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“The Party Of ‘No Way!'”: G.O.P. Embraces The George Wallace Demagogues; Less Governing, More Gridlock

Perhaps the most important thing Washington will do this year is decide whether to approve President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court. But Republicans have already announced their decision: “No way!”

It’s rich for Republicans to declare pre-emptively that they will not even hold hearings on an Obama nominee, considering that they used to denounce (while their party held the White House) the notion that judges’ nominations shouldn’t proceed in an election year.

“That’s just plain bunk,” Senator Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican, said in 2008. “The reality is that the Senate has never stopped confirming judicial nominees during the last few months of a president’s term.” His sense of reality has since changed.

Senator Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, said in 2008, “Just because it’s a presidential election year is no excuse for us to take a vacation.”

In fairness, Democrats have also been hypocritical. In 1992, when George Bush was president, then-Senator Joe Biden said an election-year vacancy should wait to be filled the next year.

A pox on all their houses!

Let’s tune out politicians’ rhetoric in both parties and look at the merits of the arguments. Supreme Court justices rarely die in office, and in recent decades they have mostly chosen to step down before election years. But despite what Republican senators would have you believe, there have been a number of Supreme Court vacancies filled in election years.

In the 20th century we had six:

■ In 1912, the Senate confirmed Mahlon Pitney, nominated by William Howard Taft.

■ In 1916, the Senate confirmed both Louis Brandeis and John Clarke, nominated by Woodrow Wilson.

■ In 1932, the Senate confirmed Benjamin Cardozo, nominated by Herbert Hoover.

■ In 1940, the Senate confirmed Frank Murphy, nominated by Franklin Roosevelt.

■ In 1988, the Senate confirmed Anthony Kennedy, who had been nominated by Ronald Reagan the previous November.

A counterexample is Abe Fortas, whose nomination to be elevated from associate justice to chief justice in the summer of 1968 was killed by a filibuster by Republicans and Southern Democrats. But that’s a horrifying bit of history for Republicans to rely upon, because the main reasons for opposition to Fortas were that he favored civil rights and was Jewish. His ethical lapses mostly emerged later.

Republicans suggest that it’s standard for a Supreme Court vacancy to be held over when it occurs during an election year. Since 1900, I can find only one example of something close to that happening: In the fall of 1956, after Congress had adjourned and Senate confirmation was impossible, William Brennan received a recess appointment, then in 1957 was nominated and confirmed.

It’s ironic that this tumult should bedevil a replacement for Antonin Scalia, who emphasized the constitutional text. The Constitution gives no hint that the Senate’s “advice and consent” for nominations should operate only in three out of four years.

If Republicans block Obama’s nomination, Scalia’s vacancy will last more than a year, compared with a historical average of resolving nominations in 25 days. To date, the longest Supreme Court nomination in American history lasted 125 days, and it looks as if we will easily break that record this year.

The larger issue here is obstructionism. When I was growing up, the G.O.P. was the serious, prudent, boring party, while the Democrats included a menagerie of populists, rascals and firebrands. Today it’s the G.O.P. that embraces the George Wallace demagogues, and its aim is less to govern than to cause gridlock. That’s not true of everyone — the House speaker, Paul Ryan, seems to have genuine aspirations to legislate. But to be a Republican lawmaker today is too often to seek to block appointments, obstruct programs and shut down government. Politics becomes less about building things up than about burning them down.

Both parties are open to expanding the earned-income tax credit, to early childhood programs, to better approaches to heroin addiction, to supporting women with obstetric fistula, to reducing violence against women worldwide. Yet practical measures to address these issues stall in Congress. The party of Lincoln is now the party of “No,” refusing even to invite the president’s budget director to testify on an Obama budget, as is customary. Congress is expected to accomplish next to nothing this year.

Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are the apotheosis of this disregard for governing. Cruz’s entire congressional career has involved antagonizing colleagues and ensuring that nothing gets done. And Trump barely bothers with policies, just provocations.

All this is ineffably sad. I expect politicians to exaggerate and bluster. But I also expect them to govern, and that is what many in the Grand Old Party now refuse to do.

In that case, should they really be paid? Just as we have work requirements for some welfare recipients, maybe it’s time to consider work requirements for senators.

 

By: Nicholas Kristof, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, February 26, 2016

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Chuck Grassley, Obstructionism, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“McConnell Is Blowing It…Big Time”: McConnell Has Forgotten What Is At The Heart Of The Strategy He Invented

My take on Sen. Mitch McConnell has always been that he is not so interested in issues/policies as he is in the power game of politics. That approach was never on display more clearly than when he said that his number one goal was to ensure that Obama was a one-term president – in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Given that, I will credit McConnell with being a good strategist. No matter how bad his total obstructionist tactics were for the country, they were a fairly effective power play. That’s why it’s been so fascinating to watch him fail so miserably lately.

As I wrote at the beginning of this Republican-controlled Congress, McConnell’s initial strategy was to paint President Obama as the new obstructionist by forcing him to veto legislation that would otherwise undo his agenda. But that is getting all gummed up by either the Democrats in the Senate standing strong or the lunatic caucus in his party making compromise impossible. The Majority Leader finds himself between a rock and a hard place and can’t seem to get much of anything to the President’s desk.

So instead of being able to label President Obama as the obstructionist, McConnell is now having to resort to using that one on the Democrats in Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused Democrats Wednesday of knee-jerk obstructionist tactics, flipping a script that Democrats used many times in recent years.

McConnell criticized Democrats for filibustering a motion to debate a House-passed bill funding the Department of Homeland Security that contained language blocking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Aside from the irony of that coming from the great wielder of obstructionism, it seems that McConnell has forgotten what is at the heart of the strategy he invented. Here’s former Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren’s explanation.

A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people…

There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters’ confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that “they are all crooks,” and that “government is no good,” further leading them to think, “a plague on both your houses” and “the parties are like two kids in a school yard.”

Those “low-information voters” don’t tend to know which party is pursuing which legislative tactic, but they sure do know which party holds the presidency. And they’ve likely heard about the “shellacking” the President’s party took in the 2014 midterms that gave control of Congress to the opposing party.

So the spectacle voters are witnessing right now is a Democratic President who is busy getting things done while Congress is gridlocked and McConnell whines that Democrats in the Senate won’t let him get anything done.

In other words, you’re blowing it McConnell…big time!

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 14, 2015

February 16, 2015 Posted by | Mitch Mc Connell, Obstructionism, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Bonzo Goes Bonkers”: Boehner’s Contempt For Obama Reaches Tipping Point

As a rule, those who ask House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) about his relationship with President Obama tend to hear the same answer: the two leaders “get along fine,” the Ohio Republican likes to say.

But as Boehner’s frustrations mount, his commitment to a respectful tone has disappeared. The Speaker sat down with KTGO in North Dakota on Friday and showed real contempt for the president with a tone that seemed unusually caustic for Boehner.

Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) blasted President Obama’s domestic and foreign policies in a recent radio interview, saying Obama was “not prepared for the job.” […]

Boehner also blamed global tensions on Obama’s “apology tour” five years ago.

In political science circles, there are often spirited debates about whether anyone is ever truly “prepared for the job” of the presidency, but the fact remains that Barack Obama has some of the most significant accomplishments of any president in a generation, even in the midst of crises few of his predecessors have had to endure. Boehner, on the other hand, is routinely ignored and bullied by his own members, struggles to complete even routine legislative tasks, and his most notable accomplishment as Speaker – indeed, arguably his only accomplishment – was a government shutdown with no apparent purpose.

One of these two leaders is probably “not prepared for the job,” but it’s not who Boehner thinks.

As for the Speaker’s reliance on the “apology tour” talking point, it’s a painfully dumb argument, but more importantly, it’s beneath Boehner’s office. We expect lazy, recycled rhetoric from random talking heads on Fox, not the Speaker of the House.

Wait, it gets worse.

“There’s nobody more frustrated than I am, but we’re the minority party,” Boehner added.

Well, not really. Boehner is the Speaker of the House because his party isn’t in the minority, at least not in the House. It’s a divided government, but Boehner is nevertheless the ostensible leader of the majority party in one chamber.

Boehner said he is committed to reforming the country’s “broken” immigration system, but until “we have an administration committed to security of the border, it won’t happen.”

“We’ve tried and tried and tried, but he just won’t go there,” he said.

Wait, does the Speaker now want sympathy? The truth is, the Obama administration has already improved border security, and would improve it further as part of comprehensive immigration reform. Boehner won’t even bring a popular, bipartisan bill to the floor, refuses to unveil an alternative, refuses to negotiate with Democrats, and refuses to even consider a compromise.

“We’ve tried and tried and tried”? Have all of these efforts happened in secret because when it comes to immigration policymaking, it appears the only folks who aren’t trying are Boehner and his far-right caucus.

As for the larger point, does the Speaker believe such rhetoric will improve governing prospects over the next couple of years? Almost certainly not, though by all appearances, Boehner no longer cares.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 18, 2014

August 19, 2014 Posted by | House Republicans, John Boehner, Obstructionism | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Inevitability Of Republican Reactions”: Opposition Is A Republican Action, Not A Republican Reaction

Ron Fournier of the National Journal has become (to liberal bloggers anyway) the embodiment of multiple sins of the Washington press corps. Most notably, there’s the High Broderism, in which the blame for every problem is apportioned in precisely equal measure to both parties, and the embrace of the Green Lantern theory of the presidency, in which anything can be accomplished, including winning over a recalcitrant opposition, by a simple act of will from the Oval Office. The latter’s most comical manifestation is Fournier’s frequent pleas for President Obama to “lead,” with the content of said “leadership” almost always left undetailed (though one suspects it might involve giving a great speech, after which Republicans would decide to come together with Democrats to solve the nation’s problems).

Though lately I’ve been trying to limit my pundit-bashing to once or twice a month, I couldn’t overlook this passage in Fournier’s latest column expressing his dismay that Obama might take some executive actions in areas where Congress hasn’t done anything, like immigration or corporate inversions. While I’ll give Fournier credit for acknowledging that to know whether such actions are good or bad we’d have to look at each one individually (a remarkable concession), I can’t stomach this:

For argument’s sake, let’s say Obama is right on the issue and has legal authority to act. The big question is …

Would it be wrong to end-run Congress? Another way to put it might be, “Would more polarization in Washington and throughout the country be wrong?” How about exponentially more polarization, gridlock, and incivility? If the president goes too far, he owns that disaster.

Fournier is saying that even if Obama is right on the merits of an issue and has legal authority to take a particular executive action, to go ahead and do so is the same thing as creating “exponentially more polarization, gridlock, and incivility.” But it takes two to tango, or to create polarization. (Gridlock and incivility, one party can do on its own, as we well know.) In other words, Fournier is saying that when Republicans react to an executive action by remaining firm in their obstructionism and being uncivil about it to boot, it’s one person’s fault: Barack Obama.

Isn’t it long past the time when we were able to put aside the quaint notion that Republican actions are determined in any meaningful way by what Democrats do or don’t do?

It isn’t only journalists who have believed this; for some time; Democrats believed it, too. Many Democrats voted for Obama in the 2008 primaries because they were worried about the ferocious opposition Hillary Clinton would engender from the GOP. As they quickly found out, that opposition is a Republican action, not a Republican reaction. I remind you (for the umpteenth time) that on the very day Barack Obama was inaugurated, Republican leaders met for dinner and decided to oppose anything and everything he tried to do. Politically, it was a pretty smart move. But it wasn’t because Obama hadn’t reached out to them and they were mad—he had only been president for a couple of hours. Within weeks, they responded to the fact that Obama hired people to work in the White House by accusing him of appointing a group of unaccountable “czars” who were wielding tyrannical power.

On this subject, there are basically two kinds of Republicans. There are those who understand that maximal opposition will yield lots of political benefit for them, and there are those who genuinely believe that Obama is an evil Kenyan Marxist tyrant trying to destroy America. When it comes to things like how they react to the administration’s policy initiatives, the distinction doesn’t matter. They both arrive at the same place, whether through clear-eyed political calculation or wild-eyed hatred. And nothing—nothing—President Obama does or doesn’t do makes a bit of difference.

To read Fournier, you might think that if Obama came out and said, “Fixing immigration is really Congress’ responsibility, so I’m not going to do a thing until they put a bill on my desk,” Republicans would respond, “We appreciate the trust the President is putting in Congress, so we’re going to get right to work passing comprehensive immigration reform.” But of course they won’t.

If we know anything about the way today’s Republicans react to this president, it’s that nothing he does really matters. They’re going to do what they’re going to do. There will be gridlock and incivility if he does things they don’t like, and there’ll be gridlock and incivility if he does nothing at all. To think otherwise you have to ignore everything that’s happened for the last five years.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, August 7, 2014

August 9, 2014 Posted by | Obstructionism, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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