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Wisconsin OKs Recall Elections For GOP Sens. Randy Hopper, Luther Olsen, Dan Kapanke

The Wisconsin board that oversees elections rejected most challenges Monday to a recall effort targeting three Republican state senators, clearing the way for a July 12 election.

The Government Accountability Board rejected the challenges made to recall petitions targeting Republican Sens. Dan Kapanke of La Crosse, Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac and Luther Olsen of Ripon.

They are among nine lawmakers, six Republicans and three Democrats, targeted for recalls for their positions on GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s proposal taking away collective bargaining rights from most state workers.

Democrats are pushing the recalls as a way to gain majority control of the Senate, which they lost in the fall 2010 election. Democrats need to pick up three seats to gain a majority.

Republicans currently control both houses of the Legislature, providing GOP Gov. Scott Walker a clear path to passing his legislative agenda.

It was passage of Walker’s collective bargaining proposal that motivated all nine recalls. Republicans were targeted for supporting the bill while the Democrats were targeted for leaving the state for three weeks in an ultimately vain attempt to block passage of the bill.

The law has not taken effect pending a legal challenge.

State lawmakers are considering passing the law again, as part of the state budget in June, if the courts have not resolved the issue by then.

Most of the recall elections are likely to take place July 12, unless delayed by a court challenge. If a primary is necessary, that would occur July 12 with the general election likely Aug. 9.

The other Republican lawmakers facing recall elections are Sens. Robert Cowles of Allouez, Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls and Alberta Darling of River Hills. Democrats facing recalls are Sens. Dave Hansen of Green Bay, Robert Wirch of Pleasant Prairie and Jim Holperin of Conover.

The board plans to evaluate the challenges to those six recall petitions at its May 31 meeting, and likely would certify all the petitions that same week.

By: Jason Smathers, Associated Press, May 23, 2011

May 23, 2011 Posted by | Collective Bargaining, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Gov Scott Walker, Government, Governors, Lawmakers, Politics, Public Employees, Republicans, State Legislatures, States, Union Busting, Unions, Wisconsin, Wisconsin Republicans | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Republicans Ignored Warnings On Paul Ryan Plan

It might be a political time bomb — that’s what GOP pollsters warned as House  Republicans prepared for the April 15 vote on Rep. Paul Ryan’s proposed budget, with its plan to dramatically remake Medicare.

No matter how favorably pollsters with the Tarrance Group or other firms spun  the bill in their pitch — casting it as the only path to saving the beloved  health entitlement for seniors — the Ryan budget’s approval rating barely budged above the  high 30s or its disapproval below 50 percent, according to a Republican  operative familiar with the presentation.

The poll numbers on the plan were so toxic — nearly as bad as  those of President Barack Obama’s health reform bill at the nadir of its  unpopularity — that staffers with the National Republican Congressional  Committee warned leadership, “You might not want to go there” in a series of  tense pre-vote meetings.

But go there Republicans did, en masse and with rhetorical gusto — transforming the political landscape for 2012, giving Democrats a new shot at  life and forcing the GOP to suddenly shift from offense to defense.

It’s been more than a month since Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and his  lieutenant, Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va) boldly positioned their party as  a beacon of fiscal responsibility — a move many have praised as principled, if  risky. In the process, however, they raced through political red lights to pass  Ryan’s controversial measure in a deceptively unified 235-193 vote, with only  four GOP dissenters.

The story of how it passed so quickly — with a minimum of public  hand-wringing and a frenzy of backroom machinations — is a tale of colliding  principles and power politics set against the backdrop of a fickle and anxious  electorate.

The outward unity projected by House Republicans masked weeks of fierce  debate, even infighting, and doubt over a measure that stands virtually no  chance of becoming law. In a series of heated closed-door exchanges, dissenters,  led by Ryan’s main internal rival — House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave  Camp (R-Mich.) — argued for a less radical, more bipartisan approach, GOP  staffers say.

At a fundraiser shortly after the vote, a frustrated Camp groused, “We  shouldn’t have done it” and that he was “overridden,” according to a person in  attendance.

A few days earlier, as most Republicans remained mute during a GOP conference  meeting on the Ryan plan, Camp rose and drily asserted, “People in my district like Medicare,” one lawmaker, who is now having his own  doubts about voting yes, told POLITICO.

At the same time, GOP pollsters, political consultants and House and NRCC  staffers vividly reminded leadership that their members were being forced to  walk the plank for a piece of quixotic legislation. They described for  leadership the horrors that might be visited on the party during the next  campaign, comparing it time and again with former Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s  decision to ram through a cap-and-trade bill despite the risks it posed to  Democratic incumbents.

“The tea party itch has definitely not been scratched, so the voices who were  saying, ‘Let’s do this in a way that’s politically survivable,’ got drowned out  by a kind of panic,” a top GOP consultant involved in the debate said, on  condition of anonymity.

“The feeling among leadership was, we have to be true to the people who put  us here. We don’t know what to do, but it has to be bold.”

Another GOP insider involved to the process was more morbid: “Jumping off a  bridge is bold, too.”

Time will tell whether the Medicare vote, the most politically  significant legislative act of the 112th Congress thus far, will be viewed by  2012 voters as a courageous act of fiscal responsibility — or as an unforced  error that puts dozens of marginal GOP seats and the party’s presidential  candidates at serious risk. That question might be answered, in part, this week  during a special election in New York’s 26th Congressional District, in which  Republican Jane Corwin appears to be losing ground to Democrat Kathy Hochul.

The GOP message team is already scrambling to redefine the issue as a  Republican attempt to “save” Medicare, not kill it.

But the party’s stars remain stubbornly misaligned. Presidential hopeful Newt  Gingrich candidly described the Medicare plan as “right-wing social engineering”  — only to pull it back when Ryan and others griped. And Priorities USA Action,  an independent group started by two West Wing veterans of the Obama  administration, was out Friday with its first ad, a TV spot in South Carolina  using Gingrich’s words to savage Mitt Romney for saying he was on the “same  page” as Ryan.

“The impact of what the House Republicans have done is just enormous. It will  be a litmus test in the GOP [presidential] primary,” said former White House  deputy press secretary Bill Burton, one of the group’s founders.

“I couldn’t believe these idiots — I don’t know what else to call them — they’re idiots. … They actually made their members vote on it. It was  completely stunning to me,” said former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a Democrat  who worked hard to win over the western part of his state, which has among the  highest concentration of elderly voters in the country.

It was also the site of some of the Democrats’ worst losses in 2010 — three  swing House seats Democrats hope to recapture next year, largely on the strength  of the Medicare argument.

“Look at [freshman House members in the Pittsburgh-Scranton area], they make  them vote on this when they’re representing one of the oldest districts in the  country?” Rendell asked.

“We have a message challenge, a big one, and that’s what the polling is  showing,” conceded Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), a former Karl Rove protégé who  enthusiastically backed the Ryan plan. “There’s no way you attack the deficit in  my lifetime without dealing with the growth of Medicare. Do we get a political  benefit from proposing a legitimate solution to a major policy problem? That’s  an open question.”

The House Republican leadership had hinted at an emerging plan to tackle  entitlement reform on Feb. 14 — the day Obama released his budget without  reforms to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.

Cantor caught Hill reporters by surprise when he said, nonchalantly, that the  Republican budget would be a “serious document that will reflect the type of  path we feel we should be taking to address the fiscal situation, including  addressing entitlement reforms.”

But there were also internal motivations in the decision to go big on  Medicare, rooted in Boehner’s still tenuous grasp of the leadership reins,  according to a dozen party operatives and Hill staffers interviewed by  POLITICO.

Republican sources said Boehner, who has struggled to control his  rambunctious new majority, needed to send a message to conservative upstarts  that he was serious about bold fiscal reform — especially after some of the 63  freshmen rebelled against his 2011 budget deal that averted a government  shutdown.

Then there’s the ever-present friction between Boehner and Cantor, who, along  with Minority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), has positioned himself as the next  generation of GOP leadership and champion of the conservative freshman class.

Boehner’s camp said the speaker has always supported the Ryan  approach — which would offer vouchers to future Medicare recipients currently  younger than 55 in lieu of direct federal subsidies — and proved his support by  voting for a similar measure in 2009.

“Boehner has said for years, including leading up to the 2010 election, that  we would honestly deal with the big challenges facing our country,” said his  spokesman, Michael Steel. “With 10,000 Baby Boomers retiring every day, it is  clear to everyone that Medicare will not be there for future generations unless  it is reformed. The status quo means bankruptcy and deep benefit cuts for  seniors. It’s clear who the real grown-ups in the room are. We’ve told the truth  and led, while the Democrats who run Washington have cravenly scrambled and lied  for partisan gain.”

But that message hasn’t always been quite that clear. On several occasions,  Boehner has seemed squishy on the Ryan budget. In talking to ABC News, Boehner  said he was “not wedded” to the plan and that it was “worthy of consideration.”

Still, even if Boehner had opposed the plan — and his top aide, Barry  Jackson, expressed concerns about the political fallout to other staffers — he  probably couldn’t have stopped the Ryan Express anyway, so great was the push  from freshmen and conservatives.

That’s not to say some of the speaker’s allies from the Midwest didn’t try.  Camp and Ryan hashed out their differences in a series of private meetings that,  on occasion, turned testy, according to several GOP aides. Camp argued that the  Ryan plan, which he backed in principle — and eventually voted for — was a  nonstarter that would only make it harder to reach a bipartisan framework on  real entitlement reform.

A few weeks later, Camp told a health care conference that, from a pragmatic  legislative perspective, he considered the Ryan budget history. “Frankly, I’m  not interested in talking about whether the House is going to pass a bill that  the Senate shows no interest in. I’m not interested in laying down more  markers,” he said.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) also made  the case for a more moderate approach — but his principal concern was the  Medicaid portion of Ryan’s plan, an approach he believed wouldn’t do enough to  reduce burdens of indigent care on states.

But even as Democrats high-five over the possibility of Medicare-fueled  political gains, Republicans are trying to muster a unified defense. Cantor, for  his part, stumbled by suggesting to a Washington Post reporter that the Ryan  Medicare provisions might be ditched during bipartisan debt negotiations being  led by Vice President Joe Biden.

Cantor later clarified his remarks and claimed he still backed the Ryan  principles, but no GOP staffer interviewed for this article believed the  Medicare overhaul has any realistic chance of passage.

By: Glenn Thrush and Jake Sherman, Politico, May 23, 2011

May 23, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Consumers, Deficits, GOP, Government, Health Reform, Ideology, Individual Mandate, Journalists, Lawmakers, Media, Politics, Rep Paul Ryan, Republicans, Right Wing, Seniors, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Dick Cheney Of Israel: It’s What Netanyahu Is Doing To Israel Now

Three points about Obama’s recent speeches on the Arab world and the Middle East — the one at the State Department, and the one today at AIPAC. Jeffrey Goldberghas been responding to these in detail.

1) It’s complicated. We should no longer be surprised that a major Obama speech on an important topic is characterized mainly by its embrace of complexity.  Here’s why this matters:

Traditionally the role of a Presidential speech is to say, in bald terms, which side of an issue the Administration is coming down on. Are we going to war, or not? Is the president going to sign a bill, or veto it? People outside the government underestimate how important big presidential speeches are in resolving policy arguments and deciding what an administration’s approach will be.

Obama’s big speeches have been unusual, because the side they come down on is that of complexity. In his classic Philadelphia “race in America” speech: the recognition that every part of our racial mix has its insecurities and blind spots. In his Nobel prize address: that military force is not the answer but is an answer. In his West Point speech a year and a half ago: that the U.S. can’t stay in Afghanistan forever but should stay for a while. You can apply this analysis to almost every major address.

Including these latest speeches. He argued that the United States has “interests” in the Middle East — oil, stability, anti-terrorism — and it also has ideals. So it will try harder to advance its ideals, without pretending it has no (often contradictory) interests. He presented Israel-Palestine in this same perspective. As a meta-point, he said that Israel-Palestine is only part of the larger Arab-world evolution, but is a crucial part. On the merits, he emphasized that Israel has to be secure, that Hamas must accept that reality, that Israel must be able to defend itself — but that it cannot stand pat, wait too long to strike a deal, or forever occupy the West Bank.

My point here is about Obama rather than about the Middle East. From some politicians, for instance those otherwise dissimilar Georgians Jimmy Carter and Newt Gingrich, a collection of “complex” ideas often comes across as just a list. Obama, most of the time, has pulled off the trick of making his balance-of-contradictions seem a policy in itself. Rather than seeming just “contradictory” or “indecisive.” This is unusual enough that it’s worth noting. (And for another time: the vulnerabilities this approach creates.)

2) Israel’s Cheney. By “a Cheney” I refer to the vice presidential version of Dick Cheney, who (in my view) mistook short-term intransigence for long-term strategic wisdom, seemed blind and tone-deaf to the “moral” and “soft power” components of influence, profited from a polarized and fearful political climate, and attempted to command rather than earn support from allies and potential adversaries.

That was bad for the U.S. when Cheney was around. It’s what Netanyahu is doing to Israel now, and Israel has less margin for strategic error than America does.

Right after Obama made his big speech, it was welcomed in most of the world and by most major U.S. Jewish organizations. The immediate critics were Mitt “throw Israel under the bus” Romney, Sarah Palin, Tim Pawlenty, Mike Huckabee, and Binyamin Netanyahu. Explain to me the universe in which this is a wise strategic choice for a nation highly dependent on stable relations with the United States — and on ultimately making an agreement in the region that allows it to survive as a Jewish democratic state.

Think of this contrast: when China’s Hu Jintao came to Washington for a state visit, each of the countries had profound disagreements with the other. (Chinese leaders hate the U.S. policy of continued arms sales to Taiwan, much more so than Netanyahu could sanely disagree with any part of Obama’s speech.) Neither China nor America is remotely as dependent on the other as Israel is on the United States. Yet Obama and Hu were careful to be as respectful as possible, especially in public, while addressing the disagreements. High-handed and openly contemptuous behavior like Netanyahu’s would have seemed hostile and idiotic from either side. As it is from him.

The real service Netanyahu may have done is allowing easier U.S. discussion of the difference between Israel’s long-term interests and his own.

3) God bless this speech. President Obama showed that it is possible to end a speech with … a real ending! The usual one might have sounded odd in a speech largely addressed to the Islamic world. So the release text of his speech concluded in this admirable way:

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal.”

Those words must guide our response to the change that is transforming the Middle East and North Africa — words which tell us that repression will fail, that tyrants will fall, and that every man and woman is endowed with certain inalienable rights. It will not be easy. There is no straight line to progress, and hardship always accompanies a season of hope. But the United States of America was founded on the belief that people should govern themselves. Now, we cannot hesitate to stand squarely on the side of those who are reaching for their rights, knowing that their success will bring about a world that is more peaceful, more stable, and more just.

By: James Fallows, National Correspondent, The Atlantic, May 22, 2011

May 23, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Foreign Governments, Foreign Policy, Freedom, GOP, Government, Ideology, Middle East, National Security, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, Terrorism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The GOP’s Apology Primary: Love Means Always Having To Say You’re Sorry

In the 2012 Republican presidential race, love apparently means always having to say you’re sorry.

On an array of issues, the field of GOP contenders is facing enormous pressure from an ascendant conservative base to renounce earlier positions that challenged orthodoxy on the right. Their response to those demands could cast a big shadow over not only next year’s Republican primary but also the general-election contest against President Obama.

The emergence of these pressures testifies to a decisive shift in the GOP’s balance of power. The ideas now drawing the most fire from conservative activists–including support for a cap-and-trade system to limit greenhouse-gas emissions, a mandate on individuals to purchase health insurance, and a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants–all flowered in Republican circles during the middle years of George W. Bush’s presidency, especially among governors.

In different ways, each of these proposals embodied the common belief that Republicans had to broaden their message beyond a conventional conservative argument focused almost exclusively on reducing government spending, taxes, and regulation. Intellectually, these initiatives reflected an impulse to redefine conservatism in ways that accepted a role for government in empowering individuals or promoting market-based solutions. Politically, they reflected the belief that to build a lasting majority, Republicans needed to attract more minority voters, especially Hispanics, and to loosen the Democratic hold on blue states by reclaiming more suburban independents.

At varying points, this tendency operated under different names, including “compassionate conservatism” and “national greatness conservatism.” But the shared belief “was the sense that the Republican Party, in order to revitalize itself, needed to … show that it had modernized,” said Pete Wehner, who directed the Office of Strategic Initiatives in Bush’s White House.

Behind that conviction, Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress in 2003 created an entitlement by establishing the Medicare prescription drug benefit. In 2006, with Bush’s support, 23 GOP senators voted with 39 Democrats to provide a pathway to citizenship for illegal immigrants.

In the states, this instinct produced health care reform proposals from Govs. Mitt Romney in Massachusetts and Arnold Schwarzenegger in California that centered on an individual mandate, as well as initiatives from many GOP governors to promote alternative energy and to impose mandatory limits on the carbon emissions linked to global climate change. Republican governors played driving roles in creating regional multistate alliances to limit carbon emissions in the Midwest (Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota); the Northeast (George Pataki in New York); and the West (Jon Huntsman in Utah and Schwarzenegger). Huntsman joined then-Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona in 2006 to produce a bipartisan Western governors’ plan that favored legalization over deportation for illegal immigrants.

Many hard-core conservatives always bristled at these initiatives. But in those years, they lacked the leverage to entirely suppress them. Now, though, the party’s most conservative elements have clearly regained the upper hand. The tipping point was the election of Barack Obama and his pursuit of an agenda that significantly expanded Washington’s reach across many fronts. His initiatives produced a powerful back-to-basics reaction among Republicans.

The result has been to revert the party’s message toward one focused almost solely on shrinking government. “Obama, by the way he governed, shifted the debate into a much more traditional Democratic-Republican divide over the role of government,” notes Wehner, now a senior fellow at the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center. “That’s pushed to the side or capsized these other issues.”

That dynamic has left the 2012 GOP contenders facing multiplying demands to abandon and apologize for positions they took in what now looks like a brief period of Republican glasnost.

Pawlenty has already apologized for imposing carbon limits in Minnesota but hasn’t yet renounced his parallel support for requiring utilities to generate more of their power from renewable sources, which some conservatives have also demanded. Huntsman, as he considers the race, has abandoned his previous climate policies but not yet walked back his tilt toward legalization for illegal immigrants. Romney renounced his favorable comments about legalizing undocumented immigrants (as well as his earlier backing of abortion rights) during his 2008 run, but he drew a surprisingly firm line this month by reaffirming his support for his health insurance mandate in Massachusetts. Newt Gingrich, who has faced similar complaints about his earlier support for an individual mandate and efforts to control carbon emissions, hasn’t fully tossed aside either.

These maelstroms leave the candidates without many good options. To dig in behind earlier positions promises unending collisions with conservatives (as Romney has now done on health care). But abandoning too many positions under pressure could open the eventual nominee to effective attacks from Democrats. “If these candidates are now sliding back on things they once believed, it raises questions about whether they can be a strong leader,” says Bill Burton, the former deputy White House press secretary who is heading an independent Democratic campaign effort for 2012. If voters agree, the 2012 Republicans may feel sorry later for saying sorry so often now.

By: Ronald Brownstein, Political Director, Atlantic Media, The Atlantic, May 20, 2011

May 23, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Climate Change, Conservatives, Democracy, Democrats, Elections, Exploratory Presidential Committees, GOP, Government, Governors, Health Reform, Ideologues, Ideology, Immigration, Individual Mandate, Medicare, Politics, President Obama, Regulations, Republicans, Right Wing, States, Taxes | , , , , | Leave a comment


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