A tale of two AZ Senators and Healthcare Reform
For the last two months I’ve been in a running dialog and battle with my two Senators from Arizona, McCain and Kyl, on healthcare and other issues. I’ve spent hours on the phone with their staffs in DC, attended county and state GOP meetings which were also attended by Senators and been the target of McCain during Q&A at a county meeting where he demonstrated the use of Alinsky’s tactic #13, pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it, on me.
This diary is a summary of my dealings with Senator McRINO and Senator Minority Wimp Kyl that have been blogged on a number of other conservative sites but never together in one place. I got my arm twisted by Cold Warrior to put it together and post in on Red State so here are the highlights told in chronological order starting in December just after the healthcare bill hit the Senate floor.
Dec 10, 2009
In the discussion on the 2010 primary and how he plans to get reelected, his staff blew off any need to get support from the party’s base or its PC’s. McCain’s position is that he does not have any official primary competition at this time. I suspect he feels that he can overcome any grassroots resistance with campaign spending.
No matter what happens with the healthcare bill, we need to work together, coalesce behind a single challenger and show John what a united grassroots effort can do. In just three weeks a conservative grassroots effort in NY23 drove out the leftist, handpicked GOP candidate, put Conservative Party Doug Hoffman on the map and within a few points of victory. We have about 6 months before early voting starts. Can we get this done and get McRINO out? Can we get the conservative PC’s pulled together to put the party against McRINO and out call and out door knock his people?
Dec 15, 2009
In weekly web column titled “DEFEATING A GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER OF HEALTH CARE”, Sen. Kyl stated” I believe this is the most dangerous piece of domestic legislation that I’ve seen since I’ve been in Congress. And I will continue to do everything I can to defeat it, and encourage my colleagues to do the same.” I called Kyl’s DC office today and spoke to Robin, a member of his staff. The following is a summary of our conversation taken from my notes. Please do not take this as a transcript. I don’t write that fast.
Steve: Is Jon committed to defeating the bill?
Kyl’s Staff: Yes.
Steve: What does Jon means when he says he is doing everything he can to defeat the bill?
Kyl’s Staff: Jon is using the amendment process to highlight and call attention to the defects in the bill and to extend the debate. As minority whip he is very proud of holding all 40 Republicans together to vote against the bill.
Steve: If he wants the bill defeated is there was anything Jon would not do to stop it?
Kyl’s Staff: What do you mean by that?
Steve: Jon and all the other Republican Senators have had multiple opportunities to object to calls for “unanimous consent” to delay the bill, such as requiring it and all the amendments to be read. Why hasn’t Jon objected?
Kyl’s Staff: That would be seen as obstructionist and is not material.
Steve: If Jon does want to kill the bill and both a filibuster and an objection would both delay the bill, why does Jon think a filibuster is OK but forcing the bill to be read is not.
Kyl’s Staff: Reading the bill is a waste of time and does not point out the issues with it.
Steve: If the objective is to kill the bill then why not object?
Kyl’s Staff: We do not want to be seen as obstructionist.
Steve: Don’t you guys think that the people have read the bill, read summaries of it and already know what a dog it is?
Kyl’s Staff: The Senator wants to use the amendments to explain the problems with the bill.
Steve: Is the bill constitutional or not?
Kyl’s Staff: We have been receiving a lot of call on this issue particularly regarding the individual mandate.
Steve: I didn’t ask what the people think, I asked as an attorney does Jon think the bill is constitutional or not?
Kyl’s Staff: The portion of the individual mandate may not be.
Steve: What about the whole bill? Where in Article 1 Section 8 is the federal government empowered to regulate healthcare?
Kyl’s Staff: The government already regulates Medicare and Medicaid.
Steve: I am not aware of any court case that has ruled on the constitutionality of those acts and whether the government is already acting unconstitutionally does not answer my question. Does the government have authority for this bill?
Kyl’s Staff: That is a nonproductive argument.
Steve: It’s nonproductive to point out the government has no right to pass this legislation?
Kyl’s Staff: (no response)
Steve: So Jon has held everyone together to oppose the bill?
Kyl’s Staff: Yes, and he is proud of it.
Steve: Then how do you explain Sen. Snowe’s vote to move the bill to the floor.
Kyl’s Staff: That was only a committee vote, not a floor vote.
I then called McCain’s DC office and spoke with one of his staffers, Greg. After a few questions it was obvious Greg was not going to answer any of the questions I had asked Kyl’s staff but he would take my comments. Greg did mention that Kyl and McCain are hosting a tele-townhall tonight on healthcare. When asked for the details Greg referred me to the Sierra Vista paper. When pushed for details he could not provide me with anything other than it started at 6:30. No call in number, no access code, nothing. When I asked why it was not on McCain’s or Kyl’s websites, Greg said he would pass my suggestion on to Sen. McCain.
After my wonderful conversations with our staunchly conservative Senator Kyl’s staff and the well informed staff of his fighting colleague John McCain I am now assured that Jon and John are doing everything they can to kill the bill. Can some one hand me a barf bag?
Dec 16, 2009
I received the following form letter response from Sen. Kyl.
Dear Mr. Kohut:
Thank you for contacting me regarding health care reform and my comments about Senate consideration of the bill. My conservative colleagues and I are not trying to “improve” the President’s health-care reform bill, as some have suggested. It cannot be improved – it is fatally flawed. We are executing a carefully devised strategy of working within Senate rules to defeat it. (It would obviously be counterproductive to signal to the Majority exactly what our strategy is, but it includes making the other party vote on amendments that reveal what’s wrong with the Majority’s bill.)
You might recall that President Obama had initially called on Congress to pass the health care bill by June. It was no accident that he has had to reset the deadline a number of times – to July 4, then Labor Day, then Thanksgiving and now Christmas. Those of us who oppose the bill have done everything we can to expose the flaws in it, and give the American people time to understand it and mobilize against it. Indeed, when the debate first started in June, polls suggested that 50 percent supported the President’s plan in some form. Since the summer, every poll has shown majority opposition, with the latest CNN poll indicating that 61 percent now oppose the legislation and only 36 percent support it.
I have enclosed an article from the Capitol Hill newspaper, Roll Call, about Senate action on the bill. You might also be interested in my comments on the Dennis Prager radio show. The interview is available on my YouTube page at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-ExDnRt0d8.
I appreciate your sharing your thoughts. Please stay in touch.
I emailed the following response to Sen Kyl.
A form letter response (follows this email) of “trust us, we know what we are doing but it’s so secret we can’t tell you” is patronizing, childish and presumes that you can put one over me, my fellow precinct committeemen and the conservative base of the party.
I have been in frequent and repeated contact with both your and Sen. McCain’s DC staff querying them concerning the HC bill, your positions, actions, etc. and the responses from your and Sen. McCain’s staffs fly in the face of your response to me.
First off, in a long discourse Sen. McCain’s staff was very clear that he did not want to kill the bill, that he wanted to improve it, that he wanted to pass HC reform. No buts about it. That was John’s position.
Your staff was equally clear in that you as Senator and as Minority Whip would not use every tool in the box to kill the bill, that objections to unanimous consent were off the table as “obstructionist”, that NO ONE was going to argue that the HC legislation was unconstitutional on multiple grounds (Art 1 Sec 9 Clause 3 Bill of Attainder, Art 1 Sec 8 & 10th Amendment no enumerated power to enact, etc.), etc. regardless of your 12/14 column that you would throw everything including the kitchen sink at it.
The claim that you want to expose the bill’s flaws to the American people is beyond belief. Do you live in a cave? Do you every look outside? Do you even come to AZ anymore and meet with us PC’s, meet with your constituents? What do you think happened all summer at town hall meetings? Tea Parties, marches and protests? The 1 million plus horde at the capital on 9/12? Unlike many of our congressmen, the people, when the bills were finally made available, read them! Read the analyses. We have known what is in it. The last thing we need is someone to point out that it’s bad. We can smell the stink from 2,000 miles away. Give me a break!
We do not see where you have a passion to fulfill your oath of office to “defend and support the Constitution … to bear true faith and allegiance to the same.” This is a war against America and what our founding father’s established. The GOP is acting like this is an argument over a hand of bridge at the country club. We do not see you and most of the GOP acting as if the country is at stake and doing your utmost to protect the people. We see business as usual in the Senate’s rarified, country club, good-old-boy setting and manipulation and planning for 2010. We see the GOP sorrowfully wringing its hands over the passage by 60 Democrats of a wretched HC bill and using it as leverage in 2010 for Mitch McConnell to become Majority Leader, you to become majority whip, etc. while WE THE PEOPLE pay the price for your electoral gamesmanship.
I am an American first, a constitutional conservative second and a GOP PC by necessity. We are done with the type of crap response you sent me. We, the conservative base of the party that is pouring into the PC ranks, will get this fixed. We will take this back to the party of Reagan. We will flush the RINO’s out of leadership and elected office including McCain. It may take us a few years but we will get it there. Ask Michael Steele how it is going with Nevada. Ask Randy Pullen what is happening in AZ to the PC rolls. Ask John McCain later in the spring who the PC’s will support in his re-election bid. John is in for a massive eye opener. In three weeks we buried Dede Scozzafava and almost put Doug Hoffman over the top in NY23. What do you thing we will be able to do in the time to the 2010 primaries? The 2010 general? 2012? The base has woken up and we are pissed. Your choices are to lead, follow or get the hell run over. Which do you choose?
Dec 18, 2009
I have come to the conclusion that Sen. Kyl and his DC staff work under a “cone of silence” borrowed from the prop room of “Get Smart” with no connection to the people of Arizona. In an attempt to see if any of what we have been telling him or his staff had gotten through I spent another 15~20 minutes on the phone this morning and once again got Robin of his DC staff.
When asked about Sen. Coburn’s objection to Sen. Sander’s amendment, she responded that neither Kyl nor the rest of the GOP leadership had taken a position on Coburn’s action. I asked why Kyl or any other Senator did not demand that the amendment be read in full as required under Senate rules rather than allow it to be withdrawn. Kyl’s opinion is that getting the amendment withdrawn is better than having it read, it’s a bad amendment so why read it if we can make it go away. Kyl is trying to get the constructive thing done and use the amendment process to put the position of moderate Democrats on record to make it more difficult for them to vote for cloture or for the final bill. When I asked if this is to buy time for the people in those moderate Democrats’ state to pressure their Senators the answer was yes, Kyl wants to force any votes for cloture or passage into 2010.
I then asked if Sen. Kyl was aware of all the recent changes in the precinct committeemen roles in the state. Robin indicated that he was not aware and asked what they were. I informed her that Maricopa County had gone from about 1,500 PC slots filled in 2008 out of 6,000 to over 3,000 now. The same was happening in counties throughout Arizona. These new PC’s were an ongoing flood of conservative activists from Tea Parties, 9-12 Groups, etc. that we no longer willing to tolerate what was happening in the GOP and would take it back to its conservative roots. As we started to get into the impact of this change on current leadership and elected representatives, Robin once again felt she had given me too much time and had to take other calls. When I asked if she wanted by name or any other information, the answer was no, she could tell by caller ID that I was from AZ and that was all she needed. I did tell her to expect additional calls, for my conversations to be posted on multiple blogs to make people away of Kyl’s positions and, most importantly, to be ready for change in the GOP because change is indeed coming!
Later in the day I did see a quote from McCain where he said, “I don’t think it would be outrageous to ask for a bill that we haven’t seen to be read” concerning the healthcare bill. Maybe McCain is starting to get he message or getting concerned about his reelection. I had no success in getting through to McCain’s DC staff today. If there was been a change in the GOP position it is too little too late. If they had done this from the beginning we would not be having these conversations.
Dec 22, 2009
I got my bud Greg at McRINO’s DC staff again. When I asked why McRINO changed his position on the HC bill I got the “he has always been against it, he never wanted it to pass.” So I went through all the answers from the DC staff documenting that McRINO wanted to improve the bill and pass HC not kill it. After 10 minutes of Greg sticking to his talking points I told him that John can talk till he’s blue in the face, we watch what he does and he did not try to “kill the bill” any more than did the rest of the GOP Senators. Everyone was treating this like a bad hand of cards at the country club. When I got into John’s 2010 primary run Greg kept trying to have me call his campaign group. “Why would I do that?”, I asked him since John has shown us he is not worthy of our support, so rather than try to get any more answers from John my role now is to align the PC’s and the party against McRINO and for his competition. At this point Greg kept pushing me to either talk to McRINO campaign staff or to talk to a senior staffer in his DC office. When I got passed to Chris in his DC office, Chris‘ mailbox was full. Image that.
So folks, enough on the wimp and the RINO. Its time to move out and bounce McCain out in the 2010 primary.
Dec 24, 2009
Formal request for meetings with PC’s from multiple counties were sent to Sen. Kyl and Sen. McCain to discuss their inadequate actions on healthcare and other horrific legislation pushed by the liberal left. I was one of four people coordinating the meeting request for a very large group of PC’s that were appalled with the positions and performance of our Senators.
VIA EMAIL to Lois Halverson (602) 952-8702 , Dec. 24, 2009
Re: Precinct Committeemen Request for Meeting with Sen. McCain
Dear Ms. Halverson,
Thank you for your time this morning on the phone. I hereby request, on behalf of many like-minded Republican Party precinct committeemen, a meeting with Sen. McCain as soon as possible. We would like Sen. McCain to hear our thoughts regarding the utterly unacceptable performance of Sen. McCain and the GOP to kill the Democratic healthcare bill which ultimately passed the Senate today without effective opposition.
You told me that you believed Sen. McCain would not be available for any such meeting until after January 13, 2010. Meanwhile, I and other precinct committeemen around the state will try to provide you with the numbers of precinct committeemen we believe will want to attend a meeting with Sen. McCain if he will make himself available to us. You have already heard from Dan for Maricopa County. I’m coordinating Pinal County and assisting with Pima and Cochise Counties. We hope Sen. McCain will make the time to meet with the base of the party before we complete our consideration of which candidates we will support in the 2010 primary.
A similar request was sent to Sen. Kyl. The formal requests have been followed up with repeated phone calls, emails, etc. since. While there have been multiple conservations with the schedulers of both Senators the request to meet with the PC’s has been ignored by both of them.
Jan 11, 2010
After much pushing I heard from Elizabeth, Kyl’s schedule, late Friday 1/8. The conversation got heated. I have not been called Sir so many times by one person in years. She brought up the “he did everything” and I beat back with “Kyl did not and he lied to us”. I referenced Sen. Gregg’s minority rights letter and asked if Kyl had done everything Gregg had listed, objections to unanimous consents, hard quorum calls, etc. Liz said she had never seen it. I faxed it to her and now she has seen it but facts are facts and Jon did not do what he could have, not by any measure.
Liz said meeting next week with Kyl is “very unlikely” but it is not no yet. Kyl will be at the Tucson Tea Party 1/13 but Liz said that that has been in the works for weeks. Our request has also been in the works for weeks as well. Today Kyl seemed to have time as he was at the Phoenix studio of KYFI, 550 AM, and spent 1.5 hours on the air with Barry Young. If we don’t get a meeting with Kyl before the end of this recess that tells me all I need to know regarding our junior Senator.
Nothing from Lois Halverson’s regarding a meeting with McCain. I think we consider that one done and just plan to put McRINO out to pasture in the primary.
Jan 16, 2010 – Pinal County GOP Mandatory Meeting
At the mandatory meeting for Pinal Count GOP Precinct Committeemen Sen. McCain was a guest speaker and did Q&A with the PC’s. Early on in the meeting the Senator came by and shook my hand. Later on I was one of the first people selected to ask the Senator a question I started off framing the question with “Senator, for the last month PC’s from five counties have been asking to meet with you to discuss healthcare and other critical legislation. We have faxed, emailed, called …” At which point Sen. McCain cut me off and told me how busy he was, didn’t I know he was in Afganistan, didn’t I know, and on and on … Microphone in hand he castigated me for even beginning to think that a month was enough time for him to meet with a large group of his GOP PC’s.
I then went on “Senator, let me just ask one of the questions we PC’s wanted to discuss with you. Throughout the month of December your DC staff said repeatedly and consistently that you wanted to improve the healthcare bill and pass healthcare reform …” At this point the Senator went ballistic and went right into Alinsky 13 with “That’s not True!” We went back a forth a few time with me trying to get to complete framing my question to which he loudly responded “That’s not true” calling me a liar. He then went on with “Didn’t you hear me on MSNBC, CNN …” running down a litany of the shows he used to get free press and telling people that what I had said his staff told me was not true. It was obvious he did not want me to get to my question and was determined to make it about me and not the topic. I held up my hands indicating that I was done. Our Chairman got on his microphone to calm things down.
What happened to me set the pattern for the rest of McCain’s Q&A. If he didn’t like the question he personally attacked the individual asking it. If he liked the question he would be courteous and wax on and on with a long answer. At the end of the meeting multiple PC’s came up to me and told me that they had also talked with McCain’s DC staff in December and were told the exact same think I had been told repeatedly, that McCain wanted to improve the bill and pass healthcare legislation.
Jan 23, 2009 – AZ State GOP Mandatory Meeting
Kyl was disingenuous again. The one amendment (Sanders’) that one GOP Senator (Cobrun) objected to and forced to be partially read made the press everywhere. His claim that the GOP forced the reading of the bill and the many amendments simply does not hold water as they would still be reading the bill and amendment today and, according to Kyl’s DC staff, would be reading past President’s Day and even possibly Easter. Coburn’s objection was the proverbial fig leaf of cover. Instead the GOP went for a country club arrangement of I’ll let yours go forward if we can look like we opposed it if we get to go next and look like we oppose raising the debt ceiling by $1.9 Trillion. We got saved by a miracle in Massachusetts and not by a no holds barred floor fight by the GOP. While Kyl is a good man in many ways he still does not get it that we expect to be told the truth, as hard as it may be, when we ask a question and not some well packaged spin.
Jan 27, – letter from Kyl and my response
I faxed the following response to Kyl’s Senate and campaign office again reiterating the request from 5 counties of PC’s that he meet with us.
Letter to Sen. Kyl
Re: Your letter dated 22 Jan 2010 (attached) regarding efforts to stop healthcare legislation and our longstanding request for a meeting between you and precinct committeemen from five counties.
Dear Sen. Kyl,
Thank you for your response. Since your response came from your campaign committee my letter will be faxed to both your Senate and campaign offices.
Your continued claim that Senate Republican employed every action possible to defeat the bill is and continues to be factually incorrect. Did the GOP take meaning action? Yes, and it is appreciated. Did the GOP indeed do everything they could within their rights? No. Not hardly. No matter how hard you try to spin it the claim of “we did everything we could” does not stand up to scrutiny. While the Democrats could have changed the rules of the Senate while they held a 60 vote super majority the likelihood of that occurring was virtually nil so let us look at two of the key minority rights that the GOP failed to fully avail themselves of.
The most glaring is the objection to unanimous consent requests. Your own letter points out “One significant victory came after we forced the reading of Senator Sanders’ 767-page amendment, proposing a single-payer plan…’’ That one objection twisted the Democrats into a knot. Unfortunately it was the only objection of its type that was raised between the bill’s submittal to the floor and its passage on Dec 24. If the GOP had objected to the original bill and each and every amendment and forced their reading three times as allowed they would still be reading and it would not have gotten to a vote. In long conversations with your DC staff they confirmed that if this had been done the Democrats would have been reading legislation until after Presidents Day. Your staff further went on to agree that, in combination with hard quorum calls, this would have pushed any floor vote off until possibly as late as Easter. The honest claim you and the GOP can make is that “we did everything we were willing to do”.
Regarding the swing in the polls and public opposition you referred to, the primary driver for the change was not the GOP. It is and has clearly been the Tea Party movement along with other grassroots conservative activism groups through activities visible to the public and press and behind the scenes activity on the internet and social media that have caused the swing in the polls on healthcare and other issues. While the GOP did voice its concerns they were not the primary mechanism that drove public opinion, made town halls and other public settings hell for Democrats starting in this past summer or closed the deal on “the miracle in Massachusetts”.
Your response to me on your and the GOP Senate’s action on healthcare is a clear illustration of why 75% of Republican feel their congressmen are out of touch with them and why in a three way Rasmussen poll the Tea Party leads with 41% of people viewing it favorably and the GOP is dead last. Tea Party Patriots have a clear and consistent message of constitutional conservatism. The Democrats get their one third from the liberal left. No one knows what a Republican is today because their words do not match their deeds and their actions do not match the party’s conservative platform. It’s that simple.
Senator, I believe you are basically a good man and public servant but political spin answers are not acceptable to me as either your constituent or as a Republican precinct committeemen. For over a month I and several other precinct committeemen representing a large group of PC’s from five counties have asked to meet with you to discuss our concerns over how healthcare and other critical Democratic legislation has been handled. We faxed in our requests to your Arizona scheduler as asked. We followed up with multiple calls and have been ignored. Trying to discuss and deal with these concerns of our constituents and the party by trading letters is ineffective and untimely. You elected not to meet with us. That is your choice. Choices, like elections, come with consequences good and bad. Our request to meet with you still stands opens at this time. We hope you reconsider our request and your decision.
Feb 2, 2010
After almost two month we continue to ask to meet with our two Senators to no avail. The GOP is still trying to claim that it was the primary reason healthcare legislation has not been passed yet. So, rather than beat the dead horse we are moving on the deal with Senator McCain in the primary and fix our RINO problem one office at a time.