“Time For A Second Crusade”: A Fresh Revolt Against That Other Godless RINO Devil-Figure, Mitch McConnell
In the world of objective reality where most of us live, John Boehner’s resignation seems to have bought off just enough of the Crazy to keep the federal government functioning until after Thanksgiving. But over in the fever swamps where the Washington Times is published, veteran reporter Ralph Hallow (who’s been around so long I almost wonder if Halloween was named after him) discerns a fresh revolt against that other godless RINO devil-figure, Mitch McConnell. Seems the Louisiana State GOP Chairman wants him gone.
With John Boehner now departing as House speaker, an influential Republican Party official is now seeking the ouster of another GOP leader who has frustrated conservatives: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“McConnell needs to resign!!” Louisiana GOP Chairman Roger Villere wrote in a Facebook posting….
Mr. Villere was stumped when asked whom he preferred to take over as leader of the Senate Republican majority.
“Honestly, I haven really thought of a replacement,” he said. “We are being so beat up by the base. I just was frustrated.”
Mr. Villere did say what specifically about Mr. McConnell makes his state’s rank-and-file GOP voters so dyspeptic that they want him out as leader — his failure to challenge executive overreach by President Obama or fight to repeal Obamacare and other unpopular measures.
“Mr. McConnell could have suspended consideration of confirmations for all presidential appointees, except for those who are essential to national security, until the president rescinded his unconstitutional executive action on amnesty,” Mr. Villere said.
“This would have been a constitutionally appropriate response to the overreach of the executive branch,” he said. “It would have transformed the political environment, greatly encouraged Republican donors and grass-roots activists, and positioned us to refuse to confirm replacements for any Supreme Court openings that might occur during the remainder of the Obama administration.”
Yeah, right. And it would have been like a slow-moving but long-lasting government shutdown, too.
Villere is the rare Lousiana Republican who is publicly backing Bobby Jindal’s presidential candidacy. As you may have noticed, Bobby the career pol has gone all Outsidery of late, as part of his gambit to offer Republican voters Trumpism Without Trump. His latest tag phrase is that Republicans need to “burn Washington down.” Such a project probably encompasses McConnell losing his gavel, I’d think.
So I’m guessing we’ll soon hear Jindal competing with Ted Cruz in demonizing McConnell on the theory that thunderbolts from Baton Rouge are the equivalent of the Texan’s agitation on the Senate floor. I’m sure ol’ Mitch is just terrified.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 28, 2015
“For The Far-Right, It’s One Leader Down, One To Go”: Emblematic Of The Larger Story About GOP Radicalization
There may be 54 Republicans in the Senate, but only one has publicly expressed support for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). That endorsement came from none other than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Paul’s grudging home-state partner.
With this support in mind, it was curious to see Kentucky’s junior senator on Fox News this morning, confronted with a simple question: do you support McConnell’s position as majority leader? Three times the Fox host asked Rand Paul for an answer, and as TPM noted this morning, three times the senator dodged.
The furthest Paul was willing to go was this faint praise for his colleague: “Well, there is no election. There is no battle going on.” In other words, Paul supports McConnell insofar as he has no other choice right now.
But for many Capitol Hill conservatives, the fact that there is “no battle going on” is precisely the problem. Far-right members have helped force House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) out of Congress, and Politico reported late last week that many of these same lawmakers are equally eager – if not more so – to change Senate leaders, too.
Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), a hardliner who frequently worked at odds with Boehner, was texting Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Friday morning to make a suggestion: “Next guy in the crosshairs is probably gonna be McConnell.” Lee, who chairs the conservative arm of McConnell’s GOP conference, texted back to doubt that conclusion.
But Salmon and many other House conservatives are unswayed.
“Mitch McConnell is infinitely worse as a leader than Boehner. He surrenders at the sight of battle every time,” Salmon said.
To the extent that reality matters, Mitch McConnell, perhaps more than any Republican in the nation, has been the embodiment of anti-Obama obstructionism. No GOP lawmaker of the Obama era has gone as far as McConnell to reject every White House proposal – regardless of merit, regardless of consequence, regardless of whether or not Republicans actually agreed with the administration.
The Kentucky senator has practically pioneered the art of mindless, knee-jerk obstructionism, relying on tactics with no precedent in the American tradition, undermining governance in ways that seemed impossible in the recent past.
But for far-right lawmakers, this record just isn’t good enough.
Boehner’s resignation “should be an absolute warning sign to McConnell,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) told Politico. He added that conservatives’ focus will now “invariably and should turn to McConnell in the Senate.”
Over the weekend, the chairman of the Republican Party of Louisiana urged McConnell to resign.
The odds of McConnell stepping down anytime soon are roughly zero. Boehner faced growing pressure from a significant faction of his own caucus, but McConnell faces sporadic pressure from Ted Cruz – whom most Senate Republicans are generally inclined to ignore. The qualitative and quantitative differences between the two GOP leaders are striking: McConnell was elected unanimously by his members, for example, while Boehner was not.
The importance of these developments isn’t the practical threat McConnell faces. Rather, the fact that the anti-McConnell push exists at all is emblematic of the larger story about GOP radicalization. The rationale behind the far-right campaign against Boehner is that he failed to beat President Obama – as if that were a credible outcome – which put him at odds with Republican expectations. As the bulls eye shifts from one end of Capitol Hill to the other, McConnell faces the same foolish, misguided complaint, his record of confrontation with the White House notwithstanding.
The Majority Leader’s position is secure, at least for the foreseeable future, but as the GOP base continues to direct its ire at party leaders, it’ll be worth watching to see how many Senate Republicans dodge as clumsily as Rand Paul did this morning.
By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, September 28, 2015
“Shutdown Politics Divides GOP”: No Real Precedent For A Party Being Responsible For Two Government Shutdowns Over 24 Months
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is ready for an ugly showdown that may very well shut down the federal government at the end of the month, as are dozens of House Republicans. Meanwhile, GOP leaders in both chambers are pushing as hard as they can in the opposite direction.
But no one in Republican politics is more resistant to this strategy than vulnerable GOP incumbents worried about their re-election bids next year. Politico reported this week on one of these lawmakers:
In an interview, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said it’s “obvious” Cruz is only making this his latest cause to boost his visibility in a presidential campaign. And Ayotte, who withdrew her name from Lee’s 2013 letter on Obamacare, said she will “absolutely not” sign onto Cruz’s latest missive.
“There are not enough votes to even get (to) 60 in the Senate. But even if you could get by that (hurdle), the president is going to veto it and we certainly don’t have 67 votes,” Ayotte said. “So I guess I would ask: What’s the strategy for success?”
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), another blue-state Republican incumbent facing a tough race next year, is also reportedly urging his colleagues to avoid a shutdown at all costs – for his sake, if not theirs.
All of which raises the question: are Ayotte and Johnson correct? Would another government shutdown hurt them and their party?
Reader B.G. emailed me last night to suggest the nervous senators’ concerns are misplaced. I’m reprinting the reader’s note with permission: “The GOP paid no political price in the 2014 election for shutting down the government in 2013. As much as I loathe Cruz, it is not irrational for him to think that shutting down the government will be a cost-free endeavor (from a GOP political perspective). I am sure he is betting, and not without evidence, that any government shutdown will be long forgotten by the time the 2016 election rolls around.”
After House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Fox News this morning that “the American people will punish you if you are just playing politics or making a point that can’t be achieved,” reader B.G. added in a follow-up email, “Well, no, not based on recent history…. In fact, if I were Ted Cruz, I would be making the point publicly that the 2013 shutdown worked. ‘Look, we did it, and the American people rewarded us.’”
As a practical matter, Cruz and his allies are doing exactly that. For all the hand-wringing among Republican leaders, the Texas senator and his allies routinely make the argument on Capitol Hill that the hype is wrong and the risk of an electoral backlash from shutdowns is vastly overstated. These are, Cruz & Co. insist, consequence-free gambits.
To which I say, maybe.
First, it’s worth remembering that there are qualitative differences between midterm cycles and presidential election years. In the latter, more people, especially Democrats, actually bother to show up. There’s no denying the fact that Republicans had a great year in 2014, despite shutting down the government in 2013, but the national electorate will look far different – larger, more diverse, etc. – in 2016.
Second, for some of these vulnerable incumbents, the national landscape isn’t nearly as relevant as the prevailing political winds in their own home states. And in a state like Wisconsin, where Johnson is an underdog anyway, there’s simply no upside to having the public get angry with his party all over again.
Third, don’t discount the possibility of a cumulative effect. Republicans faced no discernible punishment for the last shutdown, but there’s no real precedent for a party being responsible for two shutdowns over the course of 24 months, and it’s no surprise that GOP leaders don’t see value in pushing their luck.
Finally, there’s the broader context of the 2016 cycle to consider: Republicans are going to ask the American mainstream to give the GOP power over the House, the Senate, and the White House, simultaneously, for the first time in a decade. Democrats will respond that an unhinged, radicalized Republican Party with a right-wing agenda hasn’t earned, and cannot be trusted with, that much power over the federal government.
Will another shutdown make the Democrats’ argument easier or harder next year?
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 11, 2015
“A Complete Lack Of Credibility On The Subject”: After Sabotage Letter, Cotton Wants US To ‘Speak With One Voice’
Congressional Republicans are unanimous in their opposition to the international nuclear agreement with Iran, but even among GOP lawmakers, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) stands out as unique. Arguably no American lawmaker has done more to undermine U.S. foreign policy than the right-wing freshman.
This week, as support for the diplomatic deal grows on Capitol Hill, opponents confronted the very real possibility that a Republican bill to derail the agreement may not even get the 60 votes it needs in the Senate to overcome a Democratic filibuster. This in turn led Cotton to issue a fascinating press statement (via Salon’s Simon Maloy).
“First, the president did an end-run around the Constitution by refusing to submit the Iran deal as a treaty requiring a two-thirds vote of the Senate for approval. Now Harry Reid wants to deny the American people a voice entirely by blocking an up-or-down vote on this terrible deal. […]
“The Congress and the president should speak with one voice when it comes to dealing with the Iranians, but it seems that Harry Reid believes that only his and the president’s voices matter.”
Tom Cotton, in case anyone has forgotten, wrote a letter to Iranian officials in March, telling them not to trust U.S. officials, all in the hopes of sabotaging American foreign policy and derailing the international diplomatic talks. The Republican senator corralled 46 of his GOP Senate colleagues to join him in this dangerous stunt, which according to our allies, had the effect of helping Iran during delicate negotiations and embarrassing the United States.
Here’s a radical idea: maybe Tom Cotton should avoid lectures about the importance of Congress and the White House speaking “with one voice when it comes to dealing with the Iranians.” Unless the right-wing senator is deliberately trying to become a laughingstock, he should take a moment to acknowledge his lack of credibility on the subject.
As for Cotton’s affection for up-or-down votes, I’m tempted to ask the senator, “Are you new here?” The answer, as it turns out, is, “Yes” – the Arkansas Republican was only in the U.S. House for a year when he announced his Senate bid, and he’s only been in the upper chamber for seven months.
In other words, Cotton may not realize that his own GOP colleagues effectively created a new standard in the Senate, mandating that practically every bill of any consequence needs a minimum of 60 votes to advance. If Cotton disapproves, he can blame Mitch McConnell.
Of course, the Arkansan’s press release yesterday serves as a reminder of just how poorly the debate is going for the far-right. The Republican target in the Senate has always been 67 votes – in part because they saw 60 votes as a foregone conclusion. As of this week, however, even that goal is in doubt.
Cotton added yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “is obstructing because he is scared.” Someone’s scared, but I don’t think it’s Harry Reid.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 26, 2015
There’s some disagreement about how many times House Republicans have voted to repeal all or parts of the Affordable Care Act. I’ve seen some estimates of 56 separate votes, though some put the total a little higher.
But let’s not forget their friends on the other side of the Capitol. As National Journal reports, Senate Republicans are at least going through the motions to keep their repeal crusade alive, too.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has proposed repealing Obamacare as part of the long-term highway bill currently being considered in the upper chamber.
McConnell’s office said Friday that the Senate would vote Sunday on an amendment to the highway legislation that would repeal the Affordable Care Act. The initial vote, which would cap debate on the repeal amendment, would need 60 votes.
Obviously, this is a ridiculous endeavor. The very idea of repealing an effective health care law is increasingly bizarre, and as Senate GOP leaders realize, there’s zero chance of the repeal measure passing. The fact that Mitch McConnell sees this as a necessary part of the debate over highway spending is itself quite sad.
So why in the world is the Republican leader doing this, announcing an ACA repeal vote out of the blue? Apparently because McConnell is looking for an adequate pacifier for his far-right flank and this is the best he could come up with.
This gets a little complicated, but McConnell appears to see Obamacare repeal as a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. The medicine, in this case, is the restoration of the Export-Import Bank. The Washington Post reported this morning on how the Senate Majority Leader hopes to get the highway bill through the chamber:
McConnell … set up votes on two controversial measures – a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, and a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank of the United States – and did it in such a way that will make it difficult for other amendments to be considered.
That move incensed [Sen. Ted Cruz] – who had announced his intention to offer other amendments, and who, like many conservatives, strongly opposes the bank’s reauthorization, though it enjoys support from a supermajority of his Senate colleagues. While McConnell has personally spoken against Ex-Im reauthorization, Democrats said in June he had agreed to schedule an Ex-Im vote in order to get highly divisive trade legislation passed.
Though McConnell said there was no deal, Cruz is now convinced that McConnell lied, which has apparently enraged the Texas Republican. Politico added:
Ted Cruz took to the Senate floor Friday and charged that Mitch McConnell told a “lie,” escalating his campaign against GOP leaders and challenging the traditions of the usually decorous chamber.
In a scathing floor speech, the Texas firebrand accused the Senate majority leader of breaking his word to him and the rest of the GOP conference over McConnell’s plans for the controversial Export-Import Bank, the country’s chief export credit agency.
C-SPAN posted Cruz’s entire harangue to YouTube. For a senator who claims to abhor “Republican-on-Republican violence” when the topic is Donald Trump, Cruz has no similar qualms when publicly expressing his scorn for Mitch McConnell.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 24, 2015