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Posts tagged ‘2014 midterm elections’

NYT/CBS News Poll: GOP Has Edge in 2014 Midterm Elections.


The Republican Party is the favorite among Americans in an early look at the 2014 midterm elections, with a higher percentage of people saying they would back the GOP over the Democrats.

According to a New York Times/CBS News poll conducted Feb. 19-23, 42 percent of people say they plan to support the GOP in November, compared to 39 percent who say they will back the Democrats. Republicans, according to the survey, are benefiting from the support of independents.

“Even though the [Republican] party itself is deeply divided and most Americans agree more with Democratic policy positions…Republicans hold their edge despite the fissures in their party,” the Times reported.

The survey of 1,644 also found that 59 percent of respondents are disappointed with the Obama presidency, compared to 40 percent who are satisfied.

The president’s approval rating has also dipped 4 points since last month to its worst standing in the past two years, with the exception of a CBS News survey in November just after the botched roll-out of Obamacare.

Fifty-one percent of those surveyed disapprove of the job the president is doing compared to 41 percent who approve.

“Such ratings amount to an early political alarm for Democrats on the ballot this year. When a party controls the White House, its performance in midterm congressional elections typically tracks closely to the popularity of the sitting president in the fall,” the Times says.

A massive majority of Americans are also deeply dissatisfied with Congress with 79 percent saying they are unhappy about the way things are going in the nation’s capital, including three in 10 who say they are angry, CBS News reports.

A majority of Americans surveyed also said they want both parties to do more to address the concerns of the middle class, reduce the budget deficit with both tax increases and spending cuts, and let illegal immigrants stay in the country and apply for citizenship, according to the Times.

The poll also indicated that that the Affordable Care Act appears to have solidified some opposition to Democrats, while historical trends such as an older, whiter midterm electorate are also favorable to Republicans, the Times reports.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Melanie Batley

McCain: Immigration Reform Crucial to GOP Success.


Sen. John McCain says he hasn’t yet given up on immigration reform – and he believes failure to pass anything will hurt GOP chances at the ballot box.

“States like mine, over time, the demographics will overtake, not only mine but throughout the whole Southwest and many other parts of the country,” the Arizona Republican said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.” 

A failure to embrace Latino voters could spell doom as Republicans approach this years midterm congressional elections and the 2016 presidential campaign, McCain said.

Story continues below video.

The Senate, where McCain serves, has already passed immigration reform, but the effort is stalled in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives.

McCain said he will work see a bill passed through Congress for the president’s signature before the midterms.

“I have not given up hope that we will act, and we must act,” he said.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Greg Richter

Democrats Plan New End Run Around GOP House on Minimum Wage.


House Democrats are determined to cast an election-year spotlight on Republican opposition to raising the minimum wage and overhauling immigration laws.

To try to accomplish that in the GOP-controlled House, Democrats are planning to rely on an infrequently used, rarely successful tactic known as a “discharge petition.”

It requires the minority party — in this case, Democrats, who are unable to dictate the House agenda — to persuade some two dozen Republicans to defy their leadership, join Democrats and force a vote on setting the federal minimum wage at $10.10 an hour.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California said Democrats will push the wage issue when Congress returns from its break Feb. 24. Forcing a vote on a comprehensive overhaul of immigration laws could occur in a few months.

Democratic leaders argue that a majority of Americans favor both steps, which are priorities for President Barack Obama, and say the House GOP is the obstacle. Republicans say Democrats are embarking on an approach that they know has little chance of success in an attempt to circumvent the will of the GOP-led House.

The odds are daunting for Democrats in what clearly is political maneuvering ahead of the elections this fall.

Some questions and answers on how it works.

___

Q: What does a discharge petition do?

A: It allows the minority or opposition party to bypass the House speaker and get a vote.

First, 217 members — one more than half the House’s current membership of 432 — have to sign a petition. A motion to consider the wage issue would then be placed on the legislative calendar, but it can’t be acted on for at least seven days. Any lawmaker can then call it up but only on the second or fourth Monday of the month. The motion is debated and if the House passes it, then lawmakers would consider and vote on the bill.

Currently there are 232 Republicans, 200 Democrats and three vacancies in the House. All 200 Democrats would have to sign the petition, but Democrats would have a tough time getting 17 Republicans to join them.

Signing a discharge petition would be a breach of loyalty for Republicans, certain to draw the wrath of the caucus, and a rebuke of Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

Republicans largely oppose any increase in the minimum wage. They say it’s an issue left to the states and that it could slow hiring in a struggling economy.

Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 House Democrat, acknowledged that Democrats are unlikely to sway Republicans. Yet he also provided a preview of one of his party’s arguments on this issue.

“I don’t think we’re ever confident that we’re going to get 18 Republicans to sign a discharge petition, but we apparently have 30 or 40 that are known over here,” Hoyer said at a news conference this past week at the party’s retreat in Cambridge, Md. “Our expectation is if they want to make sure that working people have an incentive to work, they will pay them to do so a wage that does not leave them in poverty.”

___

Q: What about immigration? A number of House Republicans back a comprehensive approach. Would they sign a discharge petition?

A: Highly unlikely. Republicans still are unwilling to break ranks with the party and Boehner, despite the distinctly different political forces on the issue.

Immigration overhaul has the support of an unusual coalition that includes some traditional backers of the GOP. They include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and business groups, religious organizations such as the U.S. Catholic Bishops, evangelicals and labor unions.

A few Republicans have expressed support for a comprehensive bill similar to the Senate-passed measure and have pleaded for the House to act this year. They worry about the political implications in their swing districts back home. Yet it would be a remarkable step for some of the more moderate lawmakers from California and Florida to abandon Boehner.

Boehner has come out with principles on immigration that call for legal status for some of the 11 million immigrants living in the country illegally and has expressed support for a piecemeal approach to the issue. Last week, however, the speaker all but ruled out the House acting on legislation this year, blaming GOP distrust of Obama to enforce any new law.

On the notion of a discharge petition, Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said, “This scheme has zero chance of success. A clear majority in the House understands that the massive Senate-passed bill is deeply flawed.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer, a major player on the bipartisan Senate measure, recently pushed the idea of a discharge petition, but the New York Democrat is unlikely to sway the nearly two dozen House Republicans necessary to sign on.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., made clear how Democrats will frame the issue for the Republicans who want immigration overhaul.

“Talk is one thing; actually doing something is another. And I’m sure they’ll have a chance between now and November to let their constituents know whether they’re serious on immigration reform, the comprehensive one, or not,” Van Hollen said.

___

Q: A discharge petition sounds like a tough sell. Has it worked recently?

The discharge petition worked in 1986, forcing a vote on a gun rights bill, and in 2002, ensuring a vote on campaign finance legislation.

The difficulty for a discharge petition in the current political climate was never more evident than last fall in the midst of the 16-day partial government shutdown. Even though several Republicans said they wanted to vote on a spending bill with no strings attached, they rejected the idea that they would join forces with the Democrats.

© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Proposed IRS Regs Threaten GOP’s 2014 Senate Push.


Proposed new IRS regulations, combined with the intense ongoing scrutiny of grass-roots conservative groups, could suppress their get-out-the-vote activity enough to hand Democrats the one or two races they need to keep control of the Senate, conservative leaders warn.

“Once caught red-handed,” American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) Senior Counsel David French said, “the administration didn’t change its goal [of] suppressing the free speech of these conservative groups.

”It’s just shifted methods. The ends are the same, only the means have changed,” he says.

Of the 41 grassroots groups named as plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed by the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) — a case alleging widespread abuses of the First Amendment rights of assembly and free speech by the Obama administration and the IRS — 13 still have not yet received an adjudication on their request for non-profit status.

The oldest of those 13 pending applications to the IRS for nonprofit status dates back to December 2009, French says. That would mean at least one group has been sidelined through two election cycles, with a third rapidly approaching.

Of the 13 groups in limbo, two sought 501c3 non-profit status and the other 11 sought 501c4 status as “social welfare” organizations, French said.

According to the ACLJ, five other groups joined the lawsuit after withdrawing their nonprofit applications due to frustration over the IRS approval process. Also, two of the plaintiffs refused to answer IRS questions that they considered unconstitutional, which led to the IRS closing their nonprofit applications without further consideration.

The proposed new IRS regulations seek to limit 501c4 groups’ activities. Conservative activists say the rules have exacerbated their sense of uncertainty and intimidation.

“Of course that has a chilling effect,” says French. “And until it is decisively and emphatically stopped through public, legal accountability, that chilling effect is likely to linger.”

Washington GOP super lawyer Cleta Mitchell, who represents grass-roots conservative activists not included in the ACLJ lawsuit, recently echoed the view that conservative groups continue to be singled out in the run-up to the 2014 elections.

“The IRS is still, very deliberately targeting conservative organizations and subjecting them to additional intense and burdensome scrutiny — and this has not stopped,” she said. “This is still ongoing.”

According to House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp of Michigan, the new proposed IRS regulations, which were first unveiled in November, appear to single out as political activity the precise sorts of programs tea party organizations typically run: Candidate forums, voter registration drives, and distributions of voter guides.

In a column published in the February edition of Newsmax Magazine, the Wall Street Journal’s Kimberley A. Strassel contends that conservative groups are much more likely to become ensnared in the new proposed limitations.

She notes that neither unions, which conduct most of their activities as 501c5 groups, nor 501c3 organizations such as the liberal League of Women Voters Education Fund, are affected. That’s because the rules were not written to apply to those types of nonprofits.

The reaction of conservative activists has grown increasingly strident. Everett Wilkinson, chairman of the grass-roots National Liberty Federation organization, tells Newsmax: “Never before have we seen such attitudes and actions taken in America by an administration or government body.

“They are intentionally trying to silence the voices of millions of Americans, who all they want is to be heard.”

Wilkinson said his organization is closely following nine critical Senate races that could flip either way. But the fear of some that they could become targets of the IRS is having an impact, he says.

“Through this intimidation a lot of people have said, ‘I don’t know if I want to risk the IRS or the Treasury Department or whoever they’re going to send after me,’” he says.

Recent remarks by Democrats appear to have exacerbated conservatives’ concern that the IRS has been politicized.

In January, New York Democratic Sen. Charles Schumer urged the IRS to “redouble [its] efforts immediately” to constrain the tea parties.

During his Super Bowl interview with Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, President Obama said there was “not even a smidgeon of corruption” involved. This despite the fact that the FBI has yet to release the findings of its investigation.

Such remarks appear aimed at energizing a Democratic base that has seen tea party nonprofits as fair game ever since the Citizens United ruling made it easier for corporations to get involved in politics.

Curiously, the IRS targeting has had relatively little impact on the major activist groups that raise millions of dollars each year.

A recent New York Times story reported that four major conservative organizations — FreedomWorks, Tea Party Patriots, the Club for Growth Action Fund, and the Senate Conservatives Fund — are actually outraising their more establishment GOP counterparts such as Crossroads GPS.

But unlike the big groups that can afford to “lawyer up,” it is the smaller activist organizations all over the country — with names like Linchpins of Liberty, Colorado 9/12 Project, First State Patriots, Mid-South Tea Party, and American Patriots Against Government Excess — who have been ensnared by the long arm of the IRS. Those smaller organizations are believed to play a key role in getting out the vote in local neighborhoods.

Wilkinson praises the myriad local tea parties as “the most effective system out there, compared to the Republican consulting groups that get millions of dollars in TV ads and radio ads.

“They put every dollar they have in, and their heart and soul. They’re getting people to the polls for maybe pennies on the dollar.”

How those groups will fare as the tax laws they must comply with grow increasingly complex and demanding is open to question.

French says the proposed IRS rules will mean “an enormous amount of activity undertaken on the basis of issues, is now re-characterized as political, and now subject to limits.

“That essentially takes a group’s ability to engage in issue advocacy and then completely neuters it in the days and the weeks leading up to an election, by defining political activity so very broadly,” he adds.

When the targeting controversy first broke last May, President Obama said the IRS targeting was “inexcusable,” and added: “I’m angry about it.”

The “social welfare” and issue-advocacy 501c4 organizations have received special attention in part because their donors’ names generally do not have to be disclosed.

The controversy over IRS targeting dates back to May 2013. That’s when former IRS executive Lois Lerner revealed that IRS personnel had acted in what she called an “absolutely inappropriate” way by holding up the non-profit applications of groups with the terms “tea party,” “patriot,” or “9/12” in their names.

The IRS asked the targeted groups to answer intrusive questionnaires regarding their activities — ranging from information on their members’ employers, donors lists, and even in one case how much time a particular organization spent “on prayer groups.”

At the time, GOP Sen. Orrin G. Hatch of Utah, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, received several complaints. He wrote a letter of inquiry to then-acting IRS Commissioner Stephen T. Miller.

Miller wrote back with assurances that no conservative groups were being targeted. But not long after Lerner’s disclosure, Miller was asked to resign.

The Obama administration has portrayed the IRS affair as a limited imbroglio involving a few rogue agents in the IRS’s Cincinnati office.

But Mitchell says several of her clients were told a final decision on their applications would be handed down from IRS offices in Washington, D.C.

Not every grass-roots leader is concerned that conservative activists’ IRS problems will work to Democrats’ advantage, however. Tea Party Express chairwoman Amy Kremer is among those predicting it will backfire.

“When all this came out about the IRS targeting, it made people mad,” she tells Newsmax. “It made them mad as hell.

“…You get these individuals, under whatever local group, they don’t care: They’re going to go out there, and work their hearts and souls out for the cause.”

© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By David A. Patten

Democrats Breaking with Obama on Key Issues.


Image: Democrats Breaking with Obama on Key IssuesFrom left: Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Martin Heinrich

By Melanie Batley

 

A growing number of Senate Democrats are speaking out publicly against a range of President Barack Obama’s policies in an attempt to distance themselves from theincreasingly unpopular president in the run-up to the 2014 midterm elections.

According to Politico, the lawmakers appear to have become unusually comfortable with criticizing the president, particularly since the State of the Union Address. 

“You had two or three Democrats in the Senate who made statements after the president’s State of the Union speech that wouldn’t have been written any different if they had been written by the [National] Republican Senatorial Committee,” Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt told Politico.

Until recently, criticism of the president was concentrated among vulnerable red state Democrats, but now others are becoming vocal in their dissent on a range of issues including energy policy, Obamacare, the Nation Security Agency surveillance programs, and the Keystone XL pipeline. 

For example, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who isn’t up for re-election until 2018, has taken issue with Obama’s insistence in his State of the Union Address that he would bypass Congress whenever necessary to advance his agenda.

“I don’t think that’s what he meant. I swear to God I don’t,” Manchin said in an interview with Politico. “Could he have picked these words better? I would have thought he could have, I would have hoped he would have. But it came out offensive to a lot of people.”

Manchin is also part of a faction in the Senate that would approve construction of the Keystone pipeline, a group that is also critical of the administration’s positions on coal and energy exports.

North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, another Democrat who isn’t up for re-election until 2018, has called Obama’s energy policies “schizophrenic.”

Meanwhile, New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, a freshman, has been a persistent critic of the White House on NSA policy, according to Politico. 

“I think the framers did an incredible job of finding the right balance, so, we’ve gotten away from that. And when we get back to that, my outspokenness will diminish,” he said.

Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado have also been vocal about the need for changes to the NSA’s surveillance programs.

A number of Democrats have for months been attempting to distance themselves from the president on Obamacare, aware that the GOP is likely to highlight the program’s failures throughout the 2014 campaign. But as Blunt put it, it may be an uphill battle.

“The White House and the Senate leadership understand the need of senators in states where the president is not popular to differentiate themselves from the president when they can,” Blunt told Politico. 

“On the healthcare bill, it’s going to be particularly difficult because all of them voted for it, all of them supported it. And it’s not going to get better between now and Election Day.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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