The Republican establishment fights back

Finally, mercifully, they’re beginning to see the light. As always in politics, it’s the money men who are making things happen:

The biggest donors in the Republican Party are financing a new group to recruit seasoned candidates and protect Senate incumbents from challenges by far-right conservatives and Tea Party enthusiasts who Republican leaders worry could complicate the party’s efforts to win control of the Senate.

The group, the Conservative Victory Project, is intended to counter other organizations that have helped defeat establishment Republican candidates over the last two election cycles. It is the most robust attempt yet by Republicans to impose a new sense of discipline on the party, particularly in primary races.

“There is a broad concern about having blown a significant number of races because the wrong candidates were selected,” said Steven J. Law, the president of American Crossroads, the “super PAC” creating the new project. “We don’t view ourselves as being in the incumbent protection business, but we want to pick the most conservative candidate who can win.”

The effort would put a new twist on the Republican-vs.-Republican warfare that has consumed the party’s primary races in recent years. In effect, the establishment is taking steps to fight back against Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations that have wielded significant influence in backing candidates who ultimately lost seats to Democrats in the general election.


Kerry to Kennedy? Apparently not

New York Magazine has more:

Whenever a Senate seat becomes available in Massachusetts, at least one Kennedy — any Kennedy, doesn’t really matter who — must, by law, at least consider running for it. With John Kerry’s seat opening up soon, Ted Kennedy Jr. has fulfilled this sacred duty, but today the Globe reports that he won’t run, partially because he lives in Connecticut, which is not the same state as Massachusetts. Ted Kennedy’s widow, Victoria Kennedy, has also been rumored as a possible candidate. When asked by the Hill on Friday about her intentions, she had no comment.

The Senate filibuster: cure by nuclear option?

My piece on the Senate’s opportunity to take up filibuster reform is now up on The Morningside Post:

Not everyone is onboard with an overhaul of Senate rules, however. Unsurprisingly, Senate Republicans are concerned that restricting the filibuster will eliminate their party’s most potent weapon against the Democratic majority. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s spokesman warned, “We hope Democrats will work toward allowing members of both sides to be involved in the legislative process — rather than poisoning the well on the very first day of the next Congress.”

Filibuster reform comes with its own set of caveats for Democrats as well. “Forcing the minority to [be present in the Senate] in order to actually mount the filibuster also requires that the Senate stay in session endlessly,” Lieberman notes, creating a burden borne equally by both parties. “In order to go down that road,” he says, “Democratic senators would have to be willing to spend more time in Washington, spend more time hanging around the Senate floor and actually participating in this nonsense than they’re probably willing to do.”

Our useless, do-nothing Congress

Mitch McConnellWondering what your favorite elected representatives are up to these days? Ask no more:

For public consumption, Democrats and Republicans are engaging in an increasingly elaborate show of political theater. Mr. Obama on Thursday went to the home of a middle-income family in the Virginia suburbs of Washington to press for an extension of expiring tax cuts for the middle class — and for the expiration of Bush-era tax cuts on incomes over $250,000.

“Just to be clear, I’m not going to sign any package that somehow prevents the top rate from going up for folks at the top 2 percent,” Mr. Obama said. “But I do remain optimistic that we can get something done.”

On Capitol Hill, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, moved Thursday to vote on Mr. Obama’s proposal, in his broader deficit package, to permanently diminish Congress’s control over the federal government’s statutory borrowing limit, assuming that Democrats would break ranks and embarrass the president. Instead, Democratic leaders did a count, found they had 51 solid votes, and took Mr. McConnell up on what Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, called “a positive development.”

Mr. McConnell then filibustered his own bill, objecting to a simple-majority vote and saying a change of such magnitude requires the assent of 60 senators.

“I do believe we made history on the Senate floor today,” Mr. Durbin said.

Yes, Mr. Durbin, you did make history. But not just today: your current session of Congress conducted the most useless, unproductive, and inefficient use of time in our national legislature since at least 1947.

And no, I’m not just picking on Durbin. Most of the ongoing stalemate in both the House and Senate since 2009 has been the result of Republican obstinacy and intransigence — in other words, their complete denial of the reality that continues to hit them in the face regularly at four-year intervals. (In fact, of the last six presidential elections, Republicans have lost the popular vote five times.) So this is hardly a balanced phenomenon.

But there’s just something about being a senator or representative — from either party — that turns otherwise competent, reasonably intelligent human beings into overgrown children in suits and ties. No, Mr. Durbin, nothing you did today amounts to anything more than a slow, inexorable advancement of the news cycle. Your sole accomplishment in this regard is to fill the airtime on the cable news networks so they don’t have to spend those few hours discussing something even more frivolous than a predestined-to-fail bill proposed in the Senate. (And you probably didn’t even realize that was possible.)

As for Mr. McConnell, there are almost no words to describe his ongoing disastrous behavior. The resident senatorial turkey was too clever for his own good, bluffing that he’d like to go ahead with a vote on ending Congress’ power over the debt ceiling, then filibustering his own bill when it turned out the Democrats had a solid majority.

“Political theater” is right. But it’s a damn ugly performance, and one all Americans are paying for, whether or not we even realized we were attending the show.

Incoming! Elizabeth Warren lands post on Senate Banking Committee

The Huffington Post has more:

Nearly two years after Wall Street waged a successful campaign to keep consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren from running the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the incoming senator will be tapped to serve on the Banking Committee, according to four sources familiar with the situation. It’s a victory for progressives who battled to win her a seat on the panel that oversees the implementation of Dodd-Frank and other banking regulations.

Warren knocked out Republican Sen. Scott Brown of Massachusetts in the most expensive Senate contest of 2012, with Wall Street spending heavily to beat Warren, a former Harvard law professor.

Sources also told HuffPost that Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) will be named to the panel.

Warren’s ascension to the panel gives her influence over regulators and the industry that non-panel members don’t enjoy.

As Daily Intel’s Kevin Roose notes, Warren is likelier to take her time building a network of ideological kin than to take a one-woman stab at the financial establishment right off the bat:

After my piece on Wall Street’s worries about Warren ran last week, I got a call from a senior banking industry lobbyist, who contended that Warren herself wasn’t planning to come into the Senate and immediately begin pushing an anti-bank agenda. Her more likely tactic, he said, would be to slow-play the situation, quietly amassing power and influence among fellow senators at first and then going after the banks once a coalition had been established.

“She realizes that if she appears to be a caricature of herself, she won’t be super-relevant in the Senate,” the lobbyist said.

Whatever her strategy, this is good news for progressive observers, who worried that Senate Democrats — always a weak and unreliable bunch — would cave under pressure from their Wall Street backers and keep Warren off the committee.