The Dangers of Politicizing the Debt Ceiling Vote

In 2006, then Senator Barack Obama voted against raising the debt ceiling. At the time, he said this:

The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies.

Increasing America’s debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here. Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better.

In 2007 and in 2008, when the Senate voted to increase the limit by $850 billion and $800 billion respectively, Senator Obama did not even bother to vote. He now probably wishes he hadn't voted on the issue in 2006. Now, of course, the President is singing a different tune and rightly so.

In an interview to be aired by ABC News, President Obama has admitted that politics drove his thinking in 2006 when he voted against raising the debt limit. 

"That was just an example of a new senator making what is a political vote as opposed to doing what was important for the country," Obama said, "I'm the first one to acknowledge it."

Obama said he now understands why Republicans are concerned about voting to raise the debt limit, characterizing it as a "lousy vote." He continued, "Nobody likes to be tagged as having increased the debt limit for the United States by a trillion dollars."

The President added if Senators could see what he sees as President, they wouldn't vote against raising the limit. "As President, you start realizing...we can't play around with this stuff. This is the full faith [and] credit of the United States."

Actually it is more than the full faith and credit of the United States, it is much of what underpins the whole global economy. Senator Obama was wrong in 2006, the failure of leadership would be not to raise the debt ceiling though I have to note that no other country on Earth has the idiotic policy that the United States has of having a legal limit on the amount of bonds the central government can issue. It is a market driven event, not a political one.

Enter now, our bête noir du siècle, because the sheer stupidity and ignoble ignorance of this man far transcends that fit for a mere day, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

From The Hill:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) said on the conservative Laura Ingraham Show he is considering filibustering an upcoming vote to raise the nation's $14.3 trillion debt limit if it doesn't contain other fiscal reforms.

That could pose a conundrum for leaders in both political parties, who say it is imperative for Congress to raise the debt ceiling to prevent the government from defaulting on its debt.

DeMint, whom Tea Party activists consider a key ally, urged Republican leaders to draw the line.

"I think Republicans have to decide this is a time to start the fight," he said. "Not passing the debt ceiling is not going to cause us to default on our debt."

Well, actually, it leads to a technical default. The US Treasury would be barred from its legal authority to issue bonds that finance government despite the fact there is a global demand for US securities in the capital markets. The historically low level of real and nominal interest rates on Treasury securities is proof that there is still strong demand for Treasury securities.

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Jim DeMint Emerging as a Heavyweight in the GOP

While former Alaska Governor, Fox News media personality and Twitterer galore Sarah Palin has caused a splash with her high profile endorsements of Mama Grizzlies and Papa Bears, her record, so far, hasn't been anything to brag about. Meanwhile, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina as The State put it seems to have "the Midas touch." He's 6 and 2 overall with some of those six wins knocking off big name GOP establishment picks. If DeMint were a big game hunter, you might say he's the RINO killer.

It's true that nationwide, in the three US Senate Republican primaries in which both Palin and DeMint made endorsements, each has picked two winners — Rand Paul in Kentucky for both, Carly Fiorina in California for Palin and Dino Rossi in Washington for DeMint — but DeMint is quietly amassing key wins in other races where Palin didn't make an endorsement. While the Palin endorsed Carly Fiorina did wallop Chuck DeVore in the high profile California GOP Senate primary, DeMint has now returned the favor as his pick in Washington trounced the Palin-backed Clint Didier. 

Moreover, candidates that Palin supported in Senate races in Kansas, Wyoming and now Washington state lost their primaries despite her high-profile endorsements. Most embarrassing was the loss by Karen Handel who fell short in her runoff contest against Rep. Nathan Deal for Georgia governor just a day after Palin flew to Atlanta for a last minute appearance. Hopes of putting Handel over the top were dashed. Instead, Rep. Deal, who was backed by Mike Huckabee and Newt Gingrich, eked out a narrow win.

Now, Alaska's Senate primary on Tuesday is shaping up as another embarrassing defeat in her own backyard. Senator Lisa Murkowski is expected to dispatch the challenger Palin has endorsed in the Republican contest proving that the Murkowski dynasty still rules the roost in the Last Frontier. In New Hampshire and Maryland, Palin-backed candidates also seem headed for defeat.

DeMint, however, is riding high having backed Marco Rubio in Florida early on. His endorsement of the former Speaker of the Florida House 14 months ago when he was trailing Governor Charlie Crist badly has proved both pivotal and prescient. The Cuban-American Rubio rode the Tea Party wave and blessed with a $421,000 infusion of cash from DeMint's Senate Conservatives Fund PAC crested in the polls. As Crist faded, he was forced to leave the GOP to run as an independent. Score one for DeMint with bonus points for shooting a RINO.

DeMint publicly backed Rand Paul, the libertarian Tea Party darling, on May 5 — a day after US Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell endorsed Paul’s GOP primary opponent, Kentucky Secretary of State Trey Grayson. When the dust settled in that race, DeMint bagged his second RINO and bonus points for putting a shiner on McConnell in his home state.

The conservative South Carolinian also caused a buzz in the Beehive State. After Senator Bob Bennett was eliminated from the nominating process at the Utah State Nominating Convention, DeMint endorsed Mike Lee. DeMint's endorsement for Lee was delivered at the convention through a video message that was played for the delegates before they cast their votes on the final ballot between Mike Lee and Tim Bridgewater. So far, DeMint's PAC has contributed $217,000 to Lee who faces Utah Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission Chairman Sam Granato in the general election. 

Another contrarian pick by DeMint came in Colorado where he backed Ken Buck over the John McCain and establishment pick Jane Norton, another RINO hit. DeMint's PAC, by the way, sent $375,000 Buck's way. 

While DeMint didn’t endorse Nevada's Sharron Angle, a Tea Party favorite, until the day after her June 8 Republican primary win, he has now made up for that by contributing $312,000 to her campaign.

With these endorsements and campaign cash, DeMint has now quietly positioning himself as the de facto leader of the conservative wing of the GOP. Whether the Republicans take back the Senate or not, it's likely that come January Senator DeMint will be in a leadership role. The conservative website Red State is pushing for DeMint as the next Republican Conference Chair arguing that he is "tough as nails, and knows that the best compromise is getting the other side to concede." Red State finds such a development  to be "pure bliss."

Further down the line, Senator DeMint who will win re-election to a second term in the Fall in a cakewalk — 70 percent is not out of the question — has to be seen as a viable Vice Presidential candidate. He'll also play a decisive role come the 2012 South Carolina primary where his choice may end up as the GOP nominee. 

States React to the "Nebraska Compromise"

A number of states are pushing back against the deal that Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson secured for his state that would permanently exempt Nebraska from paying Medicaid costs with the tab being picked up the Federal government. Connecticut's Republican Governor, Jodi Rell, has asked her state's Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal, to file a lawsuit against the Federal government should Nebraska receive additional monies to finance the expansion of Medicare in the final version of the healthcare bill. From the New Haven Register:

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell has asked the state attorney general to sue the federal government if Nebraska receives extra Medicaid money in the final version of federal health care reform legislation.

In order to secure the support of Nebraska Sen. Ben Nelson for the bill, Senate Democrats included a controversial provision that allows the federal government to pick up 100 percent of the cost of Medicaid expansion in his state.

Rell, a Republican, says the inequity of that provision is "astonishing," and that Connecticut is traditionally reimbursed at a 50 percent rate for Medicaid expenses.

Medicaid is a government health care program, administered by states, for low-income people.

Rell says if Connecticut got the same deal as Nebraska, it could reap up to $262 million annually.

Beyond Connecticut, seven other states are also pushing back on the "Nebraska Compromise" which is frankly more like a "Nebraska Purchase." The Miami Herald reports that top prosecutors in seven states are probing the constitutionality of the political deal.

Attorney General Henry McMaster said he and his counterparts in Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, North Dakota, Texas and Washington state - all Republicans - are jointly taking a look at the deal they've dubbed the "Nebraska compromise."

"The Nebraska compromise, which permanently exempts Nebraska from paying Medicaid costs that Texas and all other 49 states must pay, may violate the United States Constitution - as well as other provisions of federal law," Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said.

McMaster's move comes at the request of Republican U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Jim DeMint of South Carolina.

Along with Texas, officials in Washington, Alabama, Colorado and Michigan confirmed they were working with McMaster.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem said he wasn't sure what could be done while the federal legislation remained under debate. Officials in the other states did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, Tennessee's Republican Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey called for his state's attorney general to investigate the deal.

Ramsey, McMaster and Michigan's Mike Cox are running for governor in their states.

"Whether in the court of law or in the court of public opinion, we must bring an end to this culture of corruption," McMaster said. The negotiations "on their face appear to be a form of vote buying paid for by taxpayers," he said.

McMaster is encouraging a South Carolina citizen to step forward to sue to challenge the measure if it is signed into law. "We'll assist anyone to the extent that we're able," McMaster said.

Frankly, I am not surprised by this and I wouldn't be surprised if more states take similar action. The solution is really to federalize Medicare. Since 1988, the Federal government has increasingly passed on to the states the responsibility to cover the cost-sharing burdens of many low-income Medicare beneficiaries. It's time to unburden the states especially given the incredible budgetary constraints faced by numerous states at this time.

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What's the Holdup?

Well, in a word the GOP, the party of obstructionism. If you can't get your way, paralyze government. Here are some of the holdups:

Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky is holding the nomination of Miriam Sapiro for U.S. trade representative because the Canadian Parliament is considering a ban on adding candy flavorings to cigarettes; Senator George V. Voinovich is blocking Robert Perciasepe for deputy administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency because according to the Senator the agency is underestimating the cost per household of proposed climate-change legislation; and the master of obstructionism Senator Jim DeMint is holding up  the vote on Erroll Southers to head the Transportation Security Administration over concerns the nominee would undermine safety by allowing airport security screeners to unionize.

Republicans also are tying up the nominations of Martha Johnson for administrator of the General Services Administration, Tom Shannon for ambassador to Brazil, Alan Solomont for ambassador to Spain and Paul Anastas for EPA assistant administrator.

More background on the Southers holdup from the Washington Times:

Sen. Jim DeMint has locked a "hold" on President Obama's pick to head the Transportation Security Administration over concerns the nominee would undermine safety by allowing airport security screeners to unionize, the latest in a series of appointments stymied by Republican objections that are increasingly frustrating the Senate's Democratic majority.

The South Carolina Republican single-handedly put the brakes on the nomination with a "hold" - an informal practice by which a senator can keep a nomination or legislation from going to the Senate floor. It is virtually the only weapon left in the minority's arsenal to affect the chamber's business now that Republicans don't have enough votes in their caucus to mount a filibuster on their own.

Mr. DeMint blocked the vote on Erroll Southers, a top cop at Los Angeles International Airport, because he says the nominee is ducking questions about whether he would consider reversing current policy by opening the door to unionizing the security screeners.

Critics say the change would jeopardize national security by imposing union work rules that could hamstring the government's ability to quickly adapt to evolving terrorist threats.

"It's very simple. Giving union bosses control over security at our nation's airports is dangerous and will harm our ability to respond to serious threats," Mr. DeMint said. "If President Obama's nominee will not commit to putting homeland security above the whims of union bosses, it should give everyone serious concern."

Mr. Southers, assistant chief in charge of security and intelligence at the Los Angeles airport's police department, pledged he would not support any policy that compromised security. But he has avoided giving the "yes or no" answer Mr. DeMint wanted on the union question.

Mr. DeMint, ranking Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's aviation operations, safety and security subcommittee, has kept his hold on Mr. Southers tightly focused on the nominee's reluctance to address the union question.

Mr. Southers avoided giving a definitive answer on the subject at a confirmation hearing and in an exchange of letters with Mr. DeMint.

While not saying whether he supported unionization, and noting he had previously worked as a chief officer in a unionized law enforcement agency, Mr. Southers pledged in an Oct. 14 letter to Mr. DeMint that he would put safety first in all decisions at TSA.

He said in the letter that he would not "support, recommend or endorse any system, practice or procedure that would potentially compromise the safety and security of the flying public."

Mr. DeMint characterized the response as an attempt to "hide behind rhetoric."

And Senator DeMint is attempting to disguise his visceral hate of unions as a matter of national security.

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CA Senate 2010: Carly Fiorina Is In; DeMint Endores DeVore

Oh this is too good to be true. A failed CEO wants to run for the United States Senate even as she admits that she has "not always been engaged in the electoral process." Translation: I don't vote. Way to go there Carly.

At any rate, Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of the Palo Alto-based computer giant Hewlett-Packard, joined the race for the seat currently held by Senator Barbara Boxer with an announcement in an opinion piece in the Orange County Register. She writes incredibly:

Admittedly, I have not always been engaged in the electoral process, and I should have been. For many years I felt disconnected from the decisions made in Washington and, to be honest, really didn't think my vote mattered because I didn't have a direct line of sight from my vote to a result.

Be honest there Carly perhaps you were just lazy or too tired after running a venerable company into the ground. It's unadulterated manure for you, a college-educated, corporate-trained master of the universe type, to suggest that you didn't think your vote didn't matter. You might note that David Packard, one of the founders of H-P, served in government during the Nixon Administration. Oh, but there's more:

Throughout my career I've brought people together, and I've solved problems. And that is what is needed in our government today. People who are willing to set aside ego and partisanship and instead work to develop solutions to our problems.

Oh Carly, you're such a gift from god. An ego is all you have, well that and undeserved millions at shareholder expense. Solved problems? I'm a Hewlett-Packard shareholder. I haven't forgotten what a mess you made. The stock was $52 dollars a share when you took over. When you were fired in 2005, it was $21 a share. You were given a $21 million severance package and named one of the Twenty Worst CEOs of all-time. Now, that's a distinction you truly earned. I'm also a former stock analyst. Let me rate you a "Sell and Dump."

In her announcement, Fiorina recites the usual litany of GOP complaints - the government taxes, spends and regulates too much. We have heard this since time began. Try something new.

She thinks that she is onto something when she suggests that we "put every government budget and every government bill on the Internet for every citizen to see." Carly, let me buy you a clue at the US House of Representatives or the Library of Congress' Thomas Service or perhaps the one for the body you aspire to join United States Senate. Seriously, you can't be this dumb or incurious, can you?

Until now, Senator Boxer's only announced opposition was another gift from god, California State Assemblyman Chuck DeVore. A military officer and businessman from Irvine in Orange County, he has been aggressively campaigning for months, positioning himself as the only true nutcase, excuse me, conservative in the race. And is in the NY-23 and down in Florida, the GOP appears headed for a nasty fight. It is failed failed money against a wingnut who once longingly wrote a book about a world war erupting in the Taiwan Straits. Today, uber-conseravative Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina endorsed the uber-nut DeVore. From The Hill:

"Chuck DeVore is a proven, tested conservative who is gaining momentum. He's the kind of leader who we can count on to stand up for common-sense conservative principles in the United States Senate," DeMint said on a conference call Tuesday evening. "If grassroots conservatives get behind him, he can win the primary in June and go on to defeat Barbara Boxer in November."

DeMint's political action committee, the Senate Conservatives Fund, has also endorsed fellow arch-conservative Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). DeMint himself has endorsed Rep. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), with whom he shares a media consultant, for an open Senate seat. DeMint also backed Conservative Party candidate Doug Hoffman in New York before enough pressure mounted to force the more liberal GOP nominee out of the race.

One of the most conservative members in the upper chamber, DeMint is also one of those least willing to compromise on Republican ideals. He offered a tepid endorsement of McCain in 2008 after his candidate, former Gov. Mitt Romney (R), dropped out of the presidential sweepstakes, and he has said he would rather have 30 pure conservatives in the Senate than a majority of centrists.

Help make Jim DeMint's wish of just 30 pure conservatives in the US Senate come true and help out Barbara Boxer.

It should also be noted that Senator John Cornyn, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told ABC News that the NRSC will not spend money in a contested primary. That may open the door for candidates like Rubio in Florida and DeVore in California. I'd expect the Club for Growth to raise funds on their behalf.

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