It´s Harry Reid´s Alamo too

Bohner´s attempted revolution also targets the Senate.

Harry Reid´s political interests are loosely aligned with President Obama´s but they are not identical. (For one thing, Reid cares a lot more about the 2016 election.) It´s striking that in the current showdown with John Boehner´s House Republicans, they are both standing firm. No surrender, no negotiation.

Charles I executionBoehner is, willingly or not, leading an attempt at not one but two constitutional revolutions, that it took the Westminster House of Commons 270 years to achieve. The first is against the President or monarch: to use the power of the purse to establish the supremacy of the parliamentary majority over the executive. Westminster started this fight in 1641 and won it with Charles I´s execution in 1649.

The second is to establish the supremacy of the lower over the upper house. After a trial run in 1832 over Grey´s Reform Bill, the House of Commons established its primacy over the Lords with the 1911 Parliament Act. The vistory came after a huge struggle sparked by Lloyd George´s redistributive ¨People´s Budget¨ of 1909. Boehner´s proposals would downgrade the Senate from an equal partner to a consultative appendage to the House, not only on the budget but on any controversial legislation like ACA.

Reid, like Obama, has no choice but to fight this putsch to the end. Fortunately for Senate Republicans, budget procedures do not allow filibusters, so GOP Senators are spared an explicit choice between their ideology and their status. Most to them by report didn´t think much of Ted Cruz´s pseudo-filibuster.

Neither Charles I nor the House of Lords had democratic legitimacy, so the changes were clear improvements. This cannot be said of Boehner´s campaign, which if it succeeds will upend a constitution designed on the principle of a balance of powers, in order to prevent the democratic tyranny of a president or congressional majority. Americans are brought up to think this scheme superior to the untrammelled rule of a whipped Commons majority, and on balance they are right.

Some will object to the comparison. Quite apart from the merits of their causes, Speaker Lilburne, John Hampden, Charles Grey and David Lloyd George were politicians of a different calibre to John Boehner and Eric Cantor. They had also thought things through.

Letter to DiFi on filibuster reform

Just sent:

The Hon. Diane Feinstein
331 Hart Senate Office Bldg.
Washington, D.C. 20510
December 3, 2012

Dear Sen. Feinstein:

As a Democrat who has had the pleasure of voting for you three times
so far, I was very troubled to read that you were wavering on the
question of filibuster reform
. I hope that your views have been
misreported.

Given the appalling behavior of Sen. McConnell since the election of
President Obama, and the indication that he intends to continue to
obstruct the public business at every turn, Sen. Reid is fully
justified in acting to rein in the power of an irresponsible minority.
Indeed, I would prefer a more radical step, with successive cloture
votes requiring diminishing super-majorities so that the third vote
would require only 51 votes.

I can imagine no more important issue confronting the Senate this
year. Were there ever to be a primary election in which one of the
candidates supported filibuster reform while the other opposed it,
that would almost certainly be the decisive issue with respect to my
vote, my voice, and my financial support.

Very truly yours,

Go thou, and do likewise, and encourage your friends to do the same. I’m prepared to bet that ten thousand physical letters (emails count for much less) would get her respectful attention. Voters mostly don’t care about procedural issues: let’s make it clear that some high-information, high-political-activity voters care terribly about this one.

Romney’s “Death Stench” — and what you can do about it

Not my phrase — it’s the phrase of Time Magazine political reporter and Republican fanboy Mark Halperin, and it describes the pall hanging over the Republican campaign.  The Obama convention bounce continues, with the President now getting a six-point margin in the latest CNN poll — the first non-tracker since Charlotte.

There are, unfortunately, two problems with this:

1)  Halperin is a moron, so we should be quite cautious of anything he says.  (You might remember his unforgettable claim that McCain’s not knowing how many houses he had was “great news for John McCain” or his pathetic pleading with Hugh Hewitt not to call him a liberal).  He’s not as bad as Dick Morris, but that’s a low bar, and besides — Morris makes predictions in order to fluff his business, nut for accuracy.

2) More importantly, Halperin makes a pretty decent point: if it looks like Romney is going down, then Republicans and their Super PACs will shift to Senate and House races.  Karl Rove’s American Crossroads has been playing the Senate for a while, and can probably expect a new cash infusion.  This is precisely what happened in 1996: a prominent and very smart California Republican leader told me that his party “called an audible” in late September, shifted their money away from bob Dole, and saved the Gingrich majority.  We know what followed.  And remember: $10 million from a SuperPAC really doesn’t mean much in a Presidential race, but it can mean a lot in a House contest or in a Senate race in small, relatively inexpensive states like Nevada or North Dakota.

Along with the announcement that Obama outraised Romney in August, I think that these are important factors for small donors to start focusing their attention to downballot races.  Every cycle, I set up an ActBlue page, but — perhaps consistent with stories of Democratic voter disenchantment — contributions are somewhat down this year.  It will matter a lot, even if President Obama is re-elected, if the Democrats lose the Senate, or if they regain the House.

So give the page all your money — here.  (Or at least some of it!).  Remember — I don’t make a nickel off of this.

All Hail Harry Reid!

Once again, Mark and I disagree.

1)  What Reid said is not McCarthyism because his allegations are easy to disprove with evidence that Mitt Romney himself has, viz., Romney’s tax returns.  It’s not at all like accusing somebody of being something because of someone that they knew, or proving that they weren’t a Communist.  If Romney wants to show that Reid is full of crap, then all he needs to do is release his returns.

2)  What Reid said is not slimy because demanding that Romeny release his returns is perfectly legitimate.  Every party nominee for 40 years has done the same thing.  He’s not asking Romney to, say, release sealed divorce records (the case of Jack Ryan, who was going to be Obama’s opponent in the 2004 Senate race) or release the Romney sex tape or some such.  These are tax records.  They are fair game.

3)  And they are particularly fair game because Romney’s whole campaign is based on the idea that he is some sort of economic genius who will wave fairy dust over the economy like he did with, say, his IRA.  Fine: show us the goddam fairy dust.

Reid is right.  Romney is wrong.  Put up or shut up, Mitt.  End of story.

TBogg has more, including the notion that Harry Reid is the honey badger.  See for yourself.

QUICK UPDATE: I could be persuaded otherwise if I thought Reid was just making his source up out of whole cloth, but he isn’t: Dana Bash reports that Reid’s source 1) exists; and 2) is very credible.  Mitt’s in trouble, and he deserves it.

Nancy Pelosi’s “attack” on Stephen Colbert and his Super PAC is the cleverest marketing the Democrats have done since the 1964 daisy ad linking the Republican Presidential nominee with nuclear war.  Yes, it’s been a long dry spell; but let’s be grateful for this particular bit of rain.  If nothing else it disproves the canard that feminists don’t have a sense of humor.

Give Your Dollars to Nancy — and Let Her Figure It Out

I just love this woman:

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) mocked Rick Perry’s suggestion that she debate him about his idea for a part-time Congress.

“He did ask if I could debate here in Washington on Monday — it is my understanding that such a letter has come in. Monday, I’m going to be in Portland in the morning, visiting some of our labs in California in the afternoon, that’s two … I can’t remember what the third thing is,” she said at her Thursday morning news conference to laughter.

That wasn’t even her best statement of the day.  Later, she told Super Committee co-chair Jeb Hensarling (R – Olduvai Gorge) where he could stick it when Hensarling insisted that the Dems agree to dismantle Medicare in exchange for raising taxes on millionaires.

Pelosi has not only been one of the best Speakers in American history, but also one of the best Democratic leaders at any level.  Without her, the Affordable Care Act wouldn’t have passed and maybe wouldn’t even have come up for a vote.  The 111th Congress was one of the most productive and beneficial in the nation’s history, and that’s because of the lady who was running things, with the iron fist concealed in a velvet glove.

All of which should probably affect your donation strategy.  If you’re like me, you probably get several e-mails a day from some House candidate or another, asking for your money.  I’m a political junkie, and I can’t keep them all straight.  Who is a viable candidate?  Who is a progressive candidate?  Who will support Pelosi?

Well, maybe we should trust the Minority Leader’s sense of self-interest and just give her the campaign money.  Each candidate can accept up to $2,500 for a primary and $2,500 for the general.  That’s $5,000 total or 10K for a couple.  Unless you are giving a lot of money for House races, it makes sense just to max out to Pelosi and let her figure out where the best places are for it. 

Such a strategy will also have the important secondary benefit of giving Pelosi more power within the caucus.  The more money she gives, the more the other members will owe her.  That will help make the caucus as progressive and sensible as possible.  (And no: the DCCC is not an adequate substitute.  It faces different rules on how it can spend money in individual races, and in any event, its choice of the best candidates over the last few years has been mixed, to say the least.).

Pelosi represents San Francisco and won’t face a challenge: she will use all of her campaign money for other candidates.  So let her do it.

 UPDATE: A commenter wisely notes that it makes more sense to give to Pelosi’s leadership PAC, called PAC to the Future. (Is the name clever or hackneyed?  YMMV.).  It doesn’t have a website, but its address is: 700 13th Street, NW, SUITE 600, Washington, DC 20005.  If you Google it, you’ll find that many years ago (it seems roughly in 2003), it did some really stupid things and paid an FEC fine.  Conservatives who embraced Tom DeLay and Jack Abramoff suddenly got the vapors and reached for their scented handkerchiefs.  Sane people can just write checks.

“Infrastructure: The Play”

In an earlier post, I noted with approval the comments of Jonathan Chait, Keith Humphreys, and others who have been critical of Drew Westen’s claim that if President Obama had been more forceful in his use of narrative, he could have enacted a much greater proportion of the progressive agenda.  But I went on to note that Westen had made an important point nonetheless. Given the composition of the House and Senate, Mr. Obama may not have been able to achieve substantially better legislative outcomes in the short run, but he could and should have forced Republican obstructionists to pay a much steeper political price.  In this piece, I propose a bit of political theater that I hope the president will consider for that purpose.

Debt ceiling hostage crises forever?

Senator McConnell gloats over the new template – debt ceiling hostage crises forever, every time there’s a GOP majority in the House or 40 senators for a filibuster, until every Republican dream is fulfilled. (via Ezra Klein):

This is just the first step. This, we anticipate, will take us into 2013. Whoever the new president is, is probably going to be asking us to raise the debt ceiling again. Then we will go through the process again and see what we can continue to achieve in connection with these debt ceiling requests of presidents to get our financial house in order.

So one plank of the 2012 Democratic platform writes itself: abolish the separate debt ceiling as an undemocratic and financially irrational monstrosity. Not raise it, abolish it. (By which I mean that as in normal countries, appropriations bills should automatically include authorisation for the borrowing they imply under the applicable revenue bill.)

But how to do this? I see two options:
(a) Accept the constitutionality of the current law and propose to abolish it by normal legislation.
The problem with this is that it needs not just the White House and a majority in the House, both realistic objectives, but 60 votes in the Senate, which is probably out of reach.

(b) Declare the debt ceiling law unconstitutional, not as a last-ditch technical fix but as a considered policy position of the party and its candidates (individual pledges signed in blood, please).

For instance, presidential candidate Obama could state his intention to attach a signing statement to every future appropriations bill not including such an explicit borrowing authorisation that it will be interpreted by the Executive as implicitly authorising any borrowing required for its execution. The justification will be the doctrine of the priority of more recent law, the Presidential oath, and the 14th Amendment.

Any better suggestions?

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