Sunday, December 04, 2016

If Ryan Pushes Through His Plans Ro Wreck The Health Care System, The GOP Will Lose Over Two Dozen House Seats In 2018


The closest Blue America ever came to actually endorsing a Republican was in 2012 when thoughtful Libertarian was the GOP candidate against rot-gut conservative hack, Steve Pestka, an anti-Choice crackpot and vicious homophobe. Michigan's local anti-Choice organization endorsed Pestka over Amash. We didn't exactly endorse, but we told our Michigan members to consider him.

If I had to guess which of them voted for Trump last month in the secrecy of the voting booth, it wouldn't be Amash. Friday Amash told a reporter from The Hill that he doesn't think Trump has an understanding of the Constitution-- if he's even ever bothered to read it. "He seems to believe that government works like a business and he is the CEO of the business, and that is not how it works. We have separate branches, checks and balances, federalism. I don’t think it’s out of any bad intention. I think he just views the job in a sort of  'extra-constitutional' way, outside of the Constitution. I don’t think our framework in this country really comes into play when he’s thinking about how the job should operate." Smash has attacked Trump for appointing Jeff Sessions Attorney General and for strip U.S. citizenship from anyone who burns a flag, and has been one of his harshest Republicans critics about Trump's obvious and glaring conflicts of interest and about Trump's crony capitalism approach to Carrier. "It’s cronyism. We have a Constitution. The president doesn’t just get to do anything he wants. He has to work within the constitutional framework, regardless of why people elected him. And deals like that hurt the people of Indiana; they don’t help the people of Indiana. They redistribute resources and offer benefits to one company when another company down the road doesn’t get those same benefits. Sometimes competitors don’t get those same benefits. That’s just central planning. That was tried in the Soviet Union. It didn’t work very well... My job [on the House Oversight Committee] is to uphold the Constitution, follow the rule of law and represent all my constituents. I think we should treat [Trump] the same way we treat any president. That means we need to make sure there are no conflicts of interest, just like we would do if Hillary Clinton had won.If we were going to look at the issues for Hillary Clinton, then we should also look at them for Donald Trump. I just think the same standard should apply."

Amash founded the House Freedom Caucus and progressives disagree with him on almost everything. But not everything. When it comes to health care, though, Amash is plain old GOP bad news. There are a few Republicans who understand that destroying Obamacare-- let alone Medicare-- is extremely harmful to America... and to the GOP. Sarah Ferris and Scott Wong reported Friday about a handful of mainstream conservative Republicans who are getting nervous with Ryan's, Pence's and Price's stated intention of dismantling the social safety net. The ones who are nervous aren't the extremists in the South whose constituents are too stupid to understand what's about to happen to them but Republicans in swing districts primarily in the suburbs.

The repeal and not-replace plan that Ryan and his team are hellbent on passing is freaking out Charlie Dent (R-PA), Ryan Costello (R-PA) and John Katko (R-NY), who will be the first to go in a 2018 wave election in the GOP actually dismantles Medicare.
One lawmaker said the moderates were “getting skittish” about leadership’s plan to replace the sprawling healthcare law within about a year of Trump’s inauguration, which they said would run too close to the 2018 midterms.

“It’s going to be technical, all the insurance stuff. It’s hard work, putting that in play. But that’s the beginning of the next election cycle,” the lawmaker said.

GOP leaders in the House and Senate are aiming to pass legislation dismantling most parts of ObamaCare using a budget tactic called reconciliation in Trump’s first 100 days. The tactic would allow legislation to be approved in the Senate to avoid procedural vote filibusters.

Top lawmakers have acknowledged it would not go into effect immediately because Congress needs a transition period to pass a replacement. But that plan has spurred an intra-party battle among some conservative lawmakers and groups that argue it should be repealed immediately.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) spent much of Friday morning’s meeting outlining the broad logistics for the legislatively difficult move to repeal the law, which would require close coordination with the Senate.

Ryan confirmed that using reconciliation to repeal ObamaCare would be one of the chamber’s first acts in the new Congress, according to a readout of the meeting.

Another lawmaker in the room, Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA), said he believed there was an appetite for spending more time on working to replace the law.

“This whole process will be done thoughtfully. We do not want to move in haste,” said Murphy, who is vying to lead the health subpanel of the Energy and Commerce Committee next year. “Just as a surgeon does not jump to surgery without doing a proper diagnosis with x-rays, the same thing here.”

The repeal-and-delay strategy-- which has gained traction since Trump’s election-- will also require a separate strategy to replace the law. It will likely involve cooperation from Senate Democrats, which could drag out the replacement process.

“We know we can do a lot of repeal through reconciliation but you can’t do replace through reconciliation,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a member of the House Budget Committee.

He said working with Democrats on a replacement would be one of GOP’s toughest issues: “There will be a lot of drama with this over the next year.”
The NY Times explained it this way on Friday: "Republicans in Congress plan to move almost immediately next month to repeal the Affordable Care Act, as President-elect Donald J. Trump promised. But they also are likely to delay the effective date so that they have several years to phase out President Obama’s signature achievement... [There's] a growing recognition that replacing the health care law will be technically complicated and could be politically explosive."

There are 20 million people who have coverage now and many of them are Trump voters-- and Trump has said there are parts of Obamacare that he doesn't want to see fall by the wayside, expensive benefits that Republicans have no idea how to pay for. The Republicans want to make sure nothing substantive happens to cause anyone to lose any benefits before the 2018 midterms.
“We are not going to rip health care away from Americans,” said Representative Kevin Brady, Republican of Texas and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which shares jurisdiction over health care. “We will have a transition period so Congress can develop the right policies and the American people can have time to look for better health care options.”

Senator Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee and chairman of the Senate health committee, said: “I imagine this will take several years to completely make that sort of transition-- to make sure we do no harm, create a good health care system that everyone has access to, and that we repeal the parts of Obamacare that need to be repealed.”

But health policy experts suggest “repeal and delay” would be extremely damaging to a health care system already on edge.

“The idea that you can repeal the Affordable Care Act with a two- or three-year transition period and not create market chaos is a total fantasy,” said Sabrina Corlette, a professor at the Health Policy Institute of Georgetown University. “Insurers need to know the rules of the road in order to develop plans and set premiums.”

Details of the strategy are in flux, and there are disagreements among Republicans about how to proceed. In the House, the emerging plan, tightly coordinated between Mr. Ryan and Mr. Pence, is meant to give Mr. Trump’s supporters the repeal of the health law that he repeatedly promised at rallies. It would also give Republicans time to try to assure consumers and the health industry that they will not instantly upend the health insurance market, and to pressure some Democrats to support a Republican alternative.

“I don’t think you have to wait,” Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader, told reporters this week. “I would move through and repeal and then go to work on replacing. I think once it’s repealed, you will have hopefully fewer people playing politics, and everybody coming to the table to find the best policy.”

Under the plan discussed this week, Republicans said, repeal will be on a fast track. They hope to move forward in January or February with a budget blueprint using so-called reconciliation instructions, which would allow parts of the health care law to be dismembered with a simple majority vote, denying Senate Democrats the chance to filibuster. They would follow up with legislation similar to a bill vetoed in January, which would have repealed the tax penalties for people who go without insurance and the penalties for larger employers who fail to offer coverage.

That bill would also have eliminated federal insurance subsidies, ended federal spending for the expansion of Medicaid, and barred federal payments to Planned Parenthood clinics.

But in the Senate, Republicans would need support from some Democrats if they are to replace the Affordable Care Act.

The budget reconciliation rules that would allow Republicans to dismantle the Affordable Care Act have strict limits. The rules are primarily intended to protect legislation that affects spending or revenues. The health law includes insurance market standards and other policies that do not directly affect the budget, and Senate Republicans would, in many cases, need 60 votes to change such provisions.

Repealing the funding mechanisms but leaving in place the regulations risks a meltdown of the individual insurance market. Insurers could not deny coverage, but they would not get as many healthy new customers as they were expecting. Hospitals would again face many uninsured patients in their emergency rooms, without the extra Medicaid money they have been expecting.

Even a delay of two to three years could be damaging. Health policy experts said the uncertainty could destabilize markets, unnerving insurers that have already lost hundreds of millions of dollars on policies sold in insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act.

“Insurers would like clarity on the shape of the replacement plan to continue participating on exchanges if Obamacare is repealed,” Ana Gupte, an analyst at Leerink Partners who follows the insurance industry, said Friday.

Republicans are hoping that Mr. Trump will be able to use his bully pulpit to lean on vulnerable Democrats up for re-election in states Mr. Trump won, such as Senators Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana.

...“If they are looking at fixing what’s there, I’ve been wanting to work with Republicans for years now,” said Mr. Tester, whose state cast just 36 percent of its vote for Hillary Clinton. “But if they are going to take away provisions like pre-existing conditions, lifetime caps, 26-year-olds, I think they are barking up the wrong tree.”

And some moderate Republicans see peril in repealing first and replacing later, favoring instead a simultaneous replacement to ensure a smooth transition.

“We are firing live rounds this time,” Representative Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania, said. “If we repeal under reconciliation, we have to replace it under normal processes, and does anyone believe that the Senate Democrats, with their gentle tender mercies will help us?”

Republicans said they would work with the Trump administration on replacement legislation that would draw on comprehensive plans drafted by Mr. Ryan and Representative Tom Price, the Georgia Republican picked by Mr. Trump to be his secretary of health and human services.

Any legislation is likely to include elements on which Republicans generally agree: tax credits for health insurance; new incentives for health savings accounts; subsidies for state high-risk pools, to help people who could not otherwise obtain insurance; authority for sales of insurance across state lines; and some protection for people with pre-existing conditions who have maintained continuous coverage.

Republicans said they hoped that the certainty of repeal would increase pressure on Democrats to sign on to some of these ideas.

Democratic leaders, for now, feel no such pressure. Republicans “are going to have an awfully hard time” if they try to repeal the health law without proposing a replacement, said Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the next Democratic leader. “There would be consequences for so many millions of people.”
And consequences for plenty of Republican legislators. Leaving out the likelihood that the DCCC will continue recruiting unelectable conservative candidates, there are at least two dozen districts that plausible progressive Democrats could flip in 2018 if Ryan decides to push what he's threatening and the Senate goes along. If the DCCC miraculously ceased to exist, these are all seats that could fall to the Democrats immediately-- and win back the majority:

CA-49- Darrell Issa- 50.3%
NY-24- John Katko- 61.0%
CA-25- Steve Knight- 54.2%
CA-10- Jeff Denham- 52.4%
NY-19- John Faso- 54.7%
CO-06- Mike Coffman- 51.3%
IL-12- Mike Bost- 54.3%
NY-22- Claudia Tenney- 47.0%
TX-23- Will Hurd- 48.5%
ME-02- Bruce Poliquin- 54.9%
IA-01- Rod Blum- 53.9%
VA-10- Barbara Comstock- 52.9%
PA-07- Pat Meehan- 59.7%
CA-21- David Valadao- 58.0%
MN-02- Jason Lewis- 47.0%
IA-03- David Young- 53.5%
NJ-03- Tom MacArthur- 59.5%
PA-08- Brian Fitzpatrick- 54.5%
NY-01- Lee Zeldin- 52.5%
NJ-02- Frank LoBiondo- 59.4%
PA-06- Ryan Costello- 57.3%
FL-26- Carlos Curbelo- 53.0%
MI-11- Dave Trott- 52.9%
FL-27- Ileana Ros-Lehtinen- 54.9%
WA-08- Dave Reichert- 60.0%
IL-13- Rodney Davis- 59.7%
NE-02- Don Bacon- 49.4%
PA-15- Charlie Dent- 58.4%
MN-03- Erik Paulson- 56.9%
NY-02- Peter King- 62.4%
NC-02- George Holding- 56.7%
AZ-02- Martha McSally- 56.7%
WI-07- Sean Duffy- 61.8%
WI-08- Mike Gallagher- 62.7%
TX-21- Lamar Smith- 57.0%
WI-01- Paul Ryan- 65.0%
Blue America is just getting started-- recruiting candidates and working on strategies to help win back the House. We have several candidates who are planning to run and one-- Doug Applegate-- who came within just a fraction of a percent of beating the odious Darrell Issa last month-- already running. Please consider contributing to Doug's campaign here on our 2018 Blue America page.

Labels: , , , ,

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Will France Be The Next Democracy To Fall Into The Grasp Of Neo-Fascists?


About a week ago we looked at the upcoming French presidential elections from the perspective of the primary of the center-right party, Les Républicains, which have since had their run-off and selected the further right of the two party front-runners, François Fillon. The betting is now that Fillon will eventually face neo-fascist leader Marine Le Pen. But what about the Socialists, you wonder? French conventional wisdom is that they've made a hash of governing and stand no chance. In fact, this week their standard bearer, President François Hollande, announced that he won't seek reelection, a not entirely unexpected development, although he is the first French President to not seek reelection since the 1940s.
With a satisfaction rating so low it recently dropped to just 4%, the Socialist president appeared shaken and emotional as he said in a live televised address from the Élysée palace that he would not attempt to run for a second term, conscious of the “risks” to the French left if he did so.

Hollande’s decision leaves the way open for a bitter Socialist primary race in January to decide who will run in his place. Manuel Valls, the ambitious prime minister who is a tough law-and-order voice and pro-business reformist on the right of the party, could now decide to run to become the Socialist candidate.

If he does run, Valls will face opposition from several former government ministers who are part of a leftwing rebel movement, including the ambitious former economy minister Arnaud Montebourg, who is fiercely critical of Hollande’s pro-business line.

Hollande’s popularity slumped right from the start of his presidency in 2012. He beat the rightwing Nicolas Sarkozy after a classic leftwing campaign in which he targeted big business and pledged to raise taxes for high earners. He began his presidency with a leftist programme that included a wealth super-tax of 75% on top earners but he shifted course midway through his term.

Grassroots supporters were further alienated by a pro-business switch in 2014, a wavering over security reforms, and labour laws that brought thousands out onto the streets in protests early this year.

Hollande was accused of a lack of preparation, zigzagging on policy and being unable to keep a lid on his government’s internal feuding on how to address the economy. His initial attempt to style himself as a “normal president”-- paying no heed to the superficial trappings of office-- backfired and endeared him even less to the electorate.

Accused of lacking authority and coherence, dithering over policy decisions from tax increases to pro-business reform, failing to kickstart the sluggish economy and failing to protect France from a series of devastating terrorist attacks, he was eventually abandoned by his own core of Socialist party voters who felt betrayed by his muddled, stop-start pro-business reforms.

One recent poll by Odoxa put him at only 7.5% in the first round of the presidential race, behind the right’s Fillon, the far-right Marine Le Pen, his former economy minister and maverick independent candidate Emmanuel Macron, and the hard-left Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
The Socialist primary will be next month and then the first round will be April 23 and the runoff will be on May 7. Every recent poll shows Fillon and Le Pen emerging from the first round-- which would be akin to a face-off between Ted Cruz and Trumpy-the-Clown. And polling shows Fillon then trouncing her, in the most recent poll-- with a mammoth sample size-- 67-33%. Recent polls also show that with the Socialist, Valls, or the Independent (ex-Socialist), Emmanuel Macron, making it through the first round instead of Fillon (very unlikely) either would beat Le Pen handily as well.

So is France safe from the scourge of right-wing nationalism sweeping through the neoliberal democracies of the West. Well... as safe as Americans were from Trump. Russia is certainly expected to do whatever they can to make sure Le Pen wins-- from money to whatever kind of stuff that worked for them with Trump. And would left-leaning voters actually vote for a really awful right-winger like Fillon to stop Le Pen if the run-off, as looks likely, is between them? Remember, he's a dull, anti-gay bigot who opposes women's choice and is vehemently anti-union. He bills himself as a disciple of Margaret Thatcher, a widely reviled figure in much of France. Looking at his platform, I can't help but think that despite this month's popularity polls, Le Pen's fascist siren song will crush him, especially if many on the left refuse to vote. If Hillary was the candidate of the status quo, Fillon is the candidate of the stats quo ante.

Labels: , ,

Fascism Is On The March In Europe-- Elections Tomorrow In Austria And Italy


Tomorrow Italy votes on a package of complex referendums that are extremely difficult for voters without post-graduate degrees to understand. But rejection could be another devastating blow the EU. The BBC tried sorting out what it means and why it's important. The reforms Prime Minister Matteo Renzi is trying to impose on his fractious country are tied up in the referendum and he says he'll step down if they lose-- the 3rd domino after Brexit and Trump in "he onward march of the right-wing (neo-fascist) populists. Italy's been there before-- and it worked out badly for them. Unfortunately by making the referendum about himself, Renzi has put the country in unnecessary danger with plenty of voters looking at the referendum as nothing but an opportunity to punish a government they have beefs with.
Renzi has had strong support from global leaders... The concern is that if Renzi goes, Italy's politicians will squabble, the country's fragile economy will suffer, borrowing costs will spike and once again Europe will be facing a crisis in the eurozone.

Waiting in the wings are anti-establishment parties like the Five Star movement which is promising that if it eventually wins power, it will offer a referendum on retaining the euro. The very idea of another vote sends shivers down the spines of Europe's leaders.

Five Star's leader, the former comedian Beppe Grillo, has spoken of an "era going up in flames." It is a similar sentiment to that expressed by Nigel Farage, UKIP's former leader, who declared after Mr Trump's victory that the "democratic revolution" is only just beginning.

If polls retain any credibility after this year of political shocks then a No vote is expected on Sunday. The financial markets, caught out by both Brexit and Trump, have already factored in a Renzi defeat.

There is no doubt that Italy needs reforming. The tangle of bureaucracy and judicial delays snares investment projects, reforms get diluted or blocked in the two houses of parliament and the Senate, with its 315 members, needs shrinking.

But there are legitimate concerns that Renzi's plan will lead to a centralising of power. The winning party will gain a premium of seats, ensuring an absolute majority. Five Star campaigners argue that the "reforms serve to give more power to those who are already in power."

...The risk is that a No vote and a Renzi resignation would tip Italy into an early election. And that might give the Five Star movement and the anti-establishment Northern League an opportunity of success at the polls.

The prospect of two Eurosceptic parties gaining ground in the eurozone's third-biggest economy might well rattle the markets.

Government ministers will tell you that unemployment is inching down, that the deficit is falling and that labour markets have become more flexible. But the economy is 12% smaller than when the financial crisis began in 2008.

Italy's banks remain weak. The problem of non-performing loans has not been sorted out and the country's debt-to-GDP ratio, at 133%, is second only to Greece's.

The Italian vote is not about Europe or the EU but it will be interpreted as an indicator of the strength of the anti-establishment winds blowing through Europe in the aftermath of Mr Trump's unexpected victory.
Obama has been very supportive of Renzi's referendum and made a big deal about a recent trip to DC which played well in Italian media back home. Trump's not on the same side-- to put it mildly. Meanwhile European socialists met in Prague today to figure out how to deal with the rise of neo-fascism-- they call it populism-- in the western democracies. Jeremy Corbyn had his hands full, admitting "that populists have been successfully identifying many of the problems faced by people across the country, but their solution-- to attack minorities-- was not the answer... It's clear that there is a problem of the alarming rise and acceleration of the populist right all across this continent. Be it UKIP in my country, Donald Trump and the language he used in the presidential election in the United States, or what's happening in Hungary with Jobbik or Marine Le Pen in France, with her National Front. Politics has been shaken across the world. We know why the populist right is gaining ground and it's increasingly hard to get our message heard. It's up to us to give a real political alternative."

The European left-- much like the old and clueless out-of-touch Democrats in DC-- is grappling to effectively frame an alternative explanation for the problems they face and come up with solutions, that include increasing social justice and inclusion. Corbyn should sound familiar on this side of the Atlantic:
"The gap between rich and poor is widening. Living standards are stagnating or falling. People feel left behind by the forces unleashed by globalisation. They feel powerless in the face of deregulated corporate power.

"We have to deal with those issues and we have to deal with them quickly and seriously.

"The populist right do identify many of the problems but their toxic solution is actually a dead end. It's about attacking minorities rather than facing the real issues that many communities face.

"So, unless progressive parties across Europe are prepared to break from the political establishment of the past, which has sought to manage the change of globalisation, then we are going to have problems."

Mr Corbyn went on: "We have to offer a different economic message. It's about convincing the long-term unemployed that the reason there is no work for them is not because of migrants, it's because of an economic programme of deindustrialisation and insecurity.

"We have to make clear that our public services are being run down because of austerity and often very predatory privatisation.

"We cannot and must not abandon socialist principles, because many tell us that is the only way to achieve power.

"We have to put forward a very clear economic message-- one of social justice and inclusion."
Polls show that tomorrow's presidential vote in Austria could well go to the neo-fascist candidate Norbert Hofer, an anti-immigrant gun nut, said it be backed surreptitiously by Putin. Polls show him leading Alexander Van der Bellen, the Green Party-backed independent by double digits. The two mainstream parties were eliminated in the first round. His Freedom Party (FPÖ) was founded by Nazi SS officers in 1956.
[A] win for Mr Hofer would also be a blow to Europe’s political mainstream. It would mark a grim milestone: the continent’s first democratically elected far-right head of state since 1945. It would also present a headache. In the past its neighbours isolated and upbraided Austria for its flirtations with nationalist extremism: like when in 1986 it elected as president Kurt Waldheim, whose wartime Wehrmacht unit had been involved in war crimes; and when, on the formation of the 2000 coalition, other EU member states imposed sanctions. Now, with authoritarian populists on the march in much of the continent (take Viktor Orbán across the border in Hungary), it would be harder to single the country out.

Europe would also be subject to such an election result’s global significance. Mr Hofer may represent an old party, but his political style is somewhat new and part of a bigger trend. Like Donald Trump in America, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France, the FPÖ leadership has sanded off the most overtly racist edges of traditional far-right politics and blended flag-waving, anti-migrant social policies, a redistributionist economic credo and the language and style of anti-establishment insurgence. So notwithstanding the distinctive aspects of Austria’s election, it is the latest test of this formula’s ability to create electoral upsets; perhaps even another omen of a strong showing by Ms Le Pen next spring. These phenomena may have their differences but they are also intertwined: each populist success in one country emboldening, enlightening and maybe even detoxifying counterparts in others. Once Austria was ostracised. Now others are Austrianising.

Labels: , , , ,

Trumpy-The-Clown Gals, Ann Coulter And Tulsi Gabbard


Ann Coulter had an anti-Trump impurity breakdown on twitter yesterday, ostensibly over Nikki Haley, although as you can see above, she got a little more general a few minutes later. Remember, Trump took his whole xenophobic shtik directly from Coulter and she made like she was worshipping at his bigoted alter for the duration of the campaign-- primarily because he wanted to round up Hispanics and ship 'em to camps and beyond. She's a Pence-and-Ryan hater and flipped out when Pence told Scott Pelley of CBS News today that he and Ryan are going to work on an immigration bill. That's what inspired the "If Trump sells out" tweet.

But she does hate Nikki Haley. Remember a week or two ago when she wrote that if Trump wants an Indian Secretary of State, he should pick Tonto. Although Trump has no use for Native Americans at all, he is smitten by Hindu nationalists and just loves Narendra Modi-- and crackpot right-wing cultist Tulsi Gabbard, who he interviewed a week or so ago, ostensibly for some second-tier job that the crazy-ambitious Gabbard would never take anyway. Haley got an errand-boy job (UN Ambassador-- no decision-making allowed) so that Secretary of state gig... well, I bet Tulsi would eat all the requisite frogs legs to get that. I'd guess she has as much a chance as Dana Rohrabacher... but Steve Bannon sure likes her, so who knows.

Maxwell Anderson, a Hill contributor and Tulsiphile, thinks he knows: Tulsi Gabbard is the pick for Secretary of State, not Mitt Romney. After all, like Trump, Gabbard is an American nationalist and an Islamophobic maniac. "Whoever," he wrote, "the President-Elect taps to be his secretary of state will play a crucial role in shaping the President-Elect’s vision for the future of American foreign policy. One person reportedly 'under serious consideration' to fill the position is United States Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), who made headlines in February when she resigned as vice chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee in order to endorse Bernie Sanders for President."

Never mind that she played the Bernie card to help her in her plan to primary progressive Senator Mazie Hirono (an actual progressive), not because she agrees with Bernie on much of anything. His ProgressivePunch score is "A" (as is Mazie's), while Tulsi's is "F." Just keep in mind that an "F" isn't a "C" or a "D." You have to work really hard on a wide array of issues for a long time to earn an "F." He continued that "Gabbard embodies the very essence of the President-Elect’s ideological departure from the interventionist policies that have plagued this nation for the past two decades" pointing out that Gabbard, from a very prominent, very right-wing family ran for the Legislature in 2002 (age 21) and became the leader of her state's small but noisy anti-gay faction.

Tulsi with her fanatically homophobic dad, also part of Chris Butler, aka Jagad Guru Siddhaswarupananda  Paramahamsa's crackpot cult

The legislature was too hot for her and she enlisted in the Hawaii National Guard and volunteered to deploy to Iraq, very loudly singing her own patriotic praises every step of the way, like many aspiring politicians do. Anderson doesn't quite see it that way; he misses Gabbard's entire essence.
Gabbard is not one to play politics. On Monday, the President-Elect invited her to Trump Tower to discuss the United States’ Syria policies and approaches to fighting terrorism. Rep. Gabbard did not let her differences with the President-Elect dictate whether she accepted his invitation.

After their meeting, the Congresswoman put out a statement describing the substance of the meeting, and declared, “Let me be clear, I will never allow partisanship to undermine our national security when the lives of countless people lay in the balance.”

Rep. Gabbard stands on principle, not politics, and that makes her an impeccable choice for Secretary of State.

The other name that has received a lot of attention lately is failed 2012 Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Given Mr. Romney’s gaffe-filled trial run at diplomacy during the 2012 campaign, it is difficult to understand why he is even on the shortlist. Mr. Romney was proven to be nothing more than a choke artist.

But more broadly, Mr. Romney was the establishment figure that went after the President-Elect in the harshest and most vile manner. Mr. Romney even came out of the woodwork, trying to cling onto whatever relevance he thought he had, to deliver an address in which he called then-candidate Trump “a phony, a fraud” and accused him of “playing the American public for suckers.”

While Trump supporters are among the most loving and compassionate people in this country, Mr. Romney is likely to elicit more pity than forgiveness from them. That is not only because of his implication that Trump supporters are stupid (i.e., being played for suckers), but also because he carried the mantle for an old order that is utterly despised by the people of Middle America for turning its back on them.

Even if Mr. Romney altered his positions to fit the President-Elect’s agenda (e.g., not taking a hardline approach to Russia), he would still fare no better in the minds of those in Trump Country. After successfully crushing two political dynasties dismantling two political establishments, a return to Romney would symbolize a return to grazing the same unproliferous political pasture that yielded nothing but failure.

On the other hand, the President-Elect could be playing Mr. Romney for, well, a sucker. There is perhaps no act of revenge more cold than pretending to bury the hatchet with a rival only to stab them in the back with a paring knife. Yet that same vindictiveness-- in the form of slapping companies that outsource American jobs with a tariff on imported goods-- is what drew many to Trump in the first place.

If this is the case, then it puts the President-Elect in another situation where Mr. Romney, perceptually, is “begging” him for something. The first time it was for then-citizen Trump’s endorsement for President in 2012. This time it could be for secretary of state.

The only difference is that this time, Trump might actually say, “Mitt drop to your knees.”
Meanwhile, Trumpists-- like Bill Mitchell-- are sick of Coulter and pushing back.

Labels: , , ,

Ryan, Pence And Price Have A Problem: Even Republicans Want Health Care


Yesterday, Greg Sargent started the news cycle rolling at the Washington Post with a simple question: Will Donald Trump really go through with all of it?. Like many of us, Sargent is rightfully worried that Trump, Pence, Ryan and McConnell "may soon be going forward with an agenda that could inflict radical, disruptive change on millions of people," especially in regard to gutting the Affordable Care Act and destroying Medicare. "We don’t know," he wrote, "how far Trump will actually go. It’s also true that Republicans are taking steps to mitigate the short-term impact of some of the changes being mulled, and are struggling internally with the details in ways that suggest their best laid plans could conceivably go bust. But is there any particular reason not to anticipate the worst at this point?"

Los Angeles Congressman Ted Lieu is thinking along similar lines but he focused on another GOP threat to healthcare-- V.A. privatization. "As the Member of Congress representing the nation’s largest VA hospital," Lieu told the media, "I oppose any effort to privatize VA healthcare.  My opposition to privatization is guided by the voices of veterans and advocates in my district, who understand that we can improve service delivery to our veterans without tearing the VA down brick by brick.  On average, our veteran population is older and sicker than the rest of America-- they have earned and deserve a world-class healthcare system designed to meet their unique needs. Finally, as a veteran myself who served on active duty, I humbly believe that a veteran should be at the helm of the VA.  Our nation’s warriors deserve a leader with a profound understanding of their service and sacrifice.  They deserve a leader dedicated to guaranteeing timely access to the highest quality care."

A poll taken between Nov 15 and 21 by the the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation found that only 1 in 4 Americans want the Republicans to repeal Obamacare. 52% of Republicans would like that to happen, significantly less than the 69% would said they wanted that to happened before the election, but majorities across party lines support many Obamacare provisions-- though not the mandate-- which basically pays for the goodies they all want. This is what the vast majority of Democrats, Republicans and Independents all support from the Affordable Care Act:
allowing young adults to stay on a parent's insurance until age 26.
no copayments for many preventive services.
closing the Medicare prescription drug coverage gap known as the "doughnut hole."
financial help for low- and moderate-income people to pay their insurance premiums.
a state option to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income adults.
barring insurance companies from denying coverage because of a person's medical history.
increased Medicare payroll taxes for upper-income earners.

Some Republicans are getting nervous about moving from demagoguery to actually taking away people's-- voters'-- healthcare. But not all. Ryan, Pence and Tom Price are all willing to set themselves aflame on a pyre that burns up Obamacare, Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security if it comes to that. Trump... perhaps not so much-- not that anyone knows what Trump thinks about any policies. In his column yesterday, Paul Krugman asserted that Trump is about to betray the white working class voters in Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania who made him the electoral college winner.
The evidence of that coming betrayal is obvious in the choice of an array of pro-corporate, anti-labor figures for key positions. In particular, the most important story of the week-- seriously, people, stop focusing on Trump Twitter-- was the selection of Tom Price, an ardent opponent of Obamacare and advocate of Medicare privatization, as secretary of health and human services. This choice probably means that the Affordable Care Act is doomed-- and Mr. Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters will be among the biggest losers.

The first thing you need to understand here is that Republican talk of “repeal and replace” has always been a fraud. The G.O.P. has spent six years claiming that it will come up with a replacement for Obamacare any day now; the reason it hasn’t delivered is that it can’t.

Obamacare looks the way it does because it has to: You can’t cover Americans with pre-existing conditions without requiring healthy people to sign up, and you can’t do that without subsidies to make insurance affordable.

Any replacement will either look a lot like Obamacare, or take insurance away from millions who desperately need it.

What the choice of Mr. Price suggests is that the Trump administration is, in fact, ready to see millions lose insurance. And many of those losers will be Trump supporters.

You can see why by looking at Census data from 2013 to 2015, which show the impact of the full implementation of Obamacare. Over that period, the number of uninsured Americans dropped by 13 million; whites without a college degree, who voted Trump by around two to one, accounted for about eight million of that decline. So we’re probably looking at more than five million Trump supporters, many of whom have chronic health problems and recently got health insurance for the first time, who just voted to make their lives nastier, more brutish, and shorter.

Why did they do it? They may not have realized that their coverage was at stake-- over the course of the campaign, the news media barely covered policy at all. Or they may have believed Mr. Trump’s assurances that he would replace Obamacare with something great.

Either way, they’re about to receive a rude awakening, which will get even worse once Republicans push ahead with their plans to end Medicare as we know it, which seem to be on even though the president-elect had promised specifically that he would do no such thing.
As Krugman pointed out, during the campaign, Trump solemnly swore to not cut Medicare (and reassured his fans that he would replace Obamacare with something "great." So how did Pence talk him into an extremist crackpot like Tom Price as Health Secretary?

TalkingPointsMemo provided a handy reminder and roadmap to Ryan's plans to assault and destroy Medicare, his life's dream. Will Trump be able to-- or even want to-- stop him?
Ryan has been pushing his privatization plan-- or what he calls "premium support"-- for years. It's been part of his annual budget blueprints, and it has evolved over time. The basic idea is that Ryan would give the elderly a set amount of money to buy health insurance rather than Medicare's fee-for-service system where the government pays doctors and hospitals based on the services they provide.

How much money the elderly would receive to buy insurance, the quality of the plans available, how the government would regulate them and the rate at which the benefits would increase have varied over the years and sometimes have been unclear.

As Medicare is currently configured, American workers and employers contribute equally to the public insurance program via the Medicare payroll tax. When people turn 65, they become eligible for Medicare's guaranteed coverage, pay premiums and receive a robust package of benefits.

Looming as the biggest unknown is whether Medicare-- in its current form as a single-payer, guaranteed-coverage, fee-for-service system-- will remain intact.

Will Medicare be eliminated explicitly, as it has in past Ryan plans? Will it be changed so substantially that the long-term effect will be to weaken it so that phasing out it out is inevitable? Or will Ryan seek to change Medicare in fundamental ways while still preserving its most important protections?

How committed President-elect Trump and Rep. Tom Price (R-GA), his nominee as secretary of Health and Human Services, are to Medicare privatization is another wild card in the mix.

"It is quite clear at this point that Ryan and Price would say they are retaining traditional Medicare as an option, but the question is under what terms. Is it provided under terms that would allow traditional Medicare to continue and flourish? Or is it conversely under terms that would cause it to wither and perish?" said Paul Van de Water, a senior fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Over the years, Ryan's plans have evolved, in part because of pressure from his own members. Ryan told the New Yorker in 2012 that he recognized his plan needed to be accepted by more than just a few conservatives in the House. He needed to develop a plan that met the vision for the broader Republican conference.

...[T]he underlying principle for Ryan's plans comes from the conservative idea that private businesses are more efficient at managing health care than the government would be. That, some experts argue just isn't true. Medicare, by and large, is a fairly efficient program. Seniors manage to get a lot of health care they are happy with for a decent price.

"Medicare is more efficient than private insurance for two main reasons. One it is able to pay providers less and second it also because of its size, it has lower administrative costs as well," Van de Water said.

Health care experts who have spent years analyzing Ryan's plans note that there are still a lot of questions to be answered. Here's what we do know:

Ryan's 2008 Plan On Medicare: Ending Medicare

In 2008 when he was the ranking member of the House Budget Committee, Ryan proposed that traditional Medicare should be replaced with a voucher program. The idea was that individuals would get a set amount of money from the government to purchase health insurance and eventually Medicare would be phased out.

...Ryan's 2011 Budget: Ryan Works To Phase Out Medicare

In 2011-- after months of listening sessions with his Republican colleagues-- Ryan released his budget, titled Path to Prosperity, which again proposed a major overhaul to Medicare, but had greater support in the wake of Tea Party takeover of the House of Representatives by Republicans who ran on cutting the federal deficit. It left Medicare intact for existing beneficiaires but newly eligible participants would be funneled to an exchange where private insurers competed and individuals could choose private plans. This was Ryan's phaseout plan.

...Experts argued that the plan would put more cost on individuals than they would incur under traditional Medicare and that administrative costs associated with the plans actually eradicated any savings to the government.

"The Congressional Budget Office estimates that under the Ryan plan the cost-increasing effects would swamp the cost-reducing effects, so much so that by 2030 the overall cost of care for the Medicare population would be at least 41 percent higher than it would be under Medicare and the amount that enrollees would have to pay directly would more than double," Henry Aaron – a Brookings Institution fellow who co-wrote his own premium support plan in the 1990s– wrote in a paper on premium support. Ryan claimed in numerous interviews that his proposed changes to Medicare actually were based on the plan that he and Rivlin developed together. “Alice Rivlin and I designed these Medicare and Medicaid reforms,” Paul Ryan said at the time, according to the Washington Post. Rivlin, however, fully rejected Ryan's revised "premium support" plan.

...Ryan's Plan Has Evolved To Leave Some Form Of Traditional Medicare In Place

In more recent years, Ryan's plan has evolved. The idea is still the same. Senior citizens would get a set dollar amount to buy health insurance. Yet, instead of giving voucher recipients only the option to buy private insurance on a health insurance marketplace, the elderly could choose to use their subsidy to buy traditional Medicare.

...[S]ome health care policy experts argue that traditional Medicare could still be jeopardized under Ryan's later privatization plans. Here's the issue. Under Ryan's privatization plan, it's understood that the government will give a set amount of money for individuals to buy insurance, but that dollar amount would be determined by a bidding process of private insurers. Experts are not convinced that quality protections would be strong enough so they worry that the competitive bids could be far cheaper than traditional Medicare in many places, but not be near the quality of the coverage. In that case, individuals who might be interested in going with traditional Medicare to ensure they had more protections may have to pay out of pocket.

"They might have to pay more and they might have to pay a considerable amount more depending on where they are," said Stuart Guterman, a senior scholar at the Commonwealth Fund. "It’s not overtly phasing out Medicare, but it does clearly put pressure on some folks in some areas."

Guterman also worries that even if traditional Medicare were an option, it might be strained if enough younger, healthier beneficiaries opted for private plans, older, sicker individuals stayed with Medicare. It could result in Medicare slowly losing it's power to set competitive prices for services.

“I think it’s a legitimate concern if the mix shifts so that fewer and fewer Medicare beneficiaries are enrolled in traditional Medicare. Then it would be harder for them to set prices effectively," said Guterman.

2016: Ryan Blames Medicare Overhaul On Obamacare

On the campaign trail, Trump boldly declared that Medicare would remain the same for seniors. He argued that the program was not going to be touched. But as soon as Trump won, Ryan appeared on Fox News and argued that something had to be done about Medicare and hinted that it might come as part of the repeal to the Affordable Care Act.

"Because of Obamacare, Medicare is going broke," Ryan said in an interview. "So you have to deal with those issues if you're going to repeal and replace Obamacare."

The reality is that changes to Medicare made by Obamacare actually made the program more solvent, not less. The Medicare trustees wrote in 2010 that "the financial status of the Hospital Insurance trust fund is substantially improved by the lower expenditures and additional tax revenues instituted by the Affordable Care Act. These changes are estimated to postpone the exhaustion of HI trust fund assets from 2017 under the prior law to 2029."

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Trumpy-the Clown And Paul Ryan Aren't The Only Problem Progressives Have To Confront-- First There's The DCCC


Right on the heels of the election, Pollfish did a survey of Trump voters, some of whom were already suffering buyer's remorse. Almost a third of his voters said they didn't think he had a real chance to win and fully 11%-- that's about 6.8 million people-- said if they had it to do all over again, they wouldn't vote for him. They don't have it to do all over again-- although they can check him by helping elect a progressive House in 2018. Many voters, enough to take a chance on a deranged narcissistic clown, wanted change-- and Hillary was the candidate of the status quo-- aggressively so.

Yesterday in this time-slot we looked at the "changes" House Democrats are instituting at the DCCC. Unlike the change-for-the-worse agenda Trump, Pence and Paul Ryan are ushering in at breakneck speed, is there even a glimmer of hope that DCCC change will be for the better? DWT has advocated replacing the Pelosi/Hoyer regime among House Democrats for years. Yet this week, the only alternative offered was Tim Ryan who, on no conceivable level, was a better option than Pelosi. Even members disenchanted with her leadership voted, some with trepidation, for her again over the woefully unaccomplished Ryan.

One of the reforms we discussed is that finally Democratic members will get to vote for a DCCC chair, just the way the Republicans vote for their NRCC chair. Pelosi was reluctant but caved in the end. She nominated the hapless and totally inadequate Ben Ray Luján for another term. As Simone Pathé put it succinctly for Roll Call readers Thursday, "the House Democrats’ campaign arm is under scrutiny from members who are demanding change after the party netted just six seats this year-- below even the most pessimistic projections of how many seats the party could gain in a presidential year." A vaguely competent DCCC could have netted double that and a really together and functional DCCC would have won back the majority. Luján and his dysfunctional and self-serving careerist staff are programmed to lose. It's in their DNA. They can't win; they can only lose. They can't be reformed-- only fired and banished from ever setting foot in the building again. All DCCC phone numbers should be changed and it should be a firing offense for anyone to ever give out a new number to Kelli Ward or anyone she ever employed.

Luján is running again and an awful lot of vision-free Democratic members are happy to reelect him. Progressives, as usual, are an incoherent mess and a thoroughly ineffective voice of opposition. The only opposition to Luján appears to be coming from the Wall Street-owned and operated New Dems, who are getting behind one of Congress' slimiest Democrats, Sean Patrick Maloney. Luján is offering some "reforms" to boost enthusiasm for his reelection bid.
If re-elected, Luján said he plans to increase member involvement in the committee’s operations, including upping lawmaker-driven recruitment of Democratic candidates. The New Mexico Democrat said he’d also make the DCCC more transparent-- a long running complaint of members who say the committee staff is only beholden to leadership-- and look at overhauling polling operations.
Probably not going to win any extra seats but it will flatter some members. Luján wrote in a letter to all members that "We have honed in on critical improvements that can be made to form a more inclusive messaging strategy, the need for more member-driven recruitment, and an interest in setting up a regional structure to better tap the expertise of our members." Yeah, yeah, yeah... They'll never win back the House with this kind of bullshit.

We've been covering corrupt conservative Sean Patrick Maloney since he was first elected in 2012. Aside from doing his call-time from the offices of a hedge fund, the bankster-oriented Maloney-- who's taken an astronomical $2,092,300 from the Finance Sector in the past 4 years-- has consistently voted against the best interests of his own constituents to back Wall Street and corporate special interests. He's gay and votes well on LGBT issues, but that's about it. ProgressivePunch grades him an "F" and his crucial vote score is a realy dismal 45.19, indicating that he votes most of the time with the Republicans against progressive solutions. In January-- until right-wing Democrats like Lou Correa start voting-- Maloney will rank as the 5th worst Democrat in the House. The only Democrats with worse scores are 4 really execrable Blue Dogs who should be unceremoniously kicked out of the party: Jim Costa (CA), Collin Peterson (MN), Henry Cuellar (TX) and Kyrsten Sinema (AZ). Maloney should be too but instead the New Dems are organizing an effort to use him to capture the DCCC... back to my earlier thought about how when you want change, you better hope it's change for the better, not change for the worse.

"[R]umors of his bid, reported Heather Caygle for Politico, "have been swirling since he spoke about the importance of the campaign committee during a morning caucus meeting on Thursday... He was seen working the floor during a series of House votes Thursday evening and huddled with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi for a long time after. Pelosi and Maloney were the last Democrats seen leaving the chamber."
[O]ne Democratic aide said Maloney might have a hard time convincing members to vote for him considering how competitive his district is to win and what that would mean for the time commitments required to lead the DCCC.

“He has spent his entire career in Congress telling his colleagues how difficult his district is to win,” the aide said. “He’s undermined himself over the years because I think people will be hesitant to put someone at the helm of the DCCC who has a hard time holding their own seat.”
Arizona liberal Ruben Gallego, who voted against reelecting Pelosi this week, has been backing Luján, who he insists "is a strong candidate and despite the outcome, a lot of things were out of his control... I like the idea of having somebody who’s from a rural area, who understands what it means to live in rural America, where we need to pick up more votes. I like the fact that he understands also the Latino voter, which is a growing electorate. I think those two combinations make him a very strong DCCC chair candidate and I think he should do it again."

Sad. And Gallego isn't the only one. The first corrupt slimy New Dem to back Ryan against Pelosi was Long Island conservative Kathleen Rice and she's fine with Luján but isn't happy about what she calls the DCCC's lack of accountability. "We’re here now, three weeks post-Election Day, and we have not done a post-mortem on what went wrong." She should read DownWithTyranny's recent DCCC posts if she wants to know what went wrong. Pathé reported that Rice and other Democrats coming out of Wednesday’s leadership election said they know of members who already don’t pay their dues out of frustration with the way the DCCC is run. 
“I paid my dues, but I didn’t give a penny more,” Rice said.

“I’ll tell you, it bothered me to have to write a six-figure check to an organization that I didn’t know where they were going to spend that money,” Rice said. She preferred to give directly to vulnerable members and Red to Blue recruits.

Sitting in what was rated a safe Democratic seat before the election, Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz had one of the closest elections of any incumbent Democrat this year. He won by less than a point. What’s striking to him is that no one at the DCCC or in leadership has asked him how he won a district that Hillary Clinton lost.

“I think they’re doing as a good a job as you can do,” Walz said of the DCCC. “But the point is, we just kind of hope they do a good job. There’s no feedback.”

He opposed Pelosi for leader and supports electing the DCCC chairman to increase transparency and member engagement.

“I don’t think there’s the buy-in,” Walz said of members who don’t pay dues because they feel they don’t have a say.

Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader, co-chairman of the Blue Dog Coalition, echoed that members won’t want to pay their dues if they don’t feel they’re being represented at the DCCC.

“The people that are chosen to run the DCCC don’t represent the Blue Dog districts we need to win,” he said.

Much of the angst toward the DCCC that has emerged from frustrated members seems to be with a staff they think is handpicked by Pelosi, too. Gallego said that’s been one of his main complaints to Luján.

Asked what specifically needs to change at the DCCC, whether with the structure or the staff, Rice said she’d like the decision-making to be more transparent.

“Look, if a private company were run this way, the head of that company would have been out six years ago,” she said.
The interview HuffPo published this morning by Jennifer Bendry with Pelosi was a little disingenuous-- or delusional. Dusting off a decade old "playbook" isn't going to win back the House-- unless they have the dirt of some Republican congressman fiddling with underage congressional pages the way they did in 2006. I have no doubt, though, that the DCCC will once again do in 2016 what they did in 2006-- and every year since-- namely recruit a bunch of Republican fence-jumpers and Republican-lite candidates to masquerade as Democrats, win some seats, vote with the GOP and lose the seats two years hence. It's the only trick Pelosi DCCCs know how to do. And they can't seem to learn it's a fucking disaster every time they do it.

The one aspect I think Pelosi has about right is that they can expect Trump to cock things up for the GOP-- bigly-- as badly as Bush did between 2004 and 2006. But that isn't a strategy for winning back House seats. The Democrats have to have something to offer voters that will improve their lives or voters will continue hating their guts. Luckily for the Democrats, Ryan is likely to go into major overreach mode and if he does it in terms of Social Security and Medicare, not even Pelosi, Luján and their incompetent DCCC staff will be able to prevent the Democrats from winning some seats-- or, more precisely, their incompetence will fail to keep the Republicans from losing seats.

By the way, right-wing nut and Blue Dog chairman Kurt Schrader, speaking to reporters after Pelosi was reelected, said "I’m very concerned we just signed the Democratic Party’s death certificate." Bernie won his district in the Oregon primary-- by a lot-- but the Bernie voters didn't bother voting for Dave McTeague, the Berniecrat primarying Schrader, who lost 72.6% to 27.4%. You go, you awesome Berniecrat geniuses! Tulsi Gabbard is your gal!

Notice that almost all of the public complaints about the DCCC are coming from the Republican wing of the Democratic Party-- the Blue Dogs and New Dems who have muddied up the party's brand with their support for the NRA, their opposition to women's Choice, their zombie-embrace of the Wall Street agenda and their political cowardice in standing up to Republicans. Where's the Progressive Caucus? Oh, yeah... I forgot: installing Wall Street puppet Ro Khanna as one of their vice chairmen. (Khan, who isn't remotely a progressive but now represents a progressive district, was heavily financed by the banksters who hated Mike Honda. Khanna and Blue Dog Josh Gottheimer (NJ) got more money from the Finance Sector than any other non-incumbents running for House seats, $865,512 for Gottheimer and $860,451 for Khanna-- way more than most incumbents, let alone challengers. I don't think the Progressive Caucus members who allowed Khanna to join their caucus asked themselves why he got more money than any of them. After Gottheimer and Khanna, Wall Street's next big investment in a non-incumbent was Republican John Faso's race against Zephyr Teachout ($626,540). No other challengers from either party got half a million from the banksters. They know what they're doing and what kind of scumbags and garbage they're buying. And now Ro Khanna is a vice chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Go figure! This mailer was sent out by the new Progressive Caucus vice chair to denigrate Mike Honda:

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, December 02, 2016

There Are Going To Be Special Elections Coming Up-- Here's One In L.A. For Xavier Becerra's Seat


CA-34-- Perez and Gomez

Xavier Becerra was first elected to Congress in 1992 and, until yesterday he was the 4th-ranking Democrat in the House leadership. He's a generally liberalish guy, charismatic, polished, more often on the side of the angels than the rest of the House leadership. Coincidental with his last day as Democratic Party Caucus Chair, Jerry Brown appointed him to fill the Attorney General vacancy created by Kamala Harris' election to the U.S. Senate. Attorney General is probably the second most important state job in California, after governor. From what I'm hearing, Gov. Brown wanted a place-holder and Becerra wants to run for Senate in 2018 (Feinstein's seat, whether she's in it-- unlikely-- or not. She'll be just about to turn 86 when when the next Senate is seated.) Having a statewide, high-profile job gives Becerra the leg-up he needs to run and win. Fine; I don't see anyone better thinking about running anyway.

Now, what about his seat? The special election primary is scheduled for March 7th and the special election runoff will be May 9th. CA-34-- just a few blocks from my house-- is a densely populated, compact, urban district that includes-- for those familiar with Los Angeles-- Boyle Heights in the southeast, the downtown core from the Fashion District through the Financial District, right through Chinatown. The southwest of the district is Koreatown and a bit of the less gentrified part of Echo Park/Angelino Heights, all of Mount Washington, Eagle Rock, Highland Park, El Sereno, Lincoln Heights. On the east it borders on South Pasadena, Alhambra and Monterey Park. The district is about 67% Latino, 19% Asian. Whites make up less than 10% and, with a medium income of $34,752, it's one of the poorest congressional districts in the country-- 422nd out of 435. Parts of the district are rapidly gentrifying and I'd predict that after the next census the medium income will have increased very substantially.

All that said, Romney got a mere 14% in 2012. Locally, Republicans don't even bother to run candidates. Becerra was just reelected with 78.2% of the vote and his opponent was another Democrat. Within minutes of it becoming public that Brown had tapped Becerra for the A.G. gig, former Assembly Speaker John Pérez sent out a press release saying he had already filed. (Becerra had tipped off Villaraigosa who is behind Pérez's run in a big way, prep for his own gubernatorial campaign.) There is no question that Pérez is the establishment pick. The endorsements were ready immediately: congressmembers Karen Bass and Ted Lieu, Controller Betty Yee, ex-Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, of course... He's generally progressive in a California establishment kind of way. He's openly gay to boot.

His likeliest opponents will be Gloria Molina, City Councilman José Huizar or Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez (who will probably announce Monday). Jimmy's a guy with a load of street cred, a grassroots organizer who was just reelected to his Assembly seat with 86.4% of the vote, a district that includes most of the congressional district, from Boyle Heights through Chinatown to Eagle Rock.

Before the above PPP survey leaked out a few hours ago all the smart money was on Pérez. But if Gomez or Huizar decides to run, it looks like either could have a reasonable shot at beating Pérez. Also, keep in mind that lately Los Angeles voters have been uncharacteristically thumbling their noses at the candidates the establishment tries to shove down their throats, so... this could be exciting. It will, in the words of one top union operative, be a "bloody street fight." Now... here's another point of view, different from mine and worth taking into account:

Labels: , , , ,