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‘From Embattled To Pitiful”: Boehner Has A New Pitch To Defend Congressional Ineptitude

About a year ago, a reporter started to ask House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) about Congress’ “historically unproductive” term. “That’s just total nonsense,” he snapped, before the question was even finished.

In reality, it wasn’t nonsense at all, and the question appears even more apt now. The fact remains that this is the least productive Congress since clerks started keeping track nearly a century ago.

Soon after, Boehner switched gears and tried to turn the argument around – sure, he said, Congress isn’t legislating, but that’s a good thing. According to Boehner, Congress “should not be judged by how many new laws we create,” but rather, Congress “ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal.”

This effort to rebrand failure also posed a problem: Congress hasn’t repealed laws, either. By either standard, the legislative branch was failing miserably.

But the hapless House Speaker clearly remains sensitive about Congress’ ineptitude, which seems to have led him to an entirely new argument: Congress isn’t working, but the Republican-led House is awesome.

As he began his annual month-long, 14-state bus tour this week, the Ohio Republican left many of the red-meat issues that rev up his base back in Washington. Instead, he’s trying to promote a different message: Republicans are doing the legislating while everyone else is slacking off. […]

“When you hear all this stuff about the Congress, understand there are two bodies in the Congress,” Boehner said during a morning fundraiser in Bolingbrook, a suburb of Chicago. “One is working our rear ends off, and frankly, you’d be surprised all the stuff we do is done on a bipartisan basis. [Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid didn’t even try to pass a border bill that we passed last Friday.”

And it’s at this point when the House Speaker made the transition from embattled to pitiful.

Boehner may feel slightly embarrassed for creating an accomplishment-free legacy for himself, and he’s no doubt frustrated by the fact that Congress’ approval rating has fallen to levels unseen since the dawn of modern polling, but this latest tack to rationalize failure is laughable.

Consider the example Boehner himself is using: the GOP-led House passed a “border bill,” while the Democratic-led Senate ignored it. Proof of House Republicans working their “rear ends off”? Not for anyone who was actually awake and watching Congress last week.

The House’s “border bill” was a ridiculous joke that even Boehner didn’t like. The Speaker pushed an entirely different bill; his own members decided to ignore his weak leadership (again); causing Boehner to give up and tell right-wing extremists to write whatever they wanted, without any regard for whether it would become law.

It was a pathetic effort to ram through a symbolic gesture, not a legitimate effort to pass a real bill. That Boehner is using this as a great example of how effective House Republicans are helps prove the exact opposite point.

On the surface, it stands to reason both sides are going to blame the other – in this do-nothing Congress, the Democratic Senate wants voters to blame the Republican House and vice versa. None of this is surprising.

But there’s an objective truth available to anyone who wants to see it. This Congress could approve immigration reform, tax reform, ENDA, and a minimum-wage increase, among other things, were it not for the no-compromise, far-right party dominating the U.S. House. That’s just the reality.

Boehner, taking orders instead of giving them, has approved a bunch of symbolic, partisan bills that no one, including Republicans, expect to become law, but that’s not governing – it’s self-indulgent posturing. Until the Speaker is prepared to acknowledge the difference, Congress will remain a national embarrassment.

 

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

August 11, 2014 Posted by | Congress, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What The Republicans Failed To Accomplish”: Vital Tasks The House Did Not Address Before Taking An Unnecessary Recess

Many House members were at the airport yesterday, desperate to begin their five-week vacation, when the chamber’s leadership called them back. An emergency bill to provide money for the humanitarian crisis at the Southern border had earlier been pulled from the floor because of objections from the hard right; now some Republicans wanted to try again.

“You can’t go home!” Representative Blake Farenthold of Texas said, according to the Washington Post. That would send a terrible message to President Obama: “You’re right, we’re a do-nothing Congress.”

Sorry, congressman. That message had already been broadcast long before the House tripped over its own divisions on the border bill. The failure of this Congress (principally the House) to perform the most basic tasks of governing is breathtakingly broad. Though members did manage to pass a bill overhauling the Department of Veterans Affairs, here is a catalog of the vital tasks the House was unable to accomplish before taking an unnecessary recess:

But there is one thing House Republicans did enthusiastically before packing their bags: They voted to sue the president for taking executive actions they disliked — actions that were necessary because Republicans failed to do their jobs.

 

By: David Firestone, Taking Note, The Editorial Page Editors Blog, The New York Times, August 1, 2014

August 2, 2014 Posted by | Congress, House Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Coming Up Short”: Rubio Tries And Fails To Thread Culture-War Needle

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) has been quite candid on most of the hot-button social issues of the day, and despite national ambitions, the Florida Republican has positioned himself well to the right of the American mainstream on issues like contraception, reproductive rights, and marriage equality.

But the senator nevertheless believes he has a strong case to make when it comes to the culture war, and yesterday he delivered a big speech his staff billed as an address on “the breakdown of the American family and the erosion of fundamental values that has followed.” The remarks, which can be read in their entirety here or watched online here, covered a fair amount of ground, though as Benjy Sarlin explained, there was a special emphasis on gay rights.

Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio acknowledged Wednesday that American history was “marred by discrimination against gays and lesbians.” But in a speech at Catholic University in Washington, Rubio drew the line sharply at marriage equality and accused supporters of same sex unions of “intolerance.”

“I promise you even before this speech is over I’ll be attacked as a hater or a bigot or someone who is anti-gay,” Rubio said. “This intolerance in the name of tolerance is hypocrisy. Support for the definition of marriage as one man and one woman is not anti-gay, it is pro-traditional marriage.”

Rhetoric like this is familiar – the right has long believed it’s unfair for the left to be intolerant of intolerance. Despite its repetition, though, the argument always seems to come up short.

Consider the underlying point Rubio is trying to make. On the one hand, he and his allies intend to keep fighting, hoping to use the power of the state to deny equal rights and basic human dignity to Americans based on sexual orientation. On the other hand, Rubio and his allies would appreciate it if no one said mean things about them while they push these policies.

I’m afraid the public discourse doesn’t quite work this way. No one is suggesting Rubio must abandon his opposition to civil rights for LGBT Americans, but if he wants to avoid criticism while pushing public policies that create second-class citizens, he appears to have chosen the wrong line of work.

That said, let’s not overlook the part of the speech in which Rubio also tried to position himself as a critic of anti-gay discrimination.

“We should acknowledge that our history is marred by discrimination against gays and lesbians. There was once a time when the federal government not only banned the hiring of gay employees, it required private contractors to identify and fire them. Some laws prohibited gays from being served in bars and restaurants. And many cities carried out law enforcement efforts targeting gay Americans.

“Fortunately, we have come a long way since then.”

Yes, that is fortunate. But under existing federal law, American employers, right now, can legally fire gay employees – or even employees they think might be gay – regardless of their on-the-job performance.

Our history is, in fact, “marred by discrimination against gays and lesbians,” but that discrimination can still happen under existing law – and though he didn’t mention it yesterday, as far as Marco Rubio is concerned, federal anti-discrimination laws should not be changed. Indeed, when the Senate rather easily passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act last fall, only 30 senators voted against it, and Rubio was one of them.

The far-right senator, in other words, is trying but failing to thread a culture-war needle. Rubio wants to block consenting adults who fall in love from getting married, but he doesn’t want to be accused of intolerance. The Republican senator wants to decry employment discrimination against LGBT Americans, but he doesn’t want to take action to prevent the discrimination he claims not to like.

As culture-war visions go, this one needs some work.

 

By: Steven Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 24, 2014

July 25, 2014 Posted by | Discrimination, LGBT, Marco Rubio | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“The Faux Faith Of Congress”: Wasting Valuable Time By Pushing Unneeded And Sectarian Legislation

Members of Congress regularly boost their reelection prospects in positive ways like voting in line with the will of their district and participating in the passage of landmark legislation. But we know all too well that they also engage in negative campaigning, lambasting their political opponents and even scapegoating minorities for problems that we must grapple with as a community. Another pernicious habit that appears to be getting more prevalent is the attempt to co-opt religious belief for political benefit.

Some of the many examples include a resolution to reaffirm “In God We Trust” as the national motto and endorse its usage in all public buildings, public schools and other government institutions, and a resolution expressing support for prayer at school board meetings. And just this week Congress passed a bill, the World War II Memorial Prayer Act of 2013, which will place a plaque at the World War II monument in Washington, D.C., “with the words that President Franklin D. Roosevelt prayed with the United States on June 6, 1944, the morning of D-Day.”

The prayer being referred to here mentions how “[o]ur sons … this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization.” While some soldiers may have been doing just that, there were certainly other soldiers who did not believe in a god, did not share the same religion, or simply weren’t fighting to preserve it.

Most government officials are well aware that working on these bills is a waste of valuable time since they accomplish little more than alienating Americans who subscribe to minority faiths and philosophies. In fact, there are many important bills that still await passage, such as the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (which would prevent discrimination against employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity) and legislation that would raise the minimum wage. But as some Americans admit that the religious beliefs of a candidate impact their vote, many politicians see no downside to embellishing the importance of their faith and engaging in religious preferentialism.

It is important to note that there are politicians who categorically refuse to endorse religiously motivated bills or other pieces of legislation that would weaken the separation between church and state. And, of course, there are some evangelical “true believers” who genuinely wish to see their religious tenets enshrined into law no matter how it impacts the rights of others. But both of these types of politicians are in the minority.

Unfortunately, the politicians whose religious credentials run only skin-deep have yet to be called out for co-opting their beliefs for political gain, which means that this practice of pushing unneeded and sectarian legislation won’t end anytime soon. What’s needed is for average Americans to stand up and not accept their false declarations of religiosity, respond negatively to their religious pandering, and insist that they instead focus on what actually matters.

It’s past time that this shameful act is ended, before government institutions become even more reviled by an American public that recognizes how Congress is increasingly inefficient and disconnected from the issues they care about. Instead of disingenuously emphasizing beliefs that seem to help politicians in the short term but estrange Americans from their neighbors, Congress should put aside their faux faith once and for all.

 

By: Roy Speckhardt, The Huffington Post Blog, June 27, 2014

 

 

June 30, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Protected Class Isn’t A Privileged Class”: No, Employment Protections Aren’t Like Segregation

Since the 1960s, federal law has recognized various protected classes. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color or religion; the 1990 Disabilities Act on the basis of disability. It should be screamingly obvious that a “protected” class isn’t a “privileged” class — but apparently it isn’t.

In recent years, progressives have been lobbying for an Employment Nondiscrimination Act, which would make it illegal for an employer to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Opponents have advanced various arguments against it, including the notion that it will subject schoolchildren to discussions of homosexuality and that it’s a recipe for lawsuits.

Another bogus claim is that ENDA would create “special” rights for gays and lesbians.

On Tuesday The Las Vegas Sun ran a story on Republican State Assemblyman Crescent Hardy, who’s campaigning to represent Nevada’s 4th Congressional District in the House. It explained that Mr. Hardy opposes ENDA because: “When we create classes, we create that same separation that we’re trying to unfold somehow. By continuing to create these laws that are what I call segregation laws, it puts one class of a person over another. We are creating classes of people through these laws.”

Yes, he went there: He not only compared employment protection to segregation, he said such protections are a form of segregation.

It’s possible he got this idea from The Heritage Foundation. In November Ryan T. Anderson of Heritage argued that ENDA “does not protect equality before the law; instead it would create special privileges that are enforceable against private actors.”

Actually ENDA prohibits “preferential treatment or quotas” and merely makes it illegal for an employer to fire an employee just because he’s gay.

This idea that protections against discrimination put “one class of a person over another” has surfaced in other areas, too.

As I wrote not long ago, Fox’s Martha MacCallum deployed this type of reasoning when she called the Paycheck Fairness Act a “special handout” for women. So did Justice Antonin Scalia when he called the Voting Rights Act a “racial entitlement.”

 

By: Juliet Lapidos, The New York Times, February 20, 2014

February 23, 2014 Posted by | Discrimination, Segregation | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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