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IA-Sen: David Young and Matt Whitaker formally announce (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jun 03, 2013 at 16:54:00 PM CDT

Senator Chuck Grassley's former chief of staff David Young and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker have both officially entered the U.S. Senate race. Highlights from the candidates' announcements and recent interviews are after the jump.

Any comments about the IA-Sen campaign are welcome in this thread.

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Grassley among senators seeking memos on targeted killings (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 10:50:00 AM CST

A bipartisan group of senators including Iowa's Chuck Grassley sent President Barack Obama an open letter this week asking for access to "secret legal opinions outlining your authority to authorize the killing of Americans in the course of counterterrorism operations."

UPDATE: The Obama administration will provide "classified Office of Legal Counsel advice" on this issue to members of Congressional intelligence committees. I agree with Grassley that judiciary committees should be included as well, since they oversee the U.S. Department of Justice.

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Another Obama cabinet discussion thread

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 18:12:40 PM CST

President Barack Obama announced today that his Chief of Staff Jack Lew is his pick to replace Timothy Geithner as Treasury secretary. I have low expectations, since Lew has been a "central player in two failed attempts at a grand bargain on deficit reduction with House Republicans." The "grand bargain" would have paired token tax hikes on the wealthy with significant benefit cuts for middle-class and low-income Americans. Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama did not rule out filibustering Lew's nomination.

I was surprised to hear that Hilda Solis is leaving as Labor secretary. She was one of Obama's better cabinet picks, but White House officials have undermined her on several issues, notably efforts to regulate child labor at agricultural facilities. Brad Plumer posted a good summary of Solis' record.

According to the White House, the following cabinet members will stay on for now: Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki. I'm concerned that Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood was not on that list.

Any comments about Obama's cabinet and/or the "embarrassing as hell" lack of diversity in the president's "inner circle" are welcome in this thread.

UPDATE: I did not realize that the Commerce secretary position has been vacant for almost six months.

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Obama ditches DOMA and other marriage equality news

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Feb 24, 2011 at 11:33:58 AM CST

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced yesterday that the Department of Justice will no longer defend Section 3 of the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act in court. Section 3 defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman for federal purposes. It has been challenged in court multiple times, and last July a federal judge ruled the provision unconstitutional. The DOJ appealed that ruling, but Holder announced yesterday that President Barack Obama

has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny.   The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional.   Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases.   I fully concur with the President's determination.

Consequently, the Department will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA as applied to same-sex married couples in the two cases filed in the Second Circuit.   We will, however, remain parties to the cases and continue to represent the interests of the United States throughout the litigation.   I have informed Members of Congress of this decision, so Members who wish to defend the statute may pursue that option.   The Department will also work closely with the courts to ensure that Congress has a full and fair opportunity to participate in pending litigation.

I've posted Holder's complete statement after the jump. It notes, "Much of the the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed DOMA." While some conservative commentators were outraged by the announcement, it's important to remember that the Obama administration hasn't stopped enforcing the DOMA despite the president's opinion of the law.

Linda Hirshman argues that Obama has laid a trap for Congressional Republicans, who will look foolish in federal court if and when they defend Section 3. I think she is way too optimistic that the federal appeals process will uphold last year's district court opinion. Hirshman and I may find the legal arguments supporting the DOMA weak, but it would not surprise me to see a 5-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling affirming the constitutionality of Section 3.

I was surprised to see so little Iowa reaction to Holder's announcement. The outcome of this federal litigation will affect thousands of legally married Iowa same-sex spouses, who would be eligible for some federal benefits if the law is struck down. As far as I know, Senator Chuck Grassley is the only Iowan in Congress to issue a statement on yesterday's news. He's the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and he criticized the Obama administration's decision as "clearly based more on politics than the law." He stopped short of promising to help with the DOMA legal defense, but presumably Congressional Republicans who are attorneys will handle that. I posted Grassley's complete statement after the jump.

Republicans in the Iowa legislature continue to fight marriage equality. A constitutional amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman passed the Iowa House last month but will not reach the floor of the Iowa Senate. A short-lived legislative effort to legalize discrimination against married same-sex couples was backed by many Republicans and at least one Democrat, but House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rich Anderson tabled that bill before it received a subcommittee vote.

A new bill, House File 330, would prevent Iowa county recorders from issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples "until such time as an amendment to the Constitution of the State of Iowa defining marriage as the legal union of one man and one woman is submitted to the electorate for ratification." The same bill would block the Iowa Supreme Court from considering its constitutionality. There are some pretty big problems with that idea, though:

That outcome: Iowa families could appeal a recorder's decision in trial courts but those decisions would not be able to be appealed to the Iowa Supreme Court.

It would make the lower courts ruling final and it would also set up the likelihood that Iowa would have pockets of the state were the law was recognized and others were it was thrown out.

"I think the result is that you would have a hodgepodge of rulings across the state," Bartrum said. "It would depend on whatever the local district judge thought because were would be no uniform appeal."

FRIDAY UPDATE: According to Troy Price of One Iowa, House Speaker Kraig Paulsen has communicated by e-mail that House File 330 is going nowhere. KCRG reports,

Top Republicans on Thursday said they have no plans to debate the issue, viewing it a nod to the party's social conservative wing. [...]

Backers say introducing the measure is one more opportunity to voice their displeasure with how the marriage issue has been handled.

Republican Rep. Betty De Boef says the issue has been handled badly and that some lawmakers want to take every opportunity to make that point.

In related news, Maryland is likely to become the sixth state to grant full marriage rights to same-sex couples. A bill on marriage equality is advancing in the Maryland Senate and has substantial support in that state's House of Delegates. Democratic Governor Martin O'Malley will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Washington, DC has recognized same-sex marriages since December 2009. Some U.S. House Republicans are pushing a bill to reverse that policy. If a same-sex marriage ban for the nation's capital cleared the House and the U.S. Senate, Obama would probably veto it given his decision to stop defending DOMA.

Hawaii's new Democratic governor Neil Abercrombie signed a civil unions bill yesterday, bringing the number of states that recognize same-sex civil unions to seven. Republican Governor Linda Lingle vetoed a similar bill in Hawaii last year.

Share any relevant thoughts in this thread.

UPDATE: The Washington Post reports,

Some opponents of same-sex marriage said the administration's decision could end up helping to preserve the law in court.

"The previous efforts of the Obama administration and DOJ to defend the law were so inadequate as to raise the suspicion that the Justice Department was deliberately throwing the case," said Robert George, a political science professor at Princeton University who opposes same-sex marriage. "Chances are the law will get a robust defense, and I suspect it will withstand constitutional scrutiny." [...]

In his letter to [House Speaker John] Boehner, Holder criticized portions of the congressional debate leading up to the law's passage, saying they had undermined the prospects for defending the measure. "The record contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships - precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus that the Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against,'' Holder wrote.

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Weekend open thread: Food and farm policy edition

by: desmoinesdem

Sat Mar 13, 2010 at 18:54:36 PM CST

Share anything that's on your mind this weekend in the comments below.

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Justice jointly hosted a workshop in Ankeny devoted to concentration in agriculture, antitrust issues and market practices. After some controversy over the speakers scheduled initially, more farmers and producers were able to speak during the workshop. Lynda Waddington covered a panel including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. The Des Moines Register covered a session concerning Monsanto's dominance in the biotech seed industry:

Monsanto has generated controversy because of its leading role in the biotech revolution in corn, soybean and cotton seeds since the mid-1990s. About 90 percent of the corn and soybean fields in the Midwest now are planted with seeds genetically altered to resist herbicides and pests.

"Biotech seeds have given farmers better yields and improved their lives," said farmer Pam Johnson of Floyd County.

Monsanto, Pioneer and other seed companies license their traits under the auspices of a 1980 U.S. Supreme Court decision allowing life forms to be patented.

Iowa State University professor emeritus Neil Harl said that Supreme Court decision radically changed the seed business from a collaborative, collegial enterprise among land grant colleges, farmers and companies.

"Before 1980, seed germplasm was considered something in the public domain," said Harl. "Seed was developed in the field and everybody shared. Now seeds are developed in the laboratory and are patented and licensed."

Holder said the high court decision 30 years ago wouldn't block antitrust action, if it was deemed necessary.

"The antitrust authority is there," Holder said. "The question is what the patent holders are doing with their patents. If they are using it to preserve monopolies, that is unfair behavior."

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey noted that farmers are spending twice as much on seed as they did a decade ago, but also are getting better yields.

"There is tension about the cost of inputs," Northey said. "But we don't want to lose the innovation."

The food blog Cooking Up a Story published this short backgrounder on "Hybrids and the Emergence of Seed Monopolies."

The night before the DOJ/USDA workshop, Iowa CCI, Food and Water Watch, the National Family Farms Coalition and Food Democracy Now organized a town-hall meeting to raise awareness of excessive levels of concentration in agriculture. Lynda Waddington was there for Iowa Independent.

Democratic candidate for Iowa secretary of agriculture Francis Thicke has long been concerned about the loss of competition in agricultural markets. He attended the workshop in Ankeny and praised the DOJ and USDA for investigating antitrust issues related to agriculture:

"Antitrust enforcement by the federal government has been ignored for so long that it will take Teddy Roosevelt-style trust busting to bring competitive markets back to agriculture," said Thicke, who plans to participate in the first of a series of five workshops planned by the two federal departments this Friday in Ankeny. [...]

"The effects of excessive market power by a few firms has been studied for years," said Thicke. "It has been shown that if four or fewer firms control 40% or more of a market, then it no longer functions as a competitive market." He pointed out that, as of 2007, four firms controlled 85% of the beef packing market, four firms controlled 66% of the pork packing market, four firms controlled 59% of the broiler market, and four firms controlled 55% of the turkey market.

"Clearly we are beyond the point of open competition in our agricultural markets," Thicke asserted. "When there are so few large firms in a market, controlling firms begin to act in concert whether or not they are directly communicating pricing with each other."

Speaking of food policy, I heard some good news this week. The Iowa Center on Health Disparities at the University of Northern Iowa has received major grants for two important projects:

The focus of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation grant is to launch an Iowa Food Policy Council, a diverse statewide cooperative to develop and make research, program and policy recommendations for a food system to support healthier Iowans, communities, economies and environments. Over the next year, the Iowa Food Policy Council will conduct a comprehensive statewide assessment of food systems, food access and health indicators.

The focus of the Leopold Center grant is to convene key food security and public health stakeholders from across Iowa who will examine the disparities in food access and health among Iowans. The Food Access and Health Working Group will address programs and policies that increase access to fresh, nutritious and affordable local food for all Iowans, including vulnerable children and their families.

More details on the grants are after the jump. I was hoping Governor Culver would revive the Food Policy Council, but I'm glad another way was found to get this project going.

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Year in review: national politics in 2009 (part 1)

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 07, 2010 at 07:52:32 AM CST

It took me a week longer than I anticipated, but I finally finished compiling links to Bleeding Heartland's coverage from last year. This post and part 2, coming later today, include stories on national politics, mostly relating to Congress and Barack Obama's administration. Diaries reviewing Iowa politics in 2009 will come soon.

One thing struck me while compiling this post: on all of the House bills I covered here during 2009, Democrats Leonard Boswell, Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack voted the same way. That was a big change from 2007 and 2008, when Blue Dog Boswell voted with Republicans and against the majority of the Democratic caucus on many key bills.

No federal policy issue inspired more posts last year than health care reform. Rereading my earlier, guardedly hopeful pieces was depressing in light of the mess the health care reform bill has become. I was never optimistic about getting a strong public health insurance option through Congress, but I thought we had a chance to pass a very good bill. If I had anticipated the magnitude of the Democratic sellout on so many aspects of reform in addition to the public option, I wouldn't have spent so many hours writing about this issue. I can't say I wasn't warned (and warned), though.

Links to stories from January through June 2009 are after the jump. Any thoughts about last year's political events are welcome in this thread.

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Senate finally confirms Sebelius; Grassley votes no

by: desmoinesdem

Tue Apr 28, 2009 at 19:20:40 PM CDT

President Barack Obama's cabinet is complete just in time for his 100th day in office, now that the Senate has confirmed Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius for Health and Human Services secretary by a vote of 65 to 31. Senator Chuck Grassley joined most of his Republican colleagues in voting no, citing her ties to George Tiller, a Kansas doctor who performs late-term abortions.

When Obama picked Sebelius I didn't expect her confirmation to become controversial, since she is a popular Democratic governor in a conservative state. (Both of the Republican senators representing Kansas voted to confirm Sebelius.) However, anti-abortion groups have been fighting the nomination because when asked how much money Dr. Tiller had donated to her, Sebelius initially reported only his contributions to her campaign funds and not his contributions to her political action committee.

For a time Republicans threatened to filibuster Sebelius's nomination, but they never appeared to have the votes to support a filibuster. Grassley indicated last week that although he opposed Sebelius, he would not have backed a filibuster of her nomination.

Republicans did manage to hold up her confirmation vote for a while. The silver lining behind that obstructionist cloud was that Sebelius remained governor long enough to veto a bill that would have paved the way for two huge coal-burning power plants in Kansas.

Sebelius's 31 no votes in the Senate make her the second most-controversial Obama cabinet member. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner was opposed by 34 senators, including both Grassley and Tom Harkin.

Earlier this year it seemed that Republican opposition would be strongest to Obama's choice for attorney general, but Eric Holder drew only 21 no votes in the Senate. Grassley voted to confirm Holder despite some doubts, saying he was influenced by his (then Republican) colleague Arlen Specter.

Grassley also voted for the fourth most controversial Obama nominee, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis. Seventeen Republican senators voted against her confirmation.

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Grassley news roundup

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Mar 20, 2009 at 20:00:00 PM CDT

I haven't written anything yet about Senator Chuck Grassley's comments on the AIG bonuses. The whole episode was such an empty populist gesture. First he said the AIG no-goodniks should act like the Japanese and either offer a humble apology or kill themselves. Then he walked back his comments and said they should offer a sincere apology. That's all? I'd like to see more strings attached to the Wall Street bailout program, which Grassley voted for.

The Twitterer for the Daily Iowan Opinion page had the best response to Grassley I've seen so far. After the senator explained that "I do want an attitude in corporate American that's similar to what they have in corporate Japan," DIOpinions commented, "Making failed American executives more like their Japanese counterparts would require massive pay cuts." Don't hold your breath until Grassley gets behind that.

Anyway, we'll find out how much Grassley cares about getting taxpayers' money back from AIG when the Senate votes on the bill the House of Representatives passed yesterday.

Follow me after the jump to read about Grassley's recent comments on medical marijuana and health care reform.

Also, I can confirm that at least one Democrat is stepping forward to challenge Iowa's senior senator in 2010. Details are below.

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Update on cabinet appointments and confirmations

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Feb 02, 2009 at 21:32:02 PM CST

The Senate confirmed Eric Holder as attorney general today by a vote of 75-21. Both Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley voted yes, as expected. I always thought Holder would be confirmed, but I am pleasantly surprised that he was approved by a larger majority than Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. I believe Holder will turn out to be one of President Barack Obama's better cabinet appointments.

For reasons I cannot fathom, Obama appears ready to appoint Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, a conservative Republican, as Secretary of Commerce. Chris Bowers concisely explains why this is an awful choice:

So, for some reason, in the wake of total Republican intransigence on the stimulus bill, the Obama administration will respond by putting a Republican in charge of one the federal departments overseeing the economy. Judd Gregg himself has said he will oppose the stimulus package. That is certainly an, um, interesting way for the Obama administration to incentivize Republican opposition. Oppose President Obama, and he will reward you by giving you a cabinet position.

It is worth noting what sort of ideas Judd Gregg has for the economy: a commission of center-right insiders operating in secret and circumventing Congress in order to destroy Social Security and Medicare.

Senate Republicans continue to hold up Hilda Solis's confirmation as Labor Secretary, and Obama responds by appointing Gregg to the cabinet?

Democrats won't even get a Senate seat out of the deal, because the Democratic governor of New Hampshire has promised to appoint a Republican to serve out Gregg's term. The only upside is that the appointee may be easier to beat in 2010 than longtime incumbent Gregg would have been. But that's not worth handing over control of the Commerce Department to a conservative, in my opinion.

All I can say is, Gregg better not screw around with the Census Bureau and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In a dispatch from bizarro world, Politico's David Rogers still isn't convinced that Obama is serious about bipartisanship, even though Gregg will become the third Republican in his cabinet and will be replaced by a Republican in the Senate:

Obama, while talking a good game about bipartisanship, is draining the Senate of the very talent he needs to achieve this goal.

If only Obama were merely "talking a good game about bipartisanship."

Speaking of Senate Republicans, Kagro X put up a good post on prospects for a filibuster of the economic stimulus bill, and Chris Bowers posted a "whip count" here, concluding that

Overall, it seems highly likely that the stimulus will pass without Republicans forcing major changes. However, given the narrow margins, this is not a guarantee.

The Senate will likely vote on the bill on Wednesday. Grassley has already spoken out against what he calls the "stimulus/porkulus bill."

Discuss :: (2 Comments)

Grassley votes to confirm Holder as Attorney General

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 29, 2009 at 15:29:28 PM CST

Senator Chuck Grassley voted to confirm Eric Holder yesterday as the Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination by a lopsided 17-2 vote. Thomas Beaumont's report for the Des Moines Register noted that Grassley

has been vocal in his concern about Holder's role in advising former President Bill Clinton about his pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich and his granting clemency to members of a Puerto Rican nationalist group convicted on weapons and conspiracy charges.

"It gives me a great deal of caution," Grassley said during a conference call with reporters before the vote.

Grassley said ranking judicial committee Republican Arlen Specter's support for Holder was influential in his own decision.

"Specter has worked on these pardons harder than I have," Grassley added. "And if he's willing to forgive on that and accept the explanations, that would lead me to as well."

Many people believe that Specter aggressively questioned Holder during the confirmation hearings in order to defend himself against a possible primary challenge in 2010. A few days ago the Club for Growth whack-job who challenged Specter in 2004 announced that he will not run for the Senate seat from Pennsylvania in 2010.

Meanwhile, Americans United for Change plans to run this television ad in Iowa to pressure Grassley to vote for President Barack Obama's stimulus package:

I would be shocked if Grassley voted for the stimulus bill. I doubt he feels vulnerable to public pressure on this issue.

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Grassley and Harkin both vote no on Geithner

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Jan 26, 2009 at 20:35:57 PM CST

The U.S. Senate confirmed Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary today by a vote of 60 to 34, but as you can see from the roll call, both of Iowa's senators voted no.

Grassley was joined by 29 other Republicans. He voted against Geithner in the Senate Finance Committee a few days ago, citing the nominee's failure to fully meet his tax obligations during some previous years.

Harkin was one of only three Senate Democrats to vote against confirming Geithner. According to the Des Moines Register,

Harkin voiced concerns about Geithner's failure to pay some income taxes several years ago, amounting to about $34,000. [...]

Harkin also said Geithner was at fault for how some of the $700-billion financial rescue money, authorized by Congress in October, was spent. Harkin voted for the bailout, but said later he would have voted against it had he known the money would go to banks, rather than to buy bad loans.

Geithner was a key figure in the crafting and administering of the money as the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. In the post, Geithner also was partly to blame for the financial meltdown, which stemmed from inadequate regulation, Harkin argued.

"Mr. Geithner made serious errors of judgment in failing to pay his taxes, and he made serious errors in his job as chief regulator of the financial institutions at the heart of the current financial crisis," Harkin said in a statement released after the vote.

I am surprised that so many senators voted against Geithner. I stand by my opinion that if he were not a white male, the tax problems would have sunk his nomination.

Speaking of Senate confirmations, some Republican has reportedly put an anonymous hold on the nomination of Hilda Solis as Labor Secretary. I called Grassley's office today, and a staffer told me it wasn't him.

Will President Barack Obama go to the mat to get Solis confirmed? Will the Republicans filibuster this strong supporter of workers' rights and the Employee Free Choice Act?

I had assumed that Attorney-General designee Eric Holder would be the cabinet appointment most fiercely opposed by Republicans, but perhaps it will be Solis.

UPDATE: Geithner's actions during his first day on the job are not encouraging. I believe he will turn out to be one of Obama's worst appointments.

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Roundup of recent Grassley news and speculation

by: desmoinesdem

Thu Jan 08, 2009 at 13:44:37 PM CST

John Deeth recently made the case for "a strong challenge to Chuck Grassley" in 2010:

We can't have another let sleeping dogs lie race here. A weak candidate here breaks the straight ticket at the very top, and hurts everyone below. Every election cycle there's one contest that comes out of nowhere, and we need to be in position for it. Sometimes that out of nowhere candidate doesn't fit the conventional mold (like Dave Loebsack); the key is being able to make a strong, credible, well-funded case. Sure, it could fizzle, like, say, Jim Slattery did in Kansas this cycle. But it could sizzle, like Tom Carper knocking off Bill Roth in Delaware in `96. The thing is, we don't know-Grassley hasn't has a serious challenge since he was the challenger.

I also favor running a serious candidate against Grassley, largely because I think doing so would increase the odds of Grassley retiring.

The question is, who among Iowa Democrats has the stature, the desire and the fundraising ability to take on this uphill battle? (There are five or ten Slatterys for every Carper.)

Grassley dodged a bullet when Tom Vilsack, the strongest potential Democratic candidate for the 2010 U.S. Senate election, got a position in Barack Obama's cabinet.

Please post your suggestions in this thread.

I should add that I agree with American007 that Grassley will probably run for one more term. But the very well-connected Marc Ambinder seems to expect Grassley to go.

With the Senate Republican caucus down to 41 members, and the GOP defending quite a few vulnerable Senate seats in 2010, it's a good time for long-serving Republicans to call it a day. The odds are their party will remain in the minority for the rest of their careers.

Just this week two prominent Republicans have opted out of 2010 Senate races. Today Senator "Kit" Bond of Missouri said he will not seek a fifth term. On Tuesday former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said he won't see that state's open Senate seat.

Getting back to Grassley, he said yesterday that Attorney General nominee Eric Holder will not have a smooth confirmation hearing because

we need to know what the relationship is with Governor Blagojevich. And I don't say that in denigrating in any way except Governor Blagojevich's recent troubles raises questions with anybody that's had a relationship with him.

As BarbinMD noted,

It seems that consistency isn't a concern for Grassley, given that moments before he was insisting that Roland Burris should be immediately seated in the U.S. Senate.

The Des Moines Register has more on Grassley's comments about Burris, who was appointed directly by the tainted Illinois governor.

Grassley may be less conservative than many other members of the Republican Senate caucus, but never let him try to claim he's a moderate. His voting record shows otherwise, not to mention his willingness to throw a wrench in the confirmation of Holder, who is clearly qualified to run the Department of Justice.

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A scientist for the Energy Department and other Obama cabinet speculation (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Dec 10, 2008 at 21:10:48 PM CST

Imagine that--Barack Obama is hiring an Energy Secretary who knows a lot about energy. Dr. Steven Chu is a Nobel prize-winner in physics who heads the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (which employs 4,000 people). Click the link to watch a YouTube of Chu.

The New York Times published some biographical information about Chu here. I love this comment:

In his own words: New houses could be made energy efficient with an investment of an extra $1,000, "but the American consumer would rather have a granite countertop." (At a lecture in Washington on energy options, June 25, 2008)

Three other key appointees worked in the Environmental Protection Agency during Bill Clinton's administration, the Associated Press reported:

The president-elect has selected [...] Lisa Jackson for EPA administrator, Carol Browner as his energy ''czar,'' and Nancy Sutley to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Democratic officials with knowledge of the decisions said Wednesday. [...]

-- Jackson, who would be the first black person to lead the EPA, is a former New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection commissioner who worked at the federal agency for 16 years, including under Browner when she was Bill Clinton's EPA chief. Jackson is a co-chairman of Obama's EPA transition team, and currently serves as chief of staff to New Jersey Gov. Jon S. Corzine. A New Orleans native, she grew up in the Lower Ninth Ward, the area stricken by Hurricane Katrina. She holds chemical engineering degrees from Tulane University and Princeton University.

-- Browner, who served as EPA chief for eight years under Clinton, will become Obama's go-to person in the White House overseeing energy issues, an area expected to include the environment and climate matters. Now chair of the National Audubon Society and on the boards of several other environmental groups, Browner has been leading the Obama transition's working group on energy and environment.

-- Sutley, the deputy mayor for energy and environment in Los Angeles and the mayor's representative on the Board of Directors for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, is the first prominent gay to earn a senior role in Obama's new administration. She was an EPA official during the Clinton administration, including being a special assistant to the EPA administrator in Washington. She also previously served on the California State Water Resources Control Board and was an energy adviser to former Gov. Gray Davis.

No clear favorite has emerged for Secretary of the Interior. There's a major battle going on behind the scenes over that appointment.

Obama met with Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, who has been mentioned as a possible Secretary of Labor.

Moderate Republican Senator Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania is not going to give Eric Holder a pass when the Senate Judiciary Committee holds confirmation hearings for Obama's attorney general nominee. But I agree with Daily Kos user Dartagnan:

Specter is going to use the Holder hearing (23+ / 0-)

to shore up his credentials with the right for his primary fight against [right-winger Pat] Toomey.

That's all this is.

Holder will be confirmed with moderate GOP opposition.

UPDATE: Chu seems to be an advocate of expanding nuclear power.

Regarding Specter's plans for the Holder confirmation hearings, clammyc has a good commentary.

SECOND UPDATE: Rumor has it Obama will go with a compromise choice for Secretary of the Interior, rejecting environmental groups' favorite Raul Grijalva as well as Blue Dog Mike Thompson. If true, this is an example of why it's useful to kick up a fuss when a bad choice is floated for an important job.  

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Open thread on Hillary Clinton and Obama's national security team

by: desmoinesdem

Mon Dec 01, 2008 at 10:47:27 AM CST

At MyDD Todd Beeton has excerpts from this morning's press conference:

Obama's introductory remarks are remarkably poetic. "America's values are our country's greatest export to the world."

He's announced his nomination of Hillary Clinton for secretary of state ("I am proud that she will be our next secretary of state...She will help restore our reputation around the world,") Robert Gates at defense ("responsibly ending the war in Iraq through a successful transition to Iraqi control",) Eric Holder for Attorney General ("The Attorney General serves the American people...I have no doubt he will uphold the constitution,") Janet Napolitano as head of Homeland Security ("she insists on competence and accountability,") Susan Rice as Ambassador to the UN and Jim Jones as National Security Advisor.

"We will shape our times instead of being shaped by them." [...]

As for his choice of Clinton at state, "it was not a lightbulb moment...she shares my core values and the values of the American people. I was always interested after the primary was over in finding ways to collaborate...It occurred to me that she could potentially be an outstanding secretary of state, I offered her the position and she accepted."

On whether he still intends to remove troops from Iraq in 16 months: "Remember what I said during the campaign. I said that I would remove our combat troops from Iraq within 16 months keeping in mind that it might be necessary to maintain a residual force...As I said consistently, I will listen to the recommendations of my commanders."

Like I said last week, I have a bad feeling Gates and Jones were chosen in order to give Obama cover for breaking his campaign promises on Iraq.

Beth Fouhy of the Associated Press has details about the deal Bill Clinton made to allow his wife to become Barack Obama's secretary of state. Apparently, the former president agreed:

-to disclose the names of every contributor to his foundation since its inception in 1997 and all contributors going forward.

-to refuse donations from foreign governments to the Clinton Global Initiative, his annual charitable conference.

-to cease holding CGI meetings overseas.

-to volunteer to step away from day to day management of the foundation while his wife is secretary of state.

-to submit his speaking schedule to review by the State Department and White House counsel.

-to submit any new sources of income to a similar ethical review.

I still think Hillary Clinton would be able to accomplish more over her lifetime as a senator from New York, but clearly she was strongly motivated to accept this position in Obama's government.

However, I continue to be amused by the anguished commentaries from those Obama supporters who got too wrapped up in the primary battle to deal with Hillary in her new role.

Share any relevant thoughts in the comments.

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Yet another thread on Obama cabinet appointments (updated)

by: desmoinesdem

Fri Nov 21, 2008 at 00:32:48 AM CST

The more I think about it, the more I think Hillary Clinton should stay in the Senate. However, most analysts are speculating she will accept Barack Obama's offer to become Secretary of State. Here's a roundup of recent coverage on the appointment.

Tom Harkin thinks Hillary will be secretary of state, and he likes the idea:

Harkin said he was confident that former President Bill Clinton would not pose conflicts, as he's agreed to make public the donors to his foundation and clear his travel schedule and speeches with the Obama administration, should his wife become secretary of state.

"If he's willing to do whatever the Obama team and the president wants - and he should understand it, he's a former president - that would be fine," Harkin said.

He also said Obama naming her would be a demonstration of unity to the world. Sen. Clinton and Obama waged an intense, six-month campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination this year.

"I think it would send a good signal to the world if Hillary Clinton were secretary of state," Harkin said. "The signal it sends to the world is we can have big fights politically here in the United States and yet after the election's over, we pull together."

Where does that leave Bill Richardson? I hope he ends up in the cabinet. UPDATE: ragbrai08 has heard rumblings Richardson might become Secretary of the Interior, which would be a decent fit for him.

Kia Franklin of the Drum Major Institute wrote an interesting piece on Eric Holder, the likely attorney general, and where he stands on civil justice issues.

John Crabtree of the Center for Rural Affairs blog offers "A Different View of [Tom] Vilsack," the front-runner to run the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

It is difficult, if not impossible, to predict when, where and from whom leadership will emerge. The book on Tom Vilsack is not complete, and perhaps that is a good thing. He does not get a perfect score on my litmus tests. But, when I disagree with him in the future I will continue to engage him, just as I always have, whether he is a private citizen or the Secretary of Agriculture. And he will engage me, just as he always has.

I hope that, at the end of the day, our next Secretary of Agriculture is the kind of leader that can help create a future for rural America with thriving family farms and ranches and vibrant rural communities. I believe Governor Vilsack can provide that leadership. Perhaps he just might get the chance.

James L. of Swing State Project is concerned that Obama might choose either Representative Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin or Representative Collin Peterson for the USDA job. Both are from Republican-leaning districts that would be hard for a different Democrat to hold.

Obama supposedly was leaning toward offering the Commerce Department position to uber-fundraiser Penny Pritzker, but she withdrew her name from consideration.

Haven't heard much about a possible secretary of transportation. Obama supports greater investment in core infrastructure as well as high-speed rail and public mass transit, so I am hopeful he will put someone with vision in charge of this department. The highway bill comes up for reauthorization in 2009 and is sure to be one of the major battlegrounds in Congress.

Still no word on a Treasury Secretary. Matt Stoller remembered another reason why Larry Summers is wrong for the job.

Most people seem to think Robert Gates will stay on as Defense Secretary. I don't see why Obama can't appoint a Democrat for that position. We have plenty of qualified people in our party. Keeping the Republicans in charge of defense supports their propaganda that the GOP is best for defending the country.

The Mayor of Miami, Manny Diaz, is being considered either for Transportation or for Housing and Urban Development. Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina is not interested in the HUD appointment.

Share your opinions or predictions in the comments.

UPDATE: Why does Obama want to reinforce Republican stereotypes about how they're the only ones who can handle national security? Now General Jim Jones, a supporter of the Iraq War and John McCain, is tipped to run the National Security Agency. That is just crazy. Put some Democrats in charge, please. It's not as if we don't have people who could do this job well. I would not be surprised if Jones undermines Obama in this position.

UPDATE 2: The New York Times says Hillary Clinton will take the Secretary of State job.

Several news outlets are saying Timothy Geithner, about whom I know nothing, will be Obama's Treasury Secretary nominee. Geithner is president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

NBC News says Bill Richardson will be Commerce Secretary. I don't like him nearly so much for that job as I would like him for Secretary of State, Transportation, or Interior. Richardson's a corporate Democrat, judging from his record in the 1990s. He ran the whip to get NAFTA through the House during Bill Clinton's first term.

Still no progressives in Obama's cabinet.

UPDATE 3: My brother, who works in the investment field and is much more of a moderate Democrat than I am, is "sick" about the prospect of Geithner running Treasury. His other comment about Geithner is not printable at this blog.

UPDATE 4: This is from a speech Geithner gave in May 2006:

Credit derivatives have contributed to dramatic changes in the process of credit intermediation, and the benefits of these changes seem compelling. They have made possible substantial improvements in the way credit risk is managed and facilitated a broad distribution of risk outside the banking system. By spreading risk more widely, by making it easier to purchase and sell protection against credit risk and to actively trade credit risk, and by facilitating the participation of a large and very diverse pool of non-bank financial institutions in the business of credit, these changes probably improve the overall efficiency and resiliency of financial markets.

With the advent of credit derivatives, concentrations of credit risk are made easier to mitigate, and diversification made easier to achieve. Credit losses, whether from specific, individual defaults or the more widespread distress that accompanies economic recessions, will be diffused more broadly across institutions with different risk appetite and tolerance, and across geographic borders. Our experience since the introduction of these new instruments-a period that includes a major asset price shock and a global recession-seems to justify the essentially positive judgment we have about the likely benefits of ongoing growth in these markets.

Despite the benefits to financial resilience, the changes in the credit markets that are the subject of your conference have also provoked some concerns and unease, even among those on the frontier of innovation and the most active participants in these markets.

These concerns are based in part on uncertainty-a candid acknowledgment that there is a lot we do not yet know about how these instruments and the increased role of nonbank institutions in these markets will affect how the financial markets are likely to function in conditions of stress.  [...]

Let me conclude by reiterating the fundamental view that the wave of innovation underway in credit derivatives offers substantial benefits to both the efficiency and stability of our financial system.

Hmmm, he didn't seem to have seen any of the current problems coming. Also, he apparently was involved in the bailout negotiations. So it seems like this is a very status quo pick for Obama.

On an even less encouraging note, Obama's leading candidate to run the CIA is a "Bush-Cheney apologist."

That's not exactly "change we can believe in."

UPDATE 5: Two people on Obama's short list would both be highly competent and celebrated by progressives: Representative Raul Grijalva for Interior (he heads the House Progressive Caucus) and former Representative David Bonior for Labor (he has close ties to organized labor).

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New thread on real and rumored Obama cabinet appointments

by: desmoinesdem

Wed Nov 19, 2008 at 13:44:05 PM CST

Looks like the Guardian jumped the gun; Hillary Clinton has not accepted the Secretary of State position and is reportedly still weighing Barack Obama's offer.

Apparently Senator Ted Kennedy wants Hillary to lead the efforts to get health care reform through Congress. That's where I'd like to see her as well, though the cynic in me wonders whether Kennedy is primarily trying to clear the path for his friend Senator John Kerry to become secretary of state.

I would be happy with either Kerry or Bill Richardson for that job, but my dream is still Richardson as transportation secretary.

Roll Call reports that former Senate Majority leader Tom Daschle, an early Obama backer, has accepted Obama's offer to run the Health and Human Services department. Daschle will also be the White House "health care czar," and I'm with Matt Stoller:

isn't it weird that cabinet appointments are basically subordinate to White House staff positions?  It's like, when did 'czar' become a laudable title?

Obama is said to have decided on Eric Holder for attorney general. Holder was deputy attorney general under President Bill Clinton but supported Obama during the Democratic primaries. He also helped lead Obama's vice-presidential search team. He is still being vetted, but if selected and confirmed, Holder would become the first black U.S. attorney general.

The Ethicurean gets real about who might become secretary of agriculture.

It's notable that no hero of Obama's progressive supporters seems to be in the running for any job. I admit that part of me is amused to watch heads explode among those who really believed Obama would bring transformational change. It's been clear for many months that there was little daylight between Hillary and Obama on policy. Some people bought into the Clinton demonization project a bit too much in the winter and spring.

On the other hand, Pat Buchanan's stopped clock is right about this: Obama should make at least one appointment that will please the "Daily Kos crowd," which did so much for Obama during the primaries. It would be ironic if "the change we need" turned out to be a bunch of former Clinton officials and centrist Congressional leaders, with a few Republicans mixed in.

This is an open thread for any thoughts or predictions about Obama's cabinet appointments.

UPDATE: Ezra Klein is excited by the news about Daschle:

This is huge news, and the clearest evidence yet that Obama means to pursue comprehensive health reform. You don't tap the former Senate Majority Leader to run your health care bureaucracy. That's not his skill set. You tap him to get your health care plan through Congress. You tap him because he understands the parliamentary tricks and has a deep knowledge of the ideologies and incentives of the relevant players. You tap him because you understand that health care reform runs through the Senate. And he accepts because he has been assured that you mean to attempt health care reform.

UPDATE 2: CNN reports that Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, an early Obama backer, will be named Homeland Security secretary. I want her to run against John McCain for Senate in 2010.

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