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Mike Johanns Votes To Hold Middle Class Tax Cuts Hostage

On July 25, 2012, the Senate held up-or-down votes on two competing tax plans: the Republican plan, which would have kept Bush-era tax breaks in place for everyone - including the wealthy, and the Democratic plan, which would extend tax breaks for all income up to $250,000. The GOP plan was rejected by a 54 to 45 margin, but the Democratic proposal passed 51 to 48. The votes by Nebraska's Senators followed partisan lines. Senate Ben Nelson voted for the Democratic proposal and against the GOP proposal, while Senator Mike Johanns voted with his party.

What the votes by Senator Johanns mean is that he will not vote for the tax cuts for the middle class unless the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy are extended as well. In other words, Johanns is willing to hold hostage the middle-class tax cuts for 98% of Americans and nearly every small business owner in order to provide tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans. The last thing a typical middle class family can afford is a $2,200 tax hike at the beginning of next year.

Johanns rationalized his irresponsible votes by contending that, "A massive tax increase will drive our economy to its knees and bring about another recession." It's pretty evident here that Johanns is woefully ignorant of recent economic history. As I've discussed here before, every Republican predicted in 1993 that raising the top marginal tax rate to 39.6% would cause a recession. Rolling back the Bush tax cuts for those who make over $250,000.00 per year would bring back that top marginal rate of 39.6%

I would like to take this occasion to give Mr. Johanns a little history lesson. After the 1993 tax increase on the wealthy, the Republicans were proven to be dead wrong. The country experienced its greatest peacetime economic boom in history. On the other hand, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy that Johanns supports were an abject failure. Bush had the worst job creation record since Herbert Hoover and the economy collapsed in 2008.

Senator Johanns has a history of voting against middle class tax cuts.

As recently as December 2011, Johanns voted against a Social Security payroll tax cut that only benefited the middle class. (Senator Nelson voted in favor of it.) Mr. Johanns' opposition to middle class tax cuts exposes an inconvenient truth about the priorities of today's GOP. If the wealthy don't get a tax cut, Johanns will simply allow taxes to go up on the middle class. Johanns and the Republican Party once again have demonstrated whose side they are on. What these votes means is that there is nothing that the GOP and Johanns won't do to assist the wealthy - even at the expense of the middle class.

Dennis Crawford is our newly elected 2nd Associate Chair. He will begin serving his term on the NDP's executive board at the first State Central Committee meeting following November's election. Thank you to Dennis for his contribution to the NDP's blog.


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Bob Kerrey Is The True Fiscal Conservative

In the U.S. Senate campaign, Deb Fischer and the Republicans have made a big issue about a constitutional amendment requiring that the federal budget be balanced. They've criticized Senator Kerrey's opposition to this amendment and have touted Fischer's support for it. Just what is contained in the balanced budget amendment supported by Fischer? What is Kerrey's record on fiscal issues? The answers are very revealing.

Earlier this year, Ms. Fischer endorsed the GOP's balanced budget amendment to the Constitution which they have slickly labeled: "Cut, Cap, and Balance." However, what Fischer hasn't told you is that this extreme proposal would result in big cuts to Social Security and Medicare as well as lock in the failed Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.

One thing crucial feature of "Cut, Cap and Balance" is that it requires a 2/3 super majority before any tax increase is approved. Simply stated, this 2/3 super majority requirement makes it impossible for any President or Congress to reverse any of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Another feature of "Cut, Cap and Balance" that Fischer hasn't mentioned is that this proposal caps federal spending at levels not seen since the 1960s. This provision capping spending combined with the requirement that any tax increase must be approved by 2/3 of the Congress would require huge cuts in Social Security and Medicare. Economists say that assuming defense spending wasn't cut (the GOP steadfastly opposes cuts in defense spending), we'd have to cut around 25% from these programs or over $500 billion in order to reduce federal spending to levels we haven't seen for over 40 years.

If Fischer supports a balanced budget, why doesn't she just propose one and tell us how she would cut $1 trillion from the federal budget? Instead, Fischer seems to content to run a cynical and cowardly campaign
where she refuses to take any specific stands on the issues and is counting on the Super PACs to destroy Bob Kerrey with deceptive ads financed by out of state special interest groups.

Unlike Ms. Fischer, Senator Kerrey has actually shown real courage in his career when it comes to budget issues. It's true that Senator Kerrey voted against a GOP balanced budget amendment to the Constitution in 1997.  However, Kerrey made tough and courageous choices in his Senate career that helped bring about the last balanced budgets we had between 1998-2000.

In 1990, Kerrey supported a budget plan sponsored by President George H.W. Bush that both cut spending and raised taxes. Three years later, during the first year of Bill Clinton's Presidency, Kerrey once again supported an unpopular budget that consisted of spending cuts and tax increases. In 1993, every Republican opposed President Clinton's budget plan - claiming it would cause a deep recession.

Just how did those Republican predictions of doom and gloom play out? As we know, they were dead wrong. What followed the passage of the 1993 Clinton budget package was the greatest peacetime economic boom in U.S. history. During the Clinton Presidency, 22 million new jobs were created, unemployment declined from 7% to 3%, median family income rose, and poverty declined to its lowest rate in 20 years. The Clinton budget also converted what was then the largest budget deficit in American history to the largest surplus.

If Fischer and the Republicans want to have a debate this year about fiscal policy, I say bring it on. We Democrats will defend Kerrey's courageous votes in favor of deficit reduction plans proposed by Presidents of both parties over Fischer's advocacy of yet more tax cuts for the wealthy and big cuts to Social Security and Medicare any day of the week. What this tells the voters is that Bob Kerrey's judgment on economic issues is vastly superior to that of Deb Fischer and that he is the only true fiscal
conservative in this race.

Dennis Crawford is our newly elected 2nd Associate Chair. He will begin serving his term on the NDP's executive board at the first State Central Committee meeting following November's election. Thank you to Dennis for his contribution to the NDP's blog.




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Fischer’s refusal to debate, reliability on website raises questions

With the recent announcement of a debate date between senatorial candidates Deb Fischer and Bob Kerrey for August 25th at the Nebraska State Fair, a resounding question has been raised- what took so long?
Since the May 15 primary, there have been no debates held between Kerrey and Fischer. In June, the perfect opportunity for a debate came up with a request from Cornhusker Boys and Girls State. Kerrey accepted the invitation, but Fischer declined with little explanation for her refusal.

Another refusal from Fischer to debate came at the beginning of July. Following the Supreme Court's historic decision to uphold President Barack Obama's health care reform law, Kerrey requested a debate specifically centered on health care. Fischer refused, explaining, "I don't think it's necessary to have one specific debate on health care. That's just one of many issues Nebraskans are concerned about," according to

What happened to the Fischer who claimed, "I hope we have a lot of debates... We had 7 debates [in the primary] and I was the only candidate at all seven," on March 1 during a KLIN DTL Radio Interview? What about the Fischer who stated on March 5th on the KFAB Good Morning Show that "We need to be talking about the issues. I plan to be at every debate I'm invited to?"

That Fischer has been replaced by the Deb Fischer who claims she does not need to debate because she has a campaign website. As Fischer told KHAS TV, "people know my positions. As I said, I have been out debating a number of times. I have a website where we have had it up and have had positions up since November and December. So people can go to that website, too."

Fischer's downright refusals to debate raise serious questions about her ability to perform in a live debate platform. However, with surely no invitations to be accepted by Fischer in the near future, it seems we will be in the dark until August 25th, when both candidates will finally take the stage to debate. Until then, it seems, we'll just have to keep checking Fischer's catch-all website. Get your browsers ready!


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Where Are the Jobs? Part 2

Where Are The Jobs?
Part Two

In Part One of our series, we analyzed how President Obama turned around the economy with the 2009 stimulus bill. The economy went from losing 700,000 jobs per month when Bush left office to a point where it has been creating around 90,000 jobs per month over the last quarter. As we discussed the economy is still growing slowly and there is still more work to do. Just what is holding it back? Why does the economy continue to grow slowly?

A big factor that is seldom discussed is that there have been huge layoffs of state and local employees since 2008. According to U.S. Department of Labor statistics, approximately 600,000 public sector employees have been laid off over the last four years. If it wasn't for all of those public sector layoffs, the unemployment rate would currently be around 7%.

Interestingly enough, 70% of those layoffs have occurred in states controlled by the Republicans. Moreover, the Republicans in the Congress have consistently opposed legislation that would send federal financial assistance to the states to reduce the number of those layoffs.

Another action that has weakened the economy was the Republicans' refusal to raise the debt ceiling until the 11th hour in 2011. This bogus crisis invented by the Republicans caused a huge drop in consumer confidence in the summer of 2011. That plunge in consumer confidence snuffed out a promising recovery in early 2011. In the first four months of 2011, the economy was creating an average of over 200,000 jobs per month. That job creation plunged after the Republicans threatened to default on our country's obligations.

An additional cause of the slow growth in jobs is the Republicans' refusal to allow an up or down vote on President Obama's American Jobs Act. This promising jobs plan totals around $450 billion in tax cuts and new infrastructure spending. This plan includes more than $250 billion in tax incentives for small businesses and employers. The rest of the money would be devoted to infrastructure spending, state aid and unemployment insurance.

Several leading and influential economists believe that Obama's plan would actually help the economy. The payroll tax cuts included in the bill are "very powerful," says Allen Sinai, chief economist of Decision Economics. "They provide a boost to direct income and, in turn, spending, which is important to growth." Mark Zandi, a former McCain economic adviser, estimates that the president's plan would boost economic growth by 2 percentage points, add 2 million jobs and reduce unemployment by a full percentage point next year compared with existing law.

When you add it all up, the Republicans' continued obstruction of President Obama's economic agenda has caused a sluggish economy and an unemployment rate of around 8.2%. In the absence of the Republicans, the unemployment could be 7% or maybe even as low as 6%. If that had occurred, we would be talking about "Morning in America" and President Obama would be headed to landslide re-election victory.

On several occasions, Senator Ben Nelson has correctly said that it's time to end the "job killing gridlock." It's pretty obvious that the Republicans are playing a dangerous game of politics with our nation's still too weak economy. It's time for the Republicans to put aside their partisan political considerations and work with President Obama and Senator Nelson to work out a compromise and pass some helpful economic legislation to put our people back to work. There are plenty of ideas in the American Jobs Plan that Republicans have supported in the past. It's time for the Republicans to cease prioritizing President Obama's job and put the needs of the American people first.

Dennis Crawford is our newly elected 2nd Associate Chair. He will begin serving his term on the NDP's executive board at the first State Central Committee meeting following November's election. Thank you to Dennis for his contribution to the NDP's blog.


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Where Are The Jobs?

Part one of a two part series.

Over the last three months, the economy has created around 75,000 to 80,000 jobs per month.  That slow growth has caused the Republicans to criticize President Obama's economic policies and make claims that they could somehow do better.  Just how did we get here?  How did this all begin?

Let's first take a little trip down memory lane.  In 2001 and 2003, Bush and the then GOP controlled Congress cut taxes and claimed that these tax cuts would pay for themselves and create 200,000 jobs per month. Approximately 38% of the Bush tax cuts went to the top 1% of income earners.

As we all know now, the Bush tax cuts were a disaster.  According to the Rupert Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal, Bush had the worst jobs creation record since Herbert Hoover.  Only 3 million jobs or 31,000 jobs per month were created during the Bush Presidency.  (In contrast, 22 million jobs were created during the eight years of the Clinton Administration when tax rates were higher.)

The recession officially began in November 2007.  Subsequently, the economy collapsed in 2008 and the U.S. faced it's most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression.  By the time President Obama took office, the economy was losing 700,000 jobs per month.

President Obama responded by proposing and convincing the Congress to pass - with Senator Ben Nelson's support - the 2009 stimulus bill.  This landmark legislation invested $831 billion in the U.S. economy.  Something like $288 billion of the stimulus bill consisted of tax cuts for the American people.  It was the biggest middle class tax cut in history.

How did the Republicans respond to this crisis?  As we all know, they did everything they could to obstruct legislation that would create jobs - almost every Republican voted against the stimulus bill.  Rush Limbaugh gave the game away in 2009 when he said that he wanted President Obama to "fail" and that he hoped the stimulus bill would "prolong" the recession.

As it turned out,  the stimulus bill was a success.  Three non-partisan sources have said that the stimulus bill prevented a Depression and ended the recession.  The horrible job losses that President Obama inherited ended in early 2010, shortly after the stimulus bill took effect.  Over the last 28 months, the economy has created more than 4.4 million private sector jobs.

Even though the economy is much better now than it was in January 2009, we Democrats know there is more work to do to continue to improve the economy.  The economy continues to grow at a rate that is too slow.

Why does the economy continue to grow slowly?  Just what is holding it back?  Just how does President Obama plan to improve job growth?  That will be addressed in part two of this series.

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Nebraska House Republicans Vote To Raise Seniors' Medical Expenses, Strip Insurance Coverage From Thousands of Nebraskans and Raise Taxes

What the House vote to repeal the ACA will really do to Nebraskans.


Today, Representatives Jeff Fortenberry, Lee Terry and Adrian Smith voted for the 31st time to repeal Obama Care.  For these out of touch Nebraska House Republicans with excellent taxpayer financed health insurance policies, this is just a political game. For thousands of Nebraskans, though,the repeal of Obama Care would be devastating.

Currently, 18,000 more young adults (age 26 and under) in Nebraska are now insured through their parents' health insurance policies.  These Nebraska House Republicans have now voted 31 times to take this away.

Since this landmark law was enacted, 275,984  Nebraskans with Medicare have received free preventative care like colonoscopies or mammograms without co-pays. Early detection can save both lives and money. However, the Nebraska House Republicans voted to take this away.

Thus far, thanks to Obama Care, seniors in Nebraska have saved $24,948,340 in total prescription costs or an average $613 in savings per person. The Nebraska House Republicans just voted to raise seniors' prescription drug expenses.

Due to Obama Care, 266 Nebraskans previously uninsured because of a pre-existing condition are now insured.  Fortenberry, Terry and Smith just voted to strip them of their insurance coverage.

For responsible small business owners who are struggling with rising health care costs, the federal reforms give tax breaks on insurance coverage. But the Nebraska House Republicans just voted to raise their taxes. As we all know, the Nebraska House Republicans favor middle class tax increases and only support tax cuts that largely benefit the wealthy.

Thanks to the landmark 2010 health care reform law, the insurance industry will soon be sending out rebate checks totaling $1.2 billion to policy holders and consumers.  The rebates should average $127 for the people who should receive them.  Apparently, the Nebraska House Republicans would prefer that the insurance industry keep this money, instead of going to Nebraskans.

It's obvious that the Nebraska House Republicans are primarily interested in protecting the interests of the insurance industry and not the citizens that they purport to represent.  Their values are the values of Wall Street - not our values, not Nebraska values.

I call upon my fellow Democrats to work hard for our fine slate of Congressional candidates who will represent us - and not the large out of state corporations who finance the campaigns of Fortenberry, Terry and Smith.


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11 Simple Facts about Affordable Care Act

ObamaCares -- In A Nutshell

The 2010 Health Care Reform law is the most significant piece of social legislation since the passage of Medicare in 1965. How does it work? How does it impact the average person?

1. Obama Care will ultimately insure an additional 30 million people or up to 95% of the population.

2. Beginning in 2014, consumers who don't have insurance are required to purchase health insurance. If you already have insurance through your employer, Medicare, Medicaid, a government retirement program or the Veterans Administration, this requirement won't affect you.

3. What this means is that only 6% of the U.S. population today will have to go out and purchase health insurance because of the individual mandate or face a penalty. People who can't afford to purchase health insurance will receive financial help from the government to buy policies. The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that only 1.2% of the population will have to pay the penalty for failure to purchase health insurance.

4. Most of the health care reform law will be implemented in 2014, but the law already provides some benefits. Seniors are already saving hundreds of dollars per year on their prescription drug costs.
6.6 million young adults have insurance coverage because Obama Care allows children up to the age of 26 to remain on their parents' plan. 50,000 people with pre-existing conditions already have coverage. Later this year, consumers will receive $1.2 billion in rebate checks from the insurance industry. The Republicans want to take away all of these benefits.

5. Beginning in 2014, all pre-existing conditions clauses will be banned. The insurance industry will no longer be able to cancel your policy if you get sick. The law will end arbitrary lifetime limits on coverage found in many policies.

6. Millions of small businesses are already eligible for a tax credit to help pay for their health care premiums. The credit will increase to cover 50 percent of premium costs in 2014. The Republicans in their zeal to repeal Obama Care want to take this away and raise taxes on small businesses.

7. Obama Care will expand States' Medicaid programs. Under the law, the U.S. government will cover 100% of the cost for states to expand their Medicaid programs, scaling that back to 90% by 2020.
(Currently, the U.S. government pays an average of 57% of the cost of the Medicaid health program.)

8. Businesses and individuals will purchase insurance through exchanges that will be a market where Americans can one-stop shop for a health care plan, compare benefits and prices, and choose the plan that's best for them, in the same way that Members of Congress and their families can. The exchanges will give individuals and small businesses the bargaining power and choices that large businesses currently have.

9. The law allows health insurance policies to be sold across state lines when both states agree and consumer protections are maintained. (The Republicans favor the sale of insurance across state lines without any consumer protections.) Without the consumer protections included in Obama Care, there would be a race to the bottom in which insurers would have an incentive to sell plans from the state with fewest consumer protections.

10. There are no $500 billion in Medicare "cuts" in Obama Care. The law does not take $500 billion out of the current Medicare budget. Rather, the bill attempts to slow the program's future growth, curtailing just over $500 billion in future spending increases over the next 10 years. Moreover, many of the "cuts" are in the Medicare Advantage program - which is an insurance industry boondoggle. As a matter of fact, Medicare spending will still increase.

11. There are no death panels.



Dennis Crawford is our newly elected 2nd Associate Chair. He will begin serving his term on the NDP's executive board at the first State Central Committee meeting following November's election. Thank you to Dennis for his contribution to the NDP's blog.

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Deb Fischer - Welfare Rancher

Calculations Made by the Nebraska Democratic Party Showing How Much Deb Fischer has Underpaid for her Federal Grazing Rights

The following link is for a table showing the specifics of the calculations that were made.



The source documents used to make the calculations can be found here:


Source Documents


Included are U.S. Forest Service documents obtained via a FOIA request for Deb Fischer’s Sunny Slope Ranch which show fees paid and actual grazing usage and on public lands, as well as UNL and USDA reports that were used to determine private grazing rental rates.

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The Buck Stops Here!

Dennis Crawford is our newly elected 2nd associate Chair. He will begin serving his term on the NDP's executive board at the first State Central Committee meeting following November's election. Thank you to Dennis for his contribution to the NDP's blog.

Harry Truman said, "If You Want To Live Like a Republican, Vote Democratic."

That's what Harry Truman said back during the 1940s when he was President. Why would Truman say such a thing? Does that hold true today? Those are good questions because the perceived conventional wisdom among many pundits in the mainstream media and the GOP is that Republicans are better for the overall economy than Democrats because they are allegedly more business friendly. However, as in many other instances, the conventional wisdom is wrong. The history of the last 50 years demonstrates that the economy performs much better for all Americans when a Democrat occupies the White House.

A recent report from Bloomberg News Services shows that since John F. Kennedy took office in January 1961, non-government payrolls in the U.S. increased by almost 42 million jobs under Democrats, compared with 24 million for Republican presidents, according to Labor Department figures. Democrats hold the edge even though they occupied the Oval Office for 23 years since Kennedy's inauguration, compared with 28 for the Republicans. Through April 2012, Democratic presidents accounted for an average of 150,000 additional private-sector paychecks per month over that period, more than double the 71,000 average for Republicans. In other words, almost two-thirds of private-sector job growth in the past five decades occurred when we had Democratic Presidents.

What about the stock market? Has it performed better when we've had Republican Presidents since the Republicans promote themselves as the friendliest party for Wall Street? The answer to that question is a flat no. Many people will probably be surprised to find out that stock investors do much better when Democrats occupy the White House. From a dollars- and-cents standpoint, it's not even close.

Another recent survey by Bloomberg News service indicates that, over the five decades since John F. Kennedy was inaugurated, $1,000 invested in a hypothetical fund that tracks the Standard & Poor's 500 Index (SPX) only when Democrats are in the White House would have been worth $10,920 in 2012. A $1,000 stake invested in a fund that followed the S&P 500 under Republican presidents, starting with Richard Nixon, would have grown to $2,087 on the day George W. Bush left office. Similarly, investing $1,000 in funds that mirror the Dow Jones Industrial Average under the same conditions, Democratic investors would have had $7,550, versus $2,716 under Republicans.

Just what has led to this vast superior economic performance when we've Democratic Presidents? Is it just a bizarre coincidence as the Republicans would lead you to believe? (Was it just a coincidence that Nebraska won all of those football games in the Devaney-Osborne era?) I would submit that the superior economic performance is due to the vastly different strategies the two respective parties pursue regarding economic policy.

The Republicans aren't pro-business - they are pro-big business.

That's a big difference because what's in the interest of big business and the wealthy isn't what's good for the overall economy. The GOP strategy is to give the wealthy and corporations big tax cuts and relaxed regulation, and hope that something good happens down the road. That strategy clearly failed during the Bush Administration and it's apparent that Romney and the Republicans are promising more of the same if they should win the elections.

We Democrats recognize that 70% of economic activity is generated by consumer spending. If you want to have a healthy, growing economy, you need to have confident consumers with money to spend. That's why we believe economic growth begins with the middle class. Our support of middle class tax cuts, student loans, Pell grants and infrastructure projects increases middle class spending power and puts them in a position to purchase the goods and services produced by the so-called "jobs creators."

Harry Truman was right. History clearly demonstrates that if you want to live like a Republican, you should vote Democratic. What this means for all of us is that we need to get out and work hard for our excellent slate of Democratic candidates here in Nebraska. Our economic future depends upon the outcome of the 2012 elections.




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I'm Stunned

Dennis Crawford is our newly elected 2nd associate Chair. He will begin serving his term on the NDP's executive board at the first State Central Committee meeting following November's election. Thank you to Dennis for his contribution to the NDP's blog.

I'm stunned and almost speechless. Earlier today, the U.S. Supreme Court voted by a 5-4 margin to affirm the constitutionality of Health Care Reform. In the most surprising development, Chief Justice Roberts voted with Breyer, Bader-Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan in finding that the individual mandate is constitutional under the Congress' power to tax.

What does this decision mean and what comes next?

This decision means that 6.6 million young people will be able to stay on their parents' health insurance policies, 50,000 people with pre-existing conditions will maintain their health insurance coverage, seniors will continue to receive discounts on their prescription drug expenses, and the insurance industry will be required to send out $1.2 billion in rebate checks later this year. This decision allows 30 million people to maintain hope that they will be covered by 2014.

In practical terms, the Supreme Court's land mark decision affirming Health Care Reform will help the mother with a child who has leukemia. The recent college grad who's unemployed and thinking about making a doctor's appointment. The grandfather who isn't sure if he'll be able to afford the prescription medication he needs. The middle-class family who isn't sure if they'll be able to keep their home if their medical bills broach the lifetime cap "Obamacare" eliminated.

What does this mean and what comes next? We have won an important battle but we haven't won the war. The GOP - in a rather startling flip flop - hoped to repeal Health Care Reform by judicial fiat. Apparently, the GOP didn't have a problem with five unelected judges in Washington with taxpayer financed health insurance policies winning a battle in the courts for them after they lost at the ballot box in 2006 and 2008. The bottom line here is that the GOP - instead of repealing Health Care Reform by relying upon unelected judges - must instead obtain the repeal of Health Care Reform by winning the elections this year. That's the way it should be.

Health Care Reform won't be fully implemented until 2014. I predict that once Health Care Reform is fully implemented, it will be successful and prove to be popular. That's why the GOP is so desperate to repeal it. The GOP is now in a race against time - this year's elections constitute their last chance to repeal Health Care Reform.

In order to preserve Health Care Reform, Nebraska Democrats must redouble our efforts to re-elect President Obama and elect Bob Kerrey, Korey Reiman, John Ewing and Mark Sullivan. If we are to finally provide access to health care and health insurance to all Americans, we must win these elections. The GOP has promised to make the repeal of Health Care Reform its first order of business in 2013 if they win the elections this year. Now let's get to work and preserve this great victory for the American people!

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