DiFi will chair Boxer’s re-election campaign

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s re-election campaign announced today that U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein will serve as its chairwoman.

“Senator Boxer and I make a great team for California,” Feinstein said in the news release. “That’s why I’m so proud to chair Senator Boxer’s campaign. Barbara is a proven and effective leader for California, and our strong partnership is essential in creating jobs and turning our economy around.”

“I’ve seen Barbara’s extraordinary leadership of the Environment and Public Works Committee firsthand as she works across party lines to create the clean energy and transportation jobs our communities desperately need. Barbara never gives up when fighting for Californians. I know the families of California want us to continue working together as an effective team to improve their lives and their communities.”

This is a show of force, as Feinstein remains one of California’s most influential Democrats; think, e.g., of how Jerry Brown waited and waited to formally declare his gubernatorial candidacy until after DiFi publicly said she wouldn’t run. Polls show Feinstein remains more popular than Boxer, so she brings some gravitas and centrist appeal to the table (not that she’ll be running the campaign’s day-to-day or anything like that).

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama will arrive in Los Angeles on Monday evening to attend fundraisers – a sold-out, $17,600-a-head shindig at the city’s Natural History Museum, and a reception at the California Science Center for which tickets cost $100 to $2,500 – on behalf of Boxer and the Democratic National Committee.

Boxer’s campaign this week said it raised $2.4 million in the first quarter of 2010. In the GOP primary race, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina raised $1.7 million; former Cal business school dean, Congressman and state finance director Tom Campbell raised $1.6 million; and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore raised $626,000.


Now we’ll hear about it for the next eight months

The House has passed the Senate’s $940 billion health reform bill on a 219-212 vote, and the news releases are flying hot and heavy, as they surely will continue to do on this issue from now through November’s midterm Congressional elections.

From Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton:

Jerry McNerney“For nine months, I’ve been listening to our community’s thoughts and ideas on health care reform. I’ve held public events that hundreds of people have attended and have met with seniors, patients, veterans, small business owners, doctors, and nurses. Thousands of people have also emailed, written letters, and called my office.

“I’ve heard from people denied health coverage for preexisting conditions like diabetes and allergies. I’ve met seniors who can’t afford the monthly cost of prescription drugs. I’ve talked with small businesses owners who have been forced to lay off employees because of skyrocketing premiums. I’ve heard many heartbreaking stories about the struggle so many Americans face right now to afford health care.

“I’ve carefully reviewed the proposal, read every page, and listened to all the input that the people I represent have offered. Throughout this process, I’ve stood up for reform that will lower costs, give families security and peace-of-mind, and make sure people can choose their doctor and care.

“Today, we took a critical step towards making health care more affordable for American families and helping to guarantee our nation’s long-term economic prosperity. Reforming health care is a fiscally responsible course of action that will build on the best of the American system by making sure people can keep their current insurance if they like it and choose what doctors they want see.

“Reform will reduce the growth of health care costs by creating fair, transparent and competitive health insurance markets and cracking down on waste, fraud and abuse. It will improve benefits for seniors, help small businesses to stay open, and stop insurance companies from denying coverage for pre-existing conditions or kicking sick people off their plans.”

From Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele:

michael_steele“Californians have plenty of reason to be disappointed today, as Representative McNerney chose to continue siding with the liberal leaders in Washington and support this government takeover of health care. Rep. McNerney should be ashamed to have been part of this partisan trickery and underhanded tactics used to ram this bill through Congress. And even more so, he should be ashamed to have supported a bill that will force already struggling Californians to face a future of higher taxes, increased premiums and Medicare cuts.

“Americans across the country have made their voices heard and flatly reject this legislation loaded with special deals and tax increases, but Rep. McNerney did not listen to them and instead chose to force this bill through by any means necessary. Rep. McNerney can be sure that voters in his district will not forget this vote that will negatively affect Americans for generations to come, and this November they will be sure to send him packing.”

Many more voices, after the jump…
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Tom Campbell blasts tactic oft-used by GOP

The health-care reform battle is reaching fever pitch, with reports that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, will adopt a rule signaling its assent to the Senate version of the legislation with its vote on reconciliation bill – thus bypassing a House vote on the Senate version alone.

Gibberish, yes. The Washington Post explains it better.

And Republican U.S. Senate candidate and former Congressman Tom Campbell says it’s bad, bad, bad.

“This approach is an outrage. It’s not too much to ask that our Representatives actually vote on measures they intend to make into law. That’s what the Constitution requires. That’s what personal accountability requires. I have a record on this: I forced the House to vote on whether President Clinton’s war in Yugoslavia should go ahead or not. The Constitution required Congress to make that decision. No less importantly, here, a bill with a $2.5 trillion price tag has to be voted on the merits, by the House and the Senate. To think that a bill with that kind of fiscal impact and social impact could be passed without even a vote cast in the House is absurd. This is a new low in Democrat Congressional tactics.”

But as Time’s Karen Tumulty noted Saturday, Donald Wolfensberger – director of the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Congress Project, and a former House Rules Committee chief of staff under GOP rule – made it clear years ago that this is hardly a “Democrat Congressional tactic.”

When Republicans were in the minority, they railed against self-executing rules as being anti-deliberative because they undermined and perverted the work of committees and also prevented the House from having a separate debate and vote on the majority’s preferred changes. From the 95th to 98th Congresses (1977-84), there were only eight self-executing rules making up just 1 percent of the 857 total rules granted. However, in Speaker Tip O’Neill’s (D-Mass.) final term in the 99th Congress, there were 20 self-executing rules (12 percent). In Rep. Jim Wright’s (D-Texas) only full term as Speaker, in the 100th Congress, there were 18 self-executing rules (17 percent). They reached a high point of 30 under Speaker Tom Foley (D-Wash.) during the final Democratic Congress, the 103rd, for 22 percent of all rules.

When Republicans took power in 1995, they soon lost their aversion to self-executing rules and proceeded to set new records under Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). There were 38 and 52 self-executing rules in the 104th and 105th Congresses (1995-1998), making up 25 percent and 35 percent of all rules, respectively. Under Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) there were 40, 42 and 30 self-executing rules in the 106th, 107th and 108th Congresses (22 percent, 37 percent and 22 percent, respectively). Thus far in the 109th Congress, self-executing rules make up about 16 percent of all rules.

On April 26, [2006] the Rules Committee served up the mother of all self-executing rules for the lobby/ethics reform bill. The committee hit the trifecta with not one, not two, but three self-executing provisions in the same special rule. The first trigger was a double whammy: “In lieu of the amendments recommended by the Committees on the Judiciary, Rules, and Government Reform now printed in the bill, the amendment in the nature of a substitute consisting of the text of the Rules Committee Print dated April 21, 2006, modified by the amendment printed in part A of the report of the Committee on Rules accompanying this resolution, shall be considered as adopted in the House and the Committee of the Whole.”

So Republicans eagerly used this tactic when it suited them, again and again. And Tom Campbell was there, representing the 12th Congressional District from 1989 to 1993 and the 15th Congressional District from 1995 to 2001.

“Fair question, and it’s true that both Democrats and Republicans have stretched the rules for their own purposes,” he told me today in an e-mail. “Never before, however, have I seen a ‘deeming’ rule used in this manner. The only thing close was on an adjournment resolution, where one house decided to leave town before the other was done. I never saw it done to avoid a vote on a substantive matter of this importance.”

The Congressional Research Service, however, recalls several examples in which self-executing rules were used “to enact significant substantive and sometimes controversial propositions” — including at least four during Campbell’s tenure:

— On March 19, 1996, the House adopted a rule (H.Res. 384) that incorporated a voluntary employee verification program — addressing the employment of illegal immigrants — into a committee substitute made in order as original text.
— H.Res. 239, agreed to on September 24, 1997, automatically incorporated into the base bill a provision to block the use of statistical sampling for the 2000 census until federal courts had an opportunity to rule on its constitutionality.
–A closed rule (H.Res. 303) on an IRS reform bill provided for automatic adoption of four amendments to the committee substitute made in order as original text. The rule was adopted on November 5, 1997, with bipartisan support.
— On May 7, 1998, an intelligence authorization bill was made in order by H.Res. 420. This self-executing rule dropped a section from the intelligence measure that would have permitted the CIA to offer their employees an early-out retirement program.

None of those are as far-reaching as health-care reform, but they sure weren’t just adjournment votes, either.


GOP Senate candidates on Bunning’s blockade

The Washington Post reports that U.S. Sen. Jim Bunning, R-Ky., again this morning was the lone vote blocking the Senate from extending unemployment benefits, highway funds and other programs in the face of mounting criticism from Democrats and pleas from his own party.

So how do California’s Republican U.S. Senate primary candidates feel about Bunning’s single-handed blockade?

Chuck DeVore believes that Sen. Bunning’s point about actually paying for spending with something other than more debt is pretty important,” DeVore spokesman Joshua Trevino said today. “It’s a shame the Senate majority doesn’t feel the same.”

Carly Fiorina‘s campaign addressed the issue without taking a stance on Bunning’s tactic.

“Carly believes extending unemployment benefits is crucial and that Congress can and should find a way to pay for it rather than continuing to push the country deeper into debt,” Fiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund said in an e-mail. “Washington’s favorite game of one-upmanship that’s being played over this issue is exactly the kind of thing Americans are sick and tired of. Carly believes U.S. Senate should do what the American people elected them to do, which is get together to find a mutually agreeable solution to this problem.”

And Tom Campbell said the vote should be allowed to go forward.

“Sen. Bunning’s point is that we should take the money from the $789 billion ‘stimulus bill’ that was passed last year, of which more than $500 billion still remains to be spent. That would be preferable by far to adding to the deficit further; however, the Senate has to deal with the economic emergency at hand, and the needs of those who are out of work, and should go ahead without further delay,” Campbell said. “I do renew my call for a return to Gramm Rudman Hollings, whereby there are set deficit reduction goals, which have to be followed. Then emergency needs like this could be factored in to the important process of overall budget control.”

See what some from the other side of the aisle have had to say over the past few days about his single-handed blockade, after the jump…
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Hypocrisy on reconciliation for health reform?

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tom Campbell today blasted U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., for supporting use of “reconciliation” to pass health-care reform legislation because that’s a tactic Republicans certainly would never use, even on an issue they felt was terribly important.

Oh, wait, scratch that. They did it too.

For the jargon-challenged, reconciliation is a Senate process intended to allow consideration of certain controversial, budget-related bills by limiting debate and amendment. Basically, it’s a way to get a bill passed without needing the 60 votes to overcome a filibuster, in which a minority delays or entirely obstructs a vote on something by extending debate indefinitely.

“When Senator Barbara Boxer and her Democratic colleagues were in the minority in the US Senate, they would routinely block bills they opposed by using the 60-vote requirement to invoke cloture,” Campbell said in a statement issued today. “Now they’re complaining that the Republicans are doing the same thing, so they’re proposing an end run around the 60-vote requirement using ‘reconciliation’ – a process that’s reserved for bills legitimately and intimately related to the budget process. It was never intended for major policy bills.”

“Whether you like or dislike the Democrats’ health care bill, there’s no doubt it is a major policy proposal. If ‘reconciliation’ is used to jam this unpopular proposal through, it can be used for any purpose, essentially killing the 60-vote requirement,” he said.

Senate Republicans had no problem using reconciliation to jam through the Bush tax cuts in 2001 and 2003, the Tax Increase Prevention and Reconciliation Act of 2005, and the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005.

And does anyone really think bringing health-care costs under control while extending coverage to tens of millions of currently-uninsured Americans isn’t “legitimately and intimately related to the budget process?” If so, the Congressional Budget Office has some news for you:

The nation’s long-term fiscal balance will be determined primarily by the future rate of health care cost growth. If health care costs continued growing at the same rate over the next four decades as they did over the past four decades, federal spending on Medicare andMedicaid alone would rise to about 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) by 2050 — roughly the share of the economy now accounted for by the entire federal budget.

And that’s from three years ago. Still, Campbell continues:

“The 60-vote requirement is an important protection against major policy changes being adopted by the thinnest of majorities. While it’s not found in the Constitution itself, the bi-cameral nature of legislation indicates a desire to obtain broad consensus, not just a popular majority, before legislation is enacted.

“In the present context, that necessity is made even clearer by the resounding voice of the American people against what the Democrats attempted to push through as health care reform prior to the Massachusetts Senate election. The American people were particularly repulsed at the abuses of majority power by the special deals worked out for Nebraska and union members. They thought it truly unfair to tax those who have health care insurance packages more generous than what the Democrats’ bill considered ‘good enough,’ and then exempting union members from that tax.

“If Senator Barbara Boxer and her colleagues use ‘reconciliation’ to force their plan on the American people, they will have broken faith with the majority of those they represent, and further tarnished, if that were possible, the reputation of the Congress under Democratic rule.”

This isn’t a question of health-care policy; this is a question of political process, and how things do and don’t get done in Washington. Did the founding fathers intend for every big policy debate to be decided only by supermajority rule, rather than majority rule? Does bipartisanship extend to letting the minority party to stymie anything it disagrees with, and if so, what does “minority party” even mean?

Whatever party is in the minority will always have a big beef with reconciliation, no matter what the issue – nobody likes being told to be quiet and sit down, be they Democrats or Republicans. But who realistically expects one side to refrain from a tactic the other side has used so recently?


Campaign updates: To debate, or not to debate?

The Republican U.S. Senate primary campaign of Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine, advised reporters today that one of his rivals, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, “is trying to shut down a proposed candidate debate at the California Republican Party spring convention” while declining another debate invitation from Brandman University (although Fiorina did apparently accept an invitation from ABC News and the League of Women Voters for a primary debate on May 6 in Los Angeles).

Chuck DeVore“We’re assiduous about not making allegations we can’t source,” DeVore spokesman Joshua Trevino told me this evening – most of the time. “I can’t share how we know the Fiorina people are aggressively trying to quash the CRP debate, I can only assure you it is so.”

Well, a lot of California Republican Party insiders certainly seem to want the candidates to debate. FlashReport publisher and CRP Vice Chairman Jon Fleischman told me this evening that in his contacts with various campaigns and GOP insiders, “I have not sensed that Fiorina is not willing to debate, but I sensed a reticence on the part of her campaign to relinquish her keynote position at the convention luncheon in order to debate.”

California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring said as of now, no debate is scheduled.

“If all of the candidates for Senate or governor came to me and said ‘we want to do a debate at the convention,’ then we would put one on, but absent that, I’ve got to hold a convention,” he said this evening. “At the end of the day, the show must go on.”

Carly FiorinaFiorina spokeswoman Julie Soderlund got back to me shortly after both the above conversations to note that Nehring had invited Fiorina to keynote the lunch back in December, and she had promptly accepted. “Carly looks forward to her speech and to a full compliment of convention activities over the weekend,” Soderlund said. “We have received no invitation to a debate at the convention.”

Of course, Nehring’s invitation for Fiorina to keynote happened before Tom Campbell switched from the GOP gubernatorial primary to this race, shaking up the contest’s dynamics considerably. And Campbell spokesman Jamie Fisfis told me tonight that “we are always open to debates. We have a zillion invites and this would be an important one.”

(UPDATE @ 8:06 P.M.: This just in from California Republican Party Chief Operating Officer Brent Lowder:
“A series of discussions on convention debates were held at the staff level with statewide campaigns in recent months; however, no formal invitations were extended. After recent internal discussion, the CRP has decided not to make any changes to the 2010 Spring Convention agenda involving debates.
“We look forward to an exciting convention that will showcase all of our major candidates and will be the staging ground for a united and energized California Republican Party to achieve important victories in the upcoming general election campaign.”)

(UPDATE @ 2:14 P.M. THURSDAY: Yet more from Lowder, just now: “Based on some confusion arising from my statement yesterday on potential convention debates, I would like to clarify the exact position of the California Republican Party. We are currently moving forward with a convention that has no planned debates in the GOP primaries for Governor or United States Senate because our discussions with the campaigns did not indicate that all candidates would participate. If we were to hear from all of the major candidates in either of those primaries that they would like the CRP to facilitate a debate at the convention, we would be pleased to do so.”)

Meanwhile, incumbent U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., announced she’ll file her candidacy documents in person Thursday at the Riverside County Registar of Voters – she has a home in Rancho Mirage – before lunching with supporters in Riverside. She owns a condo up here in Oakland, too, but making a media event out of filing in a red county seems to have more of a centrist “je ne sais quoi,” no?

Today’s minor happenings in the gubernatorial and state Attorney General races, after the jump…
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