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The House Winner and Loser of the Year — and Other Notable Members’ Highs and Lows

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013

218

The House Winner and Loser of the Year — and Other Notable

Members’ Highs and Lows

By Emma Dumain  and Matt Fuller Posted at 10 a.m. on Dec.  23

    At the end of the first session of the 113th Congress, it’s hard to call anybody much of a “winner,” as no one got close to everything they wanted. Republican leaders had an ambitious legislative agenda that was repeatedly squelched by a rebellious rank and file — or by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s circular file. Democrats hoped for more relevance, given the GOP leadership’s precarious grip on its conference, but Democratic “victories” were mainly a result of Republican meltdowns.

For the power players in the House of Representatives, it was mostly a year of lows, with not-so-very-high highs, and few lawmakers emerged unscathed from the heartburns of 2013. But when 218 took up the daunting task of designating the year’s “winners” and “losers,” it was hard to fit members into that binary, which felt overly simplistic, anyway.

So in the very first, year-end wrap-up post since the blog’s inception, 218 is offering up, for your consideration, one “winner” and one “loser” of 2013 — with a few runners-up. The rest of the the lawmakers profiled here defied those clear-cut characterizations, and are instead viewed through the prism of simply their wins and losses.

In 218′s estimation, the one clear winner of 2013 was …

Rep. Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis.

One year ago, the House Budget chairman was the just-defeated vice presidential candidate and, though long-referred to as a GOP “thought leader,” hadn’t proved he could translate his respect within the conference into something tangible.

This year changed that. Ryan is now a deal-maker. He got the budget deal — a small one, granted — across the finish line, and proved he could work across the aisle when it mattered. He was also instrumental in helping to end the shutdown. Though he kept quiet for months leading up to the battle over the continuing resolution, his Wall Street Journal op-ed was a turning point for Republicans: It signaled that the fight over defunding Obamacare was over, and that the GOP ought to refocus on entitlement spending.

Of course, Republicans didn’t really get any concessions on entitlements in any of the big deals at the end of this year. Ryan’s ability to sway the conference, however, even when he can’t deliver the moon, shows he is going places. His first stop might be the chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee, and from there the speaker’s gavel — if he doesn’t make a run for the White House in between.

When pressed to pick the “loser” of 2013, 218 settled on …

Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla. 

Busted cocaine user and member of Congress are two things that generally don’t go together. Until now. Radel was already a bit of a joker in the House, tweeting about Jay-Z, calling himself a “Hip Hop Conservative” and sharing bizarre Vines about “rolling deep” with his entourage. But Radel became the butt of many more jokes when he was arrested and charged for cocaine possession, adding a bit of buzz to his professed love for Cartagena, Colombia. The media circus chased him around D.C. and down to his Florida district, where he held a 10:30 p.m. news conference to announce he was taking a leave of absence from Congress — in his first year in office — to head to rehab. While he emerged from rehab and plans to return to Congress, he faces a tough road ahead, including an ethics review.

A few others had standout years:

Rep. Melvin Watt, D-N.C.

Watt gets points for scoring a one-way ticket out of the most dysfunctional Congress in memory. Watt was the House’s biggest beneficiary of Senate Democrats’ vote to “go nuclear” on nominations, clearing the way for him to lead the Federal Housing Finance Agency. His confirmation was also a victory for the Congressional Black Caucus, which had long been pushing for the White House to diversify the executive branch — especially with one of the CBC’s own. When Senate Republicans blocked Watt’s confirmation, Watt kept quiet, letting fellow CBC members lobby on his behalf and cry foul against GOP obstructionism that the CBC said was at least, in part, racially motivated.

Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa

The Iowa firebrand is a one-man wrecking ball smashing the GOP’s Latino outreach efforts — he most memorably said undocumented immigrants were, by and large, drug mules with “calves the size of cantaloupes.”  But say what you will about Steve King, he got his top priority this year: keeping anything with a hint of amnesty off the House floor and far from the president’s desk. Indeed, the only immigration vote taken by the full chamber this year was on an amendment he sponsored to resume the deportation of DREAMers.

Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C.

Ellmers was criticized for calling Obamacare the “real” war on women, but she should get the “Right Place at the Right Time Award” for relaunching the Republican Women’s Policy Committee just as her male colleagues were beginning to come to terms with the party’s problems with women. The highlight of her tenure as RWPC chairwoman so far was when she shamed Speaker John A. Boehner into appointing one of the House’s 19 Republican women to sit on the budget conference committee after an all-white-male GOP negotiating team posed for the cameras during the shutdown.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

Cole gets the “Oracle at Norman Award” this year. He has emerged as, perhaps, the most sought-after hallway interview in Congress. And unlike his main competition for that distinction — Paul D. Ryan — Cole doesn’t shy away from holding court for 20 minutes and answering reporter questions — and he does it with style. Leading up to the shutdown, Cole was presciently critical of the shutdown strategy and emerged as perhaps the key public surrogate for the speaker. Cole also became an Appropriations subcommittee chairman this year, and he’ll have more money to play with in drafting appropriations bills next year because of the budget deal — something he was part of as a budget conferee.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.

Amash could get the “Live Free or Die Award.” He’s from Michigan and not New Hampshire — but he’s made a name for himself by embodying that type of libertarian spirit. Amash was a constant thorn in the side of GOP leaders this year, first with a coup attempt to unseat Boehner as speaker, and then when he came within seven votes of getting an amendment adopted that would have ended the National Security Agency’s blanket collection of phone metadata.

Here’s our look at other high-profile lawmakers’ years that were:

Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio

Perhaps the best thing you can say about the speaker is that he survived — something that at times was in doubt. His year started with an attempted coup on his speakership, followed by repeated revolts among his flock culminating in a disastrous government shutdown he was steamrolled into backing. But 2013′s trials have solidified his support in his conference, especially after the shutdown, when his one-time critics walked away feeling that their leader finally had their backs. He ended the year on an especially strong note, taking it to outside groups that have stymied his legislative agenda and rallying a big GOP majority for the budget deal. On a sour note, his treasured “Boehner rule” may have joined the ash-heap of history, but Boehner did hold firm on what turned out to be the GOP’s top priority of all this year: not raising taxes.

Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.

House Republicans went on their Williamsburg, Va., retreat at the start of this year looking for a way forward, and Cantor gave it to them. His floor agenda, he said, would focus on energy issues, the failings of Obamacare, the Senate’s failure to pass a budget and legislation aimed at “making life work” for the American people. But some of his best-laid plans came crashing down at the hands of his own party — like a bill that would redirect Obamacare funding to high-risk pools. The farm bill, which he opted not to take off the floor, ended up going down in flames, though this low point actually became his redemption story this year: Cantor made the bill his baby, ultimately splitting it into two measures and personally ensuring that both passed — including food stamp provisions aimed at enforcing work requirements for able-bodied adults — through the chamber without relying on a single Democratic vote.

Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

If McCarthy were to win a distinction this year, it’d be for “Mr. Congeniality.” He hasn’t always been the most effective whip, but he has gotten better at taming the wild GOP conference this year. On spending bills, he has to somehow please Republicans who think sequester numbers need to be lower, as well as appropriators and Armed Services members who say sequester numbers are wholly inadequate — and he has to do it without old whip carrots like earmarks or a Republican in the White House. Once seeming to be the guy rushing to the TV cameras, McCarthy now appears to enjoy working behind the scenes and focusing on his personal relationships with members. It didn’t help prevent the shutdown or any number of embarrassing GOP defeats, but the unruly conference may have learned some lessons coming out of the shutdown — and that could make McCarthy’s job a lot easier next year.

Republican Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash.

The first-term chairwoman charged with fostering the public image of the House GOP started 2013 with big ideas about how to broaden the party’s base. She urged members to embrace new media strategies, turning the conference on to the world of Twitter hashtags, Google Hangouts and Vines. She also sought to forge new bonds with nontraditional GOP constituencies, inviting delegates from various cultural backgrounds to meet with Republican leaders to find common ground. McMorris Rodgers’ urging that members make inroads with the Latino community fell short with members like King, however, and, memorably, an outdoor news conference with Hispanic pastors ended in the guests being heckled by anti-immigration activists holding their own demonstration just yards away. Her year also had a sweet ending — she gave birth to her third child.

Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif. 

So close, and yet so far. House Democrats’ hopes that Pelosi might return as speaker in 2015 briefly surged during the GOP’s shutdown fiasco – but the Democrats’ own fiasco with the Obamacare rollout quickly overwhelmed those dreams. And the budget deal for which Pelosi helped rally the votes wasn’t what she and her fellow House Democrats had in mind — at one point urging the caucus to “embrace the suck.” But in her favor, the California Democrat repeatedly forced the majority into awkward positions by holding a rock-solid grip on her minority, proving again that Boehner sometimes needs her more than he’d like.

Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer, D-Md.

The Democratic whip again proved a formidable tag-team with Pelosi, his longtime rival. The Democratic leaders repeatedly kept their members in line on many of the toughest fights of the year. Among the highlights was Hurricane Sandy relief, the Violence Against Women Act and the deal to reopen the government. Hoyer ended the year, though, as the only Democratic leader to vote against the budget deal — it didn’t have an unemployment insurance extension, it wasn’t the grand bargain he was looking for, and it took a whack at the federal employees and military retirees who disproportionately populate his district. But it did provide $63 billion in sequester relief, and Hoyer, perhaps more than anybody in Congress, became known as the sequester’s opponent-in-chief.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.

The ranking member of the House Budget Committee and rising star within Democratic leadership had high aspirations for 2013. He wanted to be known as the Democrats’ voice of reason against the sequester: check. He wanted to be the House Democrats’ loudest champion for convening the first bicameral budget conference in years: double check. The Marylander ultimately got significant notoriety, a budget and a smattering of sequester relief to boot. The cut to federal worker pensions is a loss, but ended up being much lower than had been considered by the White House and top negotiators in part because Van Hollen pushed back, and President Barack Obama called him to promise his budget wouldn’t include a new round of cuts to federal workers.

Rep. Harold Rogers, R-Ky.

The chairman of the House Appropriations Committee had a tough year, though through little fault of his own. He tried desperately to pass spending bills through “regular order,” only to be thwarted by a conference at war with itself. Though he attempted to be a good soldier for his leadership, he finally unleashed a screed against sequestration that became a rallying cry for Democrats. But the Kentucky Republican’s fortunes are due to change in 2014, when the budget agreement’s new higher spending levels will empower Rogers and other appropriators to take back Congress’ “power of the purse.”

Rep. Dave Camp, R-Mich.

If there was a “Sisyphus Award,” it would go to Dave Camp, the chairman of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. Like the protagonist of the Greek myth, Camp has been tasked with trying to roll an enormous boulder (tax reform) up a hill (Capitol Hill) only to watch it roll back down again – and again and again. Camp promised at the end of 2012 that he would rewrite the nation’s tax code by the end of 2013, a goal on which he has made significant headway, but one that is still far from finished. The challenges ahead of him in 2014 are magnified by recent news that his closest ally, Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., is expected to resign soon to accept a gig as ambassador to China. Camp has a lot to be thankful for this year on a personal level, however: He’s been cancer-free for a year.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.

The Oversight and Government Reform chairman has been searching desperately for the issue that will tarnish the Obama legacy. He may have finally found something he can sink his teeth into: The Obamacare rollout. There’s no doubt that Issa has continued to raise his personal profile, but the richest member of Congress also came under fire for his partisan approach to investigating the administration, and his efforts to target the White House itself in the assorted scandals du jour have tended to fall flat.

Rep. Robert W. Goodlatte, R-Va.

As the first-term chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Goodlatte set an ambitious legislative agenda in 2013. He followed leadership’s directions to tackle an overhaul of the nation’s immigration system in a “piecemeal” fashion that wouldn’t alienate the anti-amnesty base, facilitating passage of four stand-alone immigration bills through the committee that met these criteria. They never made it to the House floor, however, and even if they did, they probably wouldn’t have gotten support from Democrats, nor would they have survived in the Senate. Goodlatte also endured criticism for waffling on whether he supported providing a path to citizenship for the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants.

The ‘Hell No’ Caucus

The contingent of hard-line conservatives and tea party sympathizers started off the year strong, fighting — and often winning — battles with GOP leadership against bills that they believed strayed too far from far-right principles. Any clout it might have had to dictate the House’s legislative agenda, however, diminished after the shutdown, when the push to tie government funding to administration concessions on Obamacare proved thoroughly unsuccessful. The unofficially labeled “Hell No Caucus” — or is it the “Tortilla Coast” Caucus? — ended 2013 with little to show for all its sound and fury.

Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.

Bachmann gets the Icarus Award. A tea party favorite and a 2012 presidential candidate, Bachmann used to be a player. Unfortunately for her, all that stardom may have finally caught up to her: She flew too close to the sun. She is still being investigated by the Ethics Committee for a number of potential violations, mostly stemming from her failed presidential bid, and she announced this year that she won’t be seeking another term in office, making her a lame duck. Still, she was at center stage when a group of Republicans were blocking an immigration overhaul — “amnesty,” as she prefers to call it — and she once again upped her tea party creds by making the IRS scandal one of her constant talking points.

Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest

Tuesday, December 24th, 2013
Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest
Leading Off:

 

  • Census: The Census Bureau released its 2008-2012 American Community Survey data this week, but, more fun to play with, they’ve also rolled out a new feature called Census Explorer. It’s an interactive map tool that lets you look at scrollable, zoomable nationwide choropleths or dot maps across a number of different criteria (median income, education, homeownership… nothing about race, though), broken down to county or even census tract levels. You’re also able to switch back and forth between 1990, 2000, and 2008-12 data. 

    Although I can certainly think of more categories I’d want to include, and ways to make the color-scaling more flexible, this is a big leap forward in terms of being able to use the Census site to see data visually. I’d urge you to play around with the site, but if you want a quick taste of what it looks like, here are a few screen shots (courtesy of Conor Sen) of education levels in downtown Cleveland in 1990 and 2010. They offer a very clear representation of gentrification at work. 

    Also, for the first time, the bureau is making health insurance coverage data available all the way down to the census tract level. That information isn’t on Census Explorer, but the New York Times, which has been way ahead of the Census Bureau on the interactivity front, is already out with an interactive map displaying this new insurance data. (David Jarman)

 

Senate:

 

  • MS-Sen: Seeing Gravis Marketing and Human Events team up for a poll is a bit like catching Vladimir Putin skinny dipping in the Trevi Fountain—ugly and disturbing. But while that image of Vlad will make you reach for the brain bleach, Gravis’ survey might actually not be so cray-cray. They find Sen. Thad Cochran tied at 40 with his GOP primary challenger, state Sen. Chris McDaniel. That’s not too far from PPP’s recent numbers, which had Cochran up just 44-38. Now where’s that bleach…? 

    P.S. Weirdly, we have a dueling poll from Republican outfit Harper Polling that puts Cochran up by a decent-sized 54-31 spread. Go figure. 

  • WY-Sen: Whoops! Carpetbagging is hard!

 

Gubernatorial:

 

  • IA-Gov: In the wake of state Rep. Tyler Olson ending his campaign for governor, another Democrat, state Sen. Janet Petersen, says she’s now considering a run, though she didn’t offer a timetable for making a decision. State Sen. Jack Hatch is currently the only Democrat in the race. 
  • OH-Gov: A new PPP poll for Freedom Ohio shows that Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald may not have suffered much if any damage from the fallout surrounding his former running mate, state Sen. Eric Kearney, who was dropped from the ticket after revelations emerged that he owed some $800,000 in unpaid taxes. GOP Gov. John Kasich leads FitzGerald 40-38, with Libertarian Charlie Earl taking 6 percent. (The poll was taken just before Kearney was booted, at the peak of the media frenzy.) 

    Last month, a PPP survey for the Ohio Democratic Party found the race tied at 41. These numbers are a good sanity check, since they show that as ugly as the Kearney episode was, most voters aren’t paying attention to campaign trail imbroglios this far from Election Day. 

  • RI-Gov: EMILY’s List has predictably endorsed state Treasurer Gina Raimondo, who just announced her campaign for governor earlier this week. Of the two contenders running in the Democratic primary, there’s no real dispute that Providence Mayor Angel Taveras is the more progressive option, so this race offers a clear example of where EMILY’s List’s mission (to elect pro-choice women Democrats) conflicts with the goals of those who want to see the most progressive candidates elected to office.

 

House:

 

  • IA-03: Now this is genuinely valuable. Jennifer Jacobs of the Des Moines Register canvassed just about every conceivable candidate for Iowa’s newly open 3rd Congressional District and got statements from the horse’s mouth about their interest in running. She then arranged things in very helpful bullet-point format so that you can see at a glance who’s considering and who’s out. (So far, no one has actually jumped in.) The list is too long to reproduce here, so I encourage you to click through if you’re interested. This is some really great work, and I wish local reporters would always be this assiduous whenever a seat becomes open like this. 
  • MN-07: State Sen. Torrey Westrom has all the hallmarks of a candidate for whom the NRCC would very much like to see a clear primary, but businessman Scott Van Binsbergen says that he, too, is considering a bid against Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson. Van Binsbergen promises a decision “sometime around the first of the year.” 
  • NC-06: State Rep. John Blust says he won’t enter the GOP primary for the seat being left open by Rep. Howard Coble. Several Republicans are already in the race, most prominent among them Rockingham County District Attorney Phil Berger, Jr. and Greensboro City Councilman Zack Matheny. Guilford County Commissioner Jeff Phillips also recently said he’s considering a bid. 
  • NC-12: Following on the heels of her endorsement by EMILY’s List, state Rep. Alma Adams just secured the backing of the North Carolina Association of Educators in the Democratic primary to replace outgoing Rep. Mel Watt. Meanwhile, state Rep. Marcus Brandon earned the support of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund; if he wins, he’d be the first gay black member of Congress. 
  • ND-AL: Democrats so far have come up empty in terms of finding a challenger to freshman Rep. Kevin Cramer, but state party chair Chad Oban says that state Sen. George B. Sinner is a considering the race. Sinner is the son of former Gov. George A. Sinner, who served from 1985 to 1992, so he’d at least start off with a name recognition boost. 
  • NY-13: Well, after all that, veteran Rep. Charlie Rangel has decided to run for a 23rd term, despite his age (83), an ethics scandal that has tarnished his reputation, and the fact that he came extremely close to losing in the Democratic primary last year and could very well do so this time. In fact, in response to Rangel’s announcement, his chief 2012 rival, state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, issued a statement saying “we need new energy” and “new leadership”—a strong hint that he plans to run again. If Espaillat does make another bid, Rangel could very well find himself departing the House on terms other than his own. 
  • VA-10: Retiring Rep. Frank Wolf leaves behind the most conservative of the three districts in what is commonly considered Northern Virginia, as the region’s darker blue areas are located in VA-08 and VA-11. However, a good chunk of that safely Democratic turf was once in Wolf’s seat earlier in his long tenure. Kenton Ngo presents some fascinating maps visualizing how the district has changed since Wolf’s first election in 1980. 

    When Wolf took office, he had constituents in what are now solid blue areas like Arlington; as Ngo notes, no Republicans currently hold office anywhere in Arlington anymore. Over time, the district has shifted to the south and west, abandoning areas like Vienna and Reston for Manassas and Winchester. There has been some continuity, though, across the five incarnations of the district that Wolf represented: Leesburg, Sterling, and Great Falls have remained in VA-10 the entire time. (Darth Jeff)

 

Other Races:

 

  • VA State House: Republican Del. Tom Rust’s victory over Democrat Jennifer Boysko in the 86th District was confirmed by a recount on Thursday. Democrats had hopes that Boysko could overcome her 54-vote deficit, but she only netted 22 votes (roughly what we had forecast through some crude math Wednesday, judging by the recount in the attorney general’s race). This means that, despite sweeping Virginia’s three statewide races for the first time since 1989, Democrats only netted one seat in the House of Delegates this year, and they remain in a big hole, with just 33 seats to the GOP’s 67. (Taniel)

 

Grab Bag:

 

  • Polltopia: Pollsters beware! The Centers for Disease Control is out with its twice-yearly survey on telephone usage, and they find (as they have every year for at least a decade) that cellphone use and landline abandonment continue to rise. Thirty-eight percent of all adults only have cellphones, another all-time high. Of particular concern to pollsters who might want a representative sample of people inclined toward voting Democratic: 50 percent of Latinos, 62 percent of renters, and 55 percent of persons in poverty are cell-only. (David Jarman)

Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest

Thursday, December 19th, 2013
Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest
Leading Off:

 

  • VA-AG: On Wednesday afternoon, Republican state Sen. Mark Obenshain conceded the Virginia attorney general’s race to Democrat Mark Herring. After an initial tally found Herring ahead by just 165 votes out of over 2.2 million cast statewide in November, Obenshain sought a recount, hoping to turn the contest in his favor. 

    But that recount, which began Monday, went very poorly for him. According to an unofficial but very thorough tally maintained by Daily Kos Election’s own Taniel, Herring’s lead bloomed to over 600 votes. That’s thanks mostly to officials uncovering undervotes in heavily Democratic areas like Fairfax County, which uses paper ballots. In a somewhat ironic twist, most of the redder jurisdictions in Virginia rely on electronic voting machines that leave no paper trail for individual votes, so there simply weren’t undervotes to be discovered there. 

    More importantly, Obenshain’s concession gives Democrats a sweep of November’s elections and undisputed control of all five of Virginia’s statewide elected positions—for the first time since the late 1960s. That’s a connection in name only, though, as this quintet represents an utterly different party from their predecessors who held sway during the height of segregation. Remarkably, two of these Democrats—Sen. Tim Kaine and Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe—were former DNC chiefs, and McAuliffe ran an explicitly liberal campaign. And the others—Sen. Mark Warner, Lt. Gov.-elect Ralph Northam, and Herring—are incomparably more progressive than Virginia Democrats of yesteryear. 

    It’s a major sea change in the Old Dominion, and one that Republicans should find troubling. Democrats have a moment to celebrate this massive set of victories, but very soon, the hard work of governing begins.

 

Senate:

 

  • GA-Sen: Sweet mother of I don’t even know anymore
  • IA-Sen: Quinnipiac’s first poll of Iowa’s open Senate race finds Rep. Bruce Braley leading the entire Republican field, though his margin varies widely depending on the opponent. Here’s how Braley fares: 
    • 43-40 vs. former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker

     

    • 46-40 vs. conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats

     

    • 44-38 vs. state Sen. Joni Ernst

     

    • 44-36 vs. former Chuck Grassley chief of staff David Young

     

    • 46-37 vs. businessman Mark Jacobs

     

    • 45-34 vs. radio host Sam Clovis

     

    These numbers are a bit more attractive for Braley than those found by Harper last month: The spreads are wider, and Braley’s vote share is higher. There’s nothing that can really explain why Whitaker comes much closer than the rest of the pack, so it may just be an artifact, since other polls haven’t shown him exhibiting any special kind of strength. 

    Braley, though, has to be decently pleased that he’s doing this well, since Barack Obama’s job approval rating has cratered in Iowa, from 41-55 in July to 38-59 now. It’s a real testament to the GOP’s own unpopularity that Republicans aren’t doing better in spite of a very rough environment for Democrats. 

    Meanwhile, though Quinnipiac didn’t test the Republican primary, it’s about to heat up. Jacobs is airing a new 60-second spot that’s reportedly backed by $100,000 buy. Another source says it’s more like $140,000, but either way, Jacobs can spend this kind of money early thanks to his personal wealth. The ad itself features an incredibly long and boring clip of a speech Jacobs gave about jobs that sounds like it was recorded in a bathroom on a submarine. 

    (Yes, I know that it’s called a “head” on a ship. And yes, I also know that a sub is called a boat. You ship people are strange.) 

  • MT-Sen: Politico, relying on unnamed sources, reports that Democratic Sen. Max Baucus expects to be nominated by Barack Obama as the country’s next ambassador to China. Baucus long ago said he wouldn’t seek re-election next year, but if he resigns, that would give Gov. Steve Bullock, also a Democrat, the chance to appoint a temporary replacement who would serve through 2014. 

    According to the Washington Post, Bullock will tap his lieutenant governor, John Walsh, who is already running for Senate. That would give Walsh a year of incumbency to add to his resume, but it could also make campaigning harder, especially since Walsh is in the midst of a primary battle with his predecessor, ex-Lt. Gov. John Bohlinger. (The winner will face GOP Rep. Steve Daines in November.) And maybe time spent in Washington isn’t necessarily a positive on the campaign trail, though presumably Montana Democrats have poll-tested this every which way. 

    However, neither Bullock nor Walsh would comment on the matter, and Baucus was cagey. Of course, this all assumes Baucus’ appointment actually goes forward, and that he’s confirmed in a timely manner. But in this post-filibuster world, he’s probably good to go. That means Montana will soon get a new senator—and China will have to endure the stupid things that come out of Baucus’ mouth instead of us. 

  • NH-Sen: The good news: A new poll has Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen up 48-38 over ex-Sen. Scott Brown and 50-32 over ex-Sen. Bob Smith. The bad news: It’s from the American Research Group, one of the sketchiest pollsters around. Have they ever published crosstabs for anything?

 

Gubernatorial:

 

  • FL-Gov: Interestingly, that internal poll for Republican Gov. Rick Scott from Fabrizio McLaughlin also included numbers for a hypothetical Democratic primary, the first we’ve ever seen. Should Sen. Bill Nelson run, he’d trail Crist 45-32, with state Sen. Nan Rich at 4. Nelson would also lead Scott by a narrower margin, 48-46, than Crist, who we learned previously held a 49-45 edge. 

    So now you have to ask yourself, what does Scott gain by releasing all this? Nelson supporters are convinced that Scott would prefer to face Crist, so you could conceivably argue that Scott is trying to dissuade Nelson by showing he wouldn’t win the Democratic nomination. The problem with that, of course, is Crist performs better in the general election matchup, so the notion that Scott would rather run against Crist is predicated on some long game whereby it’ll supposedly be easier to drive up Crist’s negatives as opposed to Nelson’s. Nelson partisans are equally convinced of this fact, too, but it’s entirely conjectural. 

    So I’m still going with door number one here, which is to say, Scott’s putting this data out there to try to make the case that things aren’t as bad as the public polling suggests. And I really don’t think Scott is dumb enough to imagine he could keep Nelson out of the race with a single topline showing him down 13 points. Nelson will conduct his own polling, if he hasn’t already, and will base his decision on those numbers, not Scott’s. 

  • OH-Gov: Ed FitzGerald’s well-publicized recent struggles, thanks mostly to the unpaid tax liens of his former running mate, Eric Kearney, have apparently inspired another Ohio Democrat to consider a late bid for governor. Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune says he’s thinking about the race and will decide by the end of the year—so, soon. But judging by various tea leaves, Portune doesn’t seem especially serious. As columnist Henry Gomez puts it, Portune may just be “floating a trial balloon to gauge whether there’s enough party angst over FitzGerald’s missteps” to open a door for a second candidate. Right now, that doesn’t seem to be the case. 
  • PA-Gov: Now that Republican Gov. Tom Corbett no longer fears a primary challenge, he’s ready to reinvent himself with a rush to the center. First step: a brazenly transparent change of heart backed up by embarrassingly bogus reasoning: 

    Corbett said Tuesday that he would support legislation banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in employment, housing, and public accommodations. 

    Corbett, who has previously staked out conservative positions on social issues, told The Inquirer that he was “coming out in support” of the bill after learning that federal law does not cover discrimination in the state.

     

    Corbett’s been governor for three years, so he just figured out now that Congress never passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act? Is Wikipedia blocked by the servers at the state capitol? I mean, great that he’s suddenly all for equality, but really, he could have worked harder on his excuses. “I used to serve as Pennsylvania’s attorney general, but I know nothing about the law” pretty much sucks. 

    Of course, let’s see if Corbett actually uses any of his non-existent political muscle to persuade his fellow Republicans who run the legislature to actually take action on the bill, which has gone nowhere for a decade. Somehow I doubt his heart is really in it; this is the guy, after all, who recently compared same-sex marriage to incest between brothers and sisters

    Ultimately, Corbett’s belated conversion is just as likely to piss off his conservative base on account of his apostasy as it is to turn off liberal voters thanks to his insincerity. It’s not a winning move, from a guy who, trailing in all the polls, doesn’t have many winning moves to play. But it’s pretty much exactly what you can expect from Tom Corbett. 

    Speaking of those bad polls, here’s one more, from Quinnipiac. I guess you can say Corbett’s improved a little bit, but he’s still in disastrous shape. Here are his numbers against the entire Democratic field, with trendlines in parentheses: 

    • 36-48 vs. Jack Wagner

     

    • 37-45 vs. Allyson Schwartz (June: 35-45)

     

    • 37-44 vs. Katie McGinty

     

    • 37-44 vs. Tom Wolf (March: 39-39)

     

    • 39-42 vs. Rob McCord (June: 35-43)

     

    • 39-41 vs. Ed Pawlowski (March: 38-44)

     

    • 42-37 vs. John Hanger (March: 42-41)

     

    There’s not much to say that we haven’t already said before. An incumbent in the high 30s is simply in dire shape. Wagner, a former state auditor, has to like his numbers quite a bit, though. He hasn’t formally entered the race yet, and there’s not much doubt that he will, but this poll should only make him more eager. But with everyone so excited to topple Corbett, will Democrats first shred each other in the primary? I’m not optimistic that things will stay clean. 

  • RI-Gov: After a looong wait for reasons I can’t begin to fathom, state Treasurer Gina Raimondo has finally made her bid for governor official. Raimondo joins Providence Mayor Angela Taveras in the Democratic primary, though attorney Clay Pell (the grandson of the late Sen. Claiborne Pell) is also looking at the race. On the GOP side, businessman Ken Block and Cranston Mayor Allan Fung are fighting it out for their party’s nomination.

 

House:

 

  • AL-01: As expected, Republican former state Sen. Bradley Byrne cruised to victory in Tuesday night’s special election to replace ex-Rep. Jo Bonner, defeating Democrat Burton LeFlore 71-29. Because Congress does no work and takes breaks for long stretches from all that hard no-work they do, Byrne is not likely to be sworn in until the first week of January
  • IA-03: Iowa’s 3rd District is now open, but even though it’s a swingy seat (it went 51 percent Obama in 2012), there’s no shortage of top-tier Republican candidates here. The first name to express some interest already may be the biggest one, Secretary of State Matt Schultz. A number of other new GOP possibilities (in addition to the ones we mentioned on Tuesday) have subsequently bubbled up, including conservative activist and 2010 gubernatorial primary loser Bob Vander Plaats; state Rep. Rob Taylor; state Rep. Chris Hagenow; former state Sen. Jeff Lamberti; state party vice-chair David Fischer; and businessman David Oman. And some further options: state Sen. Jake Chapman; state Sen. Charles Schneider; and businessman Jeff Ballenger. 

    On the Democratic side, state Sen. Matt McCoy is “eyeing” a bid. Ex-state Sen. Staci Appel (who was running before Tom Latham’s retirement announcement) may not be the most imposing Dem candidate and could certainly face a primary, and with that in mind, former Iowa first lady Christie Vilsack and state Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal are possibilities. (In fact, if you want to see a roster of every Dem state legislator within IA-03, Stephen Wolf has put that together.) 

    The list of people who won’t run is also rapidly expanding. On the Dem side, septuagenarian ex-Rep. Leonard Boswell, who lost to Latham in a redistricting-induced battle in 2012, won’t try to get his seat back, at least according to Sen. Tom Harkin. Two members of the overstuffed GOP Senate field who live in the 3rd also confirmed they won’t drop down to the potentially easier House race: ex-U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker and state Sen. Joni Ernst. Finally, GOP state Rep. Peter Cownie, who seemed to get short-listed on Tuesday, also confirmed he’s a “no.” (David Jarman) 

  • KY-04: Businessman Steve Stevens, a former president of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, says he’s considering a primary challenge to Republican Rep. Thomas Massie. Massie, a hardcore libertarian, won last year’s primary after Geoff Davis retired, thanks to an outside Paulist group that spent heavily on his behalf. That infuriated the local GOP establishment, and they’d undoubtedly like to reverse those results. 
  • NC-02: Democrat Keith Crisco, a former state commerce secretary under ex-Gov. Bev Perdue, had been looking at a possible bid against GOP Rep. Renee Ellmers since October. Now he’s gone ahead and filed paperwork with the FEC, though he doesn’t appear to have made any kind of formal announcement yet. 
  • NJ-05: Democratic state Sen. Bob Gordon, who had briefly looked at challenging GOP Rep. Scott Garrett, has decided against a bid. Gordon just won a hard-fought re-election campaign for the legislature last month, and the 5th District is not especially hospitable to Democrats. 
  • VA-10: It looks like Republicans have landed a likely candidate to replace retiring Rep. Frank Wolf in this competitive district. State Sen. Dick Black has formed an exploratory committee, though he cautions that he hasn’t committed to running. National Republicans probably hope he doesn’t: Black has a very long history of making incendiary comments and supporting ultra-conservative legislation. Black has ventured into Todd Akin-land at times, like when he infamously questioned whether a husband who forces his wife to have sex is guilty of rape. 

    Should he run, Black’s chances of being the GOP standard-bearer would likely increase if the nominee is selected by convention rather than by a primary. That decision is up to a governing body in the state party, and it remains to be seen what they will do. Conventions tend to produce far-right nominees who are often unacceptable to the electorate at large (see Jackson, E.W.), and Democrats would love for history to repeat itself here. 

    Whatever the case, the GOP field will likely grow here, but one prominent Northern Virginian has taken his name out of contention. Former VA-11 Congressman and current VA-10 resident Tom Davis quickly ruled out another campaign. But former Alabama Democratic Rep. and longtime pain-in-the-ass Artur Davis sounds interested in a return to the House. Roll Call‘s Emily Cahn also reports that outgoing Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and 2008 and 2010 VA-11 nominee Keith Fimian are possible contenders. (Jeff Singer)

 

Other Races:

 

  • DC Mayor: Winning the Democratic nomination is almost always tantamount to election in D.C. mayoral politics, but this time the general election could be interesting. Democratic Mayor Vince Gray has been under scrutiny for allegedly running an illegal shadow campaign in 2010, and it’s possible there are more shoes to drop in this case. However, Gray may win the Democratic nomination anyway: A legion of credible candidates are trying to unseat him in the primary, and they may split the anti-Gray vote enough for him to secure a plurality. 

    And one credible non-Democrat is making preparations for a Gray primary victory. Independent City Councilor David Catania says that there is “an extraordinarily high probability” that he would enter the race if Gray is renominated. Any non-Democrat has a tough path to victory in this city, but Catania may be able to make things a lot more competitive than usual, especially if Gray’s legal woes continue to get worse. (Jeff Singer) 

  • New Orleans Mayor: Incumbent Democrat Mitch Landrieu should cruise to victory over former judge Michael Bagneris in the Feb. 1 election for New Orleans Mayor, but it looks like this race may be a proxy fight for much larger battles. Despite also belonging to the Democratic Party, Bagneris may have some unlikely allies: It looks like prominent state Republicans encouraged Bagneris to run and are planning to spend big money to help his campaign. 

    It’s unlikely Landrieu will lose in any case, but Republicans have every reason to try and score some serious hits. Landrieu’s sister, Sen. Mary Landrieu, is up for re-election later in 2014, and if Republicans can drive a wedge between at least some New Orleanians and the Landrieus, it could make life harder on her. Additionally, Mitch is a potential 2015 gubernatorial candidate, and Republicans would love to wound one of the few big Democratic names in the state. (Jeff Singer) 

  • Special Elections: Johnny Longtorso recaps the final elections of 2013: 

    New Hampshire House, Strafford-06: Democrat Amanda Merrill defeated Republican Deidre Lepkowski by an 88-12 landslide. 

    Wisconsin AD-82: Republican Ken Skowronski defeated Democrat John Hermes by a 65-35 margin.

     

    Both of these were holds for their respective parties. Elections return Jan. 7

  • VA State House: The attorney general’s race may be over, but another recount awaits us in Virginia. In the House of Delegates’ 86th district, Democrat Jennifer Boysko requested a recount after Republican incumbent Tom Rust was declared the winner by 54 votes. The review will take place Thursday and Friday in Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. 

    Some quick math extrapolating from the trends of the attorney general recount suggests that Boysko may well fall short. The 86th contains 14 precincts from Fairfax and three from Loudoun (including an “absentee ballot precinct” in each). Based on this spreadsheet compiled by Fairfax County officials, Democrat Mark Herring netted 24 votes in the 13 non-absentee Fairfax precincts that are contained in the district. Boysko typically ran well behind Herring in most of these precincts in the Election Day count, so she’d be lucky to find the same number of votes that Herring did. 

    We don’t have specific data on Fairfax’s absentee ballots and the three Loudoun precincts, but we do know that Herring netted 62 votes out of Loudoun’s 82 precincts. If Boysko follows Herring’s trend in Loudon, she’d gain just a handful more votes (we’re talking low single digits), making her road to 54 look tough for now. (Taniel)

 

Grab Bag:

 

  • Dark Money: The FEC has concluded its long-running investigation into Karl’s Rove’s non-profit group Crossroads GPS (aka The Worst Charity in the World), but don’t take this as a seal of approval. The board has three Democratic and three Republican commissioners, and the GOP members typically always vote against more aggressive enforcement action. So in this case, it’s very probable that the commission deadlocked three to three, leading to the probe’s termination. It doesn’t mean that Crossroads is suddenly kosher. 
  • Exit Polls: The AP has a very nifty interactive site that displays the results of every presidential exit poll from 1972 through 2012. It’s amazing how much information it displays in a very compact, instantly understandable form. Also, be sure to click on the button labeled “Growing Hispanic Vote.” It illustrates very starkly how the white share of the electorate has shrunk dramatically over the last 40 years.

Murray-Ryan Budget Deal Overcomes Key Senate Test

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

The World's Greatest Deliberative Body

Murray-Ryan Budget Deal Overcomes Key Senate Test

By Niels Lesniewski Posted at 10:05 a.m. today

The bipartisan budget agreement is officially on a glide path to enactment.

The deal will provide appropriators with top-line spending levels just a bit above $1 trillion for each of two years while dulling the blade of the sequestration ax.

The package easily cleared the 60-vote threshold to limit debate, 67-33, with a dozen Republicans joining Democrats to cut off a potential filibuster: Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, Roy Blunt of Missouri, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Susan Collins of Maine, Jeff Flake of Arizona, Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, John Hoeven of North Dakota, Johnny Isakson of Georgia, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, John McCain of Arizona, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio.

“This bill isn’t exactly what I would have written on my own, and I’m pretty sure it’s not what Chairman Ryan would have written on his own. It’s a compromise — and that means neither side got everything they wanted, and both sides had to give a bit,” Senate Budget Chairwoman Patty Murray, D-Wash., said Tuesday morning.

She hammered out the deal with lead House negotiator and Budget Chairman Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis. The two have lobbied for the deal to get the needed votes in both chambers.

 

“If we didn’t get a deal, we would have faced another continuing resolution that would have locked in the automatic cuts — or worse, a potential government shutdown in just a few short weeks,” Murray warned.

A budget agreement alone doesn’t entirely rule out the possibility of another CR, though appropriators such as Murray will be working with staff to avoid that.

The House vote last week was rather lopsided, with a total of 332 members voting in favor.

The relatively small number of Senate Republicans backing the cloture vote can be attributed to several factors, including opposition to military pension changes criticized by veterans groups.

A number of GOP senators, led by Roger Wicker of Mississippi, drafted an amendment to the deal to block those changes, but since the deal between Murray and Ryan was baked, there will be no such amendments.

“These proposed cuts represent a broken promise to those who have voluntarily chosen to serve our nation in the military,” Wicker said in a Monday statement. “This is not a matter of nickels and dimes for our retired and active-duty troops. It is unfair to ask the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States to shoulder the full weight of these cuts. It is not too late for Congress to keep its promises to our military personnel.”

When the final vote is called later this week, the deal may get even fewer Senate Republicans voting in support, but that’s in large part because as the minority party they can afford to oppose it, scoring political points without the risk of setting the stage for another government shutdown.

Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013
Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest
Leading Off:

 

  • FL Redistricting: In a major procedural victory for opponents of Florida’s new congressional map, the state Supreme Court ruled that legislators and their staffers can be required to testify about whether they drew the new lines with improper partisan intent. Amendments to the state constitution passed in 2010 now forbid the legislature from creating maps “with the intent to favor or disfavor a political party or an incumbent,” but plaintiffs charge that lawmakers did exactly that. 

    In response, elected officials invoked the notion of “legislative privilege,” saying that they could not be forced to give testimony about their activities as legislators because it would have a “chilling effect” on how they carry out their jobs Ordinarily that argument might work, but the court said that this “chilling effect” with regard to redistricting was, in fact, “the precise purpose” of the new amendments. (You can read the full opinion here.) So barring a settlement of some kind, it seems likely that Republican legislators will soon have to give depositions about how this particular piece of cartographic sausage was made.

 

Senate:

 

  • AR-Sen, AR-Gov: Perhaps in response to that poll for Citizens United showing GOP Rep. Tom Cotton beating Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor 48-41 last week, the progressive group Americans United for Change is out with their own numbers from PPP showing the race tied at 44. Sure, those are better than CU’s, but they’re also worse than PPP’s prior survey from October (also for AUFC), which had Pryor up 44-41. And perhaps more importantly, this it the manyeth poll showing the incumbent mired in the low-to-mid-40s. 

    PPP also inquired about the governor’s race and found Republican ex-Rep. Asa Hutchinson barely edging Democratic ex-Rep. Mike Ross 44-43. Those are the first publicly released numbers on the contest from PPP, but they’re similar to those from other pollsters, who have generally found things close. There’s also a question about a $10 minimum wage, which is supported by a 52-38 spread. 

  • NE-Sen: Midland University President Ben Sasse has a tiny $8,500 buy reserved for Jan. 6’s BCS Championship game. However, it’s quite possible that this ad will be seen by a lot more people than this purchase suggests. Sasse’s media consultant is the infamous Fred Davis, who is responsible for some of the most memorable campaign ads of the last few years. Davis’ work usually is at best strange and at worst harmful to the campaigns he’s supposed to be helping. We’ll see if Davis helps Sasse stand out from the rest of the Republican contenders, or if he makes Sasse his latest victim. (Jeff Singer) 
  • NH-Sen: It looks like Massachusetts won’t have Scotty Brown to kick around anymore. The former senator has found a buyer for his home and is carpetbagging moving to New Hampshire in order to lengthen his commute to his Boston job at the lobbying firm of Nixon Peabody. 

    It remains to be seen whether Brown jumps into the race against Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, but outside groups are wasting no time getting involved. Ending Spending has a $43,000 ad buy up hitting Shaheen over health care reform; the group also says they have six figures worth of web ads encouraging Brown to run. 

    However, one New Hampshire Republican is less than enthusiastic about a Brown campaign. State Rep. J.R. Hoell told a local conservative blog that “firearms and ammo” may be necessary to stop Brown and his gun policies. Could Hoell be the newest name to jump into this very strange race? (Jeff Singer) 

  • SC-Sen-B: Former Commerce Department official Rick Wade, who had been considering a bid since August, has decided to go ahead with a challenge to appointed GOP Sen. Tim Scott. Wade, who once served as a cabinet official for ex-Gov. Jim Hodges, ran for secretary for state in 2002, losing 57-43. Richland County Councilwoman Joyce Dickerson is also seeking the Democratic nomination, and state Sen. John Scott previously said he’s looking at the race, too. 
  • Senate: Two races where we’ve recently seen some erosion in Democratic candidates’ standing in the polls in the last couple months have been North Carolina and Arkansas, and it seems like it’s been an article of faith among pundits that this goes directly hand-in-hand with declines in Dem fortunes on generic congressional ballots as Obamacare took center stage and the shutdown slid down the memory hole. However, some new data from Roll Call suggests that the huge spending disparity in these races so far might be temporarily juicing the Republicans’ poll numbers. 

    In North Carolina, the ad battle has only been fought by third-party groups, but the GOP side has more than doubled up the Democrats, $5.7 million to $2.6 million so far this cycle. Over $4 million of that $5.7 million is from the Koch-linked Americans for Prosperity. Meanwhile, in Arkansas, Republicans are beating Democrats $2.1 million to $1.3 million. Almost all of the GOP money is third-party, while the majority of the Dem dollars are from Mark Pryor’s campaign. 

    The article also includes data on two other campaigns where the dollars are already flowing freely: Louisiana (where Mary Landrieu may be in trouble, but we don’t have any recent polls with trendlines that would suggest a decline), and Kentucky. The GOP isn’t just doubling up but in fact tripling up on the Dems in these races. In Louisiana, the ratio is $1.75 million to $570,000; in Kentucky, the ratio is $4.5 million to $1.2 million, although much of the Republican spending has been the Mitch McConnell and Matt Bevin camps pounding each other in the primary. (David Jarman)

 

House:

 

  • FL-19: The House Ethics Committee announced Monday that it will open an investigation into Rep. Trey Radel, who pleaded guilty last month to charges of cocaine possession and says he’s currently in an in-patient rehab facility. One unnamed source tells Roll Call, though, that the committee is unlikely to recommend any punishment beyond the court-ordered wrist-slap Radel’s already received. 
  • MN-07: An attack ad this early in the race in Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District probably isn’t oriented toward softening Rep. Collin Peterson up for defeat in 2014, but rather laying down a marker that Peterson will get a more competitive race than usual and hoping that message spurs the 69-year-old Peterson to think about retirement. (Peterson has had perhaps the most consistently easy ride of any remaining red-district House Dem, even winning by more than 17 percent in 2010.) 

    The ad is from Iowa-based PAC American Future Fund, and at a $100,000 buy, it’s more than just a video press release. It’s also pretty inflammatory by Minnesota’s standards, accusing Peterson of having “lost his Minnesota nice.” (David Jarman) 

  • NC-12: EMILY’s List has endorsed state Rep. Alma Adams in the crowded (but as yet unscheduled) special Democratic primary to replace Rep. Mel Watt, who was recently confirmed to head a federal agency. At least one other woman, state Rep. Beverly Earle, is also running.

 

Other Races:

 

  • Special Elections: It’s the last election day of 2013! Johnny Longtorso tells us about one of the races: 

    New Hampshire House, Strafford-06: This is an open Democratic seat consisting of the towns of Durham and Madbury. The Democratic candidate is former state Sen. Amanda Merrill, who served two terms before retiring in 2012. Meanwhile, the Republicans have Some Dude Deidre Lepkowski (seriously, she has done an amazing job of leaving no footprint on the Internet despite having a pretty unique name). This is among the most Democratic House districts in the state: Barack Obama won it by a 67-31 margin in 2012, while Maggie Hassan carried it 68-28.

     

    There’s also a special in Wisconsin’s 82nd Assembly District, a 56-43 Romney seat; more on that here. That will wrap it up for the year, though things start right off again the first Tuesday in January, which includes a big one (the Virginia special for Lieutenant Governor-elect Ralph Northam’s state Senate seat). You can keep track of every special election and big-city mayor’s race with our awesome calendar

  • VA-AG: The recount for Virginia’s race for attorney general finally started Monday, to determine whether Democratic state Sen. Mark Herring can hold on to the 165-vote lead he enjoyed at certification time. Only three jurisdictions have begun (Fairfax, Alexandria, and Chesapeake); the rest follow Tuesday, so expect the action to quicken very soon. You can check the latest recount changes and the county-by-county numbers in this Google doc that we’ve created. 

    As of 5 PM ET Monday evening, only Fairfax County had released new numbers: Among the 67 precincts the county has recounted, Herring has netted 183 votes, while Republican Mark Obenshain netted 92 votes. Add it all together, and Herring’s lead now stands at 256 votes. However, Herring attorney Marc Elias subsequently tweeted that Herring’s edge is actually 264 votes based on 100 recounted precincts; he may have information from counties that have not yet publicly released any updated results. (Taniel)

 

Grab Bag:

 

  • Maps: Here’s a terrific map from Joshua Comenetz of the Census Bureau, who has broken down the Jewish population in the United States according to congressional district: 
    Map of U.S. congressional districts by Jewish population

    (click for larger)

     

    How many Jews there actually are in a America is a remarkably difficult question to answer, but Comenetz’s numbers are almost identical to a recent Pew study that put the total Jewish population at 6.7 million, or about 2.2 percent. Jews are spread very unevenly throughout the country, though. The most heavily Jewish district, you won’t be surprised to learn, is Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler’s NY-10, which, thanks to its inclusion of Manhattan’s Upper West Side and Brooklyn’s Borough Park, is 27.5 percent Jewish. The least, at 0.0004 percent (and perhaps with no Jews at all, given the margin of error inherent in such measurements), is rural OK-02, represented by freshman GOP Rep. Markwayne Mullin. 

    And if you’re anything like the Daily Kos Elections crew, the first question upon seeing the this data would be, “Which is the district with the least Jewish population that’s represented by a congressperson who identifies as Jewish?” Answer: VA-07, the only district in the nation held by a Jewish Republican (Eric Cantor), at 0.27 percent Jewish. That’s followed by TN-09 (Steve Cohen) and KY-03 (John Yarmuth), each of which are also less than 1 percent Jewish. (Cohen’s district actually had much of its Jewish citizenry moved to a neighboring district during redistricting.) 

    How about the most-Jewish district represented by a non-Jew? Unsurprisingly, the top five in that category are all located in New York City, topped by NY-09 at 23.41 percent (thanks in large part to the inclusion of Crown Heights), represented by Yvette Clark, who identifies as Methodist. It also includes NY-08 (Hakeem Jeffries), NY-12 (Carolyn Maloney), NY-11 (Michael Grimm), and NY-06 (Grace Meng). 

    Comenetz has much more data available if you’d like to drill down further, including Excel spreadsheets and GIS files. And that full Pew report also has tons more demographic information on U.S. Jewry as well.

The House T&I Committee rolls out its WRDDA Bill

Monday, December 16th, 2013

DRIVING THE TRANSPO DAY – WRRDA presser: The House T&I
Committee rolls out its WRDDA bill at a news conference today that features the
“big four” – Bill Shuster, Nick Rahall, Bob Gibbs and Tim Bishop. The bill will
be marked up next week, on Sept. 19, according to a lawmaker involved in the
legislation. To build support for the measure, the panel has a new video out
today that explains the bill in a fun way. Chairman Shuster narrates the 2:41
video designed for those outside the Beltway. It features time-lapse drawings on
a whiteboard that explain why ports are so important and how project reviews can
be cut to three years, one of Shuster’s main goals in the legislation. “You’re
probably thinking: That can’t apply to me,” Shuster says after ticking off the
wonky full name of the bill. “But it’s actually a lot simpler than it sounds. In
fact, it’s a bill that’s essential to our everyday life. You see, we are
surrounded by the goods that travel through our ports and waterways.” Watch the
video here: http://bit.ly/1fVo1xo

•Reid Ends Marathon Session, Announces Schedule for Budget, Defense Bills

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

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The Budget Agreement Brief

Friday, December 13th, 2013

DEAL RAISES SHORT-TERM SPENDING: The budget agreement announced by House-Senate negotiators could avert deep cuts under sequestration, put the appropriations process back on course and allow the parties to continue talks aimed at deficit reduction. It would increase overall discretionary spending by about $63 billion above sequester levels, with $45 billion of that applied to fiscal 2014 and the rest to fiscal 2015.

The pact would swell the cap on spending this year to $1.012 trillion, up from the sequester level of $967 billion that was set in the Budget Control Act (PL 112-25). That would also amount to a $26 billion increase over the current $986 billion level of spending in the stopgap funding bill (PL 113-46) that expires Jan. 15.

Ryan will make the case that higher spending levels are a reason for Republicans to support the deal, because they are lower than what he proposed in the fiscal 2014 budget resolution adopted by the House in March. His office said the plan would reduce the deficit by $20 billion to $23 billion over the coming decade using a combination of cuts to mandatory spending programs and increased user fees that yield $85 billion in reduced borrowing.

We’ll be watching for lawmakers’ reactions as more details emerge. A summary identifies multiple changes to programs, including increased premiums paid by companies to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. and an extension of higher customs fees to help cover the offsetting deficit reduction.

The bipartisan package includes $63 billion of “sequester relief,” $85 billion of total savings, and $23 billion in net deficit reduction. The agreement would set the discretionary spending level for fiscal year 2014 at $1.012 trillion, and $1.014 trillion in FY 2015.

(Also on POLITICO: Why timing is right for budget deal)

President Barack Obama backed the deal and Ryan and Murray predicted that it would pass both the House and Senate. Still, both lawmakers acknowledged that conservatives and progressives will find items they don’t like in the package.

For instance, a number of top House Democrats are unhappy the agreement does not include an extension in federal unemployment benefits expiring on Dec. 28. Meanwhile, federal workers hired after Dec. 31, 2013, will have to pay more toward their retirement.

Conservatives will be equally displeased that the plan will require businesses to pay higher premiums to the federal government to guarantee their pension benefits.

Those under age 62 who retired from the military will see a slightly smaller annual cost-of-living increase. Tickets prices will rise for airline passengers. And Medicare providers will face $22 billion in across-the-board cuts in 2022-23, beyond the time period covered by the current Budget Control Act.

(Also on POLITICO: Conservatives balk at budget deal)

Murray and Ryan, however, stood side-by-side to hail the deal as progress, not perfection. They both repeatedly said it was just a “first step.” And both lawmakers said far more work needs to be done to revamp the U.S. government’s fiscal outlook, while still urging their colleagues to back this agreement.

“This bill reduces the deficit by $23 billion, it does not raise taxes, and it cuts spending in a smarter way,” Ryan said at Tuesday night press conference. “I see this agreement as a step in the right direction.”

“I’m proud of this agreement,” Ryan added. “It reduces the deficit—without raising taxes. And it cuts spending in a smarter way. It’s a firm step in the right direction, and I ask all my colleagues in the House to support it.”

“This agreement breaks through the recent dysfunction to prevent another government shutdown and roll back sequestration’s cuts to defense and domestic investments in a balanced way,” said Murray. “It’s a good step in the right direction that can hopefully rebuild some trust and serve as a foundation for continued bipartisan work.”

In a statement issued by the White House, Obama also praised the Ryan-Murray package.

“This agreement doesn’t include everything I’d like – and I know many Republicans feel the same way. That’s the nature of compromise,” Obama said. “But it’s a good sign that Democrats and Republicans in Congress were able to come together and break the cycle of short-sighted, crisis-driven decision-making to get this done.”

Party leaders on both sides of the Capitol, including House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) and Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) also issued statements backing the deal.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), ranking member on the House Budget Committee, offered more tepid support.

“This agreement isn’t perfect, but it is certainly better than no agreement at all,” said Van Hollen, a key player in the House Democratic Caucus. “This difficult negotiation has gone through many phases. The final product replaces part of the job-killing sequester without disproportionally hitting working families, including hundreds of thousands of public servants. It’s a small, but good step forward for our country.”

Both Murray and Ryan said the agreement, coming after weeks of tightly controlled talks between the two Budget Committee chairmen, will provide certainty for business leaders and financial markets that has been missing since the GOP takeover of Congress in 2010.

Read more: http://www.politico.com/story/2013/12/budget-deal-update-patty-murray-paul-ryan-100960.html#ixzz2nAlflXNR

•Will Paul Ryan’s High-Risk Budget Deal Return High Rewards?

Friday, December 13th, 2013

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•Boehner: Conservative Outside Groups ‘Have Lost All Credibility’

Friday, December 13th, 2013

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