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“The Fate Of The GOP Majority Is On The Line”: Even The Wall Street Journal Says Republican Congress Is Failing

This WSJ editorial is definitely NOT good news for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell or Speaker John Boehner:

Republicans in Congress are off to a less than flying start after a month in power, dividing their own conference more than Democrats. Take the response to President Obama ’s immigration order, which seems headed for failure if not a more spectacular crack-up…

If Homeland Security funding lapses on Feb. 27, the agency will be pushed into a partial shutdown even as the terrorist threat is at the forefront of public attention with the Charlie Hebdo and Islamic State murders. Imagine if the Transportation Security Administration, a unit of DHS, fails to intercept an Islamic State agent en route to Detroit.

So Republicans are facing what is likely to be another embarrassing political retreat and more intra-party recriminations. The GOP’s restrictionist wing will blame the leadership for a failure they share responsibility for, and the rest of America will wonder anew about the gang that couldn’t shoot straight…

It’s not too soon to say that the fate of the GOP majority is on the line…This is no way to run a Congressional majority, and the only winners of GOP dysfunction will be Mr. Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton.

Ouch! That one left a mark. When Republican leadership loses the Wall Street Journal editorial page, you can rest assured that they’re in big trouble.

And yet today Speaker Boehner told Chris Wallace that the House has already done it’s business and that he is prepared to let DHS funding expire at the end of the month.

Notice that Sen. McConnell didn’t appear on any of the Sunday news shows. But here’s how he explained his position earlier this week.

“I think it’d be pretty safe to say we’re stuck, because of Democratic obstruction on the Senate side,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) told reporters Tuesday. “I think it’s clear we can’t go forward in the Senate. And so the next move, obviously, is up to the House.”

If the WSJ is right and the fate of the GOP majority is on the line, it’s past time for these two Congressional leaders to face up to yet another embarrassing political defeat and get something done.


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, February 15, 2015

February 18, 2015 Posted by | Congress, John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Keystone, Patriotism, And The White Working Class”: That Moment In Which Good Policy And Good Rhetoric Meet

Some time in the next two weeks, President Barack Obama is expected to veto a bill authorizing the construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline. The U.S. House passed a measure last week. A similar bill passed the U.S. Senate the week before. Republicans, and even some Democrats, are calling it the “Keystone jobs bill.”

Activists hope Obama will veto the bill out of concern for an already overheated planet — the refining and consumption of Canadian tar-sands oil results in double the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. But that rationale is unlikely. The president is probably going to argue that Congress exceeded its constitutional authority. In crossing an international boundary, the pipeline is executive-branch turf.

But I wonder if this might be an opportunity, at least a rhetorical opportunity best understood in a somewhat different context. That context is the Democratic Party’s dismal performance among white working-class voters, who generally believe the Republican Party represents their interests even though it doesn’t.

Before I continue, please allow me to disclaim that when it comes to the white working class, I have some authority. My dad long-hauled steel. My mom raised four children in a comfortable trailer home while Dad was on the road. They certainly don’t approve of everything the government does — their anti-military views are exceptional — but right or wrong, America is theirs. And thanks to their rearing, America is mine, too.

To say my parents were conflicted over the role of the federal government in their lives is an understatement, but to say they wanted it out of their lives, as Republicans repeatedly claim on their behalf, is a gross overstatement. There’s nothing wrong with government as long as it serves the people whose biggest asset is their labor, which in their world means everyone not born into so much wealth that they don’t need to work.

Why does the white working class even matter to Democrats? Doesn’t the demographic tide favor them? Yes, but as Andrew Levison has argued, the Democrats still need white working-class voters. Without them, the party will scarcely attain the majoritarian momentum it needs to advance a truly progressive agenda. To be blunt, without them, demographics for the Democratic Party isn’t destiny. It’s doom.

The question is how to reach them. Democratic strategists cyclically scratch their heads in disbelief at white working-class voters acting in contrast to their interests. But such behavior shouldn’t be all that surprising. After all, voting is the result of emotion at least as much as it is the result of tactical decision making. And this is where I think the president’s expected veto of the Keystone bill is connected to the white working class. If there’s one thing white working-class voters respond to, it is emotional appeals to their deep and abiding sense of patriotism (the Republicans long ago mastered the art of such appeals). But Obama has an opportunity to shift the rhetorical landscape in favor of the Democrats by vetoing the Keystone bill in the name of country.

I’m not just favoring good rhetoric over good policy: This is a moment in which good policy and good rhetoric meet.

First, the pipeline isn’t going to help many Americans. Indeed, the Republicans never let a moment go by without reminding us that Obama’s own Department of State estimates that thousands of jobs will emerge from the $8 billion construction of the pipeline. But a majority of those jobs are seasonal. Once the project is completed, about 35 jobs will endure, according to the very same government estimate.

Second, the pipeline is going to help many Canadians. The Keystone is one of five proposed pipelines needed to profit from billions being invested in the extraction of tar-sands crude. This handful of pipelines tops the list of Canada’s national priorities. According to Mark Dowie, in The Washington Spectator, if even one of the pipelines is stymied, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s dream of creating a petro-state will die. So pressure is mounting. Harper, Canada’s oil companies, and their very wealthy investors around the world want to see the Keystone built. In the United States, it will create a flurry of temporary activity, but the long-term rewards will be entirely enjoyed by Canadians.

That matters to white working-class voters. That’s something that can’t be squared with Republican claims that Keystone is simply a jobs bill.

All right. Let’s accept the premise — Keystone is a jobs bill. If so, it’s bad one. As I said, lots of temporary jobs, a few permanent jobs and nothing left for the greater good. All future dividends from billions presently invested will flow north of the border. Indeed, it’s Americans who will suffer detriment in the event of a leak. (Leaks are rare, but when they happen, they are catastrophic to communities, property and natural resources.) A better jobs plan can be found in the president’s fiscal year budget. It calls for federal expenditures on the construction and upkeep of the country’s (literally) crumbling infrastructure. How does Obama hope to pay for all these roads, bridges, tunnels and waterways? By levying a tax on the offshore accounts of the very wealthy.

The president wants to tax the money of a very small minority of Americans who don’t want to pay U.S. taxes. He wants to raise revenues to fund the construction, and reconstruction, of the country’s infrastructure. If expenditures reach as high as $1 trillion, as Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has proposed, we are talking about hundreds of thousands of seasonal and permanent jobs, with something to show for all the effort—a lasting investment. (Sanders’ proposal would also probably include a hike in the federal gas tax, which hasn’t gone up since the mid-1990s.) Conversely, the Republicans blindly oppose all tax increases, even on those without enough sense of patriotism to want to pay their due in taxes while everyone else does.

If that appears to be the making of a wedge issue, that’s because it is, and the Democrats need to exploit it. The Keystone reveals a rift between rich Americans who don’t pay taxes and working-class Americans who do; between rich Americans who don’t want to rebuild America, for Americans, and working-class Americans who do.

The bottom line: Courting white working-class voters will take more than appealing to their economic interests. It isn’t enough to do the right thing, and this is where I part ways with others on this subject. I tend to believe the Democrats don’t do enough to drive a wedge between white working-class voters and the Republican Party elites who claim to represent them. The GOP’s hold on the working-class imagination is strong, thanks to years and years of race baiting and fearmongering. So when the rare opportunity arises in which Democrats can illuminate the clear contrasts between the interests of the very, very rich and everyone else, it shouldn’t be wasted.


By: John Stoehr, Managing Editor of The Washington Spectator; The National Memo, February 17, 2015

February 18, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Keystone XL, Patriotism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Far Exceeding Necessity, Formal Budgets And Good Taste”: Report Blasts Israel’s Netanyahu For Lavish Personal Spending

In a scathing report with potential political and criminal repercussions, Israel’s state comptroller sharply criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday for excessive spending of public funds in his official and private residences.

The highly anticipated report, which came just four weeks before Israeli elections, faulted Netanyahu and his wife, Sara, for using public funds to spend lavishly on a variety of personal goods and services, including cleaning, clothing, water and grooming, between 2009 and 2012. The spending dropped after that.

Netanyahu defended his behavior, but political opponents seized on the report. Labor Party leader Isaac Herzog said he found the findings infuriating.

“But it is not because of how you conduct yourself in your homes that the public wants to replace you, but because you have destroyed our home,” Herzog wrote on Facebook. “We will replace you because on your shift, Hamas grows stronger … young couples cannot buy a house … because you eat a $5,000 breakfast when every third child in Israel goes to bed hungry.”

The Netanyahus live and work in the official prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem and keep a private home in Caesarea, one of the country’s priciest spots. According to the report by Comptroller Joseph Shapira, spending on both often far exceeded necessity, formal budgets and good taste. In addition, the report pointed to improprieties in management of finances, human resources and external contractors.

When Netanyahu took office in 2009, expenses at both residences totaled roughly a half-million dollars a year. By 2011, that had roughly doubled before dropping to about $600,000 in 2013. Food and hosting expenses alone started out at about $55,000 and more than doubled to about $125,000 in 2011. After a modest cut in expenses the following year, expenses for 2013 dropped to near the 2009 level.

Cleaning both residences came with a particularly high price tag: a monthly average of about $20,000 between 2009 and 2013, including more than $2,000 a month for the Caesarea house, which was usually empty. Shapira found this spending “significantly exaggerated.”

About $20,000 a year was spent to order meal deliveries, despite employing an in-house cook. These and other expenses, Shapira wrote, were “not compatible with the basic principles of proportionality, reasonability, economy and efficiency.”

Personal grooming expenses for the prime minister and his wife totaled well over $100 a day, which Shapira found to be more than double the budgeted amount.

Some of the findings could lead to criminal proceedings. According to the report, Sara Netanyahu finagled employing an electrician who was barred by protocol because he was a personal friend and a member of the prime minister’s political party, Likud.

Justice authorities will have to decide how to address other breaches, including money kept temporarily from recycling bottles from the official residence several years ago and a set of patio furniture bought for the official residence but transferred to the private one. While these were noted in the report, they were not officially investigated.

“Public trust in government institutions is a cornerstone of every democracy,” Shapira wrote, adding that such institutions must gain this trust by adhering to both law and “moral norms.” While he welcomed the apparent cost-cutting after 2012, the comptroller said “one would expect an elected public official to demonstrate extra sensitivity … and serve as an exemplary model of saving public funds.”

Netanyahu was well-prepared for the report, as his attorneys and aides responded swiftly with a press conference, stressing there were no grounds for criminal concerns. The prime minister, said his spokesman, Nir Hefetz, respects the report and has instructed his staff to act on its recommendations.

A statement from Netanyahu’s Likud party accused the news media of pushing the issue for weeks in a “clear effort to remove the prime minister from office … through a focus on irrelevant minutia.”

The statement added that the uproar was distracting from “the real issue at hand,” which is “who will defend Israel in the face of the real security threats and pressure from the international community” — Netanyahu or rivals Herzog and Tzipi Livni.

But for others, money matters are a real issue, and the prime minister’s spending has struck a nerve with some voters who are concerned about the high cost of living and are demanding what they consider a more just distribution of resources.

Housing prices have soared since Netanyahu took office, and with 1.6 million people below the poverty line, Israel has the third highest poverty rate in the 34-nation Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.


By: Batsheva Sobelman, Special Correspondent, Los Angeles Times (TNS); The National Memo, February 17, 2015


February 18, 2015 Posted by | Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel, Poverty | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free Card”: Boehner Offered Free Pass Out Of Shutdown Mess, But He Doesn’t Want To Take It

U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen’s Monday night ruling temporarily blocking President Obama’s Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA) program provided a political lifeline for congressional Republicans. But whether or not they’re smart enough to take it remains unclear.

For weeks, Republicans have been hurtling towards another catastrophic shutdown debacle. Furious over President Obama’s immigration action, congressional Republicans devised an illogical scheme to fight back: They would separate the Department of Homeland Security from December’s government funding bill, and then use it as a hostage. Unless President Obama abandons his policy by February 27, DHS would enter a partial shutdown.

The strategy never had a prayer of working, for several reasons. President Obama has long since proven that he is done giving in to Republican ransom demands. Shutting down DHS would not actually do anything to stop President Obama’s deferral plan. And the American public was always going to blame the GOP for any shutdown crisis. (This was confirmed by a CNN poll released Tuesday, which found that 53 percent of Americans would hold Republicans responsible, while just 30 percent would blame the president, and 13 percent would blame both.) Unless they planned to never pay DHS workers again, the only possible outcome for the GOP was embarrassing defeat.

But still, Republicans went all in. One month ago, the House passed a bill linking DHS funding with blocking DAPA. Although it repeatedly failed to pass the Senate, House Speaker John Boehner insisted that “the House has done its job,” and has flatly refused to consider a clean funding bill. Meanwhile, even if the Senate somehow does pass a bill limiting Obama’s authority, the president would veto it. A politically catastrophic shutdown seemed increasingly inevitable.

So one might think that House Republicans would welcome Judge Hanen’s ruling as a get-out-of-jail-free card. With DAPA blocked, pending appeal, they could pass a clean DHS funding bill with a clean conscience, tell their constituents that the matter is in the courts’ hands now, and save the fight for another day.

But it’s never that easy with the Republican caucus.

Speaker Boehner’s reaction to the ruling suggests that he’s still committed to taking this all the way.

“The president said 22 times he did not have the authority to take the very action on immigration he eventually did, so it is no surprise that at least one court has agreed,” Boehner said in a statement. “We will continue to follow the case as it moves through the legal process. Hopefully, Senate Democrats who claim to oppose this executive overreach will now let the Senate begin debate on a bill to fund the Homeland Security Department.”

In case there was any doubt, Democrats are still not ready to begin debate on forcing a maximum-deportation policy on the White House.

“It’s perfectly appropriate to take this issue to court, but it is completely unacceptable for Republicans to hold up funding for the Department of Homeland Security while the case wends its way through the legal system,” Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a statement. “This procedural ruling, in our opinion, is very unlikely to be upheld, but regardless of the outcome Democrats remain united in our belief that funding for the Department of Homeland Security should not be used as a ransom by Republicans, period.”

Republicans clearly learned the wrong lessons from their last government shutdown, which they overcame at the ballot box in November. They are extremely unlikely to be so lucky again in 2016, when the elections will be fought on a much friendlier terrain for Democrats. On Monday night, Judge Hanen threw the GOP a lifeline; they’d be wise to grab it.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, February 17, 2015

February 18, 2015 Posted by | Andrew Hanen, DAPA, John Boehner, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Long History Of Pleasing Conservatives”: Meet Conservatives’ New Favorite Judge

Few outside of a tiny Texas border town knew who Federal District Court Judge Andrew Hanen was until Monday night when he became a right-wing hero.

But this isn’t the first rodeo the judge who delayed implementation of the Obama Administration’s executive order on immigration.

Hanen, a federal district court judge in Brownville, Texas, has a long history of taking a conservative approach to immigration issues in his courtroom, which is located just over a mile from the Mexican border.

The once obscure justice, whose only other previous claim to fame was serving as the President of the Houston Bar Association 15 years, has now made himself a right wing celebrity.

But his ruling on Monday is by far the most consequential that the George W. Bush appointee has ever issued.

He first gained notice for his willingness to entertain the arguments of landowners on the Mexican border who opposed the construction of a fence on their land by the federal government.

The Texas Observer described him in 2010 as “the only federal judge in the nation who forced Homeland Security to acknowledge landowners’ constitutional protections. In case after case, Hanen refused to rubber-stamp the condemnations and ruled that the government would have to provide ‘fair compensation’ for the land it was taking.”

But Hanen became a darling of immigration hawks in a 2013 order in which he vented against a decision made by the DHS not to deport a woman in the country illegally who had paid for her daughter to be smuggled into the United States.

While the smuggler was sentenced to jail, the government allowed the woman and her daughter to remain in the country under a 1997 settlement agreement.

Hanen was not pleased.

In an order he attacked the DHS’s “apparent policy … of completing the criminal mission of individuals who are violating the border security of the United States” and compared the action to “taking illegal drugs or weapons seized from smugglers and delivering them to the criminals who initially solicited their illegal importation/exportation.”

Hanan’s order may not have been binding but it certainly electrified many conservatives as one of the most powerful statements from a federal judge on the issue.

On Monday he made good for conservatives again.

Hanan ruled in favor of 25 states that sued the federal government to stop the implementation of a 2014 executive order to allow millions of undocumented immigrants to apply for “deferred action” from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). This executive order enabled the undocumented immigrants to work legally and avoid deportation for several years—a move many Republicans have decried as “executive amnesty.”

Hanen didn’t reach a final decision but instead issued a preliminary injunction, which keeps DHS from enforcing the executive order until a final decision is issued.

His injunction though is not expected to last.

The federal government is expected to appeal to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and is considered likely to get Hanen’s ruling overturned in that venue.

However, in the mean time, the decision to delay the executive order has major political ramifications in Washington DC where a potential partial government shutdown is looming over this issue.

But no matter what happens in this standoff, there is one clear winner: Judge Hanen.

Immigration reform is likely to remain a quagmire and Congress will continue to be dysfunctional. But, at least, Hanen will increase his Q-rating and become the most consequential federal judge ever to sit in the Brownsville Division of the Southern District of Texas.


By: Ben Jacobs, The Daily Beast, February 17, 2015

February 18, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Deportation, Immigration | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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