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“Wanted: One House Speaker (No Experience Necessary)”: No Work Required, Excellent Benefits, Unlimited Time-Off

When House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) unexpectedly announced his retirement two weeks ago, many on Capitol Hill feared an ugly free-for-all, with a dozen or more House Republicans hoping to take advantage of the unique opportunity.

GOP leaders, desperate to avoid such chaotic circumstances, moved quickly, rallying behind House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). He faced two challengers – one of whom entered the Speaker’s race late – but the unruly mess of a massive field of candidates never materialized.

Instead, a different kind of unruly mess forced McCarthy to quit.

There’s no shortage of questions about what happens now – to the party, to the country – but the most immediate question is who will to try to be the next Speaker of the House.

Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) threw his hat into the ring yesterday, and Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) is reportedly “considering” it. Reps. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Dan Webster (R-Fla.), both of whom took on McCarthy, are very likely to give it another shot.

Rep. Tom Cole’s (R-Okla.) name came up quite a bit yesterday as a more mainstream option, while Reps. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) and Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.) heard their names floated.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), who resigned in disgrace nearly two decades ago, said yesterday he’s open to reclaiming his old post if Republicans rally behind him. (Seriously, that’s what he said.)

And while it’s certainly possible that one of these men may end up as the GOP’s nominee, let’s not pretend any of them are at the top of the Republican wish-list. Politico noted the Republican Party’s favorite.

It’s all about Paul Ryan right now. […]

The Wisconsin Republican is getting bombarded with calls and one-on-one appeals from GOP lawmakers, urging him to be the party’s white knight. Boehner has had multiple conversations with the Ways and Means Committee chairman. Even before he dropped his own bid, McCarthy told Ryan he should do it. And the list goes on: House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) spoke to him about it on the House floor, and Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) also has pushed Ryan to reconsider.

Referring to Ryan, Trey Gowdy said, “I have spent more time trying to talk him into running [for Speaker] than I did my wife into marrying me.”

The Republican Party’s problem is that Paul Ryan really doesn’t want to be Speaker. Almost immediately after Boehner announced he’s stepping down, Ryan quickly made clear he would not run. Almost immediately after McCarthy withdrew from consideration, the Wisconsin congressman once again said he “will not” be a candidate for Speaker.

But this time, the party is pushing him anyway. Boehner was heard saying yesterday that “it has to be Ryan” – even if Ryan himself disagrees.

For what it’s worth, Ryan’s rhetoric shifted slightly late last night, and though different reporters are hearing different things, the Washington Post, citing “top GOP sources,” said this morning that Ryan “is seriously considering a bid for House speaker.”

It’s a miserable job, and Ryan knows it, but that doesn’t mean he’ll ignore the intensifying pressure.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 9, 2015

October 11, 2015 Posted by | Congress, House Freedom Caucus, House Republicans, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Paralysis Isn’t Inevitable”: Income Inequality And N.R.A. Dominance May Not Last Forever

One of the hardest things for us to do is to envision a future that is different from the present. For instance, we live in an age of paralyzed politics, so it is hard, in the here and now, to imagine what could change that. A second example: It is difficult to think of a scenario where federal gun legislation could be passed over the objections of the National Rifle Association. And a third: Income inequality has been the trend for some three decades; doesn’t it look as if it will always be that way?

What prompts these thoughts are two papers that landed on my desk recently. Although they tackle very different issues, they have one thing in common: They imagine a future that breaks from the present path.

The first is a draft of a speech given earlier this month at TEDMED by Daniel Webster, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research. (TEDMED is associated with TED Talks.) The second is an article in the latest edition of the Harvard Business Review by Roger Martin, the former dean of the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto.

Webster’s speech lays out an agenda that he predicts will reduce the murder rate by 30 to 50 percent within 20 years. “I don’t think that our current level of gun violence is here to stay,” he declares in the draft of the speech. Martin’s article is about how the rise of the “talent economy,” as he calls it, has helped further income inequality. But he doesn’t believe a high level of income inequality is an inevitable part of our future.

Let’s tackle Webster first. Politically, he told me, “It’s a loser to call for a gun ban.” Instead, his reforms would make it more difficult for criminals to get their hands on guns. Using background checks, he would keep guns away from people who have a history of violence. He would raise the age of gun ownership to 21. (Webster notes that homicides peak between the ages of 18 and 20.) He would pass laws that make gun dealers more accountable, including “requiring business practices that prevent guns being diverted to criminals.” And he would mandate something called microstamping, “which would make it possible to trace a gun used in a crime to its first purchaser.”

When I asked him why he thought these changes would eventually take place, given the inability of the Senate to pass a background check bill after Newtown, he pointed to polls that show the vast majority of gun owners favor such changes.

“The N.R.A. has been very successful in controlling the conversation and making it about a cultural war,” he told me. “But I believe that narrative won’t persist.” The key, he says, is to change the conversation so that it is about pro- and anti-crime instead of pro- and anti-gun. Once that happens, “gun owners will start to demand changes.” He added, “I think that ultimately that idea will prevail, and it will be a pretty mainstream idea.”

Now to Roger Martin. His essay traces the way “talent” came to replace labor and capital as the most important factor in the economy, so much so that those who were part of the talent economy could become billionaires even as the median income stalled and then slipped back. Chief executives, who have gorged on stock options, are part of the talent economy, and so are hedge fund managers, who charge the infamous “2 and 20” (meaning a 2 percent management fee and 20 percent of the profits), which ensures their wealth no matter how poorly their investors do. The interests of such talent, in his view, simply don’t align with the interests of the rest of us.

Like Webster, Martin also proposed a series of changes to “correct the imbalance,” as he puts it. He suggests that pension funds should see that they are best served when they do not hand capital to hedge funds, for instance. And he wants talent to show “self-restraint.”

When I told him that seemed unlikely, he told me he thought we were approaching a moment like 1935, when, after years of letting labor fend for itself, the government passed laws that protected labor and helped bring about the rise of the labor movement.

If talent doesn’t start taking the rest of the country into account, he said, he feared that the government would once again take significant action to level the playing field.

Given the current political paralysis, I asked, what might bring that about? “Another boom and crash,” he said.

Martin clearly sees his article as a warning to corporate executives and others who are part of the 1 percent. And maybe, just maybe, it will take hold. After all, not long after his article was published, Calpers, the huge California pension fund, announced that it was going to eliminate hedge funds from its portfolio. There’s hope yet.

 

By: Joe Nocera, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, September 26, 2014

September 28, 2014 Posted by | Economic Inequality, Gun Deaths, National Rifle Association | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stop Lying!”: GOP Congressman Daniel Webster Called Out By Constituents Over His Multiple Votes To Repeal Obamacare

Things got heated for Rep. Daniel Webster (R-FL) during a town hall question-and-answer session in Winter Haven, Florida on Thursday. His constituents called him out over his multiple votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and his misleading claims that the law’s consumer protections are being dismantled by the Obama administration.

Webster was responding to several constituents’ questions about the consequences that repealing Obamacare — which House Republicans, including Webster, have voted to do on 40 separate occasions — would have for the people in his district. Attendees asked Webster if he had any plans to replace consumer protections included in Obamacare, such as guaranteed insurance coverage for Americans with pre-existing medical conditions and free preventative health screenings for seniors:

QUESTIONER: What happens to us when Obamacare is repealed? What happens to people with pre-existing conditions that can’t get health care? What happens to those of us who finally have access to health insurance for the first time in nine or ten years? What happens to us? And you want to make this local, I’ll make this local. I’m a constituent, right now I can’t get health care. I’m waiting for this [insurance marketplace] to open and I’d like to know why we keep repealing [Obamacare]?

The congressman defended his repeal votes by saying the law would drive up Americans’ health care costs by requiring insurers to cover people with pre-existing conditions. He then claimed that President Barack Obama himself thinks his signature law is unworkable. As evidence, Webster implied that the law’s protections — such as its cap on consumers’ annual out-of-pocket medical costs — were being dismantled by the Obama administration. That prompted an outcry from the audience, as people booed and countered Webster’s claims.

An event official interrupted at that point, asking the audience to be respectful and give Webster a chance to speak. One audience member replied by saying, “Well, tell him to stop lying!”

Watch it, courtesy of advocacy group Health Care for America Now (HCAN) and its local Florida partner Organize Now.

The Obama administration did, in fact, delay the health law’s cap on Americans’ out-of-pocket costs through their co-payments and deductibles. But as the audience correctly pointed out, it is a temporary one-year delay that only applies to certain employer-based insurance plans. The cap still applies for health policies sold through Obamacare’s statewide marketplaces beginning in October.

Webster isn’t the first GOP congressman to get flak from his constituents over his opposition to the health law. Last week, constituents confronted Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) over his many votes to repeal Obamacare and asked why he wanted to take away protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions. One grieving mother in the audience had told reporters before the town hall that her own son had died of colon cancer after being denied coverage for having a pre-existing condition.

Obamacare critics who have incessantly demonized the reform law and pushed for its repeal have been brushing up against a growing number of people that support its consumer protections. A recent poll from the Heritage Foundation’s advocacy arm that was ostensibly meant to show Obamacare’s unpopularity by over-surveying Republicans inadvertently showed that it is actually popular. Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) admitted that a “handful of things” in the law are “probably OK” in an interview on Wednesday.

 

By: Sy Mukherjee, Think Progress, August 16, 2013

August 18, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

   

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