Category Archive 'Senate'
10 Mar 2010

Senate Warned Against Reading Drudge

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Fox News detects a partisan slant in potential virus warnings pertaining to Drudge Report, one of the most active and infliential agggregators on the Internet, whose reporting commonly, but not always, features a conservative perspective.

[A]n e-mail is circulating warning U.S. Senate staffers not to view one of the most popular news sites on the Web, claiming it could spread computer viruses.

The Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, the chamber’s official gatekeeper, said the Drudge Report, a news aggregator, and whitepages.com, a telephone directory site, “are responsible for the many viruses popping up throughout the Senate,” according to an e-mail from the Environment and Public Works Committee obtained by FoxNews.com.

Another e-mail from a separate office warned that staffers who had visited the Drudge Report or White Pages had experienced viruses on their PCs.

“Please avoid using these sites until the Senate resolves this issue,” the e-mail read. “The Senate has been swamped the last couples (sic) days with this issue.”

But the Drudge Report suggested that politics might be behind the warning, noting in an original story that the e-mail came as the “health care drama in the Capitol reaches a grand finale.”

The Drudge Report noted that it served more than 29 million pages Monday without an e-mail complaint about “‘pop ups,’ or the site serving ‘viruses.'” …

A spokesman for the Environment and Public Works Committee said the Senate Help Desk cited the Drudge Report and whitepages.com only as possible examples of Web sites generating pop-up ads that might be causing a recent increase in the number of virus infections.

“Our non-partisan systems administrator notified both Majority and Minority staff that this issue had been brought to her attention,” the spokesman said in a written statement. “It is still not exactly clear where the increase in viruses is coming from, and staff have been advised to be cautious with outside Web sites at all times.”

A GOP aide to the Environment and Public Works Committee told FoxNews.com that there has been “a flurry of activity in the last couple of days” and that a couple of people on the staff had had “computer problems.”

But Brent Baker, the vice president for research and publications at the Media Research Center, wondered why the conservative Drudge was cited as an example instead of a liberal site like the Huffington Post.

I look at Drudge Report daily and I’ve seen no evidence to suggest that there is any legitimate basis for such warnings at all.

02 Mar 2010

Mickey Kaus To Run For Senate Seat From California

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Mickey Kaus

Relatively rational liberal commentator Robert Michael “Mickey” Kaus has filed his nomination papers to run against Barbara Boxer in the democrat primary in California for that party’s nomination to the US Senate.

Kaus went to Harvard and has been a prominent blogger since 1999. Although he’s a liberal, he fairly frequently posts well-reasoned analyses I agree with and link.

Investor’s Business Daily describes his politics as follows:

Kaus is a strong supporter of national health care, though he harshly criticized the White House “cost control” marketing strategy. However, he is a harsh critic of labor unions, a skeptic of affirmative action and an opponent of amnesty for illegal immigrants. Kaus is known for his honesty about the motivations of his allies, his opponents and himself.

I’m not sure that Mickey Kaus is any worse than Carly Fiorina overall, and either of the two would be a definite improvement over Barbara Boxer. I think Kaus has a chance of winning the primary, and is bound to make it an interesting race.

01 Mar 2010

One Man May Kill Health Care Reconciliation

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Parliamentarian of the Senate, Alan Frumin

The Wall Street Journal explains that it is far from a foregone conclusion that the attempt to ram the health care bill through via Reconciliation will be possible.

That arcane maneuver will have to survive the scrutiny of a theoretically independent official charged with enforcing the rules of the Senate, the Senate parliamentarian.

The drama over health-care legislation is reaching a critical stage, and soon the spotlight may land on Senate parliamentarian Alan Frumin.

Mr. Frumin is usually offstage, standing on the chamber dais whispering with the presiding officer about obscure points of Senate procedure. To lawmakers rushing to finish their long-stalled health bill, however, the $170,000-a-year Senate appointee suddenly has attained outsize prominence and power.

That is because Democratic senators, who unexpectedly lost their filibuster-proof majority in January, are relying on arcane congressional budget rules to complete the health-care revamp.

Those budget rules promise a huge procedural advantage by avoiding filibusters that require 60 votes to overcome.

But there is a big catch: Anything that is in a budget bill has to have a budget purpose. If not, the provision can be challenged under the “Byrd rule,” named for Sen. Robert Byrd, a West Virginia Democrat.

And Mr. Frumin, as the parliamentarian, must decide whether the Byrd rule has been met.

Thus, in a series of tense private meetings known informally as “Byrd baths,” it is Mr. Frumin who will determine what stays in the legislation and what goes, according to people who have taken part in the past. (Provisions that are cut become “Byrd droppings.”) Mr. Frumin’s decisions could dictate whether the health-care overhaul will gain momentum or collapse.

Byrd-bath meetings, which are held in the parliamentarian’s cubbyhole office in the Capitol, can drag on for hours as lawmakers and staffers make their cases. Running debates can stretch over weeks.

“The whole [Byrd rule] process in my experience as parliamentarian is a rather wrenching one,” said Robert Dove, Mr. Frumin’s predecessor. “It’s just long and grueling.…I don’t envy him.”

The parliamentarian and his staff “are under huge pressure,” said Sen. Judd Gregg, a New Hampshire Republican. “There are 100 elected senators and one parliamentarian, and the parliamentarian can determine what the 100 can do.”

Among the policies that could be bounced by the Byrd rule are a number of changes to how the insurance market operates. Mr. Dove expressed skepticism that the budget shortcuts were well-suited for such efforts.

“When [the budget process] is used to jam things through on a very narrow basis, that’s when it runs into problems,” he said. Still, “it’s so handy for any party that doesn’t have 60 votes.…so it’s a very tempting tool.”

Mr. Frumin, 63 years old, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

That health care bill sure looks like Byrd droppings to me.

24 Feb 2010

They Will Pay The Price, If They Try It

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Megan McArdle warns that trying an end run around the Senate’s rules will prove a costly mistake for democrats.

If the Democrats use budget reconciliation to bypass the Republicans, they will be making a big mistake.

Reconciliation is not meant to handle these sorts of problems; it’s meant to help Congress get revenues in line with outlays without letting protracted negotiations push us into a budget crisis. It’s not possible to do any sort of comprehensive, rational overhaul of the Senate health bill — which after all, was intended to be the opening salvo in a negotiation, not the final bill.

More broadly, for all that Democrats are declaring that they have a mandate, it’s pretty clear that the public does not want them to pass any of the health care bills on the table — which has to include the Obama plan, since it is only a minor tweak on the existing proposals. Polls have shown more Americans opposing passage than supporting it since early summer, and opposition has risen fairly steadily over time.

Democrats have had plenty of time to make their case. They have failed to do so. The longer they have talked, the more firmly the voters have rejected their ideas. If Congress goes ahead anyway, they will pay a terrible political price.

Many progressives are pushing the notion that having already once voted for it, Democrats will pay that political price no matter what, so they might as well pass it. That ignores several factors. First, a hated bill that failed last December is not going to engender the same ire as a hated bill that passed in May.

24 Feb 2010

Obama and Other Democrat Senators Condemn Nuclear Option

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Back in 2005, when democrats held up George W. Bush’s judicial appointments in an unprecedented display of partisanship, the Republican majority in the Senate threatened to use the so-called “nuclear option,” i.e., to use reconciliation to overcome the filibuster to achieve judicial confirmations.

Diane Feinstein warns: “It begins with judicial nominations, next will be executive appointments, and then legislation.”

5:00 video

Biden: “I pray God when the Democrats take back control we don’t make the kind of naked power grab you are doing.”

In 2005, John McCain split from the Republican Party and derailed the proposed nuclear option, imposing his own compromise.

20 Feb 2010

“It’s Back!”

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After the monster is finally dispatched in the dramatic climax of the conventional exemplar of Hollywood’s scary movie genre, when the nerves of the mass audience begin to relax, pulse rates slowdown, and theater-goers are expecting the final credits to arrive any moment on the screen, it has become traditional for directors to have a little fun by confounding expectations, setting aside all considerations of plausibility, and having the recently slain monster come right back to life and attack (and be dispatched) all over again.

One of the most impressive riffs on this by-now only too familiar trope is performed by Jon Voight, playing a murderous hunter in Anaconda (1997). Voight’s Paul Sarone comes a cropper, winding up in the coils of the giant anaconda. He is squeezed until his bones audibly break, and then ingested while the audience gets a view right down the alimentary passage of the giant reptile. We think we’ve seen the last of the heartless and relentless Sarone, but no, moments later, the snake regurgitates the villain, all covered with digestive juices, who –in one of trash cinema’s moments of genius, proceeds to wink at a truly horrified Jennifer Lopez.

2:14 (Spanish-subtitled) video

It appears that, in the same unappetizing style of curtain call made well known by Jon Voight, the health care bill may be coming back.

New York Times:

President Obama will put forward comprehensive health care legislation intended to bridge differences between Senate and House Democrats ahead of a summit meeting with Republicans next week, senior administration officials and Congressional aides said Thursday.

Democratic officials said the president’s proposal was being written so that it could be attached to a budget bill as a way of averting a Republican filibuster in the Senate. The procedure, known as budget reconciliation, would let Democrats advance the bill with a simple majority rather than a 60-vote supermajority.

Congressional Democrats, however, have not yet seen the proposal or signed on.

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I don’t agree one bit with Ezra Klein‘s claim of the public option being popular in the country, but here you see what the democrat party left is telling itself as it winks (from its current moribund position) at a horrified American voting public.

What you’re seeing here are the weird politics of the public option at play. It’s popular in the country. It’s wildly popular among the base. It’s the subject of obsessive interest in the media. There is little downside to supporting it publicly, huge downside to opposing it, and no one is allowed to ignore the issue, or even take a few days to see where the votes are.

But it’s divisive on the Hill. Bringing it back energizes all the narratives that Democrats fear most: That they’re cutting secret deals without Republicans in the room, that they’re building an extremist bill, that health-care reform is a government takeover. And this is all happening without 60 votes in the Senate or even certainty of simple majorities in the Congress. Democrats have spent the last month in a state of agonized confusion, and just as matters were clarifying, now this battle threatens to start up again.

No one I’ve spoken to — even when they support the public option — thinks that its reemergence is good news for health-care reform. It won’t be present in the package that the White House will unveil Monday. Everyone seems to be hoping this bubble will be short-lived.

But it might not be. The media is talking about it, liberals are organizing around it, none of the major actors feels politically capable of playing executioner, and Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson don’t have the power to do the job on their own. As of now, the strategy only has 20 or so supporters, and it’ll need at least another 20 or 25 to really be viable. But if it gets there, White House and Senate leadership are going to have some hard calls to make.

So, there you are. The democrat party base sees no downside, in ramming through a health care bill opposed by 58% of the American public via an unprecedented ultra-partisan maneuver around the conventional rules and procedures of the United States Senate.

It remains to be seen whether the parliamentarian of the Senate will permit the de facto elimination of the filibuster, and it is probably not altogether certain that Reid can muster even the 51 votes he would need to take that ultra-radical step.

If the democrats have the hubris to do all this, well, we will see just how well they like being in the minority in a Republican-controlled Senate with no filibuster. The first thing we should do is to repeal Obamacare, and kill the monster of socialism permanently and for the last time.

16 Feb 2010

“Barack Millstone Obama”

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Evan Bayh is retiring rather than face a fight for reelection. California’s Barbara Boxer appears to be in serious trouble in recent polls.

Peter Wehner, at Commentary, discusses the wave of fear and acrimony sweeping over the democrat party as their control of the Senate appears may actually be going to swept away in an unprecedented mid-term electoral bloodbath.

The news that Democratic Senator Evan Bayh is retiring is another stunning blow for a Democratic party that is already reeling. This development — because of who Bayh is (perceived as a moderate/centrist); because of the state he represents (a traditionally Red one but won by Barack Obama in 2008); and because of his political situation (it was assumed he was in a comfortable position to win re-election) — will have significant ramifications. It will accelerate almost every bad trend for Democrats (more retirements, fewer entries into national races, more intra-party acrimony, and more panic).

The last time we saw a double-digit shift in Senate seats in a single election was when a former movie actor by the name of Ronald Reagan was elected president (Republicans won a dozen seats back in 1980). A shift of those dimensions in a non-presidential election year would be basically unheard of. But as Jen points out, a pickup of 10 GOP seats — and recontrol of the Senate — is no longer out of the question. America’s political tectonic plates are shifting in a fairly dramatic and rapid fashion; and the resulting dislocation will batter and crush many Democratic candidates, perhaps on a scale we have not witnessed before in our lifetime, at least in a midterm election.

Such an outcome can still be averted — but as many of us have been predicting for a while now, the news for Democrats is continuing to get worse rather than better. Evan Bayh’s retirement is a body blow for the president and his party. It will cause more than a few knees in the Obama White House to buckle. It is beginning to dawn on them just what awaits them.

21 Jan 2010

Democrat Despair

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A democrat senate staffer sent Josh Marshall an email describing the impact on the majority party in Congress of the Massachusetts special election result.

The worst is that I can’t help but feel like the main emotion people in the caucus are feeling is relief at this turn of events. Now they have a ready excuse for not getting anything done. While I always thought we had the better ideas but the weaker messaging, it feels like somewhere along the line Members internalized a belief that we actually have weaker ideas. They’re afraid to actually implement them and face the judgement of the voters. That’s the scariest dynamic and what makes me think this will all come crashing down around us in November.

Of course, theirs are the weaker ideas.

The health care bill was always unaffordable, and always represented an entitlement giveaway certain to increase demand for services dramatically, resulting inevitably in rationed services making health care less available to most Americans in the future.

How mysterious that Americans are not absolutely delighted by the opportunity to bankrupt the country by a process allowing most of us to pay more and get less.

28 Dec 2009

Drunk on the Senate Floor

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Zennie62 says Max Baucus wasn’t drunk. Zennie also thinks the health care bill is a good idea.

What do you think? Let’s have a real bipartishan approach to the question.

5:38 video

26 Dec 2009

Obama Skips Church, Criticizes Minority Rights in Senate

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Obama skipped church on Christmas (I guess Reverend Wright was not GD’ing America anywhere nearby), but President Obama took up the slack personally, criticizing the Senate’s rules and procedures allowing minorities to resist passage of controversial measures.

Charles Hurt:

Increasingly unloved and ridiculed from both sides, a new and embittered President Obama is emerging this Christmas season as he begins a badly needed vacation in Hawaii.

In an interview on the eve of yesterday’s health-care ram-through, Obama expressed his deep frustration over the legislative process.

The president accused Republicans of abuse for employing the very rules that make the Senate the “world’s greatest deliberative body.”

“If this pattern continues, you’re going to see an inability on the part of America to deal with big problems in a very competitive world, and other countries are going to start running circles around us,” Obama warned.

What he is saying is that other governments around the world — those tyrannical states that do not share our respect for the minority — are better forms of government, better equipped to compete in this modern world.

This is a frightening new side of Barack Obama.

22 Dec 2009

Health Bill Contains No Repeal Provisions

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Surprise! Harry Reid’s amendment contains some tricky little provisions performing an end-run around the requirement of a two-thirds majority being needed to modify the Rules of the Senate.

Erik Erikson, at Red State, breaks the news that we don’t get to repeal Socialism.

Upon examination of Senator Harry Reid’s amendment to the health care legislation, Senators discovered section 3403. That section changes the rules of the United States Senate.

To change the rules of the United States Senate, there must be sixty-seven votes.

Section 3403 of Senator Harry Reid’s amendment requires that “it shall not be in order in the Senate or the House of Representatives to consider any bill, resolution, amendment, or conference report that would repeal or otherwise change this subsection.” The good news is that this only applies to one section of the Obamacare legislation. The bad news is that it applies to regulations imposed on doctors and patients by the Independent Medicare Advisory Boards a/k/a the Death Panels.

Section 3403 of Senator Reid’s legislation also states, “Notwithstanding rule XV of the Standing Rules of the Senate, a committee amendment described in subparagraph (A) may include matter not within the jurisdiction of the Committee on Finance if that matter is relevant to a proposal contained in the bill submitted under subsection (c)(3).” In short, it sets up a rule to ignore another Senate rule.

21 Dec 2009

Bribes and Brawls in the Senate

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Mark Steyn observes:

You can’t even dignify this squalid racket as bribery: If I try to buy a cop, I have to use my own money. But, when Harry Reid buys a senator, he uses my money, too. It doesn’t “border on immoral”: It drives straight through the frontier post and heads for the dark heartland of immoral.

Michelle Malkin has a two-part democrat bribe list.

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Dana Milbank describes how partisan things got on the Senate floor.

At 4 p.m. Sunday afternoon — nine hours before the 1 a.m. vote that would effectively clinch the legislation’s passage — Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) went to the Senate floor to propose a prayer. “What the American people ought to pray is that somebody can’t make the vote tonight,” he said. “That’s what they ought to pray.”

It was difficult to escape the conclusion that Coburn was referring to the 92-year-old, wheelchair-bound Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.V.) who has been in and out of hospitals and lay at home ailing. It would not be easy for Byrd to get out of bed in the wee hours with deep snow on the ground and ice on the roads — but without his vote, Democrats wouldn’t have the 60 they needed. …

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.) had just delivered an overwrought jeremiad comparing the Republicans to Nazis on Kristallnacht, lynch mobs of the South, and bloodthirsty crowds of the French Revolution.

“Too many colleagues are embarked on a desperate, no-holds-barred mission of propaganda, obstruction and fear,” he said. “History cautions us of the excesses to which these malignant, vindictive passions can ultimately lead. Tumbrils have rolled through taunting crowds. Broken glass has sparkled in darkened streets. Strange fruit has hung from southern trees.” Assuming the role of Old Testament prophet, Whitehouse promised a “day of judgment” and a “day of reckoning” for Republicans. …

[Senator Coburn] who led the effort last week to stall proceedings by forcing an hours-long reading of legislative language, … lobbed a grenade onto the floor when he said that, because of the legislation, Medicare recipients are “going to die sooner.”

On Saturday, Coburn likened the current situation to the period preceding the Civil War. “The crisis of confidence in this country is now at an apex that has not seen in over 150 years, and that lack of confidence undermines the ability of legitimate governance,” he said. “There’s a lot of people out there today who…will say, ‘I give up on my government,’ and rightly so.”

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