Monday, December 27, 2010

Seeing More and More to Like With Joe Walsh in IL-8

Joe Walsh is bound and determined to change Washington, D.C., regardless of who he annoys along the way. And a lot of people seem to be treating that as a breath of fresh air. Walsh is now refusing to take part in the Congressional health care plan, and is fearless about offering his perspective on other issues such as the Bush tax cut compromise, regardless of whether he thinks it might hurt his chances for re-election. He's so serious about not straying from his appointed mission, he reportedly plans to sleep in his office.

Wow, where might we be if all politicians were worried more about doing what was right than protecting their own skins?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas in Hawaii

No, TA is not lucky enough to be spending Christmas in Oahu, but some close friends sent me this picture over the weekend. I was checking my sitemeter and thought that all the hits from Honolulu might be President Obama checking up on the blog, but then I realized who it must be, so I figured the least I could do is post the photo. Thanks guys!
For the rest of us, I hope it cheers everyone up as we dig out from last night's snow... remember, it's bikini weather somewhere.

Tribune Reports In On the 'Middleness' of Senator Kirk

I hope everyone had a very merry Christmas yesterday. It was quite a busy one around the TA household, and thanks given for blessings received and shared, but now it's time to get back to business. This morning the Tribune reports in on what we've been tracking for some weeks, that is, that Senator Kirk is charting a course right of center, but nevertheless down the middle, as Kirk gets going on his Senatorial career. The Trib notes that Kirk will not be up for re-election until 2016, so the Jim DeMints of the world are not going to have a lot of impact on Kirk for a long time, if ever. Who knows what the world will look like in five years anyway?

A lot of people in my professional life know I'm identified with Mark Kirk as a strong supporter, so lots of people like to give me their $0.02 about issues, assuming I can take that right to the Senator (sometimes yes, sometimes no, is the answer to that). But one comment I have been hearing over the past few weeks, from way more than just one person, is that they are hopeful now that the election is over, that Mark Kirk will be the kind of Senator that resembled the Congressman "he used to be." To that I say, yes, I understand what you mean, and I hope so too, but it's up to all of us to make it known that we support people like Mark Kirk who are a vanishing breed of independent, thinking Republicans, and that it's OK not to be a hyper-partisan fire-breathing right-winger if you want to get re-elected. I then usually lecture the person on the perils and sad state of partisan politics in this country until their eyes glaze over and they make an excuse to get away, but I've made my point.

If you like a thoughtful, independent politician, let your friends know about Mark Kirk. Eventually, he'll be up for re-election, and then it will be time to let the dogmatists know that we want to keep our independent-minded Senator around.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Daily Herald Laudes Mark Kirk for Independence (UPDATED)

Newspaper editorial boards tend to like "independent" politicians, since I think in large part editors like to identify themselves with people they believe reflect their values, and especially nowadays, "independence" seems to equate with being a 'rational thinker' who is not overly swayed by loud voices on either the right or the left. That worldview seems abundantly evident in an editorial this morning in the Daily Herald, where the fearless editors give chops to our new Senator Mark Kirk, for already taking the path of reason and bi-partisanship (according to the DH) in just his first few weeks in office:

Barely three weeks into his tenure as a U.S. senator, it’s far too early to wrap Republican Mark Kirk in that mantle, but we have to say he appears to be off to an encouraging start.

Considering the tectonic shift of his rhetoric during the primary and election campaigns, it has been hard to know just what drummer the Highland Park Republican is marching to. In the past week, he’s provided some clarity where it counts most — on the Senate floor — first voting in favor of repealing the military’s Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy on gays and then indicating, again contrary to the dictates of leadership and the swell of his party, he would vote for the START agreement on nuclear disarmament.

On both issues, Kirk’s independence carries special authority because of his own military background. Evident in stories written last weekend by Daily Herald political writer Kerry Lester was the extensive research Kirk conducted before settling on his vote regarding Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He knew what questions to ask and where to go for straight answers. Then, he let those conversations, rather than partisan pressures, govern his political decision. No doubt, similar backgrounding infused his decision regarding the nuclear proliferation treaty with Russia, where again it appears the new senator relied on experience and intuition rather than simple party affiliation to form his opinions.

As with any editorial board, you're only as good as your last vote as a politician, so Kirk has a long way to go to continue to reestablish his reputation for honesty and independence after a grueling campaign, but he seems like he's off to a great start.

In other news, Kirk seems poised to support ratification of the START treaty, especially if Senator John McCain is successful in making a few tweaks to the treaty language before the vote. Kirk and fellow Illinois Senator Dick Durbin are also taking a lead on compelling U.S. EPA to investigate whether we are being exposed to dangerous levels of hexavalent chromium (a/k/a Chromium-6) in our drinking water, which I can tell you as an environmental attorney, is really bad stuff.

UPDATED: Kirk votes "no" on ratifying the START treaty. Guess he was really serious that the McCain amendment was pretty important to him...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Today's Word is... Reapportionment (UPDATED: We're Down One)

Today is the day when we will find out if Illinois will lose one congressional seat due to national population shifts. There are exactly 435 Congressmen, and each Congressional district is made up of approximately 600,000 people. Thus, every 10 years, districts are redrawn according to the census to reflect such population changes. The last time this happened in 2000, two incumbents (Dem. David Phelps and GOPer John Shimkus) got thrown together and Shimkus won, leaving Phelps out on the street. Something similar may happen this time around, if in fact Illinois loses a seat, which seems likely, but is not certain.

Thus, all the polticos in Illinois are holding their breath today waiting to find out if we lose a congressional seat. THEN the knives will come out.

I've heard more predictions about what might/should/can/will happen with respect to the redrawing of the boundaries of the Congressional districts, since the state Dems control the redistricting process, than I really care to go into. Charlie Cook looks at one scenario here.

Republicans have the most to lose, not simply because the Dems control the map, but because they gained the most in the recent election. Dems would love to weaken new Congresscritters like Bob Dold and Joe Walsh, or perhaps force them into the same district to run together, but I've not heard a lot of emphasis on combining the 8th and 10th Districts. The eyes of the powers-that-be appear to be looking mostly elsewhere. And, of course, although we find out today whether we in fact lose a seat, the actual map will not be released for some time yet, and then it's time to release the lawyers, no doubt. This will all be lotsa fun, kids.

UPDATED: It's now official - we've lost a seat. Let the games begin.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Senate Votes to Advance Repeal of DADT: Kirk Votes in Favor of Moving Bill to a Vote; Signals His Support for Repeal (UPDATED: Bill Passes Senate)

UPDATED: Bill to repeal DADT passes Senate, goes to Obama for signature.

The AP is reporting that the Senate has voted to advance the repeal of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT) military policy barring gays serving openly in the military, for a vote this afternoon at 3:00 p.m. EST. Our new Senator from Illinois, Mark Kirk, joined a handful of other Republicans in voting to advance the measure to the Senate floor for a vote. One would anticipate that after much prevarication on Kirk's part, he will now vote in favor of repealing the DADT policy, in the wake of the report from the military which concluded that allowing openly gay service members would not significantly affect military effectiveness. Notably, Kirk broke with John McCain, who led the opposition to repeal. More from Politico here.

Here is Senator Kirk's statement (h/t Illinois Review):

Senator Kirk Statement in Favor of S. 4023, the Collins-Lieberman Bill:

"Over the last several months, I urged Congress to wait for the considered judgment of our uniformed military through the Joint Chiefs of Staff's report before changing the policy. If we are to eliminate one military personnel policy, we must have a new one that is easily understood to guide the First Sergeants and Navy Chiefs who really run our squadrons, squads and ships.

I very carefully read the Joint Chiefs of Staff report and met at length with Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead. Following their exhaustive and considered military judgment, I support the Joint Chief's recommendation to implement the repeal of the current policy once the battle effectiveness of the forces is certified and proper preparations are complete. The legislation before us provides our military leaders with the time they requested to change the policy. Without this legislation, Admiral Roughead warned that courts, like California's federal courts, would issue further confusing stop and start orders to our military, causing chaos in our military recruitment and retention programs. In the end, the Constitution charges the Congress with setting military policy and the Executive branch with implementing it. The legislation containing the recommendations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will remove the various orders of conflicting and uncertain court litigation from our military, allowing uniformed leaders to once again effectively manage our national defense. As a 21-year Navy Reserve officer, I believe it is important for military leaders, not federal judges, to run our armed forces."

Kirk Scorecard: For those who seem obsessed on both sides of the aisle with keeping track of whether Kirk will toe the party line or break with the GOP, Kirk voted today against the DREAM act, which was sponored by the 'other' Illinois Senator, Dick Durbin, and which bill failed to pass.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Catching Up in the 10th District (UPDATED)

Hello folks - we've been on a bit of a hiatus over the past week, but after a grueling campaign season, it was time for a little mental health break. For a while, I think we may be posting a little less regularly through Christmas, but we'll see how it goes.

For now, let's look at how things are going in and around the 10th District. Our newly-minted Congressman, Bob Dold, is getting off to a good start in advance of his January swearing-in. I think I burned all my domestic political chits when I went out for Mark Kirk's swearing-in in late November, so I will have to miss that one. But I know many who will be going, including TA stalwart "Baxter & Beau's Mom," so maybe she'll send me some pix after tracking down FOKLAES at the Capitol Club. Bob, a small business-owner and avowed fiscal conservative, landed a spot on the Financial Services Committee, although Pioneer Press reports that it was not his first choice.

As his chief of staff, Dold hired Eric Burgeson, who was most recently vice president of government affairs at the lobbying firm "BGR Group." Pioneer reports that Dold met Berguson in 1996, and both men worked on then-Sen. Bob Dole's presidential campaign. Burgeson definitely knows his way around Washington, having held numerous advisory positions, and no doubt will help Bob navigate the treacherous waters.

Meanwhile, it looks like Senator Mark Kirk and our other Congressman Joe Walsh are out there meeting with constituents and preparing to get down to business. Indeed, as we have been reporting, Kirk was getting down to business within hours of his swearing-in, and hasn't hardly paused for breath since. Most recently, Kirk voted against repeal of DADT and in favor of maintaining all of the Bush tax cuts, which ought to make conservatives happy, although they are generally sparse with their praise for Kirk even when he votes their way.

Finally, it's been fun lately to watch the helpless thrashing about on the floor (figuratively speaking) over at Ellen's, now that she's determined that President Obama sold her and fellow moonbats a bill of goods, and can't be trusted as a visionary liberal leader. In fact, her latest blog post even echoes Sarah Palin's snarky criticism of Obama as "Mr. Hopey-changey." Wow, what a difference two years makes.

Last but not least, I can now officially turn off my Google Alert for Dan Seals. He's pretty much finished, as far as political relevance in the 10th District. All I was getting for the last few weeks was references to the deceased country/pop music star of the same name anyway. Mission accomplished.

UPDATED: I know I promised to stop fixating on Dan Seals, but I can't resist pointing out that Seals was just lauded by the National Journal for its "Time to Hang it Up" Award:

Time to Hang It Up: Illinois Democrat Dan Seals, for losing for the third straight time for the seat of now-Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill. In 2006, he fell short in a superb Democratic year for Kirk’s Democratic-leaning seat. In 2008, he ran down-ballot from President Obama—who cut an ad for his campaign—and still couldn’t win. With Kirk running for the Senate and Republicans privately pessimistic of holding the seat, Seals managed to do the impossible: lose three straight times with three favorable opportunities.


We also want to note that the National Journal awarded our new 8th District Congressman Joe Walsh something much more complimentary:

Most Bang for the Buck Award: Rep.-elect Joe Walsh, R-Ill., who eked out a 290-vote victory over Rep. Melissa Bean, D-Ill., after spending just $563,000 in a district where buying broadcast ads costs millions. He can thank Democrats for overlooking him, not airing ads attacking him, and buying expensive air time blasting GOP nominees in neighboring districts.

Monday, December 6, 2010

David Stolman and Ann Maine Take Lake County Leadership Positions (UPDATED)

As we figured, David Stolman has been elected Chairman of the Lake County Board (replacing Suzi Schmidt, who won the office of State Senator for the 31st District), and Ann Maine is the new Lake County Forest Preserve President. I'm on the run today, but Russell Lissau at the Daily Herald will fill us in on the details.

Congrats to David and Ann - I think the county board members have made a great choice in each case.

UPDATED 12/7/10 7:00 a.m.: The Lake County News-Sun has a good article up this morning, with a giant picture of Stolman splashed on its front page in the print edition. Read about the tradition of "passing the shillelagh."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Obama vs. Kirk: Past and Present Illinois Senators Deliver Dueling Radio Addresses (UPDATED x2)

Greg Hinz of Crain's Chicago Business is reporting that Illinois' newest U.S. Senator, Mark Kirk, will deliver the Republican response to President Barack Obama's weekly radio address tomorrow morning.

The irony here on several levels is rather fascinating, since the seat Kirk holds now was, of course, Obama's, and Obama did everything he could to save Dem nominee Alexi Giannoulias from letting it slip to a Republican, to no avail.

Pretty cool.

UPDATE: Here's the video of Senator Kirk giving the response to President Obama's weekly radio address:

Here is the full transcript:

“Hello, I’m Senator Mark Kirk of Illinois.

“Last month, the American people sent a clear message to Washington: spend less, borrow less and tax less to put America back to work.

“Unfortunately, too many in Washington want to continue the reckless tax and spend policies of the past. They ignore the warning signs of more debt, taxes and inflation. They embrace wasteful government spending and pork-barrel earmarks. And they think a new massive tax hike on the U.S. economy is exactly what the American people need.

“The current leaders of Congress should not move forward with plans that were just rejected by the American people. These leaders should not raise taxes and risk another recession. Instead, Congress should reduce spending and prevent another tax hike on American taxpayers.

“Americans already pay some of the highest taxes in the world. By raising taxes in order to fuel higher spending, we threaten to restart the recession, pushing millions of Americans out of work.

“Right now, families and small business owners are scratching their heads asking one simple question – what will my tax rate be next month?

“Taxpayers don’t know what their personal income tax rates will be come January 1st.

“Family business employers don’t know what the death tax will be.

“Investors and small businesses don’t know what the capital gains rate will be.

“Their uncertainty hurts our economy. It’s unfair and short-sighted.

“Congress should set its highest priority on preventing the massive tax hike currently scheduled to hit our economy on January 1st.

“Meanwhile, our mounting debts pose a clear and present danger to our future. It’s time to cast aside our partisan differences and work across the aisle to solve this problem.

“Congress should set an example by ending pork-barrel earmarks and cutting its own budget. This week, Senate Democrats rejected a proposal to end wasteful earmark spending. Their decision was disappointing and disconnected from the American people.

“In the weeks ahead, Republicans and Democrats should enact bipartisan solutions to cut federal spending like a presidential line-item veto, a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution and a new procedure to ensure spending reductions actually happen.

“In the 1980s, President Reagan’s bipartisan Grace Commission set the standard for serious oversight by identifying federal spending that would add little to our nation's growth, but much to its debt. Marrying a new Grace Commission with the authority to submit a proposal to Congress for a straight up or down vote would lead to actual spending reductions. This proposal is in my first Senate bill – the Spending Control Act.

“Harvard economic historian Niall Ferguson warned that the decline of a great power is clear when a country pays more to its money lenders than its army. We face that year when interest payments on our debt tops our defense budget as soon as 2016. It’s clear, we need to cut spending to avoid a bankrupt future for our kids and our country.

“I believe that America’s best days still lie ahead of us. If we correct our economic policy by focusing on growth and spending discipline, the sky will once again be the limit for young Americans.

“Spend less, borrow less and tax less to put America back to work. That’s what we heard from the American people last month – and that’s what we should expect from our leaders today.

“May God bless you, your families during this holiday season, and may God bless the United States of America.”

UPDATE x2: It was pointed out to me that VP Joe Biden actually gave the President's weekly address this week, obstensively because Obama was in Afghanistan visiting the troops. I don't know why he still couldn't have done it, but whatever. Here's a link if anyone feels like watching Joe.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Newly-Minted U.S. Senator Mark Kirk Off to a Running Start (UPDATED)

I can already tell we're going to have trouble keeping up with new U.S. Senator Mark Kirk. Within just a few hours of being sworn in Monday night, he returned to the Senate floor and voted in favor of Dick Durbin's food safety bill. Kirk was joined by about 15 other Republicans on that vote, but already some are wringing their hands over Kirk's commitment to bi-partisan government. Whether Kirk will have cause to regret his refusal to run in lockstep with conservatives in six years remains to be seen. All I can say is that we talked about this issue a little during Monday night's festivities in D.C., and it's worth pointing out that we have no idea what the world is even going to look like in six years, much less flipping out over votes cast in the first few days of Kirk's Senate career. So everyone should just take a breath. (As an aside, it appears the food safety bill may need a do-over in the Senate, according to several sources, assuming the House doesn't block it).

On the other hand, Kirk broke pretty clearly against Durbin, his Illinois colleague, and recommitted himself to his long-standing campaign against earmarks. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has come around on this. Durbin argued that recent reforms now make earmarks more acceptable, but Kirk wasn't buying it. Maybe this will make the right-wingers a little more happy. As we pointed out time and time again, Alexi would have been right in Durbin's back pocket on this vote.

For good measure, Kirk also has already introduced his first bill, the "Spending Control Act of 2010," which would establish a revamped Grace Commission, that was originally formed in 1982 by President Ronald Reagan to investigate government waste and identify programs that could be eliminated with an up or down vote of the full House and Senate. Kirk talks about the bill and other issues (including a letter he just wrote to President Obama) with Greta Van Susterens on Fox News (h/t Lynn Sweet).

Wow, you almost wonder how Kirk is going to be able to catch his breath with all this activity.

You know, our team won, and we ought to follow Mark's lead and be gracious winners, but I can't help but smirk and think that if Alexi had won, his first priority would have been lining up hoops with Obama, and then, if we were lucky, move on to trying to find North Korea on a map. 'Nuf 'Sed.

In 10th District News: I spoke with Congressman Bob Dold in Washington DC on Monday, and he is busy lining up his DC and District teams. More on that later. Dold is also mentioned in a Politico article on the freshman Congressmen and where their income comes from.

UPDATED 12/2/10 8:50 a.m.: I missed this yesterday, but Senator Kirk also signed on to a letter from Senate Republicans to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid that sets up a fillibuster of any liberal agenda items that Reid may hope to push through in the lame-duck session if the Bush Tax Cuts and death tax issues are not fixed, pronto. h/t Illinois Review.