Commentary Magazine


Topic: Democrats

What Wisconsin Means for November

The last time a Republican presidential candidate won Wisconsin was in 1984, the year President Reagan swept every state except Minnesota. But last night showed that Wisconsin is once again in play, despite Obama’s decisive 14-point victory in 2008. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns are now eyeing Wisconsin as a swing state, and Romney now plans to campaign there aggressively:

Obama’s team, which has been on the ground organizing but hasn’t spent money on advertising for months, signaled this week that it believed the state had grown more competitive. In May, campaign manager Jim Messina had said Wisconsin was trending toward the president. By Monday, he was listing Wisconsin as “undecided.”

Romney now plans to compete in the state aggressively, looking to capitalize on the Republican momentum that carried Walker to victory. His team considers Wisconsin a top target, along with Florida, Ohio and Virginia, and more attractive than even Romney’s native Michigan, where the campaign had hoped to establish an Upper Midwest beachhead.

“The close vote on Tuesday confirms that Wisconsin will be a swing state,” said Republican strategist Terry Nelson, an adviser to George W. Bush.

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The last time a Republican presidential candidate won Wisconsin was in 1984, the year President Reagan swept every state except Minnesota. But last night showed that Wisconsin is once again in play, despite Obama’s decisive 14-point victory in 2008. Both the Romney and Obama campaigns are now eyeing Wisconsin as a swing state, and Romney now plans to campaign there aggressively:

Obama’s team, which has been on the ground organizing but hasn’t spent money on advertising for months, signaled this week that it believed the state had grown more competitive. In May, campaign manager Jim Messina had said Wisconsin was trending toward the president. By Monday, he was listing Wisconsin as “undecided.”

Romney now plans to compete in the state aggressively, looking to capitalize on the Republican momentum that carried Walker to victory. His team considers Wisconsin a top target, along with Florida, Ohio and Virginia, and more attractive than even Romney’s native Michigan, where the campaign had hoped to establish an Upper Midwest beachhead.

“The close vote on Tuesday confirms that Wisconsin will be a swing state,” said Republican strategist Terry Nelson, an adviser to George W. Bush.

Last night’s exit polls still showed Obama with a double-digit lead. But they also showed Walker and his opponent Tom Barrett in a dead-heat, when Walker actually won the race by seven points — raising doubts about the accuracy of the exit polling.

Republicans may also have the ground game on their side. The Democratic Party relies heavily on unions to organize on the ground, but if Big Labor couldn’t get out the vote for Barrett against Walker — public enemy #1 for unions — they’ll likely also have trouble rallying support for Obama, whose relationship with the unions has been shaky at times.

Not only were Wisconsin Republicans able to out-organize the unions, they’re also passing this on-the-ground support directly to the Romney campaign, Politico reports:

The flip side: Republicans end the showdown more motivated than ever. Conservatives have arguably their best ground operation in place of any of the 50 states — and it’s all going to be transferred to Romney.

A Republican National Committee official confirmed the two dozen Walker campaign offices would immediately be converted into Romney working space as soon as later this week.

Romney’s Wisconsin co-chair, former State Sen. Ted Kanavas, said the campaign has already taken lessons from Walker’s well-oiled early vote effort and targeting tactics.

“We’re going to try to leverage everything that was learned and apply it to November,” he said.

Add that to the massive energy boost the Walker victory gave Republicans, as well as the signal that independent voters are receptive to Walker’s reform message, and these are promising signs for Romney next November.

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Wisconsin Union Membership Tanks

It’s simple logic. When public employees have the choice of whether or not to pay union dues — as opposed to having them automatically pulled from their paychecks — the number of dues-paying union members shrinks. But these dramatic numbers out of Wisconsin are still remarkable:

The state’s second-largest union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, had membership fall to 28,745 in February from 62,818 in March 2011, the Journal said Thursday. The organization’s Afscme Council 24, composed of state workers, fell more than two thirds to 7,100 from 22,300 last year.

A key reason that membership dropped was because the labor law, championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, forbids automatic collection of union dues. Instead, workers must voluntarily say that they want to continue to continuing paying dues to remain members of the union.

Union workers have also dropped out because of high pension and healthcare costs, and others believe that the unions are no longer influential.

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It’s simple logic. When public employees have the choice of whether or not to pay union dues — as opposed to having them automatically pulled from their paychecks — the number of dues-paying union members shrinks. But these dramatic numbers out of Wisconsin are still remarkable:

The state’s second-largest union, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, had membership fall to 28,745 in February from 62,818 in March 2011, the Journal said Thursday. The organization’s Afscme Council 24, composed of state workers, fell more than two thirds to 7,100 from 22,300 last year.

A key reason that membership dropped was because the labor law, championed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, forbids automatic collection of union dues. Instead, workers must voluntarily say that they want to continue to continuing paying dues to remain members of the union.

Union workers have also dropped out because of high pension and healthcare costs, and others believe that the unions are no longer influential.

If the latest polls showing Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker with a solid lead are to be believed, then union influence will take another major hit after Tuesday’s recall election. NRO’s Jim Geraghty explains what Walker’s reforms would mean on a national scale:

Apply this across the country . . . and you’re talking about the evisceration of one of the Democratic Party’s most important political allies – a game-changer in politics in so many states. Compulsory union-dues collection was the glue that kept the whole operation together. Ed Schultz may be exaggerating when he says a Republican win means America will never elect a Democratic president again . . . but his vision might not be that wildly exaggerated.

National Democrats have been trying to keep their distance from Wisconsin, apparently because they don’t want to throw money into a losing cause and are concerned about how a loss could reflect on President Obama and the national political zeitgeist. The irony is that a loss in Wisconsin could speed the destruction of one of the party’s key financial and political support groups.

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Dems’ Plan B: Resurrect War on Women

So the Bain Capital attack strategy wasn’t the rousing success Democrats expected, but at least they still have the “war on women” to fall back on. Senate Democrats are moving along the Paycheck Protection Act, a gender equal pay protection bill, in a transparent attempt to resurrect the “war on women” narrative. TPM reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is set to file cloture Thursday on the Paycheck Protection Act, which would strengthen protections for women who sue for pay discrimination. The move puts Republicans in an uncomfortable position as they work to repair their weak brand image with women voters ahead of the November election.

Five female Democratic senators talked up the bill Wednesday afternoon during a Capitol briefing — and made clear they intend to hammer Republicans as anti-women if they stand in its way.

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So the Bain Capital attack strategy wasn’t the rousing success Democrats expected, but at least they still have the “war on women” to fall back on. Senate Democrats are moving along the Paycheck Protection Act, a gender equal pay protection bill, in a transparent attempt to resurrect the “war on women” narrative. TPM reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is set to file cloture Thursday on the Paycheck Protection Act, which would strengthen protections for women who sue for pay discrimination. The move puts Republicans in an uncomfortable position as they work to repair their weak brand image with women voters ahead of the November election.

Five female Democratic senators talked up the bill Wednesday afternoon during a Capitol briefing — and made clear they intend to hammer Republicans as anti-women if they stand in its way.

In case some people were left wondering whether this was just a shameless political ploy to try to turn women against the GOP, Sen. Barbara Boxer clarified it with all her usual subtlety:

“As I look at the record of Republicans on women, it is not good,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA). “Personally I say it’s a war on women, and the more they protest it the more I say it. Because I really, truly believe it. They filibustered the Paycheck Fairness Act before. They left millions of women out of the Violence Against Women Act. They launched repeated attacks on women’s health including denying affordable access to birth control. They want to criminalize a woman’s right to choose. And they tried to repeal health reform, which prohibits discrimination because of gender — not to mention, makes investments in prevention.”

The legislation obviously puts Republicans in a tricky position. While the debate about the birth control mandate earlier this spring didn’t seem to cause any lasting damage for the party, it was still a major distraction that ate up a month of time that could have been spent talking about the economy. The GOP likely has no interest in rehashing that again.

But Senate Democrats have also put themselves in an awkward position. The Washington Free Beacon reports today that Senate Democrats – including some of the female lawmakers who participated in the news conference – pay their female staffers significantly less than male staffers:

Of the five senators who participated in Wednesday’s press conference—Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Patty Murray (D-WA), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA)—three pay their female staff members significantly less than male staffers.

Murray, who has repeatedly accused Republicans of waging a “war a women,” is one of the worst offenders. Female members of Murray’s staff made about $21,000 less per year than male staffers in 2011, a difference of 35.2 percent.

That is well above the 23 percent gap that Democrats claim exists between male and female workers nationwide. The figure is based on a 2010 U.S. Census Bureau report, and is technically accurate. However, as CNN’s Lisa Sylvester has reported, when factors such as area of employment, hours of work, and time in the workplace are taken into account, the gap shrinks to about 5 percent.

That’s probably not because Sen. Murray and others are paying female staffers less for doing the same work as male staffers. It’s likely that men simply have more upper-level positions in the office, which come with higher salaries. But that hypocrisy is something these senators should have to answer to if they’re going to bash Republicans for opposing pro-women policies.

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Cracks in Democratic Unity

At the National Journal, Josh Kraushaar reports that the Obama campaign’s Bain Capital attack exposed the waning power of centrist Democrats in the party, a development that has many Democrats concerned:

Conversations with liberal activists and labor officials reveal an unmistakable hostility toward the pro-business, free-trade, free-market philosophy that was in vogue during the second half of the Clinton administration. …

Moderate Democratic groups and officials, meanwhile, privately fret about the party’s leftward drift and the Obama campaign’s embrace of an aggressively populist message. They’re disappointed that the administration didn’t take the lead advancing the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction proposal, they wish the administration’s focus was on growth over fairness, and they are frustrated with the persistent congressional gridlock. Third Way, the centrist Democratic think tank, has been generating analyses underscoring the need for Democrats to appeal to middle-of-the-road voters, to no avail.

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At the National Journal, Josh Kraushaar reports that the Obama campaign’s Bain Capital attack exposed the waning power of centrist Democrats in the party, a development that has many Democrats concerned:

Conversations with liberal activists and labor officials reveal an unmistakable hostility toward the pro-business, free-trade, free-market philosophy that was in vogue during the second half of the Clinton administration. …

Moderate Democratic groups and officials, meanwhile, privately fret about the party’s leftward drift and the Obama campaign’s embrace of an aggressively populist message. They’re disappointed that the administration didn’t take the lead advancing the Simpson-Bowles deficit-reduction proposal, they wish the administration’s focus was on growth over fairness, and they are frustrated with the persistent congressional gridlock. Third Way, the centrist Democratic think tank, has been generating analyses underscoring the need for Democrats to appeal to middle-of-the-road voters, to no avail.

The problem is, Barack Obama is facing a compelling economic message from his opponent: Mitt Romney spent 25 years building businesses and overhauling companies in the private sector; Obama, in contrast, has spent his entire career in politics and community organizing. As Romney argued effectively in his interview with Time magazine today, there is nothing necessarily wrong with Obama’s career choices. They just don’t prepare someone to deal with an economy that’s speeding toward a fiscal cliff.

In response, Obama has embraced a populist, anti-competition, anti-capitalist message. Not only is it imprudent and unhelpful to stir up those sentiments during tough economic times, it’s also damaging to the Democratic Party’s brand. And it hasn’t been politically effective so far. Several polls today show the race is tightening, and Obama actually appears to be scaring away the working class voters who he’s been trying to win over with his class warfare message. The party that emerged so unified behind Obama in 2008 already seems to be coming undone.

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Media Taking a Break from Bain-Bashing

After the Obama campaign spent the last week attacking Mitt Romney about his Bain Capital record, the Washington Post reports that they seem to be taking a break from the Bain-bashing. Obama’s two new ad spots are both positive – one is on benefits for veterans and the other is on Medicare. It seems to be a response to Democratic concerns that Obama is abandoning his principles by going “negative” (as if his 2008 campaign never got into the mud).

The Bain attacks have been a disaster for the Obama campaign so far, and some of the problems are self-created. For one, there was clearly very little messaging organization between the campaign, surrogates, and Democratic leaders. And as Peter wrote yesterday, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt’s disastrous Anderson Cooper interview also indicates that the campaign was unprepared for basic questions about the hypocrisy of the Bain attack – maybe because they never thought the normally-friendly media would even ask.

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After the Obama campaign spent the last week attacking Mitt Romney about his Bain Capital record, the Washington Post reports that they seem to be taking a break from the Bain-bashing. Obama’s two new ad spots are both positive – one is on benefits for veterans and the other is on Medicare. It seems to be a response to Democratic concerns that Obama is abandoning his principles by going “negative” (as if his 2008 campaign never got into the mud).

The Bain attacks have been a disaster for the Obama campaign so far, and some of the problems are self-created. For one, there was clearly very little messaging organization between the campaign, surrogates, and Democratic leaders. And as Peter wrote yesterday, Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt’s disastrous Anderson Cooper interview also indicates that the campaign was unprepared for basic questions about the hypocrisy of the Bain attack – maybe because they never thought the normally-friendly media would even ask.

This was a major miscalculation on Obama’s part. The media isn’t jumping on Romney’s Bain record because most of the stories in the Obama ads are old news. Not only were they covered extensively during Romney’s senatorial and gubernatorial races, but they also received a lot of attention when Newt Gingrich raised the issue during the primaries. The definitive Bain articles have already been written and rewritten, and the arguments from both sides have already been exhausted. New information will undoubtedly come to light at some point, but until that happens this is all reheated news.

The more interesting story is the infighting in the Democratic Party about Obama’s negative campaigning, and the fact that Obama has accepted large donations from Bain executives while attacking the company. The Obama campaign’s mistake was failing to realize this and prepare for it before it was too late.

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Why Can’t They Pay Their Taxes On Time?

What is it with these people?

Only seven months after critical news stories about unpaid taxes on a private airplane, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill was late paying property taxes on her Washington, D.C., condominium. Records show that the Missouri Democrat missed the fall 2011 deadline by about three weeks. McCaskill paid $197 in penalties and interest on top of the $1,514 in taxes owed for half the year. McCaskill also was about a month late paying her spring 2010 property tax bill on the condo.

McCaskill’s Chinatown condo was purchased in 2007 for $700,000. It’s unclear how much her private plane is worth, but the taxes she failed to pay on it amounted to $300,000. So, it’s worth more than $300,000. Per liberal logic just the house and the plane are enough to springboard her into the 1 percent of Americans who are bleeding this country dry by stubbornly insisting on having wealth (though in fairness she’s been in the public sector for all but three years since around age 30, so she didn’t earn her wealth exclusively as some vampire capitalist businesswoman or whatever).

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What is it with these people?

Only seven months after critical news stories about unpaid taxes on a private airplane, U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill was late paying property taxes on her Washington, D.C., condominium. Records show that the Missouri Democrat missed the fall 2011 deadline by about three weeks. McCaskill paid $197 in penalties and interest on top of the $1,514 in taxes owed for half the year. McCaskill also was about a month late paying her spring 2010 property tax bill on the condo.

McCaskill’s Chinatown condo was purchased in 2007 for $700,000. It’s unclear how much her private plane is worth, but the taxes she failed to pay on it amounted to $300,000. So, it’s worth more than $300,000. Per liberal logic just the house and the plane are enough to springboard her into the 1 percent of Americans who are bleeding this country dry by stubbornly insisting on having wealth (though in fairness she’s been in the public sector for all but three years since around age 30, so she didn’t earn her wealth exclusively as some vampire capitalist businesswoman or whatever).

The combination of late taxes on high wealth would matter a lot less if McCaskill’s party wasn’t currently trying to win an election by demagoguing high earners and those who “don’t pay their fair share.” Or if there weren’t some significant questions being raised locally about how a company she lists as worth $1,001 owns a private plane.

The White House has been inexcusably unserious about fiscal sustainability precisely to shield vulnerable Red State Democrats like McCaskill from having to take tough votes. McCaskill’s seeming inability to pay her taxes has threatened her popularity anyway. And so — yet again — a cynical politically-motivated White House gambit doesn’t even have the political payoff it was supposed to.

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Dems Spin Obama Budget Rejection

The Senate unanimously rejected President Obama’s budget yesterday, two months after the president’s budget was voted down unanimously in the House. It’s an embarrassing testimony to both Obama’s leadership and the Senate majority leadership’s willingness to take the long-term deficit problems seriously, particularly during an election year, and Democrats are furiously swinging into spin control mode.

The fallback excuse for Senate Democrats during the past few months has been that the debt ceiling deal already put spending caps into place, making a new budget unnecessary. They’re still standing by that claim:

Democrats say the exercise is unnecessary this year because Democrats and Republicans wrote spending caps for the year into law in the hard-fought summer deal that raised the nation’s debt ceiling.

Republicans counter that the debt deal does not replace a legal requirement that Congress adopt a budget resolution for the year.

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The Senate unanimously rejected President Obama’s budget yesterday, two months after the president’s budget was voted down unanimously in the House. It’s an embarrassing testimony to both Obama’s leadership and the Senate majority leadership’s willingness to take the long-term deficit problems seriously, particularly during an election year, and Democrats are furiously swinging into spin control mode.

The fallback excuse for Senate Democrats during the past few months has been that the debt ceiling deal already put spending caps into place, making a new budget unnecessary. They’re still standing by that claim:

Democrats say the exercise is unnecessary this year because Democrats and Republicans wrote spending caps for the year into law in the hard-fought summer deal that raised the nation’s debt ceiling.

Republicans counter that the debt deal does not replace a legal requirement that Congress adopt a budget resolution for the year.

It’s not just Republicans who are countering the claim. The Senate parliamentarian also ruled in April that the debt ceiling deal doesn’t mean the Senate can’t take up budget resolutions this year.

Meanwhile, the White House was expecting the failure, and recently began arguing that the resolution introduced in the Senate is actually a distorted version of the president’s budget. They say the rejection isn’t a reflection of Democrats’ views of Obama’s plan:

Last May, Obama’s budget was voted down, 0-97. Democrats noted they could vote no after Obama delivered an April speech calling for deeper deficit reduction than he had presented two months earlier in his budget.

This year, Obama is sticking by his budget, so Democrats are embracing another reason to vote it down.

The White House moved Monday to free Democrats to vote no by saying the legislation embodying Obama’s budget is “different” because it doesn’t contain identical policy language.

Republicans argue that the rejected budget resolution is identical to Obama’s plan, and say the only difference is that campaign-tinged political language was removed.

“If you look at the president’s budget it reads like his campaign website,” a Republican aide told me. “But the numbers are identical to the budget.”

The excuses are pretty flimsy, and Democrats are no doubt bracing for a public backlash. But clearly the party thinks they’re safer dealing with the fallout from rejecting Obama’s budget than being forced to defend his budget in the fall.

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The Media’s Apocalyptic Vision of Richard Mourdock

Conservatives often complain that when the mainstream media is forced by events to pay attention to conservative views they have long ignored, the tone of the reporting often is that of an anthropological grant application. The reporters brave the native habitat of conservatives and find that they’re practically human. But that’s actually better than what we witnessed after Richard Mourdock defeated Richard Lugar in the Indiana GOP Senate primary this week.

Lugar, you may have heard, has been in the Senate a very long time, and he is a statesman and throwback to the gilded era of Republican acquiescence–sorry, bipartisanship, and statesmanship. A true mensch, a centrist Republican, Dick Lugar was, above all, a statesman, we are now told. But what about Mourdock, the man vying to replace Lugar in the Senate? Is he a statesman? Let’s find out, by reading some of the liberal write-ups of the election. The results may surprise you.

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Conservatives often complain that when the mainstream media is forced by events to pay attention to conservative views they have long ignored, the tone of the reporting often is that of an anthropological grant application. The reporters brave the native habitat of conservatives and find that they’re practically human. But that’s actually better than what we witnessed after Richard Mourdock defeated Richard Lugar in the Indiana GOP Senate primary this week.

Lugar, you may have heard, has been in the Senate a very long time, and he is a statesman and throwback to the gilded era of Republican acquiescence–sorry, bipartisanship, and statesmanship. A true mensch, a centrist Republican, Dick Lugar was, above all, a statesman, we are now told. But what about Mourdock, the man vying to replace Lugar in the Senate? Is he a statesman? Let’s find out, by reading some of the liberal write-ups of the election. The results may surprise you.

Salon, for example, carries a story titled “Republican Party: Hawks-only club.” The article details how Mourdock’s victory makes the GOP uniformly hawkish on foreign policy. Most of the article is an explanation of why liberals liked Lugar so much, but finally the author gives us the damage: “In practical terms, Lugar’s loss means that U.S. foreign policy will be less civilized, less responsible and less effective.”

I noticed something was missing from this article, however: it omits any mention whatsoever of Richard Mourdock’s views on foreign policy. This is a rather glaring omission, but maybe the reporter’s instincts are right.

To find out, let’s head on over to an expert on foreign policy, Tom Ricks. Ricks maintains a blog on Foreign Policy’s website, and sure enough he weighed in on Mourdock’s victory. He, too, was horrified by the erosion of the foreign policy center. But he has a somewhat different take on what it means. Mourdock’s victory, Ricks admits, “makes me wonder if the great Midwest is turning away from internationalism and back to its pre-World War II isolationism.”

So Salon was wrong? Mourdock is the opposite of a hawkish hawk? He’s actually an isolationist? I wondered what led Ricks to this conclusion, but his post didn’t help me answer that question, because Ricks doesn’t even mention Mourdock’s name, let alone Mourdock’s views on foreign policy.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Reporters sometimes trick politicians into revealing what they think by employing an age-old tactic commonly referred to as “asking them questions.” It turns out that some reporters did. Richard Mourdock, as a supporter of cutting the Pentagon’s budget and skeptical of the mission in Afghanistan, is not a superhawk, as Salon would have it. But he also believes America plays an important role in the world, and that it must not retreat from its responsibilities around the globe. So he isn’t an isolationist either.

But if he’s starting to sound like a mainstream candidate, he’s got you fooled. Richard Mourdock is, according to the sandwich board Jonathan Chait has been wearing around town, the harbinger of doom. This is an interesting point of view coming from Chait, who is the author of the magnum opus of leftist anti-intellectualism and anthem of paranoid incivility, “Mad About You: The Case for Bush Hatred.” Some things have changed since Chait published his plea for incivility–namely, we have a Democratic president. So now it’s time to protect “social norms”–specifically, he says, court-related social norms permitting the confirmation of a president’s court picks. Mourdock cited Lugar’s support for President Obama’s Supreme Court picks in his case against the incumbent senator, mirroring a Republican approach to politics that is, in Chait’s view, bringing upon us a “crisis of American government.”

Some have pointed out that the collapse of the nomination process was brought about by Ted Kennedy and Joe Biden when they took a sledgehammer to “social norms” during the confirmation process of Robert Bork. That’s true. But I’d like to defend Chait somewhat. I, too, have been concerned about the collapse of social norms.

For example, it was once a social norm never to use the filibuster against a circuit court nominee. But then George W. Bush nominated Miguel Estrada, an undeniably qualified candidate, to sit on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The Democrats were playing the long game, however, and were willing to buck social norms in order to prevent the Republicans from starting a process that would end with a conservative Hispanic judge on the Supreme Court. So they blocked Estrada.

In October 2003, the Associated Press reported that Democrats were preparing to expand their use of the filibuster to everything the GOP put forward. “Perhaps we ought to prepare some bumper stickers that say ‘Obstruction: It’s not just for judges anymore’,” remarked Republican John Cornyn.

More recently, Harry Reid has perfected a tactic called “filling the tree” to prevent Republicans from even being able to offer amendments on bills. Reid and the Democrats are, it turns out, innovators in the means to tear down social norms and prevent the government from functioning as it was intended. In fact, it’s now been more than three years since Reid’s Senate passed a budget.

But hey, at least he didn’t criticize a Democratic nominee who was confirmed anyway. Now that would just be uncivil.

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Dems May Force Obama to Make Keystone XL Decision

Byron York reports on the status of the Keystone XL debate. Democratic lawmakers are facing more pressure to support the pipeline with the election looming, and some in the Senate are confident they’ll be able to peel away enough Democrats to break Harry Reid’s filibuster. Which means that the bill for approval could land on President Obama’s desk in the not-too-distant future:

When the House voted on the pipeline in July of last year, 47 Democrats broke with the president. Now that it’s an election year and the number is up to 69, look for Republicans to hold more pipeline votes before November. GOP leaders expect even more Democrats to join them.

Then there is the Senate. Democrats are using the filibuster to stop the pipeline, which means 60 votes are required to pass it. (Some Democrats who bitterly opposed the filibuster when Republicans used it against Obama initiatives are notably silent these days.) In a vote last month, 11 Senate Democrats stood up against Obama to vote in favor of the pipeline. Add those 11 to the Republicans’ 47 votes, and the pro-pipeline forces are just a couple of votes away from breaking Harry Reid’s filibuster.

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Byron York reports on the status of the Keystone XL debate. Democratic lawmakers are facing more pressure to support the pipeline with the election looming, and some in the Senate are confident they’ll be able to peel away enough Democrats to break Harry Reid’s filibuster. Which means that the bill for approval could land on President Obama’s desk in the not-too-distant future:

When the House voted on the pipeline in July of last year, 47 Democrats broke with the president. Now that it’s an election year and the number is up to 69, look for Republicans to hold more pipeline votes before November. GOP leaders expect even more Democrats to join them.

Then there is the Senate. Democrats are using the filibuster to stop the pipeline, which means 60 votes are required to pass it. (Some Democrats who bitterly opposed the filibuster when Republicans used it against Obama initiatives are notably silent these days.) In a vote last month, 11 Senate Democrats stood up against Obama to vote in favor of the pipeline. Add those 11 to the Republicans’ 47 votes, and the pro-pipeline forces are just a couple of votes away from breaking Harry Reid’s filibuster.

At that point, Obama has no choice but to take a side. Up until now he’s been able to shift some blame onto “safety concerns” and the State Department review process. He’ll have a much harder time doing this if even the Democrat-controlled Senate starts calling his bluff.

Vetoing the bill will be too politically risky. It’s more likely that Obama will sign it after digging up some justification for the flip-flop. The new route proposed by TransCanada, which circumvents some of the areas in Nebraska that green groups say are environmentally-sensitive, will provide the president with a passable excuse. At HotAir, Ed Morrissey predicts:

Expect him to pounce on the new route application as a catalyst for preliminary approval — and then to stall the final approvals needed within the bureaucracy, where he can act without too much observation.

Yup. And Obama may not even have to work very hard to ensure a drawn-out approval process. According to reports, officials say the process will likely run seven to nine months – which would take us just beyond the November election.

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Where Dishonest Obama Memes Collide

Senate Democrats are doing all they can to keep oxygen in this “war on women” narrative, and the next big agenda item is the vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. It’s an uncontroversial law, one that would have passed the Senate with wide bipartisan support. But that was before Democrats added a host of vaguely-related controversial new measures to it, including provisions on immigration and tribal laws.

Republicans have speculated that this was a tactic to provoke a fight over an otherwise uncontroversial piece of legislation. But it doesn’t sound like they’re going to take the bait, at least not in the Senate:

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Senate Democrats are doing all they can to keep oxygen in this “war on women” narrative, and the next big agenda item is the vote to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. It’s an uncontroversial law, one that would have passed the Senate with wide bipartisan support. But that was before Democrats added a host of vaguely-related controversial new measures to it, including provisions on immigration and tribal laws.

Republicans have speculated that this was a tactic to provoke a fight over an otherwise uncontroversial piece of legislation. But it doesn’t sound like they’re going to take the bait, at least not in the Senate:

Senate Republicans are irritated at Democrats’ push to exploit the Violence Against Women Act for political gain but signaled today they aren’t planning an effort to block or delay it.

As Senate Democratic women and Vice President Joseph Biden amped up their push to reauthorize the bill at separate events today, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) told reporters that Republicans don’t intend to filibuster it, with the assumption that Democratic leaders will at least allow a Republican alternative to be offered for a vote.

“All these things add up to things that are keeping a bill that could pass on a voice vote from being passed,” Grassley said. “Violence against women except for these additions is noncontroversial. I’m afraid what they’re doing here is they want a political issue — you know, ‘war on women’ — and they are going to end up with another one-year extension.”

Democrats continued to decry GOP “obstructionism” today, despite the indications that Senate Republicans won’t filibuster the bill (and probably couldn’t if they wanted to, as it has 61 co-sponsors):

“I’m worried that a few Republicans are returning to the playbook of obstruction,” said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), who chairs the Democrats’ campaign arm. “Women in America cannot afford political theater on this issue, not on this issue. Their lives depend on it.”

“It is very important that it not be made political fodder,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein said. The California Democrat added that the bill is not a new concept and has been expanded several times in the past.

“We all thought it was a no-brainer to extend it to everybody,” she said, adding that it was a “big surprise” to her in the Judiciary Committee when the Republicans voted against it.

Be prepared for a lot more rhetoric once the bill passes the Senate and heads to the House, where the Republican majority will likely put up much more of a fight. We’ve had to sit through the “war on women” and “do-nothing-Congress” narratives, but it sounds like both ridiculously dishonest Obama memes will finally collide during the VAWA fight.

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Dems Back Down on Plan to Pretend to Do Something About Budget

It finally looked like Senate Budget Committee Democrats were going to go ahead with a budget markup today, albeit a pointless one as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would block any budget resolution from a floor vote. But the committee chairman, Sen. Kent Conrad, is suddenly punting on the plan:

The Democratic-led Senate hasn’t passed a budget blueprint since April 2009, and it won’t do so again this spring as election-year pressures consume Capitol Hill. In fact, Conrad’s budget “markup” Wednesday won’t even be a real markup because senators won’t actually offer amendments or vote.

The 10-year budget plan Conrad unveiled Tuesday is based on the so-called Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction plan, though the chairman conceded it’s “just reality” that any real deficit work by his committee will likely be put off until after November.

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It finally looked like Senate Budget Committee Democrats were going to go ahead with a budget markup today, albeit a pointless one as Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he would block any budget resolution from a floor vote. But the committee chairman, Sen. Kent Conrad, is suddenly punting on the plan:

The Democratic-led Senate hasn’t passed a budget blueprint since April 2009, and it won’t do so again this spring as election-year pressures consume Capitol Hill. In fact, Conrad’s budget “markup” Wednesday won’t even be a real markup because senators won’t actually offer amendments or vote.

The 10-year budget plan Conrad unveiled Tuesday is based on the so-called Bowles-Simpson deficit-reduction plan, though the chairman conceded it’s “just reality” that any real deficit work by his committee will likely be put off until after November.

Conrad is still calling this a markup, but now it’s really just a show for cameras. The fact that there won’t even be a vote, or any amendments taken, makes this little more than a novelty exercise.

It sounds like Reid felt it was too risky to allow the committee vote and give Republicans an opening to build up pressure for a floor vote, so he asked Conrad to back off. Meanwhile, Republicans were obviously hoping for a budget discussion, and aren’t happy with the sudden change of events. And it’s hard to blame them. Democrats have shown, time and time again, that they’re not interested in taking action on a budget. Today’s markup charade is just the latest example.

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Dems Retrench in the “War on Women”?

From the staggering statistic released by the Republican National Committee that found women have lost 92.3 percent of all jobs lost since Obama took office, to yesterday’s scathing story on the gender pay gap in the Obama White House by the Washington Free Beacon, the GOP has started throwing the “war on women” rhetoric back into the faces of the Democrats who coined it.

And that was before the Hilary Rosen controversy erupted last night. Rosen has since apologized, and her statement appears to be more of a plea for a truce than a mea culpa:

“Let’s put the faux ‘war against stay at home moms’ to rest once and for all. As a mom I know that raising children is the hardest job there is. As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen. In response to Mitt Romney on the campaign trail referring to his wife as a better person to answer questions about women than he is, I was discussing his poor record on the plight of women’s financial struggles. Here is my more fulsome view of the issues. As a partner in a firm full of women who work outside of the home as well as stay at home mothers, all with plenty of children, gender equality is not a talking point for me. It is an issue I live every day. I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended. Let’s declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance.”

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From the staggering statistic released by the Republican National Committee that found women have lost 92.3 percent of all jobs lost since Obama took office, to yesterday’s scathing story on the gender pay gap in the Obama White House by the Washington Free Beacon, the GOP has started throwing the “war on women” rhetoric back into the faces of the Democrats who coined it.

And that was before the Hilary Rosen controversy erupted last night. Rosen has since apologized, and her statement appears to be more of a plea for a truce than a mea culpa:

“Let’s put the faux ‘war against stay at home moms’ to rest once and for all. As a mom I know that raising children is the hardest job there is. As a pundit, I know my words on CNN last night were poorly chosen. In response to Mitt Romney on the campaign trail referring to his wife as a better person to answer questions about women than he is, I was discussing his poor record on the plight of women’s financial struggles. Here is my more fulsome view of the issues. As a partner in a firm full of women who work outside of the home as well as stay at home mothers, all with plenty of children, gender equality is not a talking point for me. It is an issue I live every day. I apologize to Ann Romney and anyone else who was offended. Let’s declare peace in this phony war and go back to focus on the substance.”

Many have noticed that Rosen is apologizing to anyone she offended as opposed to apologizing for the substance of her comments. They’re right about that, although I’m willing to give Rosen the benefit of the doubt. But Rosen’s choice of words at the end is interesting – she calls the controversy a “phony war,” which is basically what Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus was attacked for saying about the “war on women” last week. Any of the high-profile Democrats who have expressed outrage at Rosen’s initial comments – Debbie Wasserman Schultz and First Lady Michelle Obama to name just two – want to come out and take another swing at her for “belittling” legitimate concerns of stay-at-home moms?

This won’t be the last we’ll hear about the “war on women,” but it sounds like Democrats are at least ready to retrench for awhile after a rough week. As Priebus has indicated, the GOP also seems ready to put this narrative to rest.

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Why Do Americans Favor Lower Taxes for Lotto Winners?

Americans may favor raising taxes on the rich (at least according to some polls), but apparently that stance doesn’t cross over to lottery winners. Brian J. Gaines and Douglas Rivers explain the odd discrepancy in the Wall Street Journal today:

Polls often show that the public favors raising taxes on “the rich,” “millionaires” or “families earning over $250,000.” Last year, billionaire Warren Buffett demanded that we “stop coddling the super rich” and impose higher tax rates on incomes over $1 million per year (and higher rates still on incomes over $10 million). President Obama and most Democrats have endorsed raising taxes on high earners. …

In February, the online pollster YouGov asked a representative sample of 3,500 American adults what they thought would be a “fair amount of tax” to pay on lottery winnings. The survey specified different amounts of winnings, ranging from $1 million to $100 million. …

Less than a quarter of respondents chose a tax rate of 30 percent or higher on any level of lottery winnings. The vast majority thought that a reasonable amount to pay was much lower, with the average being only 15 percent. Democrats and Republicans differed only a little: The average rate preferred by Republicans was 14 percent, compared with 17 percent for Democrats.

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Americans may favor raising taxes on the rich (at least according to some polls), but apparently that stance doesn’t cross over to lottery winners. Brian J. Gaines and Douglas Rivers explain the odd discrepancy in the Wall Street Journal today:

Polls often show that the public favors raising taxes on “the rich,” “millionaires” or “families earning over $250,000.” Last year, billionaire Warren Buffett demanded that we “stop coddling the super rich” and impose higher tax rates on incomes over $1 million per year (and higher rates still on incomes over $10 million). President Obama and most Democrats have endorsed raising taxes on high earners. …

In February, the online pollster YouGov asked a representative sample of 3,500 American adults what they thought would be a “fair amount of tax” to pay on lottery winnings. The survey specified different amounts of winnings, ranging from $1 million to $100 million. …

Less than a quarter of respondents chose a tax rate of 30 percent or higher on any level of lottery winnings. The vast majority thought that a reasonable amount to pay was much lower, with the average being only 15 percent. Democrats and Republicans differed only a little: The average rate preferred by Republicans was 14 percent, compared with 17 percent for Democrats.

If anyone should be paying exorbitantly high taxes, shouldn’t it be a lottery winner, at least according to Elizabeth Warren’s “pay it back” theory? Their financial windfalls are completely comprised of other people’s money for which they personally provided no goods, services, or societal benefit in exchange. Lottery winners didn’t work 80 hours a week for years to accrue that money. They didn’t employ hundreds of workers, and provide health care and livelihoods for their workers’ families. They didn’t risk their personal assets, reputation or self-worth.

So why do Americans seem less eager to tax lottery winners than traditional millionaires? Gaines and Rivers provide a good theory:

How do we reconcile these findings? Is it because lottery jackpots are the stuff of dreams? Critics scoff that lotteries are a (voluntary) tax on innumeracy, and probably many ticket buyers do fail to understand just how minuscule are the odds of winning the eye-popping prizes. Yet people who don’t expect ever to become rich by hard work or careful investment might still daydream about being showered with cash by a megafluke. The wild improbability of lottery wealth might even be why our respondents like such low tax rates.

It’s a fact of life – and an understandable one – that a mailman or a public school teacher who plays the lotto every day thinks he has a better chance of becoming fabulously wealthy by scratching a ticket than through earned income, investment or inheritance. So these people are more likely to identify with the small group of lottery winners than with the much larger portion of Americans who became rich through traditional means.

In other words, people are susceptible to class warfare. This isn’t anything new, and it doesn’t mean the Democratic class warfare strategy is suddenly “working.” Instead, it shows why politicians use these attacks in the first place.

But “not identifying” with a group isn’t the same as resenting the group. Just because many Americans believe they have a better chance of becoming rich through the lottery doesn’t mean they begrudge those who earned their wealth. There is, however, a tinge of resentment in many of the liberal attacks on the rich – a suggestion that those who have earned their money have somehow done it dishonorably. You can see this in Democratic policies that tighten regulations and pile taxes on businesses, while siding with unions even when the leadership is corrupt.

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The Party of the Nomenklatura

Steve Hayward over at Power Line has an interesting quote from Franklin Roosevelt:

The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit… It is in violation of the traditions of America.

Roosevelt wanted Social Security to be a contributory system, where people pay in when they are young and take out when they are old. What he didn’t want was a “dole,” to use the term he knew and which we call welfare today. When the original Social Security proposal didn’t meet FDR’s specifications, he ordered it rewritten. Robert Samuelson details in the Washington Post how Roosevelt’s conception was slowly turned into the Ponzi scheme that Social Security is today. The process began with an override of an FDR veto in 1942 of the Revenue Act of that year, the act that transformed the personal income tax from a tax on the rich to a tax on all but the poor.

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Steve Hayward over at Power Line has an interesting quote from Franklin Roosevelt:

The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit… It is in violation of the traditions of America.

Roosevelt wanted Social Security to be a contributory system, where people pay in when they are young and take out when they are old. What he didn’t want was a “dole,” to use the term he knew and which we call welfare today. When the original Social Security proposal didn’t meet FDR’s specifications, he ordered it rewritten. Robert Samuelson details in the Washington Post how Roosevelt’s conception was slowly turned into the Ponzi scheme that Social Security is today. The process began with an override of an FDR veto in 1942 of the Revenue Act of that year, the act that transformed the personal income tax from a tax on the rich to a tax on all but the poor.

It is a measure of how much the Democratic Party has changed since the 1930s. With millions out of work, their savings gone with thousands of bank failures, immediate help was needed (and, indeed, the federal government began to deliver that help, in unprecedented amounts, during the Hoover administration). But the help was intended to be temporary. The idea of a permanent underclass living off government handouts or dependent on government for their livelihoods was repugnant to Roosevelt and most people in his “brain trust.”

Today, the Democratic Party is not a party devoted to helping the poor help themselves, but one devoted to the interests of an American “nomenklatura” whose rice bowl is an ever-larger number of people dependent on government for services and income. This nomenklatura is made up of bureaucrats, public-service union officials, non-governmental organizations such as environmental and civil rights groups, some corporations, such as big pharmaceutical companies, that are dependent on government regulators, colleges and universities, and others.

The Democratic Party, which once had a valid claim to being the party of the little guy–even while headed by the quintessential American aristocrat–is now the party of a vast coalition of interest groups devoted only to ever larger and more intrusive government, the “traditions of America” that FDR championed be damned.

 

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Democrats Outdo Themselves on Fake “War on Women”

The mock outrage and silly opportunism of the Democrat-manufactured “war on women” narrative reached comedic heights today, after some innocuous comments from Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus triggered a ridiculously disproportionate firestorm:

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus triggered a debate on caterpillars Thursday when dismissing the GOP’s so-called “women problem” as a “fiction.”

“If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and mainstream media outlets talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we have problems with caterpillars,” Priebus told Bloomberg TV in an episode of “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing Thursday night. …

The comment “shows how little regard leading Republicans, including Mitt Romney, have for women’s health,” said Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter in a statement. “Women are already abandoning the Republican Party in droves because of their antiquated positions on women’s health and out-of-touch policies on the middle class. Reince Priebus’ comments today only reinforce why women simply cannot trust Mitt Romney or other leading Republicans to stand up for them.”

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The mock outrage and silly opportunism of the Democrat-manufactured “war on women” narrative reached comedic heights today, after some innocuous comments from Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus triggered a ridiculously disproportionate firestorm:

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus triggered a debate on caterpillars Thursday when dismissing the GOP’s so-called “women problem” as a “fiction.”

“If the Democrats said we had a war on caterpillars and mainstream media outlets talked about the fact that Republicans have a war on caterpillars, then we have problems with caterpillars,” Priebus told Bloomberg TV in an episode of “Political Capital with Al Hunt” airing Thursday night. …

The comment “shows how little regard leading Republicans, including Mitt Romney, have for women’s health,” said Obama deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter in a statement. “Women are already abandoning the Republican Party in droves because of their antiquated positions on women’s health and out-of-touch policies on the middle class. Reince Priebus’ comments today only reinforce why women simply cannot trust Mitt Romney or other leading Republicans to stand up for them.”

This is too obtuse to be unintentional. There is no way the Obama campaign or Democratic National Committee really thinks Reince Priebus was comparing women to caterpillars, right? Then again, The Atlantic seems to have bought in:

In this week’s Etch A Sketch moment, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said the GOP’s perceived “war on women” was as fictional as a war on caterpillars. Now, while it’s pretty fun to imagine politicians in suits doing battle with what we can only assume would be enormous, mutant caterpillars, it also reveals the problem with drawing such comparisons: trivializing people’s concerns isn’t the best way to get them to drop an issue.

So now if Republicans don’t admit that the “war on women” they are falsely being accused of waging is real, that’s taken as further evidence that they hate women and trivialize their concerns. That’s some logic.

The entire controversy is right out of that picnic scene from Whit Stillman’s great “Barcelona,” when Taylor Nichols tries to explain U.S. Cold War foreign policy to a group of anti-American pseudo-intellectuals by using an analogy about ants. “That’s clearly the most disgusting description of U.S. policy I have ever heard,” shoots back one artist. “The third-world is just a lot of ants to you.”

I can imagine that trying to explain the fallacy of the “war on women” narrative to Debbie Wasserman Schultz is about as futile as trying to explain the reasonableness of American foreign policy to anti-American Europeans. No matter what anybody says, she’ll just turn back to Priebus and exclaim, “So women are just a bunch of caterpillars to you?”

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Ruling: Senate Can’t Dodge Unpopular Budget Votes

Senate Democrats hoped to avoid voting on any controversial budget resolutions, claiming the debt ceiling deal last summer already deemed a budget for the next two years. But the new Parliamentarian disagreed, and issued a ruling that will give Republicans more power to force budgetary votes that the majority party wants to avoid:

Newly appointed Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, whom [Sen. Harry] Reid recommended for the job, has decided that last summer’s deal on the debt ceiling and spending caps does not preclude the Senate from taking up other budget resolutions this year. The ruling could force vulnerable Democrats to cast tough votes that hurt them in November, a situation Reid and other leaders are eager to avoid as they work to protect their fragile majority.

The written opinion, shared late last week with a handful of Democratic and GOP senators, gives Republicans significantly more leverage to push for votes on budgets of their choosing. It could mean roll calls on Rep. Paul Ryan’s House-passed GOP budget plan and others offered by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Democrats would gladly vote down the Ryan blueprint, which Obama described Tuesday as a “radical” vision that guts funding for Medicare and education.

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Senate Democrats hoped to avoid voting on any controversial budget resolutions, claiming the debt ceiling deal last summer already deemed a budget for the next two years. But the new Parliamentarian disagreed, and issued a ruling that will give Republicans more power to force budgetary votes that the majority party wants to avoid:

Newly appointed Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, whom [Sen. Harry] Reid recommended for the job, has decided that last summer’s deal on the debt ceiling and spending caps does not preclude the Senate from taking up other budget resolutions this year. The ruling could force vulnerable Democrats to cast tough votes that hurt them in November, a situation Reid and other leaders are eager to avoid as they work to protect their fragile majority.

The written opinion, shared late last week with a handful of Democratic and GOP senators, gives Republicans significantly more leverage to push for votes on budgets of their choosing. It could mean roll calls on Rep. Paul Ryan’s House-passed GOP budget plan and others offered by Sens. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Democrats would gladly vote down the Ryan blueprint, which Obama described Tuesday as a “radical” vision that guts funding for Medicare and education.

Ryan’s budget would be good to bring up for a vote, though nobody expects it to actually pass. But Republicans will likely try to force a vote on Obama’s budget, which already failed unanimously in the House, and would likely go down in flames for the second year in a row in the Senate.

That is, if Reid would ever agree to bring the president’s budget to the floor. As Politico notes, if Reid refuses to do so, that’s a potentially damaging political move in itself. What’s worse though? For Reid to block it from a floor vote – a clear acknowledgement that it won’t pass – or to allow the vote and let the White House go through the embarrassment of a (likely unanimous) rejection once again? It seems like there’s a good chance the budget will never actually make it to the floor, despite the Parliamentarian’s ruling.

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House Set to Approve Ryan’s Budget

The House is set to vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget this afternoon, and it’s expected to pass along party lines. Republicans are attempting to build a contrast to the president’s budget, which failed unanimously, 414-0, in the House yesterday – one display of bipartisan unity that the White House probably wasn’t pleased to see.

The L.A. Times reports:

Doubling down on a controversial campaign issue, the GOP-led House is set to approve a 2013 budget that would cut taxes for the wealthy, revamp Medicare and slash federal spending in a vote that will define the Republican Party this election year and beyond.

Thursday’s vote comes as a heated debate is playing out in Congress and the campaign trail, where Mitt Romney has embraced the proposal in sharp contrast to President Obama’s approach to budgeting.

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The House is set to vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget this afternoon, and it’s expected to pass along party lines. Republicans are attempting to build a contrast to the president’s budget, which failed unanimously, 414-0, in the House yesterday – one display of bipartisan unity that the White House probably wasn’t pleased to see.

The L.A. Times reports:

Doubling down on a controversial campaign issue, the GOP-led House is set to approve a 2013 budget that would cut taxes for the wealthy, revamp Medicare and slash federal spending in a vote that will define the Republican Party this election year and beyond.

Thursday’s vote comes as a heated debate is playing out in Congress and the campaign trail, where Mitt Romney has embraced the proposal in sharp contrast to President Obama’s approach to budgeting.

Like last year, Ryan’s budget is unlikely to make it past the Senate. But that’s still one house of Congress more than the president will be able to get his own budget through. Senate Democrats say they won’t bring Obama’s budget to the floor this year, though Senate Republicans may attempt to force a vote on it. When this happened last year, the president’s proposal was defeated unanimously.

Democrats are now frantically trying to shake off the impression that this was a failure for the president. The White House claims the House Republicans brought Obama’s budget to a vote as a political tactic designed to embarrass the president:

“But let’s be very clear: A vote on Congressman Mulvaney’s resolution is not a vote on the president’s budget. This is just a gimmick the Republicans are putting forward to distract from what the Ryan budget does: protects massive tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires while making the middle class and seniors pay,” White House spokeswoman Amy Brundage said.

House Democrats were reluctant to vote for Obama’s budget because it had no chance of passing and would simply be used against them in election-year attacks. While the same is true of the Republicans and the Ryan budget, apparently they’re willing to take the risk.

But the unanimous rejection isn’t just an embarrassment for the White House, it also complicates Obama’s campaign pitch that he’s running against a “Do Nothing Republican Congress.” The GOP will now argue that it passed a budget in the House, while Democrats in both the House and Senate haven’t voted for a single proposal this year.

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Dems Spinning Possible Health Care Loss

These comments from James Carville are a testament to how shaken Democrats are after yesterday’s health care arguments, which didn’t appear to bode well for the administration. The political strategist told CNN that SCOTUS overturning Obama’s health care law would be the “best thing” that could ever happen to the Democratic Party. Right. Because having the president’s only noteworthy achievement invalidated about five months before his reelection is a sure recipe for political success.

“I think that this will be the best thing that ever happens to the Democratic party because health care costs are gonna escalate unbelievably,” Carville told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer of a possible Supreme Court decision to strike down the law. “I honestly believe this, this is not spin.”

“You know what the Democrats are going to say – and it is completely justified: ‘We tried, we did something, go see a 5-4 Supreme Court majority,’” Carville added. “The public has these guys figured out. Our polls show that half think this whole thing is political.”

“Just as a professional Democrat, there’s nothing better to me than overturning this thing 5-4 and then the Republican Party will own the health care system for the foreseeable future. And I really believe that. That is not spin,” Carville said.

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These comments from James Carville are a testament to how shaken Democrats are after yesterday’s health care arguments, which didn’t appear to bode well for the administration. The political strategist told CNN that SCOTUS overturning Obama’s health care law would be the “best thing” that could ever happen to the Democratic Party. Right. Because having the president’s only noteworthy achievement invalidated about five months before his reelection is a sure recipe for political success.

“I think that this will be the best thing that ever happens to the Democratic party because health care costs are gonna escalate unbelievably,” Carville told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer of a possible Supreme Court decision to strike down the law. “I honestly believe this, this is not spin.”

“You know what the Democrats are going to say – and it is completely justified: ‘We tried, we did something, go see a 5-4 Supreme Court majority,’” Carville added. “The public has these guys figured out. Our polls show that half think this whole thing is political.”

“Just as a professional Democrat, there’s nothing better to me than overturning this thing 5-4 and then the Republican Party will own the health care system for the foreseeable future. And I really believe that. That is not spin,” Carville said.

Carville’s probably correct to the extent that it will energize Democratic voters to get another liberal on the Supreme Court (though it’s not as if they weren’t already trying). But in terms of a general public campaign message, I’m not sure this is really very effective. Are we supposed to believe the average independent voter will suddenly be fired up to vote Democrat, based on the hope that there might be a chance to appoint a new justice in the next four years who will support the individual mandate? Considering the fact that the majority of Americans oppose the mandate, this seems highly unrealistic.

No matter how it’s spun, the Supreme Court striking down ObamaCare would be a major blow to the Democratic Party, just as it would be a blow to the Republican Party if the law was upheld in full. There are silver linings for both parties no matter what the outcome – for example, if ObamaCare is upheld, the only way for Americans to get rid of the unpopular law may be to vote Republican – but it’s a stretch to say that would be the best possible scenario for the GOP.

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Dem Tactic to Smear GOP as Anti-Women

After failing to make much headway with women voters by insisting the GOP wants to take away the right to birth control, the Democratic Party is moving onto its next attempt to make the contrived “Republican war on women” narrative stick. The new fight is about the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, legislation the GOP has previously supported.

But this time around, Democrats are pinning a provision to it that would make it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain temporary visas as victims of domestic violence. In other words, it’s a transparent, politically-motivated attempt to provoke Republican opposition to VAWA and allow the left to claim the GOP supports violence against women:

Republicans are bracing for a battle where substantive arguments could be swamped by political optics and the intensity of the clash over women’s issues. At a closed-door Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska sternly warned her colleagues that the party was at risk of being successfully painted as antiwoman — with potentially grievous political consequences in the fall, several Republican senators said Wednesday.

Some conservatives are feeling trapped.

“I favor the Violence Against Women Act and have supported it at various points over the years, but there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who opposed the latest version last month in the Judiciary Committee. “You think that’s possible? You think they might have put things in there we couldn’t support that maybe then they could accuse you of not being supportive of fighting violence against women?”

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After failing to make much headway with women voters by insisting the GOP wants to take away the right to birth control, the Democratic Party is moving onto its next attempt to make the contrived “Republican war on women” narrative stick. The new fight is about the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, legislation the GOP has previously supported.

But this time around, Democrats are pinning a provision to it that would make it easier for illegal immigrants to obtain temporary visas as victims of domestic violence. In other words, it’s a transparent, politically-motivated attempt to provoke Republican opposition to VAWA and allow the left to claim the GOP supports violence against women:

Republicans are bracing for a battle where substantive arguments could be swamped by political optics and the intensity of the clash over women’s issues. At a closed-door Senate Republican lunch on Tuesday, Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska sternly warned her colleagues that the party was at risk of being successfully painted as antiwoman — with potentially grievous political consequences in the fall, several Republican senators said Wednesday.

Some conservatives are feeling trapped.

“I favor the Violence Against Women Act and have supported it at various points over the years, but there are matters put on that bill that almost seem to invite opposition,” said Senator Jeff Sessions, Republican of Alabama, who opposed the latest version last month in the Judiciary Committee. “You think that’s possible? You think they might have put things in there we couldn’t support that maybe then they could accuse you of not being supportive of fighting violence against women?”

Senate Democratic women are jumping on this gimmick today by marching on the Senate floor to insist on the quick renewal of the legislation.

But the one positive for Republicans is that there’s strong public opposition to illegal immigration. If they want any hope of winning on this issue, they’ll need to emphasize that it’s the Democrats who are holding the reauthorization hostage by tying it to provisions that would encourage more fraud in the immigration system. To the Senate Democratic women marching today, the GOP might argue: We would be happy to extend VAWA in its current form. We would love to do it immediately. In fact, the only thing delaying its extension is the controversial measure you tacked onto it.

What conservatives should avoid is relitigating VAWA. Yes, there are legitimate arguments that could be made against the law, some of which have been pursued by civil rights groups like the ACLU. But it’s also been in place for almost two decades, and while it may not be perfect, it’s negligible compared to the real battles conservatives need to focus on. If there’s opposition to VAWA from prominent conservative pundits, there’s a good chance it’ll be cited as ironclad proof that the Right is anti-women and used to divert attention from the serious election issues.

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Democrats Mull Tax Hike on Oil Companies

President Obama has been arguing for the repeal of certain oil company tax breaks for years, and it looks like the current hike in gas prices may provide the White House with a convenient opening:

After coordinating with the White House, Senate Democrats expect to consider, likely before the end of the month, legislation that would repeal tax breaks for oil and gas companies, a senior Senate Democratic aide said.

Details of the bill are still being decided, but the revenues could be used for consumer relief or to fund alternative energy initiatives, the aide said.

The aide said there are no easy energy solutions and that Democrats will continue to pursue the “all-of-the-above” strategy advocated by the White House.

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President Obama has been arguing for the repeal of certain oil company tax breaks for years, and it looks like the current hike in gas prices may provide the White House with a convenient opening:

After coordinating with the White House, Senate Democrats expect to consider, likely before the end of the month, legislation that would repeal tax breaks for oil and gas companies, a senior Senate Democratic aide said.

Details of the bill are still being decided, but the revenues could be used for consumer relief or to fund alternative energy initiatives, the aide said.

The aide said there are no easy energy solutions and that Democrats will continue to pursue the “all-of-the-above” strategy advocated by the White House.

Republicans argue that increasing the tax burden on oil companies is the last thing we should be doing during a time of high gas prices. “If someone in the administration can show me that raising taxes on American energy production will lower gas prices and create jobs, then I will gladly discuss it,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement to Roll Call. “But since nobody can, and the president doesn’t, this is merely an attempt to deflect from his failed policies.”

While some Republicans maintain that repealing tax breaks for oil and gas companies will lead directly to higher gas at the pump, that claim is debatable. That said, higher taxes on oil and gas companies certainly don’t lead to lower gas prices or energy-sector job creation.

Which makes you wonder why the administration and Senate Democrats are touting this as a way of dealing with rising gas prices. According to Roll Call, Democrats are still considering whether the tax breaks would be used to pay for “consumer energy relief” or “alternative energy initiatives.” In other words, either flat-out election-year bribery with consumer energy rebates, or the subsidization of various Obama-approved “green energy” initiatives. None of which will address the underlying economic reasons behind the rising gas prices.

Republicans have had political success with the gas price debate so far, particularly by emphasizing the importance of pursuing domestic energy sources like the Keystone XL pipeline. But it sounds like Senate Democrats are preparing for another class warfare-tinged fight with the GOP, this time about tax breaks for mammoth oil companies. That could help Obama pivot back to the populist, tax-the-rich strategy that he was pursuing last fall.

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