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“They Want To Torch Washington, Not Run It”: GOP’s Kamikaze Caucus Takes Out John Boehner

“I consider this a victory for the crazies,” said one Republican congressman who attended the meeting in which Speaker John Boehner shocked the political world by announcing his resignation.

Boehner, the consummate congressional dealmaker, faced another looming government shutdown. His abrupt decision to resign at the end of October is a sign that there are no more deals to be made with the conservative Kamikaze caucus.

The fundamentalist crew that Boehner-allied Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes has called “lemmings with suicide vests” and “right-wing Marxists” has been preparing to take the country to the brink of shutdown and default again this fall over their demand to defund Planned Parenthood and refusal to raise the debt ceiling.

In the closed-door meeting, the speaker warned against a government shutdown, telling the assembled Republicans that shutting down the government was self-defeating for the GOP and the pro-life cause. But his announcement “took all the air out of the room,” the attending congressman told The Daily Beast. “No one expected it.”

Boehner is an old-school Main Street Midwestern Republican—he’s conservative, but not crazy. His insistence that governing is more important than grandstanding has made him a punching bag for presidential candidates playing to populists. Take the recent cattle call hosted by the conservative frat-boy scam that parades under the name Heritage Action. Candidate after candidate blamed Boehner for all the ills facing their party. One of the attendees, a man named Valentine Sanchez, told The Daily Beast’s Patricia Murphy that he wanted Boehner out “the sooner the better. We need conservatives in there.”

In fact, Boehner’s been one of the steady voices of sanity in an unhinged time for the Republican Party.  He’s been the adult in the room filled with red-faced tantrums and toddler-esque factional squabbles. And he’s been constrained from pursuing many of his true goals by trying to hold in check the Tea Partiers that got him elected speaker in 2010 as they morphed into the Troll Party, more welcoming to ultra-right absolutists than to conservative reformers.

Not only that, his longtime friends have disappeared one by one. Veteran Reps. Tom Latham, Steve Latourette, and Buck McKeon have all retired in recent years, leaving more and more him alone on the throne.

Still, he’s given as good as he’s got, calling Ted Cruz as a “jackass” for cheerleading the last shutdown and slamming Heritage Action and other members of the conservative activist class, saying, “They’re using our mem­bers and they’re using the American people for their own goals…This is ridiculous.”

As a result, Boehner’s ambition to shepherd conservative immigration reform through the House fell apart. In the spring of 2014, he noted that the immigration “problem’s been around for at least the last 15 years. It’s been turned into a political football. I think it’s unfair…I think it’s time to deal with it.”

This pronouncement was swiftly declared a “Death Warrant for Conservatism,” by the Powerline blog, while Heritage Action’s Dan Holler told The Daily Beast’s Patricia Murphy that Boehner’s statement was “a full-throated embrace of amnesty.” This kind of overheated exaggeration is typical of the kind of opposition Boehner faced.

Boehner’s ambition was abandoned once his deputy, Republican Majority leader Eric Cantor, was cannibalized in a primary, losing to an activist who joined in the anti-immigration reform chorus. In the closed-door meeting, Boehner referred to the upset, saying that he only intended to serve two terms as speaker but then Cantor lost. “Life changes, plans change,” Boehner explained.

The emotional impetus for his surprising decision might have been Pope Francis’s historic speech to Congress the day before, in which the progressive pontiff made a case for exactly the kind of bipartisan reasoning together that has been targeted by the Kamikaze caucus: “We must move forward together, as one, in a renewed spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.” This approach to governing has been effectively criminalized by too much of the current conservative movement. It is a firing offense.

And so Boehner decided to jump before he was pushed, tired of the prospect of another self-defeating fight with the extremists in his own party. Maybe Boehner could’ve held on as speaker—if he’d decided to depend on votes from Democrats to retain his seat. But while most of Boehner’s recent legislative successes required bipartisan coalitions, that degree of career-saving support was likely too much to ask from Nancy Pelosi & Co.

Now President Obama has witnessed the vanquishing of two conservative congressional leaders—Boehner and Cantor—who were deemed insufficiently radical by the conservative populists they first empowered.

With the Republicans still reeling under the Capitol dome, the impact of Boehner’s surprise decision and his successor is still unclear, but it does not bode well for hopes that the United States can avoid another stupidly self-inflicted shutdown. Names like House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Budget Committee Paul Ryan were quickly floated as Boehner replacements—and were just as quickly shot down for being insufficient in their fealty to the crash-and-burn Kamikaze caucus.

Moments after the speaker ended his announcement by reading the Prayer of St. Francis (“where there is hatred, let me sow love”) stunned Republican congressmen saw “the crazies already huddling in the hallway.”

 

By: John Avlon, with additional reporting by Michael Daly; The Daily Beast, September 25, 2015

September 26, 2015 Posted by | GOP, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“How The GOP Made Fiscal Responsibility Look Irresponsible”: It’s A Matter Of When, Not If, Republicans Will Cave

It’s a minor miracle: Both houses of the Republican-controlled Congress have passed a budget.

Now, that’s the easy part compared to getting appropriations bills to Obama’s desk that he will actually sign. And notwithstanding the bipartisan lovefest that surrounded the House bill fixing Medicare physician reimbursements (held up for the moment in the Senate over abortion), deep philosophical differences between the parties remain.

So a standoff between congressional Republicans and the White House is inevitable. (Unless you think Obama is going to suddenly want to repeal ObamaCare.) And under both Obama and President Bill Clinton, these stalemates have seldom ended well for the Republicans.

Why? Because even though the Constitution vests the most important taxing and spending powers in Congress, the president has some huge advantages. If the president doesn’t want to sign a given spending bill and Congress doesn’t have the votes to override the veto, lawmakers only have blunt instruments with which to force his hand. And since congressional Republicans tend to end up getting the blame in the media and in the polls, even those tools are of limited utility. The president knows it is a matter of when, not if, Republicans will cave.

Republicans are trying to rein in the spending driving both the long-term debt and the unfunded liabilities of the major entitlement programs the Democrats built. They are trying to be fiscally responsible.

You may not agree with all the cuts Republicans make in their budgets. You may not be convinced their numbers add up. But Paul Ryan and Tom Price have been more transparent about their fiscal vision than most of their detractors.

The president has a different vision, and he isn’t budging. To try and force his hand (if not change his mind), Republicans have relied on a series of high-profile manufactured crises: the fiscal cliff, various debt ceiling standoffs, government shutdowns, near-shutdowns of major Cabinet departments, the threat of across-the-board tax increases, you name it.

And that’s the problem. In the process, they have made fiscal responsibility look downright irresponsible.

As the national debt was careening toward $18 trillion, Republicans insisted there be some limit to the federal government’s borrowing power. But because of the means they used to try to compel the president, it was the Republicans who stood accused of refusing to pay Washington’s bills and letting the government default on its obligations.

In the fiscal cliff debate, Obama likened congressional Republicans to hostage takers when they tried to hold the line on spending and taxes. Fiscally-minded conservatives probably fancy themselves more green eyeshade accountants than hostage takers. But it’s true that the GOP’s weaponized approach made them look like irresponsible bad guys, at least in the mainstream media.

These battles haven’t been a total loss for Republicans. Far more of the Bush tax cuts have survived than once seemed likely. Sequestration has contained spending growth. But because sequestration hits defense spending as well as social programs, a lot of Republicans are as anxious for relief as the Democrats. This in turn annoys the party’s strongest fiscal conservatives. Why trust promises of future spending cuts when the leadership seems willing to roll back the ones already in effect?

Conservative activists are irritated by the fact they have little to show for the last time Republicans held the White House and Congress simultaneously — and probably feel a little guilty they didn’t do more to pressure Republicans at the time. So they have made up for it by pressuring Republicans to do things they don’t have enough power to do. And because the Republican leadership frequently says it will fight next time and then next time doesn’t come, their pleas for patience fall on deaf ears.

That’s true even among members of the House. A key group of fiscal conservatives clearly lacks confidence in the leadership but doesn’t have the votes or a plan to replace them.

While there has been substantial short-term deficit reduction, the fiscal picture over the longer term keeps getting bleaker. All conservative lawmakers can do is vote for bills they correctly see as entirely inadequate to fix the challenges facing the country — or deny leadership the votes to pass anything, except by working with the Democrats.

Thus the party of fiscal discipline often doesn’t seem disciplined at all.

 

By: W. James Antle, lll, The Week, March 30, 2015

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Fiscal Policy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP Didn’t Deserve To Win”: Congressional Republicans’ Behavior Over The Last Four Years Deserved No Reward

Voters on Tuesday gave Republicans control of the Senate. But the GOP did not earn this victory.

That’s not because Senate Democrats, led by Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), deserved to win in the GOP’s stead, and it’s not because this country can do without a sensibly conservative party. It is because the GOP has not been a sensibly conservative party. Congressional Republicans’ behavior over the last four years deserved no reward.

This is the party that repeatedly used the country’s full faith and credit as a bargaining chip during successive, manufactured budget crises.

This is the party that still cannot bring itself to admit that climate change is a risk that deserves a serious response.

This is the party that scuttled even modest immigration reform because elements of the GOP base will label seemingly any viable bill “amnesty.”

This is the party whose leaders resist bringing broadly popular bills up for an up-or-down vote because its right fringe is in constant preparation to stage a revolt.

This is the party so in thrall to comical anti-government activists that it treated simple lightbulb efficiency standards as severe attacks on personal liberty.

This is the party that voted dozens of times to dismantle Affordable Care Act — but never united behind a credible, or even a non-credible, alternative, despite promising for years to offer one.

This is the party that took its fixation with Obamacare so far that it shut down the government in a bizarre political tantrum.

This is the party that has styled its refusal to compromise as a virtue rather than as a pernicious insult to responsible leadership.

Unsurprisingly, exit polls showed little regard for the GOP. It is a measure of midterm voters’ dissatisfaction with the state of the country, President Obama and feckless Democratic candidates that they held their noses and empowered Republicans. The results also fit into a broader trend of red states becoming redder. Yet Republicans — and Democrats — might also take the message that reckless, shortsighted, counterproductive behavior makes for good politics — better, in fact, than having actual results to run on. If fully internalized, that lesson would shut down Congress most of the time.

With President Obama still in office, it is up to Republican leaders to conclude that voters outside the hardcore GOP base did not demand more pettiness in this year’s midterm elections. Among other things, they will have to reign in hectoring partisans such as Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the architect of the shutdown who, on CNN Tuesday night, argued that Washington can compromise over the next two years — if you define compromise as doing exactly what Republicans want.

And if GOP leaders fail at that, it will be up to voters to give them what they really deserve.

 

By: Stephen Stromberg, PostPartisan, The Washington Post, November 5, 2014

November 6, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Midterm Elections, Senate | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Boehner’s Imaginary Allegations”: Speaker Still Struggling To Explain Anti-Obama Lawsuit

No one seems quite as happy about House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) anti-Obama lawsuit as President Obama himself. For the West Wing, the Republican litigation helps prove to the public, in a rather definitive way, that Obama’s governing while GOP lawmakers in Congress sit around and complain. Indeed, the frivolous case is effectively a bold announcement that the Republican-led House wants the federal government to be paralyzed indefinitely – which is hardly a winning message in an election year.

And so the president has ended up talking more about Boehner’s prospective lawsuit than Boehner has. “I told [the House Speaker], ‘I’d rather do things with you, pass some laws, make sure the Highway Trust Fund is funded so we don’t lay off hundreds of thousands of workers.’ It’s not that hard,” Obama said last week. “Middle-class families can’t wait for Republicans in Congress to do stuff. So sue me. As long as they’re doing nothing, I’m not going to apologize for trying to do something.”

Yesterday, Boehner responded with a CNN op-ed, defending the litigation he has not yet filed. It’s worth scrutinizing in detail.

[T]oo often over the past five years, the President has circumvented the American people and their elected representatives through executive action, changing and creating his own laws.

First, the Speaker needs to understand, in a “Schoolhouse Rock” sort of way, that the White House cannot create its own laws. That’s gibberish. Obama can create policies through executive orders and executive actions, but those aren’t literally new laws. Second, to help bolster his case about Obama abuses, Boehner referenced exactly zero specific examples.

What’s disappointing is the President’s flippant dismissal of the Constitution we are both sworn to defend.

No, holding the debt ceiling hostage, vowing to crash the global economy on purpose while ignoring the “Full Faith and Credit” of the United States is a “flippant dismissal of the Constitution.” Obama’s use of executive authority, on the other hand, is fairly routine.

I know the President is frustrated. I’m frustrated. The American people are frustrated, too. After years of slow economic growth and high unemployment under President Obama, they are still asking, ‘where are the jobs?’

Boehner may not remember this – 2008 seems like a long time ago – but Obama inherited the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression. The president proceeded to turn the economy around, no thanks to Boehner, who demanded a five-year spending freeze at the height of the crisis, and has fought ever since for fewer investments, less capital, less demand, and higher unemployment through laid off public-sector workers.

As for where the jobs are, the United States is currently on track for the best year for job creation since the 1990s and June was the 52nd consecutive month in which we’ve seen private-sector job growth – the longest streak on record. Why didn’t Boehner read the jobs report?

The House has passed more than 40 jobs bills that would help.

No, not really.

Washington taxes and regulations always make it harder for private sector employers to meet payrolls, invest in new initiatives and create jobs – but how can those employers plan, invest and grow when the laws are changing on the President’s whim at any moment?

First, if presidential whims periodically change American law outside the constitutional system, then Congress would have a responsibility to impeach the president. Since this allegation is imaginary, however, there’s no need. Second, if Boehner is concerned about employers’ confidence in economic stability, the Speaker can approve resources for the Highway Trust Fund and stop playing games with the economy (again).

If House Republicans have a legitimate complaint, shouldn’t it be easier for Boehner to make his case?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 7, 2014

July 8, 2014 Posted by | House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Galloping Conservative Radicalism”: If Republicans Want Respect, They Need To Stop Using The Budget As A Weapon

One of the central provisions of the Dodd-Frank financial reform package was the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is charged with preventing banks and other financial institutions from preying on vulnerable consumers. Republicans hate the CFPB, and have taken to complaining about its funding stream, which comes from the Federal Reserve rather than the normal budgeting process.

They have a point, but they have only themselves to blame, since the GOP has all but relinquished its claim to responsible oversight by using the budget to cripple laws it doesn’t like.

This steaming Washington Examiner editorial lambasting Reps. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) and Al Green (D-Texas) is a helpful distillation of the GOP position:

Simply put, Waters and Green view the congressional appropriations process as an obstacle to doing things they judge to be good, rather than as a tool by which the American people make sure the executive branch properly enforces the laws they instructed Congress to approve. This is how a democratic republic functions. Do Waters and Green think other agencies — say, the IRS, NSA, the Department of Homeland Security or perhaps the FBI — should be similarly unaccountable to the people’s representatives?

And what will they do when, having freed the bureaucrats of congressional shackles, they find a Republican president using the CFPB in nefarious ways, with Congress powerless to intervene? [Washington Examiner]

I have some sympathy with this perspective. Putting the CFPB outside the normal budget does reduce its democratic accountability. And the agency hasn’t been covering itself with glory of late; a recent report from American Banker found systematic discrimination in hiring and promotion. It’s plausible that more oversight could have prevented that.

But the problem is that conservatives obviously aren’t concerned about whether taxpayers are getting a good deal. They want to cut the bejesus out of the agency’s funding, even if it means inviting another financial crisis. The GOP budget from earlier this year zeroed out CFPB funding after 2016. Republicans claimed they wouldn’t get rid of it altogether, but given the GOP’s animosity toward pro-consumer regulations, or any programs that benefit the non-rich, it’s easy to suspect that they are trying to quietly axe the agency.

The truth is that the strongest possible oversight authority over the CFPB — the power of life and death — is still firmly in Congress’ hands. The legislature created the agency, and it may destroy it. The trouble is that Republicans don’t have enough votes to destroy the CFPB. They don’t even have a majority in the Senate, never mind enough votes to override a guaranteed veto from President Obama.

By dividing government, the Constitution forces parties into compromise. For a normal partisan with a basic commitment to the norms of American democracy, the idea is to hammer out compromises with the other side until you are in a position to enact a suite of policies. You can’t get everything, but you can get half a loaf here and there. Then, when you get the rare chance at controlling both Congress and the presidency, you pass a big policy suite, and hope people like it enough that it sticks.

That’s a reasonably fair description of how Democrats behaved from 2006 to 2010.

But Republicans have abandoned this set of norms in favor of an enraged constitutional hardball. Under this model, when you don’t have enough votes to pass your agenda, you use every procedural tactic at your disposal to force the other side to embrace it. At the extreme, this includes threatening grievous damage to the nation, by deliberately defaulting on the debt or shutting down the government. Additionally, since what passes for Republican policy is simply repealing laws or privatizing huge swathes of the government, starving agencies for funds is a nice way to accomplish that goal on the sly.

Republicans have eased up on the government-by-hostage-crisis of late, but this behavior is what inspires Democrats to do an end-run around the budget process. Since they can’t trust Republicans to not use the budget process as part of the policy proxy war, there’s a constant search for ways to protect critical agencies from procedural extremism.

It’s not a great situation. But because our poorly designed institutions have collided with a galloping conservative radicalism, it is going to be a more common one.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, National Correspondent at TheWeek.com,  June 24, 2014

June 25, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Budget, Financial Institutions | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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