Mindful of competitive races in conservative states, Senate Democrats are building out an agenda for the rest of 2014, taking up the populist parts of President Obama’s State of the Union and laying aside issues that stir intraparty division.
Exposed on Obamacare and saddled with a still-sluggish economy, Democrats have focused on pocketbook issues like the minimum wage and unemployment insurance. They said for weeks they would wait until the president’s address to lay out their full 2014 game plan.
Now they are expanding their agenda to accommodate a gender wage-gap bill and will continue to hash out the details of their strategy at their annual retreat next week at Nationals Park.
“We are certainly going to be focused on, along with the president, making sure the economy really works for everyone, the majority of Americans,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who along with Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York is organizing the event again this year.
But don’t expect Democrats to shepherd each piece of the president’s agenda through the chamber. Majority Leader Harry Reid, an opponent of fast-tracking trade bills through Congress, differs with Obama over the bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority legislation that House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus unveiled a few weeks ago.
Likewise on Iran, a number of Democrats have joined with Republican Mark Kirk of Illinois seeking tighter sanctions; though, unlike with TPA, Reid has been willing up to this point to toe the White House’s line.
Despite the differences, Democrats are conscious of presenting a united front, a key contrast with Republicans whose split over legislative tactics in the fall resulted in the shutdown and debt-ceiling crisis.
Democrats are not immune from disagreements with their colleagues, though. A handful of Democrats — Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas — face grueling reelection contests in red states, and have been eager to contrast themselves with Obama and their liberal colleagues.
With the Senate majority potentially on the line, Democrats are honing a strategy aimed at avoiding divisive issues and embracing poll-tested measures. So is there any concern that pursuing Obama’s agenda could hurt vulnerable Democrats? Democrats say the answer depends on the issue.
“If we’re talking about the minimum wage and college affordability and the long-term unemployed, that’s an issue that cuts across every state,” said Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut. “With those three issues? No.”
Democratic leaders also are rejecting the notion that the taint of pushing the Obama agenda could hurt in the midterms, which do not historically favor the party of presidents in their sixth year in office.
“Just the opposite is true,” said Assistant Majority Leader Dick Durbin. “Every one of them has said this is bringing it down to middle-class issues. Helping them earn more and be more secure are winning issues in November.”
To that end, Reid plans to bring a bill to the floor soon that Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland introduced a year ago. The Paycheck Fairness Act has 50 cosponsors, but Republicans already blocked it once before, suggesting that Democrats don’t expect to see the legislation become law.
Indeed, House and Senate Republicans are not likely to give the signature Democratic initiatives the support they’ll need to put them on the president’s desk.
Plus, despite a recent outbreak of bipartisan cooperation on budget and spending measures, Democrats are gearing up for a fight over the debt ceiling, warning Republicans they will not negotiate spending cuts in exchange for hiking the limit.
Bashing the GOP over the debt ceiling has become as much an arrow in the Democrats’ political quiver as they expect the economic issues will be. Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray of Washington has recently increased her pleas to Republicans not to hold the debt limit “hostage,” and on Wednesday Democrats met with Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew behind closed doors in the Capitol to discuss the high-stakes deadline, which he said could be reached in late February or early March, according to Senate Democratic aides.
“We just had a budget agreement. We have appropriations; we determined where our spending is going to be,” Murray said Wednesday. “We have to pay our bills for that.”
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Before we get to the specifics of this exposé about escorts working the Iowa and New Hampshire primary crowds, let’s get three things out of the way: 1.) It’s from Cosmopolitan; 2.) most of the women quoted use fake (if colorful) names; and 3.) again, it’s from Cosmopolitan. That said, here’s what we learned:
- Business was booming: one escort who says she typically gets two inquiries a weekend got 15 requests in the pre-primary weekend.
- Their primary season clientele is a bit older than normal—”40s through mid-60s, compared with mostly twentysomething regulars” and “they’ve clearly done this before.”
- They seemed more nervous than other clients, because “the stakes are higher when you’re working for a possible future president” but “all practiced impeccable manners.”
- One escort “typically enjoy[s] the company of Democrats more, just because I feel like our views line up a lot more.”
No matter where you stand on mandating companies to include a backdoor in encryption technologies, it doesn’t make sense to allow that decision to be made on a state level. “The problem with state-level legislation of this nature is that it manages to be both wildly impractical and entirely unenforceable,” writes Brian Barrett at Wired. There is a solution to this problem. “California Congressman Ted Lieu has introduced the ‘Ensuring National Constitutional Rights for Your Private Telecommunications Act of 2016,’ which we’ll call ENCRYPT. It’s a short, straightforward bill with a simple aim: to preempt states from attempting to implement their own anti-encryption policies at a state level.”
Much has been made of David Brooks’s recent New York Times column, in which confesses to missing already the civility and humanity of Barack Obama, compared to who might take his place. In NewYorker.com, Jeffrey Frank reminds us how critical such attributes are to foreign policy. “It’s hard to imagine Kennedy so casually referring to the leader of Russia as a gangster or a thug. For that matter, it’s hard to imagine any president comparing the Russian leader to Hitler [as] Hillary Clinton did at a private fund-raiser. … Kennedy, who always worried that miscalculation could lead to war, paid close attention to the language of diplomacy.”
The New Covenant. The Third Way. The Democratic Leadership Council style. Call it what you will, but whatever centrist triangulation Bill Clinton embraced in 1992, Hillary Clinton wants no part of it in 2016. Writing for Bloomberg, Sasha Issenberg and Margaret Talev explore how Hillary’s campaign has “diverged pointedly” from what made Bill so successful: “For Hillary to survive, Clintonism had to die.” Bill’s positions in 1992—from capital punishment to free trade—“represented a carefully calibrated diversion from the liberal orthodoxy of the previous decade.” But in New Hampshire, Hillary “worked to juggle nostalgia for past Clinton primary campaigns in the state with the fact that the Bill of 1992 or the Hillary of 2008 would likely be a marginal figure within today’s Democratic politics.”
At first, “it was pleasant” to see Trevor Noah “smiling away and deeply dimpling in the Stewart seat, the seat that had lately grown gray hairs,” writes The Atlantic‘s James Parker in assessing the new host of the once-indispensable Daily Show. But where Jon Stewart was a heavyweight, Noah is “a very able lightweight, [who] needs time too. But he won’t get any. As a culture, we’re not about to nurture this talent, to give it room to grow. Our patience was exhausted long ago, by some other guy. We’re going to pass judgment and move on. There’s a reason Simon Cowell is so rich. Impress us today or get thee hence. So it comes to this: It’s now or never, Trevor.”