Eye on 2012: Kaine and LeMieux Announce Senate Runs

Two announcements today. Former Virginia Governor and current Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine announced that he is running for the Virginia Senate seat currently held by Senator Jim Webb who is retiring after just one term in office. Kaine will resign as DNC chair immediately. More from the Washington Post. Above is Tim Kaine's introductory video and here's a link to his website.

Meanwhile in Florida, former interim Senator George LeMieux announced that he will enter the GOP primary and seek his party's nomination in a bid to unseat the incumbent Democrat, Bill Nelson. LeMieux served 16 months in the Senate after being appointed by then-Governor Charlie Crist to fill a vacancy created when Senator Mel Martinez quit early. So far only one major candidate has declared, Florida Senate President Mike Haridopolos with others expected to join the fray.

 

 

Wall Street reform passes, Boehner's Republicans immediately call for repeal

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street reform bill just passed the Senate, 60-39. It now goes to the President for his signature. The new law won’t do nearly enough to prevent another Lehman Brothers or Bear Stearns – for instance, there’s no practical way to break up too-big-to-fail – but it improves the status quo at least somewhat and was worth passage.

And yet, the man who would be Speaker if voters choose Republican this fall is already calling for the bill’s repeal. That’s right; John Boehner thinks the government should leave Wall Street in exactly the same regulatory position that allowed it to double unemployment and seize up credit.

I understand the politics of demanding repeal of the health insurance bill. The thing’s unpopular. But voters actually care about the economy; they don’t want to lose their jobs, and they understand that the financial industry is to blame for the economic collapse. What the hell is Boehner thinking?  

“I think it ought to be repealed,” Boehner said at his weekly press conference. “There are commonsense things that you should do to plug the holes in the regulatory system that were there, and to bring more transparency to financial transactions, because transparency is like sunlight. Sunlight is the best disinfectant.”

Boehner doesn’t get it. Transparency works when we’re talking about politicians. If we don’t like what we see, we can vote them out. That’s not true of private corporations. If setting up the economy to fail isn’t illegal, it doesn’t matter how transparent it is; there’s nothing the public can do other than yell louder and louder about completely legal activities. If ever there was an industry that screamed for regulation, it’s the financial sector. Under no circumstances can John Boehner be permitted to become Speaker of the House.

And yet, he’s not alone. Senators Thune, Shelby, and LeMieux:

“If we were in a position to do something, maybe [Boehner] is right," said GOP Policy Chairman Sen. John Thune (S.D.). "We'll see if we can do something about it after the next election."

Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), the top Republican on the Banking Committee, said he “absolutely” agreed.

"If you vote against it, you know it should be repealed. It's the wrong bill. It's not reform. It ignores Fannie and Freddie. It's not going to create any jobs. It's going to create a huge bureaucracy,” Shelby said.

Sen. George LeMieux (R-Fla.) said he would look to repeal parts of the legislation.

Also Senators Graham, McCain, and Corker:

South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham called the bill a "missed opportunity" to control spending and set priorities. And Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was similarly underwhelmed, calling it "business as usual."

"No one can make a convincing argument that this legislation indeed prevents any institution from being too big to fail. You can't make that argument," he told reporters at the Captiol today. McCain's amendment, which would have mandated an end to government support of the failed companies within two years failed, 43 to 56.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, a top Republican player in the financial reform debate, slammed the Democrat-backed bill... One reporter noted that Corker had helped to craft the legislation, negotiating several provisions with Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd, and Corker acknowledged his role but quickly pivoted back to his talking points.

(McCain is right that the bill doesn't end TBTF, but mandating that the government ignore rather than break up such institutions wouldn't solve the problem either.)

Senator Alexander and possible presidential candidate Rep. Mike Pence:

TPMDC asked Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the third ranking Republican in the Senate, whether Republicans would make a concerted push to repeal the financial reform bill.

"Well, that's a good -- that's a good, that's a good question," Alexander said. "We're very disappointed with this...If we have a Congress with a majority of Republicans, and there are ways to improve it or fix it, I imagine there'll be an effort to do that."

Pence suggested much the same... What elements of the law would need to be dismantled?

"There's several aspects of that, but I can break that down for you. Let's jump off that bridge when we come to it," Pence said.

What a message. I think Democratic chances this fall just got a lot better.

Obama Doing All He Can For The Gulf, Despite Repub Criticisms

Conservatives continue to hound the President for his handling of the BP oil spill, but there continues to be no “there” there. The basic question one has to ask these critics is, what more would you have him do? What is he not doing that you think he should?

True, communication and transparency were lacking for weeks. But the only other substantive, policy-based answer critics tend to give is that the President should have waived the Jones Act and accepted the assistance of European ships, but didn’t because of his ties to labor unions. The truth, however, is that the federal government HAS accepted some foreign aid and it HAS given legitimate reasons why other aide was refused. The same cannot be said of the Gulf State governors who, despite their criticisms of the President, are not using all of the resources at their own disposal.

Prospective 2012 (though I’d wager 2016) presidential candidate Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA) said,  “It's clear the resources needed to protect our coast are still not here,” and Senator George LeMieux (R-FL) Tweeted, “State Department reports today 17 countries have offered 21 times to send aid, including skimmers. Why has the White House refused help?” I’ll get to the hypocrisy of Jindal’s criticisms, as well as those from other Gulf State governors, in a moment. First, however, here’s why Politifact rated LeMieux’s quote “barely true,” which seems to be a rather generous rating:

The State Department on June 14 released a list of [17 countries] that offered to help… The State Department also detailed what offers had been accepted.

From Mexico -- Two skimmers and 13,780 feet of boom (accepted in early May).

From Norway -- Eight skimming systems (accepted in early May).

From Netherlands -- Three sets of Koseq Rigid Sweeping Arms, which attach to the sides of ships and gather oil (accepted on May 23).

From Canada -- 9,843 feet of boom (accepted on June 4).

On June 15, Qatar, the 18th country, offered chains of containment boom and Sweden followed up on an earlier offer to provide skimmers. State Department officials also started making a distinction about the aid -- it wasn't coming for free…

The Washington Post reported about the decision to accept or decline foreign aid in its June 15 edition, noting that the decision to accept foreign aid came after weeks of delay, and that foreign governments were unsure if they should contact the government or BP. In some cases, the Post reported, the administration rejected offers because they failed to meet U.S. specifications: For example, the private consortium that serves as Norway's spill-response team uses a chemical dispersant that the Environmental Protection Agency has not approved.

In other words, Jindal, LeMieux, and right-wing bloggers are claiming that Obama refused aide and won’t tell us why despite the facts that a) he was unable to accept many of those offers because they were made to BP, not to him; b) the Coast Guard and State Department have indeed accepted some aide and c) legitimate explanations were provided for the aide that was refused.

On a similar note, if right-wing blogs and Senators are going to criticize the President because the federal government hasn’t blindly accepted all that was offered to it, they should do the same for the four affected governors, all Republicans. With the feds it’s skimmers and booms to stop the leak; with the governors it’s National Guardsmen to clean up the spill. From CBS News on Thursday:

All along the Gulf coast, local officials have been demanding more help from the federal government to fight the spill, yet the Gulf states have deployed just a fraction of the National Guard troops the Pentagon has made available, CBS News Chief Investigative Correspondent Armen Keteyian reports.

That's a particular problem for the state of Louisiana, where the Republican governor has been the most vocal about using all resources.

Gov. Bobby Jindal's message has been loud and clear, using language such as "We will only be winning this war when we're actually deploying every resource," "They (the federal government) can provide more resources" and "It's clear the resources needed to protect our coast are still not here."…

But CBS News has learned that in addition to Louisiana's 1,053 troops of 6,000, Alabama has deployed 432 troops of 3,000 available. Even fewer have been deployed in Florida - 97 troops out of 2,500 - and Mississippi - 58 troops out of 6,000…

The Coast Guard says every request to use the National Guard has been approved, usually within a day. Now Jindal's office acknowledged to CBS News the governor has not specifically asked for more Guard troops to be deployed.

At the end of the day, it would seem that policy-wise Obama is doing just about all he can to stop the leak, and that he’s certainly no more behind the curve than are the local Republican officials. Yes, he could have demanded more transparency from BP earlier; yes, he could have better communicated what his Cabinet was doing earlier than he did; and yes, perhaps he could have subjected himself to more deficit criticisms by renting or purchasing more foreign aid. But none of that would have actually stopped the leak or even slowed its rate. Maybe his leadership style needs some tweaking, but from a policy perspective, he’s doing just about all he can.

Thankfully, voters seem to get it. Only one new poll – NBC/WSJ – shows the spill affecting his approval rating, while most others show him holding steady right around 48.

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