Olympia Snowe

Citizens Confounded

WASHINGTON -- Imagine that your neighbors started getting letters describing all sorts of horrific deeds you had allegedly performed. Wouldn't you feel you had the right to know who was spreading this sleaze—especially if the charges were untrue? Now imagine a member of Congress telling a lobbyist from Consolidated Megacorp Inc. that she would do all she could to block an extra $2 billion in an appropriations bill to purchase the company's flawed widgets for the federal government.

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[Guest post by Noam Scheiber:] There's an interesting new development on the Elizabeth Warren front today. But, before I get to that, some backstory. I've written before about why Warren is likely to be confirmed as head of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection if the president nominates her. Basically, some key Republicans, like Chuck Grassley and Olympia Snowe (and even Jim Bunning), seem to like her.

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A modest but worthwhile effort to curb the power of money in politics died on Tuesday afternoon when Senate Republicans refused to let debate on the measure go forward. The DISCLOSE Act would require corporations and interest groups to identify themselves when they sponsor political ads and, in the case of smaller organizations, to reveal their donors. President Obama and Democratic leaders hoped the bill would, among other things, help undo the damage of the recent Citizens United ruling, in which the Supreme Court threw out limits on corporate political spending.

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Paul Krugman's column yesterday blamed the failure of the climate bill on industries that promote skepticism of the science of climate change along with cowardly politicians who failed to follow their conscience. Those factors are correct on their own terms. You can also add in the filibuster and the failure of industries like coal to recognize their need for some kind of regulatory certainty. But the truth is that public opinion played a major role as well. It's not that Americans oppose action on greenhouse gas emissions -- most polls show they favor it.

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Last week, Senate Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd aroused the ire of progressive activists when he wondered whether Elizabeth Warren, the former Harvard Law professor who is a leading candidate to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, would be “confirmable.” “There’s a serious question about it,” he said on NPR’s “Diane Rehm Show.” Dodd’s concern is legitimate given that a mere 41 votes can block action in the Senate, and that the GOP has been willing to filibuster even seemingly popular proposals.

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Jeff Greenfield anticipates the next judicial battle. President Obama's two Supreme Court nominees to date have merely frozen in place the Court's current ideology. But there's a strong chance that one of the five conservative justices will have to depart during Obama's term. And then, look out: If there is a liberal nominee posed to replace a conservative, we are sure to hear Republicans arguing for the merits of a filibuster, while Democrats attack it as an invalid tactic.

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David Obey recalls the stimulus debate: The problem for Obama, he wasn’t as lucky as Roosevelt, because when Obama took over we were still in the middle of a free fall. So his Treasury people came in and his other economic people came in and said "Hey, we need a package of $1.4 trillion." We started sending suggestions down to OMB waiting for a call back. After two and a half weeks, we started getting feedback. We put together a package that by then the target had been trimmed to $1.2 trillion.

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This is the fourth of a five-part series explaining, in remarkable detail, how Obama and the Democrats came to pass health care reform. (Click here to read parts one, two, and three.) Be sure to come back tomorrow for the final installment, which reveals how the White House decided not to drop health care reform in the wake of Scott Brown's victory, and what Nancy Pelosi did to broker the final deal.   Reset Barack Obama, the law professor, was acting like a prosecutor. He’d invited Grassley to the Oval Office, to talk about the senator’s concerns.

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Poison Penn

One fact that has grown increasingly clear over the last two years is that the Democratic Party dodged a bullet by not nominating or electing a presidential candidate whose chief political adviser is Mark Penn.

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Yesterday's debate between Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio doesn't change my long-held view that Crist will/should run for Senate as an independent. This answer to the question of whether he'll run as an independent, for instance, sounded awfully like the words of a man who, at the very least, is keeping the door open: CRIST: I'm running as a Republican. I'm very proud to be from the party of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, others that really have stood up for the principles of our party, like Ronald Reagan. This is a great party. It has a great future.

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