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Ohio plays key role in battle for Congress

Published: Saturday, September 15, 2012 @ 10:27 PM
Updated: Saturday, September 15, 2012 @ 10:27 PM

Local congressional races

District 10

District profile: All of Montgomery and Greene counties, northern Fayette County

Candidates: U.S. Rep. Mike Turner is running for his sixth term. His challenger is Democrat Sharen Neuhardt, a Greene County attorney. Libertarian David A. Harlow is also on the ballot.

Debate: WHIO-TV Channel 7, the Dayton Daily News and Newstalkradio WHIO are teaming up to host a debate in this race on Oct. 21. More details to come.

District 1

District profile: All of Warren County, part of Hamilton County. Warren was previously represented by Turner and Jean Schmidt. After the 2010 redistricting, all of Warren County was put in one district.

Candidates: U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, is running for his eighth non-consecutive term. His Democratic opponent is Jeff Sinnard. The Green Party candidate is Rich Stevenson and the Libertarian candidate is Jim Berns.

District 4

District profile: One of the largest districts in the state. Includes all or parts of 13 counties including Champaign, Shelby, Auglaize and Logan.

Candidates: U.S. Rep. Jim Jordan, chair of the Republican Study Committee, is running for his fourth term. His Democratic opponent is Jim Slone of Elyria. Libertarian Chris Kalla of Lima is also on the ballot.

District 8

District profile: All of Butler, Preble, Darke, Miami and Clark counties and part of Mercer County. Clark was previously represented by U.S. Rep. Steve Austria who decided not to run again after redistricting.

Candidates: Speaker of the House John Boehner is running unopposed in November.

Two years after Republicans swept away four Ohio Democratic incumbents and seized control of the U.S. House, Democrats are hoping to win back at least three seats this November, which would give the party control of seven of 16 congressional districts.

The party is also hoping Democrat Sharen Neuhardt somehow manages to defeat incumbent Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, in the new 10th district which represents all of Montgomery and Greene counties and part of Fayette.

Just as Ohio figures into the presidential race, it has a key role in the battle over which party controls Congress. Although it may be difficult for the Democrats nationally to win the 25 seats necessary to topple House Speaker John Boehner, R-West Chester Twp., they are poised to spend millions of dollars in an effort to oust Republican incumbents Jim Renacci of Wadsworth and Bill Johnson of Marietta.

They also believe they have a chance to defeat Republican Bob Gibbs of Lakeville, particularly if President Barack Obama rolls up a strong victory in Ohio over Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney. Boehner is unopposed and Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Urbana, and Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, are expected to win easily. Turner, too, is a heavy favorite, but Neuhardt has launched a spirited challenge, unveiling her first television commercial last week.

Former Democratic congressman Zack Space of Dover said three of the races “are competitive and the Neuhardt-Turner race could be competitive. If the Montgomery County vote comes in, Sharon Neuhardt has a shot,’’ Space said.

To Republicans, the Democrats are engaging in wishful thinking. Barry Bennett, a Republican consultant in Washington, said Democrats are “still smoking the funny stuff from Charlotte. If they spend a dime in Ohio, it’s wasted money. So spend all you want.’’

It will be the first time candidates have run in the new districts drawn up last year by the Republican-controlled legislature. Because Ohio’s population has not grown as fast as many southern states, the legislature had to eliminate two seats, giving the state just 16.

Based on voting patterns in past elections, Republicans hold the edge in 12 of those districts, including in the 10th.

Turner, elected to the House in 2002, rolled up comfortable re-election victories in his old district, which included parts of Montgomery and Warren counties and all of Highland and Clinton counties. During the last round of redistricting, Ohio Republicans folded Turner into the same district as Rep. Steve Austria, R-Beavercreek. When Austria chose not to seek re-election, Turner’s GOP nomination was assured.

“Southwest Ohio knows my record of fighting for Wright-Patt, growing new and innovative jobs in the region and as being a leader,” Turner said in a released statement. “When I travel throughout the community I hear directly from voters that they believe our government needs to focus on reining in spending and on job creation. My work and experience are focused on the issues important to our community.”

Neuhardt, an attorney from Yellow Springs, hopes to mount a stern challenge. She lost to Austria by 16 percentage points in 2008, but Austria’s old district was much more Republican than the new Dayton-area district.

She has about $200,000 in campaign money to finance her race and is airing a biographical commercial on Dayton TV stations. Michael McGovern, a Neuhardt spokesman, said that “we’re excited to be up and introducing Sharen to voters in the Miami Valley. We’ve had the resources to run this campaign.’’

Unless the Turner-Neuhardt race gets close, Ohio’s most spirited battle will probably be in northeast Ohio between two incumbents — Renacci and Democrat Betty Sutton of Copley Twp. When Ohio Republicans eliminated Sutton’s district, she opted to challenge Renacci, a first-term Republican elected in the 2010 sweep.

They are deeply divided on the same issues that have created such a furor in the presidential race. Sutton voted for the $787 billion economic stimulus package in 2009 that Renacci said “drove up our debt.’’

Still no deal in the Senate on GOP health care plan

Published: Friday, July 21, 2017 @ 7:39 AM

Republican Senators headed home for the weekend still at odds over the details of a GOP bill to overhaul the Obama health law, as Senate leaders vowed to press ahead early next week with a first procedural vote on the matter, though it still isn’t clear what exactly the GOP might vote on in an effort to break the deadlock on this top agenda item of President Donald Trump.

“The Democrats did their bill on their own, and obviously it’s got flaws that I think everyone would recognize; Republicans are beginning to feel like we’re getting into that same mode, if you want to be honest,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN), who said he worried that the GOP plan was being slapped together without an overall grand plan.

With a procedural vote expected next week on a motion to start debate on the bill, it wasn’t even clear for Senators what GOP leaders would offer on the floor as an alternative to the House-passed health care bill.

“I’m not yet decided,” Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) told a group of reporters pursuing him in the hallways of the Capitol. “It depends what’s in the bill.”

And on that point, GOP leaders didn’t have an answer on the details.

GOP Senators were being pursued every-which-way-possible at the Capitol complex, as reporters sought the latest update on the health care bill.

Down in the basement of the Capitol, as Senators arrived for votes, Democrats would walk by – and sometimes not one reporter would move; a few seconds later, a Republican Senator would walk off the subway, and was immediately mobbed by reporters.

“I think they want to talk to you,” a smiling Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) said as reporters descended upon him and Sen. Mike Rounds (R-ND), who sold insurance for many years in his home state.

“With the Obamacare model that’s in place today, you’re going to have increases in deductibles and co-pays,” Rounds argued to reporters, though GOP Senators haven’t rallied around what their full answer should be to reverse that.

“You just have people committed to trying to fix this problem,” said Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), who has repeatedly made clear his frustration with how GOP leaders have tried to put together this bill.

And that has led some Republicans to openly worry about how the GOP is forging a final plan.

“It’s feeling a little bazaar like – like a bidding war right now,” Corker said.

Demonstrating some of the frustration of the moment, Corker even suggested that his party go back to the idea of repealing large chunks of the Obama health law – without anything to replace it.

“I am beginning to feel that the best way to do it would be just to repeal – set a two or three year transition period, and force both parties to get together,” Corker said.

But there did not seem to be enough GOP votes for that idea.

“Senate Republicans complain of chaos in healthcare effort,” was one headline in my morning email inbox – as it’s not clear which way the GOP is going on health care reform at this point.

In the House, GOP lawmakers could only sit back and wait.

“I’m hopeful that we’ll see the Senate try to regroup, look at the issue, and try to work it out,” said Rep. Steve Russell (R-OK).

“I continue to trust that the Senate will do their job,” said Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA).

Not only is there some frustation with the Senate among GOP lawmakers, but a little with the White House as well.

“I really lay a lot of the blame on the Trump Administration itself,” said Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH).

“The President hasn’t really shown leadership and guidance on what the plan should be, and it’s left several different groups to work together to try to fashion one,” Turner said.

White House expresses confidence in Attorney General Sessions

Published: Thursday, July 20, 2017 @ 3:37 PM

A day after a newspaper interview in which President Donald Trump raised questions about his choice for the job of Attorney General, the White House expressed public support for Jeff Sessions, saying Mr. Trump “has confidence in his ability” to lead the Department of Justice.

“He was disappointed,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said of the President’s view of Sessions and his recusal earlier this year from any involvement in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 elections, and possible links to the Trump campaign.

“But clearly he has confidence in him or he would not be the Attorney General,” Sanders told reporters at an off-camera White House briefing.

It was a much different answer than one publicly given to reporters in early June, when news surfaced of Mr. Trump’s frustration with Sessions and the Russia probe recusal, as the White House at that point refused to give any answer on whether the President wanted Sessions to quit.

Back then, supporters of Mr. Trump claimed the New York Times story was ‘fake news,’ but the President’s own words – in a New York Times interview on Wednesday – confirmed that Trump-Sessions frustration scenario.

“Sessions should have never recused himself, and if he was going to recuse himself, he should have told me before he took the job, and I would have picked somebody else,” the President told a group of New York Times reporters.

Earlier in the day at an unrelated news conference, the Attorney General was asked by reporters about Mr. Trump’s remarks, and gave no hint about possibly resigning.

Back in June, it was reported that Sessions – stung by the President’s frustration over the Russia-recusal matter – had offered to resign his post.

Sessions was the very first GOP Senator to endorse Mr. Trump, in late February of 2016.

In Congress, Democrats seized on Mr. Trump’s remarks, saying it was obvious that the President wanted someone in the job of Attorney General who would squelch the Russia investigation.

“The smoke billows higher and higher,” said Rep. Don McEachin (D-VA), “the fire is likely not too far behind.”

After six months in office, Trump looks for legislative victories

Published: Thursday, July 20, 2017 @ 4:05 AM

President Donald Trump marks six full months in office on Thursday, still pressing lawmakers in the House and Senate to act on a bill to overhaul the Obama health law, as the Republican Congress continues to struggle on a variety of fronts to produce a major legislative victory for Mr. Trump, with no action yet on tax cuts, a balanced budget or government reforms.

But the President’s backers argue that while his agenda is not moving at top speed in the Congress, he has had successes in some areas.

Let’s take a look at where Mr. Trump stands:

1. Biggest Trump success remains Justice Gorsuch. Ask just about anyone on Capitol Hill about the President’s record so far, and they will probably talk about getting Neil Gorsuch on the U.S. Supreme Court. For conservatives, this is a very big deal, and the few rulings that Gorsuch was involved in at the end of the 2016-2017 term seemed to indicate that he will be a justice in the mold of his predecessor, Antonin Scalia. The best part about this achievement is that Gorsuch is only 49 years old – he will turn 50 next month – meaning he could be on the U.S. Supreme Court, and leave his imprint on the law, for several decades.

2. Crackdown on illegal immigration yields big changes. In terms of policy so far, the President’s tough line on enforcing existing immigration laws, and deporting illegal immigrants has already been a success for the President. As of the end of June, the feds had arrested almost 66,000 people for being in the U.S. illegally – 48,000 of those people had been convicted of a crime. “73 percent — of everyone we have arrested were criminals, something that’s been lost in the messaging on immigration enforcement,” said Tom Homan, the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. The numbers from along the border are also a big change, and something that most Republicans see as a big plus for the President.

3. Rolling back Executive Branch regulations. In terms of administrative change, just by being in charge, President Trump has forced change in various federal agencies, rolling back or slowing or changing a host of rules that had been planned during the Obama Administration. Congress also got in on the action, by approving 14 different resolutions that overturned specific regulations approved late in the Obama Administration, which is really the most significant action by lawmakers so far in terms of legislation. Getting rid of regulations is a big winner with Trump supporters, many of whom believe the Obama Administration was strangling business with all sorts of red tape and government requirements.

4. Trump shakes things up at the White House. The televised White House briefing has become an endangered species over recent months, as the President’s communications team has seemingly decided to keep the daily briefing off TV. (I’m not complaining about that – they’re in charge, and they set the rules.) Originally, the Trump Team was going to shake things up in the briefing by bringing in more conservative voices to the briefing room, and by using “Skype seats” to bring in questions from outside of Washington, in hopes of generating friendlier queries about the Trump agenda. But those efforts didn’t make much of an impact at all. Refusing to call on CNN or the New York Times didn’t have much of an impact, either. And not televising the briefing is a dual-edged sword – yes, you don’t have reporters possibly playing ‘gotcha’ with their questions – but you don’t give your own administration an elevated voice on TV, either.

5. Trump Agenda still on slow-motion in Congress. One thing that President Trump has not been able to do is translate his election win into action by lawmakers in the Congress on major agenda items. Yes, the GOP passed a series of special resolutions to repeal certain regulations of the Obama Administration. But health care remains in limbo at this point, and there has been no action as yet on tax reform, the Trump $1 trillion infrastructure plan, lawmakers are ignoring much of the President’s budget, and no votes have been taken yet on money for the wall along the border with Mexico. Again, we are only six months in to the Trump Administration, so there is still a lot of time to get things done. But there is also the chance that Mr. Trump may have a skimpy record of legislative achievements as the calendar turns in the rest of 2017. This is one area where the Trump team – and GOP leaders in Congress – need to buckle down, and figure out how to turn things in the right direction.

6. Russia probe not going away anytime soon. With his latest interview for the New York Times showing again how the Russia probe deeply aggravates him, President Trump will not be able to escape the matter in coming months. Next week, his son-in-law Jared Kushner is set to appear before two Senate committees, his son Donald Jr. will be at one hearing, along with Kushner and former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. Also hanging over everything is the probe being led by former FBI Director Robert Mueller, who is assembling a top notch team of prosecutors and investigators. The President’s own frustration has boiled over repeatedly on this matter, especially on Twitter, and in many ways, that has only expanded the investigation because of things Mr. Trump has said. Whether you think it’s right or not, Russia will continue to be a big deal.

7. Trump’s impulsive nature drives his Presidency. Just as his interview last night with the New York Times made headlines that advisers probably had not planned for, Mr. Trump’s ways often seem to overshadow the political debates on major issues – like in recent days on health care, as the President has been all over the road on the issue. One day he was for repeal and replace, then he was advocating straight repeal, then saying he would do nothing and let the current system collapse, and then again endorsing efforts at repeal and replace. The back and forth has often left GOP lawmakers a bit exasperated, worried that the President isn’t using the bully pulpit as effectively as possible. Mr. Trump had a very strong statement on Wednesday on health care – but those have been rare in recent months.

Trump presses for action as GOP talks resume on health care bill

Published: Wednesday, July 19, 2017 @ 4:01 PM

Changing his mind yet again on health care, President Donald Trump on Wednesday directly urged Republicans in the Senate to keep searching for a deal on a bill to overhaul the Obama health law, spurring a new flurry of negotiations among GOP Senators, as top Republicans vowed to hold a vote next week to start debate on the health care plan.

“There is a large majority in our conference that want to demonstrate to the American people that they intend to keep the commitment they made in four straight elections to repeal Obamacare,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“We came from that meeting with a renewed commitment to keep working, to keep negotiating, and to get to yes,” said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX).

“In my view, failure is not an option,” Cruz told reporters outside the U.S. Capitol.

At the White House, the President had made a similar appeal.

“We should hammer this out and get it done,” the President told Senators over lunch, as he said lawmakers should not leave town for their August vacation until that job is finished, and a bill is signed into law.

“The people of this country need more than a repeal – they need a repeal and a replace,” Mr. Trump said.

The President’s remarks were a notable turnaround from a day before, when he said Republicans should just let the Obama health law fail on its own; earlier in the week, he had suggested simply repealing the law, and waiting on a replacement.

“I would say there is no question the meeting gave a boost to the effort,” on health care, said Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN). “I just hope we get over the line.”

“He feels like we’re very close to getting there,” Corker said of the President, as the Tennessee Republican downplayed the President’s latest shift on what he wants out of the Congress on health care.

A group of Senators were set to meet tonight at the Capitol to go over problems they had with some of the details, and to find a way forward.

“I think we are substantially there,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), though he acknowledged there are obviously differences. “They are key.”

“The President very much emphasized that there has to be a replace with the repeal,” Cassidy added.

After the meeting, the Senate Majority Leader told reporters that he still plans to go ahead with a procedural vote next week on the Senate floor, to officially begin debate on the health care issue.

“We had a really good meeting with the President,” McConnell said as he returned to the Capitol.

Whether that can bridge the gaps and thread the needle for Senate Republicans remains the big question.