Goobergunch Political Report

14 November 2010

The Quacking of the Limp

Goobergunch @ 00:00 PT
Posted in: The Federal Government
Tags: ,

There have been a lot of rumors flying about regarding the content of this year’s lame duck session of Congress. DADT repeal, the DREAM Act, ENDA, START… not to mention certain non–optional items like keeping the government funded. But it looks like any of that is going to have to wait until after Thanksgiving, because the House agenda for next week doesn’t show much that’s likely to be controversial. Most of the bills scheduled are boring commemoratives, and I don’t see the substantive bills attracting much dissent. The one item that isn’t scheduled to pass with a 2/3 vote is a motion to concur in the Senate amendments to H.R. 1722, the Telework Enhancement bill. The original version of that bill passed the House 290–131 back on 14 July.

The Senate doesn’t look to be that more exciting. The first votes of the week aren’t scheduled until Wednesday, and they’re just a few more cloture votes on proceeding to bills. I haven’t heard much about whether these votes have any chance of actually succeeding or whether we’re looking at another show of how the Senate Republicans are obstructing things. I’ll update before Wednesday with another look at these votes.

Unless anything new and unexpected shows up, it looks like a quiet start to the lame duck session.

4 November 2010

Calling the Senate

Goobergunch @ 19:37 PT
Posted in: Election 2010, GPR Live
Tags: ,

At this time I can now project that Patty Murray (D) has been re–elected to the Senate from Washington. With party control of all Senate races called, the margin in next year’s Senate looks to be 53 Democrats (and allies) to 47 Republicans. That’s enough to prevent Joe Lieberman and Ben Nelson from pulling too many shenanigans.

Of course, it’s still unlikely that the Democrats will be able to get anything done without some form of filibuster reform, especially with Republican leader Mitch McConnell (R)(KY) promising that his first priority will be unseating President Obama in 2012 as opposed to actually trying to govern. So we’ll see how that goes.

In other news, I can now project that Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn (D) has been re–elected. That’s a pretty big surprise, especially given the Republican pick–up of that state’s Senate seat.

1 November 2010

Final Senate Predictions

Goobergunch @ 16:00 PT
Posted in: Dynamic Race Ratings, Election 2010

I’ve posted the final Senate predictions at the usual place. A few comments:

In the last few days, it’s seemed that Joe Manchin’s lead in the West Virginia race has stabilized, while Patty Murray’s lead in Washington has been decreasing. While Washington is mostly vote–by–mail and a lot of the vote there has been already submitted, at this point I’m more comfortable predicting a Manchin victory than a Murray win. Both remain rated at “Tilts DEM”.

Nevada, Colorado, and Illinois remain easily the closest races in the country. Currently I see small leads for Republicans Joe Buck and Mark Kirk, but those could easily be wiped out if the Democrats just do a little better than expected on Election Day. Meanwhile, there are a number of conflicting indicators in Nevada. I’m currently betting that the analysts and the early vote indicators are more accurate than the public polling in the race. If not, then it’ll be another Republican gain.

Pennsylvania is also close, but I’m keeping the race rating at “Leans GOP”. I’ll be very happy if Joe Sestak pulls it out, but I’m not really expecting it to happen.

Finally, Alaska is just completely confusing. I don’t even know the last time when there was a race with both a serious write–in candidate and this level of tactical voting. I’m giving the Republicans a slight edge, but really we’ll know in a couple weeks. (Alaska counts sloooooow… even discounting the legal fun that we’ll probably see here.)

Oh, and my TV needs to stop pretending that Christine O’Donnell has a shot at winning in Delaware. I’ll be surprised if that race isn’t called for Chris Coons by 7:30 Eastern Time.

19 October 2010

Two Weeks Out

Goobergunch @ 15:00 PT
Posted in: Dynamic Race Ratings, Election 2010
Tags: ,

There’s only fourteen days left before the 2010 midterm elections, and we still have very little clarity on what will actually happen on Election Night. That being said, these last few weeks have not been devoid of surprises.


In the Senate forecast, one of the biggest surprises has been the continued volatility of the Alaska race. Joe Miller, the Republican nominee, seems to be doing his best to implode, with past misconduct coming to light and bizarre behavior on the campaign trail. Democrat Scott McAdams has been running a good campaign (and heck, I just like long–shot candidates that get a surprise opportunity to win), and has been polling just slightly behind Miller and Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s write–in bid. Given that it’s an open question whether the likelihood of Murkowski’s write-in bid isn’t being overstated (the last Senator to be elected via write–in was Strom Thurmond in 1954), at this time I have to consider the race a Toss–Up, with a slight Republican tilt.

The other surprising Toss–Up is West Virginia. Democrat Joe Manchin remains one of the few popular governors in the country. But support for the national Republican Party has made John Raese competitive. While this race has been tilting back towards Manchin in the last few ways, it could certainly go either way.

The three other Toss–Ups—Illinois, Nevada, and Colorado—have been too close to call for a while now, and it’s really hard to detect a distinct advantage for any candidate in these races. In previous Senate elections, all of the close races have tended to break the same way, but any hints at this kind of lean probably won’t be noticeable until the election is upon us.

Finally, it’s worth discussing the Pennsylvania and Wisconsin races. In the former, I had written Democrat Joe Sestak’s candidacy off a while ago, but he seems to be making a late comeback—much as he did in the primary. While Republican Pat Toomey is still favored, Sestak is a lot closer than I had thought he’d be at this point. In the latter, Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold is behind by pretty much every measurement, despite the low profile of his opponent.

House of Representatives

I’m hesitant to express any predictions as to the fate of the House due to the sheer volatility of the environment this year. I can come up with reasonable scenarios for the Democrats losing anywhere from 25 to 70 seats. (The picture is clearer when I turn the board over, with 4 seats that are more likely than not to be Republican losses and an additional 2 or 3 that are still pick–up opportunities.) What I can do, though, is generate a rough ranking of House seats by likelihood for a switch in party control. While this listing should (especially for Democratic seats at risk) be viewed as more of a rough guide than a strict ordering, I believe it still provides useful guidance for how the House is likely to look next year. Like all of my predictions, it is subject to change at any time before Election Day.

3 October 2010

The New Number 60

Goobergunch @ 12:45 PT
Posted in: Election 2010

There’s been a lot of chatter, both in liberal blog circles and on Capitol Hill itself, about changing the Senate’s filibuster rule so that legislation no longer needs 60 votes to advance. In the current Senate, this has meant finding one Republican Senator to vote with the Democrats—something that has often been nearly impossible to do. But with the Republicans poised to gain a number of Senate seats in the fall, who would the Democrats have to convince to vote with them if the 60–vote requirement stays in place?

While this answer would obviously vary from bill to bill, a general answer can be found by looking at the voting records of each Senator. The Common Space DW–NOMINATE scores for current Senators, as well as Senate candidates that are current or former members of Congress, provide a good estimate of ideology in voting patterns for this purpose. Using the current Senate prediction (which has the Republicans gaining 6 Senate seats) with the most recent DW–NOMINATE scores for each predicted member of the 112th Senate, we get the following:

49      Webb            -0.207
50      Nelson (FL)     -0.192
51	McCaskill	-0.182
52	Carper		-0.179
53	Nelson (NE)	-0.028
54	Snowe		 0.094
55	Collins		 0.110
56	Brown (MA)	 0.178
57	Cochran		 0.291
58	Lugar		 0.326
59	Grassley	 0.334
60	Alexander	 0.343
61	Coats		 0.362
62	Hutchison	 0.364
63	McCain		 0.378

While a number of predicted future Senators do not have DW–NOMINATE scores, it’s likely that a large number of them (due to Tea Party influence) will be conservative enough that it won’t matter for this purpose. I do wonder whether Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) or John Hoeven (R-ND) could qualify, though.

If Mark Kirk (R) defeats Alexi Giannoulias (D) in the Illinois Senate race, which is currently the closest Senate race in the country by my estimation, he’d show up as No. 56 on the list, between Scott Brown and Thad Cochran, leaving Lamar Alexander’s position as No. 60 unchanged.

It’s hard to see what major policy items can pass the Senate that pleases Senators as conservative as Hutchison, Grassley, and Cochran while not losing the support of Democrats. Almost certainly, any such bills would be a great disappointment to Obama’s more liberal supporters.

29 September 2010

Election Recess

And Congress is pretty much out. The FY 2011 continuing resolution just passed the House 228–194 (after passing the Senate 69–30 earlier today) so we get to have a functional government until at least 3 December. (I’m not waiting for the Presidential signature to update the countdown timer.)

It’s always kind of fun watching Congress scurry with activity right before a break. We also got NASA Authorization, Intelligence Authorization, and three other less high–profile bills cleared for President Obama today. Pity the Senate is still gridlocked, although even they got a couple of treaties and a big truckful of nominations approved.

Also, the hullabaloo about the adjournment resolution only passing by one vote is overblown. There were a number of Democrats that switched their votes from “yea” to “nay” right before the vote was announced, presumably once they had gotten permission from the whip team to vote against. Realistically, the adjournment resolution was never in danger of failing—the Democratic leadership just wanted to give their more vulnerable members another vote to help them proclaim their independence from the party when they go back to campaign.

The House and Senate haven’t quite adjourned yet, but when they do, the next meeting will be on Monday, 15 November, a good two weeks after the election. There’s no shortage of things for them to do when they get back.

21 September 2010

Defense Authorization Filibuster Continues

Goobergunch @ 14:02 PT
Posted in: Voting and Elections, War and National Defense

The cloture vote on the motion to proceed to S. 3454, the Defense Authorization bill, just failed 56-43. The status of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell repeal, the DREAM Act (immigration reform for servicemembers), and other defense–related matters for the duration of this Congress remains uncertain, as the Senate can’t even begin to consider them.

Waiting to hear what the Senate’s agenda for the rest of the current work period is. The Majority Leader (Sen. Reid) did move to reconsider the cloture vote, so we might see defense authorization come back. There’s also the pesky matter of government funding, given that none of the 12 appropriations bills for FY2011 have even been brought up in the Senate yet.

UPDATE [16:20 CDT by Goobergunch]: Reid’s spokesman tweets:

We’re debating DISCLOSE Act tomorrow w/ vote Thursday

That’s the campaign finance reform bill that passed the House in late June. A previous cloture vote on proceeding to the bill failed 57-41 on 27 July, so I’m guessing reconsideration of that vote will what happens on Thursday.

UPDATE [21:37 CDT by Goobergunch]: The program announcement at the end of today’s Senate session said that the pending business will remain the motion to proceed to the Defense Authorization bill. I’m not sure what the point of this is unless the Senate Democrats think they’re going to shift three votes really really quickly.

16 September 2010

End of the Congressional Week

And Congress wraps up another short week. The Senate passed H.R. 5297, the Small Business Jobs bill, 61-38, so that goes back to the House now. Meanwhile, the House passed H.R. 4785, the Rural Energy Star bill, 240–172. I’d have the text of that as passed, but the Democrats accepted a motion to recommit by Rep. John Shadegg (Phoenix North, AZ)(R). According to the Clerk of the House:

The instructions contained in the motion seek to require the bill to be reported back to the House with an amendment which requires certain provisions be met in order for funds to be made available. The amendment also states that the provisions of the Act shall be suspended and shall not apply if the Act will have a negative effect on the national budget deficit of the United States.

But the actual legislative text isn’t available online anywhere, and won’t be until the Congressional Record comes out tomorrow. So much for reading the bill. (For the text of the bill without the motion to recommit included, see here.

Next week, the Senate moves to S. 3454, the Defense Authorization bill. The most controversial provision in that bill is the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repeal, which has drawn yet another Republican filibuster on this usually noncontroversial bill.  The cloture vote on the motion to proceed is scheduled for 14:15 EDT on Tuesday, which means that it’s unlikely that the Senate will even begin formal consideration of the bill until Thursday.

No word on the House schedule yet.

14 September 2010

A Castle Falls

DE–SEN (GOP Primary)
Christine O’Donnell 53.7%
Mike Castle 46.3%
86% reporting

I’d like to thank the Delaware Republicans for handing a Senate seat to the Democrats tonight. While it was easy to see how moderate Republican Rep. Castle could win a House seat in Democratic–leaning Delaware, it’s really hard to see how O’Donnell—charitably viewed as “insane” by most observers—can defeat New Castle County Executive Chris Coons. While just last week it looked like Castle was clearly favored to become the next Senator from Delaware, this race now has to be regarded as a likely Democratic hold. I’d feel bad for the NRSC, but the schadenfreude right now is kind of epic.

The Dynamic Race Ratings map will be updated in a couple hours.

UPDATE [22:00 by Goobergunch]: Race Ratings are updated, and there’s now a nice link on the sidebar to view them.

11 September 2010

A Quiet Pre-Election Session?

Congress is a weekend away from coming back into session. There are plenty of big ideas for helping the economy being thrown around, but none of them appear to be on next week’s schedule.

On Monday, the Senate will handle the nomination of Jane Stranch (TN) to be an appellate judge on the Sixth Circuit. The confirmation vote will be held at 17:30 EDT. It’s good to see the Senate move another judicial nomination, but there are still way too many vacancies that need filling—and neither the Senate nor President Obama have been moving that urgently on doing so.

On Tuesday, starting at 11:00, the Senate starts a bunch of cloture votes relative to H.R. 5297, the Small Business Jobs bill. Senator George Voinovich (R)(OH) announced that he’ll support cloture, so the bill now has the 60 votes it needs to get through the Republican blockade and go through. Look for that to happen late next week.

Meanwhile, the House is looking at a Tuesday to Thursday week. A full list of the “suspension” bills that will likely sail through without controversy can be found on the Majority Leader’s website. The only bill scheduled for full debate in the House this week is H.R. 4785, the Rural Energy Star bill. (I haven’t been following this bill, so I can’t say much about it other than it’ll be considered on Thursday.)

Notably absent from any of this are any bills relating to the tax cuts that both President Obama and his Republican opponents have been discussing. In fact, there are rumors circulating that the House may recess as early as 1 October for the campaign season. Given that there’s no way that anything as contentious as these tax cuts is getting through Congress by then, we’re looking at a lame–duck session before they can be dealt with. Another issue that the lame–duck session will have to consider is the appropriations process—with only 2 of 12 appropriations bills that have even passed the House, I’m guessing we’re going to be looking at a big nasty omnibus, assuming the issue of government spending doesn’t just get punted to the next Congress. Finally, the lame–duck session gets to deal with whatever the Deficit Commission spits out. Joy.

To add even more fun to the end of this Congressional session, generally Senators that are elected to fill out the terms of Senators who have died or resigned take office immediately, replacing the appointed Senator that filled the seat prior to their election. This year, that applies to the Delaware, Illinois, New York, and West Virginia seats, and may also apply to the Colorado seat. So Democrats could be down to a 55–45 majority, in a worst–case scenario (there’s no way Gillibrand loses) as soon as 3 November. Can you say “NO CLOTURE FOR YOU?”

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