Political insiders from both parties blame the rise in primary challenges for the gridlock we’re seeing in Congress. You’ve heard it before. Talking heads will that Republicans, for example, have to appeal to their base to avoid an insurgent conservative primary challenger.
Though it’s true that some incumbents have been knocked off by primary challengers in recent election cycles, Robert Boatright, a political science professor at Clark University and author of Getting Primaried: The Changing Politics of Congressional Primary Challenges, challenges the conventional wisdom that primary challenges are responsible for gridlock in Washington:
There’s just one problem with the idea that primaries have become more common and more important: It’s dead wrong. By my count, there’s nothing unique about the number of competitive primary challenges occurring today. In fact, there were more competitive primary races run in the House during the 1970s (an average of 49 per election) than there have been in the last decade (the average has been 45 each election). Today’s primaries only look competitive because the late 1990s had so few of them. The pattern in the Senate is similar.
While most Democrats seem to be hailing the news that Obamacare will reduce the incentive to work, Health and Human Service Secretary Kathleen Sebelius seems to be in complete denial.
At a stop in Orlando on Monday, Sebelius told reports that there is no evidence that Obamacare will reduce employment.
“There is absolutely no evidence, and every economist will tell you this, that there is any job-loss related to the Affordable Care Act,” Sebelius said. “Part-time physicians are actually down since 2010, not up. The number of full-time workers continues to increase. I know that’s a popular myth that continues to be repeated, but it just is not accurate.”
Well, there is evidence.
The Congressional Budget Office recently determined that Obamacare would reduce employment by 2 million full-time workers by 2017, up from an earlier projection of 800,000, rising to 2.5 million by 2024. The reason for the decline in workers is because the subsidies, which are tied to income, would encourage people to work less.
Believe it or not, folks, it’s been five years since President Barack Obama signed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the 2009 stimulus measure spent $831 billion on infrastructure, tax credits, and other policies that largely served as taxpayer-funded giveaways to core leftist constituencies
Passed in the aftermath of the Great Recession, the stimulus bill was based on the Keynesian notion that the government, through spending on “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects and other purported economic multipliers, could drive aggregate demand and create jobs.
Christina Romer and Jared Bernstein, the economic advisors who developed the stimulus plan, argued that these policies would help bring the United States back from the brink of economic depression. In their January 2009 policy paper, the two economists claimed that the unemployment rate would not exceed 7.9% with the stimulus bill, while it would reach 8.8% without it. Because, you know, counterfactual.
They were wrong.
Even with the $831 billion stimulus bill, the unemployment rate rose from 7.8% in January 2009 to 10% in October of that same year, at which point Romer declared that the measure had already had its greatest impact. In fact, unemployment didn’t fall below 9% until October 2011.
The infamous Romer-Bernstein chart shows the unemployment rate falling to 5% in December 2013. In reality, the December 2013 unemployment rate was 6.7%, nearly 2 points higher.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) blasted Republicans who backed the debt ceiling increase this week, telling conservative talk show host Mark Levin on Thursday that the Washington political establishment “think the American people are a bunch of rubes” who “don’t remember what they say.”
“In the 13 months I’ve been in the Senate, it has become apparent to me the single thing that Republican politicians hate and fear the most, and that is when they’re forced to tell the truth,” Cruz told Levin. “It makes their heads explode.”
“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” — George Orwell
— Internet-wide protest against government surveillance: Some of the most well-known tech firms and civil liberties organizations will participate tomorrow in “The Day We Fight Back,” an Internet-wide protest against government surveillance, hoping to replicate the success of protests two years ago against SOPA and PIPA. Organizers are also dedicating the event to Aaron Swartz, an online activist who committed suicide last year. He was facing federal charges at the time of his death. More than 4,500 websites are expected to participate in the protest, according to The Hill.
— Hardly any Democrat wants to campaign with Obama: Politico reports this morning that only a handful of Democrats running in races across the country gave an “unequivocal ‘yes’” when asked if they would campaign with President Obama.
The Wall Street Journal ran a story today highlighting the pressure that insurers are under from politicians and state regulators to expand provider networks in plans on being sold on the Obamacare exchanges. That’s a “serious problem,” as Joe Scarborough said this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe.
“I think this is, at the end of the day, the issue that’s the greatest challenge for everybody,” said Scarborough as he pointed to the headline in today’s Wall Street Journal. “If patients aren’t allowed to go to the doctor of their choice, that’s going to be a serious problem.”
Mark Halperin, a senior political analyst at Time, pointed out that the problem extends beyond doctors to “medical clinics or any kind of providers.”
“It’s as if the plans are being regulated by both the state and, increasingly, by the federal program,” Halperin told Scarborough. “And it’s going to deny people access to medical providers they had in previous plans.”
Vulnerable Senate Democrats have been working overtime to distance themselves from President Barack Obama by highlighting differences they have with the White House on various issues, even avoiding appearances with him in visits to their home states.
But are these Democrats as independent as they would have voters at home believe? Not really, according to a 2013 vote analysis by Roll Call:
As Sen. Mark Pryor runs for a third term in Arkansas — he’s the only incumbent now rated an underdog by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call — he will surely delight in announcing he voted more often against Obama than any other Senate Democrat last year. That will sound much more like a boast than a confession in a place where the president’s approval last year was 35 percent, according to state-by-state approval numbers released last week by Gallup.
But Republican Rep. Tom Cotton will just as undoubtedly promote his challenge by describing Pryor’s presidential support score in a way that sounds exactly the opposite, but is just as precise: The sitting senator sided with Obama 90 percent of the time.
Nearly a week after floating the idea of running for Congress, Politico reported this morning that Sandra Fluke has filed paperwork with the California Democratic Party to seek its nomination in California’s 33rd district, the seat being vacated by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA):
The California Democratic Party lists Fluke’s name as having officially filed with the party to run in the California district of the retiring Democrat. Two other candidates have filed to run and three others are considered potential candidates, according to the party’s site.
But a spokeswoman for Fluke said the move was simply a necessary step if down the line she wants to seek the party’s endorsement and said no final decisions have been made.
Fluke has not filed campaign paperwork with the FEC.
As we noted last week, Fluke gained notoriety in 2012 when she testified at a hearing hosted by House Democrats, during which she claimed that her contraceptives cost her some $3,000 over the course of a few years.
President Barack Obama faces a pretty long road ahead as he seeks to get various parts of his second-term agenda through Congress. Though he likes to blame congressional Republicans for blocking his initiatives, Politico noted this morning that even Democrats aren’t going to make things easy:
From trade to Iran sanctions, the Keystone XL pipeline, Obamacare, the National Security Agency and energy policy, Senate Democrats seem unusually comfortable criticizing the president, with only minimal concerns about repercussions from the White House.
Even Obama’s steadfast ally, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, didn’t mince words last week when he rejected a bill to fast-track trade deals that is strongly backed by the White House, working against Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, a Senate colleague who has been tapped to be the president’s ambassador to China.
For some lawmakers, the criticism is predictable: Democrats from energy-producing states are likely to whack the administration’s energy policies and red-state Democrats up for reelection in 2014 are worried about Obamacare fallout. In some instances, the contrasts between vulnerable Senate Democrats and the White House appear to be orchestrated to counter Obama’s low approval rates in red states where incumbents will face voters this fall, congressional aides in both parties suggest.
But not all the criticism is coming from expected quarters.
Liberal Democrats have decried NSA surveillance programs, and Democrats not up for reelection for years seem perfectly at ease clashing with the White House.
Two labor leaders sent a blistering letter to top Democratic congressional leaders this week expressing their frustration with Obamacare, according Nevada-based journalist Jon Ralston, the latest example of frustration with the law from one of the party’s key special-interest constituencies:
Las Vegas’ own D. Taylor of UniteHERE and Terry O’Sullivan of LIUNA sent the letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi this week, part of an unrelenting campaign against the health care law’s implementation that they have been waging since last year. The letter, attached here, concludes: “It would be a sad irony indeed if the signature legislative accomplishment of an Administration committed to reducing income inequality cut living standards for middle income and low wage workers.”
The full letter is available here (PDF).
This isn’t the first time labor leaders have spoken out against or expressed frustration with Obamacare. In July, for example, three big-name union leaders, including James Hoffa of the Teamsters, sent a letter to Democratic congressional leaders urging them to address their concerns with the law.