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Sunday, January 23, 2011

Senator Gillibrand, Tear Down This Bill

by Bill Claydon

Recently, I blogged about how Harry Reid, still leading the Senate merely due to a very slim Democrat majority, is preventing the American people from seeing a Senate vote on the measure to repeal ObamaCare as passed by a bipartisan majority in the US House. He is preventing Obama from possibly having to veto this bill since Obama must face voters in 2012. But as I noted in my previous blog, Reid is also allowing a handful of Democrat Senators up for reelection in 2012 from red or purple states to hide behind him while he, well, hides the repeal bill. Ultimately, Reid gives fodder to the opponents of both Obama and all the Democrat Senators up for reelection in vulnerable seats.

But I never bothered to mention another Senator up for reelection in 2012: New York’s own Kirsten Gillibrand. As it stands now, it is my opinion that New York would vote for anyone with a “D” after their name. If it was the clown Jimmy McMillan (if you’ve forgotten that flash in the pan already, you’ll remember this: “Rent. Is. Too. Damn. High.”) running as the Democrat nominee for a US Senate seat, he’d easily take 60% of the vote. At least right now. That may not always be the case.

Gillibrand is a chameleon. The Kirsten Gillibrand who represented New York’s 20th Congressional District was independent and outspoken. She was frequently in the media, voted against the TARP boondoggle, and let everyone know where she stood. As much as I may have disagreed with her on some issues, I admired that she would come out and make her case known. I even found a small number of areas where I agreed with her. When she was appointed Senator, I thought she would be the same person. Instead, she seems to just vote however Schumer (finally the real Senior Senator once Hillary went on to bigger things) does. When she wants to show some occasional independence, she votes to the left of Schumer, difficult as that feat is to accomplish. She almost never speaks out on why she voted. Media appearances seem to be focused more on things like spreads in Vogue.

Under current circumstances, Gillibrand has a cakewalk to reelection. But so does another Democrat in a high position in New York politics: newly minted Governor Andrew Cuomo. The funny thing is that while Gillibrand is just towing the line of Schumer and others in the Democrat hierarchy, Cuomo is at least talking about and doing some occasional things to attempt to deal with New York’s problems. Cuomo really doesn’t have to, because as it stands now in New York, he is guaranteed reelection no matter what he does. Nobody beyond the Jimmy McMillans and others who participated in the New York Gubernatorial Circus Show last year needs to bother wasting their time running. But maybe Cuomo realizes things are in a mess and does not want to have a legacy of doing nothing. Maybe he even realizes that there is (shudder) the remote possibility that unless he does something in his first term, he might not actually be returned to the governor’s office for a second term. Of course, for Cuomo, he has to worry about 2014, not 2012. Political winds can shift quite a bit by then.

While Gillibrand has an election coming up sooner, and while she is not a chief executive of a state, she should gather the courage to vote to repeal what is simply bad legislation. If, as a Senator, she lacks the backbone she once had in voting against the boondoggle known as TARP, she at least ought to push for a simple VOTE on repealing the boondoggle known as ObamaCare. She can still vote with Schumer on it and be in line with her Democrat masters.

Although 2012 might be “just around the corner,” much can happen between now and November of next year. With Reid starting things off by blocking legislation coming out of the House, the Republicans can run on a national message that Reid is disrupting progress for the American people. Should they continue to pass decent legislation that just gets Reid’s “veto,” it’s a gift on a silver platter. If unemployment continues to hover close to 10% and the economy continues to stagnate, it may not be a “cakewalk” environment, even for a Democrat in New York.

Gillibrand may have to actually fill the role of Junior Senator from New York, unlike her predecessor. But that does not mean she cannot be outspoken, actually defend each of her votes, appear more often on hard media (note: Vogue does not qualify) and show some leadership skills. She had them before being handed a “promotion” by former New York Governor David Paterson. She needs to remember them.

While 2010 was a referendum on Obama and Pelosi’s “leadership,” 2012 will be an even bigger referendum on Obama. With John Boehner basically hamstrung by Harry Reid, he has far less power than Nancy Pelosi. Should there be no progress, the focus will be on defeating the incumbent president and flipping the Senate from the limited grip of his party. Gillibrand needs to distinguish herself and stand on her own, rather than just riding coattails of Obama for better or worse. Should the road to 2012 be a messy ride without real change, her reelection may not be a given. Not even in deep blue New York.