This election season, there are really only a handful of House Republican incumbents who are in real trouble. Freshman Rep. Steve Southerland (R), who narrowly won in his North Florida district in 2012, is one of them.
In a district in which registered Democrats outnumber Republicans, it seems Southerland would be smart to play it safe and try to avoid alienating key constituencies. And yet, the GOP congressman seems to have a knack for pushing women voters away.
For example, Southerland was recently caught misleading voters about his vote on the Violence Against Women Act. Making matters worse, voters recently learned the conservative lawmaker hosted a men-only fundraising event a few months ago. The invitation, obtained by BuzzFeed, encouraged attendees to “tell the misses not to wait up” because “the after dinner whiskey and cigars will be smooth & the issues to discuss are many.”
Southerland’s opponent, school administrator Gwen Graham (D), criticized the fundraiser, prompting the congressman to make matters just a little worse.
Asked to respond to the Democrats’ criticism that he’s anti-women, Southerland laughed and said: “I live with five women. That’s all I’m saying. I live with five women. Listen: Has Gwen Graham ever been to a lingerie shower? Ask her. And how many men were there?”
He didn’t appear to be kidding. In Southerland’s mind, a sitting congressman hosting a policy discussion with donors is comparable to women hosting a “lingerie shower.”
Just as an aside, I’ll confess to having the exact same reaction to this as the Miami Herald’s Marc Caputo: “What’s a ‘lingerie shower?’ Most people know what baby showers are. And a few are probably familiar with lingerie shows. To combine the two is kinda creepy.” When a reader noted that “lingerie showers” are usually held for brides to be, Caputo added, “And that makes Southerland’s comment even less helpful to his cause.”
MSNBC’s Anna Brand talked to Gwen Graham’s campaign manager about Southerland’s comments.
Graham’s campaign manager Julia Gill Woodward responded to the comparison to msnbc, saying “This isn’t just stuff Steve Southerland says; given his pattern of troubling actions and disturbing comments, it is obviously what Steve Southerland believes. Southerland says these things out of a fundamental disrespect for women.”
“Only if Southerland disrespects women could he hold an official, Men-Only Southerland campaign fundraiser and laugh it off after the fact,” Woodward continued. “Only if Southerland disrespects women could he air TV ads claiming to have voted for The Violence Against Women Act while he actually voted against it in Congress. Only if Southerland disrespects women could he make this insulting ‘lingerie party’ comment about a woman like Gwen Graham.”
The DCCC’s interest in this race was strong before. I have a hunch it just got stronger.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 15, 2014
Five years into our so-called recovery, hunger in America remains stuck at a depressingly high level. The number of families who struggle to put food on the table has barely inched downward, even though employment is up. And while a majority of those struggling families are already receiving food stamps, one of the biggest ways we assist families in need, it’s just not enough, making hunger in America a very real and serious concern.
You would think a generous, wealthy country like the United States would have no problem bolstering an initiative designed to help the working poor in such dire times. Surely, you might think, there is bipartisan support for one of the most successful anti-poverty programs in the country. But in fact there has been bipartisan support for decreasing both the amount of food stamp money families receive and the number of families who receive them.
In any given month, roughly 46 to 47 million people receive food stamps. It’s highly likely that even more families are eligible to receive them, but don’t seek the help because they don’t believe they qualify, are reluctant to go through the hassle of applying, or are subtly or overtly discouraged from doing so by the caseworker they meet.
Food stamps help reduce hunger, but they don’t eliminate it. Estimates released by the United States Department of Agriculture last week show that 17.5 million families struggle to put food on the table, and 62 percent of them were already receiving food stamps. About 6.8 million of those families have so little money for food they skip meals or eat less than they should. Those numbers are about the same they were in the previous year.
The costs of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, as food stamps are officially known, went up to about $78 billion a year during the recession, mostly because more people were using them. The increase in use tracks pretty well with the rise in unemployment and poverty during the downturn. More people lost jobs or income, and so more people needed help feeding their children.
In response to the rising need, Congress bumped up the amount of money families got on their benefit cards when they passed the stimulus act in 2009. The reasons were multifold: more money would help struggling families buy more food, but it also meant they spent more at their grocery stores, keeping their local economies pumping. Each dollar spent by the government in food stamps generates about $1.70 in economic activity.
Then, in a rare show of bipartisanship, Democrats and Republicans teamed up to gut the program. As David Dayen reported in The American Prospect, the Democrats were the first to raid this piggy bank when they decided to use food-stamp funds to help pay for a state aid bill in 2010. The stimulus food-stamp boost was supposed to last until about 2016, but the changes the Democrats made meant the extra funding would end earlier, in 2014.
The food stamp program then lost $2.2 billion to help pay for a $4.5 billion increase in the school lunch bill in 2010. Blanche Lincoln, the former Democratic senator from Arkansas who was then chair of the Senate agriculture committee, designed this Robbing-Peter-to-pay-Paul move. It drew opposition from anti-hunger groups but the bill passed anyway, partly because it was a centerpiece of Michelle Obama’s newly launched Let’s Move campaign to fight childhood obesity.
After Democrats laid that foundation, the Republicans came in and began attacking the program. First, they let the stimulus boost expire, which that meant an average family of three receiving benefits lost $29 per month. The cuts went into effect November 2013, right before the holidays.
Next, the House Republicans in charge attacked the base funding itself. Food stamps are the biggest and most expensive component of the farm bill—an arcane piece of legislation that sets farm policy. Because of the 70 percent increase in food stamp spending since the last farm bill had passed, in 2008, House Republicans refused to pass this one when it first went up for a vote last year. It was the first time in history a farm bill failed, and it later passed without the food-stamp component. After the House finally did address nutrition spending and work with the Senate, the program emerged in February with $8.6 billion cut over the next 10 years, so it’s no wonder families are still going hungry.
To be fair, Democrats fought these final cuts to the program: House Republicans originally wanted to cut $40 billion and the Democrats brought that number down. Indeed, a few Democrats—like Jim McGovern of Massachusetts in the House and Kirsten Gillibrand of New York in the Senate—want to rescind cuts and provide even more food stamp funding. But even if they succeed, that money might be too tempting for their fellow party members to pass up the next time they want to spend cash on something else.
By: Monica Potts, The Daily Beast, September 8, 2014
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
“Rubio vs. Rubio On Immigration Reform”: His New Line Is The GOP Should Get 100% Of What It Wants Now, And Later
Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-Fla.) has a challenge for which there is no obvious answer. He helped write a popular, bipartisan immigration-reform bill, which his party’s base hates with the heat of a thousand suns. If the conservative Floridian abandons his own legislation, he looks craven and cowardly. If the senator stands by his work, the Republican base will reject him.
And so Rubio is left trying to distance himself from his own bill in a way that doesn’t make him look ridiculous. As we were reminded yesterday, it’s easier said than done.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) on Sunday said Congress “will never have the votes” for a comprehensive immigration bill without first addressing border security, urging a step-by-step approach to the issue.
“We will never have the votes necessary to pass a one, in one bill, all of those things,” said Rubio on “Fox News Sunday” about border security, a path to legalization and an overhaul of the nation’s immigration laws. “It just won’t happen.”
What’s wrong with this? Well, everything.
First, the whole point of comprehensive immigration reform, which Rubio championed as recently as last year, is to create a compromise framework that both parties could embrace: Republicans get increased border security; Democrats get a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who are already in the United States. Rubio’s new line is that the GOP should get 100% of what it wants now, and later, Republicans will think about Democratic priorities.
In other words, the senator has gone from endorsing a bipartisan compromise to endorsing a policy in which his party gets everything it wants in exchange for nothing but the promise of possible action at some point in the future.
Second, while Rubio 2013 believed Congress can and should pass his bipartisan legislation, Rubio 2014 insists his bill “just won’t happen” because “we will never have the votes.” But this too is at odds with what we know – by many estimates, if the House Republican leadership brought comprehensive immigration reform to the floor, it would pass. That assessment is shared by many from the left, right, and center, which is why GOP leaders refuse to allow the House to work its will.
When Rubio says the votes aren’t there, he arguably has it backwards – the bill passed the Senate easily, and would likely fare just as well in the House if given a chance.
As for the Florida Republican inching away from his own positions, Rubio remains in an awkward spot.
“Fox News Sunday” host Chris Wallace on Sunday challenged Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) to explain why he pulled his support for the Senate bipartisan immigration reform bill.
Wallace displayed polls showing Rubio’s favorability taking a hit since supporting the bill. “Is that why you have now switched and said we have to do this in stages with enforcement first and any dealing with legality or citizenship for the immigrants way down the line and afterward?” Wallace asked.
Rubio said his stance on immigration reform has nothing to do with politics.
Perish the thought.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 4, 2014
Get ‘em on record. Every last one of them. That’s what we need to do. Every single Republican presidential hopeful, Congressional leader, hell, any Republican who is running for federal or statewide office this fall needs to answer the question of whether or not there is a “war on whites” being waged right now by President Barack Obama. From where could such a preposterous idea come, you might ask? Where else, but from a House Republican?
“This is a part of the war on whites that’s being launched by the Democratic Party. And the way in which they’re launching this war is by claiming that whites hate everybody else…It’s part of the strategy that Barack Obama implemented in 2008, continued in 2012, where he divides us all on race, on sex, greed, envy, class warfare, all those kinds of things. Well that’s not true.”
That’s the truth according to Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama, who uttered those words in an interview with right-wing radio host Laura Ingraham on Monday. This is not a local, county official. This is not one of a half-dozen candidates for a congressional seat. This is a sitting U.S. congressman. Last year Brooks voted for John Boehner to be speaker of the House. Right now, we deserve to know whether Boehner thinks the president started a war on whites back in 2008. But we don’t want to hear just from Boehner. We must hear from all of them.
The time has come for each and every Republican to decide where he or she stands. They must come out into the open and either embrace the race-baiters, or throw them under the campaign bus. But understand this, when an Alabama conservative says that the black president and his party have been waging war against white people, he is channeling the spirit of George Wallace declaring “segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.” He is calling forth hatred. He is all but summoning violence.
Rational people know that there has been no actual legislation either proposed, supported, or passed by this president that has targeted white Americans as a racial group. Furthermore, as I’ve written elsewhere, Barack Obama has, through his words, sought to strengthen the bonds that bring all Americans together across racial lines in a way no previous president has done.
Mo Brooks is a hateful demagogue of the lowest order. That we know. What we don’t know is this: Are there any Republicans out there willing to stand up and reject his hate?
By: Ian Reifowitz, The Huffington Post Blog, August 7, 2014