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January 12th, 2010
11:55 AM ET

GOP should want Harry Reid to hang in

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John Feehery
Special to CNN

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is in hot water for some comments he made to reporters in a new book called "Game Change." In the book, Reid said, Barack Obama had a chance of winning because he was both "light-skinned" and didn't speak with a "Negro dialect."

Some Republicans have called for Reid to step down.

I, for one, think Reid should stay on as leader of the Senate Democrats. He should stick around to face the voters in November.

While I understand why some of my fellow Republicans would want Reid to resign, I think he represents well the current plight of the congressional Democrats.

Reid's comments reflect the views of a man who is stuck in the past. Such language may have been completely acceptable in 1955 but is now completely unacceptable.

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Filed under: Harry Reid • John Feehery • Raw Politics
October 19th, 2009
10:57 AM ET

Dems head for health care crackup?

Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican, says she hopes some bipartisanship can be restored.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican, says she hopes some bipartisanship can be restored.

John Feehery
Special to CNN

I started on Capitol Hill in the fall of 1989 as an intern for House Minority Leader Bob Michel. Republicans had just elected a firebrand named Newt Gingrich to be their whip. Democrats had just replaced their speaker, Jim Wright, with Tom Foley. And George H. W. Bush was settling in to his first year as president.

It was that year when the chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, Dan Rostenkowski, became more widely known - not for his work on tax reform and not for the corruption scandal that would later land him in jail.

He became famous for being accosted by a pack of angry senior citizens furious with the Illinois congressman for his role in passing catastrophic health care reform into law. It was legislation that sought to protect senior citizens from the financial impact of catastrophic illness, but it also increased taxes on Medicare recipients.

Interestingly, the group that staged the protest against Rostenkowski was organized by Jan Schakowsky, who would later become a prominent liberal representative and is now of one of the principal proponents of the Obama health care plan.

This was in the days before YouTube and before the rise of the ubiquitous and rival cable networks Fox News and MSNBC. Still, the footage of Rostenkowski being hunted down by rabid octogenarians and fleeing in his big Cadillac while almost running them down left an indelible impression in the minds of the congressional leadership.

In November of 1989, the Congress did what it rarely does. It repealed a law it had passed just a year before. It was as if the law never existed. It was annulled.

There are many similarities between that catastrophic health care bill and the health care reform the Democrats are attempting to put together in Congress this year.

Like the catastrophic bill, the Democrats' health care bill is well-intentioned. It attempts to deal with a problem that needs solving. Long-term health care costs are a problem. A family shouldn't have to go broke taking care of elderly parents or grandparents. Similarly, we must do something about the high costs of insurance and the health care in general.

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Filed under: Democrats • Health Care • John Feehery • Republicans
September 10th, 2009
04:24 PM ET

Why we don't heckle the president

Rep. Joe Wilson heckled President Obama during his speech on health care reform.

Rep. Joe Wilson heckled President Obama during his speech on health care reform.

John Feehery
Special to CNN

When I worked in the House of Representatives in the mid-'90s, Congressional Republicans grew enamored of the idea of replicating the tradition of "Question Time" that was popular in the British House of Commons.

C-SPAN had just started broadcasting "Question Time", where the British prime minister thrusts and parries with colleagues on the other side of the aisle, while hoping for supportive statements from those on his side of the aisle.

It seemed like a lot of fun, most of all because the party out of power could show their disdain for the government's leader in no uncertain terms, and best of all, face-to-face.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • John Feehery • Raw Politics
June 8th, 2009
11:40 AM ET

Can U.S. go a trillion more in debt?

John Feehery
Special to CNN

We spend nearly as much on defense as the rest of the world combined. We spend more on health care than anybody else in the world. And we have a bigger national debt than anybody else in the world.

Some experts are warning that if we keep spending like drunken sailors, we may lose our AAA credit rating, costing taxpayers billions more in higher interest payments.

The press widely reported that Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner went to China partly to convince the Communist government that we will bring our spending habits under control and that their investments are safe with us.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Economy • Health Care • John Feehery • Raw Politics
May 29th, 2009
11:29 AM ET

No one represents America's center

John Feehery
Special to CNN

There's nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos." - Jim Hightower

"Standing in the middle of the road is very dangerous; you get knocked down by the traffic from both sides." - Margaret Thatcher

Despite these warnings from the left and the right, increasingly, the American people are viewing themselves as centrists.

According to the Pew Research Group, fully 39 percent of the American people identify themselves as political independents, the highest percentage in 70 years.

As Andrew Kohut of Pew put it, "Centrism has emerged as a dominant factor in public opinion as the Obama era begins. ... Republicans and Democrats are even more divided than in the past, while the growing political middle is steadfastly mixed in its beliefs about government, the free market and other values that underlie views on contemporary issues and policies."

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Filed under: 360° Radar • John Feehery
May 7th, 2009
11:40 AM ET

5 reasons GOP will rebound

John Feehery
Special to CNN

"It is important for us to have a strong Republican Party," Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi tauntingly told a press conference on April 23. "And I hope that the next generation will take back the Republican Party for the Grand Old Party that it used to be."

Thanks Mrs. Pelosi, for your best wishes. But be careful what you wish for. I wouldn't write the obituary for the Republican Party quite yet.

Sure, things are looking grim at the moment. Yes, our Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele stumbled out of the starting gate, making several verbal gaffes, and raising questions about his competence. Yes, the latest poll numbers are in the toilet, showing only 21 percent of the American people call themselves Republicans. Yes, Arlen Specter decided the GOP was a drag on his personal political future. And yes, we lost a special election in upstate New York that maybe we should have won.

But things change. Remember a year-and-a-half ago, when everybody thought the election would be a referendum on the Iraq war. Remember 10 months ago, when everyone thought that expensive gas was going to drive people to the polls. It turned out that, by the time of the election, the most important thing that people cared about was their declining 401ks or their lost job.

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Filed under: John Feehery • Raw Politics • Republicans
April 16th, 2009
12:44 PM ET

What's driving the U.S. over a cliff?

Editor's note: John Feehery worked as a staffer for former House Speaker Dennis Hastert and other Republicans in Congress. He is president of Feehery Group, a Washington-based advocacy firm that has represented clients including News Corp., Ford Motor Company and the United States Chamber of Commerce. He formerly was a government relations executive vice president for the Motion Picture Association of America.

John Feehery

I was talking to a close family friend during my vacation in Florida, and he was criticizing the governor there for taking the stimulus money that came from the federal government.

"Florida should just cut government spending, and not use the Feds as a crutch," he said with great vehemence.

Now, this family friend is not a wealthy guy, but he lives a comfortable life, made more comfortable by the fact that he gets a nice monthly pension check from the state. I didn't dare suggest to him that perhaps cutting back on his monthly pension might be one way to cut that spending, because if I had, I would have had a seven-iron flying at my head.

But what is most interesting to me about that conversation is how the attitude of this family friend reflects the attitudes of most Americans. Cut government spending, but don't touch my piece of the pie, the many cry out as one.

As federal policy makers grapple with the budget next week when Congress reconvenes, I challenge them to answer four uncomfortable questions that could bankrupt the country if unanswered:

First, why do we let people retire too early and then expect them to live so long without working? In 1910, the average retirement age in the United States was 74. In 2002, however, the average retirement age was 62. Average life expectancy in 1910 was around 55, while in 2002 it was 77.

Throughout most of our nation's history, people were expected to work regardless of their age. Only over the last several decades has that changed.

Now it is assumed even if you are completely able-bodied and able-minded, you don't need to work and indeed you shouldn't be required to do so if you reach a certain age and certain number of years at one job. But that is crazy. We can't afford it. As people live longer, they should work longer, be productive longer, pay taxes longer, and be full participants in our nation's economy longer.

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Filed under: Economy • John Feehery • Raw Politics