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The Takeaway

Assessing Newt's Fate and the GOP's Field of Presidential Hopefuls

Friday, June 10, 2011

Yesterday, a half-dozen senior advisers on the Newt Gingrich presidential campaign team resigned. Gingrich’s campaign manager was among the six. At the very least they’ve made the political comeback that Gingrich was working on a bit more complicated. At worst, they’d destroyed his hopes for unseating President Barack Obama in the 2012 election. 

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The Takeaway

This Week's Agenda: Strauss-Kahn, the Economy, Presidential Hopefuls

Monday, June 06, 2011

Dominique Strauss-Kahn is scheduled to return to court today to face arraignment in New York City. He is charged with raping a Manhattan hotel maid, the allegations shocked the world, especially France, where he was expected to be a strong contender for the presidency. Callie Crossley, host of The Callie Crossley Show, on WGBH in Boston says "I think this story is going to capture a lot of headlines for a long time." Kelly Evans, "Ahead of the Tape" columnist for The Wall Street Journal, looks at some key economic data coming out this week that could give us a clue at how the economy is doing.

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Transportation Nation

If We Can't Afford to Fix Roads, Can We Afford to Build Roads?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

New highway construction in Mississippi. Photo by Matt Dellinger.

(Matt Dellinger, Transportation Nation)  When Scott Walker was running for Governor of Wisconsin last fall, he peppered the airwaves with a campaign spot that made very clear why he planned to stop the proposed Madison-to-Milwaukee high speed rail line: It was going to cost about $810 million dollars to build, he said, and “I’d rather take that money and fix Wisconsin’s crumbling roads and bridges.”

But a new report by the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group (WISPIRG) takes Governor Walker to task for cutting $48 million in local transportation assistance—much of which would be used for road and bridge repair—while proposing a 13% increase in spending on new highway capital projects. WISPIRG’s report “Building Boondoggles?” isn’t fooling anyone with the question mark in its title. The authors, Kyle Bailey and Bruce Speight, make no bones about the “troubling” nature of Walker's “new construction largess.”

In response to a $3.6 Billion state deficit, Bailey and Speight point out, the Governor has suggested cuts “in most areas of the state budget, including education, health care and state assistance for local cities, towns and counties. State funding for local road repair and transit have also been put on the chopping block. Transit in particular has been put at risk by receiving a 10% across the board cut.” At the same time, Walker's belt-tightening left room for a billion-dollar widening of Interstate 90 south of Madison, a $390 million widening of the Tri-County Freeway in Winnebago and Calumet Counties, and the $125 million construction of a four-lane road through Caledonia county between Milwaukee and Racine.

WISPIRG questions the wisdom of these specific projects, which, to be fair, were kicking around for years before Walker became Governor (but then again, so was the Madison-to-Milwaukee high-speed rail project). But more to the point, Bailey and Speight raise the question of how Governor Walker can suggest adding to the new-road budget an amount—$328 million—that could have prevented his cuts to transit and maintenance. (Walker's office respectfully declined to comment for this story.)

Expanding the system while deferring maintenance is not just a Wisconsin thing. According to another report, released today by Taxpayers for Common Sense and Smart Growth America, this is a nationwide habit. The two groups found that between 2004 and 2008, while bridges crumbled and roads deteriorated, states spent 57 percent of their highway budgets on road widening and new road construction.

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Transportation Nation

TN Moving Stories: Montreal Bike Share In Debt; Amtrak to Senate: Gateway Tunnel "Critical" for Region

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Senate Democrats want the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether the oil industry is fixing gas prices. (Marketplace). Meanwhile, their proposal to strip oil companies of tax breaks failed in the Senate yesterday (New York Times).

Politico writes: "Republicans have a messaging problem on gas prices. More Americans actually believe in UFOs and ghosts than blame President Barack Obama for causing their pain at the pump."

Montreal's Bixi bike share program, losing money and in debt, needs financial backing from the city. (The Globe and Mail)

Auditions for NYC's "Music Under New York" program were held yesterday; WNYC stopped by to take pictures -- and audio -- of the would-be subway performers. Take a listen!

CNN Money profiles the president of Alta Bike Share, the company behind the bike share programs in Boston and DC.

Workers move closer to their jobs, take transit, buy less, as a result of gas prices:  (New York Times)

Loudoun County officials are exploring what would happen if they withdrew funding for the Metrorail extension to Dulles International Airport. (Washington Post)

The Congressional Budget Office floated a mileage tax at a Senate Finance Committee hearing on “Financing 21st Century Infrastructure.” (The Hill)

Meanwhile, at the Senate Appropriations Committee hearing for the Federal Railroad Administration's budget request, Amtrak president Joseph Boardman said the Gateway Tunnel is "critical" to high-speed rail service. He added:  "I think we're out of capacity in the Northeast Corridor...we have no place to put the New Jersey Transit trains that come into Penn Station." (Video below via Senator Lautenberg, YouTube)

The Freedom Rides turn 50 this year, and two original freedom riders talk will about that activism on today's Brian Lehrer Show. (WNYC)

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

In case you missed it on Transportation Nation:

-- high fuel prices squeeze Montana agencies (link)

-- DC wants to impose fees on intercity bus industry (link)

-- DC's mayor will announce new DDOT head today (link)

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The Takeaway

Is a Federal Budget Deal on the Horizon?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Today, as the Tea Party Patriots rally outside the Capitol Building, lawmakers might actually be close to a compromise on the federal budget. Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee met with their House counterparts last night to see if they could strike a deal to avoid a government shutdown. But the compromise in question would include $33 billion in cuts — $28 billion less than the budget Republicans passed in the House. How will the Tea Party react to a deal with Democrats? What are the implications for Speaker of the House John Boehner?

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It's A Free Country ®

Another Budget Concession for Dems?

Monday, March 28, 2011

WNYC

With less than two weeks left to compromise and avoid a government shutdown, Democrats are assembling another proposal with more concessions.

The Democrats proposal will have approximately $20 billion additional spending cuts that could soon be offered to Republicans, according to the Wall Street Journal. This proposal would come after $10 billion in enacted spending cuts for the year. Republicans are seeking a total of $61 billion in in budget cuts and are under pressure from the Tea Party to get all of these cuts through the gauntlet.

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It's A Free Blog

DLC & CPAC: Intra-Party Divisions a Bi-Partisan Affair

Monday, February 14, 2011

Word that the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) was closing up shop drew chants akin to “Ding, dong, the witch is dead” from liberals across America. The DLC – a self-styled centrist, pro-business group – has been a bogeyman to the Left, from its successful efforts encouraging Democratic officials to embrace big lobbyists to its high-profile fights with Howard Dean and other progressive leaders. Liberals felt more than a little schadenfreude that this major combatant in intra-party strife was laying down its swords and laying off its staff. However, beyond some playful and pointed posts, liberals aren't really celebrating.

Not that it was a bad week for the Left.  The Republicans were revealing their internal divisions – and their old-fashioned bigotry – as prominent partisans boycotted CPAC, the major conservative conference, over the inclusion of the gay group GOProud. The House Leader John Boehner lost a vote on extending the Patriot Act in a turn that showed insurgent Tea Partiers aren’t ready to play nice with their caucus.  Liberal hero Keith Olbermann will be back and bolder than ever on Current TV.  The purchase of the Huffington Post by AOL showed mainstream affirmation of the value – at least financially – of a liberal-leaning community.  And there was of course a largely-peaceful democratic uprising that toppled a dictator.

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The Takeaway

Repeal of Health Care Law Fails in Senate

Thursday, February 03, 2011

The health care debate isn't subsiding in Washington. A Republican effort to repeal the health care law failed in the Senate Wednesday night, while a Democratic amendment to repeal the law's new tax-reporting requirements passed with bipartisan support. Senate Republicans vowed this will not be their last attempt to repeal the law. Washington correspondent Todd Zwillich lays out the roadmap for the Republican plan to piece-by-piece tear away at the law.

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Transportation Nation

Interview: John Mica says Transpo Bill Needs "Alternate Means of Financing"

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Official Government Photo of John Mica

Transportation Nation's Todd Zwillich spoke with Republican John Mica, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, about rumors of raiding the Highway Trust Fund, stretching infrastructure money farther, and why the new chairman is so optimistic he can get a transportation bill passed in a partisan congress.

"The Highway Trust Fund will remain the purview of the Transportation Committee and can’t be used for other uses."

Listen to the interview here:

TRANSCRIPT:

Todd Zwillich: Thank You Mr. Mica. With the new rules coming in with the new Congress, you have heard Democrats ... warning that the Highway Trust Fund will be raided under the new budgetary rules that were passed by Republicans… Is that a real fear?

Congressman John Mica: Well

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Transportation Nation

Republicans Say Highway Trust Fund Won't Be Raided

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

[UPDATED: With added quotes.]

(Washington, D.C. -- Todd Zwillich, Transportation Nation) Republicans in the House of Representatives say they've been reassured by their newly-empowered leadership about the future of the Highway Trust Fund.

Democrats have been spending first weeks of the new Congress--in response to headlines touting the new Republican House Majority and its austere rules on government spending--complaining that the GOP was preparing to raid the fund to use the money elsewhere in the federal budget. That is a possibility because rules adopted by the GOP require any increases in government spending to be offset by cuts elsewhere. The big pool of money that is the Highway Trust Fund is an attractive reservoir for lawmakers who don't want to raise taxes or cut popular social programs.

But newly appointed Republican Chairman of the Transportation Committee, John Mica (R-Fla.) tells Transportation Nation in an interview that won't happen. "I think what was put in place were some good protective measures. ... The Highway Trust Fund will remain the purview of the Transportation Committee and can’t be used for other uses."

Listen to the interview with John Mica:

The Highway Trust Fund is funded largely by an 18.4 cent per gallon federal gasoline tax. The money is meant for road, bridge, highway and transit projects.

Democrats are unconvinced the funds are safe. "They have said the firewall is down," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) warned reporters on Capitol Hill. "This is irresponsible to violate a law that created a trust fund for the American people." Reid asked rhetorically of the GOP, "Are they out of their mind?"

Turns out pro-transportation Republicans are bracing for cuts to the Trust Fund, but not in the way Democrats think.

Rep. John Duncan (R-Tenn.), a high-ranking member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, says newly-mined House speaker John Boehner (R-Calif.) assured Republicans that new budget rules notwithstanding, Highway Trust Fund money won't get used for any other purpose.

Duncan said many Republican lawmakers went to Boehner with concerns about the fund's vulnerability as a revenue source. That was after organizations from the Chamber of Commerce to trucking and labor groups voiced similar worries. That's when Boehner offered the GOP conference his guarantee.

"As long as we stick by that, I'll be satisfied," Duncan said in an interview with Transportation Nation.

That's not to say the road projects will enjoy a bottom line close to what its been in years past. Rep. Mica has said that money from general government funds that for years supplemented the anemic trust fund is soon to dry up. "Now our challenge is taking diminishing revenues and making them go further. But I think we can do that by speeding up some of the process, cutting red tape and leveraging some of the funds we have better."

And keep in mind: Just because the GOP says it won't use trust fund money for other purposes doesn't mean its revenue can't be cut. Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) who chairs the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee acknowledged in an interview that some Republicans on his panel would like to lower the federal gas tax. "I know its under discussion," Camp said. He declined to elaborate. Mica, however said that's unlikely to happen. "I think it’s almost impossible to drop the rate." Though he added that he expects gas tax revenues to fall. "Fewer people are using gasoline. We have alternative fuels. The revenue will go down" whether we like it or not.

Both Mica and Duncan, who also counts himself a supporter of transit and infrastructure projects, suggest highways spending would be austere but not eviscerated. Duncan explained, "I think you're still going to see many billions spent on highways and transit in the coming years ... Just not as much as everybody wants. But that's just the way it is with almost everything now."

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

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Transportation Nation

Bay Area Transpo: New Years Resolutions

Friday, January 14, 2011

Photo from the Facebook group, "Make BART Trains Run 24 Hours”

(San Francisco–Casey Miner, KALW News) We've got a new weekly segment on the show looking at what's going on with transportation around the Bay. Have a listen over at KALW News.

Follow Transportation Nation on Twitter.

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The Takeaway

Congress Tackles Health Care, Obama Appoints Daley

Friday, January 07, 2011

It's been a big week as Washington gets back to work. There are questions about whether the Republican-dominated House can actually repeal the health care plan. Meanwhile, Democrats are finally "finding their voice" on health care, says Takeaway Washington correspondent, Todd Zwillich, as they prepare to counter GOP claims about the bill.

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WQXR News

Gibbs Announces February Departure From White House

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs says he'll continue to advise the president.

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The Takeaway

Politics, Policy and The Tea Party: The Top 5 Things to Look For in the New Congress

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Lawmakers get back to work as the 112th Congress begins today. Republicans take the majority in the House of Representatives and Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), gets sworn in as its new Speaker of the House. At the same time, there is a move in the Senate to change the filibuster rule. The first day of Congress is the only day that lawmakers can change the rules with only 51 votes and some Democrats hope to use this to their advantage. The Takeaway's Washington correspondent, Todd Zwillich, looks at the new Congress and the top five things to watch out for in 2011.

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The Takeaway

Rep. John Boehner to Take Gavel as House Speaker

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

With the 112th Congress starting this week, Ohio's Rep. John Boehner is set to take his seat as the new Speaker of the House. What kind of Speaker he'll be remains to be seen. Will he follow in the steps of Newt Gingrich, who became Speaker when Republicans took control of the House back in 1994?

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WQXR News

Obama Signs Tax Bill Into Law

Friday, December 17, 2010

President Barack Obama has signed tax legislation that will maintain current tax rates for everyone, calling it "a substantial victory for middle-class families across the country," in remarks he made just prior to signing it into law.

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WNYC News

US Senate Passes Tax Cut Package

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Senate has passed a $858 billion compromise tax plan by a wide margin. The vote was 81 to 19. Thirteen of those voting against the measure were Democrats, who had fought against an extension of tax breaks for the wealthy.

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The Takeaway

GOP, White House Reach Deal on Tax Cuts, Unemployment Benefits

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

The White House and Senate Republicans reached a tentative agreement yesterday that would see a GOP priority, Bush-era tax cuts extended for rich and poor alike, accepted in return for a Democratic priority: extending unemployment benefits to help keep the economy moving. Takeaway Washington correspondent Todd Zwillich watched the deal in the making.

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The Takeaway

This Week's Agenda: TSA, Black Friday, Haiti

Monday, November 22, 2010

With Thanksgiving approaching, how many notches you'll have to relax that belt buckle won't be the only question people will be asking. Much of the focus will be on air safety and retail sales. Many travelers are not happy about the latest security measures the TSA is using for secondary screening, including full-body scans and thorough pat-downs. Many see both as extremely invasive, but the TSA says that both measures will stay. Callie Crossley, host of "The Callie Crossley Show" at WGBH in Boston, will see if any changes will come as Thanksgiving quickly approaches.

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The Takeaway

Republicans Begin to Define Agenda; Tea Party Tests Its Strength

Friday, November 12, 2010

Freshmen senators, insider fighting, and a need to publicly shape the next moves for the party after the midterm election: the Republican party has spent the past week regrouping. In the middle of it all, the candidates elected with Tea Party enthusiasm have begun to flex their new political muscles with mixed results. Minnesota GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann, one of the initiators of the Tea Party movement, has dropped her bid for a leadership role in the Republican House Conference. Delaware's Senator Jim DeMint, the undeclared leader of the group, is pushing for an unpopular ban on earmarking — in an attempt, perhaps, to show how much power he can wield. And new arrivals, like Florida's freshman Senator-elect, Marco Rubio, are finding themselves caught between Tea Party ideals and Washington's realities. How is the party tackling its goals, voter expectations and new majority? 

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