Tag Archives: mitch mcconnell

Ron Johnson again shirks his constitutional duties by vowing to block Supreme Court nomination

When the news of Justice Scalia’s passing broke, what was the first thing that Senator Ron Johnson thought to do?

After strangely tweeting out a picture of an actor playing Justice Scalia on Broadway, the first thing Senator Johnson did, less than 24 hours after learning of Scalia’s passing, was to join Ted Cruz, Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell and the most extreme elements of the right wing in demanding that President Obama not appoint a replacement.

After five years of missed committee hearings and threats to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood and Obamacare, Johnson is again abandoning his responsibilities. But he’s also demanding that the president and the United States Senate not do their jobs as well.  

Here are a few key points Johnson should have considered before taking a position that would leave the United States Supreme Court unable to decide a number of critical cases for over a year:   

  •  The president has a constitutional responsibility to nominate a Supreme Court Justice, and the Senate has an obligation to vote on that nominee. The Senate must do its job.  
     
  • History shows that the Senate has not previously shirked its responsibility to confirm Supreme Court Justices in an election year. Since 1900, six Supreme Court Justices have been confirmed in presidential election years.  
     
  • Since the Civil War, no Supreme Court vacancy has been left open for a year. Failing to confirm a new justice would weaken the court and compromise a fundamental part of our democracy. 
     
  • Leader McConnell has repeatedly vowed to abide by “regular order” to make the Senate work. Johnson praised the promise. But now we find that “regular order” isn’t a real priority for Johnson. Political gamesmanship is. 

“Over the last five years, Senator Ron Johnson has repeatedly taken actions to ensure that Congress just doesn’t work,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin executive director Kory Kozloski said today. “Sen. Johnson is not doing his job. He’s made it clear that he thinks the president shouldn’t do his job. And if he gets his way, the Supreme Court won’t be able to do its job either.” 

Republicans vow to shred historic Paris climate accord

President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry hailed the international climate change agreement reached in Paris as a major achievement that could help turn the tide on global warming.

But Republicans, who are heavily funded by fossil fuel interests that produce the pollutants causing climate change, tried to deflate the celebration, vowing to overturn the agreement signed by almost 200 nations if the party wins the White House in 2016. 

Obama said the climate agreement “can be a turning point for the world” and credited his administration for playing a key role. He and Kerry predicted the agreement would prompt widespread spending on clean energy and help stem carbon pollution.

“We’ve shown that the world has both the will and the ability to take on this challenge,” Obama said from the White House. He said the climate agreement “offers the best chance we have to save the one planet we have.”

But the immediate reaction of leading Republicans was a reminder of the conflict that lies ahead.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Obama is “making promises he can’t keep” and should remember the agreement “is subject to being shredded in 13 months,” when the next president takes the oath of office.

Clean-power pushback

Even as Obama was working to hammer out a global climate agreement in Paris, Republican climate-change deniers in Congress were working to block his plan to force cuts in greenhouse gas emissions from U.S. power plants.

The House passed two resolutions Dec. 8 against the power-plant rules. A measure blocking an Environmental Protection Agency rule for existing power plants was approved 242–180, while a measure blocking a rule on future power plants was approved 235–188.

The votes came after the Senate approved identical motions in November under a little-used law that allows Congress to block executive actions it considers onerous.

The measures, as WiG went to press, were at the White House, where they faced almost-certain vetoes.

Just four Democrats sided with Republicans to support the measures, which fell far short of the numbers needed to override a veto in both the House and Senate.

U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., said GOP lawmakers were forcing a vote on the climate rule “to send a message … there’s serious disagreement with the policies of this president.”

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the president’s pro-environment policies will kill jobs, increase electricity costs and decrease the reliability of the U.S. energy supply.

Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said he wished Obama took the threat posed by “radical jihadists” as seriously as he takes the “pseudoscientific threat” posed by climate change.

Republicans at the state level also are challenging the power plan, which requires states to cut carbon emissions by 32 percent by 2030, based on emissions in 2005. Each state has a customized target and is responsible for drawing up an effective plan to meet its goal.

The EPA says it has authority to enact the plan under the Clean Air Act. But 25 mostly Republican states, led by Texas and West Virginia, are contesting the plan in court, calling it an unlawful power grab that will kill jobs and drive up electricity costs. Wisconsin, which has perhaps the nation’s strongest rules discouraging “green” energy, is part of the suit.

Utilities, the National Mining Association and the nation’s largest privately owned coal company also are suing the EPA over the new rules.

Koch Industries, a major polluter that political insiders say pulls the strings of the Wisconsin GOP, is one of the world’s largest funders of climate-change propaganda.

The Associated Press was a source for this analysis.

Poll: Bernie Sanders most popular U.S. senator

Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is the most popular U.S. senator, according to data from Morning Consult.

The polling shows 69 of 100 U.S. senators with approval ratings better than 50 percent, and Sanders, an independent from Vermont, is at the top of the ratings chart with 83 percent.

His disapproval rating is only 13 percent.

Republican Susan Collins of Maine has the second highest approval rating at 78 percent, followed by Republican John Barrasso of Wyoming and then Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy.

Polling in the 60s are John Hoeven of North Dakota, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Angus King of Maine, John Thune of South Dakota, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, Al Franken of Minnesota, Tom Carper of Delaware, Chuck Schumer of New York, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Ron Wyden of Oregon.

Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin’s approval rating was 45 and disapproval rating was 35.

Wisconsin Republican Ron Johnson’s approval rating was 38 percent and his disapproval was at 35 percent.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s disapproval rating was highest at 52 percent. Arizona Republican John McCain was in second with a 41 percent disapproval rating.

Morning Consult surveyed more than 75,000 voters in 50 states over several months.

Vermont voters have the highest opinion of their senators — Sanders, the presidential candidate, and Leahy, the longest-serving member of the Senate.

Politicians appearing on this morning’s Sunday new shows

ABC’s This Week:  Carly Fiorina, a Republican presidential candidate; Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.

NBC’s Meet the Press: Gov. Nikki Haley, R-S.C.; Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

CBS’ Face the Nation: House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio; Sens. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., a Democratic presidential candidate, and Tom Cotton, R-Ark.

CNN’s State of the Union:  Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a Republican presidential candidate; former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, a Democratic presidential candidate; Alex Walker and Scott Walker, sons of Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., a Republican presidential candidate.

Fox News Sunday: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; former Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., a Democratic presidential candidate; Gov. Bobby Jindal, R-La., a Republican presidential candidate.

Some governors push back against McConnell letter to defy EPA

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s call for governors to defy proposed federal rules to limit pollution has been met with mostly silence, but leaders in downwind New England states and drought-stricken areas in the West are pushing back.

The Kentucky Republican wrote to all the nation’s governors in March after the Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule to limit carbon pollution from existing coal-fired power plants. McConnell said he thinks the rule is illegal and, if enacted, would hurt the U.S. economy and kill energy jobs.

Democratic Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin was blunt in his response to McConnell.

“I disagree,” he wrote. “Climate change is real. It’s a threat to humanity. We should be working harder to address it, not rolling back efforts to do so.”

New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan, also a Democrat, pointed to efforts there, including the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, as ways to trim carbon emissions and urged McConnell to reconsider his opposition to the EPA’s rule. Because of prevailing weather conditions, states in the Northeast and New England are “downwind” of coal-fired power plants in the Midwest and have blamed carbon emissions and other pollution for environmental ills including acid rain.

“I respectfully disagree with your letter and would ask that states in the Midwest (and Kentucky) follow the science and take a more active effort in reducing harmful emissions, including CO2 emissions – particularly emissions generated through coal-fired power plants,” Hassan wrote.

Aides to Republican governors in Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wyoming say they have not responded to the letter; some say they won’t. The same is true for Democratic governors in California, Connecticut, Hawaii, Montana, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, a Republican eyeing a presidential run in 2016, opposes the EPA rule and his state has joined a lawsuit challenging it.

“If enacted, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan would be a blow to Wisconsin residents and business owners, and I join business leaders, elected officials, and industry representatives in opposing this plan,” he said in comments opposing the rule.

In California, Gov. Jerry Brown didn’t reply to McConnell but said on “Meet The Press” that climate change linked to carbon emissions is the culprit in the state’s multi-year drought and other extreme weather.

“That’s why to have the leader of the Senate, Mr. McConnell, representing his coal constituents, putting at risk the health and well-being of America, is a disgrace,” Brown said. “There is no doubt that into the future we’re going to have more problems and we have to do something. President Obama is taking some important steps. And to fight that, it borders on the immoral.”

In his letter, McConnell said states should refuse to submit compliance plans to Washington.

“Don’t be complicit in the administration’s attack on the middle class,” he wrote.

McConnell had no immediate response this week to the governors’ reaction.

House Republicans have also criticized the rule, a key element of President Barack Obama’s strategy to fight climate change. Rep. Ed Whitfield of Kentucky drafted a bill allowing governors to veto compliance with the federal rule if the governor determines it would cause significant rate hikes for electricity or threaten reliability. That bill also would delay the EPA’s climate rule until all court challenges are completed.

A group of Democratic U.S. Senators on Tuesday drafted their own letter to the governors, urging them to comply with the EPA rule and pointing out that McConnell’s home state is already drafting a compliance plan.

“His is not the voice from ahead saying the trail is not safe; his is the voice obstinately staying behind saying, `Let’s not even try,'” the senators wrote.

A spokeswoman for EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said the agency fully expects states to develop their own plans to comply with the rule.

“At the same time, EPA has an obligation under the Clean Air Act to develop a model federal plan – something that many states have asked EPA to do so it can provide an example for states developing their own plans,” said Liz Purchia.

Bible Belt Republicans to rule Congress, push far-right agenda

With the walloping Republicans gave Democrats in the midterm elections, the GOP stands one Louisiana Senate runoff away from completely controlling Southern politics from the Carolinas to Texas. Only a handful of Democrats hold statewide office in the rest of the Old Confederacy.

The results put Southern Republicans at the forefront in Washington — from Senate Majority Leader-in-waiting Mitch McConnell of Kentucky to a host of new committee chairmen. Those leaders and the rank-and-file behind them will set the Capitol Hill agenda and continue molding the GOP’s identity heading into 2016.

In statehouses, consolidated Republican power affords the opportunity to advance conservative causes from charter schools and private school vouchers to expanding the tax breaks and incentive programs that define Republican economic policy. The outcome also assures that much of the South, at least for now, will remain steadfast in its refusal to participate in President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul.

“I think these new leaders can help drive the conservative movement” at all levels, said Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere, echoing the celebrations of Republican leaders and activists across the region.

Republicans widely have acknowledged that the party now has to prove it can govern. But one-party rule invariably means internal squabbles. Republican White House hopefuls in particular must court Southern Republicans who are more strident than the wider electorate on issues ranging from immigration to abortion and the broader debate over the government’s role — and how to pay for it.

“The Republican presidential nomination will run through the South,” said Ferrell Guillory, a Southern politics expert based at the University of North Carolina. “As Mitt Romney found (in 2012), that … makes it harder to build a national coalition once you are the nominee.”

Even with the South’s established Republican bent, the midterm vote yielded a stark outcome. Besides McConnell’s wide margin, Republicans knocked off North Carolina Sen. Kay Hagan and Arkansas Sen. Mark Pryor. In Louisiana, Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy is the heavy favorite to defeat Sen. Mary Landrieu in a Dec. 6 runoff.

Republicans reclaimed the governor’s mansion in Arkansas and held an open Senate seat in Georgia that Democrats targeted aggressively.

In January, the GOP will control every governor’s office, the majority of U.S. Senate seats, nearly every majority-white congressional district and both state legislative chambers in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas and Texas. Landrieu and Florida Sen. Bill Nelson are the only officials keeping their states from the list.

At the northern periphery of the South, Kentucky’s Legislature remains divided, and Democratic governors in Kentucky and West Virginia are in their final terms.

In Washington, Senate Republicans haven’t parceled out leadership assignments, but Southerners figure prominently among would-be major committee chairmen: Mississippi’s Thad Cochran (Appropriations); Alabama’s Jeff Sessions (Budget) and Richard Shelby of Alabama (Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs); Bob Corker of Tennessee (Foreign Relations); Richard Burr of North Carolina (Intelligence); Lamar Alexander of Tennessee (Health, Education, Labor and Pensions); Johnny Isakson of Georgia (Veterans Affairs).

In the House, Georgia Rep. Tom Price could end up chairing the Budget Committee. Louisiana’s Steve Scalise already won a promotion to majority whip, Republicans’ No. 3 post in the chamber. Georgia’s Rob Woodall chairs the Republican Study Committee, the GOP’s ultra-conservative arm.

The regional differences in the GOP could make it more difficult for McConnell to deliver on his declaration that “just because we have a two-party system doesn’t mean we have to be in perpetual conflict.”

McConnell and Obama have both said they’ll make attempts to find common ground on a range of issues. But elsewhere on election night, Sessions declared in Alabama, “Tonight the American people dramatically repudiated the policies of President Obama. … It was also a dramatic affirmation of the policies our GOP candidates.”

Sen.-elect David Perdue of Georgia struck a similar chord: “Georgia made it loud and clear … that we are going to stop the failed policies of President Obama and Sen. Harry Reid.”

The region also is home to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, both presidential hopefuls and tea party favorites who have strengthened their absolute approaches, particularly on budget deals.

In Louisiana, Villere rejected the notion that Southerners could complicate Republican policies and electoral fortunes in the long-term. “Whether it was the old Southern Democrats or Republicans now, we’ve pushed the liberal wings of the parties for a long time,” Villere said. “I think it’s good for the party and for the country.”

News Guide: Races that will decide U.S. Senate control

While Democrats now hold control of the U.S. Senate, this fall’s election has the potential to shift that leadership to the GOP.

Republicans will take control if they manage a net gain of six Senate seats.

Among the 36 seats on the ballot, seven are held by Democrats in states won by Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney in 2012.

A look at what’s happening in six competitive Senate races where a change in party is possible, and where that change could help decide which party ends up leading the Senate during the next Congress.

NORTH CAROLINA

On the Ballot: Democratic U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, an incumbent elected to her first term in 2008; Republican Thom Tillis, the North Carolina House speaker in his first run for statewide office.

In the Bank: Hagan may be one of the most vulnerable incumbent Democrats but had raised roughly $11 million and was sitting on $8.6 million as of mid-April. Tillis has raised almost $3.3 million, including a $250,000 personal loan, and has just over $1 million in the bank.

On the Stump: Hagan recently has accused Tillis of denying the existence of climate change, and she calls the regulation of greenhouse gases key to protecting the environment. Tillis says the question is whether humans are causing global warming and suggested Hagan and President Barack Obama are using “false science” to promote a “war on coal” that would damage the economy.

On the Air: Hagan ran a radio ad before the GOP primary May 6 reminding voters that Tillis approved severance pay for two former legislative aides who had inappropriate relationships with lobbyists. “Our tax dollars, bailing out the indiscretions of Thom Tillis’ staff. Those may be values, but they’re not North Carolina’s,” the ad said. Tillis responded by accusing Hagan and a political action committee supporting Senate Democrats of trying to interfere in the primary. “Don’t be fooled by Harry Reid,” the ad said. Reid, a Nevada Democrat, is the Senate majority leader.

ARKANSAS

On the Ballot: Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, an two-term incumbent first elected in 2002; U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton, a freshman congressman from south Arkansas.

In the Bank: Pryor, the only Democrat in the state’s congressional delegation, had raised nearly $6.9 million in his re-election bid and had more than $4.1 million in cash through April 30. Cotton, who launched his Senate bid last August, had raised nearly $5.4 million and had almost $2.4 million in the bank.

On the Stump: Last month, Pryor and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., toured an Arkansas community hit by a deadly tornado and criticized Cotton’s vote against disaster aid for the Northeast following Superstorm Sandy. Cotton has focused on trying to tie Pryor to Obama, who is deeply unpopular in Arkansas.

On the Air: Pryor has spent the spring focusing on Medicare and Social Security, airing television spots that criticize Cotton for supporting changes to the programs that he argues would hurt older people. Cotton has aired ads aimed at introducing himself to the state, with his most recent spot featuring the newlywed congressman’s wife in his hometown of Dardanelle.

ALASKA

On the Ballot: Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a former Anchorage mayor seeking his second term; Republicans Joe Miller, Dan Sullivan and Mead Treadwell are running in the state’s August primary.

In the Bank: Begich had raised more than $4.6 million and had $2.8 million on hand at the end of March. Sullivan, who most recently served as Alaska’s natural resources commissioner and is the best funded of the potential GOP challengers, had raised more than $2.6 million and held close to $2 million in the bank.

On the Stump: Sullivan and Treadwell spoken out last week against Obama’s proposed greenhouse gas regulations, with Treadwell saying it was an attempt to impose a change on Alaskans without a full debate in Congress. Begich has recently opened field offices in the small towns of Bethel, Ketchikan and Dillingham, something he says shows an unprecedented commitment to the state’s rural areas.

On the Air: Begich and Sullivan are talking to each other in their TV ads about each other’s ads. In one, Begich says a steel plant featured in a Sullivan spot has more business because of his work as a senator; Begich then suggests other such places where Sullivan could shoot an ad. In a response, Sullivan replied “I’m not a career politician like Mark, but I thought I’d return the favor” and asks him to explain votes he says mostly line up with Obama’s policies.

KENTUCKY

On the Ballot: Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, elected to his first term in 1984; Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state, who is making her second run for statewide office.

In the Bank: McConnell, the longest-serving senator in Kentucky history and a prime target for Democrats this year, had raised close to $12 million through the end of April and was sitting on $10.1 million. Grimes had raised more than $8 million and had close to $4.9 million in the bank.

On the Stump: Obama’s recent announcement of stricter standards for greenhouse gas emissions has given McConnell more ammunition in Kentucky, one of the nation’s top coal producers. Grimes has also attacked the new rules and again tried to portray herself as independent of Obama, who has lost by a wide margin every time he has appeared on the ballot in Kentucky.

On the air: Grimes is running a TV ad aimed at military voters, an influential bloc of the electorate in a state that’s home to Fort Knox and Fort Campbell. The ad promotes a Kentucky law, championed by Grimes, that allows military and other overseas citizens to register to vote online. McConnell’s most recent ad featured U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., praising his credentials as a conservative.  

GEORGIA

On the Ballot: Democrat Michelle Nunn, an Atlanta nonprofit executive and daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn; Republican U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston, from Savannah, and David Perdue, a former corporate CEO in his first bid for office, meet in a July 22 runoff.

In the bank: Nunn had hauled in $6.6 million through April 30 and had almost $3.7 million on hand, an impressive total for a first-time candidate and a reflection of the hopes of national Democrats that she can pull an upset. Going into the primary, Kingston had raised more than $5.6 million and had almost $1.3 million saved, while Perdue had taken in about $4.3 million, a figure that includes about $2.6 million of his personal fortune through loans and contributions.

On the Stump: Kingston has assembled a litany of endorsements from tea party figures and vanquished rivals Karen Handel and Phil Gingrey, arguing he is uniting the state’s conservatives. Perdue tells voters at every stop the federal debt is the nation’s biggest problem and any sitting member of Congress helped create it. Nunn, meanwhile, quietly continues a campaign built around community events and is treading lightly when asked about Obama’s health care overhaul and the new greenhouse gas rules.

On the Air: After a busy primary on television, all three candidates are currently off the air.

IOWA

On the Ballot: Democratic U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley, a four-term congressman elected in 2006; Republican Joni Ernst, an Iowa state senator and Iraq war veteran making her first run for statewide office.

In the Bank: Braley was viewed as an early favorite to replace retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin and had raised almost $5.9 million, with $2.3 million in the bank, as of mid-May. Ernst has raised almost $1.2 million, but was left with roughly $100,000 in her accounts after sailing through a five-way primary on June 3.

On the Stump: With no primary competition, Braley has been reaching out to general election voters for more than a year, promoting support for minimum wage increase and recommending fixes to the Affordable Care Act. Ernst has been short on specific proposals, focusing her rhetoric on attacking Obama and Braley. She has taken to referring to the health care bill as “Bruce Braley’s Obamacare.”

On the Air: Ernst has already run the campaign ad of the year, in which she talked about her background castrating hogs on the farm as proof she would cut federal spending. In his first ad after the primary, Braley attacked Ernst for failing to write any legislation to cut spending in Iowa following her election to the state Senate in 2010.