Map of gun deaths after Sandy Hook tragedy through March 24rd
Today, the US Senate voted 54-46 in favor of an amendment that would expand background checks before gun purchases, in an effort to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. The Manchin-Toomey amendment certainly didn't go far enough in the eyes of many gun violence prevention experts and advocates, but it was a start. Unfortunately, given the twisted rules of our broken Senate, that wasn't enough -- 60 votes were needed to pass the amendment.
When there is another tragedy that this amendment could have prevented -- and there will sadly be a next time and a next time after that, because our country is doing precious little to prevent gun massacres -- and a known criminal or mentally unsound individual is able to procure an easy gun without a background check at a gun show, what will those 45 Senators who voted "No" say to the parents, children, and friends of the victims?
The message the Senate sent today is "My political career is more important than the lives of your loved ones."
This common sense legislation would have made it harder for criminals, the mentally ill, and those who seek to commit crimes to buy guns. Unfortunately, 45 Senators -- including all but 4 Republicans -- stood with the NRA and against the American people. When it came time to vote on the actual amendment, four Democrats -- Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Max Baucus (MT), Mark Pryor (AR), and Mark Begich (AK) flaked.
This profile in cowardice will cost American lives. And while 90% of Americans support expanded background checks, these four Senators evidently care more about their NRA ratings than the lives that will be lost as a result of their failure today.
The Senate also failed to pass an amendment that would toughen penalties for individuals who purchase guns individually for others to use, and make gun trafficking a felony. That managed to get 58 votes. Even the direct appeal of former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords -- a high profile victim of gun violence that should serve to remind the Senate that these tragedies can and do touch their lives, too -- and the parents of Newtown victims were insufficient to sway votes today.
If our so-called "leaders" can hear the emotional pleas of victims and parents of children killed by gun violence and turn a deaf ear to their suffering and the suffering of thousands like them across the land, then they clearly are not doing what they were elected to do.
Perhaps the measure would have died in Republican-controlled Congress. But that's no reason not to stand up for the victims of Newtown, Virginia Tech, Aurora, and Columbine -- and prevent future towns, schools, and victims from joining a list that is already too long with grief.
Deserving of applause are Democratic Senators Mary Landrieu (LA) and Kay Hagan (NC), who were publicly undecided as of earlier today, and Republicans John McCain (AZ), Mark Kirk (IL), Susan Collins (ME), and Pat Toomey (PA), all of whom voted for the amendment.
Most chilling were the words of an unnamed Senate staffers, who detailed what it would take to get the "No" votes to reconsider:
Aides to senators supporting the bill said that only outside circumstances, like another mass shooting, might cause those who voted "no" to reconsider their positions.
Over 3,300 Americans have already died from gun violence since Newtown. How many more mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors, and colleagues must our country needlessly lose before our Senators can stand up and pass overwhelmingly popular legislation to prevent our loved ones from being the next victims?
This is BOR's Video of the Day, or VOTD, our nightly video clip segment highlighting must-see content. If you like today's video and want more people to see it, share it on Twitter and Facebook!
In the most recent ad released by the Paul Sadler campaign, the Democratic nominee for Senate touts his honorable record as reason he should be sent to Washington, DC. The ad highlights Sadler's many honors from various communities during his time as a legislator, his endorsements from top statewide publications, and the candidate's long record of bipartisanship.
Paul Sadler represents the kind of leadership that should be seen from our state on the national stage. The endorsements Sadler has received shows that this race is closer than you think. Make sure you vote before early voting ends this Friday!
Check out all of our BOR videos of the day on the VOTD tag.
Sean Hubbard does a better job of firing up the Democratic base. We endorse him in the Democratic US Senate primary.
Here's the sad reality of our US Senate race this year: Democrats won't be winning it in November, no matter who we nominate. Jesus Christ himself could not pick this one up if he was running on the Democratic ticket (which he would), not with the civilization-hating Republicans vowing to bring Texas's special brand of dysfunction to Washington D.C. As a result, our endorsement is about choosing the candidate who will best inspire new Democratic voters to head to the polls, and in the opinion of our staff, that person is Sean Hubbard.
If we were actually endorsing someone in this race to be a Senator, we'd endorse Paul Sadler, as his decades of experience and body of legislation passed speak to his tremendous abilities as a statesman. Of everyone filed for the race in any party, Sadler would actually be the best Senator. However, if Democrats were actually in a position to win this race, we hope we'd be choosing between a more exciting field of candidates. Sadler is a staunch progressive and is running a capable campaign, and if he does win this primary, we'll be glad to have him on the ticket. However, Sadler has not inspired us on the campaign trail, and frustratingly, sufficient financial support for his campaign has not materialized.
Meanwhile, Hubbard does the better job of firing up the Democratic base and inspiring new people to vote. Yes, he's young -- but as he pointed out, he's older than Joe Biden was when the now-VP was first elected to the Senate. His most recent debate performance was polished and sharp, and he demonstrated that his time on the campaign trail has vastly improved his skills as a candidate. He is knowledgeable on the issues -- ask him about his proposal for a modernized Glass-Steagall Act -- and he's passionate about progressive ideas and legislation. Hubbard is an unabashed progressive who gives Texas Democrats an opportunity to vote for someone who will never shy away from his beliefs no matter how poorly they may poll in our conservative state.
Democratic victories depend on mobilizing and exciting the next generation of Democratic voters here in Texas. We are excited to see so many younger Democrats running for Congress and State House. In that vein, we think Hubbard is better suited to reaching out to younger voters and engaging them this election cycle.
We endorse Sean Hubbard for US Senate, in the hopes that he can engage a new generation of voters and play a role in turning Texas blue.
Endorsements are made based on a weighted consensus of the staff, which guides the type and tone of endorsement. Members of the Burnt Orange Report staff employed by campaigns abstain from voting on those races.
While the US Senate is debating a bill that would revive the moribund Keystone XL pipeline while limiting legal challenges to the route, Joe Nocera of the New York Times published an ill considered OpEd today that shows he understands neither the risks nor the economics of tar sands oil.
Nocera makes at least four completely false assertions in his piece.
The first, which makes up the bulk of the essay, is that the Obama administration’s rejection of Keystone is driving the Canadian government into the arms of the Chinese and thereby endangering US energy security. Keystone was always aimed at the Chinese market. As a result of increased efficiency and the global downturn, US oil consumption has steadily dropped since 2005 (from about 20.5 million barrels per day to 19 million bbd in 2010). China’s demand, on the other hand, rose from about 6.5 million bbd to over 9 million bbd during the same period. Source: CIA Factbook. Over this same period, Port Arthur, Texas (the proposed endpoint of Keystone XL) undertook “the largest US refinery expansion to occur in 30 years” with major additions to Motiva and Valero refineries. That expanded refining capacity and easy access to the Panama Canal made Port Arthur the easiest and cheapest route for tar sands oil to reach the Chinese market. Tar sands oil has been in the US market for years it just never had an easy path to overseas markets. A recent Cornell University study on Keystone’s economic impact predicted that were the pipeline built, midwest gasoline prices would likely rise 10-20 cents per gallon. Also, though Joe asserts that Canada has a “newfound willingness to to business with China,” the Canadian logging industry has never had an issue with selling lumber to China.
The second, is that tar sands oil would allow the US “to become, if not energy self-sufficient, at least energy secure, no longer beholden to OPEC.” Not only is all that Canadian oil not bound for US markets, it will not endanger price points set by, in Joe’s words, “countries that don’t like us.” Countries like Saudi Arabia which possesses the world’s largest oil reserves and which recently indicated that it would keep global oil prices “around $100 per barrel” regardless of new supplies (tar sands) or supply instability (Iran). $100 per barrel is, conveniently, about the lowest price for tar sands oil to be economically viable, as the cost in extracting and transporting the sticky, nearly solid substance is substantially higher than traditional crude oil.
Nocera’s third false premise is that tar sands oil is just ” a little dirtier than the crude that pours forth from the Saudi Arabian desert, but is hardly the environmental disaster many suppose.” Tar sands oil is a lot dirtier than Saudi crude. It contains 10 times more sulfur and is 3 times more acidic than traditional crudes. When piped, it is subject to 3 times more pressure than crude oil, and contains a 3 times greater flow of abrasive quartz and silica than a commercial grade sandblaster. There already has been a major tar sands oil spill in Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the increased size and flow of the Keystone XL pipe would raise the risks of another, bigger, spill considerably. Also, just last week, Canadian officials announced a plan to start poisoning wolves in northern Alberta in an attempt to stave off the collapse of caribou herds which have been affected by massive habitat loss due to tar sands mining that destroys huge tracts of forest to get at the sticky substance underneath. If the massive deployment of strychnine is not an admission of an environmental catastrophe, what is? See it for yourself. This is what a tar sands strip mine looks like from space. This is a whole lot different from the “crude that pours forth from the Saudi Arabian desert.”
Nocera’s final wrong assumption is that if Keystone XL isn’t built, Canada will, with a sweep of its imperial hand, find its own “diverse buyers so it won’t be held hostage by American politics.” To do this, Canada would need an oil exporting terminal along with a pipeline bringing oil to it from Alberta. This has not proved easy for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s administration. Enbridge, a major player in Albertan oil, has proposed the Northern Gateway pipeline which would terminate in Kitimat along the pristine northwest coast of British Columbia. British Columbians, blessed as they are with natural beauty and clean waters, are not pleased with this plan and have been staging large protests ever since Northern Gateway was first proposed.
Joe Nocera should stick to issues he understands, apologia for Canadian oil profiteering is beneath him.
Contact your senators here to let them know that a revived Keystone pipeline is unacceptable. We have enough oil in this country, and it is dirty enough as it is thank you very much.
Two weeks after his loss to Gov. Rick Perry, the former Houston Mayor said he will not run for the U.S. Senate in 2012. Prior to entering the gubernatorial race last year, White had sought the senate seat many had expected Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to vacate. White additionally said he had no plans to run for office in 2014 either and was evaluating future business plans.
The announcement can hardly be described as surprising, though the timing of it may be earlier than many had expected. Former Texas Comptroller John Sharp has said he plans to run for the Senate in 2012 (although his website currently offers advice on how to find "the best male enhancement pills").
The Republican side will likely be crowded, as Railroad Commissioners Elizabeth Ames Jones and Michael Williams along with former Secretary of State Roger Williams and State Sen. Florence Shapiro were all planning on running in what they thought would be a special election. Whether they all ultimately run is unknown, but it seems unlikely.
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst could be the Republican frontrunner, but his decision will not come until after the upcoming legislative session. Depending on the political climate, Democrats could see a legislator, or perhaps someone we have not even heard of yet, jump in after the legislature adjourns in May.
Update: As Robert points out in the comments, Hutchison has become well known for saying one thing and doing another when it comes to her future in the Senate. While I still expect her not to run again, Robert is right that given her history it is far from a sure thing. However, if she does choose to run again, Hutchison could find herself as a target for a challenge from the right in the Republican Primary.
On June 10th, we all celebrated the defeat of the Murkowski resolution, which would have gutted the EPA's ability to regulate carbon dioxide pollution. Why we needed to defeat Murkowski was explained well by NRDC Action Fund Executive Director, Peter Lehner, who wrote the following prior to the vote:
EPA's proactive lead in greenhouse gas regulation is a critical aspect of the effort to reduce our rampant, destabilizing, and destructive dependence on foreign and offshore oil. While the endangerment finding does not, in itself, prescribe regulations, it provides the legal basis for critical standards: EPA's proposed CAFE efficiency standard for light-duty vehicles is projected to save over 455 million barrels per year, and an anticipated standard for heavy-duty vehicles will save billions more. Stripping EPA of its authority to implement these protections would increase our nation's dependence on oil and send hundreds of billions of dollars overseas. We cannot afford this big step backward, especially as we watch more oil gush into the Gulf each day.
In the end, the Senate didn't take that "big step backward" on June 10th, as the Murkowski resolution failed by a 47-53 vote. Many of us probably figured that was the end of this issue, and that the Senate would now move on to passing comprehensive, clean energy and climate legislation. Unfortunately, as is often the case in Washington, DC, it isn't that simple (let alone logical).
Today, clean air and public health are once again under an assault that constitutes, essentially, "Murkowski Part II." The Wall Street Journal reported on June 22:
As U.S. Senate lawmakers attempt to determine the fate of energy legislation, an influential Democrat is boosting efforts to suspend a controversial greenhouse-gas rule passed earlier this year by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
After introducing a bill to impose a two-year halt on the new EPA rule, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat from coal-rich West Virginia, is now working to round up supporters for his legislation.
It should go without saying that this is completely unacceptable. As we all know, the public was outraged at Senator Murkowski's Big Oil Bailout bill. They understood that this moved the country backward, not forward, and that it was exactly the wrong way to go given the energy and environmental challenges we face. Through all our efforts, our phone calls and emails (and blog posts and tweets, etc.), we helped to kill Murkowski Part I. Now, unfortunately, Sen. Jay Rockefeller is pushing Murkowski Part II, yet there's far less attention being paid to this effort than to the Murkowski's EPA Castration Resolution Part I. People have a lot of other things on their minds, and they thought this fight was over back in June. But, once they find out that this effort is baaaaack, like a monster in a cheesy horror movie, they are not going to respond positively.
Of course, why would the public - which overwhelmingly supports taking action to promote clean energy and deal with climate change - ever respond positively to a proposal aimed at throwing away one of our key tools to cut pollution and protect public health? And why would they respond positively now of all times, as oil continues to spew into the Gulf of Mexico, as record heat waves scorch the United States, and as climate science is strengthened every day that goes by? Last but not least, why would they support an effort to protect the corporate polluters and not all of us who are being hurt by that pollution?
The bottom line is simple: instead of wasting its time on legislation that will only move the country backwards - towards dirty energy forever - the Senate should be busy passing a bill that moves the country forward towards a bright future of green energy, clean tech jobs, energy security and climate protection. Once our Senators hear that message loud and clear from all of us, Rockefeller's Murkowski Part II will be rejected by the Senate, just as Murkowski Part I was before it.
I spoke with Leppert's City Hall chief of staff, Chris Heinbaugh, and his political consultant, Mary Woodlief, to tell them I was working on a story about a possible Senate run and to ask for comment from the mayor. The response was radio silence from Leppert—not even a no-comment, just silence, reminding us of his response when we asked for details about his plan for taking over the school system.
The speculation that he will run persists, however, based on the widely held belief that a special election to replace Hutchison would give Leppert a window that won't be open again for another 15 years or more. In other words, it's a chance he can't afford to miss.
Greg noted that if Leppert does decide to run, it could harm the candidacy of State Sen. Florence Shapiro, who is from Plano.
Leppert's lack of strong Republican Party credentials and very low name ID outside of the Dallas area would make the race a clear uphill battle. But, as the Observer's article said, an open seat does not come along often and if Leppert wants to get to the Senate he may not have many better opportunities.
So former Dallas mayor Ron Kirk was announced as President Barack Obama's nominee for the last cabinet spot, U.S. Trade Representative, over two months ago. Since then, Barack Obama actually got sworn in, and he has also seen three different nominees for Commerce Secretary. I guess it's not that easy to get a full government in place, huh?
Well, Senator Baucus has finally decided to put Ron Kirk's appointment on the Senate Finance Committee's schedule. He does not expect any hitches for this nomination. We have waited a long time, but it seems we will finally get this Texas man in the cabinet.
As a note, the reason for this delay has probably been due to the fact that, understandably, the office of Trade Representative has been dolled out towards the Finance Committee. But with this stimulus thing and stuff, they've been busy. I still don't think Timothy Geithner has a deputy secretary at his disposal, because that guy has to be confirmed, too.
Just a note to the people running our Senate: with the Finance Committee so ridiculously busy, shouldn't we consider moving some things out of their to-do list if it could be applicable? Ron Kirk has been nominated to a post that carries the title of "Ambassador;" we should have been able to fill this position by filtering it through the Foreign Relations Committee.
But I digress from the actual news. It looks like Ron Kirk might actually start his job soon.
Just got this great e-mail from John Cornyn's campaign pimping their last anti-Noriega fundraising e-mail:
See note below from our communications director, thanks for what you have done in last 24 hours, let's keep it going.
From: Kevin McLaughlin
Sent: Friday, July 18, 2008 1:40 PM
To: Rob Jesmer
1) Our guys at the convention told us Noreiga and his out-of-state buddies spent the morning attacking Senator Cornyn
2) according to finance team, the fact that Dean and Pelosi came in to shill for Noreiga really fired up our supporters the last 24 hours. We have raised well over 10K and I think we could another 10k if we send out the email below again.
You know, it might be a good idea to hire someone (or two someones, since Rob Jesmer, Cornyn's campaign manager didn't even correct the misspelling in the e-mail) who can actually spell your opponent's name. Especially your communications director.
As for the message . . . Noriega and the rest of the Netroots and Dem leadership who showed up bashed Cornyn!? STOP THE PRESSES! SOUND THE ALARM! TIP THE COW!
Anyway, I guess "Buck Smith"/David Beckwith must be earning his keep (and some Democratic schwag) by attending Netroots Nation.
More to the point, Kevin, you really need to learn how to (a) spell and (b) not make yourself look like an ass in the press (yes, I'm talking about that asinine comment about "Buck Smith" speaking for himself and all that other BS you pulled from that place beneath your nose that resembles an asshole when BOR outed Beckwith).
By the way, Kev: Since "Buck Smith" speaks for himself, why isn't he posting on BOR any more?
Just got a really great email from Texas Democrat Garry Mauro advocating for Rick Noriega's campaign for US Senate.
Most of us will remember that Garry served with distinction earning election 4 times to Land Commissioner.
As Land Commissioner Garry Mauro placed a top priority on getting Democrats elected up and down the ballot and was well known for loaning his appearance, campaign organization and plane to any Dem that needed any of it.
Garry is also one of only 2 people I'm aware of to have a plate named after him at Guero's (the other being President Bill Clinton)...so that tells you everything you need to know about his cultural impact on Texas.
Garry makes a great case for Noriega, why he can win, why it is important, and what we can do about it TODAY.
I encourage you to read more after the jump and to support Rick Noriega in whatever way you can.