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House Dem 256   GOP 178  

Map of the 2010 Senate Races
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News from the Votemaster

Plan B for Health Care Reform     Permalink

Now that two of the three Republicans Senate Finance Committee chairman Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) picked to negotiate with over health care (Sen. Michael Enzi and Sen. Chuck Grassley) have basically said they don't want reform and are just trying to kill what they consider a bad bill, Democrats are looking at other options. One obvious one is to try to find a couple of other Republicans to negotiate with, but there are not likely to be many takers.

Then what? Using the reconciliation process is getting more attention, as it requires only 50 votes plus Joe Biden and cannot be filibustered. TPM has an interesting story on this option. In short, only bills with a major impact on the federal budget are allowed in reconciliation. So to qualify easily, the bill would need a robust public option that puts a lot of pressure on insurance companies and would lower health care costs. Liberals could go for that. The trouble is that conservative Democratic senators, such as Sen. Ben Nelson (D-NE), Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), might bolt. If more than 10 Democrats and independents refused to sign on, the bill wouldn't get the necessary 50 votes. But if the public option were weakened to get enough votes, it might not qualify for reconciliation.

There are ways to deal with this problem, however. First, "qualification" means that the Senate parliamentarian, Alan Frumin, says that the bill qualifies. But if a majority of the Senate doesn't agree with him, the Senate can overrule him. In fact, it can also fire him. This is precisely what happened in 2001, when the Republican-controlled Senate didn't like the rulings from then-parliamentarian Robert Dove on Bush's tax cuts, so they fired him and hired Frumin.

A second (theoretical) option is for President Obama to strongarm a couple of recalcitrant senators to get to 50. He could start by reading a couple of biographies of Lyndon Johnson. Then he could look for trade barriers, subsidies, and tax breaks their states depend on, etc. As one example, he could invite Landrieu to the White House to discuss global warming. Since Hurricane Katrina, she has become somewhat interested in the topic. He could say that he wants to encourage the use of ethanol as a fuel and by far the most efficient way to make it is from sugar, which can be purchased at considerable expense in Louisiana or very cheaply in Brazil. Consequently, he wants to abolish all barriers to importing unlimited amounts of Brazilian sugar. If this means the end of the Louisiana sugar industry, so be it. At that point he would have her 100% undivided attention and could add "but if you were to vote for the health bill, as a special favor to you, I could shelve this plan." Ben Nelson might get a lecture on the need for reducing the federal deficit--a topic of great interest to him--starting with eliminating those wasteful subsidies to Nebraska corn farmers. And so on. The problem with this approach is that Obama is no LBJ. He'd have to learn fast and it is not really his style.

Special Election Set in Massachusetts     Permalink

The special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA) has been set for Jan 19, 2010. But the election is just a formality as the Democrat will win it. The real battle will be for the Democratic nomination. The primary will be held Dec. 8. Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley (D) is the first announcee, but there will surely be more. Next week the state legislature will start considering a bill to allow Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA) to make an interim appointment so Massachusetts will have two senators even before the special election.

McDonnell's Masters Thesis May Affect Virginia Gubernatorial Race     Permalink

At the age of 34, Republican gubernatorial hopeful Bob McDonnell (R) wrote a master's thesis at Regent University, a Christian school founded by televangelist Pat Robertson. In the thesis, he said government policy should favor married couples over "cohabitors, homosexuals, or fornicators." He also attacked the 1972 Supreme Court decision legalizing contraception by unmarried couples (since they shouldn't be having sex anyway). He also argued that since God's law on family matters predates civil law, it should also trump it. He also described working women as detrimental to the family. In addition, he advocated making divorce more difficult. In his 14 years as a state legislator, he tried to write these and other principles described in his thesis into state law. His problem now is that some of these views aren't too popular in increasingly blue Northern Virginia and his opponent in the election to be held in just two months, state senator Creigh Deeds (D), is likely to bring the subject up repeatedly. McDonnell is now trying very hard to repudiate the positions he took, but this could become his "macaca moment."

Garamendi and Harmer Will Face Off in CA-10 Election     Permalink

In a special primary election yesterday to fill the CA-10 seat of Rep. Ellen Tauscher (D-CA), who was appointed Undersecretary of State, Lt. Gov. John Garamendi (D-CA) came in first with 28% of the vote. He will face Republican businessman David Harmer in this D+11 district in November.

People Not Running for Office     Permalink

Usually it is more newsworthy when somebody announces they are running for some office, but declarations that they are not running sometimes make the news when there was a lot of speculation that they might run. Recent nonrunners include;

      - Gen. Russel Honore will not challenge Sen. David Vitter (R-LA)
      - Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) will not challenge Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA)
      - State senator Brad Hutto (D) will not run against Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC)
      - Rep. Peter King (R-NY) will not go for the nomination to oppose Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)

All of the above had been rumored to be Senate candidates.

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