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Appropriations committee is unanimous in passing budget amendments

7:24 AM ET, 02/ 7/2011

Yesterday, Republican and Democratic members of the House Appropriations Committee unanimously passed budget amendments to the 2011-2012 Biennial Budget.

Speaking of the amendments, Speaker William Howell of Stafford said in a release:

“Today’s House Appropriations Committee-passed budget is a fiscally responsible package. One of its main highlights that I strongly support is the $114 million deposit into the state Rainy Day Fund, which puts us half way toward the $228 million deposit required in the next biennial budget. That’s a very sound investment during times that still call for fiscal prudence. I’m also pleased that the House budget amendments roll back over $4 million of previously authorized fees that hit our job-creating hospitality industry especially hard. Equally of note, the House budget amendments reduce previously authorized debt by nearly $120 million. Finally, the amendments further advance the interest of long-term structural balance in state finances by immediately beginning the phase-out this year, not in 2013, of the acceleration of the collection of sales tax revenues for certain businesses. If agreed to by the Senate, it would result in 98% of impacted retailers not having to accelerate their sales tax remittance.

First a transportation bill and now a budget? You’d think the House was trying to get results of something.

The budget amendments will be discussed by the full house Feb. 10.

Read more about the budget.

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The 2012 Iowa Caucuses – Where Do the Candidates Stand?

2:08 AM ET, 02/ 7/2011

When are the big political names going to start traveling to Iowa?

When will the caucus campaigns begin in earnest?

Questions like these have been debated to death at local coffee shops and in newspaper columns for months now.  It’s understandable for Iowans and the media to ask these types of questions, but what these people are really pondering has nothing to do with when the caucus campaigning starts.  What they are really waiting for is when the frontrunner is going to be ordained so that the 2012 caucus picture comes a bit more into focus.

I believe that those who are awaiting the arrival of the frontrunner, the one candidate that all others can be measured against, might be waiting for something that will never arrive.  While an ordained frontrunner would make things easier from the reporting side of things, I’m convinced that this race does not, and probably will never have a frontrunner until the final moments of the caucus campaign.

At some point Iowans and media cannot wait around any longer. As a kid, my parents would threaten to leave without my brothers and I if we were doodling around right before the family was to hit the road.   In regards to the caucuses, some candidates like Newt Gingrich, Tim Pawlenty, and Rick Santorum have been patiently waiting in the car for moths now to make sure it doesn’t leave without them.

Other candidates like Mitt Romney and Ron Paul might not have run to the car like the other three did, but they have been through this routine before.  They will either know how long they can wait it out until the car actually pulls out of the drive, or in the case of Romney, might have alternate transportation already in place.

Like my parents, I’ve decided that its time to get on the road.

To be honest, there is no better time to declare the start of the 2012 caucus campaign than today since exactly one year from now, barring any minor date changes, Iowans will go to their caucuses to show their support of their preferred candidate.

Not only are we exactly one year out from the caucuses, but also later this week is the Conservative Political Action Conference, which is referred to as CPAC.  Even though some social conservatives have criticized the event in recent years, it is my belief that the entire 2012 presidential field will be there to address the conference.  That also means that the field of candidates doesn’t include Mike Huckabee or Sarah Palin.

Throughout the day, I will count down the top ten caucus contenders from number ten to number one.  It is important to realize that the ranking of the candidates is based on both their potential and what they have already began to put in place for their potential campaigns.  After all ten articles are posted, will put them all in one compilation article with links to the individual articles.

As always, feel free to discuss, speculate, or disagree in the comment section.

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Toomey Writes Conservatives’ Debt Ceiling Playbook

1:50 PM ET, 01/19/2011

Democrats who think that the GOP will blink first on the debt ceiling issue had better proceed with caution. Senator Pat Toomey is on a full court press today with a rebuttal to the argument that refusing to raise the debt ceiling will result in catastrophe.

“You can’t hold hostage the debt ceiling vote, or you risk armageddon,” said Toomey, characterizing the position of the Obama administration.

Toomey disagrees.

“We can do so without jeopardizing the full faith and credit of our country—and we should,” he argues in an op-ed to the Wall Street Journal. Toomey calculates that government revenue is more than enough to cover America’s debt payments in the case of a stalemate.

“I intend to introduce legislation that would require the Treasury to make interest payments on our debt its first priority in the event that the debt ceiling is not raised. This would not only ensure the continued confidence of investors at home and abroad, but would enable us to have an honest debate about the consequences of our eventual decision about the debt ceiling,” wrote Toomey.

His proposal would allow Republicans to back up their tough talk on the debt ceiling, using the vote as leverage for spending cuts. At the same time it would allow the GOP to avoid the political liability associated with risking, in the words of White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee, a catastrophic impact on the economy “that would be a worse financial economic crisis than anything we saw in 2008.”

The GOP needs a convincing response to Goolsbee’s argument if party leaders hope to secure conformity among moderate Republicans and win support from centrist Democrats. Or, at the very least, to strengthen the GOP’s position at the bargaining table.

Toomey’s argument is just that. He gives intellectual heft to a position that had previously been dismissed out of hand.

And Toomey is spreading the word. His earlier quote came during an interview on Fred Thompson’s radio show. Before that he made his case to WHPT’s Chris Stigell, Northeast PA’s WILK-FM, and Fox and Friends.

Though he himself admits that it is likely that the debt ceiling will be raised, Toomey hopes that the debate will result in compromises from Democrats on other spending cuts.

“Inevitably, we’re going to probably have to raise the debt limit,” he told Thompson. “But we shouldn’t do that without serious reforms to the spending process.” We need “immediate cuts in spending and spending process reform,” Toomey emphasized.

The breadth of GOP opposition to raising the debt ceiling remains to be seen. In any case, Democrats should be prepared to play hard ball.

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Tipton Dutifully Plants Health Care Repeal Flag

12:43 PM ET, 01/19/2011
As the Durango Herald's Patrick Young reports, along with Rep. Scott Tipton's minute and ten seconds of boilerplate glory on the House floor yesterday (right):

House Republicans today will vote on House Resolution 2, a measure that would undo the health-care bill passed by the previous Democratic-controlled Congress.

Most of the constituents who spoke during the town-hall meeting supported repeal though no one, Tipton included, wanted a return to the health-care system before passage of reform.

"I support repeal 100 percent," said 'Dan' from Grand Junction. "There's just no way we can go back to the old system." Tipton, R-Cortez, agreed...

'Susie' from Montrose asked if he would "fight like a tiger" to pass health-care repeal. Tipton assured her he would. He said he had no doubts HR 2 would pass the House, where Republicans enjoy a comfortable 242-193 majority, but he acknowledged it would probably die in the Senate, which the Democrats control.

...'Marcia' from Gunnison broke ranks, arguing the health-care reform didn't go far enough. "More people in America want health-care reform to be increased rather than repealed," she said, saying health-care costs are increasing and insurance companies are paying less.

Tipton didn't entirely disagree...

The complete futility of the effort notwithstanding, or even the potential political consequences for those who backed this repeal grandstand just as the American people are starting to tire of the endless, unsupported demagoguery about the law...seriously, folks, is there anything, in either Tipton's floor speech above, or this story about his teleconference with constituents, that leaves you confident he has the slightest idea what he is talking about? Any indication that Tipton is qualified to contribute to this discussion beyond talking points he is handed to recite--with, we might add, what appears to be a sock in his mouth (see: floor speech above)?

There are Republicans in Congress who are capable of making something resembling a rational case, certainly a forcefully-worded case, for their opposition to health care reform today. Scott Tipton is not one of them, and by attempting to sing along without really knowing the words, he helps expose the intellectual bankruptcy of the whole effort.

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Exclusive: New Poll Shows Good News for Nutter

10:00 AM ET, 01/19/2011

A new survey from Municipoll shows Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter in good shape heading into the May Democratic primary.

Nutter leads a generic opponent by a 47%-39% margin. In a variety of hypothetical matchups, Nutter leads the second-highest vote-getter by at least 15%.

“Michael Nutter appears increasingly well-positioned to win a Democratic Primary Election, especially a multi-candidate race,” said poll director Ed Haggerty.

Municipoll surveyed 871 likely Democratic primary voters from January 12 to 16. The data were weighted slightly by gender and age. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 3%.

“It suggests that Nutter would be tough to beat. But it also tells you that he’s not over 50%. I wouldn’t think that’s a great place for an incumbent to be. H’s been there, his name has been out there for four years,” said Sam Katz, who had been rumored as a potential challenger to Nutter before ruling it out in November.

Katz reiterated that he is not running for mayor, but said that this poll shouldn’t discourage others from taking a look.

“I don’t put much stock in a poll that’s taken in the absence of a campaign. Because as far as the public is concerned, there isn’t a campaign. There isnt a challenge, there isn’t a conversation about the direction of the city. There isn’t a comparison being made by other candidates.”

“If there is a campaign, if there is a conversation, I think it will produce a very close election,” Katz predicted.

There is another interesting caveat in the poll results. Nutter enjoys higher support from white Philadelphians than from African Americans (continuing a trend that is analyzed in a really excellent piece by Patrick Kerkstra in Philadelphia Magazine). 64% of whites have a favorable opinion of Nutter, compared to 52% of African Americans. Twice as many African Americans (16%) are not sure of their opinion of the Mayor as whites.

“Nutter’s strong support among white voters seems to turn Philadelphia’s usual racial politics on its head.  However, his lukewarm support among African-American voters raises questions as to why, after three years in office, Nutter still hasn’t consolidated support in this critical base constituency,” said Haggerty.

Hypothetical matchups

Nutter vs. generic Democratic primary opponent
Nutter: 47%
New Person: 39%
Undecided: 15%

3-way race featuring Anthony Williams, Bill Green and Nutter:
Nutter: 46%
Green: 21%
Williams: 18%
Undecided: 14%

3-way race featuring Anthony Williams, Sam Katz and Nutter:
Williams: 21%
Katz: 22%
Nutter: 44%
Undecided: 13%

In a free-for-all primary:
Nutter: 32%
Fattah: 17%
Brady: 11%
Evans: 10%
Katz: 8%
Undecided: 7%
Green: 6%
Williams: 5%
Knox 4%

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