Republicans are gearing up for a fight to repeal health care reform, but Elspeth Reeve of The Atlantic Wire listed the reasons it’s a battle they can’t win:

Obama Isn’t Interested in ‘Re-litigating’ Health Care, Washington Monthly’s Steve Benen observes. The president might have said he’s humble in his post-election press conference, but on his signature legislation, he “clearly doesn’t seem inclined to budge on this. If Boehner & Co. think Obama will be pushed around on health care, and that with the right leverage, repeal is an option, they’re mistaken.” Benen adds that Obama is setting up a narrative: “re-fighting the battles of the past is a mistake.” The message is “all Republicans want to do is fight over things that happened in the past, instead of focusing on the future — which may come up quite a bit in the coming months. ...  [T]he underlying message to Republicans intending to push for some wholesale overhaul seemed to be pretty straightforward: don’t bother.”

Holding Up Confirmations Isn’t Enough, Public radio’s Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall Genzer reports. “The Senate is responsible for confirming the heads of new bureaus and offices established by the health care and financial overhauls. Again, Republicans don’t control the Senate, but they could hold up those confirmation votes. [Business law professor Jennifer] Taub says that’s the reverse of what’s needed. Think of the new laws as children.” Taub explains, “The legislation itself, the code, is like the DNA and we need a combination of both nature and nurture for it to thrive.”

Defunding Health Care Isn’t Really an Option, Either, ThinkProgress’s Igor Volsky explains. Boehner and Newt Gingrich have come out in favor of this option, but “that may be easier said than done. As former Sen. Tom Daschle explained in a recent interview, ‘a lot of what we did in health care reform has more of an entitlement than a discretionary funding base. So as an entitlement, they would really have to change the law rather than simply not fund in order for it to be effected. The entitlement sections of the legislation are going to be fairly immune from defunding.’ The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that there is ‘at least $50 billion in specified and estimated authorizations of discretionary spending that might be involved in implementing that legislation’ and presumably that’s the spending Republicans can more easily de-fund.”

And GOP Allies Don’t Mind the Reform, Steve Pizer and Austin Frakt argue at The Incidental Economist. “The Republican base hates health reform because it’s a symbol of Obama. They think it’s a product of the far left, when in fact it’s chock full of Republican  ideas. ... When the new Republican House majority starts legislating on health care, they will be more concerned with what the relevant interest groups want. The insurance industry, hospitals, and drug companies want looser regulation and lower taxes. That is, the big players want what they always want – more control over implementation and establishment of favorable regulations – even if it’s at the expense of a more efficient health system for the rest of us. But they also want the mandate, which can’t work without the subsidies and insurance reforms. The [Affordable Care Act] began as a moderate Republican reform proposal for a reason: with respect to the fundamental structure of the law, the interest group politics work pretty well. We doubt the House leadership will do anything to alienate the insurers, drug companies, or hospitals. Put it this way, if those interest groups didn’t want health reform of the form we got, they would have killed it last winter, if not before. They didn’t. So the mandate and overall structure of the ACA are safe.”

One Small Area of Compromise, ThinkProgress’s Igor Volsky adds, is the law’s 1099 provision, which requires businesses to submit tax forms for every vendor to whom they made payments over $600 for services. “Members of both parties have argued that this portion of the law — which was designed to bolster the tax compliance of sole proprietors and pay for coverage expansion — is overly burdensome to small business.” Nancy Pelosi and Obama mentioned the measure as something that needed to be fixed. Republicans filibustered an attempt to amend the provision in September, holding out for a broader amendment.

Ezra Klein of WashingtonPost.com notes (11/9) that of six major provisions of the health care reform law, the only really unpopular provision is the requirement that some Americans will have to buy their own insurance or else pay a fine. We think Democrats should simply offer to repeal the individual mandate (which was a Republican idea in the first place). Insurance companies would have a cow.

The Affordable Care Act allows states to use federal funds to expand their Medicaid programs to cover low-income people earning up to 133% of the poverty level, or $29,326 for a family of four. Current programs in most states only cover the children of families that earn less than the poverty level, and in some cases their parents, but adults without children are usually not eligible. If implemented nationwide, the expansion would bring 15 mln more people into the safety net program. But states would still have to pay part of the Medicaid costs, and some states, including Texas, are considering dropping out of Medicaid altogether, which would leave low-income residents, mainly children and the disabled, without access to health care.

CONGRESS GETS DUCKS IN A ROW. Congress returns Nov. 15 for the “lame duck” session with what looks like a last chance for the Democratic Congress to pass bills before the GOP wrecking crew takes charge of the House in January.

Lawmakers will have to decide whether to extend any or all of the Bush-Cheney tax cuts that expire on Dec. 31. Without action, the tax rates would go back to Clinton-era levels. Congress also has to decide whether to allow a 23% cut in Medicare payments to doctors, along with another 6.5% cut in January.

Without action by Congress, 2 mln jobless people will lose unemployment benefits averaging about $300 a week under programs that allowed extensions for up to 99 weeks of benefits through the end of December. After Jan. 1, about 250,000 jobless per week will see their benefits end.

No appropriations bills have passed, so Congress will need to adopt a stopgap spending bill, which would continue current spending levels, by Dec. 3. The defense bill may be caught in a standoff over resolving the Pentagon’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy on homosexuals and the DREAM Act to allow undocumented immigrants to qualify for residency by enlisting in the military or enrolling in higher education.

The Senate might take up the DISCLOSE Act, which has passed the House and would require independent attack-ad groups to disclose their corporate donors after they spent at least $193 mln in the recent campaign. Sen.-elect Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who will replace interim Sen. Roland Burris (D-Ill.) immediately, has indicated he would support the bill, and supporters also hope that Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) will switch her vote after the unaccountable attack ads were directed against her. The bill got 59 votes in September, 1 short of the number needed to break the Republican filibuster.

Democrats may also move to resolve 23 judicial nominees who have been left languishing on the Senate floor, including 17 who were reported out of the Judiciary Committee without opposition. While Republicans have used procedural obstructions to block President Obama’s nominees, the Administrative Office of the Courts has declared “judicial emergencies” in 50 federal courts, affecting 30 states, meaning there aren’t enough judges to adequately serve the needs of those districts, Alliance for Justice (afj.org) noted.

Also, the White House Deficit Commission in December is expected to recommend cuts in Social Security benefits and/or an increase in the retirement age — even those Social Security is self-funding and is solvent at least until the 2037. Dean Baker, in a special report, “Action on Social Security: The Urgent Need for Delay” (cepr.net), noted that even if no changes are made, a child born in 2010 can expect a retirement benefit that is more than 50% larger in real terms than what current retirees receive today.

Call your Congress member and senators and tell them the only change they should even consider to Social Security is lifting the lid on income subject to the payroll tax.

LATINOS KEY WESTERN DEM WINS. Markos Moulitsas noted at DailyKos.com (11/8) that Latinos were a key to Democratic successes in California, Colorado and Nevada. Latinos made up 22% of California voters, a record tally, helping Dems gain a sweep of statewide offices as they sided 2:1 with Jerry Brown (R) in the governor’s race over Meg Whitman (R), whose campaign was embroiled in controversy over illegal immigration. Almost 3 in 4 of Latinos had an unfavorable impression of the GOP and Brown won Latinos 73-18.

In Colorado, Sen. Michael Bennet survived his first election by less than 16,000 votes, and the state’s growing Latino population (now at 12% of voters, according to exit polls) provided the margin, as 81% of Latino voters voted for Bennett, according to a poll by Latino Decisions. That means Bennett led by 124,000 votes among Latinos.

In Nevada, Sharron Angle’s openly racist ads backfired, as Sen. Harry Reid cleaned up with Latinos. Their turnout remained 15% of the electorate and Reid got 68%. That accounted for nearly 39,000 of his 40,000-vote victory margin.

Even in Arizona, Latinos are wising up, Moulitsas noted. In 2004 John McCain got 74% of the Latino vote but this time he got 40% against equally marginal opposition. Immigrant-bashing Gov. Jan Brewer (R) got 28% of the Latino vote.

Moulitsas concluded, “Given demographic trends, the GOP won’t be able to win in the future in these key western states without being competitive with Latinos. In 2010, the GOP doubled down on their Latino hate, and Latinos are finally starting to fight back at the ballot box.”

We note that even in Texas, where Rick Perry (R) coasted to re-election with 55% of the vote against Bill White (D)’s 42%, Republicans should be concerned about the Latino vote. It was 17% of the electorate and went 61% for White. (The Latino share was down from 20% of the 2008 vote, but Dems probably were doing well to get that many Latinos out this year for an election without many competitive state races.)

The black vote, 13% of the electorate, went 88% for White while the white vote, 67% of the electorate, went 69% for Perry. But minorities now comprise the majority in Texas, and the white share of the electorate will be dropping in coming years, as young Tejanos reach voting age. And Republican legislators, with a nearly two-thirds majorities in both chambers of the Legislature, are drafting bills modeled after Arizona’s immigrant-bashing “Show Your Papers” Act, which could give Tejanos more reason to vote Democratic in 2012.

DEM SKINFLINTS DON’T PROSPER. Last summer,16 House Democrats voted against an emergency extension of unemployment benefits, Alex Pareene noted in Salon.com (11/3). They were John Adler, D-N.J.; Brian Baird, D-Wash.; Melissa Bean, D-Ill.; Marion Berry, Blue Dog-Ark.; Bobby Bright, Blue Dog-Ala.; Travis Childers, Blue Dog-Miss.; Jim Cooper, Blue Dog-Tenn.; Joe Donnelly, Blue Dog-Ind.; Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, Blue Dog-S.D.; Baron Hill, Blue Dog-Ind.; Frank Kratovil, Blue Dog-Md.; Betsy Markey, Blue Dog-Colo.; Jim Marshall, Blue Dog-Ga.; Walt Minnick, Blue Dog-Idaho; Glenn Nye, Blue Dog-Va.; Heath Shuler, Blue Dog-N.C. “These brave politicians bucked their free-spending, ultra-liberal party, and cast votes in favor of fiscal responsibility. And for their willingness to oppose Barack Obama’s liberal agenda, nearly all of them were rewarded with early (and ironic) retirement from public service,” Pareene wrote. Brian Baird and Marion Berry retired. Melissa Bean was trailing by 350 votes, with absentee votes remaining to be counted, a week after the election. Of everyone else listed, only Heath Shuler, Jim Cooper, and Joe Donnelly won reelection, Pareene noted. “At least they can move on from Congress knowing that they did everything in their power to make paying the rent as difficult as possible for a bunch of unemployed Americans. That’s something to be proud of,” Pareene snarked.

AFTER ELECTION, ECONOMIC TURNAROUND? Andrew Leonard noted that on the day after the election a batch of new economic indicators offered more scope for optimism than we’ve seen all year:

• Reports from car manufacturers indicate that October was the best month for auto sales since August 2009 — when sales were goosed by the Cash for Clunkers program. If you skip Cash for Clunkers, it’s the best performance in more than two years.

• Factory orders rose 2.1% in October, the sharpest rise since January

• Service companies expanded at the fastest rate in three months.

• ADP Employer Services, the largest private sector payroll processor in the US, reported that private companies added 43,000 new jobs in October, more than double what economists had been expecting.

“Throw into the mix the Federal Reserve’s announcement that, in a long overdue attempt to stimulate the economy, it will buy $600 billion worth of US Treasuries over the next year, and maybe, just maybe, we’re seeing the beginnings of a sustained, robust recovery,” Leonard wrote.

FLUSH OF MONEY BOOSTS GOP. Outside organizations — many relying on anonymous donors — helped Republicans score big gains in Congress as $4 bln was spent in the mid-term election cycle, the Center for Responsive Politics (opensecrets.org) noted. Spending was up 40% from 2006 levels, but having a fundraising advantage for individual candidates was not as crucial to victory as in past years, perhaps because of the impact of independent groups that ran attack ads. In only about 85% of House races did the candidate who spent the most experience victory on election day, a relative low from recent years. Spending correlated with success in 83% of Senate races. By comparison, in 2008 the biggest spender was victorious in 93% of House races and in 86% of Senate races.

The average cost o a winning House campaign was $1.09 mln, while the average winning Senate campaign cost $8.28 mln. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) spent the most on a successful Senate bid, shelling out $38.8 mln between his contentious GOP primary against former Rep. J.D. Hayworth and a general election challenge, as of mid-October.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), chairwoman of the House Tea Party Caucus, spent $8.7 mln as of mid-October, more than any other House candidate.

Heading into the election, Republican candidates raised $858 mln, about $100 million more than their Democratic counterparts, since January 2009.

The Democratic National Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Committee together raised $432 mln as of Oct. 13, while the Republican National Committee, National Republican Congressional Committee and National Republican Senatorial Committee raised $370 mln in the same time. Through Election Day, these three Democratic committees spent a combined $444.6 mln while their Republican counterparts spent $402.2 mln, the Center’s research shows.

But outside groups, bolstered by recent federal court rulings, spent $293 mln on efforts to affect the 2010 midterm election, the Center’s research shows. Overall, conservative-aligned groups spent $2.07 for every $1 that liberal-aligned groups spent, the Center found.

Among self-financers, wrestling promoter Linda McMahon spent $47 mln of her own money — more than $90 per vote — in her losing Senate race in Connecticut. Former HP executive Carly Fiorina spent $5.5 mln in her losing race to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Jeff Greene spent $24 mln and didn’t even win the Democratic Senate primary in Florida, ABC News reported.

In governor races, former eBay executive Meg Whitman (R) spent $142 mln of her own money in her unsuccessful campaign for governor of California. Rick Scott (R), executive of Columbia/HCA when the health-care company committed Medicare fraud for which it paid $1.7 bln in fines and costs, spent $73 mln to edge out Alex Sink (D) in the Florida governor’s race. Tom Foley (R) spent $10 mln in a losing race for Connecticut governor.

The US Chamber of Commerce, which represents the interests of multinational corporations, planned to spent $75 mln on the mid-term elections and reported spending $31.8 mln the month before the election, targeting 62 races and winning in 36 of them — or 63%. The Chamber contributed to defeat of 20 incumbent Dems. (ThinkProgress.org)

GRAYSON: ‘IF YOUR VOTERS DON’T SHOW UP, YOU LOSE.’ Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) blames both his defeat and the massive losses that his party suffered nationally on a de-energized Democratic base.

“In my case, it’s simply a matter of the Democrats not voting,” Grayson, who was defeated by Dan Webster (R) in Florida’s 8th District, told Salon.com. “We don’t have the final numbers from Election Day yet, but in the early voting, when you compare the vote this time to the vote in 2008, the Republicans dropped about 20%, and the Democratic vote dropped 60%.”

“That wasn’t just true in my district; it was true all around Florida, and as far as I can tell all around the country, with the possible exception of the West Coast and New England,” he continued. “If Democrats don’t vote, then Democrats can’t win.

“The enthusiasm gap,” Grayson concluded, “became a vote gap. If the Republicans show up and vote and many Democrats don’t, then the result is a foregone conclusion.”

GOP THREATENS TO FORCE FED DEFAULT. Senate Republican Ayatollah Mitch McConnell told Fox “News” that Republicans would not vote to increase the nation’s debt ceiling without “strings” that could include repeal of health care reform. If the debt ceiling is not increased, the federal government would be forced to shut down and possibly would default on the national debt. It certainly would cause a global economic panic.

REPORT: WALL-STREETERS FUNDED ROVE GROUP. NBC News reports (11/4) that a substantial portion of Crossroads GPS’ money came from a small circle of extremely wealthy Wall Street hedge fund and private equity moguls. These donors have been bitterly opposed to a proposal by congressional Democrats — and endorsed by the Obama administration — to increase the tax rates on compensation that hedge funds pay their partners, GOP fundraising sources told NBC News. Crossroads GPS is a group founded with the help of Karl Rove that spent at least $16.6 mln on advertising to boost Republican candidates around the country. Unlike its partner group American Crossroads, Crossroads GPS is organized under a section of the tax code that allows it to keep the identity of donors secret.

IOWA JUSTICES OUSTED FOR UPHOLDING RIGHTS. Three Iowa Supreme Court justices on Nov. 2 lost their jobs, effective Dec. 31, for joining in the court’s unanimous decision holding that same-sex marriage was required by the state constitution. The justices were targeted for defeat by national conservative groups outraged by the decision. However, as the Storm Lake Times editorialized, none of the ousted justices will be wanting for work, and under Iowa’s judicial retention system, replacement judges will be named by either outgoing Gov. Chet Culver (D) or returning Gov. Terry Branstad (R) from a list of candidates drawn up by a commission of lay people appointed by the governor and attorneys elected by the Iowa Bar Association, who aren’t likely to stray far from the mainstream. The new justices will come before voters in the 2012 election.

THREE-WAY’S THE CHARM. Most ironic Democratic save: Bill Owens last year became the first Democrat to win in upstate New York’s 23rd District in 150 years in a special election, in part because right wingers supporting Doug Hoffman forced moderate GOP nominee Dede Scozzafava to withdraw from the race, but her name remained on the ballot and drew 6,000 votes, enough to tilt the race to Owens. This year the GOP ran millionaire businessman Matt Doheny, who got 46% but Doug Hoffman ran again on the Conservative Party line and pulled in 6%, allowing Owens to sneak back in with 48%.

DEMS WIN SOME GOV RACES. Democrats got trounced in most races for governor, but in 11 key races, according to Grist.org, Democrats won in California, Illinois, Massachusetts and Colorado and look strong in another (Minnesota) while Republicans won in Texas, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida and Tennessee.

The biggest news is California, where Jerry Brown brings perhaps the beefiest green agenda in the country to the most populous state. Joe Romm noted at ClimateProgress.org that California scored a clean-energy trifecta of returning Brown to the governors office, re-electing Sen. Barbara Boxer and smacking down the Big-Oil-backed Proposition 23, which would have overturned the state’s landmark climate bill, AB 32.

Prop 23 opponents mustered 3,200 volunteers, made 2.8 million phone calls to voters, sent out 3.4 million pieces of mail and used campus and computerized outreach programs to identify and get out clean energy voters.

“It is the largest public referendum in history on climate and clean energy policy,” Fred Krupp, president of the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund, told the Los Angeles Times. “Almost 10 million Californians got a chance to vote and sent a clear message that they want a clean energy future. And this was in an economic downturn. There has never been anything this big. It is going to send a signal to other parts of the country and beyond.”

Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) supports wind power, but he’s not interested in a broader climate plan, high-speed rail or controls on development.

In Ohio, former Lehman Brothers executive and Gingrich-era House Republican John Kasich sailed into the governor’s office with intentions to gut the state’s nascent clean-tech investment and refuse federal passenger-rail dollars, in a reversal of outgoing Gov. Ted Strickland’s green achievements, Grist noted.

In Wisconsin, Gov.-elect Scott Walker (R) promised to block a new high-speed rail line that would connect Milwaukee to Madison and eventually help link Chicago to Minneapolis. But days before the election, state and federal officials quietly signed a deal to commit the state to spend $810 million of federal stimulus cash allocated to the Milwaukee-to-Madison route, which clears the way for outgoing Gov. Jim Doyle (D) to sign contracts for much if not all of the work, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.

In Florida, Rick Scott (R), a former health-care profiteer, was elected despite his role in Medicare and Medicaid fraud which was settled in 2002 with $1.7 billion in fines, in the largest such settlement ever. He supports more drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

N.J. OWES FEDS FOR SCRAPPED TUNNEL. The federal government wants at least $271 mln back from New Jersey for money spent on the $8.7 bln Hudson River rail tunnel that Gov. Chris Christie (R) scrapped in October, citing potential cost overruns. The federal government had committed $3 bln to the project along with another $3 bln from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The project was expected to create $6,000 construction jobs immediately and 44,000 jobs after its completion in 2018. The state’s share was $2.7 bln plus overruns. New York is going after the $3 bln that the feds had committed to the Hudson River rail, the New York Times reported (11/9).

GREENS ALSO-RAN IN S.C. Greens didn’t make much of their opportunity to run a credible challenger in a US Senate race in South Carolina with a Democratic nominee who was largely discredited. Alvin M. Greene (D) became the butt of jokes after it was discovered, after he won the nomination, that he was unemployed and faced felony obscenity charges, still got 27.65% of the vote in the race against Sen. JIm DeMint (R), while Tom Clements (G), who has a credible record as an environmentalist and got the Greater Columbia Central Labor Council endorsement, got 9.21%. Nikki Haley (R) won the governor’s race with 51.37%, beating Vincent Sheheen (D)’s 46.91% and Morgan Bruce Reeves (G)’s 0.93%.

RECESSION FORCES STATE BUDGET CUTS. With tax revenue declining as a result of the recession, at least 46 states have imposed budget cuts that hurt vulnerable residents and caused job losses, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported. Federal recovery act dollars have reduced the extent, severity and economic impact of these cuts, but at the insistence of Republicans, federal aid to states is slated to expire well before state revenues have recovered. Major areas of state services that have been cut since the start of the recession include health care in 31 states; services to the elderly and disabled in 29 states and D.C.; k-12 education in 34 states and D.C.; and higher education in 43 states.

Texas — whose officials bragged before the election how the state has weathered the recession and balanced its budget — now might have to cut its budget by $25 bln. That is 25% of its current spending level and likely would force deep cuts in already stretched state programs, public schools and universities. It also is proportionately larger than the deficit California recently closed with cuts and fee increases.

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who won a third term and is exploring a presidential campaign, is promoting a book, Fed Up, about his disputes with the federal government, and proposing that states be allowed to opt out of Social Security as well as federal health programs. “Why is the federal government even in the pension program or the health care delivery program?” Perry asked on MSNBC’s Morning Joe program (11/5). “Let the states do it.” (Texas under Perry has done practically nothing to provide affordable health care for small businesses or the working poor. It has the highest proportion of uninsured residents in the nation, at 26.9%. If the state withdraws from Medicaid, as some Republicans have suggested, the uninsured rate would rise to 40%, the *Washington Post*’s Ezra Klein reported.)

DEMOCRATS NEED UNITY AFTER THE ELECTIONS. There undoubtedly will be a lot of finger pointing among Democrats, but Ed Kilgore, James Vega and J.P. Green write at TheDemocraticStrategist.org that Dems ought to agree on at least two points:

1. All of the major perspectives within the Democratic Party have a legitimate place and role in today’s Democratic coalition. While various elements of both the centrist and progressive wings of the party may sincerely believe that in the long run a smaller but more ideologically united party would ultimately be preferable, the present moment categorically demands a basic level of Democratic unity from every element of the coalition.

2. To successfully defend the Democratic Party and its allied institutions against the very powerful conservative offensive that will come after the election, advocates of all major perspectives must proudly and explicitly assert that there are basic values and core areas of agreement unite them with all other Democrats and that they are prepared to present a solid and united front against the external threat posed by Republican extremism.

This can be asserted — to the mainstream media and the country as a whole — as follows:

Disagreements among Democrats are arguments within a coalition and a community. We are all powerfully united by our profound opposition and deep sense of outrage at the socially irresponsible and politically extremist agenda that has been adopted by the Republican Party and we proudly stand together against it. We are united by our deep and profound belief that — As James Carville so eloquently expressed it in 1996 — “We’re right, you’re wrong”.

Do not mistake our diversity for disunity. Do not mistake our debates for division. Whatever our internal disagreements, they pale beside our common rejection of the extremist world-view that has permeated the Republican Party. We Democrats have a wide range of views within our coalition, but we stand together as one united political party in our dreams for a better future and our readiness to join together as one to confront and withstand conservative attack.

This should be a common ground for all Democrats. Dems from all sectors of the party and points of view should consistently express it, particularly when dealing with the mainstream media. Dems cannot stop the mainstream media from pushing the Dems in disarray” narrative but they can all energetically and forcefully push back against it at every opportunity.

From The Progressive Populist, December 1, 2010


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