I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there. We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience. You will all receive invitations to post to the blog. (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.) I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:
To post questions or comments about the readings before we discuss them in class;
To follow up on class discussions with additional comments or questions.
To post relevant news items or videos.

There are only two major limitations: no coarse language, and no derogatory comments about people at the Claremont Colleges.

Search This Blog

Monday, February 28, 2011

Congress's Reception of Social Media

A couple classes ago someone remarked that they had tweeted to a member about the simulation, but never received a response. The Politico had an interesting piece discussing Congress's response to social media. Many members have created presences on Facebook and Twitter to reach constituents. However the ease of contact accompanying social media has resulted in more people contacting members. Staff are being forced to spend significant parts of their day maintaining member's web presences, but with little ability to distinguish constituents from out-of-district astroturf or irate constituents from mere trolls.

While the explosion of social media on the Hill has become an excellent way for lawmakers to get their message to constituents, digesting the messages coming in has become a tedious, time-consuming effort that yields little payoff, staffers say.

While obligated to maintain profiles on multiple social media sites,
Surveyed staffers said Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Myspace are among the least useful forms of communication for gauging constituent views. Less than half, 42 percent, said social media had any influence on lawmakers.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0211/50299.html#ixzz1FIMrOOju

Spending and Taxes: The Process

Fiscal policy background

Democratic Simulation Roles, Revised 2/28

Armed Services

Carl Levin (Michigan), chair....................................Laura Sucheski

Joseph I. Lieberman (Connecticut)........................Andrew Bluebond
Harry Reid (Nevada), majority leader*...................Riley Lewis

Daniel K. Akaka (Hawaii)..........................................Skyler Grossman
Bill Nelson (Florida)...................................................Miles Lifson
Ben Nelson (Nebraska)..............................................Steven Zima
Jim Webb (Virginia)...................................................Wade Vaughn
Claire McCaskill (Missouri).......................................Riley Thomlison
Mark Udall (Colorado)...............................................Sean McQueen
Kay R. Hagan (North Carolina)**.............................Clare Riva
Mark Begich (Alaska).................................................Hannah Burak

Jeff Bingaman (New Mexico)**............................Patrick Eagan-Van Meter
Joe Manchin (WV)**..................................................Ross Sevy

* Added for simulation purposes

** Doppelganger

Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

Tom Harkin (IA) chair...............................................Abby Woodruff
Barbara A. Mikulski (MD).........................................Caroline Nyce
Jeff Bingaman (New Mexico)**.................................Russell Page
Patty Murray (WA).....................................................India Wade
Jack Reed (RI)..............................................................Aditya Pai
Bernard Sanders (I) (VT)............................................Rio Bauce
Robert P. Casey, Jr. (PA)............................................Ari Zyskind
Kay Hagan (NC)**........................................................Linnea Powell
Jeff Merkley (OR)........................................................Anne Rynearson
Al Franken (MN)..........................................................Brian Sutter
Michael Bennet (CO)....................................................Aubrey Zimmerling
Joe Manchin (WV)**....................................................Sam Corcos

Saturday, February 26, 2011

For Armed Services Committee Members...


Tomorrow on "Meet the Press"....
This Sunday: The wave of unrest crashes over yet another country in the Middle East. This time in Libya, where a defiant dictator refuses to leave and turns his force against his own people. President Obama condemns the violence and vows to stand up for freedom and justice but how should the administration respond? Senator John McCain (R-AZ), ranking member of the Armed Services Committee and one of the first U.S. Senators to go to region since the unrest there began, will join us from Cairo.

Embattled Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) takes on the unions in his new budget proposal and the unions take to the streets in protest. What's next in this standoff at the state capitol? Gov. Walker will join us exclusively for a live interview.

Also Sunday: As Congress fights over spending, the deadline before the government shuts down is fast approaching. Can both sides come to an agreement? And as states deal with budget troubles of their own, will the protests in Wisconsin spread to other states? What will the outcome there mean for the labor movement and workers' rights? What will it all mean in the race for the White House in 2012? Joining us: Former head of the RNC, Gov. Haley Barbour (R-MS); chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO); host of msnbc's "The Last Word," Lawrence O'Donnell; president of the AFL-CIO, Richard Trumka; and editorial board member and columnist for the Wall Street Journal, Kim Strassel.


Friday, February 25, 2011

Tax Expenditures

Next week's reading covers the Commission of Fiscal Responsibility and Reform's recommendations for reducing debt and deficit in the long run. The plan includes cutting tax expenditures, which seem more like tax exemptions. This pretty thorough, though not unbiased report by CAP explains them in depth, including why they are favored by members of Congress:
" tax expenditures receive different treatment in two key ways. Most tax expenditures are not subject to the same annual appropriations process as other forms of spending. This means they are less likely to be scrutinized.

Second, tax expenditures appear to be tax cuts instead of spending because they transfer funds to businesses and individuals through tax subsidies. It is therefore generally easier to win votes for tax expenditures than direct spending."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Was Your Senator Psychologically Manipulated?

Rolling Stone magazine published an article entitled "Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators" which reveals that soldiers "trained in psy-ops and other forms of propaganda [were assigned to work] as public relations experts," targeting some Senators (including Senators in our simulation) to provide funding and troops for the Afghanistan war.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Government Shutdown?

Republicans propose a stopgap spending bill to keep the government open until March 4th, in anticipation that their spending bill, with $60 billion in cuts, will not pass the Senate.

Republican aides say the cuts in the two-week spending bill would be proportional — or pro-rated — to reflect the levels in the first measure. That means cutting about $4 billion over two weeks. The plan is tentative and the contours of the measure are still being crafted.

It’s House Republicans’ opening bid in a war of attrition that pits their promise to slash spending against Senate Democrats’ refusal to allow any cuts on a short-term bill. If no one backs down by March 4, the government will shut down. House Republicans want to leave the hot potato in Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s hands.

Procedure 2011

How a bill becomes law: the formal process

Rules reform in the House

An amendment tree in practice.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

New Super PAC for the Senate Democrats

POLITICO has an article today on the creation of a new "Super PAC" for the Senate Democrats, called Majority PAC, that should compete with the Republican Super PAC's we talked about in class last week. The PAC will be crucial in the Democratic Party's efforts to retain their majority in the Senate in 2012.

Monday, February 21, 2011

How To Motivate Your Base

When you're running for something in Alabama, this is how to motivate your base:

The Legislative Process: Part One

Legislative Research

Bill Drafting


Do They Read The Bills? No.


Obama Addresses Education in Weekly Address

President Obama speaking two days ago at an Intel computer chip manufacturing plant in Portland, adressed his goals in education reform policy.

From the President's Address:

Obama said his administration will help by making education “a top priority,” through programs like Race to the Top, which has been credited with spurring education reform through a federal grant competition among states.

“If we want to win the global competition for new jobs and industries, we’ve got to win the global competition to educate our people,” Obama said. “We’ve got to have the best-trained, best-skilled workforce in the world. That’s how we’ll ensure that the next Intel, the next Google, or the next Microsoft is created in America, and hires American workers.”

Here is a POLITICO article detailing the president's address. It includes a video of the speech.

Government shutdown is likely, Pelosi aide says


A high-ranking aide to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told chiefs of staff of Democratic lawmakers that a government shutdown is more likely than not, according to attendees.

Speaking at a regular meeting of the top aides to House Democrats, Pelosi’s floor director, Jerry Hartz, offered, unprompted, his assessment that the odds favor inaction before the government runs out of money, sources said.

That became the focal point of the meeting, sources said, with the other aides asking only questions about “the possibility of a government shutdown and the logistics” — i.e., what it would mean for their offices and government services — according to one chief of staff who spoke to POLITICO on the condition of anonymity.

The aide said the message of a likely shutdown did not appear geared toward ginning up the staffers for political purposes.

“It was genuine,” the aide said.

A spokesman for Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) responded to the news of the meeting, saying Republicans have no plans to close the government’s doors.

“This is just another example of Washington Democrats rooting for a government shutdown, hoping to take partisan advantage,” said spokesman Michael Steel. “Republicans, on the other hand, are listening to the American people, who want us to cut spending — not shut the government down.”

In fact, during a closed-door meeting Friday afternoon between Republican leaders and GOP freshman lawmakers Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) told the rookies that Nancy Pelosi’s warning of a government shutdown is reckless, according to a source inside the room.

Republicans, however, are clearly trying to gird their new lawmakers how to deal with the politics of a potential government shutdown.

“Republicans are not about a shut down — if that is the Democrats’ intention, that is unfortunate,” Cantor told the freshman lawmakers, according to the source. “When you go home and talk to your constituents, let’s show them how united we are, and let’s them that we are changing Washington and finally getting this government’s fiscal house in order.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office echoed the sentiment. Spokesman Don Stewart said that “Senate Democrats seem strangely preoccupied with the notion of a government shutdown.”

A spokesman for Pelosi pushed back on the accusation, saying Democrats are not rooting for a shutdown.

“The last thing the American people need is for congressional Republicans or Democrats to draw a line in the sand that hinders keeping the government open,” said Nadeam Elshami.

One aide, who was not at the meeting, said Hartz’s remarks were misinterpreted. “He was saying what would happen if the worst occurs, which has already been advocated by some Republicans. He wasn’t predicting anything,” that aide said. “Democrats are committed to work responsibly with Republicans to ensure that critical services to our constituents are not cut.”

Yesterday Pelosi told reporters that if there is a government shutdown, responsibility will fall on Republicans’ shoulders.

“It is a failure. It’s really a failure to say we have taken the leadership of the Congress of the United States and the first thing we’re going to do is shut down the government to the detriment of our people, to our security and to our country’s future,” she told reporters.

“I would hope that instead of having ultimatums and statements of ‘I’m not going to do this’ or ‘I’m not going to do that’ that we will really have a process, go forward with an approach that talks about how to keep government open, not how we intend to shut it down,” she said.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

American Public Disconnected with the Military

For those of you on the Armed Services Committee in the Simulation, I thought this POLITICO article might be of interest.

From the article:

Spouses of service members are badly stressed from years of long deployments — so stressed that some have taken their own lives. Children who’ve had a parent away at war for almost their entire conscious lives are leaving home to go off to college. And the troops themselves continue to struggle with substance abuse, post-traumatic stress, and devastating physical and mental wounds.

Some of Washington’s top national security leaders are worried that Americans don’t know — or worse, don’t care.

Top Defense Department officials and other leaders began talking quietly last year about a “gap” or “split” between the military and the general population. But in recent weeks, they’ve been expressing those concerns more often and more boldly.

Former House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), who lost his seat in Congress in November, warned early this month that “those who protect us are psychologically divorced from those who are being protected.”

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told House lawmakers on Wednesday that there’s a “growing disconnect between the American people and the military.” The public knows generically that their troops are at war, but “the day to day connections are less than they used to be, the depth and breadth of who we are and what we’re doing, isn’t there.”

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Is John Boehner Bad at HisJob?

Last Monday, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) called a press conference to respond to President Barack Obama’s budget proposal. Boehner stressed job creation, continuing the Republican line from the mid-term election, and the failure to do so in the President’s proposal. But Boehner answered a reporter’s question saying, “Over the last two years, since President Obama has taken office, the federal government has added 200,000 new federal jobs. And if some of those jobs are lost in this, so be it. We’re broke! It’s time for us to get serious about how we’re spending the nation’s money.” To Boehner and many Republicans, job creation must come from the private sector and not the government. On the floor of the House, former Speaker and current Minority Leader of the House Nancy Pelosi quickly responded to Boehner’s comment: “Just today, Speaker Boehner said if jobs are lost as a result of Republican spending cuts, ‘so be it.’ So be it? Democrats do not subscribe to speaker Boehner’s verdict that if jobs are lost... so be it. Maybe so be it for [Speaker Boehner]. But not so be it for the people who are losing their jobs.” (Also 3:42 in Maddow clip below) As a result of what many perceive a misstep, numerous political talk show hosts, pundits, and journalists turned their attention to the performance, since assuming office, of Boehner and his party. One such liberal talk show host, Rachel Maddow of The Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC pointed out Boehner’s numerous failures:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

To sum up the many Maddow challenges (time in clip in which Maddow addresses said challenge):
  1. (2:10) Boehner’s charge that Obama added 200k jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is incorrect.
  2. (4:32) Day 1 of the 112th Congressional Session Constitution Reading Failure: Pages that stuck together, and passages, that were not read.
  3. (4:49) Swearing in Debacle: 2 Republicans are not on the Floor; attend a swearing in party instead
  4. (5:00) Constitutional Authority Failure: First few bills Republicans pass leave out specific constitutional statute
  5. (5:32) Cut-go Failure: Promise to cut spending for each bill that adds spending; Exempted the first bill from this promise
  6. (5:45) Committee Attendance Failure: Promise to post on the internet members who attended their committees; Republicans then decide not to
  7. (6:02) Jobs, Jobs, Jobs Failure: First 3 bills are anti-abortion bills
  8. (6:20) State of the Union Response: Michele Bachman’s Tea Party Response billed by CNN as "official" State of the Union response
  9. (6:34) 3 defeats in the House that Boehner brought to the floor in the span of 24 hours
  10. (6:55) $100B cuts failure: Promised to cut $100B in first year. Settled on $61B
  11. (7:20) Open Rule Amendment Failure: Boehner pledges to allow Dems to add amendments to bills and open debate for each bill; first week goes without such allowance. First day rule is allowed, over 400 amendments added to first bill of which 4 are debated.
  12. (8:00) Military Jet Engine Support: 2 Freshman Republican House-members combine with Dem Senators to tell Boehner that $3 Billion should not be spent on second engine, that the Pentagon does not want, on a fighter that already has an engine that works
A few days later, Boehner surprised everyone, and what also looks like himself, when, during a press conference, he stated, “When we say we’re going to cut spending, read my lips - We’re going to cut spending. Thanks.” The Associated Press reported Boehner “quickly exited, saying off-stage, ‘I can’t believe I just said that.’” Rachel Maddow summed up what happened the last time a politician (President George H.W. Bush):

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Perhaps the passing of legislation that cuts $61 billion from federal programs, specifically the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB), will help Boehner recover from these missteps and gaffes.

Congressional Budget Process, In Action

Today's Wall Street Journal featured an interesting interview with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan on FY 2012 budget negotiations between Congress and President Obama.

Although we're not covering the federal budget process for a few weeks, this article highlights the political nature of the budget resolution (which, importantly, is not a law).

As Professor Pitney said in class, few House Republicans endorse the committee's "Roadmap for America's Future". Even Ryan knows it won't pass, according to the article. But Ryan believes Americans will benefit from the debate on deficit reduction, if Democrats choose to respond.

A Very Strange Story from Oregon

In the final days leading up to his re-election, several staffers of U.S. Rep. David Wu, D-Oregon, described his behavior as erratic, the Willamette Week newspaper reports.

And on Friday night, Wu told KATU News he has sought professional help from a doctor.

A Willamette Week reporter says staffers with the congressman didn’t point to one major development; instead, they said there were a series of incidents. The incidents were so troubling that, according to Willamette Week sources, employees deliberately hid Wu from the public during the last three days of his campaign.

Willamette Week reporter Beth Slovic says after seven staffers and three consultants cut ties with Wu after his re-election in November, she started digging deeper.

“Our goal was to try to begin to explain a little bit what the chatter was about,” she said. “It’s a culture of secrecy where people don’t speak in bad terms about their colleagues or bosses.”
More here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Senator Jeff Bingaman's Retirement Creates Competition in a Safe Seat

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) is unexpectedly retiring in 2012. Bingaman is the Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee and member of both the Armed Services and HELP Committees. He has been a low-key legislator who has won the respect of senators on both sides of the aisle. He is very popular in New Mexico (he won reelection in 2006 with 71 percent of the vote).

Bingaman's departure from the Senate puts a seat that would have been safely Democratic up in the air for 2012. Personally, I have always thought that my House Rep. Martin Heinrich was the next in line for the Senate. From the time that he was on Albuquerque's City Council, I have predicted that he would continue to rise politically. His impressive reelection campaign this past election cycle in a competitive district that many thought would fall under the national Republican wave showed that he has significant political skill. Other potential Democratic suitors for the seat are New Mexico's other Democratic House Representative Ben Ray Lujan and former Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish. I doubt that former Governor Bill Richardson would have any interest in the Senate seat.

The Republicans will likely run former House member Heather Wilson, who held Heinrich's House seat before a failed Senate run in 2008. She failed to win in the primary, losing to the more conservative Rep. Steve Pearce from southern New Mexico. Nevertheless, her moderate record may make her an appealing candidate for a general election. After losing badly in a Senate race in 2008, it is unlikely that Pearce will give up his House seat again to risk another defeat.

New Mexico is a very competitive state that often switches back and forth between party allegiance in statewide elections. The state voted for Gore in 2000, Bush in 2004, and Obama in 2008. THe state looked to be turning blue after Obama won the state by 15 points and the state elected an entirely Democratic Congressional Delegation in 2008. 2010 was a different story, however, as Republican Susana Martinez convincingly won the race for Governor.

The race for Bingaman's Senate seat will likely be a tossup until every vote is counted.

Bingaman to Retire

National Journal reports:

Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., will announce shortly that he will not seek reelection in 2012, according to Democratic sources, a move that puts another of the party's seats in play and increases the GOP's chances of recapturing the Senate.

Bingaman is the fourth Democratic senator and the third-sitting chairman to announce plans to step aside after next year. Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad, D-N.D., Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., have also announced that they will not run again. On the GOP side, two senior members, Senate Commerce Committee ranking member Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., have said they will retire.

While Democrats retain a voting-registration edge in New Mexico, a state that President Obama carried handily in 2008, Bingaman’s decision will likely ensure a contested race and increase the challenge that Democrats face in maintaining the majority. Democrats must defend 23 Senate seats next year; the GOP, just 10.

National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brian Walsh said that the seat “immediately presents another strong pickup opportunity for Senate Republicans. It also further limits the ability of national Democrats to play offense when their resources will be spread out over such an expansive, defensive map.”

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Elections, Concluded

A difference between House and Senate races:

A Designated Market Area (DMA) is a media market, a group of counties that account for the major viewing audience for television stations located in a metropolitan area.

States usually encompass one or more DMAs, though there are anomalies (VT, DE, NJ). House districts, however, do not coincide with DMAs. See, for instance, California's DMAs (left) v. US House districts (right)

Marco Rubio hits some key themes:

Compare Florida Senator and Governor exit polls.

In Kentucky, the big issue was Aqua Buddha:

The repsonse:

Understanding the Budget with Pennies

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Second Essay Assignment

Choose one of the following:

1. See President Obama’s proposed list of terminations, reductions and savings at http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/budget/fy2012/assets/trs.pdf. Pick one. Lay out a strategy for winning approval. In your paper, take account of who supports and opposes the item in question. Also consider the makeup of both chambers and their relevant committees.

2. Predict what the 112th Congress will do about one of these issues:

  • Afghanistan
  • Net neutrality
  • Immigration
  • Housing finance

You may also write on an issue of your own choosing. In your answer, take account of what Congress did on the issue in the past on how the current partisan makeup of the House and Senate will shape the course of legislation. Also consider the president’s position and the possibility of cross-party coalitions.

3. Pick a measure from 2010 (other than the health bill). Explain what happened to it. You may choose your own or take one from this list:

  • HR 5175 – Campaign finance disclosure
  • HR 4173 – Financial regulatory overhaul
  • HR 5281 – Immigration policy
  • HR 4853 – Tax rates
  • HR 2701 – Intelligence authorization
  • HR 3534 – Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act

Instead of giving a mere chronology, tell why the measure moved or stalled. What happened to previous versions? Which groups or blocs backed and fought it? Which strategies and tactics did its friends and foes use? Even if it failed or stalled, did it prompt the passage of a similar measure in a different form? Look at parliamentary strategies, major amendments, and roll calls. Get background from a source such as Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report, where you may find the partisan breakdown of roll-call votes. (Use the hardcopy or the online version at http://library.cqpress.com). Other possible sources include:

Again, you should explain the outcome, not just describe the process.

  • Essays should be typed, stapled, double-spaced, and no more than three pages long. I will not read past the third page.
  • Put your name on a cover sheet. Do not identify yourself on the text pages.
  • Cite your sources. You may use either endnotes or parenthetical references to a bibliography. In either case, put your documentation in a standard format (e.g., Turabian or Chicago Manual of Style).
  • Watch your spelling, grammar, diction, and punctuation. Errors will count against you.
  • Return essays by the start of class, March 2. Papers will drop a gradepoint for one day’s lateness, a letter grade after that.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Politico article defending defense spending gives we Senators on the Armed Forces Committee something to think about regarding the budget as we haggle over fewer funds to bring home to our state military bases.
"In advance of the budget’s release,Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced significant cuts to Pentagon programs, totaling $78 billion over five years."
The authors link reduced defense spending with loss of prestige and power abroad. They also suggest a double standard for budget cuts under the Obama administration:
"It is worth asking whether other federal agencies or domestic entitlement programs have been forced to reduce their budgets to the same extent that the Pentagon has over the past two years. The reality is that domestic discretionary spending has ballooned during the Obama administration."

Elections and 2010: Continued

Saturday, February 12, 2011

The Re-rEVOLoution?

At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Texas Rep. Ron Paul won the straw poll for presidential candidates by a more-than-slim margin. Our very own visitor, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, was the runner-up in the vote.

All that being said, the author noted:

"Fifty-six percent of those surveyed said they were generally satisfied with the field of potential candidates and 43 percent said they wished the GOP had a better field of potential candidates."

And now, the moment you've been waiting for... The list of winners:
Texas Rep. Ron Paul: 30 percent
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney: 23 percent
Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson: 6 percent
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie: 6 percent
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich: 5 percent
Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty: 4 percent
Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann: 4 percent
Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels: 4 percent
Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin: 3 percent
Former talk show host Herman Cain: 2 percent
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee: 2 percent
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum: 2 percent
South Dakota Sen. John Thune: 2 percent
U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman: 1 percent
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour: 1 percent
Others: 5 percent
Undecided: 1 percent

Read the full story at

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Lisa Murkowski: Free Bird in the Senate?

A Politico article published today features Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who was recently re-elected in a historic write-in effort after losing the primary. I wrote my paper about that election, but didn't have much space to talk about its consequences for Senatorial politics. The consequences, however, are significant:

Murkowski is "liberated in a lot of ways," said Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute. "She didn't have to kowtow to her party. She is caucusing with Republicans but she doesn't owe anything to the leadership."

At a closed-door session in September, Senate Republicans rejected a bid by DeMint to strip Murkowski of her leadership role on the energy panel after she’d decided to run as a write-in candidate. "I think McConnell and a couple of others made sure they didn’t do that because they all of a sudden realized that if she won that would really be a problem for them," Ornstein said.

"I do not expect her to be a regular thorn in the side of her own party's leaders," he said. "But she's going to pick her spots."

In the past, those spots have been issues like DADT repeal and the Matthew Sheppard hate crimes legislation -- moments when she broke from her party to vote with Democrats. In the future, these spots might include energy issues, especially those particularly important to Alaska. It is possible that Murkowski will buck the party line more often this term since she owes her election to a broader coalition of Alaskans, including liberal Democrats. On the other hand, she can't afford to completely lose the conservative vote in a Red state like Alaska. So Murkowski has to walk a fine line: voting with the party on some issues, and choosing -- wisely -- when to disobey. Whatever she does, it will be interesting and important to watch.

Fix the Budget

Per our discussion of the budget deficit problem, check out the New York Time's Budget Puzzle: you decide what to cut!

Senator Kyl's Departure May Create a Fight for Leadership

Arizona's Senator John Kyl announced that he will be retiring at the end of his term in 2012. This opens up a new Senate seat and, more importantly, the Number 2 spot in the Republican leadership in the chamber. Favorites to take Kyl's place are Senator Cornyn of Texas and Senator Alexander of Louisiana. Alexander currently occupies the Number 3 spot and is in charge of crafting his party's message. Cornyn is in his second term running the National Republican Senatorial Committee, a position that may help him politically if the Republicans can take over the Senate in 2012.

Here is a POLITICO article on the possible power struggle.

CRC Meeting Today

Earlier this semester we talked about redistricting and California's non-partisan commission. They are holding a public meeting on campus today.

From Good Morning CMC:

The CRC is the Proposition 11 - mandated group that will redraw the boundaries of political districts in California. This is their first offsite public meeting. 9am-6:30pm, Honnold Mudd Founders Room

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Elections and Electoral News

Webb is retiring:

And now back to 2010....

Always remember the class system in contemplating future Senate elections:

* Includes Sanders and Lieberman

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

"I'm not worried about the politics of this"

.... except that this is probably a smart political decision


A new Dem threat to health care law

A handful of moderate Senate Democrats are looking for ways to roll back the highly contentious individual mandate — the pillar of President Barack Obama’s health care law — a sign that red-state senators are prepared to assert their independence ahead of the 2012 elections.

They haven’t decided whether to propose legislation, but any effort by moderate Democrats that takes aim at the individual mandate could embarrass Obama and embolden Republicans who are still maneuvering to take down the health care law.

And it’s not just health care. The senators are prepared to break with the White House on a wide range of issues: embracing deeper spending cuts, scaling back business regulations and overhauling environmental rules. The moderates most likely to buck their party include Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Jon Tester of Montana — all of whom are up for reelection in 2012 and represent states Obama lost in 2008.

Monday, February 7, 2011

A Man of Few Words.

The new Republican representative from Texas' 27th, Blake Farenthold, is a man of few words. A self-described "common-sense conservative" who holds "southern Texas values," Mr. Farenthold won his seat by 799 votes in an 2010 upset victory for Republicans.

A clever way to present criticisms of the "industrial" model off of which we based our public education system. "The current system was designed and conceived for a different age."


Elections: Context

If you are writing on a House election, check out this site:



Sunday, February 6, 2011

Obama's SOTU Narrative (belated comments)

President Obama's approval numbers have rebounded in recent weeks since the un-lame lame duck, the Tucson speech, and his apparent move to the political center. He now stands at or above the 50% mark in many polls, a strong position for an incumbent president with the economy (seemingly) on the way up. Recent accomplishments have elevated his popularity. But if the rise of Obama 2.0 continues , there might also be something less tangible behind it.

That something is a political narrative: a story about why he's doing what he's doing, and where he wants to lead us as a nation. I think we got such a narrative --- "winning the future" at our "Sputnik moment" -- in the State of the Union address. For his first two years, Obama at once enjoyed legislative success and political failure. This happened because Obama persuaded Congress to pass many items on his policy agenda, but forgot to persuade the people that we need them. Obama now looks like he's trying to change that. Joe Kline of Time explains the significance of the shift:
"Two years into his presidency, Obama has discovered the power of storytelling. I was always struck by how few anecdotes he told when he was running for President; his rhetoric was more about we than he or she, even though telling stories about actual people is one way politicians can demonstrate that they are actual people too, sort of. Ronald Reagan, who invented the tear-jerking hero sitting in the First Lady's box, was the master of this. But Obama's brilliant Tucson speech hinged on the character and dreams of a 9-year-old girl, on the human qualities of all the victims, and his State of the Union speech was a nonstop round of inspirational storytelling."
Obama's emblematic American heroes were inventive and entrepreneurial. They were ordinary citizens rising to the challenge of a stagnant economy and global competition. They would drive us past tough times, Obama seemed to say, but government can help. The solutions Obama offered were the same vague progressive ideas he has promoted since he began running for President. The historical context in which he promoted them -- and the narrative they form -- are different. The substance is similar; the packaging is new and improved. But perhaps that will make all the difference.

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