Debbie Stabenow And Other Democratic Senators Looking More Likely To Be Reelected

One result of the fall in popularity among Republicans in the midwest since the 2010 elections is that Democratic Senators who had previously appeared vulnerable in 2012 now have a far greater chance of winning. Michigan has been listed as a toss-up state in the fight for control of the Senate in 2012, but Debbie Stabenow’s chances for reelection now appear much stronger. Public Policy Polling reports:

The biggest beneficiaries of the Midwestern backlash toward newly elected Republican Governors might be the Democratic Senators up for reelection in those states next year. Earlier this month we found Herb Kohl and Sherrod Brown in pretty solid shape for reelection in Wisconsin and Ohio respectively, and now Debbie Stabenow’s standing is looking much improved from when PPP last polled Michigan in early December.

Stabenow’s net approval rating has improved six points to +7 (46/39) from its +1 standing (41/40) in early December. More importantly she now leads all of the Republicans we tested against her by double digits. She’s up 10 on former Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land at 48-38, 12 on former Congressman Pete Hoekstra at 50-38, 17 on former state GOP chair Saul Anuzis at 52-35, and 19 on announced candidate Randy Hekman at 52-33. The numbers against Land and Hoekstra are most telling because we also tested them against Stabenow in December. Stabenow is now doing 6 points better against Land, having led by only 4 at 45-41 on the previous poll. And she’s doing 11 points better against Hoekstra, having led by just a single point at 45-44 on the original survey.

Democrats shouuld do much better in 2012 than in 2010 as the electorate will more closely resemble that of 2008 with more young voters and minorities turning out to vote. Another advantage will be having Barack Obama on the top of the ticket. While a lot can still change, today’s polls show Obama easily beating any generic Republican. Considering the weakness which the Republican candidates have, any actual Republican candidate is likely to do even worse than the generic candidate.

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Senate Blocks Repeal Of Health Care Reform While Backing Repeal Of 1099 Requirement

For the past two years Democrats often had to live with passing legislation in the House only to see it die in the Senate. Republicans experienced this today as their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act failed on a 51-47 vote.  Now Republicans will have to hope for further help from conservative activist judges to change the law as passed by Congress.

One portion of the health care legislation was reversed with strong bipartisan support. An amendment  proposed by Michigan Democrat Debbie  Stabenow to repeal the 1099 reporting requirement passed 81-17. While the requirement to issue 1099′s to most suppliers was predicted to bring in an additional $17 billion in tax revenue, it was also felt to create far too much paperwork for small businesses.

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House Passes Temporary Medicare Fix After Senate Again Fails To Pass More Comprehensive Legislation

Nancy Pelosi’s misguided attempt to use Medicare as leverage to pass the unemployment and jobs measures in the tax-extenders bill failed. Fortunately Pelosi quickly realized there was no point in continuing this strategy when Senate Republicans again blocked passage. Forty Republicans and Ben Nelson voted against the measure, blocking the measure supported by 57 Democrats. Subsequently Pelosi backed down and the House passed the temporary Medicare fix.

While misguided, at least it can be said that Pelosi meant well, motivated by a desire to promote economic recovery, which certainly could not be said of the Republicans. After the Senate passed a Medicare fix as a separate measure, she was under the mistaken belief that she had some leverage over Senate Republicans by blocking a vote on the Senate measure.

I am surprised at how badly Pelosi misread the Republicans. Republicans were willing to vote for the Medicare “doc fix” but certainly would not be heartbroken if it failed and they could blame Democrats for destroying Medicare. Even if they were actually in support of the measure, their opposition to spending money on jobs or the unemployed certainly trumped any such feelings.

Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan (where we recently fell to the number two in unemployment, now surpassed by Nevada)  summed  up the Republican mind set here:

It is very clear that the Republicans in the Senate want this economy to fail. They see that things are beginning to turn around. You know the numbers. When this president took office, we were losing 750,000 jobs a month. … Now we are gaining jobs. … Unfortunately, and cynically [on their part], in cynical political terms, it doesn’t serve them in terms of their elections if things are beginning to turn around.

I believe when you look at this bill, which is all paid for — we raised revenues to pay for it — the one piece that is technically not paid for [is the federal unemployment benefit extensions and] that is done in a way that we have always done it, … [those are] always categorized as an emergency. And, frankly, if 15 million people without jobs is not an emergency, I don’t know what is.

Ezra Klein provided this political interpretation earlier in the day when he anticipated the loss on the jobs measures:

And still, it looks like Democrats might lose the vote today. And when I say “lose the vote,” I don’t mean that a majority of the Senate will vote against it. I mean that 58 senators, rather than 60, will support the legislation. All Republicans, and possibly Ben Nelson, appear to remain opposed. And why not? The less that Democrats appear to be doing on jobs — and the fewer jobs that Democrats actually create — the better Republicans will do in November. Substantial compromises on the bill haven’t brought any new votes, and that’s in part because Republicans see no political upside in passing the legislation.

While it made no sense for Pelosi to believe that the threat of not passing the Medicare fix would get Republicans to vote for unemployment benefits, at least she did quickly back down and get the Medicare fixed later the same day.

Getting this passed quickly was important for a number of reasons. After postponing the processing of payments since the beginning of June, Medicare began processing payments with the 21 percent cut. It will now be necessary to reissue these checks with the updated amount. Earlier in the week I saw estimates that this would cost $15 million, and this would increase with every batch of Medicare payments which must be reprocessed. The delay also increases expenses for physicians and undermines confidence in Medicare. This might lead more doctors, who now see Medicare patients at a considerable discount compared to commercial payers,  to decide against accepting Medicare patients.

Now that it is established that both parties agree that this needs to be fixed, hopefully we can also achieve a permanent fix to the Medicare payment formula before the end of the year. Attempts last year failed because the Republicans had wanted to include this cost in the cost of health care reform and use it as another bogus argument against reform. Now that health care reform has been passed hopefully the Republicans will not see further political gain in blocking a permanent fix.

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Stabenow Blasts GOP Leadership For Allowing Bunning To Block Vote on Benefits

Michigan Senator Debbie Debbie Stabenow has criticized Republican leaders following Jim Bunning’s acts late last week to block necessary spending measures. These included extensions of federal spending for unemployment benefits, COBRA subsidies, and stopping a reduction in Medicare payments which  would lead to many seniors being unable to obtain medical coverage. The Hill reports:

The senator said that by remaining silent on Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) objection to a unanimous consent motion on the bill, GOP leaders implicitly offered their support for the move.

“Where is the Republican leadership on Monday? Where will the Republican leadership be next week,” Stabenow said on a conference call with reporters organized by the Democratic leadership. “Are they going to stand up and stop this…or are they going to continue by their silence to support Sen. Bunning?”

The report provides mixed signals as to whether other Republicans were prepared to join Bunning in a filibuster or if Bunning is solely to blame for stopping the measure. It also states that Don Stewart, communications director for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, stated that “senators entered into a unanimous consent agreement for the full tax extenders bill for next week, which will include the stalled unemployment and COBRA extensions.”

The Medicare cuts which would also be postponed are a result of a flawed formula which calls for cuts based upon overall health care costs. For the last several years Congress has voted to over rule the automatic cuts. Last year House and Senate Democrats attempted to achieve a permanent fix but Republicans blocked this measure. Instead a temporary freeze on the cuts  lasting through February was enacted.

It is anticipated that if the Medicare cuts are enacted a large percentage of physicians will stop accepting new Medicare patients and reduce the number they see. In order to prevent such action this week, CMS has ordered a ten day freeze on Medicare payments under the expectation that Congress will act on this problem next week.

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Sarah Palin’s Fate And The Liberal Values Summer Office

Ok, this is really weird. I was up at the Liberal Values summer office at Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island last year when John McCain first announced Sarah Palin’s name as his running mate. Last week we decided to come up to have what should be a spectacular pre-birthday party tonight and this trip unexpectedly turned out to also be related to Palin’s career. Sarah Palin has just announced her plans to step down as governor. Damn–now who will be keeping an eye on Russia for us?

We can only speculate as to why she suddenly announced this on a Friday of a holiday weekend (assuming she was not waiting until I got back to the Grand). Maybe this is part of a plan to begin campaigning very early for the 2012 nomination–although an early start certainly did not help John Edwards. She will hardly reassure those who believe she is not qualified for national office by running with less than a full term as governor of Alaska as experience.

Maybe she is resigning because of the way she has played fast and loose with the law, with a bigger scandal being about to break. Resignation is one way to generally prevent impeachment.  I’ll be back at Grand Hotel for a long Labor Day weekend–maybe we will have an indictment by then.

Incidentally there is another connection to the Republicans with our trips to the Grand. While I was in the same suite on the day when  John Kerry chose John Edwards in 2004 and John McCain chose Sarah Palin last year, as this was a suddenly planned brief trip it was too late to get our usual suite. Instead they placed us in the Eisenhower Suite. The last time we wound up in a different room from our usual suite we were in the Nancy Reagan Suite. In some ways the Eisenhower suite is preferable. The walls are pink in here, while the Nancy Reagan Suite is very bright red.

While these two suites are tied to the Republican Party, last summer I just missed a Democratic event. A few days before coming up last summer there was a Mackinac Island for Obama event. There is also another connection to both the Democrats and scandal and our trips here. One time when we were also up for a second time the same summer and did not get our usual suite we checked out who was staying there. We saw Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow coming out of the suite we generally stay in. Her use of the room (presumably with her husband) was the first thing I thought of when her husband was later caught with a hooker outside of Detroit.

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Obama Wins Superdelegate and Takes Lead in Senate Endorsements

Earlier in the race it was about delegates. Currently the Clinton campaign stresses the popular vote. At one time Hillary even jokingly suggested gong by bowling scores. Although the Clinton campaign changes the metric by which they claim Clinton should get the nomination there’s one measure which they won’t be using for now–endorsements from their fellow Senators. The endorsement today by New Mexico Senator Jeff Bingaman now gives Obama the lead (14 to 13) over Clinton.  In endorsing Obama Bingaman wrote:

Our nation faces a daunting number of critical challenges: reasserting America’s leadership in the world, meeting our needs for energy independence, addressing global warming, making healthcare accessible and affordable, positioning our economy to effectively compete globally, and extricating ourselves from the war in Iraq, to name a few.

To make progress, we must rise above the partisanship and the issues that divide us to find common ground. We must move the country in a dramatically new direction.

I strongly believe Barack Obama is best positioned to lead the nation in that new direction.

The race for Senate endorsements will continue as eighteen Senators still have not made an endorsement. The endorsements to date are under the fold.

(more…)

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Prostitution Sting Demonstrates Midwest Thrift And Police Skills

The husband of one my Senators here in Michigan was caught in a prostitution sting:

The co-founder and former CEO of the liberal-progressive Democracy Radio and husband of U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow was caught in February by a Troy police sting aimed at catching prostitutes, according to a police report.

Thomas L. Athans was stopped Feb. 26 by undercover officers investigating a possible prostitution ring in a room at the Residence Inn near Big Beaver and Interstate 75. Athans paid a 20-year-old prostitute $150 for sex in a Troy hotel but was not arrested, according to police reports obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Detroit News.

On the positive side, this shows how thrifty we are here in the midwest. Senator Stabenow’s husband paid $150. Compare that to Elliot Spitzer paying over $4000.

On the negative side, I can’t help but recall that a few years ago I was unable to get the suite I usually stay in at Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island and found that Senator Stabenow (and presumably her husband) were staying in the room. (I might have to pick up some Retcon from Torchwood before the next time I stay in the suite to get rid of this memory.)

We also learn about how the police are able to crack these prostitution cases. Lt. Gerard Scherlinck provides an example of our police at work:

Troy’s police spotted an advertisement online at www.backpage.com which read “a young blond hottie here for your total enjoyment” in Troy under the name “Kasey.” The posting had rates for 15 minutes ($100) and by the half hour ($160) and hour ($225).

“Those are all red flags for prostitution,” Scherlinck said.

I sure am glad that our police are astute enough to break that tough code and figure out that the ad was about prostitution. A lesser mind might not have recognized those red flags or figure out what the ad was offering.

Update: In response to those who have expressed skepticism, the news account is real. There really is a Big Beaver Road in Troy.

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Granholm Gets Hat Trick: Wins Three of Three Debates

DeVos looked a little better in the third debate, but it wouldn’t take much to look better considering how poorly he did in the first two. While he managed to reduce his deer in headlights look, he could not change the fact that Granholm has ideas to improve the state while he has none.

Jennifer Granholm’s closing statement demonstrates why we should vote for her, and not Dick DeVoss:

“I’m somebody who has fought for you – for all citizens – and he is somebody who has stood on the other side of the things that I have fought for.

I fought to create jobs here and diversify our economy in Michigan. He’s elminated 1,400 jobs in Michigan when he was CEO of Amway.

I fought the policies of outsourcing and unfair trade of George Bush. He’s George Bush’s…one of their biggest backers and has supported those unfair trade policies that have hurt us.

I went to Asia to bring home 22 companies, 1,000 jobs and $200 million in investment. He went to Asia, and invested $200 million to create thousands of jobs there.

I’m somebody who strongly believes that a woman should have the right to choose. My opponent strongly believes that that right should be – that she would be criminalized – a criminal – if she chose that right even in the case of rape or incest.

I support embryonic stem cell research. He opposes it.

I support public education. He led the voucher movement to take money away from public education.

I’m somebody who believes in health care for all. His health care plan is “get a job.”

I’m somebody who believes…I will not gut public safety in order to fund business tax cuts. He incorporated his subsidiaries in Bermuda to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

There are vast differences, but I’m going to fight for YOU and for opportunity for all.

We may not all have gotten here on the same boat, but we’re in rocky seas…and we’re all in the same boat now. My opponent is an expert yachtsman. And, I believe that his philosophy – is each man for himself. But I am the captain of this ship of state…and I will bring us ALL into port. My philosophy is “all hands on deck.”

I ask for your vote on November 7.

The Truth Squad responds to DeVos’s distortions. Full debate transcript below the fold. (more…)

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Michigan Democrats Improve in Polls

We had a bit of a scare in Michigan with Dick DeVos leading Jennifer Granholm and Mike Bouchard gaining on Debbie Stabenow after winning the GOP nomination. Today’s polls are showing improvement for both Democratic candidates. Granholm has gained 8 points since earlier in the month and is now tied with DeVos at 47% each. Stabenow has increased her lead by two points and now leads Bouchard 51% to 42%. Dick DeVos is the guy standing next to Karl Rove in the picture above. Need more reasons to support Jennifer Granholm?

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