Category Archives: Massachusetts

The Government Shut Down: We Need Another Daniel Webster by Gregory Hilton

This note was written in 1996. Ted Kennedy's brother John F. Kennedy devoted a chapter to Webster in "Profiles in Courage." JFK also chaired the committee which selected Webster as one of the five greatest Senators of all time. The other Senators were Henry Clay (KY), John C. Calhoun (SC), Robert LaFollette (WI) and Robert Taft (OH). Their portraits are on display in the Senate Reception Room.

The major issue on Capitol Hill this week is Friday’s expiration of the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling. If the debt is not cut or the ceiling raised, the government would have to be shut down on March 4th. The situation is similar to the 1995 confrontation between President Clinton and Speaker Gingrich when the government was shut down twice. Continue reading

John Quincy Adams: A Gentleman Would Not Campaign for President by Gregory Hilton

"The Adams Chronicles" was a 1976 Emmy award winning series which covered 150 years of family history. This episode portrayed the future first family at the beginning of the American Revolution in 1776. Back row, John Quincy Adams, Abigail Adams II, First Lady Abigail Adams. Front row, Thomas Adams, President John Adams and Charles Adams.

John Quincy Adams was intent on being President of the United States in 1822. At work he focused on what would become known as the “Monroe Doctrine.” It would be named after President James Monroe, but it was Adams idea. The election was two years away but Adams fretted because few people were coming forward in support of his candidacy. Continue reading

Financial Reform: Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) Angers Conservatives by Gregory Hilton

Senators Scott Brown (R-MA) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) both endorsed the Dodd/Frank Financial Reform Act yesterday. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) was already supporting the bill, and the backing of three Republicans will give Democrats the 60 votes they need. The White House describes this bill as their top legislative priority.
Only 51 votes are needed for passage, but 60 votes are necessary to stop a GOP filibuster. The vote will be held this week, and Democrats will not have to wait for the appointment of a successor to the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV).
What is Happening on Capitol Hill?
The legislation has already been approved by the House of Representatives. Four GOP Senators supported the bill when it was first considered in May, but in recent weeks Brown and Snowe had balked at revisions made by the joint House-Senate committee. Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) also voted for the bill the first time but is now undecided. He will not vote to cut off debate.
Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA) voted no the last time but has since changed her position. Cantwell’s colleague Patty Murray (D-WA) faces defeat this November and the frontrunning Republican opposes Dodd/Frank. He had been saying he agreed with Cantwell and that put Senator Murray in an awkward position.
Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), who received the “Cornhusker Kickback” on health care reform, is once again threatening to change his vote. He was in favor of the bill the first time but now says Nebraska banks are concerned because the new regulations have not been written.
If Nelson does bolt, Democrats will have to wait for Byrd’s replacement which could come as early as Friday. Liberal Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) will be voting with the Republicans, and he did so the last time.
What is the Purpose of the Legislation?
Chairman Barney Frank (D-MA) of House Banking Committee says the major purpose is to rein in the use of complex financial securities known as derivatives. The legislation would create two new agencies to oversee hedge funds, credit-rating agencies and mortgage firms.
Frank says the bill is necessary because these institutions are not covered by current laws. The bill gives the government authority to seize teetering financial firms.
What Has Senator Brown Accomplished?
Brown was able to demand that Democrats drop their planned $19 billion tax on banks and large financial firms. Brown said the banks would increase fees, and this would be a back door tax increase. Brown was also successful in having the Democrats agree to an early end of TARP (the Toxic Asset Recovery Program).
Brown was included in Time magazine’s recent list of the”100 Most Powerful People,” and the Boston Globe’s annual survey indicates he is the most popular politician in the Bay state. He personally conducted negotiations on financial reform with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner.
How Did Senator Brown Explain His Position?
The Senator told reporters yesterday:

While it isn’t perfect, I expect to support the bill when it comes up for a vote. It includes safeguards to help prevent another financial meltdown, ensures that consumers are protected, and it is paid for without new taxes. That doesn’t mean our work is done. Further reforms are still needed to address the government’s role in the financial crisis, including significant changes to the way Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac operate. . . A lot of folks say we shouldn’t do anything. Well, I disagree. I think we should do something.

Is Brown a Conservative?
The Senator describes himself as a moderate conservative. In his speech last January on the night he won a dramatic upset victory to claim the seat of the late Ted Kennedy (D-MA), Brown said he would not always vote with Republicans.
He has made several campaign appearances on behalf of Republicans and his major theme is that a trillion dollars in stimulus spending has still not created one new permanent job. Brown angered liberals by voting against the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (gays in the military) and says he is against the extension of unemployment benefits.
What Groups are in Opposition to the Financial Reform Bill?
While conservatives are certainly opposed to the Dodd/Frank bill, opposition is not limited to the right wing and includes:
Independent Community Bankers of America.
National Association of Home Builders
American Bankers Association
The Financial Services Roundtable
American Council of Life Insurers
Financial Services Forum
J.P. Morgan
US Chamber of Commerce
National Auto Dealers Association
Why Are Conservatives Opposed to the Dodd/Frank Bill?
Conservatives say the result of Dodd/Frank will be adverse changes to the nations financial system, and increased costs. They noted both higher ATM fees and the end of free checking as banks pass on the costs of new regulations.
Anticipating the passage of Dodd/Frank, Wells Fargo has just eliminated it’s free checking account program. Other banks may now follow suit.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), the Minority Leader, says the bill “will guarantee perpetual taxpayer bailout of Wall Street banks,” and expressed concerns about the $50 billion fund to help finance forced liquidations.
Sen. Richard Shelby (AL), the ranking Republican on the Banking Committee, says the bill:

Reinforces the expectation that the government stands ready to intervene on behalf of large and politically connected financial institutions at the expense of Main Street firms and the American taxpayer. Therefore, the bill institutionalizes ‘too big to fail.’
This is the exact same model that led us to the crisis in the first place, except for one distinct difference. The government bailout is built in from the beginning through the use of taxpayer guarantees.
The American people are being misled. The authors of this bill are telling them that this legislation has been drafted to address the recent financial crisis and that it will ‘tame’ Wall Street. . . behind the veil of anti-Wall Street rhetoric is an unrelenting desire to manage every facet of commerce under the guise of consumer protection.

Many GOP lawmakers noted that a fund to bail out creditors of large firms only encourages them to increase in size. This is similar to what happened with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They were viewed as being protected by the government.
Other lawmakers are asking why the bill is being passed before Congress receives recommendations from the Presidents commission studying what caused the September 2008 meltdown of the financial system.
What Has Been The Reaction to Brown’s Decision?
Senator John McCain (R-AZ) is one of many prominent GOP leaders who have expressed disappointment with Brown. Among the comments from Brown’s constituents were:

  • Dennis Bolduc: “Scott, you are just another RINO. I supported your campaign and I now regret it. I wish I had my $ 100.00 donation back.”
  • Bobby Girard: “The Senator had my support until this vote. Being a moderate Repblican should have nothing to do with voting for this particular bill. I am disappointed that thanks to the Senator this huge intrusion of government will become part of our lives.”
  • Tom Kippenberger: “Senator Brown, how can you approve of the sweeping power in the Financial Reform Bill without demanding inclusion of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae in the regulatory language? You know that these two entities were instramental in creating the mess we are currently in. You deceived the good people of Massachusetts into believing that you would be a bulwark against big government.”
  • Michael Lynn: “Scott, I do not believe you read the bill (I did). If you had, you would have found many items that are very objectionable. If you vote for this bill, you will have taken a drastically wrong turn. I donated to your election, but I will donate twice as much to your primary opponent the next time around!”

Why Was The Amendment to Audit The Federal Reserve Stripped From The Bill?
The House and Senate conferees voted to strip out language to have the General Accounting Office (GAO) audit the Federal Reserve Board. Even the Senate sponsor of the amendment, Bernie Sanders (D-VT), went along with the deletion.
The audit the fed amendment had over 300 co-sponsors in the House, but the Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, Chris Dodd (D-CT), said the legislation was not needed and over 100 audits of the Fed had already occurred.
Chairman Dodd says Fed branches are audited annually two ways: an internal audit by permanent staff and an audit by an outside CPA firm. Dodd says the GAO already has the authority to audit the Fed, but they are not permitted to make monetary judgments. The GAO is also not permitted access to decisions the Fed makes concerning foreign central banks. This limit was set by Congress to keep the Fed independent of politics.

The Real RINO’s and the Republican Civil War by Gregory Hilton

Some conservatives are annoyed because Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) did not vote with the GOP the first time the financial reform bill was considered. I was also disappointed, but at the same I understand Massachusetts is not Utah. We cannot expect hard core conservatives to represent the Bay State.
Aside from Brown, there is no other Republican in the Bay State delegation. There are 40 members of the State Senate and only four of them are Republicans. Not one Republican represents the six New England states in the House of Representatives. Continue reading

Iraq’s WMD, the Last Debate With Senators Byrd and Kennedy by Gregory Hilton

The two lions of the Senate are gone now, but their unfortunate legacy in national security policy remains. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) would have been shocked to see today’s Boston Globe which reports his GOP successor holds not only his Senate seat, but also his decades long claim to be the most popular politician in the Bay state. Continue reading

Looking Back at the Massachusetts Miracle: Scott Brown Changed Everything by Gregory Hilton

The Class One United States Senators from Massachusetts include John Quincy Adams, Daniel Webster, Charles Sumner, Henry Cabot Lodge, John F. Kennedy and Ted Kennedy. On January 18, 2010, the name of Scott Brown was added to this list.

Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) enraged many conservatives this week. He met privately with President Obama on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the Kerry/Lieberman climate change bill. Upon leaving the White House, the Massachusetts lawmaker said:

I basically told him that I’m not in favor nor could I support a national energy tax or a cap-and-trade proposal, but I am very excited about working with him in a bipartisan manner to come up with a comprehensive energy plan to address a whole host of issues: wind, solar, hydro, nuclear, geothermal, conservation, incentivizing businesses, providing grants and loans to our businesses.

The cap and trade proposal is being advocated by Brown’s colleague John Kerry (D-MA), but the Republican continues to refer to it as cap and tax. At the end of their meeting, Obama redeemed the promise he made to Brown on election night.
The President invited the Senator and his daughter Ayla (a star on American Idol) to play basketball with him at the White House. Senator Brown’s victory in the special election last January to replace the late Ted Kennedy was a major triumph for the Republican Party. It was not only a GOP win in the Democrat’s Vatican City, but it brought the liberal super majority to an an end.
Prior to Brown, Democrats had 60 seats and they had no incentive to work with Republicans. The super majority allowed Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) to run the Senate by a series of cloture votes. Reid filed cloture on every important issue. This brought debate immediately to an end because there were not enough GOP Senators to stop cloture.
The tactic ended with Brown’s election as the 41st Republican. His victory allowed the GOP to keep any filibuster alive and block Democrats from automatically enacting legislation.
Brown has not changed his campaign rhetoric from last winter. One of his major themes is that a trillion dollars in stimulus spending has still not created one new permanent job. Nevertheless, Brown will not be confused with hard core conservatives such as Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), and he did join Maine GOP Senators Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins in supporting the financial reform bill. Last January’s stunning triumph has now been forgotten by several conservative activists:

  • Melissa Jenkins says “So far voting Brown has had ZERO benefit for the Republicans. He will vote with the Democrats, he is a fool and a tool! He is completely clueless and way in over his head.” She now regrets not voting for the libertarian candidate even though she realizes this would have resulted in a liberal Democratic victory.
  • Kristen Hornbrook says “I smell bribery! This man stripped off his clothes for Playgirl magazine. To me that puts his ethics into question.”
  • Morgan McComb of Irving, Texas says “I never trusted nor supported Scott Brown. What a looooooooser.”

What these conservatives fail to recognize is that Brown’s election has already resulted in significant change. The Democrats still have 59 votes for the rest of this year, but without their super majority they are unable to enact the most radical aspects of the liberal agenda. For example, if Brown had lost, the prospects for cap and trade and union card check would have improved significantly. Some of Brown’s conservative critics are now blaming him for the passage of the health care reform bill. The Senate passed the health care bill prior to Brown’s election. In fact, that is the major reason it was passed. They knew it would never be enacted if the Democrats did not have 60 votes, which is the number required to invoke cloture and end debate. Brown was not a member of the Senate at that time. After cloture the Democrats only needed 51 votes.
A Major Setback for the Radical Left
Brown’s victory really resulted in a four seat gain for the GOP. Unlike health care reform, Majority Leader Reid can no longer count on the backing of Senators Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) and Ben Nelson (D-NE). Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN), 54, said the Brown win changed everything, and one month later he shocked the nation by announcing his retirement.
Both Arkansas and Indiana are expected to fall to the GOP this year, and while Nelson is not up until 2012, he is already trailing Gov. Dave Heineman (R-NE) by 30 points. The Brown triumph brought a halt to a wide range of liberal legislation, such as the attempt to spend $400 billion this year to create a promised 5 million new job. Labor unions wanted to pay for it by enacting a tax on stock, bond and currency trading.
Extravagant spending proposals such as those advocated by organized labor and are impossible without a super majority. Even the Obama administration has changed its rhetoric in the new political climate. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner says the $400 billion jobs program is a bad idea, and the Majority Leader told the Daily Kos he no longer has the votes.
God Bless The RINO’s: They Were There When We Needed Them
Many of the Brown critics are libertarians, but ironically it was the Libertarian Party which allowed the Obama agenda to be enacted in the first place. Third party Libertarian candidates gave Democrats their super majority. They defeated GOP Senators Norm Coleman (MN), Gordon Smith (OR) and Slade Gorton (WA). They also gave Democrats the Governor’s mansions in Washington state and Wisconsin, and they provided President Obama with his margin of victory in Indiana and North Carolina.
There were many liberal Republicans in the 1960s Senate, but that is not true today. The few moderates that remain almost always vote with the GOP when they are needed. That did not happen with the three defects on the stimulus, but 95% of the time, moderates stick with the GOP on close votes. That is especially true in this session of Congress.
The complaints about “RINO’s” (Republicans in Name Only) from some “constitutional conservatives” are also ironic. They castigate moderates for deviating from the GOP platform, while at the same time these isolationist conservatives oppose the U.S. role in Afghanistan and Iraq. The libertarians and the Pat Buchanan paleoconservatives are the real RINO’s.

BOOK REVIEW: “True Compass” by Senator Edward M. Kennedy, reviewed by Gregory Hilton

PHOTO: Senators Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Robert F. Kennedy (D-NY) in 1965 (NY TIMES).

I just finished reading Ted Kennedy’s memoir, “True Compass.” A conservative does benefit from some of Kennedy’s observations, and this is especially true when he discusses how the Senate changed from 1963 to 2009. The late Senator was proud of his close friendships with conservatives Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ted Stevens (R-AK), and said cross party friendships used to be essential to passing legislation.
He noted that rarely happens today and the atmosphere is far more partisan. One reason is that few lawmakers remain in the nation’s capital over weekends where they could develop bonds with their colleagues. The bipartisan dinner groups are long gone. Continue reading