Category Archives: Senate

WARNING: 2014 MAY BE HAZARDOUS TO YOUR HEALTH

2014 Predictions from NovelPolitics

Sometime in the Spring, or maybe as early as the State of the Union, or maybe five minutes from now, the Obama Administration is going to come out with a new narrative. So buckle up, Republicans. Democrats, you can breathe now.

We found out what is in store for 2014 when we overheard Jack and Bob this morning, in their usual spot in the back bar of the Old Ebbitt Grill.Old Ebbitt

Jack slid his bar stool back and climbed on. Bob was already there, of course, and pointed at the bartender, then Jack.

Without a word, the bartender brought over two egg nogs. “On me,” he said

Jack thanked him. Bob nodded, with a weak smile. “What the hell is that?” he whispered to Jack.

“Egg nog. It’s good for you.” Jack took a sip. “Evan’s not coming. He said he was out late.”

“Evan?”

“I know. I don’t believe him either. He seems so worried about the coming year, you know? What do you think will happen, Bob?”

“You aren’t serious. Surely the Spin Doctor knows. Surely you can read this like a slow pitch curve ball.”

“Okay. Here’s the Obama spin: “The economy is looking stronger than ever. The patient was gravely ill, curled up in a ball, unconscious under the front porch when the Obama administration took over. After a strong dose of shovel ready projects, and binge spending, finally the eyes are open. Look, the unemployment rate is down to 7%. Wow. Bet it goes into the sixes before the election.”

“Now, imagine Beyonce singing that.” Bob took a sip of his scotch and drained the glass.

Beyonce

“Exactly. Nobody look at that swelling non-participation in the economy—which puts the unemployment rate closer to 10 percent. Or the number of folks on food stamps…”

“Yeah, yeah. Whatever. Bla bla bla.”

“Agreed. But what about Obamacare? No way to spin that.”

Bob blinked. He watched the bartender at the other end of the bar and quickly poured his egg nog into Jack’s glass. Then he waved the bartender and waggled his scotch glass. “Listen.” He said to Jack. “Pay attention…Obamacare is really going to work. Look at all the people who signed up. Wow. And don’t worry–all of the mandates are going to be delayed. It won’t be so strong. Put it in some cocoa, or maybe a fruitcake, like brandy, if you don’t like it straight. Over time, you will get used to it. And besides, don’t you care about people? Do you want people to be sick?”

oprah

The bartender put a fresh scotch in front of him. He smiled and went on. “Now, imagine Matt Damon and George Clooney lecturing you about that. Oprah agrees. And, Beyonce is singing in the background.”

Jack squinted at him, slowly nodded and sipped the egg nog.

“See, you are already forgetting that you used to have a policy you liked, that children were covered under a special policy, that the poor had Medicaid and the elderly had Medicare.”

Jack shrugged. “Yeah, yeah. Whatever. What about the Republicans? They have a lot of other issues.”

“Sure. But don’t forget, the press is busy squirting gasoline on the bonfire of Republican disunity to stop them from making some of these rather obvious points.”

Jack frowned. “I’ll give it a try. The message of Benghazi, that an inept administration with a low priority on national security and security in general screwed up royally then covered up. Yes. Covered up the mess before the election. Cover up Cover up Cover up. I said it.”

“Aha. Yes. But did you overstep? Where’s the smoking gun?”

Jack shook his head. “Nice try. What about the IRS? How the IRS has been used as a tool to silence opponents of the administration. How the press accepts the bromides of the regime that both sides were scrutinized without blinking. How this scrutiny continues…”

“Oh sure. I know it reeks of Nixon but hey, they won’t get that far with it because the Democrats will come back with what they like to call the wingnut mocking gambit.”

“Huh?”

“Sure. Right now, they are scouring the countryside for a fringe Republican who will make an inflammatory comment about women. Rape, if at all possible. So they can push the buttons of the legions of young women who vote on one issue. They will find someone to mock, and the mocking will spread to the rest of the party. Some Republicans will disavow, some will try to explain, but meanwhile, everybody stops talking about Obamacare and Benghazi.”

Jack sighed. “I have to admit–it has a familiar ring to it. So, will the Republicans be able to take the Senate? What is your call?”

“Hey, don’t ask me what the people are going to do. Politicians I can figure out. The people? We will have to wait and see.”

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Filed under 2014 election, Senate, Spin Doctor, White House

Hagel: Are we there yet? Or, can you teach a cat to ride a bicycle?

When I first blogged about the Hagel nomination weeks ago, I flagged it as upcoming drama. Now, some of you might be wondering if this movie is ever going to end. I have been working on my next book, Potomac Lights, and this nomination is very distracting. I asked one my characters, Bob Carson, what he thought of the nomination, and as is typical of Bob, mincing no words, he said it was a terrible idea because you “can’t teach a cat to ride a bicycle.” I think he is trying to say that apart from politics and feelings about Israel, Hagel doesn’t seem to have the managerial experience or the temperament to run a huge and complicated agency focused on our safety, with millions of lives at stake.

Bob is a minor character, so you don’t have to take him seriously. But if you like to read about Washington politics with no particular political leaning, you might check out my novel Spin Doctor.

This is not my cat.

This is not my cat.

I digress. Here are some developments since my last post:

Fifteen Senators have written Obama, asking him to withdraw Hagel’s nomination. Since they are all Republican Senators, this is as likely to impact the White  House as would the certain knowledge that it is snowing somewhere in Alaska.

Bob Woodward reported last Sunday that some Democratic Senators have called the White House to ask if they are going to withdraw Hagel. And the White House swears they won’t. Of course, that’s what they all say, right up until they withdraw it.

B’nai B’rith , a liberal leaning “global voice of the Jewish Community” published a statement voicing serious concerns about Hagel.

What we don’t know is whether any Democrat has called  the White House and told them they are not getting their vote. Unless some Democrats break rank, he’s going to be confirmed.

A few days ago,  Sen. Richard Shelby announced he would support the nomination, saying “  He’s probably as good as we’re going to get.” In other words, any choice by this administration is going to preside over the dismantling of Defense and gouging of the DOD Budget. Does it really matter whether it is done in an orderly way? Good question.

That’s bound to be the conclusion of a lot of Senators who might not be thrilled with the nomination. Reality is, there is only so much the minority can do. They have done a very good job of slowing it down and calling attention to it.

Now it is up to the Democrats. They will have to consider if they really want to win this one, whether they will be prepared to take responsibility, to pay the price of having a Hagel at the helm if we face a national defense crisis in the next four years.

They may have another cloture vote this week. It sounds like  they may get enough votes to confirm.

And if he is confirmed, we will soon find out if a cat can ride a bicycle.

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Filed under 2012 Election, Senate, White House

Why did they move up the Hagel Cloture vote?

I’ve scanned several articles to get an idea why they moved up the Hagel cloture vote to this afternoon instead of Friday. So far, I didn’t find the answer, I will make a guess. It appears the Republicans and Democrats have finally found something to agree on: Take Friday off and Leave Town.

OH, no no no, you say. They will be in Session tomorrow.

Yes, but will there be votes? I don’t think so.

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Filed under Senate, White House

The Plot thickens: Cloture vote on Friday?

Harry Reid has called the hand of the Republicans, moved for a cloture vote Friday. A vote for cloture isn’t a vote on the nomination—“an up or down vote”–it’s a vote on whether they should   vote on the nomination.

So Reid is trying to force a vote. But really, what is going on?

The Republicans are messing with Hagel and the White House. Sen. McCain says he won’t support a filibuster, now he’s not so sure. Same thing with Hatch and probably several others. Hagel is stonewalling on providing some financial info and other answers, so they are making him wait. Just to squirt a little gasoline on the fire, a few days ago, Dick Cheney laid out his stark view  that Hagel was chosen so that Obama would “have a Republican that he can use to take the heat for what he plans to do to the Department of Defense.” Ouch. So the GOP is not going to play along, but is going to try to showcase what they will say is the destruction of our national defense.

For Hagel, it has to be humiliating.  Only two votes from your own party? Those who know you best turn their back?

If  Hagel can’t get sixty votes–cloture– on Friday, surely the White House  will have to withdraw the nomination.

If he gets the sixty, he will be confirmed, of course, but he will be missing a chunk out of his hind quarters.

Still time to vote in my poll!

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Filed under Senate, White House

Hagel Drama: What happens next?

If you like drama in politics, the real kind, not the kind we see on TV, watch what happens next on the Hagel nomination.

Yesterday, the Democrats on the Armed Services Committee voted unanimously to report the Hagel nomination to the floor of the Senate. Harry Reid has already promised to take it up in a big hurry-maybe even today.

Unless those damn Republicans show a shocking lack of respect for Precedent and filibuster the nomination.  And instead of the nice, polite Senate courtesies, Reid has apparently said that those opposing the nomination will need to be present on the floor to object. Then he will file a cloture petition, which will essentially start a countdown to the vote. If  Hagel can’t get 60 votes for cloture, his nomination is effectively killed.

Of course, there is a good chance they can dig up five Republicans to back the  President. We know they have two, but we don’t know who the other three might be just yet. Some Republicans may back Hagel because they will decide if Hagel is withdrawn, the next one might be even worse.

Politico has a caption: “Even if Hagel cracks the 60-vote threshold, the GOP will have sent a message.” The Hill has two stories: One that says some GOP  senators will filibuster and the other saying Harry Reid predicts they won’t. The Washington Post snarks that Sen Lindsay Graham is just trying to shine up his conservative credentials by opposing Hagel. The other Republicans are just plain partisan, of course.

What should have been a fig leaf of bipartisanship, a pretense of a strong defense advocate because everyone knows Republicans are strong on defense—has fooled no one. Whether Hagel is qualified, whether he will eagerly facilitate the reining in of the department, these are all substantive arguments to be made or refuted. The weak qualifications, questionable judgment, the blind partisan support of the President—we’ve seen it all before. It’s called politics.

If he is confirmed, Hagel will be damaged goods, unlikely to manage DoD or be its advocate. This doesn’t seem to be a problem for the administration. Quite the contrary. However,  just as the President now owns the economy, he will own defense policy.  He has chosen a weak nominee, and chosen to keep him. The international implications and the impact on our safety will be on him.

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Harry’s Math Problem OR, Why Harry Reid might lose a little sleep this time around

Seems like every day we read breathless articles about angst and remorse in the Republican party, and how civil war may be about to break out. Will they lose the House in the next election? Will they kill each other over immigration? Is Boehner out?  Is Karl Rove a traitor? Is the Tea Party over/leaving the party/imploding? Is this what is really going on?

Here’s something else to think about. Something that might bother Harry Reid even more than deciding  how to vote on the assault rifle ban.

Harry Reid

Harry has a math problem.  Don’t worry. Keep reading. It’s just arithmetic.

There are 45 Republicans in the Senate. They need 6 more to control the world’s greatest deliberative body.  In  2014, there are 20 Democrats and 13 Republicans up for reelection.  In other words, the Democrats have a lot to lose. 

The Republican in the tightest race last time was Mitch McConnell, Republican leader of the Senate, and he won 53% of the vote. I’m sure it is possible some of the Republicans will have a tough time. 

But let’s look at the Democrats. Seven of the states  with Senate seats up in ’14 were won by Romney in 2012, most by a large margin:

Baucus, Max (D-MT)

Begich, Mark (D-AK)

Hagan, Kay R. (D-NC)

Johnson, Tim (D-SD)

Landrieu, Mary L. (D-LA)

Pryor, Mark L. (D-AR)

Rockefeller, John D., IV (D-WV-Retiring)

Granted some of these  individual senators may be very popular at home, but what if they are pushed to vote on major issues out of step with their states?

Here’s a word problem for Harry: What happens in Montana, where Obama got 41.8% when they are reminded  their Senator is a Democrat? Will they be happy if they find out he is the one  pushing the Obama tax agenda as Chairman of the Finance Committee, that he was instrumental in passing Obamacare?

If seven seats aren’t enough to get you thinking, consider retirements and toss-ups. The rest of the 2014 class of Democratic Senators:

Coons, Christopher A. (D-DE)

Durbin, Richard J. (D-IL)

Franken, Al (D-MN)

Harkin, Tom (D-IA- Retiring)

Kerry, John F. (D-MA)

Lautenberg, Frank R. (D-NJ)

Levin, Carl (D-MI)

Merkley, Jeff (D-OR)

Reed, Jack (D-RI)

Shaheen, Jeanne (D-NH)

Udall, Mark (D-CO)

Udall, Tom (D-NM)

Warner, Mark R. (D-VA)

Levin and Durbin haven’t announced for reelection. Harkin and Rockefeller are retiring. John Kerry’s seat is open. Al Franken won 42% of the vote last time. And Michigan has a Republican governor.

Shaheen won a tight race.  Both Udalls and Warner won easily, but their states were in the toss-up column in 2012 until election day.

And when did Delaware become solidly blue? (Since they haven’t had a strong candidate run for a Senate seat since Bill Roth). New  Jersey is usually a safe seat for Democrats, but what if there are two seats open?

Of course, the same thing could have been said of the 2012 election. The Republicans had a huge advantage going in, but managed to lose what should have been some easy seats. But in an off-year election,  in the second term of a President…anything can happen.

When you drill down on the details–do the math–things will need to go very, very smoothly in the next 18 months for Harry Reid to sleep well on election night.

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Hagel Nomination in Trouble?

A rare consensus seems to have formed in Washington: Chuck Hagel was not good in his hearing. Not even a little good. Most of the press reports characterize the questioning as partisan, with Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post snarking that the Republican anger was rooted in Hagel’s abandonment of the GOP. But still, the pundits were not impressed.

So what happens next?

Hagel has promised to provide more information to the committee on his finances and his speeches. Chairman Levin said they wanted to move the nomination next week. That won’t give much time for analysis of the information, of course. Right now, Hagel still has the votes-He only needs a majority and he has roughly 56, including Sen. Cochran. Sen. Graham extracted a promise to hold a hearing on Benghazi before the vote. Who knows what will shake loose in those discussions. Also, if enough time passes, and enough microphones are in place, it is quite possible more Hagel gaffes will take place.  Although the greater likelihood is that he will be gagged, bound, encased in amber, perhaps hidden at the Smithsonian until after the vote, unseen and unheard.

The only question is, if the Republicans try to block the nomination, does he have 60 votes to stop them. And if it comes to that, does the administration want to take on that fight?  Waste political capital on someone who had interviews with Al Jazeera, alienates key donors, who seems inept and, who would be viewed by the world as having weak support in the Congress? How exactly will they spin that? Will he be their token White Male?

At the end of the day, again, the Democrats have the votes. We don’t know if the Republicans will have the stomach for the fight, or whether their calculus will be to let the President have his people and let him be accountable for the consequences.

Given his performance in the hearing, more than anything else, that should alarm the Democrats.

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What about Hagel?

Image

I’m not that old, really, but I’m not that young, either, and I cannot remember a presidential nominee from the Senate who was so reviled by his own party. All the inside the beltway smarties like to tell us the Senate always approves their own–that the hearings and the vote will pretty much be a formality.

So what in the world is going on here? Fellow Republicans are calling out Hagel for his judgment, his temperament, his personality, his inability to get along with others.

His own party? Come on—surely they will put the kibosh on this one.

Maybe not. A lot of members follow the philosophy that the President should get to pick his own people. And more to the point, all they need is a majority vote. Do the math. Unless some Democrats bolt on the President, he’s in.

Or, not so fast. Because first, they get to have hearings And when you have a loose cannon on rough waters, well, you get the idea… sometimes they go off unexpectedly. Sometimes they go overboard. Personally I am looking forward to the hearings. I can’t wait to hear what he says now about gay rights, Jews, Israel, the surge in Iraq and how he plans to cut the DoD budget. I want to watch his face. Will he become humble? Meek? Deferential? Remember that scene in Men in Black when the man suit peel off the giant cockroach?

Still, the odds are against blocking the nomination. The whole endeavor reminds me of a couple of parents begging their child not to marry this unsuitable, appalling prospective partner. Do you really want to marry this guy? Do you really want to put him in charge of the Department of Defense, of the safety of the United States? Someone who would make these foolish, intemperate statements?

What do you think? Will the Senate block him? Will he have to withdraw? Will he make it through the hearings unscathed? Please vote in my poll!

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Filed under 2012 Election, Drury, Senate, White House

Have you read these?

Six essential political novels:

All the Kings Men, Robert Penn Warren
Better than any of the movies, which are never able to encompass the layers.

Primary Colors, Joe Klein
The modern campaign milieu

Burr, Gore Vidal
You think our politics is dirty today?

Advise and Consent, Allen Drury
Senate minutiae, which you love if you love politics.

The Way We Live Now, Anthony Trollope
Breathtaking subtlety, a masterpiece

House of Cards, Michael Dobbs
Typically British: Dark and cynical, if you like that kind of thing (I do).

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Filed under British, Dobbs, Drury, Senate, Trollope, Vidal, Warren, White House