692 DAYS UNTIL ELECTION DAY
December 11, 2008
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
“We are facing historic challenges as a nation, especially with regard to taxes and health care. The legislation coming through Ways and Means will have a huge impact on our ability to climb out of this recession, increase American competitiveness and guarantee access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans.”
– Congressman Dave Camp, ranking member of Ways & Means Committee
CAMP MOVES UP IN LEADERSHIP…House Republicans yesterday elected U.S. Rep. Dave Camp(Midland, MI) as the Ranking Minority Member of the House Ways and Means Committee. The committee is considered one of the most powerful in the House with jurisdiction over taxes, health care, trade, Medicare, Social Security and welfare. This is great news for Michigan!
BUDGET CUTS AND TAX HIKE WATCH HAS STARTED…Unable to push prison savings through the full legislature, the Gov. Jennifer Granholm administration wants to do it through the Executive Order (E.O.) route and the appropriations process.
The Governor will be presenting $135 million in mid-year cuts to a joint meeting of the House and Senate appropriations committees. However, Republican leaders in the Senate are skeptical that the nearly $140 million in cuts will be enough to balance the Fiscal Year (FY) 2009 budget. They fear another $150 million in mid-year cuts will need to made in the spring and had been pushing for cuts totaling more than $200 million, but the administration balked at touching such programs as the 21st Century Jobs Fund or the No Worker Left Behind program.
OAKLAND COUNTY GOP…candidate for Prosecuting Attorney and outgoing state representative David Law was election GOP County Chair, along with Lauren Rakolta as his vice-chair. Congratulations to their new team!
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TODAY’S TOP STORIES
The following stories and more are available at my
Articles of Interest online.
By David Broder
WASHINGTON — Rod Blagojevich was a scandal waiting to happen.
When he was running for governor of Illinois for the first time in 2002, he had two impressive opponents in the Democratic primary. One was Paul Vallas, a reform-minded intellectual who had been Mayor Richard Daley’s choice to take over the troubled Chicago school system. The other was former state Attorney General Roland Burris, a leading African-American politician who had demonstrated his appeal to white voters.
When I went to Chicago to cover their pre-primary debate, Blagojevich, a boyish-looking young congressman who got his seat thanks to the clout of his father-in-law, an influential Chicago alderman, was by far the least impressive candidate. He had made no particular mark on Capitol Hill and he seemed much less informed on Illinois issues than his rivals.
The president’s designee would disburse the short-term emergency loans to General Motors and Chrysler, which are at risk of financial collapse, and would directly supervise the reorganization plans that the auto manufacturers have agreed to carry out in exchange for government aid. The government also could receive warrants that would give it equity stakes in the companies.
By Massimo Calabresi / Washington
On more than one occasion during his stunning press conference on Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald bluntly said he has found no evidence of wrongdoing by President-elect Barack Obama in the tangled, tawdry scheme that Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich allegedly cooked up to sell Obama’s now vacant Senate seat to the highest bidder. But for politicians, it’s never good news when a top-notch prosecutor has to go out of his way to distance them from a front-page scandal. And indeed, there are enough connections between the worlds of Blagojevich and Obama that the whole thing has the potential to grow beyond a colorful Chicago tale of corruption to entangle members of the presidential transition team, test Obama’s carefully cultivated reformist image and distract the President-elect just as he is preparing to take office.
The Senate-seat scheme is only one of the allegations lodged against the two-term governor, whose administration has been under investigation for alleged "pay to play" patronage practices for years. The complaint claims that Blagojevich tried to extort the owners of the Tribune Company to fire editors at the Chicago Tribune and withhold $8 million of state funds for a children’s hospital in hopes of extracting a $50,000 campaign contribution from one of its executives. Blagojevich, who came into office in 2002 with promises to clean up the state’s culture of graft, made no comment Tuesday during a bail hearing after which he was released on his own recognizance. But late in the day, his lawyer Sheldon Sorosky told reporters the governor "is very surprised and certainly feels that he did not do anything wrong … a lot of this is just politics." (See pictures of who will be in Obama’s White House.)
By KENNETH P. VOGEL & CARRIE BUDOFF BROWN
The stinging criminal complaint against Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff John Harris raises lots of questions for President-elect Barack Obama – questions he’ll have a chance to answer Thursday when he does his first news conference since Blagojevich was charged.
Here are seven worth asking:
1 – “Did you communicate directly or indirectly with Blagojevich about picking your replacement in the U.S. Senate?”
Obama issued a categorical statement Tuesday that he personally hadn’t spoken with Blagojevich about the seat — but seemed to correct himself in a way that suggested others around Obama might have.
David Shepardson and Gordon Trowbridge / Detroit News Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON — The U.S. House approved a $14 billion auto bailout late Wednesday, but the bill’s ultimate fate remained in serious doubt as the White House and Democrats struggled to win enough Republican support in the Senate.
Supporters hope the measure’s passage, by a 237-170 margin largely along party lines in the Democratic-controlled House, will increase political pressure on Senate Republicans to go along or risk being blamed for thousands of job losses that likely would result from a collapse of General Motors Corp. or Chrysler LLC. Both companies have said they need the money to survive through early next year.
It was unclear Wednesday night when the Senate might consider the bill, but Republicans earlier in the day expressed doubt as to whether there is enough GOP support for the measure to get 60 votes, the number generally needed to pass controversial legislation in the 100-seat chamber.
Congress and President Bush appear close to an agreement that would bail out the Big Three Detroit automakers. Politics has trumped prudence, and the real goal of this bailout plainly is not to help the automakers become sustainable businesses but to preserve union jobs and subsidize hybrid cars. We understand why the Democrats are happy with this arrangement. It is less clear why the president should agree to it.
In a sense, congressional Democrats called Bush’s bluff. The debate between Congress and the White House has not been about whether the Big Three should get a bailout, but about where the money for a bailout should come from. (Those who think bankruptcy is the best option have found few friends in Washington.) Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have argued that the administration should save the automakers by using funds from the $700 billion bank-rescue program. The White House has maintained that if Congress wants to bail out the Big Three, then it should expedite the approval of $25 billion in loans it authorized in September.
These loans were made available on the condition that the Big Three use the money to retool their factories and start making cars that run on electricity and biofuels. But in their plea for help, the Big Three have emphasized that they won’t in fact be around to make the cars of tomorrow unless they get some no-strings-attached cash today.
By Larry Elder
"Say something nice about Obama."
This challenge came at a party from a good-natured self-described "rabid Obama supporter." Normally, when off the clock, I avoid this kind of stuff. How different is it to, say, approach a physician in a social setting and say: "Doc, my knee hurts in the morning. What do you think it is?" But the guy seemed nice enough.
"OK," I said. "Obama is likable. He means well. He appears to be a good father and a faithful and loving husband."
"You asked me to say something good. I just did."
Gary Heinlein and Mark Hornbeck / Detroit News Lansing Bureau
LANSING — State officials and lawmakers who approved closing two prisons and a girls’ juvenile reform school as part of $134 million in state budget cuts Wednesday agree it’s only the beginning.
Because of the year-old national recession and the nearly bankrupt auto industry, additional spending cuts are coming as early as next month.
"We recognize the numbers every day get worse," said Robert Emerson, state budget director. He called Wednesday’s reductions — proposed by Gov. Jennifer Granholm and approved by the House and Senate appropriations committees hours later — "a moderate step to prepare for whatever comes next."
Patricia Anstett • Special to the State Journal
Former Michigan Attorney General Frank Kelley – a consumer advocate who spent years fighting rate hikes by the state’s largest health insurer – debuted Monday as an advocate in radio ads for legislation sought by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan to change the state’s individual health insurance market.
Kelley said he is not being paid for the ads.
But records with Michigan’s Department of State show that Kelley’s firm, Kelley Cawthorne, has been working as a paid lobbyist for Blue Cross since 1999. Kelley could not be reached late Monday to explain his firm’s relationship to the insurer.
The firm has been one of a half-dozen lobbying firms working for Blue Cross to pass the individual market reform legislation.
DETROIT – Marie Thornton believes the Detroit Public Schools need a viable plan to escape a $400 million budget deficit and avoid the appointment of an outsider to straighten out the struggling district’s financial mess.
The Detroit school board member just doesn’t think current Superintendent Connie Calloway is the person to implement the deficit elimination plan.
"Why would you give her that type of authority when you know she can’t even write a plan to implement?" Thornton said.
by Marc Morano
POZNAN, Poland – The UN global warming conference currently underway in Poland is about to face a serious challenge from over 650 dissenting scientists from around the globe who are criticizing the climate claims made by the UN IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore. Set for release this week, a newly updated U.S. Senate Minority Report features the dissenting voices of over 650 international scientists, many current and former UN IPCC scientists, who have now turned against the UN. The report has added about 250 scientists (and growing) in 2008 to the over 400 scientists who spoke out in 2007. The over 650 dissenting scientists are more than 12 times the number of UN scientists (52) who authored the media hyped IPCC 2007 Summary for Policymakers.
The U.S. Senate report is the latest evidence of the growing groundswell of scientific opposition rising to challenge the UN and Gore. Scientific meetings are now being dominated by a growing number of skeptical scientists. The prestigious International Geological Congress, dubbed the geologists’ equivalent of the Olympic Games, was held in Norway in August 2008 and prominently featured the voices and views of scientists skeptical of man-made global warming fears.