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“A Moral And Political Coward”: Speaker Ryan Can’t Reauthorize Voting Rights Act

Midway through his second term, President George W. Bush proudly signed the The Fannie Lou Hamer, Rosa Parks, And Coretta Scott King Voting Rights Act Reauthorization And Amendments Act Of 2006 which was sponsored by Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin. It had been passed in the Senate with an unanimous 98-0 vote and in the House with a strong bipartisan 390-33 majority.

The Act needs to be updated because it was gutted by the Supreme Court in 2013. But they won’t. And they won’t because the Republican Party has become so racially hostile to blacks that they can’t overcome the resistance of their worst bigots. Speaker Paul Ryan met with the Congressional Black Caucus today and flat out said that he can’t get the Act fixed up and reauthorized.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told black lawmakers Wednesday that he supports new voting rights protections they’ve championed, but said he won’t bypass a committee chairman to move legislation, according to a Democrat who attended the gathering.

“He said it right in front of everybody — he said he supports the [Jim] Sensenbrenner bill,” Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), said after Ryan met with the group on Capitol Hill.

“So somebody was saying, ‘Well, why don’t you go tell your committee chair to do it?’ ” Cleaver added. “And he said, … ‘Look, I can’t do that.’ “

Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), a former chairman of the Judiciary panel, has sponsored bipartisan legislation to update the Voting Rights Act (VRA) in response to a 2013 Supreme Court decision that gutted a central provision of the 1965 law.

But Sensenbrenner’s proposal does not have the backing of the current Judiciary chairman, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), who maintains the Supreme Court left ample protections in the VRA, thereby making congressional action unnecessary.

I feel like Speaker Ryan could get this done if he wanted to, but I’m not sure what would happen if he rammed it through. I suspect that it would cause a major revolt, and perhaps even another coup like the one John Boehner just experienced.

I consider this important enough that Ryan should insist on principle and resign if his own caucus can’t live with it. It’s really a moral issue for me more than a political question. Ten years ago, it wasn’t even a partisan subject, but ten years ago we didn’t have a black president and a raging Tea Party revolt against the Republican Establishment.

Basically, I think Paul Ryan is a coward. He’s a political coward, but more importantly, he’s a moral coward.

P.S. Rep. Bob Goodlatte has also used his position as Judiciary Chairman to prevent any legislative reaction to the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, kill comprehensive immigration reform and call for the deportation of DREAMers.


By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 3, 2016

February 4, 2016 Posted by | House Republicans, Paul Ryan, Voting Rights | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“He’ll Be A Better Boy And Show Up For School”: How Jeb Bush And Donald Trump Have Put A Surging Marco Rubio On Defense

Senator Marco Rubio seems to be deftly swatting away attacks from rivals Donald Trump and Jeb Bush, but the barrage coming his way over missed Senate votes, immigration reform, and mismanagement of personal finances have prompted him to quietly fine-tune his campaign as he rises in the polls and picks up big donors.

Moments before he formally filed for the presidential ballot Wednesday in Concord, New Hampshire, Trump told reporters that Rubio, who posted a strong third-place showing in two national polls released this week, has “very big issues” with his finances—specifically, having put thousands of dollars in personal expenses on a GOP American Express card while in the Florida state house—and is “very weak on illegal immigration. As you know, if it’s up to Marco Rubio people can just pour into the country.”

A few hours later, some 20 miles away at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, Rubio told reporters after a question-and-answer session with students that he’d release currently undisclosed charges on the American Express card “in the next few weeks.” That represents a new concession: in 2010, Rubio told a Florida newspaper he wouldn’t release the statements.

Rubio also toughened his position on immigration, making clear for the first time he’d end President Barack Obama’s program to shield young undocumented “Dreamers” from deportation by stopping new enrollments. Obama’s program is designed to temporarily protect people who were brought to the U.S. by their parents when they were children.

Asked by Bloomberg if he’d end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (or DACA) program even if Congress doesn’t pass immigration reform, Rubio responded, “Yes, it will have to end… It cannot be the permanent policy if the United States.” That’s a harder stance than in April, when Rubio left some room to preserve DACA until legislative action: “I hope it will end because of some reforms to the immigration laws,” he told Univision’s Jorge Ramos.

Rubio’s comments Wednesday about ending the executive-level protections so-called “Dreamers” led to a torrent of criticism from Democrat-aligned groups and immigration advocates, including a rebuke from Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton. “We should not put 650,000+ promising young people at risk for deportation,” she tweeted, referring to the number that have gained temporary deportation reprieve and work permits. “Sen. Rubio is wrong on this.” The issue is important because the next president can continue or end DACA, set up by Obama in 2012, with the stroke of a pen. Rubio is boxed in by growing criticism from conservatives who suspect him of being soft on immigration because of his 2013 effort to pass a bill that included a path for undocumented immigrants to gain legal status.

“The gang of eight bill—that’s bullcrap,” said Michelle McManus of Bow, New Hampshire, referring to the legislation that Rubio co-wrote. She said she’ll vote for Trump and cannot trust Rubio again. “You blow it once and that’s it.”

While Bush’s now-famous confrontation with his former protégé in the third debate over having the Senate’s worst voting-attendance record appeared to backfire on stage (“It bombed so badly,” one Bush backer confided), it nonetheless appears to have led to a course correction on Rubio’s part.

Two days after the debate, Rubio canceled a scheduled campaign event in Council Bluffs, Iowa, so he could return to Washington to cast a 3 a.m. vote on the budget deal. (He voted no, but it passed.) On Tuesday, he stuck around for two afternoon votes even as he had a fundraiser scheduled in New York later that day. Appearing on CNN the next day, he countered a report that he “hates” his current job, calling it “an incredible honor to serve in the United States Senate.” The first-term senator, who’s giving up his seat after 2016 to run for president, has missed 40 percent of votes since April, including one on Pentagon funding Thursday while filing for the New Hampshire ballot and giving a speech calling for a “21st century” military.

At a packed town hall Wednesday evening in Nashua, New Hampshire, a man confronted Rubio on missing votes and asked, “Why not resign from the Senate?” The questioner said that would allow Rubio to focus on his presidential campaign. Rubio, citing constituent services as the “most important” part of his job, rejected the man’s call. “I don’t actually hate being in the Senate,” Rubio added. “I’m frustrated with the Senate.”

Wednesday on Fox News, the senator hit back at Trump’s ongoing attacks on his immigration record, arguing that “Donald was a supporter of amnesty and of the DREAM Act, and he changed his position on those issues just to run for president.” On Thursday he told reporters that Trump’s attacks on his finances were “ironic” coming from “the only person who’s running for president that’s ever declared a bankruptcy.” Trump makes a point of saying that he has never filed for personal bankruptcy, though his businesses have.

Even though Rubio, however subtly, has appeared to feel compelled to respond to the attacks from Trump and Bush, his backers don’t seem to be fazed.

“Donald Trump will attack anybody just to get the spotlight. And Jeb Bush is frustrated with his 3 or 4 percent,” said Ray Younghans, a Republican who drove to Nashua from Orange, Massachusetts to see Rubio and is strongly considering him. “They’re just attacking to draw attention to themselves.”

To some voters at Rubio rallies, the attacks smack of desperation.

“I guess Donald Trump sees Rubio as the top force that might survive. And I think Jeb doesn’t know what he’s doing right now,” said Kevin Sowyrda, a 51-year-old teacher from Nashua as he held a Rubio placard. Though he’s not personally bothered by Rubio’s missed votes and faors him above all Republicans, Sowyrda said, “I guess the effect of the attacks is he’ll be a better boy and show up for school.”


By: Sahil Kapur, Bloomberg Politics, November 5, 2015

November 8, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Presidential Candidates, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Shoulda Listened, GOPers”: You Were Warned The Party Needed To Embrace Reform To Avoid This Epic Slow-Motion Disaster

I don’t know if Greg Sargent has been saving his told-you-so for a particularly propitious moment. Probably not, since he sincerely wanted Republicans to do the right thing, and held out hope for it happening far longer than most of us left-of-center folk. But he finally lashed them today:

[H]ere’s a friendly reminder: this whole Trump mess probably could have been avoided. If Republicans had simply held votes on immigration reform in 2013 or in early 2014, it probably would have passed. That likely would have made it harder for Trump-ism to take hold to the degree it has so far.

Before you ridicule me for suggesting that Republicans would be better off today if they had simply done what I wanted them to do — pass immigration reform — please recall that GOP leaders themselves said at the time that they wanted to pass immigration reform. Even reform that included a path to legalization for the 11 million.

And plenty of Republicans warned what might happen if nothing happened before the presidential cycle.

[S]ome Republicans explicitly warned at the time that if the party failed to pass reform in 2014, it would only get harder to do so in 2015, because the GOP primaries would start up. GOP pollster Whit Ayres warned:

“If Republicans wait until 2015 to tackle this issue, that puts a very emotional and controversial issue right in the middle of the Republican presidential selection process. The opportunity for demagoguery will be exceedingly prevalent if we wait that long. It could drag the entire field to the right on immigration.”

Veteran GOP operative Rob Jesmer similarly warned that if Republicans didn’t embrace reform, “presidential politics will consume our party, which will make it more difficult to get it passed. ” Jesmer added: “We will severely diminish our chances of winning the presidential election in 2016 if this isn’t solved.” And as Jonathan Chait details, some conservative pundits, operating from the same rationale, also called for Republicans to pass “immigration reform as quickly as possible” and take the short term hit from the right, “allowing the base to vent its spleen and make up in time for the presidential campaign.”

In other words, some Republicans warned at the time that the party needed to embrace reform precisely to avoid the epic slow-motion disaster that might unfold if immigration got tied up in primary politics, creating fertile conditions for a talented demagogue to pull the party further to the right. Which is exactly what is happening now.

Even if Trump ultimately fades, the effect of his candidacy could well propel most of the rest of the field into the engines of trains metaphorically pulling cattle cars to the border. Nice work, Republicans.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, August 25, 2015

August 26, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Immigration Reform | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The People’s Republic Of Nebraska?”: Nebraska’s No-Stalemate, Commie Legislature

Forget everything you know about Nebraska. Placidity, Midwestern aw-shucks-ness, red-meat exports and red-state politics? Nope, nope, nope, nope. In the past few days, the Cornhusker State’s legislature has astonished the nation with the kind of legislative assertiveness that could make Congressional Tea Partiers sputter in rage.

On May 27, the state legislature voted to override Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts’ veto of legislation that repealed the death penalty, making it the first red state in decades to bar executions. The next day, the state overrode the governor’s veto of legislation letting DREAMers—immigrants whose parents brought them into the country illegally when they were young—get driver’s licenses. And if that doesn’t have conservatives diving for the smelling salts, get this: These moves came just two weeks after the legislature overrode a veto of a hike on the gas tax.

So in the last few whirlwind weeks, a state mostly known for its corn products and youth football players has banned the death penalty, started giving driver’s licenses to ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS!!, and—take a deep breath—raised taxes. But, despite appearances, this isn’t because carpetbagging liberal interlopers have launched a subversively successful campaign to turn the state into Vermont for college football fans. Rather, the structure of the state’s legislature makes weird alliances and inter-party strategizing the norm, not the exception. And people troubled by the partisanship that dominates national politics would be well-served to take note.

Instead of having a house and senate like the other 49 states, Nebraska has a single, unicameral legislative chamber. On top of that, party distinctions are invisible there: No majority and minority leaders, no whips, no partisan caucusing, none of that. State Sen. Colby Coash said that gives lawmakers significantly more latitude to vote their consciences than legislators in other states have. He said that delegations from other states sometimes visit their Capitol and look on with envy. Those lawmakers, he added, sometimes fear that if they break party lines, party whips will threaten to take away their office space, their staff budgets, and even their parking spots.

“When you don’t have a party boss on either side, I think it frees you to use your mind and to make decisions that you think are right,” the senator said.

On top of that, every bill that legislators introduce gets an open, public committee hearing, so legislators don’t worry that their bills will get shelved indefinitely, and they don’t feel the same pressure to suck up to any party leadership.

“In most states you can introduce anything you want—but if you aren’t in the right party or don’t know the right person, you don’t even get a hearing on your bill,” Coash said. Nebraska’s political culture is very different, he added.

This unique independence played a huge role in the passage of the death penalty repeal, he said. Though the governor has been an adamant, vocal, and dogged advocate of keeping the death penalty, a critical mass of Republican lawmakers didn’t fear bucking him.

“My words cannot express how appalled I am that we have lost a critical tool to protect law enforcement and Nebraska families,” Ricketts said in a statement after the override vote, USA Today reported. The unicameral was “out of touch” with the state’s voters, he added.

Lawmakers, obviously, didn’t share those qualms.

“The Nebraska structure fosters a culture of people voting on their conscience rather than by politics,” said Shari Silberstein, executive director of Equal Justice USA, who helped organize the anti-death-penalty push that unified conservatives and progressives.

Stopping executions was just the start. The legislature’s decision to override the governor and implement a gas tax might be even more surprising, given the pressure national anti-tax groups put on state legislators to resist these kind of hikes. The state currently taxes gas at 26.5 cents per gallon, and it hasn’t raised that number in years. Advocates of the tax hike argued that the state needed to spend more on road and bridge maintenance, and that their options for finding the funds were slim.

“There’s just potholes everywhere here,” said Perry Pirsch, a prominent Lincoln attorney and spokesman for Citizens for a Better Lincoln PAC. “And there’s bridges that are in rough shape and potentially could crumble if they’re not worked on in the years to come, and we were overdue for an increase.”

And Jim Vokal, CEO of the Platte Institute for Economic Research, said his typically anti-tax group favored the hike, but wished it had been part of a broad tax reform bill.

“Typically the unicameral has operated with an independent mindset and that was certainly evident this year,” he added.

The fact that Nebraska decided to raise taxes to pay for infrastructure funding puts it in stark contrast with Wisconsin, where Gov. Scott Walker proposed issuing bonds to fund road improvement projects.

And who’s going to be paying higher gas taxes to drive on hopefully improved roads and bridges in the People’s Republic of Nebraska? Undocumented immigrants are going to be paying (some of) those taxes, thanks to even more bipartisan leadership-bucking. When the legislature overrode Ricketts’ veto, Nebraska became the last state in the country to let undocumented immigrants who came to the country as children get driver’s licenses.

So depending on your perspective, Nebraska is either a corn-fed, post-partisan Utopia or an anarchic pit of death-penalty-free chaos. Nebraskans seem inclined to think the former.

“There’s a lot of people in Nebraska who feel very strongly about their independent-mindedness,” said Ari Kohen, a political science professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. “And to see it play out this way and have the nation see it play out this way, there’s a pride in that.”


By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, May 30, 2015

May 31, 2015 Posted by | Death Penalty, Nebraska Legislature, Pete Ricketts | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“GOP To DHS; Governing Is Hard”: Republicans Are Edging Ever Closer To A Totally Predictable Shutdown

Weeks after winning the Senate, soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had a nice thought:

“We will not be shutting the government down or threatening to default on the federal debt,” he said.

With less than two weeks before yet another government shutdown, chaos remains and dysfunction is still normal.

The latest manufactured drama is over funding for the Department of Homeland Security, which is scheduled to expire on February 27.

The scenario should sound familiar:

Much like the government shutdown over defunding Obamacare, House Republicans are refusing to pass any bill that funds DHS that doesn’t contain a provision overturning the Obama administration’s executive orders on undocumented immigrants and Senate Democrats are refusing to debate any DHS funding bill that has this language.

(Nevermind, the bill would be vetoed the minute it hit the president’s desk. This isn’t about the winning—it’s about the game.)

The result is a partisan stalemate in which neither side will blink.

And once again, this was all by design.

This showdown was set up at the end of 2014 with the debate over “the Cromnibus,” the controversial budget bill that funded the government for most of 2015.

Many conservative Republicans were loath to agree to any measure that funded the government didn’t overturn the executive orders.

Democrats refused to go along with anything other than a bill that funded DHS and omitted the executive order language.

The language would go beyond the controversial executive order that Obama issued in 2014 to allow 5 million undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States and also apply to the “DREAMers,” a subset of illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States while they were underage and have clean criminal records. DREAMers were allowed to stay in the United States in an executive order that the administration issued in 2012.

To avoid another government shutdown, a compromise was reached before lawmakers went home for the holidays.

Most of the federal government would be funded for a year but the DHS would only receive sufficient appropriations to last through the end of February.

The idea was that conservatives could force their standoff on immigration then and surely, no one would want to let the government agency responsible for keeping the United States safe go dark.

But, of course, that is not the case.

To add more futility to their cause, the DHS will keep on running even without being funded. Workers in key agencies like the Border Patrol and the Transportation Safety Administration are considered “essential” and will report to work regardless—they just won’t be paid to do their jobs.

While many other DHS employees could be furloughed, this limitation prevents a shutdown from turning into an immediate crisis and reduces the cost.

On Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner seemed ready to embrace a potential shutdown and unwilling to consider a compromise.

He told Fox News, “The House has acted. We’ve done our job.” Boehner then said, “Senate Democrats are the ones putting us in this precarious position. It’s up to Senate Democrats to get their act together.”

But it’s not just Senate Democrats who think shutting down the DHS is a bad idea. Senate Republicans—John McCain, Jeff Flake and Mark Kirk, to name a few—also have expressed problems with using the DHS as a way to tweak the president.

The impasse is also handing Senate Democrats a powerful political weapon.

In a statement last week Democratic Minority Leader Harry Reid said, “The Republican Congress is a mess, pure and simple. Democrats are happy to help our Republican colleagues resolve their problems but the first step is for Republican leaders to do the right thing and pass a clean bill to fund Homeland Security.”

The political dilemma for Republicans is that while a shutdown plays well with their base, it gives them relatively little leverage.

Most key functions of the DHS will be funded regardless and the result of past GOP brinkmanship is that Republicans are likely to bear the burden of the blame for any shutdown.

It also creates peculiar consequences in the 2016 presidential race as well.

It combines two delicate political issues of immigration reform and a government shutdown into one package and places more moderate GOP hopefuls in a bind.

Do they want to let what Republicans universally believe is an unconstitutional executive order by the Obama administration stand or do they want to be put in a position of cutting funding to the DHS in the aftermath of a wave of Islamist terror attacks against American allies and interests.

The result is a familiar dysfunction.

Democrats won’t yield on Obama’s executive orders—a move that would risk undermining one of the most important actions of the president’s second term and lead to the potential deportation of millions of undocumented immigrants.

Republicans can’t alienate their conservative base yet again by compromising on what has become such a point of principle.

This latest episode might frustrating in the short term but, like the last shutdown, it has a predictable end:

It’s not a question of whether Republicans will cave and fund the DHS, but when.


By: Ben Jacobs, The Daily Beast, February 17, 2015

February 19, 2015 Posted by | Dept of Homeland Security, GOP, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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