By Cathy Keim
Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) is alive and well due to political shenanigans to keep it going. When the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) bill was voted down by Democrats hoping to block TPA, the game was supposed to end. However, Speaker Boehner is determined to work with Majority Leader McConnell in the Senate to present fast track to the president.
Part of what makes this so confusing is that the Republican-controlled House and Senate are working overtime to present the Democratic president the gift that he has been longing for: more authority to pursue multiple trade bills with Congress only able to vote the deal up or down. Why would the Republicans be feverishly pursuing this goal?
The obvious answer is that free trade is so important that any way of achieving it is worth making any sacrifice. That may be what they are telling you, but it just isn’t true. There are plenty of ways that this deal could lock the US into untenable trade agreements. Currency manipulation, immigration, patent and copyright issues are just a few of the areas that could turn against American workers.
Even when you look at the Maryland delegation’s votes, you will see strange bedfellows. First, take our two senators who split on the issue. I cannot find a statement by Senator Mikulski about her vote, but she voted no. Since she is not running for office again, she does not have to worry about offending the president.
Senator Cardin voted yes after he introduced an AIPAC backed amendment. AIPAC states:
On April 22, the Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to include an amendment targeting harmful anti-Israel trade and commercial practices in the “Fast Track” Trade Promotion Authority bill. The amendment, authored by Sens. Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Rob Portman (R-OH), addresses efforts by foreign governments to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel. It also directs that one of the principal American objectives in upcoming trade negotiations will be to discourage trading partners from taking actions that would limit U.S.-Israel commerce.
I can understand why Senator Cardin would want to defend Israel when the current administration has shown real hostility towards them, but one has to ask if this is shortsighted on the Senator’s part. Giving the same administration fast track authority when the president has shown little interest in adhering to any restraints put upon him, may in the long run turn out worse for Israel. Perhaps Senator Cardin would do better to vote no and stop the whole fast track process.
Only one other representative from Maryland voted yes on TPA and that was Congressman John Delaney of the 6th Congressional District. He stated in a press release that:
Right now, two things are happening: 1) Congress is considering a bipartisan agreement that instructs the President on trade negotiations and begins the deliberation process for a new accord and 2) China is working on their own regional trade agreement. I support giving President Obama Trade Promotion Authority because it will give the President the tools he needs to negotiate the best trade deal for America and our workers. For the first time, the bipartisan Trade Promotion Authority package includes groundbreaking environmental and labor standards and provides unprecedented human rights protections. The Trade Promotion Authority Package gives President Obama new ways to enforce these standards to make sure we’re not having a race to the bottom that drags American workers down. So it’s either going to be our country setting the terms for trade or it’s going to be China. I want our country, our government and this President setting the terms of international trade, not China.
Congressman Harris of the 1st Congressional District voted no. His Facebook page states:
Thousands of citizens in Maryland’s First District contacted my office regarding bills on trade that were recently considered in the House. Today, I voted against the Trade Promotional Authority (TPA) bill for a second time. Representing your views are of the utmost importance to me and it is truly an honor to serve the people in the First District.
He did not listen to his constituents about CRomnibus or voting out Boehner as Speaker of the House, but this time he heard us loud and clear and responded as we asked. I wonder if that is because former Delegate Mike Smigiel has announced that he is opposing Andy in the primary next April?
Representatives Donna Edwards (4th District) and Chris Van Hollen Jr. (8th District) are both running for the Senate seat being vacated by Barbara Mikulski. Edwards is running to the left and Van Hollen is obliged to move left too. Van Hollen explains his reasons in a letter to Rep. Levin.
He lists multiple concerns such as currency manipulation, increased investor lawsuits, workers’ rights, environmental issues and more as his reasons for voting no.
Representatives Ruppersberger, Sarbanes, Edwards, and Cummings all signed a letter to President Obama explaining why they were voting no on TPA.
For some time, members of Congress have urged your administration to engage in broader and deeper consultations with members of the full range of committees of Congress whose jurisdiction touches on the numerous issues being negotiated.
Beyond traditional tariff issues, these include policies related to labor, patent and copyright, land use, food, agriculture and product standards, natural resources, the environment, professional licensing, competition, state-owned enterprises and government procurement policies, as well as financial, healthcare, energy, e-commerce, telecommunications and other service sector regulations.
Congress, not the Executive Branch, must determine when an agreement meets the objectives Congress sets in the exercise of its Article I-8 exclusive constitutional authority to set the terms of trade.
Representative Steny Hoyer is the Minority Whip. He voted against TPA because:
Trade Promotion Authority legislation lays the foundation for how we approach trade policy as part of our overall economic strategy, and we cannot look at trade simply on its own. We must consider all the elements that affect American workers and jobs.
Our workers deserve policies that boost our competitiveness and place us at an advantage in global markets, making it easier for them to get ahead.
He then lists a whole smorgasbord of expensive programs that he wants for the workers.
The reasons for the votes cast vary from constituent demands, to fear of China, to wanting more spending, to defending Israel and to pursuing a Senate seat. Some of the reasons I can agree with while others, like wanting the Export-Import Bank renewed, are not acceptable. However, on this important vote I am happy to have the Democrats join with as many Republicans as will stand against TPA.
Keep on calling and prodding your senators to vote against TPA. The cloture vote is expected today, with the final vote coming tomorrow. If the bill survives cloture, it will likely pass, so the ball is now in the Senate’s court.
By Cathy Keim
The repetitive nature of our GOP leadership is wearing thin. Once again they are setting up a situation where they will pretend to try very hard to stop the very thing that they are in fact enabling.
The president is pushing hard for a terrible agreement with Iran. Senator Tom Cotton and 46 of his colleagues published an open letter to Iran explaining that the president could not bind the USA to an agreement with the consent of Congress.
Andy McCarthy presents the situation:
Thus, the Constitution mandates that no international agreement can be binding unless it achieves either of two forms of congressional endorsement: a) super-majority approval by two-thirds of the Senate (i.e., 67 aye votes), or b) enactment through the normal legislative process, meaning passage by both chambers under their burdensome rules, then signature by the president.
This put the GOP leadership in a bind. They do not want to constrain the president for unknown reasons, but they do want to appear to their constituents back home like they are trying.
Senator Bob Corker, the Republican head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with Senators Robert Menendez (a Democrat) and fellow Republican Lindsay Graham submitted a bill that will solve this impasse for the GOP elites.
The fact that the Democrats, including Maryland’s Ben Cardin, are jumping on board with the Corker bill is evidence that something is very wrong. As Politico notes:
The low-key Cardin engaged in a furious round of negotiations with gregarious Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, prompting something that was once viewed as almost unthinkable: a bipartisan deal for Congress to review an Iran nuclear deal — with the blessing of President Barack Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
This bill looks tough because it forces the president to submit his Iran agreement to the senate, but as McCarthy adds:
Once the deal is submitted, Congress would have 60 days (or perhaps as few as 30 days) to act. If within that period both houses of Congress failed to enact a resolution of disapproval, the agreement would be deemed legally binding — meaning that the sanctions the Iranian regime is chafing under would be lifted. As Corker, other Republican leaders, and the president well know, passage of a resolution of disapproval — even if assured in the House with its commanding Republican majority — could be blocked by the familiar, lockstep parliamentary maneuvering of just 40 Senate Democrats. More significantly, even if enacted in the Senate, the resolution would be vetoed by Obama. As with the resolutions of disapproval on debt increases, it is nearly inconceivable that Obama’s veto would be overridden.
Instead of the president needing 67 senators to approve his Iran deal, now the Senate will need 67 votes to block the deal.
What? Why would the senators subvert the Constitution, turn the process upside down, and virtually ensure that they cannot block whatever the president presents?
This is the same old story of the leadership voting yes to let the bill out of committee so that they can futilely vote no on the floor. What they could kill in committee, they willfully let advance and then make a big show of voting no to their constituents back home. The details are different, but the story is the same.
Do not be taken in by this craven show of weakness by the GOP leadership hidden by a pose of strength. We have been sold down the river once again.
To be perfectly honest and up front about it, I have not listened to the subject of this post, as my life and items are still in some disarray after our recent move. (This includes my headphones, which are in some box somewhere.)
But last week Dan Bongino released the second of what is now a weekly series of podcasts. And given the fact he’s used the political world and running for office twice in the last two federal cycles to make a name for himself in the media world, I wanted to use this post to ponder whether if we would see Bongino go three-for-three with the 2016 U.S. Senate race or a rematch with John Delaney in Maryland’s Sixth District.
Let’s look at a little history first. At this time four years ago, no one outside of the world of the Secret Service and law enforcement knew who Dan Bongino was. But in the spring of 2011 he made the decision to begin his political career with a run for the U.S. Senate seat in Maryland, and with an engaging personality and conservative stands on many issues, Bongino made enough of a name for himself to win a crowded primary and the right to face incumbent Ben Cardin. While Bongino had some good fortune in the fact no former candidate like Eric Wargotz or Michael Steele, regionally known officeholder like Pat McDonough, or former governor Bob Ehrlich decided to jump into the race, it’s likely he weighed all these possibilities and had an idea they would skip the race before he got in.
Something Bongino succeeded in doing with his 2012 Senate race, though, was nationalizing his effort. In most northeastern states, a Republican running for a statewide office against long odds would attract little notice outside the state, but Bongino made waves with his race once he received a Sarah Palin endorsement. His 2014 Congressional effort continued on the same path.
But something else we learned about Bongino was that he was a natural at broadcasting. Over the last few years he’s graduated from occasional guest to guest host, taking over for both Sean Hannity and Mark Levin on occasion. If he ever lands a spot sitting in for Rush Limbaugh we’ll know he’s in the big leagues.
So it brings up the question for a multimedia player like Bongino: what’s in it for him to make a 2016 run?
Bongino is in a spot in Maryland similar to the one which Sarah Palin occupies nationally. Dan’s support for a candidate is looked upon with approval from a large number of conservative voters in Maryland, just like a Palin endorsement appeals to a particular subset of voters nationwide. Both, however, are becoming more well-known in media circles than for accomplishments in office (which is a shame on Palin’s part, since she has been elected several times.)
If Bongino runs again and loses again, will that tarnish his standing among conservatives who can’t point to electoral success on his part? On the other hand, will he feel that the media exposure he’s gaining is going to put him over the top? With just a few hundred plays on his Soundcloud (I cannot discern how his iTunes podcasts are doing) it’s a nice outlet but not one which gets him a lot of exposure like a guest-hosting slot would give.
Over the next few months, the 2016 races will begin to take shape. I would expect at least a couple members of the Maryland General Assembly to run from cover for federal positions but not to announce their intentions until later this summer. Those who have less name recognition will probably start in the next month or so since the primary is less than 14 months away – depending on how the Presidential race shakes out, we may see more attention paid to the downticket races like U.S. Senate.
If I were to take my educated guess, I think Dan is going to pass on 2016 unless the Senate seat becomes open through the retirement of Barb Mikulski. With 2016 being a Presidential year, turnout will be more like the 2012 turnout and that tends to favor Democrats in this state.
On the other hand, 2018 creates a host of possibilities on both a state and federal level, giving Dan more options should he decide to jump in a race.
Once I get my stuff together I will take about 45 minutes and listen to what Dan has to say – chances are I will enjoy it. But my thoughts always work to the next cycle and all the possibilities within. If the question is whether Dan Bongino will be in the mix, I think the answer is yes. I’m just not sure where one of the many young guns the Maryland GOP has will fit in.
After he lost the 2012 Senatorial primary to Dan Bongino, Richard Douglas has kept a somewhat low profile. Eschewing a possible run for Attorney General this year, Douglas has instead focused on particular issues such as the Bladensburg Peace Cross earlier this year and his latest, a criticism of Maryland’s two sitting Senators for a lack of action on freeing Marylander Alan Gross from a Cuban prison.
In today’s Daily Record (11/19), I was astonished to read the Capital News Service whitewash of the Maryland U.S. congressional delegation’s record of failure on Alan Gross.
Marylander Gross remains in a Cuban jail because Maryland’s weak, irresolute U.S. Senators have done precisely nothing to force our weak, irresolute President to make Cuba howl. Senators Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski have used none of the tools available to majority-party senators, or in Mikulski’s case, to the chair of the Senate’s most powerful standing committee, to bludgeon the Obama White House into meaningful action to free their fellow Marylander.
To try to force presidential action, Cardin and Mikulski could easily have blocked Obama legislative priorities, Obama executive nominations, treaties, senior bureaucratic promotion lists, and spending bills. But they didn’t, and these are glaring omissions in the Capitol Hill playbook. They confirm that Cardin and Mikulski have pulled their punches with their ideological teammate in the White House.
Whitewash can’t conceal the truth. Maryland’s U.S. Senators and the White House have shown weakness and a lack of resolve on Mr. Gross. That same brand of weakness and lack of resolve helped put Russian troops in Ukraine, and allows Islamist terrorists to murder Americans almost at will.
In January, the new Republican majority in the Senate could finally force President Obama to break a sweat over Alan Gross, five long years into his imprisonment. We’ll see. But what a pity that Maryland’s U.S. Senators, clucking furiously on the sidelines, have utterly failed to use the tools which the Framers gave them to force Obama to do his job.
Douglas was quite critical of Cardin in his 2012 run, but hadn’t really had much need to be critical of Maryland’s senior Senator. It’s Mikulski’s seat which will be at stake in 2016, though, and Douglas’s statewide experience may lead some to ask whether he’s thinking of challenging Mikulski. With the Senate political landscape being almost exactly the opposite of 2014′s (where Republicans will have at least 24 seats to defend against just 10 for Democrats) the chance to pull an upset in Maryland is intriguing in the wake of Larry Hogan’s win.
Naturally, the prospect of a rematch of the two top GOP contenders from 2012 means Dan Bongino will be in the conversation as a possible contender. But will Bongino want to undergo yet another campaign, the third one in five years?
With the experience Douglas boasts as a former Chief Counsel of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and former General Counsel of the Senate Intelligence Committee, in an election where cleaning up Barack Obama’s foreign policy messes may be a key issue, the prospect of someone with Richard’s expertise going up against Mikulski – or a new Democrat should Barb decide to retire – is quite interesting. Surely we will see in the coming months if it’s a race Richard wants to run.
Perhaps it’s a case of sour grapes because he wasn’t asked to the photo-op and his opponent was, but Mike McDermott makes the case that the three politicians plastered across a recent edition of the Daily Times are “posers” in more ways than one.
Here’s a little of what McDermott had to say:
What is disturbing is when politicians stand up in front of the public, hold up those giant prop checks, and, in turn, hand them over to a local group or official as if it came out of their personal bank account. This is the great ruse of politicians and it is all done with (other people’s money.)
US Senator Ben Cardin poses with a Cheshire Cat grin holding a “check” signed by “U.S. Treasury” and takes a bow for a runway project that is simply part of ongoing improvements and upgrades at an airport that we pay for! To add more irony to the mix, Cardin and Jim Mathias pose with the check standing with a US Airways Turboprop in the background. After all, it is that private sector company (US Airways) who pays fees and taxes along with every passenger who flies in and out of the SBY terminal that have foot the bill for that runway. Heck, we even pay for the politician’s flights when they use the runway!
Taking credit is what politicians do best. Especially in an election year. Are we to believe that a state senator holds sway over the Federal government? No way! However, as a means of political control and illusion, whenever the Democrat power brokers show up with one of those checks they wrote on our account, they always put their arm around their local democrat politicians and infer that they had something to do with it. We saw the same thing in Crisfield following the devastation of Sandy. Frankly, it is shameless.
It is no different with school construction allocations or highway money; all of these things are projects on a list that are placed on a timeline. When their turn comes up, we will hear how hard the politician worked to aid in the process, but it is all just smoke and mirrors.
Ben Cardin and Jim Mathias had little to do with the decision to improve upon a runway at SBY. They simply acted as government couriers. After all, when someone sends you a beautiful bouquet of flowers, do you fall all over yourself thanking the delivery person from the florist for the thoughtful gift?
After reading the Daily Times report from Phil Davis, one thing jumped out at me:
Federal aviation inspectors have encouraged the airport to apply for the grant to renovate the runway for the past seven years, said Bryant, as the airport has been written up in each of those seven years for “maintenance issues” with the runway.
So they have known this is a problem with the “alternate” runway – the one which runs more north to south – since 2007, which rather neatly coincides with the tenure of office of both Cardin and Mathias. One would think if these officeholders had so much pull that this would have been addressed several years ago, rather than the airport be written up for seven straight years. Maybe now the airport won’t lose money as it has this year, with just under $1.13 million in revenues reported for the first eleven months of FY2014 vs. just over $917,000 in revenue. It still needs a lot of work.
In all honesty, it doesn’t matter about the particular project – what does matter is that Jim Mathias and Laura Mitchell received some media attention for something they had little to do with, but looks good for campaign literature.
And that’s the problem with a lot of our politicians. They participate in the photo-op, ribbon-cutting, or groundbreaking which implies that they actually had something to do with the new enterprise, but in reality it’s often the capitalist who’s either risking their own wealth or having it taken from them to pay for the project. That’s not to say this airport runway improvement won’t do the area good, but McDermott’s point that it’s really the private sector who is paying the freight (with only a select few getting the benefit) is a valid one. Moreover, one has to ask how many other public facilities elsewhere benefited from our money because their representatives had more pull.
It’s a question of priorities, and for those in the photo-op it appears their priority is maintaining their elected position. We can do better.
I don’t have a poll to show you, but I do have a website.
Today I was alerted to the existence of a new political website which makes the case that the next Congressman from the First District should be a woman: Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio. Gleaned in large part from her recent run for lieutenant governor on the David Craig ticket and set up to resemble an actual campaign site, the website is the brainchild of political activist Phil Tran. Tran points out that current Congressman Andy Harris is voluntarily term-limiting himself and believes Haddaway-Riccio would be the best logical successor.
I decided to start a movement. In the event that Congressman Andy Harris decides to voluntarily limit his terms, we need to have a formidable successor ready to go. That successor is Delegate Jeannie Haddaway!
Jeannie Haddaway is a great role model for young women (and men alike!). She will serve Maryland’s Eastern Shore and the Baltimore suburbs with grace and dignity in a Congress that desperately needs such qualities.
Plan ahead or plan to fail. Please sign the petition to draft Jeannie Haddaway for Congress! We are also selling shirts to support the movement!
(I know David Craig didn’t use the full name, but I prefer to refer to her with the married professional variation she used for the House of Delegates, Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio.)
It’s fun to note that Tran has both 2016 and 2022 listed as the prospective dates for the campaign, and each presents different opportunities – as do other points on the calendar, as I’ll illustrate.
First, though, it’s my understanding that Andy Harris would stay in Congress twelve years – under his proposed Constitutional amendment, Congressional members would be limited to twelve consecutive years. I think the three terms statement is a misunderstanding since I was told twelve years at the time Andy ran the first time for Congress, and had personally asked him for clarification since. Twelve years was always the answer I received. But there are a lot of other ways Jeannie could go in the interim.
Let’s look at 2016 for a second. It’s a Presidential year, so there won’t be a lot on the ballot. While I hope Andy Harris gets some Congressional help this year, it’s likely he will either remain the lone Maryland Republican federal elected official or perhaps have Dan Bongino as second fiddle if the Sixth District votes in its best interest. (Obviously, if Maryland voted in its best interest they would have a full GOP delegation, but I’m talking in real terms.) In any case, I don’t think Harris is leaving after just three terms.
But there is an intriguing race which could develop. Remember in early 2010 when the rumor that Barbara Mikulski was passing on re-election caught fire? Well, with the increasingly likely prospect of Republicans taking over the Senate, and the fact Mikulski’s not getting any younger (she will turn 80 a few months before the 2016 election) it could lead to an open Senate seat for the first time since 2006. Needless to say, every Democrat in the state and their brother (and sister) will be salivating at the chance for the brass ring, but who else is on the GOP bench that has run statewide? You could say Bob Ehrlich, but he’s been rejected twice by statewide voters.
Jeannie Haddaway-Riccio as the Republican Senate nominee in an open-seat scenario, particularly if the Democrats have a bloody primary because most are running from cover? Maybe she’s not as conservative a candidate as I’d prefer, but I think she’s electable in Maryland and it’s a move that would make sense if she wanted another statewide bid. She would also have the advantage of needing less time to ramp up a campaign since it’s likely Mikulski would wait until the last minute to announce her intentions to the world.
If Jeannie wanted to wait until 2018, she would have even more options. One would hope that she doesn’t have to worry about a run for governor because Larry Hogan is the incumbent, but the possibility of a match against Anthony Brown is there. Unfortunately, no Democrat governor has lost a re-election bid in Maryland in about forever (okay, actually 1950 – and ironically, William Preston Lane lost over tax increases) so that may not be the best play.
After running for office statewide, it would perhaps be seen as a demotion to run locally, but there’s the chance Addie Eckardt may only want one Senate term as she will be in her mid-70s by that point. Granted, we will hopefully have two new GOP Delegates who could move up if Eckardt wants just one bite of the apple, but my suspicion is that 2018 was always eyed as the time Jeannie would make the jump. A win there could keep her in the limelight for 2022, when Harris would be through his twelve years, the 2014 gubernatorial winner would be term-limited out of office, and – if Mikulski finally decided to retire at the age of 86 – that Senate seat would be again up for grabs.
Another possibility for 2018 would be to take on Ben Cardin in a Senate race, but assuming Ben wants to stay on he would be tough to beat – although, at 75 years of age and perhaps in the minority he may decide to ride off into the sunset as well.
It’s clear that Jeannie’s selection as David Craig’s running mate opened a lot of eyes around the state (and brought out a few long knives) so it’s no wonder Phil Tran is promoting her as a possibility for higher office. She isn’t the longest-tenured or most conservative Republican candidate in the state, but she has the right experience and didn’t hurt the Craig ticket, which simply didn’t have the resources to compete against a deep-pocketed opponent who made no critical mistakes.
Running for lieutenant governor didn’t turn out to be a success short-term, but it’s obvious a lot of people now think highly of her long-term prospects.
Slings and arrows go to the frontrunner in almost any race, but in this case they pit one group of Democrats against another who is seemingly coasting on his family name. I got this from Delegate Kathleen Dumais; a “letter to the editor” which was sent from the law firm for whom she is Senior Counsel. It reads as follows:
As members of the Maryland House of Delegates and State Senate, we must comment on the recent articles about Jon Cardin’s missed votes.
We have been trying to wrap our heads around his unacceptable attendance record and want to say clearly and unequivocally: under no circumstances should a member of the legislature selectively decide to skip 75% of his or her committee votes.
The significant work of the legislature is done in committee. Hearings on bills are held, debate takes place, negotiation over language occurs and amendments are adopted before the bills move forward. This process is the key element of our daily work during the legislative session.
As legislators we must be held to a higher standard because we work for the public. Choosing when to show up for work is not an option. We have a contract with the voters of our state to put them first. Our constituents have to show up to work 100% of the time. So do we.
Jon’s comment that he cleared his absences with his Committee Chair and that he never would have skipped a committee voting session if he thought his absence would have made a difference in the outcome on an important issue completely misses the point. The fact is his absence during the critical decision-making process that takes place during committee voting sessions means he also missed the crucial action that precedes the final committee votes and brings into question his preparedness on the House Floor itself since he was operating without full information.
We are deeply disappointed by Jon’s cavalier attitude toward his job and the suggestion that what we do in Annapolis in our committee is not important.
Contrast this behavior with that of another candidate for Attorney General, Senator Brian Frosh. Frosh did not miss a single vote in 2014 in the Judicial Proceedings Committee, which he has brilliantly led for the past 12 years. He did what we did. Brian Frosh showed up and did his work.
People are going to have a choice on June 24th. Our choice is to vote for and support the candidate that deserves a promotion, not the one that decided to take a pass this year.
We are proud to support our colleague, Brian Frosh for Attorney General. He has the skills and experience to lead and he will be a partner we can count on. (Link added.)
The Democratic race for Attorney General is quite interesting as all three aspirants are leaving seats in the General Assembly to vie for the job. Delegate Cardin obviously has the name recognition, so the backers of Senator Frosh are making a point about Cardin’s “cavalier attitude” – dare I say it’s one of entitlement? (For the record, the other Democratic officeseeker is Delegate Aisha Braveboy, with the winner facing Republican Jeffrey Pritzker in November.) Polling on the race is scarce, but Cardin led a February poll by a nine-point margin over Braveboy, with Frosh a distant third and Delegate Bill Frick (who eventually chose not to run) bringing up the rear. Much of that margin had to be simple name recognition.
But forget ducking a debate, as some on the Republican side have been accused of doing – Cardin is simply not doing what he was elected to do. One has to ask if Jon Cardin will even run for re-election for Attorney General or try to talk his uncle into retiring from the United States Senate – after all, succeeding his uncle was how Ben got his first political office so it must be an acceptable family practice.
Yet there is another lesson to be learned here. Read the description of committee work painted by Dumais again:
The significant work of the legislature is done in committee. Hearings on bills are held, debate takes place, negotiation over language occurs and amendments are adopted before the bills move forward. This process is the key element of our daily work during the legislative session.
In doing research for my monoblogue Accountability Project, I read through a lot of legislation. If a bill passes through committee as “favorable with amendment” it is generally amended by Democrats – sometimes good, but usually bad. On the other hand, most Republican amendments have to be made from the floor and voted on there; normally they die a painful 35- to 45-vote death. (Senate floor amendments die with 10 to 15 votes.) Case in point: the pro-life amendments I discussed the other day.
Yet there were a couple of really egregious bills where I noted the difference in the Senate committee was one vote – usually there are 11 on a Senate committee and at least one bad measure – an increase in the scope of prevailing wage – passed 6-5. (Prohibitions on smoking with a minor in the car and the use of tanning devices by minors only failed on 6-5 votes as well.) As a rule, bills which pass committee become law so the committee level is extremely important.
Perhaps Cardin’s vote would not have mattered, since it’s rare to see a House committee vote decided by a single tally. But one has to ask whether the politically ambitious nephew of our current Senator is going to pay attention to his job if he becomes Attorney General, or just use it as a resume enhancement for higher office.
I got to thinking the other day – yes, I know that can be a dangerous thing – about the 2014 electoral map for Maryland and an intriguing possibility.
Since State Senator E.J. Pipkin resigned a few months back, a sidebar to the story of his succession – as well as that of selecting a replacement for former Delegate Steve Hershey, who was elevated to replace Pipkin – is the fact that Caroline County is the lone county in the state without resident representation. However, with the gerrymandering done by the O’Malley administration to protect Democrats and punish opponents, it’s now possible the 2015 session could dawn with four – yes, four – counties unrepresented in that body based on the 2012 lines. Three of those four would be on the Eastern Shore, and would be a combination of two mid-Shore counties and Worcester County, with the fourth being Garrett County at the state’s far western end.
Granted, that scenario is highly unlikely and there is probably a better chance all 23 counties and Baltimore City will have at least one resident member of the General Assembly. But what if I had an idea which could eliminate that potential problem while bolstering the hands of the counties representing themselves in Annapolis?
The current composition of the Maryland Senate dates from 1972, a change which occurred in response to a 1964 Supreme Court decision holding that Maryland’s system of electing Senators from each county violated the Fourteenth Amendment. Furthermore, Marylanders had directly elected their state Senators long before the Seventeenth Amendment was passed in 1913. Over time, with these changes, the Senate has become just another extension of the House of Delegates, just with only a third of the membership.
So my question is: why not go back to the future and restore our national founders’ intent at the same time?
What if Maryland adopted a system where each county and Baltimore City were allotted two Senators, but those Senators weren’t selected directly by the voters? Instead, these Senators would be picked by the legislative body of each county or Baltimore City, which would give the state 48 Senators instead of 47. Any tie would be broken by the lieutenant governor similar to the way our national vice-president does now for the United States Senate.
Naturally the Democrats would scream bloody murder because it would eliminate their advantage in the state Senate; based on current county government and assuming each selects two members of their own party the Senate would be Republican-controlled. But that would also encourage more voting on local elections and isn’t that what Democrats want? It’s probably a better way to boost turnout than the dismal failure of “early and often” voting, which was supposed to cure the so-called ailment of poor participation.
If someone would argue to me that my proposal violates “one man, one vote” then they should stand behind the repeal of the Seventeenth Amendment. How is it fair that I’m one of 2,942,241 people (poorly) represented by Ben Cardin or Barbara Mikulski while 283,206 people in Wyoming are far more capably represented by John Barasso or Mike Enzi? We have counties in Maryland more populous than Wyoming.
No one questions the function or Constitutionality of the U.S. Senate as a body, knowing it was part of a compromise between larger and smaller states in the era of our founding. It’s why we have a bicameral legislature which all states save one copied as a model. (Before you ask, Nebraska is the holdout.) What I’ve done is restored the intent of those who conceived the nation as a Constitutional republic with several balances of power.
But I’m not through yet. If the Senate idea doesn’t grab you, another thought I had was to rework the House of Delegates to assure each county has a representative by creating seats for a ratio of one per 20,000 residents. (This essentially equals the population of Maryland’s least-populated county, Kent County. Their county could be one single House district.) In future years, the divisor could reflect the population of the county with the least population.
The corollary to this proposal is setting up a system of districts which do not overlap county lines, meaning counties would subdivide themselves to attain one seat per every 20,000 of population, give or take. For my home county of Wicomico, this would translate into five districts and – very conveniently as it turns out – we already have five ready-drawn County Council districts which we could use for legislative districts. Obviously, other counties would have anywhere from 1 to 50 seats in the newly expanded House of Delegates. Even better, because the counties would have the self-contained districts, who better to draw them? They know best which communities have commonality.
Obviously in smaller counties, the task of drawing 2 or 3 districts would be relatively simple and straightforward. It may be a little more difficult in a municipality like Baltimore or a highly-populated area like Montgomery County, but certainly they could come up with tightly-drawn, contiguous districts.
And if you think a body of around 300 seats is unwieldy, consider the state of New Hampshire has 400 members in their lower house. Certainly there would be changes necessary in the physical plant because the number of Delegates and their attendant staff would be far larger, but on the whole this would restore more power to the people and restrict the edicts from on high in Annapolis.
Tonight I was listening to Jackie Wellfonder launch into a brief discussion of whether the Maryland Republican Party should adopt open primaries, an idea she’s leaning toward adopting – on the other hand, I think it’s nuts. In my estimation, though, these sorts of proposals are nothing more than tinkering around the edges – these ideas I’ve dropped onto the table like a load of bricks represent real change. I think they should be discussed as sincere proposals to truly make this a more Free State by restoring the balance of power between the people, their local government, and the state government in Annapolis.
Not that I was all that confident he would be the best Republican candidate to set forth, but in yesterday’s Washington Post Michael Steele said he would “take a pass” at Maryland’s race for governor. That sound you hear is the sigh of relief from those candidates who have already invested their time and effort into building support for their runs – now they won’t have to worry about Michael Steele sucking all of the oxygen out of the Maryland race.
And though I’m sure many will fret that he was the one candidate with the best chance at victory, I only have to look back at 2006 to see what happened when the Maryland Republican Party essentially handed him a statewide race nomination on a silver platter – he lost an open-seat Senate race by 10 points. Of course, I’ve heard all the arguments – bad year for Republicans nationwide, reaction to an unpopular president – but Steele lagged behind Bob Ehrlich by almost 40,000 votes overall; more importantly, he got just 24% in Prince George’s County and 23.2% in Baltimore City. Surely the GOP hopes were that Steele would poll much better in those heavily minority areas, but instead he was just 3.5% better in PG and o.6% improved in Baltimore City over Bob Ehrlich. But Steele lost Baltimore County, where Ehrlich carried the day.
Perhaps the reason Steele took a pass on the race, though, was that he would have to work for it. If done right, a contested primary is good for a candidate because it places them on a campaign footing much more quickly. While there were a number of other candidates in the 2006 Republican Senate primary, they were of the perennial candidate sort and no one else eclipsed 3% of the vote; on the other hand, Ben Cardin won a spirited Democratic primary with only 43.7% of the vote. That sharpening of campaign skills certainly gave Cardin some advantages later on.
But the biggest vibe I seem to be getting is why this was such a big deal in the first place. Sure, old-timers in the Maryland GOP look back at Steele’s tenure as Chair fondly, but he really never ran for anything until that Senate race. (One could equate that with the same sort of criticism certain people who make their first run for office a statewide one have received.) While I’m sure Anthony Brown would like to change this, insofar as running for subsequent electoral office goes the Maryland LG post has been comparable to the national vice-presidency – not worth “a bucket of warm (spit).”
So once we know the intentions of one Lawrence Hogan it appears the Republican field for governor will be pretty much set. Now it’s time to fill out the lower part of the dance card – I have it on the best of authority that one person thought of as a prospective aspirant for Attorney General will not be seeking the job, so it will be up to the MDGOP to dig deeper for a candidate to try for that open seat.
I suppose Michael Steele is available.
I don’t know about you, but I like the looks of that.
What he described as “probably the worst kept secret” in Maryland politics was confirmed by Dan at the state Young Republican convention over the weekend. This came after the story broke at The Quinton Report and The Red White Blue on Wednesday, but the rumor began to spread a day or two earlier.
So the question becomes: what is he up against?
Well, at the state level no one has officially filed for the Sixth District Congressional seat. But FEC records show one current challenger in David Vogt, who is a Republican but has not shown any financial activity as of yet. (Alex Mooney is also on this list, but we know he’s departed the state.)
Meanwhile, incumbent John Delaney filed an amended first quarter FEC report which showed his financial situation wasn’t as strong as one might think: only $43,094 cash on hand and $638,675 in debts owed mainly to himself ($573,250 – including $160,000 incurred after the election, in December) but also to three other persons/entities: fundraising consultant Barbara Kaltenbach, campaign manager Justin Schall, and political consulting firm SKD Knickerbocker. So one could argue Delaney’s not paying his bills, which is sort of amazing when you consider the $69,500 in special interest money he collected over the first three months of the year.
Even Bongino’s cash on hand from his defunct Senate campaign at the end of 2012 was more than Delaney has now: $58,813 remained in his coffers at that point, although it’s likely much of it was spent getting the Cede No Ground PAC off the ground.
Certainly the situation of Dan’s entrance to the race, considering that he lives in Severna Park – well away from the Sixth District boundaries – is tempered by the fact that Delaney doesn’t live in the district, either. Granted, he’s less than a mile outside the lines but I have it on good authority that the property Dan alluded to in the Post story is very deep inside the Sixth District. Residency questions would not be a problem, and it would be almost impossible to gerrymander him out next time without a LOT of work.
And as I noted before in my previous speculation on the race, Dan carried the rural parts of the district over Ben Cardin while Roscoe Bartlett only carried Garrett and Allegany counties, somehow losing in Washington County. (Bartlett also lost badly in the portions of Frederick and Montgomery counties cherrypicked for the new Sixth District.) For all the talk about how much Montgomery County influenced the district, this is only a D + 4 district and 2014 will not be a Presidential year. I’m certain he broke this down by precinct, as I alluded to before.
So is a Bongino Congressional run worth the effort? Obviously he thinks so, otherwise he would have stayed in the race for governor, which was one he said he thought he could win. Moreover, with this being an election year for the Maryland General Assembly, there won’t be nearly as many Republicans who consider the idea of dabbling in a Congressional race knowing they have their seat to fall back upon. (I also reported LeRoy Myers may run for Congress, but some have also speculated Myers may run for a local seat in Allegany County instead. He announced last month he wouldn’t seek another term in Annapolis.)
If this is so, the field is relatively clear for Bongino insofar as the GOP nod goes. Because it’s not such a safe Republican district, winning the GOP primary is no longer a ticket to Congress as it was, which will also decrease the number of serious challengers.
On balance, this seems like a politically savvy move; one which would serve the heartland of Western Maryland well if Bongino wins.
Over the last few weeks the media has reveled in the divisions which became apparent in the Maryland Republican Party, first in the party chairman race which was only decided on the second ballot and later with an upheaval in House of Delegates leadership which I’m told succeeded by a two-vote margin – Nic Kipke actually only won a plurality of the 43 House members (but a slim majority of those present.)
But there is new leadership in both entities and folks seem satisfied with the final result, at least insofar as the Maryland GOP leadership is concerned because the runner-up in the race for Chair won the consolation prize of 1st Vice-Chair. Incidentally, for the first time in my memory, both Diana Waterman and Collins Bailey will be sworn in at an event outside the convention setting as they will jointly be sworn in May 13 in Annapolis. (Key question: will bloggers be invited to the “media appreciation lunch” afterward? I guess my invite was lost in the mail.)
So the GOP is more or less united and ready to do battle. But what of the Democrats? Well, they seem to have hit a little snag, which was mentioned in more detail at my Politics in Stereo counterpart on the left, Maryland Juice.
On Friday the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee hosts their annual Spring Ball, which, like a Lincoln or Reagan Day Dinner for local Republicans, serves as a key fundraiser and a chance for party faithful to hear from a number of local elected officials and a keynote speaker. But their event is threatened as a fundraiser because a number of prominent Democrats are boycotting the event. Why?
I’ll pass along the explanation from the Washington DC Metro Council of the AFL-CIO:
Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), Maryland Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and the Montgomery County Young Democrats are among those who have announced that they’re honoring a boycott of the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee’s May 11 Spring Ball. The metro Washington-area labor movement is boycotting – and picketing – the Montgomery County Democratic Central Committee’s Spring Ball because the Committee took a position in favor of the 2012 Question B referendum, which took away the police union’s right to bargain the effects of management decisions.
But I nearly spit up my drink when I read this line, from UFCW 1994 president Gino Renne:
Labor will not tolerate being treated as an ATM and foot soldiers for a party which is often indifferent – and sometimes openly hostile – to working families in Montgomery County.
As the Republicans often seem to ask the pro-liberty movement, where else are you guys going to go? Trust me, they will have this ironed out in plenty of time to give extorted union dues and “representation fees” to those Democrats in Montgomery County and elsewhere in the state. The point will be made at this event, but like any other “family business” they’ll come to an understanding and things will be quietly made whole at a later time when the heat is off.
I find it quite amusing, though, that members and candidates from the party which regularly chastises Republicans for signing an Americans for Tax Reform pledge to not raise taxes or kowtowing to the National Rifle Association on gun issues scurry like cockroaches once it’s learned they would have to cross a picket line to attend a party event. It would be interesting to see how many people brave the picket line (if one occurs; perhaps the threat was enough to make the point) and attend the Spring Ball. I’ve seen Big Labor when it feels slighted, so the question might be whether there will be more people inside the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel or picketing outside.
As you may or may not know, I am an advocate for term limits. I didn’t always think this way, as there was a period I subscribed to the libertarian view that voters should have the fullest possible choice of representation and if that meant sending some senile old bat to Congress for the twentieth straight term, well, that’s what the people wanted.
Unfortunately, like many other things, the bad apples ruin things for the rest of us and occasionally limits have to be placed. Since the 22nd Amendment was ratified in 1951, there is precedent for federal term limits so I came around to the notion of a 24-year lifetime limit in Congress (six terms in the House, two in the Senate.) I expound on this further in my book.
So I was pleased the other day to see this release from U.S. Term Limits:
This afternoon, Senator David Vitter (R-LA) introduced an amendment to the U.S. Constitution which would limit the number of terms that a Congress member may serve to three in the House of Representatives and two in the Senate.
Term limits for members of Congress has been spotlighted in recent weeks as former Senator and Vice Presidential nominee Joe Lieberman announced that after reflection on his 24 years in office that he now supported term limits.
The Lieberman statement was followed by a polls conducted by the Gallup Organization released last week showing that the American people would vote for congressional term limits by a 75 – 21 margin.
Phil Blumel, president of U.S. Term Limits, the nation’s largest term limits advocacy group, called on Congress to send the Constitutional Amendment to the states for them to decide saying, “The public clearly wants term limits, and it is the ultimate conflict of interest for federal elected officials to prevent the states from making the decision on whether their own terms should be limited.”
Senator Vitter is introducing the amendment on a tide of public dissatisfaction with Congress, and Blumel believes this public outcry may break the log jam that has prevented consideration.
“Many members of Congress are hearing from their constituents that they want the tough issues in D.C. to be acted upon rather than a continual kicking of the can down the road. In this context, they are realizing that a constitutional amendment limiting terms for members of Congress may be the only way to make our political system work again.”
It is anticipated that a term limits amendment will be introduced in the House of Representatives in the weeks ahead. In the interim, Vitter is reaching out to his fellow Senators seeking co-sponsors of the amendment.
In a letter sent to members of the Senate prior to the introduction, Blumel urged others to join Vitter as co-sponsors writing, “Now, Congress faces a crisis. The people hold the legislative branch of our federal government in such low regard largely because they believe that they are no longer represented by fellow citizens but instead by professional politicians. It is time to change this. It is time to put citizens back in charge. It is time to pass congressional term limits.
To become part of the U.S. Constitution, the amendment requires a two-thirds vote in each house of Congress and ratification by three quarters or 38 out of 50 states. (Emphasis mine.)
The reason I emphasized the part of the U.S. Term Limits statement – and the addition which upgraded this from being an “odds and ends” item to one deserving a post all its own – is the sponsor of the companion House legislation. Dated the same day (January 22):
Today, Representative Andy Harris M.D. introduced a Joint Resolution (H.J. Res. 22 – editor) that would limit the number of consecutive terms that a person could serve in the U.S. Congress. It would limit persons to two consecutive terms in the U.S. Senate and six consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Representative Harris released the following statement on the bill:
“Limiting Congressional terms is a common sense way to change Washington and make sure our elected leaders work for the people instead of the special interests. We need more citizen leaders who are willing to address our challenges instead of coming to Washington to become career politicians. Far too many of our leaders are more worried about the next election than addressing out of control spending or preserving our entitlement programs. We need to break the gridlock in Washington caused in part by career politicians.”
The only difference between what Harris proposes and what I advocated is that there’s no lifetime limit, just a one-year exemption. I’d rather the lifetime limit be amended onto this because it is a Constitutional amendment being proposed. It’s also somewhat weaker than Vitter’s proposal, which may be why U.S. Term Limits didn’t mention it.
Honestly, though, I don’t see either bill getting very far UNLESS we put a lot of pressure on Democrats to vote for it. And considering half of Maryland’s delegation is either approaching or beyond that six-term/two-term threshold I don’t see a lot of support coming its way. (They wouldn’t be affected as current officeholders but most have made a lifetime of political office; I’m looking at you, Ben Cardin and Barbara Mikulski.)
The same should hold true for Maryland state legislators, but to date I’m not aware of any bill which would limit their terms. If one were to pass – doubtful for the same reasons a federal law would pass – it would have to go to the voters and, if the Gallup numbers are anywhere near correct it would pass.
But a phenomenon present in national elections would also probably work to our detriment in a state election. While many people have a “throw the bums out” mentality, that doesn’t extend to their particular bum. How else can a body which collectively has approval ratings in the teens or below otherwise retain over 80 to 90 percent of those members who choose to run for re-election? If they enforced their own term limits there would be no need for a Constitutional amendment; sadly we are at the point we are because voters don’t have the will or desire to do so.