James Pethokoukis

Politics and policy from inside Washington

Democratic congressman Parker Griffith to switch to Republican

Dec 22, 2009 16:31 UTC

Blue Dog Parker Griffith of Alabama is making the switch:

POLITICO has learned that Rep. Parker Griffith, a freshman Democrat from Alabama, will announce today that he’s switching parties to become a Republican. According to two senior GOP aides familiar with the decision, the announcement will take place this afternoon in Griffith’s district in northern Alabama. Griffith’s party switch comes on the eve of a pivotal congressional health care vote and will send a jolt through a Democratic House Caucus that has already been unnerved by the recent retirements of a handful of members who, like Griffith, hail from districts that offer prime pickup opportunities for the GOP in 2010.

The switch represents a coup for the House Republican leadership, which had been courting Griffith since he publicly criticized the Democratic leadership in the wake of raucous town halls during the summer. Griffith, who captured the seat in a close 2008 open seat contest, will become the first Republican to hold the historically Democratic, Huntsville-based district. A radiation oncologist who founded a cancer treatment center, Griffith plans to blast the Democratic health care bill as a prime reason for his decision to switch parties—and is expected to cite his medical background as his authority on the subject.

Me: This is a district that McCain won with 61 percent of the vote. Griffith voted against the stimulus and has stated that he would not vote again for Nancy Pelosi as speaker. The Dems will now have a 40 seat majority in the House.

COMMENT

MCP Foundation (Mass Communication Power)

Letter to U.S. President
Mr. Barack Obama

Dear Mr. President, I have the honor to announce you that MCP representatives Foundation as at home and abroad have taken initiative to establish an International Club called “Dr. Martin Luther King “ within our organization.
We have decided this in a recent meeting with representative of active NGOs such as: ASSOCIATION OF WOMEN IN ROMANIA,AS.COL.CLUB,DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION ASSOCIATION,NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF PENSIONEERS OF ROMANIA,ASSOCIATION FOR CITIZEN SAFETY.

These organizations will make common cause to fight for the rights of women, so that in Romania, breast cancer should no longer represent the first cause of death, as it happens, unfortunately, in 2010.

We request that Mr. President Barack Obama:

1.You agree to accept the position of honorary president of the MCP Foundation(Mass Communication Power).
2.You support us to achieve an excellent partnership.

We all know that Mr. Martin Luther King was the outstanding personality of the 20th century. He not only fought for the rights of one minority, but for any oppressed person in the world, for equality, liberty and fraternity, establishing a true culture of peace, life and love among people. As we all know, Martin Luther King , the hero of the civil rights was awarded on December 10, 1964, Nobel Peace Prize. That’s why we decided to set up this club, because the idea of a civil society can not be outside civil rights in a democracy and they have as the central reference point, the personality of Dr. King ,his life and activity.
“We need to be together to achieve a common goal: Equal opportunities and power of women in the world”.This is the message of the president of ASSOCIATION OF WOMEN IN ROMANIA, Ms. Liliana Pagu.
As it is known, since 1986, Martin Luther King’s day is a holiday in the United States, therefore, by popularizing this American holiday, MCP Press Agency, part of our organization, anticipated by media global coverage of this event, as early as 2007 the choosing of a representative of the civil society in the Oval Office of the White House and here you are at the White House.

We would like you to support us, if possible, to develop this club in its activities meant to spread in Romania the knowledge of the social movement for civil rights marked by the struggle of Dr. King and the extension of his message to the century that has begun.
For the start we are thinking of attracting personalities and groups interested in our enterprise.
The International Club “Dr. Martin Luther King” will focus on two areas: education-culture, civil and political. Since Martin Luther King was born on January 15, 1929, we would like a joint action in making this letter and text known all over the world a release of MCP Press Agency, as his birthday has been celebrated as a national holiday in the United States since 1986.

Looking forward to your answer which honor us, The editorial address:agency@mcppress.ro
Bank account:ROSSRNCB0090000509540001 BCR Lipscani Branch, Ontario.

With great esteem, president of MCP Foundation
(MASS COMMUNICATION POWER)

Ec. Mihail Georgevici

E-mail:agency@mcppress.ro / http://www.mcppress.ro
Str.Walter Maracineanu nr.1-3, et.6, camera 412, sect.1, Bucharest, Romania
Tel./Fax :+4031 80 40 152 // Mobil +4 0723 945 84

Bernanke nomination in more trouble than you think

Dec 22, 2009 15:48 UTC

Ben Bernanke’s close escape from the Senate Banking Committee sets him up for a record number of final “no” votes on his renomination as Federal Reserve chairman. A second term is still overwhelmingly likely. But such unprecedented disapproval suggests Bernanke will be a 2010 campaign issue. That could make the Fed ever more susceptible to political pressure when it comes to tighten the easy money spigot.

Fed nominations typically glide through committee. When President Jimmy Carter nominated G. William Miller for the post in 1978, the lone dissenting voice was that of gadfly William Proxmire of Wisconsin. He called Miller a joke and said putting him on the Fed would be like sending ballet star Rudolf Nureyev against the heavyweight boxing champ. And despite widespread public blame for the recession in 1981-82 Paul Volcker received just two no committee votes in 1983.

So seven negative votes out of 23 is historically high – nor was it just a few cranky contrarians dissenting. The ranking Republican voted “nay.” So too did Kay Bailey Hutchinson, a soft conservative running in the Texas GOP gubernatorial primary against a hardliner. That’s a strong hint that baseline conservative Republicans plan an anti-Fed platform in midterm elections. And pro-Bernanke votes will be wielded by challengers to incumbents.

So expect many GOPers to abandon Bernanke next month when his job along with a smattering of nervous Democrats facing re-election. Maybe a fifth to a third of the full Senate could vote no, a startling number considering that the high-water mark is 16 final votes against Volcker in 1983. A simple voice vote was enough for Alan Greenspan in 1992 and 2004, and Bernanke himself in 2006.

Congress is already nibbling at Fed independence. An audit of the central bank could even be inserted into financial reforms. There’s also an effort to toss the hawkish regional bank presidents off the group that sets monetary policy. Bernanke’s tepid support in the Senate is another crack in the Fed’s political heat shield. It is also one more reason to question whether the Fed will have the institutional guts to withdraw monetary stimulus when it should, despite stubbornly high unemployment.

The bear case on healthcare reform

Dec 22, 2009 15:09 UTC

So now what? My pal Rich Lowry takes a crack at the bear case for healthcare reform. His main points:

1) Public opinion.  The bill was already under water in every major public-opinion poll, and opposed by a margin of almost 2 to 1 in the latest CNN poll. The latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll put its support at freezing, 32 percent. A few ticks downward and the bill will be in the 20s. … The Democrats have shown no inclination to let public opinion hold them back, but the stiff headwind makes everything a little harder and reduces an already-small margin for error. One subset of public opinion will be particularly important: Nebraska. If Ben Nelson is perceived to have made a career-defining choice that will end his designation as a conservative Democrat and a pro-lifer, and if he takes an immediate dive in the polls, it will cast a pall over other Blue Dogs inclined to play ball.

2) Abortion. After her initial 220–215 victory, Pelosi can afford to lose only two net votes. Bart Stupak has declared the Nelson language unacceptable and vows to oppose the final bill if it doesn’t include the restrictions contained in his amendment. As John McCormack points out, earlier in the year Stupak was part of a bloc of Democrats who wrote a letter to Pelosi saying they’d stand against “any health-care-reform proposal unless it explicitly excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or -subsidized health-insurance plan.” Eleven of those signatories voted for the House bill.

3) Money. The Senate relies on a so-called Cadillac tax on pricey insurance plans, the House on a surtax on the wealthy. The Senate long ago declared the surtax anathema, and the House is just as dismissive of the Cadillac tax. The unions hate the Cadillac tax, since they enjoy such plans themselves, the fruit of collective bargaining. If the House gives in, it will create even more unrest on the Left. If the Senate gives in, it could upset the fragile deal for 60. If this disagreement over financing doesn’t represent as dire a threat to the future of the bill as the other factors we are cataloguing, it’s still a stumbling block.

4) Blue Dogs. When Obamacare first passed the House, 28 Blue Dog Democrats, more than half of their 52-member coalition, were on board. This is a pool that surely includes some very nervous votes. As Michael Barone points out, nearly 70 percent of the Blue Dogs represent districts that voted for John McCain. A vote for this bill must look even more like a potentially career-ending decision now than it did the first time around.

Keep an eye especially on the Pennsylvanians. Rep. Patrick Murphy already has four GOP opponents in his suburban Philadelphia district. After supporting round one of Obamacare, the auto bailouts, TARP, and the stimulus, Murphy may be looking for a way back toward the center. Reps. Kathy Dahlkemper and Christopher Carney, both elected in the 2006 anti-Bush sweep, represent blue-collar districts in the Keystone State in which Obama failed to reach 50 percent last year. You can bet that trio is watching the polls. Other Blue Dogs are simply getting out. In the past month, Reps. Bart Gordon (D., Tenn.), Dennis Moore (D., Kan.), and John Tanner (D., Tenn.) have all announced their retirements.

5) Liberals. No fewer than 60 liberals in the House imprudently made a pledge to oppose a bill without a public option. Almost all of them can be expected to eat it. But what if one or two don’t? Public-option scold Rep. Anthony Weiner (D., N.Y.) is continuing to pressure Obama to move further left. “What we’re saying is now’s your moment, big guy, you’re the Mariano Rivera of this situation,” he said to MSNBC last week. “You’re going to come in at the end, and there’s still a chance to do it.” That’s not going to happen, but perhaps a few of Weiner’s colleagues are ideologically besotted enough to lash out at the president’s “betrayal” when he doesn’t “come in” the way they hope he will.

COMMENT

Shadow-boxing is only entertaining in situation comedy. The mainstream Democratic Party, like all its Republican brethren, has shown how uniformly serious it is about selling America out to zombie corporations on every single issue there is – banking, insurance, telecommunications, consumer and civil rights included.

So really, this laughable “detailed” analysis isn’t all that amusing right now. Neither of America’s major political parties is worth saving, or even listening to, any more.

There is only one thing to do with zombies. One.

Posted by HBC | Report as abusive

Rasmussen: Obama approval ratings at new low

Dec 22, 2009 14:49 UTC

Pollster Rasmussen indicates that healthcare is not helping the POTUS:

The Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll for Tuesday shows that 25% of the nation’s voters Strongly Approve of the way that Barack Obama is performing his role as President. Forty-three percent (46%) Strongly Disapprove giving Obama a Presidential Approval Index rating of -21 That’s the lowest Approval Index rating yet recorded for this President. … For the second straight day, the update shows the highest level of Strong Disapproval yet recorded for this President. That negative rating had never topped 42% before yesterday. However, it has risen dramatically since the Senate found 60 votes to move forward with the proposed health care reform legislation. Most voters (55%) oppose the health care legislation and senior citizens are even more likely than younger voters to dislike the plan.

COMMENT

I have to say, james, I liked your blogging way more when you were at USN&WR — you actually wrote stuff and provided your always interesting, not just cut’n'paste stuff I get anyway. Is Reuters not letting you off the leash? Or are you working on bigger/more thoughtful pieces elsewhere?

Posted by Ghost of Keynes | Report as abusive

Copenhagen a eulogy for US cap-and-trade

Dec 22, 2009 14:44 UTC

I have been saying for some time that I do not think Congress is going to pass cap-and-trade in 2010, or probably ever. (I think the threat of EPA action is empty given the flurry of litigation that would surely follow.) My Reuters news pals seem to agree somewhat and paint an alternate scenario:

1) But the Copenhagen Accord did not include emissions targets. This will make it difficult for lawmakers to argue that the United States should have a cap while China, the world’s top emitter of greenhouse gases, and other big polluters are not legally required to act on climate. “We were previously of the view that cap and trade was becoming an increasingly hard sell in the U.S.,” said Paul McConnell, an energy markets analyst at Wood Mackenzie. “But I think the events in Copenhagen have probably made that even more difficult.”

2) Alternatives to cap and trade will emerge, such as mandates and incentives for increasing levels of energy from low-carbon sources like solar, wind and nuclear.

3) The healthcare debate has delayed U.S. Senate action on climate, and financial industry reform legislation will likely push back the cap-and-trade debate into early next year, analysts said. The longer the delay, the harder it will be to convince undecided Democratic senators to vote for a cap-and-trade plan. “For a lot of moderate Democrats who are up for reelection, they don’t want to be seen as closely attached to this because of the concerns about job losses and higher energy prices,” said Divya Reddy, an analyst at the Eurasia Group in Washington.

4) Kerry said in Copenhagen last week that the Senate bill may not contain cap and trade, and other options are being discussed. So-called “Plan B” alternatives to cap and trade could include carbon taxes and national mandates for power generators to produce higher levelof cleaner energy sources, Reddy said. A new climate strategy could also include elements of a “cap and dividend” plan recently introduced by two senators. That aims to cut Wall Street’s role in emissions markets by auctioning permits to polluters and delivering most of the proceeds to the general public. But Kevin Book, an analyst at Clearview Energy Partners, LLC, said many senators and many companies, like oil major ConocoPhillips and power generator Duke Energy Corp, are already sold on cap and trade. Some power companies that have invested in low-carbon electricity generation feel they could compete better against companies that burn mostly coal under a cap-and-trade regime.

COMMENT

No carbon bill of any kind will be passed by congress and EPA will not attempt to enforce carbon limits. That would be political suicide for Obama. He’s stupid, but he’s not that stupid.

Posted by Bill Boudreaux | Report as abusive

Political impact of surprisingly weak 3Q GDP

Dec 22, 2009 14:32 UTC

First, the Commerce Department:

Real gross domestic product — the output of goods and services produced by labor and property located in the United States — increased at an annual rate of 2.2 percent in the third quarter of2009, (that is, from the second quarter to the third quarter), according to the “third” estimatereleased by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. In the second quarter, real GDP decreased 0.7 percent. The GDP estimate released today is based on more complete source data than were available for the “second” estimate issued last month. In the second estimate, the increase in real GDP was 2.8 percent.

Me:  And, of course, the original estimate was 3.5 percent. Now  a few thoughts;

1) After such a nasty recession, the US economy should grow in the 6-8 percent range. The first seven quarters after the 1981-82 recession saw 7 percent average GDP growth.

2)  If that doesn’t happen soon, another sign that this recovery/expansion will different. And by different, I mean weaker than is typical.

3) And a weaker recovery, means weaker job growth. To drop unemployment by a full percentage point next year, it will take 4 percetn GDP growth generating 250k a month.

4) High unemployment and weaker growth means a higher level of danger for Democrat incumbents in the 2010 midterms. My working model translates 3 percent growth into typical losses of 25 seats in the House, 2 in the Senate. If growth comes in at closer to 2 percent, that is when you get the 1994-esque scenario with 40+ losses and 5+ Senate seats.

COMMENT

Not a bad deal if it means getting rid of a bunch of lefty politicians and shifting Nobama to the right. That’s what Bill Clinton did in 1994, and ya can’t argue with success.

Posted by gotthardbahn | Report as abusive
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