House Democrats

Bad news for Democrats in toss-up districts

According to a recently release poll from a Democratic firm, President Barack Obama is, unsurprisingly, bringing down his party’s numbers in competitive congressional districts:

One of the Democratic party’s leading pollsters released a survey of 60 Republican-held battleground districts today painting an ominous picture for Congressional Democrats in 2012. The poll shows Democratic House candidates faring worse than they did in the 2010 midterms, being dragged down by an unpopular president who would lose to both Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Mitt Romney.
[T]he numbers - at least right now — are troubling for Democrats, and echoed some of the takeaways from the GOP special election upset in New York City last week. Instead of an overall anti-incumbent sentiment impacting members of both parties, voters are taking more of their anger out on Democrats. When voters were asked whether they’re supporting the Republican incumbent or a Democratic candidate, 50 percent preferred the Republican and just 41 percent backed the Democrat.

Voters in these districts said they were more supportive of Republicans than they were during the 2010 midterms, when 48 percent said they backed the Republican candidate and 42 percent said they backed the Democrat. (Republicans won 55 percent of the overall vote in these 60 battleground districts, while Democrats took 43 percent.) In 2010, Republicans netted 63 House seats - their best showing since 1948.

Respondents were lukewarm about their current Republican representatives - 39 percent approved, while 33 percent disapproved, and 28 percent were undecided. And a near-majority of 49 percent said they “can’t vote to re-elect” the GOP incumbent because “we need new people that will fix Washington” — a jump of four points since March.

Stay classy, Joe Biden

Vice President Joe Biden has a habit of sticking his foot in his mouth, perhaps more often than his boss, President Barack Obama, would like. Given all the talk earlier this year about a “new tone” in our politicial discourse, it looks like someone didn’t get the memo. Politico reports that Biden compared tea party activits to “terrorists” during a House Democratic caucus meeting yesterday:

Biden was agreeing with a line of argument made by Rep. Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) at a two-hour, closed-door Democratic Caucus meeting.

“We have negotiated with terrorists,” an angry Doyle said, according to sources in the room. “This small group of terrorists have made it impossible to spend any money.”

Biden, driven by his Democratic allies’ misgivings about the debt-limit deal, responded: “They have acted like terrorists.”

Biden’s office initially declined to comment about what the vice president said inside the closed-door session, but after POLITICO published the remarks, spokeswoman Kendra Barkoff said: “The word was used by several members of Congress. The vice president does not believe it’s an appropriate term in political discourse.”

OMG! How dare people believe that Congress shouldn’t spend like drunken sailors and run up a $1.5 trillion budget deficit. That kind of thinking is just extreme!1!!

It may surprise Rep. Doyle and Biden, given the bubble they are surrounded with in Washington, that ideas like a balanced budget amendment generally poll well with the public; not just tea party activists. Yes, it’s shocking to hear that voters believe that our elected officials shouldn’t spend more than they take in.

Obama, congressional leaders agree to a debt deal

It looks as though congressional leaders have agreed to a deal that would raise the nation’s debt ceiling and cut spending in advance of tomorrow’s deadline:

President Obama and congressional leaders announced an agreement Sunday night to raise the debt limit by up to $2.4 trillion, ending a long partisan stalemate that threatened to send the nation into default.

The announcement caps a weekend of frantic negotiations as both parties worked to beat Tuesday’s deadline for a default.

The bipartisan deal is not final until rank-and-file members from both parties give it a green light but Republican leaders expressed confidence their side would approve it.
The deal would set up a select 12-member bicameral committee to put together another $1.5 trillion deficit-reduction package that must be reported to Congress by Thanksgiving and which Congress must approve by Christmas.

If the special committee deadlocks or Congress fails to act on its recommendations, it would trigger $1.2 trillion in across-the-board spending cuts divided evenly between defense and non-defense spending.

The automatic spending cuts would apply to Medicare but not Social Security, Medicaid, veterans or civil and military pay, according to a summary provided by Boehner’s office.

A congressional aide familiar with the deal said the Medicare cuts would not affect beneficiaries. Healthcare providers and insurance companies, however, would see a reduction in payments. Cuts to Medicare would be limited to 2 percent of the program’s cost, according to a Democratic fact sheet.

Total discretionary spending in fiscal year 2012 and 2013 would be reduced by $7 billion and $3 billion, respectively, compared to current levels, according to a Democratic summary. National security cuts would account for half of those savings.

House Democrats to Obama: Ignore the debt ceiling

House Democrats are urging President Barack Obama to use the Fourteenth Amendment to raise the debt ceiling, even though such action would be constitutionally questionable (and yes, I’m aware of the arguments that the debt ceiling is unconstitutional):

Rep. James Clyburn and a group of House Democrats are urging President Barack Obama to invoke the 14th Amendment to raise the debt ceiling if Congress can’t come up with a satisfactory plan before the Tuesday deadline.

Clyburn, the third-ranking House Democrat, said Wednesday that if the president is delivered a bill to raise the debt ceiling for only a short period of time, he should instead veto it and turn to the phrase in the Constitution that says the validity of the U.S. government’s debt “shall not be questioned.”

“If that’s what lands on his desk, a short-term lifting of the ceiling, the debt ceiling, he should put it on his desk next to an executive order,” Clyburn said at a press conference. “He should sign an executive order invoking the 14th Amendment to this issue.” The Associated Press reported that he was applauded when he suggested the idea at a caucus meeting earlier in the day.

“I believe that something like this will bring calm to the American people and will bring needed stability to our financial markets,” Clyburn added, noting that President Harry Truman did it once during his presidency after Congress was unable to pass a bill to raise the debt ceiling.

Can Republicans pick up the Senate in 2012?

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, believes Republicans stand a good chance of taking control of the Senate in 2012:

Republicans need to pick up either three or four seats, depending on whether they have the vice president’s tie-breaking vote in 2013. North Dakota is all-but-switched to the GOP already. Besides North Dakota, the hardest states for Democrats to hold will be Nebraska, Montana and Missouri, in that order, because it’s hard to imagine Obama winning any of those states. Nebraska will probably feature a runaway GOP presidential victory, further damaging Sen. Ben Nelson’s (D) chances of reelection.

It’s still early, and anything (read: scandals, a changing economy and international events) could happen to alter the basic dynamics of 2012. Yet the Republicans have so many tempting Senate targets that Mitch McConnell (R-KY) could trade “minority” for “majority” in his leadership title quite easily.

Beyond ND, NE, MT and MO, Republicans have decent shots at Virginia, New Mexico and Wisconsin. These three contests appear about even right now. Virginia is likely to have a well-matched race between former governor and senator George Allen (R) and former governor and DNC chairman Tim Kaine. (Allen has to clear a primary hurdle with several Tea Party candidates, but should do so with ease next June.) New Mexico and Wisconsin may tilt Democratic eventually, but right now the contests on both sides are a muddle, and no tentative call can be made. There are also a handful of other states where the GOP could conceivably compete (Florida, Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, West Virginia and Hawaii) though at the moment Democratic incumbents or open seat candidates may have the edge.

House declines to authorize intervention in Libya

On Friday, the House of Representatives declined to authorize President Barack Obama’s illegal intervention in Libya by a 123 to 295 vote:

Members of Congress sent an embarrassing message to President Obama by voting to reject a formal authorization of the use of force in Libya.

The House on Friday voted down a resolution similar to one recently passed in the Senate expressing support for the U.S. mission by a vote of 123 to 295.

The Associated Press reported that the vote is the first time since 1999 that Congress has voted against the president’s authority to conduct a military operation.

“The president has not made the case for committing our military to the conflict in Libya,” said Ohio Rep. Mike Turner, a Republican. “The president claims these military actions do not constitute hostilities. However, the American people know otherwise.”

The rejection is an embarrassment for Obama, who has been accused by opponents of the mission of violating the 1973 War Powers Resolution by not getting congressional approval before entering the conflict.

The House also voted down a measure that would have partially defunded the operations. However, some have noted that the resolution would have actually authorized the Libya intervention. Even Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), certainly no supporter of our tendencies to play policeman to the world, spoke out against the resolution:

GOP rightly walks away from budget talks

The big story yesterday was House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Sen. Jon Kyl bolting from budget talks with their Democratic counterparts and the Obama Administration. Why? Democrats want to raise taxes in tough economic times, which even the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has said is a bad idea. It’s politically risky, given the debt ceiling is at stake; however, Republicans have reason to believe President Barack Obama isn’t serious about his own budget proposal considering CBO Director Doug Elmendorf’s exchange with Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) yesterday:

Voters not buying Democrats Medicare scare tactics

It has been conventional wisdom that Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget plan hurts Republicans and gives Democrats an advantage in the 2012 election. However, a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll suggests otherwise:

Wall Street Journal/NBC poll asks Americans whether they would be more likely or less likely to vote for a candidate who “supports changing Medicare for those under 55 to a system where people choose their insurance from a list of private health plans and the government pays a fixed amount, sometimes called a voucher, towards that cost.”

The results: 38% are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports Ryan’s Medicare reform, 37% are less likely to vote for that candidate, while 18% say it makes “no difference” in determining their vote, and 7% are not sure.

If that number stands, that’s pretty great news for Republicans.

And one could even quibble with the question wording. It uses the much feared “voucher” word, which Ryan’s reform technically isn’t. And it simply says future beneficiaries could put their voucher toward “private health plans,” potentially leaving the wrong impression that some seniors could be denied coverage in the open marketplace. The private plans would be regulated by the government and required to offer coverage to all beneficiaries.

“Clean” debt ceiling increase goes down

Last night’s vote on a “clean” increase in the national debt ceiling failed miserably, with only the most liberal Democrats in the House of Representatives voting for it:

The House overwhelmingly voted down an unconditional increase to the $14.3 trillion debt limit Tuesday, as the Republican majority delivered a symbolic rebuke to President Obama ahead of a meeting at the White House.

The vote was 318-97, with 82 Democrats joining every Republican in rejecting legislation that would have authorized $2.4 trillion in additional borrowing by the federal government. Seven Democrats voted present on the legislation.
The lopsided result was expected after Vice President Biden began bipartisan negotiations on a long-term debt-reduction plan, essentially acceding to the GOP demand that an increase in the debt ceiling be paired with fiscal reforms.

Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) advised Democrats to vote against it, despite a movement inside the caucus to gather votes to pass the increase. Others, including former Obama Administration budget director Peter Orszag, are saying that markets may need to show a panic to get the debt ceiling passed; similar to the atmosphere just before the TARP bailout.

If Congress cannot agree to pass an increase in the debt ceiling, it doesn’t mean the United States is going to face a financial armageddon, as Dean Clancy explains:

Debt ceiling vote expected later today

House Republicans will bring a measure to increase the statutory limit on the nation debt a some point later day or early evening. It’s what the Obama Administration and Democrats want; a clean bill with no spending cuts included.

Nevertheless, it is expected to fail because most Republicans rightly refuse to get behind the idea of allowing Congress to spend more money, but not do anything about spending; which has been the status quo in Washington for years.

If you haven’t already done so, call or write your respresentative in the House and ask them to vote against raising the debt ceiling.

We’ll update after the vote.

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