Uh, Claire, you got to dance with them what brung you

Previously:

Not really. They forgot about Joe, Evan, Ben, and Mary

Claire Never Fails to Disappoint, Does She?

The Johnson County, Missouri Democratic Club meets monthly on Thursday evenings in downtown Warrensburg. The membership of the club includes Democratic Party activists and a significant number of the members of the Johnson County Democratic Central Committee. A motion addressing health care reform, and specifically, Senator Claire McCaskill's (D) recent statement, in the aftermath of the Massachusetts special senate election was offered under new business by a member of the club and central committee.

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GOP trying to pressure 17 House Dems to retire

The Iowa blogger John Deeth brought this piece by Hotline's Reid Wilson to my attention.

An informal list of 17 members the NRCC believes can be convinced to step down, privately called the "Dem Retirement Assault List," makes clear the party needs Dem incumbents to step aside if they have hopes of taking back the majority. The NRCC has taken pains to attack those lawmakers in recent weeks.

The list includes 14 members whose districts voted for Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) in '08. McCain won districts held by Reps. Ike Skelton (D-MO) and Bart Gordon (D-TN) with more than 60% of the vote, and districts held by Reps. Rick Boucher (D-VA), Alan Mollohan (D-WV), Marion Berry (D-AR), Nick Rahall (D-WV) and Mike Ross (D-AR) with more than 55%.

McCain narrowly won seats held by Reps. John Spratt (D-SC), Allen Boyd (D-FL), Vic Snyder (D-AR), Baron Hill (D-IN), Earl Pomeroy (D-ND), Tim Holden (D-PA) and Collin Peterson (D-MN).

The NRCC has also begun targeting Reps. Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA) and Leonard Boswell (D-IA), three members who already have credible opponents but who occupy seats Pres. Obama won in '08.

Here in IA-03, Boswell has three declared Republican opponents. Two of them are likely to be well-funded: Brad Zaun, who has a decent chunk of the Iowa GOP establishment backing him, and former Iowa State university wrestling coach Jim Gibbons. Gibbons has already launched a couple of misleading attacks on Boswell, claiming he's not working hard enough and that the estate tax fix will hurt farmers and small business owners.

2008 would have been a perfect time for Boswell to retire. Tons of voters in IA-03 registered as Democrats in order to participate in the Iowa caucuses, and any number of candidates could have held this seat easily.

I don't know anyone who expects Boswell to step down next year, but if he did, this might be a tough hold, since Democratic turnout tends to be lower in off-year elections. On the other hand, much would depend on the Democratic nominee. One possible candidate is former First Lady Christie Vilsack, who seemed to leave the door open for a future campaign when she ruled out running against Senator Chuck Grassley.

Final note: in that Hotline piece, Wilson writes that

members frequently use the Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks as the time to decide whether to retire, filling Dec. and Jan. with announcements about their future. Already, rumors are flying that various members have decided not to run again.

I hope we don't hear about more than a few additional retirements this winter. Who do you think are the most likely suspects?

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Ike Skelton Pushes For More War in Afghanistan

Cross-posted at Daily Kos, Docudharma, OpenLeft, Show Me Progress, and FDL.
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In today's WaPo, Ike Skelton, Chair of the House Armed Forces Committee, teamed up with everyone's favorite former Democrat, Joe Lieberman, on an op-ed for more war in Afghanistan called Don't Settle for Stalemate in Afghanistan.

The president was right to call the war in Afghanistan "a war of necessity." Now it is time to treat it as such and commit the decisive force that will allow Gen. McChrystal to break the Taliban's momentum as quickly as possible.

And

Here at home, we must stabilize public support by convincing an increasingly skeptical American people that the Afghan war is in fact winnable.

.     .

It comes as no surprise that Ike and Joe are in favor of treating our Armed Forces to more $#!t sandwiches and crap burgers in Afghanistan.  Ike and Joe have been talking it up for quite a while.

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The 34 Habeas Obstacles, and the Democratic Squeeze

With today's fairly stunning (though not shocking) comments from AG Gonzales on habeas, it's worth running down the legislative strategy for restoring this basic tenet of the American legal system.  First of all, this is a core base issue.  Among others, Moveon went out today with an email on the Habeas restoration, and as the Times has noted, there are half a dozen bills on habeas floating around the House.  The key to successfully moving this through Congress is to show that there is a majority on habeas with a floor vote, and then use that show of strength to attach a habeas restoration to one of any number of 'must-pass' legislative vehicles.  

The DoD Authorization is one such vehicle, though there are many others, such as various Appropriations bills and Budget bills.  To see an example of how this works, consider the difference between passing a stand-alone withdrawal timeline versus attaching it to a funding bill.  If we wanted to put withdrawal timelines alone through Congress, they could be stopped by the House, the Senate, or Bush, easily.  But when these timelines are attached to a larger vehicle, money the troops need, lots of on-the-fence members voted for something they wouldn't were it a stand-alone bill.  This is actually a standard legislative tactic, and why crushing net neutrality was thrown into a large telecom reform bill last cycle which had some stuff we actually like (like cable competition).  At the end of the day, of course, the President has to sign these bills for them to become law, so there's always the veto threat.  This is why bills often tend to take more than one Congress to pass.  For instance, the Bankruptcy Bill was coming up regularly in the late 1990s, and only passed in 2005.  Habeas restoration could be on a similar track.  

In this cycle, though, what legislative strategy we chooses hinges on the need for a majority of members to vote for a restoration of habeas.  It's unclear that there is in fact a majority.  There are 34 Democrats who voted for the Military Commissions Act under intense GOP pressure, and presumably some of them can be moved to vote for a restoration of habeas with leadership arm-twisting on the other side.  We got 168 votes against the MCA, which means that we have to build 50 more votes to get to a majority of 218 votes.  We picked up 30 seats in the 2006 election, flipped from Harold Ford to Steve Cohen (and Sherrod Brown was replaced), and there are 7 Democrats who didn't vote.  So starting from the very peak of possibilities and assuming that all the newly elected Democrats are yes votes (a strong assumption), we are at 206 pro-habeas votes.  That's 12 short of a majority, though it's more like 20-25 short of a majority considering we'll probably lose a few Blue Dogs and some Republicans who were with us last time.

So that's where we are.  20-25 votes short of a pro-habeas majority.  Here's a list of the 34 Democrats who voted for the Military Commissions Act.  These are the members to work on, and you'll recognize a bunch of them from earlier, um, problematic positions.

Robert Andrews, John Barrow, Melissa Bean, Sanford Bishop, Dan Boren, Leonar d Boswell, Allen Boyd, Sherrod Brown, Ben Chandler, Bud Cramer, Henry Cuellar, Artur Davis, Lincoln Davis, Chet Edwards, Bob Etheridge, Harold Ford, Bart Gordon, Stephanie Herseth, Brian Higgins, Tim Holden, Jim Marshall, Jim Matheson, Mike McIntyre, Charles Melancon, Michael Michaud, Dennis Moore, Collin Peterson, Earl Pomeroy, Mike Ross, John Salazar, David Scott, John Spratt, John Tanner, Gene Taylor

First of all, let's note that that's a lot of dudes.  My gender is laaaame.  Ok, second of all, it's pretty clear that voting for Habeas is not a flip-flop against the MCA, since they are different bills, and momentum from leadership can move some of these votes.  Third, Ike Skelton, who is a very conservative Democrat, is committed to the restoration of habeas corpus, which is helpful in terms of convincing a lot of these members that they aren't solely associating with liberals here.

Early next week, it's being reported that Tauscher and Skelton are going to 'drop a bill' restoring habeas.  It's not clear what this bill will say, and if it will be as strong as Nadler's bill.  What will happen is that this is going to go through both the Judiciary and Armed Services Committees before hitting the floor.  The timing for this to go to the floor is in June at the earliest, since floor time is tough to come by.  The move for a habeas restoration in the DoD Authorization was a quick attempt to stick the bill that looks like it failed, though it's still possible to bring the habeas restoration amendment to the floor during the DoD authorization debate.  It wasn't done openly, but you can read the code in the editorials in the NYT and the Washington Post. The insiders were in the know.

There are lots of strategic openings with habeas, and lobbyists and different player are trying different tactics.  Some of them are open and many of them are not.  There are different rumors flying around, some of which pan out and some don't.  What I heard on Tuesday from a well-placed source, while not inaccurate, was certainly out-of-date by the time she told me.  That's why I wrote at the time that it was an outside shot.

Long story short, here's the essential roadmap, along with our role.  It's never entirely clear how to move something through Congress.  There are 435 members and thousands of people involved.  We need to take advantage of every single opportunity to put pressure on our members.  There are times when legislative changes can be snuck into bills, and if members know that they have felt pressure on a related issue, they will be more likely to sneak our stuff in there or look out and object to bad stuff being put in there.

I have one other observation.  Sometimes we'll need to put pressure on Blue Dogs, but sometimes we'll need to put pressure on progressives.  Some progressives will just not vote for certain types of legislative vehicles, like the DoD Authorization, because they don't want to legimitize our use of the military.  The 37 members that voted 'no' in 2006 for the DoD Authorization bill are after the flip.  Most of these members understand and will vote for something like the DoD Authorization if it has a habeas restoration in, but we need to make sure that they do in fact do this.  This DoD Authorization bill has some good stuff in it, like Walter Reed changes, cuts in missile defense, and global warming initiatives, and it may get vetoed regardless.  But the squeeze between progressives and Blue Dogs is a tight one, and will have to be managed for most important bills going through Congress.

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Outside Shots and Partisanship

The restoration of habeas corpus crosses ideological lines.  The Chairman of the American Conservative Union, David Keene and former legal adviser to the Bush administration William H. Taft IV are both on board.  And so are some right-wing bloggers, like Right-Thinking from the Left Coast,

How fucking pathetic is it that the Democrats, the fucking DEMOCRATS, the party who I have seen wiping its ass with the Constitution for most of my lifetime, working to restore habeas corpus rights to Americans...I've often parodied Howard Dean by saying that I hate the Democrats and everything they stand for.  Well, if they have the balls to stand up to the fucking Bush Republicans and officially restore canonical law then I say "You go, girl!"

Though it's not an ideological issue, it is a partisan issue because of the authoritarian worship of Bush on the right.  He can do no wrong, and therefore the Military Commissions Act was a perfect law to pass.  Putting lawmakers on the spot is a great way to wedge conservatives.  Anyway, here's The Hill reporting on what's going on today with the DoD authorization bill.

The new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee dealt a blow to the human-rights community by failing to include provisions to overhaul GOP legislation governing military tribunals in the 2008 defense authorization bill.

The chairman's move is attracting criticism from some who say Democrats' dedication to the issue is wavering.

Scores of human-rights lawyers and attorneys representing military detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, have targeted Rep. Ike Skelton's (D-Mo.) defense authorization bill as a chance to restore the writ of habeas corpus -- detainees' right to challenge the legality of their detention in court.

Skelton said he has prepared separate legislation and is planning to work with Democratic leadership, the Judiciary Committee and members of the Armed Services panel to bring a stand-alone bill to the floor. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is supporting Skelton's efforts to move forward with a stand-alone bill, according to a Pelosi aide.

Skelton doesn't want a showdown with Bush on the legislation, and he doesn't want the bill to pass along partisan lines.  The Hill also reports that Carl Levin doesn't have the votes to restore habeas corpus in the Senate for his version of the DoD authorization bill.  

I don't see how a separate bill solves any of these problems in terms of restoring habeas corpus.  I do see how it relieves pressure on Chairman Skelton and the House leadership to do anything meaningful about habeas corpus.  The only way this is moving is to get members on the record, and engage with some serious lobbying and grassroots pressure.  This fear of standing on principle is really out of control.

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