No Signs Of A Wave Election So Far

Nate Cohn looked at the small amount of generic Congressional polling there is available and concluded, consistent with other indicators, that there is no sign of a wave election this year. The polls he looked at showed an average 1.9 percent advantage for the Democrats over Republicans. Cohn wrote:

These findings bear no resemblance to the one-sided results at this point in 2010, when Republicans held a clear 4.7-point advantage, or in 2006, when Democrats were ahead by 10.1 points. The current slight Democratic edge is fairly similar to what generic ballot surveys showed in the days ahead of the 2012 presidential election.

It’s important to emphasize that these polls are of registered voters, not likely voters. Previous years’ surveys were also of registered voters. The Republicans probably have a slight advantage among the older and whiter electorate that’s likely to participate this November. But that’s a separate matter from national political conditions.

While some have predicted a Republican wave based upon Obama’s unpopularity in the polls, the fact that both Congress and the Republican Party have even worse favorability ratings must count for something. The actual result seems to be a decreased turn out at the polls in primary elections so far this year, possibly indicating that voters are fed up with everybody. There is still quite a while until the election, and an unforeseen event still might tilt things towards either party.

The lack of a Republican wave, assuming things stay as they are, should limit the expected loses by Democrats which we would normally see in the sixth year of a presidency. Unfortunately the Republicans are in a good position to take control of the Senate without a wave as the Democrats are forced to defend several Senate seats in red states which they picked up in 2008.

As it now stands, the Republicans have a very slight edge to take the Senate, but there are a number of reasons that Democratic incumbents might still hold onto enough seats to narrowly maintain control. The Hobby Lobby might get more single women to turn out to vote for the Democrats.  Republicans still could find ways to lose elections which are now close, such as with a call for nullification of federal laws by the states by the Republican Senate candidate in Iowa:

Joni Ernst, the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate in Iowa, appears to believe states can nullify federal laws. In a video obtained by The Daily Beast, Ernst said on September 13, 2013 at a form held by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition that Congress should not pass any laws “that the states would consider nullifying.”

“You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. Senator why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right…we’ve gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the Tenth Amendment’s states’ rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators—as senators or congressman—that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line.”

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Three Reasons Democrats Might Retain Control Of The Senate

Republicans have an excellent chance to gain control of the Senate this year due to a combination of Republican voters traditionally turning out in higher percentages in midterm elections and the need for Democrats to defend several seats in red states. Current projections from most sources give the Republicans a slight edge but there are a few reasons to believe that the Democrats might hold on to one or two more seats than projected, and retain control of the Senate:

1) The power of incumbency:

Democrats must hold onto seats in red states, but they are states that Democrats have won once before, even if in a presidential election year which was more favorable to Democrats. While they don’t have this advantage in 2014, having candidates running as incumbents might increase the chance of winning. Since 2000 Democratic Senate candidates have usually won reelection in the south, despite their states going heavily to the Republicans in presidential elections. Polls are showing that incumbent southern Democrats remain competitive.

2) Women voters:

Republican hostility towards reproductive rights and attempts to restrict access to contraception as well as abortion has many women voters angry, hopefully enough to turn out to vote. The Hobby Lobby decision might also motivate women.

With their Senate majority at stake in November, Democrats and allied groups are now stepping up an aggressive push to woo single women — young and old, highly educated and working class, never married, and divorced or widowed. This week they seized on the ruling by the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, five men, that family-owned corporations do not have to provide birth control in their insurance coverage, to buttress their arguments that Democrats better represent women’s interests.

But the challenge for Democrats is that many single women do not vote, especially in nonpresidential election years like this one. While voting declines across all groups in midterm contests for Congress and lower offices, the drop-off is steepest for minorities and unmarried women. The result is a turnout that is older, whiter and more conservative than in presidential years…

Single women, Democrats say, will determine whether they keep Senate seats in states including Alaska, Colorado, Iowa, Michigan and North Carolina — and with them, their Senate majority — and seize governorships in Florida, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, among other states.

The party is using advanced data-gathering techniques to identify unmarried women, especially those who have voted in presidential elections but skipped midterms. By mail, online, phone and personal contact, Democrats and their allies are spreading the word about Republicans’ opposition in Washington — and state capitals like Raleigh — to pay equity, minimum wage and college-affordability legislation; abortion and contraception rights; Planned Parenthood; and education spending.

3) Black Southern Voters:

Black southern voters have long voted Democratic, but now might turn out in high enough numbers to influence the results. Republican efforts to prevent them from voting might backfire, motivating more blacks to turn out:

Southern black voters don’t usually play a decisive role in national elections. They were systematically disenfranchised for 100 years after the end of the Civil War. Since the days of Jim Crow, a fairly unified white Southern vote has often determined the outcome of elections.

This November could be different. Nearly five decades after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, black voters in the South are poised to play a pivotal role in this year’s midterm elections. If Democrats win the South and hold the Senate, they will do so because of Southern black voters.

The timing — 50 years after the passage of the Civil Rights Act and 49 years after the passage of the Voting Rights Act — is not entirely coincidental. The trends increasing the clout of black voters reflect a complete cycle of generational replacement in the post-Jim Crow era. White voters who came of age as loyal Democrats have largely died off, while the vast majority of black voters have been able to vote for their entire adult lives — and many have developed the habit of doing so.

This year’s closest contests include North Carolina, Louisiana and Georgia. Black voters will most likely represent more than half of all Democratic voters in Louisiana and Georgia, and nearly half in North Carolina. Arkansas, another state with a large black population, is also among the competitive states…

Democrats lamented low black turnout for decades, but Southern black turnout today rivals or occasionally exceeds that of white voters. That’s in part because black voters, for the first time, have largely been eligible to vote since they turned 18. They have therefore had as many opportunities as their white counterparts to be targeted by campaigns, mobilized by interest groups or motivated by political causes.

Mr. Obama is part of the reason for higher black turnout, which surpassed white turnout nationally in the 2012 presidential election, according to the census. But black turnout had been increasing steadily, even before Mr. Obama sought the presidency. In 1998, unexpectedly high black turnout allowed Democrats to win a handful of contests in the Deep South; in 2002, Ms. Landrieu won a Senate runoff with a surge in black turnout.

The Supreme Court’s decision last year to strike down a central provision of the Voting Rights Act unleashed a wave of new laws with a disparate impact on black voters, including cuts in early voting and photo-identification requirements.

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Boehner Throws Small Business Owners Under The Bus In Order To Find Suit To File Against Obama

The weakness of Republican efforts to paint Barack Obama as a dictator who has been abusing his presidential powers have been shown to be a sham with John Boehner’s attempt to find grounds for a law suit against Obama. Boehner, in a desperate attempt to ward off the Tea Party fanatics who are pushing for impeachment, decided on filing a frivolous law suit against Obama instead. For years Republicans have made all sort of claims of executive overreach under Obama, after ignoring real cases of abuse of executive power under Bush and Cheney. With all their screaming of a dictatorial president out of control, all Boehner could come up with was a complaint that Obama postponed enforcing the penalties in the employer mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act by two years.

The biggest irony here is that Republicans opposed the Affordable Care Act and the employer mandate (despite previous Republican support for mandates before Obama called for them). Republicans are suing Obama for failing to enforce a law which they opposed. Obama granted the two year extension in order to make it easier for small business to comply with the Affordable Care Act. With this suit, Boehner and the House Republicans are taking a stand in opposition to the interests of small business owners.

Of course Republicans had no objection when George Bush made a similar delay durinig implementation of the Medicare D program. Clearly if there was any validity to any of the other Republican complaints against Obama’s use of power they would use a different case for the lawsuit. As Brian Buetler posted, John Boehner’s Lawsuit Against Obama Proves the President Isn’t Lawless.

Obama is correct in calling this a political stunt and had these comments on the do-nothing Congress:

As long as Congress will not increase wages for workers, I will go and talk to every business in America if I have to. There’s no denying a simple truth: America deserves a raise, and if you work full-time in this country, you shouldn’t live in poverty. That’s something that we all believe.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting. There are a number of Republicans, including a number in the Texas delegation, who are mad at me for taking these actions. They actually plan to sue me. Now, I don’t know which things they find most offensive — me helping to create jobs, or me raising wages, or me easing the student loan burdens, or me making sure women can find out whether they’re getting paid the same as men for doing the same job. I don’t know which of these actions really bug them.

The truth is, even with all the actions I’ve taken this year, I’m issuing executive orders at the lowest rate in more than 100 years. So it’s not clear how it is that Republicans didn’t seem to mind when President Bush took more executive actions than I did. Maybe it’s just me they don’t like. I don’t know. Maybe there’s some principle out there that I haven’t discerned, that I haven’t figure out. You hear some of them — ‘sue him,’ ‘impeach him.’ Really? Really? For what? You’re going to sue me for doing my job? Okay.

I mean, think about that. You’re going to use taxpayer money to sue me for doing my job — while you don’t do your job.

There’s a great movie called ‘The Departed’ — a little violent for kids. But there’s a scene in the movie where Mark Wahlberg — they’re on a stakeout and somehow the guy loses the guy that they’re tracking. And Wahlberg is all upset and yelling at the guy. And the guy looks up and he says, ‘Well, who are you?’ And Wahlberg says, ‘I’m the guy doing my job. You must be the other guy.’ Sometimes, I feel like saying to these guys, ‘I’m the guy doing my job, you must be the other guy.’

So rather than wage another political stunt that wastes time, wastes taxpayers’ money, I’ve got a better idea: Do something. If you’re mad at me for helping people on my own, let’s team up. Let’s pass some bills. Let’s help America together.

It is not clear what will become of this suit. The first question is whether the House has legal standing to file the suit. If it does proceed it is certainly possible that both Bush and Obama technically broke the law in extending deadlines independent of Congress. Even should there ever be a  ruling against Obama, it will not make much of a difference. By the time it works through the courts the issue will no longer matter as the temporary extension will be coming towards an end, if not already ended. It is over a pretty minor issue in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and will have no bearing on the overall law. It is a pretty empty gesture by Boehner, but he has no real grounds to support right wing rhetoric that Obama has abused executive power.

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Thoughts on Democrats Winning The House And Republicans Winning The Senate

The conventional wisdom is that the Democrats have no chance to take control of the House, and the Senate is up for grabs. Is there any chance for a better outcome?Since winning the presidency, Obama acted quickly to prevent the full fledged depression which George Bush’s economic policies were pushing us towards. Since then we have seen record corporate earnings and stock prices while unemployment, along with the Bush deficit, have fallen considerably. Those who continue to suffer in this economy due so because of Republican obstructionism. Obamacare has turned into an even greater success than its supporters dreamed while all the Republican predictions of doom failed to come about. Events in Iraq demonstrate the folly of Republican policy on Iraq while most Americans agree with Obama on keeping American troops from getting in the middle of a war between different factions in the middle east. Republicans are also out of step with the views of Americans on social issues as Republicans push for greater government intrusion in the private lives of individuals.

Unfortunately our system leads to a situation in which a majority of people can vote for Democrats in both House and Senate elections but Republicans can potentially still wind up controlling both Houses of Congress. With Republican policies being both unpopular and failures, the Democrats might take control of the House if not for factors such as gerrymandering, a concentration of Democrats in urban districts, and Republican domination of a “news” media which is increasingly being used as a right wing propaganda machine. If there is any hope that we will see a sane outcome this fall,  Bill Scher at The Week suggests one possible way the Democrats could take control of the House.

Everyone assumes that Republicans will easily hold the House in November. The dominant storyline among the chattering classes centers instead on the possibility that Republicans could seize control of the Senate from Democrats. But the rapidly escalating immigration face-off between President Barack Obama and House Republicans raises the possibility that Democrats could win back the House — even if Republicans do take the Senate

How is that possible? It’s simple: There are more competitive House races than Senate races in areas with significant Latino populations.

Last year, David Damore, a polling analyst for the firm Latino Decisions, found that there are 44 congressional districts with Republican incumbents that could be ousted if their Latino constituents flex their electoral muscle. “This includes districts where the Latino voting-age population exceeds the 2012 margin of victory or swing districts won in 2012 by President Obama and the House Republican candidate that also have notable Latino populations,” he wrote…

Immigration will probably have less of an impact in Senate races. Every competitive 2014 Senate race, with the exception of Colorado, is in a state where the Latino eligible voter population is less than five percent. Of course, in any nail-biter race, even a constituency of three percent can play an outsized role. But with so many of these races occurring in red states, embattled Senate Democrats will likely want to avoid the potential for right-wing anti-immigrant backlash. That explains why the Senate Democrats’ “Fair Shot” 2014 agenda touts raising the minimum wage, promoting equal pay, investing in manufacturing jobs, and protecting Medicare — but nothing about immigration.

In other words, the House Democratic campaign strategy and the Senate Democratic campaign strategy may run along separate tracks, one driving immigration, the other pushing the economy. One strategy could work while the other flops. That creates the possibility, however unlikely, for something completely unprecedented: a midterm election where Democrats and Republicans trade control of each congressional branch.

It is far more likely that the Republicans will take control of the Senate than the Democrats will take control of the House, with Republicans having a real chance of controlling both Houses of Congress. Republicans benefit from factors including receiving the same number of Senators from the small states which favor them as the large states which favor Democrats, along with Democrats being forced to defend several Senate seats this year which they picked up six years ago in red states.

Republican control of the Senate would be a disaster in terms of appointments, but could also wind up being harmful to the Republicans politically, as Dana Milbank pointed out:

The prevailing view is that a Republican Senate would only compound Obama’s woes by bottling up confirmations, doubling the number of investigations and chipping away at Obamacare and other legislative achievements.

Yet there’s a chance that having an all-Republican Congress would help Obama — and even some White House officials have wondered privately whether a unified Republican Congress would be better than the current environment. Republicans, without Harry Reid to blame, would own Congress — a body that inspires a high level of confidence in just 7 percent of Americans, according to a Gallup survey last month finding Congress at a new low and at the bottom of all institutions tested.

There would be no more excuses for Republicans’ failure to put forward their own health-care plan, immigration proposals, specific cuts to popular government programs, and pet causes involving abortion, birth control and gay rights. This would set up real clashes with Obama — who could employ the veto pen he hasn’t used a single time since Republicans gained control of the House in 2010 — and sharp contrasts that would put him on the winning side of public opinion.

It is not hard to imagine a Republican takeover of the Senate causing conservatives in both chambers to overreach. House Republicans would get more pressure from their base to take a swing at impeachment, because the odds of convicting Obama in the Senate would be better (if still prohibitive). Alternatively, Republican leaders, recognizing that the public will hold them responsible now that they have complete control of Congress, might try to compromise with Obama.

In the first scenario, marauding conservatives drive Republicans to oblivion in 2016 and beyond, putting Hillary Clinton in the White House. In the second scenario, Obama actually accomplishes something in his last two years.

The biggest danger to Republicans is that more voters might figure out what they are doing and what they stand for. At present only 40 percent of Americans are even aware of which party controls which House of Congress. With Republicans in control of both Houses of Congress, what they believe would be far more apparent to voters if they are allowed to pass their agenda and Obama could veto their legislation. Perhaps then more Americans would realize that the Republican economic agenda is to use government to rig the rules to transfer more wealth to the ultra-wealthy, while it is Democrats who are far more likely to support a true market economy in which people are rewarded for their work, or that Republican health care policies would once again allow insurance companies to increase their profits by denying health coverage when people are sick. Democracy would provide a solution for Republican extremism if more people were aware of what the Republicans are trying to do.

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McConnell Promises Conservatives That Republicans Will Work To Restrict Abortions If They Take Control Of Senate

With control of the Senate up for grabs, The Hill reports on one key reason why it is important for Democrats to get out to vote. Mitch McConnell vows to escalate Republican efforts to restrict reproductive rights and promote further government intrusion in the private lives, and bodies, of women:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) promised Saturday to focus more attention on limiting abortions if Republicans take control of the Senate in November.

Speaking to the National Right to Life Convention in his home state of Kentucky, the Senate’s top Republican suggested Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has blocked the upper-chamber from voting on bills that would limit women’s rights to abortion, according to conservative website Townhall.com.

But McConnell said he would push abortion-limiting legislation to pressure President Obama to take a stand on the issue.

“For six years, the president has been isolated from this growing movement,” McConnell said. “He will be forced to listen to the cause that’s brought us all here this morning. Senate Dems would be forced to take a stand.”

I fear that the Republicans will really do this, as opposed to their empty promises to work to create more jobs when they took control of the House. Undoubtedly Obama will take a stand and veto such legislation.

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Republicans Plan Frivolous Law Suit Against Barack Obama’s Use of Executive Power

After over fifty votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act the Republicans are in the need for another gimmick. John Boehner believes he has come up with a new one in suing Barack Obama for doing what he supported when Bush was president. Republicans are giving up their claimed opposition to frivolous law suits to sue Barack Obama for issuing Executive Orders despite the fact that Obama has used issues far fewer executive orders and signing statements than other recent president such as George Bush. As Paul Waldman wrote:

It’s irresistible to charge Republicans with hypocrisy, especially given the fact that they were unconcerned when the Bush administration pushed so vigorously at the limits of presidential power. Bush and his staff regularly ignored laws they preferred not to follow, often with the thinnest of justifications, whether it was claiming executive privilege to ignore congressional subpoenas or issuing 1,200 signing statements declaring the president’s intention to disregard certain parts of duly passed laws. (They pushed the limits of vice presidential power, too—Dick Cheney famously argued that since the vice president is also president of the Senate, he was a member of both the executive and legislative branches, yet actually a member of neither and thus not subject to either’s legal constraints. Seriously, he actually believed that.)

It is certainly hypocritical for Republicans to object to abuse of executive power after they backed Dick Cheney and George Bush’s claims on the Unitary Executive with virtually unlimited power. It is also notable that the problem stems from Republican abuses in the Congress which are responsible for the current gridlock which necessitates executive action.

This flip flop on executive orders includes Speaker Boehner personally:

President Obama has issued about 180 executive orders — a power that has been utilized by every president since George Washington except for the brief-tenured William Henry Harrison — and taken other executive actions. A Boehner spokesman denounced these as “a clear record of ignoring the American people’s elected representatives and exceeding his constitutional authority, which has dangerous implications for both our system of government and our economy.”

But Boehner embraced the power of a Republican president to take action, even at times when he would circumvent Congress by doing so. President George W. Bush’s issued hundreds of orders of his own over his eight years in office. In 2001 and 2007, Boehner strongly supported unilateral actions by Bush to prevent embryonic stem-cell research involving new embryos, saying the 2001 decision “preserves the sanctity of life and allows limited research that could help millions of Americans suffering from life-threatening diseases.” He endorsed a 2008 Bush executive order to limit earmarks. In the final days of Bush’s second term, he even wrote to the president asking him to use an executive order to exempt a historic steamboat from safety regulations after Congress opted not to do so.

Boehner even pushed for administrative compliance with one of President Obama’s executive orders. In 2010, he asked Obama for a progress report on implementation of an executive order banning taxpayer funding for abortion in Obamacare. In a letter to then-Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, he noted that the order had “paved the way” for the law’s passage and that the lack of update on implementation “does little to diminish widespread skepticism about the administration’s commitment to enforcing the Executive Order and preventing the law law from increasing federal support for abortion.”

Most likely this comes about in response to demands from the far right wing base. It has cost the Republicans a fortune to block most Tea Party challenges in the primaries this year. In the process the establishment Republican Party has become almost as radical as the Tea Party and is forced to pull stunts such as this. It is largely a way to appease those who are demanding impeachment after the Republicans saw how that worked for them when they tried it against Bill Clinton. I imagine many Democrats would love to see the Republicans try impeachment. For now they will have to settle for this, already using the threatened law suit to raise money.

Democrats have been more successful than Republicans in raising money so far this year with small Democratic donors contributing more to the Democrats than people like the Koch Brothers are donating to the Republicans.  This is undoubtedly coming from a small percentage of the country which is more politically engaged. Ideally we would have a higher percentage of the voters outraged by the Republican tactics and abuse of the democratic process. This is unlikely to occur as the Democrats lack the ability to make an issue out of the ways in which the Republicans abuse the system. Of course it is harder to make voters aware of such problems in a country in which only 40 percent are aware of which party controls which house of Congress.

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Obama Responds To Myth That Both Parties Are Responsible For Current Gridlock

Obama Green Lantern

There has been a lot of back and forth on line recently regarding whether Obama deserves blame for the gridlock in Washington. Ezra Klein explained the fallacies once again in the Green Lantern view of the presidency as a character with near infinite powers.  Ron Fournier continues to play the false equivalency game in trying to blame both the left and right, ignoring the considerable differences between the two and the unprecedented levels of obstructionism since Obama was elected.  He seems to think that being a typical politician and promising more than he can deliver is somehow equivalent to the Republicans deciding to oppose anything proposed by Obama from day one.

Jason Linkins suggested a more realistic view of Obama. If he isn’t Green Lantern, he might be more like Agent Coulson: “team-assembler, favorable environment provider, manager of discrete tasks and outsized personalities, quick to adapt to changing circumstances, eminently mortal, and yet (spoiler alert) at times resurrectable.” Last year Linkins wondered if Fournier could read when he made the same mistakes.

I was happy to see Obama directly respond to this at a fund raiser:

“You’ll hear if you watch the nightly news or you read the newspapers that, well, there’s gridlock, Congress is broken, approval ratings for Congress are terrible.  And there’s a tendency to say, a plague on both your houses.  But the truth of the matter is that the problem in Congress is very specific.  We have a group of folks in the Republican Party who have taken over who are so ideologically rigid, who are so committed to an economic theory that says if folks at the top do very well then everybody else is somehow going to do well; who deny the science of climate change; who don’t think making investments in early childhood education makes sense; who have repeatedly blocked raising a minimum wage so if you work full-time in this country you’re not living in poverty; who scoff at the notion that we might have a problem with women not getting paid for doing the same work that men are doing.

“They, so far, at least, have refused to budge on bipartisan legislation to fix our immigration system, despite the fact that every economist who’s looked at it says it’s going to improve our economy, cut our deficits, help spawn entrepreneurship, and alleviate great pain from millions of families all across the country.

“So the problem…is not that the Democrats are overly ideological — because the truth of the matter is, is that the Democrats in Congress have consistently been willing to compromise and reach out to the other side.  There are no radical proposals coming out from the left.  When we talk about climate change, we talk about how do we incentivize through the market greater investment in clean energy.  When we talk about immigration reform there’s no wild-eyed romanticism.  We say we’re going to be tough on the borders, but let’s also make sure that the system works to allow families to stay together…

“When we talk about taxes we don’t say we’re going to have rates in the 70 percent or 90 percent when it comes to income like existed here 50, 60 years ago.  We say let’s just make sure that those of us who have been incredibly blessed by this country are giving back to kids so that they’re getting a good start in life, so that they get early childhood education…Health care — we didn’t suddenly impose some wild, crazy system.  All we said was let’s make sure everybody has insurance. And this made the other side go nuts — the simple idea that in the wealthiest nation on Earth, nobody should go bankrupt because somebody in their family gets sick, working within a private system.

“So when you hear a false equivalence that somehow, well, Congress is just broken, it’s not true.  What’s broken right now is a Republican Party that repeatedly says no to proven, time-tested strategies to grow the economy, create more jobs, ensure fairness, open up opportunity to all people.”

Ron Fournier has been one of the more prominent journalists attacking Obama from the center with arguments based upon drawing a false equivalency. This has led to some criticism of centrists, but not all centrists have fallen for this idea that both sides are mirror images of each other. Centrists Thomas E. Mann and Norman J. Ornstein made it clear that Republicans are the problem in 2012:

We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional. In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

“Both sides do it” or “There is plenty of blame to go around” are the traditional refuges for an American news media intent on proving its lack of bias, while political scientists prefer generality and neutrality when discussing partisan polarization. Many self-styled bipartisan groups, in their search for common ground, propose solutions that move both sides to the center, a strategy that is simply untenable when one side is so far out of reach.

It is clear that the center of gravity in the Republican Party has shifted sharply to the right. Its once-legendary moderate and center-right legislators in the House and the Senate — think Bob Michel, Mickey Edwards, John Danforth, Chuck Hagel — are virtually extinct.

The post-McGovern Democratic Party, by contrast, while losing the bulk of its conservative Dixiecrat contingent in the decades after the civil rights revolution, has retained a more diverse base. Since the Clinton presidency, it has hewed to the center-left on issues from welfare reform to fiscal policy. While the Democrats may have moved from their 40-yard line to their 25, the Republicans have gone from their 40 to somewhere behind their goal post…

Today, thanks to the GOP, compromise has gone out the window in Washington. In the first two years of the Obama administration, nearly every presidential initiative met with vehement, rancorous and unanimous Republican opposition in the House and the Senate, followed by efforts to delegitimize the results and repeal the policies. The filibuster, once relegated to a handful of major national issues in a given Congress, became a routine weapon of obstruction, applied even to widely supported bills or presidential nominations. And Republicans in the Senate have abused the confirmation process to block any and every nominee to posts such as the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, solely to keep laws that were legitimately enacted from being implemented.

In the third and now fourth years of the Obama presidency, divided government has produced something closer to complete gridlock than we have ever seen in our time in Washington, with partisan divides even leading last year to America’s first credit downgrade

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Bogus GOP Report On Insurance Premiums Paid Shows How Conservative Misinformation Is Spread

Yesterday the Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee released a bogus report which claimed that only 67 percent of those who purchased health care insurance under the Affordable Care Act have paid their first month’s premium. This is despite numerous reports from insurance companies showing that over 90 percent have paid, providing a good example of how Republican misinformation gets spread.

Several sources have already debunked the Republican misinformation, such as here,  here ,and here. The Republicans appear to have come up with their falsely low number by taking the number of people who paid their premiums before the premiums were due for those who signed up in March and April. At most the reports shows that people are unlikely to pay their health insurance premiums before they are billed for them.

Needless to say, serial liars such as Rush Limbaugh and many conservative blogs have simply repeated this false information. Limbaugh even claimed that “the premiums were to have been paid by January 1st, which was the beginning of the coverage year.” This is true of policies purchased early enough in December to take effect in January, not policies purchased later in the open enrollment period. This is a perfect example of how Limbaugh and other conservative talking heads twists the facts to make their points.

Others conservative blogs such as Hot Air have questioned the misinformation spread by the House Republicans. The mainstream media has actually done worse than portions of the conservative blogosphere, repeating their usual practice of showing a false objectivity by quoting what each side says, as if the truth is always somewhere in the middle. Even The New York Times helped promote this Republican talking point in the manner in which they reported the story. Of course, unlike Fox and much of the conservative media in which the news reports echo the editorial bias, the supposedly liberal media more typically presents objective news reporting separate from the views of the editorial pages. Unfortunately in a case such as this, using false measures of objectivity in quoting both sides gives undeserved attention to totally bogus numbers presented by Republicans.

More reliable sources than House Republicans expect that over 90 percent will wind up paying their premiums, with the Obama administration wisely being conservative with predictions until the data is actually in, citing numbers between 80 and 90 percent. This will most likely allow them to ultimately show that, as in other areas where we have data, the Affordable Care Act is surpassing expectations. It is also notable that many of those who have not paid their premium have not paid because they wound up qualifying for other coverage and not needing coverage through the exchanges.

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Republicans Had To Hide Support For Fix To Affordable Care Act To Limit Attacks From The Right

The “doc fix”  has become a strange legislative tradition as Congress regularly votes to stop the automatic  cuts in physician payment called for under the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate formula. As I discussed in March, this time there were a couple of new twists which were known, but in addition it turns out that another item hidden in the bill reveals a lot about the Republican Party.

First I’ll recap what we had already known. The “doc fix” proposed to block the cuts which would have taken effect in April was for one year and included multiple other measures, including a delay in implementing change to ICD-10 diagnosis codes until at least October 2015. Physician groups actually opposed this bill because a permanent fix was also under consideration and it was feared that passing yet another temporary fix would lead to abandonment of the permanent fix (which does now appear dead).

The “doc fix” regularly passes with bipartisan support because Congress is not going to risk the backlash which would be created if many Medicare patients could no longer find physicians willing to accept them. This time the House passed the “doc fix” on a voice vote, which allows individual members to avoid being held accountable for the vote.

Over the weekend we learned why House Republicans wanted to pass this on a voice vote. Another item in the bill made some changes in the Affordable Care Act which was desired by small business and which Democrats were willing to make:

At the prodding of business organizations, House Republicans quietly secured a recent change in President Barack Obama’s health law to expand coverage choices, a striking, one-of-a-kind departure from dozens of high-decibel attempts to repeal or dismember it.

Democrats describe the change involving small-business coverage options as a straightforward improvement of the type they are eager to make, and Obama signed it into law. Republicans are loath to agree, given the strong sentiment among the rank and file that the only fix the law deserves is a burial.

“Maybe you say it helps (Obamacare), but it really helps the small businessman,” said Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., one of several physician-lawmakers among Republicans and an advocate of repeal.

No member of the House GOP leadership has publicly hailed the fix, which was tucked, at Republicans’ request, into legislation preventing a cut in payments to doctors who treat Medicare patients.

It is unclear how many members of the House rank and file knew of it because the legislation was passed by a highly unusual voice vote without debate.

This shows how dysfunctional Congress has become. Normally both parties would see it as a victory for the system that they passed a measure to make requested changes in the Affordable Care Act. However, Republicans felt compelled to hide this vote because it contradicts their public policy of only supporting repeal (having voted for repeal over fifty times). Since this became public, the Republicans have faced criticism from the right, probably making it even harder for them to vote on improvements in the Affordable Care Act in the future.

The fix which passed allows small businesses to offer policies with higher deductibles. This allows for lower premiums, and the higher deductibles are often handled separately with Medical Savings Accounts. There are also added protections in new insurance policies under the Affordable Care Act such as annual limits on out of pocket expenses and the elimination of annual and lifetime caps on coverage which help offset the problems created by higher deductibles.

If Republicans should attack the Affordable Care Act based upon including high deductible plans, keep in mind that this is exactly the type of plan which Republicans frequently advocate, and that the Republicans voted to increase the allowable deductible levels in response to requests from small business.  Democrats had no objection to the change as the limit on deductions was originally placed in the bill because it was supported by Republican Senator Olympia Snowe. In response to this addition, Snowe voted for the Affordable Care Act when in the Senate Finance Committee but ultimately voted against the bill on the Senate floor, along with every other Republican Senator.

Cross posted at The Moderate Voice

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Don’t Panic Because Nate Silver Predicts Republicans Will Take Senate

I was traveling yesterday and when I finally got on line saw a lot of panic over Nate Silver predicting that the Republicans were favored to take control of the Senate. I don’t find this terribly significant.

We already knew that there was a real possibility that the Republicans could take control of the Senate and Silver’s prediction does not provide any new information. Silver making the prediction does not mean it is any more likely to occur than it was last week. He was way off in predicting a 61 percent chance the Republicans would take control of the Senate in 2012. I hope he is wrong again.

As I noted recently, Nate Silver’s predictions in the 2012 presidential election were similar to those from other sources (ignoring the Republicans who made predictions contrary to polling results). His predictions for the Senate in 2012 were also comparable to predictions being made by others at that point. His prediction for the Senate in 2014 is comparable to predictions already made by others.

There is real reason to fear that the Republicans will take control of the Senate is year, but the news of Nate Silver predicting this does not alter what we knew before he made this prediction and does not mean that it is any more likely to occur.

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