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Feinstein won’t give up on assault weapons ban

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein sounded pretty ticked off when she spoke on CNN a few moments ago about Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid pronouncing dead her effort to reinstate the federal assault-weapons ban.

Feinstein, D-Calif., said Reid, D-Nev., told her she would have an opportunity for a vote and “I take him at his word.”

More specifically, Feinstein said she left her meeting with Reid under the impression that she’d get a vote both on her overall bill and on a broken-out section that would only ban large-capacity ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds.

“This is very important to me and I’m not going to lay down and play dead,” she told CNN, noting polls show public support for an assault-weapons ban and her bill passed the Senate Judiciary Committee last Thursday on a 10-8 vote. “Not to give me a vote on this would be a major betrayal of trust, as I would see it.”

The Judiciary Committee passed the bill on a strict party-line vote, and Reid told reporters Tuesday that the proposed assault weapons ban isn’t holding up against Senate rules requiring at least 60 votes to end debate and move to final passage. It’s been known all along that Reid and several other Democratic senators from relatively conservative states probably wouldn’t support such a bill.

The White House replied that the assault-weapons ban can still be brought up as an amendment, and the votes can be found to pass it.

Polls have shown majority support for an assault weapons ban, though far weaker than that for universal background checks or a large-capacity magazine ban. A recent ABC News/Washington Post poll pegged support for an assault-weapons ban at 57 percent; Quinnipiac University put it at 54 percent; and the Pew Research Center/USA Today put it at 56 percent.

Posted on Tuesday, March 19th, 2013
Under: Dianne Feinstein, gun control, Harry Reid, U.S. Senate | 6 Comments »

Local Dems running hard with student-loan issue

Democrats are running hard with the student-loan issue, including some efforts here in the Bay Area.

The interest rate on need-based student loans will double to 6.8 percent July 1 unless a law is passed. Both sides of the aisle appear to favor freezing the interest rate, yet each side is using the question of how to pay for it against the other as a political issue.

The House last week passed Republicans’ HR 4628 to maintain the rate at 3.4 percent for another year, paid for by eliminating the Prevention and Public Health Fund created by the Affordable Care Act health care reform law. Democrats say the GOP has set up a false dilemma by cutting flu vaccines, cancer and heart disease screenings and other services for children and families.

The White House has threatened a veto, but the bill isn’t expected to get past the Democrat-controlled Senate, anyway. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has introduced S.2343 to pay for freezing the interest rate by making it harder for owners of so-called S corporations to avoid paying Social Security and Medicare payroll taxes on some of their earnings.

The Senate might consider Reid’s bill Monday, so politicians are hitting the streets and phones to drum up support.

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, will be joined by UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau, Mills College President Alecia DeCoudreaux, Holy Names University President William Hynes, and Cal State East Bay President Leroy Morishita for a news conference tomorrow morning at Cal’s Haas Pavilion.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, will address this and other issues during a conference call tomorrow with reporters.

And Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, will attend a rally Thursday morning at San Jose State University with local students who’ll discuss how the interest-rate increase would affect them. An estimated 7.4 million students nationwide, including more than 570,000 in California, would pay an average of $1,000 more over the life of their loans.

UPDATE @ 4:25 P.M. WEDNESDAY: Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, was banging the drum today at Foothill College in Los Altos Hills, while Rep. Mike Thompson, D-Napa, did so at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park.

Posted on Tuesday, May 1st, 2012
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, education, Harry Reid, healthcare reform, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, Zoe Lofgren | 3 Comments »

Jerry Brown, Harry Reid tout energy summit

A conference at the end of this month in Las Vegas will be a crucial opportunity for the nation to kick-start its clean-energy revolution, Gov. Jerry Brown and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters on a conference call this morning.

Brown and Reid, D-Nev., as well as U.S. Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus and Center for American Progress President and CEO John Podesta, were touting the National Clean Energy Summit 4.0, to be held Aug. 30 at the Aria Resort and Casino.

Business executives, energy policy innovators, entrepreneurs, investors and senior public officials from both parties, along with citizens and students, will discuss the nation’s energy future. Besides Brown and Mabus, speakers will include Vice President Joe Biden, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire.

“California has in many ways led in many fields, and with respect to renewable energy, we are very much out in the forefront,” Brown said, a policy path that has been “building up over many decades” back to his first tenure as governor. He gave former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger props for having championed renewable energy standards, and said he’s advanced that goal by signing legislation with more teeth.

The state now has a goal of generating 20,000 megawatts of solar energy by 2020 – 12,000 megawatts in distributed generation, meaning individual rooftop-style sites, and 8,000 in centrally-based power generation like the 1,000-megawatt Blythe project for which ground was recently broken.

“We’re really committed here,” Brown said. “All signals are go and even though we’ve got some economic headwinds, this part of the economy is expanding.”

“You’ve put your money where your mouth is … and you’re a role model for every governor,” Reid told Brown.

“Almost three million are employed as we speak in the clean technology sector across the country,” Reid said, but although this sector has grown at twice the rate of the overall economy since 2003, “I’m disappointed we haven’t done better.”

Reid blasted House Republicans for trying to roll back some of the clean-energy progress made in recent years, citing as an example their unsuccessful effort last month to repeal recent light-bulb energy efficiency standards.

The torpid economy is making investors reluctant to keep supporting the clean-energy sector and Washington must do more to make it inviting, but “it’s very difficult with the backward-leaning Republican House of Representatives we have,” he said.

Mabus called it “a matter of national security.”

“We simply use too much oil and gas. As you look at a military and you look at potential adversaries, you look at their vulnerabilities but you also look at your own vulnerabilities,” he said, and ours is reliance on importing fossil fuels from volatile nations, and the supply and price shocks that entails.

The Navy has committed to deriving at least half of all its energy ashore and afloat from non-fossil-fuel sources by 2020, Mabus said, and at President Obama’s direction is working with the Agriculture and Energy departments on a sustainable biofuels program for the nation’s military and commercial aircraft.

“I think that relatively soon we should have some very concrete things to push forward on that,” he said. “We can lead the country into a different economy and into a different way of using and producing energy.”

The summit is being sponsored by Reid and Podesta’s CAP, as well as by the Clean Energy Project, MGM Resorts International and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Posted on Wednesday, August 10th, 2011
Under: economy, energy, Environment, Harry Reid, Jerry Brown, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Congress extends Patriot Act sections for 4 years

Congress voted yesterday to extend several controversial parts of the Patriot Act for four more years.

The Senate approved S.990 on a 72 to 23 vote, with both of California’s senators in support; the House passed it on a 250 to 153 vote, with no support from any Bay Area member. President Obama signed it into law minutes before the provisions would’ve expired.

The votes made strange bedfellows, with libertarian-leaning Republicans standing with some of Congress’ most liberal Democrats in opposition.

Extended were provisions that authorize roving wiretaps on surveillance targets; provisions that let the government access “any tangible items,” such as library records, as a part of surveillance; and a “lone wolf” provision that allows surveillance of those in the United States without citizenship, a green card or political asylum who are not connected to an identified terrorist group.

Civil liberties advocates and much of the Bay Area’s House delegation had believed — especially now that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is dead – this was the right time to reassess the nation’s balance of security measures and civil liberties.

But the fix was in a week ago, when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.; Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.; and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, struck a deal for an amendment-free extension until June 1, 2015.

In February, all Bay Area House members except Rep. Jerry McNerney, D-Pleasanton, had voted against extending these provisions; McNerney had supported extending them until December, but ultimately they were extended for only 90 days and are set to expire at the end of the month. McNerney spokeswoman Sarah Hersh in February had said the congressman “has serious concerns with this legislation and believes that we must make substantial changes to the law in order to better preserve our country’s most fundamental civil liberties. However, in the meantime, allowing the policy to expire without warning and a comprehensive debate on our security policies would not be advisable.”

Earlier this month, Hersh said McNerney “continues to have major concerns about the Patriot Act. He believes there must be substantial changes made to the law in order to better preserve our civil liberties. A bill hasn’t been released yet, so Congressman McNerney wants to see the legislation before reaching a decision.”

On Thursday, McNerney joined the rest of the Bay Area delegation in opposing the extension. He issued a statement afterward reiterating his concern about freedoms and noting this extension continues the policies without reform. “That is simply not in our country’s best interest. Instead, we should pursue balanced policies that keep our country safe and protect our civil liberties.”

Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, issued a statement saying the law doesn’t properly balance national security with protection of civil liberties.

“I opposed the extension of the PATRIOT Act because we cannot sacrifice fundamental freedoms, including the right to privacy, in our effort to manage the threat of terrorism. Our basic civil liberties, which include access to our library records, medical records, and personal information about private residences and businesses, are not safe from the PATRIOT Act,” she said. “I will continue to push for an end to invasive intelligence gathering tactics that come at the expense of vital civil liberties, many of which have been justified by the overly broad executive branch authorization I opposed in the wake of 9/11.”

American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel Michelle Richardson said the extension means “Congress has missed yet another opportunity to make necessary changes to protect our privacy. It means we’re likely to see more abuse of Patriot Act powers by law enforcement. Next time it’s given the opportunity, Congress should consider prioritizing Americans’ civil liberties by passing actual Patriot Act reform.”

U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., had authored legislation to extend the provisions through the end of 2013. Her office earlier this month referred me to a February floor speech in which she said these provisions are used often and believes “that being able to have good intelligence is what prevents an attack against a New York subway or air cargo plane. It is what keeps this homeland safe, and it is what allows us to get ahead of a terrorist attack. Without them “… we put our nation in jeopardy.”

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., voted for the Patriot Act in 2001, and its reauthorizations in 2006 and in February, saying it gives law enforcement the tools it needs to keep Americans safe. She had expressed concern, however, over provisions such as seizure of library records, and wanted those areas tightened up.

Boxer had supported an amendment authored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and cosponsored by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., which she said would’ve added some checks and balances. She was disappointed that it didn’t get a vote, but voted for the extension anyway because “any delays in providing law enforcement officials the tools they need to disrupt terrorist plots and to find those who would harm our country would be unacceptable.”

Posted on Friday, May 27th, 2011
Under: Barbara Boxer, Barbara Lee, Civil liberties, Dianne Feinstein, Harry Reid, Jerry McNerney, Mitch McConnell, national security, U.S. House, U.S. Senate, War on Terror | 2 Comments »

DISCLOSE Act blocked in Senate

A campaign-finance disclosure bill meant to close the spending floodgates opened by the U.S. Supreme Court in January’s Citizens United ruling was blocked today in the U.S. Senate, bringing joyful statements from some extremely strange bedfellows.

The Senate voted 57-41 on the motion to invoke cloture on the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act; 60 votes were needed to end debate on the bill and bring it to a vote. Both of California’s senators, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, voted for cloture; no Republicans did so; and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was the lone Democrat voting “no,” a parliamentary maneuver that lets him revive the bill some other time if he thinks he has the votes. The House passed its version of the DISCLOSE Act in June.

The American Civil Liberties Union says it supports the disclosure of large contributions to candidates as long as that disclosure doesn’t chill political participation; it had urged senators to oppose DISCLOSE Act.

“The DISCLOSE Act would not improve the integrity of political campaigns in any substantial way but would significantly harm the speech and associational rights of Americans,” Laura Murphy, the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office director, said in a news release. “We can only truly bring positive change to our elections if we continue to respect our cherished free speech rights and, unfortunately, the DISCLOSE Act does not do that. We commend the Senate for rejecting this well-intentioned but overly broad legislation.”

Michael Macleod-Ball, the ACLU Chief Legislative and Policy Counsel, said small donors to small organizations risk losing anonymity under the bill while larger, mainstream organizations would be exempt from donor disclosure – a further distortion of campaign finance fairness.

Way over on the right, Americans for Limited Government celebrated the bill’s blockage too.

“The so-called DISCLOSE Act imposes arduous regulations on corporations and non-profits and is explicitly designed to intimidate dissent, all in violation of the First Amendment. Senate Republicans deserve the praise of all freedom-loving Americans who believe that free, unrestricted political speech is a basic and fundamental right under the Constitution,” ALG President Bill Wilson said in his news release. “This is intended to intimidate certain groups and individuals from saying anything at all and into giving up their First Amendment rights. It’s a cynical gag order.”

Open government and consumer advocacy groups such as Common Cause and Public Citizen had strongly supported the bill as a bulwark against the tsunami of money expected to flood this year’s general election season; for it to take effect in time, the Senate would have had to approve it before the August recess.

UPDATE @ 2:09 P.M.: Add the League of Women Voters to groups aggrieved by the DISCLOSE Act’s blockage.

“It is sad to see Senators cling to partisanship and obstructionism once again, instead of working together to find a middle ground on the DISCLOSE Act,” League national president Elisabeth MacNamara said in a news release. “This is a failure for which voters will have to pay this November when corporate and other special interests use secret money to influence our elections.”

“Opponents of the DISCLOSE Act have put forth various criticisms — some true and others based on misinterpretations — justifying their obstruction. But the bottom line is that voters deserve to know who is paying for election advertising. This is not only common sense — it is crucial if voters are to remain the cornerstone of our democracy,” she added. “We would like to know what these opponents have to fear from disclosure of election advertising. Furthermore, what is to prevent them from falling victim to the deceitful advertising which they are refusing to regulate?”

Posted on Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
Under: Barbara Boxer, campaign finance, Dianne Feinstein, Harry Reid, U.S. Senate | 2 Comments »

Lee accepts Reid’s apology over racial comments

Congressional Black Caucus Chairwoman Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, today said Republicans’ calls for U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to step down due to offensive comments he made about then-presidential-candidate Barack Obama are a distraction from real issues facing the nation.

Game Change,” a new book about the 2008 campaign by Time magazine reporter Mark Halperin and New York magazine writer John Heileman, said Reid in private conservations said the country was ready for a black president — particularly one who’s “light-skinned” with no “Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” Obama has accepted Reid’s apology.

Lee today said she also has spoken with Reid about it “and he apologized for his unfortunate remarks concerning the President and he understands the gravity of such remarks. There are too many issues like the economy, job creation and energy for these regrettable comments to distract us from the work that must be done on behalf of the American people.

“Over the years, I have had an opportunity to work with Majority Leader Reid. Senator Reid’s record provides a stark contrast to actions of Republicans to block legislation that would benefit poor and minority communities – most recently reflected in Republican opposition to the Health Bill now under consideration. I look forward to Senator Reid continuing to serve as Majority Leader to guide this important agenda through the Senate,” Lee continued.

“The Congressional Black Caucus believes that thoughtful engagement and civil discourse on race is needed, as our first ‘Dialogue on Race’ in November 2009 demonstrated. There is a deep unease about race which cannot be swept under the rug. I appreciate Senator Reid’s apology and look forward to our continuing work.”

Posted on Monday, January 11th, 2010
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Lee, Harry Reid, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | 6 Comments »

Betcha DiFi isn’t running for governor

Why? Because she just stepped up to an important job, that’s why.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., today nominated U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., to chair the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in the 111th Congress, replacing U.S. Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., as he moves over to lead the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. (U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., would succeed Feinstein in her current chairmanship at the Rules and Administration Committee.)

The Intelligence Committee oversees the nation’s 16 intelligence agencies, authorizes the nation’s intelligence budget, and writes the laws for the conduct and management of intelligence operations. Its 15 members are selected by the Senate leadership; Feinstein has served on it for eight years, would be the first woman to chair the committee in its 32-year history, and said today she’s “honored to be nominated.”

“I look forward to working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle,” she said in her news release. “This is a critical task at a critical time in our nation’s history. With the United States fighting two wars, and facing multiple threats around the globe, it’s essential to the nation that our intelligence agencies gather reliable information, and do so in a manner that comports with our laws and our national values.”

Feinstein thanked Rockefeller for his service, saying “oversight of the intelligence community improved under his leadership” she she’s glad he’ll stay on as a committee member. She also announced that David Grannis, her Intelligence Committee designee since March 2005, would become the new staff director; Grannis used to work for the House Select Committee on Homeland Security and for Rep. Jane Harman, D-El Segundo.

This isn’t final yet; this is Reid’s recommendation to the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee, and final approval will be ratified with an organizing resolution when the Senate returns to session in January. That said, it seems unlikely it won’t go through.

Feinstein’s statement said her first priorities would include “working with the Obama Administration to end the practice of coercive interrogations and creating a uniform standard for interrogations throughout the U.S. government; ending the use of contractors in interrogations; granting the International Committee of the Red Cross access to detainees; and closing the Guantanamo Bay detention facility within one year.”

Expect outcries from all those who blasted Feinstein late last year for her crucial Judiciary Committee vote supporting Michael Mukasey’s confirmation as Attorney General, despite what many heard as his waffling statements on the legality of using torture techniques such as waterboarding as interrogation methods. Ditto from those who blasted her vote this past July on granting immunity to telecommunications companies that had cooperated with the Bush Administration’s secret domestic wiretapping operations.

On the California political front, I’ve heard many pundits say the 2010 Democratic gubernatorial nomination would be Feinstein’s if she wanted it, and most likely Jerry Brown‘s otherwise; no offense to Gavin Newsom, John Garamendi and the rest of the Democrats said to be in the race, but it’s hard to see how any of them hold a candle to Feinstein’s or Brown’s name recognition and fundraising ability, no matter her past votes. But I never thought she’d want it; even without this news, there was a lot to keep her in the Senate (and a lot to dissuade anyone from wanting to be governor of California). Today, I think I hear champagne corks popping from the direction of Jerry Brown’s house…

Posted on Monday, December 15th, 2008
Under: Dianne Feinstein, Harry Reid, Jerry Brown, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Boxer mum on what should happen to Lieberman

With Democrats having widened their U.S. Senate majority this week, the political fate of U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., is up in the air.

Lieberman, you’ll recall, lost his state’s 2006 Democratic primary to a more progressive challenger, Ned Lamont, whose victory was attributed in large part to Lieberman’s support of the Iraq war. But Lieberman ran in the 2006 general election as an independent, and kept his seat.

This put Democrats in something of a bind – they needed Lieberman, along with Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, to hold onto their 51-49 Senate majority. So Lieberman, who agreed to keep caucusing with the Democrats on most matters, was allowed to keep his chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

But since then, Lieberman endorsed John McCain in this presidential election; spoke at the Republican National Convention; and trash-talked Barack Obama on several occasions. Now that Democrats don’t need his help to keep control of the Senate anymore, the calls for his political head are mounting – see here, here and here.

Rumor has it Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told Lieberman yesterday the price of his remaining in the caucus would be relinquishing his committee chair. Lieberman reportedly balked, perhaps hoping to convince the Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee – which helps guide the caucus’ decision-making on committee chairmanships – that he should keep his post.

And that brings us right here to California, for U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., is a Senate Democratic Steering and Outreach Committee member.

Boxer was among several Senators who stumped for Lieberman in the 2006 primary – incurring some of her constituents’ wrath, since she’s been so staunchly against the war and Lieberman thought it was a good idea – but then supported Lamont in the 2006 general election. Now, it seems, Boxer may once again have a role to play in Lieberman’s fate.

I asked Boxer’s spokespeople today what she believes should be done about Lieberman, and whether her office has been receiving phone calls on this issue. “Senator Boxer feels that what Sen. Lieberman did was extremely hurtful, but beyond that, we aren’t going to comment at this time,” communications director Natalie Ravitz replied.

Posted on Friday, November 7th, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, General, Harry Reid, Joe Lieberman, John McCain, U.S. Senate | 1 Comment »

Debate delay unpopular with Dems, public

Everyone’s getting a piece of the action on Republican presidential nominee John McCain‘s call to delay Friday’s presidential debate so he and Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama can go back to the U.S. Senate to take part in hashing out the financial-market bailout package.

U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.: “The American people expect their President to be calm in a crisis, not engaging in political theater, which is what John McCain is doing today. He is desperate to change the subject — everyone knows that a deregulation fever led to this crisis and John McCain helped lead the way. This is certainly the right time for the American people to see these two candidates talk about the serious challenges our country faces both here and around the world. We need a President who can handle more than one challenge at a time. In life, when times get tough, you don’t get time-outs.”

House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-Martinez: “With all due respect, Sen. McCain is wrong to suggest Congress is not making progress on legislation to rescue the economy. It would be very damaging to our efforts now to inject partisan politics into this critical effort. The American people need to learn more about the person who is going to be their next president and his plan for a stable economic future. Therefore, it is vital that Senators Obama and McCain go forward with the debate Friday as scheduled. Meanwhile, Congress will continue working on economic legislation that will have strong protections for taxpayers, homeowners and consumers.”

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.: “This is a critical time for our country. While I appreciate that both candidates have signaled their willingness to help, Congress and the Administration have a process in place to reach a solution to this unprecedented financial crisis. I understand that the candidates are putting together a joint statement at Senator Obama’s suggestion. But it would not be helpful at this time to have them come back during these negotiations and risk injecting presidential politics into this process or distract important talks about the future of our nation’s economy. If that changes, we will call upon them. We need leadership; not a campaign photo op. If there were ever a time for both candidates to hold a debate before the American people about this serious challenge, it is now.”

Even Libertarian presidential nominee Bob Barr and independent candidate Ralph Nader got into the act, issuing a joint statement: “The fact that a candidate can call for changing the date of the debate only two days before it is scheduled indicates how easy it would be for the candidates to also call for the inclusion of the leading third party and independent candidates, which would bring fresh ideas to the table on how our country can truly tackle this heavy challenge.”

And apparently, the American public isn’t hot on a delay either: Survey USA did a quick poll today which found only 10 percent support postponing the debate.

UPDATE @ 3:47 P.M.: More!

U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.: “The economic crisis facing this nation is gravely serious. The stakes are high. The foreclosure crisis has spread to Wall Street and is affecting the entire economy. Congress is moving quickly. A process is underway, the House and Senate Banking committees are negotiating and working to come up with a plan that makes sense, protects the taxpayers, ensures oversight, and limits executive compensation for those who accept public dollars. Senator McCain’s announcement today won’t help find a solution. It is a distraction, at a time when sober reflection is needed. Simply put, we must not inject Presidential politics into this process.”

And… David Letterman! (per Drudge):

David Letterman tells audience that McCain called him today to tell him he had to rush back to DC to deal with the economy.

Then in the middle of the taping Dave got word that McCain was, in fact just down the street being interviewed by Katie Couric. Dave even cut over to the live video of the interview, and said, “Hey Senator, can I give you a ride home?”

Earlier in the show, Dave kept saying, “You don’t suspend your campaign. This doesn’t smell right. This isn’t the way a tested hero behaves.” And he joked: “I think someone’s putting something in his metamucil.”

“He can’t run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second string quarterback, Sara Palin. Where is she?”

“What are you going to do if you’re elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We’ve got a guy like that now!”

UPDATE @ 12:48 P.M. THURSDAY:

Posted on Wednesday, September 24th, 2008
Under: Barack Obama, Barbara Boxer, Elections, George Miller, Harry Reid, John McCain, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »

Stark, Baucus turn up the heat on Medicare bill

The only reason why a Senator might vote against a Medicare improvement bill later this week is because he or she puts corporate profits above senior citizens’ health, House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Pete Stark, D-Fremont, said on a conference call a few minutes ago.

“The bill is modest, it’s far less than we passed in the house a year ago in the CHAMP Act,” Stark said. “It’s a compromise that addresses the current need in Medicare, and that is the pay cut… for the primary care docs.”

That’s a 10.6 percent pay cut, which already has taken effect; because there’s a two-week delay in doctor reimbursements, it’s going to start hurting physicians soon. The pending bill would delay the pay cut for 18 months; advocates say it also would improve Medicare for seniors, people with disabilities, rural residents and pharmacists.

“Time has run out, doctors are facing payment cuts, other medicare programs have expired. Seniors’ care is in jeopardy, plain and simple,” U.S. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., said on the same conference call. “If we pay doctors properly, seniors get to see their doctors when they need to.”

The Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act, H.R.6331, passed the House with a whopping, veto-proof margin of 355-59, but Senate Republicans managed to block it June 26 with a 58-40 cloture vote. The Senate will revisit the bill this week; Baucus said the schedule is up to Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., but with Tuesday’s funeral for former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms likely to put the Senate out of commission for the day, the vote on this bill likely will come Wednesday or Thursday.

President Bush has threatened to veto the bill, but Baucus said he thinks there’s “some daylight” there should the Senate pass the bill with a stronger vote while seniors’ and doctors’ groups turn up the heat on the White House.

“We don’t always get a second chance in life, but this week senators will get a second chance to do the right thing on Medicare,” Baucus said.

Posted on Monday, July 7th, 2008
Under: General, Harry Reid, Pete Stark, U.S. House, U.S. Senate | No Comments »