Political Highlights: May 17, 2010: Questioning Kagan, Obama Campaigns for Arlen Specter

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

The President Gives an Update on the Response to the Oil Spill

White House Photo, Chuck Kennedy, 5/14/1

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Ratings Changes – Reid’s Included – Show GOP Momentum: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s persistent vulnerability in his Nevada re-election campaign is the top takeaway from the latest race rating changes by the CQ-Roll Call elections team – the subject of today’s and tomorrow’s columns.
    But after another strong Democratic year in 2008, the tides have turned sharply in favor of a Republican rebound, this time in reaction to the assertive but politically risky agenda pursued by President Obama and the Democratic majorities in Congress. CQPolitics’ ratings in recent months have reflected this trend, as the newest changes drive home.
    Headlining the Senate ratings changes summarized below, Reid has been hurt politically by his central role as the Democrats’ point person in a series of highly partisan policy battles. With public polls continuing to show him struggling against much lesser-known candidates competing for the Republican Senate nomination in the June 8 primary, CQPolitics has changed its rating on the Nevada race to Leans Republican from Tossup…. – CQ Politics, 5-14-10
  • Voters Shifting to GOP, Poll Finds: Republicans have solidified support among voters who had drifted from the party in recent elections, putting the GOP in position for a strong comeback in November’s mid-term campaign, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll.
    Republicans have reassembled their coalition by reconnecting with independents, seniors, blue-collar voters, suburban women and small town and rural voters—all of whom had moved away from the party in the 2006 elections, in which Republicans lost control of the House. Those voter groups now favor GOP control of Congress.
    A big shift is evident among independents, who at this point in the 2006 campaign favored Democratic control of Congress rather than Republican control, 40% to 24%. In this poll, independents favored the GOP, 38% to 30%…. – WSJ, 5-13-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • Kagan’s skills well-suited to Senate hearings: Standing before the nine Supreme Court justices, Elena Kagan is forceful, quick on her feet, admits error when necessary, then goes right back at the questioner — blunt yet polite. Her style as solicitor general is likely to serve her in confirmation hearings, but only to an extent, legal and political analysts say. Kagan has exhibited the dexterity necessary to respond to tough questions in a public forum, but a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing is a more politically charged setting than the high court. “She can’t just show that she’s a super-duper lawyer for the president,” says Ken Duberstein, a chief of staff to President Reagan who handled several Supreme Court nominations. “She has to tell a life story and convey a temperament that shows she’ll be fair and impartial.”… – USA Today, 5-17-10
  • Senator says Kagan broke law at Harvard: While Senate Republicans acknowledge that they are unlikely to derail Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court, that hasn’t stopped them from testing potential lines of attack against her. Sen. Jeff Sessions (Ala.), the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, accused Kagan of violating the law when she was dean of Harvard Law School between 2003 and 2008. During her tenure, she continued the school’s restrictions on campus military recruitment because of the armed forces’ “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that bans openly gay people from serving. Sessions blasted Kagan on ABC’s “This Week” for enforcing the recruitment restrictions during a time of war, which he called “no little-bitty matter.”… – WaPo, 5-17-10
  • Obama: Democratic clean up, GOP car crashes: President Barack Obama mocked Republicans with images of cars in ditches and mopping up messes. Determined to rally Democrats, Obama told donors at a fundraiser Thursday night in New York City that his administration and congressional Democrats have tried to repair a battered economy while Republicans have remained on the sidelines. “So after (Republicans) drove the car into the ditch, made it as difficult as possible for us to pull it back, now they want the keys back,” Obama said. “You can’t drive! We don’t want to have to go back into the ditch! We just got the car out!”… – AP, 5-15-10
  • Personal ties bind Obama, Kagan President joins ranks of picking friend for court: If Elena Kagan is confirmed as the next Supreme Court justice, President Obama will have something that has become increasingly rare for presidents: a personal friend on the court. Indeed, when Obama introduced Kagan at the White House as his court nominee, it sounded almost as if he were talking about himself: a former Chicago law professor, Harvard graduate, and White Sox fan who eschewed the lucrative world of corporate law to focus on academia and public service. Obama brought her into his administration by nominating her to be solicitor general and now, after slightly more than a year in that job, he wants to elevate her to the Supreme Court. Boston Globe, 5-16-10
  • Pragmatism over partisanship? Kagan described as favoring a consensus-building, analytical style over a passion for her own ideas: Just after Election Day the fall of her senior year at Princeton, Elena Kagan published an opinion piece in the campus newspaper recounting how she had wept and gotten drunk on vodka at a campaign gathering for a liberal Brooklyn congresswoman who had unexpectedly lost a race for the Senate. Ronald Reagan was heading to the White House, and Rep. Elizabeth Holtzman — a champion for women’s causes for whom Ms. Kagan had toiled 14-hour days as a campaign press assistant — was leaving Capitol Hill. Ms. Kagan, then 20 and imbued with the liberal principles on which she had been raised, said she was flirting with despair that “there was no longer any place for the ideals we held. … I wonder how all this could possibly have happened and where on earth I’ll be able to get a job next year.”… – WaPo, 5-16-10
  • ‘General Kagan’ no newcomer to high court: Six times in the past nine months, Solicitor General Elena Kagan has come to the mahogany lectern in the hushed reverence of the Supreme Court to argue the government’s case before the justices she now hopes to join soon…. – AP, 5-15-10
  • Palin Warns NRA Obama Wants to Ban Guns: Palin, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, told National Rifle Association members during their annual meeting that the only thing stopping Obama and his Democratic allies from trying to ban guns is political backlash.
    “Don’t doubt for a minute that, if they thought they could get away with it, they would ban guns and ban ammunition and gut the Second Amendment,” said Palin, a lifelong NRA member who once had a baby shower at a local gun range in Alaska. “It’s the job of all of us at the NRA and its allies to stop them in their tracks.”… – AP, 5-14-10
  • Palin pushes abortion foes to form ‘conservative, feminist identity’ Network News: Former Alaska governor Sarah Palin told a group of women who oppose abortion rights that they are responsible for an “emerging, conservative, feminist identity” and have the power to shape politics and elections around the issue. Speaking to a breakfast gathering of the Susan B. Anthony List in downtown Washington on Friday, Palin urged more than 500 audience members to back only those candidates for public office who are uncompromisingly opposed to abortion. Palin, a potential 2012 presidential candidate, delivered calls to action to an audience dominated by women. “The mama grizzlies, they rise up,” she said, to laughter. “You thought pit bulls are tough. You don’t want to mess with the mama grizzlies. And I think there are a whole lot of those in this room.”… – WaPo, 5-14-10
  • Congressman to launch inquiry on how much oil is gushing into Gulf: A U.S. congressman said he will launch a formal inquiry Friday into how much oil is gushing into the Gulf of Mexico after learning of independent estimates that are significantly higher than the amount BP officials have provided. Rep. Edward Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said he will send a letter to BP and ask for more details from federal agencies about the methods they are using to analyze the oil leak. Markey, who chairs a congressional subcommittee on energy and the environment, said miscalculating the spill’s volume may be hampering efforts to stop it. “I am concerned that an underestimation of the oil spill’s flow may be impeding the ability to solve the leak and handle the management of the disaster,” he said in a statement Thursday. “If you don’t understand the scope of the problem, the capacity to find the answer is severely compromised.” BP officials have said 5,000 barrels per day of crude, or 210,000 gallons, have been leaking for the past three weeks…. – CNN, 5-14-10
  • Senate panel approves money for Afghan, Iraq wars: A Senate committee on Thursday approved another $33.5 billion for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq this year, although some members said they did so reluctantly. The action by the Senate Appropriations Committee is the first step toward congressional approval of the extra war spending that President Barack Obama requested in February to support his surge of 30,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan…. Chairman Daniel Inouye said he hoped the Senate would act on the legislation by the end of May. The money comes on top of about $130 billion that Congress already approved for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars through September 30 of this year…. – Reuters,
  • President’s visit makes impression at Industrial Support: After President Obama and his White House entourage left, when the television cameras were off, David Sullivan and managers at Industrial Support Inc. gathered in his office late Thursday and cracked open a few beers to celebrate one heck of a day. “Unbelievable,” said Sullivan, founder and president of Industrial Support. “The man is incredible — sharp, funny, personable. People were crying talking to him. The thing couldn’t have gone better.”… – Buffalo News, 5-13-10
  • Swipe this card; shopping could be cheaper: Striking at a lucrative bank business, the Senate on Thursday voted to force credit card companies to reduce fees for debit card transactions and permit merchants to offer customer discounts based on their payment method. The 64-33 vote inserted the fee requirement in a package of new financial rules the Senate is considering to ward off a repeat of the financial crisis. The vote was a major defeat for banks, which lobbied hard against it. But the measure attracted heavy bipartisan support and surpassed a 60-vote threshold for passage. Seventeen Republicans voted for the amendment; 10 Democrats voted against it. The measure from Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., would force credit card companies to charge businesses less for debit card transactions than for credit card payments…. – AP, 5-13-10
  • Kagan’s Link to Marshall Cuts 2 Ways: In the spring of 1988, Justice Thurgood Marshall assigned a clerk, Elena Kagan, to write a first draft of his opinion in a case considering whether a school district could charge a poor family for busing a child to the nearest school, which was 16 miles away….
    Because Ms. Kagan has never been a judge and has produced only a handful of scholarly writings, clues to her philosophy are rare. In that vacuum, liberals and conservatives alike are attributing special significance to her clerkship year with Justice Marshall, who led the civil rights movement’s legal efforts to dismantle segregation before becoming a particularly liberal Supreme Court justice.
    But while Ms. Kagan, a former board member for the Thurgood Marshall Scholarship Fund, clearly relished the experience and admired the justice as a historic figure, she appears to have had a far more ambivalent attitude toward his jurisprudence, according to a review of his papers at the Library of Congress, her comments over the years about him and interviews with her fellow clerks and colleagues…. – NYT, 5-13-10
  • Other border states shun Arizona’s immigration law They don’t see the illegal flow of people as problematic: U.S. Border Patrol vehicles patrol near the San Ysidro port of entry, late Monday in San Diego. Arizona’s sweeping new law empowering police to question and arrest anyone they suspect is in the U.S. illegally is finding little support in the other states along the Mexican border….
    Among the reasons given: California, New Mexico and Texas have long-established, politically powerful Latino communities; they have deeper cultural ties to Mexico that influence their attitudes toward immigrants; and they have little appetite for a polarizing battle over immigration like one that played out in California in the 1990s…. – Salt Lake Tribune, 5-12-10
  • Climate change bill has critics from both sides: Sens. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., and John Kerry, D-Mass., unveiled their long-delayed climate change bill Wednesday and immediately encountered liberal and conservative critics who said the measure was either an energy bailout or a danger to the American economy.
    “Those who’ve spent years stalling need to understand something: Killing a Senate bill is not the measure of success or victory, because if Congress can’t legislate a solution, the EPA will regulate one,” Kerry said, referring to the Environmental Protection Agency. “And it will come without the help to America’s businesses and consumers that is in this bill.”… – Houston Chronicle, 5-13-10
  • Big oil to get more grilling as oil gushes in Gulf: Oil execs to be grilled again by U.S. lawmakers * BP stock value drops $30 billion, underscoring uncertainty * Protests planned in several U.S. cities * Oil starting to wash up on shore, BP says…
    Top oil executives face a second day of grilling by U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday over a deadly well rupture that unleashed a huge oil slick and the specter of environmental disaster in the Gulf of Mexico… – Reuters, 5-12-10
  • As Clinton Aide, Kagan Recommended Tactical Support for an Abortion Ban: Elena Kagan, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court, once recommended to President Bill Clinton that he support a Democratic-sponsored ban on some late-term abortions as a way to defeat a stronger measure gaining momentum in the Senate.
    As a White House domestic policy aide, Ms. Kagan sent Mr. Clinton a memorandum urging him to endorse the ban sponsored by Senator Tom Daschle, Democrat of South Dakota. The memo anticipated that the Daschle plan would fail but suggested that it would provide political cover for enough senators to stick by the president when he ultimately vetoed the tougher bill sponsored by Republicans.
    “We recommend that you endorse the Daschle amendment in order to sustain your credibility on HR 1122 and prevent Congress from overriding your veto,” Ms. Kagan and her boss, Bruce Reed, said in the memo on May 13, 1997…. – NYT, 5-12-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

The President delivers the Weekly Address

White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 5/14/10

  • Weekly Address: President Obama “Wall Street Reform Will Bring Greater Security to Folks on Main Street” Remarks of President Barack Obama Saturday, May 15, 2010 Weekly Address Washington, DC: The way the system is currently set up, these banks are at a disadvantage because while they are often playing by the rules, many of their less scrupulous competitors are not. So, what reform will do is help level the playing field by making sure all our lenders – not just community banks – are subject to tough oversight. That’s good news for our community banks, which is why we’ve received letters from some of these banks in support of reform….
    That’s why Wall Street reform is so important. With reform, we’ll make our financial system more transparent by bringing the kinds of complex, backroom deals that helped trigger this crisis into the light of day. We’ll prevent banks from taking on so much risk that they could collapse and threaten our whole economy. And we’ll give shareholders more of a say on pay to help change the perverse incentives that encouraged reckless risk-taking in the first place. Put simply, Wall Street reform will bring greater security to folks on Main Street….
    Next week, we have a chance to help lay a cornerstone in that foundation. The reform bill being debated in the Senate will not solve every problem in our financial system – no bill could. But what this strong bill will do is important, and I urge the Senate to pass it as soon as possible, so we can secure America’s economic future in the 21st century…. – WH, 5-15-10
  • Obama pushes Wall Street reform with populism: President Barack Obama on Saturday called for swift Senate action on a sweeping overhaul of Wall Street rules to “secure America’s economic future” as a reform bill moves into the decisive stage next week. With months to go before November’s pivotal congressional elections, Obama pressed a populist theme of helping the “folks on Main Street” as he urged approval of tighter regulations to prevent a repeat of the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
    Obama’s Democrats and opposition Republicans are continuing to haggle over a slew of amendments, but the bill could come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate by the end of next week and is widely expected to pass.
    “The reform bill being debated in the Senate will not solve every problem in our financial system — no bill could,” Obama said in his weekly radio and Internet address. “But what this strong bill will do is important, and I urge the Senate to pass it as soon as possible, so we can secure America’s economic future in the 21st century.”… – Reuters, 5-15-10
  • Palin to Obama: ‘Do your job, secure our border’: Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin joined the national battle over Arizona’s controversial new immigration law Saturday, appearing with Gov. Jan Brewer in Phoenix to denounce the Obama administration’s criticism of the law. “It’s time for Americans across this great country to stand up and say ‘We’re all Arizonans now and, in clear unity, we say Mr. President, do your job, secure our border,'” Palin said, standing beside Brewer at a Saturday afternoon press conference…. – CNN, 5-16-10
  • Sarah Palin speaks in Rosemont: Only moments after taking the stage Wednesday at the Rosemont Theatre, former Alaska governor and conservative firebrand Sarah Palin took on officials of Highland Park High School for cancelling a trip to Arizona for its girls basketball team because of opposition to the state’s controversial new immigration law. “Keeping the girls basketball team off the court for political reasons? Those are fighting words,” Palin said. Noting the school has allowed student trips to China, Palin questioned whether school officials knew “how they treat women in China.”
    “An economic and political boycott of one of our sister states is not a way to secure our borders,” Palin said, using the title of her first book to encourage the team members to “go rogue, girls.”… – Chicago Tribune, 5-12-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Matthew Dallek “History warns Obama on primaries”: President Barack Obama is deeply enmeshed in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary….
    Obama is entangled in other Democratic primaries, as well. His White House has endorsed incumbent moderate Democrats in a handful of key midterm races. It has actively intervened in support of Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.
    Obama’s political team has pressured potential rivals to bow out of some races. The president has raised funds for his preferred candidates. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs argued, for example, that Lincoln is the president’s favored candidate because she’s the incumbent.
    Obama is not the first president to be involved in intraparty fights during midterms. Ideology and political disputes have sparked squabbling in Democratic primaries throughout the past century.
    While Obama’s efforts seem motivated by a desire to retain Democratic majorities in Congress, his predecessors often had larger policy issues that spurred them to purge their Democratic foes. But in virtually every case, the results were never good for the president… – Politico, 5-11-10

The President tours Industrial Support Inc. in Buffalo, N.Y.

The President tours Industrial Support Inc. in Buffalo, N.Y., White House Photo, Samantha Appleton, 5/13/10

Political Highlights May 10, 2010: Obama Nominates Kagan & Financial Overhaul Debates

OBAMA PRESIDENCY & 111TH CONGRESS:

The President, Vice President, and Elena Kagan

White House Photo, Lawrence Jackson, 5/10/1

IN FOCUS: STATS

  • Polls say Sestak now leads Specter in U.S. Senate race: U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter’s once seemingly insurmountable lead in the polls is gone. Reflecting a trend that developed over the last month, two new polls released Monday showed Mr. Specter trailing his challenger for the Democratic Senate nomination, U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak, a suburban Philadelphia congressman. Polls by Rasmussen Reports and the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion each showed Mr. Sestak with the support of 47 percent of likely Democratic voters and Mr. Specter with 42 percent. They come a week after a Quinnipiac University poll showed Mr. Specter’s lead had been cut from 21 percentage points in early April to 8 points early last week… – Scranton Times Tribune, 5-10-10
  • Poll: Lincoln, Boozman leading Ark. Senate race: A new poll shows incumbent U.S. Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas holding an edge over Lt. Gov. Bill Halter as both seek the Democratic nomination for the post. The Mason-Dixon poll of likely voters released Friday showed Lincoln with 44 percent support among likely voters and Halter next with 32 percent. Among eight Republicans, Congressman John Boozman led the pack with 48 percent support…. – AP, 5-7-10
  • Crist Holds 6-Point Lead as Independent in Florida Senate Race, Poll Shows: Florida Gov. Charlie Crist is holding a six-point lead in his state’s Senate race, according to a poll conducted after Crist left the Republican Party to run as an independent last week. The poll showed Crist with 38 percent support, compared with 32 percent for Rubio and 19 percent for Meek. Eleven percent were undecided. Pollster Brad Coker told the Orlando Sentinel that since most of Crist’s supporters are Democrats a large bloc of his support could abandon him as Meek raises his profile in the race. The poll showed 48 percent of Crist’s supporters were Democrats…. – Fox News, 5-6-10
  • Poll: Tea party platform fares best among GOP conservatives: The conservative “tea party” movement appeals almost exclusively to supporters of the Republican Party, bolstering the view that the tea party divides the GOP even as it has energized its base. That conclusion, backed by numbers from a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, also suggests that the tea party may have little room for growth. Most Americans — including large majorities of those who don’t already count themselves as supporters — say they’re not interested in learning more about the movement. A sizable share of those not already sympathetic to the tea party also say that the more they hear, the less they like the movement.
    Overall, the tea party remains divisive, with 27 percent of those polled saying they’re supportive but about as many, 24 percent, opposed. Supporters overwhelmingly identify themselves as Republicans or GOP-leaning independents; opponents are even more heavily Democratic. The new movement is also relatively small, with 8 percent of supporters claiming to be “active participants” — about 2 percent of the total population…. – WaPo, 5-4-10

THE HEADLINES….

  • Kagan fits Obama’s vision for the Supreme Court: With his second Supreme Court nomination in as many years, President Barack Obama has laid down clear markers of his vision for the court, one that could prove to be among his most enduring legacies….
    Kagan, 50, the solicitor general named to replace outgoing liberal Justice John Paul Stevens, would not immediately alter the ideological balance of the bench. But her addition would almost certainly provide a lasting, liberal presence, and administration officials hope she would, in the words of one, “start to move the court into a different posture and profile.”….
    Rep. Lamar Smith of San Antonio, the ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, said Kagan will have to show “that she was not chosen by the president as a political ally who will rubber-stamp his agenda — but as an impartial jurist who will uphold the Constitution’s limits on the proper role of the federal government and defend the liberties of everyday Americans.”…. – WaPo, 5-10-10
  • Republican senators pressing to end federal control of Fannie, Freddie: The total price tag for mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie MacFannie will be $145 billion, easily becoming the costliest element of the government’s rescue of the financial system.
    As the Senate resumed debate Monday on legislation to overhaul financial regulation, leading Republican lawmakers are pushing an amendment that would wind down the government-controlled mortgage finance giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The proposal by Sens. John McCain (Ariz.), Richard C. Shelby (Ala.) and Judd Gregg (N.H.) calls for the government to end its control of the companies within two years. Under the amendment, Fannie and Freddie would have to reduce the size of their mortgage portfolios and begin paying state and local sales taxes…. WaPo, 5-11-10
  • Obama Is Said to Select Kagan as Justice: President Obama will nominate Solicitor General Elena Kagan as the nation’s 112th justice, choosing his own chief advocate before the Supreme Court to join it in ruling on cases critical to his view of the country’s future, Democrats close to the White House said Sunday. After a monthlong search, Mr. Obama informed Ms. Kagan and his advisers on Sunday of his choice to succeed the retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. He plans to announce the nomination at 10 a.m. Monday in the East Room of the White House with Ms. Kagan by his side, said the Democrats, who insisted on anonymity to discuss the decision before it was formally made public…. – NYT, 5-10-10
  • A Climb Marked by Confidence and Canniness – NYT, 5-10-10
  • Holder Backs a Miranda Limit for Terror Suspects: The Obama administration said Sunday it would seek a law allowing investigators to interrogate terrorism suspects without informing them of their rights, as Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. flatly asserted that the defendant in the Times Square bombing attempt was trained by the Taliban in Pakistan. Mr. Holder proposed carving out a broad new exception to the Miranda rights established in a landmark 1966 Supreme Court ruling. It generally forbids prosecutors from using as evidence statements made before suspects have been warned that they have a right to remain silent and to consult a lawyer…. – NYT, 5-10-10
  • Oil executives face U.S. Congress on Gulf spill: Big oil goes under the spotlight on Tuesday when U.S. lawmakers grill top executives on a drilling rig explosion and oil spill that threatens an environmental catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.
    The hearings come during a desperate race against time to stem the oil gushing from a well ruptured after an explosion last month that killed 11 workers, sank the rig and set in motion the unfolding economic and ecological disaster…. – Reuters, 5-11-10
  • Reid seeks to fast-track financial overhaul bill Network News: ….”We have had a big day in the Senate,” Reid said, his voice oozing sarcasm. “Because of my Republican friends, we have been able to accomplish almost nothing — not quite, but almost nothing.”… While his frustration seemed genuine, Reid’s scolding in the empty chamber was part political theater, aimed at speeding up a top policy priority for President Obama. His remarks presaged a week in which the Senate moved forward on the landmark legislation in brief spurts of action during long periods of procedural delays and partisan bickering.
    Republicans have warned against pushing ahead too quickly with the far-reaching legislation, arguing that such haste could lead to unintended consequences that harm the very people that lawmakers are trying to help…. – WaPo, 5-10-10
  • US warns Pakistan over Times Square bomb attempt: The United States has delivered a tough new warning to Pakistan to crack down on Islamic militants or face severe consequences after the failed Times Square bombing. In a meeting on Friday between Stanley McChrystal, the US military commander in Afghanistan, and Pakistani military commander General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, General McChrystal urged Pakistan quickly to begin a military offensive against the Pakistani Taleban and al-Qaeda in North Waziristan, according to the New York Times newspaper…. – Times Online, 5-9-10
  • GOP loses consumer plan vote in Senate: Prodded by President Obama, the Senate rejected a Republican consumer protection plan yesterday that would have diluted a central element of the administration’s financial regulation package. Democrats and the president argued that the GOP proposal would have gutted consumer protections. The vote was 61 to 38, with two Republicans — Senators Olympia Snowe of Maine and Charles Grassley of Iowa — joining Democrats to defeat the GOP measure…. – Boston Globe, 5-7-10
  • Walter Hickel, former Alaska governor and Nixon Cabinet Member Walter Hickel dies at 90: Former Alaska Gov. Walter Hickel, who was Richard Nixon’s interior secretary until he was fired after criticizing the handling of Vietnam protests, has died at age 90. Longtime assistant Malcolm Roberts says Hickel died Friday night at Horizon House, an assisted living facility in Anchorage. – AP, 5-8-10
  • Origin of Wall Street’s Plunge Continues to Elude Officials: A day after a harrowing plunge in the stock market, federal regulators were still unable on Friday to answer the one question on every investor’s mind: What caused that near panic on Wall Street? Through the day and into the evening, officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission and other federal agencies hunted for clues amid a tangle of electronic trading records from the nation’s increasingly high-tech exchanges. But, maddeningly, the cause or causes of the market’s wild swing remained elusive, leaving what amounts to a $1 trillion question mark hanging over the world’s largest, and most celebrated, stock market…. – NYT, 5-8-10
  • New Justice to Confront Evolution in Powers: As President Obama prepares to nominate somebody to succeed Justice John Paul Stevens, his administration appears to be on a collision course with the Supreme Court in legal disputes that will test the limits of executive power. Those disputes — involving issues like detainee rights and secrecy — throw into sharp relief the differences in the records of several leading contenders for the nomination, including Solicitor General Elena Kagan and two appeals court judges, Merrick B. Garland and Diane P. Wood. While any plausible Democratic nominee would probably rule the same way Justice Stevens would have in many areas of law, including abortion rights and the new health care law, executive power may be an exception. Justice Stevens was a critical vote in a five-justice faction that rejected expansive assertions of executive authority by former President George W. Bush. If his successor is more sympathetic to the vantage point of the Obama White House, the balance could shift to a new bare majority that is far more willing to uphold broad presidential powers… – NYT, 5-8-10
  • Pressure on Pakistan amid fresh terror links: Alleged links between the Times Square plot and extremist networks are adding to perceptions of Pakistan as a global exporter of terrorism and increasing pressure on its military to crack down on extremists along the Afghan border.
    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Friday that Pakistan has become far more helpful in battling extremists over the past year but that cooperation could be improved.
    She also warned that the Obama administration has made it clear there will be “severe consequences” if an attack on U.S. soil is traced back to Pakistan. Clinton spoke in an interview with CBS’ “60 Minutes” to air this weekend AP, 5-8-10
  • Faithful mark prayer day at Capitol after judge’s ruling: Congress established the National Day of Prayer in 1952. But last month, a federal judge in Wisconsin declared that the government’s observance of the event is unconstitutional, calling it “an inherently religious exercise that serves no secular function.” The ruling angered many in the faith community. The Obama administration has decided to appeal the ruling. And as he did last year, President Obama issued a National Day of Prayer proclamation: “I call upon the citizens of our Nation to pray, or otherwise give thanks, in accordance with their own faiths and consciences, for our many freedoms and blessings.”…. – WaPo, 5-6-10
  • “Joe the Plumber” Wins Local GOP Elected Office: Samuel “Joe the Plumber” Wurzelbacher became famous in 2008 when the John McCain presidential campaign heralded him as an average small business owner. Now, he is an elected official himself. Wurzelbacher won one of nearly 400 seats on the Republican Party committee for northwest Ohio’s Lucas County, the Associated Press reports. The group only meets a few times a year to elect the county chairman and sets the party agenda…. – CBS News,
  • Republicans want to lift bank swaps ban: senator: Banks would be allowed to keep their lucrative swaps-trading desks under a softened set of regulations for the $450 trillion derivatives market proposed by U.S. Senate Republicans on Wednesday… – Reuters, 5-6-10
  • Financial regulations still face delays, disputes: A tentative agreement in hand, Democrats and Republicans still face an array of hurdles and uncertain timing over a Senate bill that would rein in financial institutions. While Democrats agreed to jettison a $50 billion fund to liquidate large, failing firms, disputes over consumer protections, Federal Reserve oversight and regulation of complex securities are for the moment beyond compromise. Democrats and Republicans were preparing to fight those issues out on the Senate floor.
    “They’re stalling everything we do,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid complained Tuesday evening. He called for the bill to be completed by the end of next week.
    Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell had a different timetable in mind. “I must tell you, I don’t think this is a couple-of-weeks bill,” he said. “It’s not that we don’t want to pass it, but we do want to cover the subject.”… – AP, 5-5-10
  • Chicago judge interviewed for Supreme Court vacancy: Diane Wood, a Chicago federal appeals court judge, was interviewed by President Obama on Tuesday about replacing retiring Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court, a source told the Chicago Sun-Times. Wood had a second interview with Vice President Joe Biden about the upcoming vacancy. Stevens, a Chicago native, was in Chicago on Monday to speak at a 7th Circuit lawyers and judges conference where another person in the running to replace him — Solicitor General Elena Kagan — was also on the program. Wood and Obama know each other from the days when he taught law at the University of Chicago…. – Chicago Sun Times, 5-5-10
  • Barack Obama extends US sanctions against Syria US president accuses Damascus of supporting terrorist groups and pursuing weapons of mass destruction: President Barack Obama extended US sanctions against Syria, saying yesterday it supported terrorist organisations and pursued weapons of mass destruction and missile programmes. Syria’s actions and policies “pose a continuing unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States”, Obama said in a statement…. – Guardian.co.uk, 5-4-10
  • Obama administration discloses size of U.S. nuclear arsenal: Shattering a taboo dating from the Cold War, the Obama administration revealed Monday the size of the American nuclear arsenal — 5,113 weapons — as it embarked on a campaign for tougher measures against countries with hidden nuclear programs. The figure was in line with previous estimates by arms-control groups. But Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton emphasized that it was the very disclosure of the long-held secret that was important. “We think it is in our national security interest to be as transparent as we can about the nuclear program of the United States,” she told reporters at a high-level nuclear conference in New York, where she announced the change in policy. “We think that builds confidence.”… –  WaPo, 5-3-10
  • Voting begins in Senate on Wall Street reform: The U.S. Senate will cast its first votes on Tuesday on a sweeping Wall Street reform bill, with passage of a handful of uncontroversial amendments expected and a key procedural question still unsettled. Democratic leaders had not yet determined as of late Monday whether amendments will need 50 or 60 votes to pass. The difference is important because Democrats control 59 votes in the 100-member chamber, versus the Republicans’ 41 votes…. – Reuters, 5-4-10
  • Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens silent on his replacement in speech Justice bypasses court discussion, instead talks about his beloved Cubs: In one of his last public speeches before retiring, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens on Monday bypassed talk of the court’s deep ideological divide and the battle to replace him and instead talked to a Chicago legal group about his beloved Cubs. The Chicago native recalled one of his most precious boyhood memories — watching Babe Ruth hit his famous “called shot” for the New York Yankees in the 1932 World Series with the Cubs… – Chicago Tribune, 5-4-10

ELECTIONS 2010, 2012….

  • Outside groups fuel heated Ark. Senate race: Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter of Arkansas recently complained about a Senate campaign ad in which Indian-American actors thanked him for allegedly outsourcing jobs to India. (Americans for Job Security via Associated Press); For Arkansas voters, the names on the ballot in the Democratic Senate primary election next week will be well known: US Senator Blanche Lincoln, the two-term incumbent, and her opponent, Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter, the father of the state’s lottery. But the campaign they have waged is like nothing Arkansas has seen before.
    In a state known for face-to-face politics where candidates make the rounds of small-town events such as the Gillett Coon Supper and the Slovak Oyster Supper, the race for Lincoln’s Senate seat has been overwhelmed by a multimillion-dollar, televised proxy battle among some of the nation’s largest interest groups for supremacy in the Democratic Party…. – Boston Globe, 5-10-10
  • Ohio Democrats respond to racy GOP ad: Ohio Democrats have released a political ad full of shirtless workers. It’s the party’s answer to a sexually suggestive GOP ad that depicted a bare-chested U.S. Senate candidate. The original ad, created by the National Republican Senatorial Committee, features an image of a shirtless Ohio Lt. Gov. Lee Fisher in a provocative pose….- AP, 5-10-10
  • National Democrats pull out of Hawaii: National Democrats pull their money out of Hawaii’s special election and local Republicans are rejoicing over the end of their opponent’s smear tactics. Even the local Democrats say they are pleased the national Democrats are leaving saying the negative ads didn’t play well in Hawaii. Voters won’t be getting anymore recorded calls from President Obama either…. – HawaiiNewsNow, 5-10-10
  • Paul may not vote for McConnell as floor leader: Front-runner Rand Paul said in a U.S. Senate debate Monday night that he may not support Kentucky’s other senator, Mitch McConnell, for minority floor leader if he’s elected. “I’d have to know who the opponent is and make a decision at that time,” Paul said in a sometimes testy televised debate, the final face off in what has become an increasing acrimonious race to replace Sen. Jim Bunning…. – AP, 5-11-10
  • Veteran Democrat faces anti-incumbent challenge: Democratic Rep. Alan Mollohan has delivered for his West Virginia district for nearly three decades — steering millions of dollars in projects that have helped an anemic economy.
    His rival in Tuesday’s primary is state Sen. Mike Oliverio, who has criticized the agenda of President Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. In a state where Republican presidential nominee John McCain won handily in 2008, that criticism has helped the 46-year-old financial adviser attract the support of some of West Virginia’s tea party supporters as well as former Mollohan allies. “I think the voters in northern West Virginia have simply lost confidence in Congressman Mollohan,” Oliverio said… – AP/USA Today, 5-9-10
  • Some Palin Facebook fans unhappy with endorsement: Ex-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin has outraged some of her fans with an endorsement of former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina in the GOP’s U.S. Senate primary in California…. In the Thursday posting, Palin called Fiorina a “Commonsense Conservative” who has the potential to beat “liberal” Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer in November…. – AP, 5-8-10
  • Last weeks of GOP Senate primary race focus on Boxer Tom Campbell and Carly Fiorina face the challenge of drawing attention from Republicans Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman in race for governor. LAT, 5-8-10
  • Bennett out; GOP delegates reject 18-year Senate veteran Delegates reject 18-year Senate veteran; Bridgewater and Lee move to June primary: Three-term Sen. Bob Bennett became the first victim this year of a wave of voter anger toward Washington in a defeat that will likely send a jolt through incumbents everywhere. Businessman Tim Bridgewater finished first in the final round of balloting, beating attorney Mike Lee 57 percent to 43 percent, meaning they will face off in a June 22 primary battle. “I always think I’m going to win. I met 2,700 delegates. I knew where the delegates were,” Bridgewater said. “I feel like I can relate to people from all walks of life in this state.”…. – The Salt Lake Tribune, 5-8-10
  • Suddenly, Rubio likes Arizona’s immigration law: Facing a media throng recently in West Miami that included Spanish-language television, U.S. Senate candidate Marco Rubio left no doubt where he stood on a contentious new immigration law in Arizona.
    “I think the law has potential unintended consequences, and it’s one of the reasons why I think immigration needs to be a federal issue, not a state one,” Rubio said at the April 27 event, where he signed the official papers to be on the 2010 ballot. “That’s how I felt when I was in the Florida House.” Rubio added at the West Miami event: “Everyone is concerned with the prospect of the reasonable suspicion provisions where individuals could be pulled over because someone suspects they may not be legal in this country,” he said. “I think over time people will grow uncomfortable with that.”… – Miami Herald, 5-8-10
  • Bush backs Rubio, rips Crist in speech: In one of his first political campaign appearances since he left the Florida governor’s office, and an indication of his political re-emergence, former Gov. Jeb Bush endorsed Marco Rubio in a speech to a gathering of Tampa Bay area Republicans on Friday.
    “I’m a little rusty; I don’t speak that much to partisan crowds these days. I haven’t been on the stump that much,” Bush said at the Pasco County Republican Party’s annual fundraising dinner…. – TBO, 5-8-10
  • Last weeks of GOP Senate primary race focus on Boxer: Tom Campbell and Carly Fiorina face the challenge of drawing attention from Republicans Steve Poizner and Meg Whitman in race for governor…. – LAT, 5-8-10
  • GOP Senate candidates spar in first face-to-face debate: Campbell, DeVore and Fiorina tussle over immigration, the Wall Street bailout and taxes at L.A.’s Museum of Tolerance. The debate will air in California on ABC stations on Sunday…. – LAT, 5-7-10
  • Case ties himself to Obama in new ad: In a last-ditch attempt to gain momentum, former congressman Ed Case is latching himself to President Obama in his latest television ad – even though the White House hasn’t publicly backed him in the three-way special election taking place in Hawaii. “Only one candidate is strong enough to stand with the president: Ed Case,” a narrator says in the ad. “The White House believes Ed Case has the best chance of beating Djou and moving America forward. Ed Case, President Obama – putting Hawaii first.” The ad also accuses Republicans of wanting Obama to fail in office, and is using Republican Charles Djou, a Honolulu city councilman, to achieve that goal.??… – Politico, 5-6-10
  • Sen. DeMint endorses Paul in US Senate race in Ky.: U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint put himself at odds with Kentucky’s Sen. Mitch McConnell on Wednesday by endorsing an antiestablishment candidate for U.S. Senate in Kentucky. DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, gave his support to political outsider Rand Paul, one day after Minority Floor Leader McConnell endorsed establishment candidate Trey Grayson. “I’m endorsing Rand Paul because he’s a true conservative who will stand up to the Washington establishment,” said DeMint, who released a written statement saying he still supports McConnell as floor leader even though the two disagree on Kentucky’s Senate race. “Rand has been running on the issues that matter since the beginning of this campaign, DeMint said in the statement. “He’s a strong advocate for balanced budgets. He wants to end the culture of earmarks. He supports term limits. And he’s 100 percent pro-life.”… – AP, 5-5-10
  • Bennett appeals to GOP to let him keep Senate seat: Sen. Bob Bennett abandoned Washington this week, spending his days in Utah pleading with Republicans until he was hoarse to let him keep his job — in Washington. The three-term conservative is in serious danger of losing at a GOP state convention Saturday, tripped up by anti- incumbent sentiment and Utah’s quirky nomination system. His only hope is to win over enough delegates to force the party to hold a primary in June. He has until Saturday morning to pitch some 3,500 die-hard GOP convention delegates, who tend to be more conservative than Utah Republicans overall. Polls show Bennett trailing in third place…. – AP, 5-6-10
  • Obey retirement gives GOP hopeful opening in Wis.: Democratic U.S. Rep. David Obey’s unexpected retirement has thrust a conservative former cast member of MTV’s “The Real World” into position to capture a Wisconsin seat held by a leading liberal for four decades. It also left several Democrats pondering the legacy of Obey, at 71 the third longest-serving current member of the House, and weighing whether to get in the race…. – AP, 5-6-10
  • Jeb Bush endorses Marco Rubio in Fla. Senate race: Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is endorsing Marco Rubio’s campaign for U.S. Senate. Bush, still popular and influential with Florida Republicans, has long been rumored to be a Rubio backer, but his endorsement comes less than a week after Gov. Charlie crist decided to run as an independent rather than face Rubio in the GOP primary. Bush says Rubio is a passionate, principled leader who wouldn’t change his views when political winds shift… – AP, 5-5-10
  • Cohen hits campaign trail for governor Former lieutenant governor candidate who quit amid political scandal is launching independent bid: Pawnbroker Scott Lee Cohen announced his independent candidacy for governor Monday, trying to leap back into the political fray that chewed him up and spit him out in February. Cohen said he was still searching for a running mate, and he was vague on details about how he would circulate enough petitions by June 21 to secure the 25,000 signatures needed for a spot on the ballot. But he claimed that polling he conducted in March suggested he was a viable candidate. “I am not perfect, but I am honest,” Cohen said at a news conference in the plaza outside the Thompson Center. “Illinois needs honesty more than perfection.”… – Chicago Tribune, 5-3-10
  • Union: Ads chiding Ark. Senate candidate ‘racist’: A Virginia-based advocacy group began airing television ads in Arkansas on Monday in which Indian actors “thank” Democratic Senate candidate Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, claiming he outsourced jobs overseas. The ad, which features Indian-American actors thanking Halter while superimposed in front of various street scenes in India, was denounced by Halter’s campaign and that of his Democratic rival, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, as offensive. The Arkansas chapter of the AFL-CIO, which has endorsed Halter, called it “horribly racist.” The spot has been criticized as playing up stereotypes of India because it features actors with Indian accents and uses the street scenes…. – AP, 5-3-10

POLITICAL QUOTES

  • Weekly Address: Health Reform Starts to Kick In WH, 5-8-10
  • Education vital to U.S. success, Obama tells Hampton University graduates: President Obama delivered a strong argument Sunday on the importance of education, telling the new graduates of the historic black university here that “all of us have a responsibility, as Americans, to change” the comparatively low academic achievement of African Americans in this country.
    Before an audience of more than 12,000 students, family members and guests at Hampton University’s commencement, Obama said the nation must “offer every single child in this country an education that will make them competitive in our knowledge economy.”
    “But I have to say, Class of 2010, all of you have a separate responsibility. To be role models for your brothers and sisters,” Obama told the 1,072 students receiving undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees on the cool but lovely spring morning. “To be mentors in your communities. And, when the time comes, to pass that sense of an education’s value down to your children, a sense of personal responsibility and self-respect.”… – WaPo, 5-10-10
  • President Obama says health law benefits already being felt: “Already we are seeing a health care system that holds insurance companies more accountable and gives consumers more control,” Obama said during his weekly radio address. “For too long, we have been held hostage to an insurance industry that jacks up premiums and drops coverage as they please,” he said. “The new health care law has also begun to end the worst practices of insurance companies,” he said… – NY Daily News, 5-9-10
  • Kerry, Lieberman press climate bill without Graham: The leading sponsors of a long-delayed energy and climate change bill said Friday they will press ahead despite losing the support of their only Republican partner. Sens. John Kerry, D-Mass, and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., said they plan to introduce a bill on Wednesday. The pair made the announcement just hours after Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said it’s impossible to pass the legislation now because of disagreements over offshore drilling and immigration reform.
    “Regrettably, in my view, this has become impossible in the current environment,” Graham said in a statement. “I believe there could be more than 60 votes for this bipartisan concept in the future. But there are not nearly 60 votes today and I do not see them materializing until we deal with the uncertainty of the immigration debate and the consequences of the oil spill.”
    Kerry and Lieberman said they plan to introduce the bill on Wednesday — two weeks after they first pledged to unveil it. “We are more encouraged today that we can secure the necessary votes to pass this legislation this year in part because the last (few) weeks have given everyone with a stake in this issue a heightened understanding that as a nation, we can no longer wait to solve this problem which threatens our economy, our security and our environment,” Kerry and Lieberman said. “We look forward to … passing the legislation with the support of Senator Graham and other Republicans, Democrats and independents this year,” they said…. – AP, 5-7-10
  • Obama: ‘Our obligations to our troops don’t end on the battlefield’: President Obama signed legislation today designed to help keep severely wounded troops in their homes by providing aid to family members who care for them. “Keeping faith with our veterans and their families is work that is never truly finished,” Obama said before signing the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act. The law increases health benefits for veterans, and provides new assistance to family members who care for loved ones injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. “We’re forever mindful that our obligations to our troops don’t end on the battlefield,” Obama said…. – USA Today, 5-5-10

HISTORIANS & ANALYSTS’ COMMENTS

  • Julian Zelizer: Gov. Daniels: GOP’s best hope for 2012?: Conservative pundits are in love with a candidate for 2012, and it is not Sarah Palin. If you ask many top Republicans their favorite pick for the presidential campaign, they will answer Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels….
    Certain Republicans find Daniels attractive because they realize the 2012 campaign will not only be a mandate on President Obama; the GOP will undertake its campaign in the long shadow of President Bush, who ended his presidency with historically low approval ratings and a demoralized party.
    Daniels could help Republicans reclaim the mantel of fiscal conservatism. The skyrocketing federal deficit has emerged as a significant political issue. Concerns about how European countries will handle their debt have amplified fears within the United States….
    If Daniels decides to run, and he says he does not want to, his fate within the party would tell us a lot about the direction the Republican Party is heading. It is clear that there are other candidates, such as Palin or Romney or former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who might be an easier and more predictable choice for the GOP.
    Yet it is not clear whether any of them are candidates, as Daniels might be, who could help Republicans win back suburban and independent voters who went blue in 2008. – CNN, 5-9-10
  • Is Gulf oil spill Obama’s Katrina moment?: “The Obama administration has done nothing wrong,” said Katrina historian Douglas Brinkley. “This has been British Petroleum not having a Plan ‘A’ or Plan ‘B’ or Plan ‘C’ or Plan ‘D.” – CNN, 5-7-10
  • Julian Zelizer: Arizona law foes’ best weapon is dollars: In response to Arizona’s law cracking down on illegal immigration, pro-immigration and Hispanic organizations have launched a national protest campaign…..
    Pro-immigration groups have started a national boycott against Arizona. The boycott promises to be substantial in scale and scope. San Francisco, California, Mayor Gavin Newsom has announced that he will ban city employees from traveling to the state. Los Angeles officials are considering doing the same. There is growing pressure on Major League Baseball to pull next year’s all-star game out of Phoenix if the law is not changed. In other words, Arizona has a potentially big economic problem on its hands.
    The economic boycott has been a powerful tool in the struggle for social rights. During the civil rights era, African-American activists used boycotts to create pressure for social change and to draw national attention to their cause…. – CNN, 5-4-10
  • Douglas Brinkley: White House Expects Battle Over Supreme Court Nominee Advisers say Obama’s pick will draw controversy no matter who he chooses: “There’s no ‘Kumbaya’ going on—it’s gotten harsh and bitter,” says historian Doug Brinkley. He traces the acrimony to President Nixon’s controversial and unsuccessful high court nominations of Clement Haynsworth and Harrold Carswell in 1969 and 1970, respectively, and later, the defeat of Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork in 1987, and the divisive but successful nomination of Clarence Thomas by George H.W. Bush in 1991. “Now it’s almost par for the course,” Brinkley says. The pattern is for opponents to dredge up everything they can to harm a nominee, including books checked out of a library and movies rented from a video store. “We live in glass houses,” he says, and the result too often is a media circus. US News & World Report, 4-29-10
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