Tag Archives: Harry Reid

Kilmer attacks the CRomnibus rider

If you paid attention to stories about the budget Congress just passed, a budget that gave us the term “CRomnibus,” (It’s a mash up of Continuing Resolution and omnibus. Part of the budget is one and most of it is the latter. Because I think we all can agree if Congress isn’t inventing new words it’s not doing its job.) you learned that in addition to giving Wall Street a break, (“About time!” I say.) it gave national political parties access to huge swaths of money.

That second part is one U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Gig Harbor, objected to the most. When the budget passed the house he sent a news release with the statement:

“Part of the reason Congress is held in such low esteem is that it does things like this. While I’m all for funding government, adding a provision at the last minute to a must pass bill that benefits the wealthiest donors and floods our elections with even more money undermines our democracy.”

Kilmer didn’t stop there. He offered a bill that would undo that portion of the CRomnibus. (The more you say it the less debased you feel.) “Close the Floodgates Act” got no sponsors and the Senate went home, but Kilmer said this week he will bring the bill back during the next session, which begins in January.

On Wednesday I asked him if he thought any of the 219 members of the House who voted for the CRomnibus (You see? You’re becoming assimilated.) objected to the campaign finance provision. Uh, yeah. “I have not spoken to anyone on either side of the aisle who thought this provision made sense,” he said.

That provision would increase caps on annual donations by individuals to the national political parties from $97,200 to $777,600.

That so many people would think the provision makes no sense is because no one is sitting around saying, “You what we need? More money in politics.” Well, someone might be saying it. On the right the Koch Brothers and on the left George Soros are the demons of MSNBC and Fox for saying that with their money, for example.

But someone, somewhere thought this was a good idea. Politico did two great pieces of reporting on the issue, one that explains the rationale and a second that discusses how that became part of the budget and the local roots for it.

The rationale, simply, is this: With so much money going to third-party political organizations that don’t have to limit what they can receive from donors, parties are having a tough time collecting money they use to advertise, host conventions and wage legal battles. Part of what the CRomnibus rider did was create not only new limits, but new organizations donors can fund to handle different aspects of a campaign. The parties want this, because they don’t want to cede a campaign’s message to third-party groups that they can’t coordinate with or control.

So who orchestrated this? Sounds like it was Nevada Senator and now former Majority Leader Harry Reid, employing a Seattle lawyer to make it happen.

So while most people favor reducing the money in politics by, um, changing the law to reduce money in politics, Reid and Congress just passed legislation to open up the tap for the parties, in hopes of strengthening the parties’ influence in the bigger pool of money.

Kilmer favors the first approach. He co-sponsored the Disclose Act, which would have required more financial disclosure in campaign ads. He also co-sponsored a bill proposing a constitutional amendment specifying that corporations are not people and allowing Congress to set campaign limits. Another bill he co-sponsored would allow candidates to accept public funds as long as they forego big donations.

Before any of that though, Kilmer wants to kill any encouragement to attract more money to political races. “First, do no harm,” he said Wednesday. “The American people want us to take actions to restore their faith in our democracy.”

Increasing the amount of money wealthy people can contribute to political parties, Kilmer said, is not one of those actions.

Cantwell tells NFL, ‘Keep the name, lose the tax break’

U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash. introduced legislation to revoke the NFL’s tax exempt status. I’ll just let you read the press release, but one of her comments, “a dictionary-defined racial slur,” struck me. So I checked it out. Turns out, she’s right, as you can see in the picture.


The press release follows:

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‘Washington health care costs lower for some, but not like New York’ and other stories.

I may bust your New York Times paywall limit with a couple of stories I’m going to recommend you read. I’m also recommending one from the Washington Post.

The first story deals with health care reform. If you are skeptical that any government involvement in an industry could be beneficial, I would not try to dissuade from your skepticism. The news that follows was announced by supporters of the legislation, after all. Still, could this be good news? The Times reports Health Plan Cost for New Yorkers Set to Fall 50%.

State insurance regulators say they have approved rates for 2014 that are at least 50 percent lower on average than those currently available in New York. Beginning in October, individuals in New York City who now pay $1,000 a month or more for coverage will be able to shop for health insurance for as little as $308 monthly. With federal subsidies, the cost will be even lower.

Stephanie Marquis, spokeswoman in the office of Mike Kreidler, state insurance commissioner, said state officials here are encouraged by what they’re seeing from insurers, but rates would be unlikely to drop as much here as they appear to have in New York. Different states have different rules for what gets covered under health insurance programs, and Washington has about 15 times the number of people buying insurance on their own. That might be one reason. Still, state officials are encouraged. Here’s Kreidler’s statement on the subject:

“When the rate filings started coming in, we were pleasantly surprised,” said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. “We’re not seeing the double-digit rate increases some of the insurers predicted. In some cases, people will pay the same or slightly lower for much better benefits. How much you pay will largely depend on the plan you select, your age, whether or not you smoke and where you live. People should have plenty of plans to choose from both inside the new WashingtonHealthplanfinder, Washington’s exchange, and in the regular insurance market. Premium subsidies also may be available for people buying coverage inside the exchange, depending on their income.”

Washington insurance officials will be able to comment more specifically after July 31, Marquis said.


The second NYT story is an inside-baseball story about D.C. politics, but the players’ own admissions are stunning, if not refreshing. The U.S. Senate reached a deal that would stop Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid from blowing up the chamber’s filibuster rules. The entire story is worth reading, but these three paragraphs floored me, in a good way.

The agreement came after a meeting on Monday night where 98 Senators vented for over three hours. Members of both parties admitted some culpability in the political fighting, with Democrats conceding that their headlong drive to alter the rules may have been overly aggressive.

“We’re not without sin,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri.

Many Republicans admitted their efforts to hobble executive agencies by denying confirmation of their leadership was wrongheaded. “Cordray was being filibustered because we don’t like the law” that created the consumer agency, said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “That’s not a reason to deny someone their appointment. We were wrong.”


The final story comes Al Kamen’s “In the Loop” column at the Washington Post. In case you hadn’t heard, someone pulled a prank worthy of a Porky’s (I’m dating myself here. I never saw the movie, but heard of the name gag.) movie and convinced a Bay Area TV channel of the names of the Asiana Airlines pilots involved in the crash were Asian names that when spoken should have been obvious to anyone were a joke. (I won’t put the names here. It shouldn’t be too hard to find out if you’re that curious.)

The one saving factor for the TV station was they went to the trouble of confirming the names with the National Transportation Safety Board, and someone from the NTSB did confirm it. The agency said it was an intern, one who no longer has an internship with the NTSB. Kamen writes:

Good strategy! Blaming the intern for cringe-inducing faux pas is a time-honored tradition. Interns, after all, make the perfect fall guys, with their not-always-fair reputation for cluelessness and laziness, and their status somewhere underneath the lowest rung on the Washington ladder. It’s not easy to earn respect when the most infamous alum is Monica Lewinsky.

But is it fair to turn eager young public servants into the equivalent of the dog who ate Washington’s homework? Joe Starrs, director of U.S. Summer Programs at the Fund for American Studies, which places Washington interns, said it’s an employer’s job to provide those young, inexperienced (and often unpaid) workers with guidance and a supervisor. “To throw the intern under the bus is the ultimate in abdicating responsibility,” he says.