United States Senate

How They Did It

When the president and his closest advisers huddled in the Oval Office last August, they had every reason to panic. Their signature piece of legislation, comprehensive health care reform, was mired in the Senate Finance Committee and the public was souring on it. Unemployment was on the march, and all this talk about preexisting conditions and insurance exchanges barely registered above the Fox News pundits screaming, “Death panel!” Suddenly, health care reform was under attack everywhere—even in the West Wing. All week, the group had debated whether to scale back the reform effort.

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This is the first of a five-part series explaining, in remarkable detail, how Obama and the Democrats came to pass health care reform. Be sure to come back tomorrow for the second part, which reveals how Ted Kennedy wooed Max Baucus and what Rahm Emanuel promised the drug industry. When the president and his closest advisers huddled in the Oval Office last August, they had every reason to panic. Their signature piece of legislation, comprehensive health care reform, was mired in the Senate Finance Committee and the public was souring on it.

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In a night of big political developments, the one that will echo for some time is the victory by Rand Paul in the Kentucky Republican Senate primary. Why? Well, for one thing, it’s not often that someone leapfrogs a still-active and very famous congressional father to get a short track to the U.S. Senate.

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Harry Enten marvels at the possibility that Pat Toomey could win a Senate election in Pennsylvania: Toomey ranked more conservative than 97.9% of all United States legislators since 1995. He had a more conservative voting record than J.D Hayworth, Jim DeMint, and was about as conservative as Jesse Helms.

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So is the Gulf spill actually changing anyone's mind about offshore drilling? It depends where you're looking. In Florida, sure, it is. A handful of conservative state legislators have recently been rethinking their pro-drilling stance. Charlie Crist, who's running for the U.S. Senate, is now rethinking drilling. And, as Brad Johnson notes, GOP State Rep. Greg Evers was once a huge fan of putting up new rigs right near the Florida panhandle shore. Post-spill, though, he's starting to think the risk to the state's beaches isn't worth it: "You have to understand: this is our way of life.

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Blank Slate

Imagine a candidate for the U.S. Senate who has never taken a public stand on almost any policy issue. Imagine that her campaign consists of asking people for their support because, according to friends and colleagues, the candidate is smart, fair, and good to others. When her friends are asked what her views are on various political matters, they reply that they don't know—but that they're confident she'd make an excellent senator. This bizarre hypothetical closely resembles the actual campaign to put Elena Kagan on the Supreme Court.

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Trading Down

A lot of people laughed when Sue Lowden, the Nevada Republican running for the U.S. Senate, suggested last month that people start paying for their medical care with chickens. I didn’t. I thought about my late grandfather Kurt, a family doctor who practiced in Brooklyn starting in the 1940s. His office was in the basement of his house and his clientele (like him) was very Jewish. He never mentioned getting paid with a chicken.

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Tory Magic

WASHINGTON—"There's something else you need to know about me," declared the earnest young politician, "which is I believe the test of a good and strong society is how we look after the most vulnerable, the most frail and the poorest." This lovely bleeding-heart liberal sentiment was part of the closing statement offered by David Cameron, the leader of Britain's Conservative Party at last week's final debate before this Thursday's election. And after a rocky campaign start, Cameron now leads in the polls and may well become the next prime minister.

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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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Inside Out

Gambier, Ohio—Ohio's U.S. Senate campaign offers an excellent preview of what this fall's midterm elections will be like: Everyone in the race wants to be an outsider, everyone pledges to break with politics as usual, and everyone is talking about jobs. Those running against Washington include Republican Rob Portman, even though he was elected to Congress in 1993 after working for the first President Bush and then held two high-level jobs in George W. Bush's administration.

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