Joe Lieberman

Blue Dog Slams Progressives in NH -- Fight Back!

by: AdamGreen

Fri Sep 10, 2010 at 12:00

Meet Katrina Swett. That’s her on the right. Why are we talking about her?

Well, the Democratic primary for New Hampshire’s open congressional seat is just 4 days away, and it’s neck-and-neck.

The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has endorsed bold progressive candidate Ann McLane Kuster, who is running against Joe Lieberman’s presidential co-chair Katrina Swett. Kuster and Swett met in a big debate Wednesday night, and Swett attacked Kuster for being the "very progressive candidate," saying, "The country is moving away from the more left, progressive point of view."

Seriously? Attacking a Democrat for being progressive in a Democratic primary? Swett’s attack is all you need to know about the type of Blue Dog she’ll be in Congress.

The primary's in 4 days. Can you donate $3 to Ann Kuster’s campaign so she can get her message to voters and defeat Swett in 4 days? Click here to donate.

Ann Kuster is the real deal...

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Lieberman to lead climate change negotiations

by: Chris Bowers

Fri Jun 11, 2010 at 16:15

Today I have been wondering why climate legislation has stalled compared to health reform and Wall Street reform legislation.  For one thing, climate legislation actually passed the House (in late June, 2009) before either of those other bills. For another, the organizational infrastructure built up to support climate change legislation is probably greater than that for health reform, and vastly larger than that for Wall Street reform.  Finally, climate legislation is more popular than health reform legislation, and has less powerful enemies than Wall Street reform legislation.

So, why has it stalled?  Ryan Grim breaks some news that might explain things:

Lieberman Tasked With Leading Climate Change Negotiations

Leading Democratic senators tasked Joe Lieberman on Thursday with finding a compromise measure that would satisfy a diverse caucus split between doing energy-only legislation or a more comprehensive approach to climate change, Democratic aides said.

While this is probably not a full explination, Lieberman has been at the center of this process in the Senate from the start. Hard for me to imagine he is really interested in delievering a big victory to all the DFH's out there.

Any other theories?  This is an open thread to speculate on the struggles of climate change legislation.

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If you are going to leave a political party, you are better off not joining a different one

by: Chris Bowers

Wed Jun 02, 2010 at 11:56

With Parker Griffith handily losing the Republican primary in Alabama's fifth congressional district last night, both members of Congress who switched parties in 2009 have now been defeated in primaries in 2010 (two weeks ago, Arlen Specter was handily defeated by Joe Sestak).  Politico is likely correct to argue that this will likely have a chilling effect on party switching in general:

The upshot of the resounding losses by Specter and Griffith is that, at least in the near-term, it may be more difficult than ever to woo party-switchers. That's because implicitly or, more often, explicitly, a flip is made contingent on the basis that the new party will support the switcher.

That can mean securing a plum committee assignment, clearing the primary field, guaranteeing financial help and extending endorsements.

But if none of that adds up to persuade voters to renominate their convert, what's the point of jumping?


No one should be surprised at voters rejecting politicians who backstab their old friends in an attempt order to keep their job. There is little reason to trust politicians like that.

Still, two other examples in recent years--Joe Lieberman in connecticut and Charlie Crist in Florida-- suggest that it may be possible to still thrive if they leave their current political party, just as long as they do not  join the opposing political party.  First, in becoming Independents, they can skip primaries altogether, thus avoiding the wrath of base voters who are less likely to embrace a formner political opponent.  Second, polling in these two examples suggests that the key to Crist and Lieberman was maintaining a decent base of support in their old party, something which cannot be done if they had overtly joined the other team.

Former partisans who become Independents require coalitions of Democratic, Independent and Republican voters in order to survive.  These coalitions are tenuous, however, because different groups in the coalition like the politician for different, often conflicting, reasons.  In order to maintian these coalitions, it is necessary that voters read what they want to read into the politician, something which becomes far more difficult when the politician explicitly joins a new team.

For example, in 2006, Joe Lieberman won re-election by 10%.  In order to do this, he successfully built a short-term coalition that gave him received 70% of the Republican vote, 54% of the Independent vote, and 33% of the Democratic vote.  This same coalition also allowed him to maintain positive approval ratings during 2007.  However, the coalition began to collapse in mid-2008, when Lieberman endorsed John McCain for President.  At the time, Quinnipiac found that Lieberman lost much of the center-left support of his coalition:

"Sen. Lieberman's approval rating has dropped below 50 percent for the first time in 14 years of polling, with nearly two-thirds of Democrats giving him low marks, probably because he is campaigning for Sen. John McCain," Dr. Schwartz said.

By the end of 2008, Lieberman's approval rating collapsed to a record low:

Connecticut's U.S. Senators get their lowest approval ratings ever, a negative 38 - 54 percent for Sen. Joseph Lieberman...

"Sen. Joseph Lieberman appears to be paying a high price for his embrace of Sen. John McCain in the presidential race. This is the highest disapproval rating in any Quinnipiac University poll in any state for a sitting U.S. Senator - except for New Jersey's Robert Torricelli, just before he resigned in 2002. Among those who say they voted for Sen. Lieberman in 2006, 30 percent now say they would vote for someone else if they could.

By embracing McCain, Lieberman lost most of the remaining Democratic and Democratic-leaning Independent portions of coalition.  He explicitly picked a side, and his Democratic support disappeared.

Similarly, in Florida Charlie Crist is receiving most of his new support from Democrats.  The Pollster.com trend chart in Florida shows that presumptive Democratic nominee Kendrick Meek has experienced a collapse in support since Crist switched parties five weeks ago:


However strong he looks now, Crist's position is tenuous, for the same reason as Lieberman's.  If Crist were to announce that we would caucus with Republicans if elected to the Senate, then his support among Democrats would collapse and his campaign would effectively be over.  At the same time, if he were to announce that he would caucus with Democrats, then he would lose a decent amount of his commanding lead among Independents, as the Republican-leaning Independents in that group would switch to Rubio. That would also likely put Rubio in the lead, likely for good, as long as there was a Democratic nominee to oppose Crist.

In short, like Specter, Griffith and Lieberman, the worst move Crist can make right now would be to explicitly state which team he would join the the United States Senate.  As such, it isn't a surprise that Crist is refusing to provide any clarity on that matter.  Once he does, his campaign is probably over, because it longer seems possible for a true party switcher to survive the wrath of the voters.

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Tomorrow's Primaries Could Chart Destiny for 2010

by: paulhogarth

Mon May 17, 2010 at 10:45

In 2006, Democrats took back control of Congress because of public outrage at George Bush and the War in Iraq.  But we should remember it almost didn't happen - until August, when Ned Lamont proved that Democrats can galvanize that energy to beat an incumbent Senator in a primary.  Tomorrow, Pennsylvania Democrats will be asked to dump ex-Republican Arlen Specter - and in Arkansas, conservative Senator Blanche Lincoln also faces a primary challenge.  And just like Joe Lieberman, the Party establishment is circling the wagons in both states - with President Obama shooting a radio ad that claims Lincoln "took on big insurance companies" to pass health care.  A new poll shows that voters prefer Democrats over Republicans, which suggests that 2010 may not be the nightmare everyone fears.  But it also showed that voters hate incumbents.  If Democrats want to avoid a bloodbath in November, Specter and Lincoln must be defeated.
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Weekly Mulch: Why the Senate Climate Bill is Doomed

by: The Media Consortium

Fri May 14, 2010 at 11:29

Weekly Mulch: Why the Senate Climate Bill is Doomed

by Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), though down one man, finally released their stab at climate legislation this week. One of the most crucial sections in the bill covers off-shore oil drilling, an issue that was supposed to help solve the tricky math of reaching 60 votes. But since the Deepwater Horizon rig sank in the Gulf of Mexico, drilling has become a wedge issue.

Just a few weeks ago, off-shore drilling could have been a point of compromise around which Senators could rally votes  to pass the climate bill; now the bill had to strike a new balance to mollify both potential  allies who oppose drilling, like Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and those who  support drilling, like Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA). The draft that Sen. Kerry and Sen. Lieberman  released this week allows for expanded drilling but gives states veto  power over new projects.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who worked on the bill, said that he had not seen the changes his two colleagues had made since he dropped out of the drafting process-but he looked forward to reviewing their work. Although Sen. Kerry says he thinks the bill can pass,  without support  from Sen. Graham or another Republican, chances are  slim.

Next steps

Now that the two Senators have released the bill, the only work that remains is to pass it.

"I think climate change legislation is dead," writes Kevin Drum at Mother Jones. His explanation:

"There's not enough time for a bill to go through the committee process, get passed by the Senate, sent to conference, amended, and then passed by the full Congress before the midterms, and after the midterms Democrats will probably be reduced to 53 or 54 members in the Senate."

Not everyone agrees that the bill's chance are so dire, though.

"I think the chances are roughly as good as they've ever been in the Senate: low but non-trivial," says Grist's David Roberts.

Kerry's argument

But should green-minded politicos root for the bill's passage at all? Sen. Kerry and Sen. Lieberman worked closely with energy companies while drafting the bill, and the resulting legislation balances the need to reduce carbon emissions with the interests of prime polluters.                 The bill includes incentives for old energy industries like coal and natural gas, for instance, and exempts farmers from carbon caps.

On Wednesday, Sen. Kerry made his case to left-leaning environmentalists. "A comprehensive climate bill written purely for you and me - true believers - can't pass the Senate no matter how hard or passionate I fight on it," he wrote for Grist. The bill they have, he wrote, can pass, and that victory outweighs the compromises in the legislation.

Responses from the left

On Democracy Now!, Phil Radford, the executive director of GreenPeace USA, said that most environmental groups have given the bill little more than a "tepid endorsement." Radford squared off on the show with Joseph Romm of the Center for American Progress, who supports the bill.

"This will be the first bill ever passed by the Senate, if it were to pass, that would put us on a path to get off of fossil fuels," Romm said.

The two men were also divided over issues like the impact the climate bill could have on international negotiations.

They agreed, though, there is room for improvement; the only question is whether the politics of climate change will allow for the passage of a stronger bill any times soon. As Kevin Drum wrote, "If you think this year's bills are watered down, just wait until you see what a Congress with a hair-thin Democratic majority produces."

Coal and natural gas

Tripping up environmentalists now, though, are the hand-outs to dirty energy industries. The coal and natural gas industry could both benefit from the provisions of the Senate bill, for instance.

On GritTV, Jeff Biggers, a writer and educator who covers the coal industry, explained his frustration:

"The climate bill is a nice first step and a very well meaning effort for someone like Sen. Kerry who's been working on this issue for 20 years. But at the same time, because of the massive big coal lobby that has poured millions of dollars into lobbying congress on this climate legislation...there are all sorts of little panders and loopholes and exemptions."

"What we see in this bill is that Sen. Kerry and Lieberman want to ensure coal's future," he said.

The booming natural gas industry also had a hand in shaping the bill and benefited from it. Environmental groups like the Sierra Club favor natural gas as an energy source over coal, and as Kari Lydersen reports in Working In These Times, the industry is driving job growth at a time when the economy needs a boost.

But as Alex Halperin reported last month for The American Prospect, in the places where drilling is occurring, like Ithaca, NY, activists are arguing that the environmental risks could outweigh those economic benefits.

Drill or be drilled

That devil's bargain-risking natural resources for jobs in the energy industry-went the wrong way for the Gulf Coast, and states like Louisiana, Alabama, and Florida are paying the price even before the oil hits shore.

As I report in AlterNet, the Gulf's economy could lose billions of dollars and is suffering already from the misconception that its beaches are tarred with oil. With this catastrophe still fresh in voters' minds, the Senate climate bill proposes pushing new drilling initiatives 75 miles offshore and giving affected states veto power over these projects.

Depending on how long the memory of the Deepwater Horizon spill lasts, politicians could have a good reason to veto drilling. Public News Service reports that 55% of Floridians now oppose off-shore drilling, "almost a complete reversal from one year ago."

Blame game

Certainly no one is stepping up to take responsibility for the explosion off the coast of Louisiana, as the Washington Independent reports. At a hearing this week, officials from British Petroleum, which was operating the well, Transocean, which owns it, and Halliburton, which was doing contract work that may have caused the problem, all denied wrongdoing and pressed the blame on each other.

It's starting to look Halliburton played a key part. "The focus is increasingly shifting to the role of Halliburton, which poured the cement for the rig, as well as for another operation that spilled oil off the coast of Australia last August," writes Kate Sheppard at Mother Jones. The company apparently did not place a cement plug that would have kept gas in the well before emptying it of the mud that was holding in the flammable gas.

Anyone living in a state that could have new drilling off their coast should keep this catastrophe in mind if their politicians are given the option of vetoing new projects.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media  Consortium. It is  free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of  articles on environmental issues, or follow us on  Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The     Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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Joe Lieberman is a terrorist: strip him of his citizenship

by: Paul Rosenberg

Fri May 07, 2010 at 11:00

Terrorists use terrorism as a tactic to terrorize.  They use it as a strategy to get regimes to delegitimize themselves, by acting lawlessly in response.  Terrorists make a bet with history.  They bet that those running the regimes they hate are basically no better than themselves. They bet that those running the regimes they hate are actually the same as they are.  They bet that those running the regimes they hate are terrorists, just like them, once you strip away all the pretense.

Ultimately, terrorists can only succeed with the aid and comfort of those in power, who act just as the terrorists want them to--who act just as the terrorists would in their place.  Who actually are terrorists, just like them. They need the aid and comfort of fuckwads like Joe Lieberman, who acts just like a terrorist would if he were in the US Senate--because he is a terrorist in the US Senate.

Joe Lieberman wants to strip Americans of their citizenship if they're supporting terrorism?  Fine.  I think that's an utterly un-American thing to do.  It's JUST what a terrorist in the Senate would do--exactly what the terrorist in the Middle East would love: Look how America is destroying itself, just like we wanted!

But if Joe Lieberman wants it, and Joe Lieberman thinks he's so much more of an American than you or I, then fine.  Let's defer to him.  Let's start stripping Americans of their citizenship if they're supporting terrorism.  And why mess around?  Let's start with him!  Let's strip Joe Lieberman of his citizenship, and see if that wins us the war on terror.

It could happen, right?

At the very least, it would give back the citizens of Connecticut a senate seat that belongs to them.

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Congressional Sparring Ignores Practical Reasons For Miranda

by: Daphne Eviatar Human Rights 1st

Wed May 05, 2010 at 13:31

As lawmakers in Congress duke it out over whether the Times Square bombing suspect ought to have been read his Miranda rights, it's worth considering the real-life impact of reading a suspect his rights - and of withholding them. The consequences of not reading rights to terrorist suspects that we later want to prosecute are now on display at the military commissions in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. And it's not looking good for the government.
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Lieberman: 'Thank God' political momentum now with GOP

by: Chris Bowers

Tue Apr 13, 2010 at 11:55

Joe Lieberman is a good faith member of the Democratic Senate caucus:

"There were a lot of people, particularly Democrats, who were declaring after the 2008 election that we were beginning a period of Democratic dominance that would go on for decades," Lieberman said during an interview with the conservative Newsmax magazine. "Now, all of a sudden, the momentum is with the Republicans. And that's -- thank God -- that's the way people have spoken, you know? That's our democracy."

When the people spoke in favor of electing large Democratic majorities, apparently that wasn't democracy.

On the plus side, Lieberman's approval rating remains at only 39%.  This is down 10% from November, and puts him squarely in the bottom ten for the entire Senate.

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Sanders blasts emerging climate change bill

by: Chris Bowers

Mon Mar 29, 2010 at 16:24

Kate Sheppard reports on Senator Bernie Sanders blasting the emerging climate change bill:

Sanders is particularly worried about a proposed provision that would nullify existing state programs to limit emissions. Vermont is among those states that have paved the way for national carbon regulations, and the bill would remove the ability of states to set tougher restrictions on carbon dioxide than those passed by the federal government. Sanders describes this as "a huge mistake," writing that "we should definitely set a floor, but not a ceiling." He also expresses reservations about new loan guarantees for nuclear power, expanded offshore drilling, and the bill's likely giveaways to coal. "I do not want to see a global warming bill become an bonanza for the coal industry," he writes.

Sanders is also worried about what's not in the outline of the bill that the senators are circulating. In particular, he thinks that their plan doesn't do enough to promote energy efficiency, develop a renewable energy industry, and provide incentives for green jobs.

At the end of the article, Joe Lieberman brushes off the threat of any left-wing revolt on the bill, stating that Senators will fall in line as long as the bill is viewed as an improvement on the status quo, however minor.

A Lieberman versus Sanders conflict is particularly notable, as history tells us there are reasons to respect threats from both Senators:

  1. When Lieberman demanded that the Medicare buy-in get stripped from the Senate bill back in December, Rahm Emanuel showed up in Harry Reid's office the same day and demanded that Democratic Senators cave to Lieberman.  A whole lot of green groups, who want a bill at almost any cost, will be playing the role of Emanuel this time around.

  2. Then again, despite Lieberman having the backing of the administration, Sanders did still hold out on supporting the health reform bill until he got a big concession: almost doubling the annual funding for the federal Community Health Center system, which will allow it to handle another 17-18 million patients annually.  He also has proven willing to stand in the way of the Obama administration before, putting a hold on Ben Bernanke and voting against the Wall Street bailout.
Given recent history, there is good reason to suspect that left-wing Democratic members of Congress will simply fold  and support a bill that is a marginal improvement on the status quo.  Then again, there are some members of the Senate, most notably Bernie Sanders and Russ Feingold, who have frequently proven themselves unwilling to fold without at least receiving some sort of important concession.

To put it a different way, there would be every reason to not take left-wing criticisms of the climate bill seriously if they were coming from almost anyone in the Senate except Bernie Sanders.

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Next Up: A Climate Bill

by: Heather TaylorMiesle NRDC Action Fund

Fri Mar 26, 2010 at 14:57

Woo-hoo. The healthcare bill is done.  People will see many of the provisions go into place immediately and then they can decide how they feel about these reforms based on reality instead of frenzied, uninformed rhetoric.  Let's just take a moment to recognize this historic occasion.  
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Weekly Mulch: Bad News Bill

by: The Media Consortium

Fri Mar 19, 2010 at 11:38

By Alison Hamm, Media Consortium blogger

Sens. John Kerry (D-MA),  Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) met with industry  groups Wednesday evening to discuss their much anticipated tripartisan  climate legislation. Based on leaks from the meeting, it sounds like the  climate bill will be incredibly industry friendly, which may mean that the bill does little to help the environment.

A  syncing feeling

According to reports  from sources in the meeting room, the  bill calls for greenhouse gas curbs across multiple economic  sectors, with a 2020 target of reducing emissions by 17 percent below  2005 levels and an 80 percent reduction by 2050. Power plant emissions  would be regulated in 2012, other major industrial sources will be  phased in during 2016.

But the bill contains major concessions to  the industry, according to Aaron Wiener  at The Washington Independent.  The senators' proposal would halt dozens of state climate laws and  regulations and preempt U.S. EPA climate regulations under the Clean  Air Act.

As  Kate Sheppard reports for Mother Jones:

The head  lobbyist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Bruce Josten, told reporters  after the meeting that he believes the bill will be 'largely in sync'  with what most industry types would like to see. The Chamber, of course,  has been one of the most formidable foes of climate legislation to  date. In addition to the Chamber, the senators also met with the Edison  Electric Institute, American Petroleum Institute, and Portland Cement  Association.

A climate bill that syncs up with organizations  opposed to climate legislation. Really? But, like Sheppard writes,  although these leaks from the meeting don't sound too great in terms of  climate, "Kerry had already scaled back expectations on that front."

The  fears

Kerry, Graham and Lieberman have argued that an "energy-only" bill,  which would focus on wider financial support for low-carbon energy  projects, a national renewable electricity mandate, and allows wider  oil-and-gas drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, among other  measures, would be easier to pass than a comprehensive bill.

As David  Roberts writes for Grist, this refers to the American Clean Energy  Leadership Act (ACELA), which passed last year. But unlike the American  Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES) that passed the House, with  substantial parts devoted to directly supporting clean energy and  boosting energy efficiency, ACELA "sucks," according to Roberts. He  writes:

As a standalone bill, it does virtually nothing for  renewables, boosts efficiency a middling amount, and dumps a bonanza of  subsidies on offshore drilling, nuclear power, tar sands, oil shale, and  natural gas. It also weakens the Renewable Fuel Standard. It's a minor  deviation from the awful energy status quo and would be a depressing end  indeed to the year-long Obama-era effort to finally address America's  energy problems.

 

The  real bill

Many details of the forthcoming  legislation are still unclear, and the real bill isn't expected to be  released for another few weeks. Environmental groups who attended a meeting with Kerry yesterday to discuss details of the bill were close-mouthed about their reactions, and stressed that the bill is still in draft stages and may change significantly, as Sheppard writes at Mother Jones.

Let's hope the final bill will offer real solutions to fight global warming and curb greenhouse gas emissions. National Radio Project talked with several climate change activists who discussed the steps needed to make significant change following the less-than-concrete outcomes from Copenhagen. It's definitely worth a listen.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive  reporting about the environment by members  of The Media Consortium. It is  free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on  Twitter. And for the best  progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration  issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse,  and The  Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of  leading independent media outlets.

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Lessons from Lieberman (or, why Kucinich may read OpenLeft)

by: Adam Bink

Wed Mar 17, 2010 at 12:05

From today's earlier thread on the Kucinich announcement, I'd like to flag one comment from ArthurKC:

Kucinish carefully answered a broad question about concessions to him for his vote in a way that did not close the door to him having asked for and gotten a deal on ERISA.  He answered in terms of denying anything particular to him or his district.  And, it seems that both he and the WH are aware of the blowback on the Louisana Purchase and had gamed out what would be said to avoid stepping in a similar pile on ERISA.

I think ArthurKC is onto something, although what I'd actually say is that if he and the White House are aware of anything, it's how Lieberman reacted to the Medicare buy-in:

But in the interview, Mr. Lieberman said that he grew apprehensive when a formal proposal began to take shape. He said he worried that the program would lead to financial trouble and contribute to the instability of the existing Medicare program.

And he said he was particularly troubled by the overly enthusiastic reaction to the proposal by some liberals, including Representative Anthony Weiner, Democrat of New York, who champions a fully government-run health care system.

"Congressman Weiner made a comment that Medicare-buy in is better than a public option, it's the beginning of a road to single-payer," Mr. Lieberman said. "Jacob Hacker, who's a Yale professor who is actually the man who created the public option, said, 'This is a dream. This is better than a public option. This is a giant step.'"

Lieberman went so far as to name liberals (albeit somewhat inaccurately) whose opinion he took seriously and used them as justification for throwing away the deal. It seems to me if you could pick any liberal liking something who could make conservative House Democrats think twice about supporting this bill, 499 out of 500 panelists would pick Dennis Kucinich announcing some awesome concession he got to push this bill to the left.

So, maybe Kucinich does read our strategy discussions here at OpenLeft:

As an organizing discussion I'm sure this will start an interesting conversation over whether, when dealing with Joementum in the future, the Weiners and Hackers of the world should be lying in public and saying the compromise sucks just so he is tricked into being satisfied.

I suppose we'll know when this is all said and done.

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Obama Pressures Lieberman on Health Care

by: AdamGreen

Tue Mar 16, 2010 at 07:30

From the Washington Post's Michael Shear:

Air Force One took off from suburban Maryland today at 11:13 a.m. and landed 48 minutes later in Connecticut.

For Sen. Joe Lieberman -- who says he plans to vote no on the president's health-care bill -- it must have felt like a much longer flight. Obama invited Lieberman to the ultimate pressure cooker as he tries to nail down a majority for his top domestic priority.

...there was a public hint of the kind of pressure he is under. When Obama introduced Lieberman at his rally, someone in the audience called out, "Vote yes."  Obama, not missing a beat, turned to his traveling partner. "Did you hear that, Joe?" he asked. 

Near the end of his speech, Obama said he had told Lieberman on the flight: "You know what? It's been such a long time since we made government on the side of ordinary working folks, where we did something for them that relieved some of their struggles."  

This is the presidential bully pulpit at work. Using the full force of the presidency to pressure opponents. Awesome!

UPDATE: Sorry for the typos. Turns out all references to Joe Lieberman were actually Dennis Kucinich. 

UPDATE II: Huffington Post: Lieberman: Obama Never Pressed Me On Public Option

UPDATE III: I corrected "bullypulpit" to "bully pulpit." It's been used so little recently, the correct spelling escaped me. Thanks for the correction, folks.

 

 

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Weekly Mulch: New bills and old money

by: The Media Consortium

Fri Mar 05, 2010 at 11:21

By Sarah Laskow, Media Consortium blogger

Climate legislation is returning to the Senate's docket, and leaders on Capitol Hill are hoping that this version, a compromise bill spearheaded by Sens. John Kerry (D-MA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT), can pass without getting caught in the morass of money and politics that has delayed action so far.

A long, long time ago...

Remember, there was a time when Congress was going to pass climate legislation before the international climate change negotiations in Copenhagen. President Barack Obama was going to show up with a bill in hand and lead the world towards a better climate future. After the House passed its climate bill in June 2009, the Senate began discussing climate change, and a first stab by Sen. Kerry and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) went nowhere. Now, Kerry has turned to less liberal colleagues to draft an alternative that would appeal to moderates and even Republicans.

Now the Massachusetts senator is promising that climate change isn't dead. A new bill is coming-more information may be in the offing as early as today, as Kate Sheppard reports at Mother Jones.

Third time's the charm

Sen. Kerry is trying a new tactic to pass climate legislation. He's waiting to release his plan until he knows the bill has the 60 supporters it needs to circumvent a filibuster. The details have not been hammered out yet, and even the Senators who've been in talks with Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman don't seem to have a clear sense of what will be in the version that will emerge.

In the House, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, released an ambitious draft of the legislation, let lobbyists and members of Congress fight over it, and passed a much-changed edition months later. Sen. Kerry tried a similar plan on his side of Capitol Hill (that was the Kerry-Boxer bill), but it did not work.

With this piece of legislature, Sens. Kerry, Graham, and Lieberman are working out the compromises before they release the legislation. Both reporting and speculation about their bill say that it will abandon the cap-and-trade system passed in the House. Cap-and-trade restricts carbon emissions across the economy; a variation on that policy that the Kerry-Graham-Lieberman bill may favor will limit the system to a few sectors.

Will it work?

Kerry's expected bill may be a much weaker plan than any proposed so far, yet it is still not certain that the Senate will support it. The lead authors of the bill have been meeting with conservative Democrats and moderate Republicans, as Sheppard reports, but those targets have not promised support yet. Coming out of a meeting, Sen. George Voinovich (R-OH) told reporters: "There were some interesting things that were discussed in there and like everything else in the United States Senate, the devil is in the details."

From a distance, banner-day climate legislation still seems possible. Environmental groups like the Sierra Club, the National Wildlife Foundation, and the National Resources Defense Council believe that they will see a bill this year that caps carbon. These green groups would be able to live with the incentives handed to industry groups so far, according to Campus Progress' Tristan Fowler.

"There are compromises [that can go] too far. Fortunately, I don't think we're getting near that territory at the moment," Josh Dorner, a spokesman for the Sierra Club, told Fowler.

Sickly green

Before getting too excited about stamping a green seal of approval on Congress' legislation, consider Johann Hari's testimony in The Nation about the relationships between environmental groups and the industries that they oppose.

Hari has reported on climate change issues for years, and at first, he "imagined that American green groups were on these people's side in the corridors of Capitol Hill, trying to stop the Weather of Mass Destruction. But it is now clear that many were on a different path-one that began in the 1980s, with a financial donation."

Hari argues that as environmental groups began to reach out to polluters, handing them awards for green behavior and accepting support from their deep pockets, they learned to compromise too readily and accept political excuses for delaying action on climate change. While in other realms these compromises might fly, when the stakes are as high as they are on environmental issues, that behavior turns the stomach.

"You can't stand at the edge of a rising sea and say, 'Sorry, the swing states don't want you to happen today. Come back in fifty years,'" Hari writes.

The green future

When Kerry, Lieberman and Graham do release the compromised bill, watch for a tsunami of money and influence that could pack the bill with prizes for specific industries-or derail it altogether. Just this week, the natural gas industry's lobbyists told The Hill, a D.C.-based newspaper, that they were ready to fight with the coal industry over incentives in the Senate bill. At AlterNet, Harvey Wasserman writes that the nuclear industry spent $645 million in the past decade to get back into the energy game, according to a new report from American University's Investigative Reporting Workshop. (Hint: that $645 million is working in their favor.)

In the Senate, the influence of oil companies will play an important role, according to David Roberts at Grist.

"While coal has a lot of power in the House, oil has enormous power in the Senate, particularly over the conservadems and Republicans needed to put the bill over the top," Roberts explains.

No matter what legislation passes and what incentives it contains, environmentalists need to continue putting pressure on their representatives in Congress and on national environmental groups to push back against polluting industries and work to fix the world's climate.

This post features links to the best independent, progressive reporting about the environment by members of The Media Consortium. It is free to reprint. Visit the Mulch for a complete list of articles on environmental issues, or follow us on Twitter. And for the best progressive reporting on critical economy, health care and immigration issues, check out The Audit, The Pulse, and The Diaspora. This is a project of The Media Consortium, a network of leading independent media outlets.

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Two updates on repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell

by: Adam Bink

Mon Feb 22, 2010 at 11:04

This morning, Lieberman announced he will introduce legislation to repeal Don't Ask, Don't Tell in the Senate. Heretofore, the Senate did not have a companion bill to Rep. Murphy's Military Readiness Enhancement Act, H.R. 1283. For a variety of reasons, the best avenue for repeal remains the defense authorization bill which will be coming up in the coming months (if you recall, the Matthew Shepard Act regarding hate crimes protections was attached to last year's bill as a means of passage).

Via press release, Servicemembers United, a lead group on this issue, outlines the Obama Administration's important role in that process:

In response to the opportunity presented by this historic testimony, Servicemembers United recently resurfaced its "Set End-date / Delayed Implementation" model for repeal legislation and made the case for the introduction and adoption of such legislation in 2010. The proposal would see to it that full repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law gets locked in this year while also allowing the Pentagon time to complete it's analysis.

To strengthen the prospects for the repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law and to reduce political risk, the President can still order the Pentagon to include "Set End-date / Delayed Implementation" repeal language in one of the legislative policy transmittals that will soon be sent to the House and Senate Armed Services Committees by the Department of Defense. These policy proposal packages serve as indications of White House and Pentagon support for policy changes to be included in the next National Defense Authorization Act.

Additionally, the Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee could insert Senator Lieberman's new bill into the Chairman's mark of the Fiscal Year 2011 National Defense Authorization Act, which will soon be drafted. Such a move, especially in combination with the Presidential action through Pentagon policy transmittals, could turn out to be the path of least resistance for repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" law and could help shield vulnerable members of the President's and the Chairman's own party.

I would say rather than "the President can still order", the President needs to order that language included. A lot of cautious lawmakers are watching that language for signs of what the Pentagon wants, and for political cover. And, as Joe Sudbay writes, if the repeal language is in the bill, it will take 60 votes to remove it. In other words, the Senate leadership and the Obama administration play an important role here.

Related, tomorrow the Palm Center at UC-Santa Barbara will release a 151-page study looking at implementation of repeal in other countries, with some key findings:

The 151-page study, which updates existing studies on gay service members in Britain, Canada, Australia, South Africa and other countries, offers the first broad look at the issue in foreign militaries since Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for an end to "don't ask, don't tell" earlier this month.

The report concludes that in foreign militaries, openly gay service members did not undermine morale, cause large resignations or mass "comings out." The report found that "there were no instances of increased harassment" as a result of lifting bans in any of the countries studied.

In addition, the report says that none of the countries studied installed separate facilities for gay troops, and that benefits for gay partners were generally in accordance with a country's existing benefits for gay and lesbian couples.

On implementation, the study said that most countries made the change swiftly, within a matter of months and with what it termed little disruption to the armed services. Mr. Frank said the study did not look at what happened if the change was implemented gradually because, he said, "I don't think any of the militaries tried it."

Mr. Frank's report cited a 1993 RAND study on the effects of allowing openly gay members to serve in the American military, which concluded that "phased-in implementation might allow enemies of the new policy to intentionally create problems to prove the policy unworkable." On personnel policy decisions of this nature, the RAND study said, "Any waiting period permits restraining forces to consolidate."

This echoes what Rep. Sestak, who has experience overseeing Navy organizational change while serving in the Pentagon, said during our interview: implementation can be done within a matter of months and without separate shower facilities or the like. And legislative action on repeal should occur this year, not at the conclusion of a "study" next year.

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