Tales from the Trail

Obama, lawmakers may lose own paychecks in government shutdown

President Barack Obama and members of Congress may soon have added incentive to reach a budget deal and avert a possible government shutdown: their own six-figure salaries.

OBAMA-SPEECH/The Democratic-led Senate unanimously passed a bill on late Tuesday to deny pay to the president and U.S. lawmakers during government shutdowns. The measure now goes to the Republican-led House for final congressional approval, which would clear the way for Obama to sign it into law.

“If we fail to keep the government operating, which is our basic responsibility, then we don’t deserve a paycheck,” said Democratic Senator Barbara Boxer, a chief sponsor of the bill.

The stakes in the budget showdown are sky high. And they would be even higher for Washington power brokers if the Boxer bill becomes law.

Obama’s annual pay is $400,000. Most members of Congress receive $174,000 a year, while House Speaker John Boehner gets $223,500 and the Republican and Democratic leaders in both chambers receive $193,400.

Pelosi takes on Chamber of Commerce over campaign spending

The phrase “Buy American”  may be taking on a new connotation in the rough-and-tumble battle over corporate financing and the midterm congressional elections.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been pumping lots of cash into the campaign, received multimillion dollar donations from some major companies as it fought against government policies, the New York Times reported Thursday.

pelosi“They give new meaning to the term “Buy American”…  they want to buy these elections,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said when asked about the article in an MSNBC interview.

Boxer votes early, like a good Californian

POLITICS-USA/Election day may be nearly a month off, but U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer wasn’t confused, or cheating, when she went to the polls on Tuesday to vote (presumably for herself).  The three-term Democrat was just following what has become something of a time-honored practice for many Californians: early voting.

In fact, more than 41 percent of California voters voted by mail, or absentee, during the 2008 general election, a number that has risen nearly every year since the 1978, and Boxer’s camp says the Senator — who is facing the toughest reelection fight of her career against former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina – was using it as a tool to increase voter participation.

Boxer, who was born in Brooklyn, New York, lives with her husband in Rancho Mirage, California, near Palm Springs, and cast her ballot at the Riverside County Registrar’s Office.

Reuters-Ipsos poll: Democrats hold slim leads in California races

Democrats are leading in top California races a month before the election, but by margins too tight to offer great comfort.

USA-POLITICS/Senator Barbara Boxer leads Republican challenger Carly Fiorina in the Senate race 49-45 percent among POLITICS-USA/likely voters, according to a Reuters-Ipsos poll conducted Oct. 2-4.

That 4-point difference is smaller than the 4.7 percentage point margin of error which shows how close the race is between the three-term senator and the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Ipsos pollsters say it is unlikely, with the higher margin of error and all, that the findings were reverse. Boxer has consistently had a lead over Fiorina in public opinion polls.

California gay marriage ruling has candidates quickly taking sides

With a pair of too-close-to-call political campaigns heating up in California — for governor and for Democrat Barbara Boxer’s U.S. Senate seat – the candidates wasted no time in staking out their positions after a federal judge in San Francisco struck down California’s ban on gay marriages.

jerrybrownIn a case that most believe the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately have to decide, U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker on Wednesday ruled that California’s voter-approved Proposition 8 was unconstitutional because it unfairly singled out gay and lesbian couples as being forbidden to legally wed, violating their rights to due process and equal protection under the Constitution.

For Democrat Jerry Brown, who is running against Republican Meg Whitman for governor, the case offered a natural opening: As the state’s attorney general, he has refused to defend Proposition 8 in court, instead filing a brief with the state Supreme Court to overturn it in a move that raised eyebrows among legal scholars but won him support among gay  and civil rights rights activists.

from Environment Forum:

Campaign ad equating global warming with weather gets “pants-on-fire” rating

MILKEN/By now, almost everybody -- with the possible exception of Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina -- realizes there's a difference between climate and weather. Fiorina, running in the California primary and ultimately aiming to unseat Democrat Barbara Boxer, paid for and appeared in a campaign ad slamming the sitting senator for being "worried about the weather" when there are serious concerns like terrorism to deal with.

Take a look here:

A few problems with this ad earned it the not-so-coveted beyond-false "Pants on Fire" rating from Politifact, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalism website that checks on the truthfulness of political advertising. First off, Boxer didn't say she was worried about the weather. She said that climate change was "one of the very important national security issues" -- a position in line with the Pentagon and the CIA. The site also found that it's not an either/or thing, that focusing on climate change doesn't necessarily mean neglecting national security. They took a look at Boxer's record and found she has supported at least six bills against terrorism.

"Fiorina casts climate change as something you need to pack an umbrella for, or that prompts you to curse at the TV weatherman -- which strikes us as not only a trivialization of climate change but also a failure to distinguish between two well-established scientific specialties," Politifact said. "She also ignores Boxer's lengthy record supporting bills against terrorism. So we have to light up the meter (the site's Truth-o-Meter): Pants on Fire!"

Hecklers halt Obama remarks

obama_hecklers

A persistent band of hecklers knocked President Barack Obama off message Monday night as he spoke at a fundraiser for the Democratic party and California Senator Barbara Boxer in Los Angeles. Obama was interrupted just after he launched into remarks praising Boxer as a senator who cares about the environment and is passionate about fighting for Californians.

Some folks in the audience apparently wanted to talk about something else as a group of protesters demanding the immediate repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” kept heckling him. ” What about don’t ask, don’t tell?” one protester shouted. “We are going to do that,” Obama said at one point in response to the heckling, an apparent reference to his intention to repeal the policy restricting gays from serving in the military.

Obama tried to talk over the protesters. Then he invited them on stage. Supporters chanting “yes we can” tried to drown them out. Heckled again, a visibly irritated Obama said: “Can I just say, once  again, Barbara and I are supportive of repealing don’t ask don’t tell so I don’t know why you’re hollering.”

Row over race hits climate change debate

The battle over climate change in the U.S. Senate spilled into another contentious arena of U.S. politics on Thursday: race relations.

At a hearing to discuss the economic impact of legislation to combat global warming, the head of an African-American business organization accused Environment and Public Works Committee Chairwoman Barbara Boxer of being “racial” and “condescending.”

During a tense exchange, Harry Alford of the National Black Chamber of Commerce said he objected to Boxer bringing up other African-American groups as a contrast to the arguments he was making at the hearing.