Posts Tagged ‘Senate’

Jim Bunning’s relationship with Senate Republicans and Kentucky GOP political operatives continues to deteriorate.

Republicans have a new strategy for dealing with the wildly unpredictable Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.): keep their distance and hope he implodes.

That means little fundraising help from top Republicans in Washington, little to no engagement with the National Republican Senatorial Committee and a cold shoulder from Kentucky political strategists. And if you’re Texas Sen. John Cornyn, the NRSC chairman, no cross words about Bunning.

“The easiest way to get rid of him is not give him any money,” said one Washington-based Republican fundraiser.

Cutting off Bunning from the big money — while ignoring his outbursts on the campaign trail — may be the only hope for Republicans whose behind-the-scenes effort to force Bunning to retire have backfired. Calls for him to retire, and any recruitment of a primary challenger, will only embolden Bunning, Republicans say.

Cornyn, for his part, is treading very carefully after Bunning publicly called him a liar and threatened to sue the NRSC if he didn’t get its support. Cornyn says that all GOP Senate candidates are in a “self-help” phase at this point in the 2010 election cycle and that the NRSC is backing Bunning.

“I think it was just a product of misunderstanding,” Cornyn said. “I think the assumption was what we were doing was we were not supporting [him]. Now he understands the NRSC is supporting our incumbents, including him.”

But Bunning’s recent threat to resign if Republicans didn’t help him with his reelection bid didn’t help his cause. Republicans in Washington and Kentucky are less eager than ever to help his run for a third term in 2010, saying they hope his campaign dies naturally from lack of money.

“This will not help with fundraising,” said one Kentucky GOP operative, who, like others interviewed for this story, requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive issue candidly. “It will just confirm what most people already believe: This guy has basically lost it and is irrationally lashing out at those who should be his allies.”

Kentucky and national Republicans are more or less openly trying to toss Bunning over the side. His threat to resign from the Senate and potentially hand over his seat to a Democrat and give Harry Reid a filibuster-proof supermajority may well have been the last straw. The strategy here is correct — Bunning has to make the decision to quit by himself, it can’t be imposed on him. But it forces Republicans to keep quiet and spend little or no time raising money or scouting for a replacement candidate.

Advertisement

If Roland Burris thinks he has a political future beyond 2010, he is as clueless as the man who appointed him.

Update: Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush invokes Chappaquidick and Larry Craig’s bathroom arrest as reasons why Roland Burris should not resign from the Senate.

Perhaps the worst kept secret in Republican Senate politics is that they are silently and not so subtly urging Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky to retire, or encourage a primary challenger. Now it looks like Bunning and his friend and fellow Kentuckian in the Senate Mitch McConnell have had a falling out.

Sen. Jim Bunning’s (R-Ky.) political career began to deteriorate this week after he apologized for making insensitive remarks about a sitting Supreme Court justice and then threatened to sue his own party if it forced him to retire.

While his public missteps may have damaged his reelection chances for the moment, perhaps more troubling is the distance that appears to be developing between Bunning and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

Once considered best friends in the chamber, their relationship has soured as many harbor the belief that Bunning is not the best candidate to keep the seat in GOP hands, according to Senate sources.

A spokesman for McConnell said the Republican leader “considers Sen. Bunning a close friend and a respected member of his caucus, and they continue to work closely on issues of great importance to their constituents.”

Bunning declined to comment for this article.

Democrats have targeted Bunning, an irascible member of the chamber and former Hall of Fame pitcher, in the next cycle. New GOP polling shows him down in a hypothetical match-up against a Democratic challenger, according to a GOP source.

Republican strategists are desperate to avoid a reprise of the 2007 gubernatorial race, in which an unpopular GOP incumbent — Ernie Fletcher, who became ensnared in scandal — refused to step down and lost the governor’s mansion to Democrats.

Bunning is planning a vigorous defense of his seat. He is in the midst of hiring campaign staff and scheduling fundraisers and plans to raise $10 million for his reelection.

Campaign records show that his campaign has only $150,000 and that he raised a mere $27,000 in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Bunning has implied that he held back on fundraising to give McConnell, who faced a difficult reelection himself last year, uncontested access to GOP donors in Kentucky. This has made McConnell’s fading support all the more painful, said one Senate lawmaker.

Bunning dodged a bullet in 2004, in a red state like Kentucky during a much friendlier political environment for the GOP. At this point, any pragmatist, especially one who has had a career as long as Bunning, would probably take one for the team and step aside to help his party retain the seat. But if Bunning is as stubborn about this as the article says and he stays in the race, it will make for a nasty spat inside Kentucky and national GOP circles, and mean one more potential seat the Republicans will have to spend time and money defending to hold off a 60-seat Democratic supermajority in the Senate for the last two years of Barack Obama’s first term.

Every once in a while, a politician says something so inappropriate, it shocks even me.

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky.), already in political trouble for 2010, didn’t help matters any over the weekend.

At a Lincoln Day Dinner speech over the weekend, Bunning predicted that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg would likely be dead from pancreatic cancer in nine months, according to the Louisville Courier-Journal.

The paper reports that Bunning reiterated his support of conservative judges, saying “that’s going to be in place very shortly because Ruth Bader Ginsburg…has cancer.”

“Bad cancer. The kind you don’t get better from,” Bunning went on. “Even though she was operated on, usually nine months is the longest that anybody would live after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer.”

While Senator Bunning didn’t explicitly say it, he comes across like he’s looking forward for Justice Ginsburg to die. He just handed his opponents for 2010 – in a potential GOP primary or the general election – a whole case of ammunition to use against him.

If you needed any more evidence that the heyday of unregulated excess in American capitalism is over, check out this report in the Wall Street Journal.

Public anger over taxpayer-funded financial bailouts is prompting Congress to look for ways to better police the billions of dollars being injected into the same Wall Street firms that many critics believe caused the current economic crisis.

Sens. Charles Schumer (D., N.Y.) and Richard Shelby (R., Ala.) are sponsoring a bill to hire hundreds of new Federal Bureau of Investigation agents and Securities and Exchange Commission investigators to investigate financial fraud. The Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing Wednesday to highlight the issue.

The proposal would provide $80 million to hire 500 new FBI agents and $10 million to add new federal prosecutors and $20 million for 100 new SEC employees. All are going to be focused on investigating white-collar crime, including mortage and financial fraud that many believe helped cause the current global crisis.

The increase in resources is intended to remedy cuts that were made after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack, which prompted federal law enforcement to focus more on terrorism.

Schumer says the FBI’s mortgage and financial fraud unit has 348 agents, down from 1,000 following the Savings and Loan crisis in the 1980s and 1990s.

If this happens, there will be some very nervous business executives on Wall Street and throughout America, and white collar defense attorneys in the private sector will make an obscene amount of money defending their clients. I would also expect big business to lobby heavily against this proposal and will promise to do a better job at policing itself, but the political reality is that the uproar over the economy and the multiple taxpayer-funded bailouts have Congress and the American people in a very foul mood. They won’t be very sympathetic.

statedepartment1

The Boston Globe is reporting that John Kerry is expected to take over as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in the new congress, with Joe Biden vacating the spot to assume the vice presidency.  If this is true, it means he will not be Secretary of State (Hillary Clinton and Bill Richardson have interviewed for the job, Richard Holbrooke has lobbied for it).

Harry Reid is calling Joe Lieberman in to have a little chat. Expect at a minimum for him to lose his chairmanship of the Homeland Security Committee, and for him to be ineligible for any leadership positions in the Democratic caucus.

This leaves Lieberman with the worst of both worlds. If he stays with the Democrats, he will be in the majority but won’t have any input in shaping the agenda someone of his seniority normally would. If he defects to the Republicans, he will be in the minority, where he will probably have even less influence, and in all likelihood would not even get vicechairman status on a Senate subcomittee.

The only Democratic Senators to lose their seats last night were Barack Obama and Joe Biden.

Also, Joe Biden got to vote for himself twice yesterday on the Delaware ballot, as vice president and as senator. (Joe Lieberman did the same thing in 2000)

Before it gets too late, I want to note my predictions for the downballot races.

Senate:
The Democrats currently hold a 51-49 majority. They need to a net gain of 9 seats tonight to get a 60-seat supermajority. These are the races which will ultimately determine the size of the new Democratic majority in January.

Alaska: Ted Stevens (R) v. Mark Begich (D)
Begich wins by 8-11 points.

Colorado: Bob Schaffer (R) v. Mark Udall (D)
Udall wins by 7-10 points.

Georgia: Saxby Chambliss (R) v. Jim Martin (D)
Chambliss wins by 2-5 points.

Kentucky: Mitch McConnell (R) v. Bruce Lunsford (D)
McConnell wins by 3-6 points.

Louisiana: John Kennedy (R) v. Mary Landrieu (D)
Landrieu wins by 6-9 points.

Maine: Susan Collins (R) v. Tom Allen (D)
Collins wins by 7-10 points.

Minnesota: Norm Coleman (R) v. Al Franken (D)
Franken wins 2-5 points.

Mississippi: Roger Wicker (R) v. Ronnie Musgrove (D)
Wicker wins by 4-7 points.

New Hampshire: John Sununu (R) v. Jeanne Shaheen (D)
Shaheen wins by 8-12 points.

New Mexico: Steve Pearce (R) v. Tom Udall (D)
Udall wins by 10-13 points.

North Carolina: Elizabeth Dole (R) v. Kay Hagan (D)
Hagan wins by 4-7 points.

Oregon: Gordon Smith (R) v. Jeff Merkley (D)
Merkley wins by 4-7 points.

Virginia: Jim Gilmore (R) v. Mark Warner (D)
Warner wins by 24-27 points.

If my predictions are correct the Democrats will pick up 8 seats, leaving them at 59-41 in the Senate, one seat short of the supermajority. The GOP firewall in the South will hold, but if they lose McConnell or Chambliss the Dems hit 60.

House of Representatives:
The Democrats currently hold a 236-199 majority. Expect them to pick up between 25-30 more seats tonight. I also expect the Republicans to claim one significant Democratic scalp: John Murtha, largely due to his self-inflicted wounds when he said western Pennsylvania was racist.

John Ensign, chairman of the NRSC gets in on the Palin-bashing.