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Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458

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Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458

Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458

Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458

Strict Standards: array_filter() expects parameter 2 to be a valid callback, non-static method K2::strip_trackback() should not be called statically in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-content/themes/k2/app/classes/k2.php on line 458
Category Archive for ‘Administration’ at Campaign Diaries
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Archive for the 'Administration' Category


Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

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Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

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Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Of the power of conservative Senate Democrats

For a group that is barely one month old, Evan Bayh’s centrist caucus has sure caused a lot of noise. For much of March, the Indiana Senator conducted a flurry of interviews to explain why it was important for conservative Democrats to reach out to Republican lawmakers to beat back liberal members of their own party. Yet, he stayed predictably true to center-right politicians’ deceptive habit of hiding their ideological goals behind seemingly innocent words like “pragmatic” and “efficient.” In answer to critics, Bayh shot back, “We literally have no agenda. How can they be threatened by a group that has taken no policy positions?”

Not only does that response make little sense (how would the caucus’s members have found each other?), it is also misleading. From the group’s very first days, its most prominent members have given voice to the same ideological outlook. They are fiscal conservatives who want to reduce deficits by cutting spending rather than by increasing taxes; they are skeptical of new governmental programs and of increased infrastructure spending; they have a pro-business and pro-free trade outlook.

Quite concretely, this ideological positioning has led Senators like Evan Bayh, Ben Nelson and Kent Conrad to take aim at White House priorities like cap-and-trade, health care reform, increased education spending, EFCA and the expiration of the Bush tax cuts. (You would think that supporting the latter would be a minimal commitment required of Democratic lawmakers.) Other Senators like Claire McCaskill demonstrated their resistance to government spending during the stimulus debate. And at least 10 Democrats have voiced their opposition to passing health care and cap-and-trade through the reconciliation process, a maneuver many see as Obama’s only chance to pass the ambitious programs he has promised to implement.

More surprising was Harry Reid’s rush to defend a group that was at first interpreted as a blow to his authority. The Majority Leader contributed a quote to the group’s introductory press release. “New ventures like this group offer us a new opportunity to get things done and I support every effort that puts real solutions above political posturing,” he said. Later still, Reid chose to attack liberal groups who were criticizing the creation of the centrist caucus and Bayh’s attacks on progressive priorities. “I think it’s very unwise and not helpful. These groups should leave them alone,” he said. “It’s not helpful to me. It’s not helpful to the Democratic Caucus.”

Before becoming Majority Leader, Harry Reid was known as a moderate Senator, and it is possible that he would have been part of Bayh’s caucus had he not been part of the Democratic leadership. (The last time I wrote about Bayh’s group, I was only able to identify 12 other Senators: Landrieu, McCaskill, Lieberman, Lincoln, Pryor, Warner, Bill Nelson, Ben Nelson, Klobuchar, Shaheen, Casey and Begich. A recent NYT piece adds 5 names to the list: Tom Carper, Mark Udall, Michael Bennet, Kay Hagan and Herb Kohl. This is one of the first times Hagan has signaled she could cause trouble for progressive causes; Kohl’s presence helps explain why he is one of the Democratic hold-outs on EFCA.)

Not all of these 18 Senators will oppose liberal priorities at the same rate, of course. Yet, their early strength and their public criticism of cap-and-trade, of EFCA and of the reconciliation procedure serve as a reminder that the biggest obstacle to Obama’s agenda is to be found in the President’s own caucus. The White House has much more to fear from Democratic obstructionism than from the GOP’s opposition.

In a new article well worth reading, The New Republic’s Jonathan Chait warns that Democrats have an uncanny ability to “self-immolate.” He draws parallels between Obama’s first weeks and those of his two Democratic predecessors: the Senate’s conservative Democrats ruined Bill Clinton’s agenda in 1993-1994 and Jimmy Carter’s in 1976-1977. In both cases, a Democratic President was made to look ultra-leftist, inefficient and out-of-touch by members of his own party; this helped lead to the conservative resurgences of 1980 and 1994. He goes on:

Obama has come into office having won the popular vote by seven percentage points, along with a 79-seat edge in the House, a 17-seat edge in the Senate, and massive public demand for change. But it’s already clear he is receiving less, not more, deference from his own party [than Bush did]. Democrats have treated Obama with studied diffidence, both in their support for the substance of his agenda and (more importantly) their willingness to support it procedurally…

Even at this early date, the contrast between Democrats under Obama and Republicans under Bush is stark. Republicans did not denounce Bush for squandering a budget surplus to benefit the rich, the way Democrats now assail Obama for big spending and deficits. And Republicans did not refuse to use the budget procedures available to them to break through the Senate’s inherent lethargy. Republicans, in other words, acted like a parliamentary party…

The more Democrats defect, the more the president is defined as an extreme liberal, and the more ineffectual he seems as his agenda crashes upon the shoals… The hard truth for Democrats is that Obama’s popularity is bound to fall… The one factor within the Democrats’ control is whether their constituents see Obama as a strong leader taking action, like Roosevelt or Kennedy, or a floundering weakling, like Carter or first-term Clinton.

It is too early to theorize as to the consequences of Obama’s relationship with Senate Democrats. Yet, there is a clear risk that the window for progressive reform closes without any major changes having been implemented. If the White House fails to win approval for an overhaul of the health care system this year, when will that reform come about? If a significantly watered down version of EFCA is passed next fall, will Democrats bring back card-checks and binding arbitration in 2011, even if they gain a filibuster-proof majority?

As Chait points out, what is particularly frustrating for liberals is the Democrats’ failure to stand united when Bush was able to pass so many radically right-wing reforms with far smaller congressional majorities. In response to Chait’s frustration, Ezra Klein argues that the the contrast is not that clear: Republicans opposed the priorities of Bush’s first terms just as Democrats are opposing Obama’s; he points out that a number of Bush’s reforms were compromises with Democratic lawmakers rather than triumph of conservative ideology.

But there are two responses to this. For one, Democrats controlled Congress for much of Bush’s first two years in office - and they only fell to 49 seats after the 2002 midterms. Bush was forced to negotiate because he was in the minority - and he still managed to push the country to the right by a startling margin. Second, Klein’s argument only serves to show that Democrats were willing to support Bush’s proposals to an extent GOP Senators never considered helping Clinton - and we are talking about very controversial legislation like Bush’s tax cuts, bankruptcy reform, Medicare reform, the Iraq resolution.

Given that Democrats controlled 51 or 49 seats for all of Bush’s first term, it is remarkable that any of these reforms passed Congress without being watered down to a much greater degree. In other words, Bush’s first-term might suggest that the GOP also has difficulty passing its priorities without having them watered down, but I would argue that it first and foremost demonstrates that moderate Democrats are just as likely to boost a Republican President’s agenda as they are to obstruct a Democratic President’s priorities.

Chait proposes a number of fascinating theories to explain the Democrats’ lack of unity, particularly his contention that Democrats have “come of age under the old Democratic chieftains” while congressional Republicans have had to deal with being out of power for decades before 1994. He also offers a more traditional argument:

Taken as a whole, then, the influence of business and the rich unites Republicans and splits Democrats. A few Republicans no doubt felt some qualms about supporting Bush’s regressive, extreme pro-business agenda, but their most influential donors and constituents pushed them in the direction of partisan unity. Those same forces encourage Democrats to defect. That’s why Ben Nelson is fighting student-loan reform, coal-and oil-state Democrats are insisting that cap-and-trade legislation be subject to a filibuster, and Democrats everywhere are fretting about reducing tax deductions for the highest-earning 1 percent of the population.

The underlying point is that we should not confuse those who genuinely believe in third way policy solutions and those whose centrism derives from their ties to business interests, the donations they have received and the pressure from corporate lobbies. Someone is not necessarily well-intentioned just because his rhetoric sounds moderate; someone is not necessarily an expert on a subject just because he has bridged the gap between two extremes; and someone who pledges to protect buisiness interests is not automatically fiscally disciplined. (Chait’s detailed attack on Ben Nelson’s resistance to reforming the college loan system because “one of the lenders that benefits from federal overpayments is based in Lincoln, Nebraska” is particularly damning.)


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The AIG fallout

House votes to tax bonuses

Congress is now in damage control mode over the AIG controversy. After spending a few weeks expressing their anger (in what, I recently argued, is to a large extent a hypocritical reaction), House members voted to impose a 90% tax on bonuses paid by any company accepting $5 million or more of bailout money. The bill passed by an overwhelming 328 to 93 margin, but the Republican caucus narrowly opposed it (87 to 85), as did 6 Democrats.

Over the past week, the GOP has done its best to blame the Administration and congressional Democrats for facilitating the AIG mess and not passing language banning bailout-receiving companies from paying bonuses. (To be fair to Republicans, they did not vote against the Dodd Amendment to the stimulus that implemented retroactive restrictions on bonuses; neither did Senate Democrats, of course, but retroactivity was then struck down by Treasury’s lobbying.)

Needless to say, for the majority of House Republicans to now vote against the remedial taxation bill makes it much more difficult for the GOP to portray itself as the populist party. How can Republican leaders go on Sunday shows to voice anger at the AIG bonuses if their party has gone on the record as opposing the one solution that has been proposed for now? What Senate Republicans do on the bill will now determine whether Democrats can turn the table and blame the GOP for not doing anything to halt the bonuses.

As is expected, many vulnerable Republicans from blue-leaning district voted “yea,” including Rep. Cao (LA-02), Rep. Castle (DE-AL), Rep. Kirk (IL-10) and Rep. Reichert (WA-08). Yet, there were some surprising votes, starting with Rep. Thad McCotter (MI-11): McCotter represents a swing district that has been hit hard by the crisis, exactly the type of district in which the AIG bonuses are sure to make a big impression. By voting against the stimulus bill twice and now, McCotter is certainly not facilitating his 2010 re-election race.

As for the 6 Democrats who voted against the bill, they are: Melissa Bean (IL-08), Larry Kissell (NC-08), Michael McMahon (NY-13), Walt Minnick (ID-01), Harry Mitchell (AZ-05) and Vic Snyder (AR-02). Interestingly, they all have a centrist profile but they are not known to be the most conservative Democrats of the House. Kissell is positioning himself more to the right than most people expected; he was a netroots favorite, and he represents a district Obama won handily. As for Melissa Bean, she is close to business interests and has received some support from the Chamber of Commerce. Of the six, only Minnick and Kissell are expected to face a tough re-election race next year.

Dodd continues to be target of unfair criticism

It became clear earlier this week that Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd would be made into the scapegoat on what is politicians’ collective failure. As I explained on Wednesday, Dodd introduced an amendment making bonus restrictions retroactive; Timothy Geithner and Larry Summers tried to convince him not to introduce the amendment, which passed nonetheless before being scrapped off in the reconciliation committee. And yesterday, Dodd acknowledged helping “dilute the executive pay provision that would have applied retroactively.”

That this admission has provoked a furious reaction and “breaking news” headlines speaks to Dodd’s critics determination to unfairly deflect all the blame on the Senator: The provision that Dodd agreed to dilute was his own amendment. How, then, can he be blamed for opposing bonus restrictions when he was the one who fought to introduce restrictions? Without Dodd, there would not have been any retroactivity to strike out of the bill!

Sure, he did end up bowing to Treasury’s anti-retroactivity stance, but he only did so after Geithner and Summers threatened to erase his entire amendment - not just the retroactivity clause. It is deeply unfair to make him into the main culprit given that he was the one to propose retroactivity in the first place - and given that it was the Administration who fought tooth and nail to remove it.

This version of events is exactly what Dodd was trying to get to in his much decried statement to CNN. “The alternative was losing, in my view, the entire section on executive excessive compensation,” he said, explaining that he “reluctantly” agreed to remove retroactivity at the urging of the Obama Administration. (The Administration could certainly have gotten reconciliation negotiators to remove the entire section on bonus restrictions rather than just the retroactivity clause, and Dodd could have done little to stop that since he was not on the committee.)

On the other hand, there are certainly areas on which criticizing Dodd is more than fair: For one, AIG controversy feeds into justified criticism of Dodd’s ties to the banking industry - and to the very real scandal on his mortgage deal that engulfed him last summer. As the chairman of the Banking Committee, Dodd has received extensive donations from the industry. While such behavior is common to all politicians, it certainly does not inspire trust in his willingness to take the necessary regulatory steps.

Interestingly, after initial reports quoted a Treasury official throwing Dodd under the bus, Tim Geithner is now confirming Dodd’s version of events. After all, the fact that Dodd is on the record as favoring retroactive restrictions without any exception for the inviolability of contracts makes it difficult for Treasury to coherently deflect all of the blame on him. Will the Administration go far enough to save Dodd from more criticism?

For now at least, Dodd remains everyone’s whipping boy. This morning, one of The New York Times’s leading stories is devoted to reactions to this controversy:

Across Connecticut, anger is erupting against Mr. Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, whose stature in Washington once reflected the state’s beneficial ties with the financial industry. Now, he finds himself a symbol of the political establishment’s coziness with tainted corporations and a target of populist wrath over their excesses.

On Thursday, the senator sought to defuse the furor over the latest revelation, holding a conference call with reporters to explain how legislation meant to limit executive compensation was changed at the last minute. That change exempted bonuses protected by contracts, like those at American International Group, a big campaign contributor to Mr. Dodd that received billions in federal bailout money.

The AIG mess will undoubtedly impact Dodd’s re-election prospects. He is already facing mediocre poll numbers and a credible opponent, former Rep. Rob Simmons, who has already blasted Dodd’s role in allowing the AIG bonuses. “There’s an appearance of impropriety. If you’re putting language into a bill that protects bonuses for people that gives you $100,000 over the last year alone, then it doesn’t look good,” he said.

If the controversy continues to center on Dodd, the Senator might not even be in a position to seek re-election and Democrats might pressure him to retire to allow for a less tainted candidate to take his place. Connecticut Democrats have enough of a bench to ensure they can field a top-tier candidate to replace him.

Update: For those who are interested in the Dodd controversy, Glenn Greenwald has a characteristically efficient take-down of the “Blame Dodd” argument:

It was Dodd who did everything possible — including writing and advocating for an amendment — which would have applied the limitations on executive compensation to all bailout-receiving firms, including AIG, and applied it to all future bonus payments without regard to when those payments were promised… The point was — and is — that Dodd was pressured to put that carve-out in at the insistence of Treasury officials (whose opposition meant that Dodd’s choices were the limited compensation restriction favored by Geithner/Summers or no limits at all), and Dodd did so only after arguing in public against it.  To blame Dodd for provisions that the White House demanded is dishonest in the extreme…

And even after Dodd finally gave in to Treasury’s demands, he continued to support an amendment from Ron Wyden and Olympia Snowe to impose fines on bailout-receiving companies which paid executive bonuses.”


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Deflecting blame on AIG bonuses

Edward Liddy, the chief executive of AIG, is scheduled to testify before Congress today in what should make for  great political spectacle. Lawmakers are expected to pile up on Liddy and unleash their populist fury - and that could take them quite far, given the recent rhetoric of some Senators.

Yet, the most outrageous part of the story should not be AIG’s decision to parcel out bonuses but the government’s reluctance to take any meaningful step to reform the system. In walking back his comments calling for AIG executives to commit suicide, Chuck Grassley explained that, “I do believe that when you have done bad for your company, for your stockholders, and eventually for the taxpayer… you ought to say I’m sorry.” Much of the recent outrage is in a similar vein to Grassley’s: How dare the executives not feel contrition? How dare they act so greedily when the rest of the country is suffering?

Yet, how can we forget that making as much money as possible is the reason for-profit companies like AIG exist? The question should not be why business executives would act so greedily but rather why government would ever allow them to act like this - especially when the funds that is being parceled out are bailout money. Lawmakers like Grassley who pretend to be shocked that business executives might not respect basic decency and individual morality are avoiding the meaningful latter issue to focus on the former, narrow question.

Asking why executives would ever be allowed to act so freely forces us to recognizes that these bonuses are not bizarre occurrences or breaches of the law; rather, they are symptomatic of an economic ideology that has replaced government regulation with the inviolability of the free market. They are not excess, but the logical consequence of the policies that have developed ever since Freidmanite economics became the guidebook of U.S. policy. They are as much a manifestation of individual greed as the consequence of a decades-long trend against legislating business practices.

In other words: The Bush and Obama Administration’s reluctance to put in place effective regulations is as responsible for the AIG bonuses as are the company’s executives, and it is silly for politicians to suddenly act surprises at something that should have surprised no one.

Leaving aside broad discussions of economic trends and political ideologies and looking at very practical matters, the bonuses had been in the air for months! AIG’s plan to deliver “retention payments” were attracting media attention and political fire back in December, and The Washington Post reports that the Federal Reserve knew about the bonuses for months. How likely is it, then, that Geithner, who helped negotiate the terms of the AIG bailouts, did not know about these bonuses until last week?

Even if Geithner and Congressional leaders did not know about the detail of these bonuses a few months ago, many lawmakers (not to mention outside observers) warned about the likelihood of such an incident and tried to block it. Barnie Sanders has been proposing bills to cap executive pay since the fall, and Ron Wyden and Olympia Snowe succeeded in passing an amendment to the stimulus bill capping bonuses. The amendment was thrown out in the conference committee, and Wyden is now openly blaming the Administration’s opposition.

Even more damning: In February, Chris Dodd had introduced an amendment to the stimulus bill that would have imposed retroactive bonus caps on companies receiving bailout money - meaning that bonuses agreed to before February 11th would also fall under the legislation’s scope. As numerous news stories attest to, Geithner and Larry Summers both called Dodd, urging him to drop retroactivity. Dodd nonetheless pushed through the amendment (SA 354 to H.R.1) but it was then thrown out during the conference committee. (Jane Hamsher provides a clear and detailed documentation of this sequence of events.)

Let’s recap: The Obama Administration lobbied to throw out provisions to make bonus restrictions retroactive - and the lack of such a provision is now greatly helping AIG executives insist that no law is being breached since the bonuses had been outlined in contracts months ago.

Once again, the pattern is clear: Governmental reluctance to take efficient regulatory measures and to risk upsetting business executives is at the origin of the AIG bonuses that were paid last week - bonuses that at least some governmental officials knew about months ago, before they lobbied against regulation.

But all of this is nothing next to the fact that the same people who undercut Dodd’s efforts to prevent this situation are now blaming him for being responsible for the AIG bonuses. From The New York Times:

The administration official said the Treasury Department did its own legal analysis and concluded that those contracts could not be broken. The official noted that even a provision recently pushed through Congress by Senator Christopher J. Dodd, a Connecticut Democrat, had an exemption for such bonus agreements already in place.

A Treasury official is here telling the media that there is no way to stop the AIG bonuses because the stimulus bill does not make restrictions radioactive. The official claims that Dodd is responsible for the provision’s ineffectiveness, but, as I explained above, it is Dodd who was trying to introduce radioactivity in the bill and the Treasury (via Geithner) who beat back his efforts to do so!

In short: Geithner is deflecting his responsibility on one of the most endangered Democratic Senators of the 2010 cycle. (Marc Ambinder has more in a post entitled, “Don’t Blame Chris Dodd.”) Given that much of Dodd’s 2010 weakness comes from a controversy about his mortgage terms and from his role in the Banking Committee, this new wave of Dodd criticism will only fuel what is his biggest vulnerability: The perception that he is too cozy with the banking industry and with business executives.

Of course, while Dodd is increasingly endangered, other Democrats are doing their best to take advantage of the situation by scoring political points. Andrew Cuomo, for instance, has been all over this controversy: He has issued subpoenas, launched investigations to look into possible fraud charges, and uncovered new revelations that have made the story that much more problematic. If Cuomo challenges David Paterson in the 2010 gubernatorial primary, this should make for a great contrast with the increasingly unpopular Governor.

Another Democrat who is trying to score points is freshman Rep. Gary Peters, who defeated a Republican incumbent in MI-09 last fall and who could face a competitive race in 2010. The Democratic leadership has allowed Peters to be the main sponsor of a bill that would surtax the bonuses 60% for government to recoup most of the money; Peters is predictably attracting very favorable press in his home state.

However much lawmakers try to deflect blame on AIG executives, however much the embattled Geithner (it’s never a good sign when the White House is forced to repeatedly insist that they have full confidence in a top official) tries to deflect blame on Dodd, this controversy will hopefully mean that the Administration will be forced to accept a more proactive regulatory role. Yet, the worry is that this controversy severely limits the White House’s policy options going forward. Many believe that Treasury will ask Congress for more emergency measures, but this will make it much more difficult to get approval for further bailouts.


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In welcoming Sebelius to Cabinet, Dems wave goodbye to Kansas Senate seat

Barack Obama has offered the position of HHS Secretary to Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, who has reportedly accepted the position. This was expected: Ten days ago, The New York Times had already reported that the Administration was all but certain to tap Sebelius.

(That the appointment is now being confirmed is obviously a major story that deserves to be addressed today, but I did I write an entire post about what the pick would mean when the Times story came out so I used parts of that entry here.)

Sebelius picks makes Senate seat safe GOP hold, perhaps boosts Tiahrt

Sebelius was the only Democrat with any hope of picking-up Kansas’s Senate seat, left open by Sam Brownback’s retirement (a recent poll had Sebelius beating Rep. Moran and Rep. Tiahrt by double-digits). her move to the HHS Department all but guarantees that the seat remain in the GOP’s hands - and that  most certainly offers indescribable relief to the NRSC.

The primary showdown between Reps. Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt is now the de facto general election - and that could have major consequences on the primary’s dynamics. While they share a similar ideological profile, Tiahrt has the reputation of a movement conservative while Moran can be perceived as somewhat more mainstream. If Sebelius had been waiting in the general election, Moran could have benefited from looking more electable; but the Governor’s departure means that electability will not be a factor in the Moran-Tiahrt battle, allowing primary voters to choose whoever they feel closer to. That could prove a major boost for Tiahrt.

Finally: Many Democrats will surely be puzzled that Obama is willing to give up on his party’s shot at the seat; if anything, the past few weeks showed Obama the importance of enjoying a filibuster-proof majority. It is very possible that Sebelius had already decided not to run for Senate, and had informed Obama and the DSCC of her decision, allowing the President to pick her without having to worry about midterm repercussions.

A new Governor

Sebelius’s move to Washington also means that Kansas will have a new Governor: Mark Parkinson, a Democrat who ran as Sebelius’s running mate in 2006. But Parkinson was in the GOP until the spring of 2006, and he held many elected offices as a Republican from the early 90s onwards; he was also the chairman of the state Republican Party! So while Kansas will technically remain in Democratic hands, state governance could move to the right.

This might have consequences in the 2010 gubernatorial race. Sebelius is term-limited out of office in 2010 anyway, so her departure to Washington does not deprive Democrats of her candidacy. Yet, Parkinson’s elevation means that the state now has an incumbent who is allowed to run for re-election, and that could help Democrats keep the governorship. Fortunately for the GOP, it looks like the race will still be an open: Parkinson declared in early January that he would not run for any office next year. Might he change his mind now that he will get used to serving as Governor and would be able to run as the incumbent? And could he win the Democratic primary given that he was the Kansas GOP’s chairman just a few years ago?

A centrist liberals can stand

Sebelius’s nomination would increase the ranks of Cabinet centrists, but it would also come as a relief to progressives, who had come to expect the worse. For starters, Sebelius is a Democrat (which is significant, given some of the Administration’s other appointments…), and she is far less conservative a pick than Phil Bredesen, the health care coverage-cutting Tennessee Governor with deep ties to the insurance industry who looked looked like one of the front-runners for the position.

Sebelius’s ability to awake little passion (for or against her) has always puzzled me, but that is probably what Obama is looking in an HHS Secretary: A wonky, reassuring-looking politician who will ignite as little partisan fire as possible from either side. Indeed, Sebelius has little partisan edge - something that generally frustrates liberals - but she has managed not to develop the reputation of a conservative Democrat. This remarkable equilibrium mirrors Obama’s own ideological positioning, especially when it comes to health care (as we saw in the primary as well as the general election): A centrist, but a non-militant one.

Health care will obviously be one of the biggest issues of Obama’s presidencies, which means that Sebelius could emerge as one of the Administration’s most important players. This could prove perilous, but it is also sure to immensely rewarding - both professionally and personally. (Getting credit for finally realizing some version of health care reform could position Sebelius for bigger things in the years ahead.) And as we learned this week that Obama plans to start pushing for health care reform this year, Sebelius will have to get to work immediately.

Update: The Kansas City Star asks a very good question:

Who will [Parkinson] pick as his lieutenant governor now that he’ll be vacating that position? Why is that significant? Because it’s the Democrats’ last chance to come up with a candidate for governor or the U.S. Senate in 2010.


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Next up: Health care reform, individual mandates and employer tax exclusion

Last night, Barack Obama emphatically stated that the issue of health care has to be tackled as soon as possible. “Let there be no doubt,” he proclaimed, “health care reform cannot wait, it must not wait, and it will not wait another year.”

This is sure to reassure liberal Democrats, some of whom were worried that the economic crisis would lead the Administration to neglect health care reform. And it means that the next few months will see an intense legislative battle that will make the stimulus debate look like a children’s play - though both should be dwarfed when EFCA comes on the table!

Recent news reports had already indicated that Obama’s budget proposal (to be released tomorrow) would lay the groundwork for health care reform and instruct Congress craft the bill according to funding estimates and guiding principles outlined by the Administration.

Obama’s choice not to craft the entire legislation himself goes back to a major issue in his race against Hillary Clinton. Obama repeatedly pounded Clinton for contributing to mismanage the 1993-1994 debate by crafting health care reform behind closed doors and without congressional collaboration, a procedure that isolated the White House when Republicans and the health care industry started to pound on the reform. Given Obama’s characterization of that episode, it is only natural that he is now choosing another path.

Yet, details of the guiding principles that Obama will seek in the health care bill are starting to leak, and two of the most important (individual mandates and the employer tax exclusion) are in complete contradiction with Obama’s rhetoric on the campaign trail. On both issues, Obama has moved to the left since the election, but only after he spent two years blasting proposed reforms with such vehemence as to provide Republicans crucial ammunition in the coming debate.

In the Democratic primaries, the dispute over individual mandates was one of the main (one of the only?) substantive policy differences between Clinton and Obama, and the two candidates pounded each other on issue. Clinton (like John Edwards) favored mandates, while Obama went to great lengths to caricature mandates as a requirement to buy something that is unaffordable and that undermines individual choice.

Obama’s rhetoric infuriated most proponents of health care reform, who responded that mandates is the only way to insure universal coverage and accused Obama of using the Right’s traditional arguments. The worry was that Obama’s own words would be used against Democrats in 2009 when the time came to implement health care reform. This is the issue that led Paul Krugman to repeatedly blast Obama, and it is also the reason John Edwards waited so long before endorsing him - not to mention the reason Elizabeth Edwards did not accompany him.

None of this got Obama to back down, and his campaign went furthest in early February 2008 by sending a mailer that channeled the industry-backed Harry and Louise ads that helped destroy health care reform in 1994:

Now, Ezra Klein reports that Obama favors implementing individual mandates and that his guiding principles will call on Congress to move towards “universality” - something the White House knows will be taken as green light for mandates.

Obama’s switch is not surprising, as many commentators predicted that he would change his mind once the time came to craft a legislation. But it is nonetheless a big turnaround in that mandates were such a huge issue in the Democratic primaries, and one which Obama used mercilessly against his then-rival. Furthermore, this puts Democrats under risk, as Republicans will be able to use Obama’s repeated warnings that mandates would undermine individual choice and be unaffordable working family against his own reform plan. How will Obama maneuver to defend himself against his own very harsh criticism?

If Obama’s old mandate mailers could cause headaches for Democrats, it could be nothing compared to the other health care-related campaign issue on which the President is partly reversing his position: employer tax exclusion.

As Klein eloquently explains, health care benefits are taxed if they are bought by an individual. Yet, they are not taxed if they are obtained through employment due to the employer tax exclusion: benefits are not considered to be income, and neither the employer nor the employee is taxed. This is an unlimited exemption - it applies to $5,000 plans and $500,000 plans alike - which is a regressive scheme that costs the government more than $100 billion a year.

During the general election campaign, Obama seized on John McCain’s proposal to lift this exemption and pounded him in a long series of ads that defined the campaign for weeks. McCain wants to “tax health benefits for the first time ever, meaning hire income tax for millions,” warned one of the most famous spots that told viewers they could lose their insurance as a result:

Health care might not have been the dominant issue in debates and in stump speeches, but this attack was undoubtedly one of the defining issues in the ad wars - and it helped Obama put McCain on the defensive and win the middle-class vote.

Now, Klein reports that Obama wants the congressional plan to include such an exemption! Sure, there are important differences with McCain’s proposal. For one, the tax exclusion might not be removed for plans under a certain amount not to raise taxes on people with lower incomes; second, McCain’s plan would have used the money saved to push people towards individual markets. And many Democrats like Ron Wyden had long suggested reforming the employer tax exclusion.

But these nuances cannot obscure the fact that the principle Obama denounced so vehemently last fall (”taxing health benefits for the first time ever”) could now be implemented with his support - and that turnaround could certainly prove difficult to navigate for the White House. Even if the Administration pushes congressional Democrats to introduce the measure, Obama will not be able to avoid addressing the issue - not to mention the fact that his own warnings, his own attack ads will be used by the bill’s opponents.

Yet, now that Obama has changed his mind, liberals can only celebrate his change of mind. On substantive issues - the fact that a reform will be introduced this year, that Obama is ready to call for true universality and that the tax exemption is being capped - Obama has moved to the left since the election. What remains are procedural complaints - Obama could have made the job easier had he not rallied against these positions so dramatically over the past two years - and the regret that few Democrats are willing to talk about a single-payer system.


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Solis and voting rights: Two important Senate votes

The Senate took a lengthy recess after passing the stimulus bill two weeks ago, but it finally reconvened today to take up two important matters: the nomination of Hilda Solis for Secretary of Labor and the D.C. voting rights act.

Solis finally joins the Cabinet

Rep. Hilda Solis was the only one of Obama’s original Cabinet picks left to be approved by the Senate. (Apart from Labor, only the Commerce and HHS Departments are still leaderless because of the successive withdrawals of Bill Richardson, Tom Dashle and Judd Gregg.) Despite having been nominated in December and having far less issues than Timothy Geithner, Solis was held up by Senate Republicans for two months.

Today, hours before Harry Reid was scheduled to invoke a cloture vote, Mitch McConnell announced he would not threaten a filibuster. The roll call was overwhelming: 80 Senators voted to confirm her, 17 voted against her.

One of the reasons mentioned by the GOP were $6,400 in outstanding tax liens that were owned by her husband’s business; but the delay’s real reason was undoubtedly Solis’s proximity to labor. The California representative is among Obama’s most progressive Cabinet picks, and Republicans zeroed in on her work for American Rights at Work, a pro-labor advocacy organization, and her advocacy for the Employer Free Choice Act.

EFCA is destined to become one of the biggest battlegrounds in the current Congress, and the length to which Republicans went to delay Solis’s nomination confirms how huge a fight card-check will provoke. EFCA is labor’s top priority, and they are heavily lobbying the Administration to get quick proceedings; given that a few Senate Republicans like Arlen Specter have supported EFCA in the past, Democrats will have no excuse not to pass the bill - and labor will certainly not forgive nor forget if Obama recants on his campaign promise.

On the other side, business groups have been mobilizing for months and putting pressure on conservative Democrats (though this is one vote on which Democrats cannot afford to buck their leadership if they come from districts where labor has any strength); and Solis did not help her cause by strangely equivocating during her Senate hearings when asked about her position on card-checks.

Also: Solis’s nomination leaves her district vacant. A special election is expected to be held in May, and most of the action should take place in the Democratic primary. CA-32 is a heavily Hispanic, heavily Democratic district: Obama defeated John McCain 68% to 30%.

D.C. voting rights pass first big hurdle

A similar bill had failed in the previous congress by only three votes, but proponents of D.C. voting rights were heartened by Democrats’ Senate gains and they pushed ahead with a new bill, that adds two House seats to the lower chamber, bringing the total to 437. One is attributed to D.C., granting the District its first political representation ever; the other goes to Utah, which had just missed an extra seat in the round of redistricting at the start of this decade and which will thus have four House districts.

Democrats were confident that they would be able to get the bill past the Senate this year, but there was some margin of uncertainty given that Al Franken has yet to be seated, Ted Kennedy never shows up in the Senate and Kay Hagan flirted with the possibility of a no vote. When all was said and done, the bill passed with 62 votes in favor and 34 against. Two Democrats voted “nay” (Max Baucus and Robert Byrd) while eight Republicans voted “yea” (Hatch, Snowe, Specter, Voinovich, Collins, Cochran, Lugar and Murkowski).

The bill still has a long way to go: It must survive the Senate’s amendment procedure (Republicans are expected to try and load the bill with gun-right provision), pass the House (which looks far more likely) and then survive a constitutional challenge. The bill’s opponents point out that the Constitution allows representation only to the states, and that D.C. can be given voting rights only via constitutional amendment. Yet, the constitution’s other state-only clauses are applied in D.C., whether the right to a trial by jury or the federal income tax. Raw Fisher provides some detail:

The Constitution talks about “the several States” in several places, and nobody has sought to exclude Washington residents from the laws, benefits and responsibilities laid out in those other clauses of the document. Examples: D.C. citizens are subject to the same laws governing interstate commerce as anyone else in the country is, yet the Constitution uses exactly the same words to give Congress the power to “regulate Commerce…among the several States” as it does in the language setting up the House of Representatives. D.C. residents similarly serve in the National Guard and the military despite the Constitution’s reference to “the Militia of the several States.

The bill’s proponents are unlikely to be interested in the constitutional amendment route given that such a path was unsuccessful: Congress passed an amendment in the late 1970s, but only 16 states out of a required 38 ratified the amendment. In any case, federal courts are expected to take up the matter quickly, but this issue could take years to resolve so it remains to be seen whether a final ruling will even be delivered in time for the 2010 midterms.

Another fascinating subplot in this story is the mechanism Utah will use to draw its new congressional district. The House bill calls for this fourth seat to be an at-large seat until the state legislature redraws the map at the beginning of the next decade, as it is scheduled to. But the Senate seat has no such provision. Depending on what the final bill will look like, Utah’s legislature might have to redraw the state’s districts in time for the 2010 midterms, and this could have major repercussions for the sole Democrat of the state’s congressional delegation, Rep. Matheson.

On the one hand, the GOP could make his district even more inhospitable, though that could mean putting Democratic-leaning precincts in the fourth district and potentially opening the door to Democrats seizing newly-created UT-04? Or the GOP could seek to ensure that UT-04 falls in GOP hands, in which case they would be likely to consolidate blue precincts in Matheson’s UT-02, rendering the Democrat far safer than he has ever been.


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Sebelius closing in on HHS

If we are to trust The New York Times’s reporting, Senate Republicans are about to get their biggest break in years as Barack Obama has settled on Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius as the Health and Human Services Secretary. The position was left vacant by Tom Daschle’s withdrawal.

The Times suggests that the appointment is only held up because the Administration wants to conduct as thorough as possible a vetting process to avoid yet another Cabinet controversy. There are no other candidates to mention, writes Baker. So it looks like only a skeleton in Sebelius’s closet could derail her nomination.

Senate, Governor: Major consequences in 2010

Should Obama follow through, this appointment would have major consequences for the midterms. Senator Sam Brownback is retiring in 2010, and Sebelius is the only Democrat with any hope of picking-up the seat. (A recent poll had her beating Rep. Moran and Rep. Tiahrt by double-digits.) Yet, her move to the HHS Department would prevent her from running for Senate, and it would all but guarantee that the seat remain in the GOP’s hands.

Needless to say, that would provide indescribable relief to Republicans who are so anxious about the five open seats they already have to defend next year!

On the other hand, Sebelius’s departure could help Democrats keep the Governor’s mansion. Kansas’s governorship is one of the most endangered in the nation since Sebelius is term-limited out of office. Her resignation would elevate Lieutenant Governor Mark Parkinson, a Democrat who was until recently a Republican. Parkinson could then be in a stronger position than the Democratic nominee was expected to be since he could run in 2010 as an incumbent. [Correction: I initially wrote that Parkinson was already expected to run for the open seat in 2010. However, Parkinson declared in early January that he would not run for any office next year. Might he change his mind if he gets to serve as Governor for a year? And could he win the Democratic primary given that he was the Kansas GOP's chairman just a few years ago?]

If these plans to nominate Sebelius nomination fall through, other potential picks are Bredesen, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden and Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro. Democrats frustrated that Sebelius’s appointment will cost them the Kansas Senate seat can at least tell themselves that it means that they will not have to defend Wyden’s seat in a risky springtime special election; on the other hand, a Granholm pick would have help Democrats down-the-ballot since the Democratic Lieutenant Governor would be elevated and could run as an incumbent in 2010.

A centrist liberals can stand

Finally, Sebelius’s nomination would increase the ranks of Cabinet centrists, but it would also come as a relief to progressives, who had come to expect the worse. For starters, Sebelius is a Democrat (which is significant, given some of the Administration’s other appointments…), and she is far less conservative a pick than Phil Bredesen, the health care coverage-cutting Tennessee Governor with deep ties to the insurance industry. For a while, Bredesen looked like one of the front-runners for the position, which led liberal activists and bloggers mobilizing against him.

If Sebelius is confirmed as Obama’s choice, the President will have made a pick who has little partisan edge, but one that has managed not to develop the reputation of a conservative Democrat and thus remain somewhat acceptable to the liberal wing. This remarkable equilibrium mirrors Obama’s own ideological positioning: A centrist, but a non-militant one.

Obama’s positioned himself to the center on health care in the primary as well as the general election, and this is one reform Obama is clearly committed to selling as a “post-partisan,” “pragmatist” compromise - whatever those terms mean. Sebelius’s ability to awake little passion (for or against her) has always puzzled me, but that is probably what Obama is looking in an HHS Secretary: A wonky, reassuring-looking politician who can navigate a centrist version of health care reform through Congress while igniting as little partisan fire as possible from either side.


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With second bailout, ideological battles taking shape

With Democrats in a position to shape legislation for the first time this decade, ideological disputes were bound to arise quickly - and centrists led by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner are already winning the Administration’s first internal battles:

In the end, Mr. Geithner largely prevailed in opposing tougher conditions on financial institutions that were sought by presidential aides, including David Axelrod… Mr. Geithner, who will announce the broad outlines of the plan on Tuesday, successfully fought against more severe limits on executive pay for companies receiving government aid. He resisted those who wanted to dictate how banks would spend their rescue money. And he prevailed over top administration aides who wanted to replace bank executives and wipe out shareholders at institutions receiving aid.

Congressional Democrats and liberal activists can play a big role in tipping the balance one way or the other. In this particular case, they can boost the case of those wanting to increase oversight and implement more regulatory measures. If anything, these early ideological battles could shape the White House’s power dynamics for years to come, and this is why I am concerned to read columns like Nate Silver’s latest post:

This is neither the time nor the place for mass movements — this is the time for expert opinion. Once the experts (and I’m not one of them) have reached some kind of a consensus about what the best course of action is (and they haven’t yet), then figure out who is impeding that action for political or other disingenuous reasons and tackle them.

As we have all noticed, very qualified people people have conflicting ideas on how to fix the economy. Whether or not you agree with them, there is little doubt that Larry Summers and Timothy Geithner hold a center-right economic ideology; they believe in the virtues of free trade and are generally skeptical that heavy regulation or nationalization will improve the situation.

Other economic experts (whether leftist economists, Nobel Prize-winner Paul Krugman, or a proponents of Chicago school of economics-style free market) disagree with that vision; for instance, Krugman just wrote a piece criticizing Geithner’s reluctance to nationalize. It’s certainly hard to imagine John Keynes and Milton Friedman developing a consensus on how to respond to an economic crisis. Perhaps they could agree on a detail or two, but not on an overall coherent (and sufficiently ambitious) policy. In other words: There is no such thing as the “expert opinion,” there no ideal point at which all “experts” come to agreement.

The government’s solutions will necessarily have an ideological leaning: The economic policies that will be implemented in the months ahead will conform to the ideology of those who wield power. It will have little to do with expert consensus or intellectual deliberation (thankfully, for someone to become a White House adviser or Treasury Secretary means they have already thought about what policies can stimulate a staggering economy), and everything to do with political power.

Right now, that power belongs to center to center-right economists who will resist the type of regulation and ambitious spending demanded by liberals unless congressional Democrats and activists present enough pressure to force them to listen. (For that matter, they will also resist the type of tax cuts conservative economists would advocate for - and conservatives have even less of a route through which to influence Obama and Geithner.)

Saying citizens should refer to expert opinion amounts to saying that they should uncritically defer to power - and it is tragically anti-democratic. For those who oppose the experts-in-power’s ideological leanings, this is more than ever the time for mass movements. This is something European and Canadian citizens have understood. The Canadian opposition managed to block the government’s proposal of conservative policies to deal with the economy; and as Naomi Klein reports, workers in France, Greece and Italy are rising in protests that the vast majority of the population is supporting.

Nate Silver adds:

Nobody, absolutely nobody, has more incentive to get this right than the Obama Administration. If the economy collapses — well, more than it already has collapsed — then the Democrats get slaughtered in 2010.

Yet, the fact that Obama has more incentive to get this right has little to do with whether he chooses the right set of policies to address the crisis. (That is, unless you believe that Democrats might be looking to get this wrong and make the economy collapse further - but I have yet to hear anyone make that argument.) What people are arguing over is not Obama’s motivation but the appropriateness of his economic policies: He could desperately want to make the economy stronger but still implement an ineffective set of policies that backfire.

After all, did Hoover want to make the Depression worse? To take a more recent example: nobody, absolutely nobody, had more incentive to get the Iraq War right than the Bush Administration and congressional Republicans. No one’s legacy was more at stake than Bush’s; no one’s electoral prospects were more at risk than those of Republicans? Does that mean we should have trusted Bush’s decisions on the Middle East and followed his recommendations?

A political leader could convince citizens to trust him in any endeavor if they were to believe that he would do no wrong since he would stand the most to lose if things backfired. It is a great feeling to be able to trust one’s government, but a dose of skepticism and oversight is never a bad thing.


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Replacing Daschle

We thought we were done with Cabinet drama when Barack Obama selected Judd Gregg as his Commerce Secretary, but Tom Daschle’s withdrawal from the HHS Department opened up yet another chapter.

Let’s start by saying that it is hard to be that surprised - or that upset - that Daschle’s nomination was derailed given his behavior ever since he left the Senate, the millions he made as a lobbyist without officially being one, and this sort of ethical controversies. Current and former office holders should have a minimal amount of ethical decency if they want to be given the benefit of the doubt when tax errors are discovered.

To succeed Daschle, eight names are most often mentioned: former Vermont Governor Howard Dean, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, Ohio Governor Ted Strickland, Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro and Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. (Also mentioned was former Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, but he declared that he was not interested earlier this week.)

The Bredesen concern

Attracting the most buzz is Bredesen, perhaps because his selection would provoke a controversy that would make Gregg look like a consensual pick. And that would be appropriate: It is easy to dismiss the Commerce Department as an inconsequential post, but the HHS Secretary will be in charge of health care reform. For Obama to select a conservative Democrat whose methods health care advocates have long denounced would be an inexplicable act of provocation towards his base and towards liberal activists that regard health care as one of the most important issues of the day.

Bredesen first made his fortune in the health care industry as he founded HealthAmerica, a commercial HMO, in the 1980s. Later, as Governor, he found himself at the head of Tennessee’s Medicaid program, TennCare. He operated some dramatic cutbacks, kicking more than 300,000 low-income adults out of the program. Bredesen’s defenders argue that he had no other choice given the state’s budgetary situation, but the fact is that the Governor’s record has more to do with saving money by cutting health coverage rather than with what a Democratic Administration’s HHS Secretary should be concerned with - expanding health care towards universality in an way that is economically viable.

Making matters worse is the extensive donations Bredesen has received from the health care industry, as well as the fact (reported by Politico) that BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee donated $150,000 to the renovation of the Governor’s Mansion. An export on the issue of health care, Jonathan Cohn adds: “He is typical of the top figures in the health industry I’ve met over the years: Self-made entrepreneurs a bit too convinced of their own brilliance, completely unaware that the strategies for making private insurers profitable don’t help–and often hurt–the sicker, poorer people whom insurance should ideally protect.”

On the other hand, it is not surprising to see Obama consider someone like Bredesen given his campaign rhetoric. You might remember that health care is the issue on which he positioned himself the most to the center for much of the campaign, and the priorities he outlined during 2008 raise questions as to how much Obama intends to privilege the question of increasing access and enrollment. During the general election, Obama aired an ad attacking “government-run health care” as a radical solution he would stay away from. During the Democratic primaries, he ran to Hillary’s right on the issue, attracting Paul Krugman’s enmity and going as far as to send Democratic voters a truly stunning mailer channeling the Right’s “Harry and Louise attacks” from 1993:

Consequences down-the-ballot

Also fascinating is that the selection of most of the names I listed above would create major headaches for down-the-ballot Democrats. Next in line in both Pennsylvania and Tennessee are Republican Lieutenant Governors, and for either to become Governor would obviously be a tremendous boost for the GOP’s 2010 prospects.

In Ohio, Strickland’s successor Lee Fisher would be a Democrat, but Strickland is not term-limited next year; moving him to Washington would thus complicate Democratic hopes to hold on to the Governor’s Mansion, and it would also remove Fisher from the Senate race where many consider him to be the favorite to win the nomination. Selecting Sebelius would remove the Democrats’ only credible contender in Kansas’s Senate race and guarantee that the seat remain in GOP hands. For Wyden to retire from the Senate would spark a springtime special election, decrease the Democratic majority by one in the short term and possibly cost Democrats a seat in the long term.

Remain Howard Dean, Rosa DeLauro (whose district is heavily blue) and Jennifer Granholm, who would be succeeded by Democratic Lieutenant Governor John Cherry. Michigan’s open gubernatorial race will be one of the toughest for Democrats to defend, and for Cherry to run as an incumbent would be a huge boost.


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Obama set to pick Gregg

At a press conference to be held tomorrow, Barack Obama is reportedly set to appoint New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg to the Secretary of Commerce position, a development that no one had forecast until a few days ago.

Gregg will become the 5th Senator to resign from the chamber since the November election. The Senate is thus seeing quite a turnaround when we combine that number to the 5 Senators who retired at the end of the 110th Congress and the 5 Senators who were defeated in November. (Interestingly, this means that Jeanne Shaheen will become New Hampshire’s Senior Senator just a few weeks after joining the chamber; by contrast, John Kerry has been Massachusetts’ junior Senator since 1985.)

It is hard to know what pushed Gregg to accept a position that is far from the most prestigious Cabinet position. Perhaps he did not want to spend the next two years preparing for a tough campaign; perhaps he was bored by life in the minority, a problem that is afflicting many Republicans and that was demonstrated just this week-end by Rep. Putnam’s decision to return to Florida politics.

It is even harder to understand what is motivating Obama to appoint him since this development will not lead to Democrats obtaining a 60th vote in the current Senate. As I explained a few hours ago, Gregg is no moderate but a reliable conservative who is not known for his post-partisan yearnings, nor he is someone Senate Democrats typically look to for cross-over votes. Matthew Yglesias puts it well: “Surely Gregg’s desire to replace himself with somebody who will often oppose his new boss’s agenda is evidence of his deep commitment to the administration, the cabinet, and the agency he appears poised to head.”

Obama pledged to appoint the best people for a job irrespective of their party affiliation; but can he really argue that the best choice to lead a federal department in charge of some aspects of the economy is a man who was planning on voting against his stimulus plan? Has post-partisanship come to the point where policy disagreements mean so little they can just be tossed aside, to the point that a governing majority is an assortment of people irrespective of their policy positions? How can such an assortment constitute a governing majority, and what then differentiates government from a bureaucracy?

Gregg’s appointment carries with it major electoral consequences. It is a twist on the pattern of the past few months, which saw the Democrats’ Senate majority endangered by Obama tapping Democratic Senators to the Cabinet; now, it is the GOP’s turn to face major midterm trouble.

As I explained a few hours ago, Democratic Governor John Lynch looks all but certain to appoint a Republican replacement, but he will probably appoint a caretaker who will give him some assurance that he will not run for re-election in 2010. If such a scenario indeed unfolds, it would mean that Republicans will have yet another open seat to defend, in addition to those in Ohio, Missouri and Florida.

An open seat in New Hampshire would be the most difficult to defend given that the Granite State has been trending blue over the past few years.

That said, a Cabinet appointment is a big price to pay for such a distant and very much uncertain reward. Sure, it increases the Democrats’ chance of picking up his seat in 2010, but a take-over is very far from a sure thing. For one, Gregg’s successor could choose to run for re-election, even if he or she initially tells Lynch that will not be the case. And in any case, the best Democrats can hope for is an open seat - and the state GOP has enough of a bench to fiercely contest the seat.

The potential successor who is attracting the most buzz is Bonnie Newman, a former Gregg chief of staff who has a centrist reputation and who endorsed Lynch’s first gubernatorial candidacy in 2004. Another possibility is Doug Scamman, who is around 70 and even less likely to run for re-election in 2010. Given that New Hampshire was not so long ago a safe haven for moderate Republicans, there are many more names Lynch could choose from, like former Governor Walter Peterson and former Senator Warren Rudman.

At the very least, Newman and Scamman might provide a cross-over vote on critical issues like card-check legislation, which Gregg was sure to vote against. And Democrats might be able to live with that as long as Gregg’s replacement does not get 2010 ambition of his or her own - in which case Obama and Lynch will surely have some explaining to do. (We will talk more about the dynamics of an open Senate race, who might run and what the two parties should aim when we know more about Lynch’s intentions.)


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Change

In a matter of minutes, President George W. Bush will become a private citizen, replaced by Barack Obama.

This is a moment Democrats have been waiting for - and counting down towards - since 2001; over the past few years, they were joined by an increasing number of restless independents and frustrated Republicans who could not take Bush’s leadership anymore.

Most of these dissatisfied Americans voted for Barack Obama in November. Some chose John McCain, convinced by his attempts to portray himself as a change agent - but even they are happy today to see Bush depart.

No matter the direction in which Obama takes the country (and my most recent post contained some harsh criticism of the post-partisan posture with which he intends to govern), it is bound to be a dramatic change from the Bush Administration.

In the course of eight long years, Bush managed to make a mockery out of lawfulness and legality, to take neo-liberalism and deregulation to heights Ronald Reagan could hardly have imagined and to implement a foreign policy based on fear and brute force.

At least, progressives can be relived that Bush antagonized the country, failing to usher in an era of conservative dominance as Reagan had in the 1980s. In fact, Bush’s rule caused the collapse of voters’ trust in conservative principles, giving Democrats a golden opportunity to force an ideological realignment.

Bush’s unpopularity helped Democrats grab huge majorities in both chambers of Congress. This afternoon, a Democratic President will move into the White House, giving the party control of both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue for the first time since the short-lived 1992-1994 period. And while no conservative Supreme Court Justice is expected to retire over the next few years, Obama is likely to replace some of the aging liberal Justices, thus preventing further erosion of the liberal side’s 4 vote bloc.

The economic crisis and the country’s engagement in two costly wars provides Democrats further opportunity to think big and implement large reforms - this is not only their right, but also the responsibility that comes with having voters choose your party so decisively.

All of this has been said dozens of times, and there is no need to pontificate any more about today’s transition.

Seeing the dozens of foreign magazines that have put the Obamas on their cover, seeing the enthusiasm of the hundreds of thousands of people that have poured in the cold streets of Washington tell us all we need to know about the tremendous hope that Bush’s departure and Obama’s arrival is awakening across the country and across the world.


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Elections should have consequences

It would be hard for me to cover electoral politics with this much intensity if I did not believe that elections matter, if I did not believe that an election represents a crucial choice between competing visions - a choice that should then be implemented.

In other words: Elections should have consequences.

Unfortunately, the era of “post-partisanship” is coming dangerously close to undermining that basic premise of electoral politics. Today, this was demonstrated by a New York Times article reporting on the contacts between Barack Obama and his former opponent John McCain:

As contenders for the presidency, the two had hammered each other for much of 2008 over their conflicting approaches to foreign policy, especially in Iraq. (He’d lose a war! He’d stay a hundred years!) Now, however, Mr. Obama said he wanted Mr. McCain’s advice, people in each camp briefed on the conversation said…

Over the last three months, Mr. Obama has quietly consulted Mr. McCain about many of the new administration’s potential nominees to top national security jobs and about other issues — in one case relaying back a contender’s answers to questions Mr. McCain had suggested.

Mr. McCain, meanwhile, has told colleagues “that many of these appointments he would have made himself,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican and a close McCain friend.

One Obama appointee McCain is undoubtedly happy about is National Security Adviser-designate Jim Jones, a close friend of McCain’s who was viewed as a likely member of the Republican’s Cabinet if he had won the November election.

(Similarly, Foreign Policy picks up grumblings among some foreign policy advisers of Obama’s presidential campaign; they are complaining that the Administration’s foreign policy apparatus is being stacked with Clintonites. Yet, the Democratic primaries were fought in great part over contrasts between Hillary and Obama’s foreign policy approach.)

The problem here is not that Obama is governing from the center or that he is moving to the right or any ideologically-driven complaint of the sort. Quite the contrary: I have long argued that Obama ran as a moderate candidate (particularly in the Democratic primaries), so I for one am certainly not surprised by his early gestures of centrism. Rather, what I object to is the disdain for the democratic process that this article reveals.

Throughout 2008, the presidential election created a great deal of enthusiasm; throughout 2008, voters (across the political spectrum) were greatly motivated and many devoted hours of their time to elect their champion. Millions of dollars were spend, hundreds of articles were written, people agonized over whether their candidate would pull through. Either this process was all a grotesque joke (and in which case I also wasted my time blogging day and night) or it offered a real choice between two visions, two directions for the country.

On November 4th, voters chose one of these visions (that of the Democratic ticket led by Barack Obama) over another (that of the Republican ticket led by John McCain); in fact, they did so overwhelmingly compared to the results of the 2000 and 2004 elections.

Sure, Obama’s 52% did not settle the question of whether the country should turn to the left or anchor itself at the center; sure, McCain should be listened to (he does represents 46% of voters, and the “tyranny of the majority” is an important concern against which democracies should guard themselves).

But it is absolutely stunning that McCain, just two months after his defeat, is already in a position to say “that many of these appointments he would have made himself.” And it is equally stunning that McCain appears to have a voice in crafting the foreign policy of a country whose voters rejected his foreign policy vision just two months ago.

McCain should be treated as a member of the opposition for the election to have had any meaning at all. This means that he should be given the means to oppose the governing party; and he should be given the means to convince the electorate that his vision is better - rather than be given the means to craft policy. Otherwise, what was the point of bothering to vote against him (or for him, for that matter) on November 4th?

Why hold elections if we refuse to act like elections have consequences?

Why organize a contest on November 4th if we are going to get Jim Jones and Robert Gates no matter what? Why disturb voters at all and make them go to the polls if Clinton’s and McCain’s foreign policy vision is going to permeate American diplomacy whether or not voters elect them?

To deny that the election was a rejection of the vision proposed by candidate McCain is to make a mockery of the electoral process and to strip it of its meaning. It is to put it as simply as possible, a denial of democracy and of the voters’ sovereign will.

Post-partisans are essentially telling the country that policy choices do not follow the political choices voters made on Election Day; rather, post-partisans want policy choices to be based on the enlightened (and self-proclaimed rational) opinions of a political and technocratic elite that operates with little regard to the direction voters chose for themselves through an election. But where would this leave dissatisfied voters who want a chance in policy? What political solution can they rely on?

For electoral politics to function, voters dissatisfied with the incumbent party’s rule have to be able to turn to the opposition. But who can dissatisfied voters turn to when the opposition has an active role in crafting the policies of the incumbent government? Who can dissatisfied voters turn to when the man who should be the first opponent - the man whose vision voters just rejected - says that he would have appointed the same people?

These are all deeply complex questions, but they raise worries as to the coherence of electoral politics; they also go to the heart of the problem of post-partisan rhetoric, which leaves voters with little to no viable (or at least no respectable) alternative.

In the past, I already argued that post-partisan rhetoric is a deceptive attempt to hide one’s ideology behind seemingly innocent words like “effectiveness” and “pragmatic approach.” Here again, the issue is  not the content of that hidden ideology but the denial of democracy that is being operated.

All men and women who have a role in crafting policy thankfully have a framework that allows them to process new information. They thankfully have preconceived ideas on how to address new problem. They thankfully already have opinions on what the best remedies are to address an economic crisis or to prevent a terrorist attack. This does not mean that they will blindly implement these opinions, but it does mean that these men and women all bring to the table their own ideology - which means nothing more than a conceptual framework within which they work.

This framework does not have to arise arbitrarily; it does not have to be Xeroxed straight from a Karl Marx or an Adam Smith book. Rather, a framework can evolve out of prior experiences, from an interpretation of historical events, from economic and military theory - the sum total of which fashions a person’s ideas and opinions. As importantly, it does not have to be rigid: Pragmatism dictates that the best public servants have to be able to change their framework if events contradict them. In other words, ideology and pragmatism are not contradictory notions.

Those who proclaim to be moved by nothing more than “effectiveness” work within an ideological framework that they try to disguise as the only possible way of viewing the world, as the scientific way of viewing the world. This paints competing political visions as unscientific, primitive, ineffective, blinded or “ideological” - the word post-partisans use to describe ideas that do not match their own ideology.

There can be a similar effect in making people like Jones and Gates look like they have the support of both Obama and McCain. If the former rivals are both supporting some of the same objectives or the same policies, these can be portrayed as “pragmatic” and “dictated by facts.” Thus, any critics of these objectives and policies will find themselves marginalized as denying facts and living in a world of fantasy - which comes to saying that there are no rational alternatives.



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  • All good things must come to an end

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    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • What remains on the table

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Confusion in Connecticut (Updated)

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Results thread, part 2: Dems suffer staggering losses in House and legislatives races, limit damage in statewide races

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Election Night results thread: Rep. Boucher’s fall first surprise of the night

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Election night cheat sheet

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • Final ratings: Democrats brace for historic losses

  • Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

    Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

    Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55
  • What to watch for down-ballot

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Strict Standards: mktime(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 41

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 50

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 52

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 54

Strict Standards: date(): It is not safe to rely on the system's timezone settings. You are *required* to use the date.timezone setting or the date_default_timezone_set() function. In case you used any of those methods and you are still getting this warning, you most likely misspelled the timezone identifier. We selected 'America/New_York' for 'EDT/-4.0/DST' instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/functions.php on line 55

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1002

Deprecated: preg_replace(): The /e modifier is deprecated, use preg_replace_callback instead in /homepages/33/d214989360/htdocs/wp-includes/kses.php on line 1003

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