mykeystrokes.com

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

“For Better Or Worse, You Be The Judge”: Speaker Paul Ryan Is The Tea Party’s Greatest Triumph

People of all political convictions should be excited about Paul Ryan’s assumption of the House speaker’s gavel. Even if you disagree with Ryan’s fiscally conservative politics, you have to admit that the Wisconsin congressman is smart, focused on policy, and generally an honest broker. Regardless of your political affiliation, we should all be happy when the political process puts someone of this caliber in such an important job.

Which raises the question: How did we get such a good speaker?

The short answer is this: Credit the Tea Party.

Without the Tea Party, you wouldn’t have the House Freedom Caucus, made up mostly of rambunctious, hardcore, conservative back-benchers. Without the rabble-rousing Freedom Caucus, John Boehner probably wouldn’t have been driven to resign, and Kevin McCarthy probably wouldn’t have been driven out of the speakership race. Paul Ryan is not exactly a Tea Party firebrand. But he is still highly respected within the Tea Party. And they paved the way to his speakership.

For all of the bleating in opinion columns about the supposed anti-intellectualism of the Tea Party, Ryan’s policy seriousness is very much part of his movement appeal. Tea Partiers (and I count myself among them) are serious about reforming government, and a great many of them actually do understand that you need a serious plan to get it done, not just theatrics. People in the Tea Party also know they’re often disdained as simpletons by elites on both sides of the aisle, and so they very much respect credentialed people who they feel are part of their camp. This is at least partly why the Tea Party likes Ted Cruz (former Supreme Court clerk!) and Ben Carson (former neurosurgeon!).

Another key: The conservative base feels betrayed by politicians they elect who then turn around to pass moderate policies, and they want to see credibility from politicians. The best way to assert credibility is by picking a fight on an unpopular issue. Paul Ryan first became a national figure because he took on entitlement reform, the third rail in U.S. politics. The Tea Party admires his bravery and honesty in sticking to his conservative principles, even when much of the American media and political establishment crush him for it.

I like John Boehner, but it’s clear that he is an insider politician with little taste for serious policy wonkery. He lacks the courage to put forward an ambitious entitlement reform plan on his own. And so it was with the previous Republican speakers of the House. The Tea Party-backed Speaker Ryan, on the other hand, is serious about conservative ideas, and bold in promoting them.

I point this out because this isn’t just true in the House. In general, the Tea Party has elevated a better class of politician. There’s Marco Rubio, who has put forward innovative plans on taxes, on higher education, on jobs with wage subsidies, and, at least until he got cold feet, was a leader on immigration reform (another third rail). There’s Rand Paul who, as a libertarian, is someone I don’t agree with on every issue, but certainly brings much-needed representation of that perspective in the Senate (along with the admirable libertarian Justin Amash in the House, who personally explains every single vote on his Facebook page). There’s Mike Lee who is quickly shaping up to be one of the most important policy leaders in the Senate, taking charge on everything from tax reform to criminal justice reform and even defeating the Big Government Egg Cartel in his spare time (bet you didn’t know that was a thing).

There have been a few Tea Party misfires, like Ted Cruz and that “I’m not a witch” lady, but seven years into the Tea Party, it is now clear that overall, the movement has brought to Washington a class of politicians that, whether you agree with them on the issues or not, are a refreshing improvement over their establishment predecessors.

That’s something everyone should celebrate. So keep it in mind next time you see another column about supposed Tea Party know-nothingism.

 

By: Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Week, October 29, 2015

October 30, 2015 Posted by | Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives, Tea Party | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Governing-By-Crisis Has Gotten Even Worse”: The Risk That America Will Default On Its Debts Is Now Higher Than Ever

It’s tempting to say that the upcoming need to increase the debt ceiling is another depressing iteration of the governing-by-crisis that we’ve gotten used to over the last five years since Republicans took control of the House. But it isn’t. It’s worse. The chaos that is the Republican caucus in the House of Representatives is about to have some very serious effects on the entire country.

Why is this crisis different from those that came before it? In all of the government shutdown/debt ceiling crises of the last five years, we knew how they would end: eventually, after putting up a show of fighting against that dastardly Obama administration, John Boehner would allow a vote on a bill to either fund the government or raise the debt ceiling, knowing that it would pass only with the votes of Democrats plus a few dozen Republicans sane enough to want to avoid catastrophe. The conservatives would cry “Betrayal!” but the crisis would be over.

But now even that may not be possible. Here’s the latest news from Politico this morning:

House GOP leaders initially planned to vote on a red-meat proposal Friday pitched by the Republican Study Committee to increase the debt ceiling while imposing new limits on executive-branch power. That measure stood no chance of passing the Senate, but would at least show effort.

Yet when House Majority Whip Steve Scalise’s (R-La.) team tested Republican support for the legislation, it fell far short of the needed 218 votes, and Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) postponed any floor action.

Now, the U.S. government is 12 days from reaching the debt limit without a clear plan of what to do.

Boehner, McCarthy and other GOP leaders are refusing at this point to move ahead with a “clean” debt ceiling bill insisted on by President Barack Obama. Senior leadership aides said they couldn’t find the 30 Republican votes needed to join with all 188 Democrats to pass that proposal — a bleak indication of the current state of play.

So there aren’t even 30 Republicans in the House willing to keep the United States government from defaulting on its debts. How did we get here?

First, let’s establish some context, since it’s been a while since we had a debt ceiling crisis. For some idiosyncratic historical reasons, the United States has a statutory limit on how many bonds it can issue to pay for what Congress buys, meaning that after it passes a budget, Congress has to pass an extra bill allowing the government to pay for that budget (the only other industrialized country that has a debt ceiling is Denmark, which might dim Bernie Sanders’ affection for the place, though theirs is set so high it doesn’t become a political football). For almost a century, debt ceiling increases were an occasion for brief political theater, as members of the party out of power would make some floor speeches about the administration’s outrageous spending, and then the bill would pass extending the ceiling for a year or two, because even the most committed opponents of the administration weren’t so deranged as to actually want to risk the United States government defaulting on its debts. But that was before the Tea Party came to town.

If a new bill raising the ceiling doesn’t pass by November 3rd, we will default. The Obama administration, as it always has, insists upon a “clean” debt ceiling increase — just increase it, and then we can argue about our other policy disagreements without threatening the full faith and credit of the United States. Republicans, however, see this as a great opportunity for blackmail.

So why are we even more likely now to fail to pass an increase than we were when we had this same crisis in 2011, then again in 2013, then again in 2014? Look at what’s going on in the House. Conservatives there are feeling emboldened because they just got rid of John Boehner, as they had wanted to do for so long. They feel strong and empowered, so naturally they believe that this is a battle they can win, even if they’ve lost before. And they’ve upped their demands.

Now they want not just general budget cuts in exchange for raising the ceiling, but cuts specifically to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. That demand was contained in a document the House Freedom Caucus put out recently, and the conservative Republican Study Committee’s proposal would raise the ceiling in exchange for $3.8 billion in cuts to those programs over the next decade, along with a freeze on all regulations until Barack Obama leaves office. If they think Democrats would ever accept those terms, they’ve lost their minds. But they seem serious.

But it isn’t just this recent revolt. As Jackie Calmes and David Herszenhorn of the New York Times recently pointed out, today’s House is even more conservative than it was when we came so close to defaulting before:

The legislative math has only grown more difficult. When Congress last voted in February 2014 to suspend the debt limit, 28 House Republicans joined nearly all Democrats in support; 199 Republicans were opposed. Now there are fewer Democrats in the House and if all 188 of them voted for an increase, Republican leaders would need 30 votes from their side for a 218-vote majority — two more than last year.

Yet nine of last year’s 28 Republican supporters have left Congress and at least three of their Republican successors — Representatives Dave Brat of Virginia, Steve Knight of California and Mark Walker, Republican of North Carolina — are almost certain to be opposed.

Also, 14 Democrats who voted to increase the debt limit are gone, replaced by Republicans, some of whom are likely to vote no.

That’s why they can’t even find 30 Republicans to vote for a clean increase. Then there’s the question of the next Speaker, who will be the one actually shepherding this crisis if Republicans stick to their schedule of electing the new Speaker next week.  While Paul Ryan hasn’t said publicly what he thinks ought to be done, he voted against the increase last year. This topic surely came up when he went to the Freedom Caucus to win their support. What did he tell them? They fervently want to use the threat of default to extort the administration into satisfying some of their policy goals. Is one of Ryan’s first acts a Speaker going to be turning his back on them? Don’t bet on it.

All this suggests that every force involved is propelling Republicans not just toward forcing a crisis, but forcing an actual default. At some point, they might realize that “Republicans are holding a gun to the head of the American economy and they’ll fire unless we let them slash Social Security and Medicare” isn’t exactly a winning political message to send. But who knows how much damage will be done before they realize that?

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, October 23, 2015

October 25, 2015 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, House Freedom Caucus, House Republican Caucus, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Gimmicky Nature Of The Contingency Fund”: The Intra-GOP Budget Fight Grows Toxic Ahead Of Schedule

At the beginning of a week where action was scheduled to begin on a FY 2016 congressional budget resolution, it looked like Republicans were on the brink of a big split between fiscal hawks in the House who wanted to maintain caps on defense spending negotiated with the Obama administration and/or to require specific cuts in domestic spending to offset adjustments, and defense hawks in the Senate who wanted above all to blow up the defense caps forever and blast them to hell as a first step towards a 1980s-style defense buildup.

Those intra-Republican dynamics remain in place, but the fight has broken out much earlier than expected, in the House itself, and in fact in the House Budget Committee, where Paul Ryan’s successor as chairman, Tom Price of GA, can’t seem to get the votes to report a budget resolution. The Hill‘s Vicki Needham has the arcane story:

Negotiations to resolve a dispute over defense spending blew up Wednesday night in the House Budget Committee, as the panel came up short of approving a nearly $3.8 trillion Republican blueprint.

Budget Chairman Tom Price (R-Ga.) saw the chances of pushing through an amendment to boost defense spending without offsets fade quickly in the waning hours of a markup of the GOP’s budget proposal, in the latest misstep for House Republicans.

Without a resolution, the Budget panel packed up for the night with Price saying the committee may reconvene Thursday, after even House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) wasn’t able to break the impasse.

House leadership had tested the waters for an amendment from Rep. Todd Rokita (R-Ind.) — which would bump up funding to $96 billion for an emergency account earmarked for overseas conflicts without a pay-for — in an effort to attract reluctant defense hawks.

Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) and his chief deputy, Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-N.C.), started reaching out to GOP Budget Committee members about whether a proposal to appease defense hawks could pass the panel even before Price kicked off his budget mark-up, according to aides.

Basically, Republicans anticipated trouble on the floor passing a budget resolution that already included a big chunk of change for an off-budget “contingency fund,” and tried to get an extra $20 billion thrown in to placate the defense hawks, but fiscal hawks on the committee–including that highly symbolic freshman, Rep. Dave Brat of VA, the man who slew Eric Cantor–said no.

Meanwhile, outside the hothouse–yes, pun intended–of the lower chamber, defense hawks were already complaining about the gimmicky nature of the contingency fund and are demanding a straight-up major boost in defense spending. Neocon WaPo blogger Jennifer Rubin was shrieking yesterday that the initial House budget resolution represented a “political betrayal” and a “disaster for national security.”

Trouble is, it’s not easy to find a way to accommodate still more defense spending in a budget that already (a) has the aforementioned phony-baloney “contingency fund,” (b) achieves its “balanced budget” targets only via “dynamic scoring” BS and by assuming revenues from implementation of Obamacare even as it proposes to abolish it, (c) proposes partially privatizing Medicare and dumping Medicaid on the states, and (d) stipulates vast but unspecified additional “entitlement” savings outside Social Security and health care.

There’s just no obvious way out of the budgetary math problems the GOP has invented for itself. If Republicans cannot come up with a consensus budget agreement, we’ll have another high-profile example of that party’s inability to govern, and there will also be no way to proceed with the plan to pass a reconciliation bill to repeal Obamacare to show “the base” what Republicans will be able to do once the hated incumbent has left office.

Expect the gimmickry to reach new heights.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 19, 2015

March 20, 2015 Posted by | Budget, Fiscal Policy, GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Pitting Retirees Against The Disabled”: GOP Manufacturing A Social Security Crisis To Threaten Benefits For Millions Of Disabled Americans

When conservatives who like to whine about “welfare” are forced to be more specific, some go after the traditional if significantly less generous TANF program of cash assistance, or Medicaid, or those receiving subsidies under Obamacare. But more often these days, they attack either Disability Insurance or SNAP, programs that have experienced large increases in eligibility because of the economy or demographic trends or both.

Congressional Republicans failed last year to force the inclusion of a major reduction in SNAP eligibility in the 2014 Farm Bill. But now they appear to be going after DI, through the half-clever mechanism of pitting beneficiaries against the larger universe of Social Security retirement recipients. Here’s a quick description of the ploy from TPM’s Dylan Scott:

The incoming GOP majority approved late Tuesday a new rule that experts say could provoke an unprecedented crisis that conservatives could use as leverage in upcoming debates over entitlement reform.

The largely overlooked change puts a new restriction on the routine transfer of tax revenues between the traditional Social Security retirement trust fund and the Social Security disability program. The transfers, known as reallocation, had historically been routine; the liberal Center for Budget and Policy Priorities said Tuesday that they had been made 11 times. The CBPP added that the disability insurance program “isn’t broken,” but the program has been strained by demographic trends that the reallocations are intended to address.

The House GOP’s rule change would still allow for a reallocation from the retirement fund to shore up the disability fund — but only if an accompanying proposal “improves the overall financial health of the combined Social Security Trust Funds,” per the rule, expected to be passed on Tuesday. While that language is vague, experts say it would likely mean any reallocation would have to be balanced by new revenues or benefit cuts.

I have zero doubt Republicans will describe this rules change, now that it’s getting attention, as a measure to “protect Social Security,” even though DI is part of the same system, and the ploy may actually be aimed at producing “entitlement reforms” affecting retiree benefits as well as disability eligibility. But Democrats, led by Elizabeth Warren, do seem to be all over this with unusual alacrity:

“It’s ridiculous – but not surprising – that on the very first day of the new Congress, Republicans are manufacturing a Social Security crisis to threaten benefits for millions of disabled Americans – including 233,260 in Massachusetts alone,” Warren said on Facebook. “We can’t turn our backs on the promises we’ve made to our families, friends, and neighbors who need our help the most. House Republicans should stop playing political games to put America’s most vulnerable at risk.”

So we’ll probably see leading Republicans take a low profile on the issue for a while, as their friends in the conservative chattering classes probably ratchet up the talk about the freeloading bums on DI.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 7, 2015

January 9, 2015 Posted by | Disability Insurance, Republicans, Social Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“They Haven’t The Foggiest Idea”: The Hostage Takers Disagree Over The Ransom Note

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) said on Monday that he’s prepared to block a debt-ceiling increase, consequences be damned, unless Democrats give him “a full delay or defund of Obamacare.” Even if Democrats offered him changes to Social Security in exchange for nothing, the New Jersey Republican said, it wouldn’t be enough to satisfy him.

Just 24 hours later, Garrett appeared on CNN and said he’s prepared to block a debt-ceiling increase unless we “begin to address our entitlement problems.”

One lawmaker, one issue, two completely different positions.

Similarly, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) — remember him? — has an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal today, making his priorities clear.

The president is giving Congress the silent treatment. He’s refusing to talk, even though the federal government is about to hit the debt ceiling. That’s a shame—because this doesn’t have to be another crisis. It could be a breakthrough. We have an opportunity here to pay down the national debt and jump-start the economy, if we start talking, and talking specifics, now. To break the deadlock, both sides should agree to common-sense reforms of the country’s entitlement programs and tax code.

What does Ryan have to say about the Affordable Care Act? Nothing. In fact, the 1,000-word op-ed doesn’t mention the health care law at all.

Much to the chagrin of right-wing activists, Ryan apparently wants to change the ransom note. He’s comfortable with threatening deliberate harm to the nation unless Democrats meet Republican demands, but the Budget Committee chair wants to replace Tea Partiers’ priority (taking health care benefits away from working families) with his priority (tax reform and entitlement cuts).

Now, I have a hunch I know why Ryan ignores “Obamacare” in his preferred ransom note, and it’s not because he forgot about it. Republicans are reluctant to admit it, but the Affordable Care Act vastly improves the nation’s finances in the coming years, and repealing it would add hundreds of billions of dollars to the national debt. Ryan can’t afford to destroy the health care law — he uses it in his own plan to balance the budget over the next decade.

More important, though, in the bigger picture, Republicans aren’t just flailing, they’re lost.

They shut the government down last week, and they’re prepared to destroy the full faith and credit of the United States next week. They freely admit they’re prepared to impose self-inflicted wounds on Americans, on purpose, unless their demands are met.

And what are those demands? Even now, after months of planning and fiascos of their own making, the party’s own leaders and members haven’t the foggiest idea.

Here’s a radical suggestion: maybe Republicans can reopen the government, agree to skip the sovereign debt crisis, get their act together, and get back to us?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, October 9, 2013

October 10, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Debt Ceiling, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: