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“Please Proceed, Majority Leader”: Their “Three Nos” Strategy Has Telegraphed Their Weak Point For All To See

Only an hour after Antonin Scalia’s death had been confirmed, Sen. Majority Leader McConnell announced that there would be no vote on a nominee from President Obama to replace him. Earlier this week, Republican members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said that there would be no confirmation hearings on the nominee. Then yesterday, Republican Senators began announcing that they would not even meet with the nominee. All of this is happening before the President has even announced his choice.

You might be tempted to ask, “what is the strategy behind the Republican’s decision to become the party of no, no and no?” Republican strategist Rory Cooper explained that the goal is to pretend that “we have already reached the conclusion of the debate.” He suggests that to argue the credentials of the nominee would be “to give up a critical piece of leverage in how this is portrayed in the media.” Republicans must keep it “a debate over a process, not a person” and the “story must be starved of oxygen.”

To perhaps test that resolve, an anonymous source told the Washington Post yesterday that Republican Governor Brian Sandoval was being considered. A spokesman for McConnell reacted immediately.

And freshman Senator Deb Fischer demonstrated that she had gotten the memo.

Does anyone else think that all of this reeks of desperation? Josh Marshall sure does.

I think they protest way, way too much about the brittleness of their position and the potential electoral fallout. The emphaticness of the “three nos” isn’t really necessary to convince anyone at this point. It’s to make the point so ferociously, totally, almost maniacally that they can actually end the debate now. But I doubt they actually can.

When it comes to power, Senate Republicans maintain the ability to block any potential nominee President Obama puts forward. But their “three nos” strategy has telegraphed their weak point for all to see…the very real possibility of an extremely qualified nominee. That plays right into the hands of President Obama’s most likely strategy – to pragmatically chose the most qualified person. As Marshall says, from there – the job of the Democrats is pretty easy.

So let’s start with this. Republican senators won’t meet with the nominee. We get it. But I’m pretty sure Democratic senators will meet with him or her and make quite a show of it. I’m also fairly sure the White House will keep trying to set up meetings with Republican Senators and make a show of the on-going refusals. Senate challengers will press it in their campaigns too. And I have little doubt the White House will be sure to arrange meetings with the couple Republican senators who’ve so far bucked the unified front.

The Republicans are placing all their bets on their ability to shut down media discussion of the nominee once their name is announced. Given the importance of this issue, that is a tall order – even for them. But because their base has communicated that nothing – not even control of the Senate – is as important as obstructing this nomination process, its probably the only play they have.

Recently Alec MacGillis wrote a brief profile of Mitch McConnell and why he has chosen this fight. In the end, it’s clear that he didn’t…the fight chose him. This description pretty much encapsulates what the Majority Leader is all about.

The best way to understand Addison Mitchell McConnell Jr. has been to recognize that he is not a conservative ideologue, but rather the epitome of the permanent campaign of Washington: What matters most isn’t so much what you do in office, but if you can win again.

In other words, as Majority Leader, McConnell is in the position of having to draw a line in the sand about conservative influence on the Supreme Court. To do so, the only play he has is the one that puts winning the Senate again in jeopardy. As the President might say, “Please proceed, Majority Leader.”

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 25, 2016

February 27, 2016 Posted by | Mitch Mc Connell, Republican Obstructionalism, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , | 2 Comments

“Sound And Fury Signifying Nothing”: Republicans; “Do What I Say, Not What I Don’t Do”

Think for a minute about the agenda that is being articulated by Republicans these days. And then, given the fact that they now control both houses of Congress, think about what they aren’t doing about it. For example:

* They say that we need to fight ISIS more aggressively (whatever that means). But President Obama has been asking Congress to pass an Authorization for the Use of Military Force against ISIS for months now. Nada.

* They say that we need to secure our borders. Most of them think we should build an impenetrable wall on our border with Mexico. Some of them even say that we should deport all 10 million undocumented immigrants. Have we seen a bill on any of that in Congress? No.

* They say that they want to repeal Obamacare. OK, they actually passed a bill to do that. But they’ve also said that they want to replace it. Anyone seen that plan floating around anywhere? Not so much.

* They say that the problem with gun violence is that we don’t do enough to provide mental health treatment. Congress could do something about that. Have they? No.

* We’ve heard a lot about criminal justice reform. And some bills even passed out of committees. But so far – nothing has actually come up for a vote.

* I don’t know about you, but I haven’t even heard any rumblings from Congress on anything we can do about jobs or wages.

* Of course, most Republicans deny that climate change even exists, so they’re not interested in doing anything about that.

That is the backdrop on which President Obama has stepped forward to take executive actions where he can. Here’s how Ed Kilgore described it:

If you look back at Obama’s record on big executive actions — on guns, climate change, and immigration — you see the same situation. It’s not that he’s fought for “liberal” as opposed to “conservative” policies in these areas. It’s that congressional Republicans, pressured by conservative opinion-leaders and interest groups, have refused to do anything at all…So there’s literally no one to hold bipartisan negotiations with on these issues, and no way to reach common ground.

Even if we simply look at the issues Republicans themselves have identified, none of them are stagnant. There is no such thing as a neutral position. Choosing to do nothing has consequences.

Republicans can shout all they want about how President Obama is by-passing Congress with his executive actions. But until they quit shouting and actually demonstrate that they can do something, it’s all sound and fury signifying nothing.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 21, 2016

January 25, 2016 Posted by | Congress, GOP, Republican Obstructionalism | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Out In The Fever Swamps”:The One Thing To Know About Obama’s Philosophy On Executive Actions

There he goes again: President Barack Obama is issuing an executive order to tighten regulations of gun sales to make background checks modestly more effective. And in doing so, Obama is thumbing his nose at Republicans who claim his habit of end-running the legislative branch to act on his own reveals a dictatorial temperament and perhaps even a threat to the Constitution. Out in the fever swamps, the conspiracy theory holding that Obama is going to cancel the presidential elections and rule by decree will gain new adherents. And here and there (and from “centrist” pundits as well as Republicans) you will hear angry talk about the president once again betraying the bipartisanship he promised to bring to Washington back in 2008. You’ll even hear some progressive and Democratic validation of this treatment in the form of claims that Obama is pursuing extremism in the defense of this or that urgent policy goal.

Obama himself laid the political groundwork for this action not by insisting on his as opposed to Republicans’ ideas about gun safety, but by noting repeatedly that the Republican-led Congress has refused to act even in the wake of catastrophes like those at Sandy Hook and San Bernardino. Here’s the relevant statement from the White House:

The president has made clear the most impactful way to address the crisis of gun violence in our country is for Congress to pass some common sense gun safety measures. But the president has also said he’s fully aware of the unfortunate political realities in this Congress. That is why he has asked his team to scrub existing legal authorities to see if there’s any additional action we can take administratively.

If you look back at Obama’s record on big executive actions — on guns, climate change, and immigration — you see the same situation. It’s not that he’s fought for “liberal” as opposed to “conservative” policies in these areas. It’s that congressional Republicans, pressured by conservative opinion-leaders and interest groups, have refused to do anything at all. They are in denial about climate change and in paralyzing internal disagreement on immigration, and refuse to consider any new gun regulations. So there’s literally no one to hold bipartisan negotiations with on these issues, and no way to reach common ground. In all these cases, the absence of action creates its own dreadful policies, most notably on immigration where a refusal to set enforcement priorities and to fund them forces arbitrary actions no one supports.

So taking executive actions is hardly a betrayal of bipartisanship, but rather a forlorn plea for it. And it’s significant that Obama is usually acting on issues in which the Republican rank-and-file are far more supportive of action than their purported representatives in Congress.

Back during his announcement of candidacy in 2007, Obama made it reasonably clear that he didn’t just want to cut deals between the two parties in Washington, but also intended to force action on them when gridlock prevailed. After discussing several national challenges, he said:

What’s stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What’s stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics — the ease with which we’re distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.

Knowing that a Republican president could and probably would roll back all his executive actions, Obama is not taking a preferred course of action. If, of course, a Democratic succeeds him, his policies will take root and probably endure. Eventually, the two parties may come to agree on the challenges the country faces, and then have actual discussions — and disagreements and competition — over how to address them. That’s bipartisanship. And counterintuitive as it may seem, Obama’s executive actions may be necessary to produce bipartisanship down the road.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, January 5, 2016

January 7, 2016 Posted by | Bipartisanship, Gun Regulations, Gun Violence, Republican Obstructionalism | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Republican Obstructionalism”: Why The Democratic Candidates Can’t Confront The Real Elephant In The Room

In last night’s Democratic debate, there was only one question, to Bernie Sanders, on what may be the most difficult challenge that will confront the next president if he or she is a Democrat: What are you going to do about Congress?

We’ll get to the answer Sanders gave in a moment, but first, some context. When Barack Obama was elected, congressional Republicans made what was in some ways a strategically shrewd decision, that they were going to oppose him on basically everything. Because he started with huge majorities in both houses of Congress, he had an extraordinary record of legislative achievement in his first two years, that opposition notwithstanding. But in 2010 Republicans won the House, and four years after that they took the Senate. For all intents and purposes, legislating was over.

In those two wave elections of 2010 and 2014, a generation of extremely conservative Republicans who viewed all compromise as betrayal were elected, moving the party to the right ideologically and making it far more obstructionist. Now let’s say a Democrat wins in 2016. What happens then?

It’s almost a certainty that Republicans will retain control of the House. Democrats have a chance to win back the Senate (Republicans have to defend many more seats, because everyone who won in 2010 is up for reelection), but even if they do, it certainly won’t be with a filibuster-proof majority. Not only that, if Democrats make gains, it will be in those few competitive states and House districts, which would mean that the remaining Republicans would as a group be even more conservative than they are now. Are they going to be in the mood to work with a Democratic president?

So here’s what Bernie Sanders said when he was asked about this problem:

“Now, in my view, the only way we can take on the right wing Republicans who are, by the way, I hope will not continue to control the Senate and the House when one of us is elected President. But the only way we can get things done is by having millions of people coming together. If we want free tuition at public colleges and universities, millions of young people are going to have to demand it, and give the Republicans an offer they can’t refuse.

“If we want to raise the minimum wage to $15 bucks an hour, workers are going to have to come together and look the Republicans in the eye, and say, “We know what’s going on. You vote against us, you are out of your job.”

In 2007, Mark Schmitt called the argument among Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards the “theory of change primary.” As Clinton would describe it in speeches, Edwards thought you demand change, Obama thought you hope for change, and she thought you work for change. Sanders’ theory, as he lays it out here, is essentially that you force change, by making it too politically dangerous for Republicans to resist.

Which is realistic in one way and unrealistic in another. On one hand, Sanders is not bothering to indulge the dream that you can reach across the aisle and bring Democrats and Republicans together. In fact, no candidate from either party is saying that — and after the last seven years, who could do so with a straight face? But that’s a dramatic change from the last couple of decades.

Though they all ended up inspiring partisan passions, our last three presidents all ran as conciliators who could unite Washington and the country. Bill Clinton was going to create a liberal/conservative synthesis, a “Third Way” that could attract support from both parties. George W. Bush touted his record working with Democrats in Texas. “I want to change the tone of Washington to one of civility and respect,” he said in his 2000 convention speech.  Barack Obama, who became a national figure in a 2004 convention speech where he said, “there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America; there’s the United States of America,” thought that he could sit down with everyone, earnestly listen to their concerns, and bring them around at least some of the time. All three presidents failed at this goal.

But if Sanders is being realistic about the present, his portrait of his future presidency has a big problem, particularly in the House. Let’s say he succeeds in creating a mass movement behind parts of his agenda. Is he really going to be able to raise the political risk of opposing something like free public college tuition high enough to overcome House Republicans’ personal inclinations and their constituents’ wishes?

Imagine you’re a Republican representative who hails from a conservative district in Alabama or Idaho or Tennessee; we’ll call him Jim. Jim is right now stopping comprehensive immigration reform, which the GOP as a whole knows it needs to pass in order to have any chance of appealing to the growing Hispanic population. But Jim won’t sign on, because though that might be good for the party, it’s bad for him. His conservative constituents don’t want it, he personally doesn’t want it, and the only political risk he fears is a primary challenge from the right.

Is Jim really going to be scared and/or persuaded when a bunch of young people in America’s cities — even if there are millions of them — create a movement behind President Sanders’ plan for free college tuition? Don’t bet on it.

It should be noted that their obstructionism, and the demands it creates among their own constituents, may keep the GOP from winning the White House as long as it continues. But that’s not really a problem for Jim. Indeed, if they lose again, Jim and others like him will tell themselves that it was only because their nominee wasn’t conservative enough.

I’m talking about Sanders here because he’s the one who got that question last night, but I haven’t heard Clinton address this problem in a real way, either. And maybe there’s no good solution. I’m not sure how I’d tell them to answer it if I were advising them, at least not if they want to maintain the lofty, hopeful tone presidential candidates tend to use, where they present themselves as potent agents of change and renewal who can overcome any obstacle. No candidate is going to tell voters, “Here are the things I’d like to do, although, let’s be honest, I probably won’t be able to.” Even if it’s the truth.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line Blog, October 14, 2014

October 15, 2015 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Congress, Democratic Presidential Primaries, Republican Obstructionalism | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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