Archive

  • More on the Deal

    Having had more time to think through and read over the deal, I'm still pretty happy with it. But I do want to go over a few things in detail. The really crucial portion is the "future" section, where each senator is given personal discretion to decide what constitutes "extraordinary circumstances". One read of that makes filibusters easy, it's up to the Democrat. Another read means Republicans can attack it, it's up to them. But here's the thing: there's no trap door in it, no clause that says a filibuster under "ordinary circumstances" will trigger another vote. More important, that clause is followed by: "In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules change in the 109th Congress, which we understand to be any amendment or interpretation of the Rules of the Senate that would force a vote on a judicial nomination by means other than unanimous consent or rule XXII." On the face of it, that's the battle right there, it looks...
  • Done Deal

    Crisis averted. Seven Republicans and Seven Democrats brokered a deal (short PDF) averting the nuclear option. Three of the president's nominees will go to the floor (Brown, Owens, Pryor), two won't (Myers, Saad). The filibuster is not blocked in future cases and all parties pledge to vote against attempts to end it for the duration of the 109th Congress. Jeff Dubner is unhappy, but I don't really see why. The deal, crucially, says "In light of the spirit and continuing commitments made in this agreement, we commit to oppose the rules change in the 109th Congress, which we understand to be any amendment or interpretation of the Rules of the Senate that would force a vote on a judicial nomination by means other than unanimous consent or rule XXII." With these seven promising to vote against any more attempts to end the filibuster for the duration of this Congress, it seems like we got what we wanted -- the preservation of the filibuster for the Supreme Court nominee. It seems, too,...
  • HSA's on the March

    This LA Times article on the rise of Health Savings Accounts in employer-offered health plans is the most important piece you'll read this week. Corporations, tired of paying out the nose for health care, are pushing the cost onto employees. Employees, sick to death of huge premiums, are taking them up on it. The catch? HSA's look cheap upfront, but when you actually start going to the doctor or having health problems, the cost makes your premiums look meager. The sick, of course, know that they can't afford HSA's. So only the healthy use them. But subtracting the well-off from the risk pool and leaving only the chronically ill shoots premiums ever-higher, making health care prohibitively expensive for both the ill and the old. This means that HSA's are not, as a health care consultant in the article admits, a cost control. Instead, they're a cost shifting device. Employers are trying to escape the bills for health insurance and so they're enticing workers into programs where upfront...
  • More NARAL

    As this whole NARAL thing swirls, it's worth saying that, pace Plumer , I don't think the organization will make a bit of difference in the Rhode Island race. I also don't think they forced Langevin out (though I do think they probably helped). It's pretty clear that NARAL's making a symbolic move here, and my original point was that it's a stupid one and it highlights a myopia on their part. But so long as symbolism is in the air, I think Democrats could do with engaging in a bit more of their own. As a party, we've got some image problems, some real strengths, and a bunch of muddled stuff in between. One of our weaknesses is the perception that we're pro-abortion, rather than pro-choice. Hillary Clinton's "compromise" position, echoing as it did one of the Senate leadership's bills, should never have made headlines because it was already the Democratic position . Nevertheless, it got press because it contradicted what people think the Democratic position is. That means we have to...
  • Cut 'Em Loose

    Kos gets this just right, I think: One of the key problems with the Democratic Party is that single issue groups have hijacked it for their pet causes. So suddenly, Democrats are the party of abortion, of gun control, of spottend owls, of labor, of trial lawyers, etc, etc., et-frickin'-cetera. We don't stand for any ideals, we stand for specific causes. We don't have a core philosophy, we have a list with boxes to check off. ... So if nothing else, [NARAL's endorsement of Chafee] should add urgency to party efforts to find that elusive core philosophy that will help brand our party independent of those single-issue causes. A brand isn't built on the basis of a checklist. And we, as a party, need to stop thinking that way. Why is it, exactly, that Democrats are slammed as the party of abortion and gay marriage while Republicans stroll along upholding "family values"? I mean this very seriously -- what dynamic has left us a party of issues and them a party of principles? Because that...
  • Musical Amendments

    Why do Republicans hate our troops? Most likely, a grotesque combination of blind partisanship -- anything to deny a Dem a win -- and chicken-hawkism -- only war sells, not taking care of the people who actually have to fight. The fact that these Senators are from red states shows they're taking their voters for granted -- coasting on cultural posturing and division. It's ugly -- but it's a lantern for progressives. With stuff like this, we can illuminate a path out of the wilderness. We've seen conservatives before retreating into nationalism and defeatism -- just think about the Republican Party in the 1930's and 1940's -- and turning away from the real Americans who defend our country. We've also seen Democrats formulate strong, engaged policies that united our fighters and our foreign policy -- just think John F. Kennedy in the early 1960's. What am I talking about? Go here to find out.
  • Hagel's Choice

    Roll Call is reporting that conservatives are making the nuclear option a litmus test for 2008, which is putting the squeeze on some otherwise moderate faces, like Hagel. Why? Hagel's got to know that the conservative base is going to reject his candidacy. None of the other contenders, after all, provoked The American Spectator into penning a cover story on the liberal, internationalist tendencies that will disqualify them from conservative support in 2008. That edition hit newstands in 2004, four years before the next presidential election, and three before the Republican primaries. Hagel should heed the warning. His hopes for the nomination come with the independents, the McCainiacs, the New Hampshire middle. They don't lie with the conservative base. If Hagel refuses to play by partisan rules now, he'll set himself up for a more convincing bipartisan, maverick message come 2008. If he bows to their pressure, he'll begin to lose his independent, moderate status and still be rejected...
  • Blowing Up the Courthouse

    It's fairly well known that voters are ideologically conservative and operationally liberal, which is to say that they prefer conservative ideas but opt for progressive policies. I guess us political watchers should be thankful for the contradiction because it keeps both parties alive and struggling, but it's also a rough hill for Democrats to climb, constantly having to avoid triggering voters' conservative ideology so we can talk about their liberal programs. This month's American Prospect, though, has the best description I've ever read of the trouble this poses for Republicans. Geoffrey Nunberg, in an article about the Democrat's unhelpful habit of ceding ideological terrain to the enemy, nails down the dynamic with this perfect paragraph: Public support for Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America" evaporated when the House speaker forced the budget showdown with Bill Clinton that ultimately brought the whole government to a halt. It was as if someone who had built a career telling...
  • This Idea I Just Made Up? It's Wrong.

    I've said, by the way, all too little about Antonio Villaraigosa's mayoral win, so let me address that by wondering what in God's name Joel Kotkin is talking about: Last night Antonio Villaraigosa became Los Angeles's first Latino mayor in more than 100 years. In the coming days, his win will no doubt be seized upon by liberals as evidence of a growing alliance between labor and Latinos. This notion has some credence in Los Angeles itself, where Latinos have been growing in demographic strength and politics has moved leftward in recent years. Yet it would be a vast overstatement to ascribe national implications to Villaraigosa's victory. There is little reason to believe that he symbolizes the future of Latino politics at the national level; and even in Los Angeles, the lessons that it is possible to draw from yesterday's election are tempered by the circumstances surrounding this particular race--namely, the incumbent mayor's extreme unpopularity. All of which is to say that...
  • Books I Should Have Read

    Matt Yglesias handed me the baton on the latest meme, books you should have read but haven't. And since the tag came from Matt, where better to start than with the guy he did his thesis on? John Rawls' A Theory of Justice : I've cracked this one open a number of times. I've battled my way through part one. But, in the end, I never reach -- hell, I never even catch sight of -- the finish line. Bonus : I'm particularly ashamed whenever Jonah Goldberg goes on his "liberals need to read their philosophers" tangent. Bonus Bonus : Since I often go on a liberals have read their philosophers rejoinder and display Rawls prominently within the post, I have a secret suspicion that Jonah's no more finished his than I've finished mine. Bonus Bonus Bonus: I can joke that I'm speaking about Rawls' veil of ignorance from behind my own veil of ignorance. Awesome. The Bible : I've read a lot of this one. Most of the Gospels, most of the Tanakh (I refuse to call it the Old Testament), but I always fail...

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