Today in Washington - May 19, 2010

Elites in Washington are looking over their shoulders today.  There is a new Scarlet Letter in America and it is the Scarlet Letter “I” for incumbent.  If you are a Senate candidate running for re-election or a member of the House, both Republican and Democrat, you are nervous that the people of America will kick you out of office because you are part of the problem. 


Rand Paul, Republican nominee for the Senate seat being vacated by Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) said yesterday:

I have a message, a message from the tea party, a message that is loud and clear and does not mince words: We have come to take our government back.

The House and Senate will be conducting business as usual, yet the talk in the back rooms of the Capitol will be about yesterday’s election results in Kentucky, Pennsylvania and Arkansas. 

Conservatives will be watching the following issues inside and outside the beltway today:

  • Tea Party Power – Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT) has another member of the Lame Duck Caucus and his name is Senator Arlen Specter (RD-PA).  Senator Specter lost his primary and Congressman Joe Sestak will face off against former Rep. Pat Toomey in the Pennsylvania general election this fall.  In Kentucky, Rand Paul scored a big victory (59% – 35%) over the candidate favored by the party elites Trey Grayson.  In Arkansas, incumbent Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) did not get 50% of the vote and will be in a runoff election for the democrat nomination for her own seat.  Politico’s John Harris and Jim Vandehei writes today “for any politician with the usual instincts for self-protection, the lessons of Tuesday’s primaries could not be more clear: This could happen to you.”  Clearly, the anti-establishment attitude is present in both the grassroots for both Republicans and Democrats.  More from Politico, “the old structures that protected incumbent power are weakening. New structures, from partisan news outlets to online social networks, are giving anti-establishment politicians access to two essential elements of effective campaigns: publicity and financial support. In effect, the anti-institutional forces that coalesced in recent years now look like an institutional force of their own.”  Who is going to follow Senator Bob Bennett (R-UT), Congressman Alan Mollohan (D-W.Va.) and Senator Arlen Specter (R D-PA) into the politician unemployment line?   
  • Financial Services Deform – According to the Associated Press, one amendment was blocked to the financial services reform bill yesterday that would have rolled back efforts to give states more consumer powers.  Also, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) worked to resolve a standoff over the issue of how to regulate derivatives in anticipation of a vote today to cut off further debate on the underlying bill.  More from the AP, “Tuesday’s maneuvers came a day before the Senate was set to vote to end debate on sweeping changes to federal financial regulations, the biggest overhaul of Wall Street rules since the Great Depression. Still, several issues remained unresolved and tempers were running short on the Senate floor among Democrats who were unable to get votes on their amendments. Even if Wednesday’s vote succeeds, final action on the bill might not come until Friday.”  Expect more wrangling on this issue for the remainder of the week.
  • Science and Technology Bill– The House will complete work on a bill pulled from the House floor last week dealing with the reauthorization of science and technology programs.  From The Hill, “House Democrats on Wednesday will take a second stab at a science and technology research funding bill that was scuttled last week because of a debate over Internet porn. Aides said the House would vote on a version that costs about half of what the legislation that Democratic leaders abandoned last week cost.”  Last week, House Democrats had to pull the bill because Republicans offered a motion to recommit that would have defunded employees in the federal government who viewed porn on their government computers.  This is a second attempt to pass the bill with some language to partially address the concerns of those that voted for the motion to recommit. 
  • START Treaty – The Senate Foreign Relations committee completed a hearing yesterday on the controversial START Treaty.  Conservatives on the Committee, including Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), assailed the START Treaty for inhibiting missile defense.  From the New York Times, “Mr. DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, assailed Mr. Obama for effectively agreeing to limit any new missile defense system so it could not stop Russian missiles.  ‘Obviously, we’re agreeing to keep our missile defense to the point where it does not render their weapons useless,’ he said, expressing exasperation.”  Peter Baker argues for the NYT that “after all, the missile defense program developed by Mr. Bush was never designed to render Russian weapons useless. It was supposed to be a limited system to defend against nuclear missile attack by states like Iran. Although Mr. Obama last year reformulated the configuration of the system, he kept Mr. Bush’s goal.”  DeMint argues that “It seems the goal of this administration and liberals in Congress is to condition American security into parity with Russia, which makes no sense. Russia and the U.S. are not equal, we have different roles in the world. America is a protector of many nations and a threat to none, while Russia is a threat to many nations and a protector of none.  President Reagan fought to achieve peace through strength. And in doing so he led the U.S. to win the Cold War and put in place the beginnings of groundbreaking missile defense technology to protect our nation from rising threats. And ever since, the left has sought to stop, block, and defund our critical missile defenses that are continually proving to be successful and necessary.”  These two positions are going to be the centerpiece of the debate between conservatives and liberals over the START Treaty. 

The Tea Party movement and an anti-incumbent fervor has taken hold for both Rs and Ds.  Elites in D.C. are very very worried.


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