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“Unlike Anything Ever Tried In American History”: The ‘GOP Gamble’: Voters Won’t Care About Court Blockade

As far as Senate Republicans are concerned, the fight over the Supreme Court vacancy is now officially over. They’ve declared themselves the winner.

Every Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, the panel responsible for evaluating judicial nominees in detail, met in private this morning with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Soon after, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a longtime committee member, told the Associated Press the GOP group came to an agreement: there would be no hearing, no vote, and no confirmation of any nominee, regardless of merit or qualifications.

A partisan blockade, unlike anything ever tried in American history, is the only course the Republican majority is willing to consider. Period. Full stop.

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), another member of the Judiciary Committee, said today he wouldn’t even speak to a Supreme Court nominee if he or she showed up at his office. Soon after, McConnell and Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the same thing.

So, is the fight over an unchosen, unknown nominee finished before it begins? Well, maybe.

President Obama and his team are no doubt aware of the developments on Capitol Hill, though it’s unlikely West Wing officials are going to simply quit, telling each other, “Well, we tried.”

What’s probably going to happen is that the president will nominate a qualified official for the high court; he’ll encourage senators to do their job while honoring the constitutional process; and then Democrats hope for the pressure to change the politics.

The next question, of course, is whether such pressure is going to exist.

Last week, a Fox News poll found a clear majority of Americans agreeing that the Supreme Court’s vacancy should be filled this year, not next. This week, a Pew Research Center survey found similar results.

In the high-stakes battle over replacing Justice Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a majority of Americans (56%) say the Senate should hold hearings and vote on President Obama’s choice to fill the vacancy. About four-in-ten (38%) say the Senate should not hold hearings until the next president selects a court nominee.

Of course, while independent and Democratic voters agree on senators doing their duty, the same poll found that 66% of GOP voters want the blockade to continue – and those are very likely the only voters Senate Republicans care about right now.

It sounds cynical and undemocratic, but by all appearances, GOP lawmakers on Capitol Hill just don’t buy into the notion that there will ever be a public backlash against them – on practically anything. Cycle after cycle, their antics are rewarded, even after a government shutdown, a debt-ceiling crisis, and a complete unwillingness to govern on practically any issue.

Periodically, someone will say, “The public won’t stand for this,” to which Republicans respond, “Of course they will. Voters don’t pay much attention anyway.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 23, 2016

February 24, 2016 Posted by | Mitch Mc Connell, Senate Republicans, U. S. Constitution, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , | 6 Comments

“Pressed Against The Back Edge Of Their Own Sword”: When Will Republicans Start Recognizing How Screwed They Are?

For months and months, movement conservatives and elected Republicans—along with a non-trivial contingent of political commentators and data journalists—promoted as conventional wisdom an idea that was really much more akin to wishful thinking. That idea, boiled down to its essence, was that the very weirdness of the Donald Trump phenomenon—his undisguised bigotry, his total lack of governing experience, the unanimous (if not always vocal) opposition of Republican elites to his candidacy—would sooner or later doom him.

When Trump not only didn’t collapse, but built a commanding nationwide polling lead—which he is now converting into a substantial delegate lead—the conventional wisdom took a turn. Once the candidate field dwindled down to a two-or-three person race, the new thinking went, Trump would hit a ceiling. Even if he never exactly collapsed, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz could slug it out to the GOP convention and conspire to deny Trump the nomination. Alternatively, a single challenger might defeat Trump outright.

In this latter scenario, Trump is assumed to be vulnerable from both directions. In a head-to-head against Cruz, he would succumb to the consolidation of the religious and ideological right, along with a meaningful segment of the Republican mainstream. Alternatively (and preferably, as far as most Republicans are concerned), Rubio would emerge and defeat Trump in the blue and purple states of the Northeast, the Rust Belt, and the West.

For a moment after Rubio’s unexpected (but very narrow) second-place finish in the South Carolina primary Saturday night, you could mistake his shiny mien for a glimmer of hope that Trump’s reckoning was at hand. Or, if not at hand, clearly visible in the middle distance.

But after brief scrutiny, and for several reasons, this second-best fantasy falls apart. First, and most obviously, this is still at best a three-man race between Trump, Rubio, and Cruz. If it never dwindles into a two-man race, then the most Republicans can hope for is a contested convention this summer. After attempting but failing to destroy Cruz’s candidacy a month ago, establishment Republicans are now pressed up against the back edge of their own sword. The Texas senator is in the race, and has no incentive to drop out—especially not before Super Tuesday, when a number of Bible Belt states (and his own) will hold their nominating contests. Trump, it should be noted, just routed the field across almost every GOP demographic, including evangelicals, in South Carolina.

Second, John Kasich is still in the race, too, and has a much more natural appeal than Rubio with the nominally moderate, working-class white voters who will determine the winners of blue- and purple-state primaries in the coming month. Indeed, in states like Ohio, Michigan, and Massachusetts, Kasich is poised to rival or outperform Rubio in the race for second place. But that brings us to the most important point.

The very idea that Trump will encounter resistance outside the South is based on a simplistic and doubly inapt conception of “moderation.” The first premise is that, by promising to appeal outside of the Republican Party’s typical constituencies, Rubio is by definition more moderate than Trump; the second is that appealing to the center in a general election is no different than appealing to “moderate” Republicans in a GOP primary.

If this race is proving anything, though, it’s that what constitutes “moderation” to elite conservatives (relative dovishness on immigration aimed at swing voters in a general election) isn’t what constitutes moderation among Republican voters (restrictionist immigration policy paired with heterodox support for redistributive social policies). The big flaw in the assumption that Rubio (or anyone, really) can make up ground against Trump in blue states is that “moderate” voters are actually Trump’s ace in the hole.

This appeal very likely extends to nominally moderate Republican voters in the interior West and California, where Republicans will cotton to Trump’s anti-immigration absolutism.

Tuesday night’s Nevada caucus will be an important test of GOP faith. Does Trump have a ceiling? Can Rubio further consolidate the field? Is Cruz’s end beginning? The polling on all of these questions should chasten the right. And in a way, the New Hampshire and South Carolina primaries already revealed how prohibitive Trump’s odds of becoming the GOP nominee have become. Trump lapped the field in a moderate state, and then he did almost as well in a state that should have been fairly hostile to his mix of feigned religiosity, anti-Bushism, and unflinching hawkishness.

If Trump prevails once again, perhaps the conservative establishment will set aside its contrived obsession with whose second- or third-place finish was the most inspiring, and accept that peering past the behemoth in front of them won’t make him disappear.

 

By: Brian Beutler, The New Republic, February 23, 2016

February 24, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Primaries | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Republicans Still Love Gitmo”: Don’t Want To Admit They Were Wrong To Support The Cuban Prison In The First Place

The Republicans have a strange emotional attachment to keeping the prison at Guantanamo Bay open for the foreseeable future. As an explanation, I kind of discount actual fear that the inmates might escape from a super maximum security prison in the United States. I know they fan that fear whenever the subject of closing Gitmo comes up, but I believe this is just a tactic.

Maybe they just don’t want to admit that they were wrong to support the Cuban prison in the first place. That certainly seems to animate the most vocal opponents who also are the most notorious neoconservative members of the Senate.

Take a look at how they’re responding to the administration’s just-announced plan to close the notorious facility:

Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican who chairs the armed services committee, all but rejected a plan he himself has urged the administration to submit. McCain has shifted his positions on Guantánamo from the Bush to the Obama administrations, but has positioned himself as the last gasp of Obama’s ambitions to win congressional support.

McCain, while pledging to look at the plan in hearings, termed it “a vague menu of options, not a credible plan for closing Guantánamo, let alone a coherent policy to deal with future terrorist detainees,” and said Obama had “missed a major chance”.

Senator Kelly Ayotte, a New Hampshire Republican on the armed services committee, preemptively rejected the final proposal in a statement.

“The president is doubling down on a dangerous plan to close Guantánamo – a move that I will continue to fight in the Senate,” Ayotte said.

Senator Tom Cotton, the Arkansas Republican and war veteran, dismissed the plan as a “political exercise”. Cotton, a rising star in GOP national security circles, received significant media attention for declaring Guantánamo detainees “can rot in hell” last year.

Then there’s Marco Rubio, who is already criticizing the plan on the campaign trail, saying that not only shouldn’t the prison close, but we should never give the property at Gitmo back to a “communist dictatorship.”

I don’t expect Congress to act on the president’s plan. Maybe Obama will act after the November election when he’s truly a lame duck. What are they gonna do? Impeach him?

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 23, 2016

February 24, 2016 Posted by | GITMO, Republicans, Terrorists | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rubio Already Seems Spooked”: Donald Trump Is About To Do Terrible Things To Marco Rubio

As bullies go, Donald Trump is unusually skilled.

When Trump decides to go after you, he considers carefully both your weak points and the audience for his attack. So when he decided to pummel Jeb Bush — apparently for his own amusement, as much as out of any real political concerns — he hit upon the idea that Bush was “low energy,” something Bush had a hard time countering without sounding like a whiny grade-schooler saying, “Am not!” More than anything else it was a dominance display, a way of showing voters he could push Jeb around and there was nothing Jeb could do about it. With a primary electorate primed by years of watching their candidates fetishize manliness and aggression, the attack touched a nerve.

And now with the Republican race effectively narrowed to three candidates, the one Trump hasn’t bothered to go after too often — Marco Rubio — must prepare for the mockery and rumor-mongering that will surely be coming his way from the frontrunner. Whether he can withstand it could go a long way toward determining how this race turns out.

Until now, Trump has been relatively soft on Rubio. But with the increasing possibility that Rubio could be the greatest threat to Trump winning the nomination, he’s almost certain to go after him. If the past is any guide, Trump will throw a bunch of different attacks Rubio’s way until he happens upon one that seems to resonate; then he’ll stick with it as long as it works. Trump is already dabbling in Rubio birtherism (though he doesn’t seem quite committed to it), but eventually he’ll find a line of personal criticism with just the right note of cruelty and derision.

Rubio already seems spooked. Appearing on Face the Nation this Sunday, he was asked how he would convince voters to choose him over Trump, and the strongest critique he could muster was that Trump hasn’t been clear enough about his policy plans. But Rubio went out of his way to assure everyone he wasn’t being mean. “So, look, this is not an attack or anything of that nature,” he said. “It’s just a very simple observation. If you want to be president, you have to start detailing some specific public policy.” Yowch, put away the shiv, senator!

Rubio may have avoided Trump’s wrath up until now, but that won’t last. The only question is what brand of contempt Trump will heap on him. It might be some kind of attack based on Rubio’s ethnicity, or it might be the same kind of you’re-a-girly-man insults he used on Bush. That could be effective, since Rubio does look like he didn’t graduate high school all that long ago. He could go after Rubio’s occasionally shaky finances, which Trump surely looks on with utter contempt, since as far as he’s concerned, not being rich makes you a loser.

Or perhaps Trump will tell voters that Rubio isn’t strong enough to channel their free-floating rage. Trump tweeted on Monday that he won the South Carolina primary because “I showed anger and the people of our country are very angry!” Whether anger fully accounts for that particular result, there’s no doubt that it fuels much of Trump’s popularity.

Up until now, Rubio hasn’t been very good at expressing anger. When he does, it comes out awkwardly, like the endless repetition of “Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing” that got him into so much trouble before the New Hampshire primary. He has gone back to being a candidate of optimism: “I will bring this party together faster than anyone else,” Rubio now argues, which might be true. The trouble is that anger remains the predominant emotion running through the Republican electorate, and they don’t particularly want to be brought together, if it means joining up with the establishment that now sees Rubio as its last hope of defeating Trump.

If Rubio ends up being his party’s nominee, it will mean that Trump came after him and he survived the onslaught. Because Trump will indeed come after him. He’ll bait him and belittle him, insult him and mock him, laugh at him and sneer at him. And it will be a test of Rubio’s ability to stand up and fight back, like a real man. Rubio will have to figure out how to fend it off, because nobody else has.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, February 23, 2016

February 24, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Marco Rubio | , , , , | 5 Comments

“Ohio’s Kasich Slashes Planned Parenthood Funding”: Eager To Curry Favor With His Party’s Far-Right Base

As the field of Republican presidential candidate shrinks to just five people, John Kasich has adopted a rather specific posture: he’s the grown-up in the room. The rest of the field includes two first-term senators and two political amateurs, leaving the Ohio governor as the only candidate stressing qualities such as executive experience, governing skills, and pragmatism.

And that makes perfect sense given the circumstances. Kasich can’t be as right-wing as his rivals; he can’t be as unhinged as his rivals; and he certainly can’t avoid the “career politician” label. Looking for an opening, the Republican governor has decided to present himself as a more mainstream, and more electable, conservative.

In the five-person GOP field, that leaves Kasich as the last option for the party’s remaining “moderate” voters. But let’s not mistake perceptions for reality. As we were reminded over the weekend, the Ohio Republican may be playing the role of 2016 pragmatist, but that doesn’t make him an actual moderate.

Republican presidential hopeful and Ohio Gov. John Kasich on Sunday signed a bill that aims to strip funding from Planned Parenthood in the state. […] After Kasich came in a strong second place in the New Hampshire primary, the Republican assembly in Ohio passed legislation that targets about $1.3 million in funding for Planned Parenthood in the state.

That money helps support screenings for breast cancer, STD testing, programs working to prevent violence against women, and more.

Remember, we’re not talking about public funding of abortions, which is already largely prohibited. Rather, state lawmakers passed a measure to block “any entity that performs or promotes nontherapeutic abortions” from receiving funds for women’s health treatments that have nothing to do with terminating pregnancies.

And Kasich, eager to curry favor with his party’s far-right base, eagerly signed the bill into law.

The NBC affiliate in Columbus reported that Planned Parenthood’s work in Ohio will continue, “but its community health programs would be cut. The group says programs targeted in the bill helped Planned Parenthood in the last year to provide more than 47,000 STD tests and 3,600 HIV tests to Ohioans, serve nearly 2,800 new or expectant mothers, and inform young people and women about healthy relationships.”

In other words, in practical terms, John Kasich decided to slash services for thousands of Ohio women, for no substantive reason, with a simple stroke of his pen. The public will pay a steep price because the governor wants to advance his ambitions.

This is what passes for “moderation” among GOP presidential candidates in 2016.

Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece, and her work is unrelated to the organization’s affiliates in Ohio.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 23, 2016

February 24, 2016 Posted by | GOP Primaries, John Kasich, Planned Parenthood, Women's Health | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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