Inside Opinion

What's on the minds of Tacoma News Tribune editorial writers

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Tag: Senate

Oct.
10th

Give Maria Cantwell a third term in the U.S. Senate

Maria Cantwell

This editorial will appear in Thursday’s print edition.

Democrat Maria Cantwell has a smart, respectable Republican challenger for her U.S. Senate seat – freshman state Sen. Michael Baumgartner of Spokane.

Baumgartner is particularly knowledgeable about Middle East policy, but he doesn’t make a good case for replacing the cerebral, hard-working incumbent. The News Tribune editorial board recommends that voters give Cantwell a third six-year term.

A former state legislator who served a term in the U.S. House, Cantwell was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2000 by defeating the incumbent, Slade Gorton. Since the economy went south, she has focused with laser-like intensity on creating jobs, helping business and pushing for Wall Street reforms.

Cantwell isn’t one for partisan bickering, instead working to educate her colleagues and build coalitions for legislation that is often more wonky than “sexy.” Prime examples are her efforts to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank, an agency that helps finance exports of many manufacturers, including Boeing; to pass tax credits for employers who hire veterans; and to invest in freight and transportation infrastructure. Read more »

Feb.
18th

Lawmakers finally take a step toward education reform

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

It rarely pays to get too hopeful about education reform in this state. But the Legislature – the Senate at least – has actually taken a major step toward accountability in Washington’s public schools.

Senate Bill 5895, which cleared that chamber Tuesday, requires the use of objective student-performance measures in the evaluation of teachers. It also requires that feedback from teachers be used in the evaluation of principals.

Teachers and principals can lose their jobs if they keep flunking the new tests. This turns Washington tradition on its head. In this state, it can take a felony to separate a faculty member from his or her job. Only the bravest administrators have dared tackle the convoluted, expensive process required to fire the incompetent.

Let’s not get giddy, though. The Senate’s move to tie “student growth data” looks impressive only in terms of the state’s benighted history. SB 5895 is not radical. It would not make Washington a leader in education reform. It would merely help the state catch up to the middle of the pack.

But the 46-3 vote in the Senate is impressive. Most education reform measures are throttled in committee. Once this one reached a floor vote in open daylight, lawmakers embraced it – if only to avoid shame in some cases.
Read more »

Jan.
25th

Senate’s ‘filibuster of one’ deserves a fast burial

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

They don’t call the U.S. Senate the world’s greatest deliberative body for nothing – deliberation being a synonym, in its case, for glacial decision-making and process worship.

This week offers a rare opportunity for junking an indefensible chock in the Senate’s wheels: the secret hold. It’s a parliamentary trick senators employ to anonymously block votes on bill and presidential nominees. Even other senators sometimes don’t know which of their colleagues has tied up the question or why.

Republicans and Democrats – most notably Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa – have been trying for years to rid the Senate of this particularly spineless form of obstructionism.

The power to openly and temporarily hold action on a measure is a perfectly defensible privilege; senators may want to clarify what’s really in a bill that affects their home states, or study the qualifications of a nominee.
Read more »

Nov.
1st

Your vote counts – especially in this election

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

If ever there were an election in which the vote of individual Washingtonians counted, it’s the one happening today.

The most obvious reason is right at the top of the ballot, where Republican Dino Rossi is asking voters for the job now held by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray. Political analysts from coast to coast think this race could decide whether the Democratic Party – facing possibly catastrophic congressional losses – can cling to its control of the Senate by a finger-hold.

And the Senate contest appears excruciating close. Most recent polls have shown Murray ahead by a hair, a few have shown Rossi ahead by a hair, and it’s anyone’s guess how the late votes will break. Murray has exceeded expectations in the past, but Rossi in 2004 achieved a statistical tie running for governor against Chris Gregoire.

It’s easy to imagine this race turning on a few thousand ballots ­– or fewer. Given the stakes, a slight margin of Washington ballots could go a long way toward shaping the nation’s direction in coming years.

The fights for two or three of Washington’s seats in the U.S. House of Representatives might also be decided by small margins. In the South Sound’s 9th District, a Republican tsunami could conceivably help Republican Dick Muri edge out U.S. Rep. Adam Smith of Tacoma, further eroding President Obama’s base of support in Congress.

While the Murray-Rossi race has sucked up most of the media oxygen in recent weeks, a monumental battle over the state Legislature will also be decided today. As in the congressional races, the Democrats are mostly playing defense. They’ve enjoyed comfortable majorities in both the House and Senate in recent years, but those majorities will almost certainly be whittled down.
Read more »

Oct.
29th

As goes the state, so goes the Senate?

In case you’ve been wondering why you’re seeing so many ads in the Senate race between Patty Murray vs. Dino Rossi, check out the new installment of Nate Silver’s Political Calculus, posted last night on The New York Times.

Silver’s math-intensive analysis shows that Washington is more likely than any other state to decide whether the Republicans take control of the Senate. (And you wondered what math majors do for a living.)

With polls pointing to an ultra-tight outcome, the same advice goes for both Democrats and Republicans: Get the ballot in.

Oct.
18th

Murray-Rossi race the ‘linchpin’ for GOP’s Senate hopes?

Why are President and Mrs. Obama coming to Washington to campaign for Patty Murray, and why is so much money flowing into the U.S. Senate race between the incumbent Democrat and her Republican challenger Dino Rossi?

Chris Cillizza, who writes the Fix blog for The Washington Post, suggests its because both parties recognize that GOP hopes for taking over the Senate rest on Rossi’s victory.

If Rossi wins, Cillizza writes, it “could be the linchpin on the narrow hopes Republicans hold out for control of the chamber. Both national parties are pouring millions into the race – and

Read more »

Sep.
20th

Watch our endorsement interview with Murray and Rossi

It took some doing, but we were able to get U.S. Sen. Patty Murray and challenger Dino Rossi together for today’s endorsement interview. The link is available here.

We haven’t typically done endorsement interviews side-by-side, preferring instead to meet with candidates on an individual basis. This year, we began switching it up and have found that joint appearances work especially well when the competitors are already well known to us and we’re looking primarily to compare positions and temperament.

Dec.
21st

The U.S. Senate wraps a Christmas gift for the uninsured

This editorial will appear in tomorrow’s print edition.

It’s fitting that the U.S. Senate is poised to approve historic health care legislation during Christmas week. Like a big present under the tree, the package looks gorgeous, promises to run up the Visa card and conceals things known to only a few.

But shaking the box tells you quite a bit. The immense bill would extend coverage to most Americans now uninsured, require all individuals to carry medical insurance (subsidized as necessary), and prohibit insurance companies from refusing to sell coverage to the sick or dropping them after they get sick.

This is good, as far as it goes. In a humane society, access to health care is a moral imperative. Americans should not die because their wallets can’t get past a biopsy at the front desk.

And the law must demand that individuals carry coverage. The logic follows mandatory auto insurance: If you don’t insure yourself, you are effectively planning to dump your expenses on someone else. Those who think this violates their rights ought to pledge in advance not to accept care from a doctor or hospital unless they pay full freight. Any takers on that bargain?
Read more »