(I thought I'd try this out as a weekly diary, a good way to tie everything together from around the Nebraska blogosphere each week. Let me know what you think.)
This week, we cover everything from the attempted Death Penalty repeal in the legislature, to Jeff Fortenberry's defense of taxpayer fraud, to Lee Terry's continued hypocrisy, Chuck Hagel's continued embarrassment, and Adrian Smith being, well, Adrian Smith. Join us on the other side.
Is Hagel set to split the GOP?
At UNO Democrats, we noticed with great interest this story from the Lincoln Journal Star's Don Walton. Jon Bruning's entry into the U.S. Senate race last week threw the picture into chaos. And, though he promises he won't run against Hagel, there's certainly evidence of Republican dissatisfaction with Hagel that could take hold and drive Bruning to a primary victory even if Hagel ran. We've got to be prepared if that happens.
Executive Director of the Nebraska Democratic Party Matt Connealy said in an interview with the Grand Island Independent, posted on the NDP blog, that "even if Sen. Chuck Hagel decides to run for re-election to the U.S. Senate, Democrats have a good chance of winning the seat."
Hagel Aligns Himself With The Extreme on DOJ Scandal
Chuck Hagel found himself on the wrong end of a 94-2 vote to overturn the Patriot Act loophole that allowed the Attorney General to appoint US Attorneys without Senate confirmation.
Death Penalty Repeal Fails By One Vote
The big news this week was a debate over the Death Penalty in the state legislature, and Paging Power has the legislature covered - with video highlights. The infamous Ernie Chambers (I-Omaha), who is in his last two years of a storied legislative career, once again introduced a bill to repeal the death penalty in Nebraska. Speaker of the Legislature Mike Flood (R-Norfolk), who is staunchly pro-death penalty, made sure that the bill received a fair debate and up-down vote on the floor. In the one-house legislature, the bill failed to advance by a 24-25 vote. Gov. Dave Heineman had vowed a veto of any attempt to repeal the death penalty. The legislature would have needed 30 votes to override a veto.
Enact Fair Share, Now!
Seizing on a story that shows Nebraska in the "Pro-Business Top 10", Kyle at the New Nebraska Network digs deep into the reasons, and finds that low wages and Nebraska's status as a so-called "right-to-work" state. LB 57 would reverse that, by guaranteeing "Fair Share" in Nebraska.
Heineman and business leaders are already using this conveniently-timed pro-business ranking to undermine LB57, and organized labor has to fight back. My suggestion - admit that LB57 might hurt our standing with corporations but only because it restores some much-needed balance and benefit to the working men and women who make Nebraska great.
This week (like most), I spent a lot of time talking about Iraq. The week started with the four year anniversary and ended with a House vote in favor of setting a timetable for withdrawal. In between, Nebraska Republicans threw out every excuse under the sun for why the would not only vote against getting our troops out of Iraq, but against $3.2 billion in drought aid - sorely needed by Nebraska farmers.
Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, R-Neb. said he plans to vote against the war funding bill because it has become a "picnic basket" of unrelated matters.
"There’s no question that some farmers and ranchers have really suffered because of the multiyear drought," he said.
"Putting in unrelated legislation is a strategic, political move by the Democratic leadership to make it more difficult for some members to vote against it, but there’s a principle here."
I'm sure the Nebraska farmers appreciate that "principled" stand.
John at UNO Dems brings us this analysis of Lee Terry's war vote:
Besides the blatant lie that this bill does not fully fund the troops, Terry makes another key point in the message. By quoting Rep. Johnson’s "never quit" statement, Terry aligns himself with a fringe-right-wing element of the Republican Party.
This wing of the GOP supports a never-ending war in the Middle East and can think of no reason or situation so bad that they could imagine voting to bring our troops home.
I take a look at Lee Terry's floor statement here:
This district sent you back to Congress in spite of your unquestioning loyalty to the President, Mr. Terry, not because of it. It’s time for you to understand that.
The NDP posts Nelson's statement that he will support the Senate supplemental spending bill, which includes a deadline of March 31, 2008 for withdrawal from Iraq. We haven't won him over to our side on withdrawal, yet, but he's not opposed to having a withdrawal measure included in the bill. So I'll give him a little credit for that.
A Good Return on Nelnet's Investment...
Jeff Fortenberry's single largest contributor got away with almost $300 million in fraud back in January. And - big surprise - he defends their swindling of the taxpayers. The New Nebraska Network has the story:
For some perspective, Nelnet directly contributed $26,000 to Fortenbery's campaign. For that investment, they seem to have bought his complicity to their walking away with $278 million of the American people's money. That's a return of more than $10,000 for every dollar spent - though, of course, Fortenberry's was only one voice of the many Nelnet tried to buy in the last election.
A small price to pay and probably a sound investment when you've got politicians like Fortenberry eager to play along.
A good catch by Smith Watch (more on that, below) leads to another well-deserved takedown of Lee Terry (and Adrian Smith) from Kyle at the New Nebraska Network.
Terry has just tied Omaha's health and safety to the railroad tracks - jeopardizing tens of millions of dollars, not to mention soldiers' well-being, the struggle against meth, and even the war on terror - to make a cheap political point that will only cost Nebraska in the long run.
With Terry willing to play this sort of game with almost $50 million worth of funding targeted for military and counter-terrorism purposes, it's also a very real possibility that he's singled out Omaha for immense budget cuts and loss of its traditional role in national security.
After all, if Omaha's own Congressman doesn't see fit to prioritize these programs - not to mention the thousands of jobs they bring into the community - then that sounds like a pretty damn good place to start making cuts.
Noticing that I hadn't given Terry the attention I had focused on him earlier this year, I gave this story a look, then his vote on the Iraq supplemental.
A rare gem from the Omaha World-Herald exposes more hypocrisy from Lee Terry, which I'm always glad to shine a light on. Long story short: a land developer in Omaha lobbies the Sarpy County Board (the president of which is a tenant on his land) to recommend an I-80 bypass through a dirt road in the middle of nowhere. The developer and the board lobby Congressmen from Nebraska to include federal earmarks ($4 million worth) to get the interstate project going. The developer contributed large sums of money to each of the Congressmen, including Lee Terry. At no point are the obvious questions: How much will this cost, is it worth it, or is there a better place for this, asked. It is the very definition of pork.
Lisa at the absolutely essential Smith Watch has a few great posts this week, starting with the revelation that Adrian Smith finds House Democrats' reforms on earmarks "ethically confusing."
Whatever the real reason is, if vital projects do not get funded in the Third District, it will directly be Adrian Smith's fault for not submitting his request in a timely manner. He will then be expected to answer to the citizens of the Third District, and no hiding behind his staff via "press releases" will be allowed.
Don't Forget the CFG
John McCain's comments on the Club for Growth lead to an interesting rehash of the 2006 election. There's little doubt that the CFG, along with Smith's absolute incompetence (more on that below), played a role in helping Kleeb get as close as he did.
Smith Watch takes a look at the committee transcripts and finds little evidence that the above quote from the Omaha World-Herald's endorsement of Scott Kleeb in October 2006 is false.
Hope you enjoyed the journey through the Nebraska Netroots.