Entries Tagged as 'Senate'

When the Senate Functioned

October 19th, 2011 at 11:59 pm 46 Comments

Once upon a time, seek legend has it, health the United States Senate could work.  While lost in the mists of time, sovaldi the exact way the Senate worked apparently had to do with something called, “regular order.”

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Boehner’s New Plan – Even Deader

July 29th, 2011 at 3:46 pm 75 Comments

A few thoughts on the implications of Boehner adding a “Balanced Budget Amendment” to his debt-ceiling bill (which would now require that Congress pass a BBA before a second debt-ceiling increase could take place early in 2012):

Adding the BBA makes the bill very likely to pass the House. This addition appeases Tea Partiers, who had denied Boehner the majority he needs to pass it.

The Boehner bill as it stood on Thursday night might not have been able to pass the Senate; the Boehner bill of today definitely can’t. The very thing that makes the bill likely to pass the House – its Tea Party pedigree – will kill it in the Senate.

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Boehner is in Danger of Losing Caucus Control

July 27th, 2011 at 9:54 am 16 Comments

Reports from the Hill indicate that House Speaker John Boehner and his staff are “re-writing” the Speaker’s plan to pass an extension of the looming debt ceiling.  That announcement, coupled with the serious objections of many in the House GOP caucus when the plan was first announced, reveals that the Speaker is in danger of losing control of his own caucus.

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Jim DeMint’s Nation-Wrecking Fantasy

David Frum July 21st, 2011 at 2:35 pm 38 Comments

NRO has a report on the Republican members of Congress willing to force default in order to get a Senate vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment.

In the Senate, DeMint is also counting noses, hoping to stir an eleventh-hour movement. Conservative voters, he says, will lose faith in the party if it backs the “Gang” plan and does not fight for a balanced-budget amendment. “Frankly, I believe if we had 41 Republicans who were willing to go past August 2, these things would happen in a hurry,” he says. “I don’t know that we do, but that is the kind of approach we need, and the approach we should have had all along.”

DeMint, who is working closely with Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) and Sen. Mike Lee (R., Utah), sees hope for a last-minute standoff, even as many of his GOP colleagues flock to the “Gang,” which is led by Sen. Tom Coburn (R., Okla.), a respected fiscal hawk. So far, he can count two established Senate dealmakers, Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) and Orrin Hatch (R., Utah), as allies.

Graham, for instance, attended a closed-door confab with DeMint and conservative activists on Tuesday, urging the various groups to push Republicans to hold. He told the audience that if Republicans did not battle for a balanced-budget amendment in the summer heat, the chances for its passage would quickly wilt. Waiting until August 3, he argued, would give the GOP sufficient leverage.

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The Dirty Secret Of Energy Subsidies

June 19th, 2011 at 12:06 pm 11 Comments

See, it’s still possible for Republicans and Democrats to work together on energy legislation.

On Thursday, the ethanol tax credit repeal won the support of 73 senators, including California lefty Barbara Boxer and Oklahoma righty James Inhofe, who typically spend most of their time annoying each other at Environment and Public Works Committee hearings.  Chances are good that the repeal will blow through the House and land on President Obama’s desk before long.

What should be next? If energy subsidies are the ick flavor of the month, then put them all on the table.  So far, however, the subsidies debate has amounted to the two parties talking past each other.

When it comes to tax dodges, Republicans tend to yell loudest about freebies for wind and solar plants, while Democrats drum out press releases about loophole candy handed out to profit-engorged oil companies.  Also, Republicans have been stymied by Grover Norquist’s haranguing them that closing up tax loopholes would be the same as raising taxes.

After 70 percent of the Senate’s Republicans gave Norquist a sharp elbow in the ribs with their vote to repeal the ethanol credit, there should be less GOP inhibition about taking a hard look at “tax expenditures.”

The dirty secret of energy is that all forms of energy enjoy tax preferences and other subsidies of one form or another. Take your pick — efficiency, renewables, oil, coal, natural gas, nuclear -– not one of them stands purely on its own in the marketplace, free of subsidy taint.

The sooner both parties acknowledge that reality, the sooner they can have a rational debate about the role that subsidies should play, if any, towards meeting broader goals of ensuring America has ample supplies of energy that don’t cost an arm and a leg, don’t enrich unfriendly potentates and don’t leave future generations with an environmental mess to clean up.

GOP Senate Pick-Up No Sure Thing

June 6th, 2011 at 11:20 am 12 Comments

With Democrats defending at least eight seats Republicans could conceivably win, pills the GOP has the best opportunity of the decade to change the composition of the United States Senate.  Although it would take a much better roster GOP of candidates than now exists, clinic a 60-seat pickup doesn’t seem out of the question in theory.

The only problem: Right now Senate polls show that the GOP candidates are much weaker than one might expect.

In Wisconsin, where voters just kicked out the Sen. Russ Feingold, the one poll to date (albeit done by a Democratic polling operation) shows him trouncing potential Republican nominee former Gov. Tommy Thompson. In Florida, where Republicans control all statewide offices and have overwhelming majorities in the state legislature, Sen. Bill Nelson leads all Republican nominees convincingly. (This result, it’s worth noting is probably more a matter of name recognition than actual support.) Leftier-than-thou Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown has an edge over the three Republicans known to be seriously considering the race.  Polling on New Jersey’s Senate race, never a strong Republican pickup opportunity by most estimates, shows Senator Robert Menendez cruising to victory over potential Republican candidate John Crowley.

Several races where recent election results show that Republicans have a theoretical chance of being competitive — Michigan’s, for example — still don’t have serious announced GOP candidates at all. Even in Nevada’s sure-to-be-close Senate race (possibly the best chance of a Democratic pickup), where appointed Republican Sen. Dean Heller has led Democratic Rep. and likely nominee Shelley Berkley in all polls taken to date, his once commanding lead has shrunk to a statistical dead heat.

Not all the news is bad for Republicans. The released polls on the Montana race  show Rep. Denny Rehbergm (R) beating Sen. Jon Tester (D). Even Democratic pollsters also show Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill losing her reelection bid even against some lesser-known Republicans. In Virginia, where voters rejected George Allen a little less than five years ago, furthermore, he’s tied with former Gov. Tim Kaine. In Massachusetts, where Democrats’ overwhelming voter registration advantage suggests that Sen. Scott Brown should be trouble, the donkey party still hasn’t found a serious candidate to take him on.

The chances still look good for a Republican Senate takeover and almost 18 months from an election, polls aren’t all that predictive. But even a glance at the current polls show that even a very good map means that Republicans cannot and should not take a Senate takeover for granted. Winning the Senate for Republicans is going to require an effort to recruit serious candidates who can reach voters with a serious vision of reasoned conservative governance.

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GOP Jobs Bill Needs a Bigger Shot in the Arm

David Frum May 5th, 2011 at 8:16 am 11 Comments

Does anybody understand why the Senate Republican job proposal launched yesterday does not include a 100% tax credit for all businesses big and small, rather than one for small businesses only? Isn’t that the usual conservative proposal to jump-start a sluggish economy? It delivers the most bang-for-buck, is temporary so can be ended when crisis ends, and it yields quick results, unlike eg new trade agreements. So why not? The other measures in the package all seem worthy but not exactly employment-generating in any near term.


Senate Should be GOP’s 2012 Priority

April 17th, 2011 at 12:52 pm 25 Comments

Here’s some early advice to the Republican Party: focus on the Senate in 2012.  The presidency probably isn’t winnable but a big pickup in the Senate could advance a good, viagra conservative agenda even with a Democrat in the White House.

Presidency first. For all the conservative happy-talk that President Obama will lose, that’s darn unlikely so long as there’s no true double-dip recession (and slow growth won’t count): right now the President beats ever plausible Republican candidate in a head-to-head matchup and turns in the best numbers against the Republicans (Palin and Gingrich) with the highest name identification.

Obama will be able to outraise and out-debate any Republican candidate. The individuals who could best move the party in a positive direction—Chris Christie and Marco Rubio—have both made it clear that they’ll sit out 2012.  I’ll almost certainly vote for any Republican nominee who isn’t Sarah Palin and would put good money on the proposition that the nominee will be Mitt Romney.  But I don’t think the presidency is winnable for the GOP.

On the other hand, the Senate picture looks very good for Republicans: Democrats have 23 seats to defend, Republicans only ten. While a few GOP incumbents (Utah’s Orrin Hatch, for example) might face credible challenges for their party nominations, it seems unlikely that any of the seven seats defended by Republican incumbents will switch parties. (Despite the huge overall advantage Democrats have in the state, this includes Massachusetts’ Scott Brown.) Only one of the seats held by a retiring Republican Senator, furthermore, is in a place (Nevada) where Democrats would have a credible chance of scoring a pickup. By comparison, the right Republican candidate could be competitive in most places where Democrats hold seats.

All this said, resources are going to be key: Michigan’s Senate seat is surely winnable for Republicans (the state just elected a GOP governor) but there’s no strong announced candidate yet. With a huge Obama reelection effort in Florida (yeah, he’ll win the state), furthermore, whoever wins the Republican nomination–several good looking candidates have stepped forward–is going to need to buy lots of TV ads in the states’ 10 major 100,000+ household television markets.  Even Texas’ open seat race is going to require a lot of money. And so on down the list.

With good candidates and the right resources, Republicans will probably pick up eight or nine Senate seats even with an Obama victory and a 13-seat pickup for a filibuster-proof majority isn’t altogether outside the realm of possibility. (Although, by my count, that would require the one currently unannounced Democratic incumbent, Wisconsin’s Herb Kohl, to decide not to run and the defeat of an incumbent now universally considered “safe.”) But hardly any of the races against Democratic incumbents will be GOP walkaways particularly with the Democratic core turning out to vote for a base-friendly administration.

Republican donors and thinkers, in short, may do well to focus on the Senate. That’s where the party has, by far, the best chances for real political success.

Senate Passes Two Week Spending Bill

March 2nd, 2011 at 11:50 am Comments Off

Washington Post reports:

The Senate on Wednesday approved a stopgap measure that would keep the federal government funded through March 18, sending the bill on to President Obama for his signature.

The bill, which would cut $4 billion in spending by targeting programs that Obama has already marked for elimination, passed on a 91-to-9 vote, one day after it was approved by the House.

Obama is expected to sign the bill. If he did not sign by Friday, the federal government would be forced to shut down.

Among the nine “no” votes Wednesday were five Republicans — Sens. Orrin Hatch (Utah), Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Jim Risch (Idaho) and Mike Crapo (Idaho) — three Democrats — Sens. Tom Harkin (Iowa), Carl Levin (Mich.) and Patty Murray (Wash.) — and one independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.).

Some voting against the measure criticized it for not making deep enough cuts. Lee, a freshman and founding member of the Senate Tea Party Caucus, said in a statement ahead of Wednesday’s vote that he opposed the two-week plan, which was put forth by House Republicans late last week, calling it “a disappointing failure on the part of both parties to seriously address the economic meltdown we face from our massive deficit and growing national debt.”

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Deal or No Deal?

David Frum September 30th, 2009 at 6:47 am 36 Comments

… well, maybe not. The thing has a way of reviving when least expected. Still, yesterday’s votes in the Senate Finance committee represent large and serious defeats.

What follows now? For Republicans, one big decision: deal or no deal?

Until now, the threat of a government-run healthcare plan has deterred Republicans from negotiations with the administration. They were (reasonably) afraid of being mousetrapped into a philosophically unacceptable deal. But if the single most threatening element of such a deal has been voted down by Democrats, the field looks different. Instead of worrying about worst-case scenarios, Republicans now can begin to think: are there things we want? Might we successfully wedge centrist Democrats away from the Chuck Schumers? Until now, Republicans have clung to the untenable healthcare status quo in great measure because they feared the likeliest alternative would be worse. But what if the alternative might be an improvement over the status quo? Suddenly the deal option begins to look a lot more interesting.