Commentary Magazine


Topic: Nebraska

Could 2012 Be Worse?

As we’ve noted, 2012 may be another perilous outing for Democratic incumbent congressmen and senators. The number of Democratic senators on the ballot in the next cycle (23, including the two independents who caucus with the Dems) and their location in many Red States that in a presidential year will likely have some help from the top of the ticket suggests some opportunities for the GOP. Public Policy Polling zeroes in on one example:

One of the most interesting findings on our Montana poll was Max Baucus’ extremely low level of popularity in the state. Only 38% of voters expressed support for his job performance while 53% disapproved. At this point pretty much all of his support from Republicans has evaporated with only 13% approving of him and although his numbers with Democrats aren’t bad at 70/21, they’re not nearly as strong as Jon Tester’s which are 87/6.

Baucus’ plight is similar to that of a number of other Senators who tried to have it both ways on health care, watering down the bill but still voting for it in the end.

That is a nice way of saying that while they posed as “moderate” Democrats, they voted like liberals. Baucus isn’t up for re-election until 2014, but there are a batch like him who face the voters in 2012: Jon Tester, Bill Nelson, Jim Webb, Claire McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Sherrod Brown, and Kent Conrad, for starters. That’s a total of seven Democrats who voted for (were all the 60th vote for) ObamaCare, supported the stimulus plan, and come from states (Montana, Florida, Virginia, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and North Dakota) that are quite likely to vote for a Republican for president. And the way things are going, you might add Bob Casey (Pennsylvania) and Herb Kohl (Wisconsin), who may have gone too far left in their states.

That’s an awful lot of states in the mix. The most immediate impact of this may be a higher degree of independence from the White House and the Obama agenda than these Democrats demonstrated in the first two years of Obama’s term. That suggests some openings for bipartisan action by the Republicans and the vulnerable Democrats. Bush tax cuts? Spending restraint? Yes, these issues and much more.

As we’ve noted, 2012 may be another perilous outing for Democratic incumbent congressmen and senators. The number of Democratic senators on the ballot in the next cycle (23, including the two independents who caucus with the Dems) and their location in many Red States that in a presidential year will likely have some help from the top of the ticket suggests some opportunities for the GOP. Public Policy Polling zeroes in on one example:

One of the most interesting findings on our Montana poll was Max Baucus’ extremely low level of popularity in the state. Only 38% of voters expressed support for his job performance while 53% disapproved. At this point pretty much all of his support from Republicans has evaporated with only 13% approving of him and although his numbers with Democrats aren’t bad at 70/21, they’re not nearly as strong as Jon Tester’s which are 87/6.

Baucus’ plight is similar to that of a number of other Senators who tried to have it both ways on health care, watering down the bill but still voting for it in the end.

That is a nice way of saying that while they posed as “moderate” Democrats, they voted like liberals. Baucus isn’t up for re-election until 2014, but there are a batch like him who face the voters in 2012: Jon Tester, Bill Nelson, Jim Webb, Claire McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Sherrod Brown, and Kent Conrad, for starters. That’s a total of seven Democrats who voted for (were all the 60th vote for) ObamaCare, supported the stimulus plan, and come from states (Montana, Florida, Virginia, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, and North Dakota) that are quite likely to vote for a Republican for president. And the way things are going, you might add Bob Casey (Pennsylvania) and Herb Kohl (Wisconsin), who may have gone too far left in their states.

That’s an awful lot of states in the mix. The most immediate impact of this may be a higher degree of independence from the White House and the Obama agenda than these Democrats demonstrated in the first two years of Obama’s term. That suggests some openings for bipartisan action by the Republicans and the vulnerable Democrats. Bush tax cuts? Spending restraint? Yes, these issues and much more.

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The 2010 Midterm Election in Perspective

In shifting through the fine analysis that emerged in the aftermath of last week’s midterm elections, a few data points are particularly noteworthy:

  • Republicans picked up more House seats than in any election since 1938. Republicans now control the most House seats, and Democrats now have the smallest number of House seats, since 1946.
  • Fifty incumbent Democratic congressmen were defeated, while only two incumbent House Republicans lost.
  • Independents comprised 28 percent of the electorate and supported Republican congressional candidates by a margin of 56 to 38 percent. That represents a 36-point turnaround from the last midterm election, in 2006, when independents supported Democratic congressional candidates by 57 to 39 percent. In addition, independents trust Republicans to do a better job than Democrats by a margin of 23 points on jobs and employment, 23 points on the economy, 27 points on government spending, and 31 points on taxes.
  • Voters support repealing/replacing ObamaCare by 51 to 42 percent. Democrats oppose repeal by 80 to 16 percent — but both independents (by 57 to 31 percent) and Republicans (by 87 to 7 percent) want to repeal and replace it.
  • Sixty-five percent of voters said that the stimulus bill either hurt the economy or did no good — and those voters overwhelmingly favored the GOP.
  • Fifty-four percent of those voting said they were dissatisfied with the performance of Barack Obama — and they broke 85-11 for the Republicans. Read More

In shifting through the fine analysis that emerged in the aftermath of last week’s midterm elections, a few data points are particularly noteworthy:

  • Republicans picked up more House seats than in any election since 1938. Republicans now control the most House seats, and Democrats now have the smallest number of House seats, since 1946.
  • Fifty incumbent Democratic congressmen were defeated, while only two incumbent House Republicans lost.
  • Independents comprised 28 percent of the electorate and supported Republican congressional candidates by a margin of 56 to 38 percent. That represents a 36-point turnaround from the last midterm election, in 2006, when independents supported Democratic congressional candidates by 57 to 39 percent. In addition, independents trust Republicans to do a better job than Democrats by a margin of 23 points on jobs and employment, 23 points on the economy, 27 points on government spending, and 31 points on taxes.
  • Voters support repealing/replacing ObamaCare by 51 to 42 percent. Democrats oppose repeal by 80 to 16 percent — but both independents (by 57 to 31 percent) and Republicans (by 87 to 7 percent) want to repeal and replace it.
  • Sixty-five percent of voters said that the stimulus bill either hurt the economy or did no good — and those voters overwhelmingly favored the GOP.
  • Fifty-four percent of those voting said they were dissatisfied with the performance of Barack Obama — and they broke 85-11 for the Republicans.
  • Republicans have captured the seats in at least 57 of the 83 Democratic-held districts in which Obama won less than 55 percent of the vote.
  • Democrats hold a majority of the congressional delegation in only three states — Iowa, New Mexico, and Vermont — that don’t directly touch an ocean. Republicans similarly routed Democrats in gubernatorial races across the Midwest and the border states, from Ohio and Tennessee to Wisconsin and Iowa.
  • Republicans picked up 680 seats in state legislatures, the most in the modern era. In the 1994 GOP wave, Republicans picked up 472 seats. The previous record was in the post-Watergate election of 1974, when Democrats picked up 628 seats. The GOP gained majorities in at least 19 state house chambers. They now have unified control — meaning both chambers — of 26 state legislatures. And across the country, Republicans now control 55 chambers, Democrats have 38, and two are tied. (The Nebraska legislature is unicameral.)
  • Republicans have not enjoyed this much power in state capitals since the 1920s.
  • Voters who identified as ideologically conservative accounted for 41 percent of the turnout, an increase from the 34 percent figure in 2008 and the highest level recorded for any election since 1976.

Politico called the midterm elections a “bloodbath of a night for Democrats.” National Journal’s Ron Brownstein wrote, “If the U.S. genuinely used a parliamentary system, Tuesday’s result … would have represented a vote of no confidence in the president and the governing party.” And the Washington Examiner’s Michael Barone says that “you could argue that this is the best Republican showing ever.”

Apart from all that, it was a splendid midterm election for President Obama and his party.

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Thanks, but I’d Rather Not

Not surprisingly, they aren’t lining up around the block to take the job — as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, that is:

There don’t appear to be any real good options to replace Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In fact, a whole slate of potential chairmen have already said no, while not one senator has publicly expressed interest.

Joining the list of senators saying no this weekend was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the former two-term chairman of the DSCC who guided his party to a 13-seat gain and a (temporarily) filibuster-proof majority in 2009. Schumer’s name had been floated in the week since the 2010 election, but he told the New York Observer on Sunday that he’s not doing it.

“I have been asked by Leader Reid and many of my colleagues, and I’ve said I think I can better serve our country, our state, and our party by focusing on issues and getting us to refocus on the middle class,” Schumer said.

Schumer, of course, might still benefit personally from some more Democratic losses in 2012, which could push the Democrats into the minority and finally dislodge Harry Reid. There certainly will be opportunities, with Senate seats in West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and even Wisconsin up for grabs.

That leaves such luminaries as “Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and freshman Chris Coons (Del.)” available for the job. Do any of these seem formidable? Some are barely presentable as the face of the Democratic Party.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on who gets the white elephant on this one. It wasn’t Bob Menendez who lost the Democrats six seats. It was Obama and Harry Reid — plus an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. The GOP shouldn’t be faulted for calculating that those same factors — and the luck of the draw (only 10 GOP seats are up in 2012) — give them a very good shot at winning the Senate in a couple of years. So who can blame Democratic senators for ducking the call of duty on this one?

Not surprisingly, they aren’t lining up around the block to take the job — as head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, that is:

There don’t appear to be any real good options to replace Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) as chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. In fact, a whole slate of potential chairmen have already said no, while not one senator has publicly expressed interest.

Joining the list of senators saying no this weekend was Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), the former two-term chairman of the DSCC who guided his party to a 13-seat gain and a (temporarily) filibuster-proof majority in 2009. Schumer’s name had been floated in the week since the 2010 election, but he told the New York Observer on Sunday that he’s not doing it.

“I have been asked by Leader Reid and many of my colleagues, and I’ve said I think I can better serve our country, our state, and our party by focusing on issues and getting us to refocus on the middle class,” Schumer said.

Schumer, of course, might still benefit personally from some more Democratic losses in 2012, which could push the Democrats into the minority and finally dislodge Harry Reid. There certainly will be opportunities, with Senate seats in West Virginia, Virginia, Florida, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and even Wisconsin up for grabs.

That leaves such luminaries as “Sens. Patty Murray (Wash.), Michael Bennet (Colo.), Barbara Mikulski (Md.), Ron Wyden (Ore.), Kay Hagan (N.C.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Mark Pryor (Ark.), Jack Reed (R.I.) and freshman Chris Coons (Del.)” available for the job. Do any of these seem formidable? Some are barely presentable as the face of the Democratic Party.

But we shouldn’t get too hung up on who gets the white elephant on this one. It wasn’t Bob Menendez who lost the Democrats six seats. It was Obama and Harry Reid — plus an unemployment rate of over 9 percent. The GOP shouldn’t be faulted for calculating that those same factors — and the luck of the draw (only 10 GOP seats are up in 2012) — give them a very good shot at winning the Senate in a couple of years. So who can blame Democratic senators for ducking the call of duty on this one?

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Manchin to Fight Obama — or Switch?

A report suggests that Senate Republicans are trying to lure Joe Manchin to switch parties:

Aside from his pick of committee assignments (likely the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), Manchin might get support for one of his pet projects — a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel that has stalled under Democratic leadership in Washington. …

Republicans believe Manchin is particularly susceptible to the overture because he is up for reelection in 2012 and will have to be on the ticket with President Obama, who is direly unpopular in West Virginia. Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Independent Joe Lieberman are the other two prime targets of Republican advances.

For now, Manchin says he’s not switching. But he certainly didn’t close any doors:

“He was elected as a Democrat and he has to go to Washington as a Democrat to try, in good faith, to make the changes in the party he campaigned on,” said one Manchin advisor. “Now, if that doesn’t work and Democrats aren’t receptive, I don’t know what possibilities that leaves open.”

Not exactly a pledge of perpetual loyalty to his party, is it?

Manchin’s problem is not as acute as Ben Nelson’s is. Nelson infuriated his home state by caving on ObamaCare, thereby setting himself up as the  “60th vote” (as were all Democrats in the cloture vote) target in 2012. It is questionable whether a party change would save Nelson; even if he switched — à la Arlen Specter — Nelson could well face a primary challenge. And from Manchin’s perspective, he was able to swim against the tide by differentiating himself from Obama and his liberal helpmates inside the Beltway. Provided he now carries through and joins with Republicans on key votes on the budget, health care, etc., shouldn’t his chances improve in 2012?

All this raises the question as to whether a bare majority in the Senate is all that important to the GOP. The issue, aside from chairmanships of committees, is not which party “controls” the Senate. That will be a case-by-case affair, determined by the relative craftiness of Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell in cobbling together temporary alliances of 60 senators. In that regard, the Republicans’ policy objectives might be better served — and the image of bipartisanship enhanced — by inducing Manchin, Nelson, and Lieberman to vote with them as Democrats.

And let’s not forget the gift the Republicans have received: Harry Reid — pursed lips, perpetual gaffes, nasty demeanor, and all — retaining the Senate majority leader spot. That seems almost too good an opportunity to give up.

So I don’t expect the GOP to try all that hard to convince the three most likely candidates to switch parties. If Obama’s fortunes continue to slide, some of them may be chasing the GOP before too long.

A report suggests that Senate Republicans are trying to lure Joe Manchin to switch parties:

Aside from his pick of committee assignments (likely the Energy and Natural Resources Committee), Manchin might get support for one of his pet projects — a plant to convert coal to diesel fuel that has stalled under Democratic leadership in Washington. …

Republicans believe Manchin is particularly susceptible to the overture because he is up for reelection in 2012 and will have to be on the ticket with President Obama, who is direly unpopular in West Virginia. Democrat Ben Nelson of Nebraska and Independent Joe Lieberman are the other two prime targets of Republican advances.

For now, Manchin says he’s not switching. But he certainly didn’t close any doors:

“He was elected as a Democrat and he has to go to Washington as a Democrat to try, in good faith, to make the changes in the party he campaigned on,” said one Manchin advisor. “Now, if that doesn’t work and Democrats aren’t receptive, I don’t know what possibilities that leaves open.”

Not exactly a pledge of perpetual loyalty to his party, is it?

Manchin’s problem is not as acute as Ben Nelson’s is. Nelson infuriated his home state by caving on ObamaCare, thereby setting himself up as the  “60th vote” (as were all Democrats in the cloture vote) target in 2012. It is questionable whether a party change would save Nelson; even if he switched — à la Arlen Specter — Nelson could well face a primary challenge. And from Manchin’s perspective, he was able to swim against the tide by differentiating himself from Obama and his liberal helpmates inside the Beltway. Provided he now carries through and joins with Republicans on key votes on the budget, health care, etc., shouldn’t his chances improve in 2012?

All this raises the question as to whether a bare majority in the Senate is all that important to the GOP. The issue, aside from chairmanships of committees, is not which party “controls” the Senate. That will be a case-by-case affair, determined by the relative craftiness of Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell in cobbling together temporary alliances of 60 senators. In that regard, the Republicans’ policy objectives might be better served — and the image of bipartisanship enhanced — by inducing Manchin, Nelson, and Lieberman to vote with them as Democrats.

And let’s not forget the gift the Republicans have received: Harry Reid — pursed lips, perpetual gaffes, nasty demeanor, and all — retaining the Senate majority leader spot. That seems almost too good an opportunity to give up.

So I don’t expect the GOP to try all that hard to convince the three most likely candidates to switch parties. If Obama’s fortunes continue to slide, some of them may be chasing the GOP before too long.

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RE: Senate Shifts

As I noted yesterday, the new Senate will have more Republicans and, just as important, many more nervous Democrats. Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is thinking along the same lines:

“I think the most interesting thing to watch in the next Congress is how many Democrats start voting with us,” McConnell said.

“Every one of the 23 Democrats up [for re-election] in the next cycle has a clear understanding of what happened Tuesday,” he said. “I think we have major opportunities for bipartisan coalitions to support what we want to do.”

There are roughly three groupings of these Democrats. First are those who already cross the aisle now and then. “Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska has voted with Republicans about 32 percent of the time during this Congress, according to the Washington Post. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri has broken with her party on about 1 in 5 votes.” Yes, this is deceptive because on the really big issues (e.g., ObamaCare), these two voted with the White House. Still, their proclivity is not knee-jerk agreement with their leaders.

Next are those up for re-election in 2012. “Sen. John Tester, who’s up for re-election in 2012, represents red state Montana. And Senator-elect Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has to run again in two years for a full term, has already promised to take aim at Democratic policies — literally.” You can add in Kent Conrad. And Jim Webb.

And finally, you have the Blue State senators whose states aren’t all that Blue anymore. “Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin will say goodbye to Badger State delegation colleague Russ Feingold; Pennsylvania’s Sen. Bob Casey and Florida’s Bill Nelson will be joined on the Hill in January by conservative Republicans instead of by fellow Dems; and Sen. Sherrod Brown witnessed the Democrat in Ohio’s Senate contest beaten by almost 20 points.” In short, they risk being shown up by their states’ more-conservative senators.

For years, the conservative base has grumbled about the least-conservative members of the Senate caucus (the two Maine gals and Snarlin’ Arlen before he switched parties). Now it’s the Dems’ turn to wrestle with the least-liberal members on their side. Harry Reid’s headaches didn’t end on Election Day, and his own narrow escape from a highly vulnerable opponent will serve as a warning to members who don’t have the influence and seniority of a minority leader.

McConnell, with 47 on his side and more to poach from the Democratic side, will be a potent force. Prepare to see him run rings around Reid. Chuck Schumer can take some small consolation that he isn’t going to be the victim of McConnell’s parliamentary skills. And a final point: with a working majority of Red State Democrats and Republicans, prepare to see the liberal intelligentsia defend the wondrous filibuster. Just you wait.

As I noted yesterday, the new Senate will have more Republicans and, just as important, many more nervous Democrats. Sen. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is thinking along the same lines:

“I think the most interesting thing to watch in the next Congress is how many Democrats start voting with us,” McConnell said.

“Every one of the 23 Democrats up [for re-election] in the next cycle has a clear understanding of what happened Tuesday,” he said. “I think we have major opportunities for bipartisan coalitions to support what we want to do.”

There are roughly three groupings of these Democrats. First are those who already cross the aisle now and then. “Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska has voted with Republicans about 32 percent of the time during this Congress, according to the Washington Post. Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri has broken with her party on about 1 in 5 votes.” Yes, this is deceptive because on the really big issues (e.g., ObamaCare), these two voted with the White House. Still, their proclivity is not knee-jerk agreement with their leaders.

Next are those up for re-election in 2012. “Sen. John Tester, who’s up for re-election in 2012, represents red state Montana. And Senator-elect Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who has to run again in two years for a full term, has already promised to take aim at Democratic policies — literally.” You can add in Kent Conrad. And Jim Webb.

And finally, you have the Blue State senators whose states aren’t all that Blue anymore. “Sen. Herb Kohl of Wisconsin will say goodbye to Badger State delegation colleague Russ Feingold; Pennsylvania’s Sen. Bob Casey and Florida’s Bill Nelson will be joined on the Hill in January by conservative Republicans instead of by fellow Dems; and Sen. Sherrod Brown witnessed the Democrat in Ohio’s Senate contest beaten by almost 20 points.” In short, they risk being shown up by their states’ more-conservative senators.

For years, the conservative base has grumbled about the least-conservative members of the Senate caucus (the two Maine gals and Snarlin’ Arlen before he switched parties). Now it’s the Dems’ turn to wrestle with the least-liberal members on their side. Harry Reid’s headaches didn’t end on Election Day, and his own narrow escape from a highly vulnerable opponent will serve as a warning to members who don’t have the influence and seniority of a minority leader.

McConnell, with 47 on his side and more to poach from the Democratic side, will be a potent force. Prepare to see him run rings around Reid. Chuck Schumer can take some small consolation that he isn’t going to be the victim of McConnell’s parliamentary skills. And a final point: with a working majority of Red State Democrats and Republicans, prepare to see the liberal intelligentsia defend the wondrous filibuster. Just you wait.

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Senate Shifts

Fred Barnes makes a key observation:

Ten Democrats whose seats are up in 2012 come from right-leaning states or saw their states scoot to the right this week: Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jim Webb of Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Jon Tester of Montana, and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico.

It’s a good bet that some or all of them will be sympathetic to cutting spending, extending the Bush tax cuts, scaling back ObamaCare, and supporting other parts of the Republican agenda. With Democratic allies, Republicans will have operational control of the Senate more often than Majority Leader Harry Reid and Mr. Obama will.

And let’s not forget Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who ran and won by repudiating Obama’s agenda. You may be skeptical that self-styled moderate Democrats will buck the president. Certainly, their track record in that regard is poor. But the 2010 midterm elections and these lawmakers’ own re-election have a way of focusing Democrats on the perils of Obamaism. And to give you a sense of the danger these Democrats face, Ohio, Nebraska, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, and New Mexico will all have Republican governors — and, if those officials do their jobs properly, a taste of what a conservative reform agenda looks like.

Will the Democrats at risk in 2012 desert Obama all the time? Of course not. But in key areas, it certainly will appear that there is a bipartisan consensus on one side and the president on the other. With Harry Reid — he of gaffes and never a sunny disposition — leading the Senate Democrats, this could become quite entertaining and, for the electorate, illuminating.

Fred Barnes makes a key observation:

Ten Democrats whose seats are up in 2012 come from right-leaning states or saw their states scoot to the right this week: Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jim Webb of Virginia, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, Jon Tester of Montana, and Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico.

It’s a good bet that some or all of them will be sympathetic to cutting spending, extending the Bush tax cuts, scaling back ObamaCare, and supporting other parts of the Republican agenda. With Democratic allies, Republicans will have operational control of the Senate more often than Majority Leader Harry Reid and Mr. Obama will.

And let’s not forget Sherrod Brown of Ohio and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, who ran and won by repudiating Obama’s agenda. You may be skeptical that self-styled moderate Democrats will buck the president. Certainly, their track record in that regard is poor. But the 2010 midterm elections and these lawmakers’ own re-election have a way of focusing Democrats on the perils of Obamaism. And to give you a sense of the danger these Democrats face, Ohio, Nebraska, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, North Dakota, and New Mexico will all have Republican governors — and, if those officials do their jobs properly, a taste of what a conservative reform agenda looks like.

Will the Democrats at risk in 2012 desert Obama all the time? Of course not. But in key areas, it certainly will appear that there is a bipartisan consensus on one side and the president on the other. With Harry Reid — he of gaffes and never a sunny disposition — leading the Senate Democrats, this could become quite entertaining and, for the electorate, illuminating.

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Going-Out-of-Business Sale in the Senate

Despite their tendency to make life more difficult for themselves, Republicans will enjoy greater numbers in the U.S. Senate after November. So Obama and Harry Reid are in essence having a going-out-of-business sale. In Reid’s case, he may actually be out of a job, but in any event, he’s not going to enjoy a hefty majority to pass major pieces of the liberal agenda.

Hence, Obama is threatening to install the new consumer protection agency head by recess appointment. And Carl Levin is junking up the defense authorization bill:

Last year, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), to the chagrin of Republicans, successfully added language expanding protections from hate crimes. This year, Democrats are expected to attempt to add the “American Dream Act,” a bill that would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrant students, to the defense authorization bill. …

What is unprecedented, however, is that the bill could come to the Senate floor without the support of the committee’s top Republican, John McCain (R-AZ).McCain adamantly opposes the bill because it contains language that could lead to the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

“It authorizes the repeal of DADT before the study is completed,” McCain told a gaggle of reporters in the Capitol Monday, referring to the Defense Department’s ongoing analysis of the impacts of a policy change.

Reid is also bent on staging a vote on taxes, despite the angst it is causing his caucus. As this report explains:

During the Democrats’ weekly caucus, a majority held there were greater risks associated with inaction, because that would give Republicans an opportunity to accuse Democrats of raising taxes across the board, Mr. Casey said. But a minority of Senate Democrats would prefer not to take a vote before the elections, Mr. Casey said. Some worry about being tagged with raising any taxes, even the top marginal rates.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he plans to hold a vote “before we leave” in a few weeks, but he didn’t promise he has the votes. “I hope so,” he said. “I think it would certainly be the right thing to do, and only one way of finding out, and that’s take a vote on it.”

Illustrating the tough sledding ahead in the Senate, Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.), who wants to extend the tax cuts for everyone, didn’t back off his position Tuesday. “I favor extending all of the Bush tax cuts, every one of them,” he said.

I’m not sure which is worse for Reid — demonstrating his ineptness by losing a vote or ramming through a tax cut as the economy craters. (And his House colleagues may pull the rug out from under him: “This week, members of the Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions—two more-conservative Democratic groups—were pushing colleagues to sign a letter urging House leaders to schedule a vote on a full extension.”)

In sum, the Senate Democrats will try mightily to get whatever they can before the electorate’s wrath is felt. The problem, of course, is for those Democratic survivors or wanna-be survivors who will have to explain the continued disdain shown the voters.

Despite their tendency to make life more difficult for themselves, Republicans will enjoy greater numbers in the U.S. Senate after November. So Obama and Harry Reid are in essence having a going-out-of-business sale. In Reid’s case, he may actually be out of a job, but in any event, he’s not going to enjoy a hefty majority to pass major pieces of the liberal agenda.

Hence, Obama is threatening to install the new consumer protection agency head by recess appointment. And Carl Levin is junking up the defense authorization bill:

Last year, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D-MI), to the chagrin of Republicans, successfully added language expanding protections from hate crimes. This year, Democrats are expected to attempt to add the “American Dream Act,” a bill that would provide a path to U.S. citizenship for illegal immigrant students, to the defense authorization bill. …

What is unprecedented, however, is that the bill could come to the Senate floor without the support of the committee’s top Republican, John McCain (R-AZ).McCain adamantly opposes the bill because it contains language that could lead to the repeal of the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans homosexuals from serving openly in the military.

“It authorizes the repeal of DADT before the study is completed,” McCain told a gaggle of reporters in the Capitol Monday, referring to the Defense Department’s ongoing analysis of the impacts of a policy change.

Reid is also bent on staging a vote on taxes, despite the angst it is causing his caucus. As this report explains:

During the Democrats’ weekly caucus, a majority held there were greater risks associated with inaction, because that would give Republicans an opportunity to accuse Democrats of raising taxes across the board, Mr. Casey said. But a minority of Senate Democrats would prefer not to take a vote before the elections, Mr. Casey said. Some worry about being tagged with raising any taxes, even the top marginal rates.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said he plans to hold a vote “before we leave” in a few weeks, but he didn’t promise he has the votes. “I hope so,” he said. “I think it would certainly be the right thing to do, and only one way of finding out, and that’s take a vote on it.”

Illustrating the tough sledding ahead in the Senate, Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.), who wants to extend the tax cuts for everyone, didn’t back off his position Tuesday. “I favor extending all of the Bush tax cuts, every one of them,” he said.

I’m not sure which is worse for Reid — demonstrating his ineptness by losing a vote or ramming through a tax cut as the economy craters. (And his House colleagues may pull the rug out from under him: “This week, members of the Blue Dog and New Democrat coalitions—two more-conservative Democratic groups—were pushing colleagues to sign a letter urging House leaders to schedule a vote on a full extension.”)

In sum, the Senate Democrats will try mightily to get whatever they can before the electorate’s wrath is felt. The problem, of course, is for those Democratic survivors or wanna-be survivors who will have to explain the continued disdain shown the voters.

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Lending the GOP a Helping Hand

It’s becoming apparent that Obama’s latest economic plan has not won over even his own party. The latest Democrat to ditch the president is Sen. Ben Nelson, who is hinting he’d join a filibuster:

“It would be very hard for me to support that,” Nelson told reporters outside the Senate chamber before a vote this evening.

The list is growing:

“I don’t think we ought to be drawing a distinction at $250K,” Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) told Fox News.

Separately, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with Democrats, also expressed strong support for temporarily extending all of the tax cuts to aid the economic recovery.

“I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through,” he said. “The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be.”

In the House, several rank-and-file Democrats are urging their leaders to back an extension of all of the tax cuts. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has staked out the same position as Obama, that tax cuts should only be extended for the middle class.

“Given the continued fragility of our economy and slow pace of recovery, we share their concerns,” stated a draft letter being circulated by Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and other Democrats.

Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), and Evan Bayh (Ind.) previously have questioned the wisdom of raising taxes during one of the roughest recessions on record.

One wonders exactly what the White House had in mind when they tossed this out. Did the brain trust imagine they could successfully play the class-warfare game as the economy is sinking into the abyss? Did they not understand that they have asked their congressional allies to walk the plank one too many times?

Rather than provide a rallying cry for his party, Obama has tossed yet another grenade into his own ranks. He certainly is the GOP’s greatest asset this election cycle.

It’s becoming apparent that Obama’s latest economic plan has not won over even his own party. The latest Democrat to ditch the president is Sen. Ben Nelson, who is hinting he’d join a filibuster:

“It would be very hard for me to support that,” Nelson told reporters outside the Senate chamber before a vote this evening.

The list is growing:

“I don’t think we ought to be drawing a distinction at $250K,” Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) told Fox News.

Separately, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with Democrats, also expressed strong support for temporarily extending all of the tax cuts to aid the economic recovery.

“I don’t think it makes sense to raise any federal taxes during the uncertain economy we are struggling through,” he said. “The more money we leave in private hands, the quicker our economic recovery will be.”

In the House, several rank-and-file Democrats are urging their leaders to back an extension of all of the tax cuts. Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has staked out the same position as Obama, that tax cuts should only be extended for the middle class.

“Given the continued fragility of our economy and slow pace of recovery, we share their concerns,” stated a draft letter being circulated by Rep. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and other Democrats.

Democratic Sens. Ben Nelson (Neb.), Kent Conrad (N.D.), and Evan Bayh (Ind.) previously have questioned the wisdom of raising taxes during one of the roughest recessions on record.

One wonders exactly what the White House had in mind when they tossed this out. Did the brain trust imagine they could successfully play the class-warfare game as the economy is sinking into the abyss? Did they not understand that they have asked their congressional allies to walk the plank one too many times?

Rather than provide a rallying cry for his party, Obama has tossed yet another grenade into his own ranks. He certainly is the GOP’s greatest asset this election cycle.

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Democrats Balk at Raising Taxes in a Recession

It might have something to do with Obama’s falling poll numbers. Maybe they simply can’t bring themselves to defend the lunacy of raising taxes when the prospect of a double-dip recession is looming. But at least a few Senate Democrats are talking sense:

Two more Senate Democrats called for extending tax cuts for all earners—including those with the highest incomes—in what appears to be a breakdown of the party’s consensus on the how to handle the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) said in an interview Wednesday that Congress shouldn’t allow taxes on the wealthy to rise until the economy is on a sounder footing.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) said through a spokesman that he also supported extending all the expiring tax cuts for now, adding that he wanted to offset the impact on federal deficits as much as possible. … “As a general rule, you don’t want to be cutting spending or raising taxes in the midst of a downturn,” Mr. Conrad said. “We know that very soon we’ve got to pivot and focus on the deficit. But it probably is too soon to cut spending or raise taxes.”

Yeah, as a general rule you probably don’t want to pass a massive health-care bill with oodles of new taxes and mandates “in the midst of a downturn” either. Nevertheless, these two plus Sen. Evan Bayh are “a departure from what appeared to be an emerging unified Democratic stance.” Maybe not so unified after all.

Remember Rep. Joe Sestak bemoaning the plight of small businesses the other day? Hmm, maybe he could join the reality-based Democrats. After all, those small businesses are the ones that will be hit if the top rate rises to 39.6%. (“Republicans and many business groups favor extending all the breaks, contending that increasing tax rates will hit small businesses hard.”) But I haven’t heard any of that from him. And really, is a guy who voted with Nancy Pelosi 97.8 percent of the time the lawmaker who is going to break with liberal orthodoxy? Not likely.

It might have something to do with Obama’s falling poll numbers. Maybe they simply can’t bring themselves to defend the lunacy of raising taxes when the prospect of a double-dip recession is looming. But at least a few Senate Democrats are talking sense:

Two more Senate Democrats called for extending tax cuts for all earners—including those with the highest incomes—in what appears to be a breakdown of the party’s consensus on the how to handle the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts.

Sen. Kent Conrad (D., N.D.) said in an interview Wednesday that Congress shouldn’t allow taxes on the wealthy to rise until the economy is on a sounder footing.

Sen. Ben Nelson (D., Neb.) said through a spokesman that he also supported extending all the expiring tax cuts for now, adding that he wanted to offset the impact on federal deficits as much as possible. … “As a general rule, you don’t want to be cutting spending or raising taxes in the midst of a downturn,” Mr. Conrad said. “We know that very soon we’ve got to pivot and focus on the deficit. But it probably is too soon to cut spending or raise taxes.”

Yeah, as a general rule you probably don’t want to pass a massive health-care bill with oodles of new taxes and mandates “in the midst of a downturn” either. Nevertheless, these two plus Sen. Evan Bayh are “a departure from what appeared to be an emerging unified Democratic stance.” Maybe not so unified after all.

Remember Rep. Joe Sestak bemoaning the plight of small businesses the other day? Hmm, maybe he could join the reality-based Democrats. After all, those small businesses are the ones that will be hit if the top rate rises to 39.6%. (“Republicans and many business groups favor extending all the breaks, contending that increasing tax rates will hit small businesses hard.”) But I haven’t heard any of that from him. And really, is a guy who voted with Nancy Pelosi 97.8 percent of the time the lawmaker who is going to break with liberal orthodoxy? Not likely.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Harry Reid has even managed to stiffen Olympia Snowe’s spine: “For a second day in row, Democrats failed to open debate on a Wall Street reform bill after Senate Republicans held ranks to block it. The vote was 57 to 41, with all Republicans who were present voting no. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) was the lone Democrat to vote no on Monday, and he voted no again. … In fact, some of the moderates who might be most likely to vote yes — such as Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe — have expressed displeasure that Reid is forcing the votes even as bipartisan negotiations on the bill go forward.”

Tom Goldstein thinks Obama will pick Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. Among his smart observations: “Elena Kagan has significant demonstrated success in working with conservatives at Harvard Law School, which is an exceptionally challenging environment, and has parallels to the relationships at the Court. But she has never been a judge, and would as a consequence presumably take longer than the others to adapt to the new role.”

Israel isn’t going to buy into “containment” if that’s where Obama is heading with Iran: “Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the world cannot afford to wait too long to see if Iran backs down on its nuclear program while in Washington on Tuesday. In a news conference with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Barak said he supports the US focus on tougher economic sanctions against Teheran, but he added that only time will tell to what extent sanctions are effective in persuading Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. Barak says that if the international community waits too long, Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon that he says would ‘change the landscape,’ and not just of the Middle East.”

According to Robert Gates, “Syria and Iran are providing Hezbollah with so many rockets that they are at a point where they have more missiles than most governments in the world.” So what are we going to do about it?

Not remotely the most transparent administration in history: “The Obama administration has only partially complied with congressional subpoenas for information on the deadly November shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. The failure by the Defense and Justice departments to turn over all the requested documentation — which they say they do not intend to do — is not likely to ease the growing tension between some key senators and the Obama administration over the incident at the Army base on Nov. 5, 2009.”

Jeb Bush speaks out against Arizona’s immigration law. “I think it creates unintended consequences. … It’s difficult for me to imagine how you’re going to enforce this law. It places a significant burden on local law enforcement and you have civil liberties issues that are significant as well.”

Michael Gerson: “American states have broad powers. But they are not permitted their own foreign or immigration policy. One reason is that immigration law concerns not only the treatment of illegal immigrants but also the proper treatment of American citizens. And here the Arizona law fails badly. … Americans are not accustomed to the command ‘Your papers, please,’ however politely delivered. The distinctly American response to such a request would be ‘Go to hell,’ and then ‘See you in court.’”

The Obami’s multilaterialism fetish continues: “Step by tentative step, the Obama Administration is getting closer to embracing the International Criminal Court. The White House won’t join the Hague-based body soon, but that’s its logical endpoint. Answerable to virtually no one, the ICC was created by the 1998 United Nations’s Rome Statute to prosecute war and other ‘serious’ crimes.”

Harry Reid has even managed to stiffen Olympia Snowe’s spine: “For a second day in row, Democrats failed to open debate on a Wall Street reform bill after Senate Republicans held ranks to block it. The vote was 57 to 41, with all Republicans who were present voting no. Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) was the lone Democrat to vote no on Monday, and he voted no again. … In fact, some of the moderates who might be most likely to vote yes — such as Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe — have expressed displeasure that Reid is forcing the votes even as bipartisan negotiations on the bill go forward.”

Tom Goldstein thinks Obama will pick Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. Among his smart observations: “Elena Kagan has significant demonstrated success in working with conservatives at Harvard Law School, which is an exceptionally challenging environment, and has parallels to the relationships at the Court. But she has never been a judge, and would as a consequence presumably take longer than the others to adapt to the new role.”

Israel isn’t going to buy into “containment” if that’s where Obama is heading with Iran: “Defense Minister Ehud Barak said the world cannot afford to wait too long to see if Iran backs down on its nuclear program while in Washington on Tuesday. In a news conference with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Barak said he supports the US focus on tougher economic sanctions against Teheran, but he added that only time will tell to what extent sanctions are effective in persuading Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions. Barak says that if the international community waits too long, Iran could acquire a nuclear weapon that he says would ‘change the landscape,’ and not just of the Middle East.”

According to Robert Gates, “Syria and Iran are providing Hezbollah with so many rockets that they are at a point where they have more missiles than most governments in the world.” So what are we going to do about it?

Not remotely the most transparent administration in history: “The Obama administration has only partially complied with congressional subpoenas for information on the deadly November shootings at Fort Hood, Texas. The failure by the Defense and Justice departments to turn over all the requested documentation — which they say they do not intend to do — is not likely to ease the growing tension between some key senators and the Obama administration over the incident at the Army base on Nov. 5, 2009.”

Jeb Bush speaks out against Arizona’s immigration law. “I think it creates unintended consequences. … It’s difficult for me to imagine how you’re going to enforce this law. It places a significant burden on local law enforcement and you have civil liberties issues that are significant as well.”

Michael Gerson: “American states have broad powers. But they are not permitted their own foreign or immigration policy. One reason is that immigration law concerns not only the treatment of illegal immigrants but also the proper treatment of American citizens. And here the Arizona law fails badly. … Americans are not accustomed to the command ‘Your papers, please,’ however politely delivered. The distinctly American response to such a request would be ‘Go to hell,’ and then ‘See you in court.’”

The Obami’s multilaterialism fetish continues: “Step by tentative step, the Obama Administration is getting closer to embracing the International Criminal Court. The White House won’t join the Hague-based body soon, but that’s its logical endpoint. Answerable to virtually no one, the ICC was created by the 1998 United Nations’s Rome Statute to prosecute war and other ‘serious’ crimes.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The problem for Senate Democrats: likely voters prefer Republicans this year. “Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey holds six-point lead over Senator Arlen Specter thanks to his strength with Republicans, likely voters and independents, according to a new poll.”

SEIU pollsters tell Democrats that their problems stem from the “perception that they’ve turned into deal-making insiders on their path to achieving it.” The solution, naturally, is to use reconciliation to jam through the Cornhusker Kickback.

Meanwhile: “White House aides say deals such as in Nebraska will be allowed if they benefit more than one state.”

Rasmussen reports: “Democrats in Congress are vowing to pass their national health care plan with a vote in the House possible by the end of this week. But most voters still oppose the plan the same way they have for months. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 43% favor the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats, while 53% oppose it.”

Phil Klein wants to know: “If Obama refuses to look at public opinion polls, then how can he profess to know what the American people want? And if he doesn’t care about polls, then how come the White House is circulating polls on Capitol Hill asserting that support for health care legislation is rising?”

But really, the problem is mostly in swing districts. “By approximately 2-1 margins, voters in these districts oppose the current legislation, oppose a mandate to buy health insurance, believe the government can’t afford the legislation and believe that health care legislation is distracting attention from more important issues.” Well, yes, these would be the very same congressional districts with the wavering congressmen. The trick for the Democratic leadership is to get these members to disregard all available polling data.

Gary Bauer is a voice of moral clarity on this one: “It is obvious that in recent days the Obama Administration has manufactured a crisis with Israel and is doing everything it can to humiliate our ally and weaken the Israeli government on the eve of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We shouldn’t lose sight of what set off the administration’s tirade. It was the on-going process of authorizing homes to be built in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel for its people.”

James Carafano tells the Obami to Focus! “Iran is problem #1 in the Middle East, but the Arab countries don’t want to face that problem so they whine, ‘We can’t do anything till you (White House) solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue first.’ The White House trots off Lemming-like to try to solve the problem and earn the president’s Nobel Prize.” Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear program progresses.

Hmm … do you think a critical word would have been raised with David Axelrod at this National Jewish Democratic Council event? Word has it that it was postponed. Good idea.

J Street predictably loves the Israel-bashing.

The Orthodox Union joins the ADL and AIPAC in calling on the Obami “to move away from the kind of public statements it has directed at Israel over the past few days.  These statements have escalated tensions between the two governments, which the Obama Administration must now de-escalate.” The AJC issues a similar call.

The problem for Senate Democrats: likely voters prefer Republicans this year. “Republican Senate candidate Pat Toomey holds six-point lead over Senator Arlen Specter thanks to his strength with Republicans, likely voters and independents, according to a new poll.”

SEIU pollsters tell Democrats that their problems stem from the “perception that they’ve turned into deal-making insiders on their path to achieving it.” The solution, naturally, is to use reconciliation to jam through the Cornhusker Kickback.

Meanwhile: “White House aides say deals such as in Nebraska will be allowed if they benefit more than one state.”

Rasmussen reports: “Democrats in Congress are vowing to pass their national health care plan with a vote in the House possible by the end of this week. But most voters still oppose the plan the same way they have for months. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 43% favor the health care plan proposed by President Obama and congressional Democrats, while 53% oppose it.”

Phil Klein wants to know: “If Obama refuses to look at public opinion polls, then how can he profess to know what the American people want? And if he doesn’t care about polls, then how come the White House is circulating polls on Capitol Hill asserting that support for health care legislation is rising?”

But really, the problem is mostly in swing districts. “By approximately 2-1 margins, voters in these districts oppose the current legislation, oppose a mandate to buy health insurance, believe the government can’t afford the legislation and believe that health care legislation is distracting attention from more important issues.” Well, yes, these would be the very same congressional districts with the wavering congressmen. The trick for the Democratic leadership is to get these members to disregard all available polling data.

Gary Bauer is a voice of moral clarity on this one: “It is obvious that in recent days the Obama Administration has manufactured a crisis with Israel and is doing everything it can to humiliate our ally and weaken the Israeli government on the eve of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. We shouldn’t lose sight of what set off the administration’s tirade. It was the on-going process of authorizing homes to be built in Jerusalem, the capital of Israel for its people.”

James Carafano tells the Obami to Focus! “Iran is problem #1 in the Middle East, but the Arab countries don’t want to face that problem so they whine, ‘We can’t do anything till you (White House) solve the Israeli-Palestinian issue first.’ The White House trots off Lemming-like to try to solve the problem and earn the president’s Nobel Prize.” Meanwhile, Iran’s nuclear program progresses.

Hmm … do you think a critical word would have been raised with David Axelrod at this National Jewish Democratic Council event? Word has it that it was postponed. Good idea.

J Street predictably loves the Israel-bashing.

The Orthodox Union joins the ADL and AIPAC in calling on the Obami “to move away from the kind of public statements it has directed at Israel over the past few days.  These statements have escalated tensions between the two governments, which the Obama Administration must now de-escalate.” The AJC issues a similar call.

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Radical Move for a Radical Bill

Does she have the votes? Can she get them? That’s what everyone is wondering. “She” is Nancy Pelosi, and the votes will decide not only the fate of ObamaCare but also of Obama’s presidency. Michael Barone explores whether the votes are there to pass the Senate version of health care, as that’s what it’s come down to. (Let’s all assume for the sake of argument that reconciliation is a flimflam.) He tells us:

As of today, it’s clear there aren’t. House Democratic leaders have brushed aside White House calls to bring the bill forward by March 18, when President Barack Obama heads to Asia. Nevertheless, analysts close to the Democratic leadership tell me they’re confident the leadership will find some way to squeeze out the 216 votes needed for a majority.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indeed shown mastery at amassing majorities. But it’s hard to see how she’ll do so on this one. The arithmetic as I see it doesn’t add up.

There are Bart Stupak’s pro-life Democrats. There’s the dicey matter of voting for all those sweetheart deals. (“Voting for the Senate bill means voting for the Cornhusker kickback and the Louisiana purchase — the price Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid paid for the votes of Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu. It’s not hard to imagine the ads Republicans could run attacking House members for sending money to Nebraska and Louisiana but not their home states.”) Then there are the House Democrats in especially vulnerable districts:

More than 40 House Democrats represent districts which John McCain carried. Most voted no in November and would presumably be hurt by switching to yes now. Moreover, Mr. Obama’s job approval now hovers around 48%, five points lower than his winning percentage in 2008. His approval on health care is even lower.

Another 32 House Democrats represent districts where Mr. Obama won between 50% and 54% of the vote, and where his approval is likely to be running under 50% now. That leaves just 176 House Democrats from districts where Mr. Obama’s approval rating is not, to borrow a real-estate term, under water. That’s 40 votes less than the 216 needed.

This isn’t to say that Pelosi can’t pull it off. But if she comes up short, she and Obama will suffer a devastating blow. And if she squeaks by, the Republicans have their campaign slogan and a single, overarching issue: Repeal ObamaCare.

Obama is risking his presidency — for what will be left of his political capital and credibility if he fails? — on a monstrous tax-and-spend measure that a significant majority of voters oppose, and vehemently so. Pretty radical stuff for a candidate billed as a moderate.

Does she have the votes? Can she get them? That’s what everyone is wondering. “She” is Nancy Pelosi, and the votes will decide not only the fate of ObamaCare but also of Obama’s presidency. Michael Barone explores whether the votes are there to pass the Senate version of health care, as that’s what it’s come down to. (Let’s all assume for the sake of argument that reconciliation is a flimflam.) He tells us:

As of today, it’s clear there aren’t. House Democratic leaders have brushed aside White House calls to bring the bill forward by March 18, when President Barack Obama heads to Asia. Nevertheless, analysts close to the Democratic leadership tell me they’re confident the leadership will find some way to squeeze out the 216 votes needed for a majority.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has indeed shown mastery at amassing majorities. But it’s hard to see how she’ll do so on this one. The arithmetic as I see it doesn’t add up.

There are Bart Stupak’s pro-life Democrats. There’s the dicey matter of voting for all those sweetheart deals. (“Voting for the Senate bill means voting for the Cornhusker kickback and the Louisiana purchase — the price Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid paid for the votes of Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu. It’s not hard to imagine the ads Republicans could run attacking House members for sending money to Nebraska and Louisiana but not their home states.”) Then there are the House Democrats in especially vulnerable districts:

More than 40 House Democrats represent districts which John McCain carried. Most voted no in November and would presumably be hurt by switching to yes now. Moreover, Mr. Obama’s job approval now hovers around 48%, five points lower than his winning percentage in 2008. His approval on health care is even lower.

Another 32 House Democrats represent districts where Mr. Obama won between 50% and 54% of the vote, and where his approval is likely to be running under 50% now. That leaves just 176 House Democrats from districts where Mr. Obama’s approval rating is not, to borrow a real-estate term, under water. That’s 40 votes less than the 216 needed.

This isn’t to say that Pelosi can’t pull it off. But if she comes up short, she and Obama will suffer a devastating blow. And if she squeaks by, the Republicans have their campaign slogan and a single, overarching issue: Repeal ObamaCare.

Obama is risking his presidency — for what will be left of his political capital and credibility if he fails? — on a monstrous tax-and-spend measure that a significant majority of voters oppose, and vehemently so. Pretty radical stuff for a candidate billed as a moderate.

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The Reconciliation Dodge

House Democrats should be wary, says Sen. Judd Gregg, who smells a set-up on “reconciliation.” He explains:

“If you’re in the House and you’re saying, ‘Well, I’m going to vote for this because I’m going to get a reconcilation bill,’ I would think twice about that,” Gregg said. “First because, procedurally, it’s going to be hard to put a reconciliation bill through the Senate. Second because I’m not sure there’s going to be a lot of energy to do it, from the president or his people.”

“In my opinion, reconciliation is an exercise for buying votes, which, once they have the votes they really don’t need it,” he said.

And indeed, some House Democrats such as Shelley Berkley smell a rat. (“I would like something more concrete than a promise. The Senate cannot promise its way out of a brown paper bag.”) And if the House Democrats walk the plank but there is no reconciliation fix by the Senate, what then? Jeffrey Anderson sketched out the nightmare scenario:

Target squarely on their chests, they would now get to face their fuming constituents after having passed a $2.5 trillion bill that would allow public funding of abortion, would send $100 million to Nebraska, $300 million to Louisiana, $100 million to Connecticut, would exempt South Florida’s Medicare Advantage enrollees from annual $2,100 cuts in Medicare Advantage benefits, would raise taxes, raise deficits, raise health costs, empower Washington, reduce liberty, politicize medicine, and jeopardize the quality of health care.  Most of all, they would feel the citizenry’s wrath for having voted to pass a bill that only 25 percent of Americans support.

What in such circumstances should wary House Democrats do? Well, voting “no” and proposing a bare-bones, focused list of reforms might be a good idea. But who thinks Pelosi would go along with that gambit? She intends to make her members walk the plank. Unless and until she is convinced she will lose a floor vote, she’ll keep twisting arms and promising that ObamaCare’s passage is just around the corner. But of course, if they had the votes, they’d be voting. But they don’t — in large part because House Democrats have wised up.

House Democrats should be wary, says Sen. Judd Gregg, who smells a set-up on “reconciliation.” He explains:

“If you’re in the House and you’re saying, ‘Well, I’m going to vote for this because I’m going to get a reconcilation bill,’ I would think twice about that,” Gregg said. “First because, procedurally, it’s going to be hard to put a reconciliation bill through the Senate. Second because I’m not sure there’s going to be a lot of energy to do it, from the president or his people.”

“In my opinion, reconciliation is an exercise for buying votes, which, once they have the votes they really don’t need it,” he said.

And indeed, some House Democrats such as Shelley Berkley smell a rat. (“I would like something more concrete than a promise. The Senate cannot promise its way out of a brown paper bag.”) And if the House Democrats walk the plank but there is no reconciliation fix by the Senate, what then? Jeffrey Anderson sketched out the nightmare scenario:

Target squarely on their chests, they would now get to face their fuming constituents after having passed a $2.5 trillion bill that would allow public funding of abortion, would send $100 million to Nebraska, $300 million to Louisiana, $100 million to Connecticut, would exempt South Florida’s Medicare Advantage enrollees from annual $2,100 cuts in Medicare Advantage benefits, would raise taxes, raise deficits, raise health costs, empower Washington, reduce liberty, politicize medicine, and jeopardize the quality of health care.  Most of all, they would feel the citizenry’s wrath for having voted to pass a bill that only 25 percent of Americans support.

What in such circumstances should wary House Democrats do? Well, voting “no” and proposing a bare-bones, focused list of reforms might be a good idea. But who thinks Pelosi would go along with that gambit? She intends to make her members walk the plank. Unless and until she is convinced she will lose a floor vote, she’ll keep twisting arms and promising that ObamaCare’s passage is just around the corner. But of course, if they had the votes, they’d be voting. But they don’t — in large part because House Democrats have wised up.

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Breaking the Cynicism Meter

Republicans have long suspected that the Obama health-care summit is a setup. After all, the first ground rule seems to be: “I get ObamaCare.” But sometimes even the Democrats outdo themselves in the cynicism department. Roll Call reports:

Senate Democrats say they see no need to abandon the idea of using reconciliation to pass health care reform this year just because President Barack Obama has scheduled a bipartisan summit next week to try to break the impasse on Capitol Hill. . .Given the unified GOP opposition to their health care effort, Senate Democrats argued just before departing for the Presidents Day recess that Obama’s summit is no reason to shelve reconciliation as a potential strategy. The tactic would allow Democrats pass certain aspects of health care reform with just 51 votes.

“I think it should be constantly pursued,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Thursday when asked whether Democrats should take a break from drafting a reconciliation bill until after Obama’s summit.

“I think the Republicans are pretty committed to the notion that obstructing everything that President Obama would like to accomplish is very key to their base and their political success,” Whitehouse added. “I don’t see them departing from that strategy.”

Nevertheless, there is reason to believe they lack the votes to utilize reconciliation. (“Some moderate Senate Democrats have already announced their opposition to a reconciliation bill regardless of what is in it.”) And that is before we get to the merits. It isn’t at all clear that, post-Scott Brown, there are votes for what’s in ObamaCare (e.g., massive tax hikes, $500 billion in cuts to Medicare with no real reform element, forcing people to buy health-care plans they don’t want from Big Insurance). Wouldn’t Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln (and maybe others as well) jump at the chance to return to the good graces of voters whom they have enraged?

Then on the House side, we hear that Nancy Pelosi may be 100 votes short of a majority to pass ObamaCare. As Michael Barone explains:

So you, as a Democratic member with potentially serious opposition, do the political caucus. If you vote for the Senate bill, you’re voting for something that has 35% support nationwide and probably a little less than that in your district. You will have voted for the Cornhusker Hustle and the Louisiana Purchase. Your Republican opponent will ask why you voted for something that gave taxpayers in Nebraska and Louisiana better treatment than the people you represent (there are no Democratic House members running for reelection in those two states: Nebraska has only Republican House members and the single Louisiana House Democrat is running for the Senate). The only protection you have against this is the assurance that the Senate parliamentarian and scared incumbent senators will come through for you, and that Harry Reid will pursue a steady course.

So your response to the leadership is either, I gotta think about this, or, Hell no. The House Democratic leadership’s problem is that it cannot credibly promise that the Senate will keep its part of the bargain.

So the bottom line: it is hard to believe Obama is operating in good faith. But that’s OK with conservatives, independents, and the two-thirds of us who don’t want a government takeover of health care. Obama still doesn’t have the votes, and those lawmakers who see their careers passing before their eyes probably don’t even want a vote on it. Obama has done enough damage to their re-election prospects already.

Republicans have long suspected that the Obama health-care summit is a setup. After all, the first ground rule seems to be: “I get ObamaCare.” But sometimes even the Democrats outdo themselves in the cynicism department. Roll Call reports:

Senate Democrats say they see no need to abandon the idea of using reconciliation to pass health care reform this year just because President Barack Obama has scheduled a bipartisan summit next week to try to break the impasse on Capitol Hill. . .Given the unified GOP opposition to their health care effort, Senate Democrats argued just before departing for the Presidents Day recess that Obama’s summit is no reason to shelve reconciliation as a potential strategy. The tactic would allow Democrats pass certain aspects of health care reform with just 51 votes.

“I think it should be constantly pursued,” Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) said Thursday when asked whether Democrats should take a break from drafting a reconciliation bill until after Obama’s summit.

“I think the Republicans are pretty committed to the notion that obstructing everything that President Obama would like to accomplish is very key to their base and their political success,” Whitehouse added. “I don’t see them departing from that strategy.”

Nevertheless, there is reason to believe they lack the votes to utilize reconciliation. (“Some moderate Senate Democrats have already announced their opposition to a reconciliation bill regardless of what is in it.”) And that is before we get to the merits. It isn’t at all clear that, post-Scott Brown, there are votes for what’s in ObamaCare (e.g., massive tax hikes, $500 billion in cuts to Medicare with no real reform element, forcing people to buy health-care plans they don’t want from Big Insurance). Wouldn’t Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln (and maybe others as well) jump at the chance to return to the good graces of voters whom they have enraged?

Then on the House side, we hear that Nancy Pelosi may be 100 votes short of a majority to pass ObamaCare. As Michael Barone explains:

So you, as a Democratic member with potentially serious opposition, do the political caucus. If you vote for the Senate bill, you’re voting for something that has 35% support nationwide and probably a little less than that in your district. You will have voted for the Cornhusker Hustle and the Louisiana Purchase. Your Republican opponent will ask why you voted for something that gave taxpayers in Nebraska and Louisiana better treatment than the people you represent (there are no Democratic House members running for reelection in those two states: Nebraska has only Republican House members and the single Louisiana House Democrat is running for the Senate). The only protection you have against this is the assurance that the Senate parliamentarian and scared incumbent senators will come through for you, and that Harry Reid will pursue a steady course.

So your response to the leadership is either, I gotta think about this, or, Hell no. The House Democratic leadership’s problem is that it cannot credibly promise that the Senate will keep its part of the bargain.

So the bottom line: it is hard to believe Obama is operating in good faith. But that’s OK with conservatives, independents, and the two-thirds of us who don’t want a government takeover of health care. Obama still doesn’t have the votes, and those lawmakers who see their careers passing before their eyes probably don’t even want a vote on it. Obama has done enough damage to their re-election prospects already.

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Obama Labor Nominee Draws Democratic Opposition

It seems that the nomination of Harold Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board may finally be kaput. Republicans are uniformly opposed to the nominee, who is the SEIU and AFL-CIO’s lawyer and whose writings have offered the view that labor election laws can be rewritten by the NLRB without congressional authorization. Now Sen. Ben Nelson, struggling to get back into the good graces of conservatives and business groups, is coming out against Becker:

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) announced Monday evening that he will support a Republican-led filibuster over President Barack Obama’s nominee to serve on the National Labor Relations Board. The move is likely to infuriate labor groups who have fought hard for Craig Becker’s nomination to serve on the five-member NLRB — and will likely give Republicans enough support to sustain a filibuster Tuesday.

A report by Congressional Quarterly (subscription required) states that other Democrats may oppose Becker, although none has done so publicly. If Becker can’t get through the Senate with 60 votes to break a filibuster, there is the potential for a recess appointment. It wouldn’t be the first recess appointment in recent memory, but it does speak volumes about how extreme Becker is (two other NLRB nominees face no organized opposition) and how Obama has failed to garner even a modicum of bipartisan support, whether in matters large (health care) or relatively small (a labor board nominee).

It seems that the nomination of Harold Craig Becker to the National Labor Relations Board may finally be kaput. Republicans are uniformly opposed to the nominee, who is the SEIU and AFL-CIO’s lawyer and whose writings have offered the view that labor election laws can be rewritten by the NLRB without congressional authorization. Now Sen. Ben Nelson, struggling to get back into the good graces of conservatives and business groups, is coming out against Becker:

Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) announced Monday evening that he will support a Republican-led filibuster over President Barack Obama’s nominee to serve on the National Labor Relations Board. The move is likely to infuriate labor groups who have fought hard for Craig Becker’s nomination to serve on the five-member NLRB — and will likely give Republicans enough support to sustain a filibuster Tuesday.

A report by Congressional Quarterly (subscription required) states that other Democrats may oppose Becker, although none has done so publicly. If Becker can’t get through the Senate with 60 votes to break a filibuster, there is the potential for a recess appointment. It wouldn’t be the first recess appointment in recent memory, but it does speak volumes about how extreme Becker is (two other NLRB nominees face no organized opposition) and how Obama has failed to garner even a modicum of bipartisan support, whether in matters large (health care) or relatively small (a labor board nominee).

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Fire the Health-Care Contractors

E.J. Dionne eggs on the Democrats to finish the job on health-care reform. He chides them:

But if Democrats are that intimidated by Republicans, they should just give up their majority. And this fear is politically shortsighted. Right now, every Democrat in the Senate has to defend a vote for the health-care bill anyway, with nothing to show for it — and this includes defending the Nebraska deal.

He analogizes health-care reform to a kitchen remodeling job where the choice is between finishing the job and leaving a mess with all the wires hanging down. Even for Dionne, this is poppycock. No one’s kitchen has been torn up, the old microwave is working fine, and the homeowners have decided that the old kitchen looks swell after all — especially after seeing the price tag and the hideous “new and improved” kitchen the rogue contractor has in mind. And what’s more, every time the homeowner/voter tells the contractor he hates the new design, he gets a condescending answer like, “You really don’t understand. After we put it in, you’ll love it.” See?

Well, Dionne exemplifies much of the thinking on the Left — including that of the president and Nancy Pelosi. They all persist in the belief that virtue is on their side (regardless of the bill’s indefensible details and despite polls and elections registering overwhelming public disapproval). They consider the masses to be an impediment to be ignored or misguided souls to be sold on the merits after the deal is rammed through. What the pundits won’t admit (and what Obama and Pelosi, I think, cynically accept) is that if the deal is finished, the voters will in a fit of rage fire everyone associated with a remodeling of one-sixth of the economy — one that raises taxes, places a host of new mandates and fines on small businesses, hacks Medicare without any real reform, and punches another hole in the budget, which already is hemorrhaging red ink.

Dionne, from the safe distance of his pundit’s perch, is free to dole out advice to lawmakers. Democratic lawmakers who remain on the brink of a wave election will, I suspect, have other ideas.

E.J. Dionne eggs on the Democrats to finish the job on health-care reform. He chides them:

But if Democrats are that intimidated by Republicans, they should just give up their majority. And this fear is politically shortsighted. Right now, every Democrat in the Senate has to defend a vote for the health-care bill anyway, with nothing to show for it — and this includes defending the Nebraska deal.

He analogizes health-care reform to a kitchen remodeling job where the choice is between finishing the job and leaving a mess with all the wires hanging down. Even for Dionne, this is poppycock. No one’s kitchen has been torn up, the old microwave is working fine, and the homeowners have decided that the old kitchen looks swell after all — especially after seeing the price tag and the hideous “new and improved” kitchen the rogue contractor has in mind. And what’s more, every time the homeowner/voter tells the contractor he hates the new design, he gets a condescending answer like, “You really don’t understand. After we put it in, you’ll love it.” See?

Well, Dionne exemplifies much of the thinking on the Left — including that of the president and Nancy Pelosi. They all persist in the belief that virtue is on their side (regardless of the bill’s indefensible details and despite polls and elections registering overwhelming public disapproval). They consider the masses to be an impediment to be ignored or misguided souls to be sold on the merits after the deal is rammed through. What the pundits won’t admit (and what Obama and Pelosi, I think, cynically accept) is that if the deal is finished, the voters will in a fit of rage fire everyone associated with a remodeling of one-sixth of the economy — one that raises taxes, places a host of new mandates and fines on small businesses, hacks Medicare without any real reform, and punches another hole in the budget, which already is hemorrhaging red ink.

Dionne, from the safe distance of his pundit’s perch, is free to dole out advice to lawmakers. Democratic lawmakers who remain on the brink of a wave election will, I suspect, have other ideas.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

The latest Rasmussen poll provides a warning for incumbent Democratic lawmakers: “Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans say the size of the federal budget deficit is due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut government spending than to the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more in taxes. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just nine percent (9%) of adults put more blame on the unwillingness of taxpayers to pay more in taxes.”

Sen. Ben Nelson may wind up as the only Democrat without a special deal on health care: “With the exception of Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s ‘Cornhusker Kickback,’ which alienated independent voters and came to symbolize an out-of-touch Washington, none of the other narrow provisions that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted into the bill appear to be in any kind of danger as Democrats try to figure out the way ahead.”  But then ObamaCare isn’t likely to go anywhere, and that will spare Nelson further embarrassment.

I suppose she’s nervous: “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) defended her role in the $300 million ‘Louisiana Purchase’ Thursday, saying she attached it to the healthcare bill at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R-La.) request and that it was not a condition of her support for the bill. Landrieu used a floor speech, press conference and private e-mails from Jindal to fire back against critics of the $300 million-plus in Medicaid funds that became known as the ‘Louisiana Purchase.’” I think when reporters repeat “Louisiana Purchase” three times in a short news account, Landrieu’s got an uphill battle.

From the Cook Political Report: “Charlie Cook agrees with House Editor David Wasserman’s assessment of a 25-35 seat pickup for the GOP in the House, but sets his personal line for the Senate at a 5-7 seat switch for Republicans. For the first time this cycle, he sees a mathematical, although still highly unlikely possibility, of a ten-seat gain and majority change in the Senate.”

Steven Calabresi: “I think the Tea Party movement is going to be and deserves to be a big factor in the 2010 midterm elections because it rejects both the socialism of the Obama Administration and the Big Government conservatism of many Republican officeholders between 2000 and 2008.”

Obama is down to 46 percent favorable/47 percent unfavorable in the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll. Voters have an equally favorable view of the Democratic and Republican parties (both 42 percent approval). More people have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement (35 percent) than of Nancy Pelosi (24 percent).

Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union explains one reason why Orthodox Jews dislike Obama so: “In the context of the Orthodox where the majority in the community identify with the settlement movement in Israel, there’s a great deal of tension, let alone opposition, to the president’s efforts last year to push Israel to undertake a settlement freeze.” (h/t Ben Smith)

I don’t think the Obami are going to win this fight: “The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., dismissed the White House’s call for him to apologize for alleging that the administration leaked information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutalab for political reasons. ‘After telling me to keep my mouth shut, the White House discloses sensitive information in an effort to defend a dangerous and unpopular decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab and I’m supposed to apologize?’ Sen. Bond said in a paper statement today.

Oops. Fellas, always check the rap sheet: “On the same day Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn officially claimed the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, he found out that his newly-minted running mate has a rap sheet that includes alleged domestic battery and tax evasion. The revelation has shocked Democrats, leading to worries that his presence could taint the entire statewide ticket.”

The latest Rasmussen poll provides a warning for incumbent Democratic lawmakers: “Eighty-three percent (83%) of Americans say the size of the federal budget deficit is due more to the unwillingness of politicians to cut government spending than to the reluctance of taxpayers to pay more in taxes. A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just nine percent (9%) of adults put more blame on the unwillingness of taxpayers to pay more in taxes.”

Sen. Ben Nelson may wind up as the only Democrat without a special deal on health care: “With the exception of Nebraska Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson’s ‘Cornhusker Kickback,’ which alienated independent voters and came to symbolize an out-of-touch Washington, none of the other narrow provisions that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid inserted into the bill appear to be in any kind of danger as Democrats try to figure out the way ahead.”  But then ObamaCare isn’t likely to go anywhere, and that will spare Nelson further embarrassment.

I suppose she’s nervous: “Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) defended her role in the $300 million ‘Louisiana Purchase’ Thursday, saying she attached it to the healthcare bill at Gov. Bobby Jindal’s (R-La.) request and that it was not a condition of her support for the bill. Landrieu used a floor speech, press conference and private e-mails from Jindal to fire back against critics of the $300 million-plus in Medicaid funds that became known as the ‘Louisiana Purchase.’” I think when reporters repeat “Louisiana Purchase” three times in a short news account, Landrieu’s got an uphill battle.

From the Cook Political Report: “Charlie Cook agrees with House Editor David Wasserman’s assessment of a 25-35 seat pickup for the GOP in the House, but sets his personal line for the Senate at a 5-7 seat switch for Republicans. For the first time this cycle, he sees a mathematical, although still highly unlikely possibility, of a ten-seat gain and majority change in the Senate.”

Steven Calabresi: “I think the Tea Party movement is going to be and deserves to be a big factor in the 2010 midterm elections because it rejects both the socialism of the Obama Administration and the Big Government conservatism of many Republican officeholders between 2000 and 2008.”

Obama is down to 46 percent favorable/47 percent unfavorable in the latest Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll. Voters have an equally favorable view of the Democratic and Republican parties (both 42 percent approval). More people have a favorable opinion of the Tea Party movement (35 percent) than of Nancy Pelosi (24 percent).

Nathan Diament of the Orthodox Union explains one reason why Orthodox Jews dislike Obama so: “In the context of the Orthodox where the majority in the community identify with the settlement movement in Israel, there’s a great deal of tension, let alone opposition, to the president’s efforts last year to push Israel to undertake a settlement freeze.” (h/t Ben Smith)

I don’t think the Obami are going to win this fight: “The ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., dismissed the White House’s call for him to apologize for alleging that the administration leaked information about Umar Farouk Abdulmutalab for political reasons. ‘After telling me to keep my mouth shut, the White House discloses sensitive information in an effort to defend a dangerous and unpopular decision to Mirandize Abdulmutallab and I’m supposed to apologize?’ Sen. Bond said in a paper statement today.

Oops. Fellas, always check the rap sheet: “On the same day Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn officially claimed the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, he found out that his newly-minted running mate has a rap sheet that includes alleged domestic battery and tax evasion. The revelation has shocked Democrats, leading to worries that his presence could taint the entire statewide ticket.”

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Did Democrats Get the Message?

The Wall Street Journal editors note:

In their seven stages of national health-care grief, Democrats are still hovering somewhere between shock and denial. The strategy seems to be to hold off for a bit and then continue the same march—or as Mr. Obama put it in Nashua, New Hampshire earlier this week, “We’ve got to punch it through.”

The White House and Congressional leadership doesn’t seem to have learned anything substantive from an historic electoral rebuke, and even its political lessons are badly amiss. If they thought ObamaCare was controversial before, they haven’t seen anything yet.

The main liberal coping mechanism is to blame the grubby political process. Sure, 54% of the public may oppose ObamaCare, according to the latest polling average at Real Clear Politics, with only 37% in favor. But what Democrats claim really cost them was buying Ben Nelson’s vote with special Medicaid dispensations for Nebraska.

There are several problems with this. For starters, the Democrats are calling voters dopes, which is never a good idea. And second, they are highlighting their own lack of basic political skills (i.e., the inability to explain their policy ideas to the public) and confessing to their own corruption. But all this is preferable in their own minds, I suppose, to confessing that their policy judgment was flawed. Because to do that would be to acknowledge that the cornerstone of their ultra-liberal agenda is not politically viable, that the country really doesn’t want to be herded into the offices of Big Insurance, and that a jumbo tax-and-spend scheme is freaking out independent voters, who now regard the Democrats as fiscally irresponsible. Better, then, to insult the voters and cop a plea to imagined failings.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary gimmickery isn’t quite over. As the editors explain:

While Mr. Obama hasn’t taken a public position on the political way forward, we hear the White House is privately urging Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to “punch it through” with the budget reconciliation process. The House would pass the Senate’s Christmas Eve bill, then “fix” it with amendments that would require a bare partisan majority of 50 Senators (plus the Vice President) after only 20 hours of debate. Never before has this process been used for social and economic legislation of this magnitude.

This is where we left off in the Christmas-time scramble to pass ObamaCare, isn’t it? Procedural tricks, rushed votes, and no input from the minority. It doesn’t seem that the Scott Brown epic upset has really sunk in if they’re serious. But perhaps this is part of a grand show to keep the netroot base from going bonkers and to bide time. After all, who thinks the votes are still there to pass the same monstrous bill that helped vault Brown into the Senate? Not even the Pelosi-Reid-Obama triumvirate could be that daft, could it? I suppose we’ll find out if months more of pushing a grossly unpopular bill while unemployment remains sky high is really the way for Democrats to get back in the voters’ good graces.

The Wall Street Journal editors note:

In their seven stages of national health-care grief, Democrats are still hovering somewhere between shock and denial. The strategy seems to be to hold off for a bit and then continue the same march—or as Mr. Obama put it in Nashua, New Hampshire earlier this week, “We’ve got to punch it through.”

The White House and Congressional leadership doesn’t seem to have learned anything substantive from an historic electoral rebuke, and even its political lessons are badly amiss. If they thought ObamaCare was controversial before, they haven’t seen anything yet.

The main liberal coping mechanism is to blame the grubby political process. Sure, 54% of the public may oppose ObamaCare, according to the latest polling average at Real Clear Politics, with only 37% in favor. But what Democrats claim really cost them was buying Ben Nelson’s vote with special Medicaid dispensations for Nebraska.

There are several problems with this. For starters, the Democrats are calling voters dopes, which is never a good idea. And second, they are highlighting their own lack of basic political skills (i.e., the inability to explain their policy ideas to the public) and confessing to their own corruption. But all this is preferable in their own minds, I suppose, to confessing that their policy judgment was flawed. Because to do that would be to acknowledge that the cornerstone of their ultra-liberal agenda is not politically viable, that the country really doesn’t want to be herded into the offices of Big Insurance, and that a jumbo tax-and-spend scheme is freaking out independent voters, who now regard the Democrats as fiscally irresponsible. Better, then, to insult the voters and cop a plea to imagined failings.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary gimmickery isn’t quite over. As the editors explain:

While Mr. Obama hasn’t taken a public position on the political way forward, we hear the White House is privately urging Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid to “punch it through” with the budget reconciliation process. The House would pass the Senate’s Christmas Eve bill, then “fix” it with amendments that would require a bare partisan majority of 50 Senators (plus the Vice President) after only 20 hours of debate. Never before has this process been used for social and economic legislation of this magnitude.

This is where we left off in the Christmas-time scramble to pass ObamaCare, isn’t it? Procedural tricks, rushed votes, and no input from the minority. It doesn’t seem that the Scott Brown epic upset has really sunk in if they’re serious. But perhaps this is part of a grand show to keep the netroot base from going bonkers and to bide time. After all, who thinks the votes are still there to pass the same monstrous bill that helped vault Brown into the Senate? Not even the Pelosi-Reid-Obama triumvirate could be that daft, could it? I suppose we’ll find out if months more of pushing a grossly unpopular bill while unemployment remains sky high is really the way for Democrats to get back in the voters’ good graces.

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The Health-Care Tipping Point

It is an irony worthy of a Greek drama that the moment ObamaCare appeared to overcome one of the final hurdles to passage may have been the one that sealed its rejection a few days later in Massachusetts. That moment occurred on the Thursday before the Massachusetts vote, as union leaders emerged from two days of secret discussions in the White House to announce that they had gotten a five-year $60 billion exemption from the “Cadillac tax” on their health-care plans. That may have been the tipping point.

The exemption — call it the Union-Label Insurance Exemption (U-LIE) — marked the culmination of a process that violated multiple Obama promises about the changes he would bring to Washington: it was not transparent, it was not post-partisan, and it did not eliminate the Blue State/Red State dichotomy. On the contrary, it followed a parade of buy-offs, kickbacks, and exemptions given to Blue State senators to garner their participation in the “historic” process: Mary Landrieu (D-La.) got her Louisiana Purchase; Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) got his Cornhusker Kickback; Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) got his Gator Aid; Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) got his Longshoreman Carve-Out, etc. Then unions got a massive exemption not accorded nonunion workers, with the cost to be shifted to unknown others.

The process had previously featured bills placed in print only hours before votes were called, their text shielded not only from the public but also from those responsible for voting. The unpopularity of what was known about the pending legislation was said to be soluble by learning about it later: David Axelrod asserted Sunday that “people will never know what’s in that bill until we pass it,” but they will like it after that.

What made U-LIE the likely tipping point was that it was a quantum leap in an already corrupt process — not simply quantitatively, as a buy-off in the tens of billions on top of the hundreds of millions offered seriatim to individual senators, but qualitatively as well: this time it was not an individual buy-off in some legislative backroom over which Obama could argue (although implausibly) he had no control, but a secret conference committee in the White House, in an eight-hour meeting with Obama in attendance much of the day, ending with a massive transfer to a favored constituency, with no hearings at all, much less ones on C-SPAN. It was then simply announced to the public, including the portion residing in Massachusetts.

Coming on top of a process already appalling, U-LIE may have been the final straw, cementing a perception of Obama as a president committed to a nontransparent, partisan push of unpopular legislation, loaded with kickbacks and buy-offs and complete with assurances that people would appreciate it all later. It is not clear what tone or tack Obama will take in his State of the Union address tomorrow evening about the process over which he presided. As of yesterday, the speech was reportedly still being written. But the problem he now confronts may be one that can no longer be solved with a speech.

It is an irony worthy of a Greek drama that the moment ObamaCare appeared to overcome one of the final hurdles to passage may have been the one that sealed its rejection a few days later in Massachusetts. That moment occurred on the Thursday before the Massachusetts vote, as union leaders emerged from two days of secret discussions in the White House to announce that they had gotten a five-year $60 billion exemption from the “Cadillac tax” on their health-care plans. That may have been the tipping point.

The exemption — call it the Union-Label Insurance Exemption (U-LIE) — marked the culmination of a process that violated multiple Obama promises about the changes he would bring to Washington: it was not transparent, it was not post-partisan, and it did not eliminate the Blue State/Red State dichotomy. On the contrary, it followed a parade of buy-offs, kickbacks, and exemptions given to Blue State senators to garner their participation in the “historic” process: Mary Landrieu (D-La.) got her Louisiana Purchase; Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) got his Cornhusker Kickback; Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) got his Gator Aid; Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) got his Longshoreman Carve-Out, etc. Then unions got a massive exemption not accorded nonunion workers, with the cost to be shifted to unknown others.

The process had previously featured bills placed in print only hours before votes were called, their text shielded not only from the public but also from those responsible for voting. The unpopularity of what was known about the pending legislation was said to be soluble by learning about it later: David Axelrod asserted Sunday that “people will never know what’s in that bill until we pass it,” but they will like it after that.

What made U-LIE the likely tipping point was that it was a quantum leap in an already corrupt process — not simply quantitatively, as a buy-off in the tens of billions on top of the hundreds of millions offered seriatim to individual senators, but qualitatively as well: this time it was not an individual buy-off in some legislative backroom over which Obama could argue (although implausibly) he had no control, but a secret conference committee in the White House, in an eight-hour meeting with Obama in attendance much of the day, ending with a massive transfer to a favored constituency, with no hearings at all, much less ones on C-SPAN. It was then simply announced to the public, including the portion residing in Massachusetts.

Coming on top of a process already appalling, U-LIE may have been the final straw, cementing a perception of Obama as a president committed to a nontransparent, partisan push of unpopular legislation, loaded with kickbacks and buy-offs and complete with assurances that people would appreciate it all later. It is not clear what tone or tack Obama will take in his State of the Union address tomorrow evening about the process over which he presided. As of yesterday, the speech was reportedly still being written. But the problem he now confronts may be one that can no longer be solved with a speech.

Read Less

So Many Bad Deals

Harry Reid and the rest of the Democratic leadership thought themselves so very clever. A deal for Sen. Ben Nelson. Another for Big Labor. Some Gator-Aid to help Bill Nelson. And presto: they’d have health-care “reform.” But in doing so they gave Scott Brown and every other Republican a juicy target, which fused together many of the themes conservatives have raised: corruption, lack of transparency, statism, and simple unfairness. To get a sense of just how unpopular these deals are, take a look at the latest Rasmussen poll:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 33% of U.S. voters support enacting a significant excise tax on the most expensive health insurance plans provided by employers. … To keep union support for the overall health care plan, President Obama and Democratic leaders agreed last week to exempt union members from the tax for five years and modify it in other ways so they don’t pay as much. Voters really frown on that action. Only 27% support the excise tax if it exempts union members, while 70% are opposed. But even more significantly, if the union members are exempt 11% Strongly Support the tax while 51% Strongly Oppose it.

In short, in an effort to pass an unpalatable bill, the Democrats have made it — and themselves — more unpalatable to the voters. (Rasmussen reminds us: “Voters generally are unhappy with special deals for favored groups. In December, Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson gained concessions for his home state in exchange for his vote to keep the health care legislation alive. Just 17% of Nebraska voters approved of his action.”) Last night Scott Brown proclaimed:

This bill is not being debated openly and fairly. It will raise taxes, hurt Medicare, destroy jobs, and run our nation deeper into debt. It is not in the interest of our state or country – we can do better. When in Washington, I will work in the Senate with Democrats and Republicans to reform health care in an open and honest way. No more closed-door meetings or back room deals by an out of touch party leadership. No more hiding costs, concealing taxes, collaborating with special interests, and leaving more trillions in debt for our children to pay.

That’s a message many candidates will sound this year. Democrats will need to scramble to dump those deals before angry voters run them over — and out of office.

Harry Reid and the rest of the Democratic leadership thought themselves so very clever. A deal for Sen. Ben Nelson. Another for Big Labor. Some Gator-Aid to help Bill Nelson. And presto: they’d have health-care “reform.” But in doing so they gave Scott Brown and every other Republican a juicy target, which fused together many of the themes conservatives have raised: corruption, lack of transparency, statism, and simple unfairness. To get a sense of just how unpopular these deals are, take a look at the latest Rasmussen poll:

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that just 33% of U.S. voters support enacting a significant excise tax on the most expensive health insurance plans provided by employers. … To keep union support for the overall health care plan, President Obama and Democratic leaders agreed last week to exempt union members from the tax for five years and modify it in other ways so they don’t pay as much. Voters really frown on that action. Only 27% support the excise tax if it exempts union members, while 70% are opposed. But even more significantly, if the union members are exempt 11% Strongly Support the tax while 51% Strongly Oppose it.

In short, in an effort to pass an unpalatable bill, the Democrats have made it — and themselves — more unpalatable to the voters. (Rasmussen reminds us: “Voters generally are unhappy with special deals for favored groups. In December, Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson gained concessions for his home state in exchange for his vote to keep the health care legislation alive. Just 17% of Nebraska voters approved of his action.”) Last night Scott Brown proclaimed:

This bill is not being debated openly and fairly. It will raise taxes, hurt Medicare, destroy jobs, and run our nation deeper into debt. It is not in the interest of our state or country – we can do better. When in Washington, I will work in the Senate with Democrats and Republicans to reform health care in an open and honest way. No more closed-door meetings or back room deals by an out of touch party leadership. No more hiding costs, concealing taxes, collaborating with special interests, and leaving more trillions in debt for our children to pay.

That’s a message many candidates will sound this year. Democrats will need to scramble to dump those deals before angry voters run them over — and out of office.

Read Less




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