Wow, quite a weekend for Senate news. First, the GOP Senator I hate the most, Saxby "Chicken Hawk" Chambliss (R. GA) announced his retirement sparing himself the embarrassment of being defeated in contested primary battle with a bat shit crazy teabagger. That's the good news. The bad news is one of my favorite Senators, Tom Harkin (D. IA), is calling it quits:
Harkin was first elected to Congress in 1974 and elected to the U.S. Senate in 1984. Harkin also ran for President in the 1992 Democratic Primary. Iowa will surely miss this prairie populist:WASHINGTON — Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who championed landmark legislation banning discrimination against people with disabilities, said Saturday that he would retire and not seek re-election to a sixth term next year.
The announcement from Mr. Harkin, 73, sets the stage for one of the most competitive Senate races in the country in the 2014 midterm elections. It will be a key contest in the Republican Party’s quest to win control of the chamber from Democrats.
“It’s not easy to walk away, but life is fleeting,” Mr. Harkin said in an interview Saturday. “I’ve had the privilege to be here for 40 years. Too many people hang on to power for too long, and that’s not right.” - New York Times, 1/26/13
It's still surprising to me because I thought he was going to run again. Lady Gaga was coming to D.C. in February to hold a fundraiser for him but then again, the tone he took about the deal struck between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D. NV) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R. KY) indicated how frustrated he was in Washington, D.C.:Harkin is popular in Iowa, regularly earning job approval ratings in the 60% range in the Iowa Poll.
He is a big voice on social issues, and he has the ear of party leaders. Since Democrats control his chamber, he can move bills and tuck in an amendment here or there. He has left a thumbprint on agriculture, improvements for people with disabilities, health care and various progressive causes for decades.
Harkin shoulders an important assignment in the Senate: He's chairman of the HELP committee, which stands for Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, a huge jurisdiction. The No Child Left Behind education law and the 2010 health care reform law — the Affordable Care Act, often called Obamacare — originated there. Those assigned to this powerful committee generally aren't supposed to serve on other committees, but Harkin has taken on three others: agriculture, appropriations and small business. - USA Today, 1/26/13
We will miss you Senator Harkin. Enjoy your retirement, you deserve it. I would also like to thank Harkin for making his announcement early so he Iowa Democrats can find the right candidate for Harkin to pass the torch to:Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin has been backing filibuster reform packages for most of his Senate career. A group of reporters stopped him today on his way into the caucus meeting where the party will be told the virtues of what Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell agreed on. Harkin fluttered open his binder, pulled out the new rules, and read them slowly, grimly. "They're baby, baby steps," he said. He'd wanted the Democrats to go ahead and change the Senate rules with 51 votes, and Reid had forestalled that.
"It's interesting," said Harkin, "that in 2005 -- I have the paper the Republican Policy Committee put out, you should read it -- where they state that using the constitutional option, this not-nuclear option, has been done before. That was the Republicans' position in 2005, right?" He shook his head. "It depends on who's in the majority. That's all it depends on." - Slate, 1/24/13
And who shall Harkin's torch be passed to? Well a few big names have been brought up:"After 40 years, I just feel it’s somebody else’s turn,” Harkin said. “I am going to make way for someone new in this Senate seat. I think that is right not just for me, but for Iowa as well." - LA Times, 1/26/13
Bruce Braley is a rising star for Iowa Democrats and is viewed as the top choice to replace Harkin. Braley is flattered and honored to be considered a strong candidate to run for Harkin's seat and is giving the race serious consideration:Rep. Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) is expected to be a front-runner on the Democratic side. He has also talked about running for governor in 2014, but seeking Harkin’s seat should offer him a much better opportunity than challenging Gov. Terry Branstad (R).
Other potential Democratic candidates include former Iowa governor and current Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, as well as his wife, Christie Vilsack, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in 2012. - Washington Post, 1/26/13
Reading over Braley's background, he sounds like the right prairie populist to continue Harkin's legacy in the Senate. Braley's main priorities in the House have been creating jobs, strengthening the economy, and investing in education. He even started the House Populist Caucus in 2009 to focus heavily on these issues:"Over the past 24 hours, I've been overwhelmed by the outpouring of encouragement and support from Iowans in every corner of the state urging me to consider a campaign for the U.S. Senate in 2014,” Braley said in a statement.
“Iowans deserve a Senator who will continue Tom Harkin's legacy of strengthening the middle class and standing up for Iowans who don't have a voice. While Senator Harkin's shoes are impossible to fill, over the coming days my family and I will carefully weigh a possible candidacy for Senate.”
Braley, a four-term congressman, was previously considering a challenge to Gov. Terry Branstad (R-Iowa). Harkin’s retirement, however, makes the Senate a much more attractive option for a statewide race, as he would be running for an open seat rather than challenging an incumbent. - The Hill, 1/27/13
The caucuses vice-chairs included Rep. Peter DeFazio (D. OR-4), Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D. CT-3), Rep. Betty Sutton (D. OH-13) and Rep. Donna Edwards (D. MD-4). Here's a list of it's past and current members:The middle class is the economic engine of America. Unfortunately, it has seen tough economic times lately, and it's time for a renewed emphasis on those issues that serve to strengthen the middle class and improve the lives of working families. That's why I established the Populist Caucus to focus exclusively on these types of issues.
Populist Caucus Platform:
1. Fighting for working families and the middle class by creating and retaining good-paying jobs in America, providing fair wages, proper benefits, a level playing field at the negotiating table, and ensuring American workers have secure, solvent retirement plans.
2. Cutting taxes for the middle class and establishing an equitable tax structure.
3. Providing affordable, accessible, quality health care for all Americans.
4. Ensuring quality primary education for all American children, and affordable college education for all who want it.
5. Defending American competiveness by fighting for fair trade principles.
6. Protecting consumers, so that Americans can have faith in the safety and effectiveness of the products they purchase - braley.house.gov
Rep. Leonard Boswell (D. IA-3), Lost
Rep. David Loebsack (D. IA-2)
Rep. Steve Cohen (D. TN-9)
Rep. Peter Welch (D. VT-ATL)
Rep. Keith Ellison (D. MN-5)
Rep. Mazie K. Hirono (D. HI-2) Elected to the U.S. Senate
Rep. Linda Sanchez (D. CA-38)
Rep. Hank Johnson (D. GA-4)
Rep. John Yarmuth (D. KY-3)
Rep. Joe Courtney (D. CT-2)
Rep. Bob Filner (D. CA-51) Elected Mayor of San Diego
Rep. Michael Michaud (D. ME-2)
Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D. IL-9)
Rep. Louise Slaughter (D. NY-25)
Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D. TX-35)
Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D. OH-9)
Rep. Ben Ray Luján Jr. (D. NM-3)
Rep. Henry Waxman (D. CA-33)
Rep. Jackie Speier (D. CA-14)
Rep. Brad Sherman (D. CA-30)
Rep. Dan Lipinski (D. IL-3)
Rep. John Garamendi (D. CA-3)
Rep. Paul Tonko (D. NY-20)
Braley has a pretty progressive populist voting background in the house. He strongly favors reducing greenhouse gas emissions, voted for the public option that was part of the original Affordable Health Care Act, has received a 100% rating from both Planned Parenthood and NARAL. He has also received high marks for his work on agriculture from the National Association of Wheat Growers, the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Farmers Union. In a stat like Iowa, agriculture is a very important issue. Braley has been the co-sponsor of several great bills including the Conservation Easement Incentive Act:
The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act:I am a cosponsor of the Conservation Easement Incentive Act. This tax deduction for conservation of land can help keep farm, ranch, and forest lands intact and protect important fish and wildlife, and conserve scenery across America. This legislation would make this tax incentive permanent, helping to preserve our natural history. - braley.house.gov
And the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act:I am a cosponsor of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act. Currently, the average age for a farmer is 57 years old, and this will only go up. The bill would provide incentives for retiring farmers to pass their land along to the next generation. In order to meet our nation’s food, feed, and fuel requirements, we need to make it easier and more attractive for farmers and ranchers who are trying to break into the business. - braley.house.gov
He's also been a large advocate for passing the Food, Farm & Jobs Act (Farm Bill 2012). Before Harkin's retirement announcement, Braley made the press by asking Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to release the video of the Benghazi incident:I am a cosponsor of the Local Farms, Food, and Jobs Act. This legislation will help promote local and regional agriculture. Consumers want a variety of fresh and healthy foods, and I am supportive of bringing down the barriers for farmers selling directly to consumers and at farmers markets. This will help support family farms and create jobs that can’t be shipped overseas. - braley.house.gov
Clinton recently testified before Senate and House hearings on the Beghazi Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya where four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens, were killed. Republicans were trying to grill Clinton harshly for political gain but instead just made themselves look like dicks. Braley knows Clinton is a great SoS and wants her to disclose the tape of the incident to prove to everyone that the Obama Administration and the Secretary of State did not hide facts or misrepresented its understanding of the situation in the days and weeks after it occurred.U.S. Rep. Bruce Braley on Friday called on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to release a video showing real-time footage of the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the American consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Braley, a Democrat from Iowa, and other congressmen were shown the video last month. In a letter dated Friday, Braley asked Clinton to declassify “as much of (the video) as possible.”
“I’m calling on the Administration to release this video because the American people deserve transparency and a clearer understanding of what really happened in Libya on that terrible day,” Braley said in a statement announcing the letter. “Without endangering any national security, I believe that this video can be declassified in order to give everyone a true understanding of this attack.” - Des Moines Resiter, 1/25/13
Now I'm not a single issues voter, I'll glad vote for someone who can agree with most of what I believe in and can win, which Braley most certainly can. I also think either Tom or Christie Vilsack would make great candidates as well. But the main reason why I want Braley to be the Democratic nominee is because of his opposition to SOPA and PIPA:
2laneIA pointed out that over 800 constituents reached out to Braley expressing their objection to the SOPA and PIPA bills being considered in both the House and Senate. It was difficult to see a lot of Democrats support such harsh legislation and though we won the battle, the war on the internet isn't finished. I personally would like to see guys like Braley in the Senate so they can battle corporate-pleasing legislature like SOPA and PIPA. In fact, Braley released a hilarious video responding to his constituents that he gets it and opposes SOPA:
I hope Braley announces his candidacy soon because I look forward to the ads his campaign will come up with. Again, it's a shame to see Harkin go but I appreciate him making his decision early so Democrats can find their ideal candidate. Braley was considering a run agianst GOP Governor Terry Branstad but that would be a bigger clime to make. Republicans are hoping Congressman Tom Latham (R. IA-3) chooses to run for Harkin's seat but Latham could face a tough primary battle with this clown:
Here's video of King's insanityDuring a tele-townhall late last week, Rep. Steve King (R-IA) fielded a question about his opposition to animal rights and recently introduced legislation that would undermine local standards preventing animal torture. “It’s wrong to rate animals above human beings,” he told the questioner. To make his point, King argued that “there’s something wrong” for society to make it a “federal crime to watch animals fight” but “it’s not a federal crime to induce somebody to watch people fighting.”
KING: When the legislation that passed in the farm bill that says that it’s a federal crime to watch animals fight or to induce someone else to watch an animal fight but it’s not a federal crime to induce somebody to watch people fighting, there’s something wrong with the priorities of people that think like that. - Think Progress, 7/31/12
If King actually decides to run for Senate, it will make the race very exciting to watch and will only strengthen Braley's grassroots campaign. Plus the only way to get rid of these right-wing extremist congressmen like King is to beat them in a big election like the U.S. Senate race. I look forward to hearing Braley's decision because if there is one Iowa Democrat who comes the closest to being the new generations Tom Harkin, it's Bruce Braley.