Third Way Perspectives
Archive for the ‘Social Policy & Politics Program’ Category
December 9th, 2013
By now we’ve heard all the doom and gloom predictions of the chances of passing immigration reform. The media may paint a pretty pessimistic picture, but secretly Congress agrees on more than you think they do.
In May, the House Committee on Homeland Security voice voted—unanimously—in favor of the Border Security Results Act of 2013. Almost as shocking as a bipartisan vote in support of an immigration bill is the fact that the bill focuses on border security—one of the most contentious and partisan issues in the immigration policy debate. And rest assured, this is no minor messaging bill.
The Border Security Results Act requires the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a national strategy for border security based on an analysis of the state of the border—a common sense approach to avoid both over-spending and over-militarizing at the Southern border. The bill would put Department of Defense sensor technology no longer needed in Iraq or Afghanistan to work monitoring the border so border patrol troops and resources can be allocated where they are truly needed. DHS would have 180 days to submit a data-based plan for maintaining control of the border and 90 days to craft a strategy for implementation. Within 2 years of the submission of the implementation plan, the strategy must lead to the apprehension of 90% of illegal border crossers in high traffic areas. Within 5 years, 90% of all illegal border crossers must be apprehended. Homeland Security must certify that these goals have been met. The strategy, implementation plan, and the metrics they rely upon must be verified by the Government Accountability Office, a National Laboratory that specializes in border security, and the DHS centers of excellence network. No money can be spent on new resources until the strategy has been evaluated by these independent experts. In addition, the bill requires the implementation of a biometric exit program at ports of entry to better track who is leaving the country and when, as well as a review of border security duplication and cost effectiveness.
Surely, if the House can figure out how to come together on border security, the rest of a comprehensive immigration reform package is in reach. When the Senate was considering this issue, the border security “surge” amendment was the final step in negotiations before a bipartisan bill was passed. Perhaps this House Committee on Homeland Security bill is a good omen—and at the very least, it is place to start. Americans—even the ones in Congress—aren’t really as far apart on immigration as it seems. Seventy-four percent of the country says current immigration policy either needs major changes or to be completely rebuilt. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy said reform is “going to happen” and Speaker Boehner proclaimed immigration reform is “absolutely not” dead. The Senate’s Gang of 8 set an example of how it can be done—but there isn’t only one route to fixing our broken system. If the House could come together on a bill or a series of bills, built off of the foundation of the Border Security Results Act, they could give Congress a chance to do what we elected them to do—make progress on the issues that matter.
December 5th, 2013
Can states’ rights work for liberals? It has always been a conservative cause. Conservatives use states’ rights to resist federal policies that protect civil rights, voting rights, and abortion rights. Today, however, federal action is often blocked. So progressive states are passing laws that bypass gridlocked Washington and advance the liberal agenda on their own.
In his famous keynote address at the 2004 Democratic convention, Barack Obama criticized pundits who “like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states.” His rejoinder: “I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America.”
Obama was wrong. Americans have become more and more politically segregated over the past 50 years. Since the 1960s, politics has come to reflect lifestyle and values, and people often choose to live among others who share their lifestyle and values. And therefore their politics.
December 2nd, 2013
“Remember the strategy for stopping Obamacare we laid out to you back in July,” Speaker John Boehner (R-Oh.) told the House Republican conference last week. “Targeted legislative strikes aimed at shattering the legislative coalition the president has used to force his law on the nation.”
Thirty-nine House Democrats – one in five — voted for the measure. Democratic leaders breathed a cautious sigh of relief. Earlier last week, they feared that 100 or more anxious Democrats might defect. President Barack Obama’s “fix” for the Affordable Care Act, announced on Thursday, held back what might have been a tidal wave of defections.
Republicans want the old Democratic Party back.
That was the deeply divided party that fought over everything — wars, civil rights, spending, taxes. What happened during Obama’s first two years was something of a miracle. The Democratic Party held its majority together. They governed. We experienced something that is routine in a parliamentary system but rare in the United States — party government.
Democrats held similar majorities in Congress during President Bill Clinton’s first two years, 1993-94. Back then, however, the party could not hold together to pass healthcare reform.
By the time Obama took office 15 years later, however, everything had changed. In 2010, Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act on a strictly partisan vote. Not a single Republican in the House or Senate voted for it.
Republicans are determined to kill it. They can’t do that as long as Obama is in the White House. So their new strategy is to make the law unworkable.
That was what the House vote was all about on Friday. Representative Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) called it “another vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act” — something House Republicans have already voted to do 46 times.
What held Democrats together in 2010 — unlike 1994 — was indignation. The Tea Party had taken control of the GOP and driven it to extremes. The last straw came in September 2009, when Representative Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) shouted “You lie!” at the president while he was addressing a joint session of Congress.
In politics as in physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. In 2010, Republican contempt produced Democratic solidarity.
If Democrats are becoming the nation’s new majority party — as last year’s election suggested they are — Republicans want them to be a divided and ineffective majority.
Last week, Republicans managed to peel off more than three dozen House Democrats. What split them off was terror. Most of those Democrats represent congressional districts where Republicans pose a real threat in next year’s midterm. They are terrified that they will have to defend Obama’s pledge that Americans who like their insurance policies will be able to keep them.
If the House bill isn’t going anywhere, where’s the threat to Obamacare coming from? From the one defection that matters: Obama himself. He, too, is threatened. Not by Republicans — Obama never has to face the voters again — but by the prospect of congressional Democrats abandoning him. That’s why he had to reverse course and offer the “fix.” It’s supposed to give Democrats political cover.
Congressional Democrats don’t seem especially happy with the president’s fix. They are trying to put together their own legislative remedy. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-La.) is proposing a bill that would allow people to keep their old health insurance plans — not for one year as Obama has proposed, but indefinitely. Several other Democratic senators have signed on, including some, like Landrieu, who face difficult re-election prospects next year.
The threat to Obamacare is clear. Allowing people to keep cut-rate, shoddy policies that do not meet the standards of the Affordable Care Act will create two separate risk pools. A lot of young, healthy Americans will stay with their old, cheap policies, while older and sicker people, desperate for coverage, will enroll in Obamacare.
That will cause insurance premiums to skyrocket next year. “Cancellation today, sticker shock tomorrow,” Representative Fred Upton (R-Mich.), chief sponsor of the House Republican bill, predicted.
Obama is trying to limit the risk by allowing people to keep their old policies for one more year. The president’s expectation is that the old plans will simply die out and everyone will end up in Obamacare. But the old plans won’t die if people are allowed to keep them or if companies are allowed to keep selling them.
Angry liberals see what’s going on — and are furious. They are furious with the president for going wobbly. And with Republicans for trying to kill Obamacare piece by piece.
Liberals “don’t want to see this law eviscerated by death by a thousand cuts,” the executive director of MoveOn.org Civic Action told Politico. “The answer is not to undo Obamacare or to undo major provisions of it like allowing those junk plans to continue.”
But that is precisely the game plan Boehner described to his party. So far, everything is going according to plan.
This piece was originally published via Reuters.
November 12th, 2013
Democrats had one thing going for them in the election this week: Republicans. That kept the President Barack Obama’s party from faring much worse.
Dissatisfaction with the economy is still very high. In the network exit polls, more than 80 percent of Virginia and New Jersey voters said they were worried about the nation’s economy over the next year.
The economy was the top issue in both states. New Jersey voters concerned about the economy voted 2 to 1 for Republican Governor Chris Christie — even though he was the incumbent. It isn’t his economy. It’s Obama’s economy. That’s the new rule in American politics: All politics is national.
In Virginia, however, the poor economy didn’t do the Republican candidate much good. Virginia voters who cited the economy as their top concern split their vote, 49 percent for Republican Ken Cuccinelli and 43 percent for Democrat Terry McAuliffe.
The Republican should have carried Virginia. Obama’s job rating among Virginia voters was down 6 points since 2012. Nonetheless, McAuliffe built solid majorities in the same New America constituencies that had delivered the state for Obama last year: women, racial minorities, educated professionals and young voters. Particularly unmarried women, whom Cuccinelli offended with his attacks on abortion, divorce and contraception. The Republican vote among unmarried women in Virginia dropped from 34 percent for Mitt Romney in 2012 to 25 percent for Cuccinelli in 2013.
Why did Cuccinelli lose Virginia? Because he was linked to the Tea Party. Forty-two percent of Virginia voters said they opposed the Tea Party. Only 9 percent of them voted for Cuccinelli. Among New Jersey voters, opinion of the Tea Party was only slightly more negative (45 percent opposed). The difference was, Christie got 38 percent of the anti-Tea Party vote in New Jersey. Christie is a Republican — but he isn’t part of the Tea Party movement.
Christie cut sharply into the Obama coalition in New Jersey. Women in New Jersey voted 62 percent for Democrat Obama in 2012. They voted 57 percent for Republican Christie in 2013. Christie carried the Latino vote in New Jersey and got 21 percent of the African-American vote. One-third of New Jersey Democrats voted for Christie. What percentage of Virginia Democrats voted for Cuccinelli? Two.
November 12th, 2013
Dear Speaker Boehner,
I know you’re having a really rough fall, and you may be sitting in your office right now, wistfully wishing the holiday recess would arrive. But the Senate has just passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a bill that would protect LGBT Americans from being fired because of who they are. And you can bring ENDA up for a vote without facing shutdown-style fallout — instead just skipping straight to the standing ovation. Here’s why:
November 12th, 2013
Which is the most important result of Tuesday’s election?
A. A Republican governor won a landslide election in a blue state.
B. A Democrat was elected governor in a purple state during intense criticism of a new federal government program.
C. An outspoken liberal Democrat was elected mayor in a big city — where opposition parties had been in power for 20 years.
D. An education funding amendment lost in a mountain state.
If you said D, you’re correct.
On Tuesday, Amendment 66 was defeated in Colorado, with preliminary results suggesting a drubbing of two-to-one opposed. It would have improved education funding with slight tax increases and changed Colorado’s flat tax to a two-tiered, progressive structure.
The goal was a major overhaul of education finance, with reduced disparities at the local level and increased spending — including funding for early childhood programs, rural education and at-risk youth programs.
Millions of dollars poured into the state to support the amendment. High-profile backing came from New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Melinda Gates. But the more than $10 million spent in support of the amendment wasn’t enough to convince skeptical voters.
The defeat of Amendment 66 should worry Democrats. This is about as close as you can get to the main thrust of the Democratic Party’s progressive agenda: raise taxes on wealthier people to fund investments in the future.