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Posts tagged ‘Jay Rockefeller’

WSJ: GOP Making Bold, Massive Bid to Take Senate.

Image: WSJ: GOP Making Bold, Massive Bid to Take SenateScott Brown, left, and Ed Gillespie

By Melissa Clyne

In its bid to gain the Senate majority in the midterm elections later this year, the GOP is crafting its strategy straight from the 2012 Democratic playbook, according to The Washington Post.

Republicans are casting a wide net to pick up the six seats needed to secure a majority, putting up viable candidates in a plethora of states where they hope to capitalize on President Barack Obama’s dismal job performance ratings as well as the national furor over Obamacare.

“The key to the Republican strategy is making the next tier of seats [and recruits] as large as possible since a few candidates will flame out, some incumbents will prove tougher to beat than they appear, and the national political environment could shift several times between now and November,” the Post notes.

Republicans need to win six new seats to flip the current Democratic majority of 55-to-45. In the current political climate, they are expected to gain between four and seven seats, according to the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. 

States where the GOP can prevail include Alaska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Virginia, and possibly Minnesota. Five of the vulnerabilities stem from retirement announcements by Democratic senators Max Baucus of Montana, Carl Levin of Michigan, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, and South Dakota’s Tim Johnson.

Midterm elections are historically unkind to the sitting president’s party. Add to that the hysteria over a botched healthcare law rollout and millions of Americans receiving notices of canceled insurance plans and it’s a recipe for an ouster.

According to the Wall Street Journal, five states Obama won in 2012 — Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Virginia, and New Hampshire — are now considered vulnerabilities.

In Virginia, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie should be “a very credible contender who can raise considerable money,” according to the Rothenberg Report, and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown trails New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen by just three points and he hasn’t even announced whether he intends to run.

“I’d be more worried if I were a Democrat than if I was a Republican,” Rothenberg Report editor Stuart Rothenberg told the Journal. “The Republicans’ prospects in the existing targets are improving because of the president’s approval ratings, and they are continuing to put other races on the board.”

By offering voters strong GOP alternatives in a variety of states, even those historically blue, Republicans hope that hijacking the Democrats 2012 strategy proves to be a winner.

“One thing’s for sure,” political columnist Chris Cillizza writes in the Post. “If they make it over the top this November, Senate Republicans should send their Democratic counterparts a nice thank you gift for showing them the way.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Sending Baucus to China Removes Democratic Critic of Obamacare.

Image: Sending Baucus to China Removes Democratic Critic of Obamacare

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Sending Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus off as the next U.S. ambassador to China could solve several problems for President Barack Obama, including removing one ofObamacare’s most vocal opponents from Capitol Hill.

Earlier this year, the outspoken lawmaker famously referred to Obamacare as a “huge train wreck,” saying it would be a failure if the government couldn’t afford money for research, reports The Washington Post. 

Baucus has also compared the launch to “Humpty Dumpty” with questions about whether the website could be eventually successful.

Removing Baucus from Washington means taking the outspoken critic away from his chairmanship of the Finance Committee since 2007. Baucus plans to retire next year, and ordinarily would be followed in the seat by second-ranking Democrat member Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va.

However, like Baucus, Rockefeller plans to retire after next year, so Baucus’ seat, if he leaves early, is expected to be taken by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the current chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senate aides told The Washington Post. Wyden has criticized the White House’s healthcare plans in the past, but he is not as strident with his opposition as Baucus.

But there are other possible reasons beyond Obamacare for the president to nominate Baucus, The Post reports.

Baucus, 72, is leaving office next year, but Republicans are expected to take the red state next year with Rep. Steve Daines.

However, if Baucus steps down early, The Post speculates, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock can appoint a Democratic replacement who would be able to run for a full six-year term in 2014. Lt. Gov. John Walsh is already running for the seat, but if he is appointed to it early, he would be the incumbent when the election takes place, giving him an advantage over other candidates.

Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, Jim Messina, who is Baucus’ former top hand, may also be considering a campaign, The Post reports, so his name could also be in the short list to fill Baucus’ seat.

Baucus though, does have extensive experience in China, having visited eight times. He also lead U.S. efforts in the 1990s to persuade China to enter the World Trade Organization and worked to establish Permanent Normal Trade Relations between the two countries.

In addition, Baucus has hosted Chinese trade delegations in both Montana and Washington D.C.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Obama Looks to Baucus to Serve as China Ambassador.

President Barack Obama is looking to the Senate again to fill a top diplomatic post, with Democratic officials saying he intends to nominate six-term Sen. Max Baucus of Montana to be the next U.S. ambassador to China.

Baucus, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election, is knowledgeable on trade issues as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee but better known for his work on that panel steering Obama’s health care overhaul into law three years ago.

If confirmed by the Senate, Baucus would replace Ambassador Gary Locke, who plans to step down next year. The White House could make a formal announcement about the selection of Baucus as early as Thursday.

Nearly a year ago, Obama reached into the Senate ranks when he nominated then-Sen. John Kerry to serve as secretary of state. The Massachusetts Democrat had a smooth path to confirmation, and Baucus, as a member of the Senate club, is likely to easily secure approval from his colleagues.

Baucus’ departure from the Senate would have an immediate impact on one of Congress’ most powerful committees and on the 2014 election for control of Congress. Under Montana state law, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock has the authority to name a Senate successor to serve until the election, and speculation immediately turned to a fellow Democrat, Lt. Gov. John Walsh, already running for Senate.

Baucus, 72, sidestepped questions about the ambassadorship when asked in the Capitol. “It’s not for me to comment on. … This happens every once in a while. Names get floated around.”

The White House had no immediate comment on the disclosure, which was made by officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the nomination publicly before a formal announcement.

Kathy Weber, a spokeswoman in Baucus’ office, declined to confirm the move but said, “Max has given his life to public service and when asked to serve he takes that request very seriously.”

Obama is in search of a new top diplomat in Beijing as he executes a so-called Asia pivot in U.S. military strategy to more directly counter China after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The relationship between the two nations has grown more troubled in recent weeks, with Chinese authorities unilaterally declaring an air defense zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea. The United States subsequently flew a pair of B-52 bombers through the space last month without incident, and Vice President Joe Biden sought to calm matters on his recent trip through Asia.

Baucus was first elected to the Senate in 1978 and since early 2007 has been chairman of the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxes, trade, health care and more. He has traveled to China more than a half dozen times.

On some key issues, he has pursued a more moderate approach than some fellow Democrats would prefer, a reminder that he hails from a rural, Western state with a history of electing Republicans as well as Democrats to top political offices.

Shortly after becoming chairman, he led the opposition to then-President George W. Bush’s proposal to privatize Social Security.

Two years later, with Obama in the White House, he struggled for months to assemble bipartisan backing for health care legislation in 2009 to the growing impatience of fellow Democrats. He managed to gain one Republican vote for legislation that cleared committee, but the final bill was thoroughly partisan.

As committee chairman, Baucus has pressed both Democratic and Republican administrations to take a harder line against what he says are unfair Chinese trade practices. The country has the largest trade surplus of any nation with the U.S., and American manufacturers claim it is manipulating its currency to maintain that imbalance.

Inside the Senate, Baucus’ appointment would create a vacancy atop the panel that Senate Democrats would fill. Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia is immediately behind Baucus in seniority and ordinarily would ascend to the chairmanship but has announced he intends to retire at the end of next year. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon is next in line in seniority.

In comments to reporters, Rockefeller indicated he would not seek to claim the spot, saying it would be good if Wyden succeeded Baucus. “I want that committee to be a little more aggressive, and he will be,” he said.

Wyden is chairman of the Energy Committee and would likely be replaced there by an oil state Democrat, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

With Democrats struggling to retain their majority in the 2014 elections, Baucus’ announced retirement had turned the state into a challenging one for the party. Obama lost the state in 2012 to Republican Mitt Romney by 13 points.

First-term Republican Rep. Steve Daines has announced his candidacy for the seat.



© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Hillary Group Attacks Christie Over ‘Bridgegate’.

Image: Hillary Group Attacks Christie Over 'Bridgegate'

By Melanie Batley

A group linked to Hillary Clinton has joined the fray to attack New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie over the bridge closure controversy that has dogged his administration for weeks, already resulting in the resignation of two officials and a firestorm of accusations from state and national Democrats.

Correct the Record, a group formed by top supporters of the former first lady, created a graphic showing the Republican governor’s frowning face, a highway sign that reads “Lanes Closed. Expect Christie?” with another road sign say “political retribution.” The bottom of the ad says, “…the emerging facts aren’t lining up with the administration’s story,” CNN reported.

“Welcome to the world that is 2016,” Adrienne Elrod, communications director for the group, told The Washington Post.

“We’re watching every word that comes out of his mouth… He’s been able to enjoy for the most part being a pretty popular governor, but he’s never really been tested on the national stage.”

The organization is an offshoot of Democratic super PAC American Bridge, and is a research and response project dedicated to mobilizing against possible 2016 Republican presidential hopefuls, as part of a larger push to lay the groundwork for a 2016 Clinton candidacy.

Democrats allege that Christie ordered a September closure of lanes onto the George Washington Bridge from New Jersey to New York as retribution for the refusal of Fort Lee Democratic Mayor Mark Sokolich to join other New Jersey mayors in endorsing Christie for re-election.

This week, Democrats in Washington D.C. turned up the heat on Christie with Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate’s transportation committee, asking Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx to investigate the closures.

“You’ve got the DNC, some of the Hillary-tied PACs diving into this story,” Kevin Hagan, a New Jersey-based Democratic strategist told the Post. “You don’t want to continue to give your perceived opponent a pass.”

Democrats have also created a politically-charged YouTube video  with a narrative designed to raise the profile of the issue and link it to questions about Christie’s character and integrity.

“It undercuts his key argument that he’s a straight shooter,” Democratic National Committee spokesman Michael Czin said of the controversy, according to the Post.
“It highlights the worst about his bombast and his condescension.”

And in a signal that Democrats intend to continue to escalate the issue, one Democratic leader told the Post that the “Bridgegate” episode reveals the Christie administration’s “Nixon-like dirty tricks,” while another compared it to Watergate, and a third speculated about impeachment.

Christie has continued to downplay accusations of wrongdoing, suggesting they are politically motivated and have been “sensationalized.”

“National Democrats will make an issue about everything about me, so get used to the new world everybody, you know?” Christie told a news conference Friday.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Senate Panel Plans Hearing on Commercial Use of Drones.

Image: Senate Panel Plans Hearing on Commercial Use of Drones

By Cathy Burke

A Senate committee will conduct a hearing next year on the commercial use of drones, and will look at warehouse behemoth Amazon’s plan to use mini-drone “octocopters” for package delivery.

“Amazon’s plans for using drones to deliver packages is just one example of the potential this technology offers consumers, and a reflection of the ingenuity of American business,” Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Chairman Jay Rockefeller said Monday,The Hill reported.

“As we move forward toward integrating drones into civilian life and capitalizing on the economic opportunities they offer, we must make certain that these aircraft meet rigorous safety and privacy standards,” said Rockefeller, D-W. Va.

“I plan to hold a hearing early next year to explore the potential economic benefits of unmanned vehicles in our airspace, as well as the potential risks they may create,” he said.

A committee aide said the hearing was already in the works before Amazon’s announcement Sunday about its so-called “octocopters,” Fox News reported.

Both House and Senate judiciary committees have already conducted hearings on the use of drones in domestic airspace, focusing on the use of drones by police and other government agencies for surveillance, The Hill noted.

Federal rules currently prohibit the commercial use of drones. The Federal Aviation Administration is working on rules to allow private groups to fly drones in U.S. airspace as early as 2015, The Hill reported.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos announced his company’s plan to use drones for package delivery on CBS’60 Minutes” newsmagazine.

“I know this looks like science fiction. It’s not,” he said.

Bezos said the concept is still “years away.” But he envisions half-hour deliveries of objects up to 5 pounds, “which covers 86 percent of the items that we deliver.”

“These generations of vehicles, it could be a 10-mile radius from a fulfillment center,” Bezos said.

“So, in urban areas, you could actually cover very significant portions of the population. And so, it won’t work for everything; you know, we’re not gonna deliver kayaks or table saws this way. These are electric motors, so this is all electric; it’s very green, it’s better than driving trucks around.”

He acknowledged that the drones needed more safety testing.

“This thing can’t land on somebody’s head while they’re walking around their neighborhood,” he said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

GOP’s Capito Touts ‘No Obamacare Subsidies for Congress’ Act.

West Virginia Republican Rep. Shelley Moore Capito told Newsmax Wednesday that a piecemeal defunding of Obamacare may appear to ordinary Americans as nothing more than a Beltway “food fight.”

But opponents need to keep their eyes on the prize, she said, stressing that a “complete dismantling” of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is possible.

“We need to have a commonsense sort of way of approaching this and we don’t want to lose the American public here and have it devolve into too much of a food fight for people to understand that this healthcare bill is something that they know they don’t want and that they know is not fair and is unworkable,” Capito told Newsmax in an exclusive interview.

Story continues below.

Noting delays in implementing aspects of the new law — most recently in its caps on out-of-pocket insurance costs — Capito called the law “flawed” and said lawmakers should “start over.”

“We do need health reform, we do need accessibility and affordability in our healthcare system and more insured but by all these delays, by all these special decisions as we move into the full implementation, it tells me it’s not ready, it’s unworkable, it’s unpopular, and nobody knows what the ramifications are,” she said.

But she predicted 7 million people would lose their their employee-sponsored insurance if the law goes forward.

Capito plans to introduce the “No ObamaCare Subsidies for Congress Act” when Congress goes back in session — legislation aimed at overturning an administrative policy allowing Congress members to get a subsidy to nudge them onto Obamacare exchanges.

She said she refuses any such subsidy.

“If we were regular citizens making what members of Congress make, we would be ineligible for a subsidy,” she said. “So why should we be treated any differently? It’s an issue of fairness.”

Capito, who has announced her candidacy for the Senate seat of retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller, said she hopes to be “a bold and new voice in Washington.”

In particular, she said, the administration’s energy regulations are having a “devastating effect” in coal-rich West Virginia.

“Our coal is way down,” she said. “We’re losing jobs. We’re losing transportation jobs, we’re losing service jobs, we’re losing electrical jobs, service pump jobs. It just goes on and on because of the administration’s war on coal.”

Yet, she pointed out, coal comprises 40 percent of the energy mix in the U.S.

“It’s affordable, reliable, and a cheaper source of energy and it’s abundant in our own country,” she said. “It’s hurting West Virginia. It’s hurting the heartland.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Cathy Burke and Kathleen Walter

Democrats at Risk Even With Obamacare Mandate Delay.

The administration’s one-year delay Tuesday of a key element of Obamacare immediately spread speculation that the action was taken because of fears that its implementation would fuel voter anger and help bring down several Democratic senators in 2014.

No one in the White House, of course, will confirm this, but the delay of the mandate that businesses with 50 or more employees provide health insurance or face a fine is easily one of the most controversial parts of the Affordable Care Act and comes at a time when polls show the 2010 law is still very unpopular.

According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, 49 percent of voters nationwide consider Obamacare “a bad idea” and only 37 percent consider it “a good idea.” The same survey showed 38 percent of American voters feel they will be “worse off” under the law.

Translated into the politics of the 2014 midterm elections, this could spell additional trouble for Democratic senators who voted for Obamacare and now face re-election in states where it is especially unpopular. Among those Democrats favoring Obamacare in the “endangered” column are Sens. Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.

“We should pick up South Dakota and West Virginia,” Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma told Newsmax, referring to states where Democratic Sens. Tim Johnson and Jay Rockefeller are retiring and polls show likely Republican candidates running far ahead. “And I think you’ll see a growing number of incumbent Democrats in danger.”

The current breakdown of the Senate is 55 Democrats and 45 Republicans, with 14 Republican-held seats and 19 Democrat-held seats up for election.

One classic case-in-point is Arkansas, where some polls show Pryor trailing freshman Republican Rep. Tom Cotton, who has yet to formally announce his candidacy. Pryor voted for Obamacare and Cotton is a strong proponent of repeal.

One seasoned observer of Razorback State politics is skeptical as to whether the administration’s delay in the mandate will help Pryor.

“No, the delay won’t help Sen. Pryor or any Democrats here in ’14,” political blogger and Arkansas Democrat Gazette columnist Rex Nelson told Newsmax. “The well is too poisoned. Anyone closely associated with Obamacare or the president will be in big trouble in Arkansas or states like it.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By John Gizzi

Forecasters Face Furloughs Despite Saving Hundreds From Tornado.

Furloughs for the government weather forecasters are still on track for the height of hurricane and tornado season despite them being credited with saving hundreds of lives with early warnings about Monday’s huge Oklahoma tornado, reports Politico.

Senate Republicans have advocated for months to give federal agencies more flexibility to shift funds around, which could help agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Weather Service.

But they are still not sure whether they can stave off the sequester-related cuts.

“I think we have to maintain the level of savings that we achieved in sequestration,” said Republican Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho. “But I’m one of those who believes we need to create flexibility for the agencies to manage their funds without impacting their critical functions.”

NOAA plans to furlough all 12,000 employees for four work days over a two-month period that starts July 5, said spokesperson Ciaran Clayton, just over a month after hurricane season starts on June 1.

She said the agency will be able to maintain life-saving functions, forecast severe weather and maintain satellites, but with 7 percent budget cuts, the agency will need to make some hard choices.

Senate Commerce Chairman Jay Rockefeller, whose panel oversees NOAA, said the fix for the agency’s budget cuts has yet to cross his mind. Instead, the West Virginia Democrat called for “infrastructure, paying attention to infrastructure” while wondering why many homes in Oklahoma and in the path of Monday’s F-5 tornado in Moore, Okla. had no basements.

“What they need is basements,” the veteran senator said. “Nobody has a basement – what the hell are you gonna do?”

Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill, of Missouri, whose state lost 162 residents in the 2011 tornado in Joplin, said lawmakers “need to look at the facts to see if that’s a leap we can make. We have to monitor this and find out from NOAA whether there is any impact, how it is prioritizing cuts, and whether it can get children to safety.”

The NOAA sent alerts as early as last week about a severe weather system expected to move over the weekend and into Monday across the Great Plains, and members of Congress got emails about a high tornado risk on Sunday and Monday.

On Monday afternoon, the NOAA Storm Prediction center in Norman, Okla., issued a warning 16 minutes before the tornado developed, setting off sirens in and around Oklahoma City and saving lives, said Clayton.

Scientists and experts have cautioned that NOAA is underfunded, and say it lags in spending on supercomputers and satellites. They say that is why the National Hurricane Center — which is part of the NOAA — was not as accurate as a European model in predicting Hurricane Sandy‘s devastating turn into New York and New Jersey in October last year.

The NOAA is not the only weather agency facing cuts through sequestration. The U.S. Geological Survey plans to shut down stream gauges that forecast flooding, and an Agriculture Department program that measures snow depth is facing cuts.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Obama Defies Rockefeller on FCC Choice.

In selecting longtime supporter and venture capitalist Tom Wheeler on Wednesday to be the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, President Barack Obama turned a deaf ear to the calls from a powerful Democratic senator to name the first woman FCC chief.

In a letter signed by 36 of his Senate colleagues, Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia called on the White House to give the chairmanship to present FCC Commissioner, and onetime Rockefeller staffer, Jessica Rosenworcel.

But the president, with the full support of the high-tech community, instead tapped the Wheeler, who, with wife Carol, spent six weeks in Iowa working on then-Sen. Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign.

A former lobbyist for the National Cable and Telecommunications Association and the CTIA wireless group, Wheeler also raised six-figure amounts for Obama in both of his presidential campaigns.

John Gizzi is special columnist for

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.


By John Gizzi

Rockefeller: Obamacare ‘Most Complex Legislation Ever’.

Image: Rockefeller: Obamacare ‘Most Complex Legislation Ever’

U.S. Senator, Jay Rockefeller, D-WV.

By Melanie Batley

One of the chief architects of Obamacare, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, has launched a scathing attack on the program, arguing that it is too complex and that program managers could imperil the program’s future.

“I believe the Affordable Care Act is probably the most complex piece of legislation ever passed by the United States Congress,” the retiring West Virginia Democrat said on Tuesday, according to the Washington Examiner. “Tax reform obviously has been huge too, but up to this point it is just beyond comprehension,” he added.

Rockefeller also criticized program managers, saying they were not moving quickly enough to build the system. He said that Obamacare is “so complicated and if it isn’t done right the first time, it will just simply get worse,” the Examiner reported.

His candid remarks were made during the Senate Finance Committee confirmation hearing for Marilyn Tavenner to become the next administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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