This post originally appeared on the Daily Kos. With Republican candidate Scott McInnis beleaguered by the massive plagiarism scandal and refusing to leave the race, Tom Tancredo is stepping in.
“I will officially announce at noon that I will seek the nomination of the constitution party,” Tancredo told The Denver Post.... Tancredo gave Republican candidates Scott McInnis and Dan Maes an ultimatum last week: Promise to get out of the race after the primary if polls showed the winner lagging behind Democrat John Hickenlooper or else he would get in as a third-party candidate. Both Maes and McInnis refused.
The Post story details the out-and-out war between Tancredo and Colorado Republican chair Dick Wadhams, writing that the two "had an all-out-brawl on Peter Boyles’ KHOW radio station show this morning, screaming at each other and calling each other 'liars.'" Wadhams, rightly, points out that a Tancredo run will split the Republican vote and almost assuredly lead to a victory for Dem John Hickenlooper, Denver's very popular mayor -- provided Hickenlooper doesn't take the race for granted and campaigns hard. The stakes for Dems are particularly high in Colorado this year, with the hopes of keeping both a Senate and the Governor's seat in Dem hands.
This post originally appeared on Daily Kos. This is going to be an obnoxious few months of politics from the Republicans.
In its first memo to reporters since Kagan’s nomination to the high court became public, the Republican National Committee highlighted Kagan’s tribute to Marshall in a 1993 law review article published shortly after his death. Kagan quoted from a speech Marshall gave in 1987 in which he said the Constitution as originally conceived and drafted was “defective.” She quoted him as saying the Supreme Court’s mission was to “show a special solicitude for the despised and the disadvantaged.” “Does Kagan Still View Constitution ‘As Originally Drafted And Conceived’ As ‘Defective’?” the RNC asked in its research document. “And Does Kagan Still Believe That The Supreme Court's Primary Mission Is To ‘Show A Special Solicitude For The Despised And Disadvantaged’?”
John Aravosis boils it down:
[T]he specific Marshall quote that the GOP is so upset about - that the Constitution was defective as originally drafted. Thurgood Marshall was talking about, among things, slavery. So, the Republicans don't think approving slavery was a defect of the Constitution? That's really their argument, defending three-fifths a man and slavery? I get the desire to win over the Beauregard Sessions vote, but seriously, they're going to build a national majority on racism?
It certainly wouldn't be a new tactic from Republicans. Don't forget Ronald Reagan's first speech after the 1980 GOP convention was on the topic of states rights, and was delievered in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. The GOP hasn't changed an iota in the intervening thirty years, except perhaps they're even less subtle in their racism in 2010.
This post originally appeared on Daily Kos. The reviews for the unconstitutional, citizenship-stripping "anti-terror" legislation Joe Lieberman is introducing today are in, and predictable.
[W]hat Lieberman is attempting to do is to pave the way for terrorists with American citizenship to be thrown into military tribunals once they are captured. And it would give the State Department the power to make that determination. "It sounds like a draconian solution," said John Bellinger a legal adviser to the United States Secretary of State during the Bush administration. "I assume the Senate has thought through the constitutional issues but I would want to see what the standards are for stripping someone of their citizenship and what opportunities they would have for notice and to challenge the decision... It certainly seems like a far-reaching step." As Bellinger notes, the issue of revoking citizenship has been litigated to the highest levels of the justice system already. And as it stands now, the standard is set fairly high.
It's doubtful that the Senator has thought through the constitutional issues because the Senator neither cares about the constitutional issues nor is a competent enough legislator to realize that what he is proposing won't work. Here's Greg Sargent, explaining what Lieberman intends with this legislation:
Lieberman's office has clarified to me how the law would work: It would empower the State Department to conclude -- on its own -- that Americans are conspiring with terror groups and should be stripped of their citizenship. Lieberman's law would amend an earlier statute that details other things that can cost you citizenship [. . .] In those cases the State Department decides whether your disloyalty merits loss of citizen status. Lieberman's law would add involvement with a foreign terror organization -- as opposed to a foreign state -- to this list.
And here is BTD on why that is impracticable:
Why is this pointless? Because unless Lieberman is planning on repealing the part of the law that provides due process prior to revocation of citizenship, then all Lieberman has done is create a new federal proceeding where suspected terrorists can "propagandize." As noted earlier, the only way for Lieberman to get terror trials out of federal courts is to repeal federal law criminalizing terrorism. Will Lieberman propose that?
No, he won't propose that. His primary concern is to continue to embarrass a Democratic president by joining the likes of Lindsey Graham and the Cheney's in politicizing the prosecution of terror cases. Eviscerating the due process guarantees of the Constitution is a side benefit for him.
This post originally appeared on the Daily Kos. As entirely expected, the Republicans continued their crusade for a backroom deal on Wall Street reform, and voted again to block debate on it. The motion failed 57-41, and Ben Nelson voted with the Republicans, again. In light of this tactic from the Republicans, Simon Johnson has a very good proposal for Senate Dems.
If the Democratic leadership becomes fed up with Republican stalling – or otherwise sees an opportunity to paint the Republicans as completely obstructionist, they could actually strengthen the bill. For example, including something like the Brown-Kaufman amendment (or otherwise addressing the issues posed by our six megabanks) would make it easier for people to understand what is at stake. To win on this issue in November, the Democrats may need to simplify their message and make it more powerful. Some relatively pro-Wall Street Democrats are reluctant to do this, but if the Republicans stand united, nothing will pass – so why not propose something stronger that will go down to clear and memorable defeat, particularly after a searing debate? The Republicans are not the only ones who can maneuver here. By delaying any progress, they are creating an opportunity within the Democratic side to find ways forward that are not entirely designed by Senator Dodd.... Republican stalling tactics have, in effect, introduced a greater element of randomness into the process. The Republicans obviously want to slow reform or make it change direction. They should be careful what they wish for.
It's turning the thumb screws on Republicans, and it makes sense. It's good politics, and even better policy to make this as tough a bill as possible. But it doesn't absolutely have to follow that that would make the bill fall in "clear and memorable defeat." The questioning by GOP Senators in today's Goldman Sachs hearing shows that they very much recognize the political value of being tough on Wall Street. Dems are in a position to take advantage of that on this bill. Dems can negotiate from a position of strength on this one, and have a number of negotiating chips. TWI's Anne Lowery has a good run down on these basic issues, a handful of which Republicans are supporting.
Audit the Fed. Last year, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) introduced a House bill to audit the Federal Reserve. It garnered 313 cosponsors. A similar measure in the Senate, a budget amendment sponsored by Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa),passed 95 to 1. But a strong provision did not make it into the final Senate legislation.... Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is sponsoring an amendment that would open up the Fed to an Government Accountability Office audit. The amendment has the stated support of Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Mich.) and Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), among others, and is expected to come up. End too big to fail by capping bank size. Sanders alsowrote a measure to break up the banks that failed to make it out of the Senate Budget Committee last week. But the notion of breaking up big banks is a popular one, and sure to come via amendment.... Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) last week introduced the Safe Banking Act, which they plan to offer as an amendment to the Dodd bill.... Reinstitute Glass-Steagall provisions. Another popular way to effectively limit bank size is to return to the Depression-era Glass-Steagall rules. The Glass-Steagall Act, mostly repealed in 1999, prevented banks from having both commercial and investment banking arms — as, for instance, J.P. Morgan Chase does today. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) plan to introduce an amendment reintroducing the rule.... Shelby, Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) and Sen. John Cornyn (Texas) also support the measure.... An effectively similar, if functionally different, way of breaking up banks or limiting their size is by instituting the Volcker Rule  — which bars banks from speculating with their own money by “prop trading” or investing in hedge funds. The current Dodd bill promises to institute something like the Volcker Rule, creating a commission to look at how to institute it down the road. But Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) have ready a measure introducing a more-stringent version immediately. Fix the ratings agencies. The Dodd bill does little to fix the credit ratings agencies, whose profligate stamping of AAA ratings on collapsing subprime mortgage-backed securities helped to stoke the crisis.... Sanders has said he will introduce new language to strengthen oversight over and regulation of the agencies.... Keep the Fed the regulator of little banks. Under the Dodd bill, the Federal Reserve would have oversight only of banks with more than $50 billion in assets. But Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) oppose this measure and want the Fed to have oversight of small banks as well — ensuring that the Fed does not become overly concerned with the business of big banks and ensuring that it keeps an eye on the small financial companies that can be the bellwether of bad economic times. Hutchison has said she plans to “certainly have an amendment that assures that state banks and community banks will be able to have access to be members of the Federal Reserve.” Make the Consumer Financial Protection Agency truly independent. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) has promised to introduce amendment moving the Consumer Financial Protection Agency outside of the Fed. Improve hedge fund reporting. Reed also plans to introduce an amendment closing a loophole in the Dodd bill that might let some private equity firms, venture capital firms, and hedge funds avoid registering with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
These are all ways that the bill could be strengthened, many of which at least some Republicans are fully behind. So Dems should go for broke. That means a couple of things: no deals between Dodd and Shelby to limit amendments. It also means continuing the pressure, with UC votes every single day. You can help. Make Calls to Congress using this tool. Sign this petition calling for a strong, independent CFPA. Join the virtual march on Wall Street on Thursday. And tell your Democratic Senators to keep the pressure on.
This post originally appeared on the Daily Kos. With the first procedural vote on financial reform pending this afternoon, this survey has to be looming over Republicans.
About two-thirds of Americans support stricter regulations on the way banks and other financial institutions conduct their business, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll. Majorities also back two main components of legislation congressional Democrats plan to bring to a vote in the Senate this week: greater federal oversight of consumer loans and a company-paid fund that would cover the costs of dismantling failed firms that put the broader economy at risk. A third pillar of the reform effort draws a more even split: 43 percent support federal regulation of the derivatives market; 41 percent are opposed. Nearly one in five - 17 percent - express no opinion on this complicated topic..... The area with the highest levels of cross-party support is on more robust federal oversight of the way banks and other financial companies make consumer loans, such as auto loans, credit cards and mortgages. Here, 44 percent of Republicans approve of stricter guidelines, joining 75 percent of Democrats and 57 percent of independents on the issue.
And particularly significant for Republican members of Congress, majorities trust President Obama over the GOP on this issue 52-35. And looking ahead to November, "[i]ndependents prefer Obama 47 to 35 percent, with 16 percent trusting neither side on the issue." From both a good public policy and good politics point of view, the stronger the CFPA provision the Democrats include, the better. Strong consumer protection--with 24 percent of the nation's homeowners underwater on their mortgages and everyone with a credit card still paying exorbitant fees and interest rates--is the most tangible and potentially popular outcome of the legislation. Not to mention being critical public policy.
This post originally appeared on Daily Kos. No, Sec. of State Clinton is not on the list. Who is? The AP has confirmed seven of them:
President Barack Obama's candidates for the Supreme Court include a new name, federal appeals court Judge Sidney Thomas of Montana, and at least six others who were contenders when Obama chose his first high court nominee last year, The Associated Press has learned. Among the others under consideration are former Georgia Chief Justice Leah Ward Sears, federal appeals court judges Diane Wood and Merrick Garland, Solicitor General Elena Kagan, Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.... Thomas, 56, of Billings, Mont., serves on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the largest of the nation's appellate courts. He was nominated to the federal bench in July 1995 by then-President Bill Clinton and confirmed by the Senate in January 1996, with no controversy, in a voice vote.
Thomas is a dark horse and as of yet, there hasn't be a lot of analysis of his record. Another new name on this list, Leah Ward Sears, is raising concern because of her strong support for "traditional" marriage, including a 2006 op-ed in WaPo lauding the work of the Institute for American Values, an organization founded by David Blankenhorn. Blankenhorn was active in the Prop 8 battle in California in 2008, on the Yes side, writing an op-ed in the LA Times declaring himself a "liberal Democrat" who is opposed to gay marriage. This doesn't mean that Sears would be a judicial activist for "traditional family values," but her record on equality issues does bear scrutiny as this is likely to be the a key civil rights issue to come to the court in the near future.
This post was originally published on the Daily Kos. That didn't take long. Something like 72 hours before health insurers say that no, they really don't have cover kids with pre-existing conditions, as nyceve nicely chronicles. Here's what AHIP says:
America's Health Insurance Plans, the main insurance lobbying group, says through a spokesman that it interprets the new law as not requiring insurers to cover all child applicants this year. Health insurers worry that if they're forced to cover all children regardless of health condition, higher rates will result, because only the families of sick kids would apply. That problem, they say, could be largely avoided if the requirement went into effect in 2014, when most Americans will have to have coverage under the law. AHIP says higher rates resulted when New York and a handful of other states enacted "guarantee-issue" laws requiring insurers to offer coverage to all applicants.
"Higher rates resulted," not "insurers seeking to maintain a healthy profit margin raised rates." As if insurers had no control over premiums. The administration and congressional Dems obviously disagree with AHIP's assement.

Responding to the concerns, Obama administration officials said Wednesday the law does prohibit insurers from denying children coverage starting this year, but they will issue clarifying regulations. "The law is clear:  Insurance plans that cover children cannot deny coverage to a child because he or she has a pre-existing condition," Health and Human Services spokesman Nick Papas said. "To ensure that there is no ambiguity on this point, the Secretary of HHS is preparing to issue regulations next month making it clear that the term “pre-existing exclusion” applies to both a child's access to a plan and to his or her benefits once he or she is in the plan.”

Reps. Henry A. Waxman, Sander M. Levin, and George Miller, the Democratic chairmen of the three committees with jurisdiction over health policy in the House of Representatives, said Wednesday that the administration response should be sufficient.

“Under the legislation ... plans that include coverage of children cannot deny coverage to a child based upon a pre-existing condition," the joint statement said. "We have been assured by the Department of Health and Human Services that any possible ambiguity in the underlying bill can be addressed by the Secretary with regulation."

....

One thing is clear: The law does nothing to stop insurers from charging higher rates for children with pre-existing illnesses until 2014 when insurers can no longer use health status in setting premiums.

There's no reason for Congress or the administration to rely upon regulations to clarify this. Pass a new stand-alone bill. Fast-track it. See who in Congress is willing to stand with insurers and deny coverage to sick children. That'll be a fun vote. And should sail through. Or, the House could take that intransigence from AHIP seriously, and as a an indication as things to come from the insurance industry (because we all know that if they're willing to keep sick kids out, they'll figure out a way to avoid most of the other restrictions in the bill) and attach a public option when they vote on the returned reconciliation package. An unlikely occurrence, I admit, but just about the only thing that could get insurers to shape up.
This post was originally published on the Daily Kos. Aravosis reports on the increasing threat to Dem members of Congress.
Now we find out that 10 members of Congress have asked for increased security following threats.... Here are Chuck Todd's tweets on the latest:
RT @chucktodd: House Maj. Leader Hoyer says he's worried about the security of fellow House Dems; Calls on House GOP leaders to join in decrying threats RT @chucktodd: Hoyer says any member of Congress who is concerned about threats is receiving access to security; So far, over 10 members.
CBS News has obtained audio of threats made against Rep. Bart Stupak.
The calls placed to Stupak's office reveal the extreme anger members of Congress are facing. "Congressman Stupak, you baby-killing mother f***er... I hope you bleed out your a**, got cancer and die, you mother f***er," one man says in a message to Stupak. "There are millions of people across the country who wish you ill," a woman says in a voicemail, "and all of those thoughts that are projected on you will materialize into something that's not very good for you." CBS News also obtained copies of faxes sent to Stupak, which include racial epithets used in reference to President Obama and show pictures of nooses with Stupak's name.
Another of the threatened members, pro-life Rep. Steve Driehaus, spoke with Brian Beutler today:
Last week, the anti-reform advocacy group the Committee to Rethink Reform published an ad in The Cincinnati Enquirer featuring a photo of Dreihaus with his children. (Both the Committee and the Enquirer  have retracted and apologized for the ad.) Now, conservatives are planning a Sunday protest outside of his house, after a conservative blog put his address--complete with directions--on the Internet. Speaking to me and another reporter outside the House chamber this afternoon, Driehaus said Republican leaders are to blame for the vitriol--and implied that they will bear some responsibility if reform opponents' anger bubbles over into violence. "I think if you look at some of the language that has been used by leaders on the Republican side, one shouldn't be surprised," Driehaus said. "Unfortunately many of us are now receiving threats, death threats.... These comments that have been made by Republican leaders can serve as--I don't know if I want to say an excuse or perhaps permission for people who may be unbalanced, who may be calling with these threats."
Rep. Tom Perriello, whose brother's family has become a target, adds in a statement:
"My number one priority right now is ensuring the safety of my brother's family, and I am grateful to law enforcement for their excellent work," Perriello said in a statement today. "While it is too early to say anything definitive regarding political motivations behind this act, it's never too early for political leaders to condemn threats of violence, particularly as threats to other Members of Congress and their children escalate."
Absolutely Republican leaders need to condemn this, loudly and frequently. Or are they going to let Sarah Palin be the only voice of leadership on the issue?

This post was originally published on the Daily Kos.

The President has been charitable thus far in claiming that there are "philosophical" differences between the parties. From out here, it looks more like a visceral hatred for government on the part of Republicans rather than a real intellectual argument. That's a divide that can't be bridged. Because the Republicans continue to just lie, whether it's about process (see reconciliation) or the CBO reports on the existing plan. Ezra:

Lamar Alexander and Barack Obama just had a contentious exchange on this point, so it's worth settling the issue: Yes, the CBO found health-care reform would reduce premiums. The issue gets confused because it also found that access to subsidies would encourage people to buy more comprehensive insurance, which would mean that the value of their insurance would be higher after reform than before it. But that's not the same as insurance becoming more expensive: The fact that I could buy a nicer car after getting a better job suggests that cars are becoming pricier. The bottom line is that if you're comparing two plans that are exactly the same, costs go down after reform.

And the Republican plan, such as it is, and what happens to premiums under it? Jon Cohn:

So, yes, the Republican health care bill will lower premiums overall. But many people in poor health will see their premiums go up. And many people will get lower premiums only because they’re getting inferior coverage. Meanwhile, more than 50 million people will have no insurance whatsoever.

It brings to mind Barney Frank's confrontation over the summer with a teabagger: at some point it's like arguing with a dining room table.

This post first appeared on DailyKos. In a potential breakthrough for the public option, and for saving comprehensive healthcare reform, Harry Reid's office is saying that if the final decision is made to push helathcare reform via reconciliation, Reid would support including the public option. Greg Sargent:
With more and more Senators signing on to the letter urging Reid to hold an up or down vote on the public option under reconciliation rules, Reid spokesman Rodell Mollineau sends over a statement signaling Reid’s qualified support for the move:
Senator Reid has always and continues to support the public option as a way to drive down costs and create competition. That is why he included the measure in his original health care proposal. If a decision is made to use reconciliation to advance health care, Senator Reid will work with the White House, the House, and members of his caucus in an effort to craft a public option that can overcome procedural obstacles and secure enough votes.
That’s a fairly big step forward: Up until now, Reid, while supporting the public option throughout the process, had been silent on whether he’d support a reconciliation vote on it.
What still has to happen: support from 50 Dem Senators to use the reconciliation process, and an agreement with the House on sequencing of votes. But this is signficant, as Sargent notes: "for the first time, the Majority Leader’s office has now said that a reconciliation vote on the public option is a real possibilty."