Ben Nelson (NE) are now expected to oppose the public option on health care reform. The Senate’s number two Democrat, Dick Durbin (IL), says he can accept a bill without a public option. The President’s lobbying has been focused on the public option and this will be a major setback for the Administration.
These Democrats have been citing a study by the Lewin Group indicating that a public option could entice 119 million people to drop their private coverage, and it would be a death blow to the insurance industry. The largest existing public health programs — Medicare and Medicaid — are the main reason that the government’s long-term finances are in shambles. Sen. Conrad doesn’t believe a public option will reduce costs. He has noted “We don’t need government-run grocery stores or government-run gas stations to ensure that Americans can buy food and fuel at reasonable prices.” Conrad said he would not vote for any health care reform that funded abortions, care for illegal immigrants or a plan that mandates end-of-life counseling.
A public option bill can not pass the Senate but 64 House Democrats are now on record saying they “simply cannot vote” for a bill that “at minimum” does not have a public option plan. They will not vote for a “co-ops” compromise. Rep. Weiner says the real opposition number is 100. There are 257 House Democrats and if you take away 64 the remaining 193 are well below the 218 needed for passage.
Liberal activist groups are working full blast on a grass roots campaign to convince progressive lawmakers to take a pledge in solid support of the public option. They do not want the President to compromise. Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) just explained why the Pelosi plan scares many people: “I think if we had a good public option it would lead to single payer system.” In addition, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says: “We’re going to have some type of public option, call it ‘co-op,’ call it what you want.” From the start, the Administration has always held that “the goal is non-negotiable; the path is,” as Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel put it.