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“Making Congress Do Its Job, Anyway”: It’s Time For Congress To Start Living In The Real World, Either Do Your Job Or Don’t Get Paid

In the wake of county clerk Kim Davis’ refusal to give out marriage licenses to same sex couples a series of internet memes circulated with individuals in jobs that required them to do things they preferred not to do, but did their job anyway. It’s a funny concept, but one that doesn’t apply to Republicans in Congress who repeatedly threaten to shut down the government, failing to do their jobs in order to throw a temper tantrum over the conservative outrage du jour.

It has almost no chance of passing (see, Republicans in Congress) but a bill has been introduced to incentivize Congressmembers to actually govern responsibly:

Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.) introduced a bill Friday that would prevent members of Congress from getting paid in the event of a government shutdown.

“It’s time to put an end to government by crisis management,” Nolan said in a statement. “And it’s time for Congress to start living in the real world — where you either do your job — or you don’t get paid. If hundreds of thousands of other federal employees are to go without their salaries — twisting slowly in the wind in a government shutdown — then the Congress should not be paid either.”

Under Nolan’s bill, members of Congress would go unpaid for the duration of the shutdown. He introduced similar legislation during the 16-day government shutdown in 2013 that left 800,000 federal workers furloughed without pay. While his bill never got off the ground, Nolan donated the money he was paid over the shutdown to charities in his district.

If Republicans want to run government like a business, this would be a good way to start. If you don’t do the work you’re supposed to do you don’t get paid. But the GOP only pays lip service to wanting the government to run efficiently.

At some point in the future when Democrats finally retake Congress, this should be one of the first bills they pass. The era of government by crisis hostage taking needs to end.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 20, 2015

September 21, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Government Shut Down, Republicans | , , , , | 2 Comments

“Another Wasted Day”: With Time Running Out, House GOP Passes Pointless Abortion Bills

In just 12 days, current funding for the federal government will run out, raising the very real prospect of another Republican shutdown. With so little time remaining, one is tempted to assume that lawmakers are scrambling to find a constructive solution.

Those assumptions would be wrong. MSNBC’s Irin Carmon reported on how the GOP-led House spent its morning.

The Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed on Friday the Defund Planned Parenthood Act, 248-177. The bill strips the women’s health provider of its funding for contraception, pap smears, and testing for sexually-transmitted infections, unless it stops performing abortions.

 President Barack Obama has vowed to veto the bill, setting the stage for a possible government shutdown. Some congressional Republicans have vowed not to vote for any budget that includes funding for the organization.

The final roll call on the bill to defund Planned Parenthood is online here. Note, the vote largely fell along partisan lines, but not completely – three Republicans voted with the Democratic minority, while two Dems voted with the majority. The vote on the measure was immediately followed by another vote on a related bill, which would “impose criminal penalties on doctors who do not try to save a baby who ‘survives an abortion,’” which passed by a similar margin.

So, what happens now? I’m glad you asked.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and House GOP leaders saw these votes as a way to placate their own far-right members. It was the leadership’s way of saying, in effect, “You want to defund Planned Parenthood? Fine. Here’s a bill on which you can express your intention to do exactly that.”

As a practical matter, it was a gambit to help conservative lawmakers get this out of their system before the real work begins.

The bills will now go to the Senate, where they are all but certain to die. In the unlikely event that the bills clear the upper chamber, they’d then go to the White House, where President Obama has already said he will veto them.

If it sounds as if the House, facing a looming shutdown deadline, wasted a day of work passing two anti-abortion bills that will inevitably fail, that’s because it did. House Republican leaders knew this all along, of course, but scheduled the votes anyway to make GOP members feel better.

The next step is the more serious one. Republican leaders in both chambers are going to ask their members to pass a temporary, stop-gap spending bill – called a “continuing resolution” – that maintains Planned Parenthood funding, but prevents a shutdown.

And quite a few GOP members are going to say, “No.” Today’s attempt at pacifying those House Republicans will not work, because they don’t want to say they voted to cut off funds for Planned Parenthood, they want to actually cut off funds for Planned Parenthood – and they’ll accept nothing short of their demands.

All of which leaves us with an unfortunate truth: today’s theatrics, intended to please everyone, satisfied no one, and brought us one step closer to a shutdown that appears increasingly unavoidable.

Disclosure: My wife works for Planned Parenthood, but she played no role in this piece.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 18, 2015

September 19, 2015 Posted by | Federal Budget, Government Shut Down, Planned Parenthood | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Dems Won’t Be Boehner’s Cavalry”: Unlikely To Save House Speaker John Boehner From A Conservative Revolt

House Speaker John Boehner could face a leadership challenge this fall, especially if he cuts a deal with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats to circumvent or end a government shutdown. So would Democrats ride to his rescue – vote to keep him in the speakership if enough Republicans deserted him that he was denied a majority of votes in a speaker’s race?

He shouldn’t count on a strange bedfellows twist to save his job, one key Democratic lawmaker said this morning. “I cannot say that he can count on the support of Democrats,” Maryland Rep. Chris Van Hollen, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee said at a press breakfast organized by the Christian Science Monitor. “My view is that the Republican caucus is going to have to make its own decisions. I would have to think long and hard about [voting for Boehner], but my view is that the Republican caucus should find its leader. … I really think that those decisions should be ultimately left to the Republican caucus.”

It’s an interesting dilemma: Go with the ultimately pragmatic devil you know or let chaos reign and see if the GOP ends up giving a firebrand the speaker’s gavel – which, maybe, could help Democrats retake the House. The fact that Van Hollen said he would even consider voting for Boehner shows how weird the situation is getting.Boehner’s problem is that there are enough hard-liners in his caucus to grind everything to a halt every time they have a temper tantrum. Conservative hard-liners have rounded up signatures of more than 40 GOP House members who have vowed not to vote for any government funding that includes money for Planned Parenthood, which has recently been the subject of some deceptively edited sting videos. Either Boehner can accede to them and pass a spending bill which won’t get enacted or he can spurn them and face a challenge to his speakership. Or, arguably most likely, he can let the government shut down for a couple of days before cutting a deal with Democrats, which would still put him in the crosshairs for conservatives.

Ultimately, as Bloomberg Politics wrote yesterday, if Boehner is serious about avoiding a government shutdown (and it seems reasonable to assume that he is), he’s going to need help from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and her Democrats. It’s a fair point – it was Democrats with a few score Republicans, for example, who voted to end the 2013 shutdown (which, Van Hollen noted, incurred “$24 billion in economic loss [and] 120,000 jobs not created because of the lack of additional economic activity”). That calculus is unlikely to change.

Where do things stand? Boehner and Pelosi huddled Thursday night to talk about how to avoid a shutdown. But if any progress was made, no one has told Van Hollen. “You have a speaker who … to my knowledge has not reached out to Democrats in any way to resolve this issue,” he said, adding that “it’s unfortunate that we seem to be on a rerun of a very bad movie” in terms of repeating the shutdown that occurred two years ago.

Van Hollen speculated that Boehner “is much more worried about his own speakership than he is about shutting down the government at least as of today. … We hope that will change.”


By: Robert Schlesinger, Managing Editor for Opinion, U.S. News & World Report, September 18,2015





September 19, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Government Shut Down, House Republican Caucus, John Boehner | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Ducking For Cover On Planned Parenthood”: Message Republicans Receiving, Government Shutdown Is A Politically Losing Strategy’

Even as Carly Fiorina’s mendacious disquisition on Planned Parenthood last night encouraged those who want to shut down the government over funding for that organization, congressional Republicans continued to run for cover to the big mainline antichoice organization, the National Right To Life Committee, per a report from the AP’s Alan Fram:

Hoping to prevent the Republican uproar over the Planned Parenthood videos from snowballing into a government shutdown, GOP leaders are turning for help to polling data and one of the nation’s most powerful anti-abortion groups.

At a meeting Thursday of House Republicans, leaders described GOP polls showing the public is strongly against a federal shutdown and would likely blame Republicans if one occurred, said lawmakers who attended the closed-door session. Some conservatives want the GOP-controlled Congress to approve a bill keeping the government open starting Oct. 1 only if it also blocks federal payments to Planned Parenthood.

“The message was there that this is a politically losing strategy that would put our own majority in peril,” Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., who is close to party leaders, said of the polling.

In addition, top Republicans have spread the word that even the National Right to Life Committee — which favors cutting off Planned Parenthood’s funds — doubts the wisdom of risking a shutdown over that issue. The group is the largest and perhaps most influential anti-abortion organization.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said of Right to Life on Wednesday, “It’s a strategy they don’t think makes much sense because it doesn’t succeed….”

Right to Life’s leaders released a statement this week endorsing a bill by Rep. Diane Black, R-Tenn., halting federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year. The House plans to approve that bill on Friday, along with another by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., setting criminal penalties for medical providers who don’t try saving babies born live during abortions.

But the Right to Life statement was pointedly silent about the merits of enmeshing a cutoff of Planned Parenthood’s money with legislation keeping government functioning.

“We want people to think about what a government shutdown would do,” National Right to Life President Carol Tobias said in an interview Wednesday. She said of Obama, “As long as he’s in that Oval Office with a veto pen, it’s difficult to see how we could win that battle.”

Tobias said Right to Life is concerned that a shutdown over Planned Parenthood could harm the anti-abortion cause in the long run, adding, “If we want to save babies, if we want to defund Planned Parenthood, we have to put a pro-life president in the White House” in next year’s elections.

Wonder if Tobias is hearing today from members who got all riled up by Fiorina last night, or for that matter, by Bobby Jindal shrieking at the cowardly surrender-monkeys of the Senate who won’t throw away the filibuster in order to advance to a Clash of Civilizations with Obama over Planned Parenthood funding. It also wouldn’t shock me if more militant antichoice groups go all Hamas to the NRLC’s Fatah.

You even have to wonder if some antichoicers are rethinking the whole sting video strategy, which has mainly served to lather up the faithful rather than earn any converts. Some upcoming craziness could confirm that judgment.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 17, 2015

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Carly Fiorina, Government Shut Down, Planned Parenthood | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Shutdown Politics Divides GOP”: No Real Precedent For A Party Being Responsible For Two Government Shutdowns Over 24 Months

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is ready for an ugly showdown that may very well shut down the federal government at the end of the month, as are dozens of House Republicans. Meanwhile, GOP leaders in both chambers are pushing as hard as they can in the opposite direction.

But no one in Republican politics is more resistant to this strategy than vulnerable GOP incumbents worried about their re-election bids next year. Politico reported this week on one of these lawmakers:

In an interview, Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) said it’s “obvious” Cruz is only making this his latest cause to boost his visibility in a presidential campaign. And Ayotte, who withdrew her name from Lee’s 2013 letter on Obamacare, said she will “absolutely not” sign onto Cruz’s latest missive.

“There are not enough votes to even get (to) 60 in the Senate. But even if you could get by that (hurdle), the president is going to veto it and we certainly don’t have 67 votes,” Ayotte said. “So I guess I would ask: What’s the strategy for success?”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), another blue-state Republican incumbent facing a tough race next year, is also reportedly urging his colleagues to avoid a shutdown at all costs – for his sake, if not theirs.

All of which raises the question: are Ayotte and Johnson correct? Would another government shutdown hurt them and their party?

Reader B.G. emailed me last night to suggest the nervous senators’ concerns are misplaced. I’m reprinting the reader’s note with permission: “The GOP paid no political price in the 2014 election for shutting down the government in 2013. As much as I loathe Cruz, it is not irrational for him to think that shutting down the government will be a cost-free endeavor (from a GOP political perspective). I am sure he is betting, and not without evidence, that any government shutdown will be long forgotten by the time the 2016 election rolls around.”

After House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told Fox News this morning that “the American people will punish you if you are just playing politics or making a point that can’t be achieved,” reader B.G. added in a follow-up email, “Well, no, not based on recent history…. In fact, if I were Ted Cruz, I would be making the point publicly that the 2013 shutdown worked. ‘Look, we did it, and the American people rewarded us.’”

As a practical matter, Cruz and his allies are doing exactly that. For all the hand-wringing among Republican leaders, the Texas senator and his allies routinely make the argument on Capitol Hill that the hype is wrong and the risk of an electoral backlash from shutdowns is vastly overstated. These are, Cruz & Co. insist, consequence-free gambits.

To which I say, maybe.

First, it’s worth remembering that there are qualitative differences between midterm cycles and presidential election years. In the latter, more people, especially Democrats, actually bother to show up. There’s no denying the fact that Republicans had a great year in 2014, despite shutting down the government in 2013, but the national electorate will look far different – larger, more diverse, etc. – in 2016.

Second, for some of these vulnerable incumbents, the national landscape isn’t nearly as relevant as the prevailing political winds in their own home states. And in a state like Wisconsin, where Johnson is an underdog anyway, there’s simply no upside to having the public get angry with his party all over again.

Third, don’t discount the possibility of a cumulative effect. Republicans faced no discernible punishment for the last shutdown, but there’s no real precedent for a party being responsible for two shutdowns over the course of 24 months, and it’s no surprise that GOP leaders don’t see value in pushing their luck.

Finally, there’s the broader context of the 2016 cycle to consider: Republicans are going to ask the American mainstream to give the GOP power over the House, the Senate, and the White House, simultaneously, for the first time in a decade. Democrats will respond that an unhinged, radicalized Republican Party with a right-wing agenda hasn’t earned, and cannot be trusted with, that much power over the federal government.
Will another shutdown make the Democrats’ argument easier or harder next year?


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, September 11, 2015

September 14, 2015 Posted by | Government Shut Down, House Republicans, Ted Cruz | , , , , | 1 Comment

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