“Who’s Afraid Of Ted Cruz And Ken Cuccinelli?”: No Republican Is Conservative Enough To Avoid A Primary
Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) plan to fight President Barack Obama’s executive action on immigration reform during the debate over the $1.1 trillion “cromnibus” spending bill didn’t go very well. Cruz raised a point of order against the bill, arguing that the portion funding the Department of Homeland Security is unconstitutional due to the president’s action. But Cruz’s move enraged his fellow Senate Republicans, unwittingly allowed Democrats to confirm some two-dozen Obama administration nominees who otherwise would not have gotten votes, and totally failed to stop the president. The measure was voted down 74-22, with 20 Republicans joining the Democratic majority to rebuke the Texas freshman.
Although Cruz reportedly apologized to his colleagues, the episode isn’t finished yet. Cruz evidently has a plan to get revenge against those who opposed him — with a little help from his friends.
In comments to Politico on Tuesday, Senate Conservatives Fund president Ken Cuccinelli suggested that his group — with which Cruz has a close association — will target the senators who voted against him in the coming elections.
“People’s votes may by themselves inspire folks to say: ‘I’m running against this guy or this girl,’” Cuccinelli warned. “I have a funny feeling that some people who weren’t thinking of running two weeks ago are thinking of running now.”
So will the seven senators on the ballot in 2016 who opposed Cruz — Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Dan Coates (R-IN), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mark Kirk (R-IL), John McCain (R-AZ), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Pat Toomey (R-PA) — lose their jobs for opposing the Tea Party hero?
Probably not. Under closer examination, Cuccinelli’s threat rings rather hollow.
As right-wing groups have repeatedly proven, no Republican is conservative enough to avoid a primary. No single vote would have been enough to prevent 2014 challenges to Senators Mike Enzi (R-WY), Pat Roberts (R-KS), or John Cornyn (R-TX) — the 2nd, 8th, and 13th most conservative members of the Senate, according to National Journal’s 2014 rankings — and helping Ted Cruz try to blow up a government spending bill would not have saved supposed RINOs like John McCain or Kelly Ayotte from drawing right-wing opponents.
Additionally, it’s not clear that incumbents should actually fear a challenge from the Senate Conservatives Fund. In 2014, the group backed three candidates challenging Republican incumbents: Matt Bevin in Kentucky, Chris McDaniel in Mississippi, and Milton Wolf in Kansas. All three bombed in spectacular fashion.
“Our members know that our candidates are underdogs,” an SCF spokeswoman told The Washington Post in October, in an effort to defend the group’s performance. “The establishment has a lot more money and is willing to smear conservative candidates with false attacks. But they still want us to keep fighting because otherwise we wouldn’t have people like Ted Cruz, Mike Lee, and Rand Paul in the Senate today.”
That’s true. But it’s also a perfect explanation of why Republican senators have no reason to fear standing against Ted Cruz.
It’s entirely possible that some of the senators who opposed Cruz’s point of order will fall in 2016. But it’s extremely unlikely that last weekend’s vote will be the incident that doomed them.
By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, December 17, 2014
In early 1999, the political environment in Washington, D.C., bordered on surreal. President Clinton had just been impeached. House Speaker Newt Gingrich had just been ousted from his leadership post, forced out by his own members. Gingrich’s apparent successor, Louisiana’s Bob Livingston, was soon after forced to resign in the wake of a sex scandal.
And at the same time, the U.S. Senate was weighing the charges against Clinton, hearing arguments as to whether or not to remove the sitting president from office.
It was against this backdrop that the White House announced in mid-January that it was time for the annual State of the Union address. TV preacher Pat Robertson, an influential figure in Republican politics at the time, gave his GOP allies some stern advice: don’t let Clinton speak. To give the president an august national platform, Robertson said, would allow Clinton to solidify his support and end the impeachment crusade. Congress isn’t required to host the speech, so there was nothing stopping Republicans from denying Clinton’s request.
GOP leaders on Capitol Hill weren’t prepared to go nearly that far. So, Clinton spoke, he pretended like impeachment hadn’t just happened, and Gallup showed the president’s approval rating reaching 69% soon after.
Nearly 16 years later, another Democratic president, also hated by his Republican attackers, is poised to deliver his penultimate State of the Union address. And like Pat Robertson, the idea of denying the president a SOTU invitation is once again on the right’s mind.
“Yes, there’s a risk to overreacting, but there’s a risk to underreacting as well,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “And I fear that’s the way the congressional leadership is leaning.”
Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.’”
Lowry may not dictate GOP decision making the way Limbaugh and Fox News do, but it’s important to note that he isn’t the only one publicly pushing the idea.
Politico reported yesterday that congressional Republicans are weighing a variety of tactics to “address” their disgust over Obama’s immigration policy, and “GOP aides and lawmakers” are considering the idea of “refusing to invite the president to give his State of the Union address.”
Late last week, Breitbart News also ran a piece of its own on the subject: “Congress should indicate to President Obama that his presence is not welcome on Capitol Hill as long as his ‘executive amnesty’ remains in place. The gesture would, no doubt, be perceived as rude, but it is appropriate.”
For the record, I rather doubt Republican leaders will go this far. Indeed, if they seriously pursued the idea, GOP officials would risk a backlash that would help, not hurt, the White House.
That said, don’t be too surprised if this talk grows louder between now and the big speech.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 26, 2014
Towards the end of the House Intelligence Committee’s report on the 2012 attack in Benghazi, the document notes that the panel’s findings were the result of two years of “intensive investigation,” which included careful review of thousands of pages of materials, 20 events and hearings, and extensive interviews.
“The report,” the Republican-led Committee concluded, “is therefore meant to serve as the definitive House statement on the Intelligence Community’s activities before, during and after the tragic events that caused the deaths of four brave Americans.”
And yet, even now, the House Republican leadership just doesn’t care.
House Speaker John A. Boehner announced Monday he will re-appoint Rep. Trey Gowdy as chairman of the Select Committee on the September 11, 2012, terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya in the 114th Congress.
“On September 11, 2012, four Americans were killed in a brutal terrorist attack in Libya. Two years later, the American people still have far too many questions about what happened that night – and why,” Boehner said in a statement.
To date, Boehner, who didn’t want the Select Committee in the first place, has failed to identify even one of these questions that has not already been answered.
Several Senate Republicans don’t care, either.
Senate Republican leaders are under pressure from GOP lawmakers with presidential ambitions to join the House in investigating the 2012 Benghazi attack.
Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), three young rising conservative stars who are weighing 2016 bids, say the Senate should participate in a joint investigation with the House.
This really is getting embarrassing.
As we talked about yesterday, the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, and the State Department’s independent Accountability Review Board have all published reports on the 2012 attack, and each found the same thing: none of the conspiracy theories are true.
In addition, the attack has been scrutinized by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Homeland Security Committee, the House Oversight Committee, and the House Foreign Affairs Committee, each of which has held hearings, and each of which failed to find even a shred of evidence to bolster the conspiracy theorists.
Do Boehner and other Republicans believe their own allies are somehow in on the conspiracy? That GOP lawmakers in the House and Senate have somehow been co-opted into hiding imaginary evidence?
The “definitive” report, prepared by House Republicans on the Intelligence Committee, makes it painfully obvious that this story has run its course. It’s over. Done. Stick a fork in it.
And yet, there’s the hapless House Speaker, pointing to questions he can’t identify, saying what the nation really needs is … another committee.
The irony is, the far-right went looking for a scandal, and in the process, they created one themselves. The political scandal isn’t the attack that left four Americans dead in Libya, it’s the ugly exploitation of the tragedy by mindless partisans looking for electoral and fundraising gimmicks, raising the prospect of important questions that have already been answered repeatedly.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, November 25, 2014
“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