Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Daily Strike-1/31/09-Daschle, Gregg, Vocab V

It's Saturday and there's relative quiet in the political world, but still enough for a Daily Strike.

DASCHLE IN TROUBLE: Another one of Obama's appointees, HHS nominee Tom Daschle, is in trouble for not paying taxes on, most notably, a private limo and driver. The Senate Finance will be meeting on Monday to discuss if and how to proceed with his nomination. My guess is that he eventually will be confirmed because of his long experience in the Senate, but this is another embarrassment for Obama's team. Couldn't they have done a better job of vetting this stuff? I bet the Republicans make a stink out of this to try and get some more mileage from the "Democrats are Corrupt" storyline. It probably seems to them that they are onto something: Blago, Daschle, Geithner, Charlie Rangel. In the end, they won't have enough votes to block him.

GREGG UPDATE: A White House Spokesman said today that New Hampshire GOP Senator Judd Gregg is a top contender for the Commerce post, and an announcement could be coming as soon as Monday. The political shuffling that would take place to fill his Senate seat is still largely in question. Apparently Gregg is conditioning his acceptance on Democratic Governor John Lynch appointing a Republican. Nate Silver suggests Liz Hager, who has expressed interest in the seat. Hager is a former state Representative who endorsed Obama last year because of his pro-choice views. Yet, she still calls herself a Republican. You could bet that she'd be a pretty reliable vote for the Democrats, and could help Obama with his bipartisan bona fides.

REPUBLICAN RETREAT: Who wouldn't want to be a fly on the wall at the House Republican retreat this weekend in Virginia? Speakers have included Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney and polling guru Frank Luntz. The mood apparently is pretty upbeat, and the general consensus seems to be that the party is more united than ever in conservative principles of small taxes and limited government. Apparently there was a lot of bragging about the House GOP's unanimous rejection of the stimulus package. I don't understand the Republicans' thinking here. They are not exactly winning any popularity contests, and they are now bragging about stopping a popular President's signature initiative, when it is abundantly clear to the American public that Obama reached out to them repeatedly. New GOP Chairman Michael Steele gave a cameo appearance and spoke out against "wealth redistribution." If I were the Repbulican party, I wouldn't repeat slogans from a campaign that you lost pretty badly a couple of months ago. Steele's communications should help the GOP develop a new, innovative message, but they'll have to come up with some viable policy alternatives that don't always involve tax cuts.

OBAMA WEEKLY ADDRESS: Obama's address this week again focused (obviously) on the economy. He talked about the stimulus package, and how he will work with leaders of both parties to improve the bill. He also spoke about the culture of greed and corruption on Wall Street, and mentioned this week's revelation that recipients of federal bailout money were getting multi-million dollar bonuses. Obama's Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner is expected to unveil a package of financial reforms in a week or so.

REPUBLICAN DIVIDE: There's an interesting piece on MSNBC's website about how GOP governors are breaking with their party members in Congress to push for passage of the stimulus. Ahead of the effort are Florida Governor Charlie Crist (who I think is a rising star in the Republican party) and Vermont Governor Jim Douglas. These governors are in charge of states who are facing massive budget shortfalls and significant job losses. It's a lot easier to be against a stimulus package when you are not directly managing a state. One governor not on the bandwagon is the chair of the Republican Governor's Association, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, who has railed against the bailout effort, staying true to his ideological belief in fiscal conservatism. This backfired, however, when he was forced to end his opposition to federal money for state unemployment services. The point is, it's a lot easier to be ideologically opposed to something when people aren't suffering and in desperate need of help. The Big Picture will be talking about this subject in the coming days.

VOCAB V: Today's term is President Pro Tempore. The Vice President is technically the President of the Senate, but his only role is to swear in new members and to break ties. In reality, he rarely shows up to the chamber. The consitution mandates that the Senate choose a President Pro Tempore, who will preside over the chamber in case the Vice President is absent or is currently acting as President. What most people don't know is that the President Pro Tempore himself rarely presides over the Senate. Over the years, the role has become largely ceremonial and is traditionally given to the most senior member of the majority party (currently 92 year old Robert Byrd of West Virginia). The guy presiding over the Senate is usually a freshman or sophomore Senator of the majority party. This allows new Senators to learn the rules of the chamber. It also is a bit of a hazing excercise for new Senators, as they have to sit up there for hours while their colleagues can meet with lobbyists in the comfort of their own offices.

The issue with the modern President Pro Tempore, in my view, is that he is 3rd in line to the President behind the Vice President and Speaker of the House. So if Obama, Biden and Nancy Pelosi were to be in the same room when a bomb hit, a 92 year old, barely cognizant, former KKK member would be President of the United States.

See you tomorrow!

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