111th (UPDATED X3)

The 111th Congress is convening for the first time today; Daily Kos has a rundown of each chamber’s schedules:

HOUSE:

House Meets at… 12:00 p.m. to convene the 111th Congress
Last Vote Predicted… 7:00 p.m.

Quorum Call. There will be a recorded Quorum Call vote at approximately 12:00 p.m. following the Pledge of Allegiance.

Election of the Speaker of the House. This election is held by manual roll call vote, with each Member called individually, in alphabetical order, by the clerk.

Swearing-in of Members. After the Speaker is elected, the Oath of Office is administered to Members and Delegates.

H.Res. 5 House Rules Package for the 111th Congress (Rep. Slaughter – Subject to a Rule – Begin Consideration)

SENATE:

Convenes: 12:00 noon
Swearing in of newly elected and reelected senators.

Following the swearing in, senators are encouraged to remain on the floor to establish a quorum. If a quorum is not present, there would be a roll call vote. If a quorum is established, no vote would be necessary.

The new House rules package will reform the motion to recommit, which has been abused by the Republican minority to basically kill legislation:

But Democratic leaders are definitely taking a hard look at preventing the minority party from scoring easy political points with motions to recommit a bill to committee with instructions to make contentious language changes and then report it back to the House “promptly.” In the outgoing Congress, “promptly’’ has meant an indefinite hold, because committees were not willing to adopt poison-pill amendments sponsored by the minority.

[…]

Republicans would retain the right to offer two other motions to recommit — either without instructions for policy changes, or with instructions to make changes “forthwith,” or immediately, meaning that the bill stays on the floor and moves to passage with revisions.

“Republicans will still get a chance to make motions to recommit. But they would not be allowed to just kill bills in a way that was never intended,” said one Democratic aide.

[Emphasis mine]

In addition, only 98 Senators will be sworn in today since seats in Illinois and Minnesota are still in contention.

Vice President-elect Joe Biden hasn’t resigned his Senate seat yet, so he will be sworn in alongside all the other Senators; this is the first time since 1961 that the sitting Vice President has sworn in his successor.

(Also, “Senator Vice President-elect Joe Biden” sounds pretty cool, and I’ve always been a fan of “Governor Howard Dean, M.D.”)

UPDATE: You can watch live video from the House and Senate.

UPDATE II: Surprising nobody, the House just voted 255 to 174 to keep Nancy Pelosi the Speaker of the House.

UPDATE III: Here are the freshmen members of the House:

Democrats (32):

John Adler, N.J.; John Boccieri, Ohio; Bobby Bright, Ala.; Gerald Connolly, Va.; Kathleen Dahlkemper, Pa.; Steve Driehaus, Ohio; Alan Grayson, Fla.; Parker Griffith, Ala.; Deborah Halvorson, Ill.; Martin Heinrich, N.M.; Jim Himes, Conn.; Mary Jo Kilroy, Ohio; Ann Kirkpatrick, Ariz.; Larry Kissell, N.C.; Suzanne Kosmas, Fla.; Frank Kratovil Jr., Md.; Ben R. Lujan, N.M.; Michael McMahon, N.Y.; Daniel Maffei, N.Y.; Betsy Markey, Colo.; Eric Massa, N.Y.; Walt Minnick, Idaho; Glenn Nye, Va.; Thomas Perriello, Va.; Gary Peters, Mich.; Chellie Pingree, Maine; Jared Polis, Colo.; Mark Schauer, Mich.; Kurt Schrader, Ore.; Harry Teague, N.M.; Dina Titus, Nev.; Paul Tonko, N.Y.

Republicans (22):

Steve Austria, Ohio; Anh “Joseph” Cao, La.; Bill Cassidy, La.; Jason Chaffetz, Utah; Mike Coffman, Colo.; John Fleming, La.; Brett Guthrie, Ky.; Gregg Harper, Miss.; Duncan Hunter, Calif.; Lynn Jenkins, Kan.; Leonard Lance, N.J.; Christopher Lee, N.Y.; Blaine Luetkemeyer, Mo.; Cynthia Lummis, Wyo.; Tom McClintock, Calif.; Pete Olson, Texas; Erik Paulsen, Minn.; Bill Posey, Fla.; Phil Roe, Tenn.; Thomas Rooney, Fla.; Aaron Schock, Ill.; Glenn Thompson, Pa.

Delegates (2):

Pedro Pierluisi, D-Puerto Rico; Gregorio Sablan, I-Northern Mariana Islands.

And today the Senate welcomed Mark Begich (D-AK), Kay Hagan (D-NC), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH),  Mark Udall (D-CO), Tom Udall (D-NM), Mark Warner (D-VA), Mike Johanns (R-NE) and Jim Risch (R-ID).

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DNC Chairman Tim Kaine

The choice has been made:

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine will become chairman of the Democratic National Committee later this month, serving as the top political messenger for Barack Obama’s administration even while he finishes his final year in the governor’s mansion, several sources said.

Kaine, who emerged as one of Obama’s vice presidential finalists this summer, will operate from Richmond in a part-time capacity until January 2010, when he will become the full-time DNC chairman. Kaine is constitutionally barred from running for reelection.

A personal friend of the president-elect, Kaine is a gregarious chief executive who is known to relish political combat and helped put Virginia in the Democratic column for the first time in almost 50 years.

I volunteered for Kaine back in 2005–he’s no Howard Dean, but he does look like a pretty solid pick.   Plus, since he’s a close ally of Obama I imagine that the DNC and White House political operation will operate in tandem.  I just hope that Kaine continues Dean’s legacy of building a 50-state Democratic infrastructure and building a national network of small donors.

VA-GOV: McAuliffe’s In

Former DNC Chairman and Hillary Clinton campaign chair Terry McAuliffe is officially running for Governor of Virginia.

McAuliffe was Chairman of the DNC from 2001 to 2005; in that time, Democrats lost two elections; the party’s fundraising consistently lagged behind the GOP’s; messaging and party discipline were terrible; and the party backed a slew of idiotic self-defeating policies.

But it would be completely unfair to blame all of that on McAuliffe–even if he did everything right, he might not have been able to single-handedly solve those problems.

What I do blame McAuliffe for, though, is the way he ran the party: poorly.   Under his leadership, state Democratic parties atrophied, starved of funds and talent.  Little to no effort was put into building the kind of web-based small donor network that propelled Howard Dean to national prominence under McAuliffe’s watch.  Under him, Democrats were consistently incapable of putting enough boots on the ground to win elections.  Under McAuliffe, the networks of volunteers and experienced political operatives that would go on to elect  Barack Obama President were never built.  Under him, millions of dollars of potential donations from small donors was never collected.

McAuliffe is politically old-fashioned.  He’s from the school of thought that says as long as you have enough wealthy donors willing to max out and as long as you can afford a lot of television commercials, you’ll win.  His leadership was fundamentally out of touch with the reality of American politics.  Every advancement Howard Dean made could have at least been started under McAuliffe; he simply refused to take a risk and modernize the Democratic Party. And that’s not the kind of leadership we need here in Virginia.

So, unless something major changes, I won’t be voting for Terry McAuliffe.  Thanks, but no thanks.

The (Likely) Agreement

Yesterday, Senate Democrats voted to keep Joe Lieberman as Chairman of the influential Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee.  Many are attributing the final outcome to a last-minute intervention on Lieberman’s behalf by President-Elect Barack Obama.

But why did he intervene? I mean, as of November 9th, Obama wasn’t getting involved at all.  But two days later, on the 11th, he came out in support of keeping Lieberman. What happened?

I think Lieberman and Obama made a deal.

On it’s face it makes sense. Lieberman wanted to keep his seniority and the chairmanship of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs committee. After the election, it seemed almost guaranteed he would lose his committee and/or get kicked out of the caucus.

To prevent that, Obama could intervene and use his clout with Senate Democrats. What did he get in return?  Lieberman’s committee is responsible for providing oversight of the executive branch.  So, in exchange for helping him keep his gavel, Lieberman can make sure there are no frivolous, distracting investigations launched against Obama’s administration.

And remember, Obama is going to great lengths to avoid the problems and pitfalls that tripped up Bill Clinton early in his Presidency.  By getting Lieberman in his pocket, Obama can head off potential investigaiton into his administration, avoiding having to grapple with frivolous nonsense like Whitewater.

On a deeper level, you have to look at the psychology of Joe Lieberman. Lieberman wants to be popular, to be liked and to be important. Lately, he’s felt abandoned and betrayed by his fellow Democrats.  He didn’t support John McCain because he liked McCain’s positions best, he supported McCain because McCain reached out to Lieberman and made him a major part of his campaign.

Look at what Reid and some of the Senate Democrats said after today’s vote.  Look at what Obama himself was saying.  Look at Howard Dean’s statements afterward. It’s clear there was a coordinated effort to spread a common message in the wake of all this–that the past was the past, all was forgiven and Lieberman would be welcomed back with open arms.

This was a huge tell:

“[Lieberman] spoke earnestly of the pain he felt when he was rejected by the Democratic Party in his re-election and in turn, the rejection he felt from many in the caucus who campaigned against him after decades and decades of friendship,” [an anonymous] lawmaker said. “And that put him in a very different place approaching the 2008 election and John McCain was the only candidate for president who asked for his support.”

So, Lieberman gets to keep his gavel and he gets to feel like an important part of the Senate again.  In exchange, Obama wins the loyalty of the one person with the power–and, previously, the inclination–to make his presidency extraordinarily difficult.  I think that, as long as the White House gives Lieberman the respect and attention he feels he deserves, Lieberman won’t prove to be much of a threat any longer.

Advice For The GOP

People might ask why a liberal blogger is giving advice to conservatives. Well, I think that our democracy functions best when there is a vibrant and competitive opposition; it helps prevent the kind of corruption and overreaching that took down the Republican majority in the first place.

In the spirit of helping to rebuild the Republican Party, here are four ideas on how to rebuild the GOP:

1. New leadership.

You need a fresh face with good ideas to take the reigns of your party.

Newt Gingrich isn’t a good leader; he’s a throwback to the past, spending his days peddling repackaged, warmed-over leftovers from the 90’s. In a time when the country is looking for change, picking someone who left political office nearly a decade ago would be a bad idea.

Same thing for Fred Thompson, who’s even worse than Gingrich considering that he has no ideas has nothing to offer.

Michael Steele is a fresh face, but does he have any ideas? If he does, I haven’t heard them. And the fact that he lost to a lukewarm challenger in the 2006 MD Senate race speaks poorly about his ability to win tough elections. Plus, even though I don’t think at all he would be one, picking Steele (particularly after the election of Barack Obama) might end up looking like a token appointment.  Didn’t Mel Martinez’s disastrous stint at the head of the RNC and Sarah Palin’s disastrous stint running for Vice President teach us that just because you put minorities in high positions doesn’t mean you’ll win minority votes? People aren’t stupid—you actually need to have policies that will benefit them to win their votes. (By the way, drafting some policies to help minorities out wouldn’t be a bad idea policy-wise).

2. Better organization.

Policies aren’t everything; you need better organization. Barack Obama never would have won had Howard Dean and the DNC not built a strong, nationwide campaign infrastructure and a state-of-the-art netroots fundraising network. You actually have to get out there and start building the kind of ground game that propelled President Obama to victory. Having good ideas helps you organize, but if you don’t get out there and get people engaged you won’t win.

3. Be forward-thinking.

Ditch Ronald Reagan. No, I’m serious—he left the White House twenty years ago. Most young voters don’t even remember Reagan except as someone  they learned about in history class. Republican candidates trying to out-Reagan each other is terrible politics, because trying to emulate a former President is intrinsically backwards-looking. It signals to everyone that you don’t want to lead America into the future; you want to lead America into the past.

You don’t need to find another Reagan; you need to find the next Reagan. You need to find someone who will bring new conservative ideas to the table and implement them, just like Reagan did back in his day.

For example, Democrats spent years looking for the next Clinton. The highest compliment you could give a candidate was calling them ‘Clintonesque.’ In the end, though, the Democrat who got elected President—in a landslide, I might add—was almost nothing like Clinton. He was a new candidate with new ideas who actually had to take on and defeat much of his party’s old guard to bring about change.

Somewhere out there is a young conservative with some new, good ideas; find them and promote them, just like we found Barack Obama and promoted him.

4. Appeal beyond your base.

Let’s face it–the Republican base isn’t big enough to win national elections anymore. You guys can’t campaign by throwing red meat to your followers and still pull out a victory. You have to find ways to appeal to moderates and independents if you want to get back in the majority.

So ditch Sarah Palin—she might make you all feel good and you might love everything she says, but by every objective measure she was a drag on the ticket. Ignore the siren call of conservatives declaring open season on RINOs; you didn’t lose because you weren’t conservative enough, you lost because the moderates and independents who boosted you into the majority just couldn’t stomach your party anymore.

That’s just my amateur opinion, worth exactly the price of the pixels it’s spelled out in.

End Of An Era

Couldn't have done it without you.

As one era begins, another ends:

After four years at the helm of the Democratic National Committee, Howard Dean is preparing to relinquish his chairmanship.

Dean, who has been serving in the post since 2005, has said in the past that he would serve only one term, though his successful work with the Obama campaign had led some Democrats to wonder whether he would stay on into the next administration. This won’t be the case, officials at the DNC confirm. He will serve as chair until his term ends in January. The party will settle on a new head when it hosts a meeting during the week of Obama’s inauguration.

[…]

Regardless of who takes over, the next chair will inherit an organization far different from the one that existed four years ago. Under Dean’s tenure, the DNC implemented the hotly-debated 50-state-strategy, a program designed to rebuild the party into a continental force, one in which Democrats drained the resources of Republicans while simultaneously building up younger talent. Obama’s incoming chief of staff Rahm Emanuel and others were critical, believing that the policy wasted valuable resources on impossible races and needlessly forfeited otherwise winnable seats during the 2006 congressional elections. Successes in 2008, however, have largely quieted those critiques.

Indeed, four years later, it seems, Dean’s vision is poised to become party orthodoxy. Dean told a Democratic operative that he is hoping to extract promises from all potential replacement candidates to preserve the 50-state-strategy. Other insiders, meanwhile, say that the next DNC chair, regardless of who it is, will build upon the model because of its tangible successes.

I spent a year working at the DNC under Dean’s leadership, and it was one of the most exciting times of my life.

You can’t deny that Dean revolutionized Democratic politics–he fought a strong othodoxy held by a well-funded group of long-standing party insiders. In retrospect, Dean’s online fundraising, embrace-the-base approach and 50-state strategy seem like common sense, but it took a lot of hard work to bring those policies to life.  He was the first one to crash the gates, so to speak, and we never would have won as much as we did in 2006 and 2008 without his hard work.

Howard Dean will be sorely missed.  Whoever takes the reins of the DNC after him will have a lot to live up to; hopefully he/she will faithfully carry on Dean’s admirable legacy.

Arkansas Democratic Chairman Bill Gwatney Murdered

CNN brings us the sad news:

The chairman of the Arkansas Democratic Party died Wednesday, hours after a shooting at the party’s headquarters, according to a statement from former President Clinton and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.

[…]

The shooting suspect also died Wednesday afternoon after a high-speed chase ended in gunfire, police said.

[…]

The gunman walked into the office and said he was interested in volunteering, said Sam Higginbotham, a 17-year-old volunteer at the headquarters, The Associated Press reported.

“That was obviously a lie,” Higginbotham said, the AP reported.

He said the man pushed his way past an employee to reach Gwatney’s office, according to the AP.

[…]

A vehicle description was provided to police, Hastings said, and officers found it. A chase involving Little Rock police, Arkansas State Police and the Grant County Sheriff’s office ended about 20 miles south of Little Rock, where the suspect was shot and taken into custody, he said.

Police said the suspect drove into a ditch and around a set of spike strips in an attempt to evade police.

[…]

The man then got out of his vehicle and began shooting at officers, who returned fire.

Police would not confirm the victim’s identity, but the Clintons released a statement earlier Wednesday that suggested Gwatney was involved.

“We are stunned and shaken by today’s shooting at the Arkansas Democratic Party where our good friend and fellow Democrat Bill Gwatney was critically wounded,” they said.

[…]

The Democratic National Committee also issued a statement on the incident Wednesday that identified Gwatney as the victim.

“This senseless tragedy comes as a shock to all of us,” Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said in a written statement.