Commentary Magazine


Topic: The Hill

Senate Freshmen Decline to Join Tea Party Caucus

Remember that Afghanistan trip Sen. Mitch McConnell took some of the GOP freshmen on last week? At the time, some conservative activists worried it was a “ploy” to co-opt the Tea Party members of the Senate. And now, interestingly, some of the same freshmen who went on the trip — Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, and Marco Rubio — have decided not to join the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus.

In an interview with a Florida political website, Tea Party favorite Rubio said he won’t be involved in the caucus, because he thinks it will “co-opt” the whole concept of the movement:

“My concern is that politicians all of a sudden start co-opting the mantle of Tea Party. If all of a sudden being in the Tea Party is not something that is happening in Main Street, but rather something that’s happening in Washington D.C.,” he said in an interview with the Shark Tank, a Florida political website. “The Tea Party all of a sudden becomes some sort of movement run by politicians. It’s gonna lose its effectiveness and I’m concerned about that.”

What Rubio says is correct on its face. The Tea Party is a ground-up movement, and it would be completely inconsistent with its platform if Washington politicians began “running” it. But that doesn’t seem to be the point of Tea Party Caucus at all. The idea of the caucus is to take direction from the grassroots of the conservative movement and carry it out in Congress — not the other way around.

So Rubio is spinning a bit. But it’s not hard to see why. Politically, it wouldn’t be the greatest move for him to tie himself to a caucus, at least not if he wants to compromise and get things done in the Senate.

That might be why the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus hasn’t been successful in drawing members. The Hill reported that it currently has only three senators committed to attending its first meeting: Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jim DeMint.

The House of Representatives, in comparison, has a 30-member strong Tea Party Caucus, which was created by Rep. Michele Bachmann last year. But the Senate is also a fraction of the size of the House, meaning that senators need to compromise much more with other members in order to get legislation through.

Remember that Afghanistan trip Sen. Mitch McConnell took some of the GOP freshmen on last week? At the time, some conservative activists worried it was a “ploy” to co-opt the Tea Party members of the Senate. And now, interestingly, some of the same freshmen who went on the trip — Pat Toomey, Ron Johnson, and Marco Rubio — have decided not to join the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus.

In an interview with a Florida political website, Tea Party favorite Rubio said he won’t be involved in the caucus, because he thinks it will “co-opt” the whole concept of the movement:

“My concern is that politicians all of a sudden start co-opting the mantle of Tea Party. If all of a sudden being in the Tea Party is not something that is happening in Main Street, but rather something that’s happening in Washington D.C.,” he said in an interview with the Shark Tank, a Florida political website. “The Tea Party all of a sudden becomes some sort of movement run by politicians. It’s gonna lose its effectiveness and I’m concerned about that.”

What Rubio says is correct on its face. The Tea Party is a ground-up movement, and it would be completely inconsistent with its platform if Washington politicians began “running” it. But that doesn’t seem to be the point of Tea Party Caucus at all. The idea of the caucus is to take direction from the grassroots of the conservative movement and carry it out in Congress — not the other way around.

So Rubio is spinning a bit. But it’s not hard to see why. Politically, it wouldn’t be the greatest move for him to tie himself to a caucus, at least not if he wants to compromise and get things done in the Senate.

That might be why the Senate’s Tea Party Caucus hasn’t been successful in drawing members. The Hill reported that it currently has only three senators committed to attending its first meeting: Rand Paul, Mike Lee, and Jim DeMint.

The House of Representatives, in comparison, has a 30-member strong Tea Party Caucus, which was created by Rep. Michele Bachmann last year. But the Senate is also a fraction of the size of the House, meaning that senators need to compromise much more with other members in order to get legislation through.

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Debating Israel in Virginia

J Street’s worst nightmare: “Virginia House candidates battle over Israel in final debate.” It seems that candidates who actually are pro-Israel are making the case that their opponents’ records should be scrutinized. What’s wrong with that? Well, those being scrutinized don’t like explaining themselves. In fact, the candidates under attack sound bewildered, as if their J Street backers didn’t fully explain that the positions they were taking and the documents they were signing were, in no meaningful sense, “pro- Israel.”

The Hill reports on a debate sponsored by the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater between Republican Scott Rigell, Rep. Glenn Nye (D-Va.), and Independent Kenny Golden. With the race neck-and-neck, “many of the questions revolved around Washington’s relationship with Israel and the Muslim world.” Rigell discussed the Juan Williams firing (he was against), the Ground Zero mosque (against), and the Gaza 54 letter (against). The Gaza 54 letter made for an interesting discussion:

Some 300 people crammed into the Simon Family Jewish Community Center in Virginia Beach to hear the candidates’ final debate. The Jewish community, which leaders say numbers about 6,000 families, has some sway in Virginia’s 2nd district. And all three candidates sought to highlight their pro-Israel stances.

“They have a right, a true right and an unquestionable right, in my view, to occupy that land,” Rigell said, before criticizing a letter Nye signed onto that urged President Obama to seek an easing of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. “By sending that letter,” Rigell said, “it is creating doubt of where America stands with our ally, Israel.”

The letter was signed by 54 members of Congress, including Nye, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

“We recognize that the Israeli government has imposed restrictions on Gaza out of a legitimate and keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action by Hamas and other militant groups,” the group wrote. “This concern must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip.”

Rigell said he wouldn’t have signed that letter.

Nye disputed Rigell’s characterization of the letter’s intent and said he supports what Israel has to do to ensure its survival.

“Israel is an important ally; they need our support. We have to continue to work to ensure that they have and maintain a military so their neighbors cannot defeat them,” Nye said.

It’s not a “characterization” of the letter that is at issue. The letter itself takes Israel to task for “de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip” and calls for Israel to relax the blockade that was put in place to, as Nye would say, “ensure its survival.” So Nye was either flim-flamming his audience, or he really didn’t get what the letter was about — another J Street gambit to undermine the Israeli government and help mainstream the Hamas propaganda line.

No wonder J Street is in a tizzy. It’s not easy to explain to informed pro-Israel activists why you are taking money from Richard Goldstone’s handlers and why you’ve signed documents that advocate steps that would imperil the Jewish state.

J Street’s worst nightmare: “Virginia House candidates battle over Israel in final debate.” It seems that candidates who actually are pro-Israel are making the case that their opponents’ records should be scrutinized. What’s wrong with that? Well, those being scrutinized don’t like explaining themselves. In fact, the candidates under attack sound bewildered, as if their J Street backers didn’t fully explain that the positions they were taking and the documents they were signing were, in no meaningful sense, “pro- Israel.”

The Hill reports on a debate sponsored by the United Jewish Federation of Tidewater between Republican Scott Rigell, Rep. Glenn Nye (D-Va.), and Independent Kenny Golden. With the race neck-and-neck, “many of the questions revolved around Washington’s relationship with Israel and the Muslim world.” Rigell discussed the Juan Williams firing (he was against), the Ground Zero mosque (against), and the Gaza 54 letter (against). The Gaza 54 letter made for an interesting discussion:

Some 300 people crammed into the Simon Family Jewish Community Center in Virginia Beach to hear the candidates’ final debate. The Jewish community, which leaders say numbers about 6,000 families, has some sway in Virginia’s 2nd district. And all three candidates sought to highlight their pro-Israel stances.

“They have a right, a true right and an unquestionable right, in my view, to occupy that land,” Rigell said, before criticizing a letter Nye signed onto that urged President Obama to seek an easing of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. “By sending that letter,” Rigell said, “it is creating doubt of where America stands with our ally, Israel.”

The letter was signed by 54 members of Congress, including Nye, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee.

“We recognize that the Israeli government has imposed restrictions on Gaza out of a legitimate and keenly felt fear of continued terrorist action by Hamas and other militant groups,” the group wrote. “This concern must be addressed without resulting in the de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip.”

Rigell said he wouldn’t have signed that letter.

Nye disputed Rigell’s characterization of the letter’s intent and said he supports what Israel has to do to ensure its survival.

“Israel is an important ally; they need our support. We have to continue to work to ensure that they have and maintain a military so their neighbors cannot defeat them,” Nye said.

It’s not a “characterization” of the letter that is at issue. The letter itself takes Israel to task for “de facto collective punishment of the Palestinian residents of the Gaza Strip” and calls for Israel to relax the blockade that was put in place to, as Nye would say, “ensure its survival.” So Nye was either flim-flamming his audience, or he really didn’t get what the letter was about — another J Street gambit to undermine the Israeli government and help mainstream the Hamas propaganda line.

No wonder J Street is in a tizzy. It’s not easy to explain to informed pro-Israel activists why you are taking money from Richard Goldstone’s handlers and why you’ve signed documents that advocate steps that would imperil the Jewish state.

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No Recess Appointments This Recess

No president has abused the power to make recess appointments as much as Barack Obama. As I discussed earlier, the power has been increasingly abused — by presidents of both parties — as the Senate procedures for confirming nominees have become ever more protracted and, often, partisan. On Sept. 17, Obama named Elizabeth Warren to a White House advisory job that does not require confirmation. But it makes her, effectively, the head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a job that requires Senate confirmation. The Senate had signaled that her confirmation was probably not possible.

Perhaps it’s a sign of Obama’s declining political clout, but the Hill is reporting that the Senate will technically not go into recess from this week until after the election. Instead, it will have pro forma sessions on Mondays and Fridays, in which the Senate will be called to order, the absence of a quorum will be noted, and the Senate will then adjourn.

This political kabuki theater was routine in the last two years of the Bush administration to prevent President Bush from making recess appointments, and the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, was able to force it this time by threatening to invoke a Senate rule that requires all pending nominations to be returned to the executive branch when the Senate goes out of session for a protracted period unless unanimous consent is given to waive the rule. That would have meant that all those nominations would have had to be renominated and the whole process repeated.

It is to be hoped that the Senate and the White House will end this game by agreeing to a permanent compromise: that the Senate will agree to act on all nominations within a set period of time (say two months) and no longer allow the use of the filibuster with regard to nominations, and the President will agree to use the power to make recess appointments only in cases where the public good requires the office in question to be filled immediately, the reason the Founding Fathers gave the president the power in the first place.

No president has abused the power to make recess appointments as much as Barack Obama. As I discussed earlier, the power has been increasingly abused — by presidents of both parties — as the Senate procedures for confirming nominees have become ever more protracted and, often, partisan. On Sept. 17, Obama named Elizabeth Warren to a White House advisory job that does not require confirmation. But it makes her, effectively, the head of the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, a job that requires Senate confirmation. The Senate had signaled that her confirmation was probably not possible.

Perhaps it’s a sign of Obama’s declining political clout, but the Hill is reporting that the Senate will technically not go into recess from this week until after the election. Instead, it will have pro forma sessions on Mondays and Fridays, in which the Senate will be called to order, the absence of a quorum will be noted, and the Senate will then adjourn.

This political kabuki theater was routine in the last two years of the Bush administration to prevent President Bush from making recess appointments, and the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, was able to force it this time by threatening to invoke a Senate rule that requires all pending nominations to be returned to the executive branch when the Senate goes out of session for a protracted period unless unanimous consent is given to waive the rule. That would have meant that all those nominations would have had to be renominated and the whole process repeated.

It is to be hoped that the Senate and the White House will end this game by agreeing to a permanent compromise: that the Senate will agree to act on all nominations within a set period of time (say two months) and no longer allow the use of the filibuster with regard to nominations, and the President will agree to use the power to make recess appointments only in cases where the public good requires the office in question to be filled immediately, the reason the Founding Fathers gave the president the power in the first place.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Immoderate. Imam Abdul Rauf’s partner is a 9/11 “truther.”

Unhinged. The left is convinced that the entire country is nuts. (Coming from the blogger who spent countless hours researching Sarah Palin’s pregnancy, this is rich.)

Envious? Martin Frost on Newt Gingrich’s latest: “I agree with those who say that Newt is suffering from a serious case of Palin envy. He is likely to say anything to get attention, no matter how crazy.” It’s as good a theory as any. But Newt sure does make Palin seem disciplined.

Busybody. Really, is there nothing more important she could be doing? “First lady Michelle Obama is challenging the nation’s restaurants to add more healthy options to menus, label those items more prominently and market nutritious foods to kids.”

Predictable. The Hill reports: “Watchdog groups expect the upcoming ethics trials for Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) to take place after the November election to avoid political fallout.”

Sleeze. A state GOP audit has turned up evidence that Charlie Crist “inappropriately spent money on travel, consultants, meetings and other items not related to party business.” The total may be “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Runaway. “Republican Bill Brady earns his highest level of support yet against Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn in Illinois’ gubernatorial contest, moving this race from a Toss-Up to Solid GOP in the Election 2010 Gubernatorial Scorecard. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state, with leaners included, finds Brady picking up 50% of the vote, while Quinn earns 37% support.”

Unfair. “New Campaign Ad Depicts Nancy Pelosi as The Wicked Witch of the West.” C’mon guys — she flies only the finest military aircraft.

Immoderate. Imam Abdul Rauf’s partner is a 9/11 “truther.”

Unhinged. The left is convinced that the entire country is nuts. (Coming from the blogger who spent countless hours researching Sarah Palin’s pregnancy, this is rich.)

Envious? Martin Frost on Newt Gingrich’s latest: “I agree with those who say that Newt is suffering from a serious case of Palin envy. He is likely to say anything to get attention, no matter how crazy.” It’s as good a theory as any. But Newt sure does make Palin seem disciplined.

Busybody. Really, is there nothing more important she could be doing? “First lady Michelle Obama is challenging the nation’s restaurants to add more healthy options to menus, label those items more prominently and market nutritious foods to kids.”

Predictable. The Hill reports: “Watchdog groups expect the upcoming ethics trials for Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) to take place after the November election to avoid political fallout.”

Sleeze. A state GOP audit has turned up evidence that Charlie Crist “inappropriately spent money on travel, consultants, meetings and other items not related to party business.” The total may be “hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Runaway. “Republican Bill Brady earns his highest level of support yet against Democratic incumbent Pat Quinn in Illinois’ gubernatorial contest, moving this race from a Toss-Up to Solid GOP in the Election 2010 Gubernatorial Scorecard. A new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the state, with leaners included, finds Brady picking up 50% of the vote, while Quinn earns 37% support.”

Unfair. “New Campaign Ad Depicts Nancy Pelosi as The Wicked Witch of the West.” C’mon guys — she flies only the finest military aircraft.

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Is ObamaCare Enough?

That’s what the White House and its spinners are telling us — that the passage of a “historic,” albeit much reviled, health-care bill will be enough to hold back the tsunami of anti-incumbency sentiment and abject disgust which voters are expressing toward the Democrat-controlled House and Senate. The political cost-benefit analysis — are more liberals bolstered or more independents turned off? — will be debated between now and November. But meanwhile, the black cloud of unemployment looms over the Democrats, who, after all, promised to focus their attention on job creation, but never really did.

The Hill reports that unemployment figures may become especially troublesome for some already vulnerable House Democrats:

Local unemployment rates higher than the national 9.7 average are further endangering House Democrats’ re-election chances.

For these Democrats, who hail from struggling states like Florida, Michigan, West Virginia, and Nevada, a 9.7 percent jobless rate that Republicans have called “completely unacceptable” would be a welcome improvement.

Vulnerable freshman Democratic Reps. Suzanne Kosmas and Alan Grayson represent swing districts that include parts of greater Orlando, where the unemployment rate in January 2010 was 12.4 percent.

Kosmas, a major GOP target this fall, represents a district that also contains the metropolitan area of Deltona and Daytona Beach, where 13 percent of the labor force was out of work.

“Where things are particularly bad, Democrats are in particular danger,” said David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report.

But 162,000 jobs were added last month (with the help of 50,000 temporary Census workers), boast the Democrats. Well, it’s less than meets the eye, as the Heritage Foundation (h/t Mark Hemingway) points out:

While the jobs report does indicate that 162,000 net jobs were created in March, almost 50,000 of those jobs were temporary government Census jobs that do not reflect any real economic progress. In total, the U.S. economy has now lost a total of 3.8 million jobs since President Barack Obama signed his $862 billion stimulus plan. We are 8.1 million jobs short of the 138.6 million he promised the American people. . .

And don’t fall for any White House claims that this belated recovery is due to the stimulus. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) admitted last month, its analysis of the stimulus’ job creating record was simply “essentially repeating the same exercise” as the initial projections. In other words, the CBO numbers on the stimulus don’t take any actual new real world data into account. Working with actual data, Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center has found: 1) no statistical correlation between unemployment and how the $862 billion was spent; 2) that Democratic districts received one-and-a-half times as many awards as Republican ones; and 3) an average cost of $286,000 was awarded per job created. $286,000 per job created. That is simply a bad investment.

And if you think that this is only conservative nay saying, consider Robert Reich’s take on why the jobs’ picture is grim:

First, government spending on last year’s giant stimulus is still near its peak, and the Fed continues to hold down interest rates. Without these props, it’s far from clear we’d have any job growth at all.

Second, since the start of the Great Recession, the economy has lost 8.4 million jobs and failed to create another 2.7 million needed just to keep up with population growth. That means we’re more than 11 million in the hole right now. And that hole keeps deepening every month we fail to add at least 150,000 new jobs, again reflecting population growth.

A census-taking job is better than no job, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.

Bottom line: This is no jobs recovery.

So while the debate rages on as to whether ObamaCare is really going to protect incumbent Democrats, what’s certain is that they will be tagged with either ignoring or aggravating (for pushing a tax-and-spend, anti employer agenda) the bleak unemployment situation. The Obami may recite ad nauseam their claim that the stimulus plan saved or created jobs, but few voters believe it, and with good reason. The Democrats will therefore face an angry electorate demanding to know why lawmakers obsessed over something voters despised (ObamaCare) and ignored something they did care deeply about (jobs).

The Democrats’ real challenge, then, may be to fend off the argument from opponents that all that time spent jamming through ObamaCare evidences a serious disconnect with voters and a failure to appreciate their primary concern — restoring the economy and re-igniting job growth. Instead of thinking up ways to promote hiring, the Democrats have spent their time passing a hugely expensive health-care bill and plotting massive tax increases (including the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which will fall heavily on small businesses) and new regulatory schemes (including cap-and-trade), which will only make employers more nervous about expanding their payrolls. You can see why the Democrats are bracing for yet another “change” election.

That’s what the White House and its spinners are telling us — that the passage of a “historic,” albeit much reviled, health-care bill will be enough to hold back the tsunami of anti-incumbency sentiment and abject disgust which voters are expressing toward the Democrat-controlled House and Senate. The political cost-benefit analysis — are more liberals bolstered or more independents turned off? — will be debated between now and November. But meanwhile, the black cloud of unemployment looms over the Democrats, who, after all, promised to focus their attention on job creation, but never really did.

The Hill reports that unemployment figures may become especially troublesome for some already vulnerable House Democrats:

Local unemployment rates higher than the national 9.7 average are further endangering House Democrats’ re-election chances.

For these Democrats, who hail from struggling states like Florida, Michigan, West Virginia, and Nevada, a 9.7 percent jobless rate that Republicans have called “completely unacceptable” would be a welcome improvement.

Vulnerable freshman Democratic Reps. Suzanne Kosmas and Alan Grayson represent swing districts that include parts of greater Orlando, where the unemployment rate in January 2010 was 12.4 percent.

Kosmas, a major GOP target this fall, represents a district that also contains the metropolitan area of Deltona and Daytona Beach, where 13 percent of the labor force was out of work.

“Where things are particularly bad, Democrats are in particular danger,” said David Wasserman, House editor for the Cook Political Report.

But 162,000 jobs were added last month (with the help of 50,000 temporary Census workers), boast the Democrats. Well, it’s less than meets the eye, as the Heritage Foundation (h/t Mark Hemingway) points out:

While the jobs report does indicate that 162,000 net jobs were created in March, almost 50,000 of those jobs were temporary government Census jobs that do not reflect any real economic progress. In total, the U.S. economy has now lost a total of 3.8 million jobs since President Barack Obama signed his $862 billion stimulus plan. We are 8.1 million jobs short of the 138.6 million he promised the American people. . .

And don’t fall for any White House claims that this belated recovery is due to the stimulus. As the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) admitted last month, its analysis of the stimulus’ job creating record was simply “essentially repeating the same exercise” as the initial projections. In other words, the CBO numbers on the stimulus don’t take any actual new real world data into account. Working with actual data, Veronique de Rugy of George Mason University’s Mercatus Center has found: 1) no statistical correlation between unemployment and how the $862 billion was spent; 2) that Democratic districts received one-and-a-half times as many awards as Republican ones; and 3) an average cost of $286,000 was awarded per job created. $286,000 per job created. That is simply a bad investment.

And if you think that this is only conservative nay saying, consider Robert Reich’s take on why the jobs’ picture is grim:

First, government spending on last year’s giant stimulus is still near its peak, and the Fed continues to hold down interest rates. Without these props, it’s far from clear we’d have any job growth at all.

Second, since the start of the Great Recession, the economy has lost 8.4 million jobs and failed to create another 2.7 million needed just to keep up with population growth. That means we’re more than 11 million in the hole right now. And that hole keeps deepening every month we fail to add at least 150,000 new jobs, again reflecting population growth.

A census-taking job is better than no job, but it’s no substitute for the real thing.

Bottom line: This is no jobs recovery.

So while the debate rages on as to whether ObamaCare is really going to protect incumbent Democrats, what’s certain is that they will be tagged with either ignoring or aggravating (for pushing a tax-and-spend, anti employer agenda) the bleak unemployment situation. The Obami may recite ad nauseam their claim that the stimulus plan saved or created jobs, but few voters believe it, and with good reason. The Democrats will therefore face an angry electorate demanding to know why lawmakers obsessed over something voters despised (ObamaCare) and ignored something they did care deeply about (jobs).

The Democrats’ real challenge, then, may be to fend off the argument from opponents that all that time spent jamming through ObamaCare evidences a serious disconnect with voters and a failure to appreciate their primary concern — restoring the economy and re-igniting job growth. Instead of thinking up ways to promote hiring, the Democrats have spent their time passing a hugely expensive health-care bill and plotting massive tax increases (including the expiration of the Bush tax cuts, which will fall heavily on small businesses) and new regulatory schemes (including cap-and-trade), which will only make employers more nervous about expanding their payrolls. You can see why the Democrats are bracing for yet another “change” election.

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Obama’s Thugocracy

The White House chests are puffed, and they are marveling at their political muscle. Health care can be rammed through, and Israel can be bullied — so what else to do? Ah, run roughshod over the Senate. The Hill reports:

President Barack Obama on Saturday wielded his recess appointment powers for the first time, clearing 15 nominees to assume posts that have remained vacant for months due to insurmountable congressional roadblocks.

Among the 15 named just days before the Senate departs for Easter recess are Craig Becker and Mark Pearce, the White House’s two, hotly contested nominees for the National Labor Relations Board.

Big Labor bosses will coo approvingly over the NLRB appointments. After all, the SEIU and AFL-CIO’s lawyer is now going to make labor law. Meanwhile, any pretense of bipartisanship or moderation has evaporated:

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) condemned the administration’s move on Saturday, adding that Becker’s appointment “is yet another episode of [the president] choosing a partisan path despite bipartisan opposition.”

“The president previously held that appointing an individual in this manner meant that the nominee would have ‘less credibility,’ and that assessment certainly fits this nomination,” the GOP leader said. “This is a purely partisan move that will make a traditionally bipartisan labor board an unbalanced agenda-driven panel.”

The only surprise: the radical lawyer Dawn Johnsen was not named to the Office of Legal Counsel. Perhaps the Obami have had enough of the accusations that the Justice Department, far from depoliticizing, has become a hotbed of ideologues.

This is the reality of Obama — unbending, ideologically extreme, and contemptuous of the other branches. He has revealed himself to be precisely what liberals used to rail against — until they got the levers of power. The Chicago pols are certainly plying their trade.

The White House chests are puffed, and they are marveling at their political muscle. Health care can be rammed through, and Israel can be bullied — so what else to do? Ah, run roughshod over the Senate. The Hill reports:

President Barack Obama on Saturday wielded his recess appointment powers for the first time, clearing 15 nominees to assume posts that have remained vacant for months due to insurmountable congressional roadblocks.

Among the 15 named just days before the Senate departs for Easter recess are Craig Becker and Mark Pearce, the White House’s two, hotly contested nominees for the National Labor Relations Board.

Big Labor bosses will coo approvingly over the NLRB appointments. After all, the SEIU and AFL-CIO’s lawyer is now going to make labor law. Meanwhile, any pretense of bipartisanship or moderation has evaporated:

Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) condemned the administration’s move on Saturday, adding that Becker’s appointment “is yet another episode of [the president] choosing a partisan path despite bipartisan opposition.”

“The president previously held that appointing an individual in this manner meant that the nominee would have ‘less credibility,’ and that assessment certainly fits this nomination,” the GOP leader said. “This is a purely partisan move that will make a traditionally bipartisan labor board an unbalanced agenda-driven panel.”

The only surprise: the radical lawyer Dawn Johnsen was not named to the Office of Legal Counsel. Perhaps the Obami have had enough of the accusations that the Justice Department, far from depoliticizing, has become a hotbed of ideologues.

This is the reality of Obama — unbending, ideologically extreme, and contemptuous of the other branches. He has revealed himself to be precisely what liberals used to rail against — until they got the levers of power. The Chicago pols are certainly plying their trade.

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Is It Too Hard to Say No?

As the final arms were twisted, the Slaughter Rule was thrown overboard, and both sides strained to count the last undecided votes, The Hill reported:

Rep. Parker Griffith (R-Ala.), who switched from the Democratic Party in December over disagreement with party policies, ripped Democratic leadership and the White House on Saturday for pressuring members to push healthcare reform through.

“There are some good, good congresswomen and congressmen who are being asked to sacrifice their career and it’s a mistake for them to accept this sacrifice on the part of President Obama or Nancy Pelosi,” Griffith said on Fox News. “It is a huge mistake.

“These are good people and they’re being pressured unmercifully right now,” he continued. “I saw it on the floor 20 minutes ago before I walked into this studio. I could see it on their faces. These are people I’ve known over a year and it’s unfortunate, it’s unfair. And what’s unfair about it is Obama doesn’t hardly know their name. Nancy Pelosi doesn’t hardly know their name. They’re good for a vote and once they cast that vote it’s will you love me tomorrow and the answer is no.”

Griffith has a point, but only so far. Pelosi and Obama don’t care if many of these people lose their seats. And, yes, they are pulling out all the stops — threatening, cajoling, arm-twisting, deal-cutting, and the rest. But wait. These members are adults. They know their own constituents and can read the polls. They know that the public overwhelmingly opposes the bill. And moreover, they know the very real substantive objections to the bill. Whether it is the gross fiscal irresponsibility, the corrupt deals, or the abortion subsidies, they have good and valid reasons to hold out.

If they can’t stand up to their own leaders or avoid the lure of plum jobs should they lose in November, this is no cause for sympathy. It’s reason for contempt. It’s one thing to vote for a monstrous bill because you actually believe it virtuous. It’s another, however, to vote for it anyway, knowing the harm it may do but supporting it regardless because you couldn’t tell Nancy Pelosi to take a hike. Those people deserve to lose in November. And many of them will.

As the final arms were twisted, the Slaughter Rule was thrown overboard, and both sides strained to count the last undecided votes, The Hill reported:

Rep. Parker Griffith (R-Ala.), who switched from the Democratic Party in December over disagreement with party policies, ripped Democratic leadership and the White House on Saturday for pressuring members to push healthcare reform through.

“There are some good, good congresswomen and congressmen who are being asked to sacrifice their career and it’s a mistake for them to accept this sacrifice on the part of President Obama or Nancy Pelosi,” Griffith said on Fox News. “It is a huge mistake.

“These are good people and they’re being pressured unmercifully right now,” he continued. “I saw it on the floor 20 minutes ago before I walked into this studio. I could see it on their faces. These are people I’ve known over a year and it’s unfortunate, it’s unfair. And what’s unfair about it is Obama doesn’t hardly know their name. Nancy Pelosi doesn’t hardly know their name. They’re good for a vote and once they cast that vote it’s will you love me tomorrow and the answer is no.”

Griffith has a point, but only so far. Pelosi and Obama don’t care if many of these people lose their seats. And, yes, they are pulling out all the stops — threatening, cajoling, arm-twisting, deal-cutting, and the rest. But wait. These members are adults. They know their own constituents and can read the polls. They know that the public overwhelmingly opposes the bill. And moreover, they know the very real substantive objections to the bill. Whether it is the gross fiscal irresponsibility, the corrupt deals, or the abortion subsidies, they have good and valid reasons to hold out.

If they can’t stand up to their own leaders or avoid the lure of plum jobs should they lose in November, this is no cause for sympathy. It’s reason for contempt. It’s one thing to vote for a monstrous bill because you actually believe it virtuous. It’s another, however, to vote for it anyway, knowing the harm it may do but supporting it regardless because you couldn’t tell Nancy Pelosi to take a hike. Those people deserve to lose in November. And many of them will.

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Not Popular Outside the Beltway

The Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika keeps telling us (and their nervous members) that ObamaCare must be passed in order to prevent an election debacle. Candidates running for office feel differently. The Hill reports:

Hardly any Democrat running for Congress seems to want to talk about healthcare. Of the 26 leading Democratic House candidates contacted by The Hill, only one would commit to voting for the Senate healthcare bill if and when it comes to the House floor. Out of the more than two dozen Democratic challengers and open-seat House candidates, only 10 commented for this story. Eight outright declined to comment. Eight more didn’t respond to several days’ worth of requests via phone and e-mail.

Could it be that the bill pushed by the Democratic legislature is toxic out there on the stump? Indeed, it might just be that the very mention of health-care reform by candidates conveys an obtuseness concerning the voters’ concerns. Many voters remain puzzled, if not downright frustrated, that the entire political establishment is focused on something low on their list of priorities.

Unfortunately for members of Congress, they can’t vote “no comment.” They will need to let their constituents know soon enough whether a monstrous tax-and-spend entitlement scheme is really what the country needs right now (or ever).

The Obama-Reid-Pelosi troika keeps telling us (and their nervous members) that ObamaCare must be passed in order to prevent an election debacle. Candidates running for office feel differently. The Hill reports:

Hardly any Democrat running for Congress seems to want to talk about healthcare. Of the 26 leading Democratic House candidates contacted by The Hill, only one would commit to voting for the Senate healthcare bill if and when it comes to the House floor. Out of the more than two dozen Democratic challengers and open-seat House candidates, only 10 commented for this story. Eight outright declined to comment. Eight more didn’t respond to several days’ worth of requests via phone and e-mail.

Could it be that the bill pushed by the Democratic legislature is toxic out there on the stump? Indeed, it might just be that the very mention of health-care reform by candidates conveys an obtuseness concerning the voters’ concerns. Many voters remain puzzled, if not downright frustrated, that the entire political establishment is focused on something low on their list of priorities.

Unfortunately for members of Congress, they can’t vote “no comment.” They will need to let their constituents know soon enough whether a monstrous tax-and-spend entitlement scheme is really what the country needs right now (or ever).

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Big Labor Savages Noncompliant Democrats

Big Labor is grouchy and out to throw its muscle around. The Hill reports:

Frustrated at seeing their legislative agenda stymied, unions are becoming increasingly active in competitive Democratic Senate primaries. Across the country, labor groups are using their organizational muscle early against candidates whom they see as having walked away from their agenda. By doing so, they’re exposing schisms between centrist and liberal Democratic lawmakers who have struggled to come through on the campaign promises made to union members. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), healthcare reform and even a nominee to the little-known National Labor Relations Board have stalled in a Congress controlled by the largest majorities Democrats have enjoyed in a generation.

So the labor bosses are going to “play in the primaries,” backing candidates most enamored of stripping workers of the secret ballot and most infatuated with the special-interest group’s agenda. For incumbents that means they show independence from the Big Labor agenda at their own risk. Unions are making endorsements in the Pennsylvania and Colorado senate primaries and have backed Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s Democratic primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

Republicans no doubt are delighted. They can point to the noxious influence of the special-interest groups (e.g., the Cadillac-plan tax deal), watch imperiled incumbent Democrats squirm, and then potentially face off against even more liberal and Big Labor–beholden opponents in the general election. Some labor officials have figured this out, and moan: “It does not take a pundit to recognize that November is going to be ugly for Democrats and eating our own in primaries makes no sense.”

So in the meantime, organized labor scoops up the handouts. For example, unions have prevailed upon the administration to roll back Bush-era regulations that expanded the financial-disclosure statements required of labor unions and their leaders. So much for transparency. But Big Labor is smart to get what they can now. After November, it’s likely to have far fewer sympathetic lawmakers.

Big Labor is grouchy and out to throw its muscle around. The Hill reports:

Frustrated at seeing their legislative agenda stymied, unions are becoming increasingly active in competitive Democratic Senate primaries. Across the country, labor groups are using their organizational muscle early against candidates whom they see as having walked away from their agenda. By doing so, they’re exposing schisms between centrist and liberal Democratic lawmakers who have struggled to come through on the campaign promises made to union members. The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), healthcare reform and even a nominee to the little-known National Labor Relations Board have stalled in a Congress controlled by the largest majorities Democrats have enjoyed in a generation.

So the labor bosses are going to “play in the primaries,” backing candidates most enamored of stripping workers of the secret ballot and most infatuated with the special-interest group’s agenda. For incumbents that means they show independence from the Big Labor agenda at their own risk. Unions are making endorsements in the Pennsylvania and Colorado senate primaries and have backed Sen. Blanche Lincoln’s Democratic primary opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter.

Republicans no doubt are delighted. They can point to the noxious influence of the special-interest groups (e.g., the Cadillac-plan tax deal), watch imperiled incumbent Democrats squirm, and then potentially face off against even more liberal and Big Labor–beholden opponents in the general election. Some labor officials have figured this out, and moan: “It does not take a pundit to recognize that November is going to be ugly for Democrats and eating our own in primaries makes no sense.”

So in the meantime, organized labor scoops up the handouts. For example, unions have prevailed upon the administration to roll back Bush-era regulations that expanded the financial-disclosure statements required of labor unions and their leaders. So much for transparency. But Big Labor is smart to get what they can now. After November, it’s likely to have far fewer sympathetic lawmakers.

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Democrats in the Spotlight

Even among high-ranking and dependable veteran House Democrats, enthusiasm for ObamaCare is underwhelming. The Hill reports:

A handful of House committee chairmen are either undecided about or plan to reject the healthcare reform bill that is expected to be voted on as early as next week.

The prospect of several panel chairmen voting against the healthcare bill comes as the White House and Democratic leaders are ramping up their efforts to attract the necessary votes to move the Senate-passed bill. The White House wants the House to clear the bill by March 18 and then have the upper chamber amend the measure through reconciliation. … According to the survey conducted by The Hill. … there are already 11 firm “no” votes.

Needless to say, if committee chairmen are underwhelmed with the president’s arguments, it may be hard to corral the rank and file. Jake Tapper and Hotline are keeping tabs, and so far, there are a lot of noes and undecideds. But for now the Obama-spun (and media-favorite) storyline that “Republicans Obstruct ObamaCare!” has been properly tossed aside. The issue has never been whether Republicans oppose the monstrous tax-and-spend bill. They do. (The unanimity is perhaps a bit of a surprise.) The issue has been and remains whether moderate Democrats can be persuaded to vote for something their constituents hate and that, if they vote for it, will quite possibly end their careers. Stay tuned.

Even among high-ranking and dependable veteran House Democrats, enthusiasm for ObamaCare is underwhelming. The Hill reports:

A handful of House committee chairmen are either undecided about or plan to reject the healthcare reform bill that is expected to be voted on as early as next week.

The prospect of several panel chairmen voting against the healthcare bill comes as the White House and Democratic leaders are ramping up their efforts to attract the necessary votes to move the Senate-passed bill. The White House wants the House to clear the bill by March 18 and then have the upper chamber amend the measure through reconciliation. … According to the survey conducted by The Hill. … there are already 11 firm “no” votes.

Needless to say, if committee chairmen are underwhelmed with the president’s arguments, it may be hard to corral the rank and file. Jake Tapper and Hotline are keeping tabs, and so far, there are a lot of noes and undecideds. But for now the Obama-spun (and media-favorite) storyline that “Republicans Obstruct ObamaCare!” has been properly tossed aside. The issue has never been whether Republicans oppose the monstrous tax-and-spend bill. They do. (The unanimity is perhaps a bit of a surprise.) The issue has been and remains whether moderate Democrats can be persuaded to vote for something their constituents hate and that, if they vote for it, will quite possibly end their careers. Stay tuned.

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Pelosi’s Other Problem

As if Nancy Pelosi didn’t have enough problems — the polls, the retirements, the ObamaCare implosion, and the prospect of losing her speakership — she now must face a daily bashing by Republicans who sense she and her caucus are vulnerable on the ethics issue. The Hill reports:

House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Sunday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was breaking the promise to have the most ethical Congress “every day.”

“Nancy Pelosi said in the very beginning this is going to be the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history,” Cantor said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, “and what we’re seeing, she’s breaking that promise every day.”

Cantor and other Republicans are of course hounding Pelosi to dump Rangel, which for inexplicable reasons she is refusing to do. (Is he going to vote no on ObamaCare if she takes away his Ways and Means chairmanship? Of course not.) The Hill report then notes, ominously for the Democrats, that “Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) intends to introduce a privileged resolution next week calling for a vote on removing Charles Rangel as head of the Ways and Means panel.” Ouch. Another vote, another sticky situation for the Democrats.

Well, unfortunately for them, Pelosi didn’t take seriously her promises on transparency or corruption. Instead, we’ve seen broken promises in regard to posting key bills ahead of the votes, the perpetuation of earmarks, the refusal until the health-care summit to let the cameras into health-care deliberations, and of course the refusal to dump ethically impaired members. It’s a pattern of hubris and indifference that contributed to Republican losses in 2006. Cantor and his troops hope the same is true in 2010.

As if Nancy Pelosi didn’t have enough problems — the polls, the retirements, the ObamaCare implosion, and the prospect of losing her speakership — she now must face a daily bashing by Republicans who sense she and her caucus are vulnerable on the ethics issue. The Hill reports:

House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said Sunday that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) was breaking the promise to have the most ethical Congress “every day.”

“Nancy Pelosi said in the very beginning this is going to be the most open, honest and ethical Congress in history,” Cantor said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday morning, “and what we’re seeing, she’s breaking that promise every day.”

Cantor and other Republicans are of course hounding Pelosi to dump Rangel, which for inexplicable reasons she is refusing to do. (Is he going to vote no on ObamaCare if she takes away his Ways and Means chairmanship? Of course not.) The Hill report then notes, ominously for the Democrats, that “Rep. John Carter (R-Texas) intends to introduce a privileged resolution next week calling for a vote on removing Charles Rangel as head of the Ways and Means panel.” Ouch. Another vote, another sticky situation for the Democrats.

Well, unfortunately for them, Pelosi didn’t take seriously her promises on transparency or corruption. Instead, we’ve seen broken promises in regard to posting key bills ahead of the votes, the perpetuation of earmarks, the refusal until the health-care summit to let the cameras into health-care deliberations, and of course the refusal to dump ethically impaired members. It’s a pattern of hubris and indifference that contributed to Republican losses in 2006. Cantor and his troops hope the same is true in 2010.

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RE: Rangel Guilty of Ethics Violation

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s imperviousness to reality knows no bounds. The Hill reports:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’s once again sticking by embattled Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) — at least for now.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a Thursday press conference that she had not yet read the full report from the ethics committee, which admonished Rangel, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, for improperly accepting reimbursement for two trips to the Caribbean.

“All I saw was the press release where they said he did not violate the rules of the House,” Pelosi said. “And I think that’s an important statement that they made.”

Pelosi is flat wrong. From the House Ethics Committee press release: “The Report further finds that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated the House gift rule by accepting payment or reimbursement for travel to the 2007 and 2008 conferences.”

Nor are Pelosi’s members as out to lunch as she is. Politico reports: “Early Friday, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) told POLITICO he wants Rangel to quit his powerful committee post — and that was quickly followed by similar statements from a pair of deep south Democrats, Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor and Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright.”

It is hard to see what Pelosi will achieve by this sort of performance — other than cement her reputation as someone who plays fast and loose with the facts and who has, after achieving the position of Speaker of the House, been rendered politically tone deaf.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s imperviousness to reality knows no bounds. The Hill reports:

Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she’s once again sticking by embattled Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) — at least for now.

Pelosi (D-Calif.) said during a Thursday press conference that she had not yet read the full report from the ethics committee, which admonished Rangel, the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, for improperly accepting reimbursement for two trips to the Caribbean.

“All I saw was the press release where they said he did not violate the rules of the House,” Pelosi said. “And I think that’s an important statement that they made.”

Pelosi is flat wrong. From the House Ethics Committee press release: “The Report further finds that Representative Charles B. Rangel violated the House gift rule by accepting payment or reimbursement for travel to the 2007 and 2008 conferences.”

Nor are Pelosi’s members as out to lunch as she is. Politico reports: “Early Friday, Rep. Paul Hodes (D-N.H.) told POLITICO he wants Rangel to quit his powerful committee post — and that was quickly followed by similar statements from a pair of deep south Democrats, Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor and Alabama Rep. Bobby Bright.”

It is hard to see what Pelosi will achieve by this sort of performance — other than cement her reputation as someone who plays fast and loose with the facts and who has, after achieving the position of Speaker of the House, been rendered politically tone deaf.

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Less than Meets the Eye — Again

The thing about Obama is that there is always less than meets the eye. He went to Copenhagen twice, each time with spinners expecting the fix was in and Obama could deliver a huge political win; but there was no game plan; there was no Chicago Olympics or global-warming deal. Obama intends to sweep away Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but not really. There is no executive order. There will be a long study and maybe, sometime, there will be congressional action. Obama had a plan for Iran: prove his bona fides by engagement, pivot to crippling sanctions, and hold military force as an option. Instead, he’s been meandering around in engagement and coming up with mini-sanctions. No cleverly devised plan after all.

Now we hear that the proposal to regulate CO2 by bureaucratic fiat is being whittled down to a mini-gambit that won’t go into effect until after 2010, when, by gosh, we’ll have a new Congress:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pledge Monday to move slowly on the implementation of upcoming greenhouse gas rules may give cover to some Capitol Hill Democrats to vote against blocking climate rules entirely, according to lobbyists and activists.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter to a group of Senate Democrats on Monday that upcoming rules to limit emissions from power plants and other industrial facilities won’t take effect in 2010. She also told the eight Democrats — who mostly hail from coal-producing or coal-reliant states — that the rules will initially be narrower than EPA had planned.

On one level, this is another exercise in cynicism. You see, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has a plan to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. But the Hill reports, “One environmental lobbyist said EPA’s action ‘absolutely’ gives Democrats cover to vote against [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski’s plan by providing time for work on climate legislation.” On the other hand, it’s evidence that the Obami aren’t really equipped to push through much of their radical agenda, so they must resort once again to delay, misdirection, and half-measures to avoid wigging out their base. Still, the EPA’s newest mini-gambit isn’t enough to win over some Democrats, especially those from energy-producing states:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who led the letter to EPA from the eight Democrats, is preparing a bill that would temporarily prevent EPA rules while Congress works on a broader climate and energy bill. He praised EPA’s action but said it hasn’t changed his mind. “I am glad to see that the EPA is showing some willingness to set their timetable for regulation into the future — this is good progress, but I am concerned it may not go far enough,” Rockefeller said in a prepared statement.

The environmental lobbyists are squawking about the need to “defend science from politics, defend our children’s future from polluters, and defend our economy from the stranglehold of special interests.” Maybe that sort of thing worked better before Climategate, record unemployment, and Obama’s ratings collapse. But now, it reinforces the chasm between Obama’s agenda and his accomplishments. It is further proof that the Obami have a lot of bark and no bite when it comes to reinventing America or putting in a New Foundation, or whatever they call it these days. That’s very good news indeed.

The thing about Obama is that there is always less than meets the eye. He went to Copenhagen twice, each time with spinners expecting the fix was in and Obama could deliver a huge political win; but there was no game plan; there was no Chicago Olympics or global-warming deal. Obama intends to sweep away Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, but not really. There is no executive order. There will be a long study and maybe, sometime, there will be congressional action. Obama had a plan for Iran: prove his bona fides by engagement, pivot to crippling sanctions, and hold military force as an option. Instead, he’s been meandering around in engagement and coming up with mini-sanctions. No cleverly devised plan after all.

Now we hear that the proposal to regulate CO2 by bureaucratic fiat is being whittled down to a mini-gambit that won’t go into effect until after 2010, when, by gosh, we’ll have a new Congress:

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) pledge Monday to move slowly on the implementation of upcoming greenhouse gas rules may give cover to some Capitol Hill Democrats to vote against blocking climate rules entirely, according to lobbyists and activists.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said in a letter to a group of Senate Democrats on Monday that upcoming rules to limit emissions from power plants and other industrial facilities won’t take effect in 2010. She also told the eight Democrats — who mostly hail from coal-producing or coal-reliant states — that the rules will initially be narrower than EPA had planned.

On one level, this is another exercise in cynicism. You see, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) has a plan to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases. But the Hill reports, “One environmental lobbyist said EPA’s action ‘absolutely’ gives Democrats cover to vote against [Sen. Lisa] Murkowski’s plan by providing time for work on climate legislation.” On the other hand, it’s evidence that the Obami aren’t really equipped to push through much of their radical agenda, so they must resort once again to delay, misdirection, and half-measures to avoid wigging out their base. Still, the EPA’s newest mini-gambit isn’t enough to win over some Democrats, especially those from energy-producing states:

Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), who led the letter to EPA from the eight Democrats, is preparing a bill that would temporarily prevent EPA rules while Congress works on a broader climate and energy bill. He praised EPA’s action but said it hasn’t changed his mind. “I am glad to see that the EPA is showing some willingness to set their timetable for regulation into the future — this is good progress, but I am concerned it may not go far enough,” Rockefeller said in a prepared statement.

The environmental lobbyists are squawking about the need to “defend science from politics, defend our children’s future from polluters, and defend our economy from the stranglehold of special interests.” Maybe that sort of thing worked better before Climategate, record unemployment, and Obama’s ratings collapse. But now, it reinforces the chasm between Obama’s agenda and his accomplishments. It is further proof that the Obami have a lot of bark and no bite when it comes to reinventing America or putting in a New Foundation, or whatever they call it these days. That’s very good news indeed.

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Re: That Explains It

Sen Harry Reid blew up the bipartisan jobs bill. In its place he offered a slimmed down $15B bill. One hitch: he doesn’t have the votes to pass it. The Hill reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) lacks the votes to begin debating his targeted job bills, according to sources monitoring the legislation.

Reid needs 60 votes to open debate on the $15 billion jobs bill up. The vote is scheduled for Monday, when lawmakers return from the Presidents’ Day recess.

“I understand Reid does not have the votes for cloture on Monday on his jobs bill,” one source said.

Oopsy. It seems as though Reid didn’t think even one move ahead when he substituted his jobs proposal. Now his chief blame passer, Jim Manley, says it is all in the Republicans’ hands. Hmm. There seemed to have been one deal there which did enjoy Republican support — so how is it now the GOP’s fault if Reid has no passable piece of legislation? Bemoaning the loss of a bio-diesel tax credit that was included in the bipartisan package, Sen. Chuck Grassley let Reid have it, declaring that “the industry is hemorrhaging jobs and we can do something to stop it . .  . Yet Senator Reid decided that it was more important to play political games than actually saving and creating jobs in the private sector.”

There is a comic quality to all of this. But the ramifications are very serious and real for the Democrats. Perhaps the White House could actually draft and send up its own bill, showing that it can lead rather than simply decry the partisan deadlock. But that’s really not their thing, is it? They are too busy puffing up the fake jobs numbers from the disastrous original Obama stimulus bill. Well, if the stimulus had done what the Obami had promised it would, perhaps a Son of Stimulus would not be required. It seems as though in this administration spinning past failures fills the time, while Democratic leaders are not making progress on the issues that trouble most Americans. You think the voters will notice? So far, only 6 percent of Americans think the first stimulus worked. Maybe the White House’s time would be better spent helping Harry Reid do his job.

Sen Harry Reid blew up the bipartisan jobs bill. In its place he offered a slimmed down $15B bill. One hitch: he doesn’t have the votes to pass it. The Hill reports:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) lacks the votes to begin debating his targeted job bills, according to sources monitoring the legislation.

Reid needs 60 votes to open debate on the $15 billion jobs bill up. The vote is scheduled for Monday, when lawmakers return from the Presidents’ Day recess.

“I understand Reid does not have the votes for cloture on Monday on his jobs bill,” one source said.

Oopsy. It seems as though Reid didn’t think even one move ahead when he substituted his jobs proposal. Now his chief blame passer, Jim Manley, says it is all in the Republicans’ hands. Hmm. There seemed to have been one deal there which did enjoy Republican support — so how is it now the GOP’s fault if Reid has no passable piece of legislation? Bemoaning the loss of a bio-diesel tax credit that was included in the bipartisan package, Sen. Chuck Grassley let Reid have it, declaring that “the industry is hemorrhaging jobs and we can do something to stop it . .  . Yet Senator Reid decided that it was more important to play political games than actually saving and creating jobs in the private sector.”

There is a comic quality to all of this. But the ramifications are very serious and real for the Democrats. Perhaps the White House could actually draft and send up its own bill, showing that it can lead rather than simply decry the partisan deadlock. But that’s really not their thing, is it? They are too busy puffing up the fake jobs numbers from the disastrous original Obama stimulus bill. Well, if the stimulus had done what the Obami had promised it would, perhaps a Son of Stimulus would not be required. It seems as though in this administration spinning past failures fills the time, while Democratic leaders are not making progress on the issues that trouble most Americans. You think the voters will notice? So far, only 6 percent of Americans think the first stimulus worked. Maybe the White House’s time would be better spent helping Harry Reid do his job.

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The End of the “Not Bush” Experiment?

The Hill reports:

Rep. Pete King (N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said he would attempt to add language barring any money from being spent on trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts to the intelligence authorization bill. . . In the next week, King said, he will be fine-tuning the language to make it germane to the intelligence authorization bill. If he is unsuccessful or it doesn’t pass, he vowed to continue to offer the bill throughout the rest of the year whenever he sees an opportunity.

This seems like a fine idea. If, as Obama keeps declaring, we got “off track” during the Bush years (oh, except for the parts which the Obami claim were identical to what Obama is now doing) and betrayed our “values,” he should welcome a robust debate about the wisdom of trying jihadists in civilian courtrooms. Granted, a New York venue seems like a nonstarter now, but Eric Holder and Obama insist that that civilian trials are the way to go. They tell us that it’s going to prove (to whom?) the wonders of the American judicial system — before they absolutely, positively guarantee a conviction. (And such reasoning requires one to put aside, I suppose, that military tribunals authorized by Congress are part of that judicial system.)

The Obami must sense they are on thin ice. Sens. Pat Leahy and Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to the White House (I’m sure it was requested) singing the praises of federal court trials for terrorists. But there is a groundswell of opposition building:

King and Rep. Frank Wolf (Va.), the top Republican on the subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, are leading the House drive to prevent any funds from being spent on prosecuting Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. federal courts. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is leading a similar legislative initiative in the Senate. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who is in a tight reelection race, signed on as a co-sponsor to Graham’s bill. . . . Last week, two House Democrats, Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.) and Mike McMahon (N.Y.), jumped onto King and Wolf’s bill as co-sponsors, a sign that support in the Democratic Caucus for Obama’s detainee policies has deteriorated in recent weeks amid growing concern about how voters will view the White House’s national security policies at the polls in November

The public in survey after survey opposes the criminal-justice model Obama still clings to. The president will have the chance to make his pitch and convince the public of the merits of his view. Indeed, snatching the decision-making process away from the hapless Eric Holder, who botched the New York trial roll-out, Obama declares that he will insert himself in the process and decide the locale of the KSM trial.

But I suspect the whole experiment is unraveling as those on the ballot this year sense that there is no appetite for this sort of thing. Even Holder seemed to leave the door open to trying KSM in a military tribunal. (“‘At the end of the day, wherever this case is tried, in whatever forum, what we have to ensure is that it’s done as transparently as possible and with adherence to all the rules,’ Holder said. ‘If we do that, I’m not sure the location or even the forum is as important as what the world sees in that proceeding.'”)

Well, perhaps it was the “not Bush” approach to terrorism that was seriously off track and flew in the face of the values and common sense of the American people. If Congress is stepping up to the plate and the administration is groping for an exit plan, we may finally arrive at a rational approach to fighting Islamic fascists — one that looks a whole lot like the Bush approach.

The Hill reports:

Rep. Pete King (N.Y.), the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, said he would attempt to add language barring any money from being spent on trying alleged terrorists in civilian courts to the intelligence authorization bill. . . In the next week, King said, he will be fine-tuning the language to make it germane to the intelligence authorization bill. If he is unsuccessful or it doesn’t pass, he vowed to continue to offer the bill throughout the rest of the year whenever he sees an opportunity.

This seems like a fine idea. If, as Obama keeps declaring, we got “off track” during the Bush years (oh, except for the parts which the Obami claim were identical to what Obama is now doing) and betrayed our “values,” he should welcome a robust debate about the wisdom of trying jihadists in civilian courtrooms. Granted, a New York venue seems like a nonstarter now, but Eric Holder and Obama insist that that civilian trials are the way to go. They tell us that it’s going to prove (to whom?) the wonders of the American judicial system — before they absolutely, positively guarantee a conviction. (And such reasoning requires one to put aside, I suppose, that military tribunals authorized by Congress are part of that judicial system.)

The Obami must sense they are on thin ice. Sens. Pat Leahy and Dianne Feinstein sent a letter to the White House (I’m sure it was requested) singing the praises of federal court trials for terrorists. But there is a groundswell of opposition building:

King and Rep. Frank Wolf (Va.), the top Republican on the subcommittee that funds the Justice Department, are leading the House drive to prevent any funds from being spent on prosecuting Guantanamo Bay detainees in U.S. federal courts. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is leading a similar legislative initiative in the Senate. Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who is in a tight reelection race, signed on as a co-sponsor to Graham’s bill. . . . Last week, two House Democrats, Reps. Jason Altmire (Pa.) and Mike McMahon (N.Y.), jumped onto King and Wolf’s bill as co-sponsors, a sign that support in the Democratic Caucus for Obama’s detainee policies has deteriorated in recent weeks amid growing concern about how voters will view the White House’s national security policies at the polls in November

The public in survey after survey opposes the criminal-justice model Obama still clings to. The president will have the chance to make his pitch and convince the public of the merits of his view. Indeed, snatching the decision-making process away from the hapless Eric Holder, who botched the New York trial roll-out, Obama declares that he will insert himself in the process and decide the locale of the KSM trial.

But I suspect the whole experiment is unraveling as those on the ballot this year sense that there is no appetite for this sort of thing. Even Holder seemed to leave the door open to trying KSM in a military tribunal. (“‘At the end of the day, wherever this case is tried, in whatever forum, what we have to ensure is that it’s done as transparently as possible and with adherence to all the rules,’ Holder said. ‘If we do that, I’m not sure the location or even the forum is as important as what the world sees in that proceeding.'”)

Well, perhaps it was the “not Bush” approach to terrorism that was seriously off track and flew in the face of the values and common sense of the American people. If Congress is stepping up to the plate and the administration is groping for an exit plan, we may finally arrive at a rational approach to fighting Islamic fascists — one that looks a whole lot like the Bush approach.

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Democrats Seek Distance from Obama

The Associated Press is the latest to discover the potential for a Republican takeover of Congress:

Almost by the day, Republicans are sensing fresh opportunities to pick up ground. Just Wednesday, former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats announced he would try to reclaim his old seat from Democrat Evan Bayh, who barely a year ago had been a finalist to be Barack Obama’s running mate. And Republicans nationwide are still celebrating Scott Brown’s January upset to take Edward Kennedy’s former seat in Massachusetts.

A Republican takeover on Capitol Hill is still a long shot. But strategists in both parties now see at least narrow paths by which the GOP could win the House and, if the troubled environment for Democrats deteriorates further, possibly even the Senate.

The AP is a little less candid about the reasons, however. You see, it’s “the persistent 10 percent unemployment rate, the country’s bitterness over Wall Street bailouts and voters’ anti-Washington fervor. Obama’s party, controlling both the White House and Congress, is likely to feel that fury the most. And it’s defending far more seats than the Republicans.” But why, then, is the generic congressional polling number tilting in the Republicans’ favor, a historic anomaly? Could it have something to do with what the Democrats have done in the last year? Read More

The Associated Press is the latest to discover the potential for a Republican takeover of Congress:

Almost by the day, Republicans are sensing fresh opportunities to pick up ground. Just Wednesday, former Indiana Sen. Dan Coats announced he would try to reclaim his old seat from Democrat Evan Bayh, who barely a year ago had been a finalist to be Barack Obama’s running mate. And Republicans nationwide are still celebrating Scott Brown’s January upset to take Edward Kennedy’s former seat in Massachusetts.

A Republican takeover on Capitol Hill is still a long shot. But strategists in both parties now see at least narrow paths by which the GOP could win the House and, if the troubled environment for Democrats deteriorates further, possibly even the Senate.

The AP is a little less candid about the reasons, however. You see, it’s “the persistent 10 percent unemployment rate, the country’s bitterness over Wall Street bailouts and voters’ anti-Washington fervor. Obama’s party, controlling both the White House and Congress, is likely to feel that fury the most. And it’s defending far more seats than the Republicans.” But why, then, is the generic congressional polling number tilting in the Republicans’ favor, a historic anomaly? Could it have something to do with what the Democrats have done in the last year?

Well those incumbent Democrats struggling for their political lives don’t seem to be so confused. We’ve seen a steady drumbeat of criticism from Democrats on Obama’s anti-terrorism policies. We see that Democratic lawmakers are flexing their muscles, trying to put some daylight between themselves and the Obama-Reid-Pelosi ultra-liberal domestic agenda as well. As this report notes:

A Democratic Senate candidate in Missouri denounced the budget’s sky-high deficit. A Florida Democrat whose congressional district includes the Kennedy Space Center hit the roof over NASA budget cuts. And a headline on the 2010 campaign website of Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) blares her opposition to Obama’s farm budget: “Blanche stands up for Arkansas farm families.”

And at least in the days following Scott Brown’s win, we heard a raft of Democrats suggest that maybe now it was time to move on from health-care reform to something voters actually like, maybe some pro-job measures.

The tension between the Reid-Pelosi-Obama trio, fueled by ideological determination and the fear of offending their base, and those Democrats who think that a good deal of the problem they face stems from the very agenda set out by Reid-Pelosi-Obama will, I suspect, increase throughout the year. Obama wants to “punch through” on health care; Red State Democrats want to run for their lives. Obama is touting a massive budget; Sen. Kent Conrad is already throwing cold water on it. And so it will go. The more the leadership pushes to the Left, the greater the risk for those members nervously watching the polls. And the result may well be legislative gridlock. But if the alternative is more big-government power grabs, that might not be a bad thing for at-risk Democrats.

Moreover, there is a growing realization among Democrats that the White House is vamping it — that it lacks a plan to achieve much of anything. The Hill reports that after the TV cameras left, the Democratic senators pounced on the White House aides:

Democrats expressed their frustration with the lack of a clear plan for passing healthcare reform, according to one person in the room. One Democratic senator even grew heated in his remarks, according to the source. “It wasn’t a discussion about how to get from Point A to Point B; it was a discussion about the lack of a plan to get from Point A to Point B,” said a person who attended the meeting. “Many of the members were frustrated, but one person really expressed his frustration.” Senators did not want to press Obama on healthcare reform in front of television cameras for fear of putting him in an awkward spot. “There was a vigorous discussion about that afterward with some of his top advisers and others,” Sen. Evan Bayh (D-Ind.) said regarding the healthcare discussion.

Not unlike the debacle in Copenhagen (the first one mostly, but really both), the Democrats are coming to see that the White House lacks a game plan. It is not merely ideologically out of step with the country; it is also incapable of governing, and of leading the party. And that will make already skittish incumbents more likely to make their own political judgments, quite apart from whatever suggestions Obama doles out.

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When Everything Is Bleak, Attack Fox News

The Obami are nothing if not persistent. Fox News may be the fastest-growing cable news network. The White House vendetta against those so stiff-necked as to refuse to view the world through the White House’s news prism may have backfired, making the Obami look paranoid and thin-skinned. But why change? After all, the White House is riding high and has the pulse of the electorate, right? Oh well, not at all. But Fox is still to be vilified and marginalized. The Hill reports:

Leadership of the White House’s communication shop may have changed, but its new chief made clear on Monday he shares his predecessor’s concerns about Fox News. The network is “not a traditional news organization,” director Dan Pfeiffer stressed, adding he agreed with former Director Anita Dunn’s take on the network. … “We don’t feel the obligation to treat them like we would treat a CNN, or an ABC, or an NBC, or a traditional news organization, but there are times when we believe it makes sense to communicate with them,” he added, noting the White House’s decision to dispatch counter-terrorism chief John Brennan to Fox News Sunday after the Flight 253 attack was one example of that.

I suppose when you have your communications strategy wired, when every election in the past few months has gone your way, and when you have a firm grip on the independent voters who watch Fox in huge numbers, you can afford to be arrogant. But when none of those things is true and the White House has spent days scrambling to undo the damage from an embarrassingly lackluster presidential response to terrorism, the administration might want to think about reaching out beyond their spin-cocoon. They might want to try to erase the image of their being incapable of interacting with those who fail to provide reverential coverage. After all, three years is a long time to continue their current downward trajectory, which is the result of this sort of arrogance and of their insistence on ignoring those who refuse to nod approvingly, parrot the line of the day, and avoid asking impertinent questions.

The Obami are nothing if not persistent. Fox News may be the fastest-growing cable news network. The White House vendetta against those so stiff-necked as to refuse to view the world through the White House’s news prism may have backfired, making the Obami look paranoid and thin-skinned. But why change? After all, the White House is riding high and has the pulse of the electorate, right? Oh well, not at all. But Fox is still to be vilified and marginalized. The Hill reports:

Leadership of the White House’s communication shop may have changed, but its new chief made clear on Monday he shares his predecessor’s concerns about Fox News. The network is “not a traditional news organization,” director Dan Pfeiffer stressed, adding he agreed with former Director Anita Dunn’s take on the network. … “We don’t feel the obligation to treat them like we would treat a CNN, or an ABC, or an NBC, or a traditional news organization, but there are times when we believe it makes sense to communicate with them,” he added, noting the White House’s decision to dispatch counter-terrorism chief John Brennan to Fox News Sunday after the Flight 253 attack was one example of that.

I suppose when you have your communications strategy wired, when every election in the past few months has gone your way, and when you have a firm grip on the independent voters who watch Fox in huge numbers, you can afford to be arrogant. But when none of those things is true and the White House has spent days scrambling to undo the damage from an embarrassingly lackluster presidential response to terrorism, the administration might want to think about reaching out beyond their spin-cocoon. They might want to try to erase the image of their being incapable of interacting with those who fail to provide reverential coverage. After all, three years is a long time to continue their current downward trajectory, which is the result of this sort of arrogance and of their insistence on ignoring those who refuse to nod approvingly, parrot the line of the day, and avoid asking impertinent questions.

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LBJ He’s Not

It’s remarkable: Obama’s signature legislative item is at a crucial juncture. It’s not clear that there are 60 votes for Harry Reid’s plan, abortion has become a stumbling block, and the public continues to sour on the Democratic scheme to take over health care. So the president goes to Capitol Hill — and says nothing of consequence. The Hill reports:

Obama told reporters that the meeting was a “pep talk,” not a negotiation. Obama didn’t take questions from the senators or mention the two issues now dividing Senate Democrats and preventing passage of the bill: a government-run insurance plan and restrictions on federal funds for abortion.

He really doesn’t add much to the mix, does he? Perhaps it’s passivity, or maybe he simply lacks the interest or ability to help craft a bill. As with his super-duper speech to Congress in September, Obama seems unable to go beyond platitudes and get down to the nitty-gritty of governance. After all, he wasn’t in the Senate for very long and didn’t champion any significant legislation, so there’s no evidence that this is really his strong suit.

So for now it’s up to the Senate to deliberate and negotiate and deliberate some more. We might not have a deal anytime soon. (“Key centrist senators not involved in the talks dismissed suggestions that the Senate healthcare debate would end soon. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) told The Hill that it’s not realistic to expect the bill to be finished in a week.”) Or ever.

It’s remarkable: Obama’s signature legislative item is at a crucial juncture. It’s not clear that there are 60 votes for Harry Reid’s plan, abortion has become a stumbling block, and the public continues to sour on the Democratic scheme to take over health care. So the president goes to Capitol Hill — and says nothing of consequence. The Hill reports:

Obama told reporters that the meeting was a “pep talk,” not a negotiation. Obama didn’t take questions from the senators or mention the two issues now dividing Senate Democrats and preventing passage of the bill: a government-run insurance plan and restrictions on federal funds for abortion.

He really doesn’t add much to the mix, does he? Perhaps it’s passivity, or maybe he simply lacks the interest or ability to help craft a bill. As with his super-duper speech to Congress in September, Obama seems unable to go beyond platitudes and get down to the nitty-gritty of governance. After all, he wasn’t in the Senate for very long and didn’t champion any significant legislation, so there’s no evidence that this is really his strong suit.

So for now it’s up to the Senate to deliberate and negotiate and deliberate some more. We might not have a deal anytime soon. (“Key centrist senators not involved in the talks dismissed suggestions that the Senate healthcare debate would end soon. Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) told The Hill that it’s not realistic to expect the bill to be finished in a week.”) Or ever.

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Another Round Of Timetables

Here we go again. The McCain folks send around this from last night in which both Charles Krauthammer and Mort Kondracke agree that Romney was indeed talking about timetables for withdrawal of U.S. forces in his April 2007 Good Morning America interview. They point out that Romney argued that you did not want to make the timetables public because “otherwise the enemy would know you are leaving.” (McCain tried to explain this at the debate, but did not quite get his point across.) Judge for yourself. The McCain team also included clips from contemporary reporting by The Hill, Chicago Tribune and AP, as well as a juicy quote from Duncan Hunter criticizing Romney at the time for “recommending a secret timetable.” Their broader point: a number of conservative analysts have criticized Romney for leaving wiggle room for himself on the surge.

It might have been more helpful for McCain to get this out sooner to bolster his position in the debate. That said, it will take up another news cycle or two during the weekend before the election. It’s getting to be a long time since Romney had unobstructed time to talk about the economy.

Here we go again. The McCain folks send around this from last night in which both Charles Krauthammer and Mort Kondracke agree that Romney was indeed talking about timetables for withdrawal of U.S. forces in his April 2007 Good Morning America interview. They point out that Romney argued that you did not want to make the timetables public because “otherwise the enemy would know you are leaving.” (McCain tried to explain this at the debate, but did not quite get his point across.) Judge for yourself. The McCain team also included clips from contemporary reporting by The Hill, Chicago Tribune and AP, as well as a juicy quote from Duncan Hunter criticizing Romney at the time for “recommending a secret timetable.” Their broader point: a number of conservative analysts have criticized Romney for leaving wiggle room for himself on the surge.

It might have been more helpful for McCain to get this out sooner to bolster his position in the debate. That said, it will take up another news cycle or two during the weekend before the election. It’s getting to be a long time since Romney had unobstructed time to talk about the economy.

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