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“Will The Voters Listen?”: The Tape Doesn’t Lie; Mitch McConnell Is Serious About Another Shutdown

One week ago, when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) gave an interview vowing that a Republican Senate majority would attach partisan riders to spending bills in an effort to blackmail President Obama into rolling back his agenda — a tactic that would almost certainly lead to another government shutdown — his campaign tried to walk back his remarks.

“Evidently Alison Lundergan Grimes’ interpretation of how the U.S. Senate works is that senators must rubber-stamp President Obama’s agenda or the government shuts down,” McConnell spokeswoman Allison Moore said in response to the Democratic candidate’s critique of McConnell’s strategy. “Unlike Grimes’ commitment to the Obama agenda, Senator McConnell will fight for Kentucky priorities whether the president is interested in them or not.”

But new audio obtained by The Nation confirms that McConnell meant exactly what he said. In a June 15 speech to a Republican donor conference led by Charles and David Koch, McConnell was secretly recorded laying out largely the same case that he pitched to Politico last week:

So in the House and Senate, we own the budget. So what does that mean? That means that we can pass the spending bill. And I assure you that in the spending bill, we will be pushing back against this bureaucracy by doing what’s called placing riders in the bill. No money can be spent to do this or to do that. We’re going to go after them on health care, on financial services, on the Environmental Protection Agency, across the board (inaudible). All across the federal government, we’re going to go after it.

To be clear: If Republicans load must-pass appropriations bills with riders to undo the Affordable Care Act, the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, or any other key Democratic achievements, President Obama will veto them. Unless Republicans relent, the government will shut down. McConnell’s campaign (and some impartial observers like Bloomberg View columnist Jonathan Bernstein) may claim that that isn’t the minority leader’s intent, but without the shutdown threat, Republicans would have no leverage to “go after” the Democratic agenda.

McConnell had plenty else to say at the Koch gathering (for example, he remarked that “the worst day of my political life was when President George W. Bush signed McCain-Feingold into law,” suggesting that campaign finance reform outranks 9/11 on his list of disasters). But the promise of more congressional brinksmanship will likely prove to be the key takeaway, given the obvious political implications.

Nobody should be surprised that McConnell is eager to escalate a confrontation with the White House. After all, he’s far from the only Republican to promise it. Earlier this week, Marco Rubio made similar remarks with regard to immigration. Over in the House, startlingly influential Rep. Steve King (R-IA) did the same.

Republicans are being quite honest about what the GOP would do with control of Congress. At this point, the only question is whether voters will listen.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, August 27, 2014

 

August 29, 2014 Posted by | Government Shut Down, Mitch Mc Connell, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The White Whale”: Empowering Captain Ahab To Shut Down The Federal Government

Maybe it’s just a coincidence, but yesterday, as part of his 180 degree turn on the topic, Sen. Marco Rubio was said to be “hinting” that Republicans might just, oh, shut down the government or something if Barack Obama took major executive action to expand (or even maintain) DACA. Today Rubio’s new ally on immigration policy, Steve King of Iowa, was more explicit, per a report from the Des Moines Register‘s Kathie Obradovich:

Congressman Steve King said today the threat of another government shutdown could be Republicans’ leverage to pass border security and immigration legislation this fall.

Congress must act before the end of September to either approve a budget or continue spending at current levels to avoid a government shutdown. House Speaker John Boehner has said he expects action on a short-term continuing resolution next month.

King, R-Kiron, said “all bets are off” on a continuing resolution if President Barack Obama follows through with reported plans to deal with immigration issues without Congress.

“If the president wields his pen and commits that unconstitutional act to legalize millions, I think that becomes something that is nearly political nuclear …,” King said. “I think the public would be mobilized and galvanized and that changes the dynamic of any continuing resolution and how we might deal with that….”

Even if Obama does not act unilaterally on immigration reform, King says he believes the continuing resolution is still a bargaining chip for GOP priorities. “When we hear some of our leaders say there will be no government shutdown, that’s the political equivalent of saying there will be no boots on the ground,” he said.

Now the congressional leadership probably won’t like this kind of talk. But like Rubio himself, they’ve pretty much delegated immigration policy to Steve King. So they can’t really complain if Captain Ahab thinks every conceivable issue in Washington is subordinate to bringing down the white whale.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 27, 2014

August 28, 2014 Posted by | Government Shut Down, Marco Rubio, Steve King | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“McConnell’s Genius Pitch”: Vote GOP, Get Another Shutdown

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is often hailed as one of Washington’s most tactically cunning politicians, and for the most part it’s true. But McConnell does have a serious political flaw: His tendency to actually tell the truth about those tactics.

Senator McConnell did it again in an interview with Politico, published on Wednesday. Previewing a Republican-controlled Senate, McConnell made it clear that he plans to escalate congressional confrontation with the president, potentially leading to another government shutdown:

In an extensive interview here, the typically reserved McConnell laid out his clearest thinking yet of how he would lead the Senate if Republicans gain control of the chamber. The emerging strategy: Attach riders to spending bills that would limit Obama policies on everything from the environment to health care, consider using an arcane budget tactic to circumvent Democratic filibusters and force the president to “move to the center” if he wants to get any new legislation through Congress.

In short, it’s a recipe for a confrontational end to the Obama presidency.

“We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy,” McConnell said in an interview aboard his campaign bus traveling through Western Kentucky coal country. “That’s something he won’t like, but that will be done. I guarantee it.”

When asked if this strategy could force a government shutdown, McConnell “said it would be up to the president to decide whether to veto spending bills that would keep the government open.”

“He could,” McConnell later said of the probability that President Obama would veto must-pass appropriation bills that are loaded with riders to undo policies that the White House supports. “Yeah, he could.”

It’s difficult to overstate what a horrible idea this is. Although some Republicans may not have noticed it, the last government shutdown was a debacle. The GOP’s hopeless effort to blackmail President Obama into defunding the Affordable Care Act failed miserably, wasting $24 billion and dragging Republicans’ poll numbers into the sewer along the way.

The poll numbers haven’t really recovered, but the combination of President Obama’s own political struggles and a very favorable electoral map still have them set up to make gains in 2014. In fact, Republicans have a good chance of winning the Senate. But promising to ramp up the brinksmanship that caused the last shutdown gives Democrats their best argument for why voters should deny Republicans full control of Congress.

Democrats recognize this, of course; numerous party leaders have already turned McConnell’s remarks against him, and they are certain to resurface in Democratic campaign pitches from now until November. Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Democrat giving McConnell the fight of his career in Kentucky’s Senate race, surely appreciates the minority leader’s Kinsley gaffe most of all.

If Republicans do manage to win the majority and follow through on McConnell’s threat, it would virtually guarantee that they don’t hold control for long. The 2016 Senate map is as favorable to Democrats as this year’s is to the GOP. It will be difficult enough for Republicans to hold on to seats in blue states like Florida, Illinois, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin; if they spend the next two years threatening vital services for the sole purpose of making a hopeless ideological stand, it will be nearly impossible.

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, August 21, 2014

August 22, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Government Shut Down, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The 2014 Midterms Do Matter”: McConnell Eyes More Shutdowns Following GOP Gains

It’s tempting to think the 2014 midterms may not matter much. Assuming Republicans keep their House majority, which seems very likely, the legislative process in 2015 and 2016 will probably look an awful lot like the legislative process since 2011 – congressional inaction. GOP lawmakers will continue to reject compromises and negotiations no matter who controls the upper chamber.

As this line of thought goes, the part that enjoys the Senate majority will have the power to watch the other party filibuster, and little more.

But there’s a flaw in these assumptions: if rewarded by voters with their first Senate majority in a decade, Republicans don’t intend to use their new-found congressional power to just spin their wheels. Manu Raju reports today that GOP leaders have a very different kind of plan in mind.

Mitch McConnell has a game plan to confront President Barack Obama with a stark choice next year: Accept bills reining in the administration’s policies or risk a government shutdown.

In an extensive interview here, the typically reserved McConnell laid out his clearest thinking yet of how he would lead the Senate if Republicans gain control of the chamber. The emerging strategy: Attach riders to spending bills that would limit Obama policies on everything from the environment to health care, consider using an arcane budget tactic to circumvent Democratic filibusters and force the president to “move to the center” if he wants to get any new legislation through Congress.

In short, it’s a recipe for a confrontational end to the Obama presidency.

McConnell told Politico, “We’re going to pass spending bills, and they’re going to have a lot of restrictions on the activities of the bureaucracy. That’s something [President Obama] won’t like, but that will be done. I guarantee it.”

There’s no reason to think this is campaign-season bluster. McConnell is more than comfortable making demonstrably false claims about public policy and his partisan rivals, but when it comes to process and legislative strategy, the Kentucky Republican is one of Capitol Hill’s most candid officials.

The result, however, is a curious pitch: just 76 days before this year’s midterm elections, the Senate’s top GOP leader wants the voting public to know that a vote for Republicans is a vote for government shutdowns.

Indeed, McConnell isn’t even being subtle about it. If his party is rewarded by voters in the fall, GOP senators, working with a Republican House majority, will add measures to spending bills that undo the progress of the last several years. If the White House refuses to go along, Republicans will simply shut down the government – yes, again – until the president gives the new GOP majority what it wants.

In other words, the 2014 midterms do matter. As ridiculous as Congress has become of late, McConnell has mapped out a deliberate strategy to make things considerably worse. The question isn’t whether he’ll follow through on his threats; the question is whether voters will empower him to do so.

Update: I should add that McConnell’s strategy is an interesting departure from four years ago, when GOP leaders suggested that they’d still govern if Republicans took the House majority. At the time, some pundits even believed them. Now, however, McConnell isn’t even bothering with the pretense.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 20, 2014

August 21, 2014 Posted by | Election 2014, Government Shut Down, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“As Dumb As It Is Predictable”: The Dumbest Thing The Right Is Saying About Sebelius’ Replacement

President Obama may have had troubles with the Healthcare.gov rollout, but he’s rolling out a replacement for departing Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius nicely. Appointing Sylvia Mathews Burwell, who was confirmed last year to head the Office of Management and Budget 96-0, virtually insures he’ll get someone into Sebelius’ seat before midterm politics heat up.

That doesn’t mean the right won’t try to throw garbage at the centrist and well-respected Burwell. On PJ Tatler today they’re calling her “the person who shut down the veterans’ memorials,” because as OMB chief, she signed the memo telling agencies “to execute plans for an orderly shutdown due to the absence of appropriations” when Sen. Ted Cruz and the GOP shut down the government last year.

You’ll recall that Cruz and the right had the audacity to blame Obama and the Democrats for the shutdown, which backfired on them spectacularly. But not before Cruz, Sarah Palin and a Confederate-flag-waving moron challenged the closure of the World War II veterans’ memorial with a protest that moved to the White House, where Larry Klayman told President Obama “to put the Quran down … and come out figuratively with your hands up.” Good times.

So yeah, they’re going to try that whole thing again, but it’s not going to work. (An aside: this NBC News story calls Burwell “the woman who ordered the government shutdown,” which at the time probably seemed like a feature writer’s flourish to pull people into a dull story about the OMB director, but in hindsight didn’t accurately describe the way the mess unfolded.)  Sen. John McCain immediately tweeted, “Sylvia Burwell is an excellent choice to be the next #HHS Secretary.” While righties are hoping that red state Democrats will turn on the woman who supposedly ordered the shutdown of veterans’ memorials, Sen. Joe Manchin praised Burwell’s appointment, too. (It probably helps that she’s from West Virginia.)

On the larger question of Sebelius’ legacy, we can only say that millions of people got health insurance, and millions more still need it. Ezra Klein trolled the right by declaring that it means “Obamacare has won,” which is pretty funny given that he helped lead the national freak-out over Healthcare.gov’s troubles back in October. Jonathan Cohn has a more balanced take in the New Republic. He acknowledges Sebelius’ management mistake in letting the federal exchange website’s troubles mount without letting the president know – there’s evidence she herself didn’t know – but he appropriately notes she’ll be remembered for the millions newly insured, particularly because she worked hard with Republican governors who bucked conservative constituencies to expand Medicaid.

Of course, confirming Burwell won’t mean the GOP stops trying to sabotage the Affordable Care Act. They had mostly stopped blaming Sebelius, because the new talking points say nobody could have made the law work, because by definition it can’t work. Having done everything in their power to insure it can’t work, which is literally costing American lives, they blame Obama for its shortcomings. However brilliant an HHS pick she may be, Sylvia Burwell can’t change that.

 

By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large, Salon, April 11, 2014

April 12, 2014 Posted by | DHHS, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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