The Surest Way to Keep Roy Moore Out of the Senate Is by Electing His Opponent

Republicans elites feel so entitled to the Alabama Senate seat that Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III vacated to become Donald Trump’s attorney general that they are meticulously neglecting the easiest strategy for keeping Roy Moore out of the Senate. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell has called on Moore, the scandal-plagued former judge who now faces multiple allegations that as a 30-something prosecutor he molested teenage girls, to quit the Alabama race. But Moore’s not quitting. In fact, he says McConnell should resign. So DC Republicans are spinning complex scenarios for keeping Moore out of their caucus. The scenarios have grown increasingly arcane, and unworkable. But the keep coming. There has been speculation that if Moore is elected in the December 12 special election, he could be seated and then expelled. But there’s no guarantee that it will happen. Expulsions are rare, and there’s a reason for that: A super-majority of senators—two-thirds of the chamber—is required to overturn an election result. There have been suggestions that appointed Senator Luther Strange—the guy Moore dispatched in an August Republican primary—could resign and in so doing create a vacancy and would restart the process that began when Sessions quit. Or that Alabama’s Republican Governor Kay Ivey could change the election date in order to give the Alabama Republican Party a sufficient window in which to replace Moore as their nominee. But Alabama Republicans appear to be determined to stick with Moore—and the December 12 election date. Then there are the proposed write-in campaigns: for Strange, for Sessions, for just about any Republican except Moore. But write-in victories are almost as rare as expulsions. And the wrong strategy for a write-in run could end up splitting the anti-Moore vote. It’s likely that McConnell and his compatriots will proposing convoluted political “fixes.” But none of Continue Reading

The Treason of the Senate

It would not have surprised David Graham Phillips that Barack Obama couldn’t get the Senate even to vote on confirming Elizabeth Warren—or anyone else—to head the consumer protection office she had devised. “The Senate is the most powerful part of our public administration. It has vast power in the making of laws,” wrote Phillips in 1906. “It has still vaster power through its ability to forbid the making of laws and in its control over the appointment of the judges who say what the laws mean.” In a series of articles called “The Treason of the Senate,” which led Theodore Roosevelt to help coin the phrase “muckraking” and helped the drive for the popular election of senators, Phillips argued that senators elected by legislatures represented private interests rather than the voters. He linked the Senate situation to an economic situation that today seems oddly familiar: “That there has been in the past quarter of a century an amazing and unnatural uppiling [his word] of wealth in the hands of a few; that there has been an equally amazing and unnatural descent of the masses, despite skill and industry and the boundless resources of the country…that the massing of wealth and the diffusion of dependence are both swiftly increasing.” Declared Phillips, “The Senate has always cheerfully voted money for the building of warships, for coast-defense works and heavy armament for the protection of the people of the nation against foreign aggression. But the question now arises: Who is to protect us from the Senate?” We now elect senators by direct popular vote rather than the vote of state legislatures, thanks to the Seventeenth Amendment, ratified in 1913. But increasingly, the question is the same. In 2012 as in 1906, the Senate is structured to resist the popular will. Today it’s not because of financially manipulable state legislators but because a minority of forty-one Continue Reading

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, Is the Perfect Anti-Trump

Torrential rain came down on the late May afternoon I interviewed Senator Al Franken about his new book, Al Franken: Giant of the Senate (yes, he’s still funny). Thunder and lightning jolted our conversation, along with laughter, much of it his. (Staffers say they can always find him at events by following the laugh.) Having won reelection in 2014 and endured the nightmare of 2016, he has decided to Let Franken Be Franken Again: Hilarious. Sometimes, I told him, the book reads as though he saved up all the jokes his staff wouldn’t let him tell over the last decade. “There were a few of them,” he admits. “That [Antonin] Scalia’s dissent [on marriage equality] was ‘very gay…’ I really fought for that one! I’d already been reelected. I will argue my case, but if my people say absolutely not, I pay attention almost all the time.” As a demoralized Democratic Party looks for new leadership, Franken has written the kind of thoughtful, bracing book that will make people say: “Al Franken is running for president in 2020.” He resolutely says he’s not—but Giant of the Senate is enough to make you wish he’d change his mind, in part because of the way Franken is an ideal foil to Donald Trump. Superficially, they both entered politics as TV stars. But, as he chronicles in Giant, Franken worked hard to become a senator who happens to be a comedian, rather than a comedian who unexpectedly became a senator, earning the respect of his colleagues in the process. Trump has resolutely and dangerously refused to do the same. Now, with this book, Franken is both resistance leader and family counselor. Giant sometimes reads like a pep talk for Democrats devastated by Hillary Clinton’s loss and Trump’s victory. Yet it was mostly written before November 8, when Franken, like virtually everyone in public life, believed Clinton would be the next president. “I was essentially Continue Reading

Bernie Sanders: ‘I Am Prepared to Run for President of the United States’ [Updated on March 19]

Bernie Sanders says he is “prepared to run for president of the United States.” That’s not a formal announcement. A lot can change between now and 2016, and the populist senator from Vermont bristles at the whole notion of a permanent campaign. But Sanders has begun talking with savvy progressive political strategists, traveling to unexpected locations such as Alabama and entertaining the process questions that this most issue-focused member of the Senate has traditionally avoided. In some senses, Sanders is the unlikeliest of prospects: an independent who caucuses with the Democrats in the Senate but has never joined the party, a democratic socialist in a country where many politicians fear the label “liberal,” an outspoken critic of the economic, environmental and social status quo who rips “the ruling class” and calls out the Koch brothers by name. Yet, he has served as the mayor of his state’s largest city, beaten a Republican incumbent for the US House, won and held a historically Republican Senate seat and served longer as an independent member of Congress than anyone else. And he says his political instincts tell him America is ready for a “political revolution.” In his first extended conversation about presidential politics, Sanders discussed with The Nation the economic and environmental concerns that have led him to consider a 2016 run; the difficult question of whether to run as a Democrat or an independent; his frustration with the narrow messaging of prominent Democrats, including Hillary Clinton; and his sense that political and media elites are missing the signs that America is headed toward a critical juncture where electoral expectations could be exploded. John Nichols: Are you going to run for president in 2016? Bernie Sanders: I don’t wake up every morning, as some people here in Washington do and say, “You know, I really have to be president of the United States. I was Continue Reading

These key provisions of the Senate tax bill may be a tough sell in the House

Senate Republicans passed their tax bill early Saturday, so the next step will be a conference committee with the House to iron out differences with a bill that passed  there on Nov. 16.Some of those differences are dollar amounts, with each chamber setting brackets and deductions differently. But there are also substantive differences that could face push-back from House members, particularly conservatives, that have to be resolved before a bill could reach President Trump's desk. According to an internal poll of the conservative House Republican Study Committee obtained by USA TODAY, members were most concerned that the Senate bill sunsets individual tax cuts after 2025, delays the reduction in corporate rates until 2019, and continues to charge a tax on high-dollar estates.The House could just pass the Senate bill and send it to Trump next week, but 97% of study committee members oppose that, and they're not alone.“We’re gonna go to conference unless the Senate makes unbelievable changes to their bill in the next few days,” Rep.  Mark Meadows, R-N.C., who chairs the hard-line House Freedom Caucus, told reporters Thursday.Meadows said there did not seem to be any irreconcilable differences, however.“I’m very optimistic," Meadows said. "On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest that tax reform gets done, I’m at a nine."He said he expected a bill on Trump's desk by the end of the year.But before that happens, here are some of the rough edges that must be smoothed out.One of the most significant sections of the bill is the massive tax cut for corporations. Both bills would take the top corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%. However, the Senate cut would happen in 2019, while the House bill would have the 20% rate kick in next year.When the Senate unveiled its bill last month, Wall Street reacted to news of the delay with a 100-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average.Conservatives see Continue Reading

Ruth Bader Ginsburg appears to call Sen. Lindsey Graham one of ‘the women of the Senate’

Well, his name is Lindsey. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Monday appeared to mistakenly designate Lindsey Graham — a male Republican senator from South Carolina — one of the “women of the Senate.” “I thought back to the 1993 confirmation of my nomination to the court: The hearing was altogether civil; the vote was 96 to 3. For Justice (Antonin) Scalia, the vote was unanimous,” Ginsburg said during an Allegheny College event in her and Scalia’s honor. “Let’s hope members of Congress, the members that Allegheny College has already honored — Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. John McCain, the women of the Senate, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Lindsey Graham — let’s hope that they, and others of goodwill, will lead in restoring harmonious work ways.” The associate justice may simply have been misconstrued in listing past recipients of the college's Prize for Civility in Public Life: "Women of the Senate" won in 2014; Feinstein and Graham were honored one year earlier.  Ginsburg's comments came the same day her new colleague, Neil Gorsuch, was sworn in as the newest Supreme Court justice. Gorsuch — confirmed by a 54-45 Senate vote after Republicans employed the so-called “nuclear option” to break Democrats’ filibuster of his nomination — filled an unprecedented 14-month vacancy on the bench left by Scalia’s 2016 death. “I’ve worked with him and I think he’s very easy to get along with,” Ginsburg said of Gorsuch in February, according to the Associated Press. “He writes very well.” Continue Reading

John F. Kennedy is sworn in as the 35th President of the United States in 1961

(Originally published by the Daily News on January 21, 1961. This story was written by Ted Lewis and Jerry Greene.) WASHINGTON, Jan. 20 (News Bureau). - John F. Kennedy took the oath as the 35th President of the United States today with a solemn dedication of his “new generation” government to an all-out global campaign to achieve a “beachhead of cooperation” with Communist Russia and prevent a war. In a surprisingly conciliatory Inaugural address, the youngest President ever elected declared that this nation will never “fear to negotiate,” but he warned at the same time that it recognizes the urgency for an arms buildup to meet the Red peril. The first Catholic ever chosen to lead this country spoke out to the world from the windswept, snow-glistening East Plaza of the Capitol. He spoke eloquently, solemnly, resolutely. His measured words rang out against the 20-degree cold and 27 mile-an-hour wind. Some 50,000 government officials, diplomats, notables and ordinary citizens applauded 12 times during the 14-minute address. And they shouted “Yes, yes,” when he asked if they would enlist in “a grand a global alliance” against tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself. The same throng stood in solemn and respectful silence a few minutes earlier when Kennedy placed his left hand on his family Bible, raised his right hand and in resolute tones pronounced the oath of office before Chief Justice Earl Warren. Standing beside him, obviously relieved but no doubt nostalgic, was “old soldier” Dwight D. Eisenhower, bowing out at the age of 70 - the oldest man ever to serve in the White House. Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson had already been sworn in by his friend and fellow Texan, Speaker Sam Rayburn. But there had been delays in the long ceremonies and it was 12:51 P.M. by the time Kennedy took the oath. Kennedy, his bronzed cheeks pink from the cold, Continue Reading

“A Sad Day in the History of the Senate”: McConnell Reacts to Filibuster Vote

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell reacted to the Senate’s vote to block Republicans from filibustering President Obama’s judicial and executive branch nominees. He called the move “nothing more than a power grab in order to advance the Obama administration.” “It’s a sad day in the history of the Senate,” McConnell said. Continue Reading

Female Democrats of the Senate tell Hillary Clinton to run for President: report

"Run Hillary, Run," say the women of the Senate. All the female Democrats in the Senate have jumped on the "Hillary for President" bandwagon — even though some of the liberal lady lawmakers on Team Hill are thought to have presidential ambitions of their own come 2016. The group of 16, reportedly led by veteran Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) lended their signatures to the note, encouraging their former colleague to try again for the White House. News of Clinton's Senate cheerleaders came this week when Sen. Kay Hagan (D-N.C.) spilled about her enthusiasm for signing the letter when she spoke Monday at an EMILY's List event in New York, reported by Capital New York. The support from the sweet 16 gave pause to pundits since some Senate stars — like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — are thought to be potentially eyeing a 2016 run. But according to Hagan, "all of the Senate Democratic women have written (Clinton) a letter encouraging her to run." No details were available on when the letter was sent or the verbiage of the dispatch. Boxer told ABC News she is an enthusiastic champion for Clinton 2016, but added, “I can only speak for myself. I’ll leave it to my colleagues to describe their views.” The females of the Senate are said to be reticent to comment on the letter and Hagan has reportedly had to apologize for letting loose about the letter's existence. In the meantime, Hillary still hasn't even said if she's planning to run — though it's considered a foregone conclusion. Clinton, 66, was reportedly asked if a presidential campaign was in the cards in early October, during a speech at St Andrews University in Scotland. She said simply, “I’m minded to do it," The Herald reported. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee Chistopher Dodd to leave Senate: sources

Veteran Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd was to announce on Wednesday he will not seek re-election in November in a recognition that his troubles are too deep to survive politically and the latest sign of trouble for President Barack Obama's Democrats. Dodd, chairman of the Senate Banking Committee and leader of a financial regulation overhaul in the Senate, has been dogged by questions over his financial industry connections and was trailing badly in polls in his home state of Connecticut. Ahead of Dodd's midday announcement, Wall Street was looking for clues as to how hard Dodd, in his remaining months in office, would push for a financial regulation revamp that banking lobbyists and Republicans are fighting. A source close to Dodd said he plans to continue efforts to pass the regulation reforms. Dodd has also been closely associated with pushing Obama's healthcare agenda, subject of a long, contentious debate, as well as climate change legislation that faces an uncertain future this year. Coupled with the announcement by Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan that he would not seek re-election in North Dakota, Dodd's decision suggested potential trouble for Democrats in 2010 congressional elections in their efforts to hang on to strong majorities in the Senate and House of Representatives. Dorgan announced on Tuesday that he would not seek re-election. Polls showed that like Dodd he also faced an uphill fight in November when voters will elect a third of the 100 senators and all 435 House members. The party that holds the White House usually loses congressional seats in the first election after a new president takes power, and there was every indication that this would happen again. Republicans are facing their own struggles led by a conservative rebellion against moderates that could limit their ability to mount an electoral earthquake as they did in 1994 in the first election after Bill Clinton took office. Dodd's decision may well help Democrats Continue Reading