Congress

The Keystone XL Issue May Be Resolved With—Shocker—Democratic Capitulation

"Do you want me to drink a glass of crude oil? 'Cause I will. I mean it." (Flickr/Mary Landrieu)
The current Democratic effort to help Mary Landrieu win her runoff election by scheduling a quick vote on the Keystone XL pipeline has to be one of the most politically idiotic moves in recent history. As I argued yesterday , not only is it guaranteed to fail in its goal of helping Landrieu, it gives Republicans a huge policy victory while getting nothing in return. Runoff elections have extremely low turnout, and the only way Landrieu stands a chance is if she can convince lots of Louisiana Democrats to go to the polls to save her. This kind of me-too policymaking—I'm just as pro-oil as Republicans are!—is about the last thing that'll pump up Democratic enthusiasm. But they're going ahead with it anyway, and word is now that a vote is likely next week. All may not be well, however, between Landrieu and her colleagues. The close of this article in today's Post is rich with intrigue: Before her remarks, Landrieu was spotted riding the escalator alone up from the Senate trains that...

Chart of the Day: What Republicans Really Want

(AP Photo/Dennis Brack)
In case you were wondering just how inclined Republicans will be to find ways to work with President Obama, here's the chart of the day, from a new Pew Research Center poll . Victory, it seems, does not make the GOP electorate magnanimous: This isn't a new story, but it's still striking. While the Ron Fourniers of the world will tell you that "the American people" want the two parties to come together to get things done, that isn't actually true. Many Americans want that, but they're mostly Democrats and independents. Most Republicans, on the other hand, don't want that at all. What they want is a fight. They want the officials they elected to shake their fists at that radical Kenyan socialist in the White House and tell him where he can shove it. Since that's what most of those officials are inclined to do anyway, the decision is simple for them. When there's a choice between compromising to get something accomplished and "standing up" to Barack Obama to make a point, they're going...

Election 2014: Surge or Theft?

How dark money and voter disenfranchisement combined in a toxic brew that resulted in the lowest voter turnout in more than 70 years, hampering whatever chance Democrats had to win.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) In this November 6, 2012 file photo, a voter holds their voting permit and ID card at the Washington Mill Elementary School near Mount Vernon, Virginia. Across the South, Republicans are working to take advantage of a new political landscape after a divided U.S. Supreme Court freed all or part of 15 states, many of them in the old Confederacy, from having to ask Washington's permission before changing election procedures in jurisdictions with histories of discrimination. L ast Tuesday’s election was, by any measure, a sweeping victory for the Republicans—their second consecutive midterm sweep since Barack Obama took office, by which they’ve now picked up a total 77 seats combined in the United States House of Representatives and the Senate. In the House they’ve not had a majority this size since Herbert Hoover occupied the White House—and they control more statehouses now than at any time in the nation’s history. But what does that mean—or more...

Can Democrats Get to a True Blue Majority?

These two are totally not speaking to each other. (Flickr/Beverley Goodwin)
Everyone knew that the 2014 Senate election was going to be a tough one for Democrats, in large part because they were defending more seats than Republicans, and many of those seats were in red states. And of course, Democrats lost all the close races, with the exception of the one in New Hampshire. This is going to have an effect on the Democratic caucus in the Senate that we haven't really been talking about since last Tuesday: it's going to make it more liberal. In fact, the red state Democratic senator is a nearly extinct species. Look at the incumbents who lost: Mark Begich in Alaska, Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Mark Udall in Colorado, Kay Hagan in North Carolina, and possibly Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, who is headed for a run-off. That's three red-state senators, and two from swing states. Democrats also lost vacated seats in Iowa (swing), Montana (basically red), South Dakota (red), and West Virginia (red). If Landrieu loses, there will be no more Southern Democratic senators...

Republicans May Finally Get Their Wish to Watch the Affordable Care Act Destroyed

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
SEIU O n Friday, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case of King v. Burwell , perhaps the last gasp in the Republican attempt to use the courts to destroy the Affordable Care Act. The reaction to this news among liberals was, to put it mildly, shock and dismay. Simply put, the lawsuit is a joke, and the fact that any judge, let alone a justice of the Supreme Court (not to mention five of them) would do anything but laugh it out of court is a testament to just how shamelessly partisan Republican judges have become. At least four justices have to consent to hear a case, so it's possible that there will still be five votes to turn back this stink bomb of a case. That will probably depend on the good will of John Roberts, something I wouldn't exactly want to stake my life on. But lives are indeed at stake. There are a couple of optimistic scenarios for how this could all turn out, and I'll explain why I suspect they're wrong. But in case you haven't been following, this case rests on...

Progressive Midterm Victories You Didn't Hear About -- And Some That Could Still Happen

Across the nation, voters passed measures against fracking and abortion restrictions, and for the minimum wage, paid sick leave, public safety and gun reform. 

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) Topher Jones, from left, of Denton, Texas, Edward Hartmann, of Dallas and Angie Holliday of Denton, Texas, hold a campaign sign supporting a ban outside city hall, Tuesday, July 15, 2014, in Denton, Texas. A North Texas city became the first in the state to ban hydraulic fracturing when voters passed a ballot measure on November 4, 2014. T uesday’s Republican wave of election victories did not reflect public opinion or the public mood. Instead it was the result of the GOP’s triumph in changing the rules of democracy to favor big business and conservative interest groups, including the triumphs of corporate money and voter suppression. But while Democrat candidates were going down to defeat, liberals and progressive won some impressive but little-publicized victories on important issues—including minimum wage hikes—especially in red and purple states, suggesting that voters are not as conservative as the pundits are pontificating. One of the most significant...

John Boehner Already Making Excuses For His Failure

Flickr/Gage Skidmore
It only took a couple of days before John Boehner made clear that when it comes to his approach to legislating in the wake of the Republicans' victory in the midterms, absolutely nothing has changed. All that talk about "getting things done" and "showing they can govern"? Forget about it. In his press conference the day after the election, President Obama got asked about immigration reform and repeated what he's been saying all along—that if Congress doesn't pass anything, he'll take some (as yet undisclosed) actions based on executive authority. He also noted for the umpteenth time that the Senate already passed a reform bill, one that included lots of gettin'-tough provisions demanded by Republicans, which Boehner refused to bring to a vote in the House even though it would have passed. He also emphasized that if Congress does pass a bill, it would supplant whatever executive actions he might take, so taking some executive actions might provide a nice inducement for them to do...

The Next Attempt By Republicans to Mislead On the Affordable Care Act

Mitch McConnell is deeply concerned about these women. (Flickr/Swampler)
If you were paying close attention, you would have heard a new phrase being repeated by Republicans, particularly Mitch McConnell, over the last few days: "restore the 40-hour workweek." You may have said, "Wait, is the workweek not 40 hours anymore?" If you had no idea what McConnell is talking about—and I'm pretty sure he's hoping very few people do—it sounds like he's advocating some kind of pro-worker initiative. And indeed, that's how he and John Boehner put it in their op-ed in today's Wall Street Journal , saying that one of the top items on their agenda is to "restore the traditional 40-hour definition of full-time employment, removing an arbitrary and destructive government barrier to more hours and better pay created by the Affordable Care Act of 2010." Now we're getting closer. The government, with that damn Obamacare, is cutting your hours and pay! As Boehner put it , we have to "restore the 40-hour workweek for American workers that was undone by Obamacare." Since we're...

Watch Parties: Grim Pro-Choicers, Mouthy Teenagers, Sad Tarheels, Happy Potheads, Plus Poets, Pols and Mentors

We dispatched our staff, interns and a couple of friends to watch parties for midterm election results hosted by groups across the progressive coalition. Here's what they found.

(AP Photo/The Wilmington Star-News, Jason A. Frizzelle)
(AP Photo/The Wilmington Star-News, Jason A. Frizzelle) Campaign Manager Erin Rogers, second right, and Democratic party NC Senate District 9 candidate Elizabeth Redenbaugh, right, watch election results at Ted's Fun on the River in Wilmington, N.C. on Tuesday, November 4, 2014. In the Durham Bubble, N.C. Progressives Caught Off-Guard By Hagan's Defeat Tar Heel progressives may not have loved their senator, but they worked hard to re-elect her—and thought they would. BARRY YEOMAN Just before 10 p.m. on election night, Debby Dowlin climbed onto the long wooden table at 106 Main, a cocktail bar in Durham, North Carolina. An organizer with Credo SuperPAC —which ran field operations to defeat five Republican candidates for U.S. Senate—Dowlin had been working to prevent Thom Tillis, the state House Speaker, from unseating Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan. “We’re really hoping to clinch that,” she told the bar’s patrons. “We may have different feelings about Kay Hagan”—whose lackluster first...

Watch Party Dispatch: High Schoolers From Across the Country Want Change Now

For one thing, they're more concerned with voting rights than the behind-the-scenes details of national politics.

Close Up Foundation
T he Hamilton Live, a Washington, D.C., nightclub, is unrecognizable on election night. One hundred twenty-two high school students from 11 states, not to mention the 30 from Mexico, fill the bottom floor of the Hamilton usually packed for late night R&B and blues. This watch party is the culmination of the second day of an election week program run by the Close Up Foundation, an organization that seeks to teach students to be engaged citizens. The atmosphere is fairly sedate for a room full of teenagers away from their parents on a school night. They don’t react to the projections coming in on the big screen in front of them. To their credit, they’re focused on speakers Matt Robbins, of the conservative organizing non-profit American Majority, and Christian Dorsey, of the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute, presenting a Republican and Democrat point of view, respectively. Robbins keeps asking if the students have questions about how things really run in Washington. Although...

Watch Party Dispatch: At Howard University, Mentors Challenge Young Activists' Ideas of Victory

For the African-American community, given all the obstacles, an uptick in turnout can be a victory in and of itself.

(Ayanna Alexander)
Ayanna Alexander Signs decorate the Howard University meeting room where the National Coalition for Black Civic Participation and the Black Women's Roundtable gathered students for a midterm election results watch party on November 4, 2014 A s the midterm results rolled in, what was projected by the oddsmakers came to pass. Some mixed emotions, but mostly utter disappointment over the GOP takeover, filled all of my social media feeds. I took my solace in the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation's Unity Election Night and its "What Say You" political conversation on the campus of Howard University, the historically black institution where I attend college. Attendees ranged in age from 18 to 50-something, and each person in the room seemed determined to stay positive in her comments, despite any qualms about what the new political landscape could mean for America, and especially for the lives of African Americans. At the beginning of the evening, most of those gathered...

Minimum Wage Measures Pass Easily in Four Red States

In the 2014 midterms, the Democrats' economic agenda fared better than Democrats.

(AP Photo/Carson Walker)
(AP Photo/Carson Walker) South Dakotans decided on November 4, 2014 whether to raise the minimum wage in the state from $7.25 an hour to $8.50. Mark Anderson, president of the South Dakota AFL-CIO, led union members in gathering enough petitions to force a public vote on a minimum wage ballot measure. A s devastating as Tuesday night’s election was for Democrats—Republicans took control of the Senate and won a number of key governor races — it was actually an encouraging night for the progressive economic agenda. In four red states—Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota—minimum wage ballot initiatives all passed easily . In San Francisco, voters overwhelmingly passed a $15 minimum wage— with notably little opposition from the business community . And in Illinois, voters sent a clear message through a non-binding advisory initiative that they want lawmakers to raise the minimum wage, and fast. Increasing the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 has been a major economic...

Top 5 Senate Races Where Dark Money and Outside Spending Ran Wild

Half a billion dollars was spent on U.S. Senate races this year, making this cycle the most expensive midterm campaign ever.

Shutterstock.com
This article has been corrected. G et ready for a week of pundits making claims of just what was proven by the results of the 2014 midterm elections. But one thing is already quite clear: Money is indeed a deciding factor. Half a billion dollars was spent on U.S. Senate races this year, making this cycle the most expensive midterm campaign ever. Much of that money was used by non-profit issue groups for what is known as “outside spending”—meaning money used for advertising and other forms of communication ostensibly to support an issue, but most often an issue that is framed in such a way to lend support to the group’s favored candidate. (These are the ads that often say something like: “Call Senator X and tell him to stop [supporting some allegedly terrible thing].") The 2014 cycle also shows how effectively outside spending groups can sway elections: When conservative groups outspend liberal groups (and sometimes even when they don’t), conservative candidates win. North Carolina,...

The Democrats' Catastrophe and the Need For a New Agenda

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, joined by his wife, former Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, celebrates with his supporters at an election night party in Louisville,Tuesday, November 4, 2014. McConnell won a sixth term in Washington, with his eyes on the larger prize of GOP control of the Senate. The Kentucky Senate race, with McConnell, a 30-year incumbent, fighting off a spirited challenge from Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, has been among the most combative and closely watched contests that could determine the balance of power in Congress. D emocrats had ample reason to fear that this year’s midterm elections would not go well for them, but bad doesn’t begin to describe what happened to them—and the nation—yesterday. Catastrophic is more like it. Democrats didn’t just lose the Senate; they lost statehouse after statehouse. They didn’t just lose the red states; they lost the purple and the blue. They lost the governorships of Maryland...

Democrats Cede Advantage to GOP By Failing to Embrace Pocketbook Populism

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) In Kentucky's combative Senate race, Democratic candidate Alison Lundergan Grimes makes an appeal at a campaign rally, Saturday, November 1, 2014, at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. The results of the closely watched Kentucky contest will be crucial in the midterm election that could shift the balance of power in Congress. W hy are Democrats on the verge of an avoidable mid-term disaster? Some of the reasons include the six-year jinx, in which the president’s party normally loses congressional seats. Some of it is luck of the draw in terms of who is running, with less than stellar candidates such as Bruce Braley in Iowa and Alison Lundergan Grimes in Kentucky. And some if it reflects an electorate turning against an incumbent president who is hunkered down rather than fighting back. Yet that set of alibis lets the Democrats off the hook far too easily. There is a huge amount of unfocused anger and frustration in America, much of it around...

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