Weekly Pulse: What Do GOP Gains Mean for Health Care? Abortion Rights?

by Lindsay Beyerstein, Media Consortium blogger

The Republicans gained ground in last night’s midterm elections, recapturing the House and gaining seats in the Senate. The future House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) wasted no time in affirming that the GOP will try to repeal health care reform.

A full-scale repeal is unlikely in the next two years because the Democrats have retained control of the White House and the Senate. However, Republicans are already making noises about shutting down the government to force the issue. The House controls the nation’s purse strings, which confers significant leverage if the majority is willing to bring the government to a screeching halt to make a point.

Don’t assume they’ll blink. The GOP shut down government in 1995, albeit to its own political detriment. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) and his allies have sworn a “blood oath” to shut down the government, regardless of the consequences. The Republicans may actually succeed in modifying minor aspects of the Affordable Care Act, such as the controversial 1099 reporting requirement for small business.

The most significant threat to the implementation of health care reform may be at the state level.  Republicans picked up several governorships, and the Affordable Care Act requires the cooperation of states to set up their own insurance exchanges. Hostile governors could seriously impede things.

Mixed results for radical, anti-choice senate candidates

As a group, the eight ultra-radical, anti-choice Republican Senate candidates had mixed results last night. Three wins, two sure losses, and three likely losses that haven’t been definitively called. Voters didn’t seem thrilled about electing senators who oppose a woman’s right to abortion, even in cases of rape and incest.

Two cruised to victory: Rand Paul easily defeated Democrat Jack Conway in Kentucky.  Paul is one of the most extreme the of a radical cohort. As Amie Newman reported in RH Reality Check, Paul doesn’t even believe in a woman’s right to abort to save her own life. In Florida, anti-choice standard bearer Marco Rubio defeated Independent Charlie Christ.

Another radical anti-choicer, Pat Toomey, who favors jailing abortion providers, narrowly edged out Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania.

Two were soundly defeated. Evangelical code-talker Sharron Angle lost to Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV), and anti-masturbation crusader Christine O’Donnell lost to Chris Coons in Delaware.

The last three radical anti-choice senate candidates were down, but not, out as of this morning. Democrat Sen. Michael Bennett leads Republican Ken Buck by just 15,000 votes out of over 1.5 million ballots cast, according to TPMDC. Planned Parenthood launched an 11th hour offensive against Buckbecause of his retrograde stances on abortion, sexual assault, and other women’s issues, as Joseph Boven reports for the Colorado Independent.

This morning, Tea Party Republican Joe Miller was trailing behind incumbent Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who challenged him as an Independent, but no winner had been declared. In Washington State, Democrat Sen. Patti Murray maintains a 1% lead over radical anti-choicer Republican Dino Rossi.

Are fertilized eggs people in Colorado?

Coloradans won a decisive victory for reproductive rights last night. Fertilized eggs are still not peoplein Colorado, as Jodi Jacobson reports for RH Reality Check.

Amendment 62, which would have conferred full person status from the moment of conception, thereby outlawing abortion and in vitro fertilization. It also called into question the legality of many forms of birth control, including an array of medical procedures for pregnant women that might harm their fetuses. The proposed amendment was resoundingly defeated: 72% against to 28% in favor. This is the second time Colorado voters have rejected an egg-as-person amendment.

Blue Dogs and anti-choice Dems feel the pain

Last night was brutal for corporatist Democrats who fought the more progressive options for health care reform and Democrats who put their anti-choice ideology ahead passing health care. In AlterNet, Sarah Seltzer reports only 12 of the 34 Democrats who voted against health care reform hung on to their seats. The Blue Dog caucus was halved overnight from 56 to 24. Nick Baumann of Mother Jonesspeculated that the midterms would mark the end of the Stupak bloc, the coalition of anti-choice Democrats whose last-minute brinksmanship could have derailed health care reform.

Did foot-dragging on health care hurt Democrats?

Jamelle Bouie suggests at TAPPED that Democrats shot themselves in the foot by passing a health care reform bill that won’t provide tangible benefits to most people for years. The exchanges that are supposed to provide affordable insurance for millions of Americans won’t be up and running until 2014.

In Summer 2009, Former DNC chair Howard Dean predicted that the Democrats would be penalized at the polls if they failed to deliver tangible benefits from health care reform before the midterm elections. That’s why Dean suggested expanding the public health insurance programs we already have, rather than creating insurance exchanges from scratch.

Sink, sunk by Scott

Andy Kroll of Mother Jones profiles Rick Scott, the billionaire health clinic mogul, corporate fraudster, and enemy of health care reform who spent over $50 million of his own money to eke out a very narrow victory over Democrat Alex Sink in the Florida governor’s race.

Apparently, many Floridians were willing to overlook the fact that Scott had to pay a $1.7 billion fine for defrauding Medicare, the largest fine of its kind in history. Scott also spent $5 million of his own money to found Conservatives for Patients’ Rights, one of the leading independent groups opposing health care reform.

Pot isn’t legalized in California

California defeated Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana for personal use. David Borden of DRCnet, a pro-legalization group, writes in AlterNet that the fight over Prop 19 brought legalization into the political mainstream, even if the measure didn’t prevail at the polls. The initiative won the backing of the California NAACP, SEIU California, the National Black Police Association, and the National Latino Officers Association and other established groups.

So, what’s next for health care reform? The question everyone is asking is whether John Boehner will cave to the extremists in his own party and attempt a full-scale government shutdown, or whether the Republicans will content themselves with extracting piecemeal modifications of the health care law.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about health care by membersof The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Pulse for a complete list of articles on health care reform, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, health care and immigration issues, check out The AuditThe Mulch, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Is Anyone Else Frightened By Tea-Partiers in Congress?

Recently, I've come to the realization that it is inevitable we are going to have a few tea party "patriots" in Congress after the midterm elections tomorrow.  Whether it be the rabble-rousing 5 o'clock shadow known as Joe Miller in Alaska, or fundamentalist Floridian Marco Rubio, a candidate bearing the tea party dark mark will no doubt find themselves inside the hallowed halls of the Capitol building.

The regressive, and sometimes radical, views of candidates like Miller are what genuinely scares me a bit when discussing their potential to get elected into the major legislative body of our United States of America. Miller holds strictly conservative, and many times embarrassing, views on homosexuality.  He came under fire earlier in October when it was leaked that he had an anti-gay activist on his campaign's payroll. 

According to Miller's campaign disclosure forms, Miller has paid Terry Moffitt of High Point, North Carolina, $2500 for consulting services. Moffitt is not known as a political consultant. But he is a man of many interests. He's been a dean at a Christian high school (where hetaught creationism), and he has traveled around the world to promote Christianity. (He refers to himself as the "Christian Indiana Jones.")

Moffitt's Family Policy Network runs a project called "Hope for Homosexuals"  that encourages "practicing homosexuals to 'come out' of that destructive lifestyle, and to 'come home' to the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ…While the homosexuals celebrate their perversions, they are confronted with the truth that there is hope for deliverance in Jesus Christ."

Source: Mother Jones

And then you have people like John Raese, who is currently running on the Republican ballot in West Virginia for Senate.  Raese believes we don't need public education, and therefore is in favor of abolishing the Department of Education.  This is a horrible and preposterous idea, and for a state like West Virginia it would be detrimental to the entire education system.  West Virginia would fall even further down the education ladder.  What would happen to the children who receive free and reduced lunches at schools that are publicly funded? Raese's plan is a "voucher" system with many private and charter schools being instituted.  Nobody knows where the money will come from.  The kids who can't afford it will, I suppose, not attend school.

Raese is also in favor of getting rid of the minimum-wage, Department of Energy, and would rather make money than create jobs.  Class act. 

Are these really the kind of people we need in Congress?  No, but unfortunately some of them may be on their way to Washington.

 

Weekly Diaspora: Will Immigration Reform Bills Bring Voters to the Polls?

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

Riding the media blitz that followed the DREAM Act’s recent defeat, Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and Orrin Hatch (R-UT) unveiled their own comprehensive immigration reform bills just before Congress adjourned last week. The bills are enforcement-heavy, party-line bills that were immediately referred to committee, where they are expected to languish for some time.

Few expect much to come of either bill, given their untimely introduction and the broad failure of previous immigration reform efforts. Rather, these bills are perceived as last-ditch attempts to score political points before midterm elections. The Menendez bill could net support for Democrats from an increasingly unmotivated Latino electorate, conversely, Hatch’s bill reinforces the hard-line immigration stance so popular among Republican voters.

The Menendez Bill: Two steps forward, one step back

While the Menendez bill was introduced with the strong support of major immigration reform groups like the National Immigration Forum, others regard it as a disappointing mixed bag of talking points.

The bill has several high points, like its inclusion of AgJOBS and the DREAM Act, but is heavy on the kinds of federal immigration enforcement that immigrant rights advocates abhor. As Prerna Lal at Change.org writes:

[The bill] starts with border enforcement, followed by interior enforcement, then worksite enforcement, before actually reforming the system and moving forward with the legalization of undocumented immigrants. […] The biggest downfall of the bill is probably that it does not do much to address the ever-growing immigrant detention complex and, instead, mandates a system that criminalizes immigrants.

Likening it to the failed Schumer-Graham bill of last spring, Lal notes that the bill’s prioritization of enforcement isn’t bi-partisan so much as a slap in the face of those who have fought hardest for comprehensive reform. Nevertheless, the Menendez Bill succeeds where its Democratic predecessor—the Guttieriez bill—failed: It provides a path to citizenship for undocumented partners of LGBT citizens.

While it remains unlikely that the bill will ever become law as is, Menendez introduced it into Senate to remind Latinos which party is on their side this election season.

The Hatch Bill: Revving up the base with more of the same

Orrin Hatch admits even more frankly that he only introduced an immigration bill because he wanted to stir up his base. In his own words, the bill is “just for show.”

Accordingly—and as Elise Foley of the Washington Independent notes—his bill doesn’t do much of anything except reinforce existing immigration laws and practices:

Immigration advocacy groups were critical of the bill, calling it “dog whistle rhetoric” to gin up his base. “His bill doesn’t offer serious solutions,” Ali Noorani, executive director of the National Immigration Forum said in a press release. “Instead it duplicates work already being done on enforcement and won’t solve the crisis it purports to address.”

The bill does propose boosting enforcement in some areas—for instance, requiring all law enforcement agencies to deputize their officers as immigration agents—but on the whole appears to be little more than the political ploy Hatch says it is.

Where are the Latino voters?

Whether either bill will have much of an impact on voters, however, is up for debate. A new report released by the Pew Hispanic Center reveals that, while Latino voters still largely identify as Democrats, they are much less motivated to cast their ballots this year than they have been in the past two elections. The finding is a surprising one, as reform advocates have been working hard to galvanize the Latino constituency against increasing anti-immigrant sentiment.

But weak voter motivation may have less to do with politics and more to do with the pressures accompanying a bad economy. As I wrote for Campus Progress, populations that were disproportionately hurt by the recession seem to have less overall interest in voting this November.

In particular, Latino voters with close ties to undocumented workers are experiencing some of the worst voter fallout from the recession and, under the circumstances, are becoming politically disaffected despite the highly politicized immigration debate.

Rather than motivating the bulk of Latino voters, all of the controversy surrounding anti-immigrant sentiment and policies are instead fomenting an agitated conservative base. At ColorLines, Jamilah King astutely notes that, “while Democrats had hoped incendiary anti-immigrant legislation like SB 1070 would encourage voters to come out against Republicans in protest, it seems that the opposite is happening.”

Instead, controversy surrounding SB 1070 and other measures are generating strong support among conservatives. Maricopa County, AZ Sheriff Joe Arpaio, once the figurehead of immigration enforcement in the U.S., is now proclaiming himself to be the “poster boy” of immigration as he tours the country endorsing a slew of radical conservative candidates.

There they are!

Nevertheless, reform advocates are optimistic about both the power and the will of the Latino electorate.

According to Valerie Fernandez at New America Media, organizers are registering record numbers of Latinos this year. In Arizona, where voter registration closed on Monday, a coalition of ten groups claims to have registered 22,000 new voters. It’s a remarkable accomplishment. Latino voters make up only 15 percent of all registered voters in Arizona, despite the fact that Latinos comprise 30 percent of the state’s population. 22,000 new voters could effectively double the number of Latinos voting in the state, and may significantly impact the election’s outcome.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about immigration by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Diaspora for a complete list of articles on immigration issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, environment, and health care issues, check out The Audit, The Mulch, and The Pulse . This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

 

 

Diluting The Tea Party Gene Pool

Originally posted at Cagle.

Say what you will about the tea party but it has been remarkably effective at pushing select fringe candidates to electoral victories.

In late 2009, you would have been hard pressed to find anyone in Washington who would have believed that a Republican would soon fill the Senate seat held for decades by the late Ted Kennedy.

Enter tea party-backed Scott Brown.

Brown -- a state senator at the time of his election -- was the first in what would become a long line of tea party endorsed candidates with rather colorful pasts.

There's more...

Kendrick Meek and More Endorsements, with Al Gore

MIAMI GARDENS, FLA — Kendrick Meek, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, continues to consolidate support from Florida Democrats as he receives the endorsements of Rep. Mark S. Pafford (D-West Palm Beach), Rep. Darren Soto (D-Orlando), and Rep. Scott Randolph (D-Orlando). Statements by Rep. Pafford, Rep. Soto, Rep. Randolph and Kendrick Meek follow:

Rep. Pafford (D-West Palm Beach) said, “Kendrick Meek’s career has always been defined by his commitment to the people of Florida. Like me, he has stood in opposition to big oil and offshore oil drilling to protect Florida’s coastlines. Kendrick also understands the importance of protecting another natural resource: our children. As a father I am grateful that Kendrick fought to restrict class sizes so that our children can excel. I am honored to give Kendrick my support and will continue to fight with him for Florida.”

“Kendrick Meek has a long and reliable record of supporting issues Hispanics care about, including a strong economy, advancing education through smaller class sizes, equality, and fair wages. He was a strong supporter of Justice Sotomayor’s nomination and is against the Arizona style immigration law, issues important to our community. Kendrick Meek has asked for our support and I am honored to stand by him in Central Florida,” said Rep. Soto (D-Orlando).

“Kendrick Meek has been protecting the people of Florida since his days as a Florida State Trooper. He’s not afraid to stand up and speak truth to power. In his opposition to HB 1143, Kendrick stood for all women as a champion of choice. Kendrick is committed to securing justice for every Floridian, not just the ones with big pocketbooks. I am proud to stand by Kendrick and endorse his candidacy for the U.S. Senate,” reported Rep. Randolph (D-Orlando)

“I am honored to have the support of these three outstanding public servants. They have each fought tirelessly for the state of Florida and aren’t afraid to stand their ground on tough issues. These three men work relentlessly to protect the people of Florida because they understand what’s at stake. They are leaders who have strong roots in Florida and in their communities. I value their vision and their insight as principled men of character. Florida is fortunate to have them and I am honored to receive their support,” said Kendrick Meek, Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate.

Our campaign has also picked up the support of Al Gore, as he writes.

Florida has had its share of close elections, but this Senate race really ought to be a landslide. And it would be if people just look hard at the facts.

Kendrick Meek is the only one in this race who has consistently opposed offshore drilling. He is the only one who will ensure that we all have quality health care, and the only one who will focus on helping working Americans, rather than wealthy corporations.

Here is the bottom line: We have to help make sure Florida voters have all the facts about Kendrick and his opponents.

We’ve got just 42 days until Election Day, and Kendrick needs your help so he can keep his ads on the air and tell it like it is. His opponents are getting all the help they need – from corporations and special interests. Kendrick relies on you–his grassroots supporters. He needs you to make a donation today so he can raise $75,000 before the critical September 30 end-of-quarter deadline.

Click here to make an immediate donation to Kendrick’s campaign. He needs his grassroots supporters to help him raise $75,000 by the September 30 deadline.

As you know, I’m working hard to raise awareness about the serious threats to our environment. One reason it’s so hard is because the polluters don’t want any protections for the environment that might reduce their profits, so they have managed thus far to kill climate change legislation that would have protected our children and grandchildren.

Unlike his opponents, Kendrick Meek never has been and never will be in the pocket of these special interests. He was against offshore drilling long before the terrible oil spill in the Gulf, and he’s always worked to protect our beaches and wildlife, research and develop energy sources like solar power, and promote a better environment.

With Kendrick in the U.S. Senate, we can rest assured that there’s somebody in Washington looking out for us. But that will happen only when he can raise the funds to stay on the air until Election Day–just 42 days away. You are an integral part of Kendrick’s campaign because he relies on you for support, not oil companies and special interests.

Please make a donation to Kendrick’s campaign today and help him reach his goal of raising $75,000 before the September 30 deadline. If he reaches this goal, I know he’ll be able to win in November.

Once people get the facts, the choice will be clear and Kendrick Meek will be the new United States Senator from Florida. With your help today, we can make sure the facts get out.

Sincerely,
Al Gore


We are also having a Rally for Kendrick Meek with former vice president Al Gore.

THURSDAY, SEPT. 30TH
DOORS OPEN: 4:45PM
TAMPA LETTER CARRIERS HALL
3003 W CYPRESS ST
TAMPA, FL 33609
RESERVED TICKETS AVAILABLE ONLINE AT http://www.kendrickmeek.com/algore
OR CALL 877-354-6335 FOR DISTRIBUTION LOCATIONS

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