Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
LOWELL The six Democrats who so far have declared they want to unseat US Senator Scott Brown next year blasted the Republican and mocked his service in "the people's seat" as they rallied delegates today at their party's annual convention.
"Scott Brown didn't make a mark in the Massachusetts Legislature and he isn't leaving any footprints in the United States Senate,'' said City Year co-founder Alan Khazei. ""We need a senator who leads."
Newton Mayor Setti Warren accused Brown of voting against the interests of Massachusetts men, women, and children.
"This is our senator, who even questions the science of global climate change," Warren said. "Is that someone who represents the values of our state?"
The crowd of roughly 3,000 delegates gathered at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell replied with a robust "no."
Massachusetts Democrats are converging on Lowell this afternoon for the fun part of their annual convention: the convention-eve parties.
Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray is throwing a bash, while Senate candidates such as Alan Khazei and Marisa DeFranco are holding smaller receptions. The host committee is also having a party organized by former Lowell City Councilor Curtis LeMay.
In addition, there's a Young Democrats bash at the Brewery Exchange.
Massachusetts Democrats plan to focus on Republican Scott Brown and the record he has compiled in the US Senate during their annual convention in Lowell on Saturday.
According to an agenda released this afternoon, the party will also focus on building upon its 2010 achievements, including repelling a national GOP tide by reelecting an all-Democratic congressional delegation, as well as President Obama's 2012 reelection campaign.
The convention gavels to order at 10 a.m. at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell.
It will include remarks by Governor Deval Patrick and the state's other constitutional officers, as well as the four Democrats who have already declared their candidacy against Brown.
While the dates of Kennedy deaths have been seared into the nation’s consciousness, the famed political family itself has a practice of focusing on birthdays.
It’s a more uplifting orientation, one that allows relatives to remember John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Edward M. Kennedy, and other departed family members on the terms in which they entered and served the world not the tragic events or illness that took them from it.
And so it was on Sunday, while many in the public were enjoying a round of golf, digging into a trashy beach novel, or breaking into provisions for the first barbeque of the summertime season.
JFK’s only daughter, Caroline, traveled to the presidential library named for her father to witness an announcement: The US Navy is going to name its next aircraft carrier in honor of the nation’s 35th president.
In less than 140 characters, Newton Mayor Setti Warren made a big announcement.
Just after 1 p.m. today, the Democratic Senate candidate announced he and his wife had a son.
"My wife Tassy and I are proud & excited to welcome our son, John David Warren into the world," said the mayor.
The couple already has a daughter, Abigail.
Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
Republican Scott Brown may be a US senator now, but that hasn't stopped him from rekindling his roots as a state senator as he tries to stoke support for his 2012 reelection campaign.
Twice in recent weeks, Brown has issued statements condemning local Democrats amid the ongoing federal corruption trial of former House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi.
Yesterday, he did so after Governor Deval Patrick appeared on the witness stand, though Brown was careful not to single out the most powerful Democrat in the state by name.
Massachusetts Democrats and their counterparts in Washington are at odds over how best precisely to field a challenger to Republican Senator Scott Brown next year.
Governor Deval Patrick, who controls the Massachusetts Democratic Party, favors an organic process, with the candidate rising from a contested primary field.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which is charged with ensuring President Obama has the party majority he needs to pass his legislative agenda, is pointed toward landing a big-name candidate who can clear the field and take on Brown with maximum resources and minimum infighting.
Some of them haven't forgotten that Massachusetts Democrats took the blame when Brown surprised the 2010 state nominee, Martha Coakley, and cost the national Democrats their filibuster-proof majority in the US Senate.
Washington colleague Mark Arsenault and I looked at the dispute for a story in today's Globe.
This is a corrected version of an earlier post. A correction is embedded in the story text below.
WASHINGTON – Despite weeks of speculation and lobbying by consumer groups, there will be no recess appointment of former Harvard law professor Elizabeth Warren to head the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
That's because, technically, there will be no recess.
Through parliamentary maneuvering this week, Republicans were able to prevent the Senate from officially shutting down during its Memorial Day vacation next week. During the so-called "pro-forma'' session during vacation, President Obama will not have the power to circumvent Senate confirmation proceedings and make appointments to key posts.FULL ENTRY
WASHINGTON -- Democrats and some Republicans in the US House of Representatives sought to buck the White House today over the war in Afghanistan, illustrating growing impatience in Congress over the military’s role there since the death of Osama bin Laden earlier this month.
Representative James McGovern, a Worcester Democrat, spearheaded an effort with Republican co-sponsor Walter B. Jones of North Carolina to pass a measure that would require planning for a speedier withdrawal of troops from the nation where bin Laden plotted the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The amendment to the defense authorization bill failed 204-215, but it gained far more than the 162 votes that it received last year when Democrats controlled the House. Both of the chamber’s Democratic leaders, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California and Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland , supported it, along with 26 Republicans.FULL ENTRY
WASHINGTON — National Democratic Party leaders are talking to “a number” of potential candidates about running against Republican Senator Scott Brown, and expect a frontline candidate to emerge soon, said the Democratic senator in change of recruitment.
“We believe that the state is one that we will win, and we expect to have a good strong candidate within weeks,” US Senator Patty Murray, Democrat from Washington, told reporters this morning in a briefing. Murray is head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, which works to elect Democrats to the US Senate and to protect the party’s incumbents.
Brown, who won the Massachusetts seat in a special election in 2010, is a top political target of Democrats, who hold 53-47 advantage in the US Senate. Several Democratic seats could be in jeopardy next year, and the party hopes to defeat Brown to cushion losses elsewhere and maintain its majority.
Several Democrats have announced campaigns against Brown, though most of the state’s big names have passed on the race, such as Governor Deval Patrick. Democratic operatives worry about the ability of lesser-known candidates to compete against Brown, a national political figure with more than $8 million in his campaign account.
Murray declined to disclose names this morning, but speculation has been rampant about a possible campaign by Harvard professor and presidential advisor Elizabeth Warren, who has not ruled out a run.
Senator Scott Brown pushed a multi-pronged approach to job creation today in an op-ed column for the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.
The Massachusetts Republican called for congressional approval of trade agreements, boosting education, and promoting job re-training are all elements of the plan.
"This year, I have worked across the aisle on a targeted approach to boost our economy," Brown wrote. "As your senator, and a member of the Senate’s Manufacturing Task Force, I will continue to look for common sense economic policies that help create jobs. With the passage of these trade agreements, we can start to tear down some of the barriers holding us back."
WASHINGTON Representative Barney Frank helped his then-companion land a job at mortgage giant Fannie Mae in the early 1990s at the same time Congress was writing legislation to improve oversight of the lender, according to New York Times reporter Gretchen Morgenson, who recently wrote a book examining the financial crises.
Frank was a member of the House Financial Services Committee in 1991 when he "actually called up the company and asked them to hire his companion, who had just gotten an MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business," Morgenson said during a recent appearance on National Public Radio.
"Of course the company was happy to provide a job for his companion and rolled out the red carpet in a series of interviews with a variety of executives, and it ultimately did hire the man," she said. "And he stayed there for I believe seven years."
Vice President Joe Biden today marked the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's speech about reaching the moon by complaining the United States has occasionally become "too incremental" instead of pursuing similarly big dreams.
The Democrat, speaking at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, recalled being an 18-year student at a Catholic boys school when the newly inaugurated president addressed Congress and laid down a monumental challenge.
"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth," Kennedy declared on May 25, 1961.
That goal was achieved in July 1969, nearly six years after Kennedy was assassinated, when the crew of Apollo 11 visited the moon and successfully returned home.
DERRY, N.H. Representative Paul Ryan’s plan to overhaul Medicare is causing controversy in Congress and likely contributed to yesterday’s defeat of a Republican House candidate in New York’s special election.
But speaking at Derry Medical Center in New Hampshire today, presidential candidate Newt Gingrich delivered an entire speech about health care without mentioning the overhaul, and then declined to take press questions about it.
Gingrich had previously criticized Ryan’s plan to turn Medicare into a voucher program, but the former House speaker backtracked after taking flak from his fellow Republicans.
When Senator John Kerry is in Washington or traveling the country and the world, his state director, Drew O'Brien, presides over his office back in Massachusetts.
Earlier today, Kerry had a chance to recognize his aide of nearly a decade, noting the passing of O'Brien's father Edward L. O'Brien of Marshfield earlier this month.
"Edward O'Brien was an extraordinary blessing to his family and to his friends, but also to the country he loved, when he served in the US Navy in World War II," Kerry said in remarks televised by C-SPAN.
He said Drew O'Brien perpetuated that example by "living the spirit of public service that his father instilled in him and all his family."
WASHINGTON — Elizabeth Warren is a Harvard professor and presidential adviser, but will she be a US Senate candidate, too?
Warren fever has ticked up a few degrees with this morning’s New York Times story reporting that Democratic Party officials are trying to persuade Warren to run against Republican US Senator Scott Brown next year. The law professor is currently working to set up a new federal regulatory agency to protect consumers, as called for in Wall Street reform laws.
In a brief interview yesterday, as she was rushing down a hallway after testifying on Capitol Hill, Warren offered the standard non-denial of interest in a Senate run: “I’m working on the consumer protection agency, that’s 14 hours a day, that’s what I’m working on,” she said.
A Political Intelligence entry on Sunday incorrectly attributed to Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown a statement about the House Republican budget that appeared on a left-leaning news and opinion website, Talking Points Memo. The entry inaccurately presented the Talking Points Memo statement as a direct quotation by the Republican senator, while the statement was actually Talking Points Memo's interpretation of the senator's position.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told reporters today in Pakistan that "there is too much at stake" for the United States and Pakistan to abandon their alliance.
He said he and Pakistani officials have agreed on a series of steps that each side would take to improve relations, but declined to detail what those steps were.
"There are real differences between our two countries, but the bonds that tie us together in the fight against the threat of extremists is stronger than those differences," he said during a news conference in Islamabad.
There's never been a shortage of people willing to lampoon Senator John Kerry, or who have delighted in him being roasted.
Kerry has inflicted some of the damage himself, from trying to register a yacht in Rhode Island in an apparent Massachusetts tax dodge, to heading out windsurfing when presidential campaign advisers said it would underscore the elitist image they were trying to overcome.
Other damage has come from piling-on, all too easy with a person who can spend nearly as much time deciding what brand of beer to drink as it takes to down the first pint.
But those thoughts, emotions, or memories can seem petty when considering the duties he undertook today: representing the United States and delivering its complaints in the aftermath of the May 2 raid that found and killed Osama bin Laden while he hid amid a Pakistani military garrison.
Jane Flavell Collins
Senator Scott Brown said yesterday the federal corruption trial of former House Speaker Salvatore F. DiMasi highlights the dangers of one-party dominance in Massachusetts and a "go-along-to-get-along" political culture.
Injecting politics into a normally celebratory moment, Brown said in remarks delivered at the Lasell College commencement ceremony: "I don't care if you're a Democrat or a Republican, just as one political party can't be right 100 percent of the time, it shouldn't have 100 percent of the power. Unchallenged power grows arrogant over time. It is what has given us one case of graft after another."
The lone Republican in the Massachusetts congressional delegation, Brown is seeking reelection next year in what has historically been a Democratic state. Democrats have begun lining up to challenge him, and Brown opponents have already started pounding him with advertising campaigns.
Newton Mayor Setti Warren has outlined how far he is willing to go to become the next US senator from Massachusetts: He will shake hands in the cold outside Fenway Park, if need be.
“I love the Red Sox they're doing pretty well," he told former Globe reporter Rick Klein when he appeared on "Top Line," the ABC News online program he now hosts each weekday. "I was at a game a few weeks ago. I’m gonna be out there, and across the state. We've been to cities and towns that's the kind of campaign I'm going to run, and that's the kind of campaign that will win.”
The comment harks back to January 2010, when fellow Democrat Martha Coakley mocked her then-Republican rival, then-state Senator Scott Brown, for pressing the flesh outside the ballpark when it hosted the NHL's "Winter Classic" on a frigid New Year's Day.
Brown went on to win the campaign and replace the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
Coakley went back to being attorney general.
"Mitt Romney, Belmont, Mass." penned a Letter to the Editor that appeared in today's Wall Street Journal, responding to a scathing editorial on the newpaper's conservative editorial page the day before.
In it, Romney sought to address some criticisms of the universal health care law he signed while governor of Massachusetts, a measure the Journal had argued raised questions about his fitness to be president.
The 2006 Massachusetts law became the template for the federal universal health care law signed last year by President Obama, which the Journal and others deride as "ObamaCare."
"While I have had my disagreements with the Journal's editorial board, where we find common ground is on the need to repeal ObamaCare and replace it with reforms that empower states to craft their own solutions," Romney wrote. "A one-size-fits-all plan that raises taxes and ignores the very real differences between states is the wrong course for our nation."
WASHINGTON -- The US House of Representatives passed legislation today to expand offshore gas and oil exploration to New England coastal waters and other areas where drilling is now banned.
The measure, which passed 243-179, is unlikely to advance beyond the House and would garner a veto from President Obama regardless. But the legislation highlights how energy and fuel prices have become one of the biggest political battlegrounds in the sharply divided Congress.
The bill makes no bones about its intent. Entitled the “Reversing President Obama's Offshore Moratorium Act,” the legislation countered a seven-year moratorium President Obama imposed last year on new offshore drilling. The bill would require the federal government to offer offshore leases in areas believed to have substantial oil and natural gas reserves.
“This legislation ensures that the Obama Administration can no longer withhold valuable energy resources necessary to increase American energy production here at home,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, a Virginia Republican, said in a statement. Cantor was among nine House members who didn’t vote on the bill.FULL ENTRY
J.D. Pooley/Getty Images
ANN ARBOR, Mich. Mitt Romney this afternoon tried to rebut conservative criticisms of his Massachusetts health care law as he called for abolishing President Obama’s national plan and replacing it with a new, more state-based reform of the US health care system.
In his first and perhaps most significant policy speech of his budding presidential campaign, he gave the strongest defense to date of his signature Massachusetts health care plan.
“A lot of pundits around the nation are saying that I should just stand up and say this whole thing was a mistake, that it was a boneheaded idea and I should just admit it, it was a mistake, and walk away from it,” Romney said. “And I presume that a lot of folks would conclude that if I did that, that would be good for me politically. But there’s only one problem with that: it wouldn’t be honest. I, in fact, did what I believed was right for the people of my state.”
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, a Democrat who heads the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is drafting legislation that would allow the opposition in Libya to access about $180 million in funds that have been frozen in Moammar Khadafy's overseas bank accounts, according to Libyan opposition leader Mahmoud Jibril.
Kerry announced the legislation Wednesday after a meeting with Jibril, but did not give a dollar amount.
But Jibril, who is being referred to as prime minister of the self-appointed opposition government that has taken charge of the effort to bring down Khadafy, told an audience at the Brookings Institution in Washington the amount of money Kerry is offering might be too little, too late.
He said the rebels need about $3 billion to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in cities besieged by Khadafy's forces and camps of fleeing refugees.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. The topic: health care. The concern: It could undermine Mitt Romney's run for president. A key critic: The Wall Street Journal. The response: A speech and a PowerPoint presentation.
That was the tack the former Massachusetts governor took today as he tried to address a key vulnerability in his expected presidential campaign. But it's also the exact tack Romney took in 2006, while he still was governor, as he geared up for his first White House campaign.
In each instance, he tried to mollify conservative critics who argued universal health care cut against their free-market and libertarian beliefs.
The following article was published in The Boston Globe on April 26, 2006:
A spokesman for Senator Scott Brown refused to say if he will travel to the CIA to see photos of a dead Osama bin Laden, after the agency offered today to show them to members of a congressional committee upon which the Republican serves.
The only other member of the Massachusetts congressional delegation who would qualify under the same offer, Democrat Niki Tsongas, will decline.
“The congresswoman is convinced that Osama bin Laden was killed and will not be requesting to see the photos,” said spokesman John Noble.
Brown spokesman Colin Reed said, “No comment on this.”
WASHINGTON -- Representative Barney Frank said today that he expects President Obama to bypass Congress and do a recess appointment to install the director of the new consumer protection agency for financial products.
The prediction follows a threat from Senate Republicans last week that they will block the confirmation of any director unless several measures to limit the agency's power are instituted.
Frank said such measures would allow Republicans to cripple the agency's power to protect consumers and possibly defund it altogether, eliminating one of the cornerstones of the financial regulation overhaul law passed last year. He said they were "acting like thugs" and forcing Obama to bypass the confirmation process.FULL ENTRY
Democrat Warren Tolman is considering a campaign to unseat Republican Senator Scott Brown next year.
Tolman refused to say if those people are dissatisfied with the current field, which doesn't include any of the better-known politicians in Massachusetts. Those who have already declared include Newton Mayor Setti Warren, City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, former lieutenant governor candidate Bob Massie, and Salem immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco.
Senator John F. Kerry in joining Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino in seeking answers today about cable rate increases in the city.
Kerry, the chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, wrote to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski for a report on rate changes in Boston and other Massachusetts towns.
“I hope to ascertain whether rate hikes are specific to Boston or systemic, if the hikes are justified, and what the factors are that can effectively check those rate hikes,” the Massachusetts Democrat wrote.
Menino has petitioned the FCC for the right to regulate cable rates after a city-funded study found that monthly rates had gone up 60 percent in the last three years. The city lost its ability to set cable prices in 2002.
Comcast claims its rates are fair, and that satellite TV services, free broadcast TV, and the city’s second cable provider, RCN Telecom Services LLC, makes for a “highly competitive’’ market in Boston.
“We believe we continue to offer the most affordable options and best values for consumers,” the company has said in a statement.
Theo Emery can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @temery.
Senator John Kerry today labeled Osama bin Laden's death "a potentially game-changing opportunity" for a political solution in war-torn Afghanistan.
Kicking off the third of six hearings on Afghanistan and Pakistan this month by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in Washington, Kerry said that could "bring greater stability to the region and bring our troops home." The Massachusetts Democrat serves as chairman of the committee.
"Let me be very clear: A precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan would be a mistake and I, for one, would take that option off the table," Kerry said in his prepared remarks. "Instead, we should be working toward the smallest footprint necessary, a presence that puts Afghans in charge and presses them to step up to that task at the same time that it secures our interests and accomplishes our mission of destroying Al Qaeda and preventing Afghanistan from ever again becoming a terrorist sanctuary.
"But make no mistake, it is unsustainable to continue spending $10 billion a month on a massive military operation with no end in sight and the good news is, we don’t have to. I am convinced that we can achieve our core goals at a more sustainable cost, in both lives and dollars," he added.
President Obama has pledged to begin removing some of the 130,000 US troops by July 31.
Matthew J. Lee / Globe Staff
(Editor's Note: This post contains math and, even more ominously, math performed by a journalist with guidance from politicians.)
Newton Mayor Setti Warren was set this morning to personally declare what he stated yesterday in a slick movie: He is a candidate for US Senate next year.
With City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, Somerville activist Bob Massie, and Salem immigration attorney Marisa DeFranco already declared candidates, that all but guarantees a contested Democratic primary in September 2012, even with some dropouts.
Pat Greenhouse / Globe Staff
Newton Mayor Setti Warren announced today that he will seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Senator Scott Brown for re-election next year.
In a heavily produced video, complete with stirring music, the former Kerry and Clinton aide said: "Many of you don't know me; I'm probably about as well known as Scott Brown was at this point two years ago."
Nonetheless, Warren said the race should reduce to a debate about party values.
Massachusetts Republican Party leaders today filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission against the League of Women Voters, alleging the nonprofit organization failed to properly file paperwork after it launched a television ad campaign criticizing Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown.
"We are calling on the League to immediately reveal their secret donors as the law requires, and to live by the same standards of openness and transparency they have encouraged others to adopt," Massachusetts Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Nassour said in a written statement.
The ads criticized Brown as well as Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill, a Democrat, for votes related to the Clean Air Act. Responding to the complaint, Elisabeth MacNamara, the organization's president, defended the ad, saying the ad targeted one particular issue, not the upcoming elections.
"Our ad will stand up to scrutiny because it is about Senator Scott Brown's vote to weaken the Clean Air Act and endanger public health," McNamara said in a statement issued Sunday. "It is not about an election that is 18 months away or a politician who may or may not be on the ballot in that election. The allegation to the FEC is simply a charade, designed to deflect attention away from Senator Brown's vote to block the Clean Air Act."
“Hello, I’m Scott Brown, and I have the honor of representing Massachusetts in the United States Senate.
“Last Sunday night, we heard President Obama deliver the message that Americans have been waiting for since September 11, 2001. It’s a very rare thing when so many people across the world observe the loss of life with something other than regret. But this man, the late Osama bin Laden, had chosen his fate long before in a life filled with cruelty. If he expected mercy when our forces found him that was asking much more than he was ever known to give.
“This was a man who rejoiced in the suffering and death of others, who set in motion all the horror and grief of 9/11 and considered it just a start. He was a teacher of evil, and now, for him, the lesson is over. It ends not in the fulfillment of some fanatical vision, but in the depths of the
WASHINGTON — US Senator Scott Brown will deliver the Republican response to President Obama’s weekly address this week, focusing on the killing of Osama bin Laden, American’s continued fight against terrorism and the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Brown’s remarks will be released tomorrow morning, according to the senator’s office.
Brown, a Massachusetts Republican, is a 31-year member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard and currently holds the rank of lieutenant colonel in the Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps. He had to backtrack earlier this week from comments he made in a TV interview, in which he claimed to have seen a photo of bin Laden’s corpse, which turned out to be a fake.
WASHINGTON — The League of Women Voters has offered strong support in the past for disclosing who pays for political advertising, but the voter education group this morning would not name the donors funding its TV ads attacking Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown—at least not this year.
“We comply with the spirit and the letter of the law and report all contributions in our annual reports,” said Elisabeth MacNamara, national president of the League of Women Voters, in a phone interview.
The group’s annual report covering 2011 will be out early next year, she said.FULL ENTRY
US Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, will meet with constituents tomorrow, May 7, at a town hall meeting in Boston’s Faneuil Hall to discuss national security, job creation, and other key issues affecting Massachusetts and the nation, according to a statement from Kerry’s office.
Doors open at noon. Kerry will begin the meeting at 1 p.m.
The Massachusetts Democratic Party issued a statement today saying Senator Scott Brown "owes" Massachusetts residents an explanation after the Republican asserted and then retracted that he had seen postmortem photos of Osama bin Laden.
“As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator Brown owes the people of Massachusetts more details as to what led him to believe that he was shown an authentic photo, and then what led him to feel comfortable enough to speak out publicly about the photo," party Chairman John Walsh said in a statement.
"He needs right away, today to provide answers to the following questions: who showed him the fake photo; who told him it was genuine when it wasn’t; and what are the procedures he uses to make sure he has reliable information before he gives voters that information?" Walsh added.
The chairman said the senator needs to “understand that his words matter, and his assertions are taken at face value because of his position."
Brown spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom replied: "With the Sal DiMasi corruption trial going on, I'm surprised that John Walsh has the time to criticize Republicans."
WASHINGTON -- Members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation are urging House appropriators not to support cuts to grants that pay for a range of community services for the poor, the disabled and the elderly.
Nine House members from Massachusetts are among 84 Democrats who sent a letter to the top members of the House Appropriations Committee saying that cuts to Community Service Block Grants would harm vulnerable citizens when the services are most needed. Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat, provided the letter's first signature.
"Severe cuts to CSBGs – the source of funding for community action programs - would hinder, rather than help, our nation’s economic recovery while devastating critical support services for the poor, disabled, children and the elderly," the letter read.
The only Massachusetts member who did not sign was John Olver of Amherst. Olver is a member of House Appropriations and as a policy does not sign letters to the committee, according to a spokeswoman.
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WASHINGTON Having seen unreleased photos of Osama bin Laden’s corpse, US Senator Scott Brown does not believe pictures of the dead terrorist leader should be made public, the Massachusetts Republican said in an interview on NECN.
“Let me assure you that he is dead, that bin Laden is dead I have seen the photos,” Brown said hours before President Obama declared he would not release the images.
During an interview with "60 Minutes," the president told the CBS News program that "we don't trot out trophies."
Asked directly if the pictures, which have been described as bloody and gruesome, should be made available for everyone, Brown told NECN: “If it’s to sell newspapers or just have a news cycle story, no, I don’t think they should be released. We’re still dealing with the sensitivities of the Muslim and Arab world. And we still have men and women serving throughout the world.”
Newton Mayor Setti Warren, a prospective candidate for US Senate, has booked the same American Legion Post where he announced his mayoral run for an unspecified event next Tuesday.
Aaron Goldman, who handles constituent services for the mayor, said Warren had reserved Post 440 in Newton for a “service breakfast,” but declined to elaborate.
"No comment," Warren told the Newton Tab, which first reported the booking, when the paper asked Warren if he planned to announce he is running against Republican Senator Scott Brown.
Deborah Shah, the mayor’s political director, said, “The mayor is hosting a service breakfast with people in his life who have done things for the community and he wants to honor them. I can’t say anything further at this time.”
Warren is a Navy veteran and a former aide to Senator John F. Kerry. City Year co-founder Alan Khazei and Somerville activist Bob Massie have already announced campaigns.
Mary Beth Cahill, once Senator Edward M. Kennedy's chief of staff, has been named director of the United Auto Workers' Washington office, as well as director of its UAW Community Action Program.
In both jobs, she will oversee the UAW’s political program nationally. She will also serve as a senior adviser to UAW President Bob King.
Cahill formerly served as assistant to the president and director of the Office of Public Liaison in the Clinton White House, as well as Kennedy's chief of staff and director of Senator John Kerry's 2004 presidential campaign.
She also spent five years at EMILY’s List, a PAC that supports female candidates and supports abortion rights.
“We are thrilled to have Mary Beth join the UAW leadership team especially in light of the difficult challenges ahead for our union,” King said in a statement. "As we navigate the tough political environment in this era of attacks on American working families and the middle class, and head into national contract talks for the domestic automakers, I’m confident that she will help us elect officeholders who are allies in the battle to save the American middle class."
Cahill is a Massachusetts native and the daughter of a UAW autoworker. She graduated from Emmanuel College with a degree in English and political science, and held a fellowship at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government in 2005.
WASHINGTON Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is seeking to refocus the nation's focus on Pakistan and Afghanistan in the run-up to a scheduled withdrawal of some US forces from Afghanistan, set to begin in July.
On Tuesday morning, Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, Princeton University Professor Anne-Marie Slaughter, Ronald E. Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy will appear before the committee.
It has already conducted 14 oversight hearings on the war, including the first congressional hearings on reconciliation and the mission in Marja.
The latest hearing was planned before Sunday's surprise announcement about the killing Osama bin Laden.
“The killing of Osama bin Laden closes an important chapter in our war against extremists who kill innocent people around the world." Kerry said in a statement. "A single death does not end the threat from al Qaeda and its affiliated groups and highlights the need to thoroughly evaluate our strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. We need to make certain we are asking tough questions about the direction and effectiveness of our policy/"
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Senator Scott Brown just issued a statement saying he requested his annual summer Massachusetts National Guard service period in Afghanistan.
“As a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts Army National Guard, I have service obligations that I fulfill each year.
"Following in the tradition of other lawmakers who have completed their military service requirements overseas, this year I have requested to conduct my annual training in Afghanistan.
"Doing so will help me to better understand our ongoing mission in that country, and provide me first-hand experience for my duties on the Senate Armed Services, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs committees," he said.
Brown has been in the Guard since 1979, but he has never been deployed to a war zone. His service this summer will come around the July set by President Obama for beginning to start removing some of the 132,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan.
Typically such training periods last two weeks. It would not be considered a formal activation of his JAG unit.
The statement was issued about 90 minutes after Brown spoke with the Globe about heading to the war zone.
Senator Scott Brown issued a statement this morning saying he has requested to conduct his annual National Guard training in Afghanistan.
“As a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts Army National Guard, I have service obligations that I fulfill each year.
"Following in the tradition of other lawmakers who have completed their military service requirements overseas, this year I have requested to conduct my annual training in Afghanistan.
"Doing so will help me to better understand our ongoing mission in that country, and provide me first-hand experience for my duties on the Senate Armed Services, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs committees," he said.
Brown has been in the Guard since 1979, but he has never been deployed to a war zone. His service this summer will come around the July set by President Obama for beginning to start removing some of the 132,000 US troops stationed in Afghanistan.
Typically such training periods last two weeks. It would not be considered a formal activation of his JAG unit.
About 90 minutes before issuing his statement, Brown said in a telephone interview with the Globe, "I’m going to be going over at some point to do some missions.”
After President Obama told the nation last night about the death of Osama bin Laden, senior members of his administration held a conference call to brief reporters on the details of the mission.
Following is a transcript of that call, as provided by the White House, with all but one of the speakers identified as "senior administration officials."
It was led by Tommy Vietor, the chief spokesman for the National Security Council:
Following are the full texts of statements issued last night by President Obama and Massachusetts Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown after the death of Osama bin Laden:
Jason Reed / Reuters
President Bush started the search for Osama bin Laden on Sept. 11, 2001, and President Obama ended it yesterday, and each man took special pride in the accomplishment.
Bush, in a statement posted on the Facebook page of his wife, former first lady Laura Bush, said: "The fight against terror goes on, but tonight America has sent an unmistakable message: No matter how long it takes, justice will be done."
Obama, meanwhile, wore an American flag pin on his lapel as he strode to a lectern in the East Room of the White House to make the official announcement.
"Justice has been done," the president said in remarks that began at 11:35 p.m.
Obama also went to lengths to detail the circumstances that led to bin Laden's death, as well as his leadership of it, starting with him saying he made it his top terrorism priority since shortly after taking office in 2009.
"Then, last August, after years of painstaking work by our intelligence community, I was briefed on a possible lead to bin Laden. It was far from certain, and it took many months to run this thread to ground. I met repeatedly with my national security team as we developed more information about the possibility that we had located bin Laden hiding within a compound deep inside of Pakistan. And finally, last week, I determined that we had enough intelligence to take action, and authorized an operation to get Osama bin Laden and bring him to justice," said the president.
Then, in his crescendo, he added: "Today, at my direction, the United States launched a targeted operation against that compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan."
Obama's backers will surely argue that the achievement validates his effort to shift the focus from the war on terror from insurgents and Saddam Hussein's loyalists in Iraq to the Taliban in Afghanistan, part of a campaign pledge he made to target bin Laden, the culprit of the 9/11 attacks.
As a senator, Obama declared he would authorize US forces to go into Pakistan to get bin Laden if that was where he sought refuge. In the end, that is what happened, with uncertain diplomatic repercussions for the country.
The president himself did not have to gloat, the facts potent enough to speak for themselves.
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Scott Brown is hitting back at a voter education group that began running a critical television spot today, saying the ad "reeks of political demagoguery."
The League of Women Voters’ television spot features a young girl on a respirator, and accuses Brown of siding with polluters when he voted this month for a measure that would have stripped the EPA of its ability to regulate greenhouse gases. A similar ad aimed at Democrat Claire McCaskill is airing in her home state of Missouri.
"It is outrageous for an allegedly non-partisan group to use sick children to misrepresent a vote about jobs and government over-regulation. These type of over-the-top distortions have no place in our political discourse,” Brown, a Republican, said in a statement.
Brown and McCaskill's states are the only ones where the ads are playing; both are up for re-election in 2012. The spots have the appearance of issue ads that typically pop up during election seasons that point out how candidates voted on particular issues.
Before Brown's comments, League of Women Voters President Elisabeth MacNamara said the spots were not attack ads, and did not target Brown and McCaskill because of their upcoming elections. She said that “there is an accountability piece” to running them, but said it was not related to their elections. The votes of all 100 senators are available at an accompanying Web site.
“These are not intended to at all attack these particular senators. They are designed to draw attention to the votes that were made by these two particular senators," she said.
Theo Emery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @temery.
WASHINGTON – A voting rights advocacy group is taking to the airwaves today with a campaign-style ad criticizing Senator Scott Brown for a vote to curb the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulatory power.
The League of Women Voters’ television spot accuses Brown, a Republican, of siding with polluters with his vote earlier this month that would have stripped EPA of its ability to regulate greenhouse gases. A similar ad aimed at Democrat Claire McCaskill will air in her home state of Missouri.
Brown and McCaskill are the only senators being targeted, and both are up for re-election in 2012. The spots have the appearance of issue ads that typically pop up during campaigns pointing out how candidates voted on particular issues. The ad buy is significant, costing over a million dollars, according to the company that produced it.FULL ENTRY
WASHINGTON -- Congressman Michael Capuano took aim today at Senator Scott Brown's advocacy for a reconfigured Suffolk County voting district aimed at empowering minority voters, saying his current district already fits that criteria.
"Senator Brown is entitled to share his opinion on redistricting. But he is not entitled to his own facts and the facts could not be clearer," the Somerville Democrat wrote in an email newsletter to constituents and supporters.FULL ENTRY
EXETER, N.H. – Members of Congress have talked about the hard choices that must be made to get the country’s debt under control. Now, they’re figuring out just how difficult those decisions are going to be – and the political price that could be paid for making them.
Representative Frank Guinta, a first-term Republican from Manchester, faced a feisty crowd tonight at a town hall meeting in a high school in this quiet town near the seacoast.
The crowd booed at some responses, hissed at others. Audience members yelled and pointed at the congressman, and they yelled and pointed at each other.
Guinta was swept into office last year with a wave of Tea Party-fueled anger – largely over the economy and health care – and, constituents seemed to remind him tonight, he could just as easily be swept out.
It was an indication of the unrest going on throughout the country, as House Republicans attempt to defend their votes to implement drastic budget cuts and curb long-cherished entitlement programs.FULL ENTRY
WASHINGTON -- President Obama’s nomination of Leon Panetta as his next secretary of defense and General David Petraeus as CIA director are getting high marks today from both Massachusetts senators.
John Kerry, a Democrat, and Scott P. Brown, a Republican, praised the two men on the day that the president announced the nominations in a reshuffling of his national security team.
“While the country will miss the service of Secretary (Robert) Gates, Leon Panetta and General Petraeus are first-rate public servants whose reputations and records transcend party, and I expect broad approval and swift confirmations,” Kerry, the head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.
Petraeus and Panetta have both served "admirably," Brown said of the two men. As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he will participate in Panetta's hearing and vote on his nomination it goes to the full senate for confirmation.
"I look forward to learning more about their views and goals for the future during their confirmation hearings," Brown said in a statement.FULL ENTRY
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Governor Deval Patrick, a close personal and political friend of President Obama, today said questions about the authenticity of his birth certificate and thus his legitimacy as the country's leader represent "a new low in American politics."
“I hope and I believe that the American people are bigger and better than this," the Democrat said during his monthly appearance on WTKK-FM, his most free-wheeling regular public engagement.
Asked whether he felt race was motivating questions not only about Obama's birthplace but also his academic record, Patrick like Obama the first African-American to hold his job said: “I have no idea, but whatever is motivating it, it feels like a new low in American politics, particularly when you consider the extraordinary challenges facing this country and this president, that we would spend our time on stuff like that and attempts to marginalize our president.”
Jim Wilson/Globe Staff
Listening to Donald Trump yesterday, speaking caustically and bombastically against the backdrop of a gleaming helicopter emblazoned with the name "Trump," I was struck by the contrast between him and the late Senator Paul Tsongas.
The Massachusetts Democrat announced his candidacy for the presidency 20 years ago Saturday, on April 30, 1991, and the approaching anniversary had prompted me to reminisce in recent weeks about the first White House campaign I covered.
The difference between Tsongas and Trump could not be more pronounced.
WASHINGTON -- Senator Scott Brown is throwing himself into the redistricting fight in Massachusetts, urging the creation of a voting district in Boston that could help a non-white candidate be elected to Congress.
Brown, a Republican, wrote today to state Senator Stanley Rosenberg and Representative Mike Moran, the co-chairs of the legislature’s Special Committee on Redistricting, in support of a Suffolk County Congressional district that is majority non-white, which are known as majority-minority districts.
“It is my hope that any redistricting for congressional or state legislative seats will result in districts that avoid diluting the voting strength of citizens based on the color of their skin,” he wrote.
Caroline Kennedy will open a new wing next week at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
The daughter of the slain president will join Director Tom Putnam for a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 12:30 p.m. on May 4.
In 2001 the National Archives conducted a program review of the library that concluded that "storage problems seen at the Kennedy Library are the worst in the entire presidential library system.”
Congress approved the funding to design and build a 30,000-square-foot addition to the library building on Columbia Point to ensure the appropriate preservation and security of President Kennedy’s papers and historical artifacts.
JFK was born 94 years ago on May 29.
Alan Khazei today officially declared he is running for the Democratic nomination for the seat currently held by Republican US Senator Scott Brown.
On his website, through Twitter and Facebook, the co-founder of City Year sent out the same message.
"It's official,'' he wrote. “I’m in.''
A two-and-a-half minute announcement video posted on his website offered a more detailed look at his campaign themes.
“As I’ve traveled across our state, I’ve heard from many people who are concerned that opportunity is drying up, that the American dream is in trouble and the system is failing too many Americans,” Khazei says in the video. “It’s stacked in favor of powerful special interests and designed for a time long gone by.”
Veteran Democratic political strategist Joe Trippi has signed on with Somerville activist Bob Massie in his campaign against US Senator Scott Brown.
Massie has already declared his candidacy for next year's Democratic nomination. City Year co-founder Alan Khazei also announced today that he was running.
In a statement, Trippi noted he began his career on the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy's 1980 presidential campaign. The strategist also was instrumental in Howard Dean's surprise showing in the 2004 Democratic presidential primary campaign.
“Bob Massie has a remarkable story in which he has demonstrated insight, courage, and tenacity," Trippi said in a statement. "He will defend the American Dream, excite the Democratic base, draw in independents, and take the seat back from Scott Brown, who simply does not represent the values of Massachusetts."
Massie campaign manager Matt Wilson said: “Joe Trippi’s history motivating and engaging the grassroots is second to none. His experience in local, national, and international politics complements Bob’s vision of a better life for all.”
Live by the op-ed, die by the op-ed.
Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney learned that today, when he made an apparent gaffe in what has become the favored form of communication in his carefully choreographed pre-campaign run-up: the newspaper op-ed column.
The former Massachusetts governor found that when you virtually limit your media exposure to written columns, as opposed to unrestricted media questions, you can control your message but you also leave no one else to blame when there's trouble.
President Obama didn't exactly blame the American people for missing the point last night as his poll numbers have plunged, but he did state they have been so focused on their daily lives they haven't focused deeply enough on the broader, more thematic underpinnings of the great recent congressional debates.
Addressing a star-studded fundraiser audience at the Tavern restaurant in Los Angeles that included actors Tom Hanks and George Clooney, Obama said he expected the majority of voters to end up siding with him when they focus their attention on the candidates, the policies they propose, and their personal values during next year's campaign.
Massachusetts listeners can't but hear the echoes of the "values" focus that Governor Deval Patrick offered during his successful reelection campaign last fall, and which he has continued amid his recent book tour.
Those of us who covered the Kerry for President campaign in 2004 felt a special horror in yesterday's news about the two photographers who were killed in Libya.
The more widely known to the world, perhaps, was Tim Hetherington, who received an Academy Award nomination for "Restrepo," his documentary about a US platoon in an Afghanistan valley.
The more closely known to the campaign travelers, though, was Chris Hondros of Getty Images. He rode the Kerry plane often and brought his combat photography skills to the political arena.
Senator John Kerry just issued a statement in which the Massachusetts Democrat recounts many of Hondros's traits and campaign moments:
Congressman Edward Markey, a Malden Democrat, and a group of “seniors, working families, and health care providers” will rally in Brighton today against a US House Republican plan to dramatically change Medicare, the health care program for the elderly, and Medicaid, which provides health care to low income people. The rally is 1 p.m. at the Veronica Smith Senior Center.
“Republicans in the House of Representatives are advocating dangerous cuts to Medicare and Medicaid that do nothing to address skyrocketing health care costs or the real causes of federal deficits,” according to a notice for the event sent out by organizers. “Their proposal will cut benefits for seniors, increase premiums and end guaranteed coverage.”
The GOP budget plan would replace the current Medicare system with a program to provide seniors money to buy their own private health insurance, and would transform Medicaid into a Block Grant program for states.
Mark Arsenault can be reached at email@example.com.
Governor Deval Patrick, pressed about his aspirations for higher
office during an appearance on national television today, said he would
not run against US Senator Scott Brown, even if President Obama urged
him to do so.
"That conversation is not going to happen, and I've been very clear I
do not want to serve in the United States Senate," Patrick said during
a five-minute interview with Matt Lauer on the "Today" show.
Patrick was appearing on the show to promote his memoir, and Lauer,
who introduced the governor as a "rising star," asked several times
whether the book was a precursor to a run for national office. Patrick
insisted it was not.
Senator Scott Brown, who has been sharply criticized by environmentalists for a recent vote on air pollution control, wants to reduce energy costs, wean the nation off foreign oil and increase domestic energy production.
With gas prices soaring and families preparing to fill their tanks for summer vacations, the Massachusetts Republican plans to introduce bipartisan legislation in coming weeks intended to decrease gas use, increase efficiency and require energy audits of federal projects.
A video press release from Brown accompanied the announcement, in which Brown said “the status quo is not acceptable when it comes to our energy policy.”
“We must start to develop more of the domestic sources of energy here at home in an environmentally-friendly manner. We need to take an all-of-the-above approach, and this includes wind, solar, hydro, geo-thermal, clean coal, natural as, biofuels, conservation, R & D tax credits -- everything must be on the table,” he said.
He did not mention drilling, which was included in the prepared script of the video.
The raft of three bills will include legislation giving tax-credits to businesses that retrofit their vehicles with hybrid technology; another bill would provide more disclosure of home energy use; and a third would require energy audits of federally funded projects.
Environmental groups criticized Brown after he voted earlier this month in favor of a budget amendment that would have stripped the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases. In addition, Brown was recently caught on camera asking for a campaign donation from billionaire David Koch, whom critics accuse of bankrolling opposition to greenhouse gas regulation. Brown later received a $2,500 donation from Koch Industries’ political action committee.
Asked about the timing of Brown’s legislative announcement, a spokesman said in an email that “Senator Brown believes these proposals are positive first steps toward addressing skyrocketing energy costs.”
Theo Emery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @temery.
Senator Scott Brown says people demanding he name the former counselor who allegedly sexually abused him when he attended a Cape Cod summer camp as a 10-year-old "have no clue" about working through such an episode.
The Massachusetts Republican made the allegation in mid-February when released his new book, "Against All Odds." But since then, he has refused to name the camp where the alleged abuse occurred, the counselor he says abused him, or provide authorities with information for a possible prosecution.
The senator has explained that he wants to move on with his life, even as critics suggest remaining silent has allowed an abuser to go unpunished and possibly victimized others.
U.S. Representative John Tierney wants an end to government tax breaks and loopholes that he says cost the government billions of dollars a year, and is hoping that fiscal conservatives will join him in the effort.
The Salem Democrat plans to file legislation in coming weeks called the Tax Equity and Middle Class Fairness Act of 2011 which would end over two dozen so-called “tax expenditures” which divert revenues out of treasury coffers.
Those expenditures include subsidies, tax credits, exclusions and exemptions for individuals and corporations that are difficult to root out of the tax code.
While Tierney calculates that there are some 250 such expenditures in all, the bill targets only about 30 of them; the General Accounting Office would review the rest and report to Congress.
“We found what we though were some obvious ones that we could address in the short term,” he said.
The legislation, which is still being finalized and does not yet have co-sponsors, would eliminate tax breaks for oil, gas and coal companies; write-offs for corporate meals and entertainment; and agribusiness and timber subsidies.
Tierney said that he hopes deficit hawks among House Republicans will join him in the effort, although he doesn’t have any commitments yet.
“I would hope that we’ve get some support on the fiscally conservative side, because it certainly is as fiscally conservative a measure as anything that’s going to be proposed on that,” he said.
Columbia University economics professor Joseph E. Stiglitz, a former chief economist for the World Bank who joined Tierney on a conference call about the legislation, said that the current debate the proposal is timely amid ongoing debate over spending and the deficit.
“Now that the budget issue has come to the fore, this is precisely a good time to address this long-standing problem in our whole fiscal situation,” he said.
Theo Emery can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @temery.
WASHINGTON — US Senator Scott Brown took some ribbing after a liberal blog last month posted video of the Massachusetts Republican asking conservative billionaire David Koch for support in his next campaign—but Brown’s request apparently worked.
Shortly after his conversation with Koch, Brown received a $2,500 donation to his campaign fund from Koch Industries through its political action committee, according to campaign finance reports made public yesterday.
The blog, Think Progress, shot the video of Brown and Koch at a March 4 event at the David H. Koch Integrative Cancer Institute at MIT. In the video, Brown is seen telling Koch, “Your support during the election, it meant a ton. It made a difference and I can certainly use it again.”
The video was posted March 7. Brown’s campaign reported it received Koch’s contribution on March 11.
Mark Arsenault can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senator Scott Brown threw out the first pitch before the Patriots Day game between the Red Sox and Toronto Blue Jays.
Then he headed to the NESN broadcast booth and described the jealousy some fellow members of Congress feel over the success of his hometown teams.
"People don't realize when you're in a state where they have no chance of ever winning anything, the amount of jealousy amongst the senators and the congressmen, 'Oh, my gosh, you're from Boston? The Red Sox, the Celtics, the Bruins,' everyone's always in the playoffs, always in the hunt," Brown to play-by-play man Don Orsillo and color commentator Jerry Remy.
"If you're down in Washington or Baltimore, they're not quite there," said the senator, who was dressed in a Red Sox warm-up jacket for the occasion.
Nonetheless, Brown said he has attended some Washington Nationals games with his family and staff, to relax with the former and work on team-building with the latter.
Senator Scott Brown is taking a tour tomorrow of XL Hybrids, a Somerville-based company that converts standard gasoline engines into hybrids.
The tour will occur from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
Afterward, Brown will hold a press conference to discuss his proposed legislation for reducing energy costs.
Potential US Senate candidate Alan Khazei has announced the first event for his campaign exploratory committee.
In a Facebook posting, the Democrat said he would meet with supporters at 6 p.m. on April 26 at the Old South Meeting House in Boston.
"I would love the opportunity to share with you my thoughts on how to get our country back on the right track and also hear your ideas and thoughts," said Khazei. "I look forward to meeting and listening to the voters of the commonwealth to hear their concerns and ideas about the challenges and opportunities facing our state and country."
President Obama's deficit-reduction speech wasn't just about numbers but what kind of country America will become, Governor Deval Patrick said this morning during an appearance on ABC's "This Week" news program.
While Republicans have criticized the partisan nature of last week's address, in which Obama proposed cutting $4 trillion over 12 years, Patrick said the critics glossed over its overarching theme.
“It’s a fiscally responsible but also mutually responsible kind of community, and I support that," the governor told host Christiane Amanpour.
Amid rancorous debate in Congress over spending and taxes, the White House flipped the switch today on an online system for calculating where tax revenues are being spent.
The White House launched its “Federal Taxpayer Receipt” site on what is typically the deadline for Americans to file their tax returns, although this year taxes are due on April 18. The administration said the site was an effort to increase government openness and transparency.
“Today, we’re hopeful that with this tool for regular Americans, everyday Americans, they can actually see these dollars flowing as easily as one can click a mouse,” said Aneesh Chopra, the White House chief technology officer.
By plugging in the amounts of federal taxes deducted from paychecks, taxpayers can see how much of their taxes go to different parts of the federal government, such as defense, health care and veterans services.
President Obama had called for such a system in his State of the Union speech this year. Senator Scott Brown, a Massachusetts Republican, co-sponsored legislation last month with Democrat Bill Nelson of Florida that would require the IRS to send a receipt to every person who files a tax return.
"I believe that providing Americans with an itemized receipt of how the government is spending their money will help improve transparency and accountability as we work to rein in federal spending and deal with our record debt,” Brown said.
Pete Sepp, a spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, a free-market group that seeks lower taxes, said the site could be helpful in showing how the federal tax system is what he called "one big transfer payment."
"Yes, they'll see considerable amounts for the military and smaller ones for things like highways but many folks will likely see for the first time that much of the money coming out of their paychecks is winding up in someone else's check," he said.
Theo Emery can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @temery.
WASHINGTON -- U.S. Representative Edward J. Markey accused the Nuclear Regulatory Commission today of concealing inspection results at U.S. nuclear power plants and limiting the scope and length of reactor inspections.
In a letter to commission Chairman Greg Jaczko, the Malden Democrat protested what he said were limits on inspectors checking U.S. nuclear reactors in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami that badly damaged the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan.
“We should stand prepared to learn from the catastrophe in Japan and plan ahead to address what was unforeseen but occurred anyway, rather than attempting to hide our vulnerabilities from public view,” he wrote.
Commission spokeswoman Prema Chandrathil said the ongoing review of safety at U.S. plants goes "far beyond" physical inspections at plants, and is looking for problems other than just design flaws. Moreover, she said, a report on safety at U.S. plants will be made public at the end of a lengthy review process.
While some findings at plants are generally not made public because of post-Sept. 11 security measures, she said the commission always takes action when warranted.
“In response to the events in Japan, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission will take any regulatory action deemed necessary, she said.
After last month’s disaster, the commission announced increased inspections of all U.S. nuclear plants to ensure their safety. It has also sent inspectors to aid Japanese authorities.
Markey alleged that the commission’s review of domestic plants is inadequate, and conceals vital information from the public. Inspectors are limited to 40 hours for single-reactor plants and 50-60 hours for multi-reactor plants, according to Markey, which is not enough to full inspect plants.
In addition, inspectors were initially not allowed to look for safety vulnerabilities to unanticipated catastrophic events, he claimed. An outcry from inspectors allowed them to do so, but they were not permitted to note them in writing, putting them instead in a secret database and shielding them from public scrutiny, he said.
“The fact that they plan to keep the most serious vulnerabilities secret raises questions about whether the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is more interested in public relations than public safety,” Markey said.
Markey, who has held his seat since 1976, cast his 20,000 vote yesterday on the House floor.
Theo Emery can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @temery.
Both Massachusetts senators voted against a budget amendment today that would have banned federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood, a measure that was part of a bargain struck last week to avoid a government shutdown.
Scott Brown, a Republican, and John Kerry, a Democrat, were among those voting against the Planned Parenthood resolution, which was defeated 58-42. Both senators went on to vote for the six-month budget measure funding the government through September.
"As I've said before, I believe this particular cut goes too far," Brown said in a brief statement.
Brown’s vote earned praise from Dianne Luby, president of the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, who said the amendment would have cut off federal funds for a range of women’s health services, from breast cancer screening to HIV testing.
“Clearly, Senator Brown was listening to his constituents when he cast his vote to protect women’s health,” Luby said in a statement. “He understands that Planned Parenthood is an essential community provider and that cutting off access to critical preventive health services is not smart public health or fiscal policy.”
The vote was included in a pact that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio and President Obama reached late last week just before a midnight deadline to fund the government.
During the tense budget talks, House Republicans had sought to ban the use of federal funds for Planned Parenthood because the organization provides abortions, although federal law already prohibits the use of federal funds to pay for most abortions. The issue became a major obstacle to a budget deal long after spending reductions and disagreement over other social issues had been decided.
The Planned Parenthood amendment allowed the measure to receive a debate and a vote in the Senate, where the Democrats have a majority, and its defeat was expected.
Theo Emery can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @temery.
The United Nations confirmed today that last week’s Iraqi army raid of Camp Ashraf resulted in the deaths of 34 Iranian exiles. Camp Ashraf is home to many members of the People's Mujahedeen Organization of Iran, a group in opposition to Iran’s clerical leaders that had found refuge in Iraq during Saddam Hussein’s regime. The Iraqi government has announced an investigation into the incident.
"The current situation at the camp is untenable,” Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts said in a statement that condemned the Iraqi military’s “massacre.” Kerry also called on the United States, the United Nations, the European Union, to help all parties find "a peaceful and durable solution," and permanent homes for the Camp Ashraf residents.
Read Kerry’s full statement below.
Representative James McGovern, a Worcester Democrat, joined a bipartisan effort to link the escalating budget deficit with the on-going costs of the Afghan war.
"This week we are debating a budget that purports to represent new fiscal restraint, yet continues to borrow tens of billions of dollars for the war in Afghanistan," McGovern said Thursday at an event on Capitol Hill organized by Brave New Foundation, a California-based social justice organization. "I'm tired of being told that we don't have enough money for education or infrastructure or medical research, but we can afford to spend billions of dollars propping up a corrupt regime in Kabul."
McGovern has been working with Representative Walter Jones, a North Carolina Republican, to introduce legislation as early as May that would require exit strategy from Afghanistan.
"President Obama has said that we will begin to withdraw our troops in July of this year. We must hold him to that promise," McGovern said. "Rather than nation-building in Afghanistan, we need to do some more nation-building right here at home."
The event was part of a Brave New Foundation's Rethink Afghanistan campaign, which seeks to highlight the costs of the war by building a web site that calculates how much an American citizen has contributed to the war's cost.
Farah Stockman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
HOOKSETT, N.H. With a 22-person media contingent outside, and only a handful of prospective voters inside, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour wasn't trying to conceal the message he was sending to New Hampshire voters as he wound down his first visit of the year as a prospective presidential contender.
I'm one of you, he said with deeds as much as words nonetheless spoken with a Southern drawl.
Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
MANCHESTER, N.H. Who knew?
Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour claimed a New England connection this morning as he confessed to being a Boston Red Sox fan on the strength of his longtime friendship with a former team catcher.
Stopping by a frequent political haunt, the Chez Vachon on the west side of Manchester, Barbour told a table that included Mayor Ted Gatsas that he played on a two-time state high school championship team with future Red Sox player Jerry Moses.
Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
BOW, N.H. Southern charm collided with Yankee skepticism last night as Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour made his first visit of the year to New Hampshire as a prospective presidential candidate.
With his trademark drawl and affable demeanor, Barbour worked a crowd of about 30 people at the home of former New Hampshire Republican Party chairwoman Jayne Millerick, introducing himself by saying simply, "Hi, I'm Haley."
(See my earlier post here.)
Then he was peppered with questions about everything from his views on spending cuts and entitlement reform to US intervention in Libya, as voters in the lead presidential primary state upheld their tradition as vetters-in-chief of would-be commanders-in-chief.
Women who are sexually assaulted while serving in the armed services would receive greater legal rights and protections under legislation that US Representative Niki Tsongas introduced today.
Tsongas, a Lowell Democrat, introduced the legislation with Mike Turner, an Ohio Republican, to address a problem that as many as one in three women report experiencing while serving in the military. The number could be higher, as only about 13 percent of sexual assaults in the military are reported, according to the Pentagon.
"We ask our men and women in uniform who serve in the military to put their lives on the line for our country, and they shouldn't fear or experience harm from their fellow soldiers," said Tsongas, who serves on the House Armed Services Committee.
The legislation would guarantee assault victims the right to a military lawyer, a transfer to another base, and a right to confidentiality when speaking with victim advocates and counselors.
The legislation would also provide more training to prevent and respond to sexual assault in the armed services. The legislation also creates new record-keeping requirements around sexual assault.
Sexual assault in the military has become a subject of litigation in recent years. The American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut and the Service Women's Action Network filed a lawsuit late last year seeing data on sexual assault cases within the military judicial system. In addition, more than a dozen women and two men have filed suit against the military in February.
Tsongas has a track record of advocating on behalf of sexual abuse victims in the military. In 2010, she was successful in adding language to a defense spending bill that forced the military to adopt a new reporting and documentation system for sexual assault, among other measures.
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images
During the 2004 presidential campaign, Senator John Kerry thought so highly of Senator John McCain that the Democratic presidential nominee broached the idea of joining forces with the Arizona Republican on a bipartisan White House ticket.
McCain politely declined, swallowed his pride, and made up that year with George W. Bush, who had savaged him during the 2000 GOP South Carolina primary en route to the presidency.
Bush ended up beating Kerry for a second term.
Congress begins a new scramble today to pass a budget bill cutting billions of dollars in spending this year, resetting the clock on the next deadline to keep the federal government running.
Early this morning, aides completed work on an appropriations bill that cuts nearly $40 billion in spending. The committee staff have been working around the clock on the bill since House Republicans, Senate Democrats, and the White House shook hands on a deal that averted a government shutdown last Friday at midnight.
The bargain makes about $27 billion in new cuts on top of roughly $12 billion that have been previously agreed to. While the Obama administration and others have described the broad outlines of the agreement, details only emerged with the release of the bill this morning.
David L. Ryan, Globe Staff
Northeast Democrats will be at their most creative today and tomorrow, as they aim to tweak Republican Mitt Romney in conjunction with the fifth anniversary of the Massachusetts universal health care law.
New Hampshire Democrats are sending out an email at 9 a.m. today, urging their supporters to flood Romney's official Twitter handle, @MittRomney, with thanks and congratulations for a piece of legislation that is anathema to many of his fellow conservatives across the country.
The 2006 Massachusetts law, signed while Romney was governor of the state, became the model for the 2010 federal universal health care law signed by President Obama, the Democrat he hopes to face in next year's presidential race.
Governor Deval Patrick's planned appearance Monday on NBC-TV's "Today" show is being postponed until later this week.
The date still has yet to be set, but spokesman Steve Crawford said the Democrat fell prey to the crush of recent news, including the near-government shutdown that finally was resolved just before midnight Friday.
Instead, the governor will spend Monday in Boston.
This week is the launch of the book tour for the governor's memoir, "A Reason to Believe."
Patrick is still slated to head to New York on Tuesday for a series of stops, including Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart.
Governor Deval Patrick embarks on his booktour Monday, with a pretty good first stop: A time slot in the 7 a.m. hour on NBC-TV's "Today" show.
It's shown locally on WHDH-TV (Channel 7).
It's still unclear who will interview him, but the governor is expected to talk about his memoir, "A Reason to Believe."
As a friend and political ally of President Obama, he could also expect questions about any government shutdown, the fifth anniversary of the Massachusetts health care law (on Tuesday), and his dust-up with Senator Scott Brown at today's groundbreaking for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.
The governor is coming back to Massachusetts after the show, but heading back to New York on Tuesday for a series of stops, including Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" with Jon Stewart.
Several readers have written in the aftermath of my recent post about the wonderful annual spring White House Garden Tour being offered this weekend.
They have asked whether the tours would be affected by a federal government shutdown, and the answer is yes.
A White House official told me that all tours of the president's home would be cancelled during a shutdown, including garden tours.
President Obama and his family were supposed to vacate the premises this weekend and visit Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, but that trip has been scotched as the administration tries to avert a shutdown at midnight.
If one were avoided, the silver lining for anyone on a garden tour is that they would apparently gain a chance to see the president.
The White House also offers garden tours each fall, typically in October assuming any shutdown doesn't last that long.
WASHINGTON -- Senator John Kerry today lamented the inability of Washington politicians to reach a compromise on the federal budget and avert a shutdown, invoking the spirit of a great compromiser, the late Edward M. Kennedy.
He said he had planned to be in Boston to attend today's groundbreaking for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate but was unable to leave the Capitol because of the ongoing negotiations.
Kerry called the budget showdown and threat of a government shutdown an "embarrassing moment" for the Senate.
"Generations of young Americans will come to the Kennedy Institute to understand what the United States Senate was intended to be," Kerry said on the Senate floor today. "But 100 Senators don’t need to wait that long. We can do what Ted Kennedy and so many other Senators of both parties used to know how to do – which is find common ground and insist on common sense.”
The full text of Kerry's prepared remarks is below.FULL ENTRY
The U.S. Chamber Of Commerce President Thomas Donohue told a group of reporters at a breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor on Friday that the brinksmanship over a tiny slice of the federal budget -- 1.7 percent of total federal outlays -- will press Congress to reluctantly grapple with the bigger issues of entitlements.
"It will be ugly, it will take time, but we will do some good amount of the things on the table for our survival," he said.
The Chamber of Commerce has been urging members of Congress to avoid a government shut down, arguing that it could damage the economy if it lasts more than a few days by delaying the pay checks of federal employees. Donohue said a short shutdown may ultimately not have a negative effect.
"I think we've had shutdowns starting in 1975, about 15 or 20 times to this point. Most of them were very short. One of them was 21 days, but most of them were a day and a half, two days, three days, five days. So, no, I don't think it upsets economic growth that much," said Donohue. "It certainly upsets the people that have to run our government."
The Chamber of Commerce, under R. Bruce Josten, Executive Vice President For Government Affairs, is putting together a coalition to raise the debt limit, but with conditions attached that would reign in federal spending in other ways.
"We have been telling people 'Work it out. Get it done,'" Josten said. "We appreciate the theatrics [of the threatened shut-down]. . .Eventually we are going to get there."
Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
The words and spirit of Senator Edward M. Kennedy were evoked this morning at the groundbreaking ceremony for the educational institute that will bear the late Democrat’s name.
Under glorious skies, hundreds of former staffers, local and national political figures, as well as average citizens, flocked to the groundbreaking for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. It will be built, starting later this summer, on Columbia Point next to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
Among those in attendance were the senator’s widow, Victoria Reggie Kennedy; children, Edward Jr., Kara, and Patrick; as well as relatives Caroline Kennedy, Joseph P. Kennedy II, and Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.
Glen Johnson/Globe Staff
12:09 p.m. - Speechmaking over, the family is now heading outside to toss dirt.
Thanks for reading.
12:04 p.m. - Vicki Kennedy asked the whole family to join her on stage, and standing right in front, in brilliant red, is the senator's first wife, Joan.
Vicki Kennedy said she wants the center to be exciting and dynamic, and cutting-edge, because her late husband was all three.
Among the two dozen family members is Amy Petigout, who recently became engaged to former Representative Patrick Kennedy, the senator's youngest child.
She leaned against her fiance.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is delivering the inaugural Alan D. Solomont Lecture at Tufts University today.
The California Democrat, who served as the first female speaker of the House, planned to reflect on her career and the importance of public service during a 2 p.m. address in the school's Cohen Auditorium.
This lecture is part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service.
Yoon S. Byun/Globe Staff
Before Boston sports fans tune into the Red Sox-Yankees Opening Day game this afternoon, Boston political fans will gather this morning for a groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the future Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.
While much of the pre-ceremony attention has focused on Victoria Reggie Kennedy's efforts to preserve her late husband's legacy, she is far from the only member of the famous political family who will be on hand.
The senator's three children Edward Jr., Kara, and Patrick will attend, as will their aunt, Jean Kennedy Smith, the last surviving child of Rose and Joseph Kennedy, and his two stepchildren, Curran and Caroline Raclin.
After Senator Edward M. Kennedy died in August 2009, one of the most wrenching tasks for his wife, Victoria Reggie Kennedy, was dismantling his office on Capitol Hill.
As much history museum as workspace, its family and political mementos included a letter hanging on the wall from a 14-year-old John F. Kennedy to his mother, Rose. In it, the future president asked if he could be godfather to the family’s final child, whom they would call “Teddy.”
One by one, Vicki Kennedy packed up each item and tucked away the memories attached to it.
Within the next three years, she plans to hang that letter up again this time in a replica of her husband’s office that will be part of the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.
“It was such a special thing, to go into that office and see that history on the wall and to just feel, really the magic of that, and so we are going to recreate that,” she said during an interview Wednesday.
Mike Coppola/Getty Images
Caroline Kennedy will promote a book containing a collection of poems she edited tomorrow afternoon at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.
The daughter of President Kennedy will deliver an introduction before poets Naomi Shibab Nye and Elizabeth Alexander read from her collection, "She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems."
Afterward, Kennedy will be signing copies of the book.
Public seating for the readings is now closed, but the book-signing will be available to all.
The forum will be webcast live at www.jfklibrary.org/webcast.
The event will run from 4-5 p.m. in the Stephen Smith Hall.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, held a second hearing on Libya today, this time with skeptics of the intervention.
After prodding by ranking member Richard Lugar, an Indiana Republican, Kerry called on Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations, who told the committee: "We cannot be confident in the agenda of the Libyan opposition."
Today's hearing follows a hearing last week with Under Secretary of State James Steinberg, who painted an upbeat picture of the intervention.
But today, Haass portrayed the intervention as ill-advised. He told the committee that the only sure way to replace the regime of Moammar Khadafy is to introduce ground troops and do nation-building, but that US interests in Libya do not warrant such an investment.
Haass said in his testimony that his views were his own, and not those of the Council on Foreign Relations.FULL ENTRY
Expected Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney is giving $45,000 to GOP election committees in the aftermath of President Obama announcing his re-election campaign.
Romney's Free and Strong America PAC is giving $15,000 apiece to the Republican National Committee, National Republican Senatorial Committee, and the National Republican Congressional Committee.
The latter two are charged with electing Republicans to the US Senate and US House, respectively. The RNC, meanwhile, is ultimately charged with helping elect a Republican president.
The former Massachusetts governor said in a statement this afternoon: “President Obama and his big spending allies in Congress have confused priorities for our nation. Instead of focusing on putting unemployed Americans back to work, they have raised taxes, expanded the size and scope of government, and prolonged the recession. I believe that by electing Republicans, we will make America strong and prosperous again.”
Senator Scott Brown plans to report over $8.3 million cash on hand for his 2012 re-election campaign when he files a federal finance report on April 15, an aide said today.
The tally includes $1.7 million raised during the first quarter of the year.
By some estimates, Brown may spend up to $25 million on his campaign, in which he is seeking his first full term after replacing the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy in February 2010.
"Finally, Senator Brown, like other senators from Massachusetts and elsewhere, is registering a political action committee, 'ScottPAC,' which will allow him to respond to requests for financial support from other candidates," said spokeswoman Gail Gitcho.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, an expected candidate for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, has the "Free and Strong America PAC,'' while former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, another potential candidate next year, has the similarly named "SarahPAC."
Such so-called leadership committees allow politicians to travel the country and build their national political base, while also developing chits by sprinkling donations on like-minded candidates.
Earlier today, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll announced she would not seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Brown, citing her current job and young family.
But all the potential challengers have cited the money they have to raise as a potentially decisive factor in their ultimate decision to run.
Joanne Rathe/Globe Staff
Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll released a statement this morning saying she will not seek the Democrats' 2012 US Senate nomination in Massachusetts.
She had explored a run against the Republican incumbent, Senator Scott Brown, but also been upfront about her concerns over running while leading a city and raising three young children.
Driscoll had been the most prominent woman to publicly express interest in a campaign.
"Plain and simple, I do think the seat is winnable, but there is a time and place for everything," she said in her statement.
Former US Representative William Delahunt has joined the Boston office of a Pittsburgh-based law firm as special counsel.
Eckert Seamans Cherin and Mellott LLC announced Monday the Quincy Democrat started Friday and will "provide strategic counsel to firm clients on complex regulatory issues such as healthcare, financial services, and energy and environmental matters."
"After serving in the House for 14 years, Bill Delahunt brings to Eckert Seamans incomparable insight and connections at the busy intersection of business and politics, as well as insight, experience, and seasoned judgment to our clients and their business affairs," Timothy P. Ryan, the firm's chief executive officer, said in a statement.
Last month, the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe announced Delahunt will represent the group and its interests including its ongoing efforts to host casino gambling at the state and federal level.
Delahunt stepped down in January as 10th District congressman. Previously, he served as Norfolk district attorney.
For at least one leader of the Tea Party movement, when it comes to Scott Brown, the party’s long over.
“Brown is a politician, and that is meant in the worst sense of the word,’’ Judson Phillips, leader of Tea Party Nation, writes on a blog today. “He knows self-preservation and self-promotion. He has aligned himself with the [Republicans in name only] crowd, which has no beliefs, other than getting reelected and appeasing whatever base he thinks will help him get reelected.”
The source of Phillips’ anger? Brown delivered a speech yesterday from the floor of the Senate in which he worried aloud about how steep budget cuts could hurt programs for elderly and poor Massachusetts residents. He also wrote in a letter to GOP leaders that the poor and elderly could bear the brunt of the $61 billion in cuts they’re seeking.
Senator Scott Brown has a pair of public events in Massachusetts this weekend.
Tonight, he's joining Governor Deval Patrick and other local politicians for the annual “Banned in Boston” benefit for Urban Improv. It describes itself as "an interactive program for young people that uses improvisational theater workshops to teach violence prevention, conflict resolution, and decision-making."
The show starts at 7:45 p.m. at the House of Blues on Lansdowne Street.
Tomorrow, the Republican is the keynote speaker at the annual Pioneer Valley USO fundraiser dinner.
It takes place at 8:15 p.m. at Delaney House in Holyoke.
Between representing Massachusetts in Congress, serving as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and acting as a semi-official diplomatic envoy of the Obama administration, Senator John Kerry has an additional duty.
In his new capacity as senior US senator from the state, he helps shape the vetting and recommendation process for any new federal judges nominated by the president to serve in Massachusetts.
It is a role held for decades by his former colleague, the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy, and it helped him shape not only the local federal bench, but also who served as US attorney and US marshal for Massachusetts.
In a statement yesterday, Kerry announced that the selection committee that will formally recommend candidates for the two upcoming judicial vacancies at the US District Courts in Springfield and Worcester is now accepting applications.
The committee leader is traditionally appointed by the senior senator, and last month Kerry announced he had selected Boston attorney Joan Lukey to serve as chairwoman. He pledged the panel "will reflect the broader geography of Massachusetts."
Kerry added in his statement: “Joan is already at work beginning a thorough search that will identify the best and brightest legal minds in Massachusetts which will be the basis for a recommendation to President Obama."
He urged citizens across the state to provide input "to make this non-partisan process succeed."
Interested candidates should contact Lukey at Joan.Lukey@ropesgray.com.
All applications must be completed by May 16.
WASHINGTON Can the $30 billion Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy has squirreled away in foreign bank accounts be used to reimburse the very nations making war on him right now?
That was a question that came up repeatedly today at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as members from both parties seized on the idea of using Khadafy's nest egg to finance the no-fly zone over his country imposed by the United States and an international coalition.
Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, started it all by asking Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg about the costs of the military operation in Libya.
Massachusetts Democrat John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today presided over a congressional hearing focused on future steps in Libya.
The North African nation has been under assault by an international coalition after its leader, Moammar Khadafy, began using military force against protestors opposed to his authoritarian regime.
Kerry called for institution a no-fly zone, which President Obama initiated.
WASHINGTON — US Senator John Kerry misspoke yesterday in saying that the Internet giant Google was on-board with the senator’s efforts to craft an Internet privacy bill, his office said this morning.
The Massachusetts Democrat has discussed the bill with Google officials but those talks are still ongoing, according to Kerry’s office.
Kerry’s Internet privacy bill has been in the works for months. The official language has not been released, but the goal of the bill is to give consumers more say in how their on-line browsing habits are recorded and used by advertising companies.
Companies on-board with the legislation include eBay, Intel, Microsoft, and HP, Kerry’s office said this morning. Talks with Facebook are also ongoing.
A Google spokesperson declined to comment today.
Mark Arsenault can be reached at email@example.com.
"Or, as I like to call it, the 'People's Library,'" the Republican quipped at the South Boston St. Patrick's Day political roast.
The joke referred to the mantra of Brown's campaign to win the 2010 special election held after the death of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, brother to the slain president for whom the library is named.
Brown argued he wasn't filling Kennedy's seat, but "the people's seat."
He will discuss his new memoir, "Against All Odds: My Life of Hardship, Fast Breaks, and Second Chances," with NECN correspondent Alison King.
This forum will be held from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Reservations are no longer available to the public.
The forum will also be webcast live at www.jfklibrary.org/webcast.
A Harvard University poll released this morning found President Obama's approval rating rising among the so-called "Millennials" or "Generation Y" that spans from 18 to 29 years old.
The president had an approval rating of 55 percent, up 6 percentage points from a similar survey last fall. Both were conducted by Harvard’s Institute of Politics, which is part of the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Among students at four-year college campuses, Obama's approval rating rose even more, from 51 percent last fall to 69 percent now.
In a final warning to Congress, the outgoing watchdog for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said today the financial reform legislation that Barney Frank helped shepherd to passage has not ended the threat that banks could require future bailouts.
Neil M. Barofsky, the TARP’s special inspector general, spoke about the Dodd-Frank bill to a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee on his last day in the position. He cautioned lawmakers that the nation’s largest banks are “bigger and more concentrated and even more dangerous to the system” than before the 2008 crisis.
“The big ticket question that we’re talking about today, does it solve ‘too big to fail?’” Barofsky said of Dodd-Frank. “The answer is certainly not yet, and by all indications… I’m not entirely optimistic that it will.”
Senator Scott Brown is joining forces with a liberal colleague from Minnesota to form a new U.S. Senate caucus focused on medical technology and device makers, a powerful industry in Massachusetts.
Brown, a Republican, and Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, will co-chair the bipartisan Senate Medical Technology Caucus to focus legislative attention on the medical technology sector, which in Massachusetts includes over 200 medical devices companies and many more biotech and pharmaceutical companies.
“It is critical that we provide a business environment for them to innovate, grow and thrive," Brown said.
Like Massachusetts, Minnesota also has a large medical technology industry -- some 400 medical device companies that support over 50,000 jobs in the state.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
President Obama has once again borrowed from Governor Deval Patrick, this time when it comes to nudging along prospective US Senate candidates.
Patrick created a stir in February when he bluntly told a National Journal reporter that City Year cofounder Alan Khazei, Somerville activist Bob Massie, and Newton Mayor Setti Warren were "in, for sure" for next year's US Senate race against Republican Scott Brown.
That left Khazei and Warren scrambling to clarify that they had not made any final decision. Massie had already declared his candidacy.
The eleven Democrats in the Massachusetts delegation are urging congressional leaders to leave intact rental housing programs for the elderly and disabled, poor families, and veterans.
The letter this week urged leaders in both chambers to spare the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, saying that proposed House cuts would result in current tenants becoming homeless, halt needed renovations, and deny housing to homeless veterans.
“We request your support of full funding of these vital HUD programs to house the most vulnerable Americans and urge you to pursue alternative strategies to reduce the deficit and to avoid inflicting disproportionate costs on the backs of the poor,” the letter read.
U.S. Representative Barney Frank revived a signature piece of legislation today that bars workplace discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender people, but acknowledged that the bill has little chance of passing this session.
The Newton Democrat has introduced the Employment Non-Discrimination Act every session for decades. Today’s announcement was subdued, given the bill’s near certainty of failure.
“I will acknowledge at the outset that the likelihood of the Republican Congress adopting it in the House is small, but it is still very important to have it introduced,” he said.
The bill seemed to see its best chance for passage last session when Democrats controlled both chambers, but Democratic leaders made repeal of the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy a priority, along with a hate crimes bill that included penalties for violence against people who identify with the opposite sex. But last November’s election doomed the workplace bill to at least two more years of limbo.
In recent years, Frank has insisted that the workplace bill retain language protecting transgender workers along with gay and lesbian workers, a provision that caused some more conservative lawmakers to drop their support.
"We have reduced the resistance on the trangender issue, but that's still in play," he said.
Politico has an interesting story this morning looking at the recent wave of political book authors, with a special focus on US Senator Scott Brown.
The story reports that Brown’s book, "Against All Odds," had sold 15,534 copies as of last week, according to Nielsen BookScan. It tracks bookstore sales but not bulk purchases that can be made by politicians and their campaign committees, as Brown and fellow Republican Mitt Romney have done.
The story notes that President Obama seemed to start the wave, selling the rights to "Audacity of Hope" just 46 days after being elected to the Senate.
One of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy's top aides is thinking about challenging Republican Scott Brown for re-election.
Gerry Kavanaugh worked for Kennedy from 1993 to 2001, the bulk of the time as his chief of staff. He has since worked for the Democratic National Committee, Senator John Edwards and his presidential campaign, and, most recently, as the owner of two software companies and the co-founder of a nonprofit.
In an interview with the Globe for a story today, Kavanaugh cited the high cost of a campaign as one of the key factors for any of the possible Democratic challengers.
He'd also have to work on name recognition, with a campaign being his first run for elective office.
Kavanaugh would have something of a built-in field operation: The Dartmouth native and New Bedford resident has five of six siblings still living in Massachusetts.
Read the full story here.
WASHINGTON Longtime bachelor Patrick Kennedy, the former Rhode Island
congressman, is engaged to marry Amy Petitgout, a New Jersey public school
teacher he has been dating for some two years, Kennedy confirmed today.
Kennedy, 43, the youngest child of the late Massachusetts Senator Edward M.
Kennedy, did not run for re-election last fall after representing Rhode
Island in the US House for 16 years.
He asked Petitgout to marry him over the weekend in Rhode Island, according
to Sean Richardson, a former aide who is one of Patrick Kennedy’s
"My father spoke about his 'True Compass,' guiding him through his journey of
life,” Kennedy said in a brief statement, referring to the title of his
father’s book. “I have found mine with Amy. She has helped me navigate the
uncharted waters of life beyond politics and given me the reason to look
forward to a personal life with family and friends.”
Petitgout, who has a 3-year-old daughter, Harper, from a previous marriage,
said in a statement that Kennedy “has become part of my family and loves my
daughter as his own.”
The couple originally met in New Jersey at a political event, said
Kennedy said in a text message that a Cape Cod wedding is planned. No date
has been revealed.
Mark Arsenault can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and the committee's top Republican member, Richard Lugar of Indiana, have a long history of agreement on how to approach international issues. But Lugar is fuming about how President Obama went into Libya without congressional approval, an intervention that Kerry has championed.
Lugar, who is up for re-election, wrote a letter to his colleague demanding prompt hearings on Libya in their committee.
"I believe hearings not only would provide some important answers to senators and to the American people," he wrote, "they would induce the Obama administration to conduct in-depth contingency planning that does not seem to have occurred."
Kerry spokesman Frederick Jones said in response: "Senator Kerry understands the importance and complexity of our role in protecting the people of Libya and the committee will hold public hearings in the near future. He has been traveling in the region over recess to get information firsthand from our allies."
He noted Kerry and other senior congressional leaders from both parties have been briefed by the Obama administration during the past two weeks.
Jones also said the conflict in Libya was explored on March 17 when Undersecretary of State Bill Burns testified in public for more than two hours about the uprisings in Libya and elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East.
Here is the full text of Lugar's letter:FULL ENTRY
Delays to the Pentagon's new state-of-the-art fighter jet, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, may have given a boost to General Electric Aviation, which has been on the losing end of a battle over an engine for the new jet.
The U.S. Navy announced this week that it would buy 68 engines from GE for new F-18 Hornets. The Pentagon announced the $246 million addition to the GE engine contract on Tuesday; almost half of the work will be done at GE's Lynn plant.
The engine buy is part of the Pentagon's expected yearly aircraft procurement, as the armed services must regularly replace aging aircraft. But GE Aviation spokesman Rick Kennedy said the Navy procurement is larger than usual because of the delays to the Joint Strike Fighter, which is also known as the Lightning II.
Though Kennedy didn't know how many of the engines were ordered due to delays in the F-35 program, he said delays to the Joint Strike Fighter program "have benefited the Lynn plant, no question." A Navy spokeswoman could not immediately confirm that the F-35 delays resulted in a bigger order of the F-18 engines.
"To continue to fill up the fleets, the Navy have ordered additional Hornets because they weren't getting the Joint Strike Fighter," Kennedy said.
Some 45 percent of the F-18 engine work is done at GE Aviation's Lynn plant, with the rest done in Kentucky, Ohio, New Hampshire, Vermont and other states. The contract modification doesn't mean new jobs, because the contracts are already in place.
“I’m glad to see the United States Navy continue to depend on the skilled, dedicated work force in Lynn," Senator John Kerry said in a statement.
The engine contract came on top of another GE Aviation contract the Pentagon announced the same day worth up to $453 million for repairs to existing aircraft engines being used across the armed services, including those used by the Apache and Blackhawk helicopters.
The new F-18 engines represent a silver lining of sorts to GE travails over the F-35. Since the 1990s, the Pentagon has paid GE to develop an alternate engine for F-35, but both the Bush and Obama administrations soured on the alternate engine program, calling it a waste and urging Congress to defund it.
Budget-conscious GOP freshman -- some from districts with ties to GE's competitors -- bolstered the ranks of the engine's opponents, and House members bucked their leaders by stripping $450 million for the engine from this year's budget.
The Senate didn't include the engine in its version either, but senators voted down both versions, leaving the GE engine program in limbo. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has said he will continue to fund it in deference to Congress despite his opposition.
Jim Davis/Globe Staff
As Senator Scott Brown skewered leading Massachusetts Democrats with a joke-filled routine during a St. Patrick's Day political roast over the weekend, one of his top advisers delighted in a moment he helped script.
"Scott Brown at St. Patty's Day breakfast says he doesn't think John Kerry is an elitist ... and 'neither do his butlers,'" communications consultant Eric Fehrnstrom said via Twitter.
"Ha! Scott Brown says Southie parade only one where (House) speaker rides in a car for which previous speaker made the license plate," Fehrnstrom said in another of his series of tweets.
Yet as the crowd roared when Brown displayed a bipartisan flair, telling another joke that tweaked fellow Republican Mitt Romney for owning not one but three houses, Fehrnstrom's Twitter feed went silent.
No re-tweet of that dig at Fehrnstrom's original, and ongoing, boss. No basking in the glory enjoyed by his subsequent, and continued, boss.
The decision illustrates the challenge confronting Romney and Brown and some of the key men and women who have helped both reach their high stations in national politics.
Fehrnstrom and business partners Peter Flaherty and Beth Myers not only served Romney as governor of Massachusetts; they were top staffers for his unsuccessful campaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.
They then branched out on their own, formed the Massachusetts-based Shawmut Group, and directed Brown's upset win in the 2010 Massachusetts US Senate special election.
Now, the trio is assisting Romney as he plots a second presidential campaign and Brown as he seeks re-election to his first full Senate term.
The men's political fates could be decided the same day, Nov. 6, 2012, but the candidates and their advisers will face a challenge until then working in such close proximity to each other.
Romney was extraordinarily popular in Massachusetts when, in 2002, he returned from his successful leadership of the Olympic Winter Games and was elected governor. His star dimmed, though, as he began laying the groundwork for his presidential campaign with a move to the right, jokes before conservative audiences about his liberal homestate, and heavy out-of-state travel.
Such was his station that he was a virtual no-show for his running mate, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, as she ran to succeed him in the 2006 gubernatorial race.
Healey was happy to have it that way.
Romney also dropped out of sight during Brown's 2010 campaign, only to take the stage on election night after voters had already cast their ballots.
Brown was happy to have it that way, too.
Today, both men are complimentary but not necessarily complementary toward each other.
Brown declared early and often that Romney has his endorsement in the race for the GOP's 2012 presidential nomination. Romney has reciprocated, highlighting Brown's success as proof a strong Republican message can penetrate even the bluest of Democratic states.
Yet there is potential for future tensions.
First of all, there is time and focus for their mutual advisers. Romney will face a hydra-headed challenge for the nomination, confronted simultaneously by rivals such as Tim Pawlenty and Haley Barbour and Newt Gingrich. Or Sarah Palin.
That will occur this fall and next spring, well before Brown's re-election campaign begins (he almost assuredly won't face a Republican challenger for the GOP's Senate nomination). So far, so good.
But if Romney wins the nomination, and Democrats succeed in their effort to recruit a challenger to Brown, both of their campaigns will reach their peaks the following fall.
Who gets the Shawmut Group's best effort? Best commercial ideas? Debate prep? Political roast jokes?
Secondly, as Romney veers rightward nationally to win the nomination, while Brown moves to the center to win re-election in Massachusetts, conflicting views are inevitable. Each is his own man, but it's only natural for two people with similar political pedigrees to face questions about the other's policy views.
After all, if Romney and Brown were to win their campaigns, Brown would have to vote on Romney administration programs.
Currently, both men express similar views about Libya: They say US air strikes were justified because Moammar Khadafy was slaughtering his own countrymen.
Recently, though, they differed on the New START Treaty: Romney vehemently opposed the pact President Obama signed with Russia, while Brown voted for its ratification.
Both will also have to stage an artful dance as they call for repealing Obama's universal health care program, which was modeled after a 2006 Massachusetts bill that then-state Senator Brown voted for and then-Governor Romney signed into law.
Advisers argue that despite their shared party, geographical roots, and team of advisers, Romney and Brown are individual candidates with their own views. On some points they agree; on others, they don't.
You can also argue that Brown will benefit if Romney is at the top of the Massachusetts ballot come the fall of 2012, or, perhaps more likely, that Romney will benefit from being on the same ballot as a senator consistently polling as the most popular politician in Massachusetts.
And should Romney run, Fehrnstrom, Myers, and Flaherty are not expected to be paid staff members again but consultants. Fehrnstrom, for example, doesn't plan to be on Romney's plane again as traveling press secretary; rather, he intends to work from the home office and focus on message development and television commercials.
In Massachusetts, a relatively shallow Republican talent pool also doesn't give Brown many other options with Shawmut's breadth of local experience or national contacts.
Finally, Fehrnstrom and the other advisers note that they are hardly the only political consultants with more than one client. Their roster includes other politicians and businesses they prefer not to name.
"Our consulting business is not unlike other firms that have more than one client," said Fehrnstrom, readying himself for another Democratic tweak. "In this economy, we’re just thankful to have any clients at all."
Former Governor Mitt Romney is marking the first anniversary of President Obama's universal health care law by vowing to dismantle it state-by-state.
"If I were president, on Day One I would issue an executive order paving the way for Obamacare waivers to all 50 states," the would-be Republican presidential candidate said Tuesday night in a blog post for the "National Review."
Former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty, who announced Monday he was forming a presidential exploratory committee, released his own statement this morning saying he would support the law's repeal. While governor last year, he joined a lawsuit seeking to do just that.
"The law infringes on individuals' and states' rights by forcing individuals to purchase a good or service," he said. "If courts do not do so first, as president, I would support the immediate repeal of 'Obamacare' and replace it with market-based health care reforms."
Romney's statement used his most aggressive language yet regarding a potential presidential campaign. He insists publicly he has yet to decide whether to seek the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, yet nearly all of his actions for the past two years have been geared that way.
A formal kickoff is expected later this spring.
Romney presided over Massachusetts when, in 2006, it enacted the nation's first universal health care law. Now over 98 percent of state residents have private, government, or government-subsidized private coverage.
Last year, Obama signed a federal law modeled on the same principles, including a mandate that all residents obtain whatever coverage they can afford, as well as penalties for not doing so.
Romney said in his blog post that his executive order would direct the secretary of Health and Human Services and all relevant federal officials "to return the maximum possible authority to the states to innovate and design health-care solutions that work best for them."
The former governor argues states should be free to enact what Democrats have countered is "Romneycare."
He said in his statement: "As I have stated time and again, a one-size-fits-all national plan that raises taxes is simply not the answer. Under our federalist system, the states are 'laboratories of democracy.'"
Romney said his ultimate goal is to repeal the Obama program "and replace it with free-market reforms that promote competition and lower health-care costs."
Acknowledging such a repeal would take time, "an executive order is the first step in returning power to the states," he said.
WASHINGTON — The abortion-rights group NARAL Pro-Choice America today praised US Senator Scott Brown for pledging to oppose a House Republican effort to eliminate federal grants and contracts that benefit the women’s health services provider Planned Parenthood.
“Today’s report that Senator Scott Brown has said he will oppose efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and other family-planning centers is a positive first step, and we look forward to seeing his name appear in the ‘no’ column when this vote comes to the Senate floor,” said Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America and Andrea Miller, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts, in a joint statement. “We also call on Senator Brown to stand up for the Commonwealth’s women and oppose other far-reaching and intrusive anti-choice policies as they move from the House to the Senate.”
Brown, a Massachusetts Republican, issued a statement this morning in support of family planning services, and said that an effort by House Republicans to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood goes too far. Brown voted for the House budget plan earlier this month, though he said at the time he did not support all of the proposed cuts. The plan failed to pass the Senate.
The Menino administration is disputing US Census figures released today by Secretary of State William F. Galvin that purported to show that Boston lost population during the past decade.
Galvin released the figures this morning at a widely attended State House news conference, where the figures were immediately broadcast by reporters from a number of media outlets.
Moments later, Menino's office reached out to reporters, saying Galvin was mistaken about the Census numbers and that Boston had actually gained population, growing to 617,594 from 589,141, a 4.8 percent increase.
"We are confident that our population continues to grow," said Dot Joyce, a Menino spokeswoman. "Boston is a growing, vibrant city." Joyce said city officials are reviewing the new figures.
The official Census figures are due to be released this afternoon.
The data will be used to determine the shape of legislative districts, as well as to remap the congressional districts in Massachusetts.
Earlier figures already showed that the state would lose one of its 10 congressional districts.
WASHINGTON — US Senator Scott Brown opposes a House Republican plan to cut all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the womens' health service provider, and today urged budget negotiators to reach a compromise.
“I support family planning and health services for women,” Brown, a Bay State Republican, said in a statement. “Given our severe budget problems, I don't believe any area of the budget is completely immune from cuts. However, the proposal to eliminate all funding for family planning goes too far. As we continue with our budget negotiations, I hope we can find a compromise that is reasonable and appropriate.”
House Republicans have sought to eliminate all federal grants and contracts with Planned Parenthood, some $300 million, because the agency provides abortion services. By law, none of the federal money can be used to pay for abortions, but abortion-rights opponents have argued that any financial support for Planned Parenthood frees up other money that could be used for abortions.
The argument comes as part of an ongoing budget fight: Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have been unable to agree on a budget to fund the federal government for the rest of the fiscal year; Congress has recently passed two short-term stopgaps to allow more time to reach a long-term deal.
Earlier this month, Brown voted in favor the House GOP proposal that would have made the cuts, though he said at the time that he “would have had different priorities” in cutting spending. The Senate defeated the House plan, and a Democratic alternative, in a set of votes orchestrated by Senate leaders to force both sides back into negotiations.
Massachusetts Republicans are branding Newton Mayor Setti Warren as "not ready for primetime" after the potential US Senate candidate incorrectly labeled a potential colleague as dead.
During a weekend broadcast of WCVB-TV's "On the Record," Warren was asked to name the San Francisco mayor assassinated in 1978 along with city supervisor Harvey Milk.
"Dianne Feinstein," Warren said after a brief pause, providing the name of the future mayor.
Making the mistake all the worse is that Feinstein is a fellow Democrat who has served alongside Warren's former boss, John Kerry, in the US Senate since 1992.
Co-host Ed Harding laughed at the reply, prompting Warren to backtrack.
"Dianne Feinstein became mayor after, and then became US senator, after Harvey Milk was assassinated," Warren replied.
For the record, the mayor who was assassinated was George Moscone.
Even as it tweaked Warren in a press release, the Massachusetts Republican Party raised questions about its own readiness for the spotlight.
Both times the release incorrectly spelled Moscone's name as "Mascone."
Vice President Joseph Biden is visiting the Hancock tower in Boston this evening for a pair of events, including one that Governor Deval Patrick says is a "friend-raiser" ahead of the 2012 presidential election.
One of the two meetings is taking place in the personal offices of Jack Connors, the local advertising executive who has been spearheading the fundraising effort for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, according to a Connors assistant and a top local Democrat who saw the invitation.
"Massachusetts has been good to the Obama-Biden ticket, and was the last time around, and the administration has been good to Massachusetts, and the vice president is here to refresh those relationships and rally some of the organizers for the coming election," Patrick told reporters at the State House.
The trip is coming almost exactly two weeks after President Obama visited the city for a fundraiser on behalf of the committee charged with helping elect Democrats to the US House of Representatives.
The back-to-back visits underscore the party's emphasis on strengthening itself in the aftermath of the mid-term election, when the Democrats lost their House majority. Obama and Biden also are gearing up for what The Washington Post projected in December could be the first $1 billion presidential campaign.
Obama himself met last week with top donors in Washington, although he did not directly solicit contributions at that time.
Instead, the president told the group: "As 2012 unfolds, I expect that we’re going to have a lot of questions and there are going to be vigorous debates, but I don’t want us to lose sight of the huge opportunities we have to seize the moment and make sure that America is not just changed, but is changed for the better."
He added: "And my hope is that the same spirit that helped change this country in 2008, that that spirit is still in each and every one of you.”
Massachusetts was one of former President Bill Clinton's most reliable fund-raising states, but two area Democrats who helped him raise money Steve Grossman and Alan Solomont are now in different roles.
Grossman was elected state treasurer in November and just started his term in January; Solomont is serving as US ambassador to Spain and Andorra after an appointment from Obama himself.
"My understanding is it's a 'friend-raising' meeting getting ready for the 2012 elections," said Patrick.
Earlier in the day, Biden joined US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Delaware Governor Jack Markell, US Senator Chris Coons, and other officials from his home state of Delaware to tour the Howard High School of Technology in Wilmington.
According to a pool report, "they visited a classroom of students who were learning about physical science."
Biden told reporters he is hopeful that Howard High School's turnaround plan will help students, saying that "part of it is believing in them and setting the bar high," the report said.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who previously served as the first female speaker of the US House of Representatives, will deliver the inaugural Alan D. Solomont Lecture at Tufts University on April 8.
The California Democrat will reflect on her career and the importance of public service during a 2 p.m. address in the school's Cohen Auditorium, according to a university statement.
This lecture is part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service.
It is intended to serve as a catalyst for active citizenship at Tufts and is the only university-wide program of its kind. Serving undergraduate, graduate, and professional school students, the goal is to prepare young people to be lifelong active citizens.
Pelosi's speech will be followed by a question-and-answer session with Alan D. Solomont, for whom the lectureship is named.
A prominent Democratic fundraiser and activist from Massachusetts, the former nursing home executive now serves as US ambassador to Spain and Andorra. He also is a member of Tufts' Class of 1970.
Dina Rudick/Globe Staff
The South Boston St. Patrick's Day political roast has long had the reputation as the preeminent place to hear political wit, but lately it's also veered toward a cross between "American Idol" and a politicians' gag slide show.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo showed yesterday and last week in an expletive-filled appearance in Salem he's among those who still get the drill. And so did Senator Scott Brown.
In a joked-filled routine, the Republican skewered both Democrats and the GOP alike, as well as himself.
Read my full story here.
In the first of two moments that triggered laughs but actually were full of meaning, Brown mentioned the state's traveling governor, Deval Patrick, and said of the Democrat: "Honestly, really, I’m so glad that the governor is here, because if he wasn’t here, he'd actually be out trying to recruit another candidate to run against me.”
At another point, as the crowd laughed at some of his tart criticism, Brown alluded to his coming re-election campaign as he said with a laugh himself: "I figured I might as well start. I’m going to get the you-know-what kicked out of me soon, so hey, why not?”
The 12-member Massachusetts congressional delegation, all Democrats except for Republican Senator Scott Brown, offered an array of positions today in reaction to the launch of US air strikes on Libya over the weekend.
Here are the comments they or their spokesperson made to the Globe or, in Kerry's case, as well as on NBC's "Meet the Press."
Senator John Kerry, Democrat:
"Well, the goal of this mission ... is not to get rid of (Libyan leader Moammar) Khadafy, and that's not what the United Nations licensed. And I would not call it going to war. This is a very limited operation that is geared to save lives, and it was specifically targeted on a humanitarian basis. It is not geared to try to get rid of Khadafy. He has not been targeted. That is not what is happening here. So, in my judgment, we have to see where we go from here."
In an interview with the Globe, Kerry added: "I believe very, very deeply that America's strategic interests and our values require us to support people's aspirations. ...I think you have to have some faith in what the possibilities of diversity and pluralism can produce."
Senator Scott Brown, Republican:
"I support the administration's involvement at this point. Obviously, it gets to a point where you have to draw a line in the sand, and when innocent civilians are being killed, it's important for the world community to step forward, and we're doing it in a coalition manner, and I'm supportive of that."
Representative John Olver, Democrat, 1st District:
A spokeswoman said "he supports the steps the president, the UN, our European allies, and the Arab League are taking."
Representative Richard E. Neal, Democrat, 2nd District:
"I welcome the passage this week of UN Security Council Resolution 1973 implementing a no-fly zone over parts of Libya. I also support the establishment of an international coalition, working together with the Arab League, to prevent further atrocities from happening in flashpoints like Benghazi. It is clear that Colonel Khadafy and his regime were not going to stop the campaign of terror and violence against their own people. For the safety of innocent civilians, and to encourage the pro-democracy movements across the Middle East, I support the actions of the international coalition."
Representative James McGovern, Democrat, 3rd District:
"I just have this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. . . None of us know who is really calling the shots in terms of the opposition. It's very dicey and very dangerous. I am hoping and praying for success. I am deeply worried."
Representative Barney Frank, Democrat, 4th District:
"If our role is limited to Tomahawk missiles from the ships, and the airplanes are French and British, I will support it. ...Our opposition is for America picking up the entire tab. The fact that you have such a multinational, multicultural support for this, I hope it is a new paradigm. "
Representative Niki Tsongas, Democrat, 5th District:
"I am concerned that our military action in Libya lacks a clear objective. It is critically important that our commitment there not extend beyond the scope of UN Resolution 1973 and under no circumstances should American ground troops be inserted into that country."
Representative John Tierney, Democrat, 6th District:
"These are the lingering questions: Why Libya? Why now? There are certainly other dictators acting badly toward the own citizens. And who is the opposition? If you're picking sides in a civil war you better know who you're siding with."
Representative Edward J. Markey, Democrat, 7th District:
“The current government of Libya has lost all legitimacy. Left unchecked, Khadafy will commit unspeakable brutalities against his own people. ...The more nations involved in this multilateral effort, the more the people of Libya will know that the movement for democracy that is spreading throughout the Middle East has global support. We are watching a watershed moment not only in Libya but throughout the Middle East. History is on the side of these 21st century young, educated people who are calling for the end to this 20th century oil-fueled dictatorship. Seventy percent of Libya is young people, but they represent 100 percent of the future of the country. The message to Colonel Khadafy is clear: the entire world community is united in protecting the Libyan people. Libyans must be able to chart their own future, free from violence and intimidation.”
Representative Michael Capuano, Democrat, 8th District:
"So far, the only stated goal is to protect civilians, the civilian population, which is a laudable goal, but if that's the new measure of when military power's going to be put in play, well then I suspect we'll be going to the Congo and Sudan, Ivory Coast, Yemen, maybe Bahrain, very very soon, if that's the measure."
Representative Stephen Lynch, Democrat, 9th District:
"I was very troubled by the decision to use US forces and to do so without consulting with Congress. I don't believe that Libya presents a direct threat to the United States. Lacking those circumstances, I think it was incumbent upon the president to talk to Congress. We have got two wars going on right now. We are tremendously over-extended."
Representative William Keating, Democrat, 10th District:
"Since the humanitarian issues surrounding the non-engaged Libyan civilians have not been fully vetted to Congress, I'm forced to view this on a step-by-step basis. I feel strongly, however, that our involvement should not expand beyond that purpose."
Senator Scott Brown said this morning he supports the unfolding wave of U.S. air strikes on Libya, saying they are necessary to stop the killing of innocent civilians.
The Massachusetts Republican, confronting the first military action launched since he took office a year ago, said, "I support the administration's involvement at this point. Obviously, it gets to a point where you have to draw a line in the sand, and when innocent civilians are being killed, it's important for the world community to step forward, and we're doing it in a coalition manner, and I'm supportive of that."
Brown, who also is a JAG officer in the Massachusetts National Guard, refused to say if he would support the additional use of ground troops. President Obama has repeatedly said the action will be limited to air support in the form of an opening wave of cruise missiles attacks, as well as an overnight B-2 bombing run and the possibility of combat air patrols to enforce a UN-backed no-fly zone.
"That's a hypothetical I'm not really ready to comment on," Brown told a pair of reporters as he arrived at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center for the annual South Boston St. Patrick's Day breakfast and political roast.
"But I think that we're going to follow the lead and work together with other countries to determine what the obstacles are and where it goes from here," he added. "I think it's a mission in progress and we'll know more in a day or two."
Brown also refused to say if he would support strikes on Yemen and Bahrain, two other Middle Eastern countries where pro-democracy forces have clashed with authoritarian regimes.
"You're starting to get into hypotheticals, but in this instance, it's clear that (Libyan leader Moammar Khadafy) was using his own forces to kill innocent civilians, and that's where I draw the line," Brown said.
WASHINGTON – Updated, 12:29 p.m. -- US Senator Scott Brown, a Massachusetts Republican, is urging President Obama and congressional leaders from both parties in a letter to reconsider spending priorities at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Brown wrote that homelessness in the Bay State and across the nation is up due to the foreclosure crisis, and noted that families with children are the fastest-growing segment of new homeless.
“HUD Programs provide rental assistance for low income citizens and other homelessness programs,” Brown wrote. “These rental programs are vital to Massachusetts and should be protected at a time when the Massachusetts unemployment rate is about eight percent.”
But HUD continues to "waste taxpayer dollars by pushing a failed policy that seeks to subsidize and maximize home ownership opportunities,” Brown wrote. “For example, HUD’S HOME Investment Partnership program continues to spend taxpayer dollars promoting home ownership, even though rental programs have proven to be more effective in promoting stability in low income neighborhoods….
“As part of the effort to get our fiscal house in order, we should reform our housing policies and direct agencies to provide maximum protection for low income rental assistance recipients while also saving money by eliminating programs that we know do not work and in fact do harm.”
WASHINGTON – A financial vestige of US efforts to encourage peace in Northern Ireland has disappeared after a quarter century, leaving disagreements that echo on both sides of the Atlantic and have divided two of the Bay State’s congressmen.
Congress recently eliminated nearly $20 million in an earmark for the International Fund for Ireland. The economic aid had been extended by the United States every year since the 1980s to help smooth the turbulence of the island’s deep conflicts. Once supported by Senator Edward M. Kennedy as an important element of the peace process, the accumulated payments reached a total of $450 million.
The debate over the money continues. Irish officials in Washington this week are asking members of Congress to restore the funds. And the Obama administration is seeking to put the money back into a future budget.
They have an ally in Representative Richard Neal of Springfield. In a statement emailed to the Globe, Neal spokesman William Tranghese said this week that Neal supports a move by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to restore aid to the International Fund for Ireland in the 2012 State Department budget.
"Mr. Neal supports continued funding for the IFI because he feels it is not the time to be sending a message to the people on the island of Ireland that the United States is no longer interested in their journey towards peace and reconciliation,’’ Tranghese said. "He hopes to work with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to restore our contribution to the fund.’’
Yet the spending cut has its backers, including Representative Stephen Lynch. Steeped in South Boston politics, you would think aid for Northern Ireland would automatically win his support. But Lynch thinks the money could be better spent on scholarships, not on economic aid.
In a letter to House budget leaders, he is calling for $5 million a year, for four years starting in 2012, to be directed to an existing scholarship in the name of George Mitchell, the former US Senate majority leader and envoy who negotiated the lasting Northern Ireland peace in the 1990s. Lynch says using the money for scholarships instead of on aid for the International Fund for Ireland amounts to "building a future relationship based on contemporary realities rather than nostalgia.’’
The Mitchell scholarship is administered by the US-Ireland Alliance, a non-profit foundation that is headed by Trina Vargo, a former foreign policy advisory to Ted Kennedy. Vargo could not be immediately reached by phone this afternoon. But she has said that the US financial assistance to the International Fund for Ireland has created a dependency that Ireland needs to end, according to press accounts.
Writing in the Irish Echo last year, she said: "While the Fund did many good things in those early years, it became one of those taps that was never turned off. While I was still working with Senator Kennedy, he stopped requesting funding for the IFI. That was more than a decade ago. We had simply come to the conclusion that the IFI had served its purpose.’’
WASHINGTON — In a column published this week in the gay-issue newspaper Bay Windows, US Senator John Kerry called for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, and its replacement with legislation to make same sex couples eligible for federal benefits that would include family and medical leave, Social Security spousal and survivors’ benefits, and the ability to file joint federal tax returns.
The 1996 law, typically abbreviated DOMA, defines marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and says that no US state has to recognize same sex marriages performed in another state.
In his op-ed, Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, said the law is unconstitutional—a conclusion recently reached by the Obama administration, which has announced it would no longer defend challenges to DOMA in federal court.
“My vote against [DOMA] -- which some predicted would cost me reelection in 1996 -- is among my proudest votes as a United States Senator,” Kerry wrote. “But my job in 2011 isn’t to feel good about my vote -- or to boast that fifteen years later, I’m vindicated when at last an American president now agrees that DOMA is unconstitutional.
“No, my job -- and our job together," Kerry wrote, " is to work to undo the damage that DOMA has done in treating loving, committed couples like second class citizens."
Kerry said he is committed to repealing DOMA “as quickly as possible.” He has signed on to legislation seeking to repeal the law, though such a bill would have a difficult time winning approval this session in the Republican-controlled US House.
WASHINGTON — It’s the speculation US Senator John Kerry just can’t shake: Is he seeking to be the next secretary of state?
The conjecture grows more intense as the Massachusetts Democrat and chair of the Foreign Relations Committee has taken highly-public role in shaping US policy toward the political upheaval in the Middle East.
With Secretary of State Hillary Clinton acknowledging in a CNN interview that she would not serve another term if President Obama is reelected in 2012, could the stage be set for Kerry to take over? With his lengthy foreign policy experience, Kerry has long been considered by pundits a potential cabinet pick for Obama, whom Kerry strongly supported early in his presidential candidacy.
But does Kerry want to be secretary of state?
“No,” said the senator’s spokesperson, Whitney Smith, in a one-word answer by email.
Somehow that doesn't sound like the final word on the subject.
WASHINGTON US Senator John Kerry is urging the Obama administration to back a no-fly zone over Libya, calling for the United Nations to quickly approve a resolution to ground Libyan leader Moammar Kahdafi’s warplanes.
Kahdafi is using his air force to pound the rebels trying to overthrow him.
“The international community cannot simply watch from the sidelines as this quest for democracy is met with raw violence,” said Kerry, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, in a lengthy policy speech today.
The Massachusetts Democrat said the Arab League’s endorsement this weekend of a no-fly zone over Libya is unprecedented.
“The Security Council should act now, in my judgment, to heed the Arab League’s call” and to avert a humanitarian disaster, said Kerry, in remarks to a room packed with foreign journalists at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank.
Kerry’s call for action on a no-fly zone marks an evolution in his view on the subject. He did not start out calling for immediate imposition of a no-fly zone; rather, he urged diplomatic and logistical preparation for the zone.
His call also puts him at odds with Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who has said attacking Libya's planes and air defenses would be an act of war.
The speech is the latest of Kerry’s high-profile efforts to guide US policy through the chain of popular uprisings in the Middle East. He urged preparations for a no-fly zone on the CBS News program “Face the Nation” two weekends ago.
Also, at the height of the unrest in Egypt last month, the senator penned a New York Times column encouraging embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak’s to give up power.
President Obama has not endorsed a no-fly zone, though he has “not taken any options off the table,” the president said on Friday.
Another option under consideration is for the US to give some $32 billion in frozen Libyan government assets to the rebels, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Tuesday.
U.S. Representative Edward J. Markey is comparing the federal government’s loan guarantee program for new nuclear power plants to the much-aligned federal bailout program that bought up bad loans after the 2008 financial collapse.
The Malden Democrat, speaking today at a House Energy and Commerce Committee hearing, warned that the loans will put taxpayers on the hook much as the Troubled Asset Relief Program took over defaulted loans after the financial collapse of 2008.
“They’re just like a toxic asset,” Markey said
Energy Secretary Steven Chu was present to testify at the hearing on the department’s 2012 budget, as well as that of the Nuclear Regulatory Agency. Much of the discussion centered on the disaster in Japan, and specifically on the damaged reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station.
The president has asked for $36 billion for 2012 to provide loan guarantees, which Chu said would fund six to eight new projects. The administration has already made about $8 billion in loan guarantees available, which will help build a new plant in Georgia.
Committee member Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, asked Chu if the administration still supported nuclear power.
Chu hedged, saying: “The present budget is what it is. We’re asking for loan guarantees, and for small modular reactors.”
“So that’s a yes?” Barton said. “That’s a yes,” Chu responded.
The process to redraw the state's legislative and congressional districts reaches the public arena today, when the Special Joint Committee on Redistricting holds its first meeting.
Senator Stanley C. Rosenberg of Amherst and Representative Michael J. Moran of Boston, the committee co-chairmen, will preside over the panel's first organizational meeting at 1 p.m.
The session will take place in Gardner Auditorium at the State House.
Afterward, the chairmen will unveil a redistricting website, as well as a schedule for their proposed public hearings.
The release of the US Census each decade triggers redistricting, since both legislative and congressional districts much reflect population apportionment.
Massachusetts lost residents during the past decade, so it is losing one congressional seat, going from 10 seats in the US House to nine. Those remaining districts much be expanded to accommodate.
Districts for both the state House and Senate must also be adjusted to accommodate population and demographic shifts.
The new districts must be establish for the 2012 elections.
WASHINGTON -- Representative William R. Keating scored a minority leadership post on a homeland security subcommittee, a position he plans to use to further investigate airport security breeches that allowed a North Carolina teen to stow away on a passenger jet before falling to his death last year in Massachusetts.
Keating's office announced today that the freshman Democrat has been appointed ranking member of the Subcommittee on Oversight, Investigations, and Management, part of the House Homeland Security Committee.
"I relish the opportunity to delve deeper into the many issues plaguing our national security and believe this position is a natural transition from my background as a prosecutor," Keating said in a statement.
Keating served as Norfolk District Attorney before winning a seat in Congress last November. It was in that position that he oversaw the death investigation of 16-year-old Delvonte Tisdale, who fell from the wheel well of a Boeing 737 that was traveling from Charlotte, N.C., to Boston last Nov. 19.
"I know his experience as a District Attorney will be invaluable in his new capacity and I look forward to working with him on the issues that affect the Department of Homeland Security,” said Representative Bennie G. Thompson, ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, according to the statement from Keating's office.
Donovan Slack can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @DonovanSlack.
Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts and Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas proposed legislation today that would create a new infrastructure bank to help finance roads, bridges and other projects, an idea that has percolated for years but has never gained widespread support.
"Reliable, modern infrastructure isn't a luxury -- it's the lifeblood of our economy, the key to connecting our markets, moving people, products, information and energy, and the key to generating and sustaining millions of jobs for American workers," he said.
The legislation would provide loans and loan guarantees for bridges, rails, roads and other infrastructure projects through an independent entity called the American Infrastructure Financing Authority, which would be similar to the Export-Import Bank.
The concept is hardly new. Almost 20 years ago, a Congressional commission recommended a similar concept; the chairman of that panel sat in the front row, holding a worn copy of the commission's 1993 report. Lawmakers have pushed similar infrastructure funds over the years, and President Obama promoted it during the 2008 presidential campaign.
But the new proposal is different, Kerry said. With only loans and guarantees, and no grants, the bank will not be a drain on the treasury beyond the original investment. It would also be far smaller than other proposals, reflecting the political reality of the day, he said.
"We have been supersensitive to all of the kinds of hurdles that traditionally this kind of an effort would have to get over," he said. "It will not be appropriated money, because we don't have that money today, because of the debt and deficit we have and the other priortities."
The authority would initially be financed with $10 billion from the federal government but would become self-sustaining, leveraging as much as $640 billion in private funds over 10 years. It would not be allowed to finance more than 50 percent of the costs of projects.
Kerry announced his plans to propose the infrastructure bank last fall, telling the Senate Banking, House and Urban Affairs Committee that "well functioning infrastructure is not a luxury." He reiterated that call in January at a speech at the liberal-leaning Center for American Progress, saying that growth was tied to infrastructure.
Illustrating the breadth of political support for such a plan, the noon press conference include two men who are often adversaries, but occasional allies: U.S. Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Thomas J. Donohue and Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO labor federation.
Donohue lamented the nation's decaying transportation infrastructure and its effect on the economy.
"We have a system that’s got to be updated, we’ve got a way to do it, and we came up here today to support the idea of the bank," he said.
Senate Republicans are threatening to hold up White House nominations unless the Senate passes trade deals with Columbia and Panama, but GOP moderates from New England aren’t of the same mind on the matter.
Forty-four Republicans signed a letter today telling Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada that they would block the administration’s nominees for commerce secretary and other positions until the Senate takes up the trade pacts.
Scott Brown of Massachusetts was among those signing the letter, but Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, the two Senators from Maine who have increasingly voted with Brown in a moderate GOP bloc in the Senate, did not sign. The third GOP abstainer was Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Spokespeople for Snowe and Collins did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The letter accused the president of “an apparent lack of interest in seeking approval of these free trade agreements.” Approval of the pacts would be beneficial to American workers, they wrote, and further delay is “unnecessary and inexcusable.”
“So important are these deals to our economy and our relations with these key allies in Latin America that, until the President submits both agreements to Congress for approval and commits to signing implementing legislation into law, we will use all the tools at our disposal to force action, including withholding support for any nominee for Commerce Secretary and any trade-related nominees,” the letter read.
Last week, Obama nominated Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to replace Jon Huntsman as ambassador to China, leaving the commerce chief position vacant and creating the opportunity for another high-profile nomination fight in the Senate.
The disaster in Japan and the rising threat of nuclear meltdown from damaged reactors should trigger a “long overdue discussion of energy security” but does not raise new safety concerns about nuclear power, Senator John Kerry said today.
“A lot of folks took a new hard look at nuclear because it’s low carbon energy, but the safety questions about meltdowns and waste were always part of the discussion,” the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement.
Kerry’s comments on nuclear energy came in response to the rising threat posed by the badly damaged Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, where worries of nuclear meltdown have been rising since last week’s massive quake and tsunami.
“We should absolutely know who is in charge in the United States if our existing nuclear plants are endangered by a natural disaster, and we should be looking hard at the siting issues, but again these aren’t new questions,” he said.
Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, a long-time supporter of nuclear energy who co-authored a climate change bill with Kerry lest year, called over the weekend for the United States to “put the brakes on” nuclear power until events unfolding in Japan are understood.
Kerry’s statement did not call for any kind of change in policy with respect to nuclear energy, but did provide a reminder of sorts for why skeptics came to support nuclear power as a flawed but necessary part of a national clean energy policy.
“In recent years, environmentalists and policy makers in both parties started taking a fresh look at nuclear power because none of our current energy options are without a downside,” he said.
“It’s up to all of us to make sure it’s a productive policy discussion that recognizes we have to get our energy from somewhere, and right now none of our options are entirely attractive.”
U.S. Representative Edward J. Markey, a Democrat from Malden, called on the Obama administration to distribute potassium iodide, which is ingested to protect the thyroid gland from radiation, to residents within 20 miles of nuclear plants.
Congress approved the requirement in legislation in 2002, but the federal government never instituted the policy proposed by Markey, who is a senior member of the Energy and Commerce Committee.
“We should not wait for a catastrophic accident at or a terrorist attack on a nuclear reactor in this country to occur to implement this common-sense emergency preparedness measure,” Markey wrote in the letter to John Holdren, the director of the Office of Science & Technology Policy.
Massachusetts Democrats weighing a US Senate campaign next year against Republican Scott Brown are still acting coy publicly, but they're betraying themselves electronically.
Over the weekend, word broke about an e-mail showing a supporter of Newton Mayor Setti Warren was trying to stockpile talent for a campaign starting in late April.
Today, an e-mail surfaced showing local communications strategist Dorie Clark seeking a campaign press secretary.
"A Democratic US Senate campaign seeks a press secretary," Clark wrote in an e-mail dated March 11, dropping any question about whether her candidate would run. "The ideal candidate will have on-the-record experience with a federal or statewide campaign. The position in based in Boston, Mass."
She asked that resumes be sent to her company e-mail address.
The request is also being circulated on the "JobsthatareLEFT" Google chat group, which seeks positions for liberal Democratic workers moving between campaigns.
When Clark was contacted by the Globe, she refused to explain for whom she was working.
"No comment at this point, I'm afraid," she wrote.
Clark is based in Somerville, the same hometown as Representative Michael Capuano, a prospective candidate. When he ran in the primary preceding last year's US Senate special election, he relied on his own congressional staff namely spokeswoman Alison Mills for his campaign needs.
Meanwhile, Robert Massie of Somerville has also announced he's running for the Democratic nomination. His campaign manager sent out a press release today touting Massie's showing in a weekend straw conducted by the North Andover Democratic Town Committee.
Massie was first, with 30 of 74 votes, or about 41 percent. Driscoll, who joined Massie in attending the meeting, was second with 18. Capuano had 14; Representative Stephen Lynch had 4; City Year co-founder Alan Khazei and Representative Edward J. Markey had 3 apiece; and Warren and finance executive Robert Pozen each received no votes.
Massie's campaign manager, Matt Wilson, said the ad was not for their campaign.
Khazei supporters took the none-too-subtle step last week of filing papers with the IRS to create a Senate exploratory committee.
While he said the press secretary ad isn't his, another posting on "JobsthatareLEFT" sought campaign finance workers for his exploratory committee.
"Responsibilities include: traveling and working directly with the candidate, organizing and coordinating events, organizing and working directly with donors, compiling and analyzing data, and developing and implementing strategic finance plans," the post says.
It adds: "Applicants must have a strong desire to work in the intense environment of a political campaign."
Essdras M. Suarez/ Globe Staff
Somerville resident Robert Massie has already said he's going to seek the Democratic nomination to run against Senator Scott Brown next year, and this past week, backers of City Year co-founder Alan Khazei filed papers with the IRS to form a campaign exploratory committee on his behalf.
Meanwhile, Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll continues to weigh the balance between work and family, questioning whether she can make the commitment to a campaign while both leading a city and serving as mother to three young children.
And then there is Newton Mayor Setti Warren, who is impersonating his former boss, Senator John Kerry, by preparing to campaign while saying he is not.
Back in 2001 and early 2002, Kerry said his only focus was on getting re-elected during the fall of 2002. That he made the comment during visits to Iowa, New Hampshire, and other early presidential-voting states prompted questions about the sincerity of the statement.
The senator ended up with a free pass in the 2002 election, propelling him into a 2004 presidential campaign that resulted in him becoming the Democratic presidential nominee but losing the election to the Republican incumbent, President George W. Bush.
Throughout that effort, Warren served as Kerry's trip director. He was in charge of keeping the trains running on time and making sure Kerry got to where he needed to be. After the campaign, Warren did a stint in Kerry's Boston office before heading overseas on a military deployment. In 2009, he won his his first campaign for elective office.
Now, after little more than a year as mayor of Newton, Warren is weighing a challenge to one of the hottest commodities in the US Senate, Brown himself.
Brown's surprise win the January 2010 special election to replace the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy has heartened longshots everywhere. That the lowest-ranking member of the minority party of the Massachusetts state Senate could suddenly become the make-or-break vote in the upper chamber of the US Congress is already the stuff of political legend.
Brown went from nobody to everyman in less than three weeks, riding a post-New Year's poll showing him running strong all the way to a victory on Jan. 19, 2010.
Guided by savvy advisers, he also stopped blowing money when he had ample advertising and it became clear he was going to win, seeding a warchest for the true test: winning re-election to a full term in 2012. Brown now has over $7 million in the bank, and the book tour to promote his new autobiography, "Against All Odds," is being used to introduce him to potential Republican backers across the country.
The recent video showing him hitting up billionaire David Koch for a donation belied Brown's claims that he won't be politicking until next year. As he told Koch on the hidden-camera video, "I'm in cycle right now. We're already banging away."
By some estimates, Brown may spend $25 million on his campaign.
Last month, Governor Deval Patrick revealed Warren was more than considering a race, saying the mayor was "in, for sure," along with Khazei.
That forced Warren to at least acknowledge he was considering a race, but also to temper any actual commitment to running. Last week, the dance continued, as he showed up for President Obama's speech at TechBoston Academy, only to bob-and-weave afterward about whether Obama had asked him to challenge Brown.
He ultimately said they discussed a race, but the president did not ask him to run. Then, two days later, Warren renewed speculation by using his very public Twitter account to criticize one of Brown's Senate votes.
Over the weekend, Gintautas Dumcius of the Dorchester Reporter had an intriguing story saying a political consultant had sent an e-mail saying she may be staffing a Warren campaign by the end of April.
On one level, it's hard to envision Warren having much of a shot against the Brown juggernaut. Warren is barely 40 and has only one year in office to his credit. Brown is over 50 and served in Wrentham town government before working his way up to the state House of Representatives and state Senate.
While members of the Tea Party lament Brown's move to the middle, there are plenty of Republicans nationally who love the idea that their party holds Ted Kennedy's former seat. They show their affection with donations to Brown.
A poll just released by Western New England College found 52 percent of respondents felt Brown should be re-elected. It also showed him leading Warren head-to-head by a margin of 51 percent to 34 percent, as well as over another potential challenger, Representative Michael Capuano, by 51 percent to 38 percent.
(The telephone survey of 472 registered voters, conducted March 6-10, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.)
Yet on another level, Warren's backers see a potent challenger.
Warren has proven an adept campaigner at multiple levels, winning election as class president at Newton North High School as well as his alma mater, Boston College. He has worked in federal office as both a Senate staffer and the New England director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
While Brown touts his service as a JAG officer in the Massachusetts National Guard, Warren can match it with his tenure an an intelligence officer in the US Navy Reserve. And when it comes to deployments, Warren can do one better: He did a year deployment in Iraq, a US combat zone, while Brown has not.
And though they don't publicly state it, Kerry, Patrick, and other Warren supporters make note of a simple fact: Warren is an African-American.
There currently are none in the US Senate. It's an omission they believe Massachusetts Democrats may want to address.
Senator Scott Brown has been named the top Republican on a subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee
Working alongside Senator Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, Brown will be his party's top representative on the Subcommittee on AirLand. He replaces John Thune, a South Dakota Republican who no longer serves on the committee.
Brown is one of three freshman Senators made ranking members of subcommittees, despite the fact that long-time senators serve on the committee. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire is ranking member of the Readiness and Management Support Subcommittee, and Rob Portman of Ohio is ranking member of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee
Brown's panel oversees Army and Air Force programs; Navy and Marine Corps tactical aviation programs; National Guard and Reserve equipment; and Army and Air Force research and development.
“As a 31-year member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, I’m honored to be named ranking member of the Subcommittee on AirLand,” Brown said in a statement. “During my time on the Armed Services Committee, I’ve seen firsthand the incredible service and sacrifice our men and women in uniform make for our country. I look forward to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to address the security challenges facing the United States as well as our friends and allies around the world.”
In addition to the Armed Services Committee, Senator Brown serves on the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, and the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
While other potential Republican presidential candidates tried to grab the spotlight this week with a series of insider announcements about new staff hires, Mitt Romney claimed substantive ground for himself with a wave of campaign donations and a potent Florida endorsement.
In a statement yesterday, Romney's Free and Strong America PAC announced he had sent out another wave of contributions to 45 Republicans in Congress.
All told, they received $93,000. That follows the $208,000 that Romney’s PAC has given to 90 US Senate and House Republicans since the start of the year.
“There are many important issues facing Congress and the nation," the former Massachusetts governor said in the statement. "By showing our support for Republican candidates who are fighting for conservative principles in Washington, we hope to influence the national debate on jobs, taxes, the economy, and the budget."
The statement came amid a week in which Romney visited Texas to meet with key financial and campaign backers, and then aimed to visit Florida to meet with Republican Governor Rick Scott. Romney had campaigned for him last fall.
Their meeting ended up cancelled because of flight delays for Romney, but he nonetheless received the endorsement of state Senator John Thrasher. The St. Augustine Republican is a former House speaker who most recently served as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.
“If Governor Romney decides to run for president in 2012, I will absolutely be supporting him and helping him in Florida,” Thrasher said an e-mail to Abel Harding, a columnist for The Florida Times-Union. “He would be a great GOP nominee.”
Due to population shifts, Florida will pick up two congressional seats and two Electoral College votes in the 2012 election. The state will also host the Republican National Convention, which is being held in Tampa.
Debate over a bill that would strip the Environmental Protection Agency of its power to regulate greenhouse gases turned into a rhetorical throwdown today over an issue that has become one of the fiercest political battlegrounds in Congress.
The meeting of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee was expected to be another angry confrontation between supporters of greenhouse gas regulations and climate change skeptics on the committee, and the members delivered.
Representative Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat, opened his comments by saying that he wouldn’t stand to deliver his comments “because I’m worried that the Republicans will overturn the law of gravity, sending us floating about the room.”
“Arbitrary rejection of scientific fact will not cause us to rise from our seats today. But with this bill, pollution levels will rise. Oil imports will rise. Temperatures will rise,” he said.
He closed with the procedural conclusion of yielding back his unused time, then added: “That is, unless a rejection of Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity is somewhere in the chair’s amendment pile.”
Republicans on the committee who support the bill, the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, employed their own rhetorical flourishes in their condemnation of the EPA, which announced its plans to regulate greenhouse gases last year following a finding that the gases endanger the public.
“Today we take the first step to reassert legislative authority over EPA and to stop EPA’s effort to issue global warming regulations that would increase our electricity costs, our gasoline prices, send more jobs to china, and make America less competitive in the global marketplace,” said Ed Whitfield, a Kentucky Republican.
Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, called the legislation “the logical response to environmental overkill.”
“The EPA has been on a mission of political correctness and is trying to regulate something that shouldn’t be regulated,” he said.
Henry Waxman, a California Democrat, called the bill “extreme,” and said Republicans’ assertions that greenhouse gas regulation will inflate fuel prices “laughable.”
“History will not judge this committee kindly if we become the last bastion of the polluter and science denier when carbon emissions rise to record levels and our weather system goes hay-wire, the American people will ask why we acted so irresponsibly,” he said.
WASHINGTON — Six US senators, including Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, today introduced legislation to revamp procedures for holding suspected terrorists, and to reaffirm the president’s constitutional authority to detain and prosecute suspects being held at the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, according to a statement from Brown.
Brown will co-sponsor the Military Detainee Procedures Improvement Act of 2011 with Republican senators John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and independent Joe Lieberman of Connecticut.
The legislation would require that captured members of al-Qaeda, the Taliban or affiliated terror groups be held in military custody, unless the secretary of defense orders the prisoners transferred to civilian custody. It would prohibit the appropriation of money for an alternative prison to Guantanamo on US soil. The measure would also require the secretary of defense to scrutinize the transfer of detainees to other countries, and would establish as the position of the Congress that alleged members of al-Qaeda and affiliated groups should be tried by military commissions.
“Terrorists should be detained at Guantanamo Bay, and tried according to the laws of military justice,” Brown said in a statement. “Terrorists should not be allowed to enjoy the rights and privileges protected by the U.S. Constitution. These are not common street criminals, they are terrorists who have one stated purpose: to kill Americans and our allies.”
Brown, a lieutenant colonel and 31 year member of the Massachusetts Army National Guard, will visit Guantanamo Bay for a briefing on the detainee facilities later this month, according to his office.
The Mashpee Wampanoag Indian tribe today announced that former US Representative William Delahunt will represent the group and its interests including its ongoing efforts to host casino gambling at the state and federal level.
Delahunt stepped down in January as 10th District congressman. Previously, the Quincy Democrat served as Norfolk district attorney.
He has had a long history of working with the Wampanoags and advocating on their behalf.
The tribe had long pushed for authority to build a casino on land in Middleborough. When that plan stalled, it pushed for legislation to build in Fall River. That subsequently stalled, too, and the tribe has been seeking alternate venues.
In a statement, Tribal Chairman Cedric Cromwell said hiring Delahunt was "a natural extension" of his advocacy.
“Our tribe was fortunate to have him as our congressman, and we are excited to have his voice and continued advocacy on our behalf,"Cromwell said.
Delahunt said: “The history of this tribe’s dealings with our government is replete with bureaucracy, impasse, inertia, and sometimes outright hostility. The tribe has rights as a sovereign nation, and more importantly, treating them with respect and helping them achieve self-sufficiency is simply the right thing to do. I am proud to represent them.”
Senators John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, and Mike Crapo, an Idaho Republican, today introduced legislation to help small brewers, by seeking to reduce beer excise taxes, Kerry’s office said in a statement.
The Brewer’s Employment and Excise Relief (BEER) Act will help create jobs at more than 1,600 small breweries nationwide, which collectively employ nearly 100,000 people, said Kerry. Massachusetts is home to approximately 38 small breweries, including Northampton Brewery, Haverhill Brewery, and Sam Adams, the country’s largest small brewery.
“The craft beer revolution started right here in Massachusetts and they’ve been going toe to toe with multi-national beer companies ever since,” said Kerry, in a statement. “This bill will help ensure that these small businesses keep people on the payroll and create jobs even during tight economic times.”
Currently, a small brewer that produces less than two million barrels of beer per year is eligible to pay $7.00 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels produced each year. The legislation would reduce this rate to $3.50 per barrel, giving our nation's smallest brewers approximately $19.9 million per year to expand and generate jobs. This change helps approximately 1,525 breweries nationwide.
Under current law, once production exceeds 60,000 barrels, a small brewer must pay the same $18 per barrel excise tax rate that the largest brewer pays while producing more than 100 million barrels. The legislation would lower the tax rate to $16 per barrel on beer production above 60,000 barrels, up to two million barrels, providing small brewers with an additional $27.1 million per year, according to Kerry.
We used this live blog and tweets @globeglen to provide up-to-the-minute updates about President Obama's visit to TechBoston Academy in Dorchester.
4:06 p.m. - The president just wrapped up. No real rising close, no real oomph. But the kids are still thrilled he came.
4:04 p.m. - This has to be the most pastoral presidential event I have ever covered. Very sober atmosphere, very respectful crowd, very solemn president, despite his jokes.
4:02 p.m. - Obama concedes it will "cost money" to make changes he's proposed, but he immediately segues to budget cuts he has offered as means to support the education programs for which he wants to pay.
"We cannot cut back on job-creating investments, like education," he said. "There's nothing responsible about cutting back in our investment in these young people."
3:57 p.m. - Instead of pouring money "into a broken system," president says, Arne Duncan has launched "Race to the Top," which draws applause. Says if states show good programs, "we'll show you the money."
3:55 p.m. - Students answer with slow "y-e-e-s-s-s" when Obama asks if they come from tough neighborhoods. But then he notes their high achievement rates.
3:53 p.m. - Obama notes each student here gets laptop upon enrolling. They then have to take care of it, and use it to take core math and other classes, including forensic science. President jokes he's not even sure what that is.
3:50 p.m. - President laments USA falling to ninth in nations in terms of proportion with college degree. It used to be first.
3:47 p.m. - Cheer as president explains he came to TechBoston because "you are model of how it's done" for rest of country.
3:45 p.m. - Obama recalls time at Harvard Law and how Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard. Then he started a "modest" computer software company. When kids didn't laugh, president reminded them it was a joke. They laughed at that.
3:43 p.m. - Shriek from students as Obama takes stage.
3:39 p.m. - Melinda Gates says she and "Bill," as in Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, are happy they invested in school nearly a decade ago.
She is recalling excitement among students they just meant at knowing where they are going: to college.
3:37 p.m. - Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Melinda Gates are announced to stage. She is speaking first.
3:34 p.m. - They just announced "the event will begin momentarily."
3:28 p.m. - The president is running more than 15 minutes behind schedule, allowing the Boston city councilors in the room to work the crowd for votes.
Newton Mayor Setti Warren, a potential US Senate candidate, is also in the audience.
3:05 p.m. - Rotor noises above from a State Police helicopter signal the motorcade's arrival at TechBoston. The president was touring a classroom and meeting some students before speaking in the gym.
Former Boston newswoman Rehema Ellis is on-hand to live shots for MSNBC.
2:46 p.m. - There's a lull in the activities as the president tours the school and the audience waits in the gynmasium. It's a relatively small crowd in here, very controlled, unlike more rambunctious campaign events. Still, all the guests appear excited.
2:36 p.m. - HE must almost be here... presidential seal attached to "blue goose" armored presidential lectern.
2:34 p.m. - Two students just led Pledge of Allegiance and did heartfelt rendition of national anthem that left their classmates cheering. Then they hugged each other with ear-to-ear smiles. Nice start.
2:30 p.m. - TechBoston Academy JROTC color guard bringing in American flag.
2:23 p.m. - Inside TechBoston Academy, people being asked to take their seats. Behind podium, banner reads, "Winning the Future," the president's forward-looking slogan since State of the Union. Presidential seal, always a last-minute addition, still not affixed to podium.
President Obama is getting an unruly reception as he heads for an education event and party fundraiser in Boston today from his fellow Democrats.
Former Representative Joseph P. Kennedy II, along with current Representatives Edward J. Markey, Michael Capuano, and James McGovern, have called a news conference to protest the administration's proposed cut in the LIHEAP program.
It provides assistance to people who cannot afford their heating bills.
To add drama to the event, it will be held at the East Boston home Joe and Katherine Oliveri, who saw their federal Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program benefit drop by 30 percent this year.
Their current allotment would be cut in half under the White House budget proposal. LIHEAP currently receives $5.1 billion under the federal budget; the president has proposed cutting it by $2.5 billion.
"Energy prices have now gone down but the cost of the program has stayed the same," the president said last month. "Let's go back to a more sustainable level."
The event is scheduled for 10:30 a.m., less that four hours before Air Force One touches down at Logan International Airport.
The liberal blog Think Progress has posted exclusive video of US Senator Scott Brown thanking conservative billionaire David Koch for supporting Brown’s campaign last year and asking him for help in his re-election.
“Your support during the election, it meant a ton,” the Massachusetts Republican is shown telling Koch. “It made a difference and I can certainly use it again.”
Koch and his brother, Charles, are known for multi-million dollar contributions to conservative and libertarian political causes. In what has become a well-publicized example of the power of the Koch brothers, a prankster calling the office of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker was recently able to get the embattled governor on the phone by pretending he was David Koch.
According to Think Progress: “David Koch directly gave the National Republican Senatorial Committee $30,400 in November 2009, [two months before Brown was elected] and the Koch Industries PAC threw in $15,000 to NRSC plus $5,000 more directly to Brown right before Brown’s special election.”
The video of Brown was shot on Friday by Think Progress blogger Brad Johnson, using a small Flip camera at the dedication of the David H. Koch Integrative Cancer Institute at MIT, Johnson said today by telephone.
An online biography says Johnson is the climate editor at American Progress. He graduated from both Amherst College and Massachusetts Institute for Technology. Before joining Think Progress, the bio says, the former Boston resident was a developer for Saatchi & Saatchi, Lextranet, and the Democratic National Committee.
The video also captures Brown appearing to contradict himself on the subject of politics.
In public appearances, the senator says that he's not interested in politicking right now, that there will be time for it in 2012 his re-election year.
Yet in the video, Brown tells Koch he's politicking right now.
“I’m in the cycle right now,” Brown tells Koch. “We’re already banging away."
Senator John Kerry is asking his alma mater, Yale University, to follow Harvard's lead and allow military recruiters on campus once again following the repeal of the 'don't ask, don't tell' ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the armed services.
In a letter today to Yale President Richard C. Levin, Kerry invoked the university's history of civil rights activism as a reason to bring ROTC back to campus. Banning recruitment to protest one injustice, he said, "simply created another in its place."
"ROTC's presence again at Yale would remind all that we also have a stake in defending our nation and bring the Yale community closer to the price of decisions regarding war and peace," he wrote.
A Yale media spokesperson said this afternoon that, at Levin's direction, the college had already begun discussions with the military about returning to campus, though there is no timeline for a final decision. Levin has responded privately to Kerry's letter, according to Yale.
After successful surgery to replace both hips, Senator John Kerry is suiting up for the 3rd Annual Congressional Hockey Challenge.
“It’s hard to believe that more than 40 years have passed since I took my first real cuts on Turkey Pond playing in high school,” Kerry said in a statement today, referring to his attendance at the hockey-crazed St. Paul's School in Concord, NH.
“I’m grateful to the doctors at Mass. General for the new hips that got me back on the ice, and I’m looking forward to the chance to do my Bruins proud and raise some money for a great cause," he said.
The game will be played next Thursday, March 10, at the Verizon Center in Washington.
Also participating in the event will be NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Hall of Fame hockey player Pat LaFontaine, former player Kevin Weekes, and Willie O’Ree, a former member of the Boston Bruins and the first African American player in the NHL.
The next day, Bettman will be accompanying the Chicago Blackhawks to the White House so President Obama, a former Chicago resident, can celebrate their Stanley Cup championship last season.
And afterward, first lady Michelle Obama will oversee a street hockey workout and clinic on a rink set up on the South Lawn, as part of her "Let's Move!" anti-obesity initiative.
Proceeds from the congressional event will benefit the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, a developmental program that provides inner-city youth in Washington the chance to participate in an organized ice hockey program.
Kerry played in the first game, held in 2009, but missed last year because of his surgeries.
WASHINGTON — US Senator Scott Brown can add “best-selling author” to his resume: the Massachusetts Republican’s autobiography, Against All Odds, will appear at No. 4 on the New York Times’ best-seller list on March 13, Brown’s staff confirmed today.
Brown’s book, released last month by HarperCollins, has received wide publicity in part due to its revelations from Brown’s troubled and violent youth, including instances of physical abuse by stepfathers and one instance of sexual abuse by a summer camp counselor.
Brown has promoted the book with a media blitz and nationwide book tour, which included a book-signing in the gift shop at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.
Most Senate Republicans are asking President Obama to withdraw the nomination of the man central to implementing the sweeping national health care law passed last year, but Senator Scott Brown is not among them.
Forty-two GOP senators sent a letter to the White House today complaining of Donald M. Berwick’s past statements and lack of experience, and saying the president should start again with a candidate to head Medicare that Republicans could support and confirm.
“Withdrawing Dr. Berwick’s nomination would be a positive first step in rebuilding the trust of the American people,” the letter read.
Brown, who was elected in large part because of his opposition to the health care law, did not sign, and nor did the two moderate Republicans from Maine, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins. The other two absent Republicans are Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Rob Portman of Ohio.
Brown spokeswoman Gail Gitcho said the Massachusetts Republican “has always been troubled” by Berwick’s recess appointment. Senators should have the chance to question the candidate, she said, and Brown would make up his mind about Berwick after doing so.
“The president can nominate the person he thinks is best for the job and Senator Brown looks forward to reviewing Dr. Berwick's credentials," she said in a statement.
The president temporarily appointed Berwick, a former Harvard professor, when the Senate was on recess, but he has never been confirmed. The head of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has a key role in implementing the overhaul that Congress passed last year.
In response to the letter, the White House said that Berwick is “far and away the best person for the job.”
“He's already doing stellar work at CMS: saving taxpayer dollars by cracking down on fraud, and implementing delivery system reforms that will save billions in excess costs and save millions of lives. We won't be withdrawing the nomination,” the statement said.
WASHINGTON – A top congressional Republican this morning tweaked Mitt Romney for his health care plan in Massachusetts, further illustrating the primary challenge Romney faces in his expected presidential bid.
Representative Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican and chairman of the House Budget Committee, criticized the Massachusetts health care plan by comparing it to President Obama’s national plan.
“It’s not that dissimilar to ObamaCare,” he reportedly said at a breakfast this morning. “And you probably know I’m not a big fan of ObamaCare.”
Ryan's comments were first reported by the American Spectator, which helped organize the breakfast along with Americans for Tax Reform.
Ryan, who has been mentioned as a potential vice presidential pick, could be an influential voice in the Republican presidential campaign. He is the latest to bring up the challenges Romney faces in explaining his health care plan at a time when many Republicans are focused on repealing President Obama’s plan.
Several potential Republican primary rivals have also been criticizing Romney over health care.
Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee panned the Massachusetts plan – and Romney’s role in approving it – in his new book. And yesterday, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, in testimony before a congressional committee, said he didn’t want any plan similar to the Bay State’s in his own state.
“Massachusetts has a state health insurance program that they’re obviously happy with. We think that’s their right,’’ Barbour said. “We don’t want that. That’s not good for us.’’
Romney has largely defended the plan in Massachusetts, while still criticizing the federal plan passed by Democrats. His chief argument has been that states should experiment with different approaches to health care, but that Obama’s national plan infringes on states’ rights and should be repealed.
“Mitt Romney is proud of what he accomplished for Massachusetts in getting everyone covered,” Romney’s spokesman, Eric Fehrnstrom, said last week in response to Huckabee’s criticism. “What's important now is to return to the states the power to determine their own healthcare solutions by repealing Obamacare. A one-size-fits-all plan for the entire nation just doesn't work.”
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hudak is back.
Bill Hudak, the Tea Party-backed Republican candidate in the Sixth Congressional District who lost to incumbent Democrat John F. Tierney in the fall, is going make another run at the seat in 2012, he said today.
“After conversations with numerous advisors and campaign volunteers throughout the district, it is clear that my support remains widespread and deep,” Hudak said in a statement. “In fact, since last November I have received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from supporters urging me to continue the fight.”
Hudak's decision was not a surprise. In a sense, he had never stopped running.
Just days after the November election in which he garnered 41.4 percent of the vote to 54.7 percent for Tierney, Hudak sent a fund-raising letter to supporters, seeking contributions so he can "continue to stand" because, while he "lost the battle," the "war of 2012 is not over."
He signed the missive, "Future Congressman, 6th MA District.”
Hudak, a Boxboro lawyer, campaigned as a self-described "Reagan Republican" committed to a traditional platform of lower taxes and less spending. He was endorsed by US Senator Scott Brown, former Governor Mitt Romney, and and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes.
But he struggled to overcome controversy dating to the presidential election of 2008, when he placed a sign in his lawn that compared Barack Obama to Osama Bin Laden. He also fought accusations that he was sympathetic to the so-called birther movement, after he urged a reporter to look into allegations that Obama was born in Kenya.
Tierney, who has not said whether he will seek a ninth term in 2012, also battled controversy during the campaign.
Just weeks before Election Day, Tierney’s wife, Patrice, pleaded guilty to four counts of aiding and abetting the filing of false tax returns for her brother, a federal fugitive who has been indicted on charges of illegal gambling and money laundering. She was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
Senator John Kerry today unveiled plans to offer financial assistance to promote democracy and reforms in the Arab world.
Although he did not put a dollar figure on the amount he is seeking, the Massachusetts Democrat called for "significant financial commitment" of new money to be earmarked for economists, election experts, and aid to people in the Arab world who are pushing for a historic transformation of their region.
“Events this powerful demand a response of equal power," Kerry said in remarks prepared for delivery in his capacity as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "Our commitment now to the ordinary people who are risking their lives to win human rights and democracy will be remembered for generations in the Arab world. We have to get this moment right. We are working here in the Senate with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to create a package of financial assistance to help turn the new Arab awakening into a lasting rebirth."
Kerry was speaking at a hearing about the State Department's budget at a time when Republicans have vowed to cut foreign aid funding. But he said the aid package has bipartisan support.
"We have not worked out the numbers or the details yet, but I am convinced a significant financial commitment by the US to assist in this monumental and uplifting transformation is key to its long-term outcome and our relationship to it," he said. “I understand that we face a budget crisis in our own country. But we can either pay now to help brave people build a better, democratic future for themselves or we will certainly pay later with increased threats to our own national security."
But Kerry did not say how the new fund would relate to programs that are already in the State Department budget for promoting democracy and reform in the Middle East, such as the Middle East Partnership Initiative and contributions to the National Endowment for Democracy.
It is unclear what impact US aid will have at this stage on people who have already toppled governments of Tunisia and Egypt, and appear to be on the verge of driving Libya's Muammar Qaddafi from power.
Kerry spoke before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton defended the State Department's 2011 budget request.
Kerry also urged consideration of a no-fly zone over Libya, where Qaddafi has attacked protesters with militias backed by helicopters and warplanes.
WASHINGTON — US Senators Scott Brown, a Massachusetts Republican, and Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, today introduced the “Taxpayer Receipt Act of 2011,” which would provide every taxpayer an itemized receipt, similar to a grocery store receipt, from the IRS that lists where their payroll and income taxes are spent.
The bill is among several proposals Brown briefly outlined yesterday.
The taxpayer receipt would list federal spending in key categories, such as the interest on the national debt, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, national defense, education, veterans’ benefits, environmental protection, foreign aid, and the Congress. Taxpayers also would be directed to a website where they could get more detailed information.
Additionally, the receipt would provide taxpayers with the amount of debt per American – which currently is more than $45,000, according to Brown’s office.
“During this tough economy, American taxpayers deserve to know exactly how the government is spending their hard-earned dollars,” Brown said today in a statement.
“Our bipartisan legislation will help give Americans the tools they need to better understand federal spending. As we work together to rein in our spending and tackle our national debt, it is important that we provide transparency and accountability to the process to help us determine what spending we need and what we can live without.”
The bill will be reviewed by the Finance Committee, of which Nelson is a member.
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Scott Brown outlined this morning several initiatives he said would reduce government spending, increase transparency and reduce waste.
Brown’s plans include:
- The bipartisan Taxpayer Receipt Act, to be filed with US Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat. The bill would provide an itemized taxpayer receipt showing taxpayers where all of the money paid to the Federal government is getting spent, and how much new debt "we’ve put on the national credit card," said Brown's office in a statement. The receipt would arrive when a taxpayer files their tax returns, on or before April 15th of each year.
- The bipartisan 48 Hour Spending Transparency Resolution, which Brown said he will file to increase transparency on spending bills. Under current law, the Senate has to wait 48 hours before considering a bill that includes a committee report, after a bill is reported out of committee. Brown’s bill would apply that 48 hour threshold before any consideration of a legislative matter by a subcommittee or committee, or on the floor of the Senate.
- To tackle the debt, Brown said he believes that “we should change the way we budget and spend – putting a system in place that helps the federal government prioritize what we really need, while eliminating what we can live without and balancing the budget.” On February 1st, Brown sent a letter to the Budget Committee calling for “responsible budget reform.” The letter asked Budget Committee leaders to ensure that priorities are established before the Senate holds any vote to increase the nation’s debt limit.
- Brown is a co-sponsor of the Reduce Unnecessary Spending Act to give the president additional tools, such as a constitutional line-item veto procedure, “to eliminate the kind of reckless spending that sticks taxpayers with the bill for congressional pork,” he said.
- Also in this Congress, Brown will introduce the Federal Acquisition Reform Act – comprehensive legislation that he says will potentially save billions by streamlining the way the federal government purchases goods and services. And as the new ranking member of the Federal Financial Management Subcommittee, Brown will hold hearings on the Social Security Program, the Medicare and Medicaid Programs, and federal agencies “to root out the problems within these programs and ensure they are operating efficiently.”
Brown also said he opposes to earmarks, which the Republican-controlled US House has pledged to eliminate.
Governor Deval Patrick wrapped up a long weekend in Washington this morning with testimony about the Massachusetts health care plan before the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In a shortened version of prepared remarks, the Democrat noted the history of the Massachusetts legislation, highlighted it was passed in 2006 thanks to cooperation between then-Republican Governor Mitt Romney and the Democratic Legislature, and said it has achieved nearly universal care while only adding 1 percent to the state budget.
Following up, Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, a potential Romney rival in the 2012 White House campaign, said bluntly, "We don't want that."
Setting a political dagger, he reiterated the Massachusetts plan was developed by Romney and the leading Democrat that Republicans used to hate, Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
Patrick has unique perspective on the Obama plan as governor of the state with a universal health care law that served as model for the federal program. But aides expected him to be challenged by committee Republicans seeking to repeal the national law.
The debate could be a proxy battle for an expected element of the 2012 presidential race, as Barbour indicated.
Nonetheless, Patrick was generally treated respectfully, as Democrats used their questions to coax answers supporting Obama's program, while Republicans tried to attack it.
On several occasions, the governor tried to build support for the president by noting that Massachusetts is already a way down the road the nation is set to travel.
"This is not so scary to us," he said.
His committee host, Representative Edward Markey, D-Mass., also got the governor to underscore that Massachusetts has a balanced budget, 98 percent insured, and unemployment below the national average even with its universal health law.
The dean of the congressional delegation told the governor he was doing "a great job."
Governor Deval Patrick seems more anxious to kick off next year's US Senate race in Massachusetts than some of the potential candidates, catching most off-guard yesterday when they found he had rattled off their names during an interview at the National Governors Association meetings in Washington.
Patrick told Jim O'Sullivan of the National Journal, a former reporter for the State House News Service in Boston, that four candidates had already chatted with him about a potential run, and he had traded calls with a fifth.
Then, breaching all manner of political protocol, he identified them: City Year co-founder Alan Khazei, who made a failed attempt for the Democratic nomination in last year's Senate special election; Newton Mayor Setti Warren, little more than a year in office; veteran Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll; and Democratic activist Robert Massie, a 1994 candidate for lieutenant governor.
Patrick also said Robert Pozen, a former executive at Fidelity Investments and MFS Investment Management, had reached out to him but they had failed to connect.
“My sense is that (Brown) is struggling a little bit to decide whether he’s going to work for the people of the commonwealth or work for the hard right,” Patrick said, previewing the Democrats' most likely line of attack against the man who left them thunderstruck when he won the seat held for nearly a half-century by a party icon, the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
In the aftermath of that race, the Democrats regrouped, helped Patrick win re-election last fall (albeit with less than 50 percent of the vote in what for all practical purposes was a three-way race), and repelled the GOP tide that swept the rest of the nation in the mid-term elections.
All 10 Massachusetts seats in the US House remained in Democratic hands, and local Democrats are feeling even more optimistic as they head toward 2012, when President Obama will be atop the ballot and Patrick is free to pile on against Brown and a potential GOP presidential nominee, former Governor Mitt Romney.
Brown himself is aware of the peril. He has already banked over $7 million in campaign cash and may spend up to $25 million to retain what initially proved to be a pivotal seat for his party: the 41st Senate vote to uphold a Republican filibuster, or the 60th vote the Democrats needed to ensure passage of any of their initiatives. Republicans gained Senate seats in the mid-terms but still remain a minority.
The senator has calibrated his votes with an eye toward maintaining hometown support and national viability, and he has been careful to cultivate national Republicans during his mid-term campaign appearances, as well as during the book tour to promote his autobiography, "Against All Odds." It took him as far away as Florida and the Reagan presidential library in California.
Against that backdrop, Massie has already announced a campaign, and Khazei, Warren, Driscoll, Pozen, and several sitting House members have been weighing challenges to Brown. That group includes Representatives Michael Capuano of Somerville and Stephen Lynch of South Boston.
Yet each has carefully demurred when asked about a campaign, including Lynch, who was repeatedly peppered on the point over the weekend at the outset of an interview with WCVB-TV's "OTR."
"I think that's just too far away at this point," Lynch said.
The program aired Sunday shortly before Patrick sat down with O'Sullivan and upended the conversation. When previously asked about potential Senate candidates, the governor had made two points: he would not be among them, but he would not reveal the names of those who had sought his counsel about a possible campaign.
That didn't stop him from lauding certain potential candidates, but he never spoke publicly for them. Now, whether he's floating trial balloons or trying to push fence-sitters, Patrick has changed tacks.
“Kim is not in; she has not made up her mind, but I know she’s thinking about it seriously. But Alan and Bob and Setti are in, for sure,” the governor told the National Journal.
As for Pozen, “I haven’t talked to Bob. We’ve traded phone calls, but I haven’t talked to him."
Warren upset a sitting state representative, Ruth Balser, to win the Newton mayor's race in November 2009. He was sworn in on Jan. 1, 2010, and has worked since then to cultivate the image of an engaged chief executive.
Asked earlier this month about Patrick including him in a list of potential Senate candidates, Warren told the Globe: "I consider the governor a friend, and I'm honored he thinks highly of me. But as I said before, I'm remaining focused on the issues that effect Newton."
Just two weeks later, after Patrick branded him a surefire candidate in a national publication, Warren was handed a live grenade.
“I am considering a run against Senator Brown,” the mayor said in a statement yesterday. "I have been disappointed by many of his votes, which I believe have hurt many cities and towns in Massachusetts, including my own community of Newton."
He said he had yet to make a final decision, "but in the final analysis, if I believe I can do a better job for Massachusetts, I’ll put my name on the ballot.”
Driscoll was similarly left scrambling.
She was out on the hustings last night, attending a fundraiser in Worcester and a women's event in Easthampton. Those are far from the Witch City, underscoring her possible interest in a Senate race, but Driscoll is also a deliberative politician and confessed she was not ready to commit to a race at least publicly.
“I’m looking at it. I’m trying to understand all the twists and turns. I’m trying to understand the potential impact on my family," she said in a phone call from the road.
Khazei was out at dinner and unavailable for comment.
Pozen was not immediately reachable.
Of the group, Khazei may have the broadest name recognition, thanks to his 2009 primary campaign. He also is an unabashed liberal who would almost certainly run from the left and be able to tap a national fundraising base.
Warren also represents a liberal city, but he has a conservative calling card: He served a year of duty in Iraq as an intelligence officer in the US Navy Reserve. Brown is a member of the Massachusetts National Guard, but he has never been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.
Like Patrick the first African American to hold his job, Warren previously served as an aide to the state's senior senator, John Kerry. He would have unimpeded access to the dossier Kerry and his staff are surely compiling against Brown.
Driscoll, meanwhile, is a second-term mayor who is experienced in community development. She also has been a leading voice for greater budgetary latitude from the state, particularly when it comes to reconfiguring public employee health insurance plans.
She is the first woman elected mayor of Salem, and could benefit in a statewide campaign as a lone female candidate. Yet as the mother of three, Driscoll expressed concern about how a campaign would affect her family.
"I have three young children, and I'm also trying to understand if I can run while also running a city," she said.
Pozen would offer his experience from the finance world, which includes a stint working for President George W. Bush on an aborted Social Security overhaul. He also worked in 2003 as Romney's secretary of economic affairs.
Massie is an Episcopal priest with a doctorate from Harvard Business School. Despite battling serious health problems for years, the Somerville resident announced his Senate candidacy in January.
Patrick has now pushed along the rest of the field.
WASHINGTON — President Obama said Monday he now supports a plan by
Republican Senator Scott Brown that allows states to opt out of the health care overhaul’s key requirements early, a concession that positions the president as willing to compromise on his signature accomplishment.
Obama's shift was announced in an address to the nation’s governors, many of whom have sued the White House to prevent implementation of the health care law. While boosting the prospects of the Massachusetts senator’s bipartisan bill in the Senate, the new position is unlikely to placate the health care law’s detractors or gain approval in the GOP-controlled House. And such an endorsement will not win back support for Brown from Tea Party conservatives, who ferociously denounce the law as an overreach of federal power.
The senator has previously called for the repeal of the health care overhaul, but has shown a willingness to work within the existing rules to change the law for the benefit of Massachusetts residents.
Brown and Democrat Ron Wyden of Oregon filed the bill earlier this year. The legislation would enable states to request permission to withdraw from the law’s mandates in 2014 rather than in 2017. To receive the exemption, the states must demonstrate that they could find other ways to cover as many people as the original law would — something Massachusetts has already accomplished — and do so without adding costs. The earlier date is when many of the act’s central provisions take effect.
The legislation is unlikely to significantly affect Massachusetts, which already has implemented many of the core elements of the national plan, but it would allow other states to forge their own plans.
The president said such a change would allow states to tailor the law to their own needs.
"Alabama is not going to have exactly the same needs of Massachusetts or California or North Dakota," Obama said in making the announcement. "We believe in that flexibility."
Brown said that he was pleased with the president's support but reiterated his opposition to the overall law. "(Senator Brown) strongly opposes the federal health care law, and believes states should have the ability to implement their own plans that provide quality care for all their citizens," his office said in a statement.
Tom Miller, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said that the legislation probably won’t earn Brown any additional support from conservatives; rather, he’s trying to earn support from moderates.
"People who think this bill is fundamentally flawed and the approach is the wrong one to begin with should not take much solace in saying that if you can come up with a slightly different approach to the basic system," he said.
Senator John Kerry hopes that Florida’s decision to put the brakes on a high-speed rail project will be just the ticket for passenger rail in Massachusetts and other northeastern states.
The Massachusetts Democrat and nine other senators from northeastern states asked U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood late last week to steer $2.4 billion that Florida Governor Rick Scott rejected in mid-February to the heavily traveled northeast corridor instead.
“At a time when numerous states have rejected federal funding from the High-Speed Intercity Passenger Rail Program to date, we note that high-speed rail’s potential on the Northeast Corridor is proven,” they wrote.
Scott rejected the money on Feb. 16, calling the Tampa-to-Orlando high-speed rail line a “boondoggle” would cost more than expected and would stick Florida with an extra $3 billion bill. In addition, he felt that estimates of its use were inflated, and that the project overall was a waste of money.
The announcement received a mixed reaction. Rail advocates pounced on Scott, accusing him of making a short-sighted decision, state senators wrote to LaHood asking him to send the money anyway, and the White House called the decision “unfortunate.”
But if history proves to be an example, it could be a boon for Massachusetts and its neighbors along the high-use rail corridor, where the nation's only high-speed train, the Acela Express, operates. In December, after Wisconsin and Ohio rejected $1.2 billion, the Obama administration divvied it up between Massachusetts and 11 other states.
U.S. Representative Edward J. Markey is calling for swift action from the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure that a drilling process for extracting natural gas from deep under the earth is not polluting groundwater.
The Malden Democrat fired off a letter over the weekend to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson shortly after The New York Times published a lengthy piece about the process known as “hydrofracking.”
The process involves pounding underground rock with high-pressure water mixed with sand and chemicals to release trapped natural gas. A single well can produce over a million gallons of waste water that contains salts, carcinogens and radioactive elements, according to the Times. The number of hyrdofracking wells has almost doubled since 2000, to almost a half-million in 2009.
Markey, who sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, warned that the process could turn “our rivers and streams into this generation’s ‘Love Canals,’” a reference to the toxic waste disaster near Niagara Falls, New York in the late 1970s.
“I do not believe that the price for energy extracted from deep beneath the earth’s surface should include a risk to the health of those who live above it,” Markey wrote in his letter to Jackson.
Companies that drill for natural gas say that the process is safe and environmentally sound, but a vocal protest movement has arisen around the drilling process.
Actor Mark Ruffalo recently testified on Capitol Hill against the process, and was expected to wear a protest pin to the Academy Awards on Sunday night. Gasland, a documentary about hydrofracking, was nominated for an Oscar.
UMass-Lowell Chancellor Marty Meehan is sending Governor Deval Patrick a none-too-subtle message after his fellow Democrat quashed the former congressman's bid to become president of the entire University of Massachusetts system.
Meehan is planning to give an honorary degree this spring to Robert Manning, who quit as chairman of the UMass board of trustees late last year amid what he saw as meddling by Patrick in the presidential search.
The award was confirmed by a high-level university official; a UMass-Lowell spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
Manning is a UMass-Lowell grad who has gone on to run one of the country's biggest financial services firms, Boston-based MFS Investment Management.
While he and his wife have no children, they have contributed and been devoted to the UMass system in general and UMass-Lowell in particular, leading to Manning's role atop the system's governing board of trustees.
Manning also was working with fellow Trustee James Karam to oversee the search to replace UMass President Jack Wilson. That search was trending toward Meehan, who members of the search committee made the strongest presentation among a group of semifinalists, before the governor and his top aides began to weigh in.
Patrick spoke generally of the need for diversity among the field of candidates, to conduct a search that not only looks but is open, and that would result in a pick with "broad wings" academically.
Meehan got the message, withdrew from the search after his name leaked, and went back to Lowell, where he has run his own alma mater since resigning from Congress in 2007.
Manning announced his board resignation a week later.
The university ended up hiring Robert Caret, president of Towson University in Maryland.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is heading north of the Mason-Dixon Line tonight to visit the liberal environs of Harvard University and outline a conservative economic vision.
In a speech at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, which will be webcast live at 6 p.m., the Virginia Republican will speak of a country he sees at an economic crossroads, confronting two alternate visions.
One echoes the image of protests that swept Europe last year and continue in some places today, as members of the public and government workers rebelled against cuts in pension and other entitlement programs.
The other is the image of town hall meetings that played out across America in 2009, propelling the anti-government Tea Party revolution and helping the GOP reclaim the House majority this past November.
Cantor said one view is of a future dependent on government financing; the other is rooted in personal entrepreneurship.
“If you think about it, these were very young people worried about their retirement benefits before they’ve worked their career," Cantor told the Globe in reference to some of the participants in Greece, France, and other European nations.
The town hall participants, by contrast, "choose a future based on individual actions, opportunity not created by the government but by the private sector," he said.
Cantor, the top deputy to House Speaker John Boehner, insists his is not a partisan analysis, only a philosophical one. But his comments echoed a partisan opinion piece he recently wrote for Politico, in which he criticized President Obama's budget proposal and said "kicking the can down the road is no substitute for real leadership. Just ask Greece."
In the same column, he urged action to avoid "a European-style debt crisis."
Cantor said an relying too heavily on government support forces increased spending. That triggers tax increases that, in turn, sap capital from the private marketplace. Reducing business taxes and reducing government regulation, he argues, will help keep capital in the private sector.
As to why he's taking his message to an Ivy League institution oft-derided by conservatives, Cantor said: "Harvard is one of the premier institutions of higher learning in the world. We’ve been successful in America because we’ve been able to educate our population to think critically. It’s allowed America to become the crucible of innovation.’’
His deputy chief of staff, John Murray, said the visit is the leader's ongoing campaign to speak "beyond the base," including reaching out to young people, minorities, and university audiences.
Cantor has already spoken at William & Mary and had a speech at the University of Michigan snowed out. He's headed next for Stanford University.
The goal is to make "more of a vision statement than a political statement.”
Murray added: "We have a very systematic strategy to ensure that the work we are doing here inside the Beltway is being transmitted and translated in good venues," he said.
Senator Scott Brown joined other Republicans today in denouncing a decision by President Obama to drop all attempts to defend a law prohibiting the federal government from recognizing same sex marriages.
Brown did not indicate his position on gay marriage but rather lashed out at Obama, who announced today that he has concluded the federal Defense of Marriage Act is unconstititional.
"We can't have presidents deciding what laws are constitutional and what laws are not," Brown said in a statement. "That is a function of the judicial branch, not the executive."
The Bay State's other senator, meanwhile, hailed Obama's decision.
“DOMA was unconstitutional in 1996, and it’s unconstitutional today, and the Obama Administration made the right call to no longer defend it in the courts,” Kerry said. “The Defense of Marriage Act has never been about defending marriage. It’s been nothing more than an unconstitutional effort to deny same-sex couples basic rights and protections.”
The Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, prohibits the federal government from granting benefits the same benefits to same-sex married couples as it does to opposite-sex couples, including social security and estate tax breaks. Until today, the Obama administration has defended the law's constitutionality in court cases around the country, including two in Massachusetts.
Attorney General Martha Coakley, who filed a 2009 lawsuit that helped persuade a federal judge in Boston to declare the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) unconstitutional in July, said she was “very pleased” with the president’s decision to no longer defend the law.
“Today’s decision…is another very important victory for the civil rights of same-couples and their families,” Coakley said at a press conference in her Boston office. “We think the reasoning, as expressed by General Holder is, in some ways, dependent on the extensive discovery and arguments that occurred in Massachusetts."
In a statement released by his office, Governor Deval Patrick threw his support behind the Obama administration.
“I am tremendously heartened today by President Obama’s decision to turn away from this divisive and unfair law,.'' he said. "In Massachusetts, we believe that every person ought to be able to marry whomever they love, and we believe the rest of the country is moving forward in that direction, too."
Coakley told reporters that the law has now been declared discriminatory and unconstitutional by the judge in Boston, Joseph L. Tauro, and by the Obama administration.
US Representative Michael E. Capuano, who decried violent political rhetoric after last month’s fatal shooting rampage in Tucson, said today he regrets urging union workers at a rally in Boston yesterday to “get a little bloody.”
"I strongly believe in standing up for worker rights and my passion for preserving those rights may have gotten the best of me yesterday in an unscripted speech,” the Somerville Democrat said in a statement. “I wish I had used different language to express my passion and I regret my choice of words."
Capuano was referring to remarks he made at a raucous rally of about 1,000 union workers who were outside the State House, protesting Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin, and his plan to limit public employees' collective bargaining rights.
"I'm proud to be with people who understand that it's more than just sending an e-mail that gets you going," Capuano had declared. "Every once in a while you need to get out on the streets and get a little bloody when necessary."
The union crowd greeted Capuano's exhortation with cheers, whistles, and applause.
But his remark raised eyebrows elsewhere because Capuano was among the lawmakers who were calling for cooler political rhetoric after his Democratic colleague, Gabrielle Giffords, was shot in the Tucson rampage that killed six other people last month.
At the time, Capuano had said the shooting was probably inevitable because of the nation's increasingly heated political rhetoric.
“Many of us were afraid for a long time that something like this would happen, with the level or the tone of the discourse over the last several years," Capuano told WGBH on Jan. 22. "It's gotten violent and personal.”
Capuano echoed that sentiment in a Jan. 9 interview with the Globe.
“Everybody knows the last couple of years there’s been an intentional increase in the degree of heat in political discourse,” he said. “If nothing else good comes out of this, I’m hoping it causes people to reconsider how they deal with things."
Capuano ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate in 2009, and is considering a run against Republican Scott Brown in 2012.
South Dakota Senator John Thune released a statement today saying he will not seek the presidency in 2012.
"There is a battle to be waged over what kind of country we are going to leave our children and grandchildren and that battle is happening now in Washington, not two years from now. So at this time, I feel that I am best positioned to fight for America’s future here in the trenches of the United States Senate,'' the Republican said in a statement.
Glen Johnson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
The multitude of revelations in Senator Scott Brown's new book "Against All Odds" and his "60 Minutes" interview last night underscore the degree to which he was largely unknown to Massachusetts voters when they nonetheless elected him to replace the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy.
More than a year later, some are only coming to learn that "Downtown Scotty Brown," as he was known on the basketball court, is a left-hander, or that he can chop mushrooms with the speed and precision of a professional chef, or that he shoplifted far more than just record albums during his wayward days as a teen-ager.
Beyond that, the book and the interview added fresh detail to the well-known story of his tough childhood, where, as the son of parents each married multiple times, he endured the beatings of some stepfathers and found refuge in schoolboy and college athletics.
Furthermore, they included a bombshell even to Brown's own family: his claim that he was sexually abused, as a 10-year-old, by a counselor at a Cape Cod summer camp.
The revelation prompted plaudits for Brown from both Governor Deval Patrick and Brown's senior colleague, Senator John Kerry, two Democrats who crossed party lines to laud the Republican for opening up about such a traumatic event. They said they hoped it would encourage other victims not feel ashamed or ostracized, and possibly take the same step themselves.
Brown himself is tough on his alleged tormentor, telling "60 Minutes" that "fortunately, nothing was ever fully consummated, so to speak, but it was certainly, back then, very traumatic.”
When interviewer Lesley Stahl noted the alleged abuser kept trying to get alone with Brown after the first incident, the senator added: “Yup, as predators do. He said, ‘If you tell anybody, you know, I’ll kill you.' You know, 'I will make sure that no one believes you,' and that’s the biggest thing, when people find people like me, at that young, vulnerable age, who are, basically, lost, the thing that they have over you is they make you believe that no one will believe you.’’
In Brown's case, though, the comments have another context: They reverberate through his decision last year to endorse a fellow Republican, state Representative Jeffrey Perry, in his bid to replace Democratic Representative William Delahunt in Congress.
The general election battle was defined by sharp and repeated exchanges between Perry and his Democratic challenger, then-Norfolk County District Attorney William Keating, over what, if any, solace Perry had provided to a fellow police officer who later pleaded guilty to charges surrounding the illegal strip searches to two young girls while the men served on the Wareham Police Department in the 1990s.
One victim, who allowed herself to be identified by her maiden name, Lisa Allen, said in a late-October statement opposing Perry's election that the then-Wareham sergeant "had to hear me screaming and crying" as Officer Scott Flanagan put his hand down the 14-year-old's pants and ordered her to lift her bra after he, Perry, and another officer came upon a group of teens suspected of using drugs near a cranberry bog in 1991.
Arguing Perry lacked the character to serve in such high office, Allen said: "Perry did not care about protecting teen-aged girls in Wareham from police officer Flanagan. Jeff Perry cared only about protecting police officer Flanagan."
During the campaign, Brown didn't offer the kind of personal perspective on sexual abuse he has as he kicks off his book tour; rather, he condemned Keating for what he viewed as the politicization of a past incident.
Brown said "it's horrible" what Allen went through. He also noted that Perry's fellow officer "was tried and convicted."
The senator went on to argue that Perry had run an issues-based campaign, while accusing Keating of fear-mongering.
"It's to the point: 'Bill, stop with the dirty politics,'" Brown said last October.
In a radio ad released at the same time, the senator said Keating "has decided to focus almost entirely on negative attacks concerning an incident that took place almost two decades ago and which didn't directly involve Jeff."
The senator has since said the two situations are not analogous, but juxtapose Brown's comments last night with Lisa Allen's complaints about her treatment, as a 14-year-old, at the hands of a uniformed police officer all while his supervisor allegedly stood by mute.
“Yup, as predators do," Brown said of his alleged attacker. "He said, ‘If you tell anybody, you know, I’ll kill you.' You know, 'I will make sure that no one believes you,' and that’s the biggest thing, when people find people like me, at that young, vulnerable age, who are, basically, lost, the thing that they have over you is they make you believe that no one will believe you.’’
Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
Representative Barney Frank mounted a spirited defense in the House today of the Dodd-Frank Act, the financial reform legislation that bears his name, but fell short in his attempts to block cuts to financial oversight bodies.
Frank sought an amendment to plug a $131 million cut in funding to the Securities and Exchange Commission, but the amendment was voted down 270-160. Another amendment which would have transferred $63 million to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which Frank’s bill created, also failed, 265-163.
The amendments came up amid a whirlwind of short votes as lawmakers wrangled over the Republicans’ $1.2 trillion spending measure to fund the federal government through the rest of this year. GOP leaders want to cut $61 billion from the budget this year.
Frank, never one to shy from a fight, mixed it up with Republican adversaries on the floor today over the amendments. In his typically caustic manner, the Newton Democrat derided a Republican amendment to scrap several oversight positions that Republicans derisively call “czars.”
One was for the special master of the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP, whose job is to make sure that beneficiaries of bailout money don’t receive exorbitant bonuses or salaries.
“Why our colleagues decided that that position should be abolished and a high level person charged with that responsibility should not be there is baffling to me,” Frank said.
At one point during the exchange, a GOP lawmaker declared: “To the Czars, I say, Nyet!” To which Frank responded: “I will leave it to the gentleman to work out his Lenin fantasy.”
Despite Frank’s efforts, the amendment passed 179-249. A second, similar amendment cutting even more positions – including the head of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren – had not gotten a vote by about 7 p.m.
Freshman Congressman William Keating, a Quincy Democrat, is jumping into the fray of foreign affairs. He is in the process of drafting a bill to prevent American technology companies from selling software that could allow authoritarian governments to monitor their citizens.
“It makes no sense at all that we would allow American companies to sell technology to governments that are using it for the very purposes that our country is constantly condemning. That is simply not what American innovation is all about,” said Keating, Massachusetts' newest member of Congress in a statement Wednesday. “I believe we are only on the cusp of seeing the negative effects when social media is misused by repressive governments. As we have seen in countries like Bahrain and Iran, these protests are growing and thus, this issue will only continue to be magnified.”
Keating's statement said that a California company recently sold Egypt "deep packet inspection" technology that could allow it to filter and monitor Internet users. His proposal of requiring "end-use agreements" for such technology comes as the United States government, including the Pentagon, is paying companies to develop technology that allows activists abroad to avoid such detection.
Keating, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, questioned Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg at a hearing last week about how the government is working with companies selling social media technology abroad.
Keating expects to file legislation on the issue in the coming weeks.
House rejects funding for jet fighter engine, dealing blow to Mass. military program that employs hundreds
The House rejected funding for a second engine for the armed forces’ new jet fighter on Wednesday, dealing a potentially lethal blow to a multi-billion dollar military program that employs hundreds of people in Massachusetts.
By a 233 to 199 vote, the House approved a budget amendment stripping funds for the F-35’s backup engine. The vote does not mean that the measure is dead; after the House votes on hundreds of other amendments, the temporary spending measure for this year goes to the Senate. That body rejected the funding last year, but the funding was restored in a compromise budget measure.
Still, the vote threw into sharp relief the power of the new GOP freshman in the House, many of whom were elected with Tea Party support on promises to end earmarks and cut spending. Many also saw the vote as a test of their willingness to reduce military spending.
Some of those freshman have aligned with opponents of the extra engine, which include President Obama and the Pentagon, in decrying the engine as a waste of taxpayer money. On Wednesday morning, Defense Secretary Gates reiterated his opposition to the House Armed Services Committee, calling it an “unnecessary and extravagant expense.”
Several of the GOP freshman have been actively wrangling opposition, circulating a letter to the White House praising the administration for urging rejection of the engine. A bipartisan group of lawmakers also announced their opposition, including several that have Pratt & Whitney operations in their districts.
Supporters of the program argue that competition will lower costs for the overbudget primary engine, which Connecticut-based Pratt & Whitney is building for the jet’s prime contractor, Lockheed Martin, and ensure that technical problems with the main engine won’t ground the entire air fleet.
Speculation over the engine’s fate has been increasingly intense in recent weeks as a lobbying war re-ignited on Capitol Hill, with the two contractors fighting ferociously for the votes of the freshman lawmakers, 87 of which were Republicans.
Congress first budgeted seed money for General Electric’s engine in 1996, and that funding continue even after Lockheed Martin won the contract in 2001 to build some 2,500 planes for the Air Force, Navy and Marines, and sell to foreign buyers.
The Pentagon continued to support the backup engine until President George W. Bush and the Pentagon soured on the backup. But Congress has continued to provide hundreds of million of dollars every year, totaling about $3 billion so far.
The bipartisan legislation, which is cosponsored by Democrat Kay Hagan of North Carolina, gives tax credits to businesses that put returning veterans and members of the National Guard and Reserves on their payroll.
“Our veterans sacrifice so much for us and ask for little in return. This bipartisan legislation will help put our heroes back to work, and I am proud to be introducing it along with my colleagues,” said Brown, a Republican.
Some 20 percent of Guard members are unemployed, and economic stress is a prime reason for suicide – which is on the rise -- among those that return, according to Brown.
The legislation also has a House companion bill, which has a sponsor in Representative Lynn Jenkins, a Kansas Republican.
The cost of the legislation has not yet been determined, according to a Brown spokesman.
WASHINGTON— Two New England Republican senators, Scott Brown of Massachusetts and Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, this week introduced legislation to make it easier for U.S. contracting officials to void contracts with companies that funnel American tax dollars to Afghan warlords and strongmen, including the Taliban, in exchange for protection and other services, according to a statement from Brown’s office.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that our hard-earned tax dollars are being used by the enemy to harm our soldiers and undermine our efforts in Afghanistan,” said Brown, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “While members of our military are risking their lives, we need to do everything possible to support their mission and protect their safety.”
Ayotte added in a statement: “Unfortunately, because of insufficient oversight, a significant portion of our contracting dollars in Afghanistan have ended up in the hands of powerbrokers and insurgents who undermine our interests and attack our brave troops…the U.S. is at war in Afghanistan, and our contracting laws and regulations need to reflect that reality.”
Local Democrats and political insiders are holding a fundraiser for Governor Deval Patrick next month and seeking up to $5,500 per person despite the Democrat’s assertion he will not seek a third term in 2014 or challenge Republican Senator Scott Brown next year.
A spokesman said the event is to help retire campaign debts while simultaneously boosting the Massachusetts Democratic Party.
The first $500 of each donation would go to Patrick, the maximum allowable annual contribution for individuals under state law. The remainder of any contribution would go to the party, which can accept up to $5,000 annually from individuals.
The party spent over $2.5 million on Patrick’s behalf last year during his re-election campaign, primarily for mailings and television ads.
It spent another $712,000 on Patrick during the first three years he was in office. During his 2006 campaign, his first as a political candidate, the party spent $2.4 million helping Patrick get elected.
The party is led by John Walsh, who managed Patrick’s 2006 campaign.
The fundraiser is being organized by three members of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP, a South Carolina law firm that has a Boston office and is active in government lobbying.
The invitation for the March 7 gathering at the office lists the co-hosts as Peter Haley, a partner specializing in commercial law; Robert Crowe, a Democratic fundraiser who is co-chairman of the firm’s Government Relations practice, and; Christopher Greeley, who is managing director of the firm’s public strategies group.
Greeley is a registered state lobbyist whose clients include the Boston Beer Co., maker of Sam Adams ale, and Bristol Community College, a public entity. He was in the public spotlight when he managed Senator John Kerry’s 1996 epic re-election campaign against Republican William F. Weld.
Greeley said today: "Bob, Peter, and I are longtime supporters of Governor Patrick, both when he ran in his first term and when he ran for re-election, and are happy to continue our support."
Greeley acknowledged he lobbies state government, as disclosed in annual filings with the secretary of state. But he said he had no idea if Patrick had any aspirations beyond eliminating his campaign debt.
"That's a question for the governor," he said.
Patrick would have to establish a federal fundraising account to run for the Senate, but the state party could help him whether he ran for state or federal office.
Patrick has ruled out seeking re-election or filling the Democratic void in what has the potential to be a high-profile Senate race.
Brown shocked the party in a special election last year and claimed the seat held for nearly a half-century by a liberal party icon, Edward M. Kennedy. Many political strategists say only Patrick or Kennedy’s widow, Vicki, has the stature to knock him out of the Senate.
A Patrick spokesman said the governor has over $200,000 in debts he is trying to repay and the fundraiser is for that purpose. The governor’s year-end campaign finance report showed a cash balance of $20,000 and nearly $88,000 in debts, including $20,000 to Doug Rubin, Patrick’s chief political strategist.
Strategists often delay fully billing a campaign until after an election, to preserve donations for campaign work and to avoid disclosing their fee while it could be problematic for a candidate.
Patrick’s campaign “left the re-election committee with a small debt,’’ spokesman Steve Crawford said in a statement. “The Massachusetts Democratic Party needs additional resources to meet its goal of continuing the strong neighbor-to-neighbor effort it undertook in the last election."
Despite Patrick’s public assertions, he has only heightened interest in his political intentions with his recent activities and travels.
He went to Washington last week to have dinner with Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine. He is charged with recruiting surrogate speakers for President Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign.
Patrick could be a particularly effective counter-puncher if his immediate predecessor as governor, Mitt Romney, wins the GOP’s presidential nomination.
Meanwhile, over the weekend, Patrick made an overnight trip to Chicago to meet with political strategist David Axelrod, who previously served as a Patrick political adviser and left the Obama administration last month to prepare for a re-election role.
Patrick was slated to see Obama himself today during a ceremony at the White House, but he cancelled his trip after falling ill.
Glen Johnson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
US Representative Edward Markey, a Malden Democrat, will offer an amendment on the House floor to restore proposed cuts to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, the congressmen said in a call with reporters today.
“Cutting off funds for this program now means that millions of families could have their heating cut off,” said Markey. “These families would be forced to decide once again between heating and eating.”
A draft of the House Republicans’ yearly spending bill proposed cutting $400 million from LIHEAP emergency funds that help low-income families meet home heating costs, according to Markey. More reductions could come now that Tea Party-backed Republicans have called for even deeper budget cuts. The White House is also expected to propose cutting the program back to 2008 levels, from $5 billion to about $2.6 billion, in their budget proposal set to be released Monday. “Targeting the poor is the wrong direction and I think President Obama is making a huge mistake in singling out the poor,” said Markey.
Markey said he is circulating a letter among his colleagues urging that the program be fully funded next year.
Scott Brown has a fishing partner, and she knows the waters.
Senator Olympia J. Snowe, ranking member of the Senate subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard, agreed to cosponsor Brown's bill requiring that analyses of fishing stocks be done annually and independently. Currently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration files an analysis only when a new fisheries management plan is adopted or amended.
Fishing communities have struggled to adapt to stricter fishing regulations in recent months. Brown's bill, the Fishing Impact Statement Honesty (FISH) Act, would require updated justification for such rules.
“I could not be more pleased to support Senator Scott Brown’s legislation to strengthen the socioeconomic impact process and require an independent third party chosen by the GAO to handle the statement analysis,” said Snowe, a three-term senator, in a statement. “Fishermen in Maine and across the nation have already sacrificed a portion of their livelihood during these challenging economic times so it is critically important that we have clear and accurate data when imposing new or amended fisheries management measures on this vital community.”
Republican Senator Scott Brown has joined his Democratic counterpart John F. Kerry in opposing plans to cut by half home fuel aid to struggling Americans next winter.
In his budget proposal for the next fiscal year, President Obama is reportedly calling for a $2.5 billion cut in the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which has helped nearly a quarter million households in Massachusetts this year.
Such a cut is unconscionable, Brown said.
"I can point to countless items in the president's budget that should be cut before LIHEAP funding. With Massachusetts residents getting pounded by brutal winter storms, cutting LIHEAP funding is a non-starter for me,"’ Brown said in a statement today to the Statehouse News Service.
Yesterday, Kerry wrote a letter to the president, calling on him to keep funding at its current level of $5.1 billion.
"I’ve always supported serious efforts to restore fiscal sanity, but in the middle of a brutal, even historic, New England winter, home heating assistance is more critical than ever to the health and welfare of millions of Americans, especially senior citizens,"’ Kerry wrote.
Representative Edward Markey, Democrat of Malden, called on the House Appropriations Committee to resist paring the program.
"Cutting funding for LIHEAP so dramatically would have a devastating impact on millions of American families already suffering from the economic downturn," he said in a letter today.
Markey has been battling House Republicans who are considering immediate cuts to the program this winter, as part of their effort to slice $100 billion from President Obama's spending requests.
"It takes a frigid heart for Republicans to continue to defend tax breaks for oil and gas companies, while putting heating fuel assistance for America’s neediest on the chopping block," Markey said.
WASHINGTON — Republicans on the US House Committee on Ways and Means this morning pounded Donald Berwick, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, on the effects of the new health care law on seniors, and Berwick’s past statements in praise of the publicly-funded British health care system.
Republicans argued throughout the hearing that cuts in Medicare called for by President Obama’s health care overhaul are leading to doctors dropping patients with Medicare, and denying seniors choices in their health care.
In more than two hours of testimony, Berwick staunchly defended the health care law, known as the Affordable Care Act, saying repeatedly that the law will control rising medical costs, reduce waste and abuse and provide security to seniors, and expand preventative care that will head off many expensive medical problems and save money.
Under pointed questioning, Berwick was unflappable and sounded enthusiastic, even while frustrating Republicans by refusing to offer a “yes” or “no” answer to many questions.
In one exchange, Committee Chairman Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican, pressed Berwick repeatedly on Berwick’s past praise for the British health care system.
“Is the British health care system a good model?” Camp asked.
“The American health care system needs an American solution,” Berwick replied.
Camp persisted, asking: Do you still think a government-run single payer system is the best option?
“I believe the Affordable Care Act is the right solution for America,” said Berwick.
“If I could have a simple yes or no answer?” said Camp.
He didn’t get one.
Before President Obama selected Berwick for his current post, Berwick was a professor at Harvard Medical School.
Representative William Keating, a Quincy Democrat, questioned Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano about airport security on Wednesday, saying that the death of a teenage stowaway raised “enormous questions" about tarmac security.
Keating, in his inaugural appearance on the House Homeland Security Committee, said he was concerned about how the 16-year-old boy hid in the wheel well of a Boston-bound jetliner, then tumbled to his death as the plane passed over Milton, Mass.
“If it wasn’t this young man that just stowed himself for his own reasons, if that had been a person with more nefarious motivation, think of what would have happened with that 747 commercial airliner, or any of the other airliners that were there at that time,” he said.
Napolitano acknowledged that the teenager’s death represented a breach of security, and promised Keating the results of any review of the incident.
“Clearly, if somebody -- a 16-year-old -- is able to circumvent those standards and requirements and get into the wheelwell of a plane, there has been a breakdown,” she said.
Michael E. Leiter, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said security officials have long-standing concerns about tarmac access, and promised to work with Napolitano to address any issues about perimeter security at airports.
Keating was Norfolk County District Attorney last November when the body of 16-year-old Delvonte Tisdale was found in Milton.
Initially thought to be a homicide, investigators eventually determined that Tisdale had hidden away in a wheelwell of a Boeing 747 that flew from Charlotte, N.C. to Boston, and tumbled to the earth when the plane’s landing gear lowered.
Senator Scott Brown today e-mailed a newsletter detailing his Senate goals.
The Massachusetts Republican included a video in which he outlines his agenda, a method becoming a favored means of communicating especially within the media blackout preceding the release of his new book in two weeks.
Brown's list includes a job-creation bill called the "Innovate America Act." He also favors legislation repealing a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical devices, as well as a bill repealing a 3 percent withholding tax on government contracts.
Noting he has now been in office a year, Brown writes: "Whether I’m speaking in person with constituents, via posts to my Facebook page or Twitter, or via letters, phone calls, and emails, the voters have asked me to do something about unemployment in Massachusetts (and rightfully so). I listened, and I have come up with several targeted ideas to boost Bay State jobs that I’m introducing at the start of this 112th Congress."
Glen Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
Supporters of Senator Bernard Sanders of Vermont are holding a fundraiser for him Sunday before he delivers a public speech in Jamaica Plain.
The independent, who caucuses with the Democrats, "is facing a tough race in the next election due to the GOP machine," said an e-mail encouraging attendance. "Therefore, he's coming to ask similar-minded folks for support."
Another e-mail said, "Here's a great opportunity to hear an important progressive voice in the US Senate and for us to develop ties and think about New England as a region."
The fundraiser will be held at 1:30 p.m. at First Church Parish Hall on Eliot Street in Jamaica Plain. It's not a big-donor affair: The suggested contribution is $100.
Sanders is speaking publicly in the church sanctuary at 3 p.m.
Glen Johnson can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.
Senator John F. Kerry, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Republican Senator John McCain are calling on embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to immediately begin a peaceful transition to a new democratic government.
The two former presidential candidates, Kerry in 2004 and McCain in 2008, have been among the leading voices of their parties on international affairs in general and the violent unraveling of Egypt's power structure specifically. The two co-wrote a resolution, passed by the Senate on a voice vote tonight, that calls on Mubarak to hand over power to a caretaker government.
The resolution, which is nonbinding, also calls on all political parties to avoid violence, support the rule of law, and work toward free and open elections. It specifically mentions the Muslim Brotherhood, an outlawed Islamist group that has a significant power base, as a group that espouses "extremist ideology." Some Middle East watchers fear a power vacuum in Egypt would be filled by militants who would have no interest in enacting democratic reforms.
Protests against Mubarak have become increasingly violent as progovernment forces have tried to end the rallies and remove demonstrators from squares around Cairo.
“Stop the bloodletting,’’ McCain, a Republican from Arizona, said on the Senate floor. “Let's start a peaceful transition to a free and open society and a government that can regain and hold the trust of the people of Egypt.’’
In a statement after the vote, Kerry said: “Tonight, the United States Senate stands unanimously with the Egyptian people and speaks with a bipartisan voice in condemning the violence. ... The Egyptian people are demanding a new political structure and President Mubarak has a responsibility to respond with actions that will bring an end to the brutality on the streets of Cairo and elsewhere and put his country on a path to genuine political, economic and social reforms.”
WASHINGTON — U.S. Representative Stephen F. Lynch, a South Boston Democrat, is on his way back from a Congressional trip to Pakistan, in which Lynch and other members personally lobbied Pakistani officials on the behalf of a US State Department employee who was arrested and held after shooting two alleged robbers on January 27.
The employee, Raymond Davis, a staff person at the U.S. Embassy in Islamabad, apparently thought he was about to be carjacked when approached by armed men on motorcycles, said Lynch, speaking by phone this morning from an airport in Madrid. Davis “shot through his own windshield” and killed two alleged attackers, said Lynch. US authorities say Davis has diplomatic immunity, but that claim is being contested.
Lynch said the incident has received inflammatory press coverage in Pakistan that has heightened tensions. “Politically, it’s a difficult situation,” he said.
Lynch and five other members of Congress urged Davis’ release in meetings with Pakistani Prime Minister Gilani, President Asif Ali Zardari and Army Chief of Staff, Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. “At each of these meetings, each of us hit this issue pretty hard,” said Lynch.
The Congressional delegation visited Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. A planned stop in Egypt was canceled due to civil unrest there.
Pakistani authorities are continuing to review Davis' case, said Lynch.
UPDATED, 5: 02 p.m. More than 100 military contractors providing everything from aircraft to wrist cuffs for gloves committed civil or criminal fraud between 2007 and 2009, according to a report from the Department of Defense, yet many continued to receive funds from the department – including some barred from contracting.
The Pentagon report found that 30 contractors had been convicted of fraud between 2007 and 2009, and 91 had been the subject of civil judgments over fraud claims; some companies appeared on both lists. In addition, 120 companies had reached settlements over claims. Forty-three companies were suspended, and 164 were debarred from contracting.
The information is not typically compiled in one place, but Senator Bernard Sanders, an Independent from Vermont, requested the information through a defense spending bill last year. Covering three of the 10 years worth of data requested, the report lists many cases that are already public, including some that have received widespread news coverage, and includes no details of the cases. Still, the report provides a window into contractor fraud, which Sanders said should be paramount as Congress wrestles cutting the federal deficit.
“The people of this country want to make sure that when they spend a dollar on defense, it’s going for defense, it’s not going to companies committing fraud,” said Sanders.
Billions of dollars continued to flow to contractors even after they were found to have committed fraud, and about a dozen had been barred from contracting altogether. Still, the report concluded that “existing remedies with respect to contractor wrongdoing are sufficient. Sanders bridles at that finding, saying “the DOD has got to be a lot more vigorous in terms of its investigations, and a lot more vigorous in prosecuting those people who have committed fraud.”
One of the companies named in the report is Raytheon Co.’s Integrated Defense Systems, which is based in Tewksbury. But the company said it was included in error; it had agreed to pay about $213,000 to settle a dispute over a Patriot missile component, but had not been the subject of a 2009 civil fraud judgment, as the report said.
"The Raytheon settlement referenced in the report did not relate to fraud and did not involve a civil judgment. It was a fair and amicable resolution of a dispute over contractual requirements for component testing," the company said in a statement.
Starting in mid-April, information about contractor fraud in all federal agencies will be publicly available through a database known as the Federal Awardee Performance and Integrity Information System. The system was not intended to be public, but Sanders included a provision in another war spending bill making the information public.
WASHINGTON — In a ceremony at the White House today, President Obama signed the final ratification documents for the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia. The United States and Russia are expected to exchange ratification documents this weekend, thereby bringing the treaty into force, according to Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Kerry was Obama’s point man in winning Senate ratification for the treaty.
“The new treaty represents an important milestone in arms control agreements between the United States and Russia,” said Kerry, in a statement issued after the signing ceremony.
“Anytime we reduce the number of nuclear weapons deployed by these two countries, we make the world a safer place for everyone. The agreement signed today by President Obama, which was ratified in a bipartisan Senate vote in December, means that American inspectors will once again be visiting Russian nuclear installations and the number of nuclear weapons deployed by both countries will be reduced. When the treaty enters into force this weekend, it will signal to other nations that the United States and Russia are working together to reduce their arsenals and stop the spread of nuclear weapons technology to other countries.”
WASHINGTON – John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, responded to Egyptian President Mubarak’s announcement today that he would not seek reelection by urging Mubarak to “work with the military and civil society to establish an interim caretaker government.”
“It remains to be seen whether this is enough to satisfy the demands of the Egyptian people for change,” said Kerry, in a statement. “We arrived at this point because millions of Egyptians spoke with one voice and exercised fundamental rights we Americans hold dear. They made it clear the future they want is one of greater democracy and greater economic opportunity. Now, that future belongs to them to shape. The Egyptian people are writing the next chapter of Egyptian history.
“Much work remains to be done to turn this auspicious moment into lasting peace and prosperity,” said Kerry. “Egyptians must now prepare for elections and achieve a peaceful transition of power. The military must continue to show the restraint it has so admirably exercised these past days. And opposition leaders must come together to develop a process that will ensure that all of Egypt’s voices are heard.
“As friends of the Egyptian people, there is much that the United States can do as well. Egypt has been a close ally of the United States for many years, and it is my fervent hope that our relationship can grow stronger as the Egyptian people take control of their destiny.”
Kerry had urged Mubarak to step aside in a New York Times column published this morning.
By Mark Arsenault
WASHINGTON — US Representative Bill Keating, the newest member of the Bay State’s House delegation, has been named to three House committees: Small Business, Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs Committees, according to a statement from Keating’s office.
“Our top priority must be creating jobs,” said Keating, in touting his appointment to the Small Business Committee. “For the 15 years prior to the start of our current recession, small businesses created approximately sixty-four percent of the new jobs in this country. We need to recreate an environment where that is once again possible, and we can do that by creating tax incentives and making smart investments in areas such as clean energy. The local businesses on Massachusetts’ South Shore and Cape are an integral part of the fabric of our community, and I will fight on the Small Business Committee to make sure they are flourishing once again.”
The House Small Business Committee has jurisdiction over small business regulation and federal funding, and oversees the Small Business Administration, which provides loans, counseling and other assistance to small business owners throughout the country, said Keating.
Senator Scott Brown laid out his most ambitious legislative agenda yet on Monday, proposing a package of six bills – one of which already has a Democratic cosponsor – that address policy ranging from technology innovation to fishery regulation.
Brown, whose role last year as an occasional GOP ally of Democrats irked conservatives who helped elect him, admitted that it won’t be easy to pass the measures aimed at increasing jobs and encouraging innovation in Massachusetts.
But “bipartisanship is a two-way street,” he told the North Suburban Chamber of Commerce in Woburn, pledging to support good ideas regardless of sponsors’ political affiliation.
Speaking later in the day to the Globe, he said that “there’s plenty of time for partisanship,” but said that the parties must work together to solve the nation’s economic woes.
“Our country’s hurting, and we need to create jobs,” he said. “The way to do it is to work together… The people are demanding it.”
As of Monday evening, only one of the bills had been introduced, the Innovate America Act, which Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Minnesota Democrat, is cosponsoring. That bill would expand tax credits for university-funded technology, fund 100 new high schools that focus on science, technology and math, and lift regulator barriers for high-export industries.
The five other bills address a panoply of other measures that Brown said will create jobs in Massachusetts. One bill, the Medical Device Tax Relief Act, makes good on Brown’s promise to seek the repeal of a 2.3 percent excise tax on medical device manufacturers opposed by device makers.
The Expediting Lifesaving Medicines Act would streamline the Food and Drug Administration’s approval process for new medications, creating priority reviews for diseases that are rare or affect children – a bill that would also prove greatly beneficial to the state’s enormous biotech industry.
A bill overhauling how fishery analyses are conducted would make the reviews annual and independent – a proposal aimed at coastal fishing communities that have long chaffed under federal fishery regulations. Still another would expand tax credits for business that hire veterans.
Klobuchar is so far the only cosponsor of any of the bills; Brown will be seeking cosponsors from both parties for the other legislation, he said.
The financial implications of the legislation are unclear, as the bills have not been analyzed by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, but they will neither raise taxes nor add to the deficit, according to a Brown spokeswoman.
WASHINGTON – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, called on the Egyptian government to use restraint in dealing with a wave of protests across the country.
“The events unfolding across Egypt are cause for grave concern," Kerry said in a statement. "Egypt is an important American ally which took brave and bold steps to make peace with Israel, and we will never forget that President Sadat paid for that act of courage with his life. It was in that time of turmoil and challenge that Hosni Mubarak became President.
The remainder of Kerry's statement:
“Now, President Mubarak faces a different kind of challenge. I call on the Egyptian government and security forces to exercise restraint in dealing with protesters and to respect the human rights of its citizens to seek greater participation in their own government. The Egyptian government also should immediately restore communications and access to social networking sites. I hope the people of Egypt will continue to remember the lessons and legacy of peaceful protesters from Gandhi to Dr. King and to exercise their right to be heard in that tradition, which will rally peaceful people everywhere in solidarity.
“We know that repression will not remedy the problems that leave people in Egypt and across the Middle East feeling hopeless and frustrated. In the final analysis, it is not with rubber bullets and water cannons that order will be restored.
“The time has come for governments in the region to urgently improve governance and transparency, open the field to true opposition and new political identities, create real avenues for listening to and considering the wants and needs of their citizens, and demonstrate to younger generations that they will have better opportunities tomorrow than they do today. In the case of Egypt, President Mubarak has the opportunity to quell the unrest by guaranteeing that a free and open democratic process will be in place when the time comes to choose the country’s next leader later this year.”
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Scott Brown, a Massachusetts Republican, has been named to the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship.
“Small businesses are the engines that drive our economy, and I look forward to fighting for policies that will help them grow,” Brown said in a statement. “During these challenging times, it is more important than ever that we implement commonsense initiatives to give entrepreneurs the confidence to expand and hire more workers. I am excited to work with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to spur economic growth and put people back to work.”
The Small Business Committee reviews all proposed legislation and issues relating to the Small Business Administration, a federal agency charged with helping small companies.
Brown also serves on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
WASHINGTON – Former Governor Mitt Romney today criticized President Obama’s State of the Union address, saying he lacked leadership and a clear direction to steer the country out of the economic downturn.
“President Obama knows where he wants to go, but he has no idea how to get there,” Romney wrote in a blog post on his website. “Under President Obama's economic leadership, more Americans have lost their jobs than any time in modern history.”
“The on-the-job economic education of the President has cost American families almost a trillion dollars in failed stimulus schemes and, unfortunately, he's still failing the course,” he added. “Rhetoric, however soaring, does not put pay checks in pay envelopes at the end of the week."
Romney also took a jab at one of Obama's proposals, to build more high speed rail projects as a way to put people to work.
"You can't build a high speed rail system fast enough to outrun the President's misguided regulations, higher taxes or lack of focus on jobs," Romney wrote. "Hopefully he is learning. American families are depending on him."
Romney has been weighing a second run for the Republican presidential nomination.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Representative Edward Markey's BPA-bottle battle begins anew.
The Malden Democrat today introduced a bill that would prohibit use of BPA -- bisphenol-A -- in food and drink containers. The chemical, which is used to harden plastics, has been at the center of a contentious scientific debate on whether its overuse threatens the health of Americans, particularly children.
Studies in laboratory animals suggest the chemical might increase the risk of developmental problems in some fetuses and young children; other researchers say the evidence is too scant to draw assumptions.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say 90 percent of Americans have traces of the chemical in their urine.
Markey's bill would ban BPA in all reusable containers and in the plastic lining of canned food and other disposable containers. It would also require the Food and Drug Administration to review other substances in food and drink containers and limit their use if the agency determines they may pose health risks.
“Feeding time for babies should be laced with love not laced with chemicals. Parents have enough to worry about without wondering if the bottles they use to feed their children are safe or if the can of formula they have warmed up is harmful to their health,” Markey said in a statement. “This legislation will help keep BPA out of our bodies while also ensuring that all food and beverage containers are free from dangerous chemicals.”
In the last congressional session, the House passed a food safety bill that contained Markey's provision directing the FDA to study BPA, but the Senate stripped that provision from the bill.
Canada, France, and Denmark prohibit the use of BPA in baby bottles. Massachusetts is one of several states that limit its use.
A trade group rejected the need for a law restricting BPA.
“Regulatory agencies around the world, including FDA, have evaluated the science and support the safety of BPA in materials for food contact products, including products intended for use by children,'' said Steve Hentges in a statement. Hentges is with the American Chemistry Council's Polycarbonate/BPA Global Group.
WASHINGTON – Senator Scott Brown is seeking to leverage his upcoming book for maximum political gain, asking federal regulators whether he can co-mingle the activities related to his book tour with some of his reelection efforts.
Daniel B. Winslow, a lawyer for Brown’s campaign committee and a state representative from Norfolk, is asking the Federal Election Commission whether the Brown can tap his campaign account to buy thousands of copies of his soon-to-be-released book and distribute them to friends and political supporters.
"The committee proposes to use campaign funds to purchase up to several thousand copies of the book to be used solely in campaign related activities, such as distributing signed and unsigned copies to financial contributors and other 'political supporters' as 'thank you' gift," Winslow writes.
The campaign would either forgo royalties from the sales of the campaign-related purchases, or would donate the money to charity, Winslow wrote. That would allow Brown to avoid violating laws that prohibit candidates from using campaign funds for personal financial benefits.
Brown’s book – Against All Odds: My Life of Hardship, Fast Breaks and Second Chances -- is slated to be published Feb. 20 by Harper Collins, and the Massachusetts Republican is planning to launch a national book tour during the Senate’s February recess. The book contract has already been approved by the US Senate’s select committee on ethics.
Brown’s office declined to comment on the FEC request, but campaign finance watchdogs said it appeared to be fairly standard.
“It’s clear from the paperwork filed with the FEC that Senator Brown’s lawyers are taking this seriously and doing everything to stay on the right side of the law,” said Paul S. Ryan, an attorney at the Campaign Legal Center, which closely monitors campaign finance issues. “There’s some close calls here in terms of the nitty-gritty fine lines [of campaign finance law], but there are no major red flags here.”
Brown is also asking the FEC whether Brown can hold fundraisers in cities during his publisher-sponsored national book tour – and, if not, whether Brown could reimburse the publisher for certain portions of the trip that involved political fundraisers.
He also wants his campaign to be able to collect information during book events, and would like to use his campaign website, Facebook page, and Twitter account to promote the book. Brown’s campaign committee also has 8,000 phone numbers from supporters that it could send text messages to, the letter said.
“The Committee would like to maximize the political benefits of promoting Senator Brown's book by leveraging these social media sites,” Winslow wrote to the commission.
Using memoirs to advance a politician’s career is nothing new – President Obama’s books became best sellers and brought him financial and political fortunes -- nor are ethical requirements around them.
When Joseph Lieberman sought to give away copies of his memoir, In Praise of Public Life, in 2004, he declined to take royalties from books that were purchased through his campaign.
Sarah Palin also used her political action committee to buy thousands of copies of her book, “Going Rogue.” She then mailed copies to her donors. Her campaign spent more than $63,000 for “books for fundraising donor fulfillment,” according to ABC News.
Because she was not a candidate for office, and because she was using a leadership PAC for the funding, the legal requirements for her would have been looser, according to Ryan.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON -- Representative Barney Frank lashed out today at Republican efforts to cut federal spending to 2008 levels, saying the move would deal a crippling blow to regulators' ability to oversee financial markets and implement the overhaul of financial regulations passed last year.
Frank warned that not only does funding need to be maintained at current levels, it needs to be increased so the Securities and Exchange Commission and Commodity Futures Trading can hire hundreds of employees to issue and enforce a slew of regulations under the new law.
"I had hoped it wouldn’t be this way," Frank said today at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
Republican Representative Scott Garrett of New Jersey, chairman of the Financial Services Subcommittee on Capital Markets and Government-Sponsored Enterprises, responded in a statement that "a dramatic spending increase to fund the SEC and CFTC, as envisioned by the authors of the Dodd-Frank legislation, would further the mindset that our nation’s problems can be solved with more spending, not more efficiency."
“During our country’s current debt crisis, all branches of government – including Congress – have to tighten their belts and find ways to make their money go further," said Garrett who also chairs the budget task force of House conservative caucus Republican Study Committee. "Government agencies must learn to operate effectively within their budgets like American families and businesses do every day as we work to get our fiscal house in order.”
Frank, who co-authored the financial overhaul law that bears his name, said the amount of money needed to fund the overhaul is minuscule compared to the federal budget. And he pointed to a caveat in the rollback of spending levels that exempts security spending.
"We're arguing the security of the average American was far more endangered by the financial crisis than by a lot of other things that our military does," Frank said.
Frank, the ranking minority member on the Financial Services Committee, said this afternoon that Garrett's position "reinforces my fear that Republicans are attempting to cripple regulation by failing to fund it.
"The budgets he wants them to operate within are budgets which pre-date financial regulation, pre-date regulation of derivatives, and pre-date investor protection," he said.
Donovan Slack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON -- It is the political equivalent of a heavyweight boxing match: a round of military base closures that determines which military facilities around the country should be shuttered or consolidated and which ones should stay open.
And even though the next round is not slated to begin for another four years, Bay State pols are already huddling with fellow New England lawmakers and industry leaders to plot strategy on how to protect Hanscom Air Force Base, Natick Soldier Systems Center and other defense installations such as shipyards that are critical to the region's economy.
Tomorrow, Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown will host a meeting in Washington for a variety of New England's elected officials and industry leaders to begin coordinating their efforts to make New England's case in the face of powerful political blocs across the country who will be sharpening their arguments for why their bases are more important.
"We believe this is a valuable opportunity to sit down with interested parties in the technology industry to help formulate the regional strategy and to discuss specific and measurable actions that could provide greater [Department of Defense] access to, and visibility for, a growing innovation technology economy across New England," Brown, a Republican, and Kerry, a Democrat, wrote last week in inviting organizations like the Massachusetts High Technology Council to attend a briefing in Washington.
The last time Congress set up a bipartisan Base Realignment and Closure Commission, in 2005, Massachusetts fared quite well, ultimately seeing Hanscom and Natick's missions expanded. But that was only after a fierce struggle, including millions of dollars in lobbying expenses and consulting fees to make the right arguments to the panel.
And the next BRAC round, expected in 2015, is not likely to be any easier.
"The work in this sector in our respective states is not just critical to the future of our economy, but it is also critical to our national security," the senators wrote.
WASHINGTON — Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown will sit with Delaware Democrat Tom Carper at tomorrow’s State of the Union speech, one of many across-the-aisle pairings planned by lawmakers to show civility and bipartisanship in the aftermath of the Arizona shootings earlier this month.
Brown and Carper bonded last year during a congressional trip to overseas war zones, shortly after Brown was elected last January. During the trip, the two senators worked out in military gyms and had a late-night dinner at a Marriott in Islamabad, where they discussed their own military service, how they met their spouses, and their children (Brown has two daughters, Carper two sons).
“One of the things that missed around here is lack of trust,” Carper said in an interview last May. “The ability to spend personal time and get to know each other a bit” helps build more bipartisan trust. The trip, which Carper led, included several other congressional members.
Brown’s office confirmed he would sit with Carper for the speech, but declined to elaborate this morning.
WASHINGTON – Congressional leaders today paused to pay tribute to President John F. Kennedy’s inaugural address that motivated a nation 50 years ago.
In the rotunda of the US Capitol, congressional officials, aides, and Kennedy family members listened in silence to the 14-minute, 1,355-word speech that Kennedy delivered on a blustery day in 1961.
Top congressional leaders – including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker John Boehner, and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – attended the event.
“Sadly, this is the first congress to convene without a Kennedy since the Truman administration,” Boehner said, before looking over at the president’s daughter. “Caroline, there’s still time.”
Vice President Joe Biden and Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, both delivered remarks.
“It took President Kennedy just 1,355 words to summon a new generation and set in motion generations of service and sacrifice – to reignite the fires of idealism and patriotism in millions of Americans,” Kerry said.
Several Republians attended -- including Boehner and Representative David Dreier, a California Republican -- but Senator Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican, was not among them. Brown had used President Kennedy's image during an ad in his special election campaign last year. In the ad, grainy footage of Kennedy delivering a 1962 speech on using tax breaks to spur the economy then morphed into Brown. Democrats panned the ad, but Brown advisers said it marked a key moment that helped his campaign catch fire.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON – The House late this afternoon voted to repeal President Obama’s signature health care plan, the first major action of the Republican-controlled chamber but one that is almost certain to be stifled in the Senate.
The 245-to-189 vote helped fulfill an election promise that many Tea Party-backed Republicans made during the midterm elections that carried them into office.
“When I think of the 2,000-page bill, I think of a block of cheese out there, pretty tempting looking,” said Representative Billy Long, a newly elected Republican from Missouri. “Well the Americans I hear from, they don’t want that cheese. They want out of the trap of government-run health care.”
Three Democrats joined all 242 Republicans in voting for the repeal. The three Democrats who voted for the repeal were Mike McIntyre, of North Carolina; Dan Boren, of Oklahoma; and Mike Ross, of Arkansas.
The 10 members of the all-Democratic Massachusetts delegation voted against the repeal measure.
“Some may call it political catharsis, others may chalk it up to theater, pure and simple,” said Representative John Tierney, a Salem Democrat. “Let’s be clear: the positive impact that the existing health care reform law is having on millions of residents and families in all our districts is very real.”
Representative Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat, spoke out against the repeal plan and held up a giant posterboard of two Lexington, Mass., parents holding a newborn baby. The woman, Markey said, had been denied coverage while she was pregnant because her husband switched jobs and the new plan said her pregnancy was a “preexisting condition.”
“It is just plain wrong,” Markey said. “New parents expect sleepless nights, not their insurance companies denying them coverage. New parents should worry about the baby, and not the medical bills.”
Several times during the debate, Democrats invoked the name of former Governor Mitt Romney, the Massachusetts Republican who helped pass the Bay State's landmark 2006 health care law. Romney’s advocacy of the Massachusetts law is seen as one of his chief hurdles in his expected presidential bid.
“This legislation is modeled after a modest, market-driven proposal offered by that left-winger, Mitt Romney,” said Representative Richard E. Neal, a Springfield Democrat. “But what do we hear? The usual scare tactics.”
Still, the debate through much of the day had few of the fireworks that have guided much of the debate over health care. There were no protesters outside the Capitol this morning, as there were last March when Democrats initially passed the legislation.
Both Republicans and Democrats appeared to tamp down their rhetoric in the wake of the shooting in Arizona. Republicans rarely referred to any “job killing” legislation, opting instead for terms like “job destroying”
Even Representative Joe Wilson -- the Republican from South Carolina who received national attention when shouting “You Lie” during President Obama’s address to Congress on health care – was subdued in his remarks.
“The takeover will cripple small businesses,” he said, without raising his voice. “The liberal health care takeover destroys jobs, limits freedoms, and expands big government.”
The passage of the repeal is largely symbolic, because the Senate, still controlled by Democrats, is highly unlikely to consider or pass the measure. President Obama would also veto any legislation, were it to reach his desk.
Senator John Kerry released a statement tonight saying the bill had no chance of passing the Senate.
"If the House bill became law, it would cost Massachusetts billions of dollars, erode Medicare for one million Bay State seniors, and effectively cripple the largest sector of the Massachusetts economy," Kerry said. "...The Senate now becomes the last line of defense for good public policy.”
But Republicans are hoping to keep the health care debate alive over the next election cycle, hoping it will lead to the ouster of President Obama and a majority in the Senate.
In the meantime, Republicans have started looking for an alternative course, scheduling hearings to grapple with reforming the medical malpractice insurance system and trying to repeal some specific provisions, such as a new tax on medical devices.
Democrats appear willing to make changes – but remained opposed to a wholesale repeal.
“If there is a problem with the bill, we should tweak it and change it, not repeal it,” said Representative Eliot Engel, a Democrat from New York. “This is political theater, it’s a charade, it isn’t going anywhere. Let’s put our heads together and see what makes sense…I’m willing to change the bill.”
Republicans are also laying plans to eliminate or reduce funding for certain agencies that will be in charge of enacting the new law, with one of the first targets being billions that the Internal Revenue Service will need to ramp up enforcement efforts.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON -- Massachusetts, under a deal finalized today with the federal government, is slated to receive upwards of $150 million in additional Medicaid funding that will help shore up hospitals that treat many of the state's low-income patients, including Boston Medical Center and Cambridge Health Alliance.
The funding comes on top of roughly $300 million that the federal government already agreed to pay for the purpose last fall. Senator John F. Kerry helped lobby the Obama administration for the additional funding.
"It was really key that we do this, it was critical," Kerry said in an interview this afternoon. "We've got safety net hospitals that are on the brink. The lack of this (funding) would have been devastating to our hospitals."
The state's so-called safety net hospitals have been struggling since 2006, when the state's ground-breaking health insurance law phased out special payments to BMC and Cambridge Hospital for treating the poor. These payments are now being used to subsidize health coverage for thousands of newly insured residents.
According to the state Division of Health Care Finance and Policy, 98.1 percent of Massachusetts residents now have health insurance, including 99.8 percent of children. The new federal health care law will provide additional Medicaid funding for hospitals like Boston Medical Center, but not until 2014. The infusions of federal funding are intended to bolster those institutions in the meantime.
Donovan Slack can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON -- US Representative Barney Frank and Newton Mayor Setti Warren are sounding alarm bells about possible cuts to federal community development block grant programs as Republican budget hawks begin looking for ways to trim federal spending.
The block grant program provided $4.4 billion to cities and towns across the nation last year for various programs targeted at low-income communities, including purchases of foreclosed homes, foreclosure counseling, job training and day care. Massachusetts communities received $36 million of that.
Frank and Warren, at a press conference on Capitol Hill today, said losing the funding would further cripple cities and towns that already are facing fiscal crises as they try to recover from the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression.
"This is what we are worried about," said Frank, who was flanked by congressmen and mayors from Rhode Island, New York, California, Minnesota and Pennsylvania.
Republicans, who have promised to cut $100 billion from the federal budget, so far have not publicly targeted the block grant program for reduction, but Frank said expects they will because GOP leaders have tried to cut the program before.
A spokesman for House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan did not immediately return messages left seeking comment.
In Massachusetts last year, the program gave $21 million to Boston, $4.9 million to Worcester and $4.4 million to Springfield. The funds are earmarked for community development, and can be used in a variety of ways, including small business assistance and job retention programs.
"It's a critical resource," said Warren, whose city of Newton received a little more than $2 million last year. "This gives mayors the ability to focus funds where they are most needed."
Donovan Slack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Buffeted and buried by another potent noreaster, New Englanders are probably not expending much energy thinking about global warming. They should be, say a couple of lawmakers who had unsuccessfully spearheaded climate legislation last year.
Figures released today on the global climate are disturbing, say Senator John F. Kerry and Representative Edward Markey. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last year tied 2005 for the hottest year since scientists started tallying global temperatures in 1880. And government figures show it was the wettest year ever.
The data should prod action on Capitol Hill, Kerry and Markey say.
“How many times do we have to be smacked in the face with factual evidence before we address global climate change?,'' Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, said in a statement. "Report after report keep confirming it’s getting worse every year. Will we find common ground and adult leadership or keep piling the science on a shelf to collect dust?”FULL ENTRY
WASHINGTON _ The Pentagon's top investigator is vowing an "all-out pursuit" of any employees who may have downloaded child pornography after his agency acknowledged that 1,700 potential suspects who were referred to military investigators four years ago were never screened.
Gordon S. Heddell, the Department of Defense's Inspector General, said in a statement to the Globe today that his office, which oversees the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, is working aggressively to correct the mishandling of the cases and pursue any remaining suspects.
"I can assure those with questions that my office is conducting an aggressive pursuit of anyone implicated in Operation Flicker and that it is a key investigative priority," Heddell said in his first public statement on the matter.
"The sexual exploitation of any child is a tragedy," he added. "We are reviewing each and every Operation Flicker referral DCIS has received so as to ensure action is taken regarding allegations involving individuals with connections to the Department of Defense."
The Pentagon agency has come under fierce criticism in recent months for its role in the child pornography investigation that was spearheaded by the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, which has jurisdiction for such federal crimes under its customs mandate.
The Globe reported earlier this week the Pentagon checked only 3,500 out of 5,200 individuals who were suspected of downloading child pornography.
The partial screening, which was conducted in 2007, identified 302 individuals who were either military personnel, civilian employees, or private contractors. Some of those held high-level security clearances and worked at sensitive intelligence agencies such as the National Security Agency, which eavesdrops on enemy communications. Several also accessed the images on their work computers, a separate violation.
Out of the 302 cases, 70 were eventually pursued, while only a handful resulted in prosecutions. The agency said that many cases were dropped for lack of evidence, but also acknowledged that child pornography was not treated as one of the agency's investigative priorities at the time, when it was under different leadership.
"However," Heddell said today, "our re-investigative efforts are focused on determining the exact number" of Pentagon workers who may have been involved.
Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican and senior member of the Judiciary Committee, has disparaged the agency's approach to the matter since the cases were first reported by the Globe last summer. In addition to the potential exploitation of minors, Grassley has also expressed concern that individuals with access to secret information could be blackmailed or otherwise compromised by American enemies if they are in possession of child pornography, a crime that could bring up to 20 years imprisonment.
"We want a change in behavior in the Defense Department where things of this criminal nature are a top priority, even more than government employees at other agencies because of the national security connections," Grassley told the Globe in an interview earlier this week.
It was in response to Grassley's inquiries that officials reported late last year that the Pentagon had never followed up on all the individuals referred to the agency in the first place.
A spokesman for the Defense Criminal Investigative Service could not predict how many of the remaining names might have military connections, nor when the review would be complete.
Heddell said his office is working with ICE, along with investigators from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Army's Criminal Investigative Division, and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
Grassley said that the statute of limitations has probably expired for criminal charges to be brought against any violators but said he would press for administrative punishment for anyone who is implicated.
Bender can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON – Senator Scott Brown this afternoon said he would support legislation designed to help first responders who became sick from working at the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
Brown joined Republicans earlier in helping block the legislation, but there has since been a major campaign to get the bill approved. Several changes have also been made to win Republican support, including lowering the cost.
“The first responders on September 11th unselfishly risked their lives when our nation needed them the most,” Brown said this afternoon in a statement. “Their heroic efforts should never be forgotten. I am pleased that we were able to come together and agree upon a workable solution that provides care to these brave Americans. After many months of working on this effort, I am proud to vote for this bill."
Senator John F. Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, also supports the bill and voted in favor of it earlier this month when it was blocked by Republicans.
The legislation would aid first-responders whose illnesses are linked to the attacks, providing $4.2 billion for a fund to compensate those who became ill after being exposed to toxic chemicals at the World Trade Center site.
The Senate is expected to vote on the bill this afternoon, followed by the House.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON – A large defense contract that could provide up to 400 jobs in Lynn made it into a spending bill that the Senate approved today, allowing a project on a controversial jet engine to continue for the next few months.
Although the legislation does not include a specific provision for a backup engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, a key interpretation from the Office of Management and Budget indicates that the project will continue to be funded. The budget office sent a letter today to several senators, including Senator John Kerry, saying that the legislation would allow funding for the project to continue.
The legislation, which is part of a temporary budget bill that keeps the federal government running until March 4, also includes a provision that allows the Navy to award 10 new Navy coastal ships. The combat ships would be built by a consortium including General Dynamics, which said it would add 500 jobs to an electronics plant in Pittsfield if the project is approved. The Pentagon has backed the move to increase the order of new ships from 10 to 20.
“When jobs come and go it can hollow out a community and we all worked our tails off to make sure that didn’t happen,” Kerry said in a statement. “We’ve been on pins and needles to see if we were successful and it ended up better than we could have hoped.”
“Bottom line, this means hundreds of good jobs in our state when every single one counts, and I’m proud that we fought every inch of the way,” he added. “This is the great part of being a Senator when you can get on the phone and advocate just like a good Mayor.”
The bill was approved today by the Senate, and the House is expected to follow later tonight.
That alternate engine, which would be built by General Electric and would result in 400 jobs in Lynn, has been criticized by taxpayer watchdogs for several years as a waste of defense dollars. The Pentagon has said it needs only one engine for the new fighter, and the Obama administration opposes the project.
Funding for the jet engine was set to run out Thursday, and GE officials had been desperately trying to get further authorization for it included in a stopgap budget bill.
Still, the funding will only continue for several months. Supporters of the project will then have to find a longer-term solution.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHIGNTON -- After a bitter fight that threatened to upend a history of bipartisanship on arms control, the Senate has voted overwhelmingly to take up the the nuclear arms pact with Russia, marking a key victory for President Obama's agenda to reduce nuclear proliferation and a hard-won achievement for Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, who is shepherding the treaty over fierce opposition from Republican leaders.
By a vote of 67 to 28 -- including 11 Republicans -- the Senate moved to a full vote on the New START Treaty with the support of enough senators to reach a two-thirds majority that is required for treaty ratifiction.
The so-called "cloture" vote paves the way for the Senate to vote on the full treaty in the coming hours.
Kerry released the following statement on the occasion.
“Today’s bipartisan vote clears a significant hurdle in the Senate. We are on the brink of writing the next chapter in the 40-year history of wrestling with the threat of nuclear weapons. We’ve spent months building toward this moment. In these final hours of debate, Senator Lugar and I are joined by so many senators who understand the significance of this moment. Together, we will do our very best to convince those who remain undecided that ratifying New START is the right step for our national security.
“For nearly a week, we’ve been engaged in a healthy exchange of views. Those who are skeptical have voiced their concerns and we have listened carefully. They’ve made significant contributions to the dialogue. They are motivated by the same concern for our national security as those of us who see this agreement as vital to our national security. All eyes will be on the Senate in these last hours of debate and all will see a victory for common sense and the Senate act in its best traditions.”
WASHINGTON — Momentum is building in the US Senate toward the ratification of the New START arms control treaty with Russia, with the decision this morning of Republican Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee to back the treaty.
“I am convinced that Americans are safer and more secure with the New START treaty than without it,” Alexander announced in a floor speech this morning.
The treaty would reduce strategic warheads by about a third on each side, to 1,550, and set up protocols for inspections of each nation’s warheads.
The treaty needs 67 votes to be ratified. The entire Democratic caucus is expected to support it, meaning it needs at least nine Republican votes to be ratified. A rough count based on the public statements of Republican senators puts the treaty on the cusp of having enough votes to pass.
Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown announced last evening that he will support New START.
WASHINGTON – A large defense contract that could provide up to 500 jobs in Pittsfield is included in a spending bill that Congress is expected to vote on tomorrow, but a separate contract that could mean 400 jobs in Lynn is still in limbo.
The legislation, which is part of a temporary budget bill that the House and Senate will vote on tomorrow, includes a provision that allows the Navy to award 10 new Navy coastal ships. The combat ships would be built by a consortium including General Dynamics, which said it would add 500 jobs to an electronics plant in Pittsfield if the project is approved. The Pentagon has backed the move to increase the order of new ships from 10 to 20.
But the bill does not include any specific provision for another major defense contract with impacts on Massachusetts – a backup engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
That project, which would be built by General Electric and would result in 400 jobs in Lynn, has been criticized by taxpayer watchdogs for several years as a waste of defense dollars. The Pentagon has said it needs only one engine for the new fighter, and the Obama administration opposes the project.
Funding for the jet engine will run out Thursday, and GE officials had been desperately trying to get $450 million authorized in a stopgap budget bill.
A spokesman for GE warned that the decision to not specifically include the project in the temporary budget bill might not mean the end of the project. The spokesman, Rick Kennedy, said it could come down to an interpretation of the law by the Office of Management and Budget.
Because the temporary budget bill continues funding at fiscal 2010 levels -- when the alternate engine was funded -- GE officials assume the project will continue to be funded.
The bill the House and Senate plan to vote on tomorrow would keep government running at previous levels through March 4.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Senator John Kerry today won approval in the Senate of a bill that toughens regulations banning the removal of fins from sharks caught in US waters.
The bill, sponsored by the Massachusetts Democrat, closes a key loophole that allowed fishermen to remove the fin as long as it was done on land.
Shark fins are considered a delicacy in Far East cuisine and are sold for hundreds of dollars a pound. Overhunting of the sharks for their fins has decimated their population, with about 78 million sharks killed a year, according to the Pew Environment Group. About 30 percent of the world's species is close to the threat of extinction, said the group, which lauded Kerry's bill.
The United States is considered a major exporter of sharks.
"Some populations, such as scalloped hammerheads and dusky sharks along the Eastern US coast, have plummeted by as much as 80 percent since the 1970s,'' said Matt Rand, director of the Pew Environment Group’s Global Shark Conservation Campaign, in a written statement.
Often fishermen will remove the fins, then return the shark to the ocean for a slow death.
“Shark finning has fueled massive population declines and irreversible disruption of our oceans,” Kerry said. “Finally we’ve come through with a tough approach to tackle this serious threat to our marine life.”
The House passed a similar bill last year but will need to take it up again before the lame duck session ends because of changes made in the Senate version.
WASHINGTON -- Gays and lesbians will soon be able to serve openly in the United States military, after a US Senate vote today to end the "don't ask, don't tell" law that has led to the discharge of some 14,000 gay service members since its establishment during the Clinton administration.
US Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts was among six Republicans who broke ranks to help Democrats overcome a procedural hurdle put up by the GOP. The vote this morning against the Republican filibuster was 63-33; at least 60 votes were needed to move the measure ahead. Final passage came in a second vote this afternoon, which passed 65-31, with eight Republicans in favor.
The House had passed an identical version of the bill, 250-175, on Wednesday. The Senate vote gives President Barack Obama the chance to fulfill a campaign promise and repeal the 17-year policy. Obama was expected to sign it next week, although the change wouldn't take immediate effect. The legislation says the president and his top military advisers must certify that lifting the ban won't hurt troops' fighting ability. After that, there's a 60-day waiting period for the military.
A recent Pentagon study concluded the ban could be lifted without hurting the ability of troops to fight.
Repeal would mean that, for the first time in American history, gays would be openly accepted by the military and could acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being kicked out.
"I just posted on my Facebook: if you could only see the tears of joy in my eyes," said Travis Hengen of Weymouth, a 37-year-old former Army counterintelligence officer discharged under the "don’t ask" policy in 2003, minutes after the Senate took action.
"It is time to close this chapter in our history," President Obama said in a statement. "It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor, and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed."
But the vote also outraged some Christian conservatives. "Today is a tragic day for our armed forces," said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian lobbying group, in a statement. "The American military exists for only one purpose -- to fight and win wars. Yet it has now been hijacked and turned into a tool for imposing on the country a radical social agenda."
Rounding up a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate was a historic victory for Obama, who made repeal a campaign promise in 2008. It also was a political triumph for congressional Democrats who struggled in the final hours of the post-election session to overcome GOP objections on several legislative priorities before Republicans regain control of the House in January.
"As Barry Goldwater said, 'You don't have to be straight to shoot straight,' " said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., referring to the late GOP senator from Arizona.
Sen. John McCain, Obama's GOP rival in 2008, led the opposition. The Arizona Republican acknowledged he didn't have the votes to stop the bill, and he blamed elite liberals with no military experience for pushing their social agenda on troops during wartime.
"They will do what is asked of them," McCain said of service members. "But don't think there won't be a great cost."
Advocacy groups who lobbied hard for repeal hailed the vote as a significant step forward in gay rights. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network called the issue the "defining civil rights initiative of this decade."
Supporters of repeal filled the visitor seats overlooking the Senate floor, ready to protest had the bill failed.
"This has been a long fought battle, but this failed and discriminatory law will now be history," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
The Pentagon study found that two-thirds of service members didn't think changing the law would have much of an effect. But of those who did predict negative consequences, a majority were assigned to combat arms units. Nearly 60 percent of the Marine Corps and Army combat units, such as infantry and special operations, said in the survey they thought repealing the law would hurt their units' ability to fight.
The Pentagon's uniformed chiefs are divided on whether this resistance might pose serious problems.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos has said he thinks lifting the ban during wartime could cost lives.
"I don't want to lose any Marines to the distraction," he told reporters this week. "I don't want to have any Marines that I'm visiting at Bethesda (Naval Medical Center) with no legs be the result of any type of distraction."
Admiral Mike Mullen and Marine Gen. James Cartwright, the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, respectively, have said the fear of disruption is overblown. They note the Pentagon's finding that 92 percent of troops who believe they have served with a gay person saw no effect on their units' morale or effectiveness. Among Marines in combat roles who said they have served alongside a gay person, 84 percent said there was no impact.
WASHINGTON – Senator Scott Brown this morning said he would oppose a $1.1 trillion bill that includes at least $213 million for 174 earmarked projects for Massachusetts.
The Massachusetts Republican criticized the plan in large part because it includes earmarks, which are provisions added by a legislator to a bill that directs money to a specific project, instead of going through normal funding channels that typically are reviewed by government agencies.
"It is outrageous and inappropriate to jam a massive $1.1 trillion spending bill full of thousands of earmarks through a lame-duck Congress with almost no time to debate,” Brown said this morning in a statement. “Curbing out-of-control federal spending requires us to re-examine and re-evaluate our spending priorities and restore transparency and openness to the process by allowing full, fair and open debate on amendments. Unfortunately, this omnibus does neither and represents more of the business-as-usual mentality that was rejected by the American people last month.”
Brown also said he hopes President Obama, who has also been opposed to earmarks, would veto the bill if it reaches his desk.
Brown’s stance is in stark contrast to the other members in the Massachusetts delegation, who have long described themselves as proud backers of earmarks.
Brown is the only member of the delegation who did not submit any requests, although his name was erroneously included on the earmark list as a backer of an $8.7 million earmark that would benefit whaling and other museums, including ones in Salem and New Bedford.
His name is being formally removed today, according to an aide for the Senate Appropriations Committee.
The Globe reported this morning that the latest Senate budget bill, released earlier this week, includes $213 million for projects in Massachusetts.
The bill includes $400,000 for the Paul Revere House in Boston’s North End, $8 million for the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, and dozens of other earmarks that would be peppered throughout the Bay State.
But in addition to projects that congress considers earmarks, there are several other components in the bill that could impact the Massachusetts economy.
The bill includes $450 million for a program that is developing a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, despite objections from the Pentagon and a veto threat from the Obama administration. That funding, considered wasteful by the White House, is supported by most of the Massachusetts congressional delegation – including Brown -- because it would help preserve jobs at a General Electric plant in Lynn.
The legislation also includes funding for the Navy to double an order of coastal combat ships — from 10 to 20 ships — that would dramatically expand the program and would bring 500 new jobs to a General Dynamics computer manufacturing plant in Pittsfield.
The House voted last week to continue federal spending at current levels through the remainder of this fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. The Senate is instead trying to lump together several spending packages, with earmarks included. If backers succeed — which is far from certain, given that time is running out in the lame duck session — it would still need to be approved in the House. If they don’t, the Senate would probably follow the House and attempt to continue funding the federal government at current levels.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON – Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid this afternoon launched into a vociferous defense of congressional earmarks, branding Republicans “hypocrites” and pushing back against President Obama.
At one point, the soft-spoken Nevada Democrat pulled a copy of the Constitution out of his suit jacket and waived it in the air.
“The little Constitution that we have doesn’t have a lot of information in it, but what is in it is what runs this country,” he said. “And I am convinced that I do not want to give up more power to the White House, whether it’s George Bush or Barack Obama. And I’m going to fight as hard as I can against President Obama on these earmarks -- and my Republican colleagues who hate to vote for them but love to get them.”
Earmarks are provisions added by a legislator to a bill that directs money to a specific project, instead of going through normal funding channels that typically are reviewed by government agencies. President Obama and Republicans have criticized the funding practice in recent months.
Reid is pushing for a large spending bill to be approved before Saturday night -- one that includes more than $8 billion in earmarks -- when current funding authorizations expire. If Reid’s effort fails, the Senate would probably continue funding the federal government at current levels.
“People are saying, ‘Why should we vote for this, it’s got congressional directed spending in it?’” Reid said. “That’s our job. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”
He also took aim at Republicans who have criticized the bill, even after they had previously requested earmarks that are included in it. For example, Mitch McConnell, Senate minority leader, has said he would fight to kill the bill, even as he sponsored earmarks worth at least $112 million in the measure, according to the nonpartisan Taxpayers for Common Sense.
“Some of the people who speak out against congressionally directed spending, or earmarks, are people who have more earmarks than others,” Reid said. “They’re hoping, of course, it will pass and they can go home and do the press…saying, ‘Here I am, cut the ribbon, look what I did.’ You can’t have it both ways.”
“You can all look it up in the dictionary yourself,” he added. “But I bet if you went to H in the dictionary and found hypocrite, under that would be people who ask for earmarks but then vote against them.”
In the next breath, he said, “I would hope that we would cut down the mean-spirited talk about this, and just do our jobs.”
When asked later whether his own comment branding Republicans as hypocrites was a little mean-spirited, he said, “It could be.”
Reid also threatened to keep the Senate in session until early next year, when the next Congress officially begins, as a way to ensure votes on several other issues. Republicans have threatened to employ several delay tactics -- and they've criticized Reid for pushing to meet over the holidays.
“I hope that’s not necessary, but that’s the clock that my Republican colleagues have to run out,” Reid said. “It’s a long clock. I don’t want to be here. I’ve got a big family in Nevada, and I’d love to go back and visit with them. And I’m going to do that, but I’m not going to let the country’s work not be completed as a result of that. I get paid whether I’m here in Washington or in Nevada.”
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON – Representative Edward J. Markey this morning was chosen to be the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, providing the Malden Democrat with a key role that he says will allow him to block the Republican agenda.
The committee deals with issues involving the environment, energy, and public land.
“In the next Congress, Republicans will attempt to short-circuit the laws that keep our water clean, our air clear and our public lands pristine, while giving short shrift to emerging clean energy technologies that can create jobs and clean up our environment,” Markey said this morning in a statement. “With my fellow Democrats on the Natural Resources Committee, I believe we can chart a course that will continue the progress we’ve made on creating energy jobs here in America, without sacrificing our nation’s natural heritage.”
Markey, one of the most senior members in the House, has been chairing a select committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. That committee is being eliminated when Republicans take control of the House next month, and Democrats are going through a reshuffling in leadership roles.
The current chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, Representative Nick Rahall of West Virginia, is leaving to become the top Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Markey has served on the Natural Resources Committee since 1976.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
Republican Senator Olympia Snowe declared today she would support repeal of
the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell'' policy against openly gay members
serving in the armed services.
“After careful analysis of the comprehensive report compiled by the
Department of Defense and thorough consideration of the testimony provided
by the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and
the service chiefs, I support repeal of the 'don’t ask, don’t tell' law,”
Snowe said in a statement to the Portland Press-Herald.
Snowe is known as a champion of veteran's issues and has served on the
Senate Armed Services Committee, where she was the first female senator to
chair the Subcommittee on Seapower, which oversees the Navy and Marine
She joins her Republican counterpart from Maine, Susan Collins, in the
effort to repeal the policy. Collins and Joseph Lieberman, independent of
Connecticut, have filed a stand-alone bill in the Senate to end "don't ask"
after the Senate failed to pass the repeal as part of a larger defense
Her decision helps Collins build momentum for the repeal, although time is
short and demands for action on other bills are high as the Senate's
lame-duck session winds down. With Collins and Snowe, Republicans Lisa
Murkowski of Alaska, Scott Brown of Massachusetts, and John Ensign of
Nevada have signaled they would vote for repeal. All the senators who caucus with
the Democrats back repeal, except West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin.
The push toward repeal gained a boost today when the House voted 250 to 175
to end the policy, potentially setting the stage for a Senate vote on the
Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Newton and one of the House's few
openly gay members, was allowed to gavel the vote to a close. In a floor
speech, he said it was ‘‘bigoted nonsense [that] ‘‘the presence of someone
like me will so destabilize our brave young men and women that they will be
unable to do their duty.’’
Frank’s nine colleagues from Massachusetts, all Democrats, joined him
in voting for repeal.
WASHINGTON – US Senator Scott Brown, a Massachusetts Republican, was among nine GOP senators to vote in favor of moving forward to debate on the ratification of the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, one of President Obama’s top priorities for the remainder of the lame-duck session of Congress.
“Senator Brown believes there are still flaws in the treaty, such as the modernization of our own existing weapons, verification and missile defense, and is hopeful these issues will be worked out in a full, fair, and open debate and amendment process,” Brown’s office said in a statement after the vote.
The White House and senior Democrats have expressed confidence that they have the 67 votes needed for ratification -- two-thirds of the Senate -- and Obama has said he is prepared to delay a planned holiday vacation until the treaty is completed.
"We believe we should stay here as long as it takes to get this treaty ratified, and we are prepared to do so," said Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat.
The treaty would cut warheads on both sides and set up procedures for inspections
Several Republicans have argued that the limited time available in the lame-duck session makes it difficult to give the treaty the consideration it deserved.
With material from the Associated Press.
Calling new regulations an economic disaster for New England fishermen, Massachusetts congressmen are urging the House and the Senate to withhold funds from marine fisheries officials unless they boost catch limits.
For two months, members of the Massachusetts delegation and Governor Deval Patrick have been pushing the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Commerce to issue an emergency order to help the industry. The lack of action on the part of the agency is devastating to the industry and frustrating to state leaders, they say.
"Repeatedly, these discussions appear to have led to little more than speeches and broken promises,'' according to a letter from the lawmakers. "Because we feel serious consideration of all available options has not occurred, it is imperative that Congress assert itself in order to protect the livelihood of fishing communities across the country."
The letter, addressed to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, was signed by Democratic Representatives John Tierney of Salem, Barney Frank of Newton, and William Delahunt of Quincy. They were joined by Democratic Senator John F. Kerry and his counterpart, Republican Senator Scott Brown.
The focus of their effort is the government's new way to determine quotas for some waning stocks of fish. In May, the federal government shifted strategies, pushing fishermen to form cooperatives that would share annual quotas for each imperiled species of fish within a sector.
Under this program -- dubbed catch share -- once a group exceeds its limit on a particular kind of fish, all members must cease all fishing.
In their letter, the lawmakers cited research from the Mass. Division of Marine Fisheries and the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth that detailed the deleterious effects of the changes on Bay State fishermen. The research contends the changes made a handful of fishermen richer while hurting the bottom line on the vast majority plying the ocean. It also says the rules had idled two-thirds of the state's fleet chasing groundfish in the first five months of the season and half of the fleet seeking finfish.
The direct cost to the industry is $21 million, the letter says.
In response, the congressmen are asking Pelosi and Reid to withhold fiscal year 2011 funding for implementation of the catch share program until emergency relief is provided to the fishermen.
WASHINGTON — US Representative Barney Frank, a Newton Democrat, will vote against the tax compromise deal that cleared the US Senate this afternoon, unless there are major changes, Frank told the Globe today.
The legislation, the result of a compromise hammered out by President Obama and Senate Republicans, would extend all of the Bush-era income tax cuts for two years, renew a federal program to extend unemployment benefits for the longtime jobless, cut the payroll tax, and retain or create a series of other tax cuts for businesses and individuals. Many Democrats object to extending the tax cuts to family income above $250,000 per year, and have criticized Obama for yielding to Republican demands that the cuts be extended to all income.
Frank said he is not wedded to the $250,000 figure, but does not believe the cuts should be extended to all income. He also objects to the deal’s more generous treatment of the estate tax, which he regards as a “pure giveaway” to the wealthy, and wants assurances Social Security would be made whole, by replacing money lost due to the proposed cut in payroll taxes.
Frank said it is likely the House will hold a vote on imposing a stricter estate tax in the deal, but said he could not handicap the amendment’s chances for passage.
Republicans have warned that the deal will fall apart if major changes are made.
“I don’t accept the notion that if I vote against this [deal] it would be scuttled,” said Frank, who argued that the Senate may accept “a more reasonable package.”
Frank said a House vote on the tax deal could come later today or tomorrow.
WASHINGTON – The US Senate this afternoon gave its final approval to a sweeping tax and stimulus package that would extend tax cuts for all Americans and attempt to jolt the economy into revival.
The Senate voted 81-to-19 in favor of the deal, with broad bipartisan support. The legislation still needs the approval of the House, something that could come as soon as late today, despite continued angst from liberal Democrats.
The compromise united in opposition two odd bedfellows on opposite sides of the political spectrum: Senator Bernie Sanders, the Vermont socialist, and Republican Senator Jim DeMint, a Tea Party conservative from South Carolina. Each tried unsuccessfully to amend the package today, though with contradictory goals. Sanders wanted to strip temporary tax breaks from the wealthy from the deal, while DeMint wanted to make all the tax cuts permanent. Both proposals were knocked down, as proponents of the deal understood that any major changes probably would scuttle it. Both senators voted against the final deal.
The senators from Massachusetts, Democrat John Kerry and Republican Scott Brown, supported the compromise.
The focus of the debate now swings to the US House of Representatives. House Democrats held a closed-door caucus last night to discuss the proposal. Last week, the caucus objected – to chants of “Just say no!” – to scheduling a vote on the tax bill without major changes. But the objection came in a non-binding voice vote in the heat of emotion, and by this week House leaders began predicting that the compromise would ultimately pass.
"I think, frankly, that ultimately we will pass legislation," House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters yesterday. "The vote in the Senate indicates an urgency that is felt by a broad spectrum that the middle income taxes not be increased come Jan. 1. In order to affect that, you've got to pass the bill.”
House Republican Leader John Boehner believes his members “are generally supportive, and will not insist on amendments,” Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said today.
The legislation, the result of a compromise hammered out by President Obama and Senate Republicans, would extend all of the Bush-era income tax cuts for two years, renew a federal program to extend unemployment benefits for the longtime jobless, cut the payroll tax, and retain a series of other tax cuts for businesses and individuals. Many Democrats object to extending the tax cuts to family income above $250,000 per year, and have criticized Obama for yielding to Republican demands that the cuts be extended to all income.
House Democrats have lately focused their ire on the estate tax, saying the deal’s proposed rate of 35 percent is too low and the thresholds of protected assets -- $5 million for individuals – are too high. Many Democrats prefer returning to 2009 rates: a 45-percent tax on assets above $3.5 million.
One option for House Democrats would be to vote on an amendment that would impose a higher estate tax, although Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has warned that the agreement will fall apart if major changes are made.
All told, the tax and stimulus package would cost about $855 billion, according to preliminary projections by the Joint Committee on Taxation.
The parties had an incentive to work together to reach the deal, with a deadline approaching that could have dire political consequences: if Congress does not pass a bill before Dec. 31, taxes will rise for most Americans.
President Obama today urged Democrats and Republican to look past what they don’t like about the deal. “That’s the nature of compromise,” Obama said. “But we worked hard to negotiate an agreement that’s a win for middle-class families and a win for our economy, and we can’t afford to let it fall victim to either delay or defeat.”
WASHINGTON – Senate Democrats today released a $1.3 trillion spending bill that includes a host of earmark projects, including $8 million that would go toward the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate.
The so-called omnibus bill, clocking in a 1,924 pages, knits together multiple appropriations bills that have not passed this year. Top Republicans vowed today to block Democrats from passing the massive spending bill, but Democrats would only need a handful of Republicans to gain a filibuster-proof 60 votes. House Republicans have also said they would eliminate earmark requests next year when they take the majority, so this would be one of the last opportunities to approve any earmarks, which are provisions that are added to a bill to direct money to a specific project.
The Kennedy Institute earmark is just one of a long list that is included in the bill. It was submitted by Representative Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat, and Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat.
It would help fund an institute named for the late senator that is scheduled to open in Boston, next to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. The institute, which is also being funded through private donations, has so far received $38.3 million in funds through federal earmarks.
The omnibus bill also includes $450 million for a program that is developing a second engine for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, despite objections from the Pentagon and a veto threat from the Obama administration. That funding, considered wasteful by the Obama administration, is supported by most of the Massachusetts congressional delegation because it would help preserve jobs at a General Electric plant in Lynn.
It also includes funding for the Navy to double an order of coastal combat ships -- from 10 ships to 20 -- that would dramatically expand the program and would bring 500 new jobs to a General Dynamics computer manufacturing plant in Pittsfield.
Senate Democrats are hoping to pass the bill by the end of the week, when the latest continuing resolution – which has kept federal spending going at last year’s levels – expires. The House passed a slightly less expensive spending bill last week.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON — US Representative William Delahunt, a Quincy Democrat, will support the tax compromise deal negotiated by President Obama and congressional Republicans, Delahunt said in an interview today.
He is the first member of the Massachusetts House delegation to embrace the deal, which would extend all the Bush-era income tax cuts for two years, renew a federal program to extend unemployment benefits for the longtime jobless, cut the payroll tax and establish or retain other tax cuts for businesses and individuals.
“I’m going to support it,” Delahunt said today. “We don’t have a choice, really.” The outgoing representative, who did not run for reelection this year, said that 2 million unemployed Americans would be financially devastated if their unemployment benefits were allowed to run out. “We can’t let that happen.”
The compromise, heavily criticized by liberals and some conservatives, cleared a key procedural vote in the Senate yesterday by an overwhelming 83-15 vote. The Bay State’s senators, Democrat John Kerry and Republican Scott Brown, voted in favor. Final Senate approval is expected as early as today, before the measure moves to the House.
Delahunt said he does not like extending tax breaks to wealthy Americans, but noted that the compromise extends the breaks for only two years. “I would encourage my colleagues to support it, with the understanding that in two years they have an opportunity to review what it has meant to the economy,” he said.
Other members of the delegation have received the compromise coolly. US representatives Stephen Lynch and James McGovern said yesterday that they intend to vote no on the package, absent major revisions.
WASHINGTON — Opponents of the ban on openly gay soldiers in the US military are making one final push to repeal the policy during this lame-duck session of Congress.
The US House of Representatives today will introduce a stand-alone bill to repeal the 17-year-old “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. The bill will be identical to “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal legislation being pushed in the US Senate by senators Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent, and Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, among others.
The House bill will be introduced by US Representative Patrick Murphy, a Democrat of Pennsylvania and an Iraq war veteran, said Hoyer. The House has not yet scheduled a vote.
A proposed repeal of the policy contained within a large defense spending bill failed last week to clear a procedural hurdle in the Senate.
WASHINGTON – Former Governor Mitt Romney this morning criticized the tax compromise that President Obama struck with congressional Republicans, saying his party’s legislative leaders were bargaining away too much.
“Given the unambiguous message that the American people sent to Washington in November, it is difficult to understand how our political leaders could have reached such a disappointing agreement,” Romney wrote in an op-ed in USA Today. “The new, more conservative Congress should reach a better solution.”
Romney joins a growing chorus of conservative criticism over the deal, which could become a major issue during the 2012 presidential race – both in the Republican primary, and in the general election. Former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and popular conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh have also criticized the plan.
The agreement would extend the tax cuts at all income levels for two years, though most Democrats, including the president, had wanted the cuts to extend only to families with incomes less than $250,000 a year.
Only five Senate Republicans voted nay yesterday in a key procedural vote. Senator John Thune, a Republican for South Dakota who is mulling a presidential run, was among those who voted for it.
Romney points out several aspects of the deal that he likes, including the reduction of payroll taxes, extending unemployment benefits, and keeping the current tax rates intact.
But he argues that the tax cuts should have been extended permanently for all brackets, saying such an approach would add more certainty to businesses making longer-term investment decisions.
Romney also criticized the package for adding to the deficit, although his approach – extending the tax cuts permanently – would add about $4 trillion to the deficit over 10 years.
“What some are calling a grand compromise is not grand at all, except in its price tag,” he added. “The total package will cost nearly $1 trillion, resulting in substantial new borrowing at a time when we are already drowning in red ink.”
“President Obama has reason to celebrate,” Romney added. “The deal delivers short-term economic stimulus, and it does so at the very time he wants it most, before the 2012 elections. But the long term health of our great engine of prosperity will remain very much in doubt.”
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON -- The Navy said today that Lockheed Martin and shipbuilder Austal have agreed to extend a deadline for new bids on the next batch of Littoral Combat Ships, giving Sen. John F. Kerry more time to win Senate approval to expand construction of the new fleet of fast-attack boats to a second manufacturing team -- a move that could bring hundreds of new engineering jobs to a defense plant in Pittsfield.
"The extension provides time to process the LCS contract award if Congress provides authorization for the dual block buy," said Lt. Courtney L. Hillson, a Navy spokeswoman.
The vessels, called littoral combat ships, are designed for operations close to shore, including hunting submarines, sweeping for mines, and defeating terrorists and pirates in small boats.
The fleet is currently being built by a team led by Lockheed Martin, but the Navy -- with prodding by Kerry and others -- is pushing a last-minute proposal to award some of the work to a second team, which would likely benefit General Dynamics' Advanced Information Systems in Pittsfield.
Kerry has taken a leading role and hopes to get congressional approval before the congressional session ends at the end of the month.
The extension approved by Lockheed Martin and Austal will give them until the end of the month to pass the new plan, according to the Navy. "This extension does not allow the Navy to continue to work for the dual block buy authorization beyond Dec. 30, 2010," Hillson said.
Despite misgivings, US Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts, will vote today in favor of the tax and spending compromise negotiated by President Obama and congressional Republicans, Kerry said this afternoon in a statement.
The deal extends the Bush-era tax cuts for two years, though many Democrats have long opposed extending the lower rates on family income about $250,000 per year. Republicans insist that Congress shouldn't raise taxes on anyone in a weak economy.
“I oppose extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and have voted against them since day one, every time in between, and opposed them when I ran for president," said Kerry, who was the Democratic nominee for president in 2004. "But the unavoidable reality remains that week after week, vote after vote, Senate Republicans marched in lockstep to hold middle class tax cuts and unemployment insurance hostage to bonus tax cuts only for the wealthiest Americans."
The tax deal also provides for an extension of federal unemployment benefits for people who have exhausted their state benefits.
"I’m not going to stand by and see laid-off workers cut off from their lifeline or see working people take home less and less in their paychecks come January," said Kerry. "This isn’t the choice we should have to make, but it is the choice we do have to make, and governing is always about choices."
WASHINGTON-- U.S. Senator Scott Brown, a Massachusetts Republican, will support President Obama's tax deal with Republicans, which will come to the Senate floor for a critical procedure vote this afternoon, Brown said in a statement.
The full text of Brown's statement:
“I support the tax compromise because it will help get our economy back on track by allowing people to keep more of the money they earn. It is good for American families, for small businesses and for individuals in Massachusetts and across the country. Unemployment is still too high, and reports of ongoing job losses leave me very concerned. Creating a climate that is good for job growth remains my number one priority, and I will continue working with the administration and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle until there are more jobs for Americans.”
WASHINGTON — Senator John Kerry claimed today there is a “growing bipartisan momentum” toward the ratification of the New START arms treaty with Russia, which Kerry has been pushing for months as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
“Every single day there’s a new, respected, Republican voice urging the Senate to ratify New START, and every day that goes by without action is one more day without our inspectors on the ground in Russia,” said Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, in a statement. “We’re working across the aisle in good faith to ensure it happens before the end of the year, and we’ll keep pressing so the treaty can be fully debated on Senate floor in the coming days.”
Three Republican senators spoke out positively for the treaty today:
US Senators Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both from Maine, issued statements supporting the treaty. And Arizona Republican John McCain said in a speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies that the Senate is “very close” to an agreement on START, according to a report by Politico.
An aide to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said today that Reid intends to bring the treaty to the floor for a ratification vote before the end of the year.
The office of US Senator Scott Brown, Republican from Massachusetts, said yesterday that Brown’s position on START is unchanged, and that Brown wants the Senate to deal with tax and spending issues before taking up other matters. The senator “continues to review START and is hopeful that before the vote on START happens, several flaws are worked out, including the modernization of our own existing weapons and assurances that it will not affect our missile defense,” according to a statement from Brown’s office.
WASHINGTON — Signs of momentum are growing behind the New START treaty with Russia, with another Republican senator pledging today to support the arms pact with Russia.
US Senator Susan Collins of Maine this morning announced her support for New START. Her Republican colleague from Maine, Senator Olympia Snowe, also announced support for the treaty this morning.
President Obama and US Senator John Kerry, Democrat of Massachusetts and chair of the Foreign Relations Committee, have been pushing to bring the treaty to a ratification vote before the end of the year.
In announcing her support for ratification, Collins said in a statement, “The New START represents a continued effort to achieve mutual and verifiable reductions in nuclear weapons. As the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, I support the president’s commitment to reduce not only the number of strategic nuclear weapons through the New START treaty, but also to reduce, in the future, those weapons that are most vulnerable to theft and misuse – and those are tactical nuclear weapons."
WASHINGTON — US Senator Olympia J. Snowe, a Maine Republican, this morning announced her support for the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, a top priority of President Obama.
“I have worked with my colleagues to scrutinize this agreement and ensure any classified matters are properly vetted,” said Snowe in a statement. “Much has changed since the original START was first negotiated in 1991, and as a result I have supported efforts to make certain that questions regarding our ability to verify Russian compliance with the treaty’s limits, to develop and deploy effective missile defenses, and to modernize our nuclear weapons complex, have been satisfactorily resolved.
“I am confident that New START will provide predictability in our relationship with Russia and thus enhance global stability, and most importantly, our national security.”
The president has been pushing the Senate to take up ratification of the treaty before the end of the year, though time is running short and the Senate still has a full plate of spending and tax issues to sort out. Snowe pledged to support the treaty if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid brings it to the floor for a vote “under a framework that allows for sufficient debate and amendments.”
The treaty needs 67 votes in the Senate to be ratified.
WASHINGTON -- Senate Republicans this afternoon blocked legislation that would have repealed the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, likely dooming any chances of repealing the policy this year.
Democrats could not win a procedural vote on the issue, and it fell three votes shy of the 60 needed to advance, by a 57-to-40 vote. Senator Scott Brown, a Massachusetts Republican, was among those who blocked the measure.
Brown was one of a handful of Republicans who had voiced support for repealing the 17-year-old policy, but he had also joined 41 other Republicans in saying he would filibuster any issue before a tax cut extension package and a budget proposal were addressed.
"Senator Brown has said we need to prevent the looming tax hike and fund the government before we move forward with other legislation," his press secretary, Colin Reed, said in a statement after this afternoon's vote. "He supports repealing don't ask, don't tell once those issues have been addressed."
The “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal was included in a much broader Senate bill that authorizes $726 billion in military spending next year. The defense authorization bill normally attracts broad bipartisan support and has passed every year for nearly a half-century. But this year partisan disagreements over the terms of the debate - as well as the inclusion of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” repeal - have prompted Republicans to filibuster the measure.
“It’s disappointing, in a lot of different ways,” Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, said in an interview after the vote. “I’m disappointed in it, but I’m not surprised because of the position the Republicans have taken on these legislative items.”
“It just continues unfairness, and just an institutionalized discrimination that’s unacceptable,” he added. “I think we’ll win it, I think we’ll get there. Like a number of things here, we’ve got to be patient and be willing to come back and fight another day. And we will.”
When asked whether it could be passed during the brief time left in the lame duck session, he said, “I think it’s going to be very, very difficult in the lame duck, given the fact that we’ve now got to do the taxes, we’ve got to do the spending, and we need to do START.”
These few weeks have been seen as advocates' best shot for a reversal of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. If Congress doesn't take action, the measure would be much harder to pass next year, when Republicans take control of the House and Democrats have fewer votes in the Senate.
Senator Susan Collins, a Maine Republican, made a similar pledge as Brown -- to block the measure unless the tax package and budget were dealt with first -- but she still voted this afternoon to advance the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal.
She was the lone Republican to do so, but not before criticizing Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for not doing more to accommodate Republican objections. She had requested last night that Reid hold off on a vote until the tax package had been completed, and she also wanted him to allow more time for debate.
"There was such a clear path for us to be able to get this done," she said this afternoon on the Senate floor. "I'm perplexed and frustrated that this important bill will become victim of politics."
Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia, was the only Democrat to vote with Republicans. Three senators – Blanche Lincoln, Democrat of Arkansas; John Cornyn, Republican of Texas; and Sam Brownback, Republican of Kansas – did not vote.
Lincoln later said she did not arrive in the chamber in time, but would have voted yes.
“I have bent over backwards to find a way to get this bill done,” Reid said. “But it is clear that Republicans – led by a couple of Senators who simply do not want to have a vote on repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ – are doing everything they can to stand in the way.”
Mark Arsenault of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON – Representative Richard E. Neal this afternoon lost in his bid to become the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, failing to fend off a challenger and garner enough support among the full Democratic caucus.
Neal, a Springfield Democrat, had won a key endorsement last night, gaining support from the Steering and Policy Committee to become ranking member on the influential committee next year.
But his chief rival for the position – Representative Sandy Levin, a Michigan Democrat – successfully challenged that result before the full caucus.
Levin had been acting chairman of the committee since March, when Representative Charlie Rangel stopped aside amid ethics charges, and also had more seniority than Neal. But those close to Neal had been confident that, if everyone stuck by their pledges, he would win today’s caucus vote, which was cast by secret ballot.
"I congratulate my colleague Sandy Levin on his victory," Neal said this afternoon in a statement. "The election for ranking member of Ways and Means was a good reminder of how difficult it is to challenge the seniority system in Congress. But I look forward to continuing my work on the Committee, and working with the members of the Democtaic Caucus to regain the majority in 2012."
The Committee on Ways and Means has broad oversight of Social Security, Medicare, tariffs, and trade agreements. Every tax proposal that raises revenue begins in the committee. At a time when there is growing concern over the deficit and tax policies, the committee will be an extraordinarily active one. Under Republicans, the committee could also try to strip parts of President Obama’s signature health care legislation.
“I look forward to working with all of our Ranking Members and the new Republican committee chairmen to create jobs and reduce the deficit in a bipartisan way,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement announcing the vote.
As expected, the caucus also selected Representative Barney Frank, a Newton Democrat, to be ranking member of the Financial Services Committee.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON – The House Democratic caucus this morning voted to reject President Obama’s tax compromise, a stinging rebuke of the president that throws into question whether his plan will pass.
By a voice vote, Democrats passed a resolution saying that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should not bring the negotiated package to the House floor, unless changes are made. The vote is nonbinding, but it demonstrates the growing rancor among House Democrats, and their desire to see key changes made to the package before they will vote on it.
“This is what’s called negotiations, and this is what many of us have been concerned about,” Representative Michael Capuano, a Somerville Democrat, said in an interview. “No one is trying to hurt or embarrass anybody. We’re just saying that we were independently elected and we have our own principles, and we don’t think many of those principles were met – or that a strong attempt was made at those principles.”
“It doesn’t assure victory,” he added, of the caucus vote. “But if I’m going down, I want to go down fighting. At least now I feel like I’d be going down fighting.”
The caucus did not vote on which changes should be made, but Democrats have been requesting several items, such as adding several billion dollars to extend renewable energy tax credits. Democrats have also opposed the proposed provision on the estate tax, contending that a rate of 35 percent is too low and the thresholds of protected assets — $5 million for individuals and $10 million for couples — are too high.
Several senators have also requested that credits for the ethanol industry be extended as part of the package.
The White House predicted that the package would ultimately pass.
“At the end of the day, this will get done,” White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said. He also said that there are elements of the plan that both parties don’t like – but will have to accept.
“If everybody took out what they didn’t like we would have nothing,” Gibbs said.
Representative Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat and dean of the delegation, also voted today to reject the proposal.
“I have serious concerns about any package that continues tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires when they don't need them and we can't afford them,” he said in a statement. “I am also concerned that expiring tax credits for clean energy technologies are not being renewed, which could jeopardize tens of thousands of jobs in wind, solar and geothermal production.”
Markey also said he wanted to provide seniors with a one-time $250 Social Security payment.
“In its current form, I cannot support the proposal worked out with the Senate Republicans,” he said.
Representative Peter Welch, a Democrat from Vermont, has been circulating a letter saying that the plan is unwise. That letter has been signed by 53 House Democrats, including Representative Barney Frank, of Newton, and Representative Stephen Lynch, of South Boston.
If all 179 House Republicans vote in favor, they would still need 39 Democrats to vote in favor of the bill. That support would probably come from conservative Democrats who have not been as opposed to the package, but if Pelosi doesn’t even bring it to the floor for a vote, it would effectively kill the current plan.
The Senate, meanwhile, appeared to be moving toward debate on the issue. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may bring the issue to the floor as early as today, which would set up votes on the matter for Saturday.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON -- Representative Richard E. Neal tonight won a key endorsement to become the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, bucking the seniority system and paving the way for him to take one of the top leadership posts on Capitol Hill.
Neal, a Springfield Democrat, was endorsed by the Steering and Policy Committee tonight to become the ranking member of the committee next year. He won narrowly -- by a single vote, 23-to-22 -- to defeat Representative Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat who has more seniority.
"Obviously I'm very pleased," Neal said in a brief interview. "I'm delighted."
Levin had been acting chairman of the committee since March, when Representative Charlie Rangel stopped aside amid ethics charges. In addition, five Democrats on the committee had more seniority than Neal, so his nomination was rare and significant.
He still has to be confirmed by the full Democratic caucus tomorrow, but those close to Neal have been confident that, if everyone sticks by their pledges, he would win the full vote. It is unclear whether Levin will challenge the committee's recommendation tomorrow in the full caucus.
If the full caucus confirms Neal, he would become the Democratic point man on one of the most pivotal committees in Congress -- and one that will likely see a lot of movement under a Republican House majority.
The Committee on Ways and Means has broad oversight of Social Security, Medicare, tariffs, and trade agreements. Every tax proposal that raises revenue begins in the committee. At a time when there is growing concern over the deficit and tax policies, the committee will be an extraordinarily active one. Under Republicans, the committee could also try to strip parts of President Obama’s signature health care legislation.
Neal, as ranking member, would be the chief Democrat attempting to challenge Republicans on those issues. He would also bring further clout to a delegation that has long had members in positions of power.
Neal for more than a year had been quietly preparing to make a run for the committee chairmanship. But since Republicans won the majority, he would instead be the ranking member of the committee. Still, the post of ranking member gives Neal a high-profile role, and he would also be positioned to seize the gavel, should Democrats win back the House majority.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON – The Senate tonight voted to fix an error in the federal health care law that could have cost Children’s Hospital Boston and others like it millions of dollars in added drug costs to treat children with rare diseases.
The change, which had already passed the House, was included as part of a broader bill that extended through next year a Medicare physician payment formula. The legislation ensures that Medicare and Tricare – the health program for military service members and retirees – would continue paying physicians at current levels.
But the legislation also made a much sought-after change benefiting children’s hospitals that had been pursued by both Massachusetts senators, which the Globe reported about two weeks ago.
Senator Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican, had filed a stand-alone bill to fix the error, while Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, had helped persuade top members in his party to make the change through an amendment to a bill addressing broader tax policies.
Making the change had proved controversial, though, because it involved President Obama’s landmark health care legislation. Republicans have been fighting to repeal the health care bill rather than fix it, and Democrats have been loath to acknowledge its flaws.
The change involved correcting an unintentional drafting error that was made in the final, frenetic days of drafting the controversial health care legislation. Congressional staff intended to allow children's hospitals continued access to the portion of a federal program that offers below-market prices on 347 specific medicines for rare, life-threatening conditions. But that language was accidentally altered, cutting the children’s hospitals out of that part of the program.
If the efforts to change the language had failed, Children’s Hospital Boston officials had said they would have been forced to find new ways to fund the drugs for poor children with rare diseases, such as neurological disorders and severe juvenile arthritis.
The Boston hospital, one of nearly 30 across the country with this problem, estimated that the mistake would have cost between $1.5 million and $3 million annually. Nationally, the problem would have cost children's hospitals about $100 million annually.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON – Senator John Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat, defended President Obama tonight from some of the intra-party fighting over the tentative agreement the president made with Republicans over extending the Bush-era tax cuts.
Kerry, who has been a top White House ally in that past, said that he did not agree with certain portions of the plan, but that it was a pragmatic realization of what is currently politically doable.
“It's a lot easier to deal in hypotheticals than it is to deal with the Senate as it is,” Kerry said. “We don't have 60 Senators who oppose the Bush tax policies the way I do, and the way Barack Obama and Joe Biden do, so how do you wrestle with that? Are you willing to say no to unemployment insurance if this is the only way to get it?”
“The truth is, the President got a lot of things here we've been fighting for that we haven't yet been able to win any other way,” Kerry added.
Kerry’s statement was distributed by the White House tonight as part of a daylong series of endorsements from various politicians, from Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle, a Democrat, to Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, a Republican.
Senator Scott Brown, a Massachusetts Republican, has so far not taken a firm position. His spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho, said yesterday that "He will review the compromise, and while the proposal may not be ideal, he wants to make sure that it is good for American families and a victory for taxpayers." Gitcho said tonight that his position had not changed.
Here is Kerry’s complete statement:
"It's no secret that I've opposed the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. I voted against them in 2001, 2003 and 2005, and I said I'd roll them back in 2004 if I was elected president. I take a backseat to no one when it comes to opposing George Bush's tax policy. They didn't create jobs and they dug an enormous deficit hole that was dumped on President Obama. President Obama knows that. He opposed the Bush policy every step of the way and as a Senator, Joe Biden was right here with me fighting against them.
But don't forget for a second that when it came down to the votes in the Senate, the President was dealt a very tough hand. All 42 Senate Republicans voted in lockstep to hold the middle class tax cuts and unemployment insurance hostage, and our Democratic caucus wasn't unified.
The votes on Saturday were just the latest reminder when we lost a bunch of Democrats, and the math is clear our bargaining position was going to be even harder come January with all these new Republican Senators. So I think the President had a hard decision to make. He obviously decided that the best possible compromise was to get unemployment benefits, middle class tax cuts, and the Recovery Act provisions extended in exchange for these upper income tax extensions that he opposes, and he decided that in two years the fight over tax breaks for the wealthy will be rejoined.
This wasn't an easy call for him. It's a lot easier to deal in hypotheticals than it is to deal with the Senate as it is. We don't have 60 Senators who oppose the Bush tax policies the way I do, and the way Barack Obama and Joe Biden do, so how do you wrestle with that? Are you willing to say no to unemployment insurance if this is the only way to get it? That's what our caucus wrestled with today. Yes, it's a very steep price to pay for something the Senate should've done months ago as a matter of decency and common sense, but how do you cut off 52,000 people in Massachusetts who need those unemployment benefits? Are you really willing to walk away from these middle class benefits which we can't get otherwise when you know the tax cuts for the upper end are going to be extended come January anyways? The truth is, the President got a lot of things here we've been fighting for that we haven't yet been able to win any other way."
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON – The Massachusetts House delegation can normally be counted on by the White House to support President Obama’s priorities.
Not this time -- at least so far.
No one in the 10-member, all-Democratic delegation has embraced the compromise plan that Obama struck with Republicans, and some are outright opposed.
“I strongly disagree,” Representative Barney Frank, a Newton Democrat, said this morning. He said he would vote against the deal, although he also said it likely had enough votes to pass. “You have overwhelming Republican support and enough Democrats to do it,” he said.
Representative James McGovern, a Worcester Democrat, has called the compromise “a lousy deal” and said he would vote against it. “This deal is just not something I believe in,” he said.
Representative Stephen Lynch, a South Boston Democrat, signed onto a letter protesting the compromise.
“I don’t believe that caving in to the Republican position is in the best interest of the American people right now,” Lynch said last night in a statement. He said he is “inclined to vote against” the package.
“I’m not convinced,” said Representative Richard Neal, a Springfield Democrat and top member of the House Ways and Means Committee. “We’re paying a price for pushing the issue past the election.” He said he hadn't made a firm decision on how to vote but said, "Count me as a skeptic."
Representative Michael Capuano, a Somerville Democrat, said his office has received 500 phone calls on the deal, with about 5-to-1 voicing opposition to it.
He said he was still undecided, and did not want to cast a symbolic vote against the package if it were clear that it was going to pass.
“I’m not Don Quixote,” he said. “If I think that there is a critical mass of Democrats to do the right thing, I might vote no, but I haven’t settled on it yet…But I’ve made no bones about it: I don’t like the deal.”
But he also had harsh words for Obama, saying he proved to be an ineffective negotiator with Republicans.
“I’ve negotiated with people who are a lot tougher than [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnell, I understand negotiations,” Capuano said, referencing his time as mayor of Somerville. “I don’t mean to be a jerk, but I don’t need a lecture from the President of the United States on how to do negotiations.”
“I do know one thing: you never get anything unless you fight,” he added. “And my analogy has been, I’m not going to bring President Obama with me to buy my next car. I’ll end up paying more, and it won’t have a radio in it.”
“Losing is one thing,” he said. “Losing without a fight is not a smart move.”
Several other members in the delegation have been critical of the plan, but have not yet hinted how they would vote.
Representative Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat, said in a statement last night that he has “serious concerns about extending the Bush tax cuts for millionaires for two more years,” but did not say whether he would vote against the plan.
Representative John Tierney, a Salem Democrat, said he was still reviewing the plan, but he criticized several aspects of it.
"I share a general disappointment of many that the President did not refute untenable economic claims earlier and engage earlier with the public in order to gain the necessary support to avoid this poor choice," he said in a statement last night.
Representative Niki Tsongas, a Lowell Democrat, has remained noncommittal, saying through a spokesman that she “is still considering the compromise package at this time.” Representative John Olver, an Amherst Democrat, said through a spokeswoman that there are both good and bad components of the compromise but that he had not yet developed a firm position.
Representative Bill Delahunt, a Democrat from Quincy, is also continuing to review the plan and has not come out for or against it, according to a spokesman.
The two senators from Massachusetts seemed more open to voting in favor of the compromise.
Senator John F. Kerry, a Massachusetts Democrat and a potential key vote, left open the possibility of supporting the measure. “We have a huge amount here that will go to working people, that goes to average Americans,’’ Kerry said yesterday after emerging from the Democratic meeting, noting a reduction in certain payroll taxes. “The middle class is going to get tax cuts that we never contemplated that we could get.’’
Senator Scott Brown, a Massachusetts Republican, was noncommittal. “He will review the compromise, and while the proposal may not be ideal, he wants to make sure that it is good for American families and a victory for taxpayers,’’ said Gail Gitcho, the spokeswoman for the Massachusetts Republican.
Mark Arsenault of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON – Senator Scott Brown this afternoon announced that he would support repealing the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, providing key support for those who want the military to begin allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military.
The Massachusetts Republican, following two days of hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee, said that he felt comfortable that top military brass would implement a new policy in a way that did not hinder the ongoing wartime efforts.
“I accept the findings of the report and support repeal based on [Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’] recommendations that repeal will be implemented only when the battle effectiveness of the forces is assured and proper preparations have been completed,” Brown said in a statement.
“I have visited our injured troops at Walter Reed and have attended funerals of our fallen heroes,” he added. “When a soldier answers the call to serve, and risks life or limb, it has never mattered to me whether they are gay or straight. My only concern has been whether their service and sacrifice is with pride and honor.”
Brown, who is a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, could be a significant supporter for those who want to repeal the policy during the lame duck session. His aides made clear, though, that Brown would not support addressing a repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” until the Senate first dealt with taxes and a federal budget.
Brown had previously not announced a position on the repeal, saying in May that he wanted to wait on a Pentagon study of how such a repeal would be implemented. That study came out this week, and found that ending the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy would not harm long-term military effectiveness.
The House has passed a bill overturning the policy, but a Republican-led threat of a filibuster halted a similar effort in the Senate in the fall. Democrats are planning to call for a vote on the issue over the next few weeks.
During today’s hearings, where the top uniformed Army and Marines generals testified, Brown offered few hints on whether he would support the repeal. He said both that “there are very real concerns” about implementing social change during two wars, but also said it would “potentially be detrimental” if the courts forced more immediate changes.
At the time, he did not say definitively whether or not he would support the repeal, and would not answer questions from a reporter after he left.
During the hearing, one concern Brown seemed to have was on the implementation of a repeal, and he wanted assurances that top military officials would be able to phase it in first with troops who are not on front battlelines.
“The only issue that’s the important issue in my mind right now, while we’re fighting two wars, is the safety and security of our men and women who are serving,” he said. “Regardless of their sexual orientation, I want to make sure we give them the tools and resources to do their job and come home safely.”
“To implement social change in the middle of two battles…there are very real concerns,” he added.
He also laid out a scenario in which the troops located in the United States would be the first to undergo changes.
“And with the battle units, we’re going to leave them as is,” Brown said. “They have just too much on their plates, we’re going to leave them as is. But when they come home, we’re going to implement them, and get the training, give them the education, we’re going to work it through and we’re going to cycle it in.”
One other concern that Brown and others have is that, if Congress didn’t make changes, ongoing court cases could force something more immediate.
A group called the Log Cabin Republicans has also been challenging the issue in court, arguing that the policy is unconstitutional and violates First Amendment rights. A federal judge ruled in their favor in September, but the government is appealing the decision. A three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled last month that the policy had to stay in place during the appeal process.
“I think it would potentially be detrimental to just all of the sudden, if the courts in fact do something like that, to just go overnight,” Brown said. “I think it would be exceedingly disruptive to the force. I’m basing that on everything I’ve learned, forgetting my personal opinion, but everything that you, with your 100-plus years, of testimony have indicated.”
While Brown’s support could prove crucial in the coming days, there could also be debate over how to implement a new policy.
During their testimony today, some of the top generals told the panel that repealing the policy could be divisive and difficult during wartime.
"I would not recommend going forward at this time, given everything that the Army has on its plate," Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey told the committee.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. James Amos also warned that, while a repeal will likely come eventually, the military should be given time to prepare.
"My suspicions are that the law will be repealed," Amos said. "And all I'm asking is the opportunity to do that at a time and choosing when my Marines are not singularly tightly focused on what they're doing in a very deadly environment."
He added that "assimilating openly homosexual Marines into the tightly woven fabric of our combat units has strong potential for disruption at the small unit level, as it will no doubt divert leadership attention away from an almost singular focus of preparing units for combat."
Those arguments could play into the case put forward by Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, and other Republicans who are trying to block the repeal
Read Brown's complete statement below:
“I have been in the military for 31 years and counting, and have served as a subordinate and as an officer. As a legislator, I have spent a significant amount of time on military issues. During my time of service, I have visited our injured troops at Walter Reed and have attended funerals of our fallen heroes. When a soldier answers the call to serve, and risks life or limb, it has never mattered to me whether they are gay or straight. My only concern has been whether their service and sacrifice is with pride and honor.
“I pledged to keep an open mind about the present policy on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Having reviewed the Pentagon report, having spoken to active and retired military service members, and having discussed the matter privately with Defense Secretary Gates and others, I accept the findings of the report and support repeal based on the Secretary’s recommendations that repeal will be implemented only when the battle effectiveness of the forces is assured and proper preparations have been completed.”
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
For Mitt Romney, it's a non-starter.
The candidate for president in 2008 and possible candidate for 2012 is calling on Congress to hold off on a vote to ratify the New START pact signed by Russia and the United States to reduce their countries' nuclear stockpiles and to verify compliance.
"A treaty so critical to our national security deserves a careful, deliberative look by the men and women America has just elected,'' Romney said in an oped article in today's Boston Globe, referring to the half-dozen Republicans taking Democratic seats next month in the Senate. "The president is in a hurry for the same reason he has been in a hurry before: he knows that if his vaunted treaty is given a thorough review by the Senate, it will likely be rejected. And well it should be."
President Obama, Democratic Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, and his Republican counterpart on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar of Indiana, are pressing Republican senators to ratify the treaty during the last three weeks of the lame-duck session. Backers of the arms pact fear that the influx of Republican senators next month would stymie efforts to reach 67 votes for ratification.
Romney is counting on such a scenario. And he lists several reasons why he thinks the United States would be safer without the treaty, including the arguments that the United States would have to make steeper cuts in launchers and nuclear weapons than Russia would and that the treaty would also limit the conventional capability of US launchers.
He also contends the treaty is misguided because it does not address the vast superiority of Russian tactical nuclear forces. Arms control experts have said such tactical weapons, which are generally smaller and designed to target enemy troops in battlefield situations, have not traditionally been part of treaties dealing with strategic weapons, which are larger and target population and industrial centers.
He also insists the treaty would limit the United States' ability to install a missile defense program, a vital option given the emerging threat of Iran's nascent long-range ballistic program. Supporters of the treaty say no such limits are part of the treaty. The only language on missile defense is in the nonbinding preamble of the treaty, but opponents say the intent is ambiguous and contend the Russians believe such a limit would be binding.
That's a misreading of the treaty, says Daryl Kimball, executive director of Arms Control Association, a think tank that supports ratification. "Romney complains that New START's preambular language recognizes the interrelationship between strategic offensive arms and strategic defensive arms. This is neither new (similar language was in earlier US-Russian agreements) and most importantly, it did not lead to any numerical or qualitative limits on missile defenses in New START."
Kimball insists the treaty allows the United States to better counter the medium-range missile threats from Iran or North Korea.
Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, has written previous columns against the treaty in the Washington Post and the National Review.
President Obama's effort to corral enough votes to ratify the treaty this month has been gaining momentum. Republican senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both of Tennessee, and John McCain of Arizona have hinted they would be open to debating and voting on the treaty if Congress first passes extension of the Bush-era tax cuts, which are due to expire on Jan. 1.
The key obstacle against ratification has been a demand by Republicans, particularly Jon Kyl of Arizona, for more money and a stronger commitment to rebuild and modernize the United States' existing nuclear force.
Read a full response from Daryl Kimball, executive director of Arms Control Association, as follows:FULL ENTRY
Senator Scott Brown, Senator John Ensign of Nevada and Senator Joe Lieberman of Connecticut have submitted legislation that would prohibit publishing names of informants to the US military and intelligence community. Known as the SHIELD Act, the senators believe it would allow the government to pursue and press charges against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
“The reckless behavior of WikiLeaks has compromised our national security and threatens the safety of our troops overseas, and this bipartisan legislation gives the Department of Justice a tool to prevent something like this from happening again,” said Brown in a statement. “While I strongly support government transparency, certain information must be kept classified in order to protect innocent American lives during this time of war and global terrorism.”
The bill comes just days after WikiLeaks' most recent release: over 250,000 classified US diplomatic cables.
WASHINGTON – Senator Scott Brown today gave some of his most detailed comments on the military's current policy that prohibits gays and lesbians from serving openly, drawing on his own personal experiences since becoming a senator.
Brown, during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearings on the issue, recounted both attending services for fallen soldiers and visiting a soldier at Walter Reed Army Medical Center who had lost both legs, one arm, and part of another arm.
“I've been to many funerals, unfortunately, in my home state, for those soldiers,” said Brown, a Massachusetts Republican. “And one thing I never asked was: Are they -- are they gay or straight? It never even crossed my mind, to be honest with you. I just wanted to know if they -- if they gave their limb or their life, you know, with pride and with honor for our country.”
“So that being said, you know, this is very uncomfortable, this whole, you know, situation,” he added, apparently recognizing that some are uncomfortable talking about the issue. “But I know for a fact that there are good people on both sides of these issues. I see it each and every day, whether they're straight or gay.”
His spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho, declined to say whether Brown was now leaning toward a repeal of the policy, saying only that he would release a statement tomorrow after a second day of hearings.
The hearings are being held following a Pentagon report released earlier this week that said ending the ban on gays serving openly in the armed services would not harm long-term military effectiveness.
That call has shifted the focus to moderate members of the Senate, including Brown, who had said they wanted to read the report before voting on whether to end the policy. The House has passed a bill overturning the policy, but a Republican-led threat of a filibuster halted a similar effort in the Senate in the fall. Democrats are planning to call for a vote on the issue over the next few weeks.
Senator John McCain, an Arizona Republican, spoke out strongly this morning against repealing the policy, saying the military’s study was flawed and letting openly gay service members would be dangerous during war.
"At this time, we should be inherently cautious about making any changes that would affect our military, and what changes we do make should be the product of careful and deliberate consideration," McCain said.
He was challenged by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
"Repeal of the law will not prove unacceptable risk to military readiness," Mullen said. "Unit cohesion will not suffer if our units are well-led. And families will not encourage their loved ones to leave the service in droves."
"War does not stifle change; it demands it," he added. "It does not make it harder; it facilitates it."
The study, conducted over nine months, found that 70 percent of troops surveyed believed that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly in the military would have mixed, positive, or no impact. The other 30 percent thought there would be negative consequences, with opposition strongest among combat troops.
The survey was based on responses from about 115,000 troops and 44,300 military spouses.
Brown today criticized the report’s authors for not directly asking service members whether they support repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy.
“You asked virtually everything else, but it almost -- like you're right there,” he said. “You never kind of went right for the jugular.”
He then referenced his own military experience – he’s currently a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts National Guard – and said, “I find sometimes in the military we kind of beat around the bush too much. We don't go and ask the real question. So I think we missed a good opportunity.”
During the hearing, Brown also questioned whether the response rate in the survey was enough to draw firm conclusions.
“The 28 percent overall response rate is well within the normal historical range of surveys of military personnel,” said Army General Carter Ham, a cochair of the report.
Brown later questioned Gates about implementing a repeal, and how quickly it would occur.
“A lot of concerns that I personally have as someone who is still serving in the military – and others that have confided in me privately – is that they want to make sure that the battle readiness and military effectiveness of our troops, of our men and women serving, is not affected,” Brown said.
“My personal approach to this would be that until all the training has been completed -- until the service chiefs are comfortable that the risks to unit cohesion and to combat effectiveness of a change had been addressed to their satisfaction, and to my satisfaction -- I would not sign the certification,” Gates said.
At one point, Brown also questioned Pentagon general counsel Jeh Johnson, a co-chair of the report, on whether he could be objective, given that he’s a presidential appointee and President Obama wants to repeal the policy.
“So if [President Obama] in fact says, hey, I want to do away with this policy, do you in fact -- are you zealously representing him in those actions to do that?” Brown said. “Because I know there was a line of questioning from a couple of senators saying, you know, I don't feel that you were zealous enough in actually defending the position of the -- of the present law right now. Do you have any comment on that?”
“Well, at the outset of this assignment, the secretary made it very clear to both of us that he was very concerned that before we move forward we have this comprehensive assessment to know what the views of the force were to systematically engage the force,” Johnson said in response. “That's in our terms of reference.”
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON – A new poll shows that Senator Scott Brown is in a good position heading into his 2012 reelection, leading five potential opponents by at least 7 percentage points.
In hypothetical head-to-head matchups, the Massachusetts Republican leads against Vicki Kennedy, 48-to-41, and Governor Deval Patrick, 49-to-42, according to a poll conducted earlier this week by Public Policy Polling.
Brown also leads Representative Edward J. Markey by 10 points (49-to-39); Representative Michael Capuano by 16 points (52-to-36); and Representative Stephen Lynch by 19 points (49-to-30).
No Democrat has announced their intentions to run against Brown, however, and much can change in the next two years before the election.
Nonetheless, the poll found that Brown’s popularity in Massachusetts has remained strong. Fifty-three percent of those surveyed said they approved of his job performance, while 29 percent disapproved. His rating was particularly high among the independent voters who could decide an election, with 61 percent approving of his job performance.
The Raleigh, N.C.-based polling firm surveyed 500 Bay State voters between Nov. 29 and Dec. 1. The survey has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.
WASHINGTON – Providing additional momentum to a deficit commission report, two Republican senators said this morning that they would support the plan when the 18-member commission votes tomorrow.
Senators Tom Coburn, of Oklahoma, and Mike Crapo, of Idaho -- two of the Senate's most conservative members -- said they did not agree with all aspects of the report but that Congress had to rapidly send a message that it is serious about slicing the ballooning deficit.
“We’re at a day of reckoning,” Coburn said. “The time for action is now. The threat is real. It’s urgent. We cannot wait…. We are really at war. We’re on three fronts: Iraq, Afghanistan, and the financial tsunami that is facing us.”
The commission report recommends prescription of spending cuts, tax increases, and massive changes in the tax code.
The plan, developed by the commission’s co-chairmen, will go to the full panel for a vote tomorrow. Fourteen of the 18 members would need to endorse the report in order to send it to the Senate.
Support from Coburn and Crapo means that nine members have announced their support. Another commission member, Representative John Spratt, Democrat of South Carolina, said he is likely to support the plan.
Two commissioners have said they will vote against it, while six have not announced their votes. Four of those six would need to back the report for it to force a vote in the Senate, a tally that is still seen as a high hurdle. If it does muster the 14 votes, Coburn said, it would likely be voted on by the Senate early next year, rather than during the lame duck session of Congress.
The plan comes amid a flurry of activity involving taxes and spending in Congress.
House Democrats are preparing today to vote on extending tax cuts, but only for those making $250,000 or less. Republicans are staunchly opposed to that approach, saying that the cuts should be extended for all.
“What’s going on today is just political theater,” Representative Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican, told reporters this morning at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. “They still run the place, they’re trying to give their members something that they want and put Republicans in a box. It’s all for show, it’s not going to go anywhere.”
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
The House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which has been chaired by Representative Edward Markey of Malden, is being abolished by incoming Republican leadership.
“I am disappointed that the Republican leadership is not prioritizing energy independence and climate change as important issues to tackle, but that will not stop my efforts to cut carbon pollution and create American clean energy jobs,” said Markey in a statement to the Globe.
Since taking control of the House in the midterm elections on Nov. 2, Republicans have vowed to curb government spending and reduce taxes. Some Republicans contend the committee was tinged by politics and served solely as a launching point for such Democratic proposals as the cap-and-trade program, what they dubbed a national energy tax.
“We have pledged to save taxpayers’ money by reducing waste and duplication in Congress,” said Michael Steel, a spokesman for incoming House speaker Representative John Boehner, according to Bloomberg News.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi created the committee as one of her first acts in office in 2007.
Read Markey’s statement at today’s final hearing here.
WASHINGTON – Senator Scott Brown tonight delivered a feisty floor speech, imploring his colleagues to put greater emphasis on the economy and chiding Democrats for what he considers to be unwarranted diversions.
“We spent seven days on food safety!” the Massachusetts Republican said, referring to a bill approved earlier in the day. “Listen, I love to eat like the next guy, but give me a break! We should have spent seven days working on the one thing that the people in November sent a very powerful message -- and that is getting our economy moving again. Focusing on jobs, jobs, jobs.”
Brown delivered the speech as he attempted a compromise on extending unemployment benefits that expire tomorrow. His compromise involved using unobligated federal funds to pay for the cost of extending the benefits – a proposal that was included yesterday in an unrelated bill that failed despite support from 21 Democrats.
But Democrats largely argue that the unemployment benefits are so dire that they should be extended without offsetting the cost. Republicans say they should only be extended if they don’t add to the deficit.
“I have complete and total sympathy and understanding, and I want to help,” Brown said of those whose unemployment benefits could expire. “More than anybody here, I want to help. But to just keep throwing money that’s not paid for at a problem…makes no sense to me.”
“Are we going to do it from the bank account, or are we going to put it on the credit card?" he added. "I know what I want to do. I’ll use the bank account. Let’s use money that’s already in the system and put it to good use immediately, by 12 o’clock tonight. Let’s do it!”
Under Senate rules, Brown’s proposal would have needed unanimous approval, but it failed because one senator – Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island – objected. Brown also cast the lone objection to Reed's motion to extend unemployment benefits without offsetting the cost.
“My colleague from Massachusetts has made a rather vigorous and passionate statement,” Reed said. “What I sense, though, is that he’s quite willing to put $700 billion of tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans on the credit card, but not extend unemployment benefits -- as we have done decade after decade -- without offsets.”
Brown supports extending tax cuts for everyone – and without including a method of payment for them – while Democrats want the tax cuts to continue only for those who make less than $250,000. Those tax cuts, approved under the Bush administration, are set to expire at the end of the year.
A Democratic proposal to extend the unemployment benefits failed tonight under Republican opposition. Democrats vowed to keep bringing the proposal up, and would make it retroactive to cover those whose unemployment checks run out.
“Small businesses and economists believe that extending unemployment insurance is smart policy that will help boost our economy,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said tonight in a statement. “The money gets spent, generating economic activity and helping create jobs. But that appears to be lost on my Republican colleagues, who would rather focus on passing massive tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans at the expense of everything else.”
Brown's speech was meandering at times, and included mentions that he eats "regularly" in Federal Hill section of Providence, and that "it's a good year to die" because there is no federal estate tax this year, due to a quirk in the law.
"I need to take a breath here," he said at one point. "I'm sorry."
Toward the end, he said more should be done on job creation, and said he was willing to stay in Washington.
“Hey, you want to stay here through the holidays and everything?” he said. “Hey, I’m here. Whatever. My kids are grown up, they do their own thing anyway. Do I want to stay here? Sure, I will stay here. Madam president, we’ll go out, we can celebrate Christmas here. Whatever. But we have so many things we need to do.”
The "madam president" was a reference to Senator Kay Hagan, a Democrat from North Carolina, who was controlling debate at the time.
Multiple times, he referenced the food safety bill that attempts to strengthen safety laws, as well as making it easier to find the source of food contamination outbreak. Brown supported the law, but said it was the wrong thing to focus on during a down economy.
"We do food safety? Are you kidding me?" he said. "People deserve better.”
“What’s next?” Brown continued. “Let me see. Hum. Just pick something. I’ll bet you, I’ll bet you -- I know betting is illegal around here -- but I bet you we won’t do anything that has to do with the economy. I bettcha.”
Watch Brown's remarks here, at 1:19.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell last week joined 20 attorneys general in a court case that is challenging the constitutionality of President Obama’s health care law.
McConnell convinced 31 other Republican senators to join him in fighting the new law, but Senator Scott Brown of Massachusetts was not among them.
Brown’s spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho, reiterated that the Massachusetts Republican opposes the new health care law but would not say specifically why he did not sign onto a lawsuit challenging its constitutionality.
"Senator Brown remains opposed to Obamacare,” she said in a statement. “He is doing what he can to fix some of the worst parts of the law.”
The brief, filed in US District Court in Florida, takes aim at the law’s individual mandate, a controversial portion that would require citizens to obtain health care. The GOP senators argue that the federal government doesn’t have the authority to force citizens to purchase a product.
The suit is being led by Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, and he has been joined by attorneys general from 19 other states, none of which are from New England states. Massachusetts already has a health care plan that includes an individual mandate; Brown supported that plan as a state senator, but has argued that states should be leading the charge on health care reform, not the federal government.
Earlier this month, McConnell began asking other senators to join him in filing an amicus brief in the Florida case. The vast majority of the Republican caucus – 31 of the 40 other senators – joined the case, including two New England moderates, Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe, both Republicans from Maine.
Nine others did not. Those who, like Brown, did not sign on include senators Lisa Murkowski, of Alaska; Richard Lugar, of Indiana; Lindsay Graham, of South Carolina; Lamar Alexander, of Tennessee; Jeff Sessions, of Alabama; and Chuck Grassley, of Iowa. Three outgoing senators – Judd Gregg, of New Hampshire; Bob Bennett, of Utah; and George Voinovich, of Ohio – also did not join the suit.
The new health care law is expected to continue as a point of controversy as Republicans attempt to repeal it, either through lawsuits or through legislation.
Although Brown has said his goal is to kill the law, he has not joined several efforts to repeal it. In addition to not signing onto McConnell’s court filing, he also was not among the 22 Republicans who signed onto repeal legislation in March that was sponsored by Senator Jim DeMint, of South Carolina.
Instead, Brown has been attempting to make targeted changes to the health care overhaul.
Gitcho noted several things Brown wants changed in the health care law, including repealing a tax on medical devices, eliminating a so-called 1099 reporting requirement, and allowing children’s hospitals to continue purchasing certain medications at a discount.
Brown last week also filed legislation with Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, that would allow states to more quickly opt out of certain portions of the health care law as long as they met certain standards.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
By Farah Stockman, Globe Staff
UPDATED, 7:23 p.m. -- Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown has filed a bill that would keep executives and controlling shareholders of companies that do business with Iran out of the United States.
Dubbed the "No Entry for Supporters of the Iranian Regime Act of 2010," the bill would amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to deny visas for foreigners who violate US sanctions on Iran, including the executives of foreign companies that have invested more than $20 million in Iran's oil or gas sector.
Brown's bill, which he quietly filed in September, would enable the Secretary of State to send letters to CEOs warning them that their access to the United States could be cut off if they continue their activities in Iran.
But some sanctions experts say the bill could cause outrage in Europe and Asia, like the Helms-Burton Act of 1996. That law, which applied to companies operating in Cuba, prompted bitter complaints from Mexican and Canadian officials. The European Union requested a World Trade Organization hearing about it.
"It's Helms-Burton revisited," said Robert Clifton Burns, a sanctions expert at Bryan Cave LLP, who said he did not expect the bill to pass. "Does it really accomplish anything to keep these executives out?" Burns asked."What are they going to say: I'm not going to make a $30 billion investment in Iran so that I can go to Disney world?"
But a statement posted to Brown's Web site lauded the bill as "another tool as we work to prevent the Iranian regime from crossing the nuclear threshold."
WASHINGTON — President Obama has a long to-do list and high expectations for this lame-duck session of Congress, before Democrats must yield control of the US House of Representatives to a newly elected Republican majority.
The president’s to-do list begins with tax issues, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said in a briefing with reporters today. The most pressing tax issue is the Bush-era income tax cut that expires at the end of the year. The president wants to allow the cuts to expire on family income over $250,000 and extend it for income below that amount; Republicans want Congress to extend the cuts to all income.
Other priorities the president wants to see Congress address include:
* Renewal of a program to extend unemployment benefits for the long-term jobless.
* Ratification of the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, which is “critically important to our national security,” Gibbs said.
* Ending the “don’t ask-don’t tell” policy that forbids openly gay people from serving in the US military.
* And the so-called Dream Act, which would provide a path to citizenship for certain young illegal aliens who go to college or serve in the military.
Frank accuses Republican lawmakers of joining 'broad attack by foreign central banks' on US economic policy
Representative Barney Frank issued a scathing statement today accusing Republican lawmakers of joining foreign leaders in "a broad attack" on the US Federal Reserve's plan to buy $600 billion in bonds in an effort to jumpstart the economy.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, incoming House Speaker John Boehner, Senator John Kyl and Representative Eric Cantor sent a letter last week to Fed chief Ben Bernanke expressing concerns that the infusion of cash would cause inflation and possibly generate an asset bubble that could do more damage to the economy.
Frank, chair of the House Financial Services Committee, said in his statement today that “Debating American economic policy is one thing; joining in a broad attack by foreign central banks, who insist that America somehow must subordinate our own legitimate economic needs to their currency requirements, is quite another."
Republican economists sent a separate letter to Bernanke last week criticizing the Federal Reserve bond-buying plan. Foreign leaders from China, Germany and Brazil have also signaled their displeasure.
“I was not surprised at the extreme hypocrisy of the Central Bank of China insisting that America – apparently alone among nations – has an obligation to subordinate its own legitimate economic needs to international currency movements, nor was I surprised that other central banks, including Germany’s, joined China," Frank said in his statement.
“What did disappoint me was to see conservative economists, high-ranking officials of previous Republican administrations, and Republican Congressional leaders share the attack by these foreign banks not simply on the substance of the Federal Reserve’s proposal, but on the very notion that America has a right to give a primary focus to our own economic need for growth at this time."
Donovan Slack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON – Senator Scott Brown this morning filed legislation that would allow states to opt out of certain portions of President Obama’s health care plan earlier than expected.
Brown, a Massachusetts Republican who rode into office on a wave of anger over the federal health care legislation, filed the bill with Senator Ron Wyden, a Democrat from Oregon.
The filing of the legislation is significant because it illustrates that Brown is trying to work with Democrats to make targeted changes to the health care law while top Republicans have largely focused only on repealing the entire law, not tinkering with it.
“We’re just going through it, trying to make it better. Trying to fix the problems,” Brown said in a brief interview earlier this week. When a reporter pointed out that many of his GOP colleagues wanted to scrap the whole thing, he said, “You should probably talk to them on that. Nice try.”
The bill Brown and Wyden filed this morning addresses a provision that allows states to obtain waivers that would exempt them from some of the requirements of the law, including the individual mandate and health care exchanges. In order to do so, states would have to prove that their state’s insurance plan is at least as competitive and affordable, and covers as many residents as the federal plan would.
Under the current law, states would be able to apply for those waivers starting in 2017, but the new measure would move that up to 2014, when most of the other aspects of the federal bill are implemented.
Closing that gap, proponents say, would allow states to begin to apply for waivers before implementing certain portions of the federal law.
“These…changes are good for Massachusetts,” Brown said this morning in a speech on the Senate floor. “They are good for other states who are trying to innovate and advance in the areas of health care reform, cost containment, and coverage.”
“We should be encouraging state innovation, not hampering it,” Brown said, adding that the bill is supported by the Massachusetts Hospital Association.
But Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat, opposes the effort -- and says the Bay State won't need any waivers.
“The new health reform law includes billions of dollars in federal assistance for Massachusetts and strong protections for our health care system," Kerry said in a statement. "It is in our best interest to reconcile the new law with existing state requirements and implement it on time. I have every confidence that Governor [Deval] Patrick and the state legislature will do this with success and without the need for a waiver.”
A Patrick administration spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Brown's approach to make targeted changes to the health care law contrasts with the rhetoric of other Republicans, who are more focused on repealing the entire thing.
The incoming House Speaker, John Boehner, said last week that one of his first goals would be to "begin to repeal this monstrosity and replace it with common sense reforms."
“I think that what the American people were saying is, ‘We want it scrapped, we want a do-over,’” Senator John Thune, a South Dakota Republican and possible presidential candidate, said in a brief interview this week. “That’s what we’re going to try to do.”
Brown aides insist that he remains adamantly opposed to the health care law and still wants to repeal it. But in the meantime, he’s signing onto several pieces of legislation to make changes to the law.
"Like everyone else, he is waiting to see what the leadership in the Senate is going to propose,” said his spokeswoman, Gail Gitcho. “Right now he is doing what he can."
Brown on Monday also signed on as a cosponsor to legislation filed by Senator Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, that would change a tax provision that small businesses have found burdensome because it requires too much paperwork.
Eight others have co-sponsored the bill, but Brown is the only Republican.
“He’s been a pleasure to work with,” Wyden said of Brown in an interview. “You see that our two states having been on the forefront of state innovation and flexibility. This provides another tool for cost containment and choice. It gives them more freedom to play to their own strengths.”
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
Co-chair of bipartisan White House commission tasked to reduce deficit says US ready to make big budget cuts
Al Simpson, the former Republican senator from Wyoming who is co-chair of a bipartisan White House commission charged with recommending ways to cut the deficit, said today that there are no more sacred cows in the federal budget.
"Show me a sacred cow, and we'll step out into the field and god knows what we will do that cow," he said in a telephone interview with the Globe.
Simpson, who is known for his colorful language, said that the federal budget deficit is "an indigestible lump on the table, and if they don't do something about it, it will just get worse every year."
After Simpson and his Democratic co-chair, Erskine Bowles, released draft recommendations last week that included $100 billion in cuts from both domestic and military spending over the next five years, many in Congress balked.
But Simpson said the American people are ready for drastic cuts.
"People walk by and give you the thumbs up, instead of another digit," he said. "They say, 'Somebody finally has put something on the table that's real, not watered down stuff. . .The people of American understand it. . . They have had tough times, their house was foreclosed, they had to cut up their credit cards, and there are millions out there are saying the government has got to do the same."
WASHINGTON — President Obama’s high-stakes meeting with congressional leaders from both parties will have to wait until after Thanksgiving, due to scheduling conflicts, the White House announced today.
The president had been scheduled to meet with congressional leaders on Thursday, with hopes for finding a compromise on a vexing issue--what to do about the Bush-era tax cuts that expire at the end of the year. President Obama wants to let the tax cuts run out on family income above $250,000 per year; Republicans want to extend the cuts for all income.
“At the request of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Minority Leader John Boehner due to scheduling conflicts in organizing their caucuses, the president’s meeting with bipartisan leaders will now take place at the White House on Tuesday, November 30th,” according to a White House statement.
WASHINGTON – The ethics conviction today of Representative Charles Rangel paves the way for Representative Richard Neal to seek the top Democratic spot on the powerful Ways and Means Committee.
Neal, a Springfield Democrat, has been laying the groundwork for the past year to leap-frog several more senior Democrats to win the powerful chairmanship of the Ways and Means Committee. With Republicans winning the majority, the gavel will likely go to Representative Dave Camp, a Michigan Republican.
But Neal is now expected to make a bid for ranking member of the committee, which would put him as the Democratic point man on one of the most pivotal committees under a Republican House leadership – one that will deal with deficits, taxes, and potentially changes to social security or Medicaid.
Neal’s decision has hinged on the outcome of the ethics trial for Rangel, the New York Democrat who left his position as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee earlier this year amid the ethics allegations. Neal may have to challenge Representative Sander Levin, a Michigan Democrat who assumed the chairmanship after Rangel stepped down and has more seniority on the committee than Neal.
Neal last week sent a letter to colleagues announcing his candidacy, if Rangel is not returned to the post. Rangel was convicted today on 11 House ethics violations.
The issue is still sensitive because the ethics committee has not announced a punishment for Rangel, and the longtime Democrat has not announced his plans. Rangel also has significant support from the Congressional Black Caucus, whose backing could be key for Neal’s bid.
Neal declined to comment, but sources close to him said they expect him to make a run for the post and he has already started seeking commitments.
“As we chart our course forward after the election, I believe I will be the best candidate to lead the Ways and Means Committee Democrats, to contrast our message with House Republicans, and to articulate our values and beliefs as we move into the future,” Neal wrote last week in his letter, which was obtained by the Globe. “We will face many challenges in the 112th Congress that will require strong and effective leadership. If we are to return to the majority, our message to the American people must be coherent, emphatic and clear. We need to create jobs and strengthen the economy. We need to lower and simplify taxes. And we must preserve and protect Social Security and Medicare.”
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON -- Vice President Joe Biden today urged the US Senate to ratify the New START nuclear arms treaty with Russia before the end of the year. Biden's statement came hours after a key Republican senator said the vote should be put off.
"Failure to pass the New START Treaty this year would endanger our national security," Biden said in a statement. "Without ratification of this treaty, we will have no Americans on the ground to inspect Russia’s nuclear activities, no verification regime to track Russia’s strategic nuclear arsenal, less cooperation between the two nations that account for 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, and no verified nuclear reductions."
The New START treaty, signed last April, would commit both sides to reduce strategic nuclear weapons from 2,200 warheads to 1,550, and set up a process for new inspections of each side's arsenal.
The treaty needs 67 votes in the Senate for ratification. President Obama has been pushing for a vote by the end of the year, before the new Congress is sworn in and the Democrat's advantage in the Senate shrinks from 59 seats to 53.
Earlier today, Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, considered influential among Republicans on nuclear issues, disappointed the White House by saying the Senate should not take up the treaty in the current lame duck session.
Biden said the treaty enjoys broad support from members of past administrations, from both parties, including former secretaries of state George Shultz, James Baker, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, Madeleine Albright, and Warren Christopher, and former defense secretaries James Schlesinger, William Cohen, William Perry, Frank Carlucci, and Harold Brown.
"Given new START’s bipartisan support and enormous importance to our national security, the time to act is now and we will continue to seek its approval by the Senate before the end of the year," said Biden.
WASHINGTON – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell this afternoon endorsed plans for a moratorium on earmarks, a surprising reversal that could put a halt to the controversial federal spending practice.
McConnell, who over the past three years has sponsored $458 million in earmarks, said that the elections two weeks ago illustrated the electorate’s desire for changes in how federal tax dollars are spent.
"Nearly every day that the Senate's been in session for the past two years, I have come down to this spot and said that Democrats are ignoring the wishes of the American people," McConnell said in a surprise announcement in a Senate floor speech. "When it comes to earmarks, I won't be guilty of the same thing."
It also represents a recalibration by the Senate's top Republican following the midterm elections, when several Tea Party-backed candidates won by running on an anti-Washington platform and blasting federal spending.
John Boehner, an Ohio Republican and the presumptive new House speaker, has also said that earmarks must end, and President Obama said recently that “the earmarking process in Congress isn’t what the American people really want to see when it comes to making tough decisions about how taxpayer dollars are spent.”
As recently as yesterday, though, McConnell had continued to defend the earmark process. Senate Republicans are planning to vote tomorrow on a moratorium on earmarks and, with McConnell’s backing, it is now expected to pass. Senator Scott Brown, the Massachusetts Republican, has opposed earmarks and has not requested any since being sworn into office.
Earmarks are provisions added to a bill that direct money to a specific project. The Massachusetts delegation has proved particularly adept at securing funds for hospitals, road projects, and defense contractors across the Bay State. The state has received at least $200 million in each of the past three years.
The Globe reported last week that earmark requests submitted this year are also now in jeopardy, impacting projects throughout the Bay State. Congress has not yet approved any appropriations bills this year, and has limited time to pass those bills during a busy lame duck session.
Earmarks have been a Washington tradition, a way for Congress to pick specific causes it wishes to fund -- and giving local congressmen a way to deliver for their districts. But the projects have also become controversial, following pay-to-play scandals and several controversial earmarks, including Alaska’s so-called “Bridge to Nowhere.”
Congress responded by requiring greater transparency from those who are requesting the funds. This year, House Democrats also banned any earmark requests that would go to for-profit institutions.
With Republicans controlling the House starting in January, they would be able to block any earmark requests from being approved. Democrats still have a narrow majority in the Senate, but if Republicans all agree to stop filing earmark requests it could be politically dicey for Democrats to continue filing them.
Most Senate Democrats currently support filing earmarks, although Senator Claire McCaskill of Missouri is an opponent.
“An earmark moratorium shows that elected officials are serious about restoring trust between the American people and those elected to represent them,” Boehner said this afternoon in a statement following McConnell’s speech. “We hope President Obama and Washington Democrats will show they are serious, and join us in this effort to restore the public trust.”
The reversal for McConnell, a Republican from Kentucky, was particularly striking given his long-held endorsement of earmarks. He is also a longtime member of the Appropriations Committee and helped steer funding to his home state.
"I know the good that has come from the projects I have helped support throughout my state," McConnell said today. "I don’t apologize for them. But there is simply no doubt that the abuse of this practice has caused Americans to view it as a symbol of the waste and the out-of-control spending that every Republican in Washington is determined to fight. And unless people like me show the American people that we’re willing to follow through on small or even symbolic things, we risk losing them on our broader efforts to cut spending and rein in government."
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON – Representative Edward J. Markey announced tonight that he would pursue the top Democratic post on the Natural Resources Committee, which deals with issues involving the environment, energy, and public land.
“The stakes have never been higher for creating new energy jobs, protecting our environment, and increasing our national security by properly managing our own natural resources,” Markey, a Malden Democrat, said in a statement. “Now is not the time to capitulate to an agenda that will allow China and the rest of the world to win the clean energy jobs race, all at the expense of the planet. Following the largest oil spill in our nation’s history, it is imperative that we have a cop on the beat policing the oil industry.”
Markey, one of the most senior members in the House, has been chairing a select committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. But as Republicans take over control, his bid for a new post is part of the reshuffling that Democrats are now undergoing. The current chairman of the Natural Resources Committee, Representative Nick Rahall of West Virginia, is leaving to become the top Democrat on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Markey will be challenged by Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who also announced his bid for ranking member of the Natural Resources Committee.
If Markey becomes ranking member, it would be less prestigious than a chairmanship but would still provide him with a broad platform and a key role in blocking the Republican agenda.
“I believe that as our party fights its way back from the losses we suffered in the recent election, it will be important for us to continue to advocate for policies that reduce our dependence on imported oil and address the challenges posed by global warming,” he wrote in a letter to colleagues.
In the letter, he also touts his work for the party.
“I have traveled, I have raised funds, and I have contributed to the [Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee] and our candidates every year,” he wrote. “When you add it all up, I believe I have done as much as or more for the DCCC over the last 16 years than any other Member of the House who is not in the leadership.”
Markey said he plans to keep his senior status on the Energy and Commerce Committee, but intends to relinquish his right to serve a ranking member of the Energy and Environment Subcommittee in the next Congress.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON – Representative James P. McGovern, the Worcester Democrat, was treated today for thyroid cancer at Washington Hospital Center, his office announced this afternoon.
His wife, Lisa, said in a statement that the 50-year-old congressman had his thyroid gland removed. She said it was discovered during a routine examination, and a biopsy found it to be cancerous.
“This type of thyroid cancer grows very slowly, and is successfully treatable,” she said in a statement. “He’s feeling good, and his prognosis is excellent. Jim will take a few days off and is looking forward to being back at work next week for the lame-duck session. Until then, I’ll be trying to convince him to rest and stay off the phone!”
Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the congressional attending physician, said in a statement that McGovern completed the surgery without complications and would be discharged from the hospital “after a brief period of observation.”
“Congressman McGovern will take a daily thyroid medication to replace the functions of his thyroid gland,” Monahan said. “He will return to his usual duties next week after a brief convalescence.”
McGovern was reelected last week to an eighth term, representing the 3rd Congressional District.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
WASHINGTON — A transition team that will guide the Republican takeover of the US House of Representatives contains more than 20 members from around the country, though none from New England, according to a statement from the GOP’s transition chairman, US Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican from Oregon.
The transition team will hold its first meeting today.
“Americans have sent a clear message that Congress must be run differently, and this team is ready to prove that we’re listening,” said Walden, in a statement. “Our transition team includes proven leaders who will meet our challenge to restore the House of Representatives as a great deliberative body that respects the will of the American people. The diverse mix of experience, backgrounds, and regions represented by this group will help to ensure this process brings meaningful reform to how Washington does business.”
The members of the GOP Majority Transition Team are:
Rep. Rob Bishop (UT-1)
Rep. John Campbell (CA-48)
Rep. Shelley Moore Capito (WV-2)
Rep. Jason Chaffetz (UT-3)
Rep. Tom Cole (OK-4)
Rep. Mike Conaway (TX-11)
Rep. David Dreier (CA-26)
Rep.-elect Cory Gardner (CO-4)
Rep. Bob Goodlatte (VA-6)
Rep. Doc Hastings (WA-4)
Rep. Jeb Hensarling (TX-5)
Rep. Jim Jordan (OH-4)
Rep.-elect Adam Kinzinger (IL-11)
Rep. Buck McKeon (CA-25)
Rep. Candice Miller (MI-10)
Rep.-elect Martha Roby (AL-2)
Rep. Mike Rogers (MI-8)
Rep. Paul Ryan (WI-1)
Rep.-elect Tim Scott (SC-1)
Rep. Pete Sessions (TX-32)
Rep. Pat Tiberi (OH-12)
Collins: “In Maine, it's clear that citizens want a new direction for our state. This fall, I campaigned with Republican candidates for the Maine House and Senate all across our state, and everywhere we went, people told us they want more jobs, less spending, lower taxes, and more accountability in their state government. This is an historic win for Republicans in Maine, and it's an exciting opportunity to lead Maine to a new, more prosperous future.”
WASHINGTON -- Ending several days of speculation, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced this afternoon that she would attempt to stay in control as the top Democratic leader in the House.
Some Democrats had speculated that Pelosi would step down from leadership, following the drubbing her party was dealt in Tuesday's elections. Throughout the country, Pelosi became a lightening rod of criticism and even some in her own party said they would not support her any longer.
But early this afternoon, she sent out a message on Twitter, saying, "Driven by the urgency of creating jobs & protecting [health care reform, Wall Street reform], Social Security & Medicare, I am running for Dem Leader."
"Our work is far from finished," Pelosi said in a letter to colleagues. "As a result of Tuesday's election, the role of Democrats in the 112th Congress will change, but our commitment to serving the American people will not. We have no intention of allowing our great achievements to be rolled back."
Pelosi will still have to earn votes from the Democratic caucus, but the position as House Minority Leader was widely considered hers if she wanted it. She would become the chief antagonist of the presumptive new House speaker, John Boehner.
Representative Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat and dean of the Massachusetts delegation, immediately praised Pelosi’s decision and said he would vote for her.
"Nancy Pelosi is already an historic figure, and she is poised to make an even greater contribution to our countries' future,” Markey said in a statement. “If America is going to get back to work, we need the hardest working person in Congress leading the way, and that is Nancy Pelosi.”
Pelosi’s decision also set off a battle for the second highest job for Democrats, which is currently held by Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. The Maryland Democrat said today that he would consider running for House Minority Whip, a position that is currently held by Jim Clyburn of South Carolina. Clyburn, the House’s highest-ranking African American, also intends to run for the post.
Markey later today said he would support Hoyer "because I think that he and Nancy Pelosi will unify the Caucus and take us back to the Majority in two years."
Representative John Tierney, a Salem Democrat, said through a spokeswoman that he would support Pelosi.
Representative Michael Capuano, a Somerville Democrat, said the entire leadership team should step down – but that he’ll still support Pelosi, since the entire team isn’t stepping down.
“Congressman Capuano has already stated and continues to believe that the entire leadership team should step aside because blame for what happened Tuesday can't be placed with just one person,” said Capuano spokeswoman Alison Mills. “However, since that is clearly not happening, Congressman Capuano will support Nancy Pelosi for Democratic Leader.”
Several other members of the Massachusetts delegation -- including Representative Stephen Lynch of South Boston, who was at odds with Pelosi during the health care debate -- did not respond to requests for comment.
During the race for the Massachusetts 10th Congressional District, Republican Jeff Perry sought to tag Democratic nominee Bill Keating as someone who would be in lock-step with Pelosi.
Keating, who won on Tuesday night, was noncommittal during the campaign and did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON – Senator Scott Brown, in some of his first comments after the midterm elections, said today that the defeat Republicans were dealt in his home state should not be viewed as a prediction of his own fate in 2012.
“I did what I was asked to do,” Brown said, when asked whether he did enough to help top GOP candidates in Massachusetts. “I’m very proud of all our candidates. Governor [Deval] Patrick ran a great race, and he should be commended -- and I plan on doing just that later today.”
“An endorsement certainly is one thing, but the candidates will rise and fall on their own merits,” he told reporters, according to an audio recording released by his office. Brown made the comments in Boston, following an event at the State House paying tribute to female veterans.
Brown endorsed a slate of Republican candidates in Massachusetts that lost on Tuesday night, appearing to indicate that the Bay State was not shifting as far to the right as it appeared after Brown’s dramatic special election victory in January. That election foreshadowed much of the turmoil Democrats would have later in the year, but on Tuesday night Massachusetts returned to its role as a bastion of Democratic power.
When asked what happened, given that his victory in January seemed to usher in a new political era in Massachusetts, Brown said, “I’m not an analyst. You’ll have to ask the analysts about that.”
Yet under the new dynamics in national politics, Brown now finds himself having to balance the political persuasions of his party – which tugged to the right – and his home state, where he will have to win reelection from in just two years.
Brown today dismissed the notion that this week’s election results should be interpreted as early trouble for his chances in 2012.
“It’s no surprise that I’m the biggest target, I don’t know what all the surprise is,” he said. “I always have been -- and every race, I’ve won. I certainly welcome that race when it comes, but right now I’m focused on getting our country moving again. I’m going to continue to vote how I’ve always voted, looking at each and every bill in an independent manner and try to figure out if it’s good for Massachusetts. I’m looking forward to working with the delegation, as I have already, ‘cause we have some very real challenges. We’ve got to get our country moving again.”
Brown also downplayed suggestions that his election meant that Massachusetts had lurched far to the right.
“Well, this is Massachusetts, guys. Okay?” Brown said. “And the fact that we had a tremendous amount of people getting off their couches and out of their homes, engaged -- that was what I was most excited about. The fact that people got engaged, they worked for their favorite candidate, and they made their positions known. The election is over. My election back in January’s over, this election is over. We have a tremendous amount of work to do and I’m excited to go down to Washington and do it.”
Brown also decried Democrats for not being more willing to work with him.
“Well since I’ve been down there I’ve been reaching across the aisle,” he said, when asked about President Obama’s call for bipartisanship. “I’ve had many meetings with the president and the majority party, trying to work across party lines to get things done. I’ve voted with them probably about 29, 30 percent of the time. They’ve voted with me zero. So it’s a two way street.”
Brown said he plans to unveil a “very aggressive jobs agenda” sometime soon and would continue to pursue plans to lower taxes and decrease the deficit.
“Listen, I wasn’t on the ballot two days ago,” he said. “Two years is a long time, and I’m focused on doing my job now. I’m looking forward to running, obviously, in the future, but right now we have some very, very real, real problems we have to start working on.”
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
By Matt Viser, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON – Senator John Kerry had a strong track record in his home state on Tuesday, but outside of Massachusetts the candidates that he supported lost more than they won.
Kerry had used his extensive fundraising network to raise money for candidates across the country, and he traveled to stump with several. Eight candidates he backed notched impressive victories – including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Senator Barbara Boxer, of California – but in 10 senate races his candidates came up short. The losses included two incumbents -- Russ Feingold, of Wisconsin, and Blanche Lincoln, of Arkansas.
In several instances, the Bay State's two senators, both competitive sportsmen, went head-to-head in well-contested US Senate races. Senator Scott Brown's candidates came out on top in three of those races (Illinois, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire), while Kerry's won in two (California and Connecticut).
Kerry fared better than Brown, though, in their home state. In Massachusetts, Kerry helped several congressional candidates -- Bill Keating, who ran in the 10th congressional district, and incumbents Niki Tsongas, Richard Neal, John Tierney, Barney Frank, and James McGovern – who all won. He also backed successful candidates Governor Deval Patrick, Attorney General Martha Coakley, Secretary of State William Galvin, Treasurer-elect Steve Grossman and state House Speaker Robert DeLeo. Two of Kerry’s Massachusetts candidates lost: state Representative Mark Falzone, and Dan Bosley, who was running for sheriff of Berkshire County but lost in the Democratic primary.
Here’s the list of Kerry's national candidates and the outcome on Tuesday:
- Senator Harry Reid, of Nevada
- Senator Barbara Boxer, of California
- Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, of New York
- Senator Michael Bennet, of Colorado
- Senator Jeff Merkley, of Oregon
- Senator Chuck Schumer, of New York
- Senator-elect Richard Blumental, of Connecticut
- Senator-elect Chris Coons, of Delaware
- US Senator Russ Feingold, of Wisconsin
- US Senator Blanche Lincoln, of Arkansas
- US Senate candidate Alexi Giannoulias of Illinois
- US Senate candidate Paul Hodes of New Hampshire
- US Senate candidate Kendrick Meek, of Florida
- US Senate candidate Joe Sestak, of Pennsylvania
- US Senate candidate Jack Conway, of Kentucky
- US Senate candidate Charles Melancon, of Louisiana
- US Senate candidate Robin Carnahan, of Missouri
- US Senate candidate Lee Fisher, of Ohio
- US Representative Scott Murphy, of New York’s 20th Congressional District
- Congressional candidate Ann McLane Kuster, of New Hampshire
- US Senator Patty Murray, of Washington state
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON – Senator Scott Brown’s coattails proved to be extraordinarily short in his home state, with his endorsements failing to carry other prominent Massachusetts Republican candidates to victory.
But nationally, the results were more of a mixed bag. Eight of the candidates he helped – through fundraisers and campaign rallies – won on Tuesday night, including several prominent new senators such as Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, Marco Rubio in Florida, and Mark Kirk in Illinois.
Six candidates backed by Brown lost and two are in races where the tallies are still too close to call (Brown also wrote a fundraising letter earlier this year in support of Charles Djou, a congressional candidate in Hawaii; Djou won a special election in May but lost on Tuesday night).
The slate of Brown-backed candidates in Massachusetts did not fare well. All of the statewide GOP candidates he supported lost, as did all nine congressional hopefuls. Fifteen of the candidates he supported in state legislative races won.
Here’s the full lineup of Brown’s national candidates and how they fared:
- Senator-elect Mark Kirk, of Illinois
- Senator-elect Marco Rubio, of Florida
- Senator-elect Kelly Ayotte, of New Hampshire
- Senator-elect Pat Toomey, of Pennsylvania
- Senator John McCain, of Arizona
- Congressman-elect Steve Stivers, of Ohio’s 15th Congressional District
- Congressman-elect Steve Chabot, of Ohio’s 1st Congressional District
- Representative Rob Wittman, of Virginia’s 1st Congressional District
- US Senate candidate Carly Fiorina, of California
- US Senate candidate Linda McMahon, of Connecticut
- Congressional candidate John Loughlin, of Rhode Island’s First District
- Congressional candidate Tim Burns, of Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District
- Gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman, of California
- Gubernatorial candidate John Stephen, of New Hampshire
- Dino Rossi, Republican nominee for US Senate in Washington state
- Tom Foley, Republican nominee for governor in Connecticut
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney called on President Obama to turn the humbling defeat of Democrats in the mid-term elections into an opportunity to wrangle and subdue government spending.
"Government is smothering the pioneering, entrepreneurial spirit that propelled our economy past those of older, larger nations,'' Romney wrote in an op-ed column in today's Washington Post, one day after Republicans seized control of the House of Representatives and state houses across the nation. "Ever higher taxes on small and big business, layers of red tape, onerous labor regulations, and punitive bureaucrats and lawsuits are suffocating US economic vitality. So far, the president and his fellow travelers in Congress have made things worse: If Obama is serious about changing the way things are done in Washington, he must slay the job-killing beast Washington has become.''
Since voters perceive the president and Democrats as being most responsible for increased spending, Obama is in a unique position to fix the problem, Romney contended, likening his role to a "Nixon to China" opportunity. President Nixon, with his pedigree as an arch anti-communist, was able to neutralize opposition from the right wing of his party to his rapprochement to China. Romney calls on Obama to do the same with the Democrats' liberal wing.
Specifically, Romney pushed the president to take on the burgeoning entitlement programs by changing how cost-of-living increases are given to Social Security beneficiaries and how Medicaid funds are disbursed to the states. He also called for the president to extend all of the Bush tax cuts, including those for the richest Americans.
On his website, Romney, considered a likely candidate for the presidential race in 2012, released a statement that lauded the efforts of his supporters and his political action committee to help propel Republican candidates to victory across the nation on Tuesday. The PAC contributed about $1.1 million to more than 500 candidates and he campaigned for about 60 candidates in more than 30 states, the statement said.
Buoyed by the excitement of a Democratic sweep in Massachusetts, and some key victories nation-wide, Senator John Kerry released the following statement following Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s victory in Nevada:
“Politico was wrong, Huffington Post was wrong, hell, all the pundits were wrong. Harry Reid isn’t just Dracula, he isn’t just Lazarus, he’s our Leader and our whole caucus is thrilled that he’s unbreakable and unbeatable."
WASHINGTON -- Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is maintaining a lead over wrestling executive Linda McMahon in the race for US Senate in Connecticut, but his margin has slipped back into the single-digits, according to a poll released today.
McMahon is now trailing Blumenthal by a nine-point margin, 53 to 44 percent, said the Quinnipiac University poll. That compares to a 54 to 42 percent deficit for McMahon in the Quinnipiac Poll released Oct. 26.
The two are engaged in a heated battle to succeed Democratic Senator Christopher Dodd. If McMahon pulls off a victory, it would be a big upset for Republicans in a traditionally blue state. She has spent at least $42 million of her own money on the race.
A key statistic for McMahon supporters: independent voters, who went 56 to 40 for Blumenthal last week, are now tipping toward McMahon, 49 to 44 percent. McMahon continues to struggle among women, however: women back Blumenthal by 61 to 36 percent, the poll found. Men support McMahon 50 to 46 percent.
“Linda McMahon’s mini surge may be too little, too late,” said Quinnipiac University Poll Director Douglas Schwartz, PhD.
State Senator Eldridge plans to file a bill to limit the impact of Citizens United ruling in state elections
As the uproar continues about unlimited corporate spending in campaigns, made possible in part due to Supreme Court ruling Citizens United that opened the door to unlimited corporate spending, several moves are afoot in Massachusetts to limit the ruling's impact.
State Senator, Jamie Eldridge, from Acton, is planning to file a bill that require that shareholders of companies give their permission before a company can spend money on an ad in a state election. The bill would also prohibit executives of any corporation or union that does business with the state from spending money on state elections, either as individuals or as a corporation.
Eldridge originally filed the bill this summer, but it did not get a hearing before the lawmaking session ended. He said increased awareness of the dangerous of the Citizens United ruling would spur the passage of the bill, which would only impact state elections. (States can't pass laws to influence federal elections.)
"I think after an election where you see the impact of Citizens United money being spent, there is a growing awareness from Massachusetts legislature that Massachusetts needs to do its part to stop the corrosive influence of money on politics," he said in a telephone interview.
One part of his law that did pass -- as an attachment to the budget -- was a requirement that CEOs of companies and groups that buy ads in state elections appear in the ads to tell the public they paid for it. That is happening in state ads now. Eldridge said Massachusetts was the first state to take action to limit the impact of Citizens United in state elections.
"The Supreme Court has said that massive corporations have the right to step on individuals, " said Avi Green, Executive Director of Mass Vote, a non-partisan non-profit voting rights organization. "Massachusetts can say, 'That's fine, but it can't happen in the dark.'"
An a separate effort, Jeff Clements, an attorney from Concord, is trying to start a nation-wide movement to amend the Constitution to clarify that corporations do not have free speech rights.
He has helped launch, freespeechforpeople.org, to collect signatures to convince Congress to act.
The Supreme Court ruling "cannot stand," the group's Web site reads. "The First Amendment was never intended to protect corporations. Free speech is for people, not corporations. We must act now."
He acknowledges that changing the Constitution is not easy.
"It is a long road, but traveling down that road is important too," he said. "It's like the Equal Rights Amendment. It never got ratified, but campaigning for it made the laws and society much more equal for women, but amendment campaigns have a very important role to play."
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney will be in Rhode Island on Monday, the day before the critical mid-term elections, to try to rally supporters of Republican State Rep. John Loughlin, who is running for the US House seat being vacated after eight terms by Democrat Patrick Kennedy.
Romney is the latest in a line of nationally-known political figures to try to influence the Rhode Island 1st District race. Bay State Senator Scott Brown has also appeared in Rhode Island for Loughlin, and last week President Obama was in the district for an event to boost the candidacy of Democrat David Cicilline, the sitting mayor of Providence and the current front runner in the House race.
The Romney appearance, at 2 p.m. Monday at Loughlin’s campaign headquarters in East Providence, is open to the public.
The Globe Washington Bureau's Michael Kranish reports a hard shift to the right in West Virginia's Senate race today.
NEWELL, W. Va. — Governor Joe Manchin is running what seems to be a classic Republican campaign for the US Senate in West Virginia.
He blasts “Obamacare,’’ files a lawsuit against environmental laws, and — literally — fires a bullet at a mock-up of climate-change legislation. He boasts of his endorsement by the US Chamber of Commerce, his A rating from the libertarian Cato Institute, and his conservative fiscal credentials.
The catch: Manchin is the Democratic nominee. And even this effort to distance himself from President Obama and his own party hasn’t assured him of victory in the Mountain State.
A Massachusetts congressional race that has been heating up in the courts and over the airwaves now may be warming in the polls.
The outcome of the Sixth Congressional District race between seven-term incumbent John F. Tierney, the Salem Democrat, and his Republican challenger Bill Hudak now ranks as "likely Democratic" instead of "solid Democratic," according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
"I don't think Tierney is in serious danger, but he has had a rough couple of weeks in the press, and if he hadn't been able to take to the airwaves to counter Hudak, he'd be in more trouble,'' said David Wasserman, House editor of the Cook Political Report.
Tierney's campaign received a blow earlier this month when his wife, Patrice, pleaded guilty to abetting tax evasion in a case tied to her brother's offshore betting operation. The representative was not implicated in the crime, but the revelation boosted the candidacy of Hudak, a Boxford lawyer who is in his first race for office.
Earlier this week, some pointed television advertisements against the Republican nominee prompted his campaign to file a defamation lawsuit against Tierney in Essex Superior Court. In the campaign's request for an emergency restraining order, Hudak is seeking to halt ads that he says lie about his views on mortgage interest deductions and other issues.
The Tierney-Hudak race is the latest to become more competitive, according to Cook. Earlier this month, the report said the race between incumbent Barney Frank and Republican Sean Bielat in Southeastern Massachusetts also could be tighter, shifting its ranking to likely Democratic.
The contest in the Massachusetts Fifth District – between Democratic Representative Niki Tsongas and the Republican nominee Jon Golnik – is also considered likely Democratic.
Only one congressional race in the Bay State is considered by Cook to be competitive: In the challenge to replace the retiring Bill Delahunt in the Tenth District, Democrat William R. Keating is thought to have a slight edge over Republican Jeffrey D. Perry.
Connecticut’s McMahons make quite a tag team. Vince McMahon, World Wrestling Entertainment CEO and husband to current GOP candidate for US Senate (and former WWE CEO) Linda McMahon, has filed a lawsuit against Secretary of the State Susan Bysiewicz for censorship and discrimination in her instructions to election officials regarding voters in WWE garb next Tuesday.
“On behalf of myself, my company, WWE fans and any Connecticut citizen who wants to exercise their constitutional right to vote, I have filed a lawsuit today asserting that Susan Bysiewicz’s directive that allows poll workers to refuse registered voters wearing WWE merchandise the right to vote is a flagrant act of censorship and discrimination,” said McMahon in a press release today.
Bysiewicz advised Connecticut poll workers to use their discretion to determine whether voters in WWE apparel should be asked to cover their clothing or be turned away from the booth, as Connecticut law forbids campaigning within 75 feet of a polling place.
"Even though it doesn't say her name directly...the brand is so ubiquitously associated with the McMahons,'' said Av Harris, spokesman for Bysiewicz, told the Hartford Courant Friday.
WASHINGTON — Rhode Island will play host on Monday to some high-wattage political stars from both sides of the aisle.
Massachusetts Republican Senator Scott Brown has confirmed he will appear at a luncheon fundraiser in Providence on Monday with state Rep. John Loughlin, the GOP nominee for Congress in the 1st Rhode Island District.
The timing of the Brown visit is interesting, as the White House announced earlier this week that President Obama would also be in Rhode Island on Monday, for an event in Woonsocket.
Both parties are fighting hard for the congressional seat being vacated by US Rep. Patrick Kennedy after eight terms. The Democratic nominee is Providence Mayor David Cicilline.
The invitation to the Brown/Loughlin event doesn’t list the menu, but tickets run $250, $1,000 and $2,400, so the cuisine is likely to be more elaborate than the Rhode Island staples of Johnnycakes and a Del’s Lemonade.
A little-known political action committee called "Western Representation" is funding the campaign to defeat Barney Frank of Newton and Rep. Jim McGovern, of Worcester.
The group's web site does not list contact information, and its source of funding and political backing could not immediately be determined.
According to the group's Web site, it is also funding campaigns to unseat Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, of Nevada, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California, and moderate Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Harry Gural, a spokesman for Frank, said the group has put $200,000 into the two Massachusetts races. He said fears of a quick infusion of money from Tea Party supporters and others from around the country convinced Frank to loan his campaign $200,000 to counter a last-minute push.
Frank, the influential chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, is facing his best-funded opponent ever: Republican challenger Sean Bielat, a Marine reservist and businessman, who has a war chest of $462,914 to spend until election day, according to Bloomberg. Frank has $649,561 left to spend.
A poll by WPRI Eyewitness News shows Frank with a 12-point lead over Bielat. It's survey of 400 likely voters in the Massachusetts’ 4th Congressional District found that 49 percent backed Frank and 37 percent supported Bielat, with 12 percent still undecided less than two weeks before Election Day.
Gural said his campaign has an internal poll showing Frank ahead by 19 points. But he said that the campaign "doesn't take anything for granted, because there is money piled up ready to attack Barney."
Gural said that, in addition to Western Representation has put $200,0000, another group called the American Future Fund announced that it is going to spend money against him. He also said the Tea Party Express is planning a rally in Worcester, and that pro-life activists are mailing leaflets to people in Barney's district.
Gural complained about what he called "shadowy groups" influencing the election without having to disclose the source of their funds. He acknowledged that Frank has a sizable war chest of his own but said: "He has raised a lot of money over a large period of time, but there could be a bottomless well of money out there. We understand the power of money and it is an unfortunate part of the political system that this is still possible."
Senator John Kerry Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee left Wednesday night for Sudan, where aides said he intends to "roll up his sleeves" to help ensure a peaceful referendum in the South in January. During his three-day trip, Kerry will meet with officials in Khartoum in closed-door meetings, and he will also briefly travel to Juba, the capital of the south.
“Sudan is at a pivotal moment. Every reliable source indicates that Southern Sudan will vote for separation, dividing Africa's largest country and taking with it some 80 percent of known Sudanese oil reserves. The critical choice that leaders in both North and South face is between a future of peaceful coexistence or a return to chaos and war in a place tragically familiar with both. January is rapidly approaching; the Sudanese in the North and the South must seize this moment and address the difficult issues that could seriously disrupt the fulfillment of the landmark Comprehensive Peace Agreement, which included provision for the referendum, and lead to unnecessary violence. America must help North and South Sudan find a peaceful path forward,” said Chairman Kerry.
This is Kerry's second trip to Sudan as chairman. He traveled to Khartoum in April 2009, during a trip that also took him to a camp for people displaced by violence in Darfur. Kerry is also the author of the bipartisan Sudan Peace and Stability Act of 2010, which reasserts the U.S. commitment to working toward peace throughout Sudan. Earlier this month, he published an op-ed titled, “Diplomacy Urgent As Vote To Split Sudan Nears.”
The architect of the Democratic Party’s strategy to hold power in the US House this morning dismissed gloomy forecasts from political prognosticators and predicted that Democrats will hold onto the House in the November mid-term election.
“When you ask voters if they see Republicans as a viable governing alternative, the answer is no,” said US Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat and head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
“We’re confident we’re going to retain the majority,” Van Hollen said, at a breakfast with reporters in Washington.
Few specialists agree with him.
The nonpartisan Cook Political Report, which follows congressional campaigns, predicts Republicans will gain some 50 House seats next month, well above the 39 they need to reclaim the majority.
But Van Hollen said he has faith in his party’s investment in on-the-ground voter turnout operations, and that recent polling suggests an awakening of Democratic voters who have been less enthusiastic than Republicans so far in the campaign.
He predicted victory even while claiming that Republican-leaning political groups are outspending Democratic groups by a 5 to 1 margin to influence the election.
“These are all tough races,” he said, “but we believe at the end of the day, our candidates will break through on the issues.”
John Kerry was in the Land of Lincoln today, but he spent much of his time hurling barbs at the first Republican president's descendants.
The Democrat senator from Massachusetts came to Chicago to stump for Alexi Giannoulias, the Democratic state treasurer who is running for President Obama's old US Senate seat in Illinois. While praising Giannoulias for his stance on climate change legislation, Kerry decried GOP nominee Mark Kirk for wobbling on key pieces of legislation and blasted behind-the-scenes groups that have solicited tens of millions of dollars through "secret funding'' and used them for attack ads against Democratic candidates.
In particular, Kerry took aim at an old nemesis, Karl Rove, who was a key player in the campaign to reelect President George W. Bush over Kerry in 2004. Rove now has a role coordinating television advertising campaigns against Giannoulias and other Democrats through American Crossroads, a nonprofit group he co-founded.
The attack ads are nothing short of disgraceful, Kerry said, comparing the campaign to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads during the 2004 elections. Those ads questioned Kerry's actions as a young Navy officer in Vietnam.
Kerry also denounced a landmark Supreme Court case, Citizens United v. FEC, that greatly expanded the ability of businesses and unions to spend money in elections. Many corporations are using nonprofit groups such as American Crossroads to channel their money anonymously.
"The Supreme Court decision is one of the worst decisions I've seen in all my public years," he said.
Kerry criticized Kirk, a five-term US representative, for flip-flopping on cap-and-trade legislation curbing carbon emissions, a signature issue for Kerry. Kirk initially supported such legislation but is now campaigning against it.
"Alexi understands that America's national security is at risk and our future economy is at risk if we don't get into this fight in a better way and begin to move to these new technologies," Kerry said. "His opponent represents more of the same. He's flipped and moved from one position to another."
Sometimes politics transcends even bitter sports rivalries.
Commiserating with fans of the New York Giants, Massachusetts Senator John F. Kerry vowed today to file a bill that would seek to avoid television blackouts that result from disputes between broadcasters and cable operators.
Last weekend, a spat over how much to pay for programs prompted News Corp. to halt transmission of its Fox programs to Cablevision. That leaves 3 million subscribers in the New York and Philadelphia area scrambling for ways to view such programs as "American Idol" and "The Simpsons."
It also forced Giants fans to leave home Sunday and find bars that had either satellite TV or a cable system other than Cablevision to watch their team beat the Detroit Lions.
"The voices of angry consumers in this weekend’s news coverage speak volumes,'' Kerry said in a letter detailing his bill to Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski. "Many football fans had to leave home, denied the service they faithfully pay for, and even bring their children to bars to watch the game.''
Such blackouts could become commonplace, said Kerry, chairman of the communications, Internet and technology subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee. He said upcoming negotiations between FOX and the DISH Network could threaten the programming for thousands of households in Boston and millions nationwide.
In response, Kerry's bill would call for the FCC to act as a referee when cable operators and broadcasters reach an impasse. The bill would provide the FCC with tools that could break an impasse, including imposing fines or ordering binding arbitration in cases when one or both companies are negotiating in bad faith. The bill also calls for more timely information for consumers.
Kerry said he would file the bill during the lame duck session after mid-term elections early next month.
"There are important equities and business interests at stake in these negotiations, and in this most recent case, both sides believe they’ve negotiated in good faith,'' Kerry wrote in his letter. "It’s not our job to take sides -- but it is clearly our responsibility to ask whether there’s a better way forward as these kinds of situations rise in frequency."
Representative Edward Markey wants Facebook to provide a full accounting of privacy breaches in its social-networking website that give advertisers and tracking firms access to the names and other identifying information of users.
Responding to a Wall Street Journal investigation that found tens of millions of users affected by the breaches, Markey and Representative Joe Barton requested that Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg answer a series of questions. Markey, a Democrat from Malden, and Barton, a Republican from Texas, are cochairmen of the House Bipartisan Privacy Caucus.
The security culprits, according to the Journal, are independent software applications, or apps, which allow users to play games together or share other common interests. The Journal found that the 10 most popular applications on Facebook transmitted users' IDs to outside companies. Advertisers and other companies could then use such information to build databases on the users and target advertisements to them or sell that information to a third party.
Even careful Facebook users who restricted access to their accounts were affected if they used these apps. It is unclear how long the problem has existed.
“Given the number of current users, the rate at which that number grows worldwide, and the age range of Facebook users, combined with the amount and the nature of information these users place in Facebook’s trust, this series of breaches of consumer privacy is a cause for concern,” Markey and Barton wrote.
The congressmen asked Zuckerberg how long Facebook has known about the breaches, whether data from minors were disseminated, whether users' medical and financial information were threatened, and whether Facebook received money for access to the information. The company was asked to respond by Oct. 27.
Markey and Barton are working on comprehensive privacy legislation that is before the Committee on Energy and Commerce. A subcommittee hearing is expected during the lame duck session next month.
In the Journal report, Facebook executives said the company would immediate take steps to "dramatically limit'' the exposure of personal information.
“We’re happy to work with Representatives Markey and Barton to answer any questions they may have,” Andrew Noyes, a Facebook spokesman, said in an e-mailed statement, according to Bloomberg News.
WASHINGTON – Senator Scott Brown’s fundraising tapered off during the latest cycle, with just over $500,000 flowing into his campaign account over a three-month period.
The fundraising haul comes after record-setting months leading up to and following his special election victory in January. His aides say that during recent months he has instead been focused on raising money for others, attending 50 fundraisers for candidates in Massachusetts and across the country. He still has $6.8 million in the bank, more than any other Massachusetts politician, two years ahead of a 2012 re-election campaign.
But it is a drop from his previous fundraising clip, with far more attention going to candidates running this year and with many of Brown's top donors being tapped out this year. Between April 1 and June 30, he brought in $1.1 million and during his special election campaign, he raised $15.2 million.
During the latest filing, which covers a period between July 1 and Sept. 30, Brown spent $278,000. Much of it went to campaign staff salaries, consulting fees, and travel expenses.
The latest figures are reflected in campaign finance forms that are due to the Federal Election Commission today.
Several members of the congressional delegation, and their campaign opponents, have also turned in their forms. Unlike Brown, who is not up for re-election, congressional members had to submit information prior to the primary election so their latest data only covers about a five week period, from Aug. 26 to Sept. 30.
Representative Barney Frank raised $315,600 during that period, including $43,675 that was bundled for him by the political action committee for Fidelity Investments. Frank, a Newton Democrat, is chairman of the House Financial Services Committee and was a chief architect of the financial overhaul legislation passed earlier this year.
Heading into the final weeks before the election, Frank had $1.1 million in his account. The forms for Frank’s Republican opponent, Sean Bielat, had not yet been posted this morning.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beleaguered Democrats in Florida have suffered a blow from an unlikely source -- a Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., a Democrat and noted environmentalist from New York, followed California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican and husband of Maria Shriver, Kennedy’s first cousin, in backing independent Charlie Crist over Democrat Kendrick Meek and the front-runner, GOP nominee Marco Rubio, for an open US Senate seat.
For Kennedy, the political calculus to endorse Crist had three factors: Crist's record as an environmentalist, particularly his support for solar energy, is exceptional; Rubio represents a right-wing threat to good governance; and Meek is confronted with an uncomfortable political reality -- he can't win.
“At some point it becomes clear in political life we all have to make choices that are bigger than ourselves,’’ Kennedy said at a Crist gathering in Deerfield Beach Wednesday, inferring Meeks should step aside. “I hope that Kendrick will look at the entire landscape as he assesses the future of this election.''
A Quinnipiac University poll shows Rubio with a commanding lead, taking 44 percent of the vote to Crist's 30 percent and Meek's 22 percent. A recent Public Policy Polling survey, however, has Rubio and Crist in a dead heat, if Meek were to drop out.
“The only person who can win this race and bring common sense to Washington is my friend Charlie Crist,” Kennedy told the group of about 100 supporters of Crist, the Republican governor of Florida who switched to independent after determining he could not beat Rubio in the GOP primary.
Meek's campaign said the congressman has no intention of quitting and called him a leader in saving the environment.
Meek's spokesman Nathan Click told Fox News that the congressman has his own Kennedy support.
The campaign has run an ad that included an image of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. The spot was approved by Kennedy's widow, Vicki, "who said she was honored to give Kendrick her family's blessing to use the photo in the commercial," Click said.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the son of former presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy and nephew of President John F. Kennedy and Senator Edward M. Kennedy, called the Florida Senate race the most critical in the country, one that is threatened by blind populist fervor. He did not mince his words:
“(Rubio), like other Tea Partiers has a very radical vision, a very narrow vision, an I-can-be-as-stupid-as-I-want vision of this country, and that has a little bit of appeal to people when they're angry - but it is not a good long-term plan.’’
WASHINGTON – Senator Scott Brown this morning announced that he was endorsing all nine Republican congressional candidates running in Massachusetts, and planned to contribute $1,000 to each of their campaigns.
Brown had been active previously in several of the campaigns, but had not endorsed the full slate of congressional hopefuls. There are nine contested races this year; the only incumbent without a challenger is Representative Michael Capuano, a Somerville Democrat.
“On November 2nd, the people of Massachusetts are ready to send another message to Washington,” Brown said this morning in a statement. “Right now, we need new independent voices in Washington who will fight for more jobs, lower taxes and stand up to the out-of-control government spending that has driven the national debt to record levels. I am proud to support these candidates.”
The endorsements include:
- Jeff Perry, a state representative, who is running to represent the 10th Congressional District. He is facing Bill Keating, the Democratic nominee and the Norfolk County District Attorney. They are running for an open seat, being vacated by the retirement of Representative Bill Delahunt.
- Vern Harrison, a businessman, who is running to represent the 9th Congressional District. He is facing Representative Stephen Lynch, a South Boston Democrat.
- Gerry Dembrowski, a physician and small business owner, who is running to represent the 7th Congressional District. He is facing Representative Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat.
- Bill Hudak, an attorney and small business owner, who is running to represent the 6th Congressional District. He is facing Representative John Tierney, a Salem Democrat.
- Jon Golnik, a small business owner, who is running to represent the 5th Congressional District. He is facing Representative Niki Tsongas, a Lowell Democrat.
- Sean Bielat, a veteran of the Marine Corps, who is running to represent the 4th Congressional District. He is facing Representative Barney Frank, a Newton Democrat.
- Marty Lamb, a small business owner and attorney, who is running to represent the 3rd Congressional District. He is facing Representative James McGovern, a Worcester Democrat
- Tom Wesley, a Navy veteran and businessman, who is running to represent the 2nd Congressional District. He is facing Representative Richard Neal, a Springfield Democrat.
- Bill Gunn, a small business owner, who is running to represent the 1st Congressional District. He is facing Representative John Olver, an Amherst Democrat.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
Massachusetts Senator John Kerry hopes to travel to Sudan before the high-stakes referendum on independence slated for January 9, according to actor and Sudan activist George Clooney, who had an hour-long conversation with Kerry this week.
"Senator Kerry has been very much involved and is very proud of how much he has been involved," Clooney told reporters Tuesday night at the Council on Foreign Relations. "He wants to go before the referendum and takes as many senators as he can."
Kerry's spokesman Frederick Jones could not confirm an upcoming trip, but said: "Of course Senator Kerry is very concerned about the situation on the ground and he'd like to do whatever he can to make sure the referendum is conducted fairly and peacefully,"
Clooney said Congressional support is key to ensuring that Sudan -- a country that has suffered from decades of war between the mostly Muslim and Arab north and the mostly African and non-Muslim south -- does not fall back into civil war. He said Congress was instrumental in getting an historic peace agreement in 2005, and holds the key now to making sure that Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir does not resume a war with the south if southerners vote to become an independent state.
Clooney, who just returned from a trip to Sudan with John Prendergast, co-founder of the Enough Project, is in Washington this week to lobby for greater involvement. On Tuesday, the pair met President Obama at the White House, several members of Congress and spoke at the Council on Foreign Relations.
Prendergast, who has previously been critical of the Obama administration's level of engagement on Sudan, said Obama impressed him with his detailed understanding of the conflict. He said he supports the administration's bid to offer incentives to Bashir to convince him that a resumption of war is not in his interest.
"Bashir doesn't want to be the guy that lost the south and got nothing out of it," Prendergast said.
The pair said that Obama talked to them about the punishments that he would be willing to use if Sudan chooses the path of war, but that the president said those should not be spoken about in public.
WASHINGTON – Tim Kaine, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, will be in New Hampshire tonight as part of an ongoing effort to rally supporters for the midterm elections.
Kaine, who will be at a private home in Manchester, NH, is planning to deliver opening remarks to house parties across the country before President Obama begins a Town Hall at George Washington University. The remarks, and the town hall, will be broadcast live online at 7 p.m.
The gatherings, called “Commit to Vote” house parties, are part of a push by Democrats to close an enthusiasm gap that Republicans have been trying to take advantage of. The GOP has been far more active during the midterm election primaries, with their sights set on taking back the House and Senate majorities.
The Democrats are trying relying on techniques that worked during Obama’s 2008 presidential race to try and encourage their supporters to vote this year when Obama’s name is not at the top of the ticket.
Obama’s town hall tonight is the third in a series of events that he is doing to try and stoke his base. He held a rally last week in Madison, Wisconsin, and was in Philadelphia yesterday.
“With the November elections only 21 days away, President Obama is back on the campaign trail, barnstorming the country and talking about why this election matters,” Kaine, a former Virginia governor, wrote in an email to supporters.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WASHINGTON – Representative Barney Frank’s race for re-election could be getting tighter, according to DC-based political prognosticators.
The race between the Newton Democrat and Republican nominee Sean Bielat was shifted over the weekend from a rating of “solid Democratic” to “likely Democratic” by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report.
The “likely Democratic” category is reserved for races that are not currently considered competitive but have the potential to move in that direction. Previously, the race the Massachusetts Fourth District, was considered so safe for Democrats that it didn't bear mentioning.
“Barney Frank is still a substantial favorite to win this race, but it’s now going to be a $2 million affair,” said David Wasserman, the House editor of the Cook Political Report. “This year is volatile, and the political dynamics might be worse right now than they were in January when Scott Brown won.”
Four other Democrats – most, like Frank, long-serving incumbents – also just joined the list races that could become competitive in the final weeks before voters go to the polls. Those races include: Raúl Grijalva of Arizona; Jim Oberstar of Minnesota; Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico; Soloman Ortiz of Texas.
The contest in the Massachusetts Fifth District – between Democratic Representative Niki Tsongas and the Republican nominee Jon Golnik – is also considered likely Democratic.
Only one congressional race in Massachusetts is considered by the Cook Political Report to be competitive. That race – for the Tenth District seat currently held by retiring Representative Bill Delahunt – is one where Democrats are deemed to have a slight edge.
The Bay State's other seven congressional seats, which all feature incumbent Democrats running for re-election, are considered safe for Democrats.
Matt Viser can be reached at email@example.com.
Senator Scott Brown continues his fight against health care reform today at a medical industry conference by reiterating his commitment to killing a medical device tax provision in the law, according to trade publication Mass Device.
"I'm still on it. We're working on it daily. This isn't over, OK? The health care bill and its implementation and the way it affects your industry is not over," said Brown in opening remarks at the annual Medtech Investors Conference, an event held by the Massachusetts Medical Device Industry Council. His previous effort to block the 2.3 percent tax on medical devices failed in the Senate.
"Massachusetts has more than 200 medical device manufacturers who employ tens of thousands of workers," said Brown in a March 30 Globe op-ed. "The medical device tax will not only cost our state good-paying jobs when we can least afford it, but it will be passed along to consumers, who will pay more for necessary medical equipment."
WASHINGTON – President Obama this afternoon signed legislation spearheaded by Representative Edward J. Markey that significantly expands the digital horizons of the disabled.
The bipartisan legislation increases access for the disabled to a panoply of high-tech devices and means of communications, from phones calls over the Internet to enhanced TV remotes and easier-to-use smartphones.
“The bill I’m signing today into law will better ensure full participation in our democracy and our economy for Americans with disabilities,” Obama said today in a ceremony at the White House attended by Markey and several other lawmakers.
The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act mandates that remote controls have buttons to easily access closed captioning on broadcast and pay television; requires telecommunications equipment that makes calls over the internet to be compatible with hearing aids; and makes television program guides and selection menus accessible to those with vision loss. It also requires captioning on new TV programs that are offered online and improves the web accessibility of smartphones.
“We’ve moved from Braille to broadband, from tracing words in palms to navigating a Palm Pilot,'' Markey, a Democrat of Malden who introduced the legislation in June 2009, said in a statement. "Americans with disabilities need access to the latest 21st century communications and video tools to compete in the job market and engage in daily activities that increasingly rely on the latest technologies.”
The new law also provides $10 million annually for low-income Americans who are both deaf and blind to use for purchasing accessible internet access.
At the ceremony, Obama recognized Markey and several other members of congress. He also paid tribute to another attendee: Stevie Wonder.
“I happen to be listening to him this morning when I woke up,” Obama said. “He’s what I work out to. He’s what I sweet-talk Michelle to.”
Earlier in the week, Obama signed a bill that removes the phrase “mentally retarded” from all federal health, education, and labor laws. It replaces the phrase with “intellectual disability.”
WASHINGTON – In a sign that national Democrats are worried about losing a congressional seat in Massachusetts, they started taking out ads this week that criticize Republican nominee Jeffrey Perry.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent more than $187,000 over the past week to produce and air ads in the Massachusetts 10th congressional race, according to Federal Election Commission records.
Perry, a state representative, is facing Democratic nominee Bill Keating, the Norfolk County district attorney. They are vying to replace US Representative Bill Delahunt, who is retiring, in the state’s most competitive congressional race.
The bulk of the DCCC spending is going to air a 30-second spot that criticizes Perry for a case involving strip searches while he was a police officer in Wareham.
Republicans also reported spending money on the race this week. The National Republican Congressional Committee spent $68,000. Most of that went to an ad criticizing Keating for his positions on taxes, earmarks, and term limits.
The national parties so far have not been involved in any other races in Massachusetts.
Matt Viser can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Democrats tapped First Lady Michelle Obama today to rally supporters and raise money in a mass e-mail just weeks before they could face losing majorities in the House and possibly the Senate in midterm elections.
"Barack can't keep making progress without strong allies in Congress," Obama wrote in the e-mail. "And now the same people who've opposed us at every turn are targeting the folks who voted to make change real."
The first lady mentions overhauls of healthcare and and financial regulations and asks for donations at this "critical moment."
The appeal appears to be part of a fund-raising initiative called Michelle Match in which contributions are matched by unidentified "grassroots donors." In the e-mail, Obama identifies them as "teachers and firefighters, truckers and nurses who have made pledges of support hoping to inspire you to take the next step. Because of them, a $3 contribution will become $6."
The e-mail links to a page that features Michelle Obama's picture and the plea, "answer Michelle's call."
The Democratic National Committee raised $16 million in September, making it the best month for Democrats during the current election cycle. Still, analysts are predicting a loss in the House of 40 seats for Democrats, which would give Republicans a majority. And in the Senate, according to the nonpartisan Cook Political Report, the Republicans are on track to gain between seven and nine seats, just shy of the 10 they would need for a majority.
Donovan Slack can be reached at email@example.com.
Senator John F. Kerry may be known for his calm, cool demeanor, but Paul Hodes is looking to the Massachusetts Democrat to help spark his campaign to replace the retiring Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, in the US Senate.
Kerry will join Hodes, a two-term congressman, and a state firefighters group at a Nashua rally tonight to start Hodes’s “Turn Up the Heat on Washington’’ tour, according to Hodes’s campaign. Hodes plans to join the firefighters at a series of similar events around the state before the Nov. 2 election against the GOP nominee, former attorney general Kelly Ayotte.
Also today, Hodes’s campaign said the National Rifle Association has given him an "A" rating for backing Second Amendment rights. Hodes has long prided himself on being a guns rights advocate, a key quality in a state that's big on hunting and personal liberties.
Hodes has trailed Ayotte in the most recent polls, with a WMUR Granite State Poll late last month showing Ayotte holding a lead of 50 percent to 35 percent for Hodes.
Ayotte's campaign said the Kerry visit was another example of the "liberal Democratic establishment'' attempting to bolster Hodes.
"From insulting voters, to avoiding taxes on his yacht, John Kerry has consistently proven himself to be completely out-of-touch with reality,'' New Hampshire Republican Party Communications Director Ryan Williams said in a statement. "In the Senate, Hodes would stand with entrenched politicians like John Kerry, instead of standing up for the traditional New Hampshire values of limited taxation and smaller government."
Kerry pushes Pentagon to give dishonorable discharge to U.S. Navy sailor convicted in fatal shooting
BOSTON — John Kerry is pushing the Pentagon to give a dishonorable discharge for a U.S. Navy sailor convicted of the fatal shooting death of his ex-girlfriend, another Navy sailor, in Virginia in 2009.
“I want justice," Kerry said in a statement issued Thursday about Caitlin Trask, the 20-year-old Bradford woman. Darren Mackie, 22, of Wisconsin told authorities that he was horsing around with Trask, and that he did not know the gun was loaded when he shot her in the back of the head. He pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter, and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but was never given a dishonorable discharge.
The case came to Kerry's attention in April of 2009, when Trask's family wrote asking Kerry to pressure the Pentagon to court martial Mackie instead of hand the case over to a civilian court. Ten days later, Kerry wrote a letter seeking a court martial and a military punishment, but he was rebuffed. Although Kerry failed to convince the Navy to prosecute the case in a military court, he has continued his crusade to give Mackie a dishonorable discharge, instead of the "other than honorable" discharge, which would allow him to apply to re-enlist in the Navy at a later date.
An aide said Kerry was continuing to highlight the issue to make sure the case gets the attention it deserves from the Navy. Kerry wrote a letter Thursday to Defense Secretary Robert Gates seeking a full investigation.
The text of the letter is as follows:
Secretary Robert M. Gates
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301-1400
Dear Mr. Secretary:
On behalf of the family of deceased U.S. Navy sailor Caitlin Trask, who was killed by her former boyfriend on February 12, 2009, I respectfully request an investigation by the Inspector General of the Department of Defense into the conduct of the United States Navy.
The notion that an active duty sailor could shoot and kill another sailor and then manage to avoid a dishonorable discharge is beyond my ability to comprehend. I would ask that the investigation determine if any options remain to facilitate a dishonorable discharge for Darren Mackie and to identify what Navy procedures need to be changed in order to ensure that no such travesty is ever allowed to happen again. Additionally, the investigation should determine if any Navy personnel were derelict in their duty with regards to this case.
Mr. Secretary, I have been working closely with the Trask family for well over a year now in their pursuit of justice for their late daughter. I can attest that this is extremely important to the surviving parents of a young woman who was proudly serving her country. A thorough, objective investigation is absolutely essential.
Thank you for your assistance and cooperation.
John F. Kerry
United States Senate
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius today denounced the flow of "anonymous money’’ in individual congressional races this year.
Speaking to reporters at a breakfast meeting, she echoed remarks by President Obama in his January State of the Union address, when he said the Supreme Court’s set a dangerous precedent with its decision to allow unlimited elections spending by corporations. Since that court ruling, Congress has not passed bills that would require disclosure of who is bankrolling election-season political commercials on television.
"I really think the untold story of 2010 is not the Tea Party or not the health care bill or a number of these issues. It is the amount of money that is flowing in districts around the country, and particularly the amount of anonymous money,’’ Sebelius said on a video released by the Christian Science Monitor, which sponsored the breakfast.
"I haven’t been any place where there aren’t dozens of ads now being run, and nobody knows who’s behind them.
"I’m used to a political system where people engage in battles, and you know who brought `em to the dance, and that becomes part of the discussion. … That becomes at least something that voters can talk about and think about.’’
But this year, she said, there is "money flowing in unbelievable ways.’’
"For constituents to try and figure out who is it that is behind this, whose friends are you, who is standing up for you – I think is difficult if not impossible right now, and I think that is pretty dangerous.’’