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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Congratulations, Senator Al Franken

UPDATE: The Des Moines Register reports that Franken will headline Senator Tom Harkin’s steak fry on September 13.

The 2008 elections finally ended today. Norm Coleman conceded the U.S. race in Minnesota following a unanimous state Supreme Court ruling in Al Franken’s favor.

Talking Points Memo posted their Top 10 moments from the mostly infuriating, sometimes comical Franken-Coleman saga.

We can laugh at Coleman’s pretzel logic during the legal proceedings, but unfortunately, his gamesmanship deprived Minnesota of full representation in the Senate for half a year. In all likelihood Franken will be stuck with less-than-stellar committee assignments. Also, the delay did lasting damage to Franken’s seniority. Had he been sworn in on time, he would have outranked several fellow Senate Democrats, which could become important one or two terms down the road.

Nevertheless, I have high hopes for Senator Franken and look forward to his work in Washington.

P.S.- I still don’t understand why so many Minnesotans voted for Dean Barkley.

P.P.S.- Rush Limbaugh is still a big fat idiot.  

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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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Sore loser Coleman has done lasting harm to Minnesota

For at least the last three months, Norm Coleman has had no realistic hope of winning Minnesota’s U.S. Senate election, but that hasn’t stopped him from fighting the inevitable in court. It’s obvious that Coleman’s legal maneuvering has no goal other than to keep Al Franken out of the Senate for as long as possible.

That has collateral benefits for Republicans on a national scale, making it harder for Senate Democrats to win 60 votes to break a filibuster. Barack Obama may have been able to get his economic stimulus bill through the Senate with fewer concessions if he had needed only two Republicans to sign on (instead of three).

Unfortunately for our neighbors to the north, Coleman’s obstruction has done significant and lasting harm to Minnesota. John Deeth explains why in this great post about seniority rules in the U.S. Senate. Had Franken been sworn in with the rest of the class elected last November, he would now rank 94th in seniority, but instead he’s going to rank 100th (click the link for the full explanation, which is worth your time).

Making matters worse for Minnesota: all six of the senators Franken should outrank, but doesn’t, are fellow Democrats.

How much this matters in the long run depends on the longevity of the six senators who leapfrogged over Franken. […]

Michael Bennet and Kirsten Gillibrand will probably face primaries, too, but after a first electoral test they, and Merkley and Begich, could last awhile (particularly Gillibrand, who at 42 is the youngest Senator). Franken, at age 57, could be around long enough that those lost months of seniority will make a difference between him and let’s say Gillibrand getting a chairmanship sometime around 2018.

If you want to make Republicans pay for Coleman’s sore-loserdom, support the campaign Senate Guru wrote about over the weekend: “A Dollar a Day to Make Norm Go Away.”  

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MN-Sen: Make Norm Coleman Go Away for Just One Dollar a Day

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

Even in Iowa, I’m sure you’ve heard plenty about what’s going on with the still-unsettled Senate race in Minnesota.

While Republican Norm Coleman prolongs his endless and pointless appeals, cementing his admission into the Sore Losers Hall of Fame, progressive organizations Democracy for America and the Progressive Change Campaign Committee have introduced a new effort: NormDollar.com, “A Dollar a Day to Make Norm Go Away.”  Very simply put, commit to contributing just one dollar per day for every day that sore loser Norm Coleman refuses to concede.

NormDollar.com

This is exactly the correct approach to take in order to provide Republican leadership in Washington with adequate disincentive from continuing to fund Coleman’s endless appeals.  The GOP bigwigs funding Coleman’s appeals see value in putting their money toward keeping progressive Senator-elect Al Franken from being seated.  This grassroots-powered effort will make them think twice by generating many thousands of dollars for progressive candidates for every single day that they fund the Coleman circus.

If you feel so inclined, you can certainly chip in a bit of change directly to the Franken Recount Fund, as well.

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Thank heaven for paper ballots

The recount to determine the winner of Minnesota’s Senate race has been going on for six weeks, with a court challenge likely if Al Franken, who leads narrowly, is declared the winner. (WineRev’s diaries tell you everything you need to know about what’s going on in that race.)

Imagine how much more contentious this process would be if Minnesota did not use paper ballots in every county. Less than one one-hundredth of a percent of the vote separates Franken from Republican incumbent Norm Coleman. If touchscreen voting machines had been involved in any way, large numbers of people would surely believe the election had been rigged in favor of whoever came out ahead.

Mark Halvorson of Citizens for Election Integrity Minnesota published this piece on what has worked well during the Minnesota recount, and how the system could still be improved.

Iowa had more state legislative races decided by less than 1 percent of the vote this year than in any other election I can remember. Fortunately, the state legislature heeded Secretary of State Mike Mauro’s call to require optical scanner machines with paper ballots in every county, and Governor Chet Culver signed that bill into law this spring. Otherwise the legitimacy of these extremely close races could have been questioned.

If you run into Mauro, thank him for his efforts to improve Iowa’s voting system, and encourage him to ask the legislature to take the next step toward “verified voting” (mandatory manual audits of voter-verified paper records). That would allay fears about malfunctions or tampering with the optical scanners as they count the votes.

As this map at VerifiedVoting.org shows, Minnesota is one of 18 states that has mandatory manual audits of voter-verified paper records. Iowa is one of 13 states that require paper ballots, but without mandatory audits to make sure the scanners are producing accurate counts.

Keep your eye on the Iowa Voters blog for updates on election integrity news and activism in Iowa.

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