How the election affected Braley's Populist Caucus

Now that Representative Bruce Braley has survived a Republican landslide despite a bucketload of money thrown at him, I thought I’d check to see how others in his House Populist Caucus fared on Tuesday.

Short story: the Populist Caucus lost five members. As a group, they fared better than the Blue Dogs or New Democrats, but not as well as the Progressive Caucus. The details are below.

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Reject Baucus' bill and take away his gavel

I’m no negotiating expert, but I know that if you’re not willing to walk away from a bad deal, no one will take your demands seriously.

Americans overwhelmingly want a public health insurance option and need that option for any number of reasons. Who you are and where you live strongly affects the kind of health insurance and health care you receive. Most Americans live in communities where one or two private companies dominate the health insurance market. Rural residents often have very limited access to health care providers. People of color also are shortchanged by our current system.

Despite all these problems, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus has done his best in recent weeks to show that The Onion was right about him eight years ago. Baucus has continued to pursue a bipartisan agreement on health care containing a fake public option.

It’s time to cut Baucus off, and a great idea floated by Iowa’s own Senator Tom Harkin offers part of the solution. (continues after the jump)

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RNC Targeting Boswell (again)

(No time like the present for progressives to call Congressman Boswell's office advocating health care reform with a strong public option. Boswell's official website explains his primary concerns on health care. - promoted by desmoinesdem)

Politico's Ben Smith posted a list of conservative House Democrats who will be targeted by a new RNC radio ad on healthcare. The list includes IA-03's Leonard Boswell.

Text of the ad:

Most Americans agree. It’s time to take action to reform our healthcare system. But the dangerous experiment President Obama and the Democrats in Congress want just can’t be the right answer. The question is what Congressman Boswell will do.

Look at their record. The stimulus package cost us hundreds of billions without creating new jobs. The national debt has more than doubled.

If Barack Obama and the Democrats get their way, the Federal Government will make the decisions about your health care. And, their plan costs a trillion dollars we don’t have. You have to pay a new tax to keep your private insurance. It’s too much, too fast.

Call Congressman Boswell at 202-225-3121, that’s 202-225-3121 and tell him to say no to this dangerous experiment.

Of course, the quote “Most Americans agree. It's time to take action to reform our healthcare system” is not followed by any Republican proposal or idea to actually fix healthcare. I hope Boswell doesn't cave on this, and it's heartening to know that he still supports a public option. Boswell's support is an apparent break with other members of the Blue Dog Coalition, whose opposition to a public option was deconstructed in this Paul Krugman article yesterday.

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Obama's budget splits Iowa delegation on party lines

The U.S. House of Representatives approved President Barack Obama’s proposed $3.55 trillion 2010 budget on Thursday by a vote of 233 to 196. As you can see from the roll call, all three Democrats representing Iowa voted for the budget: Bruce Braley (IA-01), Dave Loebsack (IA-02), and Leonard Boswell (IA-03). Every House Republican voted against Obama’s budget, including Tom Latham (IA-04) and Steve King (IA-05).

Twenty House Democrats joined Republicans in voting against the budget (Dennis Kucinich plus a minority of the Blue Dog caucus). But it’s notable that most Blue Dogs, like Boswell, supported this budget. Obama has met twice with the Blue Dog caucus this year, most recently on March 30.

House Republicans offered an alternative budget proposal with all kinds of crazy ideas in it, like privatizing Medicare, giving the wealthy more tax cuts, and freezing most non-defense discretionary federal spending. As you can see from the roll call, Tom Latham was among the 28 Republicans who joined House Democrats in voting down the GOP budget alternative. Steve King was among the 137 Republicans who voted yes.

White House officials were right to mock the GOP’s budget alternative as a “joke.” Freezing federal spending is a good way to turn a severe economic recession into a depression.

Soon after the House budget vote, I received press releases from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee slamming Latham and King for voting against a wide range of tax cuts contained in the budget resolution. I’ve posted those after the jump.

I suspect that the the DCCC is not putting out statements attacking the House Democrats who voted against the budget, and I’m seeking a comment from their communications staff about whether my hunch is correct. DCCC chair Chris Van Hollen warned on Thursday that liberal groups supporting primary challengers against unreliable House Democrats could cost the party seats in 2010. I wonder why we are supposed to look the other way when members of our own party take positions that the DCCC finds atrocious in House Republicans.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Senate approved a 2010 budget resolution late on Thursday after a nearly 12-hour marathon of votes on various amendments. David Waldman (formerly known as Kagro X) gives you the play-by-play from yesterday’s Senate action at Congress Matters. The final vote in the Senate was 55-43 (roll call here). Iowa’s Tom Harkin voted yes, along with all Senate Democrats except for Evan Bayh of Indiana and Ben Nelson of Nebraska, who voted with Republicans, and Robert Byrd of West Virginia, who did not vote. The 41 Senate Republicans, including Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, voted no.

CNN went over the key similarities and differences between the House and Senate budget resolutions. Most important difference, in my opinion:

[House Democrats] also included language that allows for the controversial procedure called “budget reconciliation” for health care, a tool that would limit debate on major policy legislation.

Senate Democrats did not include reconciliation in their version of the budget. The matter is guaranteed to be a major partisan sticking point when the two chambers meet to hammer out a final version of next year’s spending plan. If it passes, it would allow the Senate to pass Obama’s proposed health care reform without the threat of a Republican-led Senate filibuster.

Notably, both the House and Senate budget bills “do away with Obama’s request for an additional $250 billion, if needed, in financial-sector bailout money.” Thank goodness for that.

Any comments or speculation regarding federal tax or spending policies are welcome in this thread.

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New PAC vows to hold Democratic incumbents accountable

That’s the mission of the Accountability Now PAC:

“We need members of Congress to leave the bubble of Washington, D.C. and stand with their constituents,” said Jane Hamsher, founder of Firedoglake.com and co-founder of Accountability Now. “We need members of Congress to ask the tough questions about continued Wall Street bailouts that reward the donor class, two wars without seeming end, the ceaseless assault on our civil liberties, and other issues that separate the citizenry from the DC cocoon.”

“Accountability Now is an organization built around a single guiding principle: challenging the institutional power structures that make it so easy, so consequence-free for Congress to open up the government coffers for looting by corporate America while people across the country are losing their jobs and their basic constitutional rights while unable to afford basic health care,” said Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com and co-founder of Accountability Now. “Accountability Now believes that members of Congress in both parties need to hear from their constituents, and that nothing focuses the mind of a politician on listening to citizens better than a primary.”

“Accountability Now PAC will recruit, coordinate, and support primary challenges against vulnerable Congressional incumbents who have become more responsive to corporate America than to their constituents,” said Accountability Now’s new Executive Director, Jeff Hauser. “By empowering the grassroots, Accountability Now will help create the political space needed to enable President Obama to make good on the many progressive policies he campaigned on – such as getting out of Iraq, ensuring access to affordable health care for every man, woman and child, restoring our constitutional liberties and ending torture.”

In 2007, grassroots activists banded together to oust Al Wynn out of office, and it shook House Democrats to their core. Similarly, we learned in 2006 how even a primary challenge that does not win could change behavior, as Jane Harman has been more accountable to the concerns of her constituents after a tough primary race against Marcy Winograd.

Out of these recent lessons, diverse and politically powerful groups have decided to support Accountability Now’s efforts, such as MoveOn, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), DailyKos, ColorOfChange.org, and Democracy for America, 21st Century Democrats and BlogPAC.

On principle, I agree with the goals of this PAC. Like some guy once said, “the system in Washington is rigged and our government is broken. It’s rigged by greedy corporate powers to protect corporate profits. […] We cannot replace a group of corporate Republicans with a group of corporate Democrats […]”

However, I won’t get excited about the Accountability Now PAC until I learn more about the criteria it will use to determine which Democratic incumbents are “bad enough” to be primaried, and which primary challengers are “good enough” to be endorsed.

To my knowledge, Democracy for America was the only organization in the Accountability Now PAC that helped Ed Fallon in last year’s primary in Iowa’s third district (a D+1 district represented by Blue Dog Leonard Boswell).

How would someone thinking about a primary challenge know whether he or she is likely to get full support, like Donna Edwards in MD-04, or almost nothing, like Fallon?

Speaking of Democracy for America, it’s not too late to RSVP for their training academy in Des Moines on February 28 and March 1. Come meet noneed4thneed while you learn to be a more effective grassroots activist.

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