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Archive for the ‘DC’ Category
By Charlie Cook
October 17, 2013
Here’s a question for conservatives and Republicans: Going into the 2012 Election Day, or even in the last few days before Election Day, did you think Mitt Romney was going to win? A couple of months ago, did you think the strategy of threatening to shut down the government or prevent raising the debt ceiling, to force the outright repeal or defunding of Obamacare, would really work? Romney lost by 4,967,508 votes, 126 Electoral College votes, and 3.85 percentage points. That’s not very close. Obamacare isn’t going to be repealed this year, and it’s not going to be defunded.
So the question is whether conservatives and Republicans should begin to worry if their instincts—specifically, their judgment on matters of politics and policy—are a bit off. Maybe “spectacularly wrong” would be more accurate. Does that worry anyone on the right or in the Republican Party? Are they concerned that continuing to follow such awful political instincts could lead to catastrophic consequences for their movement and their party?
Obviously, not every Republican or conservative thought, up until the end, that Romney would win or that the anti-Obamacare strategies would work. But this increasingly widespread tone deafness should concern party leaders, particularly when it leads to self-destructive decisions, as we are witnessing these days. In politics, it isn’t uncommon to see judgment clouded by emotion, but when hate and contempt predominate, truly awful decisions often result.
Driving in to work Tuesday morning while listening to WTOP, Washington’s excellent all-news radio station, I heard my friend, the extremely able congressional reporter Dave McConnell, relate a conversation he had had with a Republican House member. This member told McConnell that allowing the debt ceiling to be breached might “get the leadership’s attention.” That sounded like a kid saying if he threw his mother’s priceless vase against the wall, she might start letting him do what he wants. Political judgment this bad, coming from members of Congress, is a dangerous thing for a party. When it comes to dealing with something with enormous consequences, such as intentionally creating a situation that could lead to default on our national debt, we are no longer quibbling about minor differences of opinion.
The combination of redistricting; population-sorting; and media-viewing, listening, and reading habits has created ideological and partisan culs-de-sac and incestuous thinking that are causing astonishing miscalculations on hugely consequential matters.
I consulted a psychiatrist and a psychologist on this question. Both said there is no formal term for the behavior some Republicans are exhibiting, but one described the groupthink as “hysterical delusional affirmation,” and the other named it “delusional synergy.” One said, “It entails suspension of logical intellectual processes with a selective consideration of only confirmatory input. Paranoid people typically experience ideas of influence and control where they believe that they see things that others cannot. This process is often propelled by delusions of grandeur, quite often messianic in nature.”
Certainly, delusion is not new. During Bill Clinton’s presidency, the hatred and contempt for the Arkansan among many Republicans and conservatives was so great it led prominent GOP members to do some pretty outrageous things—up to and including then-Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana shooting a melon in his backyard to try to prove some harebrained conspiracy theory about the late White House counsel Vince Foster’s death. And that’s not to mention the impeachment fiasco. When hatred turns into obsession, it spawns some pretty erratic and destructive behavior.Destructive behavior is not confined to one political party. During George W. Bush’s presidency, the Left and some Democrats got caught up in some pretty crazy stuff as well; some peddled conspiracy theories that Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance and that his 2004 reelection was stolen. More recently, House Democrats’ decision in 2009—despite a worsening recession—to push ahead on cap-and-trade climate-change legislation, and then pursue health care reform after unemployment topped 9 percent, cost them their House majority, along with Senate seats, governorships, state legislative seats, and control of chambers. This led to devastating redistricting consequences for the party. It’s also worth pointing out the fairly crazy belief on the left that the political controversy surrounding health care reform would help Democrats and virtually ensure Obama’s reelection. The union-backed decision to push a recall of GOP Gov. Scott Walker in Wisconsin falls into this category as well—another colossal miscalculation based on hate, not logic.
And don’t get me started on the “birthers.” It’s one thing to dislike or disapprove of Obama, but to get obsessed over birth certificates—really? “Hysterical delusional affirmation” and “delusional synergy” aren’t terms normally associated with the political process, but after the spectacle of the past few weeks, they seem pretty apt. While many Republicans—those who are clear-eyed about today’s political realities—are exempt, these terms apply to enough of them that it may be time for the GOP’s Non-delusional Caucus to stage an intervention. Otherwise the party may be headed for some voter-administered therapy.
October 9, 2013
Republican Party Favorability Sinks to Record Low
Falls 10 percentage points from September’s 28%
by Andrew Dugan
This article is part of an ongoing series analyzing how the government shutdown and the debate over raising the debt ceiling are affecting Americans’ views of government, government leaders, political parties, the economy, and the country in general.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — With the Republican-controlled House of Representatives engaged in a tense, government-shuttering budgetary standoff against a Democratic president and Senate, the Republican Party is now viewed favorably by 28% of Americans, down from 38% in September. This is the lowest favorable rating measured for either party since Gallup began asking this question in 1992.
The Democratic Party also has a public image problem — although not on the same elephantine scale as that of the Republican Party — with 43% viewing the Democratic Party favorably, down four percentage points from last month.
These findings come from a Gallup poll conducted Oct. 3-6 that followed the Oct. 1 partial government shutdown after lawmakers in Washington were unable to pass a spending plan for the federal government.
More than six in 10 Americans (62%) now view the GOP unfavorably, a record high. By comparison, nearly half of Americans (49%) view the Democratic Party unfavorably. Roughly one in four Americans see both parties unfavorably.
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Republicans More Likely to See Own Party Unfavorably
Self-identified Republicans are more than twice as likely to view their own party unfavorably (27%) as Democrats are to see their own party unfavorably (13%). The GOP’s unfavorable rating among Republicans is up eight points from September, compared with a one-point rise in Democratic Party unfavorables among Democrats. These findings may be consistent with the widely circulated narrative that the Republican Party is internally splintered on how best to handle the budgetary negotiations.
Independents, meanwhile, remain unimpressed with both parties: Thirty-two percent view the Democratic Party favorably, while 27% view the Republican Party favorably.
As the two major political parties are locked in a high-stakes political imbroglio that has resulted in a government shutdown and may cause the first-ever default on the national debt, Americans are more likely to view both parties negatively than positively. The Republican Party is clearly taking a bigger political hit from Americans thus far in the unfolding saga, with 28% rating the GOP favorably — a loss of 10 points from only a month ago. This contrasts with previous Gallup findings from just before the government shutdown showing the Republican Party making up ground on a few key issues. Thus, the Republican Party’s current strategy in the fiscal debates may not be paying dividends.
For their part, the Democratic Party has also seen its favorability rating drop since September, though by a smaller four points. Moreover, both parties are down from where they were just after the 2012 elections, indicating the many political battles of 2013 have had a corrosive effect on the two parties’ images.
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 3-6, 2013, on the Gallup Daily tracking survey, with a random sample of 1,028 adults, aged 18 and older, living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.
For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the margin of sampling error is ±4 percentage points.
Interviews are conducted with respondents on landline telephones and cellular phones, with interviews conducted in Spanish for respondents who are primarily Spanish-speaking. Each sample of national adults includes a minimum quota of 50% cellphone respondents and 50% landline respondents, with additional minimum quotas by region. Landline and cell telephone numbers are selected using random-digit-dial methods. Landline respondents are chosen at random within each household on the basis of which member had the most recent birthday.
Samples are weighted to correct for unequal selection probability, nonresponse, and double coverage of landline and cell users in the two sampling frames. They are also weighted to match the national demographics of gender, age, race, Hispanic ethnicity, education, region, population density, and phone status (cellphone only/landline only/both, and cellphone mostly). Demographic weighting targets are based on the March 2012 Current Population Survey figures for the aged 18 and older U.S. population. Phone status targets are based on the July-December 2011 National Health Interview Survey. Population density targets are based on the 2010 census. All reported margins of sampling error include the computed design effects for weighting.
In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
Commerce, Transportation Nominations Head to Full Senate
By Anne L. Kim, CQ Roll Call
The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on Monday endorsed President Barack Obama’s picks to head the Transportation and Commerce departments.
In an off-the-floor markup, the panel approved in separate votes of 23-0 the nominations of Anthony Foxx to be Transportation secretary and Penny Pritzker to be Commerce secretary.
Timing for full Senate confirmation votes depends on whether Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will need to file cloture on the nominations, according to a Senate leadership aide. If Republicans agree to votes without cloture, then floor action would likely occur in June, but if cloture needs to be filed, the votes would be pushed back until July, the aide said.
The Commerce panel’s ranking Republican, John Thune of South Dakota, said he didn’t expect problems with the Foxx nomination and anticipates a floor vote on it “fairly quickly, fairly soon.”
Committee action comes less than a week after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood sent lawmakers answers they had demanded about how the Federal Aviation Administration set its controversial plans to cope with automatic spending cuts under the sequester law. Thune last month said he sought responses to letters about the sequester he sent with transportation committee chairmen before he could support Foxx’s nomination.
On Monday, Thune said he had received about 600 pages of information and that in general, the department had done its best to answer questions and address issues that had been raised.
“Part of it, too, was just getting them to acknowledge the questions that we had raised with regard to the FAA’s treatment and handling of the sequester, how we got into the mess that we were with the air traffic controller issue,” Thune said. “Those were a lot of … the questions that we had raised.”
Thune joined other panel members in voting in favor of Foxx, who is the mayor of Charlotte, N.C. He has also worked as a private attorney and holds a position as deputy general counsel at DesignLine Corp., a bus manufacturer.
The panel also approved the Obama administration’s choice to head the Commerce Department. If confirmed, Pritzker — a real estate executive and former national finance director for Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign — would take over after the retirement of acting Secretary Rebecca M. Blank, who left to be chancellor of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The department’s general counsel, Cameron F. Kerry, is temporarily serving as acting secretary.
Pritzker’s nomination has faced its toughest criticism from UNITE HERE, an AFL-CIO affiliate that represents workers for Chicago-based Hyatt Hotels Corp. The hotel chain is a Pritzker family holding, and Pritzker has been a member of the Hyatt board of directors. The union has complained that Pritzker has not done enough to improve working conditions.
“Mayor Foxx and Ms. Pritzker are two excellent nominees for key administration posts,” said panel chairman Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., in a written statement. “There has been strong bipartisan support for these nominees, and it was evident again today when they were both voted unanimously out of the Commerce Committee.”
The panel also adopted several Coast Guard promotion nominations by a vote of 23-0.
John D. Boyd, Alan K. Ota and Nathan Hurst contributed to this story.
Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor Should be Priority to Federal Rail Aid, Lawmakers Say
By Nathan Hurst, CQ Roll Call
Amtrak’s profitable Northeast Corridor should be the priority for federal investment in passenger rail — even if that may mean cuts to money-losing long-distance trains, the House Transportation and Infrastructure chairman said Thursday.
“This is the jewel in Amtrak’s crown,” Pennsylvania Republican Bill Shuster said during a news conference on an Acela Express platform at Washington’s Union Station. “This is the place we ought to focus.”
Shuster is leading his panel’s Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee to a hearing Friday at New York City’s Moynihan Station that will examine how federal investment through a new rail authorization bill might drive development along the densely populated corridor stretching from Boston to Washington. The 2008 rail authorization (PL 110-432) expires at the end of September, and Amtrak officials are seeking billions of dollars in federal assistance to upgrade bridges, tunnels and other connections as part of a plan to boost top speeds along the corridor to 220 miles per hour from the current 150 mph.
At issue is whether House Republicans would support such an investment without cuts elsewhere. Shuster said Wednesday that he wants to “take a hard look” at unprofitable long-haul routes that have been a drag on Amtrak’s overall bottom line.
“We need to take a step back and examine it all,” Shuster said.
Amtrak executives contend that they have spent years trimming costs and boosting ridership and have made strides in reducing losses. In fiscal 2012, the railroad carried more than 31.2 million riders, a record, and managed to cover 88 percent of its costs with fares and auxiliary fees from customers. Even the unprofitable long-range routes that serve rural locales have experienced ridership growth, said Amtrak President and Chief Executive Joseph H. Boardman.
Democrats such as Rep. Corrine Brown of Florida, the ranking member of the subcommittee, said Amtrak’s improving financial performance will help make the case for federal investments. Amtrak has proposed spending $117 billion to modernize its fleet, overhaul the Northeast Corridor and completely remake Washington’s Union Station in partnership with a private developer.
“I’ve been watching Amtrak improve for years, and they’re doing better than ever,” Brown said before boarding an Acela Express train with fellow subcommittee members.
Winning Republican support for upgrades to the corridor may come at the expense of high-speed rail investments elsewhere. GOP committee leaders are voicing skepticism about investing in California’s plan to connect Los Angeles and San Francisco with 220 mph train service.
Estimates of the project’s cost and construction schedule have grown, and Railroads, Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Subcommittee Chairman Jeff Denham, R-Calif., said federal investment would be better spent on the Northeast Corridor, where Amtrak already owns most of its assets.
“We need to focus on getting it right here in the Northeast Corridor before we try to roll this out elsewhere,” Denham said.
Along their way to the hearing in New York, the congressional transportation leaders will pass through a century-old rail tunnel in Baltimore that is a bottleneck on the corridor and needs to be replaced. Shuster said the approximately $4 billion in federal assistance that has gone to the California project could be better spent replacing that tunnel and making other repairs along the Northeast Corridor.
Chafee previously served as a Republican senator, then bolted the GOP to become governor. He’s endorsed President Obama twice.Saturday, June 1st, 2013
WASHINGTON — Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee, an independent who used to be a Republican, intends to run for a second term next year — but as a Democrat.
A Democratic source with knowledge of Chafee’s decision confirmed the news to USA TODAY. The source requested anonymity because the source was not authorized to speak ahead of Chafee.
Chafee, elected in 2010, had insisted he would seek a second term despite low job-approval ratings in public opinion polls and hinted he could join the party of President Obama, whom he has endorsed twice.
The governor is expected to announce his new party registration as early as Thursday.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that “the president welcomes Gov. Chafee to the party.”
Chafee previously served as a U.S. senator from 1999 to 2007, but as a Republican who bucked the party on the Iraq War and declined to support President George W. Bush for a second term.
Rhode Island’s economy has been hard hit and most of Chafee’s time in office has been spent dealing with the state’s red ink. The state unemployment rate, which was over 11% when Chafee took office, was at 8.8% in April.
A poll taken by Brown University in February showed Chafee had a 25.5% job-approval rating among Rhode Island voters, compared with 73% who said they disapproved of the way he was running the state.
Chafee is the son of John Chafee, a former U.S. senator and governor who died in 1999, who was synonymous with the Republican politics in Rhode Island. The younger Chafee was appointed to serve out his father’s Senate term and won election in his own right in 2000.
Lincoln Chafee bolted the GOP in 2007, after losing re-election to the Senate to Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse. The following year, Chafee gave Barack Obama the first of his two endorsements.
Last year, Chafee was a featured speaker at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte. He touted touted Obama’s support for same-sex marriage, the environment and abortion rights, and denounced his former Republican Party for its stance on Iraq and Afghanistan and for federal budgets.
“Lincoln Chafee always marched to the beat of his own drummer,” said Jennifer Duffy, a political analyst with the Cook Political Report.
Chafee is likely to face a crowded Democratic primary. Rhode Island Treasurer Gina Raimondo and Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, both prominent Democrats, have already been looking at next year’s governor’s race.
Duffy said it’s not clear whether Chafee’s latest party switch will help him. The newly minted Democrat will have to convince activists in the state and nation to back his campaign, over those of Raimondo and Taveras.
“A Democratic primary with two opponents who will be well-funded is a tougher road,” she said. “I’ve been talking to a lot of Democrats and I don’t get the sense that there all in behind Chafee. It’s not in their best interest to get involved in a primary like this.”
Follow Catalina Camia on Twitter at @ccamia.
TEAMSTERS URGE CONGRESS TO STOP DANGEROUS INCREASES IN TRUCK WEIGHT AND SIZE
DOT and Congress Plan to Push Company-Friendly Legislation
(WASHINGTON) — Today, the Teamsters, the Truck Safety Coalition, U.S. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) and representatives of several families who have suffered death and injury as a result of truck crashes, held a news conference marking the re-introduction of legislation that would prevent an increase in size and weight allowances for trucks.
“Corporate greed is the only thing driving the trucking industry to push reckless legislation that would put heavier and longer trucks on our highways,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters General President. “Our members travel the nation’s highways every day and know fully the dangers of putting bigger trucks on a highway system already in disrepair. It makes no sense to cause further damage to our highways and bridges when Congress hasn’t found a way to fund the much-needed repairs to our crumbling infrastructure.”
Currently, federal limitations on truck size and weight are enforced on interstate highways while states are allowed to set the limits on all other roads. The Safe Highways and Infrastructure Protection Act (SHIPA), sponsored by Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-NJ) and Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), will be re-introduced today and will thwart efforts by some in Congress and at the Department of Transportation to seek further ways to circumvent these restrictions.
“The claim that fewer trucks will be an end-product of truck size and weight increases simply isn’t true,” Hoffa said. “This is about safety and ensuring as safe a workplace for our driver members on the highways as anyone working on a factory floor.”
Founded in 1903, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters represents more than 1.4 million hardworking men and women in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Visit www.teamster.org
By ADAM SNIDER | 4/28/13 5:12 PM EDT Updated: 4/29/13 6:38 AM EDT
Anthony Foxx, the fast-rising young mayor of Charlotte, N.C., will fill one of the last remaining slots in President Barack Obama’s second-term Cabinet when the president taps him to replace Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, an administration official confirmed to POLITICO on Sunday.
Obama will announce Foxx’s nomination on Monday, a day before the mayor’s 42nd birthday, the official said. The news followed months of rumors that the mayor would win out over potential rivals including Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Debbie Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board.
Foxx, the first Democrat elected to the Charlotte mayor’s office in 22 years, has long seemed a person on the way up. POLITICO named him one of “50 politicos to watch” in 2011, noting his successful effort to lure last year’s Democratic National Convention to the Queen City.
He spoke at the convention as well, proclaiming Charlotte as “the city where Americans have come together to move our country forward and make great things possible.”
“I was born to a single mom and raised by her and my grandparents,” Foxx told the convention crowd. “They taught me to take pride in hard work, to take responsibility for my actions, and to understand that education could expand my mind and transform my life. From West Charlotte High School to Davidson College, where I was the first black student body president; from NYU Law School to practicing law in the public and private sectors; from the Charlotte City Council to becoming Charlotte’s first Democratic mayor in 22 years to this stage tonight, I live by the values my family and what this community taught me.
“And you know what?” he said. “I have seen President Obama at work, and these are his values, too.”
The administration is returning the praise.
“As mayor of one of America’s most vibrant cities, Anthony Foxx knows firsthand that investing in world-class infrastructure is vital to creating good jobs and ensuring American businesses can grow and compete in the global economy,” the administration official told POLITICO.
Foxx’s transportation credentials include his push for expanding the city’s LYNX streetcar to UNC-Charlotte, creating the Charlotte Regional Intermodal Facility that transfers cargo between trucks and trains, and building a new runway at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport.
“These initiatives and investments are important pieces of a comprehensive plan to meet Charlotte’s transportation needs and maintain its position as a leader in high-tech industry and 21st century job creation,” the White House official said.
As an African-American, Foxx will also help address complaints about a perceived lack of diversity among Obama’s top advisers. Conan O’Brien joked about that topic Saturday night, telling the president during the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner that “your hair is so white, it could be a member of your Cabinet.”
John P. Tolman
Vice President & National Legislative Representative
Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers & Trainmen
Teamsters Rail Conference
25 Louisiana Ave. N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001
April 19, 2013
At a Senate subcommittee hearing on April 17, John Tolman, Vice President and National Legislative Representative of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, made a strong case for the U.S. to make a major investment in Amtrak — particularly along the Northeast Corridor — for the expansion of service and high-speed rail.
Tolman outlined for the Senators how congestion on our nation’s highways has increased, and that by 2020 more than 90 percent of them will be at or over capacity. He testified before the Surface Transportation Subcommittee of the Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.
“The solution to these problems lies right before our eyes: improvement to passenger rail funding on the Northeast Corridor is necessary for the expansion of service,” Tolman said. “We should try and catch up with the percentage of funding that Europe and Asian countries have allocated.”
The primary vehicle for funding would be the reauthorization of the Passenger Rail Investment and Improvement Act (PRIIA) which the Teamsters Rail Conference supports as an answer for Amtrak to attain stable, long-term funding levels.
“Ridership trends demonstrate that people are willing to opt to take trains in areas with reliable and frequent service,” Tolman said. “Unionized men and women working on the railroads are at work every day to ensure the safety and well-being of rail passengers. But, because continued funding for Amtrak operations is still tentative, we must recognize the importance of rail travel and how it reduces pollution and congestion on our highways.”
BLET National President Dennis R. Pierce thanked Vice President Tolman for representing the Brotherhood at the hearing.
To read Tolman’s full, written testimony, click here.