Bill Scher

Weekend Watchdog

Every Friday in our Weekend Watchdog feature, we post suggested questions for scheduled Sunday guests. You can add your own questions in the comment thread. We’ll also include contact information for the shows, so we can let them know what their viewers want asked. And on Sunday at 4 PM ET, tune in to Air America Radio’s “Seder on Sundays” program, where I’ll offer the Weekend Watchdog Wrap-Up. For Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Penn. (CBS’ Face The Nation): This week, you suggested that a special prosecutor is needed to fully investigate the Prosecutor Purge because of conflicts of interest with Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and the White House.

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Bill Scher

Routine Hypocrisy

When the McClatchy Newspapers reported that the conservative minority in the Senate may triple the number of filibusters, Republicans tried to spread the blame. McClatchy reported: Republicans also say that Democrats are forgetting how routinely they threatened filibusters only a few years ago when they were the minority, especially to block many of President Bush’s judicial nominees. Routinely, eh? Well, the Institute for America’s Future crunched the numbers.

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Bill Scher

What Would Jesus Smoke?

No doubt there are legitimate arguments against funding children’s health insurance by raising taxes on harmful products like tobacco. But this isn’t one of them. (From CQ, sub. req’d): Kentucky Republican Ron Lewis tried his best to protect his tobacco state constituents with an amendment to strip out the tobacco exise tax that would fund much of the legislation, pleading with Democrats not to hurt his district’s industry. “I don’t know how you can find another way to fund this, but I’m sure you can be creative and find another way,” Lewis said. His amendment was defeated 16-23, despite his invocation of the Lord, whom in an extended analogy drawing on the Book of Genesis he said would not have taxed tobacco. Will Rep.

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Robert Borosage

Wrong On The Right

The corporate wing of the Democratic Party – the Democratic Leadership Council—will meet in its “National Conversation” this weekend in Nashville. The press is already noting that while all of the Democratic presidential hopefuls will appear at the YearlyKos progressive blogger gathering in Chicago, not one is slated to join the DLC in Nashville. DLC head Al From suggests this is because the candidates have “tunnel vision,” and, focused on the Iowa caucuses, are chasing liberal activists. But From is certain that the party’s nominee will turn to the DLC and drift to the right when it comes to the general election.

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Bill Scher

The Evidence Points To Rove

A long-standing Weekend Watchdog question is why Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., hadn’t exercised his authority to issue a subpoena to Karl Rove and other White House officials and their role in the Prosecutor Purge. Since then, several staffers have been subpoenaed. But today, Leahy finally subpoenaed Rove and his deputy.

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Bill Scher

Standing Up To The Obstructionists (And The Pundits Who Love Them)

The blogosphere is abuzz this morning after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to task the Washington Post editorial board, in the paper’s own pages. (DailyKos, Eschaton, TPMCafe, D-Day, Skewering The Chimp and Slow Roasted have praised Reid’s letter to the editor.) Last week, The Posties accused Reid of being “irresponsible” for “deny[ing] rather than nourish[ing] a bipartisan agreement” on Iraq: The Senate Democratic leadership spent the past week trying to prove that Congress is deeply divided over Iraq, with Democrats pressing and Republicans resisting a change of course. In fact that’s far from the truth. A large majority of senators from both parties favor a shift in the U.S.

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Bill Scher

Another Step Towards a Carbon Cap?

Two weeks ago, a bipartisan global warming bill was roundly criticized for making it too easy for industries to keep creating carbon pollution. This week, another bipartisan effort was announced, and it’s garnering relatively more praise. Allies of polluters often try to limit costs by creating loopholes, or “safety valves,” which allow for more pollution. But this new proposal — from Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Mary Landrieu, D-La., Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark. and John Warner, R-Va. — tries to limit economic hardships without sacrificing the critical environmental goals. Climate Progress’ Joseph Romm calls it “banking and borrowing”: With “banking,” the right to emit carbon can be saved for future use. With “borrowing,” current emissions are extended against future abatement.

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Bill Scher

Proudly Blocking Children’s Health Care

Republican leaders apparently like to lose. Top GOP senators Mitch McConnell and Trent Lott are opposing the bipartisan deal to cover more kids with health insurance, siding with President Bush over other Republicans like Senators Orrin Hatch and Charles Grassley.

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Bill Scher

Reversing The Slide

Washington Monthly’s Kevin Drum, looking at filibuster stats from McClatchy Newspapers showing conservatives taking obstruction to new heights, writes: …the number of filibusters has been relatively steady since 1986 — until this year, when Republicans found themselves in the minority for the first time in a decade and decided to throw an unprecedented temper tantrum about it. If they keep things going at their current pace, they’ll have conducted 153 filibusters by the end of 2008, compared to the previous record of 58. Drum notes their motivation: …a desperate desire to kill popular legislation quietly (the press doesn’t spend much time reporting on routine filibusters) rather than force President Bush to kill popular legislation in full public view (the press does report on presidential vetoes).

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Isaiah J. Poole

An Overdue Pay Raise

With all of the talk about the conservative obstructionism in Congress that is keeping important bills from becoming law, Tuesday brings something worth celebrating: The federal minimum wage, which had been frozen at $5.15 an hour for almost 10 years, increases 70 cents an hour, to $5.85 cents an hour. The minimum wage increase is the one item on the Democrats’ change agenda that has actually become law since the party took control of Congress last year. It came at what some activists consider too high a price, since it was attached to a measure authorizing continued funding for the Iraq war as well as a package of business tax cuts. Nonetheless, for more than 5.3 million workers, the increase is real, and real important as the first step in a broader effort to improve conditions for working people in America.

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Bill Scher

How To Lose An Election

Last week, President Bush pledged to veto a bipartisan Senate bill that would cover three to four million more kids with health insurance. Does that mean children will be left out in the cold until Bush is out of office? Not necessarily. This week’s Congressional Quarterly (sub. req’d) reports that many Republican officeholders are quite fearful at the prospect of facing the voters after denying kids health care. “You can’t construct a question on children and health without getting an overwhelming majority in favor of giving health insurance to children,” said Republican pollster Whit Ayres, who added that voting against an SCHIP expansion is “politically stupid” and could make politicians who do so appear shortsighted or stingy.

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Bill Scher

Weekend Watchdog Wrap-Up

It’s another 0-for-3 Sunday for the Watchdog, as the Sunday shows fail to recognize who is impeding bipartisan sentiment to end the Iraq occupation. On CBS’ Face The Nation, Bob Schieffer sought to be “fair and balanced” by spreading blame for obstructionism in his question to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: Last week you made a very big show of trying to force a vote to begin bringing the troops home from Iraq. You brought in cots, ordered pizza, forced senators to stay all night for a marathon debate on the war. The Republicans finally blocked a vote on that. But now you have blocked consideration of Republican proposals to bring new pressures on the president to change his strategy. Why? Schieffer’s characterization of those “Republican proposals” is highly misleading, because they would not force the president to change strategy.

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Bill Scher

Weekend Watchdog

Every Friday in our Weekend Watchdog feature, we post suggested questions for scheduled Sunday guests. You can add your own questions in the comment thread. We’ll also include contact information for the shows, so we can let them know what their viewers want asked. And on Sunday at 4 PM ET, tune in to Air America Radio’s “Seder on Sundays” program, where I’ll offer the Weekend Watchdog Wrap-Up. For Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (CBS’ Face The Nation): Your one day of round-the-clock debate on Iraq — forcing those who are filibustering change to do so in the media spotlight — pressured one additional Republican to abandon the filibuster. Yet you chose to stop the debate after one day.

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Bill Scher

The Ideas Primary Comes To YearlyKos

Back in March, Campaign for America’s Future Co-Director Robert Borosage lamented the state of the presidential campaign in his piece for The Nation, “When’s the Idea Primary?” He concluded: Activists, particularly in the early primary states, should continue to demand more. We need a debate on fundamentals: on our global strategy, our imperial commitments, our trade and investment policies, on how to make this economy work for working people, on how to meet threats, from Al Qaeda to climate change. We need that debate now, in 2007, during what should be the “idea primary.” We need the next President to win not just a majority but a mandate. Fortunately, there’s a reason why the progressive blogger community was honored with the Paul Wellstone Citizen Leadership Award at Take Back America 2007.

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Bill Scher

Energy Bill Update

During the past few days, there have been some positive developments as the House continues to put together its energy bill. While Senate conservatives previously blocked consideration of increased renewable electricity, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is working to build enough support to include it in the House version. The provision would require utilities to produce 20% of their electricity with renewable energy by 2020. Without being part of the House version, there’s no chance it can part of the final legislation.

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Bill Scher

For Our Next Obstruction…

…let’s deny kids health insurance! This time, the obstruction may not come from the Senate conservatives, but from Mr. Lame Duck himself, President Bush. Today, the Senate Finance Committee passed a bipartisan compromise to expand the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, investing an additional $7 billion a year of new tobacco tax revenue to cover 3 to 4 million additional children (out of 9 million that remain uninsured).

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Bill Scher

One Night of Pressure Removes One Obstruction

An attempt to break the conservative minority filibuster of a proposal to effectively end the Iraq occupation fell short today. A majority of 53 senators, including four Republicans and one independent, supported an up-or-down vote (52 of which support the actual bill), but that’s 7 votes short of the super-majority needed to end the filibuster. In turn, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid — instead of turning the floor over to proposals that would maintain the Iraq occupation — turned the Senate’s attention to a different bill. So, did the all-night debate accomplish anything? Absolutely.

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Bill Scher

Conservatives Block Vote on Ending The War

Minutes ago, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid asked for unanimous consent to move to a vote on the Levin-Reed amendment to effectively end the occupation. Sen. Minority Whip Trent Lott objected, and the filibuster continues. Reid admonished the obstructionists: “The time for speeches has ended … we want some votes.” Since conservatives surely want everyone to know about their glorious obstructing of the public will, be sure to watch the action on C-Span 2. UPDATE (4:05 PM ET): Lott insisted that Republicans were “ready to vote.” Minutes later, Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin repeated Reid’s request for unanimous consent to move to a vote, and Lott — sans shame — objected again.

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Bill Scher

Whatever Happened to “Extraordinary Circumstances”?

I’ll say this for Sen. John McCain. He thinks ahead. During today’s Senate floor debate, Sen. Carl Levin urged McCain and his fellow conservatives to refrain from filibustering his Iraq proposal, and allow for an “up-or-down” vote. McCain shrugged him off, saying both parties have employed such procedural tactics in the past.

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Bill Scher

Reid’s Bold Move

When you’re Senate Majority Leader, everyone’s fighting for your ear. Today, the netroots have Harry Reid’s ear, instead of the punditocracy. This blog has long been calling for Senate leaders to fight for bold, popular legislation and stand up to those blocking its passage — instead of flinching at filibusters, chasing unprincipled compromises and accommodating the conservative minority. We launched the petition last month urging Reid to do just that. And many other bloggers — including Digby, Taylor Marsh, Open Left, Booman Tribune, ThinkProgress, Miles Mogulescu, FireDogLake, Leisure Guy, The Next Hurrah, The Carpetbagger Report, Tangled Webs, Billy Creek, Politits, Talking Points Memo, South Georgia Liberal, Pygalgia, The Newshoggers, The Sideshow, Seeing The Forest and Blue Jersey — have rallied around the effort.

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