New roles for Charlie Dent as his seniority rises in Congress

Moments before he walked on to the U.S. House floor to be sworn in, Lehigh Valley Congressman Charlie Dent picked up a packet of manila envelopes marked “146.”

What was it last year, one staffer asked another. “183.”

“That’s out of the whole Congress?” Dent asked them.

The lower the number, the higher the seniority in a 435-member body run on rules and tradition. As the 114th Congress gets underway, one signal of Dent’s rising status is the 37-spot drop in the number adorning his official license plates.


Chamberlain: They’re Doing It Wrong – It’s Not Enough To Make A Statement, Republicans Need to Lead

They’re Doing It Wrong: It’s Not Enough To Make A Statement, Republicans Need to Lead

By: Sarah Chamberlain

On November 4th, the American people went to the ballot box and delivered a historic victory for the Republican Party.

With the largest House majority in a generation and 9 new Republican senators who will end Harry Reid’s reign as Majority Leader, Republicans will have the opportunity to help restore common-sense conservative Republican principles to Washington and to hold President Obama accountable. 

Yet, just six weeks later, the headline in Politico this week screamed, “Ted Cruz Reignites GOP Civil War,” as the junior Senator from Texas once again decided to publicly blindside his Republican colleagues over an issue with an already pre-determined outcome.


Roll Call: New Governing Coalition Emerges

In the wake of the “cromnibus,” a new governing coalition may have emerged in Washington.

For the first time in eight years, it doesn’t necessarily include Nancy Pelosi.

It does include Steny H. Hoyer.

The coalition doesn’t seem to need Sens. Ted Cruz, Elizabeth Warren or Jeff Sessions.


Main Street Partnership: Pass Tax Extenders Now To Prevent Tax Hike On America’s Families & Businesses

(Washington, DC) – Calling it “must pass” legislation before Congress adjourns in December, the Main Street Partnership today called on Congress to pass a tax extender package next month that already enjoys bipartisan support and includes numerous provisions important to jobs and the American economy.

“In an ideal world, all of these issues would be addressed in a comprehensive tax reform bill but until that becomes a reality, Congress must act to prevent an immediate tax increase on millions of Americans,” said former U.S. Rep. Steve LaTourette (R-OH), President of the Main Street Partnership. “American taxpayers deserve consistency and predictability, and they shouldn’t be threatened with the prospect of a massive tax hike heading into the holiday season. That should be enough to make any Republican want to act.”

“This is particularly important to women in our country who are in charge of the vast majority of family budgets. They deserve certainty as they plan for their family’s future in the months ahead,” said Main Street Partnership’s Chief Operating Officer Sarah Chamberlain.

Main Street’s statement comes in the wake of a report in Politico last week that Heritage Action and other Washington conservative groups are threatening Members of the House with attack ads if they stand with their constituents and support a tax extender package in the lame duck session. As Politico reported:

  • “That’s raising alarms among more moderate Republicans because it could disrupt the upcoming 2015 tax-filing season. Millions of Americans could suddenly find their tax refunds delayed or be forced to file twice — potentially leaving Republicans to blame.”

“As Main Street and other common-sense Republican groups demonstrated across-the-board this past primary season, we will be there to support Members of Congress who do what’s right for their constituents and the country. It’s important that Congress acts this year before taxes go up on America’s families and job creators,” LaTourette concluded.


Although most Republicans – and Democrats, for that matter – agree that temporary tax policy is generally not a good practice, the extender package includes numerous provisions important to jobs and the economy.  For example, among the extenders are the R&D credit, 50% bonus depreciation to encourage capital investment, the Section 179 expensing provision for small businesses, as well as provisions that level the playing field for U.S. companies competing abroad.  To encourage charitable giving, there are provisions like the IRA Charitable Rollover, the food donation deduction, and land conservation deduction.  Numerous other extenders serve a solid policy purpose, including the option to deduct state and local sales taxes instead of state income taxes – very important in states with no or low income tax, like Alaska, Florida, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wyoming.

There is one important reason why every Republican should be in favor of that notion:  to fail to act will mean an immediate tax increase on millions of Americans.   Importantly, the tax extenders have already expired – at the end of 2013.  The failure to extend them retroactively to the beginning of 2014 will result in a tax increase equaling billions of dollars.

The House passed a number of business and charitable tax extenders permanently, while the Senate Finance Committee passed the entire tax extender package for a 2 year period.  Combining the two approaches will result in a the solid policy achievement of making some meritorious provisions permanent in the tax code, thereby avoiding the extender exercise for those provisions in the future.

Tax extenders are one measure Congressional Republicans should act on expeditiously in lame duck.



The Obama Republicans?

More GOP House members must defend Democratic-friendly districts.

About a week after the Republican midterm romp, nearly 20 soon-to-be House GOP freshmen huddled for a private lunch on the third floor of the Capitol Hill Club. The mood was jubilant: Each had prevailed in a swing district, exploiting deep unhappiness with President Barack Obama and angst over the country’s future.

But as they dug into platters of lasagna, salad and chicken, the newbies were given some sobering news. GOP officials explained that they would be among Democrats’ top 2016 targets — when they’d be up against a more diverse electorate — and they needed to start preparing now.

“The message,” said one aide who was in the room, “was, ‘Don’t bask in the glow of victory.’”


Rise of the Republican Pragmatists

Expect the new GOP majorities in Congress to press forward with a governing agenda, avoiding the intra-party conflicts of years past.

In Washington, narratives last long past their sell-by date. One of the most common tropes is that Republicans are controlled by the far-right wing of the party and have little ability to govern. That was certainly true for several years, in the wake of their party’s wipeouts in 2006 and 2008, along with the subsequent tea-party wave in 2010 that gave Republicans control of the House. Of the 66 Democratic seats that House Republicans picked up that year, more than half (36) were in solidly red districts John McCain carried in the 2008 presidential election. Many of those newly elected members hailed from the GOP’s tea-party wing, reflecting their conservative constituencies. With little room to maneuver, House Speaker John Boehner had trouble managing a fractious caucus and found himself battling his own party as much as the Democrats. The 2013 government shutdown marked the party’s low point, with leadership at the mercy of several dozen uncompromising conservative backbenchers.

But many pundits are mistakenly looking to the past to determine the future of the new Republican-controlled Congress. With Republicans determined to improve their image in the run-up to a presidential election, and a crop of new, more-pragmatic members heading to Washington, all the signs suggest that the GOP will be eager to unite and advance a legislative agenda.


NY delegation to the House gains clout

The three newest members of New York’s delegation to the House of Representatives appear to fit the “Main Street Republican” image of the rest of the delegation.

The nine Republicans who will represent New York in the U.S. House next year likely will play an important role helping House Speaker John Boehner marginalize tea party dissidents.

“Leadership will be very happy to have New York Republicans there taking votes sometimes that people in other parts of the country would find it difficult to vote yes on,” Rep. Chris Collins, R-Clarence, said.


Chairman Upton Outlines Priorities for the 114th Congress

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton, R-St. Joseph, issued the following statement regarding the committee’s priorities for the 114th Congress. Upton recently unveiled the #RecordOfSuccess webpage chronicling the committee’s bipartisan achievements in the 113th Congress.

“At the Energy and Commerce Committee we have had a proven record of bipartisan success and that will only continue to grow in the coming years. Earlier this year my Democratic colleague Diana DeGette joined me in launching the 21st Century Cures initiative with the goal of accelerating the pace of new cures and treatments. We have heard from patients, researchers, care givers, and innovators for the past several months about the tremendous opportunities we have in the United States to find treatments for the thousands of diseases without them and close the gap between the science of cures and how we regulate them. In the coming weeks we will continue to advance this initiative and work with our colleagues in Congress and the administration to deliver hope to patients and loved ones all across the country. ”


Main Street’s Chamberlain in “Roll Call”: Tax Reform Needed for a Stronger America

The United States is once again at war. As of Aug. 8, our military has been mounting drone and warplane attacks on the Islamic State terror group, also known as ISIL or ISIS. Support has been strong and bipartisan, but there is growing concern because the White House has not said how much this effort will cost, nor how it will be paid for. Surprisingly, tax reform could well provide the means to fund it.


Midterm Election Preview

Control of the House of Representatives is not in question, indeed there is almost unanimity among election watchers that Republicans will not only hold the House but actually increase their margin.  The question, of course, is how many seats will the Republicans gain?
The current House is made up of 234 Republicans, 199 Democrats and 2 vacancies.  Larry Sabato, from the University of Virginia, currently projects that the post-election composite of the House will be 243 Republicans and 193 Democrats.
Some interesting races to keep an eye on include:
Virginia 10th CD:  Retiring Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) is looking to be succeeded by state legislator Barbara Comstock (R-VA), but Democrats are hoping for a pickup in this increasingly suburban district.  John Foust (D-VA) would likely be the favorite in almost any other election cycle, but President Obama’s low approval ratings make Comstock the slight favorite.
New Hampshire 1st CD:  There is probably no better example of a swing district than New Hampshire’s 1st Congressional District.  Former Rep. Frank Guinta (R-NH) is attempting to re-take the seat against incumbent Rep. Carol Shea-Porter.  Guinta defeated Shea-Porter in 2010, she re-took the seat beating him in 2012, and we will see how the rubber match between these two goes.
California 7th CD:  Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) is facing off against former Rep. Doug Ose (R-CA) in this district.  Ose was a leading moderate voice in the House when he served and his resume is well suited for this district.
New York 11th CD:  Democrats thought picking up this seat would be a slam-dunk after incumbent Rep. Michael Grimm (R-NY) was indicted on 20 federal charges.  Domenic Recchia (D-NY), however, has run a lackluster campaign and given the national environment for Republicans it is possible that Grimm holds on.
West Virginia 3rd CD:  Incumbent Nick Rahall (D-WV) is always swimming upstream in conservative West Virginia, the question is whether the terrible environment for Democrats will finally cost Rahall his seat in Congress.  Republicans have nominated Evan Jenkins (R-WV) and this race will be a real test of whether the GOP wave is real.
California 52nd CD:  Openly gay Republican Carl DeMaio (R-CA) was one of the top recruits of the National Republican Congressional Committee coming into this cycle.  DeMaio’s campaign has faced some setbacks the most critical of which was losing the endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce.  The Chamber, which rarely endorses Democrats in races like this, endorsed incumbent Rep. Scott Peters (D-CA).  Despite his struggles, the polling still shows DeMaio is within striking distance.

Maine 2nd CD:  If there is a real GOP wave then it could help Republicans finally pickup Maine’s 2nd Congressional District.  The district, which is the more conservative of the Maine districts, has always been a target by Republicans and with incumbent Rep. Mike Michaud (D-ME) running for Governor the open seat may now be in reach.  Polling has shown Emily Cain (D-ME) and Bruce Poliquin (R-ME) running neck and neck.

Unlike the House, where there is no question about who will control the Chamber after Tuesday night, a great deal of uncertainty continues to exist about whether Republicans will be able to take control of the Senate.
Republicans need to pickup a net of 6 seats to take control of the Senate.  They appear poised to easily add at least 3 seats in Montana, West Virginia and South Dakota.  The real question is whether they can net an additional 3 from the races below:

COLORADO:  Democrats thought they had gotten a break when no major Republican got in the race against incumbent Senator Mark Udall (D-CO).  That changed when Rep. Cory Gardner (R-CO) decided late in the primary season to make a run.  For much of the cycle the Gardner-Udall race has been one of the closest in the country.  Over the last two weeks or so, however, Gardner has opened up a consistent lead over his Democratic opponent.  Democrats claim that the polling has under-estimated the Latino vote and no one is quite sure how Colorado’s new all-mail in ballot will affect the race.  Polls close at 7 PM MST/9 PM EST, if this race is called early for Gardner it could be a very long night for Democrats.

IOWA:  The Iowa race has really been a tale of two campaigns.  Republican Joni Ernst (R-IA) has run an almost flawless campaign, while Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) has been a gaffe machine.  Despite the almost perfect Ernst campaign and the less than perfect Braley campaign, the dynamics of this race have been unchanged for months:  its simply too close to call.  Control of the Senate could come down to the winner of this race.

The Real Clear Politics average of polling in this race gives a slight 2 point advantage to Ernst.  The polls close at 9 CST/10 EST but expect it will be late in the evening before a call is made on this race.

NORTH CAROLINA:  At the beginning of the cycle, North Carolina’s Kay Hagan (D-NC) looked like one of – if not the most – endangered Democrat in the Senate.  Amazingly, as we look ahead to Tuesday night, Hagan may be one of the Democrat’s bright lights on an otherwise dim evening.

Establishment Republicans thought the caught a break when Thom Tillis (R-NC) emerged from the Republican primary over two more conservative candidates.  Tillis, however, has struggled to overtake the incumbent – even in North Carolina where President Obama’s approval ratings are dismal.  Hagan has run to the center and run an overwhelmingly positive campaign, which has kept her slightly ahead in all of the polling.  While the race remains very close, the latest Elon University Poll gives Hagan a 4 point edge.  Polls in North Carolina close at 7:30 EST and a Hagan loss would all but guarantee Republicans were on their way to the majority.

GEORGIA:  If you would have said at the beginning of the cycle that Democrats were eyeing a pickup in Georgia, you would assume that Democrats were having a big night nationally.  In the crazy 2014 mid-terms however, Georgia is in play even as incumbent Democrats – particularly in red states – are in serious danger.

Like in North Carolina, establishment Republicans were thrilled when businessman David Perdue won the Republican primary over a gang of GOPers – most of whom were to his right.

Most political talking heads expected that once Perdue locked up the nomination, the on paper promising candidacy of Michelle Nunn was expected to evaporate.  That didn’t happen.  Nunn jumped on comments Perdue made about outsourcing and exploited his business history – something that was considered a positive at one point.  Polling in Georgia is all over the place on this race.  A Monmouth University poll released this week put Nunn up by 8 points while a SurveyUSA poll from this week had Perdue up 3 points.

Polls close at 7 PM EST and if Democrats are to maintain their majority in the Senate, stealing this Georgia seat would be a great start.
KENTUCKY:  Kentucky is kind of the anti-Georgia.  National Democrats had high hopes for Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D-KY), much like they did for Nunn.  However, unlike Nunn in Georgia, Grimes campaign faltered – in part due to some unforced errors by the candidate herself.

It was always hard to imagine that Republicans would win control of the Senate but that their leader – Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell – would lose his race.  It is looking less and less likely.  Democrats, however, claim that the race is still in play and just last week outside groups pumped money into the race on behalf of Grimes.

McConnell enjoys the lead at this point, but just how a big a lead remains to be seen.  Two of the last three polls have shown McConnell with a sizeable lead (+6 and +8) but a Courier Journal poll showed Grimes within 1.

Polls close in the Bluegrass state at 6 PM EST.

KANSAS:  This has been one of the most fascinating races of the cycle to watch.  Most talking heads believed that if Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) survived his primary against a Tea Party challenger then he would coast to victory.  Unfortunately for Republicans, this has not been the case.

Democrats managed to get their nominee off the ballot, which cleared the field for businessman Greg Orman (I-KS) who is running as an independent.  Orman has refused to say whether he would caucus with the Democrats or the Republicans and has masterfully run against both parties in his race.  Roberts, still limping from his bruising primary battle, has been forced to spend time in the general locking up his base by bringing in conservative luminaries like former Governor Sarah Palin (R-AK).  It’s tough to consolidate your base and reach out to centrists and independents at the same time in a general election.

Another factor complicating the race for Republicans is that Governor Sam Brownback (R-KS) – a staunch social conservative and polarizing figure – is locked in a very close race where several high profile Kansas Republicans have endorsed his Democratic opponent.

Polls in Kansas close at 7 PM CST/8 EST and current polling puts Orman slightly ahead but Roberts has been closing the gap over the last month.

NEW HAMPSHIRE:  Incumbent Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) is a popular former Governor who – at first blush – hasn’t done anything in the Senate that you would think would constitute a “fire-able offense” especially in Democratic-leaning New Hampshire.  Her opponent is former Senator Scott Brown (R-NH) who served in the Senate from neighboring Massachusetts.  Brown is an affable candidate and a good campaigner who’s campaign has caught fire in the last few weeks and Shaheen’s once reliable lead in the polls has begun to dwindle.

Current polling puts the race tantalizingly close for Republicans.  A CNN poll showed Shaheen with just a 2 point lead.  If Scott Brown pulls this off and knocks off Shaheen then Republicans are likely in for a very good night.

Polls close at 8 PM EST and if you are looking for a sign of a Republican wave then this is it.


LOUISIANA:  Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) has faced an uphill battle all cycle.  For the last two years she has constantly been mentioned as the most endangered Democratic incumbent in red state Louisiana.  The Real Clear Politics average of polls has her opponent Bill Cassidy (R-LA) with a +4.5 advantage over Landrieu in a one-on-one race.  However, it isn’t a one-on-one race – yet.  In Louisiana all candidates from all parties run in the general election and if one candidate doesn’t reach 50% then there is a run-off between the top two finishers.  Current polls put Landrieu at just around 38% of the vote in November election, which will be enough to put her into a very tough runoff with the likely top Republican Cassidy who checks in at 34% according to the polls (another Republican Rob Maness (R-LA) has been pulling right around 10% in the polls).

Polls close at 8 PM CST/9 PM EST and barring something unforeseen this race will not be decided on Tuesday night.

ALASKA:  Republicans got another lucky break in Alaska when former GOP nominee and Tea Party supported Joe Miller (R-AK) lost the primary to Dan Sullivan (R-AK).  They also caught a break when Miller decided against a 3rd party or independent run in the general.  Sullivan is the opponent incumbent Senator Mark Begich (D-AK) least wanted to face in a general election.  While Begich has attempted to distance himself from President Obama, the President’s unpopularity deeply Republican Alaska has been a huge albatross to the incumbent.

Current polling shows Sullivan with a small but consistent lead.  A CBS News poll out this month put Sullivan ahead by 4 points.  Democrats, however, continue to point out that polling in Alaska in notoriously difficult to rely on and they are talking up Begich’s ground operation.

Polls close at 8 PM AHST/1 AM EST.  If Democrats need to hold this seat to hold on to the Senate, then it might be a very late night for both parties.

ARKANSAS:  The Pryor name and the Pryor family are an institution in Arkansas and that institution is facing its stiffest challenge ever.  Incumbent Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR) is squaring off against Rep. Tom Cotton (R-AR).  While the polling has consistently shown Cotton ahead in this race, the actual size of that lead is in question – with polls showing wildly different margins ranging from as high as +13 to within the margin of error +2. National Democrats continue to talk up Pryor and this race.

Polls close in Arkansas at 7:30 CST/8:30 EST.  If Democrats hold on in Arkansas it could be a sign that any national GOP wave has evaporated and would vastly improve the Democrats chances of holding on to the Senate.