“Mollifying The Insurgents”: Contrary To Their Laughable Spin, That’s Basically Their Job Descriptions Of McConnell And Ryan
Congress has until a week from today to pass a spending bill or face another government shutdown. That means that Sen. Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan have their work cut out for them. The last thing they want is to have the American electorate watch them shut the government down as we head into a presidential election year. And yet the insurgent wing of their party has been pushing for the inclusion of several “riders” to the spending bill that Democrats oppose and President Obama has promised to veto. They include:
* Making changes to the refugee program that would basically eliminate Syrian and Iraqi refugees
* Defunding Planned Parenthood
* Repealing Obamacare
There has also been talk about riders that would roll back Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms and EPA’s environmental regulations.
One of the things McConnell and Ryan have been doing to forestall a shutdown is to bring up bills that include these items and allow votes on them separate from the spending bill. So as we saw in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attack, the House voted on the changes to the refugee program. There has still been some effort to include it in the spending bill, but as I mentioned recently, that push is starting to fade.
Last night McConnell pulled off a two-fer with a vote on a separate bill that would both defund Planned Parenthood and repeal significant parts of Obamacare. Since it was brought up under a process called “reconciliation,” Democrats couldn’t filibuster and so it required 51 votes to pass – it got 52. No one doubts that President Obama will veto the measure. So the spin Republicans are putting on this is fascinating.
Republicans hailed it as a political messaging victory and a fulfillment of their promise from the 2014 midterm election to force President Obama to veto the landmark healthcare reform law named after him.
A “political messaging victory?” Does that sound like the kind of thing their angry base is looking for? Ha-ha!
And someone is going to have to find a reference for that 2014 midterm election promise about forcing President Obama to veto a repeal of Obamacare. I’ve looked and can’t find where they said that. There was plenty of talk about actually repealing Obamacare. But forcing a veto…not so much.
All this drama is really about trying to find a way to mollify the insurgents in their party and get them to back off of attempts to shut the government down. In explaining some of the shenanigans McConnell had to pull off to get last night’s vote, Kevin Drum summed it up pretty well.
Politico has a fascinating story today. It’s all about Mitch McConnell’s months of LBJ-worthy maneuvering to get legislation passed that would repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood, thus paving the way for a clean budget bill later this year. But here’s the kicker: he wasn’t engaged in Herculean negotiations with Democrats. He was engaged in Herculean negotiations with his own party…
In today’s Washington, passing bills isn’t a matter of getting Republicans and Democrats to agree. They can usually manage that. The trick is somehow neutering the wingnut faction of the Republican Party. Once that’s done, negotiations between the two parties are (relatively speaking) a piece of cake. Welcome to 2015.
Over the net week, we’ll get to see if McConnell and Ryan have managed to mollify the insurgents. Contrary to their laughable spin, that’s basically their job description these days.
By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, December 4, 2015
“Two Months From Now, We’ll Be Doing It All Again”: Republicans Aren’t Averting A Government Shutdown, They’re Just Delaying It
Congratulations, America: It looks like your government will not be shutting down this week after all.
Now that John Boehner has announced he will be resigning next month, he is supposedly free to do what he was actually perfectly free to do before, which is to allow a vote on a “clean” continuing resolution (CR) to fund the government, i.e. one that doesn’t include a provision cutting off all Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood.
But before you get too relieved, there’s something else you ought to know. The CR that’s now working its way through Congress will only fund the government through December 11. In other words, two months from now we’ll be doing it all again.
There’s no way to know for sure whether we’ll still be arguing about Planned Parenthood at that point, but if it isn’t Planned Parenthood it’ll be something else. There will be something conservative Republicans in Congress want to do, or more likely, stop, that will be so titanically important to them that they will refuse to fund the government unless they get their way. What that thing is doesn’t really matter.
You’ll recall that when they shut the government down in 2013, it was because the goal of repealing the Affordable Care Act was the most important thing ever, so vital that it necessitated the shutdown. Then later they threatened another shutdown, but this time it was President Obama’s executive actions on immigration that were so monumentally awful that they had no choice but to move toward a shutdown. Today it’s defunding Planned Parenthood that is so utterly essential that we must shut everything down if it doesn’t occur. By December it could be something else entirely.
It’s pretty obvious that what drives these crises isn’t the substance of the issue everyone ends up taking about, it’s the battle itself. That’s what the tea partiers who create the crises are after. They want to stand up to Obama, to get their leadership to show some spine, to banish compromise, to fight, fight, fight! They’ll fight about anything.
This was what John Boehner struggled with for nearly five years as speaker of the House: a significant portion of his caucus had zero interest in governing, which made them almost impossible to work with. They didn’t come to Washington to write laws or solve problems, they came to fight, and if there’s no fight going on then they have no purpose. Shutdowns don’t bother them too much, because they think almost everything government does is bad anyway.
These members judge their own success not by the outcome of any battle, but by whether along the way they acquitted themselves with sufficient fierceness. The only opposition in their home districts they ever fear comes in the form of an attack from the right. When they go home they tell their constituents, “I stood up to Barack Obama!”, and “I stood up to John Boehner!” That’s an accomplishment as far as they’re concerned, and it’s greeted with cheers. It doesn’t matter whether they won, or whether they actually achieved any of the conservative policy goals they claim to seek.
And now they’ve been emboldened. They see Boehner’s resignation as a victory for them and a validation of their entire view of politics. The likely next speaker, Kevin McCarthy of California, has spent a good deal of time building relationships with the Tea Party representatives who despised Boehner, but they are going to be watching him very closely. At even the slightest hint that he wants to engage in any governing — of the kind that entails working with the other side and taking some of what you want even if you can’t get it all — they will rise up against him.
That doesn’t mean they will be able to depose him (they couldn’t depose Boehner, after all, mostly because nobody else wanted the job badly enough to challenge him). But they will put every ounce of pressure on him they can, and, as of yet, we have no idea how McCarthy will respond.
So we’ll have a situation very much like what he had up until Boehner’s announcement: some irreconcilable policy disagreements, a Republican caucus itching for a fight with the president, and a speaker under pressure to go all the way to a shutdown. The only difference is that the new speaker will be particularly keen to demonstrate to his restive members that he’s different from his predecessor.
And by the way, we’re going to have to raise the debt ceiling in November or the United States of America will default on its obligations. This will give House Republicans yet another opportunity to threaten catastrophe if they don’t get what they want. Should be a fun couple of months.
By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, October 1, 2015
“The Republican Brand Is Tea Party”: GOP Reactions Are Revealing, Especially Among Senators Facing Voters In Blue And Purple States
House Republicans will hold their leadership elections next week and all signs point to them remaining more interested in appeasing a narrow base than governing a diverse country.
Consider: The only woman positioned to run for Majority Leader, Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, decided not to make a bid. The two men competing for the job are conservatives from the Deep South. The favorite for Speaker, Kevin McCarthy of California, is less experienced than John Boehner, less accomplished, and — if he follows through on private promises — more confrontational.
McCarthy has already signaled with a potentially costly gaffe that he may not be ready for primetime. It came when he boasted to Sean Hannity on Fox News that the House investigation of the 2012 murders of Americans in Benghazi has done serious damage to Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton.
“Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right? But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today? Her numbers are dropping. Why? Because she’s untrustable. But no one would have known any of that had happened, had we not fought and made that happen,” he said.
Not that this was a secret, but thanks for the gift of a sound bite that makes clear the Benghazi probe — the latest of many — is not entirely about getting to the truth. The incident recalls a classic moment in 2012 when Mike Turzai, majority leader of the Pennsylvania House, ran down a list of achievements that ended: “Voter ID, which is gonna allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania, done.”
Later that year, President Obama beat Mitt Romney by 5 percentage points in Pennsylvania. And a judge ultimately struck down that voter identification law. The larger point is that until Turzai’s brag, conservatives across the country had religiously stuck to talking points about good government and rooting out (virtually nonexistent) fraud, as opposed to giving their side an edge by making it harder for some people — like urban minorities — to vote.
One of the deepest rifts in today’s chasm-ridden GOP is whether to try to attract a larger swath of voters or to double down on the party’s dwindling core of loyalists. The latest test — over whether to shut down the government in an attempt to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood — illuminated the divide. Republican reactions were revealing, especially among senators facing voters next year in blue and purple states.
You had Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire demanding of Sen. Ted Cruz, presidential candidate and chief agitator in the upper chamber, exactly what he hoped to accomplish when the Senate GOP did not have 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster, much less 67 to override a veto by the Democratic president. And Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois tweeting Wednesday, after the Senate passed a bill to fund the government (including Planned Parenthood), “When our govt shut down in 2013, it cost U.S. $24 billion. We were elected to govern responsibly, not by crisis.” And Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, who tweeted “Troubling that a #governmentshutdown was even an option, causing great economic hardship to the 15,000 Alaskans employed by the fed. gov.”
I don’t doubt the sincerity or passion of conservatives fighting abortion. I don’t even argue with the idea that by giving Planned Parenthood money for services like contraception, cancer screenings and STD tests, the federal government frees up money for the group to perform abortions. But the facts on the ground are stark. It will take a Republican Senate supermajority and a Republican president to get what conservatives want, and what they want does not have broad public support. That’s the case whether the issue is defunding Planned Parenthood, curbing abortion, or shutting the government.
Only 36 percent in a new NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll said more restrictive laws on abortion would be a step in the right direction. Majorities in that poll and two other new ones, meanwhile, said Planned Parenthood should continue to receive federal funds. One of the polls, from Quinnipiac University, found sentiment running 3 to 1 against shuttering the government over the issue. Only 23 percent favored a shutdown.
To cap off the bad-news week for the GOP, Planned Parenthood had a 47 percent positive rating in the NBC poll — the highest of any entity or person tested. Obama came closest at 46 percent, followed by the Democratic Party at 41 percent and Joe Biden at 40 percent. The most positively viewed on the Republican side were presidential candidate Ben Carson and the party itself, each at 29 percent.
Democrats have their own problems, but they are far more in step with mainstream America on a number of important issues — not least the idea that shutting down the federal government is an acceptable substitute for winning the elections you need to prevail.
By: Jill Lawrence, The National Memo, October 1, 2015
“What Does The Orange Man Want?”: A Shutdown Is Almost Certain To Happen If Boehner Concludes It Will Be Good For Him Personally
As usual, it’s extremely useful to consult Stan Collender on how the fiscal end-game may work out this week or (if the can is kicked down the road) soon enough. His latest take discusses the roles that Ted Cruz, the House Freedom Caucus, and even House Democrats might play in making a government shutdown happen or not happen. But most interestingly, he notes there is one player in the saga who can most definitely cause a shutdown pretty much on his own if he so wishes: yes, that presumed shutdown opponent John Boehner:
This is the alternative that so far has gotten no attention, but there is a real possibility a government shutdown will be just what Boehner needs to survive as speaker and get a clean CR through the House.
The shutdown would appease the Freedom Caucus and defuse its effort to replace the speaker because Boehner would be doing what the caucus wants by refusing to bring a CR to the floor that maintains funds for Planned Parenthood. A few days or a week later when the appetite for a shutdown has changed, Boehner would be able to do what he’s done on several past budget-related bills: say they fought the good fight, that the fight will continue in other ways and get permission from the GOP caucus to work with Democrats to pass the CR.
A shutdown is almost certain to happen if Boehner concludes it will be good for him personally.
Don’t be shocked if that’s exactly how the deal goes down. Thinking of Boehner’s motives, I’m reminded of an ancient National Lampoon cartoon of a judge glaring angrily at an insolent-looking young man in the dock and saying: “You better show some respect, sonny. I had to kiss a lot of ass to get this job.” Boehner may not be as ready to give up his gavel as some observers think.
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 24, 2015
There’s really only one way to say it: the week of September 21, 2015 could be unpleasant for a Republican Party struggling to find its way in the runup to a big, high-stakes election.
Its presidential field remains nearly as large and definitely as unwieldy as ever. Initial polling after last week’s second CNN debate shows that the long-awaited, fervently prayed-for decline in support for Donald Trump isn’t happening just yet. The main result of the debate was instead to consolidate the powerful position of three dubiously qualified “outsiders,” Trump, Ben Carson, and the star of the moment, Carly Fiorina. All three of them continue to say and do things that aren’t particularly troubling to the angry Republican “base” but are very problematic in a general election.
Over the weekend Trump batted away criticism over his silence in the face of a supporter who loudly insisted in the candidate’s presence that the president is a Muslim born outside the United States (an assertion an alarming percentage of Republicans believe against all evidence). Trump says it’s not his job to defend the hated Obama. Carson is in the spotlight for insisting against the rather explicit language of the U.S. Constitution that there should in fact be a “religious test” for the presidency, barring Muslims. Meanwhile, Fiorina is being besieged by the facts she ignored in her debate presentation–especially with respect to the Planned Parenthood videos she discussed to the delight of Christian Right voters–and by the long-overdue MSM scrutiny of her arguably catastrophic record as CEO of HP, her primary credential for high office (see Jeffrey Sonnenberg’s refutation of her debate remarks about him and her HP tenure).
But even as the three zero-experience front-runners lose friends and alienate people, it’s not like the rest of the field is moving on up. One early favorite, Scott Walker, is by all accounts in desperate condition, and having decided to drop everything else to go try to shore up his horrendous standing in Iowa, made a poor impression on his first post-CNN-debate public appearance there.
Off the campaign trail, congressional Republicans are snarled in separate yet equally dangerous internal disputes over the extent to which they will court a government shutdown to express unhappiness with the Iran Nuclear Deal–which they strangely consider a big political winner for themselves–and to cut off federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Budget wizard Stan Collender has now raised his estimate of the odds of a government shutdown to 75%. It’s a particularly bad sign that Republicans are already resorting to the tired and notably ineffective tactic of arguing that it’s Obama who would be shutting down the government by rejecting GOP demands.
If that’s not enough for you, keep in mind the Pope is coming to town this week, and whatever comfort conservatives take from his inevitable condemnation of legalized abortion, he is certain to bring a message on climate change and corporate greed that will make conservative Catholics go a little crazy.
And stimulating craziness will definitely be like bringing coals to Newcastle for the GOP right now. Batten down the hatches!
By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 21, 2015