Bernie Sanders

The liberal bloc of the Senate today is up there with the early 1960s and mid-'70s.

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To paraphrase Mark Twain, nearly everybody (everybody except conservative ideologues, of course) complains about rich people and big corporations bankrolling our campaigns, but hardly anybody seems to be doing anything about it.

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A fair amount of momentum is building among liberals (see Senator Bernie Sanders, or bloggers Scott Lemieux and Steve Benen) for the idea that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should bring the House-passed budget resolution—more popularly known as the Ryan plan—to the floor for a vote. Reid is apparently ready to follow their lead. The theory is that it would be a tough vote for Senate Republicans, who will face pressure from movement conservatives to vote yes but don’t want to be on record endorsing, in the Democrats’ terms, slashing Medicare to pay for tax cuts for the rich.

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Lefty, Come Home

WASHINGTON—A couple of hours before President Obama offered a boffo revival of his 2008 campaign persona during a boisterous rally at the University of Wisconsin, Sen. Bernie Sanders was analyzing why the president was in a political pickle in the first place. Sanders, the independent from Vermont who caucuses with the Democrats, speaks warmly of Obama.

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Late last month, Gallup released fresh state-by-state numbers on the electorate’s ideological and partisan identification. These numbers provide both an X-ray of the structure of political competition and a roadmap for November. To grasp the underlying story, I divided each list into a top and bottom 15 and a middle 20—from most to least conservative and from most to least Republican—and then arrayed them in a three by three grid.

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Over at Daily Kos, David Sirota says President Obama is meaner to the left than he is to Republicans:  Yesterday at OpenLeft, I wrote a post about how the Obama administration unduly shies away from confrontation with Republicans and conservatives. Whether this is a product of the president's personal fetishization of conciliation or a product of a right-of-center political ideology none of us can know because none of us are in his head.

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Shortly after nine on a Monday morning in late April, Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman Gary Gensler filed into a meeting room with nine senior aides. The aesthetic was what you might call “bureaucratic drab”—fluorescent lights, beige carpeting, American flag—and the mostly middle-aged men did not seem out of place. Their suits ranged from gray to charcoal and the complexions were varying degrees of pasty.

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David Brooks thinks it. David Gregory thinks it. The Washington Post editorial page thinks it. And, what the heck, I think it. If health care reform passes Congress, the final legislation probably won't cut the cost of medical care as quickly as seems possible on paper. But would the legislation make a good start--as good a start as possible, given political reality? Brooks, Gregory, the Post, and plenty of other critics seem to think the answer is "no." I think they are nuts.

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When Senators like Bernie Sanders or Sherrod Brown say Democrats need to finalize health care reform through the budget reconciliation process because of Republican obstructionism, that doesn't mean much. When Senators Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieu, and Ben Nelson say their more liberal colleagues may be right, that means a lot. Via Politico's Carrie Budoff Brown, here's Bayh: “Obviously, if the minority is just frustrating the process, that argues for taking steps to get the public’s business done. ...

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Who says bipartisan good feeling is dead? The big question hanging over health care reform right now is whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi can get enough Democrats to vote for the Senate bill and an accompanying set of amendments that would move through the budget reconciliation process. Rather than make Pelosi and her lieutenants go to the trouble of counting all those votes, Republican House Whip Eric Cantor has generously done the work for her. In a memo addressed to "interested parties," Cantor lays out the math.

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