Dec. 28 absentee ballot for overseas voters

Obama 365   McCain 173  
Senate Dem 58   GOP 41   Ties 1
House Dem 257   GOP 178  

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News from the Votemaster

GOP senator: Waxman is Tougher Than A Boiled Owl

There's not much political news this week, with Congress not in session and President-elect Obama on vacation in Hawaii. CQ Politics has a good backgrounder on Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), a short, quiet, unassuming, bald, policy wonk who is about to become one of the most powerful people in the country. Waxman recently unseated Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) to become chairman of the House energy and commerce committee. Much of Obama's domestic agenda, especially energy, the environment, and health care, falls within the jurisdiction of his committee, and he will be a force to be reckoned with. Waxman, who represents Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and wealthy surrounding areas in CA-30, is a close ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi and an unabashed liberal. Former senator Alan Simpson (R-WY) once griped that Waxman was "tougher than a boiled owl."

As if Waxman didn't have enough power as chairman of a key committee, Philip Schiliro, his chief of staff for 25 years, is now Obama's liason to Congress. This appointment cuts both ways. It gives the President a direct link to one of the most powerful people in Congress but it also gives Waxman a direct pipeline into the heart of the White House. Unlike many congressmen, Waxman rarely seeks the spotlight, but the 17-term congressman will have a huge influence because although Obama will give him general directions, it is Waxman (and his various Senate counterparts) who will write the actual laws.

Time ran a story on him two years ago, calling him a contender for the "Scariest Guy in Town." It's still true.

MoveOn Sets Priorities

The large progressive activist group MoveOn polled its members and came up with priorities to push for during the first months of the Obama administration. They are universal health care, fixing the economy, the environment, and ending the war in Iraq. Notably absent from the list are fighting for gay rights, holding the Bush administration accountable, and election reform. Those on the left will no doubt be disappointed by the group not being on the cutting edge, but given a choice between pushing for things that are not going to happen no matter what (like national same-sex marriage) and things that might happen if enough pressure is placed on hesitant members of Congress (like universal health care), they chose the more pragmatic course.

Printing Money Has a Price

The NY Times has a good analytic piece on the upcoming stimulus of $700 billion or maybe more. We got into this mess by individually and collectively spending money we didn't have. Now the cure is more of the same--but on a larger scale. But someday the piper will have to be paid. There are various mechanisms (higher taxes, inflation, etc.), but all of them come down to a lower standard of living in the future. But just about all economists--none of whom foresaw the banking, credit, and foreclosure crises--agree that the stimulus is the lesser of many evils.

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