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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

“Paul Ryan’s Choice; Speaker or Sanity?”: An Intransigent Group, The Far Right Is Already Grumbling About Him

Even as an energetic group of Republicans try to jostle Rep. Paul Ryan into running for House speaker, the fact remains that the Wisconsin Republican would face a perilous situation—essentially the same hostile environment of infighting that John Boehner has had enough of.

Even if Ryan were to swoop in to save the day, the calculations would remain the same: a class of House Republicans that cannot find sufficient internal consensus to govern consistently without crisis. This is something even the most fervent Ryan fans admit.

“You get the honor of making a speech before they tar and feather you every day,” acknowledged Rep. Darrell Issa, even as he spoke at length about how Ryan should run, though he was considering it himself. “He is obviously dealing with the fact that this isn’t the job he asked for, or even wants, but may be a job that the conference needs him to take.”

“It’s very difficult for anyone so long as any group thinks they have veto power and they can hijack and blackmail the House,” added Rep. Peter King of New York, another lawmaker who is urging Ryan to enter the race.

Following a meeting of the Republican conference in the subterranean rooms of the Capitol, Issa indicated that the private conversations inside were dominated by lawmakers encouraging Ryan to run.

“He’s both vetted and has the experience of now chairing not one but two committees. I think what you’re hearing in there is the preparatory work for a more successful Congress once we have a new speaker, but you’re also hearing people universally, or nearly universally asking Paul Ryan to go home over the weekend and reconsider,” Issa said.

Issa also strongly implied that he had talked to Ryan, and that Ryan had agreed to reconsider a bid for the speakership over the next few days.

But there are already signs that if Ryan were to become speaker, he’d still face an intransigent group of unyielding conservatives—the same problem that made the job so unwieldy for Boehner. On conservative blogs, commentators were also pouring cold water on the idea of a Ryan speakership, arguing that Ryan was soft on immigration and criminal justice.

“Paul Ryan Is the Absolute Worst Choice for Speaker,” blared one headline on the conservative website Breitbart.com; “Will Paul Ryan Be the Next Speaker? I Hope Not,” read another, on the Powerline blog.

“I don’t think it’s the face” of the speaker that matters, said Rep. David Brat, the conservative Virginia lawmaker who unseated former Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “It’s the principle.”

On Friday, less than 24 hours after Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy made the shocking announcement that he would be abruptly pulling out of the race for speaker, Ryan’s office released a second statement reiterating that he is not running for the position. “Chairman Ryan appreciates the support he’s getting from his colleagues but is still not running for speaker,” Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck said.

Fundamentally, McCarthy and Ryan have similar voting records—the American Conservative Union gives Ryan a lifetime 90 rating, while McCarthy has a lifetime 88.63. But they do differ in terms of overall force of personality and image: Ryan has forged a reputation as the chairman of two committees, and as the vice-presidential nominee of the Republican Party in the 2012 elections.

Close friends indicate that the drawback for Ryan is that he has a young family, and hint that his wife is a key voice against a potential candidacy.

When Rep. Trey Gowdy was asked what it would take to get Ryan to become a candidate for speaker, he responded, “You’ll have to ask Janna Ryan that question,” referring to the congressman’s wife.

“Paul is going to have to do some soul-searching and decide whether that’s something he wants to do,” added Rep. Bill Shuster, the chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

 

By: Tim Mak, The Daily Beast, October 9, 2015

October 11, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Titillating The Republican Base”: Under Pressure From The Right, Gowdy Renews Benghazi Shenanigans

The Benghazi Select Committee shed the bipartisan cloak it had worn in public, as Republican members used Tuesday’s hearing to bully Joel Rubin, deputy undersecretary of state for legislative affairs. For more than two hours they badgered their witness, apparently haven taken cues from Eric Cartman (a petulant child portrayed in the cartoon South Park) demanding the State Department respect their “authoritah.”

The Central Intelligence Agency’s Neil Higgins, director of the agency’s Office of Legislative Affairs, for the most part sat silently at the witness table, happy to allow his State Department counterpart take the brunt of the public flogging as successive Republican lawmakers berated Rubin.

The exchanges between Rubin and the Republican members of the committee were a sideshow to the real fight in the room. For months tensions have been brewing between the majority and minority staff.

Ranking Member Elijah Cummings, Democrat of Maryland, made this clear in a series of letters he wrote to Gowdy, two of which were made public on Tuesday morning. At the heart of the dispute are interviews the majority staff conducted without the knowledge or presence of Democratic staff.

Investigating the accusations reported by Sharyl Attkisson at The Daily Signal, a website owned and published by the Heritage Foundation, that Deputy Assistant Secretary Raymond Maxwell witnessed members of the department’s staff removing documents that might put [State Department officials at the Bureau of Near East Affairs] in a bad light,” the committee interviewed a second witness whom Maxwell claimed would confirm these allegations.

Instead that witness contradicted the story, saying that they had never been a part of such an effort, according to the letter penned by Cummings to Gowdy on November 24. This came as a surprise to the committee’s minority staff, who, according to Cummings, had been told by the Republicans via e-mail that they “learned nothing else of note in our discussion, so we don’t plan to conduct any additional follow-up.” Far from nothing of note, debunking a major conservative allegation is a seemingly important detail.

From the perspective of Representative Trey Gowdy, the South Carolina Republican who chairs the select committee, the source of tension was the State Department’s inability to fully respond to the committee’s request for documents and the availability of witnesses, despite the 40,000 documents that State had already forked over. The wide-ranging request delivered on November 18 was for “two full years worth of emails from 11 State Department principals.”

Democrats were quick to point out that this first request for documents came a full six months after House Speaker John Boehner created the committee. They repeatedly noted at the hearing that the committee created to investigate the federal government’s failure to respond to Hurricane Katrina had started and completed its work in this time span.

In the eight months since the committee’s formation was first announced, Gowdy has yet to present a single question about the attacks that has not already been answered. For six months, the committee had not requested a single document. Now it was suddenly claiming that State’s failure to comply with the entire document request in two months was unacceptable. Republicans tried to smooth over this uncomfortable fact by citing subpoenas from other committees.

Yet as recently as mid-December, Gowdy seemed to indicate he was pleased with the performance of the State Department, in response to his committees request telling Fox News Host Greta Van Susteren:

“They are making an effort to be cooperative. The timing issue we may work on a little bit. But you know as lawyers look at documents it may lead them to make another request for production. So if the State Department were here they’d tell you: ‘Look quit asking us for more documents. We’ve given you what you wanted so far.’ But for us to be able to do the kind of job you expect and the people who watch your show expect we’re going to have to have access to the witnesses and the documents. But sometimes that means lawyers decide late in the game that I need this batch. So the State Department hasn’t been difficult to work with and I don’t expect that will change.”

Clearly Gowdy’s comments on Tuesday signaled a change in tune.

Conservatives have begun to turn on the chairman, calling him “ineffective.” Retired U.S. Navy Admiral James “Ace” Lyons spoke to the right-wing website WorldNetDaily, claiming that “the idea that government-agency stonewalling—continuing now for over two years—is the reason Gowdy’s committee can’t make progress is pure nonsense.”

Gowdy now seems intent on pleasing the right by taking his investigation down the same path that led Representative Darrell Issa of California, chairman of the Government Oversight Committee, and other Republicans astray. (Issa’s Benghazi investigations became something of a national joke.) To show his toughness in front of the conservative media, Gowdy took to abusing a deputy undersecretary of state. Then, at the end of the hearing, he acknowledged that Rubin was not responsible for his purported anger.

Just the kind of BDSM display that seems to titillate the Republican base.

 

By: Ari Rabin-Havt, The American Prospect, January 27, 2015

February 3, 2015 Posted by | Benghazi, Republicans, Trey Gowdy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Holder A Fighter Who Would Not Cower”: He Dared Others To Summon The Nerve To Fight Alongside Him

Eric Holder, who resigned Thursday, kicked off his stormy tenure as attorney general with a challenge to the American public that set the tone for his six turbulent years as the nation’s top law-enforcement officer.

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” said Holder in his first public speech after being sworn in.

When the remark drew an uproar from conservatives, Holder shrugged and doubled down. “I wouldn’t walk away from that speech,” Holder told ABC News. “I think we are still a nation that is too afraid to confront racial issues,” rarely engaging “one another across the color line [to] talk about racial issues.”

And true to form, Holder — a tall man who carries himself with the relaxed, quiet confidence of a corporate attorney — seldom backed down from a confrontation, on racial justice or other issues.

He pressed Credit Suisse, and the Swiss bank eventually paid over $2.6 billion to settle claims it was illegally helping wealthy Americans avoid paying taxes. Holder took the lead in pushing banks and other financial companies involved in the mortgage crisis to pay $25 billion to federal and state governments, a record civil settlement.

And Holder famously sparred with members of Congress such as Darrell Issa and Louie Gohmert as the television cameras rolled. In one heated exchange at a Judiciary Committee hearing in 2013, Issa and Holder talked over each other, with the attorney general concluding, “That is inappropriate and is too consistent with the way in which you conduct yourself as a member of Congress. It’s unacceptable, and it’s shameful.”

In another back-and-forth, Holder trash-talked Gohmert with lines that could have been taken from a comedy routine. “You don’t want to go there, buddy. You don’t want to go there, OK?”

While the history books will note Holder was the first African-American attorney general, a more relevant biographical fact might be his status as possibly the first attorney general who, as a college student protester, occupied a campus building: In 1969, as a freshman at Columbia University, Holder was part of a group of black students that took over a former naval ROTC office for five days, demanding that it be renamed the Malcolm X Lounge. (In a sign of the times, the university complied.)

Echoes of Holder’s activist history could be heard years later, in the middle of a high-stakes battle with leaders of several Southern states over voter-ID laws and other rules changes that Holder deemed an attack on black voting rights.

“People should understand that there’s steel here, and I am resolved to oppose any attempts to try to roll back the clock,” Holder told CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin in an article for The New Yorker.

Not all of Holder’s crusades have worked out well.

The Supreme Court, despite Holder’s efforts, voted to strike down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, and conservative senators blocked Debo Adegbile, Holder’s preferred choice to run the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department.

The attorney general has launched or joined legal battles against restrictions on voting rights in Ohio, Wisconsin, Texas and North Carolina, but it’s unclear whether those efforts will end up back at the same Supreme Court that weakened the original law.

In 2012, House Republicans voted to hold the attorney general in contempt of Congress for stonewalling on information requests in the bungled Fast and Furious gun-smuggling operation in which 2,000 weapons went missing. It was the first time in U.S. history that a sitting Cabinet member was given such a severe sanction. (The case will continue after Holder’s resignation, although his successor will inherit the fallout, not Holder personally.)

But history will surely judge Holder a success at broadly expanding access to justice for groups seeking acceptance and fairness. He announced the federal government would no longer defend laws banning same-sex marriage and told state attorneys general they could do the same.

And Holder made good on his initial commitment to change the conversation on race. He traveled to Ferguson, Missouri, and assigned dozens of Justice Department personnel to investigate law enforcement practices after the police killing of Michael Brown triggered street riots.

He has also called for voting rights to be restored to formerly incarcerated Americans, and pressed for a reduction in the prosecution of low-level marijuana users.

For one clue about how history will regard Holder, go back to 2009. In the effort to battle terrorism, Holder called for five accused terrorist’s suspected of participating in the 9/11 attacks to be tried in federal courts in New York — only to see the proposal scuttled after a political uproar.

“We need not cower in the face of this enemy,” Holder told skeptical members of the Senate. They didn’t buy the argument, but it was classic Holder: Once again, the battler leaping into the arena and daring others to summon the nerve to fight alongside him.

 

By: Errol Louis, CNN Opinion, September 26, 2014

September 29, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Eric Holder | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Matter Of Routine”: The Republicans’ Lust For Impeachment

If you attack the president repeatedly for law-breaking, executive overreach and deceiving the public and Congress, do you have an obligation to impeach him? This is the logical question Republicans are now trying to duck.

There is a reason why impeachment is a big deal in Washington this week. It’s not just because a call to defend President Obama motivates the Democrats’ base, although it surely does. John Boehner is having trouble countering fears that House Republicans will eventually try to oust the president because the speaker’s colleagues have spent years tossing around impeachment threats as a matter of routine.

At issue are not merely the open demands for throwing Obama out from Sarah Palin, Rep. Steve Stockman (R-Tex.) and many others on the right wing. The deeper problem lies in the proliferation of loose impeachment talk linked with one overheated anti-Obama charge after another.

As far back as May 2010, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said the allegation that the White House had offered then-Rep. Joe Sestak (D-Pa.) a job so he wouldn’t oppose Sen. Arlen Specter, a Republican-turned-Democrat, “is in fact a crime and could be impeachable.” (Sestak beat Specter in a primary and then lost to Republican Pat Toomey.)

During a hearing on “Operation Fast and Furious” in December 2011, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) accused the Justice Department of withholding information and said that “if we don’t get to the bottom of this,” Congress might have to resort to the “only one alternative” it had, “and it is called impeachment.” In this case, involving a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives sting operation that went wrong, the impeachment threat was directed at Attorney General Eric Holder. Indeed, 20 House Republicans filed to impeach Holder.

In May 2013, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said that, because of allegations of a White House Benghazi coverup, “people may be starting to use the I-word before too long” about Obama. Also in 2013, Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-Mich.) said it would be his “dream come true” to author Articles of Impeachment against the president, while Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) said the nation was “perilously close” to circumstances that might require impeachment.

Only space limitations prevent me from multiplying such examples.

Boehner claims that “this whole talk about impeachment is coming from the president’s own staff and coming from Democrats on Capitol Hill . . . trying to rally their people to give money and to show up in this year’s election.”

But if impeachment is a sudden Democratic invention, why did the New York Times’ Jennifer Steinhauer write a detailed news story in August 2013 under the headline: “Ignoring Qualms, Some Republicans Nurture Dreams of Impeaching Obama”? Why did my Washington Post colleague Dana Milbank publish an equally fact-rich column in December 2013 titled: “Republicans see one remedy for Obama — impeachment”?

Boehner’s other difficulty is that, in defending his lawsuit against Obama, which the House approved Wednesday on a near-party-line vote, the speaker has used arguments that could as easily be invoked to justify impeachment.

“In the end, the Constitution makes it clear that the president’s job is to faithfully execute the laws,” Boehner wrote on CNN’s Web site in early July. “And, in my view, the president has not faithfully executed the laws when it comes to a range of issues, including his health care law, energy regulations, foreign policy and education. There must be accountability.”

So what will Boehner do on behalf of “accountability” if the suit fails? Is it any surprise that House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), when pressed on Sunday by Fox News’s Chris Wallace, declined to rule out impeachment?

Yes, Democrats are happy to use the danger that the House will go there, by way of dramatizing the GOP’s refusal to work with Obama on issue after issue and the right wing’s open hatred for a president they cast simultaneously as a power-hungry lawbreaker and a weak steward of the nation’s interests. But the underlying cause is a breakdown among conservatives of the norms and habits that governing requires in a system of separated powers.

The last time the country reelected a Democratic president, House Republicans impeached him despite strong public opposition. With many in the ranks already clamoring for a replay of those glory days, it’s fair to wonder if Boehner will hold fast and resist the impeachment crowd this time. His record in facing down his right wing is not encouraging.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 31, 2014

August 1, 2014 Posted by | GOP, House Republicans, Impeachment | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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