Friday, November 22, 2013

'Nuclear' vote may clear obstacles for Watt

Democratic U.S. Rep. Mel Watt is confident he’ll be confirmed to head the Federal Housing Finance Agency now that Senate Democrats changed the chamber’s filibuster rule.

“I would say that certainly substantially improves the chances,” he says.

President Barack Obama nominated Watt last spring to head the agency that oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Last month Senate Republicans blocked his confirmation.

But Thursday Senate Democrats triggered the so-called nuclear option. They changed the rules so that most judicial and executive-office appointments can move to confirmation votes with support from a simple majority of senators, not the 60-vote super-majority that had been in effect.

The Senate could vote on Watt’s nomination when it returns to session in early December.

Watt continues to be optimistic.

“I’ve known it’s not been about me,” he says. “Every once in a while they'll make some noises about qualifications. But no one felt they were saying that with a straight face. This has been about politics, and a lot of it has been directed at this president.

“I’ve never taken this personally I’ve been patient ... And I'm still patient.”

Monday, November 18, 2013

GOP spotlight turns to ... Gastonia

Gastonia will be ground zero this week on North Carolina's U.S. Senate race and the Republican fight against Obamacare.

Thursday night, four of the five announced Republican candidates vying for Democrat Kay Hagan's U.S. Senate seat will take part in a town hall forum sponsored by The Tea party of Greater Gaston County.

It will likely mark the first time the four -- Cary physician Greg Brannon, Charlotte pastor Mark Harris, Wilkes County nurse Heather Grant and Forsyth County broadcaster Bill Flynn will be at the same event. It's unclear whether House Speaker Thom Tillis was invited.

Earlier that day Tillis will be at a Charlotte fundraiser with Karl Rove, former advisor to President George W. Bush. The two will headline a noon fundraiser at Bank of America Stadium. There's no love lost between Rove and the tea party.

Earlier this year he created a group called the Conservative Victory Project to try to ensure the party nominate candidates who can win the general election. Rove and other Republicans are trying to avoid situations like those in Missouri and Indiana last year where tea party-backed candidates lost.

And Friday, the House Oversight Committee, with Chairman Darrell Issa will hold a field hearing at the Gaston County Courthouse. The hearing will be the committee's first anywhere on Obamacare, The title of the hearing: "Obamacare Implementation: Sticker Shock of Increased Premiums for Healthcare Coverage."

UPDATE 3:30. A Tillis spokesman said he was invited to the tea party gathering but was unable to make it.  

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Tea Party suicide mission in N.C.?

The tea party has named its top 2014 target in North Carolina: U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger.

This week the conservative Charlotte Republican got a letter from the Virginia-based Tea Party Leadership Fund PAC expressing its dismay over his vote last month to end the government shutdown.

Pittenger was one of 87 House Republicans (including two others from North Carolina) who joined House Democrats in voting for the measure that ended the shutdown. Tea party allies in Congress opposed the measure, holding out for changes in Obamacare and concessions in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.

"You have failed to honor your commitment to your constituents and the values they entrusted you to uphold," wrote Dan Backer, the group's treasurer and general counsel. "All leaders must face and accept accountability for their choices. You chose to disregard your pledge to these American voters and now must be held accountable."
Pittenger included the message in a fund-raising letter to supporters.
"I understand and appreciate their concerns regarding Obamacare, I voted against it 15 times," Pittenger told the Observer. "The Democrats just didn't want to cooperate. I just didn't feel like what they (the tea party) were pursuing made sense. I'm fully committed to dismantling Obamacare ...
"What I think they didn't understand, maybe still don't, is the political process. They only had 14 votes in the Senate. There's no way it would pass."
But Pittenger said he's still concerned about a tea party challenge in an election when turnout is generally down. "Any off-year election is volatile," he said.
Though Pittenger is a first-term incumbent, any challenger would face an uphill battle. In 2012, Pittenger, a real estate investor, spent $2.3 million of his own money.
 Barker said his organization could muster a national fund-raising base for the right candidate. But he said the election's not about money.
"At the end of the day, (Pittenger) voted to continue funding the government at these unsustainable current levels, to increase the debt limit without a single concession, and to fund Obamacare," Barker said. 
"Pittenger and the surrender caucus folded like a cheap deck of cards."


Monday, November 04, 2013

Early votes are in and the winner is....

Democrat Patrick Cannon is likely to have a sizable head start heading into Tuesday's mayoral election in Charlotte.

In Mecklenburg County, 22,319 people cast early ballots through Saturday, more than in 2011 but fewer than 2009.

The vast majority of voters were from Charlotte. Of those, 12,528 were Democrats, according to the board of elections. There were 5,556 Republicans and 4,217 Unaffiliated voters who cast ballots.

Russell Peck, campaign manager for Republican mayoral candidate Edwin Peacock, said a GOP analysis of city voters showed the party's share was up 2.5 percent from 2011 while Democrats' share was down 4.8 percent. But that doesn't diminish Democrats' lead going into Election Day.

Since North Carolina started early voting a decade ago, Democrats have outperformed Republicans. That has been true in state races and in Charlotte’s last two city races.

While Democrats won the early vote in state races – including the last two presidential elections – Republicans won the Election Day vote. However that hasn’t been the case in Charlotte, where Foxx won both the early vote and Election Day vote.

Peck knows Cannon will have an edge going into Tuesday. How does he plan to overcome it?

"Have a great turnout tomorrow," he said.