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“Orrin Hatch Gives Away The Game”: Perfect Illustration Of GOP Obstruction The President Has Faced

This is priceless:

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) hasn’t yet met with Supreme Court nominee Merrick B. Garland for what has been a long anticipated encounter between the former Judiciary Committee chairman and the federal appeals court judge he has long praised.

But when the meeting does happen, don’t expect Garland to succeed in convincing Hatch to support his nomination, because Hatch has already declared that it won’t.

“Like many of my Senate colleagues, I recently met with Chief Judge Merrick Garland, President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court. … Our meeting, however, does not change my conviction that the Senate should consider a Supreme Court nominee after this presidential election cycle,” Hatch wrote in an op-ed published on the website of the Deseret News early Thursday morning and later removed. It remains available in a Google database.

This is the same Orrin Hatch who recommended that President Obama nominate Merrick Garland to replace John Paul Stevens when he retired back in 2010.

This is the same Orrin Hatch who said this less than one week before President Obama actually did nominate Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court:

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) told Newsmax on Friday that President Obama wouldn’t nominate a “moderate” like Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court. On Wednesday, the Utah senator was proven wrong.

“The President told me several times he’s going to name a moderate, but I don’t believe him,” Hatch told the conservative news site on Friday.

“[Obama] could easily name Merrick Garland, who is a fine man,” he continued. “He probably won’t do that because this appointment is about the election. So I’m pretty sure he’ll name someone the [liberal Democratic base] wants.”

Now he’s decided he won’t support a hearing for Garland and has actually written an opinion piece to rationalize his decision, and he’s done it before meeting with the judge.

This is a perfect illustration of the kind of obstruction the president has faced from the Republicans. I’m not sure I could ever find a more apt demonstration.

 

By: Martin Longman, Web Editor, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 26, 2017

May 27, 2016 Posted by | GOP Obstructionism, Merrick Garland, Orrin Hatch, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , | 1 Comment

“A Self-Fulfilling Prophesy”: Cruz Opposes Lame Duck Sessions Of Congress, But He Has Some Responsibility For Them

The Hill reports that Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz is leading an effort to ensure that Congress does not convene for a “lame duck” session at the end of the year. According to the publication, Cruz and “right-leaning groups see huge dangers in having a session after the November elections, which they think could be used to move legislation backed by President Obama or even to confirm his Supreme Court nominee.” As a rationale for the push, a letter organized by the Conservative Action Project states, “By promising now that there will be no lame duck session of Congress … the Republican-led Congress can take an important first step in restoring the American people’s trust in their government.”

The lame duck session of Congress has become a Washington, D.C. tradition. It takes place during election years after the votes are cast in November. Often the sessions are used to wrap up business that Congress didn’t get to before leaving to campaign for reelection, but the relative political vacuum of that time period can also provide members of Congress with the cushion necessary to take difficult votes they otherwise wouldn’t be able to cast. For those reasons, lame duck sessions of Congress often see the passage of large, sometimes expensive, and many times controversial pieces of legislation. Per The Hill, Cruz and his cohort seem to be concerned this year about the passage of trade legislation, the confirmation of President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee and passage of an omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government.

In some respects Cruz is right. Lame duck sessions of Congress are not the ideal way to legislate. The significant time constraints of these sessions mean that legislation is often rushed through without due time for consideration or amendment. Legislative packages that have been negotiated months ahead of time behind the scenes are presented to members of Congress as a fait accompli, leaving the legislators little choice but to vote for them or lose the opportunity for their consideration altogether. The situation is especially tenuous for omnibus spending bills, which contain the funding necessary to keep the federal government operating for the rest of fiscal year and are often considered “must pass” legislation (think the controversial 2014 “cromnibus” spending bill which narrowly averted a government shutdown). Other high profile examples have over the years included the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Superfund environmental cleanup law and, in 2010, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

Given a choice, I think we’d all prefer that Congress consider these bills through regular order, with ample time to understand what’s in them, debate the merits and discuss necessary changes. It’s certainly the way the rules of both the House and the Senate envision the legislative process would take place.

However, the reason there often isn’t regular order in Congress is because of people like Ted Cruz, which makes his current crusade kind of ironic. The obstinacy of the hard right and obstructionist tactics, like Cruz’s drive to shut down the government over health care policy in 2013, have made it increasingly difficult for Congress to either consider policy in a substantive way or find ways to compromise and move bills forward. Thus, the lame duck sessions and the political shield they provide have become necessary to pass some key pieces of legislation. And often, it is only because of the possibility of a lame duck session and the ability to resolve matters without a political glare that federal spending hasn’t been altogether halted and the government completely shut down.

Bringing the legislative process out into the light of day is a laudable goal, but really that’s not the goal of Cruz or his colleagues here – they want to close off an alternative to their obstruction. And even if they were sincere in their intentions, shutting down the lame duck session of Congress is not the way to achieve it. As things stand right now, that session will probably be necessary for Congress to accomplish anything at all this year. Cruz and his fellow conservatives talk order and transparency in Congress but if they were serious about that they could change the role they play in it. By showing a willingness to negotiate on policy rather than blocking everything they don’t agree with, they would significantly lessen the need for lame duck sessions. By far, that would be the best thing they could do to restore Americans’ trust in their government.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, April 15, 2015

April 17, 2016 Posted by | GOP Obstructionism, Lame Duck Congress, Ted Cruz | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Radicalization Of The Republican Party: Seven Years Late, Media Elites Finally Acknowledge GOP’s Radical Ways

Now they tell us the Republican Party is to blame? That the Obama years haven’t been gummed up by Both Sides Are To Blame obstruction?

The truth is, anyone with clear vision recognized a long time ago that the GOP has transformed itself since 2009 into an increasingly radical political party, one built on complete and total obstruction. It’s a party designed to make governing difficult, if not impossible, and one that plotted seven years ago to shred decades of Beltway protocol and oppose every inch of Obama’s two terms. (“If he was for it, we had to be against it,” former Republican Ohio Sen. George Voinovich once explained.)

And for some of us, it didn’t take Donald Trump’s careening campaign to confirm the destructive state of the GOP. But if it’s the Trump circus that finally opens some pundits’ eyes, so be it.

Recently, Dan Balz, the senior political writer for the Washington Post, seemed to do just that while surveying the unfolding GOP wreckage as the party splinters over Trump’s rise. Balz specifically noted that four years ago political scholars Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein examined the breakdown in American politics and zeroed in their blame squarely on Republicans.

“They were ahead of others in describing the underlying causes of polarization as asymmetrical, with the Republican Party — in particular its most hard-line faction — as deserving of far more of the blame for the breakdown in governing,” Balz acknowledged.

“We have been studying Washington politics and Congress for more than 40 years, and never have we seen them this dysfunctional,” Mann and Ornstein wrote in The Washington Post in 2012. “In our past writings, we have criticized both parties when we believed it was warranted. Today, however, we have no choice but to acknowledge that the core of the problem lies with the Republican Party.”

They continued:

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

Tough stuff.

And what was the Beltway media’s response when Ornstein and Mann squarely blamed Republicans during an election year for purposefully making governing impossible? Media elites suddenly lost Mann and Ornstein’s number, as the duo’s television appearances and calls for quotes quickly dried up. So did much of the media’s interest in Mann and Ornstein’s prescient book.

“This was far too much for the mainstream press,” noted New York University journalism professor Jay Rosen. “They couldn’t assimilate what Mann and Ornstein said AND maintain routines and assumptions that posited a rough symmetry between the two parties. (‘Both sides do it.’) It was too much dissonance. Too much wreckage. So they pushed it away.”

For anyone who still harbors the naïve notion that the political debates staged by the Beltway press represent freewheeling discussions where anything goes, the Mann/Ornstein episode helped shed some light on the fact that certain topics and analysis remain off limits for public debate for years — even topics that are accurate, fair and essential to understanding our government’s current dysfunction.

Mann and Ornstein stepped forward to accurately describe what was happening to the Republican Party and detailed the calamitous effect it had on our democracy, and the mainstream media turned away.

So committed was the pundit class to maintaining its safe narrative about “bipartisan gridlock” and Obama’s puzzling inability to find “middle ground” with Republicans (i.e. why doesn’t he just schmooze more?), the press was willing to ignore Mann and Ornstein’s solid, scholarly research in order to wish the problem away.

Quite predictably, that problem has only worsened since 2012, which is what Mann and Ornstein address in their latest offering, “It’s Even Worse Than It Was.”  

“It is the radicalization of the Republican party,” they recently wrote, “that has been the most significant and consequential change in American politics in recent decades.”

“The radicalization of the Republican party” — talk about the topic the Beltway press simply doesn’t want to dwell on, let alone acknowledge. Instead, the press has clung to its preferred narrative about how the GOP is filled with honest brokers who are waiting to work in good faith with the White House. Eager to maintain a political symmetry in which both sides are responsible for sparking conflict (i.e. center-right Republicans vs. center-left Democrats), the press effectively gave Republicans a pass and pretended their radical, obstructionist ways represented normal partisan pursuits. (They didn’t.)

Today’s Republican Party is acting in a way that defies all historic norms. We saw it with the GOP’s gun law obstruction, the Violence Against Women Act obstruction, the sequester obstruction, Supreme Court obstruction, minimum wage obstruction, 9/11 first responder obstruction, government shutdown obstruction, immigration reform obstruction, Chuck Hagel’s confirmation obstruction, Susan Rice secretary of state obstruction, paid leave obstruction, Hurricane Sandy emergency relief obstruction, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act obstruction, and the consistent obstruction of judicial nominees.

The 2014 obstruction of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act was especially galling, as a single Republican senator blocked a vote on the crucial veterans bill.

At the time of the bill’s blockade, Media Matters noted that there was virtually no coverage of the radical obstructionism on CNN, Fox News, ABC, CBS, NBC or PBS, as well as news blackouts in the nation’s six largest newspapers: The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, New York Post, The Washington Post, Chicago Sun-Times, The Denver Post, and Chicago Tribune

In other words, the GOP’s radical brand of obstructionism not only doesn’t get highlighted as something notable, radical, and dangerous; it’s often met with a collective shrug as the press pretends these kind of nonstop impediments are commonplace.

As Obama works his way through his final year in office, at least pundits like Balz are highlighting that Mann and Ornstein (and yes, Media Matters) were right about the GOP and the asymmetrical blame the party deserves for trying to wreck our functioning government.

It’s never too late for truth telling.

 

By: Eric Boehlert, Media Matters For America, March 29, 2016

March 30, 2016 Posted by | GOP Obstructionism, Governing, Mainstream Media | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Lies Mitch McConnell Tells”: He Knows He’s Lying, You Know He’s Lying, And He Knows You Know He’s Lying

A few words about the pious insincerity of Mitch McConnell.

As you are no doubt aware, McConnell, the Senate majority leader, announced on the very day that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia died that he would refuse to hold hearings on any replacement nominated by President Obama. McConnell’s “reasoning,” if you want to grace it with that word, was that since the president has less than a year left in his term, the appointment should be made by whomever the American people choose as his successor.

Last week, after Obama fulfilled his constitutional duty by nominating respected federal judge Merrick Garland to the post, McConnell renewed his refusal. “The Biden rule,” he said, “reminds us that the decision the Senate announced weeks ago remains about a principle and not a person. It seems clear that President Obama made this nomination not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election.”

The American people, added McConnell, should have a say in this. “So let’s give them a voice. Let’s let the American people decide.”

There are four lies here, each more threadbare and cynical than the last:

1. The Biden rule? There is no such thing. There is only an opinion Vice President Biden expressed 24 years ago as chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, that if a vacancy opened on the top court during convention season — which is still several months off — the president should “consider” not nominating a replacement until after the election. It bears repeating: Biden never said the president should not nominate or the Senate should not vote; he only suggested waiting until “after the election” to do so.

2. It’s the president who’s politicizing this? In psychology, that’s known as “projecting.” Around the way, it’s known as the pot calling the kettle black.

3. “A principle and not a person?” No, it’s about a person — the same person, the president — toward whom McConnell and his party have expressed such unremitting disrespect the last seven years.

4. The voice of the people? The people have already spoken — twice — in elections that were not close. For that matter, they are still speaking. A recent Washington Post/ABC News poll says 63 percent of us want the Senate to hold hearings and vote.

McConnell should just claim he’s too busy arranging his sock drawer. That would be more credible than the excuses he’s given.

The quality of a lie is a direct reflection of the respect the liar has for the person being lied to. That will seem counterintuitive, but consider: You put effort into a lie, work to make it plausible, credible, believable, when you have regard for the recipient, when his good opinion matters or his discovery of the truth would be disastrous.

That being the case, what does it suggest when you put as little effort into a lie as McConnell has?

Indeed, while he has been roundly condemned for disrespecting the president, let’s spare some outrage for the way he is also disrespecting us. Not just in failing to do his job, but also in offering such a transparently dishonest rationale for it.

He knows he’s lying, you know he’s lying and he knows you know he’s lying. But you get the sense he doesn’t care. Why should he? Those who need to believe there’s a noble principle behind this obstructionism will be willingly gulled. As to the rest of us, so what?

That’s not statesmanship. It is not even politics. It’s just contempt — and not only for the president. If we cannot count on McConnell and his party to do the country’s business and behave in a manner befitting serious people in positions of responsibility, perhaps it’s not too much to ask that they at least spare us that.

Tell better lies next time.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist for The Miami Herald; The National Memo, March 23, 2016

March 24, 2016 Posted by | GOP Obstructionism, Mitch Mc Connell, Senate Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Albatross Around The Down-Ballot Races”: Could Donald Trump Deliver Congress To The Democrats?

With each preposterous new turn in the GOP presidential primary campaign, the chances of Hillary Clinton becoming president of the United States increase. The trouble is that a Clinton presidency has always promised to be largely an exercise in frustration. That’s not because she’s an incrementalist (true though that may be), but because she’ll likely be confronted with a Republican Congress—and one no more inclined toward compromise and pragmatism than the one Barack Obama faces.

But what if that weren’t true? Is there any chance Democrats might actually win back control of Capitol Hill and at least let a President Clinton (or a President Sanders, a possibility that remains real, if dwindling) do something that resembles governing?

The answer is yes, there is such a chance. And the reason is simple: Donald Trump.

We don’t yet know whether Trump will be the Republican nominee. But at the moment that’s the likeliest of all the possibilities for Republicans. And it also seems that having Trump as their leader will tear the party apart. Which could give Clinton not only the White House, but a chance for a presidency that accomplishes something.

Let’s start by considering the Senate, where Republicans currently enjoy a 54-46 majority. Because the senators running for re-election this year are the ones who got elected in the Republican sweep of 2010, they are defending many more seats—24, while Democrats are defending only 10. Most of those seats, however, are safely in Republican hands. They could nominate Martin Shkreli for president and they’d be unlikely to lose Senate races in Oklahoma or South Carolina. But they are vulnerable in other places like Illinois, Wisconsin, and New Hampshire, where Democrats have fielded strong candidates in states already leaning left.

Most forecasters have predicted that Democrats would net a few seats, but winning the four they need to push the Senate to 50-50 is a tough proposition. Until now, that is.

With Trump poised to win the nomination, some races that hadn’t previously been seen as competitive are beginning to look that way. Consider Iowa, where the curmudgeonly Chuck Grassley is running for his seventh term. No one thought Grassley would face a serious challenge this year, but then came Trump, and the death of Antonin Scalia—which resulted in a wave of stories about how Grassley, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, refuses to hold confirmation hearings on anyone President Obama nominates to the Supreme Court. Last week, Democrats got their wish when Patty Judge, a former lieutenant governor and state agriculture secretary, announced that she’ll run for the seat. Grassley may still be reasonably popular, but if turnout is high in a state that voted for Barack Obama twice, Judge has a strong chance to win.

Something similar could happen in other states: What had looked like seats where Republicans had a clear advantage could be up for grabs, particularly if Democrats come out in force, moved to the polls by the ghastly prospect of Donald Trump becoming president. Combine that with a potentially dispirited Republican electorate, and Democrats could win more seats than anyone predicted. “We can’t have a nominee be an albatross around the down-ballot races,” Senator John Cornyn recently told CNN. “That’s a concern of mine.”

That brings us to the House. Democrats need a net gain of 30 seats to take it back, which has looked all but impossible until now. And it’s still extremely difficult. But could it happen? It’s hard to tell from our vantage point today. We don’t know what kind of general election candidate Donald Trump would make, but the key to the outcome in the House could be how his candidacy affects turnout. If the #NeverTrump movement doesn’t lose steam and lots of prominent Republicans distance themselves from their party’s nominee, it could mean Republican voters staying home in large numbers, which would make it possible for Democrats to win back the seats they need to take control.

If Democrats take back both bodies, a Democratic president could actually have the chance to govern, including through passing legislation—imagine that. But even if Democrats took only the Senate, it would make a huge difference.

Back in 2013, Democrats then controlling the Senate got so frustrated with Republican obstructionism that they changed the body’s rules on confirmation of executive branch appointments and those of judges serving on lower courts, allowing those nominations to be confirmed with a simple majority vote and disallowing filibusters. The rule change didn’t apply to legislation or to Supreme Court nominees, and senators are still allowed to do talking filibusters, where they hold the floor for as long as they can (so Ted Cruz will still have something to do when he returns to the Senate next year).

So a President Clinton could continue to transform the federal courts simply by virtue of filling openings as they come up. There’s a bottleneck right now as Republicans refuse to confirm more of Obama’s judicial nominees, but if that were broken, after 12 or even 16 years of Democratic appointments, the lower courts would be firmly in liberal hands.

And what about the Supreme Court? Not only is there the matter of Scalia’s seat to deal with, but it’s almost certain that more seats will become vacant in the next president’s first term. On Inauguration Day, Ruth Bader Ginsburg will be 83, Anthony Kennedy will be 80, and Stephen Breyer will be 78. If and when Republicans decide to filibuster any Democratic nominee, you can bet that Senate Democrats will make another rule change to disallow filibusters of Supreme Court nominees. Republicans will decry it as a terrible power grab, but it will be exactly what they earned with their obstructionism.

This all may not sound like a recipe for an era of excellence in government. It will be terribly partisan, and if Republicans hold on to the House, it will mean almost no meaningful legislation outside of continuing resolutions funding the government to avoid shutdowns. But between the executive and judicial branches, you can accomplish quite a bit. Hillary Clinton would certainly hope for more, but it’s what she may have to settle for. And it could be a lot worse.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, March 7, 2016

March 12, 2016 Posted by | Congress, Donald Trump, GOP Obstructionism, GOP Primaries | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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