mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“A Genuinely Dangerous Situation”: The Republican Party’s Dysfunction Is An Embarrassment To Us All

The movement within the House Republican conference to make Paul Ryan the next speaker has evolved into a desperate clamor, with members from almost every faction practically begging him to enter the race.

Ryan remains reluctant, if not quite Shermanesque in his reluctance, and for obvious reasons. Ryan has political ambitions beyond the House, but knows that the speakership is an office built to destroy a Republican leader’s partisan bona fides. Ryan is a great theoretical fit for the speakership, because he shares the right’s ideological extremism and the party establishment’s pragmatism, but stands to lose his good will with conservatives the instant he applies that pragmatism to funding the government or increasing the debt limit.

Under the circumstances, the only way for him to occupy the speakership without cashing in all his political stock would be to bring the House Freedom Caucus to heel in advance: Make its members pledge support to him, irrespective of his tactical opposition to defaulting on the debt and shutting down the government. The central question is whether House hardliners are chastened enough after two weeks of chaos to let Ryan dictate terms to them, not the other way around, and we have no indication that they are yet.

Assuming Ryan sticks to his guns and refuses the speakership (and that Boehner will ultimately resign, whether or not a new speaker has been elected), rank and file Republicans are going to have to take a serious look at forming a temporary coalition with Democrats.

At this point, Congress accomplishes little more than the bare minimum required to maintain status quo governance. Sometimes it’s unable to muster even that (see the Export-Import Bank, for just one example). But this thin record isn’t the bragging right of the Republican Party. It’s a bipartisan effort. And in the House, it’s mostly a Democratic one. The onus is on Democrats to supply most of the votes for the handful of things Congress actually does.

Under the circumstances, there’s a real logic to electing a coalition speaker—a placeholder who doesn’t fear activist retribution and can basically keep his hand on the tiller for the next year and a half, accomplishing little, but creating no damage. This person might have to make some nominal concessions to Democrats—no more debt limit or appropriations-driven extortion crises. Maybe the Benghazi committee would have to go. But the output of Congress would basically go unchanged.

The reason this is so unlikely, of course, is that partisan realities are solidified. Most Republicans might secretly wish for a drama-free resolution to the speakership crisis, but none of them want to place their careers on the line to join the coalition. Democrats, too, have a strong incentive to let Republicans eat themselves alive.

But that is ultimately the source of the House Freedom Caucus’ power. If one Republican were willing to make the sacrifice, or Boehner were willing to stick it out for the remainder of his elected term, the Freedom Caucus would be neutered. Instead, the Freedom Caucus is empowered to play whack-a-mole with various pretenders to the speakership, and can hold out until a candidate emerges who will make insane promises to them, and then attempt to deliver. Crises at every turn. Everyone loses, except them—and perhaps the press, which is understandably reveling in this story.

There’s also probably some difficult-to-measure upside for Democrats, who right now look like the model of competence and maturity compared to Republicans. But on the whole, it’s a disaster. There’s nothing partisan or biased about saying that one of the two major political parties in the country is broken, unable to work within its main governing institution, liable to inflict severe economic damage on the country. It’s a genuinely bad state of affairs, a huge embarrassment for the country, and—unless Boehner, Ryan, or some other white knight asserts himself—a genuinely dangerous situation.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor at The New Republic, October 9, 2015

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

“A Gaping Void Of Their Own Making”: No Republican Is Fit, Able, And Willing To Run The House Of Representatives

If House Speaker John Boehner secretly had no intention to resign, and was instead using the threat of retirement to teach Republican House members that they need him—not the other way around—he’s doing a masterful job. But Boehner was engaged in no such ruse, and the Republican Party is drastically worse off as a result.

After making a series of ill-considered remarks over the past week that underscored his unfitness for the job, Boehner’s heir presumptive, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, withdrew his candidacy for the Speakership at a conference meeting Thursday afternoon. McCarthy, who helped recruit a huge class of conservative freshmen ahead of the GOP’s 2010 midterm landslide, had significant support within the conference. But he lacked the trust of a few dozen conservative hardliners, some of whom comprise the House Freedom Caucus, who have grown frustrated with the existing leadership team for its strategic reluctance to use legislative deadlines—especially those governing appropriations and the debt limit—as leverage to seek substantive concessions from Democrats. As doubts about McCarthy’s candidacy grew, it became clear that conservatives would resist a clean succession and fight his election on the House floor. 

This creates a void almost nobody in the House Republican conference is fit, able, or willing to fill. Minutes after McCarthy announced his decision, Representative Paul Ryan, whom most House Republicans consider the only senior member with the skill to bridge strategic divisions in the party, reiterated his absolute unwillingness to run.

“Kevin McCarthy is best person to lead the House, and so I’m disappointed in this decision,” Ryan’s statement read. “Now it is important that we, as a Conference, take time to deliberate and seek new candidates for the speakership. While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate. I continue to believe I can best serve the country and this conference as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.”

The most rational outcome, and the most ironic, would be for Boehner to rescind his own resignation, and to cite the chaos that took hold after his announcement as a reminder that the reactionaries who deposed him are completely lost without his leadership. When the people who threatened to fire you beg you not to quit instead, their bluff has been called.

But Boehner’s decision to resign was almost certainly not a feint. He has vowed to serve as Speaker until a replacement is selected, but not on a permanent basis. Somebody else—a somebody we don’t yet know, and whose motives and capabilities won’t be well understood—will have to emerge to fill the power vacuum. Representative Jeb Hensarling—a wily, far-right Republican from Texas—has played footsie with the idea. As a Boehner surrogate, Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole’s name has been kicked around, too, but he’s probably been too critical of Boehner’s antagonists to easily secure the gavel. None of the plausible candidates enjoys Ryan’s unique mix of support among conservatives and trust among the party establishment. But as willing members with broad support begin to express interest, the leadership race will resume, and the election that was supposed to occur today will be rescheduled.

What’s more clear now than it was two weeks ago—and it was fairly clear back then—is how crucial it is for Boehner to use his numbered days to clear the deck for the next Speaker, and most importantly to increase the national debt limit in advance of an anticipated lapse in borrowing authority early next month. The consequences of a default on the national debt are too high to hand the debt limit to an untested speaker, or to allow Freedom Caucus members and other conservatives to hijack the issue. Boehner has committed, again, to remaining Speaker until a new one is selected. If Boehner hands responsibility for the debt limit over to this crew, instead of increasing it unconditionally while he has control, it’ll be his most reckless, cowardly, shameful moment.

 

Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, October 8, 2015

October 9, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, John Boehner, Speaker of The House, U. S. House of Representatives | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A House Divided”: Its Pretty Hard To Actually Govern In A System Designed To Require Compromise

The plan was to force President Obama to either sign a bill repealing his executive actions on immigration or veto it and shut down the Department of Homeland Security. But things didn’t work out that way.

Senator McConnell couldn’t get the 6/7 Democratic votes he needed to pass a bill that paired funding for DHS to repealing the President’s immigration actions and Speaker Boehner was unwilling to pass a stand-alone funding bill with primarily Democratic votes. So we got a one week reprieve before we do this all over again.

The good news is that we found out that neither Republican leader is willing to follow through with their threats to blow up hostages in order to force Democrats to give them what they want. So at some point, they’ll pass a bill that funds DHS.

Here’s the bad news:

After the Republicans gained control of the Senate and increased their margins in the House in the November elections, both Mr. Boehner and Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, promised to reverse Congress’s pattern of hurtling from crisis to crisis, even over matters like appropriations that were once relatively routine.

But in their first big test, the Republican leaders often seemed to be working from different playbooks, at times verging on hostility, with each saying it was time for the other chamber to act.

The funding stalemate bodes poorly for any larger policy accomplishments this year, leaving lawmakers pessimistic that the 114th Congress will be able to work in a bipartisan fashion on more complicated issues.

The Office of Management and Budget has said that a vote to increase the nation’s debt limit will be necessary by mid- to late summer, and lawmakers were also hoping to take up trade policy, as well as at least a modest overhaul of the nation’s tax code — undertakings that now look increasingly imperiled.

When you’ve spent the last six years convincing your base that your opponent is a tyrant who is out to destroy the country and that his party’s agenda is the tool by which he will do that, its pretty hard to actually govern in a system that is designed to require compromise.

I wouldn’t say that any of that is a big surprise to those of us who have been paying attention. But what is surprising – and will be worth paying attention to over the next few months – is the apparent hostility between McConnell and Boehner. I don’t think anyone saw that coming. But it does suggest that there is more than one fault line in this divided house.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 28, 2015

March 1, 2015 Posted by | Congress, John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walking Away From The Truth: GOP Playing With Matches On The Debt

Just ignore Tuesday’s vote against raising the debt ceiling, House Republican leaders whispered to Wall Street. We didn’t really vote against it, members suggested; we just sent another of our endless symbolic messages, pretending to take the nation’s credit to the brink of collapse in order to extract the maximum concessions from President Obama.

Once he caves, members said, the debt limit will be raised and the credit scare will end. And the business world apparently got the message. It’s just a “joke,” said a leader of the United States Chamber of Commerce, and Wall Street is in on it. Not everyone found it funny.

No matter how they tried to spin it, 318 House members actually voted against paying the country’s bills and keeping the promise made to federal bondholders. That’s an incredibly dangerous message to send in a softening global economy. Among the jokesters were 236 Republicans playing the politics of extortion, and 82 feckless Democrats who fret that Republicans could transform a courageous vote into a foul-smelling advertisement.

The games that now pass for governing in an increasingly embarrassing 112th Congress are menacing the nation’s future. It was bad enough when Republicans threatened to shut down the government to achieve their extreme and extremely misguided spending cuts, but that threat would have caused temporary damage. The debt limit is something else altogether. If the global credit markets decide that the debt of the United States will regularly be held hostage to ideological demands, it could cause significant harm to investment in long-term bonds and other obligations. That, in turn, could damage domestic credit markets and easily spark another recession.

To prevent this from happening, 114 Democrats in April asked for a “clean” vote without conditions. But Republicans were not about to set their hostage free. Knowing that the clean vote would not pass — and imposing a two-thirds majority requirement to ensure its failure — House Republicans gave the Democrats what they requested. They then voted it down, sending their reckless message to the world.

But there was no excuse for so many Democrats to go along with that message, including the leadership. Steny Hoyer, the minority whip, urged his members to vote no so they would not “subject themselves to a political 30-second ad attack” with all Republicans voting no. Apparently Mr. Hoyer did not trust voters to understand what a dangerous and dishonest game the Republicans are playing.

The exercise has prompted the White House to convene talks to discuss the Republicans’ scattershot demands, which have ranged from trillions in spending cuts to the outright dismantling of vital safety-net programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Democrats have hoped to get an increase in revenues out of any deal, but House Republican leaders emerged from a White House meeting on Wednesday spouting the usual discredited claims that higher taxes on the rich would impede job growth.

What Republicans seem unwilling to acknowledge is that the debt-limit debate is not about future spending. It is about paying for a deficit already incurred because of two wars and tax cuts approved by both Republicans and Democrats at the behest of a Republican president. Tuesday’s vote was a chance to do the right thing and educate the public on why it was necessary. Instead, too many lawmakers walked away from the truth.

June 2, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democrats, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, Taxes, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Deficits Still Don’t Matter To Republicans

Think there will eventually be a bipartisan deal to increase the public debt limit after an extended period of Kabuki Theater posturing?  Maybe it’s time to think again.

Ezra Klein really hits the nail on the head in describing the “negotiations” as they stand today:

The negotiation that we’re having, in theory, is how to cut the deficit in order to give politicians in both parties space to increase the debt limit. But if you look closely at the positions, that’s not really the negotiation we’re having. Republicans are negotiating not over the deficit, but over tax rates and the size of government. That’s why they’ve ruled revenue “off the table” as a way to reduce the deficit, and why they are calling for laws and even constitutional amendments that cap federal spending rather than attack deficits. Democrats, meanwhile, lack a similarly clear posture: most of them are negotiating to raise the debt ceiling, but a few are trying to survive in 2012, and a few more are actually trying to reduce the deficit, and meanwhile, the Obama administration just met with the Senate Democrats to ask them to please, please, stop laying down new negotiating markers every day.If we were really just negotiating over the deficit, this would be easy. The White House, the House Republicans, the House Progressives, the House Democrats and the Senate Republicans have all released deficit-reduction plans. There’s not only apparent unanimity on the goal, but a broad menu of approaches. We’d just take elements from each and call it a day. But if the Republicans are negotiating over their antipathy to taxes and their belief that government should be much smaller, that’s a much more ideological, and much tougher to resolve, dispute. The two parties don’t agree on that goal. And if the Democrats haven’t quite decided what their negotiating position is, save to survive this fight both economically and politically, that’s not necessarily going to make things easier, either. Negotiations are hard enough when both sides agree about the basic issue under contention. They’re almost impossible when they don’t.

It’s worth underlining that “deficits” and “debt” don’t in themselves mean any more to conservatives than they did when then-Vice President Dick Cheney said “deficits don’t matter” in 2002.  Every Republican “deficit reduction” proposal is keyed to specific spending cuts–without new revenues–and increasingly, to an arbitrary limit on spending as a percentage of GDP.  Even the version of a constitutional balanced budget amendment that Sen. Jim DeMint is insisting on as part of any debt limit deal would have a spending-as-percentage-of-GDP “cap” (at 18%, as compared to about 24% currently) that would force huge spending reductions (you can guess from where since GOPers typically consider defense spending as off-limits as taxes).

Today’s Republicans are simply using deficits as an excuse to revoke as much of the New Deal/Great Society tepid-welfare-state system as they can get away with.  And it’s really just a latter stage of the old conservative Starve-the-Beast strategy for deliberately manufacturing deficits in order to cut spending.  Democrats should point this out constantly, and not let Republicans get away with claiming they are only worried about debt and fiscal responsibility.

By: Ed Kilgore, The Democratic Strategist, May 12, 2011

May 13, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democrats, Dick Cheney, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Taxes | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: