Posts Tagged Michael Bennet

Bennet Takes the Path of Least Courage on Gorsuch

Colorado’s Senator Michael Bennet has announced that he will not support the Senate Democrats’ filibuster of Gorsuch’s nomination, but that his vote on the nomination itself will depend on whether Senate Republicans move to change the filibuster rules, in which case all bets are off.

Conveniently, Bennet’s announcement came just as Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer claimed to have the needed 41 votes to sustain the filibuster.

Bennet has been under pressure here in Colorado to support Gorsuch’s nomination, for two obvious reasons – Gorsuch is unquestionably qualified for the Court, and he’s a fellow Coloradan.  (In fact, Gorsuch’s childhood home is just a few blocks from where I live now.)  This approach allows Bennet to maximize political posturing, while allowing others to do all the heavy lifting.

This is, perhaps, the most pointless partisan filibuster in all of history.  Majority Leader McConnell has all but announced his intention to change the Senate rules to ditch the filibuster for Supreme Court nominations, the last remaining nomination filibuster permitted.  In doing this, he is doing no more than Harry Reid intended that Chuck Schumer do, when the Democrats expected to retake the Senate and retain the White House back in November.

Bennet’s position allows him to pretend that he opposed the filibuster that forces McConnell’s hand, while knowing that other Democrats will carry that filibuster on without him.  Then, he can avoid the question of Gorsuch’s merits by pretending to be outraged by the inevitable rules change.

It’s classic Bennet, who expressed doubts about the Iran deal, even playing on his own Jewish background, but then threw up his hands, shrugged, asked, “What can you do?” and voted to sustain the Senate Democrats’ filibuster of the resolution of disapproval, so as to avoid a recorded vote on the merits.

Bennet, always one to conserve political courage for another day, has stayed true to himself in his decision.


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Obamacare – When Lawlessness Under the Law Just Isn’t Enough

The Washington Post reports this morning that 10 Democratic Senators – including both Colorado Senators – have asked the Obama Administration to extend the open enrollment period for new insurance under Obamacare.  Their request stems from the well-publicized problems with the rollout of the insurance exchange websites, the primary mechanism for enrolling in Obamacare and purchasing new insurance, as required by the individual mandate.  The letter reads, in part:

Given the existing problems with and other state-run marketplace websites that depend on the federally-administered website, we urge you to consider extending open enrollment beyond the current end date of March 31, 2014.  Extending this period will give consumers critical time in which to become familiar with the website and choose a plan that is best for them. Individuals should not be penalized for lack of coverage if they are unable to purchase health insurance due to technical problems.

While this may sound like a good idea, it likely won’t work without a delay in the individual mandate (See Solution #7), and is almost certainly illegal under Section 1311 of the law:

The three-month open-enrollment period isn’t statutory; instead, the ACA directs the Secretary to establish an “initial open enrollment” period. Normally she’d have the discretion to tinker with that as necessary. But the statute also requires her to establish that initial period by “not later than July 1, 2012.” Well, she’s blown through that already — and the provision appears to preclude her from rethinking the determination now. For years after 2014, the statute’s quite clear that she’s got discretion to set annual enrollment periods. But that broad discretion exists only “for calendar years after the initial enrollment period.” That reinforces the suggestion that she can’t rethink the open-enrollment period now.

Apparently, a 2700-page law that’s generated 11000 pages of regulations, includes almost unlimited waiver capacity for the President’s friends, excludes all manner of people responsible for passing and implementing it, and even permits the executive to ignore whole sections of it, still didn’t provide enough flexibility after the election.  Now, Democratic Senators who are staring political mortality in the face are encouraging the HHS Secretary – and by extension, the President – to just ignore the law altogether to help get them out of this mess.

Either Senators Udall and Bennet knew this was illegal when they signed the letter, or they didn’t.  Either way, this amounts to an abdication of responsibility of elected representatives.

If they did know, they’re encouraging not merely this Administration’s habit of arbitrary rule and lawlessness within the law, but actual black-letter lawlessness.  If they didn’t know, it’s a testament to the dangers of voting on bills you couldn’t have read, much less understood, that hand over wholesale lawmaking authority to another branch of government.  The problem with the latter is that it becomes a habit, and little by little, and then all at once, you find yourself running for an office that doesn’t matter at all, while the real power has coalesced into a single executive and an unelected civil service.

How about this.  Since Senators Udall and Bennet don’t seem interested in governing, how about elect someone who is?

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Bennet to Head DSCC

Word is that Sen. Michael Bennet will accept the position as the head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), reuniting there with his old chief of staff, Guy Cecil, who’s now the DSCC’s Executive Director.  It’s tempting to conclude that the appointment is largely on the strength of the unexpectedly strong Democrat showing in this year’s Senate elections.

Cecil was credited with having created “the largest gender gap in the country,” here in Colorado, in 2010’s Senate elections.  That gap helped ease Bennet over the finish line against Ken Buck, and was predicated on painting Buck as extreme on women’s reproductive issues, and then waiting for him to do something to justify the claim.  Cecil never made any secret of the fact that his plan was to reproduce that strategy nationally in 2012, pointing to it in interviews back in early 2012 and at the DNC in September.  Bennet himself claimed it would be the Democrats’ path to victory at a speech to the Colorado delegation at the DNC.  It certainly appears to have been key to Democrats’ Senate victories on Election Day.

That said, this could end up being a trap for Cecil.

First, while Obama won Colorado this year, he did so without any noticeable gender gap.  If anything, it appears that he won men here by 3 points, while tying Romney among women – a reverse gender gap.   This was achieved in part by aggressive push-back from conservative women’s groups like My Purse Politics and the Colorado Women’s Alliance.  It suggests that perhaps this is a difficult strategy to repeat.  There are states that will have 2014 Senate elections that didn’t in 2012, but since this strategy was also adopted by the President’s re-election campaign, voters in those states will already have been exposed to it.  The lack of first-time shock value, combined with a determined opposition message, could limit its success in 2014.

Perhaps as important, the 6th year of a 2-term presidency is historically terrible for the party controlling the White House.  In 1958, the Democrats picked up an astonishing 16 seats, going from a 49-47 majority to a 65-35 lead, with the addition of Alaska and Hawaii to the union.  In 1986, the Republicans lost the Senate, which they had held since the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan.  In 2006, the Democrats picked up a net 6 seats (including two independents that caucused with them) to gain control.  While the 1986 results could be seen as a regression to the middle for Republicans, with many marginal 1980 pickups reverting to form, the 2006 elections don’t confirm that as a pattern; the Democrats picked up 4 seats in 2000.

Both 1974 and 1998’s numbers were distorted as a result of impeachments; in 1974, the Democrats went from 56 to 60 seats, and in 1998 it was a wash, with no net gain for the Republicans.  These results should serve as a reminder that impeachment is a political process much more than a legal one.

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