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Sam Stein

The Huffington Post • stein@huffingtonpost.com

 
Sam Stein

BIO

More Than $3 Million Spent In Three Weeks On Wisconsin-Related Ads

May 25, 2011

WASHINGTON -- Labor unions and progressive groups, business lobbies and conservative outlets spent more than $3 million in television ads in state during the course of the Wisconsin budget fight, an analysis of expenditures that was commissioned by The Huffington Post shows.

(SCROLL DOWN FOR LIVE UPDATES)

That amounts to more than $1 million per week of the budget battle, hardly chump change and a reflection of the growth of major spending on legislative battles, even those based in the states, by politically-oriented institutions.

All told, those groups opposed to Gov. Scott Walker’s controversial budget-repair bill spent $1,663,630 on television advertisements that aired in Wisconsin, according to Evan Tracey, president of the Campaign Media Analysis Group. Those supportive of the budget spent $1,535,770.

Those totals don’t include spending on ads being run nationally by conservative groups like Crossroads GPS, or ads that have just been put up, such as those by the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee.

“Certainly it is at the higher end of the historical spectrum,” Tracey said. “In this one, all eyes were on Wisconsin and it raised the stakes beyond just that state. Spending this kind of money is not done just for the press to absorb ... they are out there to persuade public opinion. These are real buys.”

The most telling aspect of the ad purchases may be the sequence rather than the magnitude. Labor groups, as Tracey posited, moved quickly to set the narrative around Walker’s anti-collective bargaining bill, which passed into law only after being stripped from the rest of the budget. And by doing so, they were able to motivate both within and beyond Wisconsin.

By contrast, the conservative ads were more responsive and less coordinated. Absent Walker’s procedural moves, it’s not clear if they would have been all that effective.

As one GOP operative told The Huffington Post, before the collective bargaining measure actually passed: “Labor jumped on a great opportunity and kicked our asses.”

With lessons learned, the template seems to have been set for budget fights elsewhere. Tracey cited debates over New York senior citizen centers and money for California cops and prison guards as potential upcoming flashpoints.

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Wisconsin Republican Gov. Scott Walker's bill to end collective bargaining for public employees passed the state senate on Wednesday. In reaction, Wisconsin high school students are planning a nationwide walkout in order to send a unified message in support of public education.

A Facebook event labeled Nationwide Student Walkout already has more than 5,000 people "attending." The group asks for the nationwide walkout to happen this Friday, March 11, 2011 at 2:00 p.m. local time.

Read more here.

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AP reports:

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he is certain support will grow for the new law that eliminates nearly all collective bargaining rights for public employees.

The governor signed the measure Friday. In an interview with The Associated Press, he said he has "no doubt" that support will build as the government becomes more efficient. He said public employees would still have civil-service protections.

Walker spoke about the law even as dozens of protesters shouted outside his Capitol office in opposition to it. The proposal passed the state senate and Assembly earlier this week.

More here.

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HuffPost's Sam Stein reports:

Less than two days after Wisconsin Senate Republicans took to seedy if not crafty parliamentary maneuvers to pass an anti-collective bargaining bill, the Democratic party is up with ads targeting individual members.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee released an ad on Friday attacking Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Wis.) for being a doormat in Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to get his budget-related measure passed into law.

“We expect pins to get bowled over,” the spot goes. “Pies to get rolled. But we certainly don’t expect our senators to get flattened. Last month, Senator Olsen said eliminating collective bargaining is, quote, ‘pretty radical.’

Read the rest here.

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HuffPost's Amanda Terkel reports:

Far away from the large protests at the Wisconsin statehouse, a group of about 60 people -- students, teachers, nurses and others -- met at 6:00 a.m. at Riverside High School in Milwaukee on Friday morning, the first step in their march all the way to Madison (approximately 80 miles).

The walk will take three days, ending at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday in Madison. Today, the group is walking about 12 or 13 hours. Tomorrow will be eight hours, and Sunday will be six hours. While some people are going to be making the full trek, others will be joining and leaving along the way.

The Huffington Post spoke with Christopher Fons, a public school teacher who came up with the idea for the march, at noon CT. Fons is part of the group People Organizing Wisconsin for Education and Workers Rights (POWER). They had already walked approximately 20 miles and were excited that it was a "balmy" 35 degrees.

Fons first conceived of the march about a week ago, when he was teaching his U.S. history class about Cesar Chavez and the National Farm Workers Association. In 1965, Chavez organized a historic farmworkers march from Delano, Calif. to Sacramento -- 340 miles.

"It's about the journey," said Fons. "There's been a lot of large demonstrations in Capitol, but we just thought we should try to dramatize this in a different way. I'm in complete support of the large rallies, but I just think we need to be doing other strategies to raise consciousness."

A few stands have popped up along the march route providing coffee and other refreshments, which have, according to Fons, really helped the morale of the participants. But when The Huffington Post spoke with Fons, they were in Waukesha County, a more Republican area where he said the reception had not always been quite as friendly.

"The message is about not allowing collective bargaining to be ended and about defending public education in the state -- to try to defend this idea that we have the Wisconsin idea," said Fons. "The Wisconsin idea is an egalitarian society that has education at its center, for everybody."

Since the beginning of the controversy, teachers have been an integral part of the protests against Gov. Scott Walker's (R) budget repair bill, with many public schools shut down for days because so many teachers have gone to Madison to protest.

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The Washington Post reports:

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a former businessman and now a freshman senator, held a conference call Thursday afternoon with a small group of bloggers. For a freshman, he's entirely fluid on the issues and easily navigates between specifics and larger themes.

I asked him about Wisconsin. Why did Gov. Scott Walker take so long to pull out the "fiscal" elements and pass the legislation without a quorum? Johnson first made clear that he and the governor believe this "is not about individual workers . . . but about rebalancing the equation" so that the taxpayers' interests are being protected. As for the long-in-coming resolution, Johnson explained that the governor wanted the collective bargaining provision and the rest of the cost-cutting measures "tied" because they were all part of the effort to close the state's budget deficit. But it became evident the Democrats weren't budging. He said that one Democratic senator even requested an absentee ballot for the spring election. At that point Walker moved forward on the bill.

Read more here.

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William Alden:

MILWAUKEE -- Rev. Jesse Jackson spoke to a crowd of demonstrators in Milwaukee Thursday evening, laying out a strategy to oppose the anti-union rights legislation that state lawmakers passed hours earlier.

He focused on the upcoming State Supreme Court election, urging voters to choose a justice who would protect workers’ rights to collectively bargain. Speaking to a crowd that included teachers and public school students, Jackson said Milwaukee has become as important a battleground as Madison.

“All eyes are on Milwaukee,” he said from the steps of Milwaukee County Courthouse, as the crowd cheered. “The cameras are in Madison, the votes are in Milwaukee.”

The election on April 5 could swing the ideological leaning of the seven-justice State Supreme Court. Justice David Prosser, one of the four-justice unofficial conservative majority, sees his term expire this year. His opponent, Assistant State Attorney General JoAnne Kloppenburg, would likely break that majority. If a legal challenge to the new legislation arrives before the Supreme Court, that shift of power could be crucial.

“We’re gonna see the same crowds in Milwaukee that we see in Madison,” declared Rev. Willie Brisco, president of Milwaukee Innercity Congregations Allied for Hope, which sponsored the rally. “This is just the beginning.”

Jackson, a longtime advocate for worker’s rights, had been in Madison earlier that day. He arrived at the Courthouse in Milwaukee two hours after the rally began, wearing a black hat and overcoat, while the crowd chanted, “Jesse, Jesse!” After climbing the courthouse steps and taking the microphone, he compared the current political struggle to the demonstrations that preceded the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

“This is what democracy looks like,” he said.

Jackson spoke in support of teachers, who would lose collective bargaining rights if the bill is ratified. The teachers -- and students -- in the audience roared their appreciation.

One student, Carlo Goodger, a 12-year-old 7th grader in the Milwaukee Public School system, had addressed the crowd minutes before Jackson arrived.

“We’re proud to be from MPS,” Goodger said, as demonstrators exploded into cheers. “We don’t like what Scott Walker is doing to us.”

If the bill becomes law, class sizes could expand. Teachers could face wage cuts or layoffs.

Goodger, whose mother is a teacher at his school, and whose mother’s parents were also teachers, granted HuffPost an interview after his speech.

“Not only do I know how it will feel for my mom, but I know how it will feel for me, also,” he said. “I’m gonna make a change as much as I can.”

“I grew up a Milwaukee public student, and I’m gonna die a Milwaukee public student.”

His mother, Lucia Medico, 35, who teaches special education, said the teacher’s union, Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, has encouraged members to be “more passive” in their response to the bill, and to “wait it out.”

“But we as teachers want to make an impact,” she said. “Waiting it out has brought this.”

Teachers at the rally said they hoped to bring the energy of Madison to Milwaukee, and to encourage more people to support their cause. But they found themselves in the awkward position of not wanting to stick their necks out too far, for fear that they could face consequences, especially if they lose union rights. Tricia Ward, 35, who teaches special education, requested that the name of her school be withheld.

“That’s how scared everyone is,” she said. “When this collective bargaining ends, they can do whatever they want.”

WATCH Rev. Jackson's speech below (credit to Dr. Todd Alan Price, of National-Louis University):

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The Daily Caller reports on Jesse Jackson's statements on the Wisconsin anti-union bill's passage:

“More health care for more Americans is not as hurtful as less education and less health care and fewer jobs,” Jackson said. “Maybe what you see here is the rise of hurt and people are acting out their democratic rights and sharing their pain. And they want to be heard and I feel that when they’re steamrolled as they were in the Assembly and as they are in the Senate, people are going to fight back against the governor hears them and engages in democracy and not ramrod democracy. It simply will not work whether Cairo or Madison, it will not work.”

Jackson said pro-union legislators were denied the ability to vote on the issue and forecasted a “rebellion” to come within the next month.

Full story here.

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Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Mike Tate has issued the following statement on the anti-union bill's passage:

"It is a shameful day for Wisconsin. Ultimately, our working families will have their day and Scott Walker's victory will ring as hollow as his pledges to their well-being. Today, the Koch Brothers can pop some champagne. But know that our total focus now is on recall."

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The Wisconsin State Capitol will close at 6 p.m. CST today, WKOW.com reported on Twitter.

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Wisconsin municipalities are already mounting legal challenges against the controversial anti-union bill that passed first in the state Senate and now in the Assembly.

Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz asserted on his blog that the bill's passage violates the state's open meetings law and has engaged City Attorney Mike May:

I've asked Mike to join any action he deems appropriate in the courts this morning to reverse the Senate's illegal action.

To quote Mike's email to alders and I this morning:

"The Office of the City Attorney (in compliance with State law) insists on 24 hours notice for any meeting, or adding any matter to an agenda, unless there is no way that 24 hours notice could have been given. Mere convenience or inadvertence is insufficient to meet the less than 24-hour notice. This is necessary to be in compliance with the Open Meetings Law. It is an essential element of government in Wisconsin.

"Today's action does not meet that test. It does not comply with Wisconsin Law.

"The action taken today will be struck down if challenged in court."

Meanwhile, Dane County has also begun taking action, reports Madison's WKOW.com:

Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and County Board Chair Scott McDonell have directed Dane County attorneys to pursue legal action related to state Senate Republicans passing the budget repair bill without Democrats present.

More here.

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HuffPost's Amanda Terkel reports:

Dealt a major setback Wednesday night in a high-stakes battle over union rights in Wisconsin, labor leaders nevertheless insisted that they would emerge from the three-week long saga energized and eager to continue fighting.

Hours after Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.) and his Republican allies in the state Senate took nearly everyone by surprise and pushed through a stand-alone bill stripping public employees of their collective bargaining rights, labor officials pledged to ramp up efforts to recall Republicans and challenge the legislation in court.

Only shortly before the vote took place, local news outlets reported that Republicans were splitting Walker's budget repair bill into two. While the Senate requires a quorum of 3/5 of its members to vote on fiscal statutes, just a majority is needed for other matters. Therefore, Senate Republicans broke off the most controversial portions -- including a proposal to strip away the collective bargaining rights of public employees -- into a separate piece of legislation that could be passed without Senate Democrats, who were still out of state.

Read more here.

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The LA Times reports that Freshman Representative Sean Duffy, who has largely kept his distance from the controversy over Walker's anti-union bill, will appear with the Wisconsin governor this weekend:

Duffy's spokesman, Daniel Son, confirmed Thursday that the congressman would attend the Lincoln Day Dinner at the invitation of the Ashland County Republican Party, and Ashland's Daily Press reports that Walker is also slated to attend the event.

"That's quite a coup to have the governor and congressman come up to northern Wisconsin and talk to people," Frank Kostka, chairman of the Bayfield County GOP, told the Daily Press. "We'd be even more excited if we didn't have this controversy to deal with."

Read the full story here.

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HuffPost's Mark Blumenthal reports:

The poll released this past weekend by a conservative Wisconsin think tank did more than indicate a preference for compromise among Wisconsin adults. It also includes evidence that the enthusiasm gap favoring Republicans in Wisconsin in 2010 has vanished.

The survey of 603 adults, conducted by the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute (WPRI) between Feb. 27 and March 1, included a question asking respondents whether they are likely to vote in the 2012 elections. Poll respondents typically overstate their true voting intentions on these sorts of questions, and the WPRI survey is no exception: Nearly four out of five respondents (79 percent) said they are "almost certain to vote," while another 8 percent said they will "probably vote," even though the actual turnout among eligible adults in 2008 was 72.1 percent. Nevertheless, these responses provide a crude indicator of intentions, as those who say they intend to vote are more likely to turn out.

Read the rest here.

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HuffPost's Sam Stein reports:

The chaos that accompanied Wednesday night’s abrupt passage of Gov. Scott Walker's (R-Wis.) controversial anti-collective bargaining legislation gave way on Thursday to a series of strategy sessions by aggrieved parties plotting out a response.

A cadre of labor groups, progressive institutions, and campaign arms began informally coordinating a comprehensive pushback that some described as even more critical than the legislative battle itself. The most dramatic of these moves is acceleration of a campaign to recall Wisconsin Republican state senators who ended up backing not only the collective bargaining bill but also the backdoor parliamentary maneuvers used to pass it.

Union officials and progressive activists on the ground in Wisconsin say that six specific lawmakers have been targeted for recall (before Wednesday night that number had been eight). Of those, three were considered top tier “gets:” Sen. Randy Hopper (District 18) who won his last election by 184 votes, Sen. Alberta Darling (District 8) who won her last election with 51 percent of the vote, and Sen. Dan Kapanke (District 32) who also won his last election with 51 percent of the vote, in a district where President Obama won 61 percent of the vote in 2008. The other three lawmakers on the list were Sen. Robert Cowles (District 2), Sheila Harsdorf (District 10), and Luther Olsen (District 14).

Read the whole thing here.

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The bill restricting the collective bargaining rights of unions has passed in the Wisconsin State Assembly by a vote of 53-42. Read more here.

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Via Mediaite comes Ann Coulter's appearance on "Hannity," in which she explains why Wisconsin Republicans need "tough love." Watch below.

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WATCH:

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Assistant Senate Minority Leader David Hansen reacts to the anti-union bill's passage; take a look here.

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The president of the largest federation of unions in America had some surprising words for Wisconsin's governor, "The Atlantic" reports:

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has two words for Scott Walker: "Thank You."

The Wisconsin governor's plan to restrict collective-bargaining rights for government employees, which unexpectedly passed Wednesday night in the state Senate, has energized the labor movement in a way not seen in a generation, Trumka said.

"We probably should have invited him today to receive the Mobilizer of the Year award," Trumka said.

Full story here.

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The AP reports that the Wisconsin Justice Department is investigating threatening emails sent to GOP state senators:

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says all threatening messages have been forwarded to Capitol police.

The majority leader's spokesman, Andrew Welhouse, says the address of the person who sent one of the threatening e-mails was apparent, but police told him not to disclose it.

The e-mail said Fitzgerald and his "Republican dictators" must die because of their actions, presumably referring to GOP senators passing a bill removing most public employees' collective bargaining rights.

Full story here.

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On Thursday morning, the Capitol was closed for awhile, preventing protesters as well as employees who work in the statehouse from entering. The New York Times reports:

By preventing people from entering the capitol building Thursday morning, the police also denied entry to legislators, including at least two Democratic Assembly members — David Cullen and Elizabeth Coggs.

Mr. Cullen was turned away even after displaying his Assembly identification.

Asked why the officers did not allow him inside, Mr. Cullen said: “I don’t know. And they won’t answer why.”

Later, Mr. Cullen and Ms. Coggs could be seen climbing into the building through a first-floor window.

The police said hundreds of people had entered the building overnight and that for the moment, no one would be allowed to enter or leave the building

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University of Wisconsin-Madison student journalist Talya Minsberg was at the Capitol Thursday morning, where a large crowd gathered early on. Minsberg told The Huffington Post that there were hundreds of high school students, and a Madison West student said that "almost the whole school walked out."

WATCH the scene outside the statehouse:

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Sam Stein

BIO

Obama, House GOP Open Door On Three-Week Government Funding Extension

May 25, 2011

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans announced plans on Friday for another short-term government funding resolution, putting off concerns about a federal shutdown and giving the House and Senate an additional three weeks to reach agreement on a longer-term bill that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September.

Speaking at a midday press conference, President Barack Obama voiced his support for the latest budget stopgap, adding that resolving the differences between the two parties over funding levels for the rest of the fiscal year "shouldn't be that complicated."

"Our expectation is we should be able to get this completed," Obama said. "Now, because I think neither Democrats nor Republicans were in the mood to compromise until their 100 percent maximal position was voted down in the Senate, we have probably lost some time. And we may not be able to fully resolve this and meet next week's deadline for the continuing resolution, which means that there may be potentially one more short-term extension."

That support marked a reversal for the president, whose administration has opposed the idea of a string of stopgap spending bills. But Congress may need even more time for resolution, and all signs point to the next short-term resolution passing.

On the Hill, that extension is already in the works. After votes on the Senate Democrats' and House Republicans' continuing resolution proposals both failed on Wednesday, lawmakers began looking for $6 billion in spending cuts. [On Friday afternoon, the House Appropriations Committee released a full list of cuts: here] House Republican leadership claimed they were effectively forced to push for another stopgap resolution after the Senate failed to pass a funding bill.

"We can't come to any agreement when the other side doesn't come forward with any offer," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said on the House floor Friday. "That's why we are once again in this position where we must once again present a continuing resolution so the government can keep running."

The cuts in the new package, according to aides, would largely comprise unused earmarks and would keep the government funded for three more weeks. The proposed $2 billion in cuts per week is equal to the rate of budget reduction in the Republicans' longer-term continuing resolution.

While Obama appeared willing to compromise in support of another short-term measure, he drew a few lines in the sand on the longer-term funding bill. He called some of the proposed Republican cuts -- such as those to Pell grants and Head Start -- non-starters. And he warned, once again, that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) should remove controversial policy riders, some of which would defund Planned Parenthood and the president's signature health care law, from the legislative language.

"These aren't really budget items," Obama said. "These are political statements, and I have said directly to Speaker Boehner, we are happy to discuss any of these riders, but my general view is, let's not try and sneak political agendas into a budget debate."

The administration has settled on a rough budget-cut number that it is willing to concede to Republicans in order to fund the government and stave off deeper cuts, a senior Treasury official said in a briefing Thursday with bloggers and reporters that included Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

House Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and White House find themselves with little common ground beyond a chunk of cuts that the Obama administration has already conceded. House Republicans have set themselves what seems to be a goal that is either mathematically impossible or political suicide, as Democrats see it: They must cut the budget deficit in the near term without taking significant amounts from defense or entitlements and without increasing government revenue through higher taxes.

The way out of that jam for House Republicans may be to agree to a firm deficit reduction target without committing to a specific path to that goal, the top Treasury official said, emphasizing that such negotiations would take months and are not a solution to the looming March 18 deadline.

House passage of a three-week budget stopgap seems likely, even though the measure would not include any of the policy riders that conservatives hold dear. The Senate presents even less complicated political terrain.

But House members warned they may not be willing to support short-term solutions for much longer, setting the stage for another panic about government shutdown in a few weeks.

Speaking on the House floor, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said his conference would support the three-week funding measure, but would not support additional stopgap bills.

"For me, it's the last time," Hoyer said. "We need to have a plan to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, and us sticking to our number and you sticking to your number will not serve our country or our people."

Hoyer admonished House Republicans for what he called a lack of willingness to compromise on their longer-term funding bill, which would cut $57 billion from current funding levels, even after it was voted down in the Senate. The bill received only 44 votes in the upper chamber, with three Republicans voting against it on the grounds that the bill did not reduce the deficit enough.

Democratic leaders in the Senate said the test-vote failure should motivate House Republicans to propose a lower figure for budget cuts, but lower-chamber leaders face pressure from conservatives who may defect over a weakened budget bill. The original proposal by the GOP leaders -- to cut the budget by $32 billion by the end of the year -- was met with a revolt by freshmen, who successfully rallied to nearly double the scope of the cuts.

Six House Republicans voted against the last short-term continuing resolution, either because it contained too few cuts or because House leaders did not include the riders to defund Planned Parenthood and health care reform.

Asked Friday whether his conference would support another short-term bill without the Planned Parenthood provision, staunch abortion-rights opponent Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said he and other members are "very concerned," but stopped short of saying he would vote down the three-week bill.

But Jordan hinted that supporters of the measure to defund Planned Parenthood might reach a breaking point if stopgap funding continues.

"There's nothing wrong with first downs, but I think eventually we need to get to the end zone," he told reporters off the House floor. "But I'm very concerned that the pro-life things are not in there."

Sam Stein

BIO

Obama, House GOP Open Door On Three-Week Government Funding Extension

May 25, 2011

WASHINGTON -- House Republicans announced plans on Friday for another short-term government funding resolution, putting off concerns about a federal shutdown and giving the House and Senate an additional three weeks to reach agreement on a longer-term bill that would fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September.

Speaking at a midday press conference, President Barack Obama voiced his support for the latest budget stopgap, adding that resolving the differences between the two parties over funding levels for the rest of the fiscal year "shouldn't be that complicated."

"Our expectation is we should be able to get this completed," Obama said. "Now, because I think neither Democrats nor Republicans were in the mood to compromise until their 100 percent maximal position was voted down in the Senate, we have probably lost some time. And we may not be able to fully resolve this and meet next week's deadline for the continuing resolution, which means that there may be potentially one more short-term extension."

That support marked a reversal for the president, whose administration has opposed the idea of a string of stopgap spending bills. But Congress may need even more time for resolution, and all signs point to the next short-term resolution passing.

On the Hill, that extension is already in the works. After votes on the Senate Democrats' and House Republicans' continuing resolution proposals both failed on Wednesday, lawmakers began looking for $6 billion in spending cuts. [On Friday afternoon, the House Appropriations Committee released a full list of cuts: here] House Republican leadership claimed they were effectively forced to push for another stopgap resolution after the Senate failed to pass a funding bill.

"We can't come to any agreement when the other side doesn't come forward with any offer," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said on the House floor Friday. "That's why we are once again in this position where we must once again present a continuing resolution so the government can keep running."

The cuts in the new package, according to aides, would largely comprise unused earmarks and would keep the government funded for three more weeks. The proposed $2 billion in cuts per week is equal to the rate of budget reduction in the Republicans' longer-term continuing resolution.

While Obama appeared willing to compromise in support of another short-term measure, he drew a few lines in the sand on the longer-term funding bill. He called some of the proposed Republican cuts -- such as those to Pell grants and Head Start -- non-starters. And he warned, once again, that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) should remove controversial policy riders, some of which would defund Planned Parenthood and the president's signature health care law, from the legislative language.

"These aren't really budget items," Obama said. "These are political statements, and I have said directly to Speaker Boehner, we are happy to discuss any of these riders, but my general view is, let's not try and sneak political agendas into a budget debate."

The administration has settled on a rough budget-cut number that it is willing to concede to Republicans in order to fund the government and stave off deeper cuts, a senior Treasury official said in a briefing Thursday with bloggers and reporters that included Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner.

House Republicans and Democrats in the Senate and White House find themselves with little common ground beyond a chunk of cuts that the Obama administration has already conceded. House Republicans have set themselves what seems to be a goal that is either mathematically impossible or political suicide, as Democrats see it: They must cut the budget deficit in the near term without taking significant amounts from defense or entitlements and without increasing government revenue through higher taxes.

The way out of that jam for House Republicans may be to agree to a firm deficit reduction target without committing to a specific path to that goal, the top Treasury official said, emphasizing that such negotiations would take months and are not a solution to the looming March 18 deadline.

House passage of a three-week budget stopgap seems likely, even though the measure would not include any of the policy riders that conservatives hold dear. The Senate presents even less complicated political terrain.

But House members warned they may not be willing to support short-term solutions for much longer, setting the stage for another panic about government shutdown in a few weeks.

Speaking on the House floor, Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said his conference would support the three-week funding measure, but would not support additional stopgap bills.

"For me, it's the last time," Hoyer said. "We need to have a plan to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year, and us sticking to our number and you sticking to your number will not serve our country or our people."

Hoyer admonished House Republicans for what he called a lack of willingness to compromise on their longer-term funding bill, which would cut $57 billion from current funding levels, even after it was voted down in the Senate. The bill received only 44 votes in the upper chamber, with three Republicans voting against it on the grounds that the bill did not reduce the deficit enough.

Democratic leaders in the Senate said the test-vote failure should motivate House Republicans to propose a lower figure for budget cuts, but lower-chamber leaders face pressure from conservatives who may defect over a weakened budget bill. The original proposal by the GOP leaders -- to cut the budget by $32 billion by the end of the year -- was met with a revolt by freshmen, who successfully rallied to nearly double the scope of the cuts.

Six House Republicans voted against the last short-term continuing resolution, either because it contained too few cuts or because House leaders did not include the riders to defund Planned Parenthood and health care reform.

Asked Friday whether his conference would support another short-term bill without the Planned Parenthood provision, staunch abortion-rights opponent Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) said he and other members are "very concerned," but stopped short of saying he would vote down the three-week bill.

But Jordan hinted that supporters of the measure to defund Planned Parenthood might reach a breaking point if stopgap funding continues.

"There's nothing wrong with first downs, but I think eventually we need to get to the end zone," he told reporters off the House floor. "But I'm very concerned that the pro-life things are not in there."

Sam Stein

BIO

Democratic Party Releases First Post-Vote Ad Targeting Wisconsin Senate Republican

May 25, 2011

WASHINGTON -- Less than two days after Wisconsin Senate Republicans took to seedy if not crafty parliamentary maneuvers to pass an anti-collective bargaining bill, the Democratic party is up with ads targeting individual members.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee released an ad on Friday attacking Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Wis.) for being a doormat in Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to get his budget-related measure passed into law.

“We expect pins to get bowled over,” the spot goes. “Pies to get rolled. But we certainly don’t expect our senators to get flattened. Last month, Senator Olsen said eliminating collective bargaining is, quote, ‘pretty radical.’

“But Olsen voted for Governor Walker’s backroom deal to end collective bargaining. Now Walker is pushing a budget that will devastate public schools and health care. And Senator Olsen refuses to stand up to the Governor.”


The ad, which is the first to be put up on air following Wednesday night’s vote, is as clear an indication as any that the Democratic party is eager to capitalize on the ill-will Walker has engendered. It also seemingly confirms that the recall campaigns being launched against Senate Republicans aren’t merely some quixotic revenge fantasy orchestrated by union groups, but rather an enterprise that will be backed by the party apparatus.

A DLCC aide says that the ad will run in the Green Bay market, which includes Olsen's district, for about two weeks.ap

Sam Stein

BIO

Democratic Party Releases First Post-Vote Ad Targeting Wisconsin Senate Republican

May 25, 2011

WASHINGTON -- Less than two days after Wisconsin Senate Republicans took to seedy if not crafty parliamentary maneuvers to pass an anti-collective bargaining bill, the Democratic party is up with ads targeting individual members.

The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee released an ad on Friday attacking Sen. Luther Olsen (R-Wis.) for being a doormat in Gov. Scott Walker’s effort to get his budget-related measure passed into law.

“We expect pins to get bowled over,” the spot goes. “Pies to get rolled. But we certainly don’t expect our senators to get flattened. Last month, Senator Olsen said eliminating collective bargaining is, quote, ‘pretty radical.’

“But Olsen voted for Governor Walker’s backroom deal to end collective bargaining. Now Walker is pushing a budget that will devastate public schools and health care. And Senator Olsen refuses to stand up to the Governor.”


The ad, which is the first to be put up on air following Wednesday night’s vote, is as clear an indication as any that the Democratic party is eager to capitalize on the ill-will Walker has engendered. It also seemingly confirms that the recall campaigns being launched against Senate Republicans aren’t merely some quixotic revenge fantasy orchestrated by union groups, but rather an enterprise that will be backed by the party apparatus.

A DLCC aide says that the ad will run in the Green Bay market, which includes Olsen's district, for about two weeks.ap

Sam Stein

BIO

Tsunami Relief And Preparedness Cut In GOP Budget Proposal: National Weather Service

May 25, 2011

WASHINGTON -- Thursday night's massive earthquake in Japan and the resulting tsunami warnings that have alarmed U.S. coasts, seem likely to ignite a debate over a previously little-discussed subsection of the spending bills currently being debated in Congress.

Tucked into the House Republican continuing resolution are provisions cutting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including the National Weather Service, as well as humanitarian and foreign aid.

Presented as part of a larger deficit reduction package, each cut could be pitched as tough-choice, belt-tightening on behalf of the GOP. But advocates for protecting those funds pointed to the crisis in Japan as evidence that without the money, disaster preparedness and relief would suffer.

"These are very closely related," National Weather Service Employees Organization President Dan Sobien told The Huffington Post with respect to the budget cuts and the tsunami. "The National Weather Service has the responsibility of warning about tsunami's also. It is true that there is no plan to not fund the tsunami buoys. Everyone knows you just can't do that. Still if those [House] cuts go through there will be furloughs at both of the tsunami warning centers that protect the whole country and, in fact, the whole world."

The House full-year continuing resolution, which has not passed the Senate, would indeed make steep cuts to several programs and functions that would serve in a response to natural disasters (not just tsunamis) home and abroad. According to Sobien, the bill cuts $126 million from the budget of the NWS. Since, however, the cuts are being enacted over a six-month period (the length of the continuing resolution) as opposed to over the course of a full year, the effect would be roughly double.

As for NOAA, the House GOP cuts are even deeper. The House spending bill is roughly $450 million below the president's 2011 budget requests. The Senate Democratic bill would be $110 million below that request. The White House-allied Center for American Progress, argued that the House spending bill would actually cut $1.2 billion from the president's budget requests, likely by taking into account that the bill does not provide NOAA the funding increase requested for the Joint Polar Satellite System.

A request to comment from the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee was not immediately returned.

Either way, the lower funding levels would force major institutional readjustments. An internal analysis put together by the House Democratic Finance committee before the tsunami struck, argued that such cuts "could result in the closure of up to 12 forecast offices that safeguard American lives and property. Each forecast office issues forecasts and warnings to an average population of 2.5 million people."

The proposed cut to the Operation, Research, and Facilities account would also result in a 21 day furlough of NOAA's employees.

The ramifications of spending cuts would potentially extend beyond tsunami or natural disaster preparedness to the post-catastrophe operations as well. In late February, a wide coalition of aid groups wrote Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to warn against the major cuts that the House bill made with respect to global disaster aid (67 percent cut relative to 2010 levels), refugee assistance (45 percent) and global food relief (41 percent).

"It is shocking to imagine that in the next major global humanitarian crisis - the next Haiti, Tsunami, or Darfur - the United States might simply fail to show up," the heads of 29 international aid organizations wrote. "Addressing the drivers of the national debt is wise. Abruptly reducing US humanitarian commitments in order to save less than one quarter of one percent of total discretionary spending is not. These cuts would imperil the longstanding US commitment to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance for those threatened by disaster and conflict."

READ THE LETTER HERE:


disaster

UPDATE: In a three-week continuing resolution proposed by House Republicans on Friday to keep the government funded while long-term negotiations continue, lawmakers included $99 million of the proposed cuts to NOAA's Operations, Research, and Facilities budget.

Sam Stein

BIO

Tsunami Relief And Preparedness Cut In GOP Budget Proposal: National Weather Service

May 25, 2011

WASHINGTON -- Thursday night's massive earthquake in Japan and the resulting tsunami warnings that have alarmed U.S. coasts, seem likely to ignite a debate over a previously little-discussed subsection of the spending bills currently being debated in Congress.

Tucked into the House Republican continuing resolution are provisions cutting the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, including the National Weather Service, as well as humanitarian and foreign aid.

Presented as part of a larger deficit reduction package, each cut could be pitched as tough-choice, belt-tightening on behalf of the GOP. But advocates for protecting those funds pointed to the crisis in Japan as evidence that without the money, disaster preparedness and relief would suffer.

"These are very closely related," National Weather Service Employees Organization President Dan Sobien told The Huffington Post with respect to the budget cuts and the tsunami. "The National Weather Service has the responsibility of warning about tsunami's also. It is true that there is no plan to not fund the tsunami buoys. Everyone knows you just can't do that. Still if those [House] cuts go through there will be furloughs at both of the tsunami warning centers that protect the whole country and, in fact, the whole world."

The House full-year continuing resolution, which has not passed the Senate, would indeed make steep cuts to several programs and functions that would serve in a response to natural disasters (not just tsunamis) home and abroad. According to Sobien, the bill cuts $126 million from the budget of the NWS. Since, however, the cuts are being enacted over a six-month period (the length of the continuing resolution) as opposed to over the course of a full year, the effect would be roughly double.

As for NOAA, the House GOP cuts are even deeper. The House spending bill is roughly $450 million below the president's 2011 budget requests. The Senate Democratic bill would be $110 million below that request. The White House-allied Center for American Progress, argued that the House spending bill would actually cut $1.2 billion from the president's budget requests, likely by taking into account that the bill does not provide NOAA the funding increase requested for the Joint Polar Satellite System.

A request to comment from the Republican-led House Appropriations Committee was not immediately returned.

Either way, the lower funding levels would force major institutional readjustments. An internal analysis put together by the House Democratic Finance committee before the tsunami struck, argued that such cuts "could result in the closure of up to 12 forecast offices that safeguard American lives and property. Each forecast office issues forecasts and warnings to an average population of 2.5 million people."

The proposed cut to the Operation, Research, and Facilities account would also result in a 21 day furlough of NOAA's employees.

The ramifications of spending cuts would potentially extend beyond tsunami or natural disaster preparedness to the post-catastrophe operations as well. In late February, a wide coalition of aid groups wrote Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to warn against the major cuts that the House bill made with respect to global disaster aid (67 percent cut relative to 2010 levels), refugee assistance (45 percent) and global food relief (41 percent).

"It is shocking to imagine that in the next major global humanitarian crisis - the next Haiti, Tsunami, or Darfur - the United States might simply fail to show up," the heads of 29 international aid organizations wrote. "Addressing the drivers of the national debt is wise. Abruptly reducing US humanitarian commitments in order to save less than one quarter of one percent of total discretionary spending is not. These cuts would imperil the longstanding US commitment to provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance for those threatened by disaster and conflict."

READ THE LETTER HERE:


disaster

UPDATE: In a three-week continuing resolution proposed by House Republicans on Friday to keep the government funded while long-term negotiations continue, lawmakers included $99 million of the proposed cuts to NOAA's Operations, Research, and Facilities budget.

03.13.2011 > < 03.10.2011