Tag Archives: Roll Call

George Clinton Has Spoken And Someone’s Been Hit With The Bop Gun

David Drucker at Roll Call:

The Senate Parliamentarian has ruled that President Barack Obama must sign Congress’ original health care reform bill before the Senate can act on a companion reconciliation package, senior GOP sources said Thursday.

The Senate Parliamentarian’s Office was responding to questions posed by the Republican leadership. The answers were provided verbally, sources said.

House Democratic leaders have been searching for a way to ensure that any move they make to approve the Senate-passed $871 billion health care reform bill is followed by Senate action on a reconciliation package of adjustments to the original bill. One idea is to have the House and Senate act on reconciliation prior to House action on the Senate’s original health care bill.

Information Republicans say they have received from the Senate Parliamentarian’s Office eliminates that option. House Democratic leaders last week began looking at crafting a legislative rule that would allow the House to approve the Senate health care bill, but not forward it to Obama for his signature until the Senate clears the reconciliation package.

Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) moved Thursday to put Senate Republicans on the defensive over health care, sending a letter to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) in which he dared the GOP to vote against reform.

Reid also defended the Democrats’ use of reconciliation to get a final health care reform bill to the president’s desk, noting that the bulk of health care reform was approved under regular order via the package that cleared the Senate on Christmas Eve. Reid also emphasized that Republicans have used the procedure several times over the years.

However, Reid also promised in the letter that Republicans would have ample opportunity to amend the reconciliation package.

“Reconciliation is designed to deal with budget-related matters, and some have expressed doubt that it could be used for comprehensive health care reform that includes many policies with no budget implications. But the reconciliation bill now under consideration would not be the vehicle for comprehensive reform — that bill already passed outside of reconciliation with 60 votes,” Reid wrote to McConnell.

Jennifer Rubin at Commentary:

So there you have it, House Democrats. Once you vote for the Senate bill, Obama will sign it, the Left will declare victory, and who knows if reconcilliation will ever happen. This confirms that the Democratic leadership has once again been hiding the ball and not leveling with either their own members or with the public about the procedural aspects of the bill. It will certainly not help to calm the nerves of House Democrats, who already suspect the “fix” is in and that they are being trapped into voting for the noxious Senate bill — Cornhusker Kickback and all.

Ezra Klein:

The thinkable has happened, and the Senate parliamentarian has ruled that the president must sign the health-care reform bill before the House and Senate can act on a reconciliation package.

In the Democrats’ Senate Caucus meeting today, Kent Conrad apparently argued that this left the Democrats in an even stronger moral position. The reconciliation rider fixes unpopular elements of the health-care bill: the Nebraska deal, the Florida deal, the excise tax and so forth. If Republicans figure out some nuclear level of obstruction that could actually derail the reconciliation process, then they will effectively own the worst elements of the Senate bill, and Democrats can just spend their time hammering Republican obstructionism that has so lost touch with reality that they’d rather keep legislation they’re against than let Democrats fix it. Or so goes the argument.

Meanwhile, the hypocrisy that the state-based Senate and the district-based House have embraced in their ferocious denunciations of these deals gets a nice showcase in Rep. Mike Capuano’s list of complaints with the health-care bill. Most of them boil down to the need for Massachusetts to have more Nebraska-like deals.

Dan Perrin at Redstate:

Just like the Black Spy thought the White Spy was caged and an easy target, the trillion dollar President and the Speaker find themselves without the votes and trying again to cheat the U.S. Constitution, public opinion and voters who want Congress to stop the irrational ObamaCare quest and start over. Their persistent problem is they keep causing their colleagues mortal political harm with their increasingly hare-brained-Slaughter schemes.

You know, like lets-use-reconciliation-to-pass-the-hated-Senate-ObamaCare-bill. (It’s no shock that Obama has hit his lowest Gallup poll approval rating ever.)

Ironically, the trillion dollar President has created a bi-partisan health care effort, it’s just that it’s a bi-partisan alliance against his bill. What is causing cognitive dissonance in the White House and among the Democratic Party’s cognoscenti is the simple fact that the only thing bi-partisan about ObamaCare is the opposition to it.

And the Slaughter plan of passing ObamaCare without voting on it, in the face of the Senate Parliamentarian decision, the current political anti-incumbent environment, the views of independent voters and seniors about ObamaCare is as if the Democrats are like the self-immolating monks protesting the Vietnam War.

The Speaker’s problem is that not every Democrat has signed up for the ObamaCare self-immolation school of Pelosi politics.

David Dayen at Firedoglake:

This would disrupt the strategy to act on reconciliation before passing the full health care bill. The House simply does not trust the Senate to get the job done, and members also don’t want to have to take a vote on the Senate bill and its various distasteful deals. The idea before was to make a “self-executing” rule where the House would pass the reconciliation sidecar and “assume the Senate bill to have passed. According to these GOP sources, the Parliamentarian said they cannot do that.

There are still options to ensure the reconciliation changes. The President could wait on the signage of the bills until a reconciliation package is introduced, for example. And Harry Reid’s letter to Mitch McConnell would at least signal the Senate’s determination, reassuring House members. But they may still have to take a hard swallow on that Senate bill, although Republicans facing them in November would probably just lie and say they voted for all manner of nonsense regardless of what they do. Really that should not be a concern to any politician, what other people might put in a campaign ad.

Again, we have no way of knowing if this is true. You have unnamed GOP sources claiming that the Parliamentarian told them something verbally. A Senate Democratic leadership aide offered no comment on this. Nobody’s really talking publicly or on the record. So until then, I’d view this with skepticism.

Allah Pundit:

Time to celebrate? Not yet. Waxman dropped a bombshell of his own a few hours ago when he said they’ve all but given up on the Stupak bloc and will try to get to 216 without them. It’s possible that they could convince enough Blue Dogs to trust the Senate on reconciliation and hold their noses to vote for Reid’s bill, but with the Stupak 12 all (allegedly) flipping to no and another 25 Democrats leaning heavily towards no, they have literally no margin for error. They’re at 216 on the button, with any single member in the caucus capable of killing the bill by flipping. Assuming they can keep the group together, though, that’s one solution to the new parliamentarian headache. Just pass Reid’s bill and hope for the best.

There’s another solution too, of course, although in light of today’s ruling it would require a brazen exercise of ruthless political power

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Filed under Health Care, Legislation Pending

Mad Max Beyond US Attorneys: The Girlfriend Edition

John Stanton at Roll Call:

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus’ office confirmed late Friday night that the Montana Democrat was carrying on an affair with his state office director, Melodee Hanes, when he nominated her to be U.S. attorney in Montana.

According to a source familiar with their relationship, Hanes and Baucus began their relationship in the summer of 2008 – nearly a year before Baucus and his wife, Wanda, divorced in April 2009. The Senator had informally separated from his wife in March 2008 and they were living apart when he began dating Hanes, according to Baucus’ office.

Hanes ended her employment with Baucus in the spring of this year.

Hanes, who is divorced and now lives with Baucus in the Eastern Market neighborhood of Washington, D.C., ultimately withdrew her name from consideration for the U.S. attorney position in order to move to Washington, and she now works in the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention as a counselor to the administrator.

Baucus spokesman Tyler Matsdorf said the relationship was not the cause of Baucus’ divorce and that Baucus did not arrange for her current position with DOJ.

“In no way was their relationship the cause of their respective divorces. When Senator Baucus and Melodee Hanes, his former state director, realized that their relationship was developing beyond a purely professional nature, Melodee began the process of resigning her Senate employment,” Matsdorf said.

“After withdrawing from consideration for U.S. Attorney, Ms. Hanes independently applied for her current position at the Department of Justice. Having extensive experience and qualifications in the field, Ms. Hanes was awarded the position based solely on her merit. Since then she has excelled in her role,” he added.

Jules Crittenden:

Montana Dem Max Baucus put his girlfriend/underling up for U.S. Attorney of Montana. She withdrew to move in with him in DC and take a DOJ job, which Baucus’ people say he had nothing to do with. She had extensive qualifications … and a resume with his name all over it


The last thing I want to think about before I’ve had my coffee is Max Baucus’s sex life, but I had no choice since the scandal de jour seems to be that he stepped out on his wife with an also married staffer and then nominated that staffer for US Attorney (and later withdrew the nomination.)Now they are both divorced and live together. Whatever. I really don’t care who these people sleep with and they seem to have thought better of the US Attorney business. He’s a cad. She is too. I’m shocked, simply shocked.

Scott Johnson at Powerline:

There is something hilariously outlandish about the disgrace of Montana Senator Max Baucus having nominated his girlfriend to be a candidate for the position of United States Attorney for Montana. David Bernstein captures the relevant details in “Baucus scandal.”

Bernstein quotes the helpful explanation of Baucus’s spokesman on the withdrawal of Baucus’s girlfriend from consideration for the position: “Mr. Baucus and Ms. Hanes…decided that she should withdraw her name from consideration because the couple wanted to live together in Washington, [Baucus spokeman Tyler] Matsdorf said.” Bernstein comments” “Matsdorf, it should be noted, is Baucus’s spokesman, and that’s the best he could do!”

Bernstein also comments on Ms. Hanes’s qualifications to serve as United States Attorney: “[S]pending the last six years working as a Senator’s field office and state office director (i.e., not even working as a lawyer) hardly seems like the kind of credentials one expects from a U.S. attorney candidate, and certainly not one purportedly recommended ‘solely on the basis of her credentials.'”

Bernstein credits Main Justice with breaking this story and with securing this testimonial from Ms. Hanes’s ex-husband: “She was recommended for the position because of a very close and personal relationship with Max Baucus and she withdrew because of a very close and personal relationship with Max Baucus.”

UPDATE: I should have noted that Hanes currently holds down a position at the Justice Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Perfect!

Emptywheel at Firedoglake:

Now, it is pretty bad form to nominate your mistress to be your state’s top federal prosecutor. Though Baucus and Hanes did withdraw that nomination (I wonder whether their relationship would have been considered in the White House’s not-quite crack vetting process?). I also wonder whether they withdrew her nomination because it was bad form, or because Montana’s recent history with Bill Mercer makes the state very sensitive to US Attorneys who don’t actually live in Montana. And there’s the detail that Baucus was carrying on an affair with one of his staffers, though that seems to be the default in DC.

But while we’re getting all scandalized about Baucus’s bad judgment, let’s talk about the bad judgment that did hurt taxpayers, rather than the one that almost did: the way in which the revolving door on his committee staff made it very easy for the insurance industry to write the Senate’s health care reform bill. I’m much more offended–and directly affected–by the fact that former Wellpoint VP Liz Fowler wrote the Senate health care bill than I am that Baucus nominated, then withdrew, his mistress for a plum job.

Max Baucus apparently has really poor judgment, across the board, on personnel issues. But it’s not the almost-scandal of Hanes that is the most damning.

Michael O’Brien at The Hill:

Republicans seized on revelations that Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.) nominated his girlfriend to a U.S. attorney position, calling for a Senate Ethics Committee investigation.

Republican National Committee (RNC) Chairman Michael Steele called for an official investigation into Baucus, who allegedly flagged Justice Department lawyer Melodee Hanes for a U.S. attorney nomination while engaging in a romantic relationship with her. Hanes eventually withdrew her name from consideration.

“Today’s report that Senator Max Baucus used his Senate office to advance a taxpayer funded appointment for his staff-member girlfriend raises a whole host of ethical questions,” Steele said in a statement. “This issue demands the attention of the Senate Ethics Committee.”

Senate Republicans have refrained so far from issuing statements condemning Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee whose position has made him an integral figure in both healthcare and climate change legislation before Congress.

UPDATE: Max Fisher at The Atlantic

UPDATE: Gail Collins in NYT

UPDATE #3: Megan McArdle

Ed Morrissey


Filed under Political Figures

When This Began, We Were Young, Beautiful And The Year Was 1882

Credit to Nick Gillespie for finding this video.

The Minnesota Supreme Court heard oral arguments today in the Al Franken/Norm Coleman case.

Jay Newton-Small in Time:

The judges’ tone on Monday seemed to favor Franken, as it was Coleman’s lawyers who endured much of the tough questioning. Interrupting another Coleman attorney, Joe Friedberg, just one minute into his remarks, Justice Christopher Dietzen (a Pawlenty appointee) said Friedberg’s argument that there were enough problems to make a difference in the outcome of the election had “no concrete evidence to back it up.” He added, “In my experience, I’ve never seen an offer of proof like this.”

Progressive groups are calling on Senate majority leader Harry Reid to seat Franken provisionally no matter the outcome of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision, a move that would likely provoke a GOP filibuster. Reid thus far has taken a wait-and-see approach, though his patience is wearing thin. “The time for do-overs is over,” says Jim Manley, a Reid senior adviser. “Now is the time — now more than ever — for Norm Coleman and Washington Republicans to stop once and for all their ongoing effort to block President Obama’s agenda.”

Virtually anything other than a decision in Coleman’s favor could make it more difficult to convince donors to continue bankrolling his increasingly slim chances. The National Republican Senatorial Committee last month gave Coleman $750,000, but in this tight economy, any money it gives to Coleman takes away from defending seats opening up by retirements in tough states like Ohio, Florida, Missouri and New Hampshire. And after all, continuing to pour money into a losing candidate — even if it gains you a few more months of minority power in the Senate — isn’t exactly priceless.

Ed Morrissey:

The big question will be whether Governor Tim Pawlenty will sign a certification for Al Franken if the court rejects Norm Coleman’s appeal.  A lot of people in Minnesota want this embarrassing chapter closed, and the formal appeal process within the state ends at the state’s highest court.  Coleman can appeal in the federal courts, but that may not preclude the governor from signing a certification.

However, Pawlenty may decide that Coleman has a better chance in the federal courts than in the state courts, and he would probably be right, although the odds still favor Franken there, too.  The best argument Coleman has — an equal-protection argument that focuses on the unfairly prejudicial treatment of absentee ballots both in the election and especially in the recount — seems tailor-made for a federal challenge.  If the Minnesota courts don’t act on that argument, though, a federal court might be loath to intervene.

Joe Sudbay takes WaPo’s Chis Cillizza to task on his reporting of the opening arguments:

By almost all accounts, Norm Coleman had a rough day at the Minnesota Supreme Court yesterday. The Court heard Coleman’s last-ditch appeal to overturn the election results.

For some reason, The Fix a.k.a. Chris Cillizza wanted us to know that Norm Coleman’s lawyer was very pleased with the Supreme Court arguments yesterday. Big surprise. But, that’s how Cillizza led his report. His headline was “Coleman Campaign: ‘Very Encouraged’ by Supreme Court Hearing.” Funny thing. Coleman’s lawyer was pretty much the only one who saw it that way. And, Cillizza was pretty much the only observer to lead with that pro-Coleman angle.

TPM has a series of posts up by Eric Kleefeld, giving details on the proceedings. Here, here and here.


Nick Gillespie in Reason has the bigger picture:

So what’s the great civics lesson that Coleman, last seen limping around D.C.’s Reagan-National Airport begging for change for arthroscopic surgery, and Franken are teaching us?

It has nothing to do with the intricacies of the recount mechanism (we learned that during the 2000 presidential election), or the great goddamn glory of the American system by which power is transferred peacefully from one party to another (thanks, John Adams, because otherwise you pretty much sucked as president, though you really did make 1776 a toe-tapping musical), or even that a dicey showbiz background full of more bombs than an Afghan playground can be overcome if you’re good enough, smart enough, and dog-gone it, if people like you enough (a long line of rehashed celebs from George Murphy to Ronald Reagan to Fred “Gopher” Grandy had already poured that knowledge into us like a pina colada mixed on the Love Boat‘s lido deck).

No, the lesson is simply this: We’ve gotten by fine these past few months with just one senator from Minnesota. So fine, in fact, that in this century of constant cost-cutting and rising unemployment, the federal government should do its share by immediately downsizing the World’s Greatest Deliberative Body by 50 percent.

UPDATE: Via Scott Johnson at Powerline, Jay Weiner at MinnPost.com:

These were the basic questions that any citizen can comprehend: Did Norm Coleman prove his case during a painstaking seven-week-long trial in this very same courtroom last February and March? Did Coleman’s legal team — with hard evidence — show first the trial court and now the Supreme Court that enough ballots that should have been counted weren’t and that too many ballots that shouldn’t have been counted were? Did Coleman lay the factual foundation to elevate his claims of widespread inconsistencies in absentee ballot evaluation to the level of federal constitutional issues?

Finally, did Coleman offer enough evidence at trial — and now — to suggest that he could overcome Franken’s 312-vote post-trial lead even if more votes were counted?

Mark down the Minnesota Supreme Court as skeptical. Like real skeptical, if one can infer from their aggressive questioning of Friedberg and their relative collegiality with Elias.

UPDATE #2: Scott Johnson at Powerline argues with Josh Marshall

UPDATE #3: Roll Call on Coleman’s future

Kevin Drum on the Roll Call article

Eric Kleefeld at TPM on the Roll Call Article

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Jane Harman’s Troubles

What to make of the surveillance of Congresswoman Jane Harman?

Many are noting the irony of her stance on surveillance in regards to her current problems.

Glenn Greenwald:


The blog at The American Conservative:


Michael Crowley at The New Republic has a list of suspects on who is targeting Harman:


Roll Call reports that Pelosi knew of the wiretap:


And here’s Maddow’s take on the whole thing:

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Filed under Foreign Affairs, Surveillance