Tag Archives: US Senate

Let the Republicans Filibuster All They Want

The New York Times has an interesting opinion piece today by David E RePass. RePass is an Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Connecticut.

RePass’s opinion piece is entitled “Make my Filibuster” and his thesis is simple. Republicans have been repeatedly threatening to filibuster legislation essentially giving a minority veto power to 40 Senators. Yet actual filibusters he says are extremely rare. He says this threat of a filibuster is preventing government from functioning effectively and is really more appropriately called a “phantom filibuster.”

RePass notes that:

“The phantom filibuster is clearly unconstitutional. The founders required a supermajority in only five situations: veto overrides and votes on treaties, constitutional amendments, convictions of impeached officials and expulsions of members of the House or Senate. The Constitution certainly does not call for a supermajority before debate on any controversial measure can begin.

And fixing the problem would not require any change in Senate rules. The phantom filibuster could be done away with overnight by the Senate majority leader, Harry Reid. All he needs to do is call the minority’s bluff by bringing a challenged measure to the floor and letting the debate begin.”

I strongly agree with DePass. He suggests that the Democrats would be politically astute if they called the Republicans bluff. Obama is enjoying much public good will, having inherited a disaster of an economy from the Republicans. The Republican mind set of a free market economy and little or no regulation and oversight brought on this current economic nightmare.

Voters clearly said it’s time to change and Republicans still don’t get it. Their answer to the problems is to continue the tried and failed Republican free market economy approach, rather than admit that they failed and brought us this mess. It is a Republican mess and if they want to filibuster Obama’s proposals to try to fix the problem, let them go ahead.

Let them get on the Senate floor and oppose health care legislation and green jobs legislation and regulation for the financial industry and unemployment compensation for the unemployed and mortgage reform and help for homeowners losing their jobs and solutions to deal with climate change. That’s what they’ve been doing for years.

But the public mood has changed. If they didn’t get the message from last November’s election of Obama and the loss of formerly Republican seats in the House and Senate, let them see how Americans feel about their trying to stop Congress and the President from working and doing their job by proposing and passing needed solutions to our current problems.

Americans are tried of naysayers and want our problems solved. Republicans botched the economy and Americans want them to get out of the way and let the President and Congress work to clean up the mess they created. They’ll soon learn that the filibuster approach to solving problems is not one that going to earn them more votes in the next election. It’s time for Reid and the Democrats in the US Senate to call the Republicans bluff on filibustering and move on to working out urgently needed solutions to our pressing problems.

US Senators Still Trying to Figure Out Computers and Internet

If you think the US Senate is going to figure out a way to track the billions of dollars they are giving away forget it. It seems they still have not even figured out how to use computers and the Internet to even track their own campaigns.

For years Senate Republicans have been blocking legislation requiring them to use computers to move reporting of their campaign financing into the digital age. A New York Times editorial last year summed up the still current status of first filing paper copies of campaign records that then have to be scanned and resent to the Federal Elections Commission.

“Unlike the House, it (the US Senate) still refuses to require electronic filing of its campaign finance data. It clings to an old slow-motion paper system that builds in months of obfuscation by requiring print records that have to be scanned and e-mailed to election officials, who in turn have to do their own processing and printing before the information is publicly available. Senate Republican leaders have, scandalously, been blocking a good bill that would force campaign reporting into the digital age.”

Once again a bill is being introduced to correct this absurd situation. Let’s hope this time that the Democrats have enough audacity to tell the holdout Republicans, particularly Senator John Ensign of Nevada who put a hold on this bill in the past, to get with the program and move into the digital age. It’s way past time.

Talk about wasting money and resources still filing paperwork in the digital age. Of course for the Republicans it was merely a delaying tactic to prevent the public from getting timely information on campaign contributions.

As Reid Wilson reports on the Hill:

Under the current system, Senate campaigns file paper copies of their quarterly disclosure reports with the Secretary of the Senate, which then transmits those reports to the Federal Election Commission.
House campaigns are required to file their reports electronically and directly to the FEC, making for sortable databases and easily compilable statistics.
But the Senate process is cumbersome, often taking weeks to produce results readily available on the Internet.“If you can’t search on the Web, you can’t get timely information about contributions. It takes weeks for the contributions to get in any online database,” Weissman said. “It’s critical if you’re talking about an election coming up and the voters knowing who’s supporting the candidates.”

As it is the Congress still use quarterly filing and it is way past time to also move to monthly campaign reporting. Washington State has done monthly reporting for years. Congress should also and quit hiding information from the public about who is contributing to Senate campaigns.

The Hill notes that Senator Feingold and Senator Cochran first introduced the legislation entitled the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act in 2003. Feingold is going to reintroduce the bill again in the next few weeks and has the support of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

Help urge the US Senate on and send an e-mail to your Senators urging they join the digital revolution in reporting campaign contributions. Click on the link to email Washington State’s Senators:

Senator Maria Cantwell

Senator Patty Murray

To e-mail Senators in other states go to the US Senate website.

Every Vote Counts In Minnesota for Al Franken

Democrat Al Franken on Monday emerged on top in the US Senate recount in Minnesota, beating incumbent Republican Norm Coleman. Out of over 2.9 million votes the state’s independent canvassing board certified, the final vote margin Franken won by was 225 votes. Franken now gives the Democrats a 59 to 41 edge in the US Senate.

However as the New York Times reports, Coleman is planning to challenge the results and Franken’s seating in the Senate could be delayed for weeks or months. Funny thing when Republicans are ahead in the vote, they are always urging Democrats to give up. But when they are behind they want to continue the fight and refuse to move on.

Republicans toke a trouncing in this last election. They deserved it. They would be better off regrouping and re-evaluating their out of date positions on many issues than continuing to endlessly protest.

Funny how they are now arguing for open hearings and publication of the stimulus package proposal Obama is proposing. When they were in charge they passed legislation all the time without consulting Democrats and certainly didn’t believe in airing the actual text of what they were trying to pass in advance.

People need to realize the Republicans change to suit the circumstances only as it affects them. Fair play is only required when they are not in charge. The record is there – their moaning is hypocritical. There’s work to be done. Let’s do it and not be sidetracked by Republican tactics that only serve to delay.

Yes let’s open up the process and not be like the Republicans. But don’t be taken in by their phony hypocritical moans that they aren’t be given enough time to review what’s up. They’ve had plenty of time to push their agenda.

And let’s seat Franken. It’s time to get to work and stop being obstructionists.

AP Declares Begich Winner over Stevens in Alaska

The Associated Press has declared Democrat Mark Begich the winner of the Senate race in Alaska. He defeated incumbent Senator Ted Stevens.

The latest vote tally puts him 3,724 votes ahead with only about 2500 overseas votes remaining to be counted according to the Fix.

This now brings to 58 the number of Senators in the Democratic caucus in the US Senate. Sixty votes are needed to make the Senate filibuster proof.

Still undecided is the race in Minnesota where the Republican Norm Colman only leads by 206 votes over Democrat Al Franken with a recount to be done and the race in Georgia where a new vote will be held between the Republican and Democrat on December 2, 2008.

Senator Stevens Falls Behind in Alaska

The latest vote count puts Democrat Mark Begich ahead of Republican Senator Ted Stevens by 1022 votes. As the Anchorage Daily News reports Stevens is in “grave danger of losing reelection”. They go on to explain:

“More than 90 percent of the votes are now counted, and Friday’s count of absentee and questioned ballots could have been Stevens’ best chance to make a comeback.
That’s because it included all the ballots left from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, where Stevens has enjoyed his most unwavering support.
There are about 24,000 ballots left to be counted, coming from Anchorage, Southeast Alaska and the Kenai Peninsula. The state will tally them all Tuesday.”

As the Fix notes:

“Of the remaining votes, roughly 15,000 are in the Anchorage area (a swing area in the race) and another 8,000 are in the Juneau area, which should be Begich territory.
“The news continues to be positive,” Begich said in a statement released by the campaign tonight. “With the gap widening slightly in our favor today, I feel even more optimistic that when all the ballots are counted next week, we’ll see Alaskans came out to vote for new leadership in Washington, D.C.”

The Stevens/Begich race is one of three races still undecided for US Senate. In Minnesota, Republican Norm Coleman leads Democrat Al Franken by 206 votes. A manual recount is to be done to determine the final results. In Georgia, Republican Saxby Chambless, the incumbent will have a runoff election on Dec. 2, 2008 with Democrat Jim Martin.

Projected Merkley Victory Would Increase Democratic Total to 57 in US Senate

The Oregonian is projecting Democrat Jeff Merkley as the winner in Oregon. Neither candidate is declaring a winner or loser however as the vote total is still close with some 340,000 votes still not counted out of 1.8 million total votes cast. A large number of the uncounted votes are from Melanoma County and likely Democratic voters as a result.

Meanwhile in Minnesota with the vote count done, Democrat Al Franken is losing to Republican Norm Colman, the incumbent by only 720 votes. The race is going into an automatic recount since a difference less than 15,000 represents the 1/2 of 1 % trigger for a recount. Watch here for Al Franken demanding a recount.

Norm Colman has 1,211,616 votes for 42%.
Al Franken has 1,210,895 votes for 41.97%.

The 3rd undecided Senate race in Georgia is headed for a revote in December by the top 2 vote getters because no one got more than 50% required by Georgia law. The Republican Chambless has 49.9% of the vote.

The 4th undecided race is that of Alaska, where Ted Stevens is holding a slight edge over the Democrat Mark Begich.

Other Senate seats Democrats picked up include:

North Carolina where Kay Hagen defeated Senator Elizabeth Dole

New Hampshire where Jeanne Shaheen defeated Senator John Sununu

Colorado where Mark Udall defeated Bob Schaffer

New Mexico where Tom Udall won.

Virginia where Mark Warner won.

It looks like it will be difficult for Democrats to reach a filibuster proof 60 votes. Also included in the Democratic caucus numbers is Independent Joe Lieberman, a former Democrat from Connecticut who actively campaigned with Republican John McCain in his bid to defeat Obama.

Democrats with their current 1 vote majority have been overly tolerant of Lieberman’s turn coat politics, needing his vote to keep control of the Senate. Things may not be so cordial for Lieberman next year when his vote is not necessary to keep control of the Senate.

Senate Republicans Give $13 Billion Christmas Present to Oil Industry

If you need one more reason to vote Republicans out of Congress, just look at the huge $13 billion dollar Christmas present they gave the oil industry. The Senate yesterday passed landmark energy legislation to increase fuel efficiency of cars and trucks by 40% but on a 59 to 40 vote to end debate, were forced to strip from the bill key tax reform provisions to repeal special tax breaks for the oil industry. They also dropped a renewable energy mandate and renewable energy tax credits

One Democrat, Senator Mary Landieu supported the oil industry by voting no to end debate and one Republican, John McCain, was not present to vote. Considering the significance of this bill one has to wonder what he thought was more important than being there for the vote.

The 2008 election continues to shape up as a major turning point for America. It is an opportunity for Democrats to contrast their forward moving agenda to deal with issues like energy independence and global warming with the Republican sell out to corporate America at the expense of the common good for America’s citizens and their pocketbooks.

Face it, the Republicans continue to live in the past and remain beholden to special interests like the oil industry. And Democrats need to show some spine and be leaders in moving America forward. As the New York Times writes today,

some environmentalists said they were unhappy that the bill would not provide large incentives for expansion of renewable energy sources like wind, solar and biothermal.
Brent Blackwelder, president of Friends of the Earth Action, accused Senate Democrats of “capitulating” to Senate Republicans and the White House.
“When the Republican leadership and the polluter lobby have blocked important legislation, Senate Democrats have been all too willing to move in their direction,” Mr. Blackwelder said in a statement. “The result is that the two most positive provisions of the energy bill — a clean energy mandate and a tax package reining in handouts for fossil fuels and promoting clean energy — are being removed, while detrimental provisions, such as a radical five-fold increase in unsustainable biofuel use, remain.”

Carl Hulse in On the Hill quotes what part of the strategy of the Republicans will be during the coming year. It will be to blame the Democrats for the problems Democrats inherited from the Republicans, all the while doing everything they can to be sure that Democrats get as little done as they can to solve these problems.

Here’s what Hulse quotes the Republican National Committee saying in its comments on their recent victories in the Special Elections to fill two Congressional vacancies.

“The underlying economic anxiety that Americans feel toward the tax-and-spend policies of the new, wildly unpopular do-nothing Democratic Congress have led to the emergence of issues such as combating illegal immigration and providing tax relief to working families and will ultimately play to Republicans’ advantage next year,”

Give me a break. “Wildly unpopular do nothing Congress“? The Republicans are the ones obstructing getting things done. And President Bush’s vetoes since the Democrats gained the majority are part of this strategy. The Republican strategy is to try to prevent the Democrats from passing significant legislation so that the Republicans can say it is the Democrats fault.

Look at what the Republicans do, not what they say. They are playing with right wing talk radio hype hoping Americans are easily deceived.

Providing tax relief to working families” ? If you believe the Republicans are going to do this you sure didn’t understand what was happening when they controlled Congress. Tell me how the Republicans, by preventing the repeal of the oil industries special tax breaks, and as a result giving $13 billion in tax breaks to the oil industry, is going to help working families.

The Republicans fought fuel efficiency legislation for cars and trucks all the way. The Democratic sponsored and passed bill according to the Environment News Service is expected to save 1.1 million barrels of oil a day and save consumers some $22 billion in 2020. Proponents say it will also make a significant dent in U.S. emissions of greenhouse gases, equivalent to taking some 60 million cars off the road. ”

Thank you Democrats!
The Environmental News Service  noted that the Democratic passed legislation also

“…tightens energy efficiency standards for government buildings as well as for consumer appliances and products.
“People underestimate efficiency, but today household appliances, lighting and electronics use up to two-thirds of energy in households,” said Senator Maria Cantwell, a Washington Democrat. “By requiring these new standards for manufacture of these products, we will save over 40,000 megawatts of energy. That is the same amount of electricity used in 19 states today.”

Thank you Democrats!

Why are Senators Murray and Cantwell Not Co-Sponsors of S 223?

Senate Bill 223, the Senate Campaign Disclosure Parity Act, is a simple bill only several sentences long. It would increase accountability of campaign disclosure to the public by requiring that candidates for the US Senate timely file their campaign finance reports electronically the same as candidates for the US House and candidates for President currently do.

Some 40 Senate members are sponsors of this bill, including Senators Hilary Clinton, Russ Feingold, Barack Obama, John F Kerry, Ron Wyden, Barbara Boxer, Joseph R Bidden, Jr, Dianne Feinstein, and Christopher Dodd to name a few. Conspicuously absent are Washington State Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.

This week a third attempt to move the bill was stopped by Republican Senator John Ensign who filed an unrelated amendment that had not been discussed with a hearing. The amendment originated from the office of Republican Senator Mitch McConnell. It was to require outside organizations filing ethic complaints to disclose their donors. Previously McConnell was involved in holding up the bill and would not disclose who had put a hold on the bill. It seems he had. The amendment needs a separate hearing and is an attempt to stop S 223 from being passed.

Currently in this electronic age, the Senate remains back in the pre-computer and Internet days, filing the campaign paperwork by paper, which then has to be added back to the computer network for filing with the FEC or Federal Elections Commission. The result is a significant time lag in the availability of the public to see the disclosure reports.

As the Campaign Finance Institute reports “All S.223 would do is require Senate candidates and party committees to take information they already are required to collect and disclose, and which they already keep for their own files in electronic format, and send it on to the Secretary of the Senate as an electronic file. Instead, Senate committee now print the same information out on paper and the Federal Election Commission has to keypunch it all over again, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars and months of wasted time.”

Washington state candidates have filed forms electronically for a number of years.

One major reform missing however in the Federal legislation is that currently campaigns reports are only filed every 3 months. Washington State for years has had monthly reporting of campaign finance reports. The public deserves better accountability and more timely disclosure than every 3 months. The Federal reporting should also be monthly.

You can contact Senator Patty Murray and Senator Maria Cantwell by clicking on their names. Send them an e-mail urging that they join S 223 as co-sponsors and help to get this needed disclosure measure passed. Urge they support monthly reporting also.

Senator Hagel to Retire, Will Former Senator Bob Kerrey Run?

A strong increase in the number of Democrats in the US Senate after next year’s elections keeps looking better and better. Washington’s two Democratic Senators – Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell -would find their job a lot easier with a larger Democratic majority in the Senate.

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel, according to the Washington Post’s political blog The Fix and other sources, is going to announce on Monday that he is not going to run for re-election.

Democrats will lose a strong critic of Bush’s Iraq fiasco but have increased odds of adding to the Democratic majority in the Senate.

Democrats are heavily recruiting former Democratic Senator Bob Kerrey to run for the seat. Kerry is now head of the New School in New York and is reported as of Friday as being undecided.

While Democrats currently only control the Senate now by one vote, their odds of picking up seats are great. To start with, Republicans have to defend 22 of the current 34 seats up next year.

Already two other Republicans have announced they are stepping down – Senator Wayne Allard of Colorado and Senator John Warner of Virginia. Senator Larry Craig of Idaho , despite second thoughts, is expected to resign.

Democrats are expected to mount strong campaigns against Republicans in Oregon, Maine, New Hampshire and Minnesota. And Republican Senator Ted Stevens is facing federal corruption charges in Alaska.

Republican Senators in Dire Straits in 2008 Elections

Republicans face a bleak prospect in next year’s US Senate elections. Senator Larry Craig’s resignation added to what was already shaping up to be a daunting task. Craig’s situation just contributed a little more to an already tarnished Republican image that just got a little tougher to try to turn around. And it puts into play another state, that while Republican leaning, has elected strong Democrats in the past like Cecil Andrus and Frank Church.

The Republican’s problem starts with the reality that they have to defend 22 seats in 2008 while the Democrats are only defending 12 seats. And with the Iraq War and Bush’s ineptitude in running the government at a low ebb, they need to win 23 of the 34 seats up in the Senate to regain control.

Republicans are running in 4 states that went for Kerry over Bush in 2004 – Oregon, Minnesota, Maine and New Hampshire

Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia who is 80 decided this last week to not run for re-election. This brings the state of Virginia into play for the Democrats, where ex-Governor Mark Warner, a Democrat who left office with an 80% approval rating, is considering running for the seat.
In Colorado another open seat exists with Republican Senator Wayne Allard retiring. As the Rocky Mountain News reported, the Republicans actually set his retirement up with the

promise he made in 1996 to serve no more than two U.S. Senate terms.
The term limits pledge was a relic of the so-called “Republican Revolution” of the 1994 election, when the GOP swept to power promising to change the ways of Washington.”

In a close election in 2002 Allard renewed his pledge. “I’m term-limited,” Allard said in reaction. “That has always been my position. I’ve always said I believe in limiting my term. I’ve stipulated in past campaigns that I believe in term limits, and I’ve never wavered on it.”

As the Washington Post reported

Beyond Idaho and Virginia, the field looks barren for Republicans, GOP campaign aides conceded. NRSC fundraising has been weak, and Republicans appear to have only two real Democratic targets next year, Sens. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and Tim Johnson of South Dakota. Johnson’s slow recovery from a brain hemorrhage has impeded Republicans from going on the attack.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report on Wednesday rated the Colorado seat being vacated by Republican Sen. Wayne Allard as a tossup, but the state has been trending Democratic. Anti-war sentiments are turning some voters away from the GOP, imperiling the re-election prospects of Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, John Sununu, R-N.H., Norm Coleman, R-Minn., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore.

The Craig scandal is only the latest issue to demoralize the Republican Party, and new wild cards keep springing up, such as an FBI raid on a vacation home of Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, and questions about the role that Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., may have played in the firing of U.S. Attorney David Iglesias in Albuquerque. Democratic surrogates in labor-backed groups have even been attacking Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

The Cook Report considers those three seats and the Idaho seat “likely Republican,” but if the GOP is forced to spend money defending them, it would siphon funds from races where the money would be badly needed. As of June 30, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee had $20.4 million on hand, while the National Republican Senatorial Committee had $5.8 million in its bank account.”

Another state that could come into play for democrats is Nebraska. Republican Chuck Hagel has been rumored to be considering retiring. If he does, former Democratic Senator and Governor Bob Kerrey is thought to be very interested in running.

Lots can change in 14 months but it’s all going in the wrong direction for the Republicans right now. It’s probably there bad karma coming back to get them. It was laughable to listen to listen to Senator John Ensign on the George Stephanopoulos show on Sunday. He is heading up the Republican Senators’ election effort.

Ensign said the public wants to elect Senators that “put country before party”. Well there’s one strike against the Republicans. Then he said it was “time to end partisan bickering” That’s two strikes. The third strike was when he said “we need health care we can afford.” That’s not the Republicans. They were the guys that didn’t do it when they controlled both houses and the Presidency. People aren’t dumb. The Republicans are the ones who gave a bonanza to the drug companies at the expense of the public with their corporate welfare drug package that was Medicare Part D. What a joke.

The Republicans are in for more tough times ahead. They are trying to spin it that the country’s problems are the Democrat’s fault. Congress is working under the Democrats now . But our problems are the legacy of a Republican President and a Republican controlled Congress. And the American public knows that. There’s nothing more disingenuous than listening to Republicans talk about partisan bickering and inaction. That’s their legacy, not the Democrats.