40 Days Until Sestak-Specter and Halter-Lincoln

{First, a cheap plug for my blog Senate Guru.}

40 days from today – on May 18 – we will see two HUGE primaries for U.S. Senate.  Even though these races aren’t in Iowa, they impact Democrats across the country and, well, the entire country as a whole.

In Pennsylvania, Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak will try to upset Republican-for-decades Arlen Specter.

In Arkansas, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Bill Halter will try to upset corporate lackey Blanche Lincoln.

These two races are tremendously important to defining who and what the Democratic Party is and what we will be fighting for.

If you can volunteer for these candidates (or encourage friends and family in Pennsylvania and Arkansas to do so), that would be amazing.

Of course, if you can help with a contribution to either or both via the Expand the Map! ActBlue page as soon as possible, it will make a big impact.

Expand the Map! ActBlue page
Joe Sestak

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Volunteer Page
Bill Halter

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Volunteer Page
Expand the Map! ActBlue page

Polling shows that both Specter and Lincoln are at risk of – if not likely to – hand these Senate seats over to far-right-wing Republicans. (And, even if these two retain the seats, that’s not much better on many key issues.)

Congressman Sestak and Lieutenant Governor Halter winning these primaries are critical to keeping these seats in truly Democratic hands. Your support can help make that happen!  Please hop over to the Expand the Map! ActBlue page right away to make a contribution – an investment in the Democratic wing of the Democratic Party to pull out an old expression – and show your support.

Thanks SO much for any support you can provide. 40 Days.

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

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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PA-Sen: Netroots Overwhelmingly Support a Draft Sestak Effort

{First, a cheap plug for my blog Senate Guru.}

As many of you know, over the last five days, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in partnership with a number of progressive organizations and blogs including Senate Guru, asked those in the netroots, “Should a Draft Sestak movement be created to take on Sen. Arlen Specter in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary?”

Netroots for Sestak The results are in and they are overwhelming.  85% of Pennsylvanian respondents and 86% of respondents nationally want Democratic Congressman Joe Sestak to challenge Arlen Specter in the 2010 Democratic Senate primary.  The poll has even gotten the attention of Congressman Sestak, as the PCCC points out:

“I am honored that so many of you took the time to vote in the recent grassroots Straw Poll. Let me tell you, I and many others were paying attention. If I decide to run it will be in large measure because of the grassroots energy of so many people like you. Until I and my family make that decision, please accept my thanks and my best wishes as you continue be active participants in our people-powered democracy. Thank you so very much!”

Due to such an overwhelming response, a Draft Sestak Fund has been created on ActBlue.  To contribute and further encourage Congressman Sestak to enter the race, click on the image below:

Draft Sestak Fund

If you need any additional motivation to contribute to this effort to draft a real Democrat to oppose Specter in the primary, consider Specter’s actions since announcing his Party switch:

1) Specter opposed the Obama budget.

2) Specter opposed the “cramdown” mortgage/bankruptcy reform, siding with banks over families.

3) Specter reiterated his opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act.

4) Specter reiterated his opposition to President Obama’s nomination of Dawn Johnsen to the Office of Legal Counsel.

5) Specter announced his support for Republican Norm Coleman over Democratic Senator-elect Al Franken in Minnesota’s Senate race.

6) Specter promoted a website that appeared to raise money for cancer research but, in actuality, simply raised money for his campaign.

7) Specter denied reports that he told President Obama that he would be a “loyal Democrat” despite multiple reporters sticking to their story.

The netroots have displayed overwhelming support for Congressman Sestak to take on recently-Republican Arlen Specter.  Help the effort by contributing to the Draft Sestak Fund.

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PA-Sen: A Draft Sestak Effort?

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, working with a number of progressive organizations and blogs including Senate Guru, has put out a poll to gauge netroots interest – in Iowa and all across the country – in supporting an effort to draft Congressman Joe Sestak to challenge recently-Republican Arlen Specter in the PA-Sen Democratic primary next year.  The poll will be open for the next four days, and provided are both pro and con arguments regarding a draft effort.  To read the arguments and vote in the poll, click the below link:

Sestak vote

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Arlen Specter's Impact on Al Franken

{First, a cheap plug for my blog Senate Guru.}

NormDollar.com Before Arlen Specter’s Party switch announcement yesterday, the Senate’s Democratic caucus stood at 58 members.  Senator-elect Al Franken represented Democrats’ 59th vote toward cloture, still short of reliably ending Republican filibusters.  But now, with Specter joining the Democratic caucus, Senator-elect Franken represents the big 6-0, which is why Republicans will redouble their efforts to delay Senator-elect Franken’s seating – and why we in the netroots must redouble our efforts to send obstructionist Republicans a message and also provide them with adequate disincentive from delaying Senator-elect Franken’s seating any further.

Since the “One Dollar a Day to Make Norm Coleman Go Away” effort started just a couple weeks ago, about $40,000 has been raised to remind the Republicans funding Norm Coleman’s endless appeals that, for every single day that they delay the implementation of the will of Minnesota voters, progressive voters will raise money to use against these Republicans on Election Day 2010.

Your support will strengthen that message!

Norm Coleman and his fellow Republicans recently scored a success in further delaying Senator-elect Franken’s seating, as the trial schedule adopted by the state Supreme Court for Coleman’s appeal is such that oral arguments before the Court won’t begin until June 1st, over a month from now.  Further, although Minnesota election policy dictates that Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty must prepare and sign Senator-elect Franken’s election certificate once the state Supreme Court hands down its decision, Pawlenty has hemmed and hawed as to whether he would follow state election policy accordingly.

With a D next to Arlen Specter’s name, Republicans will go full force to block Senator-elect Franken’s seating.  Please join us in eliminating Republicans’ incentive to delay Senator-elect Franken’s seating any further by taking part in the “One Dollar a Day to Make Norm Coleman Go Away” effort.  At right is video of the segment on MSNBC’s Hardball highlighting the effort.

NormDollar.com

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If you were Grassley, what would you do?

Iowa Independent reports that Senator Arlen Specter’s decision to become a Democrat leaves Iowa’s own Chuck Grassley with a difficult choice. He is currently the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, but with Specter’s departure he appears to be first in line to become ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee instead. According to Iowa Independent,

GOP conference rules forbid him from serving as ranking member of both panels at the same time, a Senate aide said Tuesday. Theoretically, he could get a waiver to serve on both, but that’s unlikely, the aide said.

So very shortly, Grassley has a tough choice to make: Either he can remain the senior Republican on Finance – a powerful spot this year with comprehensive health reforms looming, but also a position he’ll have to give up at the end of 2010 because of GOP term-limit rules – or he can accept the top GOP spot on Judiciary.

Judiciary will consider many important matters this year and next, possibly including a Supreme Court nominee. However, if I were Grassley I would stay at Finance for sure.

President Barack Obama wants health care reform to happen this year and is willing to use the budget reconciliation process to make it happen. The health care reform bill may become one of the most important pieces of legislation this decade. By all accounts Grassley has a strong working relationship with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus.

I don’t think Judiciary will consider anything of comparable importance this year, and I doubt Grassley and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy would quickly develop the same kind of rapport Grassley has with Baucus.

At the end of 2010, Grassley’s term as ranking member of Finance will be up, and he can choose whether to become the ranking member of Judiciary or Budget. He has expressed a preference for Judiciary in the past.

If you were Grassley, would you take the chance to become the ranking member at Judiciary this year? If Grassley did give up his current position, it appears that Orrin Hatch would become the ranking member at Finance.

By the way, David Waldman reported yesterday at Congress Matters that Specter’s switch throws off the Judiciary Committee’s ratio of Democrats and Republicans. A new Senate organizing resolution will have to be adopted, and Democrats may use that opportunity to secure more seats on the Senate committees.

UPDATE: Grassley’s press secretary Beth Pellett Levine told me on Wednesday that the senator has not made any statement about whether he would consider becoming the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee.

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