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“They’re Only Suggestions”: Ted Cruz Doesn’t Want Credit For Destruction In His Wake

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) met privately with a group of House Republicans on Wednesday to urge them to ignore their own leadership and oppose their party’s border bill. Less than a day later, House GOP leaders were forced to pull their preferred legislation – too many of House Speaker John Boehner’s members were listening to Cruz, not him.

When no one seemed sure what the House majority would do next, Democratic lawmakers were heard joking with reporters that they should ask Cruz, since he seems to be in control of the lower chamber.

Robert Costa had a fascinating report overnight on the behind-the-scenes efforts, including details from the Wednesday night meeting in Cruz’s office, though the far-right Texan apparently doesn’t want to be held responsible for his handiwork.

In an interview, Cruz said that he did not dictate what the members should do, but only reaffirmed his position against Boehner’s plan.

“The suggestion by some that House members are unable to stand up and fight for their own conservative principles is offensive and belittling to House conservatives,” Cruz said. “They know what they believe and it would be absurd for anyone to try to tell them what to think.”

And yet, by all appearances, Cruz guided their hand, telling House Republicans that “Boehner was distracted and … they should stick to their principles.” The senator “also reminded them to be skeptical of promises from House leaders, particularly of ‘show votes’ – legislative action designed to placate conservatives that carry little, if any, weight.”

For a guy who doesn’t try to tell Republicans what to think, Cruz seems eager to offer, shall we say, suggestions.

I don’t think the political world fully appreciates just how regularly the Texas Republican intervenes in the affairs of the House chamber.

The list we’ve been updating keeps getting longer. Last September, for example, Boehner presented a plan to avoid a government shutdown. Cruz met directly with House Republicans, urged them to ignore their own leader’s plan, and GOP House members followed his advice. A month later, Cruz held another meeting with House Republicans, this time in a private room at a Capitol Hill restaurant.

This year, in April, the Texas senator again gathered House Republicans, this time for a private meeting in his office. In June, less than an hour after House Republicans elected a new leadership team, Cruz invited House Republicans to join him for “an evening of discussion and fellowship.”

Last week, Cruz and House Republicans met to plot strategy on the border bill. This week, they huddled once more.

The Texas Republican doesn’t seem to get along with other senators, but he spends an inordinate amount of time huddling with House Republicans who actually seem to listen to his advice.

As for the senator’s motivations, Danny Vinik had a good piece arguing that Cruz’s principal goal seems to be doing the right thing for Ted Cruz.

He was the architect of the “defund Obamacare” movement last year that ended in a politically toxic government shutdown and eventual Republican capitulation. In February, Cruz forced some of his Republican colleagues to take a politically-damaging vote to raise the debt ceiling. In all of these situations, Cruz has been focused on his own political future, staking out a position as far to the right as he can. He didn’t care that his antics damaged the party. They were good for Ted Cruz – and that’s what mattered.

That’s what happened again on Thursday with the House GOP’s bill to address the border crisis. And it’s going to continue happening in the future….

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 1, 2014

August 2, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, House Republicans, Ted Cruz | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Upending Of Reason In The House”: Republican Efforts To Placate Conservatives Aren’t Working

After conservatives on Thursday brought down House Speaker John Boehner’s bill to address the border crisis, the new House Republican leadership team issued a joint statement declaring that President Obama should fix the problem himself.

“There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action,” the leadership quartet proclaimed, “to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.”

Who’s in the what now?

Just the day before, House Republicans had voted to sue Obama for using his executive authority. They called him lawless, a usurper, a monarch, a tyrant — all for postponing deadlines in the implementation of Obamacare. Now they were begging him to take executive action to compensate for their own inability to act — even though, in this case, accelerating the deportation of thousands of unaccompanied children coming from Central America would likely require Obama to ignore a 2008 law.

This was not a momentary lapse but a wholesale upending of reason.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the Appropriations Committee chairman who had been leading the GOP side in the border legislation debate, told reporters much the same thing after the legislation was pulled from the floor. “I think this will put a lot more pressure on the president to act,” he said, according to The Post’s Paul Kane and Ed O’Keefe. “He has the authority and power to solve the problem forthwith.”

Apparently, if Obama is using his executive authority to advance a policy House Republicans support, it’s a meritorious exercise of presidential authority; if he uses that same authority to aid a policy they oppose, it’s time to write up articles of impeachment.

In another action this week, Republicans acknowledged, at least tacitly, that Obama has the executive authority to postpone deportations. The House majority drafted, and scheduled a vote on, legislation that would forbid the executive branch from anything that would “expand the number of aliens eligible for deferred action.”

But in proposing such legislation (which was pulled from the floor along with the border bill), Republicans implicitly acknowledged that Obama has such power now. Therefore, until both chambers of Congress can pass such a law by veto-proof margins, Obama retains the power. This is probably why House Republicans, just two weeks earlier, scoffed at the suggestion that they pass this sort of legislation when the idea came up before the Rules Committee.

If the GOP position sounds contradictory, that’s because it’s less about the Constitution than cleavages within the party. There are real questions about Obama’s abuses of power — say, the spying on Americans by the National Security Agency or the use of drones to kill U.S. citizens overseas — but the opposition party has left those largely untouched. The planned lawsuit was a bone thrown to conservatives to quiet their impeachment talk. The legislation restricting Obama’s executive authority on immigration was a similar effort to buy off conservatives who had been encouraged to rebel by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).

But the efforts to placate conservatives aren’t working. The new House GOP leadership team took over Thursday, but a mere two hours after Rep. Eric Cantor gave his valedictory as majority leader on the House floor, his successor did a face-plant.

All morning, GOP leaders had been predicting that they had sufficient Republican votes to pass Boehner’s border bill. But then conservatives, under pressure from Cruz and far-right interest groups, began to go squishy, and the new leader, Kevin McCarthy, announced that he was pulling the border bill from the floor and that members could depart early for their five-week summer break.

What followed was as close as Congress gets to one of those fistfights in the Taiwanese parliament. Mainstream Republicans besieged Boehner and McCarthy on the House floor, noisily demanding that they do something about the border crisis before going on holiday. Half an hour later, McCarthy announced that “additional votes are possible today.”

Boos and jeers rained down on the new leader. The speaker pro tempore, Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), banged the gavel violently for order. Some lawmakers had to be called back from National Airport.

The hapless new majority leader, and his equally hapless new majority whip, Steve Scalise, called Republicans to an emergency meeting, where after fierce argument it was decided . . . that they would meet again on Friday.

Boehner, earlier in the day, tried to be philosophical. “I take my job one day at a time,” he said.

The problem with day-by-day leadership, though, is inconsistency: What you do on Thursday has a way of contradicting what you said on Wednesday.

 

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 1, 2014

August 2, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Our Blind Spot About Guns”: Politicians Should Be As Rational About Guns As They Are About Motor Vehicles

If we had the same auto fatality rate today that we had in 1921, by my calculations we would have 715,000 Americans dying annually in vehicle accidents.

Instead, we’ve reduced the fatality rate by more than 95 percent — not by confiscating cars, but by regulating them and their drivers sensibly.

We could have said, “Cars don’t kill people. People kill people,” and there would have been an element of truth to that. Many accidents are a result of alcohol consumption, speeding, road rage or driver distraction. Or we could have said, “It’s pointless because even if you regulate cars, then people will just run each other down with bicycles,” and that, too, would have been partly true.

Yet, instead, we built a system that protects us from ourselves. This saves hundreds of thousands of lives a year and is a model of what we should do with guns in America.

Whenever I write about the need for sensible regulation of guns, some readers jeer: Cars kill people, too, so why not ban cars? Why are you so hypocritical as to try to take away guns from law-abiding people when you don’t seize cars?

That question is a reflection of our national blind spot about guns. The truth is that we regulate cars quite intelligently, instituting evidence-based measures to reduce fatalities. Yet the gun lobby is too strong, or our politicians too craven, to do the same for guns. So guns and cars now each kill more than 30,000 in America every year.

One constraint, the argument goes, is the Second Amendment. Yet the paradox is that a bit more than a century ago, there was no universally recognized individual right to bear arms in the United States, but there was widely believed to be a “right to travel” that allowed people to drive cars without regulation.

A court struck down an early attempt to require driver’s licenses, and initial attempts to set speed limits or register vehicles were met with resistance and ridicule. When authorities in New York City sought in 1899 to ban horseless carriages in the parks, the idea was lambasted in The New York Times as “devoid of merit” and “impossible to maintain.

Yet, over time, it became increasingly obvious that cars were killing and maiming people, as well as scaring horses and causing accidents. As a distinguished former congressman, Robert Cousins, put it in 1910: “Pedestrians are menaced every minute of the days and nights by a wanton recklessness of speed, crippling and killing people at a rate that is appalling.”

Courts and editorial writers alike saw the carnage and agreed that something must be done. By the 1920s, courts routinely accepted driver’s license requirements, car registration and other safety measures.

That continued in recent decades with requirements of seatbelts and air bags, padded dashboards and better bumpers. We cracked down on drunken drivers and instituted graduated licensing for young people, while also improving road engineering to reduce accidents. The upshot is that there is now just over 1 car fatality per 100 million miles driven.

Yet as we’ve learned to treat cars intelligently, we’ve gone in the opposite direction with guns. In his terrific new book, “The Second Amendment: A Biography,” Michael Waldman, the president of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, notes that “gun control laws were ubiquitous” in the 19th century. Visitors to Wichita, Kan., for example, were required to check their revolvers at police headquarters.

And Dodge City, symbol of the Wild West? A photo shows a sign on the main street in 1879 warning: “The Carrying of Fire Arms Strictly Prohibited.”

The National Rifle Association supported reasonable gun control for most of its history and didn’t even oppose the landmark Gun Control Act of 1968. But, since then, most attempts at safety regulation have stalled or gone backward, and that makes the example of cars instructive.

“We didn’t ban cars, or send black helicopters to confiscate them,” notes Waldman. “We made cars safer: air bags, seatbelts, increasing the drinking age, lowering the speed limit. There are similar technological and behavioral fixes that can ease the toll of gun violence, from expanded background checks to trigger locks to smart guns that recognize a thumbprint, just like my iPhone does.”

Some of these should be doable. A Quinnipiac poll this month found 92 percent support for background checks for all gun buyers.

These steps won’t eliminate gun deaths any more than seatbelts eliminate auto deaths. But if a combination of measures could reduce the toll by one-third, that would be 10,000 lives saved every year.

A century ago, we reacted to deaths and injuries from unregulated vehicles by imposing sensible safety measures that have saved hundreds of thousands of lives a year. Why can’t we ask politicians to be just as rational about guns?

 

By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, August 1, 2014

August 2, 2014 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Deaths, National Rifle Association | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What The Republicans Failed To Accomplish”: Vital Tasks The House Did Not Address Before Taking An Unnecessary Recess

Many House members were at the airport yesterday, desperate to begin their five-week vacation, when the chamber’s leadership called them back. An emergency bill to provide money for the humanitarian crisis at the Southern border had earlier been pulled from the floor because of objections from the hard right; now some Republicans wanted to try again.

“You can’t go home!” Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas said, according to the Washington Post. That would send a terrible message to President Obama: “You’re right, we’re a do-nothing Congress.”

Sorry, congressman. That message had already been broadcast long before the House tripped over its own divisions on the border bill. The failure of this Congress (principally the House) to perform the most basic tasks of governing is breathtakingly broad. Though members did manage to pass a bill overhauling the Department of Veterans Affairs, here is a catalog of the vital tasks the House was unable to accomplish before taking an unnecessary recess:

But there is one thing House Republicans did enthusiastically before packing their bags: They voted to sue the president for taking executive actions they disliked — actions that were necessary because Republicans failed to do their jobs.

 

By: David Firestone, Taking Note, The Editorial Page Editors Blog, The New York Times, August 1, 2014

August 2, 2014 Posted by | Congress, House Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Short-Term Pain Isn’t A Problem”: How Republicans Are Heightening The Contradictions

Congress is going on recess at the end of this week, and they’ll be doing it without a bill to address the large number of Central American children showing up at the southern border—John Boehner couldn’t even come up with a bill that would pass his house after Ted Cruz convinced House conservatives to oppose it. On that issue, on the Affordable Care Act, and on other issues as well, we may be seeing the rise of a particular strategy on the right—sometimes gripping part of the GOP, and sometimes all of it—that can be traced back to that noted conservative Vladimir Lenin. I speak of “heightening the contradictions,” the idea that you have to intentionally make conditions even more miserable than they are, so the people rise up and cast off the illegitimate rulers and replace them with you and your allies. Then the work of building a paradise can begin.

In the end, the House GOP leadership wanted a bill that contained a small amount of money to actually address the problem, made a policy change Republicans want (expediting deportations of Central American children), and did some things that don’t address the problem at all (like beefing up border security, which is irrelevant since these kids are happily turning themselves in). But the conservatives wanted to attach a provision to the bill that would also undo the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, under which “dreamers” who have been in the U.S. since before 2007 can stay under certain conditions.

As Cruz and his allies knew quite well, while the broader GOP bill faced an uncertain fate in the Senate, a bill that had DACA repeal attached to it had zero chance of passing there. So what was the point? It may be that they were thinking along the same lines as conservative wise man Bill Kristol, who today told Republicans to pass nothing and let Barack Obama take the blame:

If the GOP does nothing, and if Republicans explain that there’s no point acting due to the recalcitrance of the president to deal with the policies that are causing the crisis, the focus will be on the president. Republican incumbents won’t have problematic legislation to defend or questions to answer about what further compromises they’ll make. Republican challengers won’t have to defend or attack GOP legislation. Instead, the focus can be on the president—on his refusal to enforce the immigration law, on the effect of his unwise and arbitrary executive actions in 2012, on his pending rash and illegal further executive acts in 2014, and on his refusal to deal with the real legal and policy problems causing the border crisis.

Hooray! Sure, the crisis that they’re allegedly so angry about would continue unabated. But what’s that next to a little political difficulty for Barack Obama?

Something quite similar is happening on the Affordable Care Act. The phrase you now hear from everyone on the right is that the law will “collapse under its own weight,” which is a way of saying that even though there’s been nothing but good news lately about how the law is going, it’s so awful that it will inevitably cause such horrible suffering that everyone will come to agree with us that it must be repealed. “I think it’s going to collapse under its own weight in time,” says Paul Ryan. “Obamacare will collapse under its own weight,” writes Phil Gramm in the Wall Street Journal. “Eventually, all this is going to collapse around them,” says Rep. Marsha Blackburn about the law.

That “collapse” is a fantasy that will never happen, but let’s take them at their word when they say it will. While they never get specific about what the collapse will look like, by definition it would be disastrous for millions of Americans. Would they lose their insurance coverage, or be unable to get treatment for serious medical conditions? It would have to be something like that to constitute a “collapse.” And the Republican position isn’t, “This collapse is coming, so we’d better work hard to make sure it doesn’t and insulate vulnerable Americans from its effects.” Instead, their position is, “This collapse is coming, so we’ll just wait until the nightmare of suffering and death plays itself out, after which we’ll be there to offer our as-yet-undetermined health care alternative.”

The Halbig lawsuit that Republicans are all guffawing about was nothing if not an effort to heighten the contradictions and accelerate the collapse. If it succeeds, insurance subsidies will be taken away from Americans in 36 states, making coverage unaffordable for millions. Republicans won’t say explicitly that this is the outcome they desire, but it’s the only reason to file the lawsuit in the first place. And of course, if the disaster of those millions losing coverage was something Republicans wanted to forestall, they could do it in an afternoon. Just pass a short bill making clear that subsidies apply in every state, and the problem would be solved. But that, of course, wouldn’t heighten the contradictions.

This idea has its limits—for instance, Congress is probably going to pass some short-term fix for the highway trust fund before tomorrow. But that’s because it would be harder for Republicans to escape blame for the consequences when all those construction projects start shutting down. If there’s any way at all for Obama can take the fall on an issue, they’ll do it.

To be sure, there is a certain logic at work here. Like every political party, today’s Republicans believe that if they were in complete control, their preferred policies would be so glorious and work so well that the total of suffering in the country would be reduced to microscopic levels. So some increased suffering in the short term is tolerable if it helps us get closer to that future nirvana. That’s of some reassurance, right?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 31, 2014

August 2, 2014 Posted by | GOP, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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