Saturday, February 16, 2013

How Many Congressmembers Will Their Reactionary Stand On The Minimum Wage Cost The GOP In 2014?


Wednesday we talked a little about the longstanding Republican Party obsession with opposing minimum wage bills and statutory increases. Steven Dennis at Roll Call also took up the GOP obsession with the minimum wage, but from a different perspective. He was looking at how their knee-jerk opposition to the modest increase President Obama suggested in the State of the Union, could lead to congressional defeats for them next year. Boehner took the bait by immediately attacking the proposal in the tired and ineffectual language conservatives have used against it since the 1930s. Exactly what Obama could have programmed him to do!
As the president and his fellow Democrats look for popular wedge issues in their effort to hold on to the Senate and their long-shot bid to retake the House in 2014, the debate could prove a useful cudgel regardless of whether the policy becomes law.

The White House is clearly eager for the fight; the administration put out extensive documentation on the minimum wage proposal and contends that it will not harm job creation and will boost the take-home pay for nearly 15 million people.

And Obama reiterated the push to increase the minimum wage Wednesday in a post-State of the Union speech in North Carolina.

“I believe we reward effort and determination with wages that allow working families to raise their kids and get ahead,” he said. “And that’s part of the reason why I said last night that it’s time for an increase in the minimum wage, because if you work full time, you shouldn’t be in poverty.”

Unions and senior Democrats predictably cheered, but Republicans and their allies panned it.

...“The simple fact is that millions of hardworking American families are being squeezed while they watch Republicans protect tax breaks for CEOs to get even richer,” said Emily Bittner, spokeswoman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “In this country, we believe that anyone who works hard shouldn’t also have to struggle to pay their rent, their utilities or their grocery bills-- but tea party House Republicans and Speaker Boehner seem to care more about millionaires than hardworking families.”

...The last time the parties tangled over the minimum wage, it ended up as a staple of Democratic messaging heading into the party’s 2006 takeover of Congress.

The fight to increase the $5.15-an-hour minimum wage was used by Democrats to bash Republicans as beholden to the wealthy-- especially after then-Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., tied an increase to an estate tax cut and refused to decouple the issues.

Democrats, in turn, came out against any increases in congressional pay until the minimum wage went up.

...In New Jersey, Gov. Chris Christie recently vetoed an effort to raise that state’s minimum wage to $8.50 an hour and tie future increases to inflation, according to news reports. Christie offered instead a $1 increase to $8.25 over three years. New Jersey Democrats are now looking to put a minimum wage increase on the ballot for voters this fall.

The New Jersey newspaper The Record reported the ballot measure has Republicans worried about spillover effects on other races and the potential for the business community to divert its resources to fighting the referendum.
Instead of worrying all the time, perhaps Republicans should get on the right side of history and do what's right for the country for a change. There are a number of House and Senate races where a raging battle over the minimum wage could provide the extra oomph the Democrats need to dislodge anti-working family Republicans. In the Senate, obviously not subject to sleazy gerrymandering operations, a minimum wage battle could help save endangered Democratic incumbents Mark Pryor (AR), Kay Hagan (NC), Tim Johnson (SD), Mary Landrieu (LA), Al Franken (MN) and Max Baucus (MT) while damaging GOP incumbents Susan Collins (ME)-- who will be vilified by teabaggers if she supports it and castigated by moderates and independents if she sticks with the GOP-- and Miss McConnell (KY). It would certainly come into play in the Massachusetts special election (if Republicans manage to find a candidate) and in Iowa and could even help tip the balance in Georgia.

In the House, there are a number of mainstream conservatives in swingy districts who could find themselves in the same kind of situation Susan Collins finds herself in. Their districts will strongly support raising the minimum wage (including moderate Republicans and independents) while the hard right base will go bonkers. Particularly at risk are non-Confederate Republicans like Tom Reed (NY), Chris Gibson (NY), Mike Kelly (PA), Paul Ryan (WI), Jeff Denham (CA), John Kline (MN), Bill Johnson (OH), Rodney Davis (IL), Dan Benishek (MI), Buck McKeon (CA), Mike Coffman (CO), Kerry Bentivolio (MI), Tim Walberg (MI), Michael Grimm (NY), Keith Rothfus (PA), Joe Pitts (PA), Jackie Walorski (IN), Joe Heck (NV), Chris Collins (NY), Scott Garrett (NJ), Lee Terry (NE), David Joyce (OH), Steve Daines (MT), Jon Runyon (NJ), Scott Tipton (CO), Sean Duffy (WI) and Larry Bucshon (IN). Those are all Republican incumbents who had close calls in 2012 who represent districts that would favor raising the minimum wage. Even some southerners like Tim Griffin (AR), Vern Buchanan (FL), Scott Rigell (VA), Robert Pittinger (NC), Dan Webster (FL), John Mica (FL), Tom Rice (SC), Steve Southerland (FL) and Robert Hurt (VA) could find themselves in a dangerous bind if they vote against a minimum wage increase-- and all of them, given the opportunity, will.

And it goes further. There are a number of superficially entrenched Republicans in deep red, one-party districts who have to worry about a primary no matter what they do. Last cycle, one of the most effective SuperPACS for defeating corrupt incumbents was the Texas-based Campaign for Primary Accountability. They went after Bachus and forced him to spend over a million and a half dollars defending himself against an onslaught from other Republicans. He managed to win-- but with only 59%. This week the Campaign for Primary Accountability announced they are targeting Bachus, a Wall Street whore who chairs the House Financial Services Committee, again. In announcing their plans to take on Bachus, one of the main financiers behind the PAC, Leo Linbeck III, said that "The electoral system has shielded lawmakers from competition in more than four out of five congressional districts. We’re committed to giving citizens a true choice, and the information and tools they need to participate in the primary-- where the actual decision is made." The PAC has pointed out that Bachus uses his committee chairmanship "for personal benefit" and that he has "received huge campaign donations from giant financial service companies that did business before" the House Financial Services Committee.
Spencer Bachus has been clinging to his seat tighter than a tick for 22 years. His district takes in the Birmingham suburbs and central Alabama, but the way Spencer Bachus sees it, he really represents Wall Street.

Spencer’s taken advantage of his position on the House Financial Services Committee to buy and sell stock options coinciding with major policy announcements and industries with business before his congressional committee. He sold short after a closed door briefing on the impending financial meltdown in 2008. Congress had to rewrite the rules on insider trading after that stunt.

Following the meltdown, Spencer voted to bail out his Wall Street banker friends with your taxpayer dollars, the same bankers who give him millions of dollars in campaign contributions. The same bankers that drove Birmingham and Jefferson County into bankruptcy with a crooked bond deal.

When November rolls around, Spencer doesn’t need to campaign-- he’s usually re-elected with 95% of the vote. That’s when he has a challenger at all.

But in 2012, the party almost ended for Bachus, thanks to a primary challenger and CPA. Despite spending over $1.5 million in the primary-- outspending all his challengers and CPA better than 4 to 1-- Bachus only got 58% of the vote, an all-time low.

Just over 100,000 people voted-- only a third of those who cast ballots in the general election. All it takes is a few more people casting a ballot in the 2014 primary, a serious challenger-- and it’s bye bye Bachus.
A Bachus vote against the minimum wage-- count on it-- will further mark him as someone who only works for Wall Street and for the interests of his wealthy campaign contributors and against the people he represents. With an operation like the Campaign for Primary Accountability spending serious money against him, and making his defeat plausible, it gives voters another reason to vote against him. I suspect that Bachus will be just one of many entrenched Republicans in the same situation.

Last year the Campaign for Primary Accountability was, like Blue America, in the trenches replacing corrupt conservative hack Tim Holden (Blue Dog-PA) with a forward-thinking progressive and supporter of the legitimate aspirations of ordinary American working families, Matt Cartwright. This week, Cartwright was on the floor of the House disparaging Republican attempts to shove failed European Austerity schemes down the throats of the American people. Take a look:

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