DNC To Spend $50 Million Or More On ‘One Of Most Ambitious Midterm Campaign Programs’ In History

Facing a troubling a potentially troubling political environment heading into the 2010 elections, the Democratic National Committee intends to spend at least $50 million to bolster the chances of Democrats running nationwide, according to a top DNC official. To keep those plans on track, the DNC is hoping to raise $465,000 by the end of Wednesday, Ann Marie Habershaw, DNC chief operating officer, says in an email. Wednesday is the deadline for second-quarter fundraising totals. Democrats are “putting together one of the most ambitious midterm campaign programs in American political history” this year, Habershaw says in an email to supporters. Her email doesn’t address the larger political atmosphere, but after two big elections in 2006 and 2008, Democrats this year … Continue reading

Republicans Slam Marshall For Activism, But Al Franken Says It Is Conservatives Who Are ‘Legislating From The Bench’

Republicans opened the confirmation hearing for Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court Monday with a sustained attack on her and her mentors — particularly the late Thurgood Marshall — for their perceived judicial activism. A Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee acknowledged such activism exists, but that it is not liberals or Democrats who engage in it. Rather, it is conservatives who have a record of “legislating from the bench,” according to Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota. The first day of Kagan’s hearing was given almost exclusively to stage-setting, as the nominee and members of the committee all took up the day by making opening statements. President Obama nominated Kagan this spring to succeed retiring Justice John Paul Stevens. … Continue reading

Capitol Idea: Sen. Byrd: A Difficult, But Indispensible, American Hero

The death of Ted Kennedy last summer brought a flow of tears from liberals and progressives and prompted what amounted to national days of mourning as the old liberal lion was eulogized and laid to rest. Reaction to the passing of Sen. Robert C. Byrd, by contrast, is likely to be more subdued — perhaps amounting to a collective, if respectful, shrug of the shoulders. Alhough Byrd has often been described as a conservative, he spent recent decades promoting solid Democratic values and earned a place as a friend to liberals and progressives. Moreover, Americans across the political spectrum owe a debt to the man who grew up poor in a small coal-mining town. “Senator Byrd came from humble beginnings … Continue reading

Those Electronic Health Records Obama Has So Invested In Could Open New Liability Risks

President Obama has long trumpeted the benefits of more quickly adopting electronic health records, and he and his administration like to talk about such benefits of health information technology and claim they will reduce health care costs and improve medical outcomes. While it’s true that the advantages of digital records can be substantial, these electronic health record (EHR) systems also give rise to increased liability risks for health care providers due to possible software or hardware problems or user errors, according to a new research study. At Obama’s urging, Congress included $19 billion to hasten the adoption of EHR technology as part of last year’s economic stimulus plan, known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. “With electronic health records, … Continue reading

The Civilian and the General: The Reality Behind the McChrystal Interview Fall-Out

For a few days last week, the harpies of the extreme right assaulted the president of the United States for first considering, and then firing Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of allied forces in Afghanistan. In a 10-day interview with Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone, McChrystal and his senior aides poked fun or criticized almost every civilian in the highest levels of the chain of command, including the President, Vice-President, and National Security Advisor James L. Jones, former Marine Corps commandant who, an aide told the magazine, was a “clown.” Another aide told Hastings that Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) “turn up, have a meeting with [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai, criticize him at the airport press conference, then … Continue reading

Senator Wants Attorney General To Have Power To Clean Up ‘Captive Regulators’

A Democratic senator has proposed granting the U.S. attorney general new powers to overhaul federal regulatory agencies found to have become “captive” of the industries they are intended to oversee, as was the case with the Interior Department branch which was supposed to prevent a catastrophe such as the Gulf Coast oil spill. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island wants the attorney general to be able to act as “an ethics trusteeship or receivership” when federal regulators are found to no longer be doing their jobs effectively, and essentially come in to hire and fire personnel, put forward interim regulations and take other steps on an interim basis. Events at the Interior Department’s Minerals Management Service (MMS) leading up to … Continue reading

Despite ‘Modest’ Reforms, Some See Big Help For Consumers In Final Financial Bill

Although many supporters of tighter financial regulation believe the final reform bill unveiled Friday doesn’t go far enough, some see within it important new protections for consumers. Members of the congressional financial reform conference committee announced a deal on what a final financial reform package will look like, reconciling differences between separate House and Senate versions of the legislation. The conference report is now expected to be taken up by the full House and Senate next week, and sent to President Obama to sign into law. Obama has long sought enactment of new financial reforms to protect consumers, and prevent a repeat of the 2008 financial meltdown that resulted in trillion-dollar taxpayer-funded bank bailouts. For some backers of strong financial … Continue reading

House Passes DISCLOSE Act With NRA Exception, Sparking Outrage On Both Sides

The House narrowly approved a bill Thursday designed to lend transparency to a flood of corporate spending to influence elections expected as a result of a January Supreme Court decision, and in so doing inflamed anger on both the political Left and Right. Members passed the Democracy is Strengthened by Casting Light on Spending in Elections Act, or DISCLOSE Act, by a vote of 219-206. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) introduced the DISCLOSE Act in April in response to the high court’s Citizens United decision. That ruling by the court’s conservative bloc struck down decades of regulations that limited corporate, including foreign-owned corporate, influence in American elections to allow virtually unchecked campaign spending. President Obama … Continue reading