Feb 5 – DIRECT eZine for Democrats #870

ON THE RECORD ….

“Get out of here you low-life scum.” — Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-AZ) to protesters who shouted criticism at 91-year-old Henry Kissinger. 1/29/15

“I wear this as a badge of honor.” — Rick Perry (R) on his indictment on abuse-of-power charges while serving as Texas governor.1/28/15

“He should be ashamed. And I think people really need to know what type of person he is. To bring as much pain as he did, to me and my family, that should be an issue.” — Michael Schiavo on how Jeb Bush handled a “contentious, drawn-out conflict” over his brain dead wife, Terri Schiavo while serving as Florida governor. 1/29/15

They’re now threatening to let homeland security funding expire because of our disagreement with my actions to make our immigration system smarter, fairer and safer. Don’t jeopardize our national security over this disagreement. Until they [Congress] pass a funding bill, it is the end of a paycheck for tens of thousands of front-line workers, who will continue to have to work without getting paid.” — President Barack Obama warning of a potential blow to national security if the Republican-led Congress fails to fund the Department of Homeland Security by the time money expires at the end of this month. 2/02/15

“I want that to be my choice as a parent. I know my kids best. I know what morals and values are right for my children. I think we should not have an oppressive state telling us what to do.” — Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI) 2/03/15

“While I think it’s a good idea to take the vaccine, I think that’s a personal decision for individuals to take and when they take it.” — Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) 2/02/15

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The science is clear: The earth is round, the sky is blue, and #vaccineswork. Let’s protect all our kids. #GrandmothersKnowBest — 2/02/15 Hillary Clinton@HillaryClinton

“It’s clear to anyone with eyes and ears by now that he is an almost pathologically ambitious figure, who has no qualms about persecuting his enemies, pettily seeking payback when necessary, and using public office to pursue political vendettas. What you really see in the Bridgegate mess is his desire to get Democratic party officials to endorse him to burnish his bipartisan credentials for a national race. If they didn’t, they had something to fear in New Jersey. He’s a big guy, in other words, with a tendency to punch down and suck up.” — Andrew Sullivan on New Jersey Governor Chris Christie 2/03/15

1. Poll: Most Americans Support Government Action on Climate Change

A majority of Americans, including roughly half of Republicans, support government action to curb climate change, according to a new poll.

Conducted by The New York Times, Stanford University and the research group Resources for the Future, the poll found that 48 percent of Republicans are more likely to vote for a candidate who supports actions that tackle climate change.

Forty-eight percent of Republicans and 72 percent of independents said they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who says human-induced climate change is a hoax. 

In all, 77 percent of Americans said they want the government to make significant steps in fighting climate change.  

Broken down, 90 percent of Democrats, 78 percent of independents and 48 percent of Republicans wanted federal action. 1/30/15 http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/231247-poll-majority-support-federal-action-on-climate-change

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2. The DAILY GRILL

“It’s more important what you think as a parent than what you think as a public official. I also understand that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well. So that’s the balance that the government has to decide.” — Chris Christie ignoring the science behind vaccine safety. 02.02.15

VERSUS

“The Governor believes vaccines are an important public health protection and with a disease like measles there is no question kids should be vaccinated.” — Governor Christie’s spokesperson, revising Christie’s position a few hours later. 2.02.15

3. From MEDIA MATTERS (They watch Fox News so you don’t have to)

“Fox Host Suggests Some Campus Sexual Assault Victims Are “Bad Girls … Who Like To Be Naughty. It’s The Same Thing With Guns. Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People. Alcohol Doesn’t Get You Drunk, You Get Yourself Drunk”http://mediamatters.org/video/2015/01/30/fox-host-suggests-some-campus-sexual-assault-vi/202351

O’Reilly Pushes Misleading Study Claiming All Job Growth Since 2007 Went To Immigrants http://mediamatters.org/video/2015/01/30/oreilly-pushes-misleading-study-claiming-all-jo/202367

Limbaugh Accepts Credit For Getting The Anti-Romney Ball Rolling http://mediamatters.org/video/2015/02/02/limbaugh-accepts-credit-for-getting-the-anti-ro/202376

Laura Ingraham Slams Jeb Bush For Not Embracing Right-Wing Radio http://mediamatters.org/video/2015/02/02/laura-ingraham-slams-jeb-bush-for-not-embracing/202374

ABC News’ Laura Ingraham Pushes Vaccine Myth That ABC News Called Discredited http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/02/03/abc-news-laura-ingraham-pushes-vaccine-myth-tha/202392

Fox News Host Falsely Claims Job Losses From Sequestration “Did Not Happen” http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/02/03/fox-news-host-falsely-claims-job-losses-from-se/202395

Fox Airs ISIS Execution After Previously Blasting Media Outlets For Airing “Terrorist Propaganda”http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/02/04/fox-airs-isis-execution-after-previously-blasti/202414

Fox Ignores Obama’s Condemnation Of ISIS To Falsely Claim He Hasn’t Called The Group Terrorists http://mediamatters.org/blog/2015/02/04/fox-ignores-obamas-condemnation-of-the-islamic/202413

4. Mark Fiore: King Abdullah: Royal Pain

https://vimeo.com/118097071

5. Late Night Jokes for Dems

“In a speech today, President Obama said that Michelle Obama is very strong and talented and she frequently tells him that he is wrong. As a result, Michelle Obama is now the Republican front-runner for 2016.” –Conan O’Brien

“President Obama said the small drone that flew over the White House fence yesterday could be bought at any RadioShack. After hearing this, the RadioShack CEO said, ‘I’m shocked to find out we still sell something people want.'” –Conan O’Brien

“President Obama said that if he could have any superpower, he’d want the ability to speak any language. That’s so everyone in the world could tell him he picked one of the lamest possible superpowers.” –Jimmy Fallon

“One of the most Googled questions during this week’s State of the Union address was, ‘How much does the president make?’ When he saw it was $400,000 a year, Mitt Romney said, ‘I’m out!'” –Jimmy Fallon

“California officials want to contain a measles outbreak that originated in Disneyland last month. They are in luck because everyone who is exposed to it is still in line at Space Mountain.” –Conan O’Brien

“Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was summoned to answer questions about the footballs that were mysteriously deflated in their game against the Colts. This was covered live on all the sports networks and also live on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, ABC, and a bunch of local channels. You would think Tom Brady had killed the president’s dog.” –Jimmy Kimmel

“CNN is developing a game show to be hosted by Anderson Cooper. It will be just like the other CNN shows except the contestants will make wild guesses instead of the news anchors.” –Seth Meyers

“The Jamaican government is considering a bill to decriminalize marijuana. But first they have to get over the shock of finding out it was illegal in the first place.” –Seth Meyers

“According to a new report, there are still five people alive today who were born in the 1800s. Even crazier, every one of them was re-elected this November.” –Seth Meyers

6. The Borowitz Report: Obama’s New Popularity Could Force Congressional Democrats to Admit to Knowing Him

President Barack Obama’s increasing popularity is forcing congressional Democrats to consider admitting that they know him, a leading Democratic staffer revealed on Monday.

After months of denying ever having been in the same room as the President, some Democrats are tentatively rethinking that position now that his approval rating has hit fifty per cent, the staffer said.

But even as Democrats contemplate admitting that they have met Obama or even shaken his hand, some worry that such moves could have perilous consequences if his approval rating drops again.

“I say, let’s cross that bridge when we come to it,” Petrack said. “If you don’t know when to admit you know your President and when to desert him, you don’t deserve to call yourself a Democrat.”

Elsewhere: Tracy Klugian, who heads the newly assembled Bush media team, said that he and his staff are poised to tap into the nation’s longing for a time “when everything in this country seemed to be going right.”

All in all, Klugian said that he and the Bush team “can’t wait” to roll up their sleeves and start reminding America of the glories that were the years 2001 to 2009. “When you have a great story like the Bush story, it’s hard to know where to start,” he said.

Read more at http://www.newyorker.com/humor/borowitz-report/

7. Reality check: Jeb Bush’s conservative record

He cut billions in taxes, intervened in controversial abortion cases, railed against affirmative action and gun control and dreamed of a state capital in which government buildings would forever be drained of unneeded workers.

During his first gubernatorial campaign in 1994, not only did he advocate for abolishing the Department of Education, for voter approval of all new taxes, and “privatization in every area where privatization is possible,” he also suggested welfare reforms that would have cut recipients’ access to benefits after two years.

During that failed first campaign, he argued in the Miami Herald that there was no need for “special categories” to protect members of the gay and lesbian community. Should “sodomy be elevated to the same constitutional status as race and religion?” he asked in one controversial line. “My answer is no.”

During his second inaugural address in 2003, he gazed out at government offices and said “there would be no greater tribute to our maturity as a society than if we make these buildings around us empty of workers, silent monuments to a time when government played a larger role than it deserved or could adequately fill.”

Over the course of eight years, Bush signed into law $19 billion in tax cuts. He sought to privatize key government providers, including foster care, state parks and even legal aid to death row prisoners. His business-friendly state’s bonds were top-rated.

He reshaped Florida by wiping out 13,000 government jobs and vetoing $2 billion in new spending, an economic approach influenced by the conservative gospels of Milton Friedman. He enforced conservative solutions on taxes, gun control, dismantling affirmative action in universities, taking on teachers unions over testing and performance. 1/28/15 http://www.cnn.com/2015/01/28/politics/bush-politics-analysis/

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8. The Increasingly Unequal States of America

University of California at Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez estimates that between 2009 and 2012, the top 1 percent captured 95 percent of total income growth.

Lopsided income growth is also a long-term trend. Between 1979 and 2007, the top 1 percent took home well over half (53.9 percent) of the total increase in U.S. income. Over this period, the average income of the bottom 99 percent of U.S. taxpayers grew by 18.9 percent. Simultaneously, the average income of the top 1 percent grew over 10 times as much—by 200.5 percent. 1/26/15 http://www.epi.org/publication/income-inequality-by-state-1917-to-2012/

9. Groundhog Day: As 2016 contest begins, GOP remains deeply divided

Since it’s Groundhog Day, it’s worth repeating (over and over and over and over): The establishment-vs.-conservative divide inside the Republican Party continues to be as a wide as ever. The Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll is the latest example of this. Not only does the poll show Walker leading the early GOP pack in Iowa, it also has Jeb Bush coming in sixth (!!!) with Mitt Romney included in the field and fifth (!!!) without him. What’s more, Bush’s fav/unfav among likely Republican Iowa caucus-goers is just 46%-43%, compared with 66%-28% for Mike Huckabee, 64%-25% for Rand Paul, 64%-26% for Rick Perry, 60%-12% for Scott Walker, and 58%-21% for Ted Cruz. Yes, Jeb is going to be able to raise A LOT of money, but his story of 2015 could very well be whether he can make up ground with conservative grassroots voters.

There are two 2016 GOP races going on right now: One, the establishment contest, where Jeb and Christie are wooing deep-pocketed donors, especially now that Romney is out of the race. And two, the conservative grassroots contest, where the candidates will be jockeying to prove themselves as the most in tune with today’s Republican Party.2/02/15 http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/first-read/man-hour-scott-walkers-big-moment-n298421

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10. Obamacare is costing much less than expected

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) now projects that federal health spending — including the costs of health reform’s coverage expansions — will be about $600 billion less over 2011-2020 than CBO projected in January 2010 without health reform.

In other words, projected health spending over the decade has fallen by $600 billion since 2010, despite $1 trillion in additional spending for premium tax credits and expanded Medicaid to help cover 27 million more Americans. 1/28/15 http://www.offthechartsblog.org/projected-health-spending-has-fallen-since-2010-even-with-health-reforms-coverage-expansions/

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11. Clinton Holds Early Leads in Swing States

A first look at three critical swing states, Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania, for the 2016 presidential election is good news for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who tops possible Republican contenders in every matchup, except Florida, where she ties former Gov. Jeb Bush, and Ohio, where she ties Gov. John Kasich, according to a Quinnipiac University Swing State Poll released today.

Overall, Gov. Bush runs best of any Republican listed against Clinton, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University Poll finds. The Swing State Poll focuses on Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania because since 1960 no candidate has won the presidential race without taking at least two of these three states.

Clinton’s favorability rating tops 50 percent in each state, while Republican ratings range from negative to mixed to slightly positive, except for Bush in Florida and Kasich in Ohio. 2/03/15 http://www.quinnipiac.edu/news-and-events/quinnipiac-university-poll/2016-presidential-swing-state-polls/release-detail

OPINION

1. Brent Budowsky: The great GOP overreach

According to the summary of polling from Real Clear Politics, approval of the Republican Congress is barely 15 percent. Disapproval remains near 72 percent. Control of Congress means ownership of the vast unpopularity of Congress.

Meanwhile, President Obama’s popularity has risen significantly since November. The stage is set for Clinton to begin a 2016 campaign with a significant lead over GOP opponents and run against a highly unpopular Republican Congress.

Voters see Republicans overreaching and underachieving. They see the GOP repeating ritual attacks against Obama and Clinton as though the 2014 campaign never ended. They see Republicans moving to pass political bills they know will never be enacted, such as old attacks against ObamaCare, and opposing important bills voters do want enacted, such as immigration reform. They see the GOP stage phony hearings on Benghazi that are nothing more than taxpayer-financed attacks against Hillary Clinton.

There is a GOP distemper in Washington, an overreaching of aggressive tactics against Democrats and an underachievement of success in governing. The result? Obama rises in favorability, Clinton rises against Republicans. 01/28/15 http://thehill.com/opinion/brent-budowsky/231092-brent-budowsky-the-great-gop-overreach

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2. ALEX ISENSTADT: They’re back! The new tea party surge

Congress hasn’t even been in session a month and a raft of Republicans are already being threatened with primaries in 2016.

The reasons run the gamut, from backing John Boehner for speaker to objecting to an anti-abortion bill. One congressman is under fire for failing to amass clout that would help his district on a key issue. It’s the latest proof that divisions within the GOP are very much alive, despite the triumph of the establishment GOP wing over the tea party in last year’s midterms.

“There is an unprecedented level of disquiet,” said Daniel Horowitz, who has worked as a political strategist for tea party groups. “There’s a sense that the Republicans in Washington don’t share the beliefs of the conservative platform, or don’t fight for them.”

Erick Erickson, an influential tea party leader and conservative commentator, said the House GOP’s decision to reelect Boehner as speaker had sparked initial conversations among conservative activists about launching primaries. Those talks, he said, inevitably will become louder in the months to come, as the newly empowered Republican majority faces tough calls on legislation.

“Right now,” he said, “it’s just a simmering under the surface.” 1/29/15 http://www.politico.com/story/2015/01/tea-party-2016-elections-114701.html

3. Molly Ball: The Republican Congress Meets Reality

Republicans promised to do a couple of things right away if given control of Congress. One was to pass a bill to build the Keystone XL oil pipeline. Another was to open up the Senate processes that they charged the Democrats had bottlenecked during their time in the majority.

Keystone was supposed to be the low-hanging fruit Republicans could pluck right away. Back in November, with Democrats still in the majority, a similar measure failed by a single vote. But as the GOP tried to push the bill through last week, Democrats cried foul. They pointed to new Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s promise to open up the amendment process over which now-Minority Leader Harry Reid previously exerted a stranglehold, something both Democrats and Republicans complained about at the time. The bill was delayed and ended up taking all month.

It’s not going to get any easier: The Senate’s next task is to pass funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which will open a messy debate over immigration enforcement. The department’s funding runs out at the end of February. Another piece of legislation that was supposed to easily garner bipartisan buy-in, an attempt to impose tougher sanctions on Iran, is already running into trouble as Democrats get cold feet. That more or less exhausts the list of achievable items on the agenda of the Republican-led Congress.

The new dawn they promised isn’t looking very different from last year’s gridlock. 1/30/14 http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/01/the-republican-congress-meets-reality/385008/

4. Eugene Robinson: The Boehner-Bibi Backfire

The political ramifications are clear: House Speaker John Boehner and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a colossal mistake by conspiring behind President Obama’s back, and the move has ricocheted on both of them.

The big, scary issue underlying the contretemps — how to deal with Iran’s nuclear program — is a more complicated story. I believe strongly that Obama’s approach, which requires the patience to give negotiations a chance, is the right one. To the extent that a case can be made for a more bellicose approach, Boehner and Netanyahu have undermined it.

First, the politics. Why on earth would anyone think it was a good idea to arrange for Netanyahu to speak to a joint session of Congress without telling Obama or anyone in his administration about the invitation?

Yes, Congress has an important role to play in international affairs. And yes, the days are long gone when disputes among officials over foreign policy ended at the water’s edge; members of Congress routinely gallivant around the globe and share their freelance views of what the United States should or should not be doing. But inviting a foreign leader to speak at the Capitol without even informing the president, let alone consulting him, is a bald-faced usurpation for which there is no recent precedent.

Pending legislation, which Obama threatens to veto, would automatically impose tough new sanctions against Iran if the drawn-out, multiparty nuclear negotiations fail. If Boehner wanted to build support for sanctions, he failed spectacularly. 1/30/15 http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2015/01/30/the_boehner-bibi_backfire_125448.html

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5. Peter Beinart:The Sophisticated Bigotry of Bobby Jindal

The Louisiana governor wants Christians to stand apart from secular society, but condemns Muslims who do the same.

If Bobby Jindal runs for president, he will likely campaign on two major themes. The first, which he outlined last February at the Reagan Library and last May at Liberty University, is that Christians are at war with a liberal elite that is trampling religious liberty and secularizing American culture. The second, which he laid out this month at London’s Henry Jackson Society, is that “non-assimilationist Muslims” are endangering America and Europe.

Why point out the contradiction between Jindal’s heroic portrayal of Christian non-assimilators and his demonization of Muslim ones? Because it exposes his lofty talk about culture and identity to be an elaborate ruse. The only principle he’s really defending is anti-Muslim bigotry.

In 2012, Herman Cain distinguished himself as the leading Islamophobe in the Republican presidential field. Jindal is now well-positioned to fill that role. The only difference is that Cain spoke like a pizza executive while Jindal speaks like a Rhodes Scholar. But strip away the fake sophistication and it’s bigotry just the same. 1/30/15 http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/01/the-sophisticated-bigotry-of-bobby-jindal/384997/

6. Michael Tomasky: The GOP: Still the Party of Stupid

Governor Scott Walker, I see, has surged in a new Iowa poll, while the only one who at least looks like president, John Ellis Bush, has taken a tumble and is viewed more negatively by potential caucus-goers than he once was (46 favorable, 43 unfavorable). We can’t say for sure why Bush has fallen, but it seems clear that Walker has gained on the strength, so to speak, of his empty-calorie bromides.

He’s gained because those items— kicking Planned Parenthood, denying your own citizens subsidized health-care coverage, pretending that voter fraud is a thing—are what pass for ideas in today’s GOP. Walker is even more vacuous on foreign policy, as Martha Raddatz revealed yesterday, twisting him around like a pretzel with a couple of mildly tough questions on Syria. The Democratic Party has its problems, but at least Democrats are talking about middle-class wage stagnation, which is the country’s core economic quandary. Rick Santorum is, in fairness, but a) his solutions are the same ones conservatives have been advertising for years (lower taxes, less regulation, more two-parent families) and b) he’s not going anywhere in the polls so far, undoubtedly precisely because he’s trying to drop the homosexuality-is-bestiality shtick and talk about actual economic problems.

But you can’t really discuss economic problems as a Republican presidential candidate, because in the pond of voters where you’ll be fishing, “America” has no such problems. Some people—roughly 47 percent of them—have economic problems, but that’s all their fault, you see. So these candidates are about to spend a year pandering to that. That will make them weak in more ways than one. 2/02/15 http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/02/02/the-gop-still-the-party-of-stupid.html

7. Zack Beauchamp: Study refutes the myth that Muslims are more violent

If Islam itself were in fact the key cause of Islamist terrorism, you’d expect ordinary Muslims to be more violent than ordinary non-Muslims. There are over a billion believing Muslims globally; if their religion were intrinsically prone to violence, the data would bear that out. In fact, it does nothing of the sort.

Still, there’s no denying that Islamist extremist terrorism is a real phenomenon and real problem the rightly receives widespread study. (Fish offers his own argument, that Islamist terrorism is best understood as a reaction to Western foreign policy, but his case is exceedingly unpersuasive.)

That’s not to say you can absolve the West completely. Foreign invasions of Muslim countries clearly played a role in fueling the growth of violent Islamist movements. The US-led invasion of Iraq, for example, created widespread chaos and violence, and that chaos and violence gave way to extremism. But the West is only one among a variety of factors at play in the broader 20th and 21st-century trend of Islamist extremism. Other factors have included the prevalence of dictatorship in the Muslim world, Sunni-Shia sectarianism, and, yes, theological doctrines developed by modern Islamists such as Muhammed ibn Abd al-Wahhab and Sayyid Qutb.

In that sense, though, Islam is like almost any other religion: its core tenets can be read both to prohibit and to justify political violence, depending on who’s doing the interpreting. That doesn’t mean Islam is intrinsically violent. It just means Muslims are people like everyone else. This data should be an important reminder of that distinction. 1/30/15 http://www.vox.com/2015/1/30/7951309/islam-violence

8. Jonathan Chait: Paul Ryan’s Most Shameless Lie Ever

Shamelessness is the primary feature of Paul Ryan’s public persona (the secondary feature being a woundedness he displays when his shamelessness is pointed out). Yet it is possible that nothing in Ryan’s long and distinguished career in the field of shamelessness has ever exceeded his comments in yesterday’s New York Times on the Obama budget. Ryan’s complaint is that Obama’s economic policies have exacerbated the gap between the rich and the poor. “The Obamanomics that we’re practicing now have exacerbated inequality,” he claims. “They’ve exacerbated stagnation. They’re made things worse. The wealthy are doing really well. They’re practicing trickle down economics now.”

What gives Ryan’s comments a veneer of plausibility is that income inequality has increased continuously, punctuated by a few short reversals, for more than three decades. Economists have extensively studied and debated the cause of rising inequality for years, clustering about multiple theories: the decline of labor unions, technological change, the growth of finance, and so on. None of the theories blame Obama’s economic policies.

What can be proven beyond a doubt is that, even if underlying economic trends have increased inequality, Obama’s economic policies have reduced it sharply. The stimulus included tax cuts for low-wage workers, and the Affordable Care Act was financed in part by higher taxes on the rich. Back when conservatives were lambasting Obama for stealing hard-earned money from the rich and handing it out to the unworthy poor, rather than pretending to worry about inequality, they were happy to make this perfectly clear.

In addition to opposing all of Obama’s inequality-reducing policies Ryan flamboyantly advocated a sweeping budget plan that would have eliminated coverage expansions for the poor, layered on hundreds of billions of dollars in additional cuts in programs benefiting the poor, and in general produced “the largest redistribution of income from the bottom to the top in modern U.S. history and likely increase poverty and inequality more than any other budget in recent times (and possibly in the nation’s history).”

And now Ryan is claiming Obama’s policies increased inequality! There seems to be literally no limit at all to his shamelessness. 2/02/15 http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/02/paul-ryans-most-shameless-lie-ever.html

9. Rebecca Leber: The Kochs Are Already Getting What They Paid for in Congress

Ask progressives what the last three weeks of Senate debate on a Keystone XL bill was really about, and they might mention the Koch brothers. “The Republican’s Keystone XL obsession is about one thing and one thing only—a direct payback to Big Oil, specifically to the Koch brothers,” Credo’s Senior Campaign Manager Elijah Zarlin said in response to the Senate passing a Keystone XL bill, 62-36, on Thursday. 

It’s not just a talking point. Just one month into the new Congress, and already the Kochs’ fossil fuel interests—which include oil pipelines and refineries—have neatly aligned with Republican priorities. The Koch network’s campaign for and against Keystone amendments not only offers a preview of future energy battles, but demonstrate their difficult-to-quantify political influence. 

In January, three conservative groups—Heritage Action, American Energy Alliance (AEA), and Americans for Prosperity (AFP)—combined for a total of seven key vote alerts on amendments that would count in their congressional scorecards. The alerts serve as a warning: If a senator votes against the group’s interest, he or she risks future attacks from the right. All three groups are tied to the Kochs: AFP is considered the brothers’ “main political arm,” and they have contributed to Heritage and AEA.

The groups helped defeat an amendment from Heidi Heitkamp, a North Dakota Democrat, that would have reinstated the wind production tax credit for five years. Heitkamp couldn’t even scrape together a majority of senators for what historically has been a popular, bipartisan policy. Wind energy happens to be big in red states, so it has the support from Republicans like Iowa’s Chuck Grassley, but it has long been a target for conservative, fossil-fuel-aligned groups. AEA, AFP, and Heritage all recommended a “no” vote on the amendment, in line with the Koch network’s years-long campaign to eliminate renewable tax credits (while oil’s tax breaks remain politically untouchable). 

Of course, all of this is for naught: Obama has promised to veto the bill. But if nothing else, this two-week-long charade on Capitol Hill has allowed Republicans to declare their undying allegiance to the Kochs. 2/02/15 http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120922/keystone-xl-senate-bill-amendments-influenced-koch-brothers

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10. NY Times Editorial: President Obama’s New Budget

President Obama’s fiscal 2016 budget, released on Monday, pulls together the themes and policies set forth in his State of the Union address and other recent speeches and gives them a force and coherence — an ambitiousness — that a more piecemeal delivery does not convey.

Contrary to the Republican charge that the budget is fiscally irresponsible, it addresses, albeit indirectly, longer-term problems like the financing shortfall in Social Security — just not in ways that Republicans care to acknowledge. For example, the budget assumes passage of comprehensive immigration reform, which would boost the economy by adding millions of newly legalized workers. Immigration and economic growth are essential to improving the financial health of the Social Security system.

The president’s budget will not be enacted in whole, and perhaps not even in part. But enactment is not the only measure of its success. The budget is a strong discussion draft, detailed in its particulars, unassailable in its aims and a powerful challenge to the Republicans. 2/02/15 http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/03/opinion/president-obamas-new-budget.html

11. Brian Beutler: Public Health Experts Have Estimated How Many Americans Will Die If the Supreme Court Guts Obamacare

In a brief to the Supreme Court, dozens of public health scholars, along with the American Public Health Association, detail the harm the Court would create by ruling for the challengers in King vs. Burwell. Most of their analysis is rooted in the basic point that stripping insurance away from eight million people would dramatically impede their access to the health system. But they also flesh out the corollary argument that an adverse ruling would have deadly consequences, and ballpark the number of avoidable deaths such a ruling would cause.

“Researchers found that, in the first four years of the [health care reform] law in Massachusetts, for every 830 adults gaining insurance coverage there was one fewer death per year,” the brief reads. “Using the national estimate that 8.2 million people can be expected to lose health insurance in the absence of subsidies on the federal marketplace, this ratio equates to over 9,800 additional Americans dying each year. Although the specific policy context and population impacts of any policy cannot be directly extrapolated from one setting to another, the general magnitude and power of these findings from the Massachusetts study demonstrate that even when approached cautiously, these earlier findings carry enormous public health implications for withdrawing subsidies and coverage from millions of Americans.”

For those who haven’t been keeping score all along, Republicans have spent the past several years cyclically promising and then failing to deliver an Obamacare alternative. They didn’t have an alternative prepared in 2012 when conservatives asked the Court to declare Obamacare unconstitutional. They didn’t have an alternative prepared later in the year, when Mitt Romney was their presidential candidate. They didn’t have an alternative prepared when they shut down the government as part of an ill-fated effort to defund Obamacare. They didn’t run on an Obamacare alternative in 2014. And they don’t have an Obamacare alternative prepared this week, though they’re scheduled to pass another repeal bill on Tuesday. 2/02/15 http://www.newrepublic.com/article/120948/supreme-court-king-sebelius-obamacare-decision-could-kill-thousands

obamacare

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