Posts Tagged ‘Michael Bennet’

Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro Expected To Launch Presidential Campaign

January 12, 2019

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro is set to formally launch his bid for president on Saturday, after weeks of hinting he was ready to join the growing 2020 Democratic primary field.

The 44-year-old will be the first Hispanic candidate to enter the race for the White House, joining Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard who recently said they are running. Several more well known candidates are expected to announce their plans soon.

Democrat Julián Castro talks about exploring the possibility of running for president in 2020, at his home in San Antonio in December 2018.  Eric Gay/AP

Castro launched an exploratory committee last month, Julián for the Future, and has already traveled to early primary states, with more visits to Iowa and New Hampshire slated for next week following his announcement Saturday in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas.

“Americans are ready to climb out of this darkness. We’re ready to keep our promises, and we’re not going to wait. We’re going to work,” Castro said in a video last month announcing he was testing the waters.

Castro has pointed to his experience on both the local and federal level. He was the youngest-ever city councilman in San Antonio’s history when he was elected in 2001 at age 26. Eight years later, he was elected mayor. In 2012, he gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention — which had catapulted Barack Obama to national fame eight years earlier — telling the crowd about his experience as part of an immigrant family.

“In the end, the American dream is not a sprint, or even a marathon, but a relay,” Castro said. “Our families don’t always cross the finish line in the span of one generation. But each generation passes on to the next the fruits of their labor.”

Two years later, President Obama chose him to run HUD. In 2016, Hillary Clinton also considered him as a possible vice presidential running mate.

His identical twin brother, Rep. Joaquin Castro, has represented their native San Antonio in Congress since 2013. The two were born into a politically active family. Their mother was an organizer with La Raza Unida in the 1970s, campaigning for the rights of and improved working conditions for Mexican-Americans.

Castro may not be the only Texan in the race, however. Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, who narrowly lost a Senate bid last year, is also weighing a run and has been on the rise in very early polls.

The former HUD secretary, who campaigned for O’Rourke in 2018, told the Associated Press last month he wasn’t worried if he himself is not testing very high right now in surveys.

“If I decide to run, it would be because I believe I have a compelling message and I’m going to work hard and get to the voters and I believe I can be successful,” Castro told the AP.



Tulsi Gabbard says she will run for president in 2020

January 12, 2019

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard said Friday she will run for president in 2020.

“I have decided to run and will be making a formal announcement within the next week,” the Hawaii Democrat told CNN’s Van Jones during an interview slated to air at 7 p.m. Saturday on CNN’s “The Van Jones Show.”
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Gabbard, an Iraq War veteran, currently serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. She is the first American Samoan and the first Hindu member of Congress.
“There are a lot of reasons for me to make this decision. There are a lot of challenges that are facing the American people that I’m concerned about and that I want to help solve,” she said, listing health care access, criminal justice reform and climate change as key platform issues.
“There is one main issue that is central to the rest, and that is the issue of war and peace,” Gabbard added. “I look forward to being able to get into this and to talk about it in depth when we make our announcement.”
Rania Batrice, who was a deputy campaign manager for Bernie Sanders in 2016 and is now a top aide to Gabbard, will be the campaign manager, Batrice says.
In 2015, Gabbard, then a vice-chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, was sharply critical of its then-chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz for scheduling just six presidential debates during the 2016 primary election cycle. She later resigned her post as DNC vice chair to become one of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ highest-profile supporters, aligning herself with his populist economic message.
Gabbard has staked out anti-interventionist foreign policy positions in Congress. Her 2017 meeting with Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad drew widespread criticism. “Initially, I hadn’t planned on meeting him,”
Gabbard told CNN’s Jake Tapper in January of 2017. “When the opportunity arose to meet with him, I did so because I felt it’s important that if we profess to truly care about the Syrian people, about their suffering, then we’ve got to be able to meet with anyone that we need to if there is a possibility that we could achieve peace, and that’s exactly what we talked about.”
Gabbard joins a quickly growing field of Democrats eager to take on President Donald Trump for the presidency.
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren announced on New Year’s Eve that she was forming an exploratory committee for a presidential run. Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro also formed an exploratory committee and is expected to announce his 2020 plans Saturday.
A number of other potential Democratic candidates, including heavyweights like former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, are currently weighing whether to run for president and are expected to announce their decision soon.


Bloomberg says he would use his own money to fund 2020 run — Democratic field filling up

January 12, 2019

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg is pushing back against liberal critics who say he shouldn’t be allowed to use his multibillion-dollar fortune to self-fund a possible White House campaign and “buy the presidency.”

“I ran three times. I used only my own money so I didn’t have to ask anybody what they wanted in return for a contribution,” Bloomberg said in Austin, Texas, on Friday. “And, if I ran again, I would do the same thing.”

His defense echoed arguments he made while self-funding three successful City Hall bids when critics claimed he was buying the office.

“I think not having to adjust what you say and what you work on based on who financed your campaign is one of the things that the public really likes,” Bloomberg added.

New York’s former mayor spent more than $260 million combined in his runs for City Hall in 2001, 2005 and 2009.

He has been publicly toying with the idea of running for president for months and has promised he will make a decision within a month or so.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren — who recently launched her own White House bid — has called for spending limits to keep billionaires, like Bloomberg, from crushing the competition with a mountain  of spending


“Is this going to be a Democratic primary that truly is a grassroots movement that is funded by the grassroots and it’s done with grassroots volunteers, or is this going to be something that’s one more plaything that billionaires can buy?” she asked.




Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand Staffs Up for Likely 2020 Presidential Run

January 11, 2019

New York Democrat signs up key staff members, plans first trip to Iowa

FILE - In this Oct. 25, 2018 file photo, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., speaks during the New York Senate debate hosted by WABC-TV, in New York. Gillibrand's Republican challenger is Chele Farley. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, Pool, File) Photo: Mary Altaffer / Pool, AP

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) coasted to re-election in 2018 and has more than $10.6 million left over from her Senate campaign, seed money that can be used in her presidential bid. PHOTO: MARY ALTAFFER/ASSOCIATED PRESS

WASHINGTON—New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is closing in on announcing a 2020 presidential campaign, signing up key staff members and planning her first trip to Iowa, according to people familiar with the plans.

Ms. Gillibrand’s staff will be run by Jess Fassler, her Senate chief of staff, and Dan McNally, a former campaign aide to Sen. Michael Bennet (D., Colo.) and the campaign arm of Senate Democrats, according to several people with knowledge of the matter.

Meredith Kelly, a top communications aide to the House Democrats’ campaign arm, will lead Ms. Gillibrand’s communications operation, the people said. Ms. Kelly’s hiring was first reported by the New York Times.

 How to Prepare for a Presidential Run: The 2020 To-Do List

How to Prepare for a Presidential Run: The 2020 To-Do List
Presidential hopefuls are stepping out of the shadows, but their 2020 announcements are far from spontaneous. WSJ’s Shelby Holliday explains.

She has also hired two top digital aides, Emmy Bengtson and Gavrie Kullman, both highly sought-after Democratic digital specialists, according to people familiar with the move.

As part of the preparations, Ms. Gillibrand has hired Joi Chaney to become her new Senate chief of staff. Ms. Chaney formerly served as a staff member in the Senate and the Obama administration at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Glen Caplin, a longtime Senate aide to Ms. Gillibrand who worked on Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential campaign, is also expected to play a senior advisory role in her campaign. Mr. Caplin declined to comment.

Ms. Gillibrand plans to travel next weekend to Iowa—the location of the first 2020 presidential caucus and a sign that her campaign will be soon under way. Ms. Gillibrand’s Iowa plans were reported Thursday night by Politico.

Ms. Gillibrand, 52 years old, coasted to re-election in 2018 and has more than $10.6 million left over from her Senate campaign, seed money that can be used in her presidential bid.

The senator has positioned herself as a leading voice of the Democratic opposition to President Trump, with whom she tangled in December 2017 after the president called her a “flunky” for Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York and said she would do “anything” for a political donation.

Ms. Gillibrand responded that Mr. Trump couldn’t silence her or the millions of women from speaking out “about the unfitness and shame you have brought to the Oval Office.”

She is expected to join a field that already includes Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro and could grow to include several of her Senate colleagues.

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., listen as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27, 2018. (Tom Williams/Pool Photo via AP)

Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., and Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., listen as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford testifies during the Senate Judiciary Committee on September 27, 2018. (Tom Williams/Pool Photo via AP)

Following a midterm election cycle in which Democratic women took center stage, Ms. Gillibrand has championed electing more women to office and has been a leading voice in the #MeToo anti-sexual harassment and assault movement.

In this photo from January 29, 2017 US Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts speaks to people gathered at Copley Square in Boston, Massachusetts. (Ryan McBride/AFP)

But some Democrats have accused her of opportunism, pointing to her evolution on issues such as immigration and gun control and her role as the first Senate Democrat to call for the resignation of former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken after the Democrat was accused of sexual misconduct.

Ms. Gillibrand’s advisers said at the time that she was standing up for her values.

Write to Ken Thomas at

45 Democrats Running for President

December 19, 2018

An unprecedented 45 Democrats are jockeying for the party’s nomination to challenge President Trump in 2020 — shattering the record for the number of candidates aspiring to be commander in chief.

A review of potential contenders by the Washington Examiner reveals that up to 45 candidates could mount a serious bid to become leader of the free world. While many will undoubtedly decide against formally entering the race, most Democratic strategists expect at least two dozen to do so.

Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island, co-chairman of the Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, said recently that the 2020 presidential contest could draw up to 40 Democratic hopefuls. “Look, we’ll have between 30 and 40 great candidates running for president,” he told MSNBC. “Everyone recognizes how urgent this moment is in our country’s history.”

To have more than 40 Democrats seeking to win the White House would be “historic,” James Thurber, the director of American University’s Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, told the Washington Examiner.

That number would be well over the 17 major Republicans who drew ire in 2016 for crowding the GOP primary field, ultimately to the benefit of Trump. And it would be more than six times as large as the “seven dwarfs,” who were mocked for competing for the 1988 Democratic nomination, which went to then-Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis. Dukakis went on to lose to then-Vice President George H.W. Bush.

So who are the 45 contenders who could soon be vying to become the 46th president of the United States?


Two consistent favorites, according to early polls, are former Vice President Joe Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an independent who caucuses with Democrats. Biden, 76, and Sanders, 77, earned double-digit support from Democrats surveyed this month by SSRS for CNN. Biden had a 16-percentage-point lead over the socialist, who failed to win the party’s nod in 2016 against Hillary Clinton. Sanders is favored by progressives.

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Bernie Sanders

The septuagenarian stalwarts notched the same No. 1 and No. 2 finish when the poll was conducted in October, a trend pollsters partly attribute to their significant name recognition.


Sanders, who’s said he’d “probably run” if he were the best bet to beat Trump, isn’t the only senator considering a White House bid. His potential rivals include Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who’s released 10 years of tax returns and a DNA analysis after Trump attacked her claims to Native American ancestry. Warren, 69, who Trump has mockingly nicknamed“Pocahontas,” is making all the moves expected of a candidate, though she has run into early problems.

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Elizabeth Warren, far left, Kamala Harris and Cory Booker

Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California made clear by their performances during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings that they see themselves as White House material. They have promised to go public on whether they plan to seek higher office in January — the suspense is limited because both are expected to jump in.

Sens. Sherrod Brown of OhioKirsten Gillibrand of New York, and Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota are other senators tipped to enter the fray and become top-tier candidates. Brown has Rust Belt credibility and populist appeal, Gillibrand has been a leader of the #MeToo movement, and Klobuchar’s quiet competence and “Minnesota nice” demeanor could be seen by Democrats as a welcome contrast with Trump.

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Kirsten Gillibrand

Brown, 66, has said he is “seriously” mulling a run; Gillibrand, 52, has described herself as “definitely thinking” about it; while Midwesterner Klobuchar, 58, has ventured that “voices from the Midwest” are needed in 2020

On the other side of the U.S. Capitol, Rep. Beto O’Rourke‘s popularity surged among Democrats nationwide as he challenged Republican incumbent Sen. Ted Cruz in November’s election for a Texas Senate seat. Since his narrow loss, the three-term El Paso congressman and fundraising powerhouse, 46, has said he’s not ruling “anything out” ahead of 2020.

Image result for Beto O'Rourke, photos

Beto O’Rourke

Biden, who’s described himself as the “most qualified person in the country to be president,” is also unlikely to be the sole Obama administration alumnus on the trail. Julian Castro, 44, the former Barack Obama Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and mayor of San Antonio, last week formed an exploratory committee and said he will make an official announcement on Jan. 12.

In addition, billionaire philanthropist and ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who only re-registered as a Democrat in October, has launched a shadow campaign prior to making a decision in “January, February,” per the Associated Press. Bloomberg, 76, poured $110 million into the 2018 midterm cycle to boost the Democratic Party.

“It’s one thing to say something, it’s a different thing to have actually done it,” Bloomberg told CNN during a trip to Iowa, referring to his decadeslong career in New York City Hall.

Maryland Rep. John Delaney and West Virginia state Sen. Richard Ojeda have declared their candidacy. Meanwhile, a slew of lesser-known entrants, such as Venture for America founder Andrew Yang and Oprah Winfrey-approved self-help guru Marianne Williamson have filed Federal Election Commission paperwork to start campaigning.

Although the race has begun for some, it’s already over for others. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomoformer Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and celebrity lawyer Michael Avenatti, the attorney advocating for porn star Stormy Daniels in her lawsuits against Trump, have all bowed out of contention.


But Democrats have a deep bench of talent in Congress. Sens. Michael Bennet of Colorado, Bob Casey of PennsylvaniaTim Kaine of Virginia, Chris Murphy of Connecticut, and Mark Warner of Virginia are senatorial possibilities. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon, however, will have to choose between the White House or the Senate because state law won’t permit him to run for both.

Image result for Mark Warner, pictures

Mark Warner

Simultaneously, Reps. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts and Tim Ryan of Ohio are prospects from the House whose profiles have risen thanks to their opposition to likely incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California. Rep. Joe Kennedy of Massachusetts is the target of persistent speculation given his last name, despite denying having 2020 aspirations. On the other hand, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, a 2016 Sanders surrogate, has said she’s “seriously”weighing a tilt at the presidential title. And Eric Swalwell California is said to be “definitely running.”

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Eric Swalwell


Familiar Obama-era faces are expected to return to the national spotlight as well, including former Secretary of State John Kerry, the party’s 2004 nominee, who’s said he’s “not taking anything off the table.” Ex-Attorney General Eric Holder‘s been looking at becoming the party’s standard-bearer for some time. Even defeated 2016 Democratic pick Hillary Clinton has hinted she’d still “like to be president.”


Govs. Steve Bullock of Montana and Jay Inslee of Washington are raising money through their political action committees so they can springboard from their governor’s mansions into the White House. Former Govs. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia and Martin O’Malley of Maryland are being floated as contenders following visits to early-voting states.

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Martin O’Malley

Like O’Malley, who struggled to build momentum in 2016, unsuccessful 2018 gubernatorial candidates Stacey Abrams of Georgia and Andrew Gillum of Florida don’t seem deterred by failure. Abrams has said she’ll be ready “to get back in the ring” after a brief “nap,” while Gillum, the previous mayor of Tallahassee, has been more proactive, addressing Democratic donors at a Washington party event.

Then there’s Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. A former brewpub founder, Hickenlooper, 66, has said he’s “leaning strongly” toward a run and has been rumored to be contemplating joining Republican Ohio Gov. John Kasich on a bipartisan third ticket. Kasich has tried to downplay conjecture by joking that the name Hickenlooper is “too long” for a bumper sticker.

Outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown and his successor Gavin Newsom are also being discussed — though the days of Brown, who has run for president three times, may be in the past and most Democrats see Newsom’s as being after 2020.


Although Bloomberg is the best-known mayoral figure jostling to become the next occupant of the Oval Office, South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg is viewed by many Democrats as a dark horse who could be worth backing. He stepped down as mayor this week, which is being interpreted as a strong indication he’s in for 2020. Other mayors in the frame include Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles, Bill de Blasio of New York, and former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu.


Dallas Mavericks basketball owner and investor Mark Cuban is a well-resourced outsider who’s postulated about a jump into politics, whereas hedge fund manager Tom Steyer has already taken the plunge. Like Bloomberg, Steyer has spent millions of dollars championing liberal causes, most notably Trump’s impeachment. And he’s started recruiting, last week anonymously posting a campaign jobs notice on LinkedIn. Retired Starbucks executive Howard Schultz— who’s due to embark on a national book tour, a perennial harbinger of White House ambitions — has hired staff too, including Steve Schmidt, who managed the 2008 campaign of the late Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.


Gorsuch all but certain to win confirmation after Senate goes nuclear

April 7, 2017

Fox News

© AFP/File / by Michael Mathes | Neil Gorsuch testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee on his nomination to the US Supreme Court

President Trump’s selection to replace Antonin Scalia is expected to win confirmation Friday and be sworn in soon after to hear the final cases of the term.

The Senate will resume debate on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch on the morning, and a vote is expected about midday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

McConnell’s comments late Thursday came after Republicans tore up the Senate’s voting rules to allow President Donald Trump’s nominee to ascend to the high court over furious Democratic objections.

Democrats denounced the GOP’s use of what both sides dubbed the “nuclear option” to put Gorsuch on the court. They called it an epic power grab that would further corrode politics in Congress, the courts and the nation. Many Republicans bemoaned the rule change but blamed Democrats for pushing them to it.


Republicans succeeded in making the change on a party-line vote Thursday afternoon.

This was after Democrats initially blocked Gorsuch in a filibuster earlier in the day. Four Democrats broke ranks — Sens. Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va. – but Republicans still fell short of the 60 votes needed to proceed, prompting McConnell to overhaul the way the Senate works.


Chuck Schumer.  Image via screen capture

“We will sadly point to today as a turning point in the history of the Senate and the Supreme Court,” declared Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York.

The Senate change, affecting how many votes a nominee needs for confirmation, will apply to all future Supreme Court candidates, likely ensuring more ideological justices chosen with no need for consultation with the minority party. Trump himself predicted to reporters aboard Air Force One that “there could be as many as four” Supreme Court vacancies for him to fill during his administration.

“This is going to be a chapter, a monumental event in the history of the Senate, not for the better but for the worse,” warned Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a senior Republican.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Senate Is Expected to Vote to End Supreme Court Filibuster

April 6, 2017

Republicans are likely to trigger motion to change rules sparked by Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, speaks during a news conference April 4 after a Senate Republican luncheon at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Democrats are threatening to block Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Republicans say they have the votes to change the Senate’s longstanding rules and push President Donald Trump’s nominee through. Photo by Aaron P. Bernstein/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Senate Republicans are prepared to invoke the ‘nuclear option’ on the filibuster rules in order to confirm Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court with a simple majority. Here’s how they can do that and the long-term implications for both parties. Photo: Getty

WASHINGTON—The Senate is on the verge of a major rules change sparked by Judge Neil Gorsuch’s nomination to be a U.S. Supreme Court justice, as Republicans and Democrats barrel toward a partisan showdown on the Senate floor over the future of the filibuster.

The first procedural vote on Judge Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s nominee to a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, is expected Thursday morning—a vote where the GOP is expected to fall short. As a result, Senate Republicans are expected to use a procedural motion that would eliminate the filibuster for this and future Supreme Court nominations—expanding on changes that Democrats initiated in 2013.

“Judge Gorsuch will be confirmed to the Supreme Court this week. It is unfortunate that we may have [to] break longstanding precedent to do so, but Senate Democrats’ actions are to blame for that,” said Sen. John Boozman, an Arkansas Republican.

Democrats have raised several concerns about Judge Gorsuch’s nomination, including criticism of his record and the belief that the open Supreme Court seat for which he has been nominated should have been filled by a candidate selected by former President Barack Obama. Only three of the 48 Democrats have said they would vote for Judge Gorsuch, while 44 have said they would vote to block his nomination from advancing. Another Senate Democrat, Michael Bennet of Colorado, has said he won’t block the nomination but hasn’t said whether he will support Judge Gorsuch on the final vote.

With Senate Republicans set to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees, WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib examines the ramifications of potentially eliminating filibusters altogether. Photo: Getty

“In my state, just like many of yours, there are thousands of thousands of families who will be directly affected by the decisions the Supreme Court makes in the next few years,” said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, a New York Democrat.

“Judge Gorsuch’s record does not give me confidence that he will be a justice that will bolster those individual rights,” said Ms. Gillibrand on the Senate floor Wednesday.

The procedural fireworks are expected to begin on Thursday morning when Republicans attempt to invoke “cloture,” or an attempt to move to end debate and set a countdown to a likely Friday vote. They need 60 votes for cloture—a threshold they are expected to fail to meet. Once that occurs, Senate Republicans are expected to trigger the rules change through a series of parliamentary maneuvers that can be approved with a simple majority.

After that, cloture will have been invoked and a 30-hour countdown clock begins on the final vote, which is expected sometime Friday. On the final vote Judge Gorsuch needs a simple majority to become the next associate justice of the Supreme Court.

The rule change has caused consternation from many veterans of the Senate, who worry about the state of the institution.

“I find myself torn between protecting the traditions and practices of the Senate, and the importance of having a full complement of Justices on the U.S. Supreme Court,” said Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who has been part of deals to avert rules changes in the past.

This time, Mr. McCain said, “I am left with no choice. I will vote to change the rules.”

Write to Byron Tau at

Obama’s Immigration Failure: “We think the White House wishes it went ahead and issued that executive action back in the summer.”

November 8, 2014


U.S. President Barack Obama hosts a luncheon for bi-partisan Congressional leaders in the Old Family Dining Room at the White House in Washington, November 7, 2014. Credit: Reuters/Larry Downing

By Dana Milbank
The Washington Post

Back in July, when President Obama was deciding whether to take executive action on immigration before the midterm elections, I got into one of those cable-news debates that offer the president unsolicited advice from the unqualified.

I argued that the move would boost Hispanic turnout and rally a depressed Democratic base. Yes, it might hurt some vulnerable Democratic candidates, but it would cement Hispanic loyalty to the party in the long run: “It’s a question of, whose interest is he looking out for?”

My opposite, Bloomberg News’s Mark Halperin, countered against “inflaming” the Republican base. “There’s almost no competitive races where the Hispanic vote is going to be decisive,” he argued, and “there are a lot of Democratic strategists who say, ‘This will hurt our chances in the midterms. Why not wait until November to do it?’ ”

“So,” asked the host, “why are they even considering it?”

Replied Halperin: “My sources and I, we can’t figure it out.”

Maybe they can now.

The president declined to act on immigration before the election. But all the Democratic Senate incumbents in red states that he was trying to protect lost anyway on Tuesday. There is evidence that the combination of low Hispanic turnout and lower Hispanic margins for Democrats doomed some Democratic candidates, including Charlie Crist, who lost his gubernatorial race in Florida, and perhaps Sen. Mark Udall, who lost his reelection bid in Colorado.

Worse, the fading ardor Latinos showed for Democrats raises the possibility that this reliable constituency — crucial to the party’s prospects in 2016 and beyond — is slipping away. Now Obama, to avoid even more trouble with Latinos, has vowed to take unilateral action on immigration by year’s end, even though GOP leaders say that will “poison the well” with the congressional majority. As the NBC News political team speculated: “Given the current situation, we think the White House wishes it went ahead and issued that executive action back in the summer.”

There is a lesson here that goes beyond immigration: Obama would have been better off doing what he thought was right and letting the politics take care of themselves. When Halperin, co-author of the bestseller “Game Change,” and Democratic strategists called for postponing executive action, they were looking at politics as a game, moving pieces to maximize numbers after the next election. But politics is not just always a game of winning the next election. It’s about doing, as Obama belatedly remembered Wednesday, “what I think is best for the country.”

Instead, his political calculation turned out to be too clever by half, and he wound up setting back a worthy cause without helping Democrats at the polls. “You repress the vote in the Latino community, and what did you come up with?” Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) asked rhetorically during a news conference in Chicago on Wednesday, according to an account in Politico. He called the loss an “indication about what happens when you try to toy with your principles and your beliefs.”

In Florida, the Hispanic share of voters dropped to 13 percent from 17 percent two years ago. Because Latinos favored Crist over Republican Gov. Rick Scott by 20 percentage points, that was likely enough to cost Crist victory in a close race.

In Colorado, where Republican Sen.-elect Cory Gardner made a big play for Latino votes and Udall did little until the last minute, a Wall Street Journal analysis found that of the 21 counties in the state where Hispanics are at least one-fifth of the electorate, Gardner did better than the 2010 Republican Senate nominee in 20 of them. In 2010, Latino voters were credited with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet’s narrow win in the state.

Hispanic turnout slipped to 8 percent of the electorate from 10 percent in 2012 and level with 2010, despite the exploding Latino population. Democrats got 62 percent of the Hispanic vote, better than a dreadful 2010 showing but well below the 71 percent Obama got in 2012. In the Texas governor’s race, Republican Greg Abbott got 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, and in the Georgia governor’s race, Republican Nathan Deal got 47 percent. In Kansas, Republican Gov. Sam Brownback won the Latino vote, 47 percent to 46 percent, exit polls show.

This doesn’t necessarily mean Obama’s delayed action on immigration caused Democrats problems with Latinos, nor does it mean Tuesday’s results would have been dramatically different if he had acted sooner. But it does make a case for worrying more about what’s right than what’s expedient.

Twitter: @Milbank

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At Hollywood Fundraiser, President Obama Talks About ‘Dysfunction’ in American Government

May 8, 2014


“In the face of acts of inhumanity, President Obama has not stood by,” Steven Spielberg said.

Senior Editor@tedstew

President Obama on Wednesday raised money for House and Senate candidates at the home of Walt Disney Studios chairman Alan Horn and his wife Cindy, in an effort to boost Hollywood contributions in advance of what looks to be a difficult midterm election season for Democrats.Among the 90 or so in attendance were Barbra Streisand, Jeffrey Katzenberg and James Brolin, according to a pool report. Guests had dinner under a tent in the Horns’ backyard.

Acknowledging that despite a list of accomplishments that there is still a “disquiet around the country” as well as “an anxiety, and a sense a frustration,” Obama said that “the challenges out there remain daunting and we have a Washington that’s not working.”

“Those who don’t believe government can do anything are empowered, gridlock reigns, and we got this downward spiral of even more cynicism and more dysfunction, and we have to break out of that cycle and that’s what this election is all about,” Obama said, according to a pool report, in remarks that lasted about 15 minutes.

He added, “Because I’m optimistic about America’s prospects…don’t buy this notion purported here that that somehow America is on a downward trajectory. By every indicator we are better positioned than any country on earth to succeed in this knowledge economy in the 21st century. But what is absolutely true is that if we don’t make good choices we could decline, and we’re not going to make good choices unless we break out of this cycle in which dysfunction breeds cynicism, and we have to break out of it.”

The event at the Horns’ Bel-Air home was to raise money for the House Senate Victory Fund, a joint committee set up for congressional candidates. The Horns are longtime Democratic donors, although this is the president’s first visit to their home for a fundraising event, which also included House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.). Cindy Horn introduced Obama.

Obama, on a midterm fund-raising swing throughout the West Coast, said he was “in trouble back home and the reason is I told Michelle back in 2012 I had run my last campaign. But a couple of months ago, I had to let her in on a little secret: Honey, I’ve got one more campaign I’ve got to run,” Obama said, as he urged donors to lend their support so the Democrats could retain the Senate and win back the House.

At one point, as he talked about the problems of inequality, a car alarm went off, and Obama quipped, “Sound the alarm, because we’ve got a problem.”

Tickets to the event started $10,000 per person, including dinner and a photo op. Those donating $32,400 per couple got listed as “sponsors” and could take part in a VIP reception. Those donating $64,800 per couple were listed as “hosts” and could take part in a “VIP clutch.”

The House Senate Victory Fund is splitting proceeds equally between the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

After the fundraiser, Obama went to the Century Plaza Hotel for the USC Shoah Foundation Ambassadors for Humanity  Gala, where the organization’s founder, Steven Spielberg, presented him with its Ambassador for Humanity Award, its highest honor. Among those attending were Toby Emmerich, Ron Meyer, Jeff Garlin, Samuel L. Jackson and Liam Neeson.

The foundation was established by Spielberg a year after the release of “Schindler’s List” to gather the stories of Holocaust survivors and witnesses, as well as those of other genocides.

Obama told the crowd at the Century Plaza Hotel that with Spielberg’s “masterful” movie and then the foundation, “the voices and memories of survivors became and immediate and intimate part of all of us.”

Spielberg praised Obama as someone “who has helped expose the darkened parts of humanity to a little more light.”

“In the face of acts of inhumanity, President Obama has not stood by,” Spielberg said. He cited the president’s creation of an Atrocities Prevention Board and the designation of a special envoy for Holocaust survivors.

Conan O’Brien was the emcee, and Bruce Springsteen performed acoustic versions of “Dancing in the Dark” and “Promised Land.”

Obama also is scheduled to headline a fundraiser at the Beverly Hilton on Thursday for the Democratic National Committee, before setting off for San Diego and then the Bay Area for more money-raising events.

Harry Reid, Democrats in Congress Clash With President Obama on Policy Issues in Run Up To Midterm-Election

February 4, 2014

By Janet Hook and Peter Nicholas
The Wall Street Journal

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said he opposes a top trade initiative of the president’s.  Zuma Press

WASHINGTON—Democrats in Congress are parting ways with President  Barack Obama on issues including trade, energy and trade, health care as the gap widens between the political demands of keeping control of the Senate and advancing parts of the White House agenda.

A phalanx of Democrats, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, have announced opposition to the president’s top trade initiative. Many Democrats are clamoring for Mr. Obama to act soon to allow construction of the Keystone XL pipeline—a decision the White House is expected to make before midterm elections. Vulnerable Democrats are bluntly criticizing the rollout of the 2010 health-care law. Even an under-the-radar issue such as a flood-insurance bill has been a point of tension.

Against that backdrop, Mr. Reid met with the president in the Oval Office for about an hour Monday along with Sen. Michael Bennet (D., Colo.), who is chief strategist in his party’s drive to keep control of the Senate after November. The meeting was to review the political landscape of the crucial midterm-election year.

A Democratic official familiar with the meeting said it was requested by Mr. Reid as a routine matter, unrelated to the rift between the Nevada senator and the president on trade policy that emerged last week.

“We don’t stay on the same page through smoke signals,” the official said. “We sit down and talk.”

Despite those tensions, Democrats and White House officials say they remain united on major elements of the legislative and political agenda, such as the extension of unemployment benefits that lapsed late last year.

“There is far more that Democrats in Congress and the president agree on than there are areas where there might be differences,” said Obama pollster Joel Benenson.

Republicans, too, are riven with deep divisions within their party—on immigration policy and how to handle the coming debt-limit increase. But Democrats are finding that a united front that was so durable through last year’s budget battles has its limits in an election year. Action on Mr. Obama’s trade policy could advance his economic plans but hurt Democratic candidates in the process.

“Our caucus would rather see this issue come up at another time because there are strong feelings on both sides of the issue, and you hate to be pushed into a decision that might be easier to make after an election,” said Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D., Ill.).

The White House and Senate Democrats share a powerful political interest in the fight to keep Republicans from picking up six seats they would need to take control of the Senate this year. Mr. Reid doesn’t want to relinquish control of a chamber that has proved a bulwark against a Republican-controlled House and would be crucial to Mr. Obama’s ability to have any sway in Congress during the last two years of his presidency.

Although he is unpopular in the states with the most fiercely contested Senate races—including Arkansas, Louisiana, Alaska and North Carolina—Mr. Obama remains a mighty asset in helping his party’s candidates raise money. He participated in seven fundraising events for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee last year, and Democrats are expecting more in 2014.

Some Senate races have become more competitive since the problems with the health law’s rollout—and because of a big influx of ads spotlighting those hiccups by conservative outside groups. That has weakened some once-strong incumbents like Sen. Kay Hagan (D., N.C.) and made open seats like one in Michigan tougher to hold.

Vulnerable Democrats have made greater efforts to distance themselves from unpopular aspects of the health law. Late last year, Sen. Mary Landrieu  of Louisiana introduced legislation to protect individuals whose policies were ended because they didn’t meet the law’s new standard. That added to pressure on the White House to propose an administrative fix.

The most striking fissure between the White House and Senate Democrats came last week when Mr. Reid, one of the president’s most reliable allies on Capitol Hill, told reporters he opposed administration-backed legislation aimed at speeding passage of free-trade agreements, a vital component to advancing two major international trade deals. Bitterly opposed by many labor leaders, a vote on the fast-track trade bill would put Democrats in the difficult position of choosing between Mr. Obama and the unions who are a crucial source of campaign workers and cash.

“I think everyone would be well-advised just not to push this right now,” Mr. Reid said. An official familiar with his thinking said it was “pretty unlikely” the majority leader would bring the bill to a vote before Election Day but that it was “possible” he would do so after November.

Mr. Durbin predicted the White House would be hearing from other Democrats beside Mr. Reid who would rather not vote on the issue anytime soon.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, another Democrat with a potentially tough fight this fall, demurred when asked about the issue. “It does have pressures on both sides,” she said. “We’re taking a look at it.”

Helping spotlight one of his most vulnerable incumbents, Mr. Reid last month called up a flood-insurance bill that was a signature initiative of Ms. Landrieu’s. The bill, to delay scheduled flood-insurance-premium increases, passed easily. Ms. Landrieu expressed anger when, before the bill came to a vote, the White House issued a statement criticizing the bill because it believed it undercut the program’s financing.

Some red-state Democrats have welcomed opportunities to stake out positions in opposition to the White House on issues like the Keystone XL pipeline, giving them ammunition to argue they are independent of the president. The pipeline project is opposed by environmentalists, but many Democrats in swing states support its construction as a way to create jobs—especially in a state like Louisiana, where refineries stand to benefit.

If Mr. Obama doesn’t approve the pipeline soon, Senate Democrats could face repeated GOP efforts to force a vote on the issue. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said recently he would “continue to push for immediate consideration of bipartisan legislation…that will get the pipeline built.”

A White House official said a verdict seems likely before the November elections. The official also said the administration fully expects that some Democrats will part ways with the president on issues such as Keystone and trade.

“Overall, on our economic-opportunity agenda, that’s something Democrats are excited about,” the official said.

Write to Janet Hook at and Peter Nicholas at