Evan Bayh Becomes Lobbyist - Of Course!

MSNBC host Cenk Uygur on former Indiana Senator Evan Bayh accepting a lobbyist job after claiming there was too much money in politics.


Go Right Young Man

And we were too deferential to our most zealous supporters. During election season, Congress sought to placate those on the extreme left and motivate the base — but that meant that our final efforts before the election focused on trying to allow gays in the military, change our immigration system and repeal the George W. Bush-era tax cuts. These are legitimate issues but unlikely to resonate with moderate swing voters in a season of economic discontent. - Evan Bayh

Now that the President has returned from his 200 million dollar a day vacation the pressure will surely intensify for him to move to “the center”. What exactly does that mean? The thing that always gets me is that people say this as if this or any other Democratic President since LBJ has ever been pushing a truly progressive agenda. What these people call left most progressives consider center right. The wing-nuts have succeeded in moving the definition of a liberal to just left of their most conservative member. What this has done is cause the Dems to change their agenda from what was once truly progressive to this watered-down version of Republicanism.

I can’t imagine what the country would look like today if FDR and LBJ had not been pushing real progressive reform during periods when others were telling them to move to the right. The refrain from the right and the wealthy will always be don’t upset the status quo the system will fix itself if left to its own devices. Now you may disagree with some of the components of their agendas but who can argue that these brave men laid the foundation and increased the middle-class in this country. Democrats used to stand for groundbreaking and innovative thought to some of our most difficult challenges. Today, I don’t see that willingness for innovation or the bravery to even offer new ideas and solutions.

Let’s be clear moving to the center has never solved any major problem facing this nation. What moving to the center has done is insured that nothing gets done and this is exactly what the wing-nuts want. But why would so-called Democrats call for a move to the center? The answer is simple the corruptive influence of money in our system has had a negative effect on both parties. There is no longer one party that is willing to address the systemic problems that allow the wealthiest to profit at unprecedented rates while the rest of us are lucky to just break even.

The Bush Tax Cut debate will demonstrate for all to see how this phenomenon has affected our political system. The mere fact that we are having a discussion about whether to borrow money from China to pay for tax-cuts to give to the wealthiest 2% of our population speaks for itself. The mere fact that this President who campaigned vigorously against this very prospect is now considering allowing a compromise that will keep them in place is ludicrous. How could you not fight for this when the majority of Americans are opposed to it? This speaks volumes to what is meant by moving to the center and of where the center is. How is this the center and of what universe?

The time has come for progressives to do what the teabaggers did to the Republicans and that was to give them the balls to stand for what they believed in. When many were telling the Republicans that they would have to move to the center following two disastrous elections the teabaggers and their handlers would have none of that. The teabaggers didn’t come up with any new ideas for the Republicans but they forced them to stand on their principles-as misguided as they were. This is not the time to retreat back to some center-right agenda. The problems facing this country are too large and too important. It was the center-right that came up with a stimulus that was too small and misguided to address the problem it was created to fix. It was the center-right who came up with the debt commission recommendations that will put more burdens on the poor and middle-class to reduce the deficit. It is the center-right who believes that tax breaks and outsourcing are good for American workers and not unions. It is the center-right who wants us to believe that 8-9% unemployment is the new normal and we will just have to get use to it. It was the center-right who came up with a mandated healthcare bill that gave away the store to the same industries that were creating the problems.

After the 1994 midterm, when Democrats lost the House and Senate, Bill Clinton was told to "move to the center." He obliged by hiring the pollster Dick Morris, declaring the "era of big government is over," abandoning much of his original agenda, and making the 1996 general election about nothing more than V-chips in televisions and school uniforms....Oddly, though, after Republicans suffer losses in the first midterms they pay no attention to voices telling them to move to the center. If anything, Ronald Reagan and the two Bushes moved further right. - Robert Reich

Mr. President there comes a time in everyone’s life when despite everyone around them screaming not to do something you have to stand on what you believe in the innermost place of your heart. That time is now. You must not give in to the “voices of reason” because they are not being reasonable they are being accommodating to those who have your failure as their number one goal. How does one negotiate with someone whose sole mission is your destruction? Is it victory if they do it quickly or without pain? Is it better to lose clinging to what you believe in or winning by believing in nothing?

“Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation.” - William Lyon Phelps

The Disputed Truth

Reasons to vote no on Wall Street reform don’t hold up

Wall Street reform looks to be in as much trouble as the energy bill. Though the bill was passed out of conference, it’s actually now losing votes on the Senate floor despite the addition of Maria Cantwell. Robert Byrd’s death is one and Repub Scott Brown is two, and four others are threatening to walk.The original vote was 59-39 with Specter and Byrd not voting. Factor them in, and we can only afford to lose two votes after gaining Cantwell's. If Russ Feingold continues to filibuster, then we need all four of the remaining waverers lest the 2007-8 status quo stands and Wall Street brings down the economy again.

Brown is opposing the bill and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and the Maine twins are threatening to oppose it because of a $17.9 billion fee on big banks from the House version. Democrat Evan Bayh has also grown wishy-washy.

This is ridiculous. Big financial firms and banks have caused trillions of dollars worth of damage to this country - $700 in TARP funds, $787 billion in the stimulus, two consecutive quarters of 6% decline in US GDP, 10% unemployment – yet Repubs would risk it happening all over again rather than tax these crooks a paltry $18 billion? Puh-leaze! It's even more hypocritical when one considers the anti-bailout bleating of most of these Repubs. Here’s our chance for another Main Street bailout, and yet just as with the stimulus and unemployment extension, they’re saying no. Any good will Brown generated by introducing Elena Kagan to the Judiciary Committee yesterday is gone now.

Dodd and Franks have made some small changes to address these petty concerns, but that won't solve all the bill's political woes - and not just because Brown is still playing coy. Democratic Senator Russell Feingold of Wisconsin is also planning to vote against the legislation, as he did before conference. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) also voted against it in May, but her concerns about derivatives seem to have been addressed. Feingold, however, is almost taking the position that unless we end too-big-to-fail (and it is too bad that the bill doesn't), then we should leave the current system in place exactly as it its.

I truly admire Feingold and am happy to fundraise for his re-election campaign, but I think he's making a terrible mistake here. If the bill’s strength is already losing it votes, holding out for something better will lose even more. Give Feingold what he wants and not only do the four Republicans firm up their opposition, perhaps we lose not only Bayh but Ben Nelson as well, who voted against an initial procedural motion. That takes us from a possible 61 and passage to a ceiling of 56-57 and failure.

It made sense to filibuster in May when there was still a chance to strengthen the bill, but we’re in the end game now. Either we pass this bill or one very close to it, or we don’t pass a bill at all. This wasn’t the case before conference when the August recess was still far away, but it is the case now. If Feingold and others want to register discontent, they should vote for cloture and against the bill, but a vote against cloture is a vote for Jamie Dimon and a vote for the 2007-8 status quo.

Bayh: Reform the Filibuster, and Consider Reconciliation

I sure hope we can hold his Senate seat, but at least Evan Bayh's going out with a bang. I've never liked him and always thought he was more about political posturing than actual policy, but I found myself agreeing with almost every word he had to say on NPR's All Things Considered this afternoon.

Among other things, Bayh said that Senate cloture rules should be reformed, suggesting that perhaps the 60-vote threshold should be lowered to 55 and that filibustering Senators should be forced to truly filibuster, ala Strom Thurmond or Jimmy Stewart.

In a more surprising move, Bayh also said that while he is troubled by the idea of making partisanship even worse, health care reform might matter more, and that he will consider using budget reconciliation to pass it. He wouldn't commit to the move, but did bring it up on his own without being asked about it first. Maybe we'll get some good days out of Bayh yet.

I'll post the transcript once NPR does. I'm having trouble embedding their media player...

Weekly Pulse: Bayh-Partisanship=Giving Your Seat to a Republican

By Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium Blogger

You will be shocked, shocked to hear that a Blue Dog Democrat who made a career out of undermining his own party is sucker-punching them on his way out.  Sen. Evan Bayh of Indiana abruptly announced this week that he would not seek reelection in November. Bayh’s departure is ratcheting up insecurity in the Democratic caucus at the very moment they need to take decisive action to pass health care reform.

Bayh could easily have won a third term, but it’s unclear whether any other Democrat can hold the seat. To add insult to injury, Bayh waited until 24 hours before the filing deadline for Democratic primary candidates, sending Indiana Dems scrambling to find a candidate to run in his place. Bayh’s tardiness was calculated. Since no Democrats were ready to file by the deadline, the Indiana Democratic establishment will get to handpick Bayh’s successor.

In a call with state Democratic officials, Bayh said his abrupt departure is for the best, as Evan McMorris-Santoro reports for TPMDC. According to Bayh, he’s doing the party a favor by sparing them a contentious primary process. Thanks a lot.

What does this mean for health care reform?

What does Bayh’s departure portend for health care reform? Monica Potts of TAPPED argues that replacing a conservative Democrat like Bayh with a moderate Republican won’t make that much difference. Bayh was never a reliable Democratic vote.

But Tim Fernholtz of TAPPED dismisses this view as naive. Fernholtz predicts that, for all of Bayh’s faults, the senate will be much worse without him: “In essence, the difference between this insubstantial Hoosier and, say, [GOP hopeful] Dan Coats, is simple: You can buy off Bayh.” Bayh voted for health care reform and the stimulus, no Republican, no matter how “moderate” is going to vote that way.

Anyone who expects a moderate Republican from Indiana to support any part of the Democratic agenda is deluded. On the other hand, the Senate Democrats already passed their bill, their only remaining task would be to pass a “fix” through budget reconciliation to make changes in the legislation that would be acceptable to the House. Of course, reconciliation will be a bitter political fight. One wonders whether the demoralized Senate Democrats will have the stomach for it.

About that health care summit…

Note that congressional Republicans have yet to commit to attending the “bipartisan” health care summit that they called for. Christina Bellatoni of TPMDC reports that yesterday White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs wondered why the Republicans were for the summit before they were against it:

“Right before the president issued the invitation, the—the thing that each of these individuals was hoping for most was an opportunity to sit down on television and discuss and engage on these issues. Now, not accepting an invitation to do what they’d asked the president to do, if they decide not to, I’ll let them leap the—leap the chasm there and try to explain why they’re now opposed to what they said they wanted most to do,” Gibbs said.

Busting the filibuster

On the bright side, the Democrats still have a sizable majority in the Senate, with or without Bayh. Republicans would have to beat all 10 vulnerable Democratic incumbent senators in the next election in order to regain control of the Senate. The more immediate threat to health care reform and the Democrats’ ability to govern in general is the institutional filibuster. Structural reform is needed to break the impasse. Lawyer and author Tom Geoghegan talks with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! on strategies for busting the filibuster.

Public option resurfacing

Mike Lillis of the Washington Independent reports that four senate Democrats have thrown their lot in with progressives clamoring for a public option through reconciliation. Sens. Sherrod Brown (OH), Jeff Merkley (OR), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY) and Michael Bennet (CO) argue for the public option in an open letter to Majority Leader Harry Reid. The letter reads:

There are four fundamental reasons why we support this approach – its potential for billions of dollars in cost savings; the growing need to increase competition and lower costs for the consumer; the history of using reconciliation for significant pieces of health care legislation; and the continued public support for a public option….

Big pharma’s lobby

That’s nice, but let’s not forget who’s really in charge. In AlterNet, Paul Blumenthal recaps the sorry history of collusion between the White House, the pharmaceutical lobby group PhRMA, and the Senate. According to Blumenthal the White House steered pharmaceutical lobbyists directly to Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT), chair of the powerful Finance Committee, who was entrusted with crafting the White House’s favored version of health care reform.

Abortion and health care reform

As if we didn’t have enough to worry about, Nick Baumann of Mother Jones notes that the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) is making abortion is an obstacle to passing health care reform through reconciliation. The NRLC is insinuating that Bart Stupak (D-MI) and his coalition of anti-choice Democrats will vote against the Senate health care bill because it it’s slightly less restrictive of abortion than the bill the House passed. The good news is that it’s procedurally impossible to insert Stupak’s language into the Senate bill through reconciliation. The bad news is that Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) needs every vote she can get to pass the Senate bill and anti-choice hardliners could be an obstacle.

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