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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...

What We Talk About When We Talk About a Republican Senate

Presuming we have a Republican Congress next year, there's going to be a lot of talk right after the election about what that will change 1) politically and 2) substantively. While I'm ordinarily an advocate of more substantive discussion and less political discussion (not that I have a problem with political discussion, since I do plenty of it myself, it's just that it should be leavened with consideration of the things that actually matter), there's a potential problem in the substantive discussion that I think we should be on the lookout for. For instance, this morning on the radio I heard some energy expert whose name I didn't catch say that if Republicans take over the Senate, we're likely to see the government shift its focus toward fossil fuels and away from renewables. Which sounds perfectly logical until you ask how such a shift is supposed to take place. This is what is often missing from policy discussion: enough acknowledgment of the institutional processes that determine...

Are GOP Donors Going to Get Anything In Return For Their Millions?

Oh please. Who are you kidding? (Flickr/Danny Huizinga)
If you're a liberal zillionaire who contributed lots of money this year to prevent a Republican takeover of the Senate, on Tuesday you're probably going to be pretty unhappy. Which is why, Ken Vogel of Politico reports , the people who run the groups through which all those millions are being channeled are rushing to reassure their donors that it was still money well spent. Which got me thinking about the conservative donors who are probably going to be celebrating next week. For some of them, Republican victories are an end in themselves, but others have a more specific agenda in mind. They help Republicans get elected because they expect something in return. To be clear, I'm not talking about quasi-legal bribery. If you're an oil company or a Wall Street firm, you donate to Republicans not so that they'll be forced to do what you want whether they like it or not, but because you know they like it quite well. Republicans want, deep in their hearts, to cut taxes and slash regulations...

U.S. Supreme Court Could Decide Nation Status of Jerusalem

United States policy on the disputed city is illogical—for pragmatic reasons. SCOTUS shouldn't interfere.

(Photo by Omer Messinger/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images)
(Photo by Omer Messinger/NurPhoto/Sipa USA) (Sipa via AP Images) Israelis dance and wave national flags during the Jerusalem Day march on May 28, 2014, in a celebration marking the "unification" of Jerusalem after Israel took the city's east side from Jordan during the Six Days War in 1967. Author's update: Congress cannot force the executive branch to recognize Israeli sovereignty in Jerusalem, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday . The 6-3 decision in Zivotofsky v. Kerry was a narrow separation-of-powers victory for the presidency in setting foreign policy. It was also a major defeat for the Israeli government and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) in their Congressional strategy—bypassing the White House and attempting to set American policy toward Israel via Capitol Hill. The case dealt with a 2002 provision that required the State Department to register the place of birth of U.S. citizens born in Jerusalem as Israel, if so requested. In an article last fall (below...

Which Southern State Is Feeling the Brunt of Big Money Election Spending?

It's not just North Carolina.

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) Retired teacher Blaine Heslett and his son Caleb, 15, right, listen as Lee Greenwood delivers his song "God Bless the USA", at a rally for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, in Cadiz at the Scott Jolly Farm, Tuesday, October 28, 2014. McConnell is campaigning during the final week before the crucial midterm election that could shift the balance of power in Congress. This article originally appeared on Facing South , the website published by the Institute for Southern Studies. D emocratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan's bid to defend her seat against Republican challenger Thom Tillis is shaping up to be one of the most expensive U.S. Senate races in history: a flood of more than $103 million in spending from the campaigns and outside groups, according to The Charlotte Observer. This month, the spending spree has translated into about three TV ads every five minutes supporting—or, more frequently, attacking — one of the North Carolina candidates...

The House Could Get Even Nuttier After This Election, But Heat May Be Off Boehner

(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) W ith all the attention focused on the Senate in next Tuesday's elections, it would be easy to forget that there's an election for the House happening as well. The consensus is that Republicans will probably add a few seats to their majority—not a defeat, but not a blow-out victory either. Which means that nothing changes, right? Well, not exactly . As Ed O'Keefe writes: A new band of combative conservatives is likely to win House seats next week, posing a fresh challenge for Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and his leadership team as they seek to govern an expanded GOP majority next year. Six to eight new lawmakers are likely to replace incumbent Republicans in deep-red districts, primarily in the South. Most of them, such as Gary Palmer of Alabama and John Ratcliffe of Texas, are backed by the tea party movement and will be more likely than their predecessors to oppose GOP leaders on key legislation. That's right—the House Republicans will get even...

Barack Obama, the Veto-Less President

This chart and more can be yours if you click inside.
If the Republicans take over the Senate in this year's election, as now looks likely, one thing seems certain: President Obama will be issuing a lot of vetoes in the next two years. Or maybe not over the whole two years, but certainly at first. With Republicans in control of both houses of Congress for the first time since 2006, there would be an initial spasm of pointless legislating , as they set about to fulfill the promises they've made over the course of Obama's presidency: repealing the Affordable Care Act, slashing environmental protections, cutting taxes, establishing "the Reagan" as the new currency to replace the dollar, and so on. The prospect of future veto fights highlights an extraordinary fact: Obama has issued fewer vetoes than any president in modern (and even not-so-modern) American history. He has vetoed a grand total of two bills: the Interstate Recognition of Notarizations Act of 2010, which had to do with home foreclosures , and a continuing resolution that had...

Did Austerity Abet the Ebola Crisis?

A conversation with Terry O'Sullivan, an expert in the dynamics of catastrophic disease outbreaks, on the high human cost of cutbacks to public-health funding.

(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) Licensed clinician Hala Fawal practices drawing blood from a patient using a dummy on Monday, October 6, 2014, in Anniston, Alabama. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed an introductory training course for licensed clinicians. According to the CDC, the course is to ensure that clinicians intending to provide medical care to patients with Ebola have sufficient knowledge of the disease. T erry O'Sullivan is a professor of political science at the University of Akron. His research focuses on "the risk and dynamics of catastrophic infectious diseases threats from naturally occurring infectious disease outbreaks such as influenza and SARS, and from biological terrorism." In this special podcast (transcript below) from Politics and Reality Radio , O'Sullivan makes two important points in his conversation with host Joshua Holland: First, Ebola poses a minimal threat to a country like the United States, with a functional health-care...

It's Not Your Senator's Job to Stop Ebola

Flickr/Krysten Newby
To the endless list of inane things candidates accuse one another of, we can now add this: My opponent has not done enough to stop Ebola! Or actually, in this case it's local media , and the politician in question is Pat Roberts; but Roberts' opponent is picking up on it (and may have been the source of the story, since a nearly identical report appeared on a second local news station ): On the stump and in television interviews, Senator Pat Roberts has taken aim at the White House's response to the Ebola outbreak in Africa, and in the United States, including calling for a travel ban to effected [sic] West African nations. But when Roberts had a chance, as a member of the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee, to attend a special joint hearing with top public health officials briefing lawmakers on the virus and the fight against it—he was a no-show. If only Pat Roberts had been at that hearing, we'd all be safe. There are few criticisms more meaningless and yet...

Will the Right's Relentless War on Women Prove a Boon to Dems in the Midterms?

Nine Senate seats remain toss-ups. Republicans need six of those seats to win the Senate. Women voters could keep that from happening, but only if they show up to vote.

(AP Photo/David Goldman)
(AP Photo/David Goldman) A member of the crowd is greeted by First lady Michelle Obama speaks at a voter registration rally, Monday, Sept. 8, 2014, in Atlanta. O n Thursday, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals refused to reconsider the Texas law that shut down thirteen clinics in the state, leaving only eight abortion clinics open in a state where 5.4 million women are at reproductive age. The Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Texas, and Planned Parenthood challenged the original ruling last Tuesday on the basis of the constitutionality of a provision in the law that abortion doctors must have admitting privileges at a hospital within thirty miles of the abortion clinic—a measure many doctors claim is unnecessary. The measure effectively closes most abortion clinics in Texas. This law is just one of the latest attacks on women’s rights in the Republican war on women. But will it, and all of the anti-woman legislation and court decisions...

Unpredictable Schedules Inflicted on Workers are Wrecking People's Lives

This nationwide trend goes virtually undetected when we take the economy’s temperature each month.

(iStockPhoto/4774344sean)
(iStockPhoto/4774344sean) Nurses are among the many workers who suffer from unpredictable schedules that often lead to working double shifts. T he unemployment drop in the September jobs report, to 5.9 percent, was welcome news. But as many have noted, wages remain flat and 7.1 million Americans worked part-time but wanted to work full-time. Furthermore, the monthly snapshot, which focuses on limited questions and simplified distinctions, altogether misses a key indicator of the job market’s health. Our recent book, Unequal Time , suggests that for the millions of Americans fortunate enough to be working, scheduling has become chronically unpredictable. Most discussions of employment fail to capture the widespread variability in work hours, or what some employers now like to call “flexibility.” While recent media reports have focused on the unwieldy lives of young people working at Starbucks and clothing stores—working with a day’s notice or splitting shifts—the issue is far more...

In the U.S. Senate, 'Independence' Is Overrated

Flickr/Behzad No
On Tuesday, the contenders for the Senate in Virginia, incumbent Mark Warner and challenger Ed Gillespie, had a debate in which they apparently spent a good deal of time arguing over who would be the most independent. Gillespie charged that Warner just votes in lockstep with President Obama, while Warner charged that Gillespie is a partisan hack. But here's my question: Is independence really something we want in a senator? And even if it is, might it not rank way, way down the list of desirable qualities? For the record, Mark Warner is one of the more conservative Democrats in the Senate (his DW-NOMINATE scores put him as the 43rd most liberal senator in the 112th Congress and the 50th most liberal in the 111th). And it's safe to say that there is no one running for Senate anywhere in the country less likely to be independent of his party than Ed Gillespie, who has spent his career as a Republican operative and lobbyist. But as a liberal, should I be horrified that Gillespie would be...

Why Your New iPhone Has Law Enforcement In a Tizzy

Apple’s move won’t lead to terrorist attacks or unsolved kidnappings; it will simply make FBI investigators’ jobs a bit harder.

iStock/07-12-09 © billyfoto
07-12-09 © billyfoto T he debut of a new iPhone is always big news, but this time it’s surrounded by unusual controversy. That’s because the iPhone6 automatically encrypts the phone’s contents. Decrypting requires a code that the user sets and does not share with Apple—which means that, if the FBI orders Apple to turn over data kept on the customer’s phone, the company will produce data that amount to “gibberish” (as the New York Times reported ). The FBI then will have to decrypt the data—a process that could take years—or try to compel the user to reveal the code. FBI director James Comey responded with outrage, claiming that companies like Apple are “marketing something expressly to allow people to hold themselves beyond the law.” Other law enforcement officials have made similar pronouncements. Yet the law doesn’t give the government any right to the contents of your phone. It’s more accurate to say that, in recent years, the advent of widespread third-party data storage has...

In Political System Disconnected From Society's Ills, Remedies Pushed to Fringes of Public Debate

(Kike Calvo via AP Images)
(Kike Calvo via AP Images) More than 100,000 people march through midtown Manhattan on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2014 as part of the People's Climate March, a worldwide mobilization calling on world leaders meeting at the UN to commit to urgent action on climate change. F or half a century beginning with Franklin Roosevelt, there was a direct connection between the problems that afflicted American society and the remedies on offer from our democratic system. High unemployment? The New Deal, the World War II mobilization, and the postwar boom took care of that. Stagnant wages? With unions, growing productivity, minimum wage laws, and other regulation of labor standards, American real wages tripled. Education? The G.I. bill, massive investment in public universities, community colleges, and later in public elementary and secondary education produced a better educated and more productive population. And until the 1980s, public higher education was practically free. The exclusion of blacks from...

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