Thursday, November 14, 2019
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Cantor Breaks Promise as House GOP Stiffs Sandy Victims

Eastern Virginia Flooded RoadwayEven for House Republicans, who in the face of crisis are always ready to say no to solutions, this is low:
House Republicans abruptly pulled the plug Tuesday night on their promise to take up this week an emergency supplemental disaster aid bill for Northeast states damaged by Hurricane Sandy.

The decision is a stunning reversal since just hours before New Jersey lawmakers were preparing for floor debate Wednesday as outlined under a strategy promoted by no less than Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.). Indeed the Appropriations Committee had gone so far as to file a $27 billion bill Tuesday together with an amendment to be offered by Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.) seeking an additional $33 billion to match the Senate passed package of last week.

Absent a change of heart, the upshot now is that the Senate bill will die with this Congress on Thursday at noon. And the whole affair is sure to bring back memories of the famous Daily News headline in 1975-"Ford to City: Drop Dead."

To recap: Hurricane Sandy killed at least 105 people in the U.S., including two Virginians, and knocked out power to 8.5 million homes & businesses, including 180,000 here in Virginia. With at least 240 Virginia homes damaged, Gov. Bob McDonnell asked for federal disaster relief. It's not the first time Rep. Cantor has turned his back on disaster victims, including those in his own district. You may recall Rep. Cantor holding Virginia earthquake disaster aid hostage to Tea Party ideology. Cantor also blocked Japanese tsunami aid, claiming Americans are too poor to help suffering people.

Other, more responsible Republicans from states hit hard by Hurricane Sandy are furious with House Republican leadership:

Crazy Train Wreck? Solyndra-Obsessed, Cantor-Backed Stearns Losing Primary

Rep. Cliff StearnsRep. Cliff Stearns (R-FL) is one of Congress' craziest members, a birther who's led the GOP's witch hunt on clean energy investments and called for women who have abortions to be thrown in prison. But after last night's primary, it looks like he'll be going from crazy Congressman to crazy private citizen - he's narrowly losing his Republican primary to a local veterinarian named Ted Yoho. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) has stood by Stearns through all of his nuttiness. Heckuva job, Eric.

This is usually where I'd copy & paste some trenchant news analysis, but ... no one seems to know quite why Stearns is down by 800 votes. Even the local Gainesville Sun seems to have no idea what happened, other than to speculate Yoho's attacks on Stearns as a corrupt career politician may have worked. But while politicos like to espouse Unified Theories that prove they're Savvy Insiders, it could simply be that in a multiple-candidate, low-turnout primary in the dog days of August, anything can happen.

Yoho is being called a Tea Party candidate, but it's hard to imagine he could get much further right than Stearns, rated more conservative than GOP VP nominee Paul Ryan by the National Journal & called one of Congress' conservative leaders by the American Conservative Union. If you're a sitting Republican member of Congress, you could look at Stearns' likely loss one of two ways: How crazy do you have to be for Tea Party if Stearns may not have been crazy enough? Or, if even Stearns' craziness didn't satisfy the Tea Party, maybe Republicans are better off just doing what they think is right & playing to the middle?

The Search for Virginia’s Budget Surplus

For three straight years we have heard a consistent theme from the McDonnell team: Virginia has a budget surplus. 2010: $403 million; 2011: $544.8 million; 2012: $129 million. What hasn't been featured is the growing long-term Virginia debt. 2010: added $2.38 billion; 2011: added $1.89 billion; 2012: added billions more?

This isn't the full story either because the finances themselves are wrapped in derivatives of a sort while the state's infrastructure deteriorates more rapidly than can be mitigated by the maintenance dollars dedicated to preserving it. McDonnell shamelessly went to the General Assembly and asked to issue obligations (through the Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles (GARVEE) Bond Program) backed by the promise of a future federal funding stream that is itself threatened by the state's inability to generate transportation revenue and thus the matching funds required to secure the federal funding. Unlike the Governor, we wait anxiously for the 2012 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the full story.

"The Governor's plan to accelerate the sale of previously authorized CPR (Capital Projects Revenue) bonds, issue federally backed direct GARVEEs, and create a Virginia Transportation Infrastructure Bank is an innovative approach that doesn't saddle Virginians with further tax burdens." - Senator William Wampler (R-Bristol)

"Innovative:" no taxes...for now. At least Senator Wampler was consistent with Republican fiscal lunacy. Republicans would rather take out a second (or is this a third?) mortgage on Virginia's future than to face the fact that they are fiscally incompetent; that philosophy worked so well for Republicans at the national level. And a hint of the unintended consequences of this charade are reflected in the decreased transportation budget for 2013:

“Mudcat” Saunders Calls Out Cantor’s Gutting the STOCK Act

I liked Dave "Mudcat" Saunders the first time I met him years ago (we won't say how long ago). Mudcat was one of the people who convinced Jim Webb to take on and beat George Allen. He also has been credited with Mark Warner's successful outreach to rural Virginia in his run for the U.S. Senate. This year, Mudcat is a senior adviser to the campaign of Wayne Powell, who is challenging Eric Cantor in the 7th District.

Now, Mudcat and I are pursuing the same story about the dubious career of Eric Cantor, his rise to majority leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, and conflicts of interest in his own family.. A few days ago, I wrote on Blue Virginia about how the office of Eric Cantor had quietly removed a key provision from the STOCK Act, a bill intended to end insider trading by members of Congress, their staffs, and their families. The section in question related to families of those in Congress. Cantor's office moved the section about families to another section of the bill as passed by the House, thus eliminating the requirement for family members to report stock trades.

That little move miraculously exempted Cantor's wife from having to report her stock trades. She makes her living as a financial adviser for very wealthy clients. Like me, Mudcat raises several questions for Cantor to answer for his constituents:

"Mrs. Cantor's investment firm, Alternative Investment Management LLC (AIM), has a hedge fund in the Cayman Islands with assets of $134,570,536. While she is listed as a partner in AIM, Mrs. Cantor is not listed on any SEC filings. This raises two very serious questions. Is somebody trying to hide her name? Is her only job to sell political intelligence?"

Cantor’s Office Sneaks Loophole into Insider Trading Bill

Dana Bash and CNN have discovered that the new law forbidding members of Congress, their staffs and families from trading on insider information gleaned from their work has a massive loophole, one that was engineered by Eric Cantor and his office. The loophole is reflected in instructions about the bill sent out by the House Ethics Committee, which exempts family members of representatives from any requirement that they report stock transactions over $1,000 within 45 days.

In the Senate, the Ethics Committee released one page of guidelines last month ruling that members, their spouses and dependent children all have to file reports after they make stock or securities trades. The House Ethics Committee disagreed, sending out a memo saying that while House members and aides are covered by the law, their spouses and children aren't covered. It seems that the bill, which originated in the Senate, was quietly changed by shuffling around sections in the House version. Those changes made it into the final law.

When confronted by CNN with the information it had uncovered, Cantor's office admitted it had made changes to the bill when the House took it up, changes that removed the requirement for spouses and children to file these reports. One reason this smells so bad is the fact that Eric Cantor's wife makes a lot of money by advising wealthy clients on investments and by trading herself. (Not to mention that Bob McDonnell named her to head the Virginia Retirement System)

Without the reporting requirement for spouses, all Cantor has to do tell his wife any insider trading information he gets, and she'll be able to secretly make the deal.  

GOP in Congress Votes To Keep Their Privileged Health Care

There's more that a dollop of selfishness and self-interest in the votes over and over by the Virginia GOP delegation in House of Representatives to repeal what they call "Obamacare." One little noticed and under-reported section of that law requires members of Congress to get their health insurance in the same exchanges as the rest of us. So, they're losing a sweet deal they had arranged for themselves, one unavailable to us.

Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, stated, "House Republicans refuse to admit they voted to give themselves taxpayer-funded, lifetime-guaranteed health care, instead of having the same health care as their constituents."

"Repeal looks like it's worse than anyone would have thought," a Democratic official said. "Not only are Republicans helping their insurance company donors, they're also trying to help themselves."

Right now, members of Congress and their staffs get their health insurance through the same program as other federal employees. That program enables them to keep the same health insurance policy when they retire from Congress. If we keep in mind that people in Congress become eligible for this benefit after five years, I guess it's no surprise that Eric Cantor and his pals keep voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act and return to a system they had gamed for their own benefit. After all, they get some great perks.

How Many Jobs Did GOP Clean Energy Obstruction Just Cost Virginia?

Blow me awayCongressional Republicans, led by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), have been blocking extension of several key clean energy tax credits, investments that represent a tiny fraction of the subsidies received by the oil, gas & nuclear industries over time. And here in Virginia, officials have dragged their feet on encouraging offshore wind and been accused of letting Dominion Virginia Power slow down the process.

Now the GOP's ideological war is having real consequences and costing Virginia jobs at a critical time for the fragile economic recovery. Wind energy giant Gamesa has announced that if the U.S. and Virginia can't commit to wind energy, it can't commit to the U.S., building key new wind prototypes off Spain & Africa instead:

Cantor’s Budget Solution: Tax the Working Poor

Eric Cantor spoke at a Politico breakfast on April 19 and gave his answer to the budget deficit created by two wars that weren't paid for and by the Bush tax cuts. His solution: tax poor working Americans, the 45% who don't make enough money to pay federal income taxes. (They do, by the way, pay taxes. It is a GOP lie that they don't. They pay Social Security taxes, state income taxes, property taxes - if they can afford a house - sales taxes, gasoline taxes, etc.)

Just when I think bunch of Republicans running the House can't get much worse, Cantor proves me wrong every time.  

Congratulations to Wayne Powell, Best of Luck Against Eric Can’tor!

Per The Richmonder and 7th CD Democratic candidate David Hunsicker's Facebook page, it appears that Hunsicker is withdrawing and that Wayne Powell will be the Democratic nominee against Eric Can'tor this year.
Memo to all Facebook friends:

I have seen the Delegate numbers from the counties, and it would seem that only a series of both unusual and lucky events could now allow my candidacy to move forward.

So that the various chairs and committees don't have to hold caucuses and a convention with little value, I wish to suspend my campaign for the Democratic nomination for Congress from Virginia's 7th Congressional District.

I am a Democrat first and a candidate second.
Mr. Powell, I wish you well in your efforts to prevail against Eric Cantor.

Yes, this is a strongly "red"-leaning district, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't strongly challenge a horrible Congresscritter like Can'tor. It also doesn't mean that we can't call Can'tor out for his anti-jobs, anti-women, anti-middle-class, anti-worker, anti-environment, 100% pro-corporate and pro-1% agenda. I look forward to Wayne Powell doing just that in coming months!

Poll Shows Eric Cantor Potentially Vulnerable?

Yeah, I'm highly skeptical about any poll that shows Eric Can'tor as truly vulnerable this year - or any year, for that matter, in a district that's strongly "red" leaning and with the huge financial and other (e.g., he's go the Republican Times-Disgrace in his back pocket) advantages Can'tor holds. Still, I found this poll conducted in November (but still relevant, I'd think) by Keith Frederick - who has polled for Mark Warner, Steve Shannon, and many other Democratic and Independent candidates for more than 30 years - to be intriguing. If nothing else, it indicates that Eric Can'tor is not particularly popular in his district, as "red" as it is. A few highlights from the polling memo.

*Cantor's "40% 'reelect' score shows a base vote well below 50%. Just 34% of Independents support his reelection."
*"His 51% 'favorable' is extremely weak.  It shows absolutely no cushion of likeability to draw undecided or swing vote to his side.  With nearly total name recognition, the polarizing Eric Cantor has no room to expand support."
*"Other tests in the poll clearly show that Congressman Cantor's deep ties to Wall Street, his defense of Wall Street hedge fund managers' tax breaks, lack of constituent service, and public support of key pieces of the Republican House agenda are big problems with solid majority of CD7 voters. In fact, after exposure to Cantor's public record, his vote support drops well below 50%."

So, now it's up to Democrats to find out whether this poll was an outlier, or whether it's on to something real. The three Democratic candidates right now are Wayne Powell, David Hunsicker, and Jim Phillips (for whom this poll was conducted). May the best man win, and then, hopefully, proceed to give Eric Can'tor a run for his (ill-begotten) money!