Jim DeMint

Senate reverses course, repeals ethanol subsidies

Just two days removed from a failed vote to repeal ethanol subsidies and protectionist tariffs for the rent-seeking ethanol industry, the Senate wound up passing the measure in a 73 to 27 vote:

The Senate voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to eliminate billions of dollars in support for the U.S. ethanol industry, sending a strong message that the era of big taxpayer support for biofuels is ending.

The 73-27 vote may ultimately be symbolic since the White House has vowed not to repeal ethanol subsidies fully and the bill the repeal language is attached to is not expected to make it into law. But it underscores the growing desperation to find savings in a budget crisis that is forcing both sides of the aisle to consider sacrificing once-sacred government programs.
The increasingly hostile attitude toward federal ethanol support has added fuel to a steep fall this week in the price of corn, from which most U.S. ethanol is made.

The Senate vote shows the odds are diminishing that the 45-cent-a-gallon subsidy the government gives refiners and the 54-cent-per-gallon tariff on imported ethanol — both targeted in Thursday’s vote — will be extended at current rates beyond their scheduled expiration at the end of this year.

Repeal was backed by fiscal conservatives like Sens. Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Jim DeMint (R-SC) and hardcore liberals like Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the chamber’s only professed socialist.

Mitch McConnell snubs Rand Paul

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is again on the wrong side of conservatives and tea party activists.

In case you don’t remember, there recent was a grassroots push to have Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC)  fill the seat left vacant by the resignation of Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) on the Senate Finance Committee. But McConnell chose to put Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), who intially did not want the appointment, on the committee over DeMint. According to McConnell, the decision was based on seniority.

That point seemed to be understood by most, including DeMint. However, another seat left vacant by Ensign’s resignation - this one on the Senate Budget Committee - has gone to Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) over Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), who has seniority and had expressed interest in the seat:

A Senate GOP aide familiar with Paul’s ambitions said Paul asked for the Budget seat that was to become vacant after Sen. John Ensign (R-Nev.) announced his resignation last month.

Paul’s spokeswoman Moira Bagley said her boss asked for a seat on the Budget Committee at the beginning of the year. She declined, however, to comment about whether he reiterated his interest after Ensign revealed his plans to step down.

The Senate aide familiar with the behind the scenes jockeying said Paul did indeed make that request.

A second Senate aide questioned the decision: “I don’t know why he’d skip Rand Paul, I don’t know anyone better to have on the Budget Committee than Rand Paul.”

NLRB hands Republicans an good issue in a bad economy

The Obama Administration has handed Republicans a gift thanks to the National Labor Relations Board going after Boeing, the Chicago-based aircraft manufacterer.

For those of you unfamiliar with this story, here is what is going on. Boeing, citing future labor costs and production disruptions due to strikes, decided to build a new plant in South Carolina, a right to work state, instead of at an existing plant in Washington. The local chapter of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers successfully sought help from the NLRB, which is now suing Boeing to prevent the opening of the new plant, possibly killing new jobs in the process.

Meanwhile, Boeing is warning that this action by the NLRB could have very real consequences:

If it succeeds, a suit by the National Labor Relations Board seeking to block Boeing from building airplanes in a non-union facility in South Carolina will set a precedent that could cost hundreds of thousands of jobs nationwide, the company’s vice president and general counsel Michael Lutting said at a Senate hearing on Thursday.

Most directly, if Boeing is forced to shut down its new factory, it would kill thousands of jobs in South Carolina. But it would also have wider-ranging effects, Luttig argued in testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

DeMint for Senate Finance Committee!

With an opening on the Senate Finance Committee due to the resignation of Sen. John Ensign (R-NV), the folks over at FreedomWorks are making a strong push to get Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) appointed to fill the seat:

—This is a great opportunity for Sen. McConnell to build on his comment that “the tea party has had an overwhelmingly positive impact” by appointing one of the Senators who best represents tea party ethos.

—The Senate Finance Committee has jurisdiction over the issues that bring the tea party together—free markets, fiscal responsibility, and constitutionally limited government. Sen. DeMint has a strong legislative record on this fiscal policy set, fighting for fundamental tax reform, consumer-driven healthcare, free trade, and proposing bold solutions for Social Security.

—DeMint was one of the first lawmakers to embrace the tea party movement and was one of the very few politicians invited to speak at our historic 9/12 Taxpayer March on Washington, D.C in 2009.

—Sen. DeMint’s appointment would be a clear signal to our broad and active movement that Republicans in Washington are still listening. Sen. DeMint has requested a seat on the committee every time one has been available. Given his seniority this time, and his importance to the powerful tea party movement, now is the perfect time to offer him a seat.

FreedomWorks is encouraging you to call Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office at (202) 224-3135 to show that there is support for DeMint, who pushed for strong legislation to Audit the Federal Reserve last year, to be appointed to this important committee.

Senate conservatives push Balanced Budget Amendment

While House Republicans pushing another Continuing Resolution, their counterparts in the Senate are laying the groundwork for a vote on a Balanced Budget Amendment, likely to coincide with a vote on the debt ceiling - likely in mid-May.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) has been one of the louder voices on this amendment, writing op-eds and taking about it on any show that will have him. Over at RedState, Toomey offers details on the amendment:

The path toward a balanced budget amendment started with two excellent pieces of legislation, one by Senators Mike Lee and Jon Kyl and another by Senators Orrin Hatch and John Cornyn. Over several weeks and many conversations with my colleagues, we discussed ways to merge these two bills into a compromise measure that the entire conference could embrace. We drafted a balanced budget amendment that sets firm restrictions on government spending and insures that future Congresses will not be able to waive these restrictions at their whim. And thanks to the leadership and support of Senator Mitch McConnell, a united Republican conference has thrown its unanimous support behind this measure.

Under our new balanced budget amendment:

Multiple Choice Mitt strikes again!

Writing on Tuesday over at the National Review, likely 2012 GOP hopeful Mitt Romney claimed that he would give waivers to each state allowing them to withhold complying with ObamaCare:

If I were president, on Day One I would issue an executive order paving the way for Obamacare waivers to all 50 states. The executive order would direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services and all relevant federal officials to return the maximum possible authority to the states to innovate and design health-care solutions that work best for them.

As I have stated time and again, a one-size-fits-all national plan that raises taxes is simply not the answer. Under our federalist system, the states are “laboratories of democracy.” They should be free to experiment. By the way, what works in one state may not be the answer for another. Of course, the ultimate goal is to repeal Obamacare and replace it with free-market reforms that promote competition and lower health-care costs. But since an outright repeal would take time, an executive order is the first step in returning power to the states.

Several states have sought waivers from different parts of the program. More than 1,000 have been issued to businesses, unions and local and state governments.

DeMint won’t back Romney without repudiation of RomneyCare

Despite backing Mitt Romney for the GOP nomination in 2008, Sen. Jim DeMint says he won’t do so again unless the former Massachusetts Governor apologizes for the health insurance reform law - known as RomneyCare - that he still defends:

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) “would never consider” endorsing former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for president again in 2012 unless Romney repudiates the health reforms he sought as governor, a source close to DeMint said Thursday.

A source close to the conservative icon emphasized that, despite comments to The Hill indicating that Romney shouldn’t shoulder all the political blame for the Massachusetts healthcare plan, DeMint wouldn’t endorse Romney again unless he admits the plan was mistaken.

“It’s obvious Jim was just trying to be nice to the guy he backed over McCain, as many conservatives did in 2008,” the source said. “But he would never consider backing Romney again unless he admits that his Massachusetts healthcare plan was a colossal mistake.”

DeMint says that Romney shouldn’t shoulder all the blame for it. I think he should since, as noted, Romney suggests to this day that his plan is a free market alternative and he defends the individual mandate - also a central part of ObamaCare.

As Jeff Jacoby notes, RomneyCare has been a disaster:

Jeff Flake for United States Senate

As expected, Rep. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), one of the most fiscally conservate members of the House, has announced a bid for the Senate seat left open by the retirement of Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ):

Rep. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., will announce Monday that he will run for the U.S. Senate being vacated by Sen. Jon Kyl, a source has told The Arizona Republic.

Flake, who was first elected to Congress in 2000, has long expressed interest in running for the Senate. He will make it official at an 8 a.m. news conference at the same Phoenix hotel where Kyl on Thursday announced that he will retire when his current term ends in January 2013.

Flake’s decision to run for the Senate is sure to rev up Republican competition for his GOP-heavy congressional district. He’s also expected to have plenty of competition in the Senate primary.

There are others that are considering a bid, possibly even other House members from the state. According to The Arizona Republic, other potential candidates include Reps. Trent Franks and Ed Pastor, “former U.S. Rep. J.D. Hayworth, former state Attorney General Grant Woods, former Transportation Secretary Mary Peters, former state Treasurer Dean Martin, Maricopa County Supervisor Andy Kunasek and Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu.”

Flake has already been endorsed by the Club for Growth, which has long supported Flake’s efforts to curb pork spending in Congress:

Romney wins New Hampshire straw poll

Over the weekend in New Hampshire, the state’s Republican Party along with WMUR and ABC News conducted a presidential straw poll a year in advance of the primary; with Mitt Romney winning big:

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the first presidential straw poll of the 2012 cycle, kicking off New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary election race.

Romney won with 35 percent, beating second-place finisher Ron Paul by 24 points in the WMUR-ABC News straw poll of members of the state Republican Party. In third place was former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who won 8 percent—just one point ahead of Sarah Palin, who drew 7 percent.

Because Romney has such high name recognition here and has a home in Wolfeboro, N.H., he was widely expected to win—and observers here were far more interested in who would come in second and third.

Only three candidates—Romney, Pawlenty and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum—have spent significant amounts of time on the ground in the state over the past few months. At today’s convention, Pawlenty staffed a table to promote his new book while Santorum consultant and longtime New Hampshire operative Mike Biundo had a table and worked the crowd.

Romney, who is adding staff in preparation for his bid, has the money to build an influential campaign in the state. He is also focusing more on economic issues, which is a smart move in New Hampshire. For a social conservative like Santorum, who has spent a lot of time in the state, or Huckabee, New Hampshire represents a significant challenge; where as Iowa may be more welcoming.

Here are the full results of the straw poll:

DeMint v. Cornyn: Round Two

On Friday, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) announced that she will not run for re-election in 2012, immediately setting off speculation as to which Republicans would make a run for the seat held by Hutchison since 1993:

“This news will cause a lot of political dominoes to fall in Texas,” said Mark McKinnon, a former George W. Bush political adviser and a longtime observer of Texas politics. “A lot of pols have been waiting a long time to move up.”

The list is longer on the Republican side, led by popular Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst. Personally wealthy from a career in the energy industry, Dewhurst could self-fund what would be a costly statewide run, a huge advantage in a vast state.

He was deferential on Thursday, saying “today is Kay Bailey Hutchison’s day.” Still, he was not above stoking speculation.

“I fully intend to explore running for the United States Senate, and should I run, I will run with the intention of winning and continuing to serve the people of Texas,” he said.

Other potential candidates also gingerly signaled their intention to explore the race. Railroad Commissioner Elizabeth Ames Jones offered warm praise for Hutchison before saying that, she, too, would consider the race. Other Republicans who are expected to run or consider a run are Jones’ colleague on the Railroad Commission Michael Williams, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, and former Secretary of State Roger Williams.

Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC), who was involved in several high profile primaries leading up to the 2010 mid-term elections, also dropped some names of prospective candidates:

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