Bingaman says he’s confident Obama will be re-elected

CNJ staff photo: Tony Bullocks Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., answers questions Wednesday during an interview at the Clovis New Journal.

Kevin Wilson

Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., is glad he doesn’t have to face a re-election bid this year, but he’s confident President Barack Obama will win his two years down the road.

Bingaman talked about upcoming legislation, recent legislation, the difficulties of the filibuster and this year’s election during a stop at the Clovis News-Journal offices Wednesday afternoon.

The Senate is in recess until Sept. 13, at which point Bingaman is hopeful work can resume on a small business tax package.

The package “is intended to help small businesses, also provide some tax incentives for accelerated depreciation of items they purchased, for example. It increases the amounts the Small Business Administration can guarantee in loans to small businesses.

“There is $30 billion taken from the stimulus package that then is made available to healthy community banks on the condition they loan that out in order to stimulate more lending to small business. That’s one package that needs to be done, I’m hoping we’re able to do it.”

However, a stumbling block has been reaching 60 votes on legislation since Republican Scott Brown claimed the Massachusetts Senate seat formerly held by the late Ted Kennedy. Democrats hold 59 votes in the Senate, including independent Sen. Joe Lieberman, who caucuses with the party.

Bingaman blamed “fairly entrenched Republican opposition” for the difficulties, and noted complications with some nominees from the president.

“I was listening yesterday to an interview on the radio with our ambassador to Iraq, Chris Hill,” Bingaman said. “It reminded me of how many months we had to struggle for Republicans to let us bring up the confirmation of Chris Hill as our ambassador. He’s about to retire in another month. He is a very respected foreign service officer, he’s had a very distinguished career in the state department, through Democratic and Republican administrations, had been our ambassador to Korea. There was no reason in the world he shouldn’t have been approved readily to be our ambassador to Iraq once the president nominated him.”

Regarding Democratic senators who break ranks on legislation, Bingaman said the general election should “reshuffle the cards” and some of those senators might not be swing votes in the 112th Congress.

Polls indicate Democrats will lose seats in November, typical for a midterm election in a president’s first term. Bingaman, who rode a wave election in 2006 to an easy victory, will not be one of them.

“I think anyone who’s in this office feels the same way if they’re not on the ballot this fall,” Bingaman said, noting that voters are frustrated about the economy.

Discussing health care legislation, Bingaman said the more people are finding out about the bill, the less popular candidates will find a candidacy of repealing the measure. He said a repeal attempt is unlikely, since he thinks Obama will be re-elected and building a veto-proof vote would be difficult.

Bingaman said he would support an effort from Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., to change Senate rules in the next session to require simple majority votes, but said Udall “has not gotten into the weeds as far as the details of what he wants brought about.”