Still more on sequestration

This morning The Fix by Chris Cillizza included this interesting post by Aaron Blake.  Blake posted four great graphics explaining the impact of the sequester.  I am going to copy 2 of them here, but you should look at the entire post.

Blake explains

First up is Pew’s illustration of the year-by-year spending cuts that are included in the sequester. As you can see, the cuts start out relatively small — less than $75 billion in 2013 — but they grow to more than twice that size by 2021, for a total of more than $1 trillion.

The biggest growth in cuts over that time occurs in the interest payments, but everything except for mandatory spending cuts grow steadily over time.

And then there is this depressing news.  Sequester will not have that big of a positive impact.

There has to be a better way.  Maybe spend some money to put people back to work and let them pay taxes thus increasing revenue?  And we do have to fix the tax code so Facebook executives actually pay taxes.  And maybe we can cut programs and defense more selectively.  This won’t be as dramatic, and it might be slower, but it will hurt fewer people.

Meanwhile, members of Congress of both parties are doing their best to keep funding for their own districts.  Politico quotes Senator Lindsey Graham, an opponent of the sequester

I’m almost relishing the moment all these tough-talking guys say: ‘Can you  help me with my base?’” Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), one of the most vocal  critics of the sequester, told POLITICO.

“When it’s somebody else’s base and district, it’s good government. When it’s  in your state or your backyard, it’s devastating,” he added.

Of course Graham’s solution is to do away with the Affordable Care Act or Obama care.  Is the momentum swinging toward a rational budget and solution?  Probably not.

The Supremes and getting married

Marriage is several things.  It is a contract between two people recognized by the state and it is a spiritual and, for some, a religious bond.  When my parents were married in a Buddhist ceremony, one of their friends, a Jewish lawyer, is alleged to have said in a stage whisper, “It doesn’t matter what ritual is used, it’s still just a contract.”  I wish I had thought to ask him about this when I became an adult, but true or not it makes a nice story.

Yes, same sex couples can live together and in some places they can have a recognized civil union which may provide some benefits, but it is not the same as being married.  I can tell you from personal experience that they create very different states of mind.  Being married provides a level of comfort and security just living together does not.  And part of this comes from marriage being a contract.  Yes, all types of relationships fail and they fail for as many reasons as there are failures, but marriages are more difficult to sever therefore can provide more of a base on which a relationship can grow.

I’ve been writing about gay marriage as states are added to the list and I’ve been watching the attitude of the country toward gay marriage change.  Chris Cillizza posted two helpful charts on his Washington Post blog, the Fix.

Pretty amazing change is a relatively short period of time.  And Democrats have gone from not wanting to touch the issue to running for office supporting gay marriage in the space of one presidential election cycle.  This change was reflected at the ballot box.  I am happy that Washington State, Maryland, and Maine voted to legalize same sex marriage, but I still have this voice in the back of my head that says equal rights are not something that should be determined by a majority vote.

The Boston Globe reported

Last month, Washington, Maine, and Maryland became the first states to pass same-sex marriage by popular vote. They joined six other states — New York, Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont — and the District of Columbia that had already enacted laws or issued court rulings permitting same-sex marriage.

And now the Supreme Court will be ruling on the issue.  The New York Times explains

One of the cases, from California, could establish or reject a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The justices could also rule on narrower grounds that would apply only to marriages in California.

The second case, from New York, challenges a federal law that requires the federal government to deny benefits to gay and lesbian couples married in states that allow such unions.

The California case was brought by the two lawyers who were on opposing sides in the infamous, Bush v. Gore case, Ted Olson and David Boies.  The second case is one of several that challenged the Defense of Marriage Act or DOMA.  It is interesting that the Massachusetts case is not the one being heard.

There was reason to think that Justice Elena Kagan was not free to hear an appeal from the Boston case because she had worked on it or a related case as United States solicitor general. The current solicitor general, Donald B. Verrilli Jr., gave the court a number of other options, including Windsor, probably partly to make sure that a case of such importance could be heard by a full nine-member court.

Edith Windsor of New York sued to be treated as a surviving spouse

The Obama Administration is not defending DOMA.

Chris Cillizza ended his post with this thought.

Go deeper into the Pew numbers — and thanks to Pew, you can! —  and you see why those trend lines won’t be reversing themselves.  In 2011-2012, 62 percent of people 18-29 supported gay marriage — by far the strongest support among any age group. During that same time period, just 32 percent of those 65 or older supported gay marriage.

The simple truth: Support for gay marriage tracks directly with age. The younger you are, the more likely you are to support it. Given that, it’s hard to imagine gay marriage getting less popular as the years go on.

Whatever the Supreme Court does with its two gay marriage cases next year, the die has been cast on the politics of the issue. By the 2016 presidential election, this could well be a decided issue that neither party — yes, that includes Republicans — spends much time talking about.

My guess is that the Supreme Court will overturn DOMA and rule that states can allow gay marriage if they want.  We will see in a few months if I’m right.

Photograph – Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

Looking at November in January

The Republicans are hopeful that they will take over the House and the Senate.  When it is the 5th of January, anything is possible, but there are some signs that it might not be easy – especially in the House.

Writing in today’s Washington Post, Chris Cillizza writes about Republican House retirements.

While the recent political chatter in Washington has focused on Democrats retiring from Congress, Republicans are leaving the House in greater numbers, a trend that could blunt the party’s momentum heading into the November midterm elections.

Rep. Henry E. Brown Jr. (S.C.) on Monday became the 14th Republican to announce that he will not run for reelection this year. Ten Democrats have said the same, including an attention-grabbing four in the past two months from swing and Republican-leaning districts.

A broad look at those seats suggests more parity, in terms of the two parties’ opportunities and vulnerabilities, than conventional wisdom would suggest.

There are also potential money problems for Republicans.  Politico reported the other day

The National Republican Congressional Committee, the key cog in helping to finance GOP campaigns, has banked less than a third as much money as its Democratic counterpart and is ending the year with barely enough money to fully finance a single House race — no less the dozens that will be in play come 2010.

 A big part of the problem, according to Republican strategists, is that GOP members themselves — the ones who stand the most to gain from large-scale House gains — haven’t chipped in accordingly, despite evidence of solid opportunities in at least 40 districts next year and with as many as 80 seats in play, according to the Cook Political Report’s estimates.

The fundraising disparity between the two committees is striking: The DCCC outraised the NRCC this year by more than $18 million, according to FEC figures at the end of November. The NRCC has only $4.3 million left in its campaign account — with more than $2 million in debt — leaving it with just a pittance to fund the dozens of races it hopes to aggressively contest.

The DCCC, meanwhile, is sitting on a $15.3 million nest egg (with $2.6 million owed), steadily expanding its cash-on-hand advantage over Republicans throughout the year.

It is always possible that more Democrats will retire (Senator Dorgan – D  N.D. just announced he was not going to seek reelection for example) and change the equation again, right now it does not look as if the Republicans can retake the House.  Lose some seats, yes, but not enough to lose the majority.  It is also possible that the Republicans will start coughing up more money.  January is very early.

But there is a Senatorial election here is Massachusetts in two weeks.  While one poll shows Republican Scott Brown within single digits, it is curious that he is getting no financial support from national Republicans.  Is this a concession to Martha Coakely?  If you think about it the Rasmussen Poll could help Martha by making her supporter nervous enough to work hard to get out the vote. 

I think Massachusetts is safe for the Democrats, but the rest of the Senate is unclear.

First Look at the House Health Care Vote

A few days after the one year anniversary of Barack Obama’s election, the House of Representatives has succeeded in passing what pundits of many stripes are calling  “sweeping reform.”  I’m one of those sick political junkies who stayed up to watch the vote.  220 to 215.  39 Democrats voted against final passage while one Republican voted for.  The magic number was 218.

Speaker Pelosi and the House Leadership.  Photo from the New York Times.

I’ve been looking at the voting pattern posted on the New York Times “Inside Congress” webpage.  There were four votes taken last night.  Looking at Democrat Rick Boucher, an old friend from the mountains of Virginia in a district that voted for McCain and two Republicans, An Cao from New Orleans and Timothy Johnson from Illinois, is quite interesting.

On the Stupak Amendment that added language relating to abortion beyond that of the horrible Hyde Amendment, all three men voted party line and the amendment passed 240 to 194.   The next vote was on the Republican substitute bill.  Rick Boucher and Timothy Johnson voted against the Republican bill while An Cao voted for it.   The substitute was defeated 258 to 176.  (Speaker Pelosi didn’t vote.)

The third vote was to recommit the Democratic Bill.  This was defeated 247 to 187 with Boucher and Johnson (joined by Republican John Duncan from Tennessee) voted against and An Cao voting for recommitment.On the vote for final passage, Boucher and Johnson voted against the Democratic bill while An Cao voted for it.  The Senate Democrats should take a lesson from Rick and vote to end the Republican filibuster even if they vote against the final bill.  And An Cao stood with his leadership on everything but final passage.  (Snowe and Collins take note. )  Harry Reid needs only 50 Democratic votes for passage and Joe Biden can break the tie. 

Chris Cillizaa makes an interesting observation in the Washington Post this morning. 


That’s the number of House Democrats voting against tonight’s health care bill who represent districts carried by President Barack Obama during the 2008 election.

Of the eight, Obama’s highest percentage came in Rep. Artur Davis‘ 7th district where he won 74 percent of the vote. Davis’ vote is rightly understood through a political lens as, despite the overwhelming support for Obama in his district, he is running for governor of a conservative-leaning state next November and wants to safeguard against attacks from Republicans.

Six of the remaining seven members — Reps. John Adler (N.J.), Brian Baird (Wash.), John Barrow (Ga.), Larry Kissell (N.C.), Scott Murphy (N.Y.) and Glenn Nye (Va.) — represent districts where the President took 55 percent or less in 2008, making their decision to vote “no” strategically defensible

(The last Democratic member holding an Obama district to vote against the bill was Rep. Dennis Kucinich who, as we all know, is tough to predict.)

That means — for you non-math majors out there — that 31 of the 39 Democrats who voted against the bill represent seats won by Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) last fall.

Hats off to Speaker Nancy Pelosi for getting the bill passed.  Ball is now passed to Harry Reid.

Is 2010 really going to be Republican?

[Please note that this was supposed to have been published on October 20,but I think I forgot to hit publish.  So “yesterday” is Monday the 19th of October.]

Yesterday I posted some poll figures from the Pew Research Center.  This morning Chris Cillizza has some new Washington Post polls in his Morning Fix.

Republicans in Washington can barely contain their glee at the turn of President Obama‘s political fortunes in the first nine months of the year but a new Washington Post/ABC News poll suggests the GOP still faces serious perception problems in the eyes of the American public.

Less than one in five voters (19 percent) expressed confidence in Republicans’ ability to make the right decisions for America’s future while a whopping 79 percent lacked that confidence.

Among independent voters, who went heavily for Obama in 2008 and congressional Democrats in 2006, the numbers for Republicans on the confidence questions were even more worse. Just 17 percent of independents expressed confidence in Republicans’ ability to make the right decision while 83 percent said they did not have that confidence.

(While Obama’s numbers on the confidence question weren’t amazing — 49 percent confident/50 percent not confident — they were far stronger than those for Republicans.)

These numbers don’t lead me to a Republican takeover of Congress next year.  And as many, including Paul Krugman, point out:  The Republicans have yet to define any positive positions on issues.  Except being for more troops in Afghanistan which most Americans are now skeptical about.  The winning formula still isn’t there.