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“Tyranny Over The Most Vulnerable”: Women Are Bearing The Brunt Of The GOP Shutdown Fallout

The “non-essential” programs that are currently unfunded due to the shutdown are in fact essential for many women and children.

The GOP likes to say the war on women is a myth. But the government shutdown, now in its 11th day, is just the latest evidence that it is indeed alive and well. It should be no surprise that women are among those hurt most by the closure, which, predictably, is in part a reaction to the benefits that the Affordable Care Act, President Obama’s signature achievement, guarantees women, as we wrote last week.

From the nation’s elite institutions to the oft-neglected rural areas of this country, women and their families are caught in the middle of a political impasse that has furloughed an estimated 800,000 government workers, threatens to upend the global economy, and has left critical government programs and services scrambling to secure emergency funds in order to serve America’s most vulnerable populations.

The shutdown threatens a number of programs and funding streams, including domestic violence shelters and service centers; Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF); the Woman, Infants, and Children Program (WIC); School Lunch; Head Start; and Title IX investigations of sexual assault on college campuses. This will have a serious impact on the health, physical safety, food security, and economic stability of women and their families.

Physical Safety

As Bryce Covert wrote last week, funds for domestic violence programs designated under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) have been suspended since October 4. (It should be no surprise that many of the House members leading the shutdown also voted against VAWA itself earlier this year.)

Small centers without access to independent funding – those that serve women with the fewest options – will only be able to weather the storm for so long. In the wake of the 2008 financial crisis and the ensuing economic downturn, violence against women has been on the rise, with eight out of 10 shelters reporting increases in the number of women seeking help, and 74 percent of domestic violence victims staying in unsafe situations because of economic insecurity.  Demand for these services is increasing, while funding is being cut from every source. Nearly four out of five of domestic violence service providers have reported decreases in government funding over the past five years, and since October 1, many have closed their doors completely or limited their services.

The shutdown is also affecting the safety of women on college and university campuses across the country. An increasing number of institutions are under investigation for ineffective handling of sexual assault cases adjudicated under Title IX.

And with the shutdown, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has suspended investigations into alleged violations and has halted campus visits necessary for holding institutions accountable.

Food Security

The shutdown threatens the food assistance on which millions of America’s most vulnerable women and children rely. At this point, federal funding for TANF, WIC, and school lunches has been suspended. State and USDA reserve funds are being reallocated so that states can continue to provide these essential services, but they will only be able to function with these limited resources for a short time.

States are shouldering the burden to keep TANF running while the government is shuttered, but last week, 5,200 eligible families in Arizona did not receive their monthly check. Thus far Arizona has been the only state to deny this important benefit for families in need, but every day the program is more strained.

WIC, the federal program that most crucially provides formula and breastfeeding assistance for mothers in need, has also been left in the lurch. On Tuesday, officials announced that no additional WIC vouchers would be issued in the state of North Carolina, where approximately 264,000 women rely on the program. In Utah, the WIC program shut its doors and only reopened four days later because the USDA provided a $2.5 million emergency grant. Other centers are sure to face the same challenges so long as workers are furloughed and grants are on hold.

Economic Security

Head Start programs that provide childcare and education for 7,200 low-income children ages 0-5 did not receive grants due on October 1. Thousands of low-income women are able to go to work every day because their children participate in Head Start programs. Without them, women already struggling in low-wage jobs and lacking benefits are forced to miss work, because no one else is able to care for their children. For women, secure employment is contingent on secure childcare and education for their families. The New York Times reported that programs in six states had closed due to the shutdown and then reopened temporarily thanks to a $10 million gift from a couple in Texas. Head Start will continue as a result of this short-term rescue, but private philanthropy will not be able to do the job of the government over the long term.

In sum, what some define as non-essential government services are, in fact, essential to the economic and physical well-being of America’s most vulnerable women and their families. It’s just another variation on the old adage that one man’s public interest may be another’s tyranny – in this instance, largely tyranny over women and children.


By: Andrea Flynn and Nataya Friedan, The National Memo, October 13, 2013

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Government Shut Down, War On Women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Feeding The Gullible Beltway Media”: The Delusional And Dangerous Paul Ryan Holds Himself Up As A Broker

It’s a measure of how gullible the Beltway media are that when Rep. Paul Ryan held himself up as the guy to broker a GOP deal on the debt ceiling and government shutdown with President Obama last week, he was greeted as a potential savior. Nobody seemed to notice that he was trying to push much of his discredited Ryan budget on Democrats in exchange for Republicans simply doing their job: opening up government and avoiding a debt default.

As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has belatedly begun reminding people, those are not concessions. Republicans say they want both things, and they should: their poll numbers are in the toilet and constituents are furious because of the government shutdown, and a debt ceiling would crater the economy.

But Ryan pushed anyway, as though he had a chance to force his terms on Obama and recalcitrant Democrats. That’s almost as delusional as former Vice President Dick Cheney saying we would be “greeted as liberators” in Iraq. But let’s give Cheney credit for one thing: He was elected vice president, twice. Ryan failed at that task a year ago and cannot be considered a serious candidate for national office.

The National Review’s Robert Costa, who is doing some of the best reporting on the House GOP, took issue with my calling Ryan “delusional” on MSNBC’s “Up with Steve Kornacki” Sunday morning. “I don’t think the word is delusional, because there was a moment last week when Ryan published that Wall Street Journal op-ed, the House was really leading the talks, and Ryan was engaging directly with the president. For a brief moment it seemed like Ryan could be the one to get his right flank to come along….Once Harry Reid really stepped into the fray, Paul Ryan’s whole influence over the process kind of evaporated.”

OK, but isn’t it a little bit delusional to believe Reid would stay out of the fray? Now comes news that Ryan has done a 180 and declared that House Republicans must fight whatever the Senate comes up with, even a compromise floated by GOP Sen. Susan Collins of Maine that Reid has already rejected for giving up too much. While the Collins proposal would open the government for six months and lift the debt ceiling enough to get to January, it delays the medical device tax two years and sets other conditions on the Affordable Care Act.  Reid insists the Senate won’t negotiate about the ACA or anything else under debt-ceiling/shutdown duress.

Ryan, who was savaged by some on the right last week for seeming to trade the goal of repealing Obamacare in exchange for Obama embracing most of the infamous Ryan budget, is now back to Obamacare. In fact, he’s insisting the House GOP shouldn’t back any deal that opens the government or extends the debt ceiling deadline without major changes to the Affordable Care Act, including letting employers withhold birth-control coverage from insurance plans for religious reasons.

Get it? They’re back to their crusade against birth control access. If that doesn’t define delusional, I’m not sure what does.

To be fair to Ryan, he dropped his politically toxic plan to voucherize Medicare in his latest proposal and mostly stuck to Medicare trimming that Obama himself had endorsed in the last round of grand bargain negotiating in 2011. While I think the president was willing to go too far to cut a deal – and may have been saved from himself by Republican insanity – it must be noted he was offering those cuts in exchange for major revenue increases. He was not offering them in exchange for the House and Senate GOP coming to its senses and doing its job, instead of holding the country hostage to pass legislative changes they can’t win enough political power to enact through legislation.

So yes, Ryan was always delusional – but now he’s even more so. The individual mandate will not be delayed, and the contraceptive provisions of the ACA will not be made optional. What’s dangerous is that Beltway reporters are so hungry for signs of GOP sanity that they hold up Ryan as reasonable, which feeds his own delusion that he’s politically crucial.

Now Ryan is really, really angry at Senate Republicans, according to NRO’s Jonathan Strong, and he’s going to take his ball and go home. “They’re trying to cut the House out, and trying to jam us with the Senate. We’re not going to roll over and take that,” Ryan told reporters on Saturday.

The only way this ends is the only way it ever was going to end: with House Speaker John Boehner, having let extremist GOP babies cry themselves out, finally passing a deal with the support of Democrats. And he shouldn’t count on them being the Democrats who approved the debt-ceiling “deal” that ultimately imposed sequester cuts, or the fiscal-cliff deal that compromised on tax rates and kicked those cuts down the road. On both the Senate and House side – where Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi openly frets that Democrats have “been enablers” of the “irresponsible” GOP – there’s a new tone of toughness. Let’s hope it holds.


By: Joan Walsh, Editor at Large,, October 13, 2013

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Government Shut Down, Ryan Budget Plan | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Risky Business”: Corporate Leaders Bemoan Tea Party Default Crisis Created By Their Own Donations

America’s great minds of business and finance have reached a consensus on the government shutdown and worse, the prospect of a debt default: While the latter is worse, both are bad. Those same great minds are well aware how the shutdown came to pass and why default still looms on the horizon, whether next week, next month, or next year.

Yes, the frightened corporate leaders surely know how this happened — because their money funded the Tea Party candidates and organizations responsible for the crisis.

Consider Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), a Tea Party freshman whose outspoken stupidity on a default’s potential benefits, such as an improved U.S. credit rating, has provided a bit of dark humor in these dark days. Yoho, a large-animal veterinarian, announced months ago that he would never vote to raise the debt ceiling.

Like most Republican candidates, he had no problem raising contributions from business interests, notably including contractors, insurance companies, manufacturers and agricultural processors — all of which presumably share the horror of default expressed by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. But no doubt Yoho parroted the usual right-wing clichés about taxes, regulation, labor, and health care, so all the business guys wrote a check without caring that Yoho is an ignorant yobbo.

Or consider Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN), who came to embody the idiocy of the shutdown when he declared “we’re not going to be disrespected” by the White House, but couldn’t articulate precisely what Republicans needed in order to reopen the government and avoid default.  Another low-wattage Tea Party newcomer, Stutzman likewise raised plenty of money from commercial banks, real estate firms, insurance companies, and various manufacturers. Why do these executives write checks to elect someone like him?

Then there are the Tea Party leaders in the upper chamber, including such adornments of democracy as Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and of course Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Johnson says there need be no debt default, no matter what Congress does, while Cruz, the “Defund Obamacare” mastermind, is more culpable than any other single legislator for the paralysis gripping Washington and the country. Johnson’s top donors include an investment firm called Fiduciary Management, Inc., ironically enough, as well as Northwestern Mutual, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Mass Mutual Life Insurance, and naturally, Koch Industries (which now claims, disingenuously, that it doesn’t favor the Cruz shutdown strategy or a debt default).

As for Cruz, guess who paid for his campaign? Very close to the top of the list of donors for the despised Texan is none other than Goldman Sachs — whose chairman Lloyd Blankfein showed up at the White House a few days ago to bemoan the catastrophic threat of default. Not only did Blankfein and his fellow bankers warn of what might happen if America breaches its full faith and credit, but he even hinted that the fault lies with Republican hostage takers. Which is only partially right, because Blankfein and his fellow financiers need to look in the mirror, too. Cruz also got a big check from Berkshire Hathaway, corporate home of the venerated Wall Street sage Warren Buffett, who just compared the impact of default to “a nuclear bomb.” If that nuke wipes out the markets, Berkshire’s investment in Cruz will have lit the fuse.

If any of these business leaders honestly cared about fiscal responsibility and economic growth – let alone the constant threat of shutdowns and defaults – they could step up to warn the Republicans that the money won’t be there anymore unless they cease and desist from such assaults on democracy. They have more than enough money and power to end this crisis – and make sure it never happens again – but they seem to lack the necessary character and courage.


By: Joe Conason, Featured Post, The National Memo, October 11, 2013

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Big Business, Default, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Party At The Crossroads”: GOP In-Fighting With Multiple Axes

In the mid-1970s, the Republican Party had fallen on such hard times, there was a fair amount of talk about it changing its name. The argument was that the Republican brand had been tarnished so badly — it was associated with Watergate, country clubs, and the Great Depression — that it might just be better to start over with some other name.

We now know, of course, that this wasn’t necessary, and by 1981, the party at the national level was thriving once more. But it’s not unreasonable to wonder if the Republican Party is in even worse shape now.

John Judis has an interesting item in The New Republic today, noting among other things what happened when he reached out to Republican insiders this week to discuss the effects of the shutdown.

The response I got was fear of Republican decline and loathing of the Tea Party: One lobbyist and former Hill staffer lamented the “fall of the national party,” another the rise of “suburban revolutionaries,” and another of “people alienated from business, from everything.” There is a growing fear among Washington Republicans that the party, which has lost two national elections in a row, is headed for history’s dustbin. And I believe that they are right to worry.

The battle over the shutdown has highlighted the cracks and fissures within the party. The party’s leadership has begun to lose control of its members in Congress. The party’s base has become increasingly shrill and is almost as dissatisfied with the Republican leadership in Washington as it is with President Obama. New conservative groups have echoed, and taken advantage of, this sentiment by targeting Republicans identified with the leadership for defeat. And a growing group of Republican politicians, who owe their election to these groups, has carried the battle into the halls of Congress. That is spelling doom for the Republican coalition that has kept the party afloat for the last two decades.

This may seem a little hyperbolic, but given recent developments — in polling, within the party, from outside groups allied with the party — the GOP’s fractures aren’t quite normal.

Indeed, while much of the focus of late has been on a dispute between congressional Republicans and the White House, this only tells part of the story. It’s actually a fight with multiple axes — a Democratic president vs. congressional Republicans, and Republicans against themselves.

Jon Chait had a good piece on this earlier.

Conservative activists and the party’s pro-business Establishment have split more deeply and rapidly than anybody expected. It is startling to see the head of the National Federation of Independent Businesses — a group so staunchly partisan and conservative that liberals had to form a competing small business lobby — deliver quotes in public like this: “There clearly are people in the Republican Party at the moment for whom the business community and the interests of the business community — the jobs and members they represent — don’t seem to be their top priority.” The mutual recriminations run in both directions, with figures like the conservative organizer Erick Erickson muttering threats to form a third party.

Intra-party schisms have a long history in American politics. But they are usually rooted in policy — the Republicans splitting half a century ago over progressivism and the role of government, the Democrats slowly rending a half century ago over white supremacy. Mainstream Republicans and the tea party have fallen out almost entirely over political tactics.

If anything, I think Jon’s probably understating the case. There are clearly strategic differences — some Republicans are reluctant to compromise, while other Republicans consider compromise to be a horrible crime that must never be committed — that have led GOP officials to shut down the government and threaten a sovereign debt crisis for reasons they can neither identify nor explain.

But these differences over tactics are compounded by disagreement over policy and direction. Republican policymakers and their allies are divided on immigration and the culture war, for example, and have reached the point at which the party no longer really has a foreign policy consensus anymore.

Big Business and the Tea Party are at odds, as are libertarians and social conservatives, as are the House GOP and the Senate GOP. It’s a party with no leaders, no elder statesmen (or women), and an older, white base in an increasingly diverse nation.

For generations, parties see their power and popularity ebb and flow, and in a two-party system, it’s hard to imagine Republicans staying down indefinitely. But in the post-Civil War era, we haven’t seen a party quite as radical as today’s GOP, and we haven’t seen many parties with quite so many internal and external crises to deal with all at once.

There are no easy fixes for a catastrophe this severe.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 11, 2013

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Big Business, GOP, Tea Party | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Mythical Republican Moderates”: Taking Visibly Moderate Stands While Quietly Siding With Their Party

Until recently, moderate Republicans had succeeded in flying under the radar during the shutdown crisis. Initially, journalists focused on Speaker John Boehner. Journalists have a penchant to personalize, and Boehner is the most prominent Republican. Some commentators described the current impasse as a result of Boehner’s inadequacies. They offered a Not-So-Great Man theory of history.

Political scientists would be skeptical. In a classic study, Joseph Cooper and David Brady argued that effective leadership style among House speakers is a function of the preferences in their party caucuses. A cohesive party will allow a speaker to exercise a lot of authority. A divided one will reduce the most talented speaker to the role of a broker among factions.

More insightful analyses focused less on Boehner’s alleged failings than on a few dozen “Tea Party” representatives in the House Republican Conference. This is a better reading of the situation than a narrow focus on Boehner, but it still leaves out a lot. Boehner’s adherence to “the Hastert Rule” (bringing forward only bills favored by a majority of the majority party) does not explain how a few dozen Tea Party legislators can determine party policy. In fact, the current crisis is not simply a result of the intransigence of a small number of Republicans on the fringe of their party any more than it is a simple product of Boehner’s leadership style. A much larger group of GOP representatives, not identified as Tea Partiers, are loath to challenge that faction.

Now journalists’ attention is finally turning to House GOP moderates. For several days, more than  two dozen House Republicans have expressed support for a “clean CR,” or continuing resolution without provisions relating to the Affordable Care Act which President Obama and congressional Democrats would accept and which could end the shutdown.

On paper, these moderate Republicans combined with the House Democrats control enough votes to pass such a resolution. Then why doesn’t it happen? Saying Boehner won’t bring up the resolution that moderates claim to support leaves out the fact that these same moderates refuse to sign a “discharge petition” that could bring a continuing resolution to the floor.

Monkey Cage congressional procedure maven Sarah Binder has described the challenges of using the discharge petition procedure in a series of posts. Yet as Josh Barro notes, it’s simply not the case that these Republicans have explored all the procedural options and taken all opportunities to force an end to the shutdown. They have voted against Democratic “motions to recommit” on GOP “mini-bills” that would reopen the government. Effective tactics might involve voting down a rule, or rejecting a ruling of the chair, steps that would be considered quite radical within the partisan context.

And that’s the point, really. Too narrow a focus on rules obscures a more profound political reality; GOP moderates have been unwilling to break from their party on the shutdown issue. In general, Congressional moderates are more closely aligned to their parties than is understood. Often their defections from party ranks occur when it is clear that their party does not need their votes to prevail on a given issue. Moderates frequently represent constituencies in which their parties are not very popular. This gives them a political incentive to create the impression of a certain distance between themselves and their party. Leadership understands this and does not punish legislators for such behavior.

Congressional scholars, including my colleague Frances Lee and Sean Theriault, have shown that legislators are much more likely to stick with their party on “procedural votes” like rules in the House and cloture in the Senate than on up-or-down or “final passage” votes. Procedural votes and discharge petition signatures are harder for voters to understand than final passage votes, but they determine whether a bill ever reaches the final passage stage. For members who want to stay “on the team” the solution is clear: Criticize your party’s extremists, pay lip service to bipartisanship and vote for the eventual compromise when the leadership decides to bring it to the floor. But do not force the leader’s hand or undermine his position.

Why would members engage in this seemingly devious behavior? There are a few reasons. One factor is fear. Even moderates who represent districts in which they see no gain in being identified with the Tea Party brand still fear primary challengers. Recall that Rep. Mike Castle, who had been in office for decades, lost his primary to an opponent who later had to spend the general election denying she was a witch — and not in Utah or in Mississippi, but in Delaware, a state that had voted Democratic in the last five presidential elections. Similarly, the party switch of the late Arlen Specter was based on an understanding that he would lose the impending Republican Senate primary in purple Pennsylvania. Steve Lonergan, the GOP’s current Senate candidate against Cory Booker in deep blue New Jersey, is a Tea Party ally.

In short, GOP primary voters are perfectly capable of nominating Tea Party or other very conservative candidates and unseating more moderate incumbents, even in blue states, and Republican representatives know this. It is unlikely that most of them would lose renomination simply because they broke from their party on the shutdown issue, but it would be a very high-profile defection that would enrage many conservatives, and elected officials are risk-averse.

Secondly, there is substantial pressure within Congress not to break ranks. Some of this is psychological. Members of Congress spend less time mingling across party lines than they used to and “us vs. them” feelings are intense. There is also some price to pay for going against the party leadership. For example, at the end of the last Congress,  some Republicans who had bucked the leadership once too often lost committee assignments.

Finally, we should take far more seriously the under-discussed possibility raised by journalists like Matthew Yglesias and Congress scholars like Robert Van Houweling that some of these legislators are not as moderate as they pretend. Most elected officials were once party activists, a group that is much more polarized than the general public. Moderate Republicans who refuse to sign a discharge petition may not be Tea Partiers in their hearts of hearts, but it is likely that deep down they are more conservative than most of their constituents. Taking visibly moderate stands while quietly siding with their party on “procedural matters” that insure that their moderation will not have any impact allows these legislators to reconcile their personal policy preferences with their electoral concerns. Of course, if these tactics were better understood by the voters and the media that informs them, they would be much less effective.


By: David Karol, The Washington Post, The Monkey Cage, October 8, 2013

October 14, 2013 Posted by | Politics, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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