Sestak Talks Healthcare

Senate candidate Joe Sestak visited West Reading this morning to discuss healthcare.  He walked .42 miles from Reading Hospital to Chatty Monks cafe with about 30 supporters.  The distance reflects the 422 miles he walked across the Commonwealth this spring.  Joe spoke at length and in detail about the Affordable Care Act (ObamaCare) and the beneficial effect it is having on people’s lives.  The CBO estimates that it is already reducing the deficit by $100 billion over the next decade.  16.4 million Americans have gained healthcare coverage under the Act though many more remain uninsured due to Republican Governors who refuse to enact Medicaid expansion through the program.

He also spoke about issues such as long term care and elder abuse and often compared details with his career as a three star Admiral in the Navy.  He criticized Sen. Pat Toomey for voting for war then against veterans health care.  You can’t send our young people to war then not take care of them when they return.  That’s the deal we strike with our military, a sacred covenant.  If we can’t afford to care for our veterans once they come home don’t send them in the first place.

Pawlowski, Fleck Shut Down As Feds Close In

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski has suspended his U.S. Senate campaign following a raid on City offices last week by the FBI.  Thursday his political consultant Mike Fleck also shut down his firm H Street Consulting.  Democrats had recruited Pawlowski to run against Joe Sestak in the Senate primary.  Now they, again, have egg on their faces as it appears he’s headed for an indictment.

Allentown just completed the PPL Center, a local convention hall and hotel which hosted the Pennsylvania Democratic Party meeting last month.  It was a horrible venue for such an event and I left early Friday evening and didn’t return because the venue was so bad.  The entire thing was designed to be a launching pad for Pawlowski’s campaign.  Oops.

Fleck has run the Mayor’s political operations for some time and expanded south to Reading where his tendency to ignore election laws and regulations got that Mayor in some hot water recently.  Fleck has never seen an election law he respected.  I always advised candidates going against his clients to expect some last minute illegal shenanigans.  I was never disappointed.

This is yet another black eye for PA Dems who seem to be lost in the woods under Chair Jim Burn.  The decision six years ago to back party switcheroo Arlen Specter blew up in their faces when Sestak beat him in the primary.  In a big GOP sweep year Pat Toomey narrowly beat Sestak for the Senate seat when other Democrats lost in landslides across the Commonwealth.  Then last year they lost Tom Wolf so badly he created a shadow Party apparatus and simply ignored them.  So, in the space of six years the Pennsylvania Democratic Party has completely alienated their two top candidates:  the sitting Governor and their U.S. Senate candidate.  After disrespecting Sestak six years ago they dug their hole deeper by recruiting Pawlowski to challenge him this time.  Oops.  The only seat Ed is going to get next year is likely in a ten by ten cell shared with Fleck.

Joe Sestak Interview

I sat down for an interview this afternoon with US Senate candidate Joe Sestak.  We covered a wide variety of issues but the conversation kept returning to the issue of trust.  Trust in the integrity of our elected officials.  Towards the end of the interview I accidently knocked the video camera and Joe cracked a joke about it.

I’ve known Joe since he was in Congress representing Pennsylvania’s 7th District in suburban Philadelphia.  I covered several of his events then and also his Senate contest six years ago versus Arlen Specter and Toomey.  Enjoy our conversation.

Senate Passes START, 9/11 Responders Bill

Now that a very dear price has been paid to bribe Republicans into doing something for the good of the country progress continues being made in Washington.  The START Treaty was finally ratified with 71 votes (26 Republicans including John “Country First” McCain voted NO) enabling us to send our nuclear arms inspectors back to Russia and to ratchet down the threats to our national security.

These GOP lawmakers were simply shamed by The Daily Show and other media into assisting the heroes of 9/11 who rushed to the WTC site to help then came down with serious illnesses.  Their opposition to the bill was built around its funding which closed some corporate tax loopholes.  To understand the actions of Republicans this fall is to see inside to the real soul of the GOP.  They extorted tax cuts for the rich and then opposed helping heroes because it would stop their rich benefactors from parking their profits overseas to avoid paying taxes.  The soul of the Republican Party is money and its heart is a cold clump of gold with no feeling, compassion or empathy for anything but gold.  The next two years with the GOP, led by a bunch of new committee chairs who represent the very crazies of the right wing, should prove interesting.

Murkowski Part II Rears Its Ugly Head

On June 10th, we all celebrated the defeat of the Murkowski resolution, which would have gutted the EPA's ability to regulate carbon dioxide pollution.  Why we needed to defeat Murkowski was explained well by NRDC Action Fund Executive Director, Peter Lehner, who wrote the following prior to the vote:

EPA's proactive lead in greenhouse gas regulation is a critical aspect of the effort to reduce our rampant, destabilizing, and destructive dependence on foreign and offshore oil.  While the endangerment finding does not, in itself, prescribe regulations, it provides the legal basis for critical standards: EPA's proposed CAFE efficiency standard for light-duty vehicles is projected to save over 455 million barrels per year, and an anticipated standard for heavy-duty vehicles will save billions more.  Stripping EPA of its authority to implement these protections would increase our nation's dependence on oil and send hundreds of billions of dollars overseas.  We cannot afford this big step backward, especially as we watch more oil gush into the Gulf each day.

In the end, the Senate didn't take that “big step backward” on June 10th, as the Murkowski resolution failed by a 47-53 vote.   Many of us probably figured that was the end of this issue, and that the Senate would now move on to passing comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation.  Unfortunately, as is often the case in Washington, DC, it isn't that simple (let alone logical).

Today, clean air and public health are once again under an assault that constitutes, essentially, “Murkowski Part II.”  The Wall Street Journal reported on June 22:

As U.S. Senate lawmakers attempt to determine the fate of energy legislation, an influential Democrat is boosting efforts to suspend a controversial greenhouse-gas rule passed earlier this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

After introducing a bill to impose a two-year halt on the new EPA rule, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from coal-rich West Virginia, is now working to round up supporters for his legislation.

It should go without saying that this is completely unacceptable.  As we all know, the public was outraged at Senator Murkowski's Big Oil Bailout bill.  They understood that this moved the country backward, not forward, and that it was exactly the wrong way to go given the energy and environmental challenges we face.  Through all our efforts, our phone calls and emails (and blog posts and tweets, etc.), we helped to kill Murkowski Part I.  Now, unfortunately, Sen. Jay Rockefeller is pushing Murkowski Part II, yet there's far less attention being paid to this effort than to the Murkowski's EPA Castration Resolution Part I.   People have a lot of other things on their minds, and they thought this fight was over back in June.  But, once they find out that this effort is baaaaack, like a monster in a cheesy horror movie, they are not going to respond positively.  

Of course, why would the public – which overwhelmingly supports taking action to promote clean energy and deal with climate change – ever respond positively to a proposal aimed at throwing away one of our key tools to cut pollution and protect public health?  And why would they respond positively now of all times, as oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico, as record heat waves scorch the United States, and as climate science is strengthened every day that goes by?  Last but not least, why would they support an effort to protect the corporate polluters and not all of us who are being hurt by that pollution?

The bottom line is simple: instead of wasting its time on legislation that will only move the country backwards – towards dirty energy forever – the Senate should be busy passing a bill that moves the country forward towards a bright future of green energy, clean tech jobs, energy security and climate protection.   Once our Senators hear that message loud and clear from all of us, Rockefeller's Murkowski Part II will be rejected by the Senate, just as Murkowski Part I was before it.

Toomey Announces Senate Candidacy

Club For Growth Director Pat Toomey has officially launched his campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Arlen Specter.  The former Congressman from the Lehigh Valley first said he would run for Governor then turned and stabbed fellow conservative radical Peg Luksik in the back by making it a three way race.

Having both Toomey and Luksik helps Specter because are likely to split the Republican vote unless Specter’s numbers in the GOP are so weak he has no hope.  The incumbent has alre4ady started a television ad campaign reminding voters that Toomey was an investment banker who sold derivative default swaps, the financial instruments which ruined the global economy.  As a Congressman Toomey also blocked regulation of the casino-like securities.  Now Specter’s campaign has found their opponent trying to cleanse his resume of the toxic content.

This will prove to be an interesting and entertaining battle to observe.  There will be lots of blood shed in GOP circles.

toomey and his allies are livid over Sen. Specter’s vote for the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act which is pouring millions into Pennsylvania for thousands of projects.  Workers began receiving tax cuts April 1st and today a project benefiting Philadelphia Airport was announced following improvements previously announced for two Pittsburgh airports.

This CNBC video show Toomey discussing his opposition to the plan because it didn’t decrease corporate taxes.  Facts are that few major corporations pay taxes at all and engage in very creative loopholes big enough to sail pirate ships through.  This is classic Republican oratory which flies in the face of facts.  Transportation projects are coming in millions of dollars under budget according to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in a press conference call yesterday.

Construction firms desperate for business are submitting bids which are very competitive and this will free more of the stimulus budget for additional projects.  Toomey continues opposing a plan which is working and working right here for Pennsylvania.

Joe the Plumber Campaigns with Toomey in Harrisburg

Joe the Plumber’s rally last night in Pittsburgh at the Radisson was upstaged by a significantly larger gathering of Employee Free Choice Act supporters including Union members and Keystone Progress.  During the rally America’s favorite fake plumber, Joe associated the Employee Free Choice Act to being “un-American”.  Tell us something Joe, is it un-American for businesses to harass, undermine, and control workers while they decide if they want a Union?  Is it un-American for big businesses to stiff working families with inferior wages and benefits while deferring this burden to the taxpayers?…

No…. Joe refused to answer any of these questions.  Oddly enough, there was quite a large contingent in the audience with Pat Toomey campaign buttons on.  Apparently, Joe the Plumbers sideshow tour will turn into a full blown circus today because while Joe the Plumber continues to rail against progress for working families… he will be joined by none other than Pat (“big business”) Toomey as they campaign in Harrisburg, PA.  

Senator Specter must realize that he needs to snap out of this funk because in disguise it is a political ambush waiting to happen. Instead of maneuvering around it, he appears to be going right into the neo-cons trap. Toomey on the campaign trail today with Joe the Plumber symbolizes how far to the right the Republican party has gone…. and they’re anxious to get rid of Arlen Specter because he threatens their extremist mentality.  Toomey and his cult of followers will quickly fill the hate vaccuum void left when Rick Santorum got defeated by Bob Casey in 2006.  Im predicting, by choosing to “take a stand” against progress for workers… Pat Toomey will quickly fill that void.