Friday, September 21, 2007

Republicans against Health Care

Bush just announced that he would veto an expansion of an overwhelmingly successful (not to mention popular) plan that provide health care for impoverished children, calling it "a step toward federalization of health care." That's the point!
In calling for Congress to pass a “clean, temporary extension” of the current State Children’s Health Insurance Program, Mr. Bush argued that the Democratic bill would raise taxes and allow children whose families earn up to $83,000 a year to enroll. The Democrats propose paying for the measure by raising the federal excise tax on cigarettes.

But the chief Republican sponsor of the bill in the Senate, Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, said Mr. Bush “is getting bad information.” He said Mr. Bush’s reference to the $83,000 limit was drawn from a proposal put forth by New York State to receive an exemption from the program’s restrictions, which the administration recently denied.
It shouldn't matter whether a child is born in Massachusetts or Texas, they should all get the same quality of health care. We are the the richest country in the world. We pay more than three times the next closest country on health care, yet the end result is worse than any industrialized nation. Rather than taking this incremental, consensus approach to solving the biggest domestic crisis of our time, Bush wants to veto it. And national Republicans are supporting him all the way.
[fmr. Utah Gov. Republican Mike] Leavitt recommended that Congress temporarily extend the program so children receiving coverage do not lose it, while lawmakers and the White House continue to work out differences.

"The president would like to see SCHIP reauthorized, and we'd like to get on to the larger question of how do we provide insurance for all Americans," Leavitt said.

Rep. Joe Barton, R-Texas, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, introduced a bill Wednesday that would provide a basic extension of the program for 18 months without the increase in funding or policy changes that have been approved. House Republican Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Republican Whip Roy Blunt, R-Mo., sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., asking for a vote on Barton's bill Wednesday.
I am glad that Hatch is leading the fight on the expansion of SCHIP and that Bennett co-sponsored a universal health care bill. But the man they support for President is offering just the opposite.
Mitt Romney chose the sidewalk in front of St. Vincent’s Hospital in Manhattan, home of the Rudolph W. Giuliani Trauma Center, for a news conference this morning blasting Senator Hillary Clinton’s health care plan.
Mr. Romney has released his own health care plan, which relies on federal incentives for market reforms, tax deductions and other changes to encourage people to buy health insurance and drive down costs. A central principle is its “federalist” approach, encouraging states to take their own steps to lower the cost of health insurance.
“In her plan, we have government insurance, instead of private insurance,” Mr. Romney said. “In her plan, it’s crafted by Washington. It should be crafted by the states.”
“I think she takes her inspiration from European bureaucracies and instead we should take our inspiration from the American people,” Mr. Romney added.
Actually, Hillary's plan takes its inspiration from the Massachusetts plan that Gov. Romney recently gave himself credit for and signed into law (now he is of course, against it). Not that any of his primary opponents are any better. All the Republicans running for president want to do are bash Hillary, because it makes their primary voters happy, and keep the status quo, which makes HMOs and drug companies (their donors) happy.

Erza Klein sums it up nicely:
The Republican vision is for a world in which the sick and dying get to deduct some of the cost of health insurance that they don't have -- and can't get -- on their taxes. The Democratic vision is for every American to have health insurance.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Clinton-Clark ticket looking more likely

Wes Clark has a new book out, a memoir done Washington style (with someone else doing most of the work and getting a "with" byline). He is going on a small book tour, which I am going to miss. But I will have to buy it to complete my Clark Anthology and see how the voice has changed by this other writer.

He finally got his name domain, but has to get Wesley K because there is some crappy song writer with Wesley He was on Meet the Timmeh on Sunday, too. But the most telling part that he is on Hillary Clinton's short list is this:
"Vice President [Dick] Cheney came up to see the Republicans yesterday. You can always tell when the Republicans are getting restless, because the Vice President’s motorcade pulls into the Capitol, and Darth Vader emerges," Hillary Clinton said just now at a $100-a-head fundraiser at town hall near New York's Times Square, referring to Cheney's efforts shore up Republican congressional support for the Iraq war.

"I’m not invited to their meetings and I don’t know what he says or does," she said, in an informal conversation on stage with former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack and retired General Wesley Clark. "But all the brave talk about bringing our troops home, and setting deadlines, and getting out by a certain date just dissipated." [emphasis added]
Vilsack ran a terrible presidential campaign, and Hillary helped retire his debts and has his wife Christie Vilsack endorsed Sen. Clinton (Christie Vilsack was a key Kerry endorsement in 2004). Of course, the former Iowa governor later also endorsed Hillary. So the Vilsacks are a strategic Iowa endorsement and possibly national ticket material. But that fact that Clark's endorsement of Hillary Clinton was toated to Bloggers $100 fundraiser in New York City (and Clinton's people probably are helping with this sudden publicity push of Clark) tells me they are floating the Clark balloon.

If he stumbles now in the spotlight, the Hillary camp can cut their losses. But if Clark passes his audition, he could be her ersatz Mark Warner. Moverover, anytime Hillary is critiqued about her foreign policy credentials or murmurs of people worried about a woman in charge of the military, she can point not just to her few years on the Armed Services Comittee, but also a four star retired General on her ticket who won the last war the US fought (that's right Iraq and Afghanistan aren't over yet) that involves ethnic conflict similar to the problems the Iraqis face.

Of course, I am biased and think the General should be our next president (and should have won the nomination in 2004), but as VP he could do a lot of good for this country and Hillary Clinton's campaign. I see him as being like Al Gore in 1992, someone who is similar and emphasizes the message the Clinton's wanted: then it was Southern moderation and youth, now it is Southern moderation and security.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Do Hatch and Bennett support our troops?

So far, the answer is no. Veterans for America are pissed at Bennett and Hatch for voting against the Webb amendment (which would give our troops one year back home for every one year they are in Iraq) this summer. Other Utah veterans have pointed out that our Senators are willing to cheer lead President Bush's anti-troop agenda.

But luckily for Bennett and Hatch, the Webb Amendment is up for a vote again. Listen to what Sen. Webb says about the amendment, a man who served with honor in Vietnam and more importantly, whose son is currently in harm's way in Iraq. In fact, his son's convoy was attacked once and people died just as his Dad was being sworn into the U.S. Senate.

So call Sen. Hatch (202) 224-5251 and Sen. Bennett (202) 224-5444 [Remember to be short & polite, but firm]
Or call them toll free:
1 (800) 828 - 0498
1 (800) 459 - 1887
1 (800) 614 - 2803
1 (866) 340 - 9281
1 (866) 338 - 1015
1 (877) 851 - 6437

And if you hear some crap about "micromanaging" remind them of two things. That Bush is refusing to listen to his Generals (and replacing them with Generals like Petraeus, who tell him what he wants to hear...let alone what the American people have to say) and has managed the war so poorly that for the sake of the Republic, the Congress must take over.

The other of course, is the Constitution: Art I, Sec. 8:
The Congress shall have Power...To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules concerning Captures on Land and Water;
To raise and support Armies, but no Appropriation of Money to that Use shall be for a longer Term than two Years;
To provide and maintain a Navy;
To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces
It is the Congress' solemn and sacred duty to exercise its war powers to defend the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

GOPers filibuster, voting rights edition

How many times in the 110th Congress has Min. Leader Mitch McConnell and his Republican underlings led a filibuster (or its functional equivalent)? As mind boggling as this chart is, it needs to be updated. (kudos to McClatchy)

It is not just that Republican Senators are obstructing bills that are Democratic bills that are contentious issues with the public but they have repeatedly blocked bills that enjoy massive support from the American public. The Iraq bills are only the most prominent of these.

The filibuster de jure was a bill that garnered 57 votes. As designed, it would give another House seat to one Republican (via Utah) and one Democrat (via D.C.). The two additional seats would be permanent, but reapportionment in 2012 would change nearly every state's delegation size save Wyoming, the Dakotas, Montana, and now the District of Columbia.

But because DC is predominantly black, and because the DC voting rights groups would next push for two Senate seats the GOP blocked the bill.
Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, a close adviser of the Republican leader, said McConnell's argument was good enough to keep many Republicans from voting for the bill.

"Basically it wasn't a surprise," Bennett said of today's vote. "I never thought we had 60."

Bennett said the vote has little negative effect on Utah. "It means, Wait until the next Census," Bennett said.
Shorter Bennett: Stop bothering me with your Democracy for DC and power for Utah crap, I am a very important Senator in Washington D.C.!

Sorry to trouble you Mr. close adviser of the Republican leader of the United States Senate, but you represent the people of Utah, not the Republican party. Next time, try to lift a finger on behalf of your state and care when your party filibusters a bill that hurts your state. Yes, even if it makes you that not-so-close-adviser to the Republican leader.

Utah-DC bill voting in Senate today

UPDATE: (via HuffPost) Senators voted for the DC/Utah bill 57-42, just three votes short of the 60 needed to move the measure forward over a Republican Fillibuster.

This is a non-partisan issue, even though I rag on Republicans who oppose the bill (like Bennett and McConnell) on partisan grounds dressed up in constitutional "concerns." (If you want to talk about the constitution, Mitch McConnell is no expert, he lost at the Supreme Court on McCain-Finegold)

Call Sen. Hatch (202) 224-5251 and Sen. Bennett (202) 224-5444 and tell them to vote for this bill and to urge their Republican colleagues to either vote for it, or allow the bill to have an UpRDown ™ vote
For the first time in almost 30 years, the full Senate plans to take up the D.C. voting-rights issue in a showdown Tuesday that could either give the legislation a strong push or kill it for this year.


The vote could be a cliffhanger. Almost all of the Senate's 51 Democrats and independents back the bill, as do at least five Republican members.

"We think unless something happens -- arms are twisted -- that we have it," said Nancy Zirkin, a top official with the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, another major backer of the bill.


The bill would expand the House of Representatives from 435 to 437 seats. It was designed as a political compromise, with one seat going to the heavily Democratic District and the other to the next state in line to pick up a seat: Utah, which leans Republican.
Now given that the latest map approved by the legislature after the latest push for this bill would create a safe seat for Rep. Jim Matheson or a tough seat for Matheson and swing seat for a Ashdown or Carroon-type Democrat, it think it is pretty safe to say that the seat margin will not change between parties.

Calling is the best way to let Senators know the people want something. Postal mail takes weeks to get through thanks to the Antrax mailer and is all irradiated (so don't send your child's paintings). Emails are too voluminous to read. But calls are taken seriously, especially when there are lots of them all of sudden. Congress critters get scared of the people when they call in droves. Make it short and sweat (aka polite) but tell all your friends to call, especially if they work for Hill AFB or Dugway. More members of Congress=more clout in DC=more federal funding.

So please call Sens. Hatch and Bennett toll free at:
1 (800) 828 - 0498
1 (800) 459 - 1887
1 (800) 614 - 2803
1 (866) 340 - 9281
1 (866) 338 - 1015
1 (877) 851 - 6437

While you are on the phone tell them to vote to restore a 400 year old civil right--Habeas Corpus. Dodd's bill has popular national support. Oh and Happy Constitution Day.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Bennett waffles on more power for Utah

If you were a Republican Senator from a small state, and there was a bill that would create another House seat for your state before the Census AND that seat was going to be a safe Republican seat, you would go for it right? Not Senator Bob "Watergate" Bennett.
But Bennett, R-Utah, says he is concerned that passage of the measure could lead to the District of Columbia arguing it deserves U.S. Senate representation for its nearly 600,000 residents.
His amendment, which will be offered later if the bill passes a procedural vote Tuesday, would nullify the legislation if the U.S. Supreme Court rules the District of Columbia must get Senate seats as well.
"If this bill becomes a covert way to give D.C. two senators, I want no part of it," Bennett said in a statement Friday.
The senator also said Friday that he will attempt to change the bill's provision that requires it to be wholly thrown out if the Supreme Court decides the District of Columbia does not qualify for a House seat. Under the current legislation, Utah would lose its fourth seat if the district loses its proposed member of Congress.
If the amendments fail to be included in the bill, "my constitutional concerns will compel me to vote with the president and sustain his expected veto," Bennett said.
Why would giving the District two Senators, home to more US citizens than South Dakota, be such a bad thing?

Well, DC is overwhelmingly Democratic and worse for Bennett, has a large African-American population. This means that out of the 1-3 person DC delegation, all or most would be black. Get Bennett his vapors.

Still, it is only fair that a city that has had no representation in Congress for 200 plus years should have its fate tied to Utah, who will get at least one more seat in 2012. Bennett's amendment is a poison pill amendment, and he knows it. The whole point of the bill's crafting was to make both Democrats and Republicans happy with it while fixing two inequities at the same time, Utah getting hosed out of a seat because the Census didn't count returning LDS missionaries and DC for having no representation at all.

In short Bennett will vote against his own state's interest just because it might help Democrats and black people have more of a voice in congress.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

On Clark's endorsement of Hillary Clinton

I am a huge Clark fan. For Christmas in 2002, I asked for Waging Modern Wars, because the little I had heard about him (via a TIME article that October) made me think he would be the best president for our country. I talked up Clark all year in 2003, telling everyone he would run and could win. I joined the draft movement officially in April 2003, and helped launch MassforClark when my wife and I moved out to Boston. I gave him $100, a lot for me, in September.

I campaigned for him in New Hampshire multiple times and was heartbroken when he had to bow out in February 2004. Back then, he endorsed John Kerry and hit the campaign trail hard for him. Since then, Clark has gotten much better at campaigning (and learned a lot when he was running for president). He raised lots of money for candidates all ove the country and held lots of rallies supporting them in 2004 and 2006.

Like Matt noted (another MassforClark alum) the General is very sensible on why he is for universal health care, gays in the military, reforming the Pentagon budget, progressive tax reform, etc. He was outspoken against the war in Iraq from the beginning, and has led the fight to keep us out of Iran, which makes Joe Lieberman sad.

So when I got an email from Wes Clark saying he supports Hillary this time around, I take it that the race is essentially over and that Hillary is moving in the right direction. Edwards and Obama must win Iowa to win the nomination, the danger is that their share will split and she will still come in first.

Word on the Hill is also that Senator Clinton is taking names of everyone who supports her rivals, and those intrepid soles will find themselves on the outside looking into a second Clinton White House.

Clark had a lot of tacit support from the Clintons in 2003, both in terms of staff and in terms of money, and how many Rhode Scholars can their be from Arkansas in the late 1960s/early 1970s?

I would be very pleased if Hillary were to choose Clark for her running mate. Now that Mark Warner is off the table, Senator Clinton's choices other than Clark are ex-IA Gov. Tom Vilsack, KS Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, Obama, Richardson, IN Sen/ex-Gov. Evan Bayh, and that's about it. Obama and Richardson are very unlikely because Obama and her are getting nastier towards another by the day, and Richardson keeps saying dumb things and even dumber excuses. Bayh and Vilsack have proven to be uninspiring for most people and it is unclear whether Bayh would be able to deliver Indiana for her (since that state would seem prime anti-Hillary territory) and Hillary might be able to win Iowa without Vilsack on the ticket.

To me, Sebelius is the best conceptual fit for Hillary. Both are successful women politicians whose main selling point is tough competent pragmatism. And if that put Kansas in play, that would be icing on the cake.

But Clark would offer to broaden Hillary's appeal in Arkansas, flipping that state back into solid Clinton Country. And Clark could make inroads into other Southern states like Kentucky, Tennessee, and North Carolina somewhat competitive. Virginia could become a swing state with Warner on the ballot. Warner would have done this too (except more Virginia and less Arkansas) but we need him in the Senate, despite what Matt thinks.

Of course, this is all speculation, but unless something dramatic happens in Iowa, it is not looking good for Obama or Edwards in Iowa and hence the nomination.