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“The House Lunatic Caucus”: You’ll Never Please Them Speaker Ryan

Just when Speaker Ryan was probably thinking he’d mollified them with another symbolic vote to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood, the Republican lunatic caucus in the House speaks up to remind him that he’s on a short leash.

“It’s too early to judge the speakership of Paul Ryan and I think it is fundamentally unfair to try and judge the speakership of Paul Ryan over the last month or so. But, as I have also said, the honeymoon is over,” said Labrador, an Idaho Republican. “I think he needs to start putting up real conservative reform in the House and doing the things that are necessary to show the voters that he is a different speaker than John Boehner because frankly, everything he has done so far is no different than what John Boehner would have done.”…

He added, “The question is will Ryan be a good speech-maker or a good policy-maker…The question is not just can you deliver on the speech but can you deliver on the substance. The question is whether the Republican party is a conservative party or not. I’m afraid that so far we’ve shown that [the Republican Party] is not a conservative party.”

The implied threat contained in the statement, “everything he has done so far is no different than what John Boehner would have done,” is crystal clear. Labrador wants Ryan to know that unless they get what they want, they’ll do the same thing to him that they did to Boehner.

But if Ryan was actually paying attention for the last few years, what he’ll also know is that the lunatic caucus is famous for making unreasonable demands that no one in their right minds would ever go along with – and they don’t have a majority of votes in the House to get what they want. The only thing they DO have is the ability to threaten to blow shit up. Eventually Speaker Ryan will face the same thing Boehner did – you’ll never please them. And then what?

It’s too bad that a Republican Speaker can’t/won’t tell these lunatics to bugger off. But then, that’s exactly the same problem the Republican establishment is facing with the candidacy of Donald Trump, isn’t it? They created this monster as an alternative to actually governing after the 2008 election and it just keeps turning on them.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 8, 2016

January 11, 2016 Posted by | Establishment Republicans, House Republican Caucus, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Governing-By-Crisis Has Gotten Even Worse”: The Risk That America Will Default On Its Debts Is Now Higher Than Ever

It’s tempting to say that the upcoming need to increase the debt ceiling is another depressing iteration of the governing-by-crisis that we’ve gotten used to over the last five years since Republicans took control of the House. But it isn’t. It’s worse. The chaos that is the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives is about to have some very serious effects on the entire country.

Why is this crisis different from those that came before it? In all of the government shutdown/debt ceiling crises of the last five years, we knew how they would end: eventually, after putting up a show of fighting against that dastardly Obama administration, John Boehner would allow a vote on a bill to either fund the government or raise the debt ceiling, knowing that it would pass only with the votes of Democrats plus a few dozen Republicans sane enough to want to avoid catastrophe. The conservatives would cry “Betrayal!” but the crisis would be over.

But now even that may not be possible. Here’s the latest news from Politico this morning:

House GOP leaders initially planned to vote on a red-meat proposal Friday pitched by the Republican Study Committee to increase the debt ceiling while imposing new limits on executive-branch power. That measure stood no chance of passing the Senate, but would at least show effort.

Yet when House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) team tested Republican support for the legislation, it fell far short of the needed 218 votes, and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) postponed any floor action.

Now, the U.S. government is 12 days from reaching the debt limit without a clear plan of what to do.

Boehner, McCarthy and other GOP leaders are refusing at this point to move ahead with a “clean” debt ceiling bill insisted on by President Barack Obama. Senior leadership aides said they couldn’t find the 30 Republican votes needed to join with all 188 Democrats to pass that proposal — a bleak indication of the current state of play.

So there aren’t even 30 Republicans in the House willing to keep the United States government from defaulting on its debts. How did we get here?

First, let’s establish some context, since it’s been a while since we had a debt ceiling crisis. For some idiosyncratic historical reasons, the United States has a statutory limit on how many bonds it can issue to pay for what Congress buys, meaning that after it passes a budget, Congress has to pass an extra bill allowing the government to pay for that budget (the only other industrialized country that has a debt ceiling is Denmark, which might dim Bernie Sanders’ affection for the place, though theirs is set so high it doesn’t become a political football). For almost a century, debt ceiling increases were an occasion for brief political theater, as members of the party out of power would make some floor speeches about the administration’s outrageous spending, and then the bill would pass extending the ceiling for a year or two, because even the most committed opponents of the administration weren’t so deranged as to actually want to risk the United States government defaulting on its debts. But that was before the Tea Party came to town.

If a new bill raising the ceiling doesn’t pass by November 3rd, we will default. The Obama administration, as it always has, insists upon a “clean” debt ceiling increase — just increase it, and then we can argue about our other policy disagreements without threatening the full faith and credit of the United States. Republicans, however, see this as a great opportunity for blackmail.

So why are we even more likely now to fail to pass an increase than we were when we had this same crisis in 2011, then again in 2013, then again in 2014? Look at what’s going on in the House. Conservatives there are feeling emboldened because they just got rid of John Boehner, as they had wanted to do for so long. They feel strong and empowered, so naturally they believe that this is a battle they can win, even if they’ve lost before. And they’ve upped their demands.

Now they want not just general budget cuts in exchange for raising the ceiling, but cuts specifically to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. That demand was contained in a document the House Freedom Caucus put out recently, and the conservative Republican Study Committee’s proposal would raise the ceiling in exchange for $3.8 billion in cuts to those programs over the next decade, along with a freeze on all regulations until Barack Obama leaves office. If they think Democrats would ever accept those terms, they’ve lost their minds. But they seem serious.

But it isn’t just this recent revolt. As Jackie Calmes and David Herszenhorn of the New York Times recently pointed out, today’s House is even more conservative than it was when we came so close to defaulting before:

The legislative math has only grown more difficult. When Congress last voted in February 2014 to suspend the debt limit, 28 House Republicans joined nearly all Democrats in support; 199 Republicans were opposed. Now there are fewer Democrats in the House and if all 188 of them voted for an increase, Republican leaders would need 30 votes from their side for a 218-vote majority — two more than last year.

Yet nine of last year’s 28 Republican supporters have left Congress and at least three of their Republican successors — Representatives Dave Brat of Virginia, Steve Knight of California and Mark Walker, Republican of North Carolina — are almost certain to be opposed.

Also, 14 Democrats who voted to increase the debt limit are gone, replaced by Republicans, some of whom are likely to vote no.

That’s why they can’t even find 30 Republicans to vote for a clean increase. Then there’s the question of the next Speaker, who will be the one actually shepherding this crisis if Republicans stick to their schedule of electing the new Speaker next week.  While Paul Ryan hasn’t said publicly what he thinks ought to be done, he voted against the increase last year. This topic surely came up when he went to the Freedom Caucus to win their support. What did he tell them? They fervently want to use the threat of default to extort the administration into satisfying some of their policy goals. Is one of Ryan’s first acts a Speaker going to be turning his back on them? Don’t bet on it.

All this suggests that every force involved is propelling Republicans not just toward forcing a crisis, but forcing an actual default. At some point, they might realize that “Republicans are holding a gun to the head of the American economy and they’ll fire unless we let them slash Social Security and Medicare” isn’t exactly a winning political message to send. But who knows how much damage will be done before they realize that?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, October 23, 2015

October 25, 2015 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, House Freedom Caucus, House Republican Caucus, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“There’s Nothing But Chaos In The Republican Ranks”: GOP Leader Shocks Colleagues, Withdraws From Speaker’s Race

Thirteen days ago, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) shocked the political world by announcing his plan to resign. This morning, Boehner’s successor followed up with a shock of his own.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has abruptly pulled out of the race for Speaker of the House on the same day that he was widely expected to be nominated for the position.

The nominating contest in the GOP conference set for Thursday afternoon in the House has been postponed.

There is a degree of irony to all of this: Benghazi didn’t bring down Hillary Clinton, but it did prevent Kevin McCarthy from becoming Speaker.

The California Republican faced two challengers for his party’s Speaker nomination, but by all appearances, he had the support he needed to go to the floor as his party’s official choice. As recently as last night, McCarthy’s bid was on track to move forward.

The problem was the looming floor vote on Oct. 29 – the opposition to his promotion from the far-right was significant and he faced a real challenge in pulling together 218 GOP votes.

Even if he prevailed, McCarthy would have immediately taken the gavel and become an even weaker Speaker than Boehner.

A week ago, the landscape seemed relatively clear. The GOP establishment had rallied behind McCarthy, and though there were some questions about the other top posts, we’d have a sense of the new Republican leadership team by this afternoon.

Now, however, there’s nothing but chaos in the Republican ranks. It’s reminiscent of late 1998, when then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) resigned in disgrace, and his successor, Speaker-designate Bob Livingston (R-La.), also had to resign in disgrace after a sex scandal came to light.

The difference now is, the only scandal is the radicalization of Republican politics.

So what happens now? All of the leadership elections that had been scheduled for today have been postponed. The date of the new elections is unclear. McCarthy reportedly intends to stay in Congress – indeed, he apparently wants to keep his Majority Leader position – though it seems everything is unsettled right now.

The party’s establishment will have to rally behind a new standard bearer, though no one has any idea who that might be. All eyes will, of course, quickly turn to Paul Ryan, but the far-right Wisconsin congressman reiterated again this morning that he does not want to be Speaker of the House.

Because House rules allow members to elect anyone for Speaker – including those who are not current lawmakers – don’t be too surprised if GOP officials start looking to potential leaders outside of Capitol Hill.

What’s more, let’s not discount the possibility that John Boehner himself may stick around, indefinitely, while the chaos continues, House Republicans turn on each other, the chamber unravels, and Congress struggles mightily to find a suitable leader.

Finally, I heard one rumor a short while ago, which is admittedly hard to believe, about some less-conservative Republicans turning to Democrats to try to elect a “coalition-style Speaker,” in a scheme that would disempower the chamber right-wing extremists.

It’s far-fetched, to be sure, but after the last 13 days, it’s now best to expect the unexpected.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 8, 2015

October 9, 2015 Posted by | GOP, House Republican Caucus, John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Chaffetzed!”: A “Grandstanding Charlatan” Who Seems To Have A Tiny Problem With The Truth

It’s not a real good sign when your name is turned into a synonym for political backstabbling. That seems to have happened beyond retrieval to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), who wants to be the next Speaker of the House. Here’s a Tweet from the guy who first lifted Chaffetz from obscurity to power in Utah:

Here’s the essential background from the Salt Lake Tribune’s Paul Rolly:

Chaffetz fell into the chief-of-staff position under then-Gov. Jon Huntsman almost by accident. He had left a sales job with the multilevel marketer Nu Skin in 2004 to be the press liaison for the Huntsman campaign. The campaign manager abruptly resigned. So Chaffetz was promoted to that job, even though his only previous experience in political campaigns was as Utah co-chairman of Democrat Michael Dukakis’ presidential campaign in 1988.

It was one of those Peter Sellers’ “Being There” moments for Chaffetz. A Huntsman victory was practically guaranteed, so Chaffetz success was all but certain. His work as campaign manager earned him the lofty role as the governor’s chief of staff.

Chaffetz’s first real public action was to gather a number of veteran employees of the governor’s economic-development office into a room and fire them. He had them escorted out by armed guards.

Huntsman took some heat, but administration officials blamed Chaffetz for how the shake-up went down.

Chaffetz quickly earned a reputation as a jealous guardian of the governor’s time, often telling legislative leaders who wanted an audience with Huntsman that they must talk to him instead.

More than one critic complained that Chaffetz seemed to think he was the governor.

Chaffetz left the job well-before Huntsman’s first term ended amid rumors that fellow staffers wanted him and his power plays gone.

It’s not a good sign when you are compared to the Chauncey Gardner character in Being There, either.

I dunno exactly when Huntsman decided to rethink his opinion of Chaffetz, but it’s likely the absolute latest date would have been in 2012 when his protege endorsed Mitt Romney for president instead of Himself.

At Salon today Digby calls Chaffetz a “grandstanding charlatan” who “seems to have a tiny problem with the truth,” especially during his disastrous interrogation of Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards last week. Odds are, he will return to relative obscurity in a few days. But it’s hard to keep a backstabbing parvenu down for long.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 6, 2015

October 8, 2015 Posted by | House Republican Caucus, Jason Chaffetz, Jon Huntsman | , , , , | 1 Comment

“Nothing Less Than Total War Will Suffice”: Why Republicans Will Face The Same Disaster No Matter Who They Crown Speaker

Liberals and conservatives can agree on one thing about departing Speaker of the House John Boehner: He was terrible at his job.

Liberals look at how Boehner was yanked around by the reactionary extremists in his party, kept staging showdowns that never got the GOP any of what it sought, and couldn’t unify his caucus for anything more meaningful than 50 futile votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act, and say, “What a loser.” Conservatives look at how he failed to actually repeal the Affordable Care Act (or anything else), blinked when he stared down President Obama, and generally failed to “stand up” tall enough to cut the administration down to size, and think, “What a wimp.”

They may both be right, at least in part. But what Republicans probably don’t realize is that their next speaker probably won’t be able to do any better — not now, and not after the next president is elected.

Right now Republicans in the House are in the process of picking that speaker, and it has turned into a real contest. Up until a week ago it was assumed that Kevin McCarthy, Boehner’s second-in-command, would waltz into the job. But after he said what everyone knows to be true — that the purpose of the select committee on Benghazi is to do political damage to Hillary Clinton — Republicans whispered “Ixnay on the ooth-tray!” and began looking around for an alternative (it’s amazing what an effect one ill-considered remark can have). Into that breach stepped Jason Chaffetz, a young conservative from Utah who has been seen as an up-and-comer, but nobody thought would be contending for this job so soon.

Unlike any speaker in memory, neither McCarthy nor Chaffetz has been in Congress very long. McCarthy is in his fifth term, and Chaffetz is in his fourth (Boehner and his predecessor Nancy Pelosi had each served 10 terms before becoming speaker). Neither one of them is known as some kind of legislative wizard with the ability to keep his caucus together and shepherd difficult bills through the Congress. That’s partly because they haven’t had the chance, but the truth is it won’t matter.

Think about what the next speaker of the House is going to spend his time doing. Between now and January 2017, the answer is, not much. Boehner is hoping to strike a two-year budget deal on his way out that would mean no more threatened government shutdowns between now and the election, essentially saving the Republican Party from its own representatives in the House. If he succeeds, the next speaker will spend his time bringing up symbolic votes to satisfy the party’s right wing, and maybe starting a new investigation or two (the Select Committee on Why Hillary Clinton Is a Jerk, perhaps?). But he won’t be passing any actual legislation.

That’s because the tea partiers who helped push Boehner out and whose assent is needed for the next speaker to win the office don’t want any legislating, and they don’t want any deal-making. This was what Boehner discovered, to his endless dismay. For that portion of the caucus, many of whom got elected since 2010, nothing less than total war against the opposition will suffice. That war isn’t something you do in order to achieve a policy victory, it’s the whole point of being in Congress in the first place. The measure of success is whether you “stood up” with sufficient strength and resolve, not whether you actually accomplished anything.

If a Democrat becomes president in 2016, that will not change. The vast majority of those House members come from safe Republican seats; the only way they’ll leave is if they lose a primary to someone even more doctrinaire. So we’d have four more years of what we’ve had lately: an endless stalemate punctuated by the occasional crisis, accompanied by conservative cries that the GOP leadership is weak and ineffectual.

And what if a Republican wins the 2016 election? Although it might seem like it would be an orgy of bill-passing as Republicans finally get the chance to do whatever they want without fear of a presidential veto, it might turn out not to be so easy, and not only because Democrats could still filibuster bills in the Senate. Remember how complicated it was for Barack Obama to pass the stimulus, Wall Street reform, and the Affordable Care Act? That was when he had large majorities in both houses. They got a great deal done, but it was a struggle every step of the way.

When your party can ostensibly pass whatever laws it wants, intra-party divisions come to the fore as members try to shape the legislation to their liking and realize that they can extract concessions by being difficult. When there’s actually a real accomplishment in the offing — let’s say a tax cut, or a big increase in military spending, or a restriction on abortion rights — the obstruction of a few members can have real consequences, and that will give every rump faction the ability to extort real concessions to whatever it is they want. The caucus could be riven by divisions between the extremely conservative members and the incredibly conservative members, in which case you’d need a speaker with some deal-making skills.

And in that period of 2009 to 2010, Democrats in Congress were led (and still are) by Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi, strong leaders with decades of legislative experience who understood how to corral and move the caucuses they led. Republicans may not like them, but nobody thinks they aren’t very good at what they do, particularly Pelosi. On the Republican side you might say the same about Mitch McConnell in the Senate, but would Kevin McCarthy or Jason Chaffetz be able to be as effective a leader in keeping their caucus together as Pelosi has been? Now consider that the Republican House can’t stay together when it has zero chance of passing anything into law. Just imagine what a mess it will be when there’s actually something at stake.

I could be wrong, but I’d be surprised if either McCarthy or Chaffetz is talking a lot to their colleagues about the complexities and difficulties 2017 and beyond could pose with a Republican president, and how their particular skills and experience will help them navigate that minefield. If they are, then they’re more forward-looking than I imagine.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, October 6, 2015

October 7, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, House Republican Caucus, John Boehner | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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