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John Kline's Record

Disclaimer: The author of this site maintained the campaign weblog of John Kline's opponent in the 2006 election, which made Congressman Kline a bit testy.

As with all blogs, review the facts carefully and draw your own conclusions.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Affordable Health Care for All

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

The New York Times is reporting that a panel which Congress created is advising Congress to take immediate steps to guarantee affordable health care to all Americans by 2012.

The panel, the Citizens’ Health Care Working Group, said Congress should create an independent "public-private entity" to define a basic set of health care benefits and services for all Americans.

While leaving many details to be worked out, the panel declared, "It should be public policy, written in law, that all Americans have affordable access to health care."

Apart from the specific date of 2012, this goal is remarkably similar to Coleen's stated position on health care.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Doughnut Hole Day

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

Congressional Democrats dubbed last Friday "Doughnut Hole Day", holding it up as the day the typical Medicare beneficiary fell into the "doughnut hole" --- the point at which they must assume responsibility of 100% of their prescription drug costs. The doughnut hole is a novel feature of Medicare reform legislation passed in 2003, which took effect on January 1 of this year.

The Washington Post recently discussed Medicare's doughnut hole, and told the story of several people, including at least one woman battling breast cancer, who are choosing to stop taking necessary medication because they can't afford it. According to the Post, roughly 3 million Medicare recipients will find themselves in this situation this year.

The Post also claims that most beneficiaries are better off with the new Medicare plan than they were with the old. While that may be true, the Post fails to point out that, since the new plan explicitly prohibits Medicare from using its considerable buying power to lower prescription drug costs, these drugs cost roughly 40% more than they would otherwise. Consequently, more seniors are falling into the doughnut hole sooner than they would if the free-market Republicans in Congress had actually let market forces prevail.

In fact, the the Medicare bill is a marvelous case study in how official corruption in Washington has direct consequences on the everyday lives of Americans. If you haven't read our four-part series on this bill, take an hour and do it now.

  1. The Chamber of Commerce and its support for Kline and Kennedy.
  2. The worst piece of legislation ever enacted.
  3. The Republican culture of corruption in microcosm.
  4. John Kline's bold stand and subsequent crumbling.

This dreadful piece of legislation, together with the ever-increasing urgent need to care for our veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, are just two of the reasons why Coleen will work for universal health care when she's in Congress.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

A New Generation of Islamic Radicalism

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

"It does make us safer."
John Kline on the U.S. presence in Iraq, June 28, 2004

"[America's internal security] posture has been weakened by the diversion of attention from al-Qaeda to our government’s plan to invade Iraq, a step that will, in all likelihood, bring an exponential increase in the terrorist threat to the U.S., both at home and abroad."
Coleen Rowley, in her February 26, 2003 letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller.

The New York Times just came out with a story titled "Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat". Here's the opening paragraph:

A stark assessment of terrorism trends by American intelligence agencies has found that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.

The report, compiled from 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, also declares that Islamic radicalism, rather than being in retreat, has metastasized and spread across the globe.

Now, to be fair to John Kline, it's been more than two years since he declared that the U.S. presence in Iraq "does make us safer", and things have changed a lot since then. So if anyone knows of John Kline publicly agreeing with our intelligence agencies in their assessment that the U.S. occupation of Iraq has made the overall terrorism problem worse, just email the campaign and let us know.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

More Shocking

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

"If you're talking to me in eight or 10 months, and we're not starting to see actual withdrawals, I'll be shocked." - John Kline in the Star Tribune, November 24, 2005

Not to beat this quote to death, but it's been almost exactly 10 months since John Kline said this, and yesterday, according to the Associated Press:

Gen. John Abizaid, the commander of U.S. forces throughout the Middle East, told reporters in Washington on Tuesday that the military will likely maintain - or possibly even increase - force levels of more than 140,000 troops in Iraq through next spring. The current total is 145,000, up about 20,000 since June.

Abizaid also stated that the increased commitment of troops will last at least through the spring. The Army is working on recruitment to grow in size from 504,000 soldiers to 512,000. Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute notes that the Army should have set even higher recruitment goals at the outset of the conflict rather than waiting until now, but Donald Rumsfeld opposed such action in order to keep costs down.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Kline's Effort to Show Support for Veterans Backfires

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

Last Friday, John Kline sent around his fourth glossy mailer of the campaign. In a first for Kline, this mailer actually discusses his record on something: veterans issues. However, true to form, one of the four pages is devoted to smearing Coleen. The smears are nonsense, of course, and judging by the turnout at John Murtha's recent show of support for Coleen at the Rosemount VFW Hall, most veterans know that.

Kline's mailer makes two claims about his record of support for veterans. One section blares that Kline is "Supporting Disabled Veterans". This is no doubt a response to the 0% rating he received from the Disabled American Veterans in 2004 and 2005. Another proclaims that Kline is "Improving Veterans Benefits". Each section cites one example of legislation to back up the claim.

It is true that these bills help veterans. But Kline's record on these bills shows less support for veterans than you might think; in one case, much less.

Kline's mailer doesn't specify the legislation he supported (e.g. H.R. 5385), making it difficult to fact-check his claims. This already suggests he's trying to sweep something under the rug. But one bill is described as the "Military Quality of Life and Veterans' Affairs Bill" passed this year, which is pretty clearly H.R. 5385. This bill does indeed improve veterans benefits, and John Kline deserves credit for voting for it. In the same way, Betty McCollum, Jim Oberstar, Collin Peterson and Martin Sabo deserve credit for voting for it, as do all of the other Democrats in Congress. As a matter of fact, every single member of Congress who was present that day voted for this bill; it passed 395-0. So while John Kline's vote was indeed a good thing, it was in no way exceptional.

The other bill Kline talks about has to do with 'concurrent receipt', which addresses a problem Kline accurately explains as follows:

" . . . for every dollar a disabled veteran received in disability benefits, that dollar was removed from their pension. It penalized veterans for injuries they received in service to their country."

Instead of this reduction, disabled veterans should receive 'concurrent receipt' of both their pension and disability benefits. Kline claims that, as a member of the Armed Services Committee, he "helped negotiate the agreement that ended this unfair policy". Since he doesn't tell us which bill he "helped negotiate", we can't get into its specifics. But research reveals some interesting tidbits about concurrent receipt.

First, this "unfair policy" hasn't ended; rather, it is being slowly phased out over a 10-year period. And even then, veterans whose disabilities are rated at less than 50% will still be subject to a reduction in their pension. Second, Congress hasn't enacted any single law which implements concurrent receipt: according to the Disabled American Veterans, there are at least four (PDF). No doubt one of these is the one Kline supported.

"The efforts of Congress to eliminate the unfair offset incrementally have resulted in a number of programs with different eligibility requirements. This piecemeal approach was utilized by members of the presiding committees to escape mounting public pressure, while still avoiding paying the cost of an outright fix."

. . .

"Many disabled veterans are confused by the various eligibility requirements, and no headway has been made in recent years to rectify the injustice toward disabled retirees rated 40 percent and below."

(The DAV has a great deal more to say about the erosion of veterans' benefits under our Republican-led government.)

However, the most startling fact about Kline's claim to have "ended this unfair policy" is that Kline has steadfastly ignored a bill which would grant concurrent receipt to all veterans immediately, even though as a member of the Armed Services Committee, he might well have been able to usher it into law. This bill was introduced as H.R. 303 in each of the last two sessions of Congress.

The history is truly striking. Here is a timeline of actions which have been taken on H.R. 303:

  • January 8, 2003 - H.R. 303 is introduced in the House by Florida Republican Mike Bilirakis at the start of the 108th Congress. It is immediately referred to the House Armed Services Committee on which John Kline sits.
  • February 3, 2003 - H.R. 303 is referred to the subcommittee on Total Force, where it sits for months.
  • May 22, 2003 - Georgia Democrat Jim Marshall introduces H.Res. 251 for the sole purpose of bringing H.R . 303 to the floor for a vote. It is immediately referred to the Rules Committee and never heard from again.
  • June 12, 2003 - Marshall begins circulating a discharge petition to force a floor vote on H.R. 303. If 218 members sign it, the House leadership will be forced to bring it to the floor.
  • November 7, 2003 - Marshall makes a motion to recommit the National Defense Authorization Act to committee, so that full implementation of concurrent receipt can be added. The motion fails, 188-217, with John Kline voting against it.
  • December 20, 2004 - The 108th Congress ends with H.R. 303 still in committee. The bill dies with a bipartisan list of 383 cosponsors; John Kline is not among them. The discharge petition contains 207 names, just eleven short of forcing a vote, but does not include John Kline.
  • January 25, 2005 - Bilirakis reintroduces H.R. 303 at the start of the 109th Congress. It is once again referred to the House Armed Services Committee on which John Kline sits.
  • February 18, 2005 - H.R. 303 is referred to the subcommittee on Military Personnel, where it once again languishes.
  • May 10, 2005 - Marshall once again tries to force H.R. 303 to a floor vote by introducing H.Res. 270. Once again, Marshall's bill is referred to the Rules Committee, and once again, it is ignored.
  • May 24, 2005 - Marshall once again starts circulating a discharge petition.
  • September 15, 2006 - John Kline sends a mailer to the district claiming that his work has "ended this unfair policy" of reducing disabled veterans' pensions.
  • Today - H.R. 303 is still stuck in a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee. It has 239 cosponsors, none of whom are John Kline. The discharge petition has 191 signatures and once again, John Kline's is not among them.

So the truth is that as a member of the House Armed Services Committee, John Kline had the opportunity to champion a full and immediate implementation of concurrent receipt by insuring that a bipartisan bill with hundreds of cosponsors made it to the House floor. But he has chosen to let it languish in committee --- twice; he has failed to sign a discharge petition to get it to the House floor --- twice; he has even failed to make the token gesture of cosponsoring the bill --- twice; and on at least one occasion (there may have been others), when given the opportunity to include it as an amendment to a bill, Kline voted no.

And yet he proudly proclaims the work he's done to enact a partial and gradual implementation of concurrent receipt as one of his major achievements for veterans.

Update: This post addresses a policy of reducing a disabled veteran's pension by the amount of his disability benefit, when our veterans deserve 'concurrent receipt' of both benefits. Earlier versions of this post mistakenly identified 'concurrent receipt' as the reduction in pension.

Friday, September 15, 2006

The Final Push: GOP Dirty Tricks Begin

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

In recent days, we've seen vicious attacks against Keith Ellison in the 5th CD race. Rowley for Congress has been on the receiving end of a few smear attacks, too. These are likely just the opening salvos in an all-out campaign of character assassination and dirty tricks which will make us all nostalgic for the gentler, more civil campaigns of 2002 and 2004.

Last week, the National Republican Congressional Committee announced that it would be spending at least 90% of its $50 million war chest on personal attacks on Democratic candidates. And it won't stop there. The Republican who funded the Swift Boaters in the 2004 cycle is funding a 527 group to spread lies about Democrats using automated phone call "push polls", and the election is more than 7 weeks away.

Think about this for a minute. The Republican party, which lays claim to "family values" and "personal responsibility" is not only campaigning principally, if not exclusively on smear tactics, they're brazen enough to formally announce that this is their strategy.

Then again, they can't point to anything they've actually accomplished for the average American, so what choice do they have? There are a lot of good reasons to vote for Coleen Rowley in November: responsible redeployment from Iraq, increased funding for education, health care for every American and protection of our civil rights. But the best reason to vote for Coleen is that it's your one chance between now and 2008 to hold George Bush and the Republican-controlled Congress accountable for their cronyism, for their incomptence, for wasting American lives and treasure on the debacle in Iraq, and much, much more.

Think about that between now and November 7. And if you receive a phone call before then dishing dirt on Coleen, consider who it's coming from.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

John Kline's Puzzling Interview

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

It's been three weeks since the 'debate' between Coleen, Jason Lewis and John Kline at the State Fair. Since then, Kline has refused at least four additional debates, and has ignored the debate challenge Coleen issued two weeks ago. While he continues to avoid an honest exchange of views in a neutral forum, he recently talked with T.W. Budig of ECM. In addition to reiterating his support for an open-ended occupation of Iraq, he made some truly puzzling statements about the campaign.

To begin with, Kline alleges that Rowley for Congress has been "relentlessly negative" in its campaign. This is a puzzling charge, coming from a congressman who launched three smear attacks in as many weeks in August. As evidence of the Rowley campaign's negativity, Kline alleges that Coleen Rowley and her supporters "attacked" him at parades. Actually, what the Rowley campaign did was pass out bookmarks with an abbreviated chart of John Kline's record on the issues, as scored by independent groups such as the League of Conservation Voters, the AFL-CIO’s "Working Families" group, the National Education Association and the Disabled American Veterans. The full list of rankings is available here. If informing voters about John Kline's record is "relentlessly negative", Kline has no one to blame but himself.

Kline goes on to charge that Coleen Rowley is difficult to pin down on the issues, saying "We need to get her, frankly, to say where she stands on some of the issues". If Kline is truly confused about Coleen's positions, then he should be welcoming debates, not ducking them. But it's difficult to understand how Kline could be confused in the first place, since Coleen has clearly stated her position on no fewer than 10 issues on this very website, and has authored numerous other pieces in the Pioneer Press, Star Tribune, New York Times and Huffington Post (the Star Tribune is currently running an op-ed she co-authored). Perhaps John Kline doesn't understand that a campaign website is the place where most candidates publish their positions on issues; certainly Kline has failed to do this at his own campaign site. But if he's confused about Coleen's positions, he once again has no one but himself to blame.

Speaking of issues, Kline next jumps into a discussion of U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Budig, Kline "expresses shock that people seem to have conveniently forgotten that it was generally agreed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction." But this statement is remarkably disingenuous. People haven't "conveniently forgotten" the consensus view in 2003 that Saddam had WMD; rather, they resent the fact that the administration manufactured that consensus by lying about the threat in order to generate support for the invasion. And instead of holding the administration to account, John Kline is continuing to cover for them.

Kline goes on to reiterate his rock-ribbed support for an open-ended commitment of U.S. troops in Iraq, noting that U.S. troops have been stationed in Germany for 60 years. Of course during WWII, we were fighting a conventional war against other countries, not a sectarian conflict among multiple guerilla factions; and combat was concluded within a relatively short time frame. Our troops have now been fighting in Iraq longer than we fought in Europe during WWII, and there is no end in sight. Indeed, our top two generals in the region recently testified that the sectarian violence is the worst it's ever been, and Chuck Hagel, a Vietnam veteran and Republican Senator from Nebraska, contends that the occupation is "destroying the United States Army". Despite overwhelming evidence that the occupation of Iraq is ineffective both in fighting terrorism and in fostering democracy, and the fact that it is destroying our military readiness, John Kline is adamant about staying the course. Indefinitely.

Kline does, however, want to increase the size of the Army.

"We should not have to deploy the reserve component to that extent," he said, noting the recent departure of 2600 Minnesota National Guards troops for Iraq.

It would stretch the military, but Kline believes the U.S. forces could handle Iraq and Afghanistan and also deal with North Korea or Iran if military action were deemed necessary.

Coleen Rowley supports responsible redeployment from Iraq; but since John Kline demands an open-ended commitment, a push to increase our overall troop strength is essential. But Kline conspicuously avoids discussing where these troops will come from; he has previously made it "crystal clear" that he "categorically" opposes reinstating the draft. Until he provides specifics on how to increase recruitment and retention, it's irresponsible for Kline to publicly state that the U.S. can reasonably maintain forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and North Korea or Iran.

Finally, Kline cites an increase special education funding and continued work on national security as his priorities should he win a third term. Coleen supports these goals as well, but Kline's record in Congress shows he hasn't always pursued them. On national security, John Kline prioritized tax cuts for millionaires above funding for homeland security, and has consistently voted against steps to secure nuclear and chemical sites, against improved air travel screening and inspections, against tougher border and port security, and against funding for first responders. And on education, Kline voted for a $12 billion cut in student loan programs --- the largest such cut ever.

What Kline fails to discuss about his third-term agenda is his long-standing support for Social Security privatization. He was one of the main champions of George Bush's doomed privatization effort in 2005, and Bush has clearly indicated Social Security is one of his priorities in 2007. There's every reason to believe that Kline will continue to toe the line for Bush if he gets the chance.

Yes, the answers John Kline gave in this interview are truly puzzling, but what's not puzzling is Kline's continued refusal to sit down with Coleen Rowley for another discussion of the issues. Kline knows that if he engages in another debate with a moderator just slightly less partisan than Jason Lewis, voters will get a clear look at Kline's record. Considering what that record is, there's no wonder Kline is sowing the seeds of confusion.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

More on Median Income

[Disclaimer: This post was first published on Coleen Rowley's campaign weblog.]

Not long ago, we explained how median income, adjusted for inflation, is a better measure of the health of the American economy than average income, because median income only rises if the number of people moving above the previous median exceeds the number of people falling below it.

Recent census data show that over the past 2-3 years, median income has fallen while average income has risen, indicating that the rich are getting richer while most Americans are left behind. Yesterday, the Detroit Free Press published a story discussing the drop in median incomes over the past 6 years. While the story was focused on Michigan, there was one quite telling graphic showing the change in real median income for every state over the past 6 years.

The upshot is, real median income is stagnant or down --- in many cases, sharply down --- in 31 states and the District of Columbia. Wisconsin had the worst drop, at 16.5%, and Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi and Missouri all had double-digit drops as well.

Viewed from that perspective, Minnesota's 1.6% drop is relatively modest. Nevertheless, it's clear that the economy is heading in the wrong direction. This is yet one more reason we need to change things in Washington.

Update: It appears that the Detroit Free Press had an error in their data; this post has been updated accordingly. The corrected data is available here.