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“Abandon Ship, Abandon Ship!”: Rand Paul Runs From Immigration Talk With Steve King, But Rest Of GOP Is Not So Lucky

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) got into a tense exchange with two DREAMers on Monday, causing Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) to physically distance himself from the anti-immigration hardliner. Other Republicans should be thinking about following Paul’s lead.

The confrontation took place at a fundraiser in Okoboji, Iowa, on Monday. Two members of the Dream Action Coalition, Erika Andiola and Cesar Vargas, approached the lawmakers and introduced themselves as beneficiaries of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Last week, King led the Republican House majority’s push to end the program, which grants temporary deportation relief and work permits for some young immigrants.

After Andiola offered King an opportunity to rip up her DACA card, things quickly got heated. She referenced King’s infamous comment that for every DREAMer who’s a valedictorian, “there’s another 100 out there that weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert,” and the congressman responded by grabbing her wrist.

“Stop a minute,” King said sharply. “You’re very good at English. You know what I’m saying.”

Where was Senator Paul throughout this testy exchange? As soon as Andiola said the words “I’m actually a DREAMer, myself,” Paul put down his hamburger mid-chew, got up, and bolted from the table.

The rest of the Republican Party should be so lucky.

There’s little mystery behind Paul’s decision to abandon ship. The freshman senator will almost certainly run for president in 2016, framing himself as a new kind of Republican who’s not afraid to sell conservatism to skeptical audiences. Improving the GOP’s relationship with Latinos is central to that message, and appearing on camera with King while he grips a DREAMer’s wrist and badgers her about her English skills would be supremely unhelpful.

But whether they like it or not, Republicans are now tied to King’s hardline positions on immigration. That’s what they get for House leadership’s decision to adopt King’s approach to addressing the border crisis after their first attempt flopped in embarrassing fashion.

The result was an immigration bill that would do little to alleviate the crisis at the border, but would dramatically expedite the deportation process and completely gut the current protections for immigrants who were illegally brought to the country as children. Or as King gleefully put it, “The changes brought into this [bill] are ones I’ve developed and advocated for over the past two years…It’s like I ordered it off the menu.”

Perhaps Republicans should think twice about taking orders from a man who has compared immigrants to dogs, livestock and the Visigoths who sacked Rome, among other outbursts.

It’s not as though Latino voters haven’t noticed the GOP’s decision to abandon its plan to become “inclusive and welcoming” in favor of cementing itself as the party of “Deport ‘em all,” as Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-IL) put it after last week’s vote. According to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll, Latinos view the GOP unfavorably by an overwhelming 65 to 29 percent margin (by contrast, they view Democrats favorably, 61 to 33 percent). While Latino voters’ disgust with Republicans may not make much of a tangible difference in the 2014 midterms, which will be decided in solidly red states, you can bet that the GOP will regret running to the right of Mitt Romney’s “self-deportation” plan once the 2016 presidential election rolls around.

But really, the GOP should consider itself lucky if King only drives its immigration policy. After all, he has other plans that could be even more politically damaging to the party.


By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, August 5, 2014

August 7, 2014 Posted by | Dreamers, Rand Paul, Steve King | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Can The Voters Change The GOP?”: The Electorate Must Realize That The Radical Right Is The Real Culprit

The central issue in this fall’s elections could turn out to be a sleeper: What kind of Republican Party does the country want?

It is, to be sure, a strange question to put to an electorate in which independents and Democrats constitute a majority. Yet there is no getting around this: The single biggest change in Washington over the last five years has been a GOP shift to a more radical form of conservatism. This, in turn, has led to a kind of rejectionism that views cooperation with President Obama as inherently unprincipled.

Solving the country’s problems requires, above all, turning the Republican Party back into a political enterprise willing to share the burdens of governing, even when a Democrat is in the White House.

For those looking for a different, more constructive Republicanism, this is not a great year to stage the battle. Because of gerrymandering, knocking the current band of Republicans out of control of the House is a Herculean task. And most of the competitive seats in the fight for the Senate are held by Democrats in Republican states. The GOP needs to win six currently Democratic seats to take over, and it appears already to have nailed down two or three of these. Republicans are now favored in the open seats of South Dakota and West Virginia, and probably also in Montana.

Nonetheless, there is as yet no sense of the sort of tide that in 2010 gave a Republicanism inflected with tea party sensibilities dominance in the House. The core narrative of the campaign has yet to be established. Democrats seeking reelection are holding their own in Senate races in which they are seen as vulnerable.

And then there was last week’s House fiasco over resolving the refugee crisis at our border. It served as a reminder that Republican leaders are handcuffing themselves by choosing to appease their most right-wing members rather than pursuing middle-ground legislation by collaborating with Democrats.

The bill that House Speaker John Boehner was trying to pass last Thursday already tilted well rightward. It provided Obama with only a fraction of what he said was needed to deal with the crisis — $659 million, compared with the president’s request for $3.7 billion. It also included provisions to put deportations on such a fast track that Obama threatened to veto it. A White House statement said that its “arbitrary timelines” were both impractical and inhumane.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi happened to be meeting with a group of journalists when the bill collapsed. “In order for them to pass a bill, they had to make it worse and worse and worse,” she said, referring to Boehner’s efforts to placate members who have entered into an unusual cross-chamber alliance with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) to foil even conservative legislation if they regard it as insufficiently pure. When the bill was pulled back, Pelosi observed: “They couldn’t make it bad enough.”

On Friday, the GOP leadership pushed the measure still further right and added $35 million for border states to get it passed at an unusual evening session — but not before Republicans themselves had complained loudly about dysfunction in their own ranks.

In the meantime, the Senate was paralyzed on the issue by filibusters and other procedural hurdles that have rendered majority rule an antique notion in what once proudly proclaimed itself “the world’s greatest deliberative body.”

As the House was preparing to pass its bill, Obama told a news conference on Friday that GOP leaders were well aware that he’d veto it if it came to him and bemoaned the fact that “even basic, commonsense, plain vanilla legislation” can’t get through because Republicans fear “giving Obama a victory.”

Last week’s legislative commotion could change the political winds by putting the costs of the GOP’s flight from moderation into stark relief. House Republicans found themselves in the peculiar position of simultaneously suing Obama for executive overreach and then insisting that he could act unilaterally to solve the border crisis.

Pelosi, for her part, went out of her way to praise “the Grand Old Party that did so much and has done so much for our country.” Commending the opposing party is not an election year habit, but her point was to underscore that Republicans had been “hijacked” by a “radical right wing” that is not simply “anti-government” but also “anti-governance.”

On balance, Washington gridlock has hurt Democrats more than Republicans by dispiriting moderate and progressive constituencies that had hoped Obama could usher in an era of reform. The key to the election will be whether Democrats can persuade these voters that the radical right is the real culprit in their disappointment — and get them to act accordingly on Election Day.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 3, 2014

August 4, 2014 Posted by | Election 2014, Electorate, GOP, Right Wing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“An Upending Of Reason In The House”: Republican Efforts To Placate Conservatives Aren’t Working

After conservatives on Thursday brought down House Speaker John Boehner’s bill to address the border crisis, the new House Republican leadership team issued a joint statement declaring that President Obama should fix the problem himself.

“There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action,” the leadership quartet proclaimed, “to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.”

Who’s in the what now?

Just the day before, House Republicans had voted to sue Obama for using his executive authority. They called him lawless, a usurper, a monarch, a tyrant — all for postponing deadlines in the implementation of Obamacare. Now they were begging him to take executive action to compensate for their own inability to act — even though, in this case, accelerating the deportation of thousands of unaccompanied children coming from Central America would likely require Obama to ignore a 2008 law.

This was not a momentary lapse but a wholesale upending of reason.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the Appropriations Committee chairman who had been leading the GOP side in the border legislation debate, told reporters much the same thing after the legislation was pulled from the floor. “I think this will put a lot more pressure on the president to act,” he said, according to The Post’s Paul Kane and Ed O’Keefe. “He has the authority and power to solve the problem forthwith.”

Apparently, if Obama is using his executive authority to advance a policy House Republicans support, it’s a meritorious exercise of presidential authority; if he uses that same authority to aid a policy they oppose, it’s time to write up articles of impeachment.

In another action this week, Republicans acknowledged, at least tacitly, that Obama has the executive authority to postpone deportations. The House majority drafted, and scheduled a vote on, legislation that would forbid the executive branch from anything that would “expand the number of aliens eligible for deferred action.”

But in proposing such legislation (which was pulled from the floor along with the border bill), Republicans implicitly acknowledged that Obama has such power now. Therefore, until both chambers of Congress can pass such a law by veto-proof margins, Obama retains the power. This is probably why House Republicans, just two weeks earlier, scoffed at the suggestion that they pass this sort of legislation when the idea came up before the Rules Committee.

If the GOP position sounds contradictory, that’s because it’s less about the Constitution than cleavages within the party. There are real questions about Obama’s abuses of power — say, the spying on Americans by the National Security Agency or the use of drones to kill U.S. citizens overseas — but the opposition party has left those largely untouched. The planned lawsuit was a bone thrown to conservatives to quiet their impeachment talk. The legislation restricting Obama’s executive authority on immigration was a similar effort to buy off conservatives who had been encouraged to rebel by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).

But the efforts to placate conservatives aren’t working. The new House GOP leadership team took over Thursday, but a mere two hours after Rep. Eric Cantor gave his valedictory as majority leader on the House floor, his successor did a face-plant.

All morning, GOP leaders had been predicting that they had sufficient Republican votes to pass Boehner’s border bill. But then conservatives, under pressure from Cruz and far-right interest groups, began to go squishy, and the new leader, Kevin McCarthy, announced that he was pulling the border bill from the floor and that members could depart early for their five-week summer break.

What followed was as close as Congress gets to one of those fistfights in the Taiwanese parliament. Mainstream Republicans besieged Boehner and McCarthy on the House floor, noisily demanding that they do something about the border crisis before going on holiday. Half an hour later, McCarthy announced that “additional votes are possible today.”

Boos and jeers rained down on the new leader. The speaker pro tempore, Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), banged the gavel violently for order. Some lawmakers had to be called back from National Airport.

The hapless new majority leader, and his equally hapless new majority whip, Steve Scalise, called Republicans to an emergency meeting, where after fierce argument it was decided . . . that they would meet again on Friday.

Boehner, earlier in the day, tried to be philosophical. “I take my job one day at a time,” he said.

The problem with day-by-day leadership, though, is inconsistency: What you do on Thursday has a way of contradicting what you said on Wednesday.


By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 1, 2014

August 2, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Short-Term Pain Isn’t A Problem”: How Republicans Are Heightening The Contradictions

Congress is going on recess at the end of this week, and they’ll be doing it without a bill to address the large number of Central American children showing up at the southern border—John Boehner couldn’t even come up with a bill that would pass his house after Ted Cruz convinced House conservatives to oppose it. On that issue, on the Affordable Care Act, and on other issues as well, we may be seeing the rise of a particular strategy on the right—sometimes gripping part of the GOP, and sometimes all of it—that can be traced back to that noted conservative Vladimir Lenin. I speak of “heightening the contradictions,” the idea that you have to intentionally make conditions even more miserable than they are, so the people rise up and cast off the illegitimate rulers and replace them with you and your allies. Then the work of building a paradise can begin.

In the end, the House GOP leadership wanted a bill that contained a small amount of money to actually address the problem, made a policy change Republicans want (expediting deportations of Central American children), and did some things that don’t address the problem at all (like beefing up border security, which is irrelevant since these kids are happily turning themselves in). But the conservatives wanted to attach a provision to the bill that would also undo the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, under which “dreamers” who have been in the U.S. since before 2007 can stay under certain conditions.

As Cruz and his allies knew quite well, while the broader GOP bill faced an uncertain fate in the Senate, a bill that had DACA repeal attached to it had zero chance of passing there. So what was the point? It may be that they were thinking along the same lines as conservative wise man Bill Kristol, who today told Republicans to pass nothing and let Barack Obama take the blame:

If the GOP does nothing, and if Republicans explain that there’s no point acting due to the recalcitrance of the president to deal with the policies that are causing the crisis, the focus will be on the president. Republican incumbents won’t have problematic legislation to defend or questions to answer about what further compromises they’ll make. Republican challengers won’t have to defend or attack GOP legislation. Instead, the focus can be on the president—on his refusal to enforce the immigration law, on the effect of his unwise and arbitrary executive actions in 2012, on his pending rash and illegal further executive acts in 2014, and on his refusal to deal with the real legal and policy problems causing the border crisis.

Hooray! Sure, the crisis that they’re allegedly so angry about would continue unabated. But what’s that next to a little political difficulty for Barack Obama?

Something quite similar is happening on the Affordable Care Act. The phrase you now hear from everyone on the right is that the law will “collapse under its own weight,” which is a way of saying that even though there’s been nothing but good news lately about how the law is going, it’s so awful that it will inevitably cause such horrible suffering that everyone will come to agree with us that it must be repealed. “I think it’s going to collapse under its own weight in time,” says Paul Ryan. “Obamacare will collapse under its own weight,” writes Phil Gramm in the Wall Street Journal. “Eventually, all this is going to collapse around them,” says Rep. Marsha Blackburn about the law.

That “collapse” is a fantasy that will never happen, but let’s take them at their word when they say it will. While they never get specific about what the collapse will look like, by definition it would be disastrous for millions of Americans. Would they lose their insurance coverage, or be unable to get treatment for serious medical conditions? It would have to be something like that to constitute a “collapse.” And the Republican position isn’t, “This collapse is coming, so we’d better work hard to make sure it doesn’t and insulate vulnerable Americans from its effects.” Instead, their position is, “This collapse is coming, so we’ll just wait until the nightmare of suffering and death plays itself out, after which we’ll be there to offer our as-yet-undetermined health care alternative.”

The Halbig lawsuit that Republicans are all guffawing about was nothing if not an effort to heighten the contradictions and accelerate the collapse. If it succeeds, insurance subsidies will be taken away from Americans in 36 states, making coverage unaffordable for millions. Republicans won’t say explicitly that this is the outcome they desire, but it’s the only reason to file the lawsuit in the first place. And of course, if the disaster of those millions losing coverage was something Republicans wanted to forestall, they could do it in an afternoon. Just pass a short bill making clear that subsidies apply in every state, and the problem would be solved. But that, of course, wouldn’t heighten the contradictions.

This idea has its limits—for instance, Congress is probably going to pass some short-term fix for the highway trust fund before tomorrow. But that’s because it would be harder for Republicans to escape blame for the consequences when all those construction projects start shutting down. If there’s any way at all for Obama can take the fall on an issue, they’ll do it.

To be sure, there is a certain logic at work here. Like every political party, today’s Republicans believe that if they were in complete control, their preferred policies would be so glorious and work so well that the total of suffering in the country would be reduced to microscopic levels. So some increased suffering in the short term is tolerable if it helps us get closer to that future nirvana. That’s of some reassurance, right?


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 31, 2014

August 2, 2014 Posted by | GOP, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Lazy, Incompetent And Irresponsible”: The House GOP’s Underwhelming Response To A Crisis

Three weeks ago, President Obama presented a pretty credible solution to the humanitarian crisis at the U.S./Mexico border. The White House requested $3.7 billion in emergency funding that would build detention centers, add immigration judges, and beef up border security, all while expediting deportations to discourage an additional influx.

A week later, asked if his chamber would approve Obama’s plan, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reporters, “I would certainly hope so,” though he cautioned against optimism.

My Grand Unified Theory of Boehner has long held that the Speaker’s political instincts are fairly sound, but he invariably has to take a less reasonable course because his radicalized caucus will tolerate nothing else. In the case of the border crisis, Boehner wanted to approve Obama’s proposed solution, but House Republicans ruled out the possibility, and with two days remaining before Congress takes a five-week break, they finally came up with a counter-offer.

Republicans hope to pass $659 million in supplemental spending for the border crisis before leaving for the August recess, Speaker John A. Boehner said after a GOP conference meeting Tuesday.

The Ohio Republican said the House will “attempt to move this bill” on Thursday and that he anticipated the measure would have “sufficient support,” but that there was still “a little more work to do to” to shore up the votes.

This is not a bill anyone should take pride in. After complaining literally for months about this crisis, the fact that this proposal is the best the House GOP could come up with is pretty powerful evidence to bolster the post-policy thesis.

To address the crisis, the White House wants to spend nearly $4 billion, while Senate Democrats are writing a related package that would spend nearly $3 billion. House Republicans, meanwhile, want to spend $659 million – about a fifth of the original total eyed by the Obama administration – two-thirds of which would go to border security.

Apparently, no one told the GOP lawmakers that the current crisis doesn’t really have anything to do with border security. That, or lawmakers were told, but they didn’t care.

Making matters just a little more absurd, the House bill will run through Sept. 30. In other words, it’s a bill to tackle the problem for the next two months, at which point Congress would have to start over.

Why can’t the House GOP pass a real legislative response to the crisis they claim to take seriously? It gets back to something we talked about last week.

There is a group of far-right lawmakers in the House who don’t want to approve anything, in part because they don’t want to address the problem and in part because if the lower chamber does pass a bill, it might lead to a compromise with the Senate,

And House Republicans really don’t like compromises.

It led Boehner to pursue a bizarre strategy, in which he demanded that the White House urge House Democrats to support a Republican bill, since the Speaker couldn’t round up enough GOP support on his own. Dems, not surprisingly, balked.

Which in turn led Republicans to create an even worse proposal, intended to please far-right members, who wouldn’t support anything else.

So what happens now? The House will try to pass this weak bill before leaving town. As best as I can tell, there are no reliable headcounts yet, and it remains a distinct possibility that the GOP-led chamber will defeat the GOP-written bill.

If, however, the House manages to pass its measure, it would need support from the Senate and White House, which would have to decide fairly quickly whether the bill is better or worse than nothing. In theory, the Senate would approve its alternative and the two chambers would work on a possible compromise, but with lawmakers ready to leave town in a couple of days for a month off, there simply isn’t time.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 29, 2014

July 30, 2014 Posted by | House Republicans, Immigration Reform, John Boehner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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