Tales from the Trail

Club for Growth warns against stimulus vote

Beware any Republican who might fall for President Barack Obama’s sales pitch Tuesday for his $825 billion economic stimulus plan. A vote for the legislation will disqualify you from receiving the Club for Growth’s “Defender of Economic Freedom” award. 

The conservative economic advocacy group issued the warning just hours before Obama was to meet with Republican members of the House of Representatives and the Senate in hopes of drumming up more support for his economic recovery plan. OBAMA/

“No congressman can vote for the stimulus bill and claim to be a defender of economic freedom,” Club for Growth President Pat Toomey said in a statement. “In fact, the Democrats’ package is the antithesis of economic freedom. The bill is a paragon of government run amok, a ballooning deficit, fiscal irresponsibility, and political greed.” 

So far congressional Republicans have been cool to the Democratic-backed legislation, arguing it spends too much and gives too little in tax cuts. But with U.S. job losses mounting and consumer confidence crumbling, it may be difficult for many lawmakers to vote against the legislation Obama says is urgently needed to keep the economy from falling deeper into recession. 

The Club for Growth keeps a voting scorecard of up to 100 points. Every year its economic freedom trophy goes to those who earn a score of 90 or better. The group advocates conservative economic policies that include making President George W. Bush’s tax cuts permanent, limiting government and cutting spending.

Lawmaker seeks to end gubernatorial appointment of U.S. senators

capitolWASHINGTON – U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold intends to propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to end the practice of governors filling vacant Senate seats.

With the Illinois governor charged with having tried to sell President Barack Obama’s old Senate seat — and New York’s governor accused by critics of having held a circus-like review to fill the one formerly held by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Feingold says voters — not governors — should make the call in special elections. 

“The controversies surrounding some of the recent gubernatorial appointments to vacant Senate seats make it painfully clear that such appointments are an anachronism that must end,” Feingold said.

Bush disappointed by brother’s senate decision

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President George W. Bush says he’s disappointed that his younger brother Jeb Bush has ruled out running for a Florida Senate seat in 2010.
The former Florida governor removed himself from consideration this week, saying now is not the right time for him to return to elected office.

“I am disappointed he didn’t run. I haven’t talked to him since he made the decision,” Bush said in an interview with The Dallas Morning News on Thursday.

“I actually wanted him to run for senator, but you know … We all have different family issues you’ve got to deal with,” Bush said. The Morning News will be Bush’s hometown paper when be begins his post-presidential life at his new home in Dallas later this month.

Another Senate Republican calling it quits

WASHINGTON – Kit Bond has become the third U.S. Senate Republican in three months to announce plans to retire, creating another challenge in his party’s effort to gain seats in the Democratic-led chamber. 
The 69-year-old, four-term senator from Missouri disclosed his intentions with a touch of levity in a speech in his state capital of Jefferson City. 
“In 1972, I became Missouri’s youngest governor,” Bond said, according to a transcript. “Ladies and gentlemen, I do not aspire to become Missouri’s oldest senator. 
Bond’s decision to leave the Senate at the end of his current term in 2010 followed earlier such announcements by Mel Martinez of Florida and Sam Brownback of Kansas. 
Each is a blow to Republican efforts to rebound from the poundings they took in the past two elections that saw Democrats gain seats in the Senate and House of Representatives. 
“These retirements put Republicans in the defensive mode at the start of the new (election) cycle,” said Nathan Gonzales of the nonpartisan Rothenberg Political Report. “The more open seats there are the more difficult it is to make gains.” 
Incumbents traditionally have a number of advantages against challengers, including name recognition and the ability to raise money. 
While three Senate Republicans plan to retire, four Democrats from last year’s Senate have or intend to step down to join the new administration — beginning with Barack Obama. He recently gave up his seat from Illinois to prepare to move into the White House. 
Joe Biden of Delaware will soon resign from his Senate seat to be sworn in on Jan. 20 as Obama’s vice president. 
Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Ken Salazar of Colorado intend to resign once they win anticipated Senate confirmation as Obama’s secretary of state and interior secretary, respectively. 
The governors of New York, Delaware and Colorado are expected to replace Biden, Clinton and Salazar with fellow Democrats. Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich has named a Democrat to replace Obama. But there’s been a battle over the appointment since Blagojevich has been engulfed by a corruption scandal.

The First Draft, Thursday, Jan 8

President-elect Barack Obama will use a speech on the economy Thursday to try to build support for a massive stimulus bill aimed at lifting the United States out of a deep recession. 
 
BUSH/Obama is warning Congress that unless it acts quickly and boldly to pass his stimulus plan, with its estimated $775 billion price tag, the country could be mired for years in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
 
The president-elect delivers his remarks at 11 a.m. at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, with less than two weeks to go before his inauguration.
 
The speech comes as some lawmakers and financial experts are beginning to raise doubts about elements of the stimulus plan.
 
The Washington Post quoted lawmakers, tax experts and economists as saying some of the tax cuts in the Obama plan are likely to be too expensive and ineffective.
 
Obama’s choice to lead the administration’s charge on health care reform goes before a Senate confirmation hearing Thursday.
 
Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle is expected to receive a cordial welcome from his ex-colleagues and Democratic leaders on the panel predict a smooth confirmation.
 
President George W. Bush travels to Philadelphia Thursday for an event touting the success of his No Child Left Behind education reform program.
 
The House of Representatives and the Senate hold a joint session to formally count the electoral votes from the November election, in which Obama defeated Republican rival John McCain.
 
The action will formally declare Obama as winner of the U.S. presidential vote.
 
The morning television news shows reported on Obama’s economic speech and new violence in the Middle East, where rockets from Lebanon struck northern Israel.
 
The attacks raised concerns about a possible second front in Israel’s two-week war against Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip.
 
U.S. stock futures dropped early Thursday on disappionting December sales by Wal-Mart, pointing to a lower open on Wall Street.
 
For more Reuters political news, click here.

Photo credit: Reuters/Kevin Lamarque (Obama listens as Bush speaks during an Oval Office meeting Wednesday with all the living former presidents)

Is Caroline Kennedy qualified to be a U.S. senator?

Slightly more than half of Americans say Caroline Kennedy has what it takes to serve in the U.S. Senate, according to a CNN/Opinion Research Poll. 

Kennedy, 51, is campaigning to fill the New York senate seat held by Hillary Clinton, who has been nominated for Secretary of State.

The only person who gets a vote is New York Gov. David Paterson, who will appoint any replacemUSA/ent for Clinton. 

A tough act to follow in the U.S. Senate

WASHINGTON – Sen. Robert Menendez has a tough if not impossible act to follow as successor to Sen. Charles Schumer as chairman of the Senate Democratic campaign committee.

Using such words as “aggressive,” “focused,” “committed” and “widely respected,” Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid on Tuesday named Menendez as committee chair.

Menendez of New Jersey will need all of those qualities — and probably more — to achieve anywhere near the success that Schumer of New York has enjoyed the past two elections.

The First Draft: Monday, Nov. 17

The Senate returns to debate a bailout for struggling automakers and consider additional stimulus money to prop up the struggling economy.
    
Democrats hope to pass both measures in their brief “lame duck” session, but they face opposition from Republicans in the chamber as well as President George W. Bush, who reiterated on Monday morning that any Detroit aid should come from the $700 billion already appropriated to prop up the economy.
    
In Chicago, President-elect Barack Obama will meet at noon EST with John McCain, his recent rival for the White House.  “It’s well known that they share an important belief that Americans want and deserve a more effective and efficient government, and will discuss ways to work together to make that a reality,” Obama’s transition team said on Monday. 
    
Obama and McCain will be joined by their two favorite wingmen — future White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, respectively.
    
McCain might put in a good word for New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, who is reported to be on Obama’s short list for Secretary of State. McCain and Clinton downed vodka shots together on a trip to Estonia a few years back.
    
 Back in the Senate, the Finance Committee will cross-examine the man who has been nominated to oversee the $700 billion bailout program. Neil Barofsky, the assistant U.S. attorney in the Southern District of New York who has been nominated to be Special Inspector General of the Treasury Department’s Troubled Assets Relief Program, testifies at 2 p.m.
    
The House is not in session, but new members elected two weeks ago are in town for an orientation session and a class photo. House Democratic leaders say they will quickly pass any bailout packages that clear the Senate.
    
U.S. stocks are expected to open lower as investors continue to fear a deep and lengthy global recession. According to one group of economists, we’re already there: real GDP is expected to fall 2.6 percent in the final quarter of this year and 1.3 percent in the first three months of 2009, according to a survey of 50 professional forecasters conducted by the National Association of Business Economists.

Lieberman offers congrats to Obama, pushes bipartisanship

WASHINGTON – Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, previously a Democrat now an independent, bucked his colleagues a lot this year including in what some considered the ultimate betrayal — backing the Republican presidential hopeful, John McCain, and for the less than kind words he had for Democrat Barack Obama.

But after Obama’s victory, Lieberman issued a statement congratulating him on his “historic and impressive” victory.

There have been some questions about whether Lieberman might no longer be welcome in the Democratic caucus, but Sen. Charles Schumer said last month that that issue would be dealt with after the election.

No matter what, one White House hopeful will return to the Senate

WASHINGTON – When all is said and done with the 2008 presidential election, one of the contenders will be returning to the U.S. Senate,  a harsh reality after coming so close to the White House.

For the first time in 48 years a senator will capture the White House, either Republican Sen. John McCain or Democratic Sen. Barack Obama, while the other will go back to being one of 100 in the deliberative body.

But over 48 years, it has happened many times, most recently in 2004 when Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry lost to George W. Bush.