Republican Irrelevancy?

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I agree that the Republican party could send itself to irrelevancy, but it isn’t because it’s out of the mainstream, but because it’s trying to become mainstream. The party needs to figure out how to educate voters to true conservatism, patriotism, and the constitution rather than move away. The reason that voters are so disenchanted with them is that they’ve become the Democrat Party minor.

 

House Republican Inertia Leads to Irrelevancy

By Chris Stirewalt

| FoxNews.com

 

“It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, “Peace! Peace!”—but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle?”

Patrick Henry addressing the Virginia House of Burgesses, March 23, 1775.

House Republicans are huddling in Williamsburg, Va. trying to figure out what to do about their current crisis.

It’s a fitting place for them to be meeting since they are facing the same threat that the legislators in the capital of the Colony of Virginia once faced: Irrelevancy.

Back in the 1760s, the Virginia House of Burgesses would occasionally raise a ruckus over the Stamp Act or the shipping of criminal defendants to England. Patrick Henry would deliver a blistering oration and much wig powder would be lost in vigorous stomping and shouting.

And then the governor would dissolve the body and everyone would mount their horses for the long ride home.

These days for House members, its Town Cars to Reagan National instead of mares down a dusty path, but the effect is pretty similar. When all the shouting is done and tyranny has been thoroughly denounced yet again, the modern-day lawmakers go home with little to show for their excitations.

We all know how it worked out for the boys in breeches back in Williamsburg. Public frustrations grew and grew until the only reason most people bothered getting elected to the colonial legislature was to decry the body’s worthlessness and to talk of treason.

The difference now is that the irrelevancy of the House is self-imposed. As much as he might wish he could, President Obama cannot dissolve the House. Lawmakers can meet, vote and debate anytime they wish. They are even protected from arrest while the House is in session.

The current irrelevancy springs from legislative paralysis brought on by distrust and fear.

When House Republicans stormed back into power after the 2010 Midterm elections, they were all the time passing things. Repeal that. Cut this. Lower those taxes. Censure that Obama factotum.

Even though Republicans retained a stout majority in 2012, the comfortable victory by Obama has left the once effervescent House flatter than a day-old ginger ale.

Part of this is the understanding after two years that the immovable object that is Harry Reid’s Senate will not anytime soon be repealing, cutting, lowering or censuring anyone or anything. It is also in part an expression of grief that the American electorate chose to re-hire Obama, whom House Republicans see as a tyrant on par with George III.

This sad, dire attitude helped lead to the first major defeat for the House Republicans when Obama, with the help of anxious Senate Republicans, routed the House on the question of tax rates. Unable to pass anything on taxes during the Lame Duck session, House Republicans were eventually steamrolled and left to watch the first tax rate increase in nearly a generation go into place, with most House Republicans pouting on the sidelines.

And because it was Speaker John Boehner who let the steamroller roll, there is an open question of whether House Republicans will be able to do much of anything at all. The modern-day Patrick Henrys are stomping and shouting and others are plotting coups against their leaders.

Meanwhile, all the stomping and shouting and coup plotting has left the leaders afraid of letting the rank and file start lobbing up legislation again. The results might look radical or, if Team Boehner tried to suggest a more publicly palatable option, it might result in yet another embarrassment like the failure of Boehner’s “Plan B” tax proposal.

For all these reasons, House Republicans have become what Obama once falsely accused them of being: obstructionist. The Republicans in the previous Congress were activists, passing all kinds of things and promulgating all kinds of big ideas. The House GOP this time around so far seems only to be able to say “no.”

With the toughest tests to face the sophomore majority still ahead – the debt limit, the automatic cuts from the 2011 debt battle and Obama’s crusade for a partial gun ban – it is a poor time to be unable to pass legislation. Without legislation, Republicans look irrelevant and lack bargaining power in negotiations.

The medicine men of the conservative movement have all kinds of advice on what to say, how to say it, who should be saying it and when it should be said. Fine, fine. But without legislation, members of Congress are no more relevant than any other partisan pundit.

Rather than “messaging,” Republicans in Williamsburg should be focused on what they might be able to pass on the big issues. Even if it’s not going anywhere, the measures represent a starting point for conservatives in the battles over big ideas.

If they prefer mental health reform to gun bans, then pass mental health reform. If they prefer to not raise the debt limit without corresponding cuts, offer the cuts. If they prefer revenue-neutral tax reform, make us an offer.

And on guns and debt, House Republicans had better do it quickly because Obama is on the march and not slowing down.

If their paralysis persists, however, House Republicans might as well saddle up for the long ride home because they would be every bit as irrelevant as their colonial forebearers.

 

 

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Republicans a Supermajority in 2012?

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Think so? I see a larger push to put more Tea Party candidates in. If anyone thinks it was a one and done deal, enjoy that bowl of soup. John Boehner is jeopardizing his position by hugging up for deals. Eventually this country will figure out that the people are tired of the spending, runaway, oversized government. We don’t want more, we want less. This article from rollcall.com:

The Uneven Senate Landscape of 2012 (and 2014)

  • By Stuart Rothenberg
  • Roll Call Contributing Writer
  • April 14, 2011, Midnight

Just over four years ago I wrote in this space that Democrats not only didn’t have to worry about losing their Senate majority in ’08, they needed to set their sights on 60 seats in 2010 because a “filibuster-proof majority would change the rules of the game on Capitol Hill.”

Well, Democrats did get to 60 seats, but they did it well before I thought that was likely. Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter’s party switch in April 2009 and Sen. Al Franken’s (D-Minn.) seating in July of that year ensured Democrats would hit the magic 60 mark, giving the party six months of a supermajority that Congressional leaders and the White House used to pass health care reform.

Now, the tables have turned.

Republican won 24 of the 37 Senate contests last year, giving them a head start not only on winning a Senate majority in 2012 but possibly winning a 60-seat supermajority two years later.

They will need to net 26 or 27 of the remaining 67 contests over the next two cycles to win a majority in 2014, or 36 of the next 67 to get to 60 seats during the next midterm elections.

The Senate is always a different kind of numbers game than the House. With unbalanced classes, Senate control — to say nothing about a filibuster-proof majority — hinges on which party has more seats up for election in a particular election cycle.

When one of the political parties has a huge election night, as Republicans did last year, it automatically gives that party an opportunity to take over the Senate, whether two years later or four.

The 2012 Senate class includes 23 Democrats and only 10 Republicans, and the stunning imbalance means that Democrats will be on the defensive throughout the cycle unless the political environment shifts dramatically to their party.

That’s possible, of course, especially if the proposed budget offered by House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) alienates swing voters and seniors, putting GOP House and Senate candidates on the defensive for the rest of the cycle. But, at least early in this election cycle, the raw numbers look very challenging for Democratic Senate strategists.

At this point, at least five Democratic Senate seats are at great risk. Retiring Sen. Kent Conrad’s North Dakota seat is as good as gone. Ben Nelson’s Nebraska seat is more competitive, of course, but Democratic chances of retaining it in 2012 may depend on a nasty GOP primary producing a weak Republican nominee.

The Montana race, pitting incumbent Democrat Jon Tester against Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg, looks no better than even money for Tester, who won narrowly because of the huge Democratic wave in 2006.

Rising Obama popularity would help Tester’s chances, but Democrats probably need to be successful in their effort to paint Rehberg as an ethics basket case if they are to retain the seat next year.

The Missouri Senate race has changed significantly in the past few weeks. Sen. Claire McCaskill once appeared to be a savvy, well-positioned Democrat who was likely to have a competitive race simply because of the competitiveness of her state.

But recent revelations about a possible conflict of interest and unpaid taxes — issues that she used to attack a former primary opponent and that undermine her message of transparency and integrity — increase her vulnerability greatly.

Democrats note that one of McCaskill’s possible general election opponents, former state Treasurer Sarah Steelman (R), has her own problems, but the possible candidacy of Rep. Todd Akin (R) adds another dose of uncertainty to McCaskill’s prospects.

Virginia surely is a tossup, featuring two middleweight candidates — former Gov. Tim Kaine (D) and former Sen. George Allen (R) — who a few years ago would have been classified as political heavyweights.

Other than Massachusetts, where special election winner Sen. Scott Brown (R) will face a test because of his party, the Democrats’ best chance for a Senate takeover is Nevada, an open seat that looked more vulnerable when incumbent John Ensign (R) was still in the contest.

Even now, a GOP gain of 2 to 4 seats looks likely, with larger gains possible if Florida, New Mexico, Michigan, Ohio or others come into play.

Like this cycle’s Senate class, the 2014 class is also seriously unbalanced, with 20 Democratic seats and only 13 Republicans slated to be up that year.

Even worse for Democrats, the geography of that class is a particular problem, with Democratic Senators from South Dakota (Tim Johnson), Montana (Max Baucus), Louisiana (Mary Landrieu), Alaska (Mark Begich), New Hampshire (Jeanne Shaheen) and North Carolina (Kay Hagan) scheduled to face voters then.

For those Democrats, the re-election of President Barack Obama in 2012 would be a mixed blessing. It would keep a Democrat, with a veto pen, in the White House for four more years, but it would also create a so-called Six-Year Itch election in 2014, increasing the risk for Democratic Senators up for re-election then.

Second midterm elections are not always a disaster for a sitting president’s party — the Senate was a draw in 1998 and Democrats gained a handful of House seats in Bill Clinton’s second midterm — but they more often than not result in considerable gains for the party not holding the White House.

Recent Six-Year Itch losses include six Senate seats and 30 House seats by Republicans in 2006 (George W. Bush), eight Senate seats but only five House seats in 1986 (Ronald Reagan) and thirteen Senate seats and 47 House seats in 1958 (Dwight Eisenhower).

All of this means both short-term and longer-term concern for Senate Democrats, who will need a mood change in the electorate to feel more secure in 2012 and even 2014.

Did the Republicans Get the Tea Party Message? Reviving the Real ID Act?

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Just what do the Republicans think they’re doing trying to revive the REAL ID Act? States have balked and citizens have balked. We don’t need or want an National ID card, yet the Republicans want to revive this issue? They need to remember they can be voted out of office as well next time if they aren’t careful. Tennessee rejected the Real ID Act in 2007…..good move.

A few years ago state legislatures across the nation were in an uproar over this law.  The Department of Homeland Security was forced to delay implementation of it several times.  But now it is back.  You see, this is what the federal government often does. They will try to push something very unpopular through, and if they meet resistance they will “play dead” until the uproar has died down and then they will come right back and implement it anyway.  This is what is happening with the Real ID Act.

House Republicans attempt to revive Real ID

If you’re a resident of one of at least 24 states including Arizona, Georgia, and Washington, your driver’s license may no longer be valid for boarding an airplane or entering federal buildings as of May 11, 2011.

That’s the deadline that senior House Republicans are calling on the Obama administration to impose, saying states must be required to comply with so-called Real ID rules creating a standardized digital identity card that critics have likened to a national ID.

The political problem for the GOP committee chairmen is that the 2005 Real ID Act has proven to be anything but popular: legislatures of two dozen states have voted to reject its requirements, and in the Michigan and Pennsylvania legislatures one chamber has done so.

That didn’t stop the House Republicans from saying in a letter this week to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano that “any further extension of Real ID threatens the security of the United States.” Unless Homeland Security grants an extension, the law’s requirements take effect on May 11.

“If they don’t, people won’t be able to use their driver’s licenses to get on airplanes,” says Molly Ramsdell, who oversees state-federal affairs for the National Conference of State Legislatures. “They can use a military ID. They can use some other federal ID. But they won’t be able to use a driver’s license.” (See CNET’s FAQ.)

The situation represents a setback to Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), who championed Real ID as a way to identify terrorists and criminals. But instead of what supporters hoped would be a seamless shift to a nationalized ID card, the requirements have created a confusing patchwork of state responses–with some legislatures forbidding their motor vehicle administration from participating–and could herald chaos at airports unrivaled by any other recent change to federal law.

Sensenbrenner and two colleagues, House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) and Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-N.Y.), said in their letter that “until Real ID is fully implemented, terrorists will continue to exploit this vulnerability to accomplish heinous purposes. The “importance of the immediate implementation of Real ID” is paramount, they said, and warned Napolitano not to extend the May 11 deadline. 

ACLU's chart shows status of the Real ID rebellion among individual states as of 2009, with states shown in white not objecting. ACLU’s chart shows status of the Real ID rebellion among individual states as of 2009……..(Credit: ACLU

If Napolitano does not, air travelers from non-Real ID states would at least be subjected to what Homeland Security delicately calls “delays” and “enhanced security screening,” (which is unconstitutional….4th amendment) or perhaps even be denied boarding. In addition, driver’s licenses from non-Real ID states could no longer be used to access “federal facilities,” including military academies, the Pentagon, Treasury Department, the U.S. Capitol, Veterans Affairs hospitals, and some federal courthouses.

“Individuals with a driver’s license from a state that is not materially compliant with Real ID would need to go through a secondary screening”(unconstitutional….4th amendment) at airports, Wendy Riemann, Sensenbrenner’s communications director, told CNET yesterday. “I’m told this is what happens now if you were on vacation and lost your wallet and had to board a plane.” Riemann declined to answer what would happen inside federal buildings and courthouses, saying “I’m not about to get into hypotheticals.”

From the House Republicans’ perspective, the rules are clear: Real ID was signed on May 11, 2005, by President Bush, and federal agencies have had nearly six years to comply. The vote in Congress was overwhelmingly in favor of the law, part of a broader “war on terror” spending and tsunami relief bill that was approved unanimously by the Senate and by a vote of 368 to 58 in the House of Representatives. (Real ID cleared the House by a 261 to 161 vote as a standalone bill without hearings or debate.)

Since its enactment, its backers have been aggressively defending Real ID, noting that many of the hijackers on September 11, 2001, were able to fraudulently obtain U.S. driver’s licenses. Because Real ID links state DMV databases, establishes a standard bar code that can be digitally scanned, and mandates that original documents such as birth certificates be verified, backers claim the benefits extend beyond antiterror and ID fraud cases. (Extending it to firearm and prescription drug sales has not been ruled out.)

Many state governments have seen it differently and have responded by flatly refusing to abide by the federal requirements on privacy, federalism, and funding grounds. What started in early 2006 with a revolt in New Hampshire morphed into a full-scale rebellion, with dozens of states adoption opting out.

Read more at News @ C Net

Montana Leans from Left to Stupid..

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Nearly 5 years ago, we sat on my radio show and said that if this country were to change, a sleeping giant would have to wake. We the People would have to try to stop it first at the ballot box. The Tea Party was organized from simple meetings across this great country of ours and a fire of freedom was borne to carry that torch. Now, unfortunately, the left leaning social side of the country is fighting back with shouting and name-calling and making comparisons to the peaceful events that conservatives began with the tea party rally’s.  Look what is happening in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana. Taxpayers pay for the unionized state workers pensions and insurance.  When the newly elected governors attempt to do what they campaigned to do, they meet this resistance. Immediately the left jumps on it saying that this is not what the country wants. Even Bill O’Reilly, a union member, is doubting.

Well, fellow Patriots, we don’t need to back down. We don’t need to let them remove the vision of taking this country back.  Here is an article about Montana’s governor saying that the Tea Party’s objective is civil war. Don’t let things like this discourage you. Take them for what they are, carpet baggers who don’t want their money machines dismantled. Read carefully what the tea party backed candidates answer with. This government has always belonged to the People, not the congress who disgrace us every time they mutter that they’re working for the People. The lie like a cheap rug…they work for themselves..

This article is from Yahoo News and the AP…obviously who lean to the left. My comments in red:

Tea party vision for Mont. raising concerns

AP

AFP/Getty Images/File – A Tea Party activist prepares for a ‘Get Out The Vote’ rally in Philadelphia. A variety of Tea …
By MATT GOURAS, Associated Press Matt Gouras, Associated Press Thu Feb 24, 5:13 pm ET

HELENA, Mont. – With each bill, newly elected tea party lawmakers are offering Montanans a vision of the future.

Their state would be a place where officials can ignore U.S. laws, force FBI agents to get a sheriff’s OK before arresting anyone, ban abortions, limit sex education in schools and create armed citizen militias. (Notice they say ignore US laws. The only laws that SHOULD BE ignored are the unconstitutional things that these idiots put out. No member of the Tea Party that I know of has ever said ignore the law. They have said “repeal” the law. The 10th Amendment, and state statutes  allows a duly elected Sheriff to be the chief law enforcement officer of the county he is elected in. and yes to the rest, because they are unconstitutional or immoral.)

It’s the tea party world. But not everyone is buying their vision.

Some residents, Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer and even some Republican lawmakers say the bills are making Montana into a laughingstock. And, they say, the push to nullify federal laws could be dangerous. (After reading this story, you decide who is the laughing stock. Do you think that people in 1770 thought that nullifying British rule was not dangerous?)

“We are the United States of America,” said Schweitzer. “This talk of nullifying is pretty toxic talk. That led to the Civil War.” The governor should read his history on the cause of the civil war. One of the main quarrels was about taxes paid on goods brought into this country from foreign countries. This tax was called a tariff. Southerners felt these tariffs were unfair and aimed specifically at them because they imported a wider variety of goods than most Northern people. Southern exporters sometimes had to pay higher amounts for shipping their goods overseas because of the distance from southern ports and sometimes pay unequal tariffs imposed by a foreign country on some of their goods. An awkward economic structure allowed states and private transportation companies to do this, which also affected Southern banks that found themselves paying higher interest rates on loans made with banks in the North. The situation grew worse after several “panics”, including one in 1857 that affected more Northern banks than Southern. Southern financiers found themselves burdened with high payments just to save Northern banks that had suffered financial losses through poor investment.)

A tea party lawmaker said raising the specter of a civil war is plain old malarkey.

“Nullification is not about splitting this union apart,” freshman Rep. Derek Skees said. “Nullification is just one more way for us to tell the federal government: ‘That is not right.”

Some of their bills are moving through the legislature. Others appear doomed: an armed citizen militia, FBI agents under the thumb of the sheriff and a declaration that global warming is good for business.

Whatever their merits, the ideas are increasingly popping up in legislatures across the nation, as a wave of tea party-backed conservatives push their anti-spending, anti-federal government agenda.

Arizona, Missouri and Tennessee are discussing the creation of a joint compact, like a treaty, opposing the 2010 health care law. Idaho is considering a plan to nullify it, as is Montana.

In Montana, the GOP gained a supermajority in the Montana House in last year’s election, giving Republicans control of both legislative chambers. Half of the 68 House Republicans are freshman, many sympathetic to the new political movement.

Over the first 45 days of the new legislature, they have steadily pushed their proposals. Some have moved out of committee.

Examples include a bill making it illegal to enforce some federal gun laws in the state, and another aimed at establishing state authority over federal regulation of greenhouse gasses.

Schweitzer is watching, describing many of the proposals from the new majority as simply “kooky,” such as a plan to make it legal to hunt big game with a spear.

Hardly a day goes by, however, that the merits of “nullification” aren’t discussed.

Proponents draw on Thomas Jefferson’s late 18th-century argument that aimed to give states the ultimate say in constitutional matters and let them ban certain federal laws in their borders.

Supporters are not dissuaded by the legal scholars who say the notion runs afoul of the clause in the U.S. Constitution that declares federal law “the supreme law of the land.” (As agreed on by the varied states in the Constitutional convention. But as issued, states were not robbed of their power and sovereignty with the 10th Amendment. It never was intended that the Federal government would lord over the states, it absolutely intended to PREVENT it. Article 6 merely gives Federal Law the trump card when deciding constitutional issues, it does not abolish state law, nor does it allow Federal enforcement against state law within the state.  Rather than being a mere afterthought, Article 6 plays a major role in defining the relationship between the government of the nation and those of the states. The superiority of the national government has played a crucial role in the shaping and development of a cohesive nation of states, each striving to meet and implement similar goals and policies, but it never intended that the state was subservient, it only bound them all together under a common law. One thing that these “scholars of the constitution” need to remember, it was the STATES who created the Federal Government, not the other way around. It was NEVER the intention to just give up and recreate another monarchy.

Backers of nullification say they can get the federal government to back down off a law if enough states band together against it.

They point to the REAL ID act — a Bush-era plan to assert federal control over state identifications as a way to combat terrorism. The law has been put in limbo after 25 states adopted legislation opposing it.

The nullification debate reached a fever pitch this week when tea party conservatives mustered enough votes in the House to pass a 17-point declaration of sovereignty.

“States retain the right of protecting all freedoms of individual persons from federal incursion,” the measure in part reads. Now, it heads to the Senate, where ardent states’ rights conservatives have less influence and its fate is less certain.

House Minority Leader Jon Sesso stood in the House Chamber, exasperated. He peppered Republicans with questions: Who decides if the federal government is acting unconstitutionally?

“Who among us is making these determinations that our freedoms are being lost?” he asked, an incredulous expression on his face as he eyed the Republican side of the chamber.

Republican Rep. Cleve Loney rose. A man of few words, the tea party organizer replied: “I don’t intend us to secede from the union. But I will tell you it is up to us. We are the people to decide.” AMEN!

The political movement that caught Democrats by surprise at the ballot box also caught them flat-footed at the Legislature.

At first they rolled their eyes, but now they are quickly ramping up their opposition, even recycling a slogan once leveled by conservatives against liberals protesting the Vietnam War.

“I say to you: ‘This is America: Love it or leave it,'” shouted Rep. William McChesney, during the sovereignty declaration debate.

Some Republicans have turned against the more aggressive tea party ideas.

“You are scaring the you-know-what out of them with this kind of talk,” veteran Republican lawmaker Walt McNutt said. “This needs to stop and stop now. Stop scaring our constituents and stop letting us look like a bunch of buffoons.” And fair warning to the RINOS and Republicrats…your day is coming as well if you do not respect the will of the people. Think of who swept into power here. The Republicans were less thought of than the democrats in the polls.

Democrats are resigned to losing many of the votes and in some cases have urged Republicans to trot the ideas out for floor debates for the public to see. And surprised residents are taking notice, especially of the nullification push.

“It would be hard for anyone to top what is going on here in terms of the insanity of it all,” said Lawrence Pettit, a retired university president and author living in Helena. “One could be amused by it, except it is too dangerous.”

Schweitzer, meanwhile, is getting ready for the bills that may arrive on his desk. On Wednesday, he got a new cattle brand from the state livestock agency that reads “VETO.” A branding iron is being made. I guess the people are going to pay for this folly of stupidity too.

“Ain’t nobody in the history of Montana has had so many danged ornery critters that needed branding,” he said.

O & Dem’s vs. Wisconsin

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So, if the Republicans had poured money into the Tea Party Demonstrations (did’t need it or want it) what would have been the screams from that side? What if the Republicans just ran to another state? And why do federal/state/local employees need your tax dollars to pay for their insurance and retirement? Oh, and unions would be ok if they bargained for workers instead of lobbying and pressuring…Just sayin…

From the Washington Post:

Obama joins Wisconsin’s budget battle, opposing Republican anti-union bill
By Brady Dennis and Peter Wallsten
Washington Post Staff Writers

MADISON, WIS. – President Obama thrust himself and his political operation this week into Wisconsin’s broiling budget battle, mobilizing opposition Thursday to a Republican bill that would curb public-worker benefits and planning similar protests in other state capitals.

Obama accused Scott Walker, the state’s new Republican governor, of unleashing an “assault” on unions in pushing emergency legislation that would change future collective-bargaining agreements that affect most public employees, including teachers.

The president’s political machine worked in close coordination Thursday with state and national union officials to get thousands of protesters to gather in Madison and to plan similar demonstrations in other state capitals.

Their efforts began to spread, as thousands of labor supporters turned out for a hearing in Columbus, Ohio, to protest a measure from Gov. John Kasich (R) that would cut collective-bargaining rights.

By the end of the day, Democratic Party officials were organizing additional demonstrations in Ohio and Indiana, where an effort is underway to trim benefits for public workers. Some union activists predicted similar protests in Missouri, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

Under Walker’s plan, most public workers – excluding police, firefighters and state troopers – would have to pay half of their pension costs and at least 12 percent of their health-care costs. They would lose bargaining rights for anything other than pay. Walker, who took office last month, says the emergency measure would save $300 million over the next two years to help close a $3.6 billion budget gap.

“Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where they’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally, seems like more of an assault on unions,” Obama told a Milwaukee television reporter on Thursday, taking the unusual step of inviting a local TV station into the White House for a sit-down interview. “I think everybody’s got to make some adjustments, but I think it’s also important to recognize that public employees make enormous contributions to our states and our citizens.”

The state Capitol sat mostly quiet at dawn on Friday, the calm before another day of furious protests. Scores of protestors lay sleeping in the nooks and crannies of the ornate statehouse, wrapped in blankets and sleeping bags next to piles of empty pizza boxes. They included college students, middle-aged schoolteachers and even a handful of families with their small children.

Room 328, a cramped hearing space where members of the public can speak on the budget bill, was packed full of eager but bleary-eyed protestors. One after another, the speakers used their two minutes to blast Walker’s measure, sometimes looking straight into a local television camera that was broadcasting the proceedings.

“We are the people and our voices must be heard!” one woman said.

The proceedings showed little sign of slowing. By 6:45 a.m., those who had signed up to speak five hours earlier were finally getting their chance.

“We are so thrilled you are here,” said Rep. Janis Ringhand, a Democratic state assembly member from Evansville who was moderating the hearing. “We know we are outnumbered as far as votes, but it could be you who makes the difference.”

The White House political operation, Organizing for America, got involved Monday, after Democratic National Committee Chairman Timothy M. Kaine, a former Virginia governor, spoke to union leaders in Madison, a party official said.

The group made phone calls, distributed messages via Twitter and Facebook, and sent e-mails to state and national lists to try to build crowds for rallies Wednesday and Thursday, a party official said.

National Republican leaders, who have praised efforts similar to Walker’s, leapt to his defense.

House Speaker John A. Boehner (Ohio) issued a stern rebuke of the White House, calling on Obama to wave off his political operation and stop criticizing the governor.

“This is not the way you begin an ‘adult conversation’ in America about solutions to the fiscal challenges that are destroying jobs in our country,” Boehner said in a statement, alluding to the president’s call for civility in budget talks. “Rather than shouting down those in office who speak honestly about the challenges we face, the president and his advisers should lead.”

Unsustainable costs
The battle in the states underscores the deep philosophical and political divisions between Obama and Republicans over how to control spending and who should bear the costs.

By aligning himself closely with unions, Obama is siding with a core segment of the Democratic Party base – but one that has chafed in recent weeks as the president has sought to rebuild his image among centrist voters by reaching out to business leaders.

Republicans see a chance to show that they’re willing to make the tough choices to cut spending and to challenge the power of public-sector unions, which are the largest element of the labor movement and regularly raise tens of millions of dollars for Democratic campaigns.

Governors in both parties are slashing once-untouchable programs, including education, health care for the poor and aid to local governments. Some states, such as Illinois, have passed major tax increases.

States face a collective budget deficit of $175 billion through 2013. Many experts say state tax revenue will not fully recover until the nation returns to full employment, which is not likely for several years.

Beyond their short-term fiscal problems, many states face pension and retiree health-care costs that some analysts say are unsustainable. Some states already are curtailing retirement benefits for new employees, although many analysts say it will take much more to bring their long-term obligations in line.

The huge debt burdens coupled with the impending cutoff of federal stimulus aid later this year have spurred talk of a federal bailout. The White House has dismissed such speculation, saying states have the wherewithal to raise taxes, cut programs and renegotiate employee contracts to balance their books.

No-shows
In Wisconsin, state Democratic senators staged a protest of their own Thursday, refusing to show up at the Capitol for an 11 a.m. quorum call – delaying a vote that would have almost certainly seen the spending cuts pass.

It was unclear where the missing legislators had gone, and several news outlets were reporting that they had left the state.

“I don’t know exactly where they are, but as I understand it, they’re somewhere in Illinois,” said Mike Browne, spokesman for Mark Miller, the state Senate’s Democratic leader.

Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller told CNN that they were “in a secure location outside the Capitol.”

Republicans hold a 19 to 14 edge in the Senate. They need 20 senators present for a quorum, which is why one of the Democrats has to show up before they can hold the vote.

Democratic legislators in Texas employed a similar tactic in 2003 to try to stop a controversial redistricting plan that gave Republicans more seats in Congress. It passed a couple of months later.

The organized protest at the state Capitol drew an estimated 25,000 people, and long after the quorum call, thousands remained on the grounds, from children in strollers to old ladies in wheelchairs.

Inside the Capitol, the scene late Thursday night was part rock concert, part World Cup match, part high school pep rally and part massive slumber party.

The smell of sweat and pizza drifted through the building’s marbled halls. A drum circle formed inside the massive rotunda, and scores of university students danced jubilantly to the rhythm. There were clanging cowbells and twanging guitars, trumpets and vuvuzelas.

Outside, another throng had gathered to cheer and chant before the television cameras, and to break constantly into the crowd’s favorite anthem: “Kill the bill! Kill the bill!” And everywhere were signs, each with its own dose of disdain for Walker’s budget bill: “Scotty, Scotty, flush your bill down the potty.” “Walker’s Plantation, open for business.” “You will never break our union.”

Many of the protesters, including Laurie Bauer, 51, had been on hand since Tuesday, with no plans to leave until the issue is resolved.

“It’s one thing about the money. We’d be willing to negotiate the money,” said Bauer, a library media specialist at Parker High School in Janesville. But “he’s trying to take away our human rights. . . . I don’t want my kids living in a state like that.”

Loren Mikkelson, 37, held the same position: Budget cuts are negotiable, but collective -bargaining rights are not.

“We can meet in the middle. We’re willing to give. . . . He’s acting like we’ve never given anything. We’ve given,” said Mikkelson, a airfield maintenance worker who said he has endured furloughs and pay cuts in his county job. “We just want a voice.”

 

Implications for Obama
 

The state-level battles and Obama’s decision to step into the fray illustrate how the budget choices state leaders are facing probably will have direct implications for the president’s political standing.

Wisconsin and Ohio are likely battlegrounds for Obama’s re-election effort. Mobilizing Organizing for America around the budget fights could help kick-start a political machinery that has been largely stagnant since the 2008 campaign and reignite union activists who have expressed some disappointment with Obama.

But by leaping in to defend public workers, the president risks alienating swing voters in those states and nationwide who are sympathetic to GOP governors perceived as taking on special interests to cut spending.

Obama, in his comments to the Wisconsin TV reporter, tried to walk a fine line – noting that he, too, has taken on the unions.

“We had to impose a freeze on pay increases on federal workers for the next two years as part of my overall budget freeze,” he said. “I think those kinds of adjustments are the right thing to do.”

Walker, meanwhile, called his proposals “modest” and appeared to be trying to show distance between public employees and workers employed by private companies, who he said expressed support for his policies during visits he made to manufacturing plants this week.

“Many of the companies I went by, like so many others across the state, don’t have pensions, and the 401(k)s they have over the last year or two, they’ve had to suspend the employer contribution,” Walker told Milwaukee radio station WTMJ. “So, not a lot of sympathy from these guys in private-sector manufacturing companies who I think reflect a lot of the workers in the state who say what we’re asking for is pretty modest.”

Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi

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Outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (in blue) handed the speaker’s gavel to incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) after Boehner was elected Speaker on the opening day of the 112th United States Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, January 5, 2011. Republicans are taking control of the U.S. House of Representatives since winning a majority in the November U.S. Congressional mid-term elections.

Harry Reid at it one more time-Changing Filibuster Rules

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Well good ole Harry Reid just doesn’t want to relinquish that power and wants to give the Democrats a better chance beginning in January to cause problems for the Republicans by changing the filibuster rules.

Where does Sen. Reid get the idea that the Senate is not a continuous body? Maybe he should read the U.S. Senate website, which clearly states what the Senate has lived by for over 200 years. The site reaffirms that when our founding fathers created the Senate, they clearly intended for it to be a continuous body, since two-thirds of senators continue serving notwithstanding the elections that are held every two years.

Senate Democrats Shouldn’t Lower Filibuster Threshold

The Democrats are trying to change the Senate rules so that they can ram through their agenda when their majority shrinks next week from 59 to 53 seats.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has been scheming behind closed doors to use his slim majority to vote on January 5 for the most drastic rules changes since 1975.

“Democrats lost the election. Their power has been weakened significantly. So they are trying to do a Washington-insider tactic to try to grab power, even though the voters told them very clearly in the
election that they didn’t like them, and didn’t like their policies,”
said a Republican Senate aide.

In a closed-door meeting last week, Reid told the Democrats that he may outright break the rules on the first day of the 112th Congress in order to pass his audacious changes without bipartisan support.

“If Reid endorses the rules change, it would be the first time in history that a Majority Leader has opted to cut off debate on a Senate rules change by a majority vote,” said Marty Gold, a long-time Senate
leadership aide and now an attorney at Covington and Burling.

Currently, the Senate needs 67 votes to end debate on a rule, then 51 votes for the rule itself. Since Reid’s rules do not have Republican support, he will need to do a historic end-run around the 67-vote bar
(two-thirds of the Senate) to pass them.

Reid’s plan is backed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y), the ambitious operator who is Chairman of the Rules Committee. Schumer held six hearings in 2010 alone on the filibuster and Senate rules changes.

Backed by Schumer and Reid, Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) drafted three major rules changes, which he will bring up for a vote on January 5.

First, the Democrats would make the unprecedented move to change the Senate rules each time a new Congress is elected. Throughout its history, the Senate rules have carried over in a new Congress.

The Senate is a “continuing body” because its members are elected every six years, on a staggered basis. So for each new Congress, two-thirds of the Senators are continuing their terms, thus the rules
stayed intact.

“The Senate has always changed its rules by regular order,” said Gold, referring to getting the 67-vote threshold. “So for Udall to do this now would be take that history and turn it on its head. This would
be an extraordinary step that makes the Senate like the House of
Representatives, with respect to how it treats its own rules.”

In the House, all the Members are up for election every two years, so each new Congress elects new rules at the beginning of the term. Incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) proposed popular new rules for the 112th Congress, which will be voted on after he is sworn in on January 5.

Second, the Senate Democrats are trying to change the filibuster process so that bills can get voted on with only 51 votes, rather than 60 votes (three-fifths of the Senate). A filibuster on a bill involves
debate without a time limit. The filibuster is a stalling tactic used
by the minority so it can affect debate and votes.

Under the current rule adopted in 1975, the Senate can end a filibuster by getting 60 votes for cloture, which would end the debate. After the 60-vote cloture hurdle, the legislation goes to the floor for
a vote. Udall wants to change the process so only 51 votes are needed
to vote on legislation, which would take away the power of the minority
party to prevent passage of a bill.

“Dems thought 60 was too big a lift when they had 59 votes,”  said a GOP aide of votes needed to end cloture. “Now that their ranks are reduced we fully expect them to try and turn the Senate into a version
of the House so they can continue to ram through their partisan,
unpopular agenda.”

Third, Reid and his team want to remove “holds,” which are the power of one Senator, one state, to stop a vote. The Senate requires “unanimous consent” — all 100 people agreeing — to get anything
procedural done.

Getting unanimous consent is generally not problematic, but it is useful for the minority party. Unanimous consent prevents the majority party leadership, a faction, or group from becoming too powerful and
thereby able to stop the concerns of one Senator who is in the minority.

“The Senate protects minority opinion,” said a Republican Senate aide of unanimous consent. “And when we’re in the minority, like we have been, that’s a very valuable thing.”

Just last week, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) used a hold on the 9/11 Health bill, which provides health care to the first responders at Ground Zero following the terrorists’ attacks of 2001. Coburn and many GOP Senators agreed with the bill’s policies but objected to the
funding of it.

Coburn held the bill from a vote until the Democrat leaders negotiated with him to find a fiscally responsible way to pay for the spending. Then, the 9/11 bill passed with unanimous consent, all 100
Senators voting for it.

“The fiscal hawks had leverage to be able to make changes to the 9/11 bill that the Democrats are trying to take away from them now,” said a GOP aide.

Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and his leadership team have a plan in place to try to stop the rules changes, according to insiders. But with only 51 votes needed to change the rules, the Senate
Democrats have a real chance at succeeding.

“Changing the rules in this extraordinary process has the effect of election nullification,” said Gold. “It allows a smaller majority to write for itself new rules, which permit it to govern the way it
wishes, even though the voters said something contrary last November.”

The Senate GOP leadership is counting on outraged Americans voicing their opposition to Reid’s power-grab in the wake of the Midterm Elections.

“Public pressure will be a big part of any effort to stop this. People need to speak out and demand that Democrats don’t act as if the election never happened,” said a GOP aide. “They need to call their
Democrat Senators and tell them not to vote to make the Senate some
sort of rubber stamp for the Obama administration.”

Human Events

 

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