Democratic

5 important political stories to watch in 2014

Would Boehner lead another shutdown? | Photo: (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

The Week – Taegan Goodard

1. Will Republicans win back control of the Senate?Most political forecasters give Democrats a minuscule chance of taking back the House of Representatives, so most attention will be on the six seats Republicans need to have the majority in the upper chamber.

The seven most vulnerable seats all belong to Democrats right now: Alaska, Arkansas, Louisiana, Montana, North Carolina, South Dakota, and West Virginia.

2. Will Congress pass immigration reform? A bill has passed the Senate but House leaders refuse to bring it up. Considering the inability of this Congress to pass almost anything, it’s hard to give much hope to immigration reform — particularly in an election year.

However, two things could force the issue. First, national Republicans know they must improve the party’s standing with Hispanic voters and immigration reform is a key issue for this increasingly important voting bloc. Second, Speaker John Boehner has given signs he may move pieces of the Senate bill independently.

3. Will there be another fiscal showdown? Despite a bipartisan budget deal earlier this month, another major battle could be coming in the New Year over the debt ceiling. The federal government is expected to exhaust its borrowing authority by the end of February.

Though many Republicans want to use the event as leverage over the Obama administration to cut spending or tie it to legislation the White House opposes, the politics are brutal for the GOP. The self-inflicted wounds of the government shutdown on the Republican party are still raw and could act to prevent a major battle.

4. Will ObamaCare be a big issue for the midterm elections? Republicans will do everything in their power to tie the unpopularity of the Affordable Care Act to Democrats like they did in the 2010 midterms. It helped them retake control of the House.

But the White House is throwing every resource at their disposal to get the law implemented and move beyond the problems that crippled the health care exchange website. If millions of people are getting health insurance they otherwise could not afford by summer, it could end up being a non-issue or even a positive for Democrats.

5. Who knows? Politics is amazingly unpredictable except one thing is almost certain: There is usually a big political story we cannot predict.

NJ Mayor: Nope, Guv, We Told You About Traffic Jam

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New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie | AP Photo / Mel Evans

Stay tuned…

TPM LiveWire

The mayor of Fort Lee, N.J. is disputing New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s claim that top transportation officials were unaware of gridlock caused by lane closures in September on the George Washington Bridge, the Bergen Record reported Friday.

Christie suggested at a press conference Thursday that local authorities never notified the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s executive director, Patrick Foye, of the supposed traffic study that closed down lanes on the bridge and paralyzed traffic in Fort Lee.

“Did the Fort Lee officials — law enforcement, political — lose his number? Could they not get it and find him somehow? How did this happen exactly?” Christie asked, as quoted by the Bergen Record.

But Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich challenged that claim Friday and said borough officials called “at least five or six” people at the Port Authority.

“Fort Lee incessantly called,” Sokolich said, as quoted by the Bergen Record. “We called the contacts that we always called whenever there was an event. We did not depart from protocol that had been established for 20 years. … We called everybody that we were supposed to call.”

State Democrats have suggested that Christie’s Port Authority appointees ordered the lane closures because Sokolich didn’t support the governor’s re-election bid. Sokolich himself said hebelieved he was being sent “some sort of message” by the lane closures on the bridge.

Christie has denied any wrongdoing on his part in the bridge scandal and asserted that his appointees were truthful in explaining that the lane closures resulted from a “traffic study.” Two of Christie’s appointees resigned earlier this month as criticism of the lane closures grew.

Everyone in America Supports a Minimum-Wage Hike—Except the Tea Party

The following information should surprise no one…

New Republic

Fast-food workers across the U.S. are striking Thursday  (today) to demand higher wages, and it turns out they’re not alone in believing the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is much too low. A majority of Americans—71 percent—support hiking the minimum to $10, according to the 2013 American Values Survey by the Public Religion Research Institute. Democrats overwhelmingly support an increase, and even a majority of Republicans do. The minimum wage “is that rare issue where there is bipartisan and cross-religious support,” says Dan Cox, PRRI’s research director.

Except for the Tea Party, that is.

Public Religion Research Institute, American Values Survey, October 2013

DNC Wants To Help You Talk With ‘Your Republican Uncle’ On Thanksgiving

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You gotta love this idea from Democrats.  Just in time for the holidays at that…

TPM LiveWire

The Democratic National Committee is launched a Thanksgiving-themed website Wednesday called YourRepublicanUncle.com that purports to help people deal with “lively discussions with Republican relatives about politics” that occur during the holiday season.

YourRepublicanUncle.com features talking points Democrats can use during hypothetical political conversations with their family members.

“This time of year, the only thing more annoying than holiday traffic is an awkward conversation with family about politics,” DNC Digital Director Matt Compton wrote in an email announcing the site. “We designed YourRepublicanUncle.com so that it look greats and loads quickly on your phone — no getting ambushed when you go back for seconds on stuffing.”

Jon Stewart mocks Mitch McConnell’s warning to Democrats: Someday you will want to be obstructionist a*sholes

Jon Stewart 112113 [YouTube]

The Raw Story

Daily Show host Jon Stewart poked fun at Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) warning to Democrats that ending the long-standing abuse of the filibuster by invoking what pundits insist on calling the “nuclear option” would come back to haunt them.

“Mark my words,” Stewart boomed on Thursday. “One day you Democrats will want to be obstructionist a*sholes making a mockery of our system of government. And who’ll be laughing then? Turtle Man.”

Stewart also mocked media coverage of Senate Democrats’ move to have non-Supreme Court nominations and other procedural matters be decided by a simple majority, rather than by having to get at least 60 votes to pass.

“So deciding to allow majority rules to incrementally increase governmental efficiency and presidential appointments is so unthinkably extreme that it’s the ‘nuclear option’?” Stewart asked. “It’s the Hiroshima of voting.”

Watch Stewart’s take on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) going “nuclear,” as posted online on Thursday, below.

By the way: McConnell: For going nuclear before he was against it

Daily Kos

Harry Reid is having a fun day:

By filibustering 10 qualified judicial nominees in only 16 months, our Democratic colleagues have broken this unwritten rule. This is not the first time a minority of senators has upset a Senate tradition or practice and the current Senate majority intends to do what the majority in the Senate has often done: use it’s constitutional authority under Article 1, section 5 to reform Senate procedure by a simple majority vote.

In two sentences 2005 McConnell destroys all of 2013 McConnell’s arguments. Just like that. What a difference a Democratic president makes.

Three reasons filibuster reform might actually happen today

(Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Sen. Harry Reid – (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

This must be done soon.  Preferably, today.  Enough is enough from the Teapublican filibusters in the senate.

The Washington Post – Wonkblog

Filibuster reform might actually happen this time. In fact, it might happen today.

Harry Reid is poised to end the filibuster against executive-branch appointments and judicial nominations. Could Democrats back out at the last minute, as they have so many times before? Absolutely. But there’ve been three big changes in Senate Democrats’ outlook since the last time filibuster reform failed.

1. Filibuster reform is just another word for nothing left to lose. Back in January, the best arguments against filibuster reform had nothing to do with filibuster reform. They had to do with the rest of the Democrats’ agenda.

“Speaker John Boehner said the House wouldn’t consider legislation from a post-filibuster reform Senate. It’s very likely that a real filibuster reform fight would’ve destroyed the Democrats’ agenda in the coming months — think immigration and gun control.”

But gun control died in the Senate. And it turned out that Boehner refused to consider the Senate’s immigration legislation regardless of the filibuster’s status. Now, with President Obama’s political capital at a nadir, it’s clear that there’s no second-term agenda to protect in the near future, and they’re may not even be a Democratic Senate majority after 2014.

So in pure “getting-things-done” terms, Democrats are faced with a choice: keep the filibuster and get nothing done. Change the filibuster and get nothing done aside from staffing the federal government and filling a huge number of judicial vacancies with lifetime appointments.

2. Democrats believe Republicans will shred the filibuster as soon as they get a chance. The main reason filibuster reform typically fails is that the majority party is scared of what will happen when the minority party gets into power. But Senate Democrats just watched Republicans mount a suicide mission to shut down the government. Their confidence that Republicans will treat the upper chamber’s rules with reverence is low, to say the least.

This has led to some fatalistic thinking about filibuster reform: If Republicans are going to blow the filibuster up anyway, Democrats might as well take the first step and get some judges out of the deal.

3. Senate Democrats feel betrayed by Republicans. It’s hard to overstate the pride senior Senate Democrats took in cutting their January deal with Senate Republicans. That kind of good-faith dealmaking, they said, was exactly how the Senate is supposed to work. Some even argued it was a sign that immigration reform, gun control, and other top Democratic initiatives might pass.

But then Republicans filibustered more judges and executive-branch nominees. And the pride top Democrats took in their deal to avert filibuster reform has turned to anger that Republicans made them look like trusting fools. “Just talked to at least 10 Senate Dems about filibuster reform, including some who previously opposed it,” tweets the Huffington Post’s Jennifer Bendery. “Just one opposes now.”

Robert Reich On Democrats’ Lack Of Spine Re: ACA

I’ve always admired this man’s  philosophical outlook on progressive issues.

Robert Reich

Democrats are showing once again they have the backbones of banana slugs. The Affordable Care Act was meant to hold insurers to a higher standard, so it stands to reason that some people with lousy policies will get better ones after their old ones are cancelled. But spineless Democrats (including my former boss Bill Clinton) are caving in to Republican-fueled outrage that the President “misled” Americans into thinking they could keep their old lousy policies—and are now urging the White House to forget the new standards and go back to allowing insurers to offer whatever crap they were offering before (exposing families to more than $12,700 in out-of-pocket expenses, canceling the policies of people who get seriously sick, failing to cover prescription drugs, and so on).

Can we please get a grip? Whenever industry standards are lifted – a higher minimum wage, safer workplaces, non-toxic foods and drugs, safer cars – people no longer have the “freedom” to contract for the sub-standard goods and services. But that freedom is usually a mirage because big businesses have most of the power and average people don’t really have a choice. This has been especially the case with health insurance, which is why minimum standards are essential. Yes, the President might have spelled this out a bit more clearly beforehand, explaining that 95 percent of us aren’t in the private insurance market to begin with and won’t be affected, and that most of the 2 percent who lose their lousy policies and have to take better and more expensive ones will be subsidized. But right now he needs all the support he can muster to hold insurers’ feet to the fire. Democrats should stand firm.

7 reasons why Terry McAuliffe is going to win

FILE - In these Oct. 10, 2013, file photos Virginia candidates for governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli, talk during a forum at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va., prior to the November election. With polls indicating more public resentment toward Republicans than Democrats in the budget battle raging on Capitol Hill, federal work stoppage directly affecting thousands of Virginia residents has put Cuccinelli on the defensive, while giving McAuliffe an opening in a race that has been neck-and-neck for months. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

In these Oct. 10, 2013, file photos Virginia candidates for governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli, talk during a forum at the University of Richmond in Richmond, Va., prior to the November election. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

I don’t always follow Chris Cillizza’s column, but in this instance, I totally agree with him…

The Fix – Chris Cillizza

There are lots of reasons for McAuliffe’s expected victory — GovBeat’s Reid Wilson hits on a number of them, including the Democrat’s massive spending edge – but the new WaPo poll is chock full of data points that provide a roadmap for how the race got to this point. We combed through the poll — it’s like Christmas morning for us when a new poll comes out — and came up with seven reasons that McAuliffe is almost certainly going to be the next governor of the Commonwealth.

1. People don’t like Cuccinelli. Roughly six in ten likely voters (58 percent) have an unfavorable opinion of the state Attorney General including 43 percent who have a “strongly” unfavorable view of him.  In fact, more people are strongly unfavorable toward Cuccinelli than are either strongly  (17 percent) or somewhat (24 percent) favorable about him.  You almost never win races when you unfavorable ratings are so high and/or when the intensity behind those unfavorables is so strong.

2. People think Cuccinelli is too conservative. A majority (54 percent) of likely voters said that Cuccinelli’s views are “too conservative” for them while 36 percent said his stances were just about right. (Forty percent said McAuliffe’s views were too liberal while 50 percent said they were just about right.) When more than half of the electorate believes you are well outside of their political beliefs — to the right or left — it’s bad news.

3. Women, especially, think Cuccinelli isn’t their candidate. McAuliffe is beating Cuccinelli 58 percent to 34 percent among women voters in Virginia. (By way of comparison, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) beat Democrat Creigh Deeds by eight points among women in 2009.) Asked which candidate would do a better job handling “issues of special concern to women”, McAuliffe leads by 27 points. On which candidate would do a better job handling abortion, McAuliffe’s edge is 17 points.

4. Cuccinelli is losing the values fight.  Cuccinelli’s great strength in past races for state Senate and Attorney General was that even if voters didn’t agree with all of his issue stances, they believed he was a principled candidate who genuinely believed what he said. That reputation has taken a major hit in this race.  McAuliffe, whose reputation coming into this year was that he would say or do anything to get himself (or his preferred candidates) elected, has a nine-point lead over Cuccinelli on which candidate is “more honest and trustworthy”.  And, McAuliffe has an eight-point edge when voters are asked which candidate “more closely shares your values”.

5. The race is a referendum on Cuccinelli. Two-thirds of McAuliffe supporters say their vote is more against Cuccinelli than for the Democrat.  That number makes clear that the McAuliffe campaign has successfully turned this contest into a referendum on Cuccinelli and his views.

6. The federal government shutdown hurt Cuccinelli. Eighty two percent of likely voters disapprove of the government shutdown and a majority (51 percent) say that Republicans were mainly responsible for it. (Thirty percent say the blame primarily rests with President Obama.) When asked how important the government shutdown was in deciding their votes, 55 percent of the sample say it was “very” important. Worth noting: Aside from the damage the shutdown did to Cuccinelli, it also kept attention away from the disastrous launch of Healthcare.gov, a potentially terrific issue for Cuccinelli who was a leading voice nationally in opposition to the law.

7. The Republican brand stinks in the state. The GOP brand is struggling in the Commonwealth. Fifty seven percent of likely voters view the Virginia Republican party unfavorably and 65 percent view the national Republican party in an unfavorable light. By contrast, a majority — albeit it a slim one — have a favorable view of the state Democratic party (53 percent) and the national Democratic party (50 percent).

Add those seven factors up and combine the fact that McAuliffe is outspending Cuccinelli by $8 million and you see that this race is lost for Republicans.

 

Texas Republican Judge Switches Party, Denouncing GOP as Party of Bigots and Hate-Mongers

This is is not the only defection the GOP will be facing in the next couple of years…

Alternet

A Republican Judge from San Antonio, Texas, has announced he is quitting the GOP and will seek re-election as a Democrat, saying that he can no longer be part of political party whose identity is based on hate, bigotry and destrying people’s lives.

Bexar County Judge Carlo R. Key made his announcement in a YouTube campaign video, where the image shifts between the judge sitting at his bench and screenshots of Republicans—from Sen. Teed Cruz to state politicians—boosting their agenda or career by harming others.

Key’s words speak for themselves. Here’s a transcript, where he ends by urging others who share his moderate temperament and respectful demeanor to join him.

I have tried to live a life of principles. These principles have been shaped by mi familia, my community and my country. In fact, it is my dedication to these principles which has lead me to the law in the first place and has guided me to becoming a judge. These values are simple. I believe that justice demands fairness. It demands careful and intelligent probing of evidence. And above all else, justice can only be served without prejudice toward race, color, creed or whom you choose to love.

These principles have served as the bedrock upon which my rulings have been made. They are also my driving force. That is why I can no longer be a member of the Republican Party. For too long, the Republican Party has been at war with itself. Rational Republican beliefs have given way to character assassination. Pragmatism and principle have been overtaken by pettiness and bigotry. Make no mistake. I have not left the Republican Party. It left me.

I cannot tolerate a political party that demeans Texans based on their sexual orientation, the color of their skin or their ecomonic status. I will not be a member of a party in which hate speech elevates candidates for higher office rather than disqualifying them. I cannot place my name on the ballot for a political party that is proud to destroy the lives of 100s of 1000s of federal workers over the vain attempt to repeal a law that will provide health care to millions of people throughout our country.

That is why I am announcing that I am now running for re-election as a Democratic candidate for County Court of Law 11 in the 2014 elections. My principles have led me to the Democratic Party. I can only hope that more people of principle will follow me. If you believe these values are your values, then I respectfully ask you to join me and let’s work together to keep dignity, fairness and respect for rule of law in our county courts.   

Texas Democrats welcomed the judge’s decision but said they were not surprised by it.

“I’m not surprised,” said Matt Angle, director of the Lone Star Project. “Republican state leaders in Texas have moved so far out of the mainstream. They have become so divisive that fair-minded Texans are turning away. Judge Key is a prominent and respected public official, so his actions appropriately draw attention, but every day I hear from people who formerly supported Republican candidates, but now won’t do it.”