John Ensign

Tom Coburn, one of six Senators working on a bipartisan agreement, split off yesterday. My immediate reaction was that the deal is now dead. But I'm not so sure. Philip Rucker and Lori Montgomery of the Washington Post report that Coburn had begun abandoning his previously negotiated positions: Those close to the talks said trouble has been brewing for weeks. Earlier this month, the group appeared to be tantalizingly close to an agreement.

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Republican Senator John Ensign, who famously had an affair with the wife of his aide (and former best friend) Doug Hampton and then went to great—and perhaps illegal—lengths to help Hampton build a lobbying outfit, may have already resigned from the Senate, but the Senate Ethics Committee isn’t letting him off the hook that easy.

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Tom Jensen on the Republican primary threat: The fact that someone like Hutchison who has generally been among the more popular Senators in the country and has always won by wide margins has been at least partially pushed out by the Tea Party is indicative of a new reality for Republican Senators- pretty much no incumbent is safe if these folks decide to target them.

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Conservative Crosshairs

Republicans are poised to take over the U.S. Senate in 2012. This isn't contingent on a GOP presidential win, or even a particularly good campaign year, but rather on the extremely tilted Senate playing field created by the 2006 Democratic landslide. Yet, oddly, that is no comfort for many sitting Republican senators, who may face savage primary challenges if they are even perceived to slight the conservative base.

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I think liberals massively overestimate the degree to which poor messaging contributed to their difficulties. That isn't to say, though, that Democrats don't have a problem here. NBC's First Read: Want another example of how Republicans play political hardball better than Democrats do? Just look what happened after yesterday’s House vote extending only middle-class tax cuts. We noticed only a few Democratic press releases accusing Republicans of voting against tax cuts for 98% of Americans (and thus accusing them of raising these folks’ taxes).

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Will vs. Krugman

George Will explains why the Rangel scandal is drawing vastly more attention than the Ensign scandal -- it's all about tax reform: KRUGMAN: No, I think it's fair enough. But, you know, let me ask -- there's something I don't understand about this whole thing. There are actually two major investigations of members of Congress underway right now. There's Charlie Rangel, who's accused of some fairly petty, although stupid and wrong, ethical violations, and there's Senator John Ensign, who's facing a criminal investigation and which actually -- it's even a story that involves sex.

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Dana Goldstein makes a surprisingly compelling case for Nikki Haley, the far-right South Carolina governor candidate currently alleged to have had extramarital affairs with two men: I’m rooting for Haley because after watching so many men in politics fool around and still manage to hold on to their jobs—Bill Clinton, Mark Sanford, Clarence Thomas, John Ensign, Eric Massa, Antonio Villaraigosa, and Gavin Newsom, among many others—I hope we have reached the point when a woman, too, can screw up her personal life and still be evaluated on the public stage primarily for her professional achieveme

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Crapshoot

Where is it most painful to be a highly visible incumbent politician at this particular moment in U.S. history? Perhaps it’s California, where current economic and budgetary discontents are compounding a growing public fury over chronically dysfunctional state government and an imprisoning constitution.

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Numerous Republican worthies, like Paul Ryan, John Ensign, and Dave Camp, have recirculated the claim that the Affordable Care Act will require 16,000 new IRS agents. Factcheck.org dissects the urban legend and describes how it spread.

Because Congress failed to adopt a bipartisan deficit commission on its own, President Obama created one through executive order on Thursday. This comes as a disappointment to members of both parties who had endorsed the Conrad-Gregg bill: that proposal would have forced the Congress to vote on the commission’s recommendations, while the administration’s initiative does not. The failure of Conrad-Gregg was surprising as well as troubling. By last December, the bill had garnered almost three dozen cosponsors across party lines and seemed to be gaining momentum.

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