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A Must-Watch Final Debate



Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have faced off in two debates. At times these debates have turned very personal, and at times there has been some good discussion of policy. What will their third meeting bring?


Date: Wednesday October 19

Time: 9:00 p.m. EDT

Where: University of Nevada, Las Vegas

Moderator: Chris Wallace from Fox News


Since the last debate on October 9, Trump has faced a variety of accusations from women claiming he assaulted them. Moderator Chris Wallace will almost certainly raise this issue, but it’s unclear how Clinton will handle it. Will she press it, or will she simply let the accusations speak for themselves? Trump is likely to try to use the recently-released information by WikiLeaks to attack Clinton, and it will be interesting to see how she responds to this.

There will be a balancing act at this debate, just as at the others, between discussing the issues of character. How much policy will be discussed? How much time will be devoted to issues of sexual harassment?

With the previous two debates drawing high ratings, it is likely that their final face-off will be watched by tens of millions of views.

Will you be watching? If so, what do you want to see the candidates discuss?


What’s the Most Contentious Election?


While the presidential race may divide us, we can all agree that it’s been an interesting election year. The 2016 presidential race has exposed a deep divide in our nation. Trump supporters and Clinton supporters seem to have little common ground. The race is increasingly nasty, with name-calling and personal attacks overshadowing discussions of the issues.


By any measure, this year is a very contentious election year. But how does it measure up to other years where the U.S. has had divisive elections?


1824 – As the only presidential election decided by the House of Representatives, this race is one of the most contentious in our nation’s history. The four candidates running each had strong bases of support in different sections of the country, but none was able to appeal to the entire nation. As a result, no candidate received a majority of the electoral votes. That left it to the House of Representatives to choose the president from the top-three vote-getters: Senator Andrew Jackson, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, and Secretary of the Treasury William Crawford. The fourth candidate, House Speaker Henry Clay, threw his support behind Adams, which led to the House electing Adams as president. Andrew Jackson, who received more popular and electoral votes, claimed that Adams and Clay entered into a “corrupt bargain” to steal the election from him. Jackson challenged Adams for the presidency in 1828 and won.


1860 – How contentious was this election? It led to a Civil War, so that probably puts it at the top of our list. Like in 1824, multiple candidates ran in this race, each appealing to a certain section of the country. Unlike in 1824, however, Republican Abraham Lincoln won a majority of the electoral votes. Vowing that they could not live with a president who opposed the expansion of slavery, seven southern states seceded before his inauguration. Four more states seceded after Lincoln assumed office, leading to a war that lasted until 1865.


1968 – In the middle of the civil rights movement, the 1968 election also featured multiple candidates. Along with Republican Richard Nixon and Democrat Hubert Humphrey, segregationist Democrat George Wallace ran, too. He appealed to blue collar voters who increasingly felt left behind by the Democratic Party’s liberalism, as well as southern voters who opposed civil rights. Humphrey’s campaign was not helped by rioting that occurred during the Chicago convention that nominated him. Ultimately, Nixon prevailed, but Wallace won 46 electoral votes.


2000 – The Supreme Court had to decide the extremely close race between George W. Bush and Al Gore, which makes the 2000 election unique. Bush lost the popular vote, but the electoral vote hinged on which candidate won Florida. After weeks of uncertainty, the Supreme Court stepped in and essentially ruled that Bush was the winner. Many Democrats still consider Bush’s win tainted.


2016 – While the result is unknown, the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump has become increasingly contentious as Election Day draws closer. We have seen one candidate accused of sexual assault and the other candidate accused of breaking federal law regarding classified information. With strong polling by third-party candidates, there is even the possibility this race could end up in the House of Representatives if no one receives a majority of electoral votes.

Today's presidential races seem to divide the country just as they did in the past. The difference between this year's contentious election and previous contentious elections is the presence of social media, which provides voters and candidates alike with easy access to large audiences of opinion makers. It is interesting to consider how differently those previous campaigns might have played out if the candidates had access to the media and communication tools available today. 

How do you think this year's election compares to the past?


The Big Surprise in the Second Debate – Focus on Policy


In a somewhat surprising twist, the second debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton focused more on policy than personality than the first. With a more measured performance than in their previous meeting, Trump may have given his campaign a lifeline.

With the revelation on Friday of a 2005 tape where Trump is heard making crude comments about women, many expected that this debate would devolve into name-calling and not much else. The debate started out that way, with a focus on the Trump tape and his comments. Trump characterized his remarks as “locker room talk” and said he was “not proud of it,” but then pivoted and said he’ll “knock the hell out of ISIS” and that we should be focusing on much more important things. He also brought up Paula Jones and other women allegedly victimized by Bill Clinton. Hillary Clinton said that Trump isn’t fit to be president, and that his remarks on the tape “represents exactly who he is.”

The beginning of the debate also got into the issue of Clinton’s private e-mail server, with Trump pledging to appoint a special prosecutor for to look into her actions. After Clinton remarked that she was happy someone with his temperament wasn’t directing the Justice Department, Trump said that was because “you’d be in jail.” After these discussions, however, the debate questions began to focus on more policy issues. Both candidates laid out their ideas on how to deal with things like taxes, terrorism, health care, and energy policy.

On the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, Clinton acknowledged problems with the law and vowed to fix them. She said that if it is repealed, as Trump advocates, then all the benefits of Obamacare are lost to everyone. Trump retorted that “Obamacare is a disaster.” He then vowed to replace it with “something that works” by allowing interstate sales of health insurance. He said that will create enough competition to lower prices dramatically.

The candidates also differed on taxes, with Trump advocating eliminating the carried interest deduction and cutting corporate tax rates. Clinton said that Trump’s tax plan is a massive gift for the wealthy and that it would raise taxes on middle class families. They also touched on Trump’s tax returns, with him saying that he used tax deductions that Clinton condemns. However, he claimed, Clinton’s friends like George Soros and Warren Buffet do the same thing.

Clinton took a hard line on Syria, supporting a no fly zone and advocating that the U.S. be more closely involved with allies on the ground. She said the real issue there was Russia, and that Russia wants Trump as president. Trump countered that “almost everything she’s done in foreign policy has been a mistake and a disaster.” He also said that he disagrees with his running mate, Mike Pence, on confronting Russian provocation.

The Supreme Court also came up, with Clinton condemning Citizens United and saying that she wants a court that understands the problems with voting rights. She also pledged to nominate justices that will continue to support legal abortion and gay marriage. Trump said he would appoint judges in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia.

The candidates also discussed energy issues, with Trump contending that energy is under siege by the Obama Administration and that the EPA is putting energy companies out of business. He said that Clinton wants to put miners out of work, while Clinton said the nation should move towards more clean, renewable energy.

The final question from the audience asked the candidates to name one thing they respected about each other. Clinton said that she respects his children while Trump said that he respects that she is a fighter that doesn’t give up.

The next presidential debate will be Wednesday, October 19, in Las Vegas.


Presidential Town Hall Debate


After a memorable first debate, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are scheduled to meet again this weekend. A record number of viewers tuned into the first debate, and interest in their second meeting is likely to be just as high. Here are the event details:


Time: 9:00 p.m. EDT

Location: Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

Moderator: Martha Raddatz from ABC News and Anderson Cooper from CNN

Unlike their first debate where the two candidates faced each other on stage, Sunday’s event will take place in a town hall format. They will take questions from the audience and moderators with two minutes to give their answers.

With questions coming from the audience, any number of subjects could come up for the candidates to address. While we don’t know for sure what will be discussed, there are some things that we are likely to hear about. Donald Trump’s tax returns were an area of controversy in the presidential and vice presidential debates that have already occurred, so they are almost certain to surface in this debate, too. It is likely that there will be discussions of the two candidates’ tax plans, as well as their differing views on foreign policy. Donald Trump has publicly mulled over bringing up issues surrounding Bill Clinton’s infidelities, and this would be an opportunity to see how Hillary responds.

There is also the matter of temperament and how candidates will perform. With many giving Clinton the edge in their first debate, Sunday night could be the place where Trump demonstrates whether his previous performance was a fluke or not.

Will you be tuning into the second debate? What are your expectations?

Pence and Kaine Face Off

Vladimir Putin, Trump’s tax returns, the Iran nuclear agreement – a few topics came up time and time again during the lone vice presidential debate between Senator Tim Kaine and Governor Mike Pence.

Kaine, who is the running mate of Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, repeatedly tried to get Pence to defend the views of GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. At times Pence happily defended Trump, and at other times he hit back at Kaine and Clinton. This debate focused more on policy than did the first presidential debate, but at times the two had heated exchanges. Kaine even called Trump a “maniac” at one point, implying that he may start a nuclear war.

One of the main issues that Kaine kept bringing up was Trump’s refusal to release his tax returns. He suggested that the reason Trump won’t release his returns is because the public will see that his tax plans will benefit him and that he has business dealings with Russia. Pence defended Trump, saying that he will release his tax returns after an IRS audit is complete. He also pointed out that Trump has completed a detailed financial disclosure.

Another area where Kaine went on the offensive was over positive remarks that Trump had made about Vladimir Putin. Pence pushed back, contending that Hillary Clinton was soft on Russia during her tenure as Secretary of State. At time, it appeared that the two were competing to see who could go further in condemning Putin and recent Russian actions in Europe. Kaine repeatedly gave Clinton credit for playing a key role in the Iranian nuclear agreement, but Pence dismissed the pact with Iran as having little impact on stopping that nation’s bid to acquire nuclear weapons.

On the economy, Pence stressed Trump’s tax plan, saying it will lead to greater prosperity than we have experienced under President Obama. Kaine emphasized Hillary Clinton’s economic proposal, which would spend federal dollars on a variety of new programs, cut taxes for some, and raise taxes on high-income earners.

Social issues, which have been largely absent during the presidential campaign, also came up. Pence condemned the Democratic Party for its support of partial-birth abortion and Kaine said that abortion was a matter of personal choice that should not be legislated.

While this debate featured discussion on a range of issues, it is difficult to say if it will have much impact on the campaign. As well-prepared as both candidates were, they are running for the second spot on the ticket. The attention of most voters is still focused on the people running for the top spot. Clinton and Trump will square off in their second debate on Sunday.



Pence and Kaine Ready to Square Off


With people still talking about the first presidential debate, the first vice-presidential debate is quickly approaching. Democratic Senator Tim Kaine and Republican Governor Mike Pence will face each other for 90 minutes on Tuesday to discuss the issues and lay out their vision for America’s future.


When: Tuesday, October 4

Time: 9:00 p.m. (EDT)

Where: Longwood University, Farmville, Virginia (and on many TV networks)

Moderator: Elaine Quijano, CBS News


The format for this debate is nine ten-minute segments, with candidates having opening statements and then two-minute responses to each other. However, as we saw with the Trump-Clinton debate, this format can break down if the discussion gets heated.

No topics for this debate have been announced. As with any vice presidential debate, the dynamics are different than when the presidential nominees face each other. Pence may attempt to reassure voters about the GOP ticket by showing a more measured tone in his performance than did Donald Trump. Kaine may try to focus on honesty and transparency, two areas which continue to plague his running mate, Hillary Clinton.

Will you be watching the vice presidential debate? Do you expect it to produce as many interesting moments as the first presidential debate did?

Should Virginia’s Constitution Protect Right to Work?


Election Day is fast approaching, and Virginians are being asked to vote on a variety of offices and measures. One of those measures would enshrine in the state constitution the prohibition on mandating union membership as a condition of employment.


This provision, known as “right to work,” is already state law, so approval of this ballot measure would not change business practices in the commonwealth. However, if placed in the state constitution this measure could not be overturned by legislators in the future. Rep. Richard Bell, who sponsored the bill to put this question to a vote, said it is important to give the right to work constitutional protection. According to him, “we are protecting it from the whims of the legislature and thus ensuring it can remain in place for generations to come.”


Others, such as Senator George Barkers, disagreed, saying, “This amendment is downright unnecessary. Right to work laws have been on the books in Virginia for over 70 years. It is ironic that Republicans frequently accuse Democrats of government overreach, and yet they feel it appropriate to reflect in the Constitution something that has been practice for so long.”


If approved by voters, this section would be added to Virginia’s constitution:


“Any agreement or combination between any employer and any labor union or labor organization whereby nonmembers of the union or organization are denied the right to work for the employer, or whereby such membership is made a condition of employment or continuation of employment by such employer, or whereby any such union or organization acquires an employment monopoly in any enterprise, is against public policy and constitutes an illegal combination or conspiracy and is void.”


The first resolution to place the measure on the ballot passed the House of Delegates by a vote of 64-29 and the Senate by a vote of 21-17. However, legislators must pass resolutions in two successive years to place a question on the ballot. The final resolution to do so passed the Senate by a vote of 21-19 and the House of Delegates by a vote of 64-34.


Do you support amending the state constitution to ban mandatory union contracts?

Do Banking Regulations Need Reform?


In the wake of the Wells Fargo scandal, banking regulation has become a top issue in Pennsylvania’s Senate race. Senator Pat Toomey, who sits on the Senate Banking Committee, plays a large role in setting the rules governing how banks handle our money and overseeing regulations on banks. His challenger, Katie McGinty, has been denouncing the senator’s actions in these areas.


One of the key points of disagreement is the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), an agency established by the Dodd-Frank law passed in the wake of the Great Recession. According to McGinty, “Toomey has been working overtime to bust not the banks but the protection bureau. I think those priorities are a little upside-down, and I don't think we're going to take it anymore.”


The basis for this attack is Senator Toomey’s support for changing the way the CFPB operates. He has backed amendments and legislation that would change the funding mechanism for the agency. Currently, the CFPB receives funding through an independent account in the Federal Reserve. Other federal agencies are funded through the appropriations process, whereby Congress and the president allocate money on a yearly basis for their operations. The CFPB is exempt from this process, and Congress has no authority to review the budget set by the CFPB’s director.


Senator Toomey would like the CFPB to be treated like any other federal agency – Congress and the president set the agency’s budget. The Heritage Foundation points out that “the bureau’s independence from congressional appropriations or budgetary review prevents Congress from exercising its key means of oversight: the power of the purse.”  Critics of congressional control of agency funding say that this is a means to weaken the agency: “This would not only give Republicans an opportunity to slash the bureau's funding, but to leverage its budgeting control to pressure the agency against cracking down on lenders.”


The structure of the CFPB has also come under attack by Senator Toomey. He would like to replace the director of the agency with a bipartisan board to govern it.


As you may expect, Senator Toomey disagrees with McGinty’s characterization of the issue. He contends that his reform proposals will make the agency operate better. “The CFPB is completely unaccountable,” he said in 2015. “It is unique among enormously powerful regulators in having no accountability to Congress. It has exceeded its authority in part because it's not subject to congressional oversight. And it's frankly outrageous that they are able to operate with the budget that they have and with the latitude they have without having to come to Congress for this oversight.”


Do you agree with Sen. Toomey that the CFPB is in need of reform and should be overseen by Congress? Or is Katie McGinty right that these reform proposals are designed to weaken the agency?

Highlights of the First Presidential Debate


In the first debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the candidates clashed over a number of issues, including the economy, race relations, policing, and national security.


One of the main themes of the night for Trump was that the U.S. is being held back by bad deals, including trade agreements like NAFTA, defense agreements with nations like Japan, or national security agreements like the one negotiated with Iran over that nation’s nuclear weapons. He said that he would bring his experience as a businessman to the office of president and negotiate better deals for the U.S.


Clinton stressed that she is prepared to be president, bolstering her case by focusing on policy specifics. She also made pointed appeals to minority voters and women voters.


The two candidates did not hesitate to attack one another. Clinton scored against Trump by going into a lengthy discussion of his refusal to release his tax returns and his questioning of whether President Obama was born in the United States. Trump hit Clinton on her e-mail server scandal. He also attempted to use the experience issue against her, saying that Clinton has been in politics for 30 years but has not used that time to address the problems she is discussing during the campaign.


Areas of agreement


While the debate mainly consisted of Trump and Clinton pointing out how they differed, there were some areas of agreement. While Trump strongly attacked free trade agreements such as NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, Clinton also took a skeptical view of many trade deals.


On gun control, Clinton called for stronger measures to restrict gun sales. One of the proposals she stressed was prohibiting individuals on the no-fly list from being able to purchase firearms. While Trump did not explicitly endorse this idea, he did suggest that he may agree with it.


Both Clinton and Trump agreed that the U.S. should concentrate more on cybersecurity issues.


Areas of disagreement


On the economy, Trump said that he would create jobs in the U.S. by re-negotiating trade agreements, cracking down on companies that invest overseas, lowering taxes so that the wealthy create jobs, and cutting middle class taxes.


Clinton laid out a plan for economic growth that consists of creating new government programs for things like paid family leave and college tuition subsidies. She also repeatedly called for raising taxes on the wealthy. She said that Trump’s tax cuts are “trickle down” and will not work, befitting Trump himself, not the American people.


On crime, Trump said, “We need law and order.” He vigorously defended the controversial stop-and-frisk practice that came under fire and was halted by a judge in New York City. Clinton said there was an epidemic of gun violence and called for more gun control


When it came to national security, Trump blames Obama and Clinton for creating a vacuum that led to ISIS. He said the U.S. should have taken Iraq’s oil to deprive ISIS of income. Clinton accused Trump of not caring whether other nations obtained nuclear weapons, but Trump countered that he believed nuclear weapons (not global warming) was the single greatest threat to the U.S.


On the nuclear issue, Clinton said, “The man who can be provoked by a tweet should not have his finger near the nuclear codes…”


Their best lines?


Clinton: “I have a feeling by the end of this evening I'm going to be blamed for everything that's ever happened.”

Trump: “Why not?”
Clinton: “Why not? Yeah, why not? Just join the debate by saying more crazy things.”


Trump: “I have a much better temperament than she does… my strongest asset, maybe by far, is my temperament.”


Clinton: “I think Donald just criticized me for preparing for this debate. And yes, I did. And you know what else I prepared for? I prepared to be president. And I think that's a good thing.”


Trump (on who may have hacked the DNC e-mails): “It could have been Russia. It could be China. It could be someone sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”


What do you think?

Do you think Clinton or Trump won the debate? What do you think was their strongest moment against each other?

It’s Debate Time!


Are you ready to see Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump square off in the first presidential debate? It’s just around the corner.


Date: Monday, September 26

Time: 9:00 p.m. Eastern

Where: Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY (and on most major TV networks)


Moderator Lester Holt from NBC said the debate topics would focus on these themes: "America's direction," "achieving prosperity," and "securing America.” These are fairly ambiguous terms, but we can probably expect questions on the economy, terrorism, and immigration. There will be six segments of approximately 15 minutes each for candidates to answer questions and then respond to each other.


Both candidates have experience in this format, given the numerous debates during their primary campaigns. However, they have never faced each other, and there is significant anticipation over how Clinton and Trump will interact on the stage. Trump, in particular, has a history of deviating from traditional debate decorum. Many people are wondering if he will continue this behavior on Monday.


This debate will feature only the two major party candidates, with the Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein being excluded.


Will you be watching the first presidential debate? What do you expect to see from the two candidates?

Ethanol Fuels Pennsylvania Senate Differences

In his race for re-election, Pennsylvania Senator Pat Toomey is touting his opposition to ethanol. Is this a winning issue for him? It just may be.

In 2005 and 2007, there was bipartisan support for legislation to impose and broaden the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). This law mandates that a certain volume of biofuel must be used in gasoline. Because ethanol is the only commercially viable biofuel, the RFS has resulted in E10 (gasoline containing 10% ethanol) being widely sold across the U.S.

While there was bipartisan support for this biofuel mandate in 2007, there is growing bipartisan opposition to it now. Senator Toomey is one of the most vocal critics of the RFS in Congress. He has worked with Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein on legislation and amendments that would eliminate the mandate.

According to the Morning Call, Senator Toomey’s opponent does not share his view: “McGinty, a long-time clean-energy advocate who served as a top environmental policy adviser to former Gov. Ed Rendell and former President Bill Clinton, supports the use of corn ethanol as a renewable fuel that can replace the need for some fossil fuels, according to her campaign.”

Ethanol producers agree with McGinty, saying, “Ethanol is one of the best tools we have to reduce harmful emissions and fight air pollution from our vehicles.” However, a recent report from a University of Michigan researcher concluded, “Despite their purported advantages, biofuels — created from crops such as corn or soybeans — cause more emissions of climate change-causing carbon dioxide than gasoline.”

There is strong political support for ethanol in farm states, especially Iowa. Senator Toomey may have picked a good issue for Pennsylvania, however, since the state is increasingly important for fossil fuels. In addition, as Senator Toomey points out, the ethanol mandate can be a burden on the state’s refineries.

Do you support ethanol in our fuel? Or do you think that it’s time for the ethanol mandate to be repealed?

Memorable Debate Moments


The debate schedule for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates has been set. Starting September 26, voters will have a chance to see the presidential candidates in three debates and the vice presidential candidates in one debate.

Will these events produce any memorable moments? They may, given the track record of debates from the past:



Senator John Kennedy and Vice President Nixon faced off in the first televised presidential debate on September 26, 1960. From the effects of Nixon’s illness to the differing reactions of voters who watched the debate on TV compared to those who heard it on the radio, this debate has entered the realm of myth. One thing is certain – the Kennedy-Nixon debates set the stage for what is now a rite of passage for the major party presidential candidates.

  • Debate winner: Kennedy
  • Election winner: Kennedy



On October 6, 1976, President Gerald Ford faced Georgia Governor Jimmy Carter in their second televised debate. The incumbent president’s chances to win the close race were not helped when he said, “there is no Soviet domination of Eastern Europe, and there never will be under a Ford administration.”

  • Debate winner: Carter
  • Election winner: Carter



When running for re-election in 1984, President Ronald Reagan faced questions about whether he was too old to serve. Reagan put these questions to rest during his debate with Walter Mondale by quipping, “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience.”

  • Debate winner: Reagan
  • Election winner: Reagan



After he won the Republican nomination for president in 1988, Vice President George H.W. Bush took a risk by choosing a young Indiana Senator, Dan Quayle, as his running mate. His opponent, Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, chose an elder statesman of the Democratic Party, Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen, to be his vice presidential candidate. During the Quayle-Bentsen debate, the GOP nominee pointed out that he had “as much experience in the Congress as Jack Kennedy did when he sought the presidency.” That line teed up Senator Bentsen to give his now-classic retort: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy.”

  • Debate winner: Bentsen
  • Election winner: Bush/Quayle



Texas Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore met for their first presidential debate on October 4, 2000. They discussed a range of issues, but what was most memorable for many viewers were the exaggerated sighs and head shakes form Gore. This body language led some to charge that Gore was being condescending, helping to boost the “regular guy” persona of Bush.

  • Debate winner: Gore
  • Election winner: Bush (although Gore won the popular vote)


What are your favorite debate moments? Share your highlights below!

Medicare Heats Up NC Senate Race

 In North Carolina, the Senate race between incumbent Richard Burr and challenger Deborah Ross is increasingly focusing on Medicare. Will Republican control of the Senate hinge on what North Carolinians think about Medicare reform?

At issue is Senator Burr’s 2012 proposal (never actually put in bill for) to restructure Medicare. When he announced it, Burr said, “We made a promise to our seniors that Medicare will be there when they need it most, but the program as it currently stands is broken. We have a moral obligation to our parents, children, and all Americans to take steps now to save Medicare. The Medicare program in its current form is unsustainable, and we have an obligation and opportunity to improve it for our nation's seniors within the next few years.”

Ross is charging that Burr introduced his plan to help insurance companies, not seniors. According to Ross, “some politicians in Washington want to fundamentally change Medicare by privatizing it and putting the insurance companies in charge. For example, Richard Burr has taken more than $1 million from insurance companies. In turn, he wrote a plan that would raise the retirement age, privatize Medicare, and give seniors a voucher that may or may not cover their health care costs. While this may help private insurers' profits, it will force seniors to pay more.”

Senator Burr has said he stands by his proposal. However, he also distances himself from it, saying, “We threw that out as an option as to what could be considered. Until you decide what you’re going to do with the Affordable Care Act, there’s no sense in even having a debate on what Medicare in the future looks like or how you make Social Security sustainable.”

What would Burr’s Medicare plan, dubbed “The Seniors’ Choice Act,” actually do?

  • Limit out-of-pocket expenses for seniors in traditional Medicare Parts A and B
  • Provide targeted care coordination for seniors in traditional Medicare
  • Increase the age of eligibility from 65 to 67 over 12 years
  • Starting in 2016, this proposal would have allowed seniors to receive funds from the government to choose a private Medicare plan

The last part is the most controversial part of the legislation. Senator Burr contends that allowing seniors to have choice for their Medicare plans will give seniors a “choice of a better benefit that meets their individual health care needs.” Ross calls it “privatization.”

Ross has also released a Medicare plan, which includes:

  • Paying doctors based on quality, not quantity, of care
  • Cracking down on inefficiencies, errors, and abuse
  • Giving consumers information and incentives to make better health care decisions
  • Ending the FDA backlog for generic drug approval

When Senator Burr says that Medicare is unsustainable, he is talking about the program’s future unfunded liabilities. The Senate Finance Committee’s Republican staff sum up the issue in a 2015 analysis: “Assuming current law remains unchanged, the Trustees project Medicare’s 75 year total spending in excess of dedicated revenues is $27.9 trillion. Again, using the CMS Actuary’s more realistic alternative scenario, that figure soars to $36.8 trillion.”

What do you think? Should Medicare be reformed along the lines of what Senator Burr has suggested? Or is Ross right to focus on minor fixes to the program?

The Saga of Felon Voting in Virginia

Governor Terry McAuliffe is determined to restore voting rights to tens of thousands of Virginians with felony records. It appears he will get his way prior to Election Day.

He first attempted to do so in April, when he announced a blanket order to restore voting rights to over 200,000 felons, saying, “There’s no question that we’ve had a horrible history in voting rights as relates to African-Americans — we should remedy it.”

Republicans said that the governor was overstepping his constitutional powers. Senate Republican Leader Thomas Norment said, “Gov. McAuliffe's flagrant disregard for the Constitution of Virginia and the rule of law must not go unchecked.” By a 4-3 vote, the Virginia Supreme Court sided with the Republicans and invalidated the governor’s action.

That did not deter Governor McAuliffe, however. He vowed to restore voting rights on a case-by-case basis to comply with the court decision. He is in the process of doing that, already restoring rights for 13,000 individuals.

Some Republicans claim the governor is playing politics by focusing efforts on felons who primarily live in Democratic areas of the commonwealth. Supporters of Governor McAuliffe point out that the man who preceded McAuliffe in the governor’s mansion, Republican Bob McDonnell, also restored the voting rights of some felons.

If McAuliffe were governor in most other states, this would not be an issue. Virginia is one of only 9 states that do not grant felons voting rights. Most states restore voting rights to felons after they serve their sentences. Some restore these rights to felons even while they are on probation or parole. Two states, Maine and Vermont, even allow prisoners to vote.

What do you think? Should felons be able to vote?

What’s in Trump's Economic Plan?

The economy is one of the major issues in this presidential race, with both candidates touting plans to create jobs. On August 8, GOP presidential candidate gave a speech outlining his “America First economic plan.”

What did Trump pledge to do in this speech?

  • Eliminate the carried interest deduction for income taxes
  • Reduce the 7 income tax brackets to 3. These would be rates at 12%, 25%, and 33%. In contrast, the current income tax brackets are 10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6%
  • Cut the corporate income tax to 15% from 35%
  • Allow families to take a full deduction for childcare expenses
  • Permit American companies to repatriate income back into the U.S. with a 10% tax
  • Eliminate the “death tax,” also known as the estate tax
  • Issue a temporary moratorium on new federal regulations
  • Cancel all “illegal and overreaching” executive orders
  • Ask agencies to compile a list of unnecessary rules or rules that do not improve public safety, and then eliminate them
  • Withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership
  • Impose tariffs on countries that “unfairly subsidiz[e] their goods”
  • Renegotiate NAFTA
  • Enforce American trade agreements with China
  • Lift federal restrictions on American energy development
  • Repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare
  • Force military allies to pay “their fair share” for protection
  • Reform the Veterans Health Administration

What do you think about Donald Trump’s economic plan?

Are Voter ID Laws Unconstitutional?

If you live in North Carolina, you can leave your identification at home when you go to vote.


A panel of federal judges recently ruled against the state’s voter identification law, stating:


  • Although the new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision, they constitute inapt remedies for the problems assertedly justifying them and, in fact, impose cures for problems that did not exist.


Legislators supporting this law said they enacted it in order to combat voter fraud. The court essentially dismissed this as a pretext, saying that the law was enacted with “discriminatory intent” to suppress the votes of African Americans.


The court ruled against not only the voter ID requirement, but also other provisions of the law that altered election practices in the state. According to the court decision, the legislature imposed new requirements designed to affect African American voters more than voters of other races. For instance, African Americans disproportionately used preregistration of 16- and 17-year olds who will be 18 by Election Day. The 2013 law ended this practice, which the court concluded was a discriminatory action.


Attorney General Roy Cooper is refusing to appeal the decision, saying he agrees that the law is discriminatory. Governor Pat McCrory, who is facing a challenge from Cooper, condemned Cooper and the court decision:


  • We think it is the proper law, and it's amazing that the attorney general will not fulfill his oath of office to defend our laws of North Carolina. In fact, I question whether he should even accept a paycheck from the State of North Carolina anymore because he continues to not do his job.


The 2013 law made a variety of changes to the state’s election law, going well beyond just requiring identification to vote and ending preregistration. The federal court decision also invalidated provisions that allowed same-day registration, permitted out-of-precinct voting, and curtailed early voting from 17 days to 10 days.


To see how legislators voted on the final legislation, click here: Senate and House of Representatives.


Tim Kaine: Policy Overview


Support for both a well-balanced economy which is environmentally stable. Is in opposition to the Keystone pipeline. Supports the Clean Power Plan and has attempted to raise awareness concerning rising sea levels on coastal communities. However, Kaine has supported offshore drilling in the Atlantic. Additionally, he supported to fast track the construction of natural gas terminals.  



Kaine seeks a defined path to earn citizenship. He is a supporter of the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act. Also, he sees education as an important factor concerning immigration. Hence he wants to make it easier for international students to receive their green cards. Has spoken about ‘talent’ being a factor of immigration and that the US immigration system should attract and retain the most talented of immigrants. Also, support efforts to expand the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)      



Kaine has taken the stance the higher education should be more affordable. He, however, has not advocated for any form of free tuition at a public college for everyone. He co-chairs the Senate’s Career and Technical Education Caucus and supports greater access to community colleges for career pathways. A Strong critic of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and advocate for ‘record’ investment in Virginia education.    


Budget and Economy:

Kaine supports the notion of a striving for a balanced budget. Believes in a negotiating a solution to budget challenges through both spending cuts, revenues, and entitlement reforms. He views education and national defense as key economic priorities. As Governor of Virginia, he claimed to save 5$ billion dollars in government spending. Spending cuts were made through switching financing, reallocating accounts and withdrawing money out of the states ‘rainy day’ fund. He serves on the Senate Budget Committee and supports biennial budgeting.  Voted for the FY 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act that set government funding levels for the current fiscal year and extended numerous tax breaks without fully offsetting the cost.  



Kaine is personally against abortion however he sees no need for it to be illegal. He aligns with the primary holdings of Roe V. Wade and supports public abortion funding. Furthermore, he backs a parental consent law which has a judicial bypass in Virginia. He is against partial birth abortions with the exception that if it endangers the life and health of the mother. Additionally, the “informed consent provision” in Virginia is favored upon by Kaine; it involves the requirement of abortion providers to give women specified information concerning alternative options and health consequences. Has a faith-based opposition to abortion that reflects his policy stances.


Gay Rights:      

Kaine fall follows a very similar line to Clinton when it comes to gay marriage. So similar that he did not support it in 2001 however is now an advocate for LGBT rights by the turn of the decade. As Governor of Virginia Kaine has opposed traditional marriage bills and supported legislation that reduces workplace discrimination. He has also spoken for letting gay couples adopt children.


Foreign Policy:

Introduced bipartisan legislation to revise the War Powers Resolution of 1973 as well as to authorize the current U.S. military mission against ISIL. Advocated for Congress to have a formal role in approving the Iran Nuclear Agreement and was proud to co-author the terms under which the House and Senate considered the Iran deal in 2015. Open-ended nature of the Authorizations for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in both the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Supports legislation that would repeal the Iraq AUMF approved by Congress in 2003.


Gun Rights:

A supporter of the second amendment and a gun owner Kaine believes in the right to bare arms with certain restrictions. In Congress, he voted ‘yes’ on banning high-capacity magazines of over ten bullets. During his time as Governor of Virginia, Kaine proposed a guarantee of strict enforcement of existing criminal laws. He also expanded the use of enforcement strategies such as Project Exile that target criminals who use guns rather than law-abiding gun owners.




Has had alternating views on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Recently rejects the deal in its current form. Advocate for the Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA), as well as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Kaine co-sponsored the Sugar Reform Act the created quotas and import tariffs to stabilize prices of sugar. 



Evolution of Superdelegates’ Influence in Presidential Primaries


At the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia this week Bernie Sanders supporters have been rallying in an attempt to change the party’s rules on Superdelegates. This blog post outlines how Superdelegates emerged, the rules that govern them, and the arguments for and against their role in selecting the Democrat nominees for President and Vice President.

A quick history of Superdelegates

After a fractious 1968 Democratic Convention when the party elite nominated the pro-Vietnam War candidate, Hubert Humphrey, over anti-war Senator Eugene McCarthy – supported by many grassroots members – in 1970 the Democratic Party introduced an open caucus process, giving all members of the party an equal vote on the nominee.

However, over the course of the next three elections the Democratic Party suffered two Presidential landslide losses. First, in 1972, anti-war Senator George McGovern (S.D.) suffered an unprecedented 49-state defeat to Richard Nixon. Then, in 1980, President Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan by 10 percent of the popular vote. The Democratic Party used the two failed candidates as scapegoats – arguing that the nominating process of Presidential candidates should be back in the hands of the party leaders.

Superdelegates were installed within the party to act as a guiding hand that ensured candidates be ‘electorally robust.' They were originally intended to represent 30% of delegates at the national convention, however, during the 1982 convention only represented 14% of delegates. From this point in time, the number of Superdelegates have since undergone incremental growth—reaching 20% of total delegates in 2008. However, it should be noted that the percentage decreased to 15% in 2016.


Current Rules behind Superdelegates

The DNC’s 2016 regulations for Superdelegates are contained within Rule 9.A of the Delegate Selection Material document. Superdelegates include:


  • “The Democratic President and the Democratic Vice President of the United States, if applicable; and


  • All Democratic members of the United States House of Representatives and all Democratic members of the United States Senate; and


  • The Democratic Governor, if applicable; and


  • All former Democratic Presidents, all former Democratic Vice Presidents, all former Democratic Leaders of the U.S. Senate, all former Democratic Speakers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Democratic Minority Leaders, as applicable, and all former Chairs of the Democratic National Committee.”

Each of these individual Superdelegates represents only themselves when it comes to deciding the nominee. Superdelegates have the same voting power of a single delegate. However, Superdelegates are not required to vote by caucus or primary election results. This selection process makes Superdelegates autonomous over whom they choose to nominate.


Arguments for and against changing the Superdelegate rules

The case for moving away from the current Superdelegate rules has historical context – see the previous section on 1968 Democratic Convention – and contends that the influence of Superdelegates in the nomination process continues to be undemocratic. This argument prioritizes the collective will of the party over the established elite members.

However, the argument for supporting Superdelegates centers on electability and need to make the nomination process pragmatic for the future success of the party. Without Superdelegates, it is argued, the party would be open to hostile takeover that could undermine its core values. Superdelegates function to maintain the status quo and are required to ensure a ‘fair’ fight between candidates.


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