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Category Archives: Massachusetts
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 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
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
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.
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
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
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 Moveon.org 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.
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
Vice President Joe Biden recently told talk show host Larry King that Iraq “could be one of the greatest successes of this administration.” American troops left all Iraqi cities and towns in June of 2009 and significant force reductions are now happening. President Obama had nothing to do with us. The Status of Forces Agreement between the United States and Iraq lays out the timetable for withdrawal, and this was signed by President Bush. It was Bush who set up the schedule and agreement to pull out of Iraq by 2011. The Obama Administration is just following Bush’s plan.
Another myth is that Democrats were skeptical about the Iraq’s WMD. The quotes below demonstrate many prominent Democrats were concerned about the existence of Weapons of Mass Destruction stockpiles in Iraq prior to the U.S. liberation. Please note that Senator John Kerry was a member of the Intelligence Committee in 1999-2000, and had access to the collected information on the WMD programs well in advance of the time when George W. Bush was President. The result is that Kerry was convinced the stockpiles existed.
“One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line.”
President Clinton, Feb. 4, 1998
“Iraq is a long way from USA but, what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face.”
Madeline Albright, Feb. 18, 1998
“We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country.”
Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002
“Iraq’s search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power.”
Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002
“I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force– if necessary– to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security.”
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA), Oct. 9, 2002
“Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation … And now he is miscalculating America’s response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction… So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real …”
Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA), Jan. 23, 2003
Republicans throughout the nation are thrilled with the victory of United States Senator-elect Scott Brown. Only 11% of Bay State voters are Republicans, and this seat has been in Democratic hands for 57 years. Brown will fill Ted Kennedy’s vacancy and be the first Republican in the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation.
No one is claiming the Bay State is turning Republican but voters did send a profound message. Democratic elected officials are asking themselves if they can not win in a state which they carried by 26 points in 2008, where in the world is it safe for a liberal to be a running for federal office in 2010?
Brown raised over $12 million online which a a new record for a Senate candidate. He raised about $1 million/day during the final week. In claiming victory at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel last night, Senator-elect Scott Brown (R-MA) said:
“I thought it was going to be me against the machine. I was wrong. It’s all of us against the machine. You have shown everyone now that you are the machine.” Predicting a cascade of election surprises throughout the nation, Brown said, “Let them take a look at what happened in Massachusetts. What happened here can happen all over the country. When there’s trouble in Massachusetts, there’s trouble everywhere, and they know it.”
If Democrats now moderate some of their views it would be a boost to their outlook in the 2010 election. There is a battle underway between liberal and moderate Democrats, and health care is now the focal point. The reactions of some prominent Democrats and journalists to Brown’s victory appear below:
Terry McAuliffe, former Chairman, Democratic National Committee, “This is a giant wake-up call. We have to do a much better job on the message. People are confused on what this health care bill is going to do.”
Sen. Jim Webb (D-VA): “It would only be fair and prudent that we now suspend further votes on health care legislation until Senator-elect Brown is seated.”
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI): “It’s probably back to the drawing board on health care, which is unfortunate.”
Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN): “Many of our people are in denial, but if you lose Massachusetts and that’s not a wake-up call, there’s no hope they will wake up. We can not have the furthest left elements of the Democratic Party attempting to impose their will on the rest of the country. . . Moderates and independents even in a state as Democratic as Massachusetts just aren’t buying our message. They just don’t believe the answers we are currently proposing are solving their problems. That’s something that has to be corrected.”
Mayor Thomas M. Menino (D-Boston): “I never thought I’d see the day when a Republican replaces Ted Kennedy. I think Scott Brown caught the wave of anger that’s out there, and the wave of anti-Obama.”
Former Mayor Raymond Flynn (D-Boston): revealed after the vote that he had supported Scott Brown. He said, “People feel like their vote is being taken granted with this powerful, one party state, and with one-party government in Washington. People want a little coalition, and a little respect… I don’t know how you regroup from something like this. There are going to be a lot of problems in the Democratic party from here on out.”
Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo (D-KY): who is running for an open U.S. Senate seat, “The President is especially unpopular in eastern Kentucky. An Obama visit would not help Democrats.”
Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA): “It is really time now for Democrats to shift their attention to issues that will enjoy broad public support.”
Rep. Allen Boyd (D-FL): “When it happens in Massachusetts, it really throws us a curve. It’s a big deal for a lot of members here.”
Politico: “Think back a year ago and imagine someone saying Obama would throw his support behind Democrats in New Jersey, Virginia and Ted Kennedy’s Massachusetts — and lose all of them. Think back a year ago and imagine someone saying he would celebrate his first anniversary without having gotten health care, financial regulation or energy legislation signed into law. And that less than 50 percent of the public would hold a favorable view of his presidency.”
The New York Post editorial entitled “Heck of a Job, Brownie!”: “This is the fifth time in three months that Obama has focused his star power to effect political and policy outcomes — losing each time. It didn’t work in Virginia and New Jersey, where he roller-skated in for Democratic gubernatorial candidates Creigh Deeds and JonCorzine last November. Or in Copenhagen, when he popped in to tout Chicago as host for the 2016 Olympics.
“Or in Copenhagen again, last month, at the global climate-change conference. And now this. . . Brown won. Coakley lost. But, obviously, so did Obama. Here’s hoping the president understands why.”
The New York Times: “What happened in Massachusetts on Tuesday was no ordinary special election. Scott Brown shocked and arguably humiliated the White House and the Democratic Party establishment. . . States do not come more Democratic than Massachusetts, the only one that voted for George McGovern over Richard Nixon in 1972. . . Most ominously, independent voters seemed to have fled to Mr. Brown in Massachusetts, as they did to Republicans in races for governor in Virginia and New Jersey last November. It is hard not to view that as a repudiation of the way Mr. Obama and Democratic Congressional leaders have run things.”
The Los Angeles Times: “The Democratic Party’s defeat in Massachusetts on Tuesday — the loss of a single, crucial Senate seat — will force President Obama and his congressional allies to downscale their legislative ambitions and rethink their political strategy.”
Dr. Stuart Rothenberg, GOP political analyst, “This is the biggest political upset of my adult life.”
I am also wonder if some prominent Democrats will now retract some of their comments about the moderate Brown. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) called Brown a “far-right tea-bagger,” Chris Dodd (D-CT) said he was a”right-wing radical,” and Bob Menendez (D-NJ) claimed he had “right-wing views” and “radical record.”
The past few days have brought bad news for Attorney General Martha Coakley, the Democratic candidate in the January 19th special election to fill the late Senator Ted Kennedy’s (D) vacancy. Her performance in last night’s debate was dismal, her opponent raised over $1 million on line yesterday, and today her TV ad misspelled the word “Massachusetts.”
The biggest surprise to me was Coakley’s confusion regarding the most basic aspects of our legislative process at the federal level. She has no legislative experience which was apparent last night. She didn’t even know the House and Senate healthcare bills had to go to conference to be merged before going to both houses for a vote.
As the debate demonstrated, on national security issues the choice is clear. Coakley believes there are no terrorists left in Afghanistan and they have all gone to Yemen or Pakistan. President Obama certainly does not believe that, and he emphasized the threat of terrorism in asking us for an additional 35,000 troops. Coakley said, “If the goal was and the mission in Afghanistan was to go in because we believed that the Taliban was giving harbor to terrorists. We supported that. I supported that. They’re gone. They’re not there anymore.”
Coakley also wants to give full Constitutional rights to terrorists. She clings to her sophomoric arguments despite the fact that our soldiers when caught have been dragged through the streets, hanged on bridges and are beheaded. The people we are fighting are savages, and they do not recognize the distinction between civilian and military courts.
I am not an Obama fan, but the President is correct in saying “We are at war.” He is also correct in calling attention to nuclear weapons in Pakistan and emphasizing that they can never fall into the hands of the Taliban. State Senator Scott Brown (R) and over 95% of House Republicans support Obama’s troop surge and the President’s new counter insurgency strategy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Coakley is with the opposition.
The Attorney General lists her foreign policy experience as visiting her sister who lives in London. As a Senator, Obama voted to extend the FISA wire-tapping law. This past September, he sent a letter to Congress asking Congress to extend three expiring provisions of the USA Patriot Act. Once again, Brown and Congressional Republicans support the President on these national security matters, but Martha Coakley is on the other side. Coakley says she will “happily” oppose our wartime Commander-in-Chief as he confronts a war against terrorists.
On other subjects, Coakley said “we need to increase tax revenues.” She claims it will only be on the “wealthy,” but a tax increase on the magnitude needed for health care reform makes it impossible that only the rich will be taxed.
The debate was amazing even before it began. When he walked in, Senator Brown went over to the Coakley sign-holders, introduced himself and shook their hands. Several of the sign holders greeted him enthusiastically and said they were voting for him! They were holding Coakley signs because they were being paid $50 by their union, the SEIU.
Massachusetts has been losing population and it has a high cost of living. The state pays for the education of young people but they end up moving away because of no job growth. Companies have also been moving their offices to more tax friendly states.
I am surprised organized labor is so supportive of Coakley. They apparently do not realize why so many union members are out of work. The private sector has dried up and a major factor is the taxes and regulations imposed by the state legislature and the U.S. Congress.
I hope Massachusetts will start to turn things around and with Scott Brown they have the whole package. He started off with nothing, worked his way through college and law school, and joined the military. He understands business, and has been a public servant opposing tax increases on the local and state level. Supporting Scott Brown is a vote for change.