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Leo W Gerard: Senate GOP Disses American Voters

Image by Gage Skidmore (CC-Flikr)

Image by Gage Skidmore (CC-Flikr)

Senate Republicans are flipping off the President of the United States by refusing to conduct a confirmation hearing for his nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court.

By doing this, the majority party in the Senate is saying it doesn’t acknowledge that Barack Obama is the legitimate, twice-elected U.S. President with the right and duty under the U.S. Constitution to nominate justices to fill vacancies on the high court.

Just as significantly, by doing this, Republicans are refusing to accept the decision of 65 million Americans who went to the polls in November of 2012 and re-elected Barack Obama as U.S. President. President Obama is the first commander in chief since 1956 to win 51 percent of the vote twice. Republicans are thumbing their noses at those citizens, the majority, who voted for President Obama. The GOP is expressing deep derision for the American democratic process by obstructing the duly elected President of the United States from fulfilling his Constitutional obligations.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell ~ Image by DonkeyHotey/Flickr

Before the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s body was cold, truly, less than an hour after his death was announced, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell placed self-serving politics above grace, sympathy and constitutionality. Forsaking public expression of condolence to Scalia’s widow and nine children, McConnell announced instead that Republicans would prevent the sitting President, who at that point still had a year minus three weeks and three days left to serve in office, from naming a replacement for Scalia.

Rather than “I wish to send my deepest sympathies,” McConnell said:

“The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

That’s because Republicans don’t like the guy the American people used their voice to choose to be the current president. So Republicans want to give the American people another chance to do what Republicans want them to do.

Ignoring McConnell’s attempt at power-usurping, President Obama last week nominated Chief Judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Merrick B. Garland to fill Scalia’s vacancy.

Part of the reason for President Obama’s choice is that he knows some Republicans like Garland. Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, who sits on the Judiciary Committee, voted to confirm Garland’s appointment to the appeals court in 1997 and said in 2010 that Judge Garland would be a “consensus nominee” to the Supreme Court who would be confirmed with bipartisan support. Earlier this month, Sen. Hatch said that if President Obama wanted a real moderate, he would nominate Judge Garland, but predicted, wrongly as it turns out, that the President wouldn’t do it.

Despite Hatch’s prior support for Garland, the Senator has not called on McConnell to schedule the confirmation hearings that are the next step in a normal nomination process. No, like McConnell, Hatch wants to wait to see if he likes the voice of the American people in November better than when they spoke in 2008 and 2012.

The assertion from McConnell and fellow Republicans that the “American people should have a voice” is doubly duplicitous coming from the party that has spent the past five years trying every trick in the book to deny large swaths of Americans their right to express their voice at the ballot box with all manner of voter-suppression legislation.

It is Republicans trying to make students and old people and poor people jump through ridiculous and onerous hoops to exercise their sacred right as citizens to vote. Apparently Republicans don’t want to hear these people’s voices, probably because so many are the voices of Democrats.

The truth about this let-the-American-people-have-a-voice gambit slipped out of the mouths of indiscreet Republicans after President Obama nominated the moderate Judge Garland. Hatch and Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake are among the GOPers who revealed that they might hold confirmation hearings for Judge Garland after the Presidential election.

Not if a Republican is elected, of course. But if the American people choose Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton, either of whom is likely to nominate someone far more liberal than Judge Garland, then the Republicans would immediately go for the moderate Garland.

If the GOP Senators did that, they would be ignoring the voice of the American people – people who had just voted for someone more liberal. That would be the voice of the American people that McConnell proclaimed was so very, very important before Justice Scalia’s body was cold.

The court McConnell is playing with is crucial to working people. Before Justice Scalia died, for example, there was every expectation that his conservative bloc was going to outlaw fair share fees paid by workers in the public sector who choose not to join their union but who benefit from services provided by collective bargaining. This is a case called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association.

Private sector unions like mine knew that conservative groups would come after us next. Their intent is to starve workers out. If right wingers and their corporate backers can deprive labor organizations of fees for services provided, then workers won’t have the money they need for good research before collective bargaining or good lawyers to represent them in grievances against employers. Then big corporations win every time. And workers fall further and further behind.

Now, however, Friedrichs will likely end in a 4-4 stalemate, reverting back to the lower court ruling, where the conservatives eagerly agreed to lose in their excessive hurry to get their appeal before their sure-bet Scalia. In the end, they outsmarted themselves.

The U.S. Constitution states that the President “Shall nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint. . . judges of the Supreme Court.” It doesn’t say, “except when the President is a Democrat and the majority in the Senate is Republican.” It doesn’t say, “except in Presidential election years.”

In fact, the Senate has confirmed six Supreme Court justices in election years since 1912. In the most recent case, when Republican President Ronald Reagan nominated Anthony Kennedy, a majority Democrat Senate confirmed him, unanimously, in the Presidential election year of 1988.

Antonin Scalia prided himself in being a strict Constitutionalist. If McConnell wants to stop the late justice from spinning in his grave, then the majority leader needs to order the Senate to perform its Constitutionally-mandated job by conducting a confirmation hearing for Judge Garland followed by a vote on his nomination to the Supreme Court.

Attempting To Rally TEA Party Base, Ayotte Is Endorsed By Ovide Lamontagne

Ayotte Campaign Lurches Rightward With Endorsement From Anti-Women’s Health Extremist, Failed Candidate Ovide Lamontagne

Lamontagne Also Opposes Public Kindergarten, Believes New Hampshire Should Opt Out of Medicare

Concord, N.H. – Today, Kelly Ayotte’s turbulent campaign made another lurch to the extreme right by securing the endorsement of failed perennial candidate and anti-women’s health extremist Ovide Lamontagne.

Not only does Lamontagne believe that women should not have the right to make their own healthcare decisions, even in cases of rape or when a pregnant woman’s life is at risk, but he actually advised the organization behind the misleading video smear campaign against Planned Parenthood. 

And women’s health isn’t the only issue on which Lamontagne’s views are far out-of-step with New Hampshire voters. He opposed bringing public kindergarten statewide and believes New Hampshire should opt out of Medicare and it should be turned into a block grant system. 

“Kelly Ayotte’s receiving endorsements from extremists like Ovide Lamontagne is a sure sign that her campaign turbulence has her playing defense—and a very shaky defense at that,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Press Secretary Melissa Miller. “There’s a reason Lamontagne has lost every office he’s run for, and that should have Ayotte very concerned for her chances in November—New Hampshire voters don’t take kindly to anti-women’s health extremists playing politics with access to needed care.”

New Poll Shows 66% Of Republicans Oppose The TPP, Spelling Possible Trouble For Ayotte

Former NH State Senator Jim Rubens Challenges
Sen. Ayotte to a debate on American worker wages

A poll released today by the conservative group Americans for Limited Government and independent pollster Pat Caddell shocked the establishment about voters’ attitudes on the 2,000 page Trans-Pacific Trade Partnership agreement.  The shocker: 66% of Republicans oppose the TPP.  Some highlights from the results: 

– 69% of Republicans say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate for U.S. Congress who promises to put a stop to the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

– 63% of Republicans oppose an effort to pass TPP in a special session of Congress.

– 85% GOP voters agree that “political leaders are more interested in protecting their power and privilege than doing what is right for the American people.”

– 76% of Republicans say “the same political elite who have been rigging the political process in Washington are the same ones that have been rigging trade deals that hurt Americans, but benefit themselves.” 

-77% of Americans oppose a Republican leadership effort to vote on TPP in a lame-duck session.

– An astoundingly low 4 percent of GOP voters think that free trade deals have been “more of a benefit to the U.S.”.  

Jim Rubens issued the following statement in response to the poll results: 

“Since the first drafts were leaked in 2014, I have publicly opposed the TPP.  I am firmly on the side of American workers.  It’s time for the U.S. Senate to take the side of American workers and against the crony capitalists and their bought-and-paid-for politicians who want to export American jobs and drive down American wages.

“Conservative Republicans are way out front in opposition to the TPP.  It’s unfortunate that Sen. Kelly Ayotte not only supports this crony capitalist agreement, but she voted last May to give President Obama fast-track trade authority to grease it through Congress.  New Hampshire is among the top 10 states most hurt by our trade deficit with China, having lost over 22,000 jobs over the decade ending 2011.  It’s clear that voters think that Washington career politicians are selling them out.

“Many people have referred to the TPP as ‘NAFTA on steroids’ because this deal benefits other countries at the expense of American workers who are being replaced by cheap foreign labor.  85% of GOP voters have lost faith in the Washington political class because of their blatant crony capitalism.  I’m running for senate to give voters a way to stop this wholesale sell out of the American worker.”

In the press conference discussing the poll results, pollster Pat Caddell predicts there will be significant primary losses based on this issue.  

Rubens challenges Sen. Ayotte to a debate on TPP and how to get American wages rising again.

Hassan Blasts Ayotte On Refusing SCOTUS Appointment In New Video

In what is quickly becoming a pivotal issue in the 2016 US Senate elections across the country, Senator Ayotte has taken a firm stance against approving a new nominee to the Supreme Court.  

Boston.com writes that, “the New Hampshire senator’s decision to align herself with her Republican colleagues in refusing to take action on a potential Supreme Court nominee, according to a poll out Wednesday, is not helping her chances. At a two-to-one rate, Granite Staters say Ayotte’s stance on the issue make them less likely to vote for her, according to a new Public Policy Polling poll.”

Firing back at Ayotte, Maggie for NH today released a new web video highlighting that Senator Ayotte has failed a critical test by putting her party leaders before her constitutional duty and refusing to even consider a Supreme Court nominee.  

“The people of New Hampshire expect their United States Senators to be independent-minded problem solvers willing to rise above their party, especially at moments of great consequence for our nation,” said Maggie for NH Campaign Manager Marc Goldberg. “This Supreme Court vacancy is one of those rare moments in Kelly Ayotte’s career – a true test of her independence and her leadership qualities – and by siding with her party over justice for Granite Staters and Americans, Ayotte has failed that test.”


Maggie Hassan Goes On MSNBC To Blast Republicans For Obstructing Justice

The race for the US Senate seat currently occupied by Sen. Kelly Ayotte is quickly heating up this week as news that the Senate Republicans plan block President Obama from nominating a new Supreme Court Justice.

Governor Maggie Hassan went on MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell Reports to blast Senator Kelly Ayotte for threatening to obstruct the Presidential appointment of a new Supreme Court Justice after the sudden death of Justice Scalia.

“The President has a constitutional obligation to nominate and the Senate has an obligation to advise and consent, ultimately decide whether to confirm the nominee.

And that they would immediately say that they just don’t want to do their jobs, speaks to the frustration that the people of our country and in New Hampshire have with the dysfunction in Washington. And I’m very concerned that my opponent is a part of that dysfunction.

…What I think everyone in Washington should start focusing on is what matters to hardworking Americans, not to the political party, and not to the special interests who are calling the shots right now in Washington.” 


Senator Ayotte’s Horrible Record Of Opposing Paycheck Fairness

Obama Signs Lilly Ledbetter (Jerry Nadler FLIKR)

Obama Signs Lilly Ledbetter Act (Jerry Nadler FLIKR)

Last week we celebrated the 7th anniversary of President Obama signing the Lilly Ledbetter Act to fight the gender wage inequality. Some, including my own Senator, Kelly Ayotte, are still fighting against the hard working women of the Granite State by opposing legislation to close the gender wage gap.

According to the National Women’s Law Center, women make 76 cents for every dollar earned by men in New Hampshire. The numbers are worse for minority women: African American women earn 65 cents and Latinas 70 cents for every dollar earned by white, non-Hispanic men.

“The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act marked a critical step forward in the fight to ensure women receive equal pay for equal work, but the fight is far from over,” said NH Democratic Party Press Secretary Melissa Miller. “Women are still paid an average of 79 cents on the dollar for full-time work compared to men, while politicians like Kelly Ayotte stand on the wrong side of progress by obstructing efforts to close the wage gap to appease their special interest backers like the Koch Brothers.”

Kelly Against Paycheck FairnessIn June 2012, Ayotte voted against a procedural vote to move forward with S. 3220, Paycheck Fairness Act, a bill that would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 (also known as the Equal Pay Act), “to revise remedies for, enforcement of, and exceptions to prohibitions against sex discrimination in the payment of wages.” The Paycheck Fairness Act would require a clarification in reasons for differences in wages paid to men and women doing the same work. The motion was rejected 52-47.

Ayotte’s opposition to equal pay legislation does not stop there. In April of 2014, Ayotte voted to block a “bill that would require employers to demonstrate that wage gaps between men and women with similar qualifications and in similar jobs have a business justification. It would prohibit employers from retaliating against employees who share salary information and authorize the Labor secretary to seek additional compensatory or punitive damages in a sex discrimination action. The bill also would require the Labor Department to provide training and collect wage information,” wrote CQ magazine.

And again in September 2014 , Ayotte voted against a bill to strengthen federal equal pay laws for women.

“Yet again, Kelly Ayotte has shown that she could not be more out of touch when it comes to the issues that matter to women and families. Time and time again, she’s voted against the wellbeing of New Hampshire women—and her record of voting to block gender equality in pay is especially shameful,” said Marcy Stech, communications director for EMILY’s List. 

Just to show how much she cared Senator Ayotte voted against Paycheck Fairness legislation multiple times and in turn submitted her own legislation to make the problem worse.

“Ayotte voted against Paycheck Fairness a whole bunch of times. And then, just for kitten-heel kicks, she and some of her fellow lady Republicans introduced their own adorable “Equal Pay” bill, which wouldn’t actually strengthen equal pay laws so much as weaken them by creating extra loopholes for employers. It’s like the same thing, only different,” wrote Kaili Joy Gray for Wonkette. 

“It is troubling that Senator Ayotte has gone so far out of her way to oppose this basic economic equality – voting four times against the Paycheck Fairness Act, which would help ensure that women can earn equal pay for equal work. And even worse, she is now trying to cover up her record with a sham bill rife with loopholes that would continue allowing employers to prevent the sharing of salary information and keep women from determining when they are being paid less than their male counterparts.,” said Maggie for NH Campaign Treasurer Kathy Sullivan. 

“In November, New Hampshirites have a clear choice to elect a true champion in Maggie Hassan, who will move forward solutions for New Hampshire women – and make sure that they are finally paid what they deserve,” said Stech.

“Lilly Ledbetter took her fight for equality and fairness all the way, powering through opposition to change the laws that held her back. And so will women across the Granite State. New Hampshire women deserve a Senator who will fight for progress and economic security for their families, not a Senator who hides behind sham legislation while standing in the way of equality and fairness,” added Miller.

Kelly Ayotte (Again) Is Only New England Senator To Oppose Clean Water Protections

waves water lake by -jonathan-beanCONCORD – As Kelly Ayotte continues her undisguised attempt to mislead Granite Staters about her record of voting to undermine New Hampshire’s environment and beautiful natural resources, Ayotte voted this morning to oppose efforts to protect clean drinking water for millions of Americans. Ayotte was the only New England Senator to oppose these important clean water protections.

Try as she might to fool voters, Ayotte’s dismal environmental record speaks loud and clear: Ayotte has voted with the Koch Brothers 94% of the time on the environment, including voting multiple times to protect tax breaks for Big Oil and voting to block the Environmental Protection Agency from ever having the ability to reduce greenhouse gases. And Ayotte’s record has earned her a lifetime score of 23% from the League of Conservation Voters – even worse than Scott Brown’s lifetime score of 38%.

“It’s deeply troubling that Kelly Ayotte was the only New England Senator to vote against against important efforts to preserve our beautiful natural resources and protect clean drinking water for millions of Americans,” said Maggie for NH Communications Director Aaron Jacobs. “But siding with corporate special interests over New Hampshire’s environment is nothing new for Ayotte, who has fought to protect tax breaks for Big Oil and votes with the Koch Brothers 94% of the time on environmental issues.” 

“Governor Maggie Hassan has always been a strong champion for New Hampshire’s environment, and in the Senate, she will fight to put the Granite State’s beautiful natural resources first, not special interests,” added Jacobs. 

Trump Takes Page From Kelly Ayotte Playbook With Sarah Palin Endorsement

Concord, N.H. — As Donald Trump works to maintain his status as the New Hampshire Republican frontrunner, he’s taking a familiar page from the Kelly Ayotte playbook: securing Sarah Palin’s endorsement.

Back in the summer of 2010, the Nashua Telegraph reported that Palin endorsed Kelly Ayotte for Senate, posting on Facebook: “It’s my honor to endorse a Granite State “mama grizzly” … “New Hampshire is lucky to have Kelly Ayotte as a candidate for the U.S. Senate this year.”

Kelly Ayotte With Sarah Palin

“Kelly Ayotte owes her 2010 election in no small part to Sarah Palin’s far-right endorsement that helped deliver the Republican primary for Ayotte, and Granite Staters should be deeply concerned that Palin is now seeking to deliver the New Hampshire Republican primary for Trump too,” said Maggie for NH Communications Director Aaron Jacobs. “As Kelly Ayotte repeatedly doubles down on her pledge to support Trump if he’s the nominee and even refuses to criticize Trump for his dangerous and outrageous comments, it’s hardly surprising that Ayotte’s top 2010 campaign surrogate Sarah Palin is now endorsing Trump as well.”

Is Maggie Hassan Fundraising With A Koch Brothers Lobbyist?

This morning, this headline came across my desk: Hassan Raises Money with Koch Lobbyist

After seeing this, and reading the article, I was still not convinced that our Maggie would be taking money from a Koch brothers lobbyist.  So I decided to dig a little deeper.

The entire article is based on the fact that Maggie attended a fundraiser hosted in part by David A Castagnetti. The Free Beacon connected the fact that Castagnetti’s lobbying firm lobbied for Koch Industries from 2007-2013.  The also say that Castagnetti was named as the Koch Industries’ lobbyist, but offer no proof of the claim.

The fact is that lobbying firms like Mehlman, Vogel and Castagnetti, are major players in Washington and lobby for dozens of groups every year.  In 2011, Mehlman, Vogel and Castagnetti, lobbied for nearly sixty different corporations, including Koch Industries.  More recently Castagnetti’s firm has lobbied for Everytown For Gun Safety and Sandy Hook Promise.   

Another fact that the Free Beacon conveniently omitted is that Castagnetti has been Chief of Staff to Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont),  Rep. Norman Mineta (D-Calif.) and Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.).  Casagnetti describes himself as a “Democrat who understands how to talk to business.”

Castagnetti also has a long history of working with, and for, prominent democrats.  This includes fundraising.  Open Secrets notes that in this cycle Castagnetti has given $80,000 in campaign donations and $75,000 of that to democrats.

Let me just recap this a little more accurately than the Free Beacon.

Maggie Hassan attended a fundraiser, hosted by proven and prominent democrat, who also happens to one of top lobbyist in Washington D.C., and has lobbied on behalf of hundreds of different groups from Adobe to Yahoo.

If anything this highlights the convoluted nature of our political lobbying system and how it is intertwined with campaign fundraising.

Ayotte Fact Check: Opposing Efforts To Help Working Families

Kelly Ayotte (Gage Skidmore Flickr CC)

Kelly Ayotte (Gage Skidmore Flickr CC)

Concord, N.H. – As part of the New Hampshire Democratic Party’s “Ayotte Fact Check” accountability project, we will be highlighting a different area of Kelly Ayotte’s true Washington record every day this week.

Today’s focus is Ayotte’s record of opposing efforts to help working families.

“In Washington, Kelly Ayotte has repeatedly voted to put lobbyists and special interests before New Hampshire’s hard-working families, and Granite Staters deserve better,” said New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair Raymond Buckley. “From saying that guaranteed paid leave should be left to the whim of employers to voting against equal pay for women, Ayotte has continually voted directly against the interests of New Hampshire families.”

“Despite Ayotte’s attempts to cover up her record with sham bills that have nice titles but would actually do damage to New Hampshire families, voters will see right through her transparent attempts to save her political career and hold her accountable for her real Washington record,” added Buckley.

See below for the facts on Kelly Ayotte’s record of opposing efforts to help working families:

Ayotte said she “certainly” thinks guaranteed paid leave is “an issue that should be addressed by employers rather than mandated by the government.”

And she followed up those comments by introducing a sham paid leave bill with Mitch McConnell that would actually force workers to choose between overtime pay and leave time, a proposal which experts have called an “empty promise” that “would give workers less flexibility and less pay.” Others have pointed out it’s a “Trojan horse” that means “ripping off workers.”

When asked why she voted against equal pay for women, Ayotte said, “The reason that I voted against that specific bill is that, I looked at it, and there were already existing laws that need to be enforced.”

So instead of supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act, Ayotte introduced a deeply flawed equal pay bill that creates loopholes for employers to prohibit discussion of pay.

For additional facts about Ayotte’s record on women’s economic issues, see here.

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