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“I’m Not Complaining”: John Boehner Purges “The Wreckers”, But War For Soul Of The Republican Party Isn’t Ending

Looks like there’s been an interesting behind-the-scenes wipeout of some of the most notorious dystopian wreckers who’ve been a thorn in Speaker John Boehner’s side. The GOP Steering Committee has removed Reps. David Schweikert (AZ-06) and Walter Jones (NC-03) from the Financial Services Committee, and Reps. Justin Amash (MI-03) and Tim Huelskamp (KS-01) from the Budget Committee—reportedly all for failing to support their own party with sufficient gusto.

Indeed, Roll Call says that committee members “reviewed a spreadsheet listing each GOP lawmaker and how often he or she had voted with leadership,” so it’s no surprise to see that this quartet failed to make the cut. Jones has been an occasional gadfly from the left (mostly on foreign policy), but the other three, especially Amash, practically live to give Boehner agita, as I’ve written about before. Amash has been the biggest offender when it comes to voting against Republican budgetary measures, and renegades like him brought Boehner close to the brink more than once last year.

And if you follow the House puzzle on a regular basis, you’ll recall that Schweikert defeated fellow Rep. Ben Quayle in a redistricting-induced primary earlier this year. The well-connected Quayle was the favorite of House leaders, and John Boehner went out of his way to fluff him. That led the Club for Growth to threaten Boehner to stay out of the primary—which he did, but in the end, it seems like he’ll get the last laugh: It’s a pyrrhic victory for the Club if Schweikert gets neutered in terms of committee assignments.

But you have to wonder if this kind of payback will actually succeed in bringing the Club and other conservative meddlers to heel, or if it’ll just inspire them to fight the establishment even harder. The Heritage Foundation’s action arm is already furious, in particular calling Schweikert’s removal “unthinkable,” but will it still be worth winning all these primaries if Boehner reduces all their favorites to backbencher status?

I’m going to guess they won’t give up, though—these organizations have no purpose except to drive the GOP as far rightward as possible. They are predisposed against ever going along to get along. And that’ll just mean that the GOP’s intra-party turf wars will continue on their current trend and grow ever nastier, damaging the Republican brand further and occasionally even handing seats over to the Democrats (as we saw in this year’s Indiana Senate race). Hey, I’m not complaining.


By: David Nir, Daily Kos, December 3, 2012



December 4, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“GOP Fiscal Maneuvers”: Republicans Are More Preoccupied Now With The Optics Of “Not Surrendering”

So there are two pieces of news out today about the Republican response to the president’s so-far-very-successful maneuvers on the big fiscal issues. The first is a formal counter-offer from the House GOP leadership (with, significantly, Eric Cantor’s and Paul Ryan’s names joining that of John Boehner). It specifically calls for $800 billion in new revenues (close to what Boehner put on the table in his repudiated 2011 debt limit deal), but without rate increases. And it bites the bullet somewhat on spending by calling for a 2-year increase in the Medicare eligibiity age and a government-wide adjustment in how cost of living adjustments are calculated.

You could read this as Republicans deciding to get more specific on “entitlement reform” than on taxes (it’s extremely unlikely that you can come up with $800 billion in “loopholes” to close without hitting the middle class), or simply choosing the least inflammatory ways to reduce entitlement spending. Or–and this is my personal take at the moment–it could just be an offer meant to be refused that just gets the GOP out of the immediate problem it had with appearing unwilling to put anything on the table.

Arriving just before the “counter-offer” were a host of less formal reports that Republicans have a fallback strategy of letting an extension of the Bush tax cuts for taxable income under 250k pass without their votes, and then fighting Democrats tooth and nail after the beginning of the new year on the debt limit increase or indeed, anything else Obama wants.

I share Jonathan Chait’s puzzlement over this supposed strategy:

[Y]eah, Republicans would still have things to fight over. Obama is going to want measures to reduce unemployment. Republicans can dangle those. Obama is also going to want to not destroy the credit rating of the U.S. government for no good reason, and Republicans will threaten to do that, though it’s not clear that Obama is going to submit to another blackmailing on this.

But Republicans will also need Obama to sign a law canceling out the huge defense spending cuts scheduled for next year. If Obama is starting out with a trillion in higher revenue in his pocket (through expiration of the Bush tax cuts on the rich), and the extension of the middle-class tax cuts have largely taken the threat of a recession off the table, then he’ll still be negotiating from a position of strength. He’ll be able to offer Republicans cuts to entitlement programs plus defense spending increases in return for modest revenue increases, which don’t have to involve rate hikes, just to get to his own budget proposal.

Chait’s hunch is that Republicans are more preoccupied now with the optics of “not surrendering” on big fiscal votes than they are with actually imposing their priorities on Obama and the country. In other words, both maneuvers may be aimed at cutting losses without provoking an overt conservative backlash, and keeping–as Grover Norquist has suggested–their “fingerprints off the murder weapon” of any deal that can be described as betraying the sacrosanct “conservative principles.”

If that’s all true, it’s a strange way of exercising what Republicans claim is their co-responsibility for solving the nation’s fiscal problems after a “status quo election.” One might even reach the conclusion they lost.

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, December 3, 2012

December 4, 2012 Posted by | Fiscal Cliff, Politics | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Pimp And His Pendulum”: Grover Norquist Still Calling Cadence In The GOP Ranks

At times, it has seemed that Republican lawmakers eyeing a fiscal compromise with President Obama were moving closer to a public split with Grover Norquist, author of the famous no-new-taxes pledge that has defined conservative politics for decades.

Yet Norquist, whose influence in the conservative movement spans well beyond his well-known fixation on taxes, remains an unwavering force in the GOP debate — and even some of the most prominent lawmakers publicly flirting with a break from Norquist have assured him in private that they remain loyal soldiers in the anti-tax cause.

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), for example, might have seemed a perfect illustration of the trend away from Norquist’s hard-line views when he said recently that policies backed by Norquist would lead to more debt.

“I care too much about my country — I care a lot more about it than I do Grover Norquist,” the senator told a Georgia TV station.

But five days later, on the phone with Norquist, Chambliss was sounding a conciliatory tone. As Norquist read aloud a transcript of Chambliss’s earlier remarks, item by item, Norquist recalled later, the senator repeatedly assured him on each one that he did not mean to imply they had major differences when it came to GOP principles on taxes.

“He said he’d wished he hadn’t invoked my name and wished that he’d been clearer,” Norquist recalled from the Monday conversation.

Norquist said he came away from the conversation with this understanding of Chambliss’s position: “If he’d get a jillion dollars of spending cuts, he’d be willing to get rid of a deduction or two.”

Chambliss’s office said he was unavailable for an interview. A Chambliss aide later said that the purpose of the call was “most definitely not an apology.” In a written statement to The Washington Post, the senator said he and Norquist agree on “the vast majority of fiscal policy,” including that tax rates should not rise and spending should be reined in, though he added: “Grover disagrees with my longstanding position of using some revenue from closing special-interest loopholes to pay down our national debt, which is something I’ve never apologized for.”

For two decades, Norquist, 56, has been the most ardent enforcer of the Republican Party’s anti-tax theology. And Republicans have dutifully hewed close to that dogma.

But humbled by last month’s election results, and facing a ­determined President Obama in deficit-reduction negotiations with tax rates set to rise Jan. 1 for all Americans as part of the “fiscal cliff,” several Republicans in recent days have expressed a willingness to compromise. Some have suggested striking a deal with Obama to raise tax rates on higher-earning Americans, as the president has pushed for, or rolling back tax credits and closing loopholes as a way to increase revenue — stances that could well violate the Norquist pledge.

The debate over the fiscal cliff presents a test for Norquist, whose influence is likely to rise or fall depending on how the fight plays out in the coming weeks — and what punishment, if any, Norquist can exact on GOP lawmakers he views as transgressors.

“There are going to be some people who took that pledge that vote for tax increases, and the way he handles that will either preserve his influence or diminish it,” said Charlie Black, a veteran Republican lobbyist and strategist. Still, for now, Black acknowledged, “he is as influential as ever.”

More evidence of Norquist’s enduring influence in the GOP came last week in the way conservatives closed ranks around him during an unusually packed session of the regular meeting of activists and GOP officials Norquist hosts every Wednesday at his Americans for Tax Reform offices near Metro Center.

One after the other, par­ticipants rose to congratulate Norquist for his multiple television and radio appearances defending the tax pledge, and to assure the crowd that Republican activists and lawmakers would stand firm against Obama’s call to raise taxes. Attendees included emissaries from House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

“The fact they’re attacking Grover really shows the impact of what he’s doing,” Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), incoming chairman of the conservative caucus in the House known as the Republican Study Committee, said as the room burst into applause and cheers. Scalise then declared himself “proud to be a pledge signer.”

Norquist says he will not hesitate to support 2014 primary challenges against Republicans who violate the pledge. His group spent $15.7 million in the 2012 election, mostly against Democrats, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The threat of a primary fight is unnerving for many Republicans, and it helps explain why even some of Norquist’s apparent critics in the GOP — such as Chambliss, who is up for reelection in 2014 — want to smooth over any apparent tensions.

Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) told ABC last week that Norquist was wrong to oppose finding new revenue by capping deductions and that “I will violate the pledge, long story short, for the good of the country, only if Democrats will do entitlement reform.”

The remarks did not faze Norquist. In an earlier private telephone chat, Norquist said, Graham had assured him that he would compromise on taxes only if Democrats agreed to entitlement changes “on a massive scale” — prompting Norquist to tell Graham that he would “never be tempted” to raise taxes because the left would never make such a concession.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), who caused a stir when he urged House Republicans to consider letting taxes rise on the highest-earning Americans to preserve lower rates for others, later told CNN that “I admire Grover Norquist, I think he’s doing a lot of good,” and that he was “honored” to have signed the tax pledge. Cole said he did not think his idea violated the pledge.

Norquist said he also has had private conversations with Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who said Sunday on “Meet the Press” that he was “not obligated to any pledge other than my oath.” Norquist, appearing on the same program, said Corker had been “seduced into thinking, well, maybe I’ll have a small, tiny tax increase and have real reform and we’ll move forward.”

Norquist’s influence extends beyond the famous anti-tax declaration. In addition to heading Americans for Tax Reform, which he launched at the behest of President Ronald Reagan to lobby for White House priorities during the 1986 tax debate, Norquist is closely aligned with some of the GOP’s most well-heeled and politically active groups.

He sits on the board of the National Rifle Association, for instance.

Americans for Tax Reform does not disclose its donors, but The Post reported in April that Crossroads GPS, the political organization co-founded by Karl Rove, gave Norquist’s group $4 million in 2010.

Norquist also has built clout among key activists and politicians in Washington and around the country through his regular Wednesday meetings. His focus on fiscal policy, a unifying issue across all facets of conservatism, has helped Norquist take on the additional role of a sort of orchestra conductor for the political right.

The meetings, begun in 1993 with a small group rallying opposition to President Bill Clinton’s health-care plan, now bring together fiscal hawks, social conservatives, tea party followers, home-schoolers, gun enthusiasts, opponents of same-sex marriage — even Republican gays and abortion rights backers — for invitation-only strategy sessions. Top GOP officials or their staff members attend each meeting, as do key conservative group leaders. During the George W. Bush presidency, the White House regularly dispatched senior aides to attend.

“I’ve never seen anyone who understands coalitions more fully,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, which raises money to elect women who oppose abortion rights, and a regular Wednesday attendee. “I’m in there with pro-choice Republicans.”

The off-the-record meetings have been replicated in 48 states. Norquist and his staff help coordinate those gatherings, giving him frequent and direct access to governors, state legislators and key activists on the ground far outside the Beltway — and in the back yards of GOP lawmakers considering a break from the tax pledge.

In 2009, Americans for Tax Reform moved locations, and Norquist custom-designed a meeting space with stadium seating and a giant glass wall to allow for sidebar conversations among participants who come to network as much as to listen to presenters.

At the 11 / 2-hour meeting, an intern counts participants every 15 minutes so Norquist can mon­itor the level of attendance throughout each session. Last week, with Norquist at the center of the fiscal-cliff debate, there were as many as 205 attendees.

Norquist used characteristically colorful language to warn Republicans that should they agree to raise taxes on wealthy people, pressure will mount for them to give even more ground. “The reason you don’t want your fingerprints on the murder weapon,” he said, “is that someone will ask you to use it again.”

Heads nodded in approval.


By: Peter Wallsten, The Washington Post, December 2, 2012

December 4, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Flabbergasted Or Intoxicated?: John Boehner Says There’s No Difference Between Raising Revenue From Middle Class Or Wealthy

In an appearance on Fox News Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner told host Chris Wallace that it doesn’t make a difference whether new revenue in a deal to avert the fiscal cliff comes from the middle class or from the wealthiest Americans.

Boehner, who said that he was “flabbergasted” by the White House’s opening offer (despite the fact that it’s exactly what President Obama campaigned on), blasted the president as “not serious” for demanding an increase in tax rates on the wealthiest earners.

When Wallace asked if Obama has a mandate on the issue — given that raising taxes on the wealthy was arguably the central issue dividing the president and Mitt Romney in the presidential election — Boehner argued that it doesn’t matter whether new revenue comes from the wealthy or the middle class.

Listen, what is this difference where the money comes from? We put $800 billion worth of revenue, which is what he is asking for, out of eliminating the top two tax rates. But, here’s the problem, Chris, when you go and increase tax rates, you make it more difficult for our economy to grow, after that income, the small business income, it is going to get taxed at a higher rate and as a result we’re gonna see slower economic growth, we can’t cut our way out of this problem, nor can we grow our way out of the problem, we have to have a balanced approach and what the president wants to do will slow our economy at a time when he says he wants the economy to grow and create jobs.

Boehner is wrong on two points. First, there is no reason to believe that restoring Clinton-era tax rates on incomes over $250,000 will prevent the economy from growing; on the contrary, rate increases on the wealthy in 1992 and 1994 were followed by a tremendous economic boom. Second, it clearly matters where the revenue comes from; as Boehner and the Republicans’ own rhetoric acknowledges, the middle class needs fiscal relief — not an increased burden.

The full interview between Boehner and Wallace can be seen here; the exchange on tax rates begins at the 5:33 mark.

Perhaps Boehner doesn’t care where new revenue comes from because he hasn’t yet figured it out. When Wallace pressed Boehner to name specific loopholes and deductions that he’d be willing to eliminate in order to make up the revenue lost by extending the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, Boehner declined — as Romney and Paul Ryan did repeatedly during the campaign – telling Wallace, “I’m not going to debate this or negotiate this with you.”


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, December 3, 2012

December 4, 2012 Posted by | Fiscal Cliff | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Blue Light Special”: Walmart To Pass More Of Its Costs On To Taxpayers

The nation’s largest private employer, Walmart, has announced that beginning in 2013 it will begin drastically reducing the number of new hires who receive health insurance coverage, according to The Huffington Post.

The retail giant surprised many by supporting the drive for universal health care in 2007 and then the employer mandate in 2009.

However, its planned policy of not offering new employees health insurance if their hours dip below 30 a week indicates that they intend to take advantage of Obamacare’s new obligation to provide coverage for those who cannot afford it. And with several Republican governors promising to deny the funds for Medicaid expansion, the new policy could lead to a swift increase in the uninsured.

In several states, Walmart tops the list of employers whose employees seek government-funded health care and food assistance for their families, forcing taxpayers to subsidize its low prices and low wages.

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich points out that despite the incredible wealth of Walmart’s primary stockholders, the Walton family, its employees earn wages that may not even keep them out of poverty.

“The average Walmart employee earns $8.81 an hour. A third of Walmart’s employees work less than 28 hours per week and don’t qualify for benefits,” Reich wrote in one of his recent columns encouraging the retail giant’s employees to organize. Across the country a small percentage of Walmart’s employees walked out on Black Friday, protesting the company’s alleged retaliation against workers who speak out for better working conditions.

“Organizing makes economic sense,” Reich wrote.

In 2006, Walmart responded to criticism by greatly expanding the number of employees to whom it offered health insurance. They reduced the number receiving coverage in 2011.

“This is another example of a tremendous government subsidy to Walmart via its workers,” Nelson Lichtenstein, director of the Center for the Study of Work, Labor and Democracy at the University of California, Santa Barbara told The Huffington Post.

This change in policy will push the number of employees without benefits closer to one half.

Critics have said that Walmart provides a huge benefit to poor consumers by multiplying the value of food stamps with its low prices. But to Doug Henwood, that argument misses the central problem with the impact that Walmart has had on our economy:

And, yeah, it’s nice that Walmart has been able to provide a working class facing at best stagnant wages with lots of cheap stuff, but Walmart has itself had no small effect on dragging average wages down. It’s not just that they’ve been an inspiring business model for the rest for corporate sector, impressed by the chain’s growth and profitability. That’s led to endless rounds of outsourcing and speedup. But also by lowering the cost of reproduction of the working class, to use the old language, they’ve made it easier for employers to keep a lid on wages.

Add into the equation that taxpayers are subsidizing the costs of these wages and you have a formula for a permanent underclass underwritten by a government that can do little else than providing basic health care and sustenance.


By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, December 3, 2012

December 4, 2012 Posted by | Health Care | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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