Hey, DSCC: Quit whining about Republican obstruction

I have had it with e-mail blasts like the latest from J.B. Poersch of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee:

Republicans tried every trick in the book to block us, but Senate Democrats scored important health care reform wins in the past two weeks. We passed the Mikulski Amendment, to make sure every woman gets crucial cancer screenings. And we defeated the Senate's version of the Stupak Amendment - one of the biggest attacks on choice in a generation.

But these wins didn't faze the Republicans. A lot of what they are doing to kill the Senate's bill isn't making the headlines - but that doesn't make it any less insidious. We've pulled together facts on their latest heinous tactics in our new Obstruction Report.

The e-mail goes on about how the DSCC will save us from "roadblock Republicans":

We're tracking their each and every move so that they can't get away with it. Whether it's attempting to force the entire health care bill back to committee, bringing up inane amendments just to vote them down, or writing a manual devoted to killing the bill, Republicans will stop at nothing to derail health care reform - and destroy our Senate majority.

Click here to access the new Obstruction Report. We're tracking what they're doing - and we're not going to let them get away with it.

Yes, the Republicans are bad-faith negotiators, and that obstruction manual by Judd Gregg was a repulsive piece of work. (We dodged a bullet when Gregg didn't end up in Obama's cabinet.)

At the same time, it's been obvious all year that Senate Republicans would work as a bloc to kill any health care bill worth passing. That's why I opposed the pursuit of bipartisanship on health care and in particular the time-wasting "Gang of Six" talks on the Senate Finance Committee.

It's equally obvious that the the "roadblock Republicans" couldn't do a thing to block health care reform if there weren't a few Democrats willing to help them. In case J.B. Poersch hasn't noticed, we have 60 senators caucusing with Democrats now. Mitch McConnell and Chuck Grassley aren't preventing a bill from passing. Our problem is people like Ben Nelson, Blanche Lincoln, Mary Landrieu and Joe Lieberman. None of them will rule out joining a Republican filibuster, and because of them, an already watered-down bill is becoming worse by the day.

The Senate's version of the Stupak Amendment, which the DSCC is so proud of defeating, was the pet project of Democrat Ben Nelson. He's still threatening to block the whole bill.

Senator Tom Harkin is thinking about trying to change the filibuster rule because of "what he sees as the abuse of power by a couple members of his own party whom he said are threatening to join the minority party if their every demand is not met."

Why would I send money to the DSCC when they will turn around and spend it on behalf of senators who may block health care reform? Lincoln in particular is facing a tough campaign next year. But don't worry, the DSCC will spend millions to help her.

If I hear the DSCC promising to cut off any senator who doesn't vote for cloture on a major domestic policy bill, I will consider donating to the organization again. Otherwise, I have better things to do with my money than reward Senate Democrats who pin their own failures on "Republican obstruction." I'll donate to the individual campaigns of members of Congress who are not working against me.

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Sen. Tom Coburn Is an Evil Scumbucket

And this is why: He must hate Louisiana and her people. Coburn, whose state obviously never has had a major disaster (judging from his behavior) introduced an amendment to the Senate healthcare bill stripping it of the $300 million Mary Landrieu had had added to help Louisiana make up for what would be a catastrophic Medicaid shortfall.

Talk about kicking somebody when they're down--Louisiana seriously needs this money.

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Remembering Katrina, Forgetting The Gulf

Most of this post is from a Blue Moose Democrat piece that highlights some good coverage of the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina but laments that we only pay attention to the still struggling-Gulf Coast on the storm's anniversary and ignore that suffering the rest of the year. For the most part I stand by that point, but before getting to it, it is worth noting two encouraging things the President said in his weekly raido address yesterday. First, I was planning to ask readers to write the President and ask him to visit New Orleans several months after the anniversary in order to create attention for the issue rather than piggy backing off anniversary attention - but he beat me to it, promising to visit New Orleans before year's end. Second, he pointed out in his speech that already this year, eleven of his Cabinet officers to the region to, as the AP puts it, "inspect progress and to hear local ideas on how to speed up repairs." Bravo. Maybe we finally have a government that pays attention - indeed, the new head of FEMA, Craig Fugate, is earning bipartisan praise for cutting through the red tape that held up recovery under Bush and Blanco. If only journalists and the nation would follow that lead. Anyways, here's the post as it was written before the radio address, highlighting some great links about the recovery and struggle:

This weekend is the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina reaching Category 5 strength. I got my start as a blogger because of Katrina, launching "Wayward Episcopalian" as a personal journal during the three months I worked for the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana's Office of Disaster Response in 2006. My first foray into the liberal blogosphere started when I began cross-posting the blog's Katrina content to Daily Kos, MyDD, and Democratic Underground after returning to New Hampshire in January 2007.

Four years on, New Orleans and Mississippi are still struggling. The media will give this issue a fair amount of coverage over the next few days, but it's a shame they don't pay attention during the rest of the year. I'm a bit guilty of that myself, but it's because I covered it so much for so long that I burned out on the issue. And yet, my "Katrina fatigue" is nothing compared to the 12,000 people still homeless in New Orleans and living in abandoned buildings, twice the pre-storm homeless population. And my Katrina fatigue is nothing compared to the families who see devestation everywhere they look every day with no out and spend all day focused on battling their insurance companies.

I posted a brief recovery update at Wayward earlier this week which included a Morning Joe interview with Rep. Maxine Waters about her hearings in New Orleans and a Levees.org e-mail about Sen. Mary Landrieu asking the Pentagon to investigate the levee failures. In addition to that post, be sure to visit NPR.org to see maps, graphs, and four short but important videos showcasing abandoned neighborhoods and interviews with struggling locals - all forgotten by their nation. Yet while these videos show that neighborhoods, tourism, and employment are all suffering, they also showcase the fact that New Orleans is now one of the best cities in the county for college grads to find work in a struggling economy. (On a side note, this sort of extra content is EXACTLY the opportunity the Internet affords journalistic organizations like NPR and the New York Times, and I wish more people would take advantage of it - it's just as important as the stuff you hear on the radio or read in the actual paper.) When you're done at NPR.org, visit Climate Progress to read "The Storm of the Century (so far)," a quality history of the storm and a personal account of a relative in Pass Christian, Mississippi. And returning to NPR's bread and butter, the radio itself, here's a good story called "The Gulf Coast's Recovery: Uneven And Uneasy."

"I get up every morning and look this way," says Stephanie Bosarge, a longtime resident of Coden, Ala. "It's all gone. Everything's changed. That piece of slab there was our den, that's where we had all our Christmases."

Bosarge walks through the weeds on her family's property. She still lives just next to where her mother's house and the family's oyster business, Nelson and Sons Seafood, used to stand. The shop was over here, and as you see, what's left [is] the concrete slab," Bosarge says. "She had nine kids, and the majority of us all worked right back here at one time or other. It was the mainstay for the family."

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Bayh rolls out "Moderate Dems Working Group": Does it matter?

Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana announced plans in December to form an equivalent of the Blue Dog caucus in the Senate. Today his office rolled out the Moderate Dems Working Group:

WASHINGTON - A diverse group of 15 Senate Democrats today announced the formation of a new moderate coalition that will meet regularly to shape public policy. The group's goal is to work with the Senate leadership and the new administration to craft common-sense solutions to urgent national problems.

The Moderate Dems Working Group will meet every other Tuesday before the Democratic Caucus lunch to discuss legislative strategies and ideas. The Moderate Dems held their second meeting Tuesday to focus on the upcoming budget negotiations and the importance of passing a fiscally responsible spending plan in the Senate.

Leading the new group are Democratic Senators Evan Bayh of Indiana, Tom Carper of Delaware and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas. Both Senators Bayh and Carper were successful governors before coming to the Senate. Senators Lincoln and Carper bring bicameral experience to the group as former members of the House of Representatives. All three leaders are honorary co-chairs of Third Way, a progressive Democratic policy group, and Senators Bayh and Carper have led the centrist Democratic Leadership Council.

At the working group meeting, Senator Bayh acknowledged that such a large group was unlikely to agree on all major issues before the Senate. Yet the Moderate Dems are joined by a shared commitment to pursue pragmatic, fiscally sustainable policies across a range of issues, such as deficit containment, health care reform, the housing crisis, educational reform, energy policy and climate change.

In addition to Senators Bayh, Carper and Lincoln, others joining the group are Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet of Colorado, Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Bill Nelson of Florida, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, and Mark Warner of Virginia.

A few things jumped out at me:

15 members is a quarter of the Democratic Senate caucus. That's proportionally larger than the Blue Dog caucus in the House.

Look how many first-term senators have joined up with Bayh: McCaskill from the class of 2006 and Udall, Begich, Hagan, Shaheen and Warner from the class of 2008.

Of the Moderate Dems, only Bennet, Lincoln and Bayh are up for re-election in 2010. Lincoln and Bayh are not expected to face tough challenges.  

Of the Moderate Dems, only Lincoln, Landrieu, Begich and Ben Nelson represent states carried by John McCain. Why did the others rush to join a caucus that (based on Bayh's record) will try to water down President Barack Obama's agenda?

Back in December Matthew Yglesias advanced a very plausible hypothesis about Bayh's agenda:

With Republicans out of power, the GOP can't really block progressive change in exchange for large sums of special interest money. That creates an important market niche for Democrats willing to do the work. It was a good racket for the House Blue Dogs in 2007-2008 and there's no reason it couldn't work for Senate analogues over the next couple of years.

Bayh's press release includes a ludicrous quote from Harry Reid:

Of the working group's formation, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said, "If we are going to deliver the change Americans demanded and move our country forward, it will require the courage to get past our political differences and get to work. Established organizations like Third Way and new ventures like this group offer us a new opportunity to get things done, and I support every effort that puts real solutions above political posturing."

Raise your hand if you believe that Bayh's group is going to offer "a new opportunity to get things done."

The only good I can imagine coming of Bayh's venture is if the group gives some political cover to Democratic senators representing red or purple states, making it harder for Republicans to tie them to liberal bogeymen.

This optimistic scenario would pan out only if the Moderate Dems do not consistently vote as a bloc with Bayh. Earlier this month, David Waldman/Kagro X analyzed some Senate votes in which Bayh supported Republican amendments. If you click that link you'll see that various senators named in today's press release did not vote with the Bayh/Republican position.

For that reason, Waldman greeted today's news with a big yawn and doesn't seem worried that the Moderate Dems will do anything other than help Bayh show off how "moderate" he is.

The Russians say one should "hope for the best but prepare for the worst." As a Democrat who wants President Obama to succeed, I hope Waldman is right and the "Moderate Dems" are just using Bayh to bolster their "centrist" image.

On the other hand, if Bayh's group develops along the path envisioned by Yglesias, which I consider more likely, then Democrats really should prepare for the worst in 2010. The severe recession may make next year a tough environment for the president's party to begin with. If Democrats carrying water for corporate interests sink "the change we need," Democratic base turnout could drop significantly, as it did in 1994. Most of the Moderate Dems Working Group members will not face the voters until 2012 and 2014, but their obstruction could harm many other Congressional Democrats.

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LA-Sen: Landrieu Way Up Over Kennedy

It used to be that Republicans had a real shot at potentially taking out two Democratic senate incumbents this cycle: Senators Tim Johnson (D-SD) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA.) Well, after Johnson's triumphant return to the senate after his recovery from a brain hemorrhage, he hasn't been seen on any top 10 most vulnerable senators list for months, leaving only Landrieu among Democrats realistically seen as beatable. But now even her status as a realistic target is looking tenuous. Early this month Landrieu dropped from 4 to 6 on the Real Clear Politics senate rankings list. As the RCP analysis put it:  

6. Louisiana (D-Landrieu): Incumbent Mary Landrieu is virtually the only Democrat on the GOP's target list. While recruits from several other states passed on their races, the GOP got the candidate they want with State Treasurer John Kennedy. Still, Republican voters in the state might not be wedded to Kennedy; he only switched from the Democratic Party last year. And Landrieu's performance after Hurricane Katrina has even won her endorsements from some Republicans. Landrieu remains the favorite in the race, but, given the state's new GOP nature, not by much. (Last: 4)

Expect Landrieu to fall even further down these lists now that a  new Rasmussen Reports survey out of Louisiana (500 LVs, April 9, MOE +/- 4.5%) confirms her solid popularity in the state with a remarkable 65/32 fav/unfav rating and a commanding lead over supposed top tier challenger John Kennedy.

Landrieu 55
Kennedy 39

At this rate it won't be long before the top 10 closest senate races will all be Republican seats. Great to see a bad year for Republicans get even worse.

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