Posts Tagged ‘House of Representatives’

That’s what Sam Stein is hearing.

Five days after Rep. Michele Bachmann went on a McCarthy-esque rant suggesting Barack Obama was unpatriotic and urging the major newspapers of the country to investigate anti-American sentiment in Congress, the national Republican political parties are running for cover.

Two sources aware of ad buys in Minnesota say that the National Republican Congressional Committee is pulling its media purchases from Bachmann’s race. If true, it is a remarkable fall for a congresswoman who, until recently, seemed relatively safe in her predominantly conservative district. The race had become closer in recent days — the NRCC had transferred funds from Rep. Erik Paulsen (MN-03) to Bachmann a little over a week ago.

A few observers are calling it the Macaca Incident of 2008. If Bachmann loses what was previously a safe seat over this, it will be a truly epic meltdown.

Update: TPM Election Central confirms that the NRCC is pulling its funding for Bachmann. She really is that radioactive within the House GOP as a result of this mess.

Update II: The Republican base is not happy with the NRCC’s decision about this.


While I’ve been obsessing over the presidential campaign, Congress is quietly continuing its work and the House of Representatives just passed a bill which will make American journalists and media lawyers very happy:

In a spare half-hour while discussing bailing out American capitalism, the US House of Representatives recently voted through an extraordinary bill with far-reaching implications for Britain’s courts. Yet it has received no publicity here and few of Britain’s lawyers even know of its existence.

By amending the legal code three weeks ago in order to prohibit the recognition and enforcement of foreign defamation judgments in the US, politicians sealed off America’s newspaper and book publishers from libel tourism – the use of British libel laws by non-nationals to sue foreign-owned publications such as books, newspapers and magazines that are distributed in Britain, even if only a few copies are involved.

Britain’s libel laws are widely considered to be among the most severe on publishers – and have been used by people from around the world, and increasingly by Hollywood celebrities, because American defamation laws give publications much greater licence.

Steve Cohen, the congressman who drew up the new US legislation, believes it will prevent the exploitation of defamation laws in Britain and other countries that lack the broad protections guaranteed by the US first amendment.

His measure is hugely popular in the States. It was passed unanimously, enjoying cross-party support and will now go to the Senate for ratification; it was applauded by the Association of American Publishers, the country’s principal book publishing trade body, and greeted enthusiastically by the New York Times on behalf of the newspaper industry. It “strikes an important blow for free expression”, said a leading article, which noted that people have been getting around America’s “high bar on libel lawsuits” by “bringing lawsuits in Britain where libel protections are notoriously weak”.

There have been very few voices raised against the measure. Two of the most notable have been a Belfast-based solicitor, Paul Tweed, who has a lengthy record of success acting for US celebrities in libel actions in England and Ireland, and a leading New York lawyer, John J Walsh.

“I have a respect for British jurisprudence and I also esteem responsible journalism,” Walsh says. “This bill makes it less likely that people who suffer from irresponsible journalism in publications that appear in Britain will have the chance for redress.” Walsh believes that the US, by seeking worldwide immunity from court decisions elsewhere, is in effect trying to export its first amendment to the rest of the globe.

Reporters are loving it, but the question in my mind now is where does this go next? American legislators just said to the rest of the world that they can pick and choose which of their laws apply to Americans on U.S. soil. What happens when the rest of the world picks up on that game and turns it around on the United States? It could be a very slippery slope.

From Patrick Ruffini at The Next Right, citing internal NRCC polling data:

The Tarrance Group for the NRCC (10/15-16, likely voters, 10/9 in parens):

Tim Mahoney (D-inc): 29 (56)
Tom Rooney (R): 55 (31)
(MoE: ±5.8%)

The Democrats are toast in this district if Mahoney stays in. And I seem to remember something about the incumbent’s name staying on the ballot if he does withdraw.

Mahoney’s political career is over. What I don’t know is if the Democrats can find a replacement for him on such short notice even if he does withdraw.

What is it about West Palm Beach that makes its congressmen prone to scandal? ABC News has the scoop:

West Palm Beach Congressman Tim Mahoney (D-FL), whose predecessor resigned in the wake of a sex scandal, agreed to a $121,000 payment to a former mistress who worked on his staff and was threatening to sue him, according to current and former members of his staff who have been briefed on the settlement, which involved Mahoney and his campaign committee.

Mahoney, who is married, also promised the woman, Patricia Allen, a $50,000 a year job for two years at the agency that handles his campaign advertising, the staffers said.

A Mahoney spokesperson would not answer questions about the alleged affair or the settlement, but said Allen resigned of her own accord and “has not received any special payment from campaign funds.”

Senior Democratic leaders in the House of Representatives, including Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-IL), the chair of the Democratic Caucus, have been working with Mahoney to keep the matter from hurting his re-election campaign, the Mahoney staffers said.

Mahoney was elected two years ago following the abrupt resignation of his disgraced predecessor, Republican Mark Foley, whose lewd internet messages to teenage boys and Congressional pages created a national outrage.

The affair between Mahoney and Allen began, according to the current and former staffers, in 2006 when Mahoney was campaigning for Congress against Foley, promising “a world that is safer, more moral.”

And the story gets better.

Friends of Allen told ABC News that Allen sought to break off the affair when she learned Mahoney was allegedly involved in other extra-marital relationships at the same time.

Her friends say she told them Mahoney threatened that ending the relationship could cost her the job.

“You work at my pleasure,” Congressman Mahoney told Allen on a January 20, 2008 telephone call that was recorded and played for Mahoney staffers. ABC News was provided a copy.

“If you do the job that I think you should do, you get to keep your job. Whenever I don’t feel like you’re doing your job, then you lose your job,” Mahoney can be heard telling Allen.

“And guess what? The only person that matters is guess who? Me. You understand that. That is how life really is. That is how it works,” Mahoney says on the call.

“You’re fired,” Mahoney tells her. “Do you hear me? Don’t tell me whether it’s correct or not.”

Allen says, “Tell me why else I’m fired.”

“There is no why else,” Mahoney responds.

Later, Allen says, “You’re firing me for other reasons. You don’t, you’re not man enough to say it. So why don’t you say it.”

All this from a guy who got elected because of his predecessor’s sex scandal? Yikes. This is manna from heaven for his opponent, who will in all likelihood hammer him upside the head with it for the next three weeks. It’s got Clinton-esque elements: adultery, use of taxpayer money, and litigation.

Keep an eye on this race to see if it gets competitive. It was a Republican district that switched in 2006 in disgust over the Foley scandal, so it could conceivably switch back. An incumbent’s first reelection campaign is usually the most difficult, and it would be a sweet symbolic victory for the Florida GOP if they could reclaim this seat and oust Mahoney because of a sex scandal, even if it isn’t anywhere near as toxic as the one that brought down Foley.

That’s the question elected officials, political observers, and voters are asking about the Republican Party. Traditionally, the incumbent president or the party’s presidential candidate is the designated leader of the party. But in 2008, the two Republicans in this role have been unable to rally their political allies to their will.

George W. Bush is a lame duck president, arguably since his party lost control of Congress in 2006. His approval numbers were already at record lows before the economic crisis, which came down on him and his party like a ton of bricks. A recent poll by ABC News and the Washington Post put his disapproval ratings at a record 70 percent. The same poll finds that 25 percent think the president deserves the most blame for the economic crisis.

GOP presidential nominee John McCain has a very different problem. He has made his political reputation, rightly and wrongly, based on his willingness to buck his party’s leadership and the conservative base, on issues ranging from immigration to the environment to confirmation of judicial nominees. His problem is that he has burned his bridges with the base that it’s difficult for some of the party faithful to get excited about his campaign.

Perhaps the most telling sign of the lack of political capital Bush and McCain with regard to influencing congressional Republicans is the fact that they could not get more than one third of House Republicans to vote in favor of the bill, compared to two thirds of House Democrats who supported it. Another telling statistic about Bush and McCain’s diminished influence in their own congressional delegations, pointed out by Politico’s Jonathan Martin: only 4 out of a combined 23 House Republicans from Texas and Arizona voted for the bailout, and they were all from Texas.

While congressional leaders from both parties came together fairly quickly to try and come up with a solution to the crisis, when McCain called for his joint White House photo op with Obama he may have overly politicized the process and potentially helped to derail negotiations.

After the House vote failed, Congressional Republicans held a press conference to denounce a partisan speech given by Nancy Pelosi on the House floor, and said that she was responsible for the failure to pass the bill.

But voters aren’t buying the spin. According to the ABC/Post poll, 44 percent think that congressional Republicans are responsible for failing to pass the bailout legislation, compared to just 21 percent who blame the Democrats and 17 percent who blame both parties. But voters in general are in a sour mood with Congress. A recent CBS poll put congressional approval ratings at only 15 percent. There is a real and tangible feeling of “Throw the Bums Out” and I think a lot of incumbents up for reelection, particularly in the House, will be sweating bullets on Election Day.

Yes, Democrats have been running Congress for more than 18 months now, so some of the pressures of incumbency might be on them. However, I think perceptions with the voters are hardening, if not solidified, that Republicans controlled both the White House and Congress for most of the last 8 years, and that most of, if not all, the events that led up to this moment of economic crisis happened on their watch.

If McCain loses the election and more GOP incumbents are ousted in the House and Senate, look for another round of circular firing squads and potential changes in their congressional leadership. The vacuum in leadership will force new faces to step up and take over, probably from outside Washington. Keep an eye on who is posturing or making noise to be the GOP frontrunner for 2012. I expect it to begin immediately after the current election is over. My guess is we will be hearing and seeing a lot more of Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Tim Pawlenty. From the Congress, look for 2012 buzz coming from Rep. Eric Cantor, Sen. John Thune, and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

Marc Ambinder made a post on this subject worth reading, and the title effectively frames the GOP’s dilemma: “Republicans Are Free Agents Now.”