“We’ve gone to the president and said, ‘Give us time to do immigration reform, to work on the issue this year. We want to get this done.’ And this is the reaction he has to that?” said Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), the 2012 vice presidential candidate. “He had two years with a super-majority of his own party, and he didn’t lift a finger. And now he won’t give us a few weeks?”
It takes a truly talented individual to pack in this many falsehoods into a single paragraph.
“Give us time to do immigration reform”? Well, Republicans have controlled the House for four years, during which time they haven’t even held so much as a hearing on a piece of legislation. More to the point, the Senate passed a popular, bipartisan immigration bill 512 days ago, and soon after, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) promised the lower chamber would act on the issue. The Republican leader then broke his word and killed the reform effort.
In other words, Obama gave Republican lawmakers “time to do immigration reform,” and the GOP did nothing. Does Ryan not remember this?
“He had two years with a super-majority of his own party”? Actually, no, Democrats had a super majority in the Senate for four months, not two years. It’s a big difference.
“He didn’t lift a finger”? Actually, Democrats tried to pass the DREAM Act, which used to be a bipartisan policy, when they controlled Congress. Republicans killed it with a filibuster.
“And now he won’t give us a few weeks?” Well, President Obama not only gave Republicans all kinds of time, he also received no guarantee – from Ryan or any other GOP leader – that another delay would lead to real legislation. So what in the world is Ryan talking about?
It gets worse. Ryan also complained this week that Obama’s decision to govern on immigration policy means Republicans won’t govern on their own priorities.
Lori Montgomery reported on Wednesday on Ryan’s plans, now that he’ll be chairing the House Ways & Means Committee.
An overhaul of the nation’s tax laws will also rank high on the agenda when Ryan (R-Wis.) takes the helm of the tax-writing panel in January.
“We’d like to do it sooner rather than later, but we don’t control everything,” Ryan said in an interview. He cited Obama’s longstanding refusal to roll out his own tax plan as well as the president’s recent decision to forge ahead with a unilateral ban on the deportation of some undocumented immigrants – a move that has inflamed Republicans.
Again, comments like these suggest Ryan just doesn’t remember current events very well. In reality, Obama presented a blueprint for tax reform and asked lawmakers to work on details that could pass both chambers. A bipartisan tax-reform plan came together, at which point, House Republicans killed it.
That’s not opinion. It’s just what happened.
Complicating matters, Ryan prefers a more right-wing version of tax reform than the one outgoing Ways & Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) unveiled, with Ryan’s version focused primary on – you guessed it – tax breaks for the wealthy.
Chait’s conclusion rings true: “It’s just bizarre for Ryan to lament that Obama’s plans to make immigration enforcement more humane is costing him the chance to cut taxes for the rich.”
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 22, 2014
“What The Keystone Vote Tells Us About The Democratic Party”: Republicans Succeeding In Defining What It Means To Be A Liberal
The bill to authorize construction of the Keystone pipeline failed to overcome a filibuster in the Senate last night by a single vote. Every Republican voted in favor, since support for the idea of sending Canadian oil to American refineries so it can be processed for sale overseas has become a core value of conservatism. But they were joined by 14 Democrats. And if we look at who those Democrats are, we can learn quite a bit about the state of their party.
Five of those Democrats are red-staters who discovered this year that “distancing” yourself from Barack Obama isn’t enough to win re-election in a year of extremely low turnout. The first is Mary Landrieu, on whose behalf this entire exercise was mounted, on the absurd theory that Louisiana voters will turn out in droves for her runoff in December once they learn how much she loves oil, a fact of which they were supposedly unaware before now. Then we have Mark Begich of Alaska, Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, and John Walsh of Montana. The first three lost their seats, and Walsh would have been ousted by voters had he not resigned over a plagiarism scandal.
The next group of Democrats are also from red states: Heidi Heitkamp of South Dakota, John Tester of Montana, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Claire McCaskill of Missouri. Through whatever combination of electoral fear and genuine conviction, these are among the senators who disagree with their colleagues most often. McCaskill is a particularly notable case; lately she has been moving to the right in visible ways, including proclaiming her opposition to Harry Reid remaining leader of the Democrats in the Senate and criticizing President Obama’s proposed actions on immigration. Rumor has it that she’s preparing to run for governor, which could help explain why.
The final group of Democrats who voted in favor of the pipeline may have each had their own reasons, but none could have imagined that voting against the pipeline would be a huge political liability. These were Michael Bennet of Colorado, Robert Casey of Pennsylvania, Mark Warner of Virginia, and Tom Carper of Delaware.
So what does this tell us? To a great degree it suggests that Republicans are still succeeding in defining what it means to be a liberal, striking fear into the hearts of any Democrat who wants to win in a red state. Republicans haven’t actually spent too much time arguing the environmental concerns over Keystone, other than to dismiss them out of hand. Instead, they’ve touted the pipeline as a jobs boon that would boost the entire American economy, a claim no sane person believes.
But red-state Democrats still live their lives in a state of perpetual terror that someone might call them a liberal (the only red-state Democrats who voted No were Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, both of whom are retiring).
If these votes don’t change, when Republicans bring the pipeline up again in the new Congress, it will have enough votes to overcome a filibuster — but still fall short of the 67 that would be needed to override a presidential veto. And the Democrats who supported the pipeline will find that it really didn’t help them.
Their red state colleagues who lost their elections have already found out that high-profile breaks with their party don’t keep you politically safe. And indeed, those red-state losses have made the Democratic caucus in the Senate more liberal, and it’s possible that in 2016 the number of red state Democrats will decline even further (even if Democrats gain seats overall). So even if there is still the possibility of Dem divisions on some issues, the fracturing off of red state Dems could matter less and less over time, making the future of Democrats in Congress one of more, not less, unity.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect; The Plum Line, The Washington Post, November 19, 2014
President Barack Obama on Thursday announced plans to sign an executive order sparing up to 5 million unauthorized immigrants from deportation, arguing that congressional inaction left him little choice but to use his executive authority on the issue.
In the summer of 2013, Obama noted, the U.S. Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill on a bipartisan 68 to 32 vote, raising advocates’ hopes that an overhaul was in sight. But House Speaker John Boehner never brought the measure to a House vote, and Obama took Congress to task for its failure to act in his Thursday evening address. House Republicans, Obama charged, “refused to allow that simple vote.”
Until Congress moves on the issue, Obama said, the best path forward is executive action. In his speech, the president laid out a three-point plan. First, the U.S. will beef up border security and continue to focus on capturing unauthorized migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. The president will also establish incentives that will keep highly skilled immigrants in the country — a top priority for GOP-leaning business groups, Finally — and most controversially — Obama said his administration would “deal responsibly” with unauthorized immigrants already in the country.
Emphasizing that the U.S. would continue to deport immigrants deemed security threats, Obama said that he would order agencies to prioritize the most dangerous unauthorized immigrants for deportation. “Felons, not families” and “criminals, not children” would be the focus of U.S. enforcement efforts, the president said. The president referenced the nation’s immigrant history, saying, “we were strangers once too.”
The president’s plan expands the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program for those brought to the U.S. as minors; the program will no longer have an age cap. More crucially — contingent on passing a background check — parents of U.S. citizens or legal residents who have themselves been in the U.S. for at least five years will be spared deportation. That protection alone affects an estimated 4 million people.
Obama cautioned that the changes do not apply to any migrants who recently arrived in the U.S. or those who may come in the future.
The president’s invocation of executive authority on the issue drew the ire of conservative Republicans, including incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said executive action would represent a “defiance of the people.” The president is poised for a showdown with the GOP over the issue when a unified GOP Congress takes control in January.
“The actions I’m taking are not only lawful, they’re the kinds of actions taken by every single Republican president and every Democratic president for the past half century,” Obama said in his address. “To those members of Congress who question my authority to make our immigration system work better, or question the wisdom of me acting where Congress has failed, I have one answer: Pass a bill.”
Progressives cheered the president’s announcement.
“Today, parents who have lived here for years and had to constantly worry that they could be torn away from their children will no longer have to look over their shoulders. With House Republicans continuing to block immigration reform legislation in Congress, the president is taking a bold step that is fully within his authority to begin fixing the system,” said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress and a former Obama administration aide.
By: Luke Brinker, Salon, November 20, 2014
When high-mindedness collides with reality, reality usually wins. Remember this when you hear talk of making the next two years a miracle of bipartisan comity.
Begin by being skeptical of the lists of what President Obama and the now Republican-controlled Congress should “obviously” agree on. Notice that liberal lists (including mine) start with immigration and sentencing reform while conservative lists focus on free trade and tax reform. Surprise! The election changed no one’s priorities.
And don’t be fooled by anyone who pretends that the 2016 election isn’t at the top of everyone’s calculations.
With Washington now so deeply divided philosophically, each side is primarily interested in creating a future government more congenial to getting what it wants. Republicans want to win total power two years from now; Democrats want to hang on to the presidency and take back the Senate.
Therefore, don’t misread the internal Republican debate. It is not a fight between pristine souls who just want to show they can govern and fierce ideologues who want to keep fighting. Both GOP camps want to strengthen the conservatives’ hand for 2016. They differ on how best to accomplish this.
The pro-governing Republicans favor a “first do no harm” approach. Thus did incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wisely rule out government shutdowns and debt-ceiling brinkmanship. He’s happy to work with Obama on trade because doing so advances a free market goal the GOP believes in — and because a trade battle would explode the Democratic coalition. For Republicans, what’s not to like?
The more militant conservatives are more candid about the real objective, which is “building the case for Republican governance after 2016.” Those words come from a must-read editorial in National Review, instructively entitled “The Governing Trap.”
“A prove-you-can-govern strategy will inevitably divide the party on the same tea-party-vs.-establishment lines that Republicans have just succeeded in overcoming,” the magazine argued. Also: “If voters come to believe that a Republican Congress and a Democratic president are doing a fine job of governing together, why wouldn’t they vote to continue the arrangement in 2016?”
They’re saying, in other words, that spending two more years making Obama look bad should remain the GOP’s central goal, lest Republicans make the whole country ready for Hillary Clinton. This is the prevailing view among conservatives. McConnell’s main argument with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), and his followers is not about ends but means. McConnell is no less focused than Cruz on bringing down Obama and discrediting Democratic governance, but McConnell needs to be more subtle about it.
Where does this leave Obama and the Democrats? The first to-do item on Obama’s list must be to repair his currently abysmal relations with his own party on Capitol Hill. He will need his party as the GOP goes after him in one “investigative” hearing after another. He also needs them if he goes ahead, as he should, with executive orders on immigration reform.
Obama has already drawn a red line on immigration from which there is no easy retreat. And exit polls explain why Republicans, particularly House Speaker John Boehner, have little reason to act before Obama’s gone.
Overall, 57 percent of voters favored granting illegal immigrants “a chance to apply for legal status,” while 39 percent preferred deporting them. But those who favored deportation voted for Republican House candidates by better than 3 to 1. Boehner won’t risk alienating this loyal group. Better for Obama to pick a fight in which he is taking action than to give way to passivity and powerlessness.
In the end, Obama needs to govern as best he can even as he and his allies prepare for the longer struggle.
Democrats were tongue-tied about economics in the campaign. They avoided highlighting the substantial achievements of the Obama years for fear that doing so would make them seem out of touch with voters whose wages are stagnating. But neither did Democrats come up with plausible answers and policies to win over these voters. They lost both ways.
A Democratic Party paralyzed on economics won’t deserve to prevail. The president and his party — including Clinton — must find a way of touting their stewardship while advancing a bold but realistic agenda that meets the demands of Americans who are still hurting. This encompasses not only defending government’s role in achieving shared growth but also, as Obama suggested Friday, restoring faith in how government works.
Solving the country’s economic riddle would be a much better use of their time than investing in the fantasy that McConnell and Boehner will try to make Obama look good.
By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 09, 2014
It only took a couple of days before John Boehner made clear that when it comes to his approach to legislating in the wake of the Republicans’ victory in the midterms, absolutely nothing has changed. All that talk about “getting things done” and “showing they can govern”? Forget about it.
In his press conference the day after the election, President Obama got asked about immigration reform and repeated what he’s been saying all along—that if Congress doesn’t pass anything, he’ll take some (as yet undisclosed) actions based on executive authority. He also noted for the umpteenth time that the Senate already passed a reform bill, one that included lots of gettin’-tough provisions demanded by Republicans, which Boehner refused to bring to a vote in the House even though it would have passed. He also emphasized that if Congress does pass a bill, it would supplant whatever executive actions he might take, so taking some executive actions might provide a nice inducement for them to do something.
So yesterday when Boehner had his own press conference, he got super-mad:
“I’ve made clear to the president that if he acts unilaterally, on his own, outside of his authority, he will poison the well, and there will be no chance of immigration reform moving in this Congress. It is as simple as that,” he said. “When you play with matches, you take the risk of burning yourself. And he’s going to burn himself if he continues to go down this path.”
Let’s think about this “poisoning the well” idea. Boehner is saying that if President Obama takes executive action, congressional Republicans will be angry and distrustful, which would make legislating harder. While up until now, they’ve been friendly and trusting toward Obama, and willing to work together.
Just a couple of days after the election, Boehner is already preparing excuses for why he failed. Why didn’t immigration reform pass? Because Barack Obama is a big meanie!
That well was poisoned long ago, and it was Republicans who did the poisoning. This is an important reminder that the fundamental dynamic within the GOP—in which appeasing the party’s right wing is the primary concern of the leadership—has not changed at all. In fact, it’s been intensified. In both the House and Senate, the incoming GOP caucus will be more conservative than they are right now. The problem was never that John Boehner didn’t think it was good for the country or his party to pass comprehensive immigration reform, the problem was that he didn’t have the courage to stand up to the Tea Party right. And now there are even more of them.
Meanwhile over in the Senate, you’ll have a combination of Republicans up for re-election in two or four years who will be increasingly nervous about a primary challenge from the right, and new members who hail from the Ted Cruz caucus. You think you’ll get a yes vote for comprehensive reform from Tom Cotton, who claimed during the campaign that ISIS and Mexican drug gangs were conspiring to attack us via the Rio Grande? How about Joni Ernst, who talked about shooting government officials and believes the United Nations has a secret plan to force Iowa farmers off their land and relocate them to urban centers? Or James Lankford, who thinks too many American children are on ritalin “because welfare moms want to get additional benefits”? Is this the group of sensible moderates that is going to vote for comprehensive reform?
I’ll bet that John Boehner would like nothing better than to have Barack Obama issue some executive orders on immigration. Then he’d have an easy answer every time someone asked when he was going to allow a vote on a comprehensive immigration package. What can I do? Obama poisoned the well. It’s not my responsibility anymore.
By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, November 7, 2014