Friday, October 13, 2017

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: 2017 Weekend News Update 8

As 2017 comes to an end, incumbent U.S. senators are
announcing their 2018 election plans. In recent days,
California Democrat Diane Feinstein and Maine
Republican Susan Collins, both possible retirees,
announced they were running again. Both are expected
to win, although Mrs. Feinstein could have a primary
challenger from her left. In Tennessee, GOP Senator Bob
Corker surprised many in saying he would retire. His seat,
however, is currently rated likely to remain Republican.
In Missouri, GOP state Attorney General Josh Hawley
declared his challenge to incumbent Democrat Claire
McCaskill; and in Pennsylvania, GOP Congressman Lou
Barletta said he would challenge incumbent Democrat
Bob Casey, Jr. That’s bad news for vulnerable McCaskill,
but good news for Casey who might have had a more
serious challenge from Erie GOP Congressman Mike Kelly.
In Michigan, the much-hyped potential candidacy of “Kid
Rock,” a Republican, against incumbent Democrat Debbie
Stabenow is becoming more and more unlikely, although
conservatives have another candidate in the wings. In
Ohio, GOP State Treasurer Josh Mandel looks formidable
in a rematch against incumbent Democrat Senator Sherrod
Brown, as does Florida GOP Governor Rick Scott against
Democrat incumbent Bill Nelson. In New Jersey, Robert
Menendez, the incumbent Democrat, is on criminal trial
--- if convicted, he would have to resign. Races in Montana,
Wisconsin, North Dakota, West Virginia, and Indiana ---
each with Democratic incumbents --- are too close to call.
In Nevada and Arizona, incumbent Republicans are in
serious trouble, and might be defeated in their own
primaries. Conservative populist challengers could also
present a challenge for some otherwise safe GOP
incumbents next year, as the Republican Party, as does the
Democratic Party, faces a grass roots realignment. This
latter phenomenon is causing considerable recalculation
of possible outcomes in next year’s national mid-term
elections. A test for this is happening in Alabama where a
conservative populist defeated a GOP incumbent in a
run-off, and now will run in a special December election.

What reportedly began as a behind-the-scenes effort by
Minnesota’s two Democratic U.S. senators to gain some
leverage in federal judgeship and U.S. attorney
appointments, has turned into a national controversy.
President Trump nominated state supreme court
associate justice David Stras to the regional federal
appeals court. Although a conservative, Justice Stras is
widely respected. Traditionally, the senior senator from
each state has considerable say in such appointments,
except when the sitting president is from a different
party. Since President Trump is a Republican, and both
Minnesota senators are Democrats, that influence shifts
to the senior member of the state congressional
delegation Erik Paulsen (with some input from his
colleague Tom Emmer). An informal senate custom,
however, has in the past permitted one senator from the
nominee’s state to prevent the nomination to be voted on
by the whole senate (by failing to turn in a “blue slip”).
Senior Senator Amy Klobuchar and junior Senator Al
Franken have also made no secret of their anger at
Republicans for blocking a vote on President Obama’s
U.S. supreme court nominee Merrick Garland at the end
the president’s second term. Senator Franken has refused
to turn in his blue slip, and says he opposes the Stras
nomination. Hesitating at first, but seeing the bipartisan
outpouring of support for Justice Stras, Senator Klobuchar
turned in her blue slip. Reportedly, both Klobuchar and
Franken have been unable to make a “deal” to trade their
blue slips for increased influence on other judicial choices.
As a result, Franken has insisted on his blue slip veto be
honored by GOP Senator Chuck Grassley, chairman of the
senate judiciary committee. Although Grassley and
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are reluctant to
abandon senate customs, Franken’s intransigence threatens
to hold up the conservative judicial agenda, as well as
another senate tradition, i.e.. that new presidents’ judicial
choices are confirmed. Up for re-election next year, Senator
Klobuchar is now out of political harm’s way on the issue,
but Senator Franken, while supported by his liberal base,
risks backfire from blocking a popular judicial nomination.

The Catalonian separatist movement, led by the autonomous
region’s prime minister and his party, held a controversial
plebiscite in which less than half the voters participated.
This election, declared illegal by the Spanish government and
courts, was won by those seeking independence, but there is
considerable evidence that at least half of the Catalan voters
oppose separating completely from Spain. At a meeting of the
Catalan parliament in Barcelona just after the vote, the prime
minister declared independence, but delayed its actual
implementation until after negotiations with the Spanish
central government in Madrid.  Meanwhile, international,
especially European, support for an independent Catalunya
failed to appear. France, Germany and the European Union
declared they would not recognize a breakaway nation, At the
same time major banks and corporations announced they
would move their headquarters from Barcelona. Delay is
now likely fatal to Catalan secession hopes, and a face-saving
agreement between the parties is being sought.

Copyright (c) 2017 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

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