Fiscal conservatives scored a big victory yesterday afternoon as the House of Representatives rejected the $940 billion Farm Bill by a vote of 195 to 234.
The Farm Bill was easily passed by the Democrat-controlled Senate earlier this month. But the cost of the bill, which is 56% higher than the $604 billion package passed in 2008, was too much for many fiscal conservatives in the House.
This legislation, which is usually passed by Congress every five years, is filled with subsidies for special interests and payments to farmers to not grow crops to keep prices artificially high. It also renews the SNAP food stamp program, consumes nearly 79% of the total cost of the bill.
Efforts were made by many members concerned about the cost of the bill to end farm subsidies to wealthy farmers and to members; however, The Hill notes that those and many other worthy amendments were ruled out-of-order by the House Rules Committee.
For example, Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN) offered an amendment to separate food stamp funding from the rest of the Farm Bill. During testimony before the House Rules Committee, Stutzman explained that Congress has been passing welfare legislation under the guise of farm policy.
Here’s a reminder of what’s at stake in the 2014 mid-term election. During a fundraising event in Chicago on Wednesday, President Barack Obama told Democratic donors that he “could not be more anxious or eager” to have House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) hold the Speaker’s gavel once again:
Joined by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, his former chief of staff, at a glitzy hotel in downtown Chicago, Obama cast his days of politicking as behind him — “I’ve run my last political race.” But he portrayed a renewed Democratic majority in Congress as the best insurance policy against a GOP determined to stand in his way.
“Washington is not broken,” Obama said. “It’s broken right now for a particular reason, but it’s not permanently broken. It can be fixed.”
That’s where Democratic donors and the candidates they support come in, Obama said.
About 150 supporters, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, attended the reception, where tickets started at $1,000 per person.
“I could not be more anxious or eager to have her back as Speaker of the House,” Obama said as the California congresswoman beamed.
Democrats need to gain 17 seats to recapture control of the House next year. It’s an ambitious goal, Democrats and Obama acknowledge, considering the president’s party typically loses seats during the sixth year in office.
While Democrats are paying lip-service to holding the IRS accountable for its targeting of Tea Party groups, ex-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) is trying to spin the scandal as a reason to limit political speech:
The IRS is under heavy fire from both parties following recent revelations that some in the agency singled out conservative groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for a certain tax-exempt status.
Pelosi condemned those actions Thursday, saying those responsible “were wrong and must be held accountable.” But the Democratic leader was also quick to link the scandal to the broader issue of campaign finance, arguing that the episode would never have happened if Congress overhauled the system to eliminate so-called 501(c)(4) groups altogether.
Those groups, which do not have to disclose their donors, have gained power and prominence since the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision empowered them to participate directly in elections provided they focus primarily on “social welfare” and not candidate advocacy.
“These actions highlight why we must overturn Citizens United,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “There is a very thin line … that these so-called ‘social welfare’ organizations must make their priority promoting social welfare, rather than engaging in politics. Clearly, this has not been [the case].
Even before the scandals that have recently hit the Obama Administration, some were already worried that the Democratic Party was in decline. Just last week, Doug Sosnick, a Democratic strategist, told colleagues in a memo that the party is “in decline” and “at considerable risk” when President Barack Obama’s second and final term expires in January 2017.
Sosnick noted that, despite President Obama’s electoral success, “Democrats have lost nine governorships, 56 members of the House and two Senate seats” since he took office. The memo hit before the IRS and DOJ scandals became public knowledge, so there is no measure of the impact of those from the memo. However, there is growing concern from Democrats that the now-scandal plagued White House could cost them next year.
Stuart Rothenberg, editor of the Rothenberg Political Report, explained the electoral implications of the scandals earlier this week:
The danger for Obama, of course, is that many Americans will start to doubt his administration’s veracity and values. If that happens — and for now it is only a danger, not an inevitability — then the president could well turn into a serious liability for Democrats in next year’s elections.
Well, this is one of the strangest claims that we’ve seen in a while. A group of far-Left House Democrats are pushing a resolution that says that women are disproportionately affected by global warming to the point where they could be pushed into a “transactional sex” (or prostitution). That’s not a joke — they’re apparently serious:
Several House Democrats are calling on Congress to recognize that climate change is hurting women more than men, and could even drive poor women to “transactional sex” for survival.
The resolution, from Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) and a dozen other Democrats, says the results of climate change include drought and reduced agricultural output. It says these changes can be particularly harmful for women.
“[F]ood insecure women with limited socioeconomic resources may be vulnerable to situations such as sex work, transactional sex, and early marriage that put them at risk for HIV, STIs, unplanned pregnancy, and poor reproductive health,” it says.
Climate change could also add “workload and stresses” on female farmers, which the resolution says produce 60 to 80 percent of the food in developing countries.
No matter who the Republican nominee is in South Carolina’s First Congressional District, they will have a tough match-up when they face Elizabeth Colbert Busch, who won the Democratic primary last week.
According to a new survey released yesterday by Public Policy Polling, both Mark Sanford and Curtis Bostic, both of whom are vying for the GOP nomination, are in a virtual tie with Busch, the sister of comedian Stephen Colbert.
As far as the Republican runoff goes, Sanford looks to have it in the bag, though he can’t take anything for granted. Public Policy Polling notes that Sanford leads Bostic by a 13-point margin, 53/40. That’s a tough hurdle to overcome with just six days to go. However, neither Republican candidate is overwhelming Busch.
Elizabeth Colbert Busch v. Mark Sanford
- Busch (D): 47%
- Sanford (R): 45%
- Undecided: 8%
Elizabeth Colbert Busch v. Curtis Bostic
- Busch (D): 43%
- Bostic (R): 43%
- Undecided: 14%
Neither Republican candidate is viewed favorably by voters in the district. Bostic is at 30/42, though 28% have no opinion of him. Sanford’s underwater favorability — 34/58 — is really dragging him down.
While the National Rifle Association (NRA) has bungled the narrative in the wake of the tragedy at Shady Hook, President Barack Obama and Democrats still face major hurdles in pushing gun control legislation through Congress.
During his appearance on This Week, David Plouffe, Obama’s senior adviser, boasted that there there were enough votes in both chambers to push part of the gun control measures through Congress. But whenever politicians start talking about this issue, there are always concerns about potential electoral problems — a point that has already been acknowledged by Senate Democratic aides.
In a speech to Democratic donors over the weekend, former President Bill Clinton, who signed the Assault Weapons Ban in 1994, warned his party not look down at gun owners, noting the electoral consequences:
“Do not patronize the passionate supporters of your opponents by looking down your nose at them,” Clinton said.
“A lot of these people live in a world very different from the world lived in by the people proposing these things,” Clinton said. “I know because I come from this world.”
Clinton recalled Al Gore’s 2000 campaign against George W. Bush in Colorado, where a referendum designed to close the so-called gun show loophole shared the ballot with the presidential ticket. Gore publicly backed the proposal, while Bush opposed it.
Last week, Politico ran a story noting that Democrats may finally be “done hiking tax rates” after scoring a victory through raising taxes on higher-income earners in the “fiscal cliff” deal. The story quoted a couple of House Democrats, including House Ways and Means Chair Sander Levin, who said that the issue seemed to be settled for now.
But according to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), the push for higher taxes isn’t over. During an interview with Bob Schieffer yesterday on Face the Nation, Pelosi said that more revenues are needed, presumably as part of any debt ceiling deal that Republicans hope to make:
Pushing back against the Republicans’ deficit-reduction strategy, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said this weekend that more tax revenues – not just spending cuts – must be a part of Congress’s effort to rein in deficits.
Pelosi said the tax hikes in the recent “fiscal-cliff” deal are a start, but don’t go far enough to generate the revenues the government needs to run the country effectively.
“In this legislation we had $620 billion, very significant … changing the high-end tax rate to 39.6 percent. But that is not enough on the revenue side,” Pelosi told CBS’s Bob Schieffer in an interview taped Friday.
Without offering many specifics, the California Democrat said she wants to scour the tax code for unnecessary loopholes and “unfair” benefits that help those – either companies or individuals – who don’t need it.
There has been a lot of talk about Republicans ceasing to be a national party due to much of its support coming from the South. Josh Kraushaar, executive editor of the National Journal, noted yesterday that 46% of House Republicans come from that region.
While this does underscore a problem for Republicans, a new analysis from the University of Minnesota shows that the Democratic Party faces a similar problem as nearly 30% of House Democrats come from just two states:
When the 113th Congress convenes in January, 29.4 percent of the 201-member Democratic caucus will hail from California (38 members) and New York (21 members).
That marks an increase from the two-state delegation’s collective previous all-time high of 28.1 percent recorded after the Republican tsunami of 2010 (increasing for a few months to 28.5 percent after Kathy Hochul’s win in NY-26 in 2011).
While California and New York are two of the three most populous states in the country, it is important to note that the number of representatives from the two states collectively has remained relatively flat over the last 50 years.
Since 1962, New York and California have accounted for between no less than 18.2 percent and no more than 19.1 percent of all seats in the nation’s lower legislative chamber (with California’s delegation increasing and New York’s decreasing during this span).
And yet, during this 50-year period, the percentage of the Democratic caucus hailing from these two states has increased by more than two-thirds: from 17.4 percent in 1962 to 29.4 percent in January 2013.
While Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has made it clear that she will run stand for re-election as House Minority Leader, she doesn’t have the support of every Democrat in the chamber. Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT), a so-called “Blue Dog Democrat” who barely survived last week in a tough race against Mia Love, has stated that he will oppose Pelosi if someone steps up to run against her:
Matheson, D-Utah, told The Salt Lake Tribune on Wednesday that he would oppose Pelosi’s bid to lead the Democratic Caucus, as he did in 2010, though he doesn’t know if anyone will step up to challenge the powerful leader and he expects that she will keep her post.
“I think it is time to shake things up within the Democratic Caucus. I think we should look for some new leadership,” Matheson said. “I won’t be voting for Nancy Pelosi.”
He argues Pelosi has contributed to the polarization in Washington that has squeezed out moderates in each party and made it more difficult for Congress to take action on pressing issues.
“If we had new leadership, that helps create a new opportunity for working in a constructive way,” Matheson said.