Senator Rand Paul first discussed his higher aspirations at the beginning of this year. He said he wouldn’t close the door on being a Vice Presidential candidate. After a speech in Louisville today, Paul held that door firmly open, saying he wants to be part of the national debate.
Paul’s name has swirled as a possible pick that would give Romney points with the Tea Party. When asked directly what he would say if Romney made the offer, Paul tried to punt.
“I don’t know if I can answer that question, but I can say it would be an honor to be considered,” he said.
Bonuses given after raises at Solyndra – Washington Times – Several of the nearly two dozen employees at bankrupt solar panel maker Solyndra LLC who were approved for bonuses Wednesday had months earlier received pay raises as high as 70 percent, a fact the company never disclosed in its request for bonus cash.
The company’s bankruptcy attorneys sought permission for the bonuses in a court hearing, arguing that the extra cash is needed to keep key employees from fleeing only to be replaced by more expensive outside consultants.
With little chance of stable employment and officials moving to liquidate assets, the workers needed to wind down the company have little incentive to stay, the Solyndra attorneys argued.
But an attorney for fired Solyndra workers railed against the plan, saying several of the proposed bonus recipients had received significant salary increases even after the company went bankrupt.
The Post-ABC News poll reports that 69 percent of Republicans have a favorable impression of him, the highest among all the GOP contenders. Even among “very conservative voters” he draws a 62 percent favorable rating. Rick Santorum scores a 74 percent rating (although this may change after his dreadful debate performance), but the numbers suggest that these voters don’t dislike Romney. They simply like (or liked) Santorum better.
In part, voters see perhaps what the right-wing bloggers, with visions of flat taxes and privatized Social Security ( i.e., ideal but unachievable conservative purity) dancing in their heads, miss: Romney is running on a rather conservative agenda. Not hardcore or angry conservatism, but definitely right of center.
Santorum Keeps Lead in Michigan – A new American Research Group poll in Michigan finds Rick Santorum continues to lead the GOP presidential field with 38%, followed by Mitt Romney at 34%, Ron Paul at 12% and Newt Gingrich at 7%.
“You have to ask Congressman Paul and Governor Romney what they’ve got going together,” Santorum told reporters in the spin room in Mesa, Arizona. “Their commercials look a lot alike and so do their attacks.”
Santorum’s top strategist John Brabender went even further, charging that the two men had “joined forces” and were coordinating attacks against his man
“Clearly there’s a tag team strategy between Ron Paul and Mitt Romney. For all I know, Mitt Romney might be considering Ron Paul as his running mate. Clearly there is now an alliance between those two and you saw that certainly in the debate.”
The was also coordination in their attack ads, he charged. “Ron Paul for all practical purposes has pulled out of Michigan. Correct? Where’s he running negative ads against Rick Santorum? Michigan.
“It was interesting to me that if you watch Ron Paul when he came into the debate wrote negative things about Rick Santorum down because when he started to get questions he would immediately pick up his paper and start mentioning Santorum stuff.”
He added: “What is amazing to me this shows a remarkable ability by Romney, who has already proven to be the most negative man in history on TV, now he’s even training his opponents to be negative for his benefit and actually I think that takes remarkable skill.”
The Romney campaign ridiculed the notion there was any coordination. “If ever there was an iconoclast who got up there and said what he believed it’s Ron Paul,” said Stuart Stevens, Romney’s chief strategist.
The plan would roll back tens of millions of dollars in spending cuts for the Wisconsin Technical College System as well as a corporate tax cut passed by Republicans last year. Falk, a Democrat and former Dane County executive, is seeking to challenge Gov. Scott Walker in a likely recall election.
“My ‘Invest in Success’ plan will create jobs and spur economic growth by supporting what worked in Wisconsin for 100 years – investing in education and training workers through our technical college system,” Falk said in a statement.
To help balance the state budget, Walker and GOP lawmakers in June of last year cut nearly $73 million, or 25%, from the Technical College System budget over two years. To undo part of that, Falk wants to roll back a tax cut on multi-state corporations approved by Walker and GOP lawmakers in the budget.
Runner has been absent from the upper house since January, when she disclosed that complications related to her condition required her to work outside of Sacramento. She said today that she expects to make a full recovery and will focus on “business and philanthropic efforts” after leaving office.
“Serving the people of our community over my lifetime has been an amazing blessing and I am so very thankful for their support throughout each of my elections and my tenure in office,” Runner said in a statement. “In the coming years, I will be working on behalf of the community that I love, but not in the role as an elected official.”
Mr. Obama is proposing to raise the dividend tax rate to the higher personal income tax rate of 39.6% that will kick in next year. Add in the planned phase-out of deductions and exemptions, and the rate hits 41%. Then add the 3.8% investment tax surcharge in ObamaCare, and the new dividend tax rate in 2013 would be 44.8%—nearly three times today’s 15% rate.
Keep in mind that dividends are paid to shareholders only after the corporation pays taxes on its profits. So assuming a maximum 35% corporate tax rate and a 44.8% dividend tax, the total tax on corporate earnings passed through as dividends would be 64.1%.
Why Obama’s corporate tax plan is a total bust – The current U.S. economic recovery is arguably the worst in modern American history. Incomes are flat, housing is moribund, and the past three years have seen the longest stretch of high unemployment in this country since the Great Depression. Yet President Barack Obama—with the backing of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner—has the temerity to propose a corporate tax reform plan that would actually raise the tax burden on American business by $250 billion over a decade (and de facto on workers, too) without lowering rates to an internationally competitive level. This is a terrible, terrible plan:
1. The Obama-Geithner plan would lower the statutory corporate tax rate to 28 percent from 35 percent, currently the second-highest among advanced economies. But that would still leave the combined U.S. corporate tax rate—state and federal—at 32.2 percent, far above the OECD combined average of 25 percent. The U.S. combined rate would be a bit below slow-growing Japan and France but above the U.K. and Germany. That’s not nearly good enough. Canada just lowered its corporate tax rate, for instance, to 15 percent. So instead of having the second highest corporate tax rate in the world, the United States would probably be fourth behind Japan, France, and Belgium.
“He should just write a check and shut up,” Christie said Tuesday on CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight.” “Really, and just contribute. The fact of the matter is that I’m tired of hearing about it. If he wants to give the government more money, he’s got the ability to write a check — go ahead and write it.”
Racial Preferences Redux – The Supreme Court revisits discrimination and government – When the Supreme Court last upheld racial preferences in college admissions, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote that she “expects that 25 years from now, the use of racial preferences will no longer be necessary.” That was 2003. By agreeing to hear a challenge to the University of Texas’s admissions policies yesterday, the Justices may have pushed up that deadline.
Heritage defines dependency as significantly depending on the government for help in two of the following basic expense items: housing, food, shelter, income security or higher education.
At the end of 2007, Heritage conservatively estimates there were 59.4 million Americans significantly dependent on the government.
By the end of 2010, this number had risen to 67.3 million, an increase of nearly 8 million. It is likely that another two or three million were added in 2011, for a net increase of 10 million to 11 million over the past four years.
It is not a coincidence that the number of people participating in the labor force has comparably declined over the same period.
California rates health plans on quality measures – California’s largest health plans have improved their care for diabetic patients, but many need to do better at treating children with throat infections, testing for lung disease and helping people overcome drug and alcohol addictions.
These are among the findings of the 11th annual report card released Wednesday by the state Office of the Patient Advocate.
The report card is meant to give consumers an easy-to-use tool to compare the quality of care delivered by the state’s nine largest health maintenance organizations, six largest preferred provider organizations and 212 medical groups.
Each plan is ranked in categories of care with one to four stars, depending on how well it meets national standards or how its members rate it in such areas as ease of getting appointments and customer service.
“Publicly reporting is one tool to keep plans accountable,” said Sandra Perez, director of the Patient Advocate’s Office.
“The report card helps educate everyone on what types of treatment they should be receiving from their health plan,” she said.
As in previous years, Kaiser Permanente outshone its competitors, receiving the top ranking of four stars in most categories. Most other HMO or PPO plans had no categories with four stars.
Among medical groups, the Palo Alto Medical Foundation also earned top scores, with four stars in both patient rankings and meeting national standards of care.
Tightening Arizona Race Heightens Pressure on Romney – With polls showing Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum within the margin of error of each other in Arizona and Michigan, both candidates have some tough decisions to make ahead of the states’ primaries on Tuesday.
Just a few weeks ago, Romney seemed headed for big wins in both races. Now he finds himself trailing Santorum in his native Michigan, and Santorum creeping up on him in Arizona. That means the top rivals have to carefully figure out how to best divide their time and energy over the next six days.
Obama will propose lowering the nation’s corporate tax rate to 28 percent. At the same time, however, he will seek to increase the amount of revenues raised overall through corporate taxation by eliminating numerous deductions and loopholes that save companies tens of billions of dollars a year on their tax bills, according to a senior administration official.
Chris Christie: Rick Santorum’s Satan Comments Are Relevant – Rick Santorum says his 2008 comments that “Satan has set his sights on the United States of America” are “not relevant” to the 2012 presidential race, but Chris Christie told me on “GMA” that Santorum is wrong.
“Listen, I think anything you say as a presidential candidate is relevant. It is by definition relevant. You’re asking to be president of the United States. I don’t think [Santorum’s] right about that. I think it is relevant what he says. I think people want to make an evaluation, a complete evaluation of anyone who asks to sit in the Oval Office,” the New Jersey governor said.
Adding to the religious discussion on the campaign trail, yesterday Santorum said he would “defend everything” he says and Mitt Romney said the Obama administration has “fought against religion.”
But Christie doesn’t think a debate over religion is a conversation the Republican Party wants to engage in.
“Do I think it’s the things we should be as a party talking about and emphasizing at the moment? No,” he said.
These are my links for December 29th through January 2nd:
How Gingrich Blew His Second Chance – Jonathan Martin looks at how Newt Gingrich “learned all the wrong lessons from his campaign’s collapse this summer and none of the right ones from his remarkable comeback.”
“Instead of seizing the moment and making an aggressive case for why the contest was now a two-man race between a movement conservative and flip-flopping moderate — a unique opportunity afforded by the endorsement’s implicit-but-unmistakable critique of Mitt Romney in his firewall state — Gingrich fell back to his familiar habits, a routine marked by too much self-assurance and not enough discipline.”
“Between that and some other key factors — among them, Romney’s super PAC blitzkrieg and his own weak fundraising — a campaign that seemed on the cusp of stealing the nomination barely a month ago now faces an ignominious fourth place finish or worse.”
Ron Paul’s Secret Plan To Actually Win – Ron Paul — poised to finish strong in the Iowa caucuses – has begun to implement a quiet, complex plan to force a long battle with Mitt Romney for delegates to the Republican National Convention in August. His advantages: Experience, organization, and the legacy of the 2010 Tea Party revival, which convinced Republicans that anti-government figures like Paul just aren’t as weird as they’d thought.
Paul is following the roadmap set by Barack Obama’s 2008 strategy: Start early, learn the rules, and use superior organization and devoted young supporters to dominate the arcane but crucial party procedures in states your rivals are ignoring — states where caucuses and conventions that elect the delegates who will ultimately choose the Republican candidate. The plan begins in places like Minnetonka, Minnesota, a Minneapolis suburb where Paul has based his state headquarters, and where staffers have already begun running “mock-auses” — practice runs for Minnesota’s February 7 caucuses.
Paul’s rivals dismiss his chances. “Ron Paul’s not going to be our nominee,” Mitt Romney said flatly in December. But Paul’s organization is girding for the long haul, and while the 76-year old Texan is vanishingly unlikely to be the nominee — primaries in big states like New York and California could shut him out — observers in the caucus states say they expect Paul to win, and perhaps sweep, dozens of delegates from unexpected corners of the map. Those delegates, in turn, will give him at least a prominent position at the Republican National Convention, and a plausible shot at emerging as a kingmaker if a strong mainstream challenger to Romney emerges.
Palin: “I did praise Rick Santorum and I’ll praise him again…It’s no surprise that he has the support that he has.”
Adds, “the field is what it is at this point,” and/but will not shut the door on a second VP bid.
Occupy protest follows 123rd annual Rose Parade – The 2012 Tournament of Roses brought its flowery floats and strutting bands to a worldwide audience Monday under clear blue skies, and in its wake came a scruffier parade – thousands of anti-Wall Street protesters.
The 123rd annual New Year’s Day event, with the theme “Just Imagine,” flowed along downtown Pasadena to the cheers of hundreds of thousands of sidewalk spectators.
An estimated 40 million people viewed this year’s procession of 44 floats, 16 marching bands and 22 equestrian troupes on U.S. television.
There were 10 arrests overnight, including four felonies, as thousands of spectators staked out viewing places along the route but that figure was down from the previous year, police said.
“Everything went very, very well. We’re very pleased,” police Lt. Phlunte Riddle said.
Sinaloa Cartel Shifting Meth Production to Guatemala – The Sinaloa Cartel, already thought to be the largest supplier of methamphetamine to the US, may be shifting production southwards to Guatemala. This forms part of a larger trend, in which Mexican groups appear to be shifting many of their operations into Central America.
The Associated Press reports that the seizure of precursor chemicals to produce methamphetamine is spiking dramatically in Guatemala. In 2011, authorities seized about 1,600 tons of precursor chemicals, four times the amount seized in 2010. Much of the trade is thought to be controlled by the Sinaloa Cartel.
Such reports point to a key trend previously identified by InSight Crime: the shifting of drug production into Central American nations that are not prepared to confront the Mexican cartels. There have already been some signs that drug trafficking organizes have moved their cocaine-processing infrastructure into the region, with laboratories discovered in Honduras and Guatemala. Nicaragua saw its first ever meth lab dismantled in 2009. If Mexico’s meth production is moving southwards into the Northern Triangle, it is one more indication that the region is increasingly seen as a safer environment for the drug trade.
The shift into Guatemala could also be a sign sign that law enforcement efforts in Mexico are working. Both US and Mexican authorities seized a record amount of meth along the US-Mexico border last year. Another deterrent was Mexico’s decision to ban imports of pseudophedrine and ephedine, key ingredients in meth production, in 2008.
The AP report also supports the hypothesis that the Sinaloa Cartel is expanding its hold on the methamphetamine trade. This includes taking over the network once controlled by the Familia Michoacana. The Sinaloans are now thought to be the largest distributors of meth inside the US.
Republican presidential candidate, Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas speaks during a campaign stop in Fort Madison, Iowa, Wednesday, Dec. 21, 2011
These are my links for December 21st through December 22nd:
Grappling With Ron Paul’s Racist Newsletters – Did you know about the racist newsletters published in the late 1980s and early 1990s under Ron Paul’s name? As the Texas Congressman surges in the GOP primary, the story of the newsletters is garnering headlines, as it did during his 1996 House campaign and his 2008 presidential run. He’s always insisted that he didn’t write the egregiously offensive material, and long ago repudiated it (though not as soon as he should have). Is this an old story voters will look beyond, like Newt Gingrich’s affairs? Or a new story for the vast majority of voters and the plurality of journalists who are less familiar with Paul than the other GOP frontrunners? Is it coming up now “for political reasons”? Or because it’s a legitimate subject of inquiry despite having been aired before in the media?
It seems to me that the story’s reemergence was inevitable and necessary to fully inform primary voters about their choices. This level of scrutiny is rightly what comes with contending for the presidency.
According to The Hill, the former Massachusetts governor was asked by radio host Howie Carr if Onyango Obama, who is allegedly in violation of his immigration status and was arrested for drunk driving this summer, should be deported.
In the Wednesday interview, Romney said the law must be followed.
“Well, if the laws of the United States say he should be deported, and I presume they do, then of course we should follow those laws,” he said.
Asked to clarify those comments in a press conference Thursday, Romney said his stance was not affected by the man’s relationship to the president.
And how many Miami-based HuffPo journalists are doing that? Two, according to Bill Cooke. He reports that Miami Herald staffers are complaining that the HuffPo duo are rewriting their newspaper stories for Huffington Post Miami.
Miami Herald managing editor Rick Hirsch declined to discuss this with Cooke. “I’ll say what I have to say directly to the Huffington Post. There are some things we’ll be discussing soon.”
McConnell offers a way out of the payroll tax cut thicket – As I predicted, the perennial adult in Washington, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has stepped forward with a way out of the payroll tax box into which the House Republicans have climbed. He sent out this statement:
“The House and Senate have both passed bipartisan bills to require the President to quickly make a decision on whether to support thousands of U.S. manufacturing jobs through the Keystone XL pipeline, and to extend unemployment insurance, the temporary payroll tax cut and seniors’ access to medical care. There is no reason why Congress and the President cannot accomplish all of these things before the end of the year. House Republicans sensibly want greater certainty about the duration of these provisions, while Senate Democrats want more time to negotiate the terms. These goals are not mutually exclusive. We can and should do both. Working Americans have suffered enough from the President’s failed economic policies and shouldn’t face the uncertainty of a New Year’s Day tax hike. Leader Reid should appoint conferees on the long-term bill and the House should pass an extension that locks in the thousands of Keystone XL pipeline jobs, prevents any disruption in the payroll tax holiday or other expiring provisions, and allows Congress to work on a solution for the longer extensions.”
Ron Paul’s story changes on racial comments – Rep. Ron Paul has tried since 2001 to disavow racist and incendiary language published in Texas newsletters that bore his name, denying he wrote them and even walking out of an interview on CNN Wednesday. But he vouched for the accuracy of the writings and admitted writing at least some of the passages when first asked about them in an interview in 1996.
Some issues of the newsletters included racist, anti-Israel or anti-gay comments, including a 1992 newsletter in which he said 95% of black men in Washington “are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”
Paul told TheDallas Morning News in 1996 that the contents of his newsletters were accurate but needed to be taken in context. Wednesday, he told CNN he didn’t write the newsletters and didn’t know what was in them.
Video: Ron Paul in 1995: Say, have you read my newsletters? – Mitt Romney can breathe a sigh of relief, because Andrew Kaczynksi has shifted his attention to Ron Paul this week. Andrew dug up a 1995 interview with C-SPAN, a year before running for Congress after a decade out of office. Paul tells C-SPAN that he was ready after the long hiatus to return to Washington, but that’s not the big catch in this clip. Starting at 1:45, Ron Paul explains that his private sector efforts are keeping him too busy — and starts plugging his newsletters:
What Ron Paul Thinks of America – Ron Paul’s supporters are sure of one thing: Their candidate has always been consistent—a point Dr. Paul himself has been making with increasing frequency. It’s a thought that comes up with a certain inevitability now in those roundtables on the Republican field. One cable commentator genially instructed us last Friday, “You have to give Paul credit for sticking to his beliefs.”
He was speaking, it’s hardly necessary to say, of a man who holds some noteworthy views in a candidate for the presidency of the United States. One who is the best-known of our homegrown propagandists for our chief enemies in the world. One who has made himself a leading spokesman for, and recycler of, the long and familiar litany of charges that point to the United States as a leading agent of evil and injustice, the militarist victimizer of millions who want only to live in peace.
Flipper: Romney changes stance on Iraq invasion – Romney’s statement on MSNBC is not only a change from what he said on Fox a few days ago. It’s also a change from his position during his first run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2007-2008. In a January 2008 GOP debate in Florida, Romney was asked, “Was the war in Iraq a good idea worth the cost in blood and treasure we have spent?” Romney answered: “It was the right decision to go into Iraq. I supported it at the time; I support it now.”
“It’s been going on 20 years that I’ve been pestered about this and CNN does it every time,” Paul said, clearly adjitated by the line of questioning. “When are you going to wear yourself out?”
The Texas congressman said that the articles – which did not carry a byline – were written by his publishing staff and that he did not know about them at the time.
“I didn’t write them, I didn’t read them at the time, and I disavow them. That is the answer,” Paul said.
When CNN reporter Gloria Berger defended her questioning as legitimate – noting that some of the articles were “pretty incendiary” – Paul began to remove his microphone.
The newsletters, mainly a forum for essay’s on Paul’s brand of libertarianism, once referred to Martin Luther King Jr. as “the world-class philanderer who beat up his paramours” and who “seduced underage girls and boys.”
In another article, the author writes that “given the inefficiencies of what DC laughingly calls the criminal justice system, I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”
Mitt Romney Says ‘Yes’ To Deporting President Obama’s Uncle – Presidential candidate Mitt Romney told a Boston talk radio host on Wednesday that he supports the deportation of President Obama’s Kenyan-born uncle who was arrested this fall on drunken driving charges in Massachusetts.
When asked by Boston radio personality Howie Carr whether the president’s relative, Onyango Obama, should be deported, Romney said, “the answer is ‘yes.’”
“Well, if the laws of the United States say he should be deported, and I presume they do, then of course we should follow those laws,” Romney said. “And the answer is ‘yes.’”
When Carr brought up Onyango Obama case, Romney first sought clarification: “Who is Uncle Omar, Howie?” the former Massachusetts governor asked the radio host.
Carr explained that the uncle, nicknamed “Omar,” was recently arrested in Framingham, Mass.
“Now he’s claiming he’s got a Social Security number and drivers’ license and no one knows how he got them,” Carr told Romney, “but they’re apparently legit even though he’s in the country illegally.” (Onyango Obama had reportedly defied a 1992 deportation order.)
Said Gingrich: “I’ll tell you what. If he wants to test the heat, I’ll meet him anywhere in Iowa next week, one-on-one, 90 minutes no moderator, just a timekeeper. He wants to try out the kitchen? I’ll debate him anywhere. We’ll bring his ads, and he can defend [them].”
Ron Paul Storms Out Of CNN Interview – Ron Paul walked out of an interview with CNN’s Gloria Borger, following a heated exchange over the controversy regarding racist newsletters sent in his name during the 1990s. Borger asked the Congressman if he had ever read the newsletters. “Did you ever object when you read them?”
“Why don’t you go back and look at what i said yesterday on CNN and what I’ve said for 20 something years. 22 years ago? I didn’t write them, I disavow them, That’s it.”
“But you made money off them,”
“I was still practicing medicine,” Paul responded. “That’s probably why I wasn’t a very good publisher, I had to make a living.”
Tom Del Beccaro, Chairman of the California Republican Party Response to ProPublica Report – “The ProPublica report vindicates my repeated contention that the redistricting process was hijacked. That report, however, is just the tip of the iceberg. The corruption of the process went far beyond what was disclosed in that report. No fair minded person can now say the process or the result was fair. I am calling for an immediate and thorough investigation, by Congressional and State authorities, to get to the bottom of this obviously corrupted process. Beyond that, the Congressional and Senate lines as drawn by the Commission should not be used in any way for the upcoming elections.”
In previous years, the party had used its perennial control of California’s state Legislature to draw district maps that protected Democratic incumbents. But in 2010, California voters put redistricting in the hands of a citizens’ commission where decisions would be guided by public testimony and open debate.
Democrats skew redistricting effort to their benefit, investigation finds – California’s congressional Democrats ran a secret effort earlier this year to manipulate the work of the independent citizen’s panel that drew the state’s new political districts, foiling the intent of reformers who sought to remove the redistricting process from the control of party bosses.
Democrats met behind closed doors at the party’s Washington, D.C. headquarters, hired consultants, drew their ideal districts and presented maps to the panel through proxies who never disclosed their party ties or “public interest” groups created specifically for the purpose. In many cases, the panel responded by doing just what the Democrats wanted.
The New York-based nonprofit investigative foundation ProPublica released findings Wednesday from a months-long reconstruction of the Democrats’ stealth redistricting strategy, relying on internal memos, emails, interviews and map analysis.
The success of the strategy has Democrats projecting they may pick up as many as seven congressional seats in 2012 under new district boundaries adopted last summer, far more than had been expected originally.
“Every member of the Northern California Democratic Caucus has a ticket back to D.C.,” crowed one internal memo. “This is a huge accomplishment that should be celebrated by advocates throughout the region.”
Announcer: “Decades ago Gingrich goes to Washington. Romney runs pro-choice campaign for Senate.”
Read the script below.
SCRIPT: Decades ago Gingrich goes to Washington. Romney runs pro-choice campaign for Senate. Gingrich found guilty of ethics violations. Mitt creates Romneycare. Gingrich joins Pelosi in support of global warming. Support TARP bank bailout. Collects big bucks from Freddie Mac. Rick Perry creates a million new jobs, cuts taxes, reduces regulations; the proven conservative.
Make a deal on the payroll tax, and come back for more – The Journal editors suggest: “At this stage, Republicans would do best to cut their losses and find a way to extend the payroll holiday quickly. Then go home and return in January with a united House-Senate strategy that forces Democrats to make specific policy choices that highlight the differences between the parties on spending, taxes and regulation. Wisconsin freshman Senator Ron Johnson has been floating a useful agenda for such a strategy. The alternative is more chaotic retreat and the return of all-Democratic rule.”
Johnson is suggesting implementing seven of the spending-cut ideas from the Simpson-Bowles debt commission, which amount to a cut of $655 billion over 10 years. These are relatively noncontroversial items such as reducing congressional and White House budgets by 15 percent, imposing a three-year freeze on federal workers’ pay, reducing the size of the federal workforce and selling excess government real estate. In other words, Johnson is asking if his colleagues can’t at the very least agree to chop the low-hanging fruit in the budget.
Well, it would have been nice if the supercommittee could have managed that, or if that kind of package of cuts could have been presented as a full year offset for the payroll tax reduction. But that’s for next year.
The GOP, if it has not the wherewithal to oppose a payroll tax reduction (When will Congress ever have the nerve to increase it and stem further hemorrhaging of funds available for Social Security? Why not cut the entire tax, according to the Democrats’ logic?), then cut a deal and come back to finish the work in 2012. If the Democrats want another 10 months of payroll tax relief, then Republicans should get something for that (e.g. more cuts, a definitive decision on the pipeline). Just not now. In January.
Capitol Stand-off: Republicans Caving? – My prediction: House Republicans will soon – probably within 24 hours – cave in and accept the two-month extension of the payroll tax cut passed last week by the Senate.
I base this on conversations with House Republicans who know they are losing the public relations battle and losing it badly. They know they are taking the blame for a stand-off that threatens to raise taxes on 160 million Americans. And they cannot let that happen.
As one top House Republican aide just told me: “I do not expect taxes to go up on January 1st.”
At this point, there is really only one way for taxes not to go up on January 1st: House Republicans need to fold. Democrats won’t give in because they are completely confident that House Republicans will take the blame for the impasse. And Republicans don’t disagree.
Republicans are now searching for a face-saving way to give up. The most likely scenario would be for Democrats to agree to negotiations on a full-year extension to begin as soon as next week – but only after the House passes the two-month extension.
The Senate is gone. The House has left behind a few stragglers to sit on a conference committee that may never meet. The president’s still around but itching to go to Hawaii to be with his family. Christmas is coming. Hanukkah is here.
The decision by House Republicans to deep-six a bipartisan deal to extend a payroll tax cut has left that party divided and given Democrats an issue with which to hammer them throughout the holidays. House leaders insist theirs is the principled stand because they want a year-long extension, not a two-month one.
But right now, they are hearing it from all sides, including the influential Wall Street Journal editorial board, no friend to Democrats.
Texas Gains the Most in Population Since the Census – Texas gained more people than any other state between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011 (529,000), followed by California (438,000), Florida (256,000), Georgia (128,000) and North Carolina (121,000), according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau estimates for states and Puerto Rico. Combined, these five states accounted for slightly more than half the nation’s total population growth.
“These are the first set of Census Bureau population estimates to be published since the official 2010 Census state population counts were released a year ago,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “Our nation is constantly changing and these estimates provide us with our first measure of how much each state has grown or declined in total population since Census Day 2010.”
The United States as a whole saw its population increase by 2.8 million over the 15-month period, to 311.6 million. Its growth of 0.92 percent between April 1, 2010, and July 1, 2011, was the lowest since the mid-1940s.
“The nation’s overall growth rate is now at its lowest point since before the baby boom,” Groves said.
California remained the most populous state, with a July 1, 2011, population of 37.7 million. Rounding out the top five states were Texas (25.7 million), New York (19.5 million), Florida (19.1 million) and Illinois (12.9 million).
Gingrich to House GOP: Give In on Payroll Tax – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who famously lost budget battles to President Bill Clinton amid two government shutdowns, had some advice to House Republicans at loggerheads with another Democratic president: Give in.
“Incumbent presidents have enormous advantages. And I think what Republicans ought to do is what’s right for America. They ought to do it calmly and pleasantly and happily,” Mr. Gingrich said when asked about the clash between President Barack Obama and House Republicans over extension of the payroll tax cut.
Mr. Gingrich made it clear he favored a one-year extension of the two-percentage point payroll tax cut, which expires Jan. 1, not the two-month extension that passed the Senate with bipartisan support. He called the Senate bill “an absurd dereliction of duty.”
“Obama is so inept as a president, and the Congress is so dysfunctional as an institution, that we are lurching from failure to failure to failure,” Mr. Gingrich said.
He offered sympathy to House Speaker John Boehner for having to negotiate with “a Senate majority leader who is totally disruptive and a president who is basically campaigner-in-chief, who has no interest in solving the problems of the American people.”
But he said resistance was doomed.
“It’s very hard for the legislative branch to outperform the president in communications,” he said. “He has all the advantages of being one person. He has all the advantages of the White House as a backdrop, and my experience is presidents routinely win.”
Despite the candidate’s success in expanding his political brand in recent weeks and months, those who support him remain a very distinct segment of the Republican electorate, as evidenced by a new poll in Iowa.
The Iowa State University/Gazette/KCRG survey is the latest poll to show Paul leading in the Hawkeye State’s caucuses. His 27.5 percent-to-25.3 percent lead on Newt Gingrich is within the margin of error, but it reflects a race that appears to be headed in the good doctor’s direction.
Scribd Protests SOPA By Making A Billion Pages On The Web Disappear – The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) is delayed in Congress, but it is definitely not dead. The media company lobbyists and their Congressmen (hello, Lamar Smith!) are simply regrouping. Some of the more controversial aspects of the bill include transferring liability for copyright infringement to sites that host user-generated content and blocking that content via DNS servers.
To highlight the chilling effect this legislation could have on free speech on te Internet, today document-sharing site Scribd is protesting SOPA by making every document disappear word-by-word when you vist the site. All in all, there are a billion pages of documents on the Scribd. “With this legislation in place, entire domains like Scribd could simply vanish from the web,” warns Jared Friedman, CTO and co-founder, Scribd.
GOP shuts down House on Dems’ payroll-tax gambit – House Democrats tried Wednesday to force a vote on the Senate’s two-month extension of the payroll-tax cut, but Republicans gaveled the House closed to prevent them from having a chance, as top GOP leaders huddled down the hall to try to figure a way out of the mess.
The House was set to hold a pro forma session, but two top Democrats, Reps. Steny H. Hoyer and Chris Van Hollen, demanded to be recognized to try to force a vote on the two-month extension. House Republicans have blocked that deal, which is strongly backed by President Obama, and are holding out for an extension that covers all of 2012.
Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, a Pennsylvania Republican who was serving as the presiding officer, banged his gavel to close the session Wednesday morning even as the two Democrats were demanding to be recognized.
“You’re walking out, you’re walking away, just as so many Republicans have walked away from middle-class taxpayers,,” Mr. Hoyer shouted after Mr. Fitzpatrick as he marched off the floor, leaving the two Democrats, both from Maryland, to themselves in the cavernous chamber.
These are my links for December 20th through December 21st:
Paul now top pick in new ISU/Gazette/KCRG Poll, but voters still uncertain – A new Iowa State University/Gazette/KCRG poll of 330 likely Iowa Republican caucus goers finds Ron Paul in the top spot among GOP presidential candidates with 27.5 percent, followed closely by Newt Gingrich with 25.3 percent. Paul’s lead over Gingrich is within the poll’s margin of error at plus or minus 5 percentage points.
Mitt Romney is in third place at 17.5 percent, while Rick Perry is the only other candidate to poll in double digits at 11.2.
House Republicans rejected the deal 229 to 193, with no Democratic votes, to set aside the Senate deal. GOP critics argued that the two-month deal would inject new uncertainty into a still-sluggish economy. They said they were prepared to work through the holidays to reach a deal.
WSJ: GOP a ‘circular firing squad’ – In a devastating blow to congressional Republicans, the Wall Street Journal’s editorial board blasted the GOP’s leaders on the Hill Wednesday for botching the political battle against President Barack Obama and Democrats on the payroll tax issue, arguing the party has drowned out its small victories “in the sounds of their circular firing squad.”
The editorial was headlined, “The GOP’s payroll tax fiasco: How did Republicans manage to lose the tax issue to Obama?”
Reps. Charlie Bass of New Hampshire, Jaime Herrera Beutler of Washington state, Chris Gibson of New York, Tim Johnson of Illinois, Walter Jones of North Carolina, Jeff Flake of Arizona and Frank Wolf of Virginia all voted against sending the bill to conference. The measure, which passed 229-193, continues the legislative stalemate on Capitol Hill.
Some of the votes against sending the bill to conference appeared to be a tacit acknowledgement of the political risks House Republicans could face in the year end fight over extending the payroll tax holiday.
“I support continuing the payroll tax cut, extending unemployment insurance and making sure Medicare patients have access to the medical care they need. I had hoped the Senate would have agreed that a year extension is better than 2 months. But I know that families in Southwest Washington [state] are struggling to make ends meet, and I wanted to eliminate any of their fear that this relief wouldn’t be in place Jan. 1,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement to POLITICO.
“Reason #1: House Republicans allowed the Senate to break for the Christmas holiday without explicit orders it would need to come back. In fact, Politico notes that the silence from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is deafening. Reason #2: The Senate passed its legislation by a bipartisan 89-10 vote, raising the question whether a conference committee could produce a deal that could get 60-plus Senate votes. Reason #3: The House GOP didn’t allow an up-or-down vote on the Senate bill, suggesting that it could have passed if they did. Those three reasons will be hard for the House GOP to explain away if the tax cut expires after Dec. 31.”
SOPA online piracy bill markup postponed – The House Judiciary Committee confirmed Tuesday that it will delay continuing debate on the Stop Online Piracy Act until after Congress returns from its winter recess.
Committee spokeswoman Kim Smith said in an e-mailed statement that the hearing is expected to be scheduled for “early next year.”
After two days of heated debate last week, the committee adjourned its markup session on the measure without a vote. The debate over SOPA has been framed as a fight between old media and new media. Organizations such as the Motion Picture Association of America have been backing the bill, while Internet firms such as Reddit have been mobilizing their users against it.