Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Why I support Michael Bennet

The Colorado Senate race between Michael Bennet and Ken Buck is one of the closest races in the November 2010 mid-term election, and could determine if the GOP takes control of the Senate. More importantly, it will determine who will be Colorado's junior Senator for the next six years.

The case against Republican Ken Buck is very clear. Ken Buck is socially very conservative, opposing abortions even in cases of rape and incest; he apparently lacks any understanding whatsoever of date rape; he thinks homosexuality is mostly a choice, against modern scientific knowledge; and he supports continuing Don't Ask, Don't Tell (DADT). His main goal as a Senator appears to be to act as a road-block against President Obama's agenda (think climate change and comprehensive immigration reform), and he also promises to repeal the healthcare reforms passed recently, in their entirety. Overall, someone who will prevent any progress in the future, and will roll back as many of the legislative successes achieved by President Obama and the Democrats in the past two years as possible.

But more important than voting against someone is getting to vote for someone. And I am proud to state that I am unequivocally for Senator Michael Bennet. My reasons are as follows:

1. Senator Bennet believes in using the power of government for good (stimulating the economy, regulating insurance companies and Wall Street, the Lilly Ledbetter Act, the Matthew Shepard Act) and not in (ab)using it to control our personal lives, for example DADT (fun videos here!) or denying women abortion rights.
- In fact, seems to me that Senator Bennet is a civil libertarian on this (and other) issues: "I will work hard to defend the rights of my girls to govern their own reproductive health from government intrusion." (link)

2. Senator Bennet seeks to find solutions to problems and works with Democrats and Republicans alike; for example, the Pay It Back Act to pay down the Federal deficit with repaid TARP funds (supported by Republican Senators Bob Corker and Johnny Isakson, and Democrats Mark Udall and Jon Tester, among others.)

3. Some liberals/progressives may disagree, but Senator Bennet supported sending out $250 checks to seniors who did not receive a COLA increase in their SS pay, only if it was paid for from left over stimulus funds.
(Why I think this is a reasonable approach: There was little to no inflation, so there should be no COLA. So to me, the only rationale for the $250 check is as a form of stimulus, ergo, it can be paid out of ARRA.)

4. Democrats and other folks frustrated with a seeming lack of progress since January 2009 should remember that Republicans time and again mounted what was effectively a filibuster. Democrats might have had almost-60 Senators; that's close, but no cigar. Senators Kennedy and Byrd were often sick; Senator Franken was not officially elected till mid-2009. So Democrats had to seek compromises with "moderate" Republicans. We saw how the negotiations with GOP Senators Snowe, Collins and Specter reduced the size of the stimulus bill (ARRA); fruitless talks with Senators Grassley, Enzi and Snowe stalled healthcare reform; and for all the GOP's bluff-and-bluster about supporting small businesses, Republican Senators blocked a bill easing lending to small businesses for months, till two retiring GOP Senators helped break the filibuster. And yet, Democrats seem unwilling to do away with the filibuster, likely out of fear that if they are reduced to minority status in the future, they will not be able to block Republican bills.
As far as I can tell, the best plan to reform the filibuster has been proposed by Senator Michael Bennet, which preserves the filibuster, but does not allow a permanent block. Read Congress Matters expert David Waldman (KagroX on Dailykos and Twitter) on the filibuster; this is what Waldman says about Senator Bennet's solution:
As part of his Senate rules reform proposal, Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) proposes making the motion to proceed non-debatable while the Senate is in legislative session. And when I last wrote about it, I didn't know that his proposal for ending secret holds was in fact based on doing that. It's a smart proposal that would do for bills in legislative session what I described as being the case for nominations in executive session. That is, it knocks down one procedural hurdle (the ability to filibuster the motion to proceed to consideration of a bill) and leaves just the one hurdle -- the ability to filibuster the bill itself.
That last is perhaps the wonkiest, but also the most important reason I support Senator Michael Bennet - a level-headed, (reasonably) bipartisan approach to solving problems.

Video update: Here's Senator Bennet testifying before the Senate Rules Committee on filibuster reform:

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