Sunday, September 28, 2014

Warren Asks for Money for Female Dem Candidates, But Leaves One Out

Earlier today, I received the following email from Elizabeth Warren's campaign asking me to donate to the new Democratic women running for Senate this year:
In 2012, we elected four new Democratic women to the United States Senate.

In 2014, it's possible that we don't add any. Yes, you read that correctly: Zero. Zilch. Nada.

I'm not trying to cry wolf, and I'm not saying that the sky is falling. The fact is, our strong, smart, and experienced 2014 Democratic women challengers in Kentucky, Georgia, West Virginia, and Montana all signed up for some of the biggest, toughest races of the year. None of these races is a sure thing.    
But you and I know a little something about long-shot campaigns. We know how to beat the odds and win: We get organized and we fight back with everything we've got. Not a week before the election, but right now.
Can you help Alison Lundergan Grimes, Michelle Nunn, Natalie Tennant, and Amanda Curtis fight back and win this November? Donate now directly to their campaigns before their September 30th fundraising deadlines.

Nobody is going to pull out a chair and invite our candidates to have a seat at the table. If we want to win in Kentucky, Georgia, West Virginia, and Montana, we're going to have to fight for it:
    Despite all the Super PAC attacks, Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes is polling neck-and-neck with Mitch McConnell. With your support, not only can we keep the Democratic majority in the Senate – we can send the #1 Republican in the Senate back home to Kentucky for good.
    Georgia remains one of the Democrats' top opportunities to pick up an open seat this November, thanks to our amazing Democratic candidate, Points of Light Foundation CEO Michelle Nunn. This race is a toss up, and Michelle needs your support to keep fighting.
    In West Virginia, Secretary of State Natalie Tennant is running a tough campaign against Republican Congresswoman Shelley Moore Capito for the seat my Democratic colleague Jay Rockefeller has held for nearly 30 years. The financial industry would love nothing more than to send their friend Capito to the Senate to weaken the rules in their favor. If you care about holding the big banks accountable, Natalie needs your help now.

    Amanda Curtis is our new Democratic nominee for the open Senate seat in Montana that Democrats have held for decades, and she took on a hard climb. She needs our help right away to close the fundraising gap the last six weeks of this campaign. A state legislator and a teacher (woo-hoo!), Amanda is a smart and outspoken voice for Montana families.  
I don't want 2014 to be the year we stop adding – or worse yet, lose – Democratic women in the United States Senate. Not on our watch. On issues like raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, and even access to birth control, we need women in the Senate now more than ever to stand up and be heard.

Donate now to Alison, Michelle, Natalie, and Amanda's campaigns before their urgent September 30th deadlines. Let's keeping moving forward, not back.

Thank you for being a part of this,
Warren's email, however, leaves out one of the new Democratic women on the ballot this November: Shenna Bellows of Maine. 
Shenna, the former executive director of the Maine ACLU, is far more progressive than Michelle, Natalie, Alison, or Amanda. You can visit her website, which highlights her opposition to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Keystone XL pipeline, and the testing regime created by NCLB as well as her support for repealing the PATRIOT Act, ending the drug war, and expanding Social Security. (among other things)

However, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), despite endorsing Bellows back in March, has ignored the race ever since.

In 2012, Obama won Maine by 15 points. By contrast, he lost Georgia by 8, Kentucky by 23, Montana by 14, and West Virginia by 27. Maine, then, is friendly territory for Democrats and a fairly inexpensive media market.

Susan Collins, the Republican incumbent, has cultivated a reputation as a moderate. However, most of her votes belie that reputation. Consider, for instance, her vote last October to shut down the government, her vote against raising the minimum wage, and her vote against the Paycheck Fairness Act. Or countless others.

Perhaps part of the problem with the DSCC is that when Susan Collins is casting bad votes (outside of the purely party line confirmation votes), some Democrats are right there with her. Consider her votes for the Keystone XL pipeline, against restoring SNAP funding, or for raising student loan interest rates for future students. Or consider all of her votes for expanding the surveillance state and perpetual war state.

You can tell a lot about Susan Collins by the fact that she doesn't have an issues page on her campaign website. She knows that Maine voters do not agree with a lot of her positions, so she just won't talk about them.

Democrats should not be giving up a seat without a fight, especially when they are at risk for losing control.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Bill Clinton Defends Corporate Tax Inversions at CGI

While Democrats in Congress have been trying to make a campaign issue about corporate tax inversions, and the administration has begun to take action, former President Bill Clinton is defending them:
“Like it or not, this inversion, this is their money,” Mr. Clinton said in an interview during the Clinton Global Initiative in New York.
When asked whether inversions — the practice of American companies acquiring a small overseas rival and reincorporating abroad to lower their tax bills — are unpatriotic, as many critics say, Mr. Clinton said that publicly traded companies, in particular, “feel duty bound to pay the lowest taxes they can pay.”
“We have the highest overall corporate tax rates in the world, and we are now the only O.E.C.D. country that also taxes overseas earnings,” Mr. Clinton said. “A lot of these executives, even if they wanted to bring the money home, they think this is crazy.”
Although the corporate tax rate in the US is 35% on paper (or 39.2% when you add in state taxes), the average effective corporate tax rate for large, profitable companies was only 12.6% in 2010. Because of a variety of tax credits, exemptions, and evasions, practically no corporation pays that highest rate. In fact, some even end up with a negative effective tax rate because of all of the perks offered by Uncle Sam. 

It's not surprising that Bill Clinton would be so fond of corporate executives. CGI is pretty much just a way for him to claim humanitarianism while hanging out with rich people (and helping his friends enrich themselves). This is, of course, the president of NAFTA and of the repeal of Glass-Steagall.
The question then is whether Hillary, viewed as the presumptive frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in 2016, is on the same page as her husband or the party. Given her post-State career, I'd guess the former.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Gabby Giffords: Working to Keep the House Red

As you may remember, former Democratic representative Gabby Giffords and her husband started an ambiguously named PAC called Americans for Responsible Solutions to push for gun control legislation.

Well, Americans for Responsible Solutions is now working to keep the House in Republican hands:
The Americans for Responsible Solutions PAC (ARS PAC) is releasing a new ad in support of Fitzpatrick as well as a poll that shows him favored to win re-election.
… The group endorsed Fitzpatrick back in June and had previously indicated it would mobilize to support those candidates it backed.
Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick isn’t afraid to lead,” the narrator of the commercial asserts. “He’s working with Democrats and Republicans to keep us safe from gun violence.”
The thirty-second spot praises Fitzpatrick for authoring a bill to keep guns out of the hands of the mental ill (H.R. 329) as well as co-sponsoring a bill an act to prevent stalkers and domestic abusers from purchasing firearms (H.R. 1565).
“We can get it right,” the narrator concludes. “It just takes a leader. Like Mike Fitzpatrick.”
“We need more bipartisan leaders like Mike Fitzpatrick in Congress – leaders who aren’t afraid to stand up to powerful special interests and to stand up for commonsense solutions to gun violence,” said Hayley Zachary, Executive Director of Americans for Responsible Solutions. ”By reaching across the aisle to cosponsor legislation to close loopholes on gun sales, Congressman Fitzpatrick was not only showing some leadership, but reflecting the reasonable views of his constituents.”
ARS PAC also explained that this is a six-figure buy that will air in the Philadelphia TV market on broadcast and cable for at least the next two weeks.
Although it is viewed as a safe seat for Fitzpatrick this cycle, PA-08, a suburban district based in Bucks County outside of Philadelphia (where I grew up), is still considered the prototypical swing district. 

As of the last quarterly filing, Mike Fitzpatrick had raised almost 2.5 times as much money this cycle as his Democratic challenger, Kevin Strouse. He also had seven times as much cash on hand. Mike Fitzpatrick clearly does not need their help.

Moreover, he does not even deserve it. Mike Fitzpatrick can co-sponsor as many bills as he'd like, but there is really only one vote that matters for advancing gun control legislation: the vote for Speaker of the House. And on that, he fails.

A single issue group like Americans for Responsible Solutions should not be intervening in favor of a well-funded incumbent against a challenger who will, by basis of party affiliation alone, be more favorable to the group's agenda. If gun control is not a salient contrast between the candidates, then ARS should be sitting out.

This reminds me of how Big Green groups like the League of Conservation Voters and the Environmental Defense Fund and LGBTQ advocacy groups like the Human Rights Campaign always endorse Republican senator Susan Collins (R-ME) over Democratic challengers who are more pro-environment and pro-LGBTQ rights. They simply want to have a token Republican so that they can tout their bipartisanship, not matter how little it actually gets them.

That Giffords's group would be backing a Republicans appears less surprising as well when you remember that Giffords was a member of the Blue Dog Coalition and was one of the most conservative Democrats in the caucus.

Friday, September 19, 2014

House Republicans Combine All Their Anti-Environment Legislation into One Big Bill. 9 Dems Join Them

Yesterday, while the Senate was busy voting for war, the House took a vote on destroying the environment.

The American Energy Solutions for Lower Costs and More American Jobs Act is basically a rehash of bills that already passed the House and will go nowhere in the Senate. The House Republicans basically threw together all of the anti-environment legislation they've voted for into one bill:
The bill would declare that a presidential permit is not required for TransCanada’s revised proposal for the Keystone XL pipeline — which would allow construction of the pipeline across the U.S.- Canadian border to proceed. Further, it would eliminate the current requirement that proposed oil and natural gas pipelines and electric transmission line projects that cross the U.S. border with Mexico or Canada obtain a Presidential permit and create a new approval process that requires only the cross-border segment of a project to be subject to a National Environment Policy Act (NEPA) review. It would also require the Secretary of State (for oil and gas pipelines) and the Secretary of Energy (for electric transmission lines) to approve a project unless the narrow segment that crosses the border is deemed “not in the public interest of the United States.”
Additionally, the bill would open huge new portions of our coastlines to offshore drilling, and ignore other important uses of public lands, including conservation and recreation. The bill would severely limit the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) ability to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants under the Clean Air Act. It would also prohibit the EPA from finalizing regulations estimated to cost more than $1 billion if the Energy Department determines that the regulations will cause significant adverse effects to the economy.  This would effectively prevent EPA from finalizing any regulations and would give the Energy Department a veto over EPA's air and water pollution rules or any other rule interpreted to be "energy-related." The measure could also indefinitely delay EPA energy-related rules because there are no deadlines for EPA to submit its report or for the Energy Department to complete its study.

The bill would also block the Department of the Interior from issuing rules to protect streams from the impact of mountaintop removal coal mining and force states to adopt a Bush Administration rule vacated by the courts – while also prohibiting the federal government from establishing baseline standards for the safe conduct of hydraulic fracturing on public lands.
The House voted for it 226 to 191. The vote was largely on partisan lines, but with 9 Democrats voting for it and 7 Republicans voting against it. 

Here are the 9 Democrats that voted for it:

John Barrow (GA-12)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Bill Enyart (IL-12)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)

Here are the 7 Republicans that voted against it:

Rodney Frelinghysen (NJ-11)
Chris Gibson (NY-19)
Walter Jones (NC-03)
Frank LoBiondo (NJ-02)
Jon Runyan (NJ-03)
Mark Sanford (SC-01)
Chris Smith (NJ-04)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Both of MA's Senators Voted Against Arming the Syrian Rebels

Today, the Senate voted on the Continuing Resolution that passed the House yesterday, with the funding authorization for Obama’s plan to arm the “moderate” Syrian rebels.

Last week, the New York Times had an excellent article on how defining clear-cut “moderates” in Syria is a near impossible feat, one asking for trouble:
“You are not going to find this neat, clean, secular rebel group that respects human rights and that is waiting and ready because they don’t exist,” said Aron Lund, a Syria analyst who edits the Syria in Crisis blog for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It is a very dirty war and you have to deal with what is on offer.”

The Syrian rebels are a scattered archipelago of mostly local forces with ideologies that range from nationalist to jihadist. Their rank-and-file fighters are largely from the rural underclass, with few having clear political visions beyond a general interest in greater rights or the dream of an Islamic state.
Most have no effective links to the exile Syrian National Coalition, meaning they have no political body to represent their cause. And the coalition’s Supreme Military Council, which was intended to unite the moderate rebel forces, has all but collapsed.
The C.R. passed the Senate 78-22. Both Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey were among the 22 NO votes.

They were joined by only 8 other members of the Democratic caucus:

Mark Begich (D-AK)
Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)
Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
Pat Leahy (D-VT)
Joe Manchin (D-WV)
Chris Murphy (D-CT)
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)

Here is the statement Elizabeth Warren issued on her vote:
I am deeply concerned by the rise of ISIS, and I support a strong, coordinated response, but I am not convinced that the current proposal to train and equip Syrian forces adequately advances our interests. After detailed briefings, I remain concerned that our weapons, our funding, and our support may end up in the hands of people who threaten the United States — and even if we could guarantee that our support goes to the right people, I remain unconvinced that training and equipping these forces will be effective in pushing back ISIS. I do not want America to be dragged into another ground war in the Middle East, and it is time for those nations in the region that are most immediately affected by the rise of ISIS to step up and play a leading role in this fight. Therefore, at this time, I cannot support funding for this specific action.
If we look at the two votes (McKeon amendment and Continuing Resolution) from the House last night as well, then we can say that if you live in MA-02 (McGovern), MA-03 (Tsongas), MA-04 (Kennedy), MA-05 (Clark), MA-06 (Tierney), or MA-07 (Capuano), then your full congressional representation voted against this latest misguided move to deepen US military involvement in the Middle East.

The Dwindling Anti-War Caucus: Only 53 House Dems Took a Firm Stand Against War Yesterday

Last night, the House voted to provide funding to arm the "moderate" rebels in Syria to fight ISIS, deepening US military involvement in the situation in Iraq and Syria.

Last week, the New York Times had an excellent article on how defining clear-cut "moderates" in Syria is a near impossible feat, one asking for trouble:
“You are not going to find this neat, clean, secular rebel group that respects human rights and that is waiting and ready because they don’t exist,” said Aron Lund, a Syria analyst who edits the Syria in Crisis blog for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “It is a very dirty war and you have to deal with what is on offer.”
The Syrian rebels are a scattered archipelago of mostly local forces with ideologies that range from nationalist to jihadist. Their rank-and-file fighters are largely from the rural underclass, with few having clear political visions beyond a general interest in greater rights or the dream of an Islamic state.
Most have no effective links to the exile Syrian National Coalition, meaning they have no political body to represent their cause. And the coalition’s Supreme Military Council, which was intended to unite the moderate rebel forces, has all but collapsed.
Nancy Pelosi did not go in full whipping mode to get Democrats on board, but she certainly pressured them to back the president's new war.

The resolution in question, offered as an amendment by Buck McKeon (CA-25), passed 273 to 156. 159 Republicans and 114 Democrats voted for it. 71 Republicans and 85 Democrats voted against it.

In other words, a majority of both parties just voted for war.

I go through the roll call votes here

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Obama Held Private Meeting with Tom Friedman, David Brooks, Other Journos Before ISIS Speech

Yesterday, Huffington Post's Michael Calderone reported on a closed door meeting Obama held with a group of 15 journalists before delivering his speech on escalating military involvement in Iraq and Syria.
NEW YORK –- President Barack Obama met with over a dozen prominent columnists and magazine writers Wednesday afternoon before calling for an escalation of the war against the Islamic State, or ISIS, in a primetime address that same night.
The group, which met in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in an off-the-record session, included New York Times columnists David Brooks, Tom Friedman and Frank Bruni and editorial writer Carol Giacomo; The Washington Post's David Ignatius, Eugene Robinson and Ruth Marcus; The New Yorker's Dexter Filkins and George Packer; The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg and Peter Beinart; The New Republic's Julia Ioffe; Columbia Journalism School Dean Steve Coll; The Wall Street Journal's Jerry Seib; and The Daily Beast's Michael Tomasky, a source familiar with the meeting told The Huffington Post.
National Security Advisor Susan Rice, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough also attended the meeting, according to the source.
Of the 15, I can identify at least 6 right away that supported the last Iraq War: Brooks, Friedman, Ignatius, Packer, Goldberg, and Beinart. I'd assume several others did as well. 

Regardless, it provides a window into how Obama thinks, and it's not pretty.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Interesting Tidbits from the Primary Results in Boston

I’ve been very curious to see the precinct-by-precinct results for Boston. And when I did, I decided to go through them and find some interesting tidbits about turnout and candidate support. (For reference, here’s a map of Boston’s wards and precincts.)


Aside from the phantom precinct, there were four precincts with turnout below 5%: Ward 21 Precinct 2 (1.65%), Ward 21 Precinct 3 (3.20%), Ward 4 Precinct 10 (3.7%), and Ward 21 Precinct 4 (3.91%). Ward 21 is Allston-Brighton–so, basically students (BU, BC, and Harvard). Ward 4 Precinct 10 consists of the Colleges of the Fenway (Emmanuel College, MassArt, MCPHS University, Simmons College, Wentworth Institute, and Wheelock College).

DigBoston had a sad-and-funny-at-the-same-time piece on Ward 21 Precinct 2, the “saddest little polling location in Boston.”

If you wanted to round out the bottom 10, you’d get Ward 4 Precinct 9 (5.01%), Ward 21 Precinct 8 (5.34%), Ward 21 Precinct 9 (5.58%), Ward 21 Precinct 1 (6.09%), Ward 21 Precinct 15 (6.22%), and Ward 21 Precinct 5 (6.51%). Ward 4 Precinct 9 consists of the area around Northeastern University–mostly a mix of students and housing projects. There were 17 other precincts with turnout below 10%, mostly in student-heavy areas like the ones already noted or Mission Hill.

Only 9 precincts had turnout above 30%: Ward 19 Precinct 2 (35.21%), Ward 20 Precinct 6 (33.59%), Ward 20 Precinct 14 (33.58%), Ward 20 Precinct 12 (33.17%), Ward 16 Precinct 9 (32.85%), Ward 20 Precinct 11 (32.53%), Ward 20 Precinct 4 (30.66%), Ward 19 Precinct 8 (30.55%), and Ward 7 Precinct 1 (30.13%).

The precincts from Wards 19 and 20 are in Roslindale and West Roxbury, Ward 7 Precinct 1 is South Boston, and Ward 16 Precinct 9 is in Dorchester.

If you were to round out the top 10, you’d have Ward 20 Precinct 18 (29.92%).

Gubernatorial Candidates

Where did each candidate do his/her best?

Don Berwick’s best precinct was Ward 19 Precinct 8 in Jamaica Plain, where he received 54.18% of the vote. Don did  well throughout Jamaica Plain, winning Ward 10 Precinct 9, Ward 11 Precincts 6-10, and Ward 19 Precincts 1, 3-6, and 8.

Martha Coakley’s best precinct was Ward 14 Precinct 5 in Mattpan, where she won 80.00% of the vote. Martha did well throughout Ward 14, winning over 60% of the vote in each precinct.

Steve Grossman’s best precinct was Ward 7 Precinct 2 in South Boston, where he won 52.60% of the vote. Steve did well in South Boston, winning Ward 6 Precincts 5-9 and Ward 7 Precincts 1-3.

Where did each candidate do his/her worst?

Don Berwick’s worst precinct was Ward 14 Precinct 5 in Mattapan, where he received only 2.67% of the vote.

Martha Coakley’s worst precinct was Ward 20 Precinct 20 in West Roxbury (right at the border with Brookline and Newton), where she received only 25.57% of the vote.

Steve Grossman’s worst precinct was Ward 14 Precinct 9 in Mattapan, where he received only 14.04% of the vote.

One trend I found particularly noteworthy was how well Coakley did in the majority-black precincts.
Using 2011 data, I identified 55 such precincts: Ward 8 Precincts 3, 4, and 7; Ward 9 Precinct 5; Ward 11 Precincts 2 and 3; Ward 12 Precincts 1-9; Ward 14 Precincts 1-14; Ward 15 Precincts 2 and 5; Ward 17 Precincts 1-5, 7, 8, 10-12, and 14; Ward 18 Precincts 1-6, 8, 14, 15, and 21. These precincts cover area in Roxbury, Mattapan, Hyde Park, and Dorchester.

Martha Coakley won all of them with clear majorities, ranging from 52.68% (Ward 8 Precinct 3) to 80.00% (Ward 14 Precinct 5). Her margin of victory ranged from 23.66% in Ward 17 Precinct 4 to 64.91% in Ward 14 Precinct 9.

In 49 out of the 55, she had over 60% of the vote. In 25 of the 55, she had over 70%.

Friday, September 12, 2014

25 House Dems Join GOP in Latest Effort to Chip Away at Affordable Care Act

Wednesday, the House voted on the latest effort to chip away at the Affordable Care Act.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, would allow people to keep their insurance plans under even if the coverage doesn't meet the requirements specified under the Affordable Care Act.

Here is the response from the Democratic leadership:
This bill would give insurance companies the option to continue offering all group-market plans that were in effect as of January 1, 2013, through 2018 outside of exchanges established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). This bill is not limited to current enrollees, but opens up access to non-ACA compliant plans to all groups and individuals. Employers who offer these plans would be deemed to meet the minimum coverage requirement set by the Affordable Care Act – allowing employers who are currently offering coverage that meets ACA standards to offer far less comprehensive, substandard coverage and take away the consumer protections employees currently have under the ACA.
Further, because plans sold prior to 2014 did not need to meet the requirements of the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges, enrollees in those plans remain vulnerable to limited coverage policies and abusive insurance company practices. Insurance companies would be able to discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, restore annual caps on the amount of care you can receive, and force women to pay more than men for the same coverage.
The bill passed 247 to 167. 25 Democrats joined 222 Republicans in supporting it.

Here are those 25 Democrats:

Ron Barber (AZ-02)
John Barrow (GA-12)
Ami Bera (CA-07)
Julia Brownley (CA-26)
Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
Bill Enyart (IL-12)
Bill Foster (IL-11)
Pete Gallego (TX-23)
Joe Garcia (FL-26)
Colleen Hanabusa (HI-01)
Anne Kuster (NH-02)
Dave Loebsack (IA-02)
Dan Maffei (NY-24)
Sean Maloney (NY-18)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Gary Peters (MI-09)
Scott Peters (CA-52)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Bradley Schneider (IL-10)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)
Filemon Vela (TX-34)
Tim Walz (MN-01)

The Affordable Care Act has many flaws, but they can be best eliminated by reforms that make the health care system more progressive and more universal, reforms which guarantee affordability without sacrificing quality or comprehensiveness of coverage. This is what Democrats should be talking about when they say they want to "fix" the law. Not bills like this.

10 Dems Join Senate GOP in Calling for Delay of New Carbon Regs Because, "Hey, No Urgency"

Yesterday, a group of 53 senators--43 Republicans and 10 Democrats--wrote to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy calling on her to extend the deadline for public comment on the proposal released in June to regulate carbon emissions from existing power plants. The EPA allowed for a 120 day comment period, twice as long as the normal 60 day period for regulations. However, these senators want it extended even more--another 60 days--in order to further delay implementation. I mean, it's not like there's any urgency around climate or anything.

The lead senators on the letter were Republican Deb Fischer (R-NE) and Democrat Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND).

Nine other Democrats joined Heitkamp: Mark Begich (D-AK), Joe Donnelly (D-IN), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Tim Johnson (D-SD), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mark Pryor (D-AR), and Mark Warner (D-VA).

Here is the text of the letter:
Dear Administrator McCarthy,
We are writing to request that the Environmental Protection Agency provide a 60 day extension of the comment period for the “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Generating Units.” While we appreciate EPA granting an initial 120 day comment period, the complexity and magnitude of the proposed rule necessitates an extension. This extension is critical to ensure that state regulatory agencies and other stakeholders have adequate time to fully analyze and comment on the proposal. It is also important to note that the challenge is not only one of commenting on the complexity and sweeping scope of the rule, but also providing an opportunity to digest more than 600 supporting documents released by EPA in support of this proposal.
The proposed rule regulates or affects the generation, transmission, and use of electricity in every corner of this country. States and stakeholders must have time to fully analyze and assess the sweeping impacts the proposal will have on our nation’s energy system, including dispatch of generation and end-use energy efficiency. In light of the broad energy impacts of the proposed rule, state environmental agencies must coordinate their comments across multiple state agencies and stakeholders, including public utility commissions, regional transmission organizations, and transmission and reliability experts, just to name a few. The proposed rule requires a thorough evaluation of intra- and inter-state, regional, and in some cases international energy generation and transmission so that states and utilities can provide the most detailed assessments on how to meet the targets while maintaining reliability in the grid. This level of coordination to comment on an EPA rule is unprecedented, extraordinary, and extremely time consuming.
It is also important to note that the proposed rule imposes a heavy burden on the states during the rulemaking process. If the states want to adjust their statewide emission rate target assigned to them by the EPA, they must provide their supporting documentation for the adjustment during the comment period. The EPA proposal provides no mechanism for adjusting the state emission targets once they are adopted based on the four building blocks. So the states need enough time to digest the rule, fully understand it, and then collect the data and justification on why their specific target may need to be adjusted, and why the assumptions of the building blocks may not apply to their states. This cannot adequately be accomplished in only 120 days.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

35 Democrats Join House GOP to Weaken the Clean Water Act by Liberty Equality Fraternity and Trees

Yesterday, House Republicans made their latest effort to weaken environmental regulations. This time, it was with a bill to prohibit the EPA from using a new rule proposed in March for policymaking. The rule was designed to clarify which bodies of water, such as wetlands and streams, are subject to the EPA's authority under the Clean Water Act. Republicans, unsurprisingly, viewed this as a massive federal overreach.

Here is the conclusion from the dissent written by Democrats on the House Committee on Natural Resources:
We recognize that there is a tremendous amount of confusion and uncertainty surrounding the reach and application of the Clean Water Act, today. Unfortunately, this confusion and uncertainty comes with a real cost to the general public.
First, the confusion and uncertainty has resulted in increased compliance costs and delays in implementing projects and activities covered by the Act's permitting provisions. In addition, the confusion and uncertainty has resulted in the loss of Clean Water Act protections for countless waterbodies that were covered prior to 2001. This loss of protection has left waterbodies that were once protected under Federal law vulnerable to potential polluters. The confusion and uncertainty has also placed at risk the drinking water sources of approximately 177 million Americans that rely on surface waters for all or a portion of their drinking water supply.
Not surprisingly, stakeholders from the regulated community, the conservation and the environmental communities, as well as members of the Supreme Court, have called on Federal agencies to clarify the reach and application of the Clean Water Act.
Clarity is essential to the regulated public so they can understand and meet their legal obligations under the Clean Water Act, and avoid unnecessary project delays and the associated increased compliance costs. Likewise, clarity is essential to the American public so they are assured that water quality is uniformly protected, regardless of what state or region of the country the water is located.
Yet, H.R. 5078 ignores these demands for clarity, and instead proposes to freeze-in-time an existing 2008 guidance document that the regulated community has characterized as “causing confusion and added delays in an already burdened and strained permit decision-making process which ultimately will result (and is resulting) in increased delays and costs to the public at large.”
This legislation also makes future agency rulemaking efforts more complicated, more costly, and more susceptible to additional litigation and challenges, which is contrary to calls from both the regulated community and conservation and environmental organizations for a public rulemaking.
Prudence demands that the Federal agencies utilize every means of the regulatory process available to clarify the application and reach of the Clean Water Act in accordance with the precedent of the Supreme Court. The Obama administration has honored the requests of Congress, the Court, and stakeholders from across the spectrum, to initiate a public rulemaking to provide this clarity; however, that effort (and future efforts) would be stymied by H.R. 5078.
In our view, H.R. 5078 makes no effort to improve the current regulatory process, and, in fact, may make the regulatory process more cumbersome and confusing. This legislation perpetuates the increased costs and delay experienced by the regulated community, as well as the confusion and uncertainly felt by the general public whether large categories of waterbodies are at increased risk of pollution or degradation.
In our view, this is the wrong approach—both for addressing the confusion caused by the Supreme Court decisions as well as for achieving the goals of fishable and swimmable waters called for in the Clean Water Act.
For these reasons, we oppose H.R. 5078.
You can read the full dissent here
The so-called Waters of the United States Regulatory Overreach Protection Act passed 262 to 152. 227 Republicans and 35 Democrats voted for it. 151 Democrats and 1 Republican (Chris Smith of New Jersey’s 4th) voted against it.

Who were the 35 Democrats?

Ron Barber (AZ-02)
John Barrow (GA-12)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Cheri Bustos (IL-17)
Emanuel Cleaver (MO-05)
Jim Clyburn (SC-06)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Bill Enyart (IL-12)
Sam Farr (CA-20)
Marcia Fudge (OH-11)
Pete Gallego (TX-23)
John Garamendi (CA-03)
Joe Garcia (FL-26)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Alcee Hastings (FL-23)
Steven Horsford (NV-04)
Robin Kelly (IL-02)
Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-01)
David Loebsack (IA-02)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Mike McIntyre (NC-07)
Gloria Negrette McLeod (CA-35)
Bill Owens (NY-21)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Cedric Richmond (LA-02)
Raul Ruiz (CA-36)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)
David Scott (GA-13)
Kyrsten Sinema (AZ-09)
Bennie Thompson (MS-02)
Marc Veasey (TX-33)
Filemon Vela (TX-34)
Tim Walz (MN-01)

Tim Bishop (NY-01) offered an amendment to prevent enactment of the bill if its implementation would harm water quality.

It failed 170 to 240.

228 Republicans and 12 Democrats voted against it. 170 Democrats voted for it.

Here are the 12 Democrats who voted against it.

John Barrow (GA-12)
Sanford Bishop (GA-02)
Jim Costa (CA-16)
Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Bill Enyart (IL-12)
Gene Green (TX-29)
Jim Matheson (UT-04)
Bill Owens (NY-21)
Collin Peterson (MN-07)
Nick Rahall (WV-03)
Kurt Schrader (OR-05)
David Scott (GA-13)

The White House issued a veto threat to the bill, noting that it "would derail current efforts to clarify the scope of the CWA, hamstring future regulatory efforts, and create significant ambiguity regarding existing regulations and guidance."