breaking news


Democrats won big in Virginia. Should Ohio Republicans be worried?

Published: Thursday, November 09, 2017 @ 6:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday, November 08, 2017 @ 6:50 PM


            Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam greets supporters at an election night rally November 7, 2017 in Fairfax, Virginia. Northam defeated Republican candidate Ed Gillespie. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
            Win McNamee
Virginia Governor-elect Ralph Northam greets supporters at an election night rally November 7, 2017 in Fairfax, Virginia. Northam defeated Republican candidate Ed Gillespie. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)(Win McNamee)

Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam’s surprisingly easy win in the Virginia governor’s race Tuesday sent a message to Republicans in other states, including Ohio, that those up for election next year could be in for a challenge.

One year after President Donald Trump relied on a nationalistic message of cracking down on immigration to win the presidency, Republican Ed Gillespie’s emphasis of many of those same issues ricocheted.

Not only did he lose a Virginia governor’s race that was supposed to be tight by almost 300,000 votes, but Republicans also suffered big losses in the Virginia House of Delegates.

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley immediately seized on the Democrats’ big night in Virginia to make a fundraising plea for her campaign for governor in Ohio.

RELATED: Looking ahead to 2018 races

“We heard it from Virginia voters last night, and I hear it at every campaign stop I make across Ohio — people are demanding an end to Republicans’ politics of division,” she wrote. “They’re demanding leaders who will stand up for all working people.”

Political experts are in almost universal agreement that there are minefields ahead for Republicans if Trump’s approval ratings remain below 40 percent and GOP candidates continue to antagonize women, African Americans and Hispanics.

“It’s not a particularly good sign and one we need to reverse by November of 2018,” said Whit Ayres, a Republican consultant in Virginia.

RELATED: How two first-time candidates won on Tuesday

In Ohio, Republican gubernatorial candidate Jim Renacci and Senate Republican candidate Josh Mandel are counting on a sharp nationalistic message to carry their campaigns.

That might work in a primary, said Paul Beck, an emeritus political science professor at Ohio State University, but embracing that formula in a general election when more people vote is more risky.

Ohio Democratic Party Chairman David Pepper told reporters Wednesday that Mandel, Renacci and Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor — who also is seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination — “are walking the same plank Gillespie walked.”

“To the extent they are embracing the far right wing of the party … versus a bunch of Democrats sticking to the issues, we’re on the much stronger side of winning elections next year,” Pepper said.

RELATED: 8 squeakers in Tuesday’s election

But others warn against making sweeping conclusions about one state, pointing out that Democrat Hillary Clinton carried Virginia last year and the state has been trending toward the Democrats.

“At root, these are still local races,” said Mark Caleb Smith, director of the Center for Political Studies at Cedarville University. “Certainly, it was a bad night for Republicans, but that does not mean, by definition, future nights will be bad.”

Trump allies say Gillespie was an imperfect candidate to deliver the Trump message. A former Washington lobbyist and chairman of the Republican National Committee, Gillespie was the epitome of the Washington establishment.

And some, including Trump, who fired off a tweet slamming Gillespie after his defeat, argue his campaign didn’t connect with Republicans.

RELATED: State Issue 2 fails big

“We’ve got to have a message that is part of this ‘Washington stinks, it’s time to reform,’ in order to get Republicans excited to come out and turn out,” said Barry Bennett, who served as a senior adviser to Trump’s campaign last year.

“To incumbents who want to campaign like they always have, this should be a wake-up call,” Bennett said. “You’re going to have to tap into this anger if you’re going to survive.”

Trump tapped into that anger last year, but his job-approval rating has sagged in recent months. Some Republicans have grown weary of his angry tweets about any topic on his mind, and people in both parties were appalled and angry at his unwillingness earlier this year to denounce the alt-right demonstrators in Charlottesville.

“Certainly Democrats have to feel good about what happened,” said Kyle Kondik, managing editor of “Sabato’s Crystal Ball” at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics. “What we saw in Virginia was that there was a real surge of Democrats voting, particularly in places where the president is pretty unpopular.”

Columbus Dispatch senior writer Randy Ludlow contributed to this story.)

Some political ‘thanks’ on Thanksgiving

Published: Thursday, November 23, 2017 @ 2:50 PM

On every Thanksgiving, it’s always nice to take some time and think about what you and your family are thankful for in 2017 – but at the same time, we may as well try to figure how Turkey Day is playing in political circles as well.

In terms of political news, reporters on Capitol Hill and Washington, D.C. are currently going through an almost never-ending avalanche of stories, erupting daily (or even hourly) in what seems to be a high rate of speed in this new social media atmosphere.

Let’s take a look at a few things on this Thanksgiving 2017:

1. Roy Moore – Roy Moore might be thankful for a lot right now, mainly a number of men in high profile positions in the Congress and the news media who have been ensnared in the recent swarm of news about sex. The latest person to hit the news – and take the focus off of Moore – is Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX), who had a nude photo of himself leaked on to social media by a woman he was once in a relationship with, which some say might be ‘revenge porn.’ No matter what the details might be of how this occurred, the Barton story is a reminder of the perfect piece of advice that my father gave as he dropped me off at the U.S. Capitol on my first day of work in 1980, when he told me that ‘They call it the House of Representatives for a reason” – members of Congress are no different from our neighbors and friends. Some are good. Some are bad. Some make bad choices along the way. Roy Moore is thankful for Al Franken, John Conyers, Joe Barton, Charlie Rose, and many others. Their stories keep Moore out of the headlines.

2. President Donald Trump. – Mr. Trump may be most thankful for political opponents like Hillary Clinton, who continues to be a Trump punching bag on Twitter. While many Inside the Beltway cringe at “Crooked Hillary” tweets, those missives continue to delight the President’s legions of fans, as it helps to keep the 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee in the news. (While Mr. Trump is probably also thankful for sports figures like Lavar Ball, Steph Curry, Richard Sherman, and others, I’ll stick to the political arena.) Over the last year, this President has proven himself to be very adept at verbally smacking people on Twitter – whether you think it’s right or wrong for Mr. Trump to be doing that isn’t the point. The longer that President Trump can keep Hillary Clinton in the news, the better for him, and maybe the better for the Republican Party. Donald Trump is thankful that Hillary Clinton is still around.

3. Tax lawyers and accountants. – Yes, Republicans say their tax reform plan will make the tax code simpler to deal with, and for some individuals, it would be easier to file your taxes under the plans envisioned in the House and Senate. But before you think that it’s going to change everything, a simple review of Congressional tax plans shows there will be plenty of work for people who need to explain the intricacies of the tax code, like tax lawyers and accountants. You don’t have to go very far into the GOP bills to feel confused about what’s being changed. Tax lawyers and accountants are thankful for the GOP tax reform bill. There will still be plenty of business for them, even if that bill becomes law.




4. Federal workers. All the talk for years from Republicans has been about making deep cuts in the budget of various federal agencies. On the campaign trail, President Trump promised much the same. But this first year of a combination of a GOP House & Senate, and the Trump Administration, produced almost nothing in terms of spending cuts and budget savings. Last week, the White House proposed $44 billion in (generic) budget savings to offset disaster aid for recent hurricanes – except it would come between 2025 and 2027, when Mr. Trump would be long gone from the White House. So, as they enjoy a big turkey dinner, federal workers can say ‘thanks’ that the Republican Congress and the President, as they really haven’t been able to wield a budget axe on the Executive Branch. Mr. Trump said before Thanksgiving that he would push for budget cuts in the next year. On Thanksgiving, President Trump visited a Coast Guard facility in Florida. Back in April, Mr. Trump wanted to cut over a billion from the Coast Guard budget. That didn’t make it through the Congress.

5. Politics at Thanksgiving. A year ago, the recent election of Donald Trump was a prime topic for many families, as a lot of Democratic voters were struggling to come to terms with President Trump’s election. Fast forward to Thanksgiving 2017, and it’s possible that a lot of those same people are still somewhat aggravated about the way things have gone in political circles after Mr. Trump’s first 10 months in office. And that leads me to believe that some of you will have a few things to say at the dinner table about President Trump, good and bad. Some will be saying “thanks” for the President – others, not so much. But it isn’t hard to argue over whether you should talk about politics at the table, eh?

Congress: Only 2 bills sponsored by Ohioans became law in 2017

Published: Friday, November 24, 2017 @ 8:00 AM
Updated: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 4:03 PM


            Capitol
Capitol

If success in Congress is measured by the bills a lawmaker passes, then it’s been a lackluster year for Ohio’s 16 House members and two senators.

But then, it hasn’t exactly been a banner year for Congress, either.

The state’s congressional delegation this year has served as the original sponsors of 304 bills — bills that would do everything from create a commemorative coin honoring writer Maya Angelou and bills that would make it tougher to receive federal food stamps.

Of those, 11 passed the House as standalone bills. Eight passed the Senate. Two — one sponsored by Rep. Bill Johnson, R–Marietta and one sponsored by Sen. Rob Portman, R–Ohio — have become law.

That’s compared to 82 laws that Congress has passed this year out of 9,939 bills introduced.

One of the most productive Ohio lawmakers to date is Portman. He introduced 42 bills to date this year. Six passed the Senate. One — a bill that reauthorizes research for early detection, diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss in babies and young children — became law. In the House, a Johnson bill that undid one of President Obama’s environmental regulations related to stream protections became law.

But Portman’s staff is quick to point out that those 42 bills are only the ones where he’s the chief sponsor. Portman sponsored or cosponsored 198 bills in 2017. Of those, 36 passed the Senate.

By comparison, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D–Ohio, introduced 64 bills. Two — one to designate Sept. 16 as Isaac M. Wise Temple Day in honor of a synagogue in Cincinnati and one designating Feb. 28 as Rare Disease Day — passed the Senate. None became law.

But Brown sponsored or cosponsored 439 bills — the second-highest number of anyone in the delegation — and he had more success on that front. Of those 439, 42 passed the Senate and five became law.

In the House, Rep. Tim Ryan, D–Niles, has spent much of this year introducing bills — 22, in fact, more than any other Ohioan serving in the House. He’s sponsored or cosponsored 446, more than any other Ohioan. None of the bills he has led have passed the House; of the 446 he has cosponsored, 18 passed the House and six became law.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Rep. Jim Jordan, R–Urbana, has introduced two bills — one to make it harder to receive food stamps and another to repeal the 2010 health care law known as Obamacare. Both of those bills remain stuck in committee.

Many lawmakers get things done by using larger bills as a vehicle. Rep. Mike Turner, R–Dayton, introduced 11 bills to date this Congress. Three — one aimed at helping survivors of sexual abuse in the military report crimes against them, one to keep the National Aviation Hall of Fame in Ohio and one to implement safety requirements for windows in military housing — were tucked into the National Defense Authorization Act. That bill has passed through Congress and awaits President Trump’s signature.

Three other bills dealt with health care reform. Two of those initiatives were in the House passed bill that later failed in the Senate, meaning the provisions essentially passed the House. And one is opioid-related — Turner hopes to tuck it into a larger bill next year.

The Center for Effective Lawmaking — a joint project between Professor Craig Volden of the University of Virginia and Alan E. Wiseman of Vanderbilt — studies 15 factors including bills sponsored, bills passed or bill movement in committee to determine who is the most effective lawmakers in Congress. They also factor in whether the lawmaker is in the majority or minority; it’s harder to get something done in the minority. And they look at whether the bills or symbolic – such as naming a post office – or substantive.

Among Ohio’s members, Rep. Steve Chabot, R–Cincinnati was deemed the most effective, coming in seventh out of 250 Republicans. Turner was 202 out of 250 Republicans. Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Cincinnati, was 91 out of 250 Republicans.

On the bottom end of the spectrum, Reps. Jim Jordan, R–Urbana and Warren Davidson, R–Troy, both ranked 249 out of 250 Republicans.

In the Senate, Brown, came in 26th out of 44 Democrats. Portman came in 14th out of 54 Republicans.

Volden said statistically, a few factors have helped indicate effectiveness: Being in the majority helps, as does being a committee chair or subcommittee chair. Seniority helps as well.

But he’s seen more subtle factors as well. Those who have served in some of “the more professional” state legislatures — the ones that meet year round, collect a salary and are considered a full-time job — are far more effective on average than the citizen legislatures that don’t meet often.

“The ones we’re most impressed by are the folks who are continuing to perform above expectations Congress after Congress after Congress,” he said.

Donald Wolfensberger, director of the Congress Project at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars was curious about whether Congress has actually slowed down in progress, so he compared the January through September of Trump’s first year to those same months during President Barack Obama’s first year in office.

He found that while the House voted more frequently during the first few months of Obama’s administration, the number of laws passed wasn’t that different — 65 under Obama, 64 under Trump. That number, however, doesn’t take into account the differences between the depth or scope of the laws passed.

His takeaway? “Both houses are still dysfunctional,” he said. “And I just don’t know what the solution is other than the big judgment day coming next year in November.”

“This is not exactly a convivial atmosphere in which to get a lot done,” he said.

Southwest Ohio congressional delegation at a glance, 2017

Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati

Bills introduced: 18

Bills cosponsored: 213

Bills that passed the House: 2

Cosponsored bills that passed the House: 36

Cosponsored bills that became law: 9

—-

Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Troy

Bills introduced: 12

Bills cosponsored: 84

Bill that passed the House: 1

Cosponsored bills that passed the House: 16

Cosponsored bills that became law: 4

—-

Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana

Bills introduced: 2

Bills cosponsored: 82

Cosponsored bills that passed the House: 13

Cosponsored bills that became law: 2

—-

Rep. Brad Wenstrup, R-Cincinnati

Bills introduced: 13

Bills cosponsored: 108

Bills that passed the House: 2

Cosponsored bills that passed the House: 23

Cosponsored bills that became law: 8

—-

Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton

Bills introduced: 11

Bills cosponsored: 138

Cosponsored bills that passed the House: 13

Cosponsored bills that became law: 3

—-

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D–Ohio

Bills introduced: 64

Bills cosponsored: 439

Bills that passed the Senate: 2

Cosponsored bills that passed the Senate: 42

Cosponsored bills that became law: 5

—-

Sen. Rob Portman, R–Ohio

Bills introduced: 42

Bills cosponsored: 198

Bills that passed the Senate: 6

Bills that became law: 1

Cosponsored bills that passed the Senate: 36

Cosponsored bills that became law: 2

Source: Congress

$300M for Great Lakes cleanup moves forward in Congress

Published: Wednesday, November 22, 2017 @ 11:47 AM


            Congress
Congress

A wide-ranging Great Lakes cleanup program would receive $300 million next year under a spending bill approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The measure cleared the committee this week and now goes to the full Senate. The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative focuses on the region’s most longstanding environmental problems, such as toxic pollution, farm and urban runoff, invasive species and declining wildlife habitat.

President Donald Trump’s budget called for eliminating the program’s funding. But lawmakers in both parties from the Great Lakes region fought to retain the $300 million it has received most years since 2010.

Todd Ambs of the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition says he’s happy about the funding, but worried that the bill cuts spending for the Environmental Protection Agency and other departments that administer the program.

U.S. slaps new sanctions on North Korean, Chinese firms

Published: Tuesday, November 21, 2017 @ 5:45 PM


            In this undated photo provided on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the the Sungri Motor Complex in Pyeongannam-do, North Korea. The Trump administration is due to announce new sanctions on North Korea on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, after declaring it a state sponsor of terrorism in the latest push to isolate the pariah nation. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)
In this undated photo provided on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, by the North Korean government, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un visits the the Sungri Motor Complex in Pyeongannam-do, North Korea. The Trump administration is due to announce new sanctions on North Korea on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, after declaring it a state sponsor of terrorism in the latest push to isolate the pariah nation. Independent journalists were not given access to cover the event depicted in this image distributed by the North Korean government. The content of this image is as provided and cannot be independently verified. Korean language watermark on image as provided by source reads: “KCNA” which is the abbreviation for Korean Central News Agency. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

The Trump administration imposed new sanctions on a slew of North Korean shipping firms and Chinese trading companies Tuesday in its latest push to isolate the rogue nation over its nuclear weapons development and deprive it of revenue.

The Treasury Department also designated a North Korean corporation involved in exporting workers overseas. The action came a day after the United States returned North Korea to its list of state sponsors of terrorism.

“These designations include companies that have engaged in trade with North Korea cumulatively worth hundreds of millions of dollars,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “We are also sanctioning the shipping and transportation companies, and their vessels, that facilitate North Korea’s trade and its deceptive maneuvers.”

Among the companies targeted were four Chinese-based companies and one Chinese individual said to have deep commercial ties with North Korea. The sanctions were imposed under a September executive order that opened the way for the U.S. to punish foreign companies dealing with the North. It bars those sanctioned from holding U.S. assets or doing business with Americans.

The Dandong Kehua Economy & Trade Co., Ltd., Dandong Xianghe Trading Co., Ltd., and Dandong Hongda Trade Co. Ltd. are alleged to have exported about $650 million worth of goods to North Korea and imported more than $100 million from North Korea since 2013. The goods included notebook computers, anthracite coal, iron and other commodities and ferrous products.

Also sanctioned was Chinese national Sun Sidong and his company, Dandong Dongyuan Industrial Co., said to have exported more than $28 million worth of goods to the North.

The targeting of Chinese companies is a potential sore point with Beijing, whose help Trump is counting on to put an economic squeeze on Pyongyang. China recently sent its highest-level envoy to North Korea in two years to discuss the tense state of affairs on the Korean Peninsula.

As part of its effort to stymie North Korean transportation networks, Treasury sanctioned North Korea’s Maritime Administration and its transport ministry, six North Korean shipping and trading companies and 20 of their vessels, which are all North Korean-flagged.

It accused North Korea of deceptive shipping practices, including ship-to-ship transfers, which is prohibited under U.N. sanctions that have been imposed in response to Pyongyang’s rapid tempo of nuclear and ballistic missile tests. The Treasury statement included aerial photos of what it said was Korea Kumbyol Trading Company’s vessel Rye Song Gang 1 possibly transferring oil to evade sanctions that have restricted fuel exports to the North.

Also sanctioned was the Korea South-South Cooperation Corporation said to have exported North Korean workers to China, Russia, Cambodia and Poland to generate revenue for the government.

When President Donald Trump announced the terror designation of North Korea on Monday, he promised to intensify the “maximum pressure” campaign against Pyongyang with the “highest level” of sanctions yet — part of a rolling effort to compel it to negotiate over its nuclear program which poses an emerged threat to the U.S. mainland.

An editorial Tuesday in North Korea’s ruling party newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, called Trump a “heinous criminal” who had insulted the dignity of the country’s supreme leadership and its socialist system during his recent visit to South Korea. The editorial, carried by the state-run news agency, threatened “merciless punishment.” It did not mention the terror designation or the threat of new sanctions.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged Monday a two-month pause in the North’s nuclear and missile tests and said there was still hope for diplomacy. With tougher sanctions in the offing, he warned Kim, “This is only going to get worse until you’re ready to come and talk.”

The terror designation, however, is likely to exacerbate sour relations between Washington and Pyongyang that have turned uglier with name-calling between Trump and Kim. North Korea shows no interest in talks aimed at getting it to give up its nukes.

North Korea has joined Iran, Sudan and Syria on America’s terror blacklist, a position it has occupied on and off the terror list over the years. It was designated for two decades because of its involvement in international terror attacks in the 1980s, then taken off in 2008 to smooth the way for nuclear talks that soon failed.