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“Screwing Up A One-Car Funeral”: House Republicans Three-Headed Monster Of A legislative Vehicle For Its Views On Iran

One of the few things we all thought we could count on when Congress returned from its August recess was a quick vote in the House on a resolution of disapproval for the Iran Nuclear Deal. After all, (1) it’s an issue on which all congressional Republicans seem to agree, (2) there’s a mandated timetable for dealing with the resolution that everybody agreed on months ago, and (3) it’s all kinda Kabuki Theater right now because Democrats have the votes to filibuster the resolution in the Senate.

But sometimes with these birds even the simplest things come unglued. Suddenly today a “revolt of House conservatives”–by no means the first or last–occurred, and now pending a meeting of House GOPers that’s currently underway, the Party of Responsible Government looks likely to produce some sort of three-headed monster of a legislative vehicle for its views on Iran, per Politico‘s Jake Sherman:

They are moving toward voting on a measure asserting Obama did not submit all elements of the agreement with Iran, a concept first raised by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), a former member of GOP leadership. Second, Republicans are working on a bill to try to prevent Obama from lifting sanctions against Iran. Third, the House would vote on a resolution to approve of the Iran pact. The original plan was to vote on a disapproval resolution.

This first gambit is based on the growing right-wing furor over “side agreements” between the Iranians and international nuclear monitors, plus alleged other “secret” deals, which conservatives claim cancels the procedural timetable for any votes and also makes the administration vulnerable to lawsuits. Boil it all down, and it’s an effort to add the Iran Nuclear Deal to the long list of things on which the Tyrant Obama supposedly broke the law and violated the Constitution.

In other words, House GOPers are talking to themselves, and to the almighty base.

The third gambit supposedly makes the treasonous nature of Democrats more obvious by requiring them to vote for the deal, not just against a resolution of disapproval.

Trouble with that one, and with the whole package, is that it’s not being coordinated with the Senate, where it’s totally not welcome (guess Ted Cruz is too busy in Kentucky trying to get into photos with Kim Davis to serve as the liaison between House and Senate wingnuts). So what should have been the easiest of maneuvers in a very crowded and complicated schedule has become a fiasco (Greg Sargent calls it “snatching defeat from the jaws of defeat.”), and congressional GOPers have become the people who could screw up a one-car funeral. Just amazing.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 9, 2015

September 10, 2015 Posted by | House Republicans, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Senate | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Outcome On The Democratic Side Is Notable”: In An Unusual Development, Congressional Dems Display Admirable Backbone

This morning, Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced that she will be voting in favor of the Iran nuclear deal, making her the 34th supporter. That means that a move to override any veto of the bill opposing the deal will fail. In fact, it may not even get to an override vote; there are 10 Democrats remaining who have not made their position clear, and if seven of them side with the administration, the bill won’t get the 60 votes it needs to overcome a filibuster.

While you might explain this outcome in purely partisan terms — the Republicans all oppose the deal because it’s Barack Obama’s, and nearly all the Democrats stand behind their party’s leader — the outcome on the Democratic side is still notable, because it represents a triumph over the kind of attack before which Democrats have so often run frightened in the past.

If you’re too young to remember the time before the Iraq War turned into a disaster, you may not realize the state of constant fear Democrats used to live in when it came to national security. Particularly since Ronald Reagan’s presidency, Republicans were always ready to ridicule them as being “soft” — soft on defense, soft on the communists, soft on anything involving foreign threats. After 9/11, this attack went into a higher gear, as did Democrats’ fear that any show of softness would instantly be met with, “Why are you on the terrorists’ side?” and “Why don’t you support our troops?”

That’s why it was widely understood among Democrats in 2002 that no one with any national ambitions could vote against the Iraq War when the drums were beating so loudly. With only one exception (Florida’s Bob Graham), all the Senate Democrats who would run for president in 2004 or 2008 voted Yea, including Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, and John Kerry. Everyone assumed that was the only safe vote to take. And when Kerry became the party’s nominee in 2004, he centered his entire campaign on the story of his service in Vietnam, on the theory that a couple of chicken hawks like George Bush and Dick Cheney would never attack the patriotism of a war hero (that theory proved to be mistaken).

The failure of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars enabled Democrats to feel that they didn’t have to constantly bend over backward to show that they’re tough, when toughness is what cost the country so much in recent years. But the Iran debate put that belief to the test. That’s because for Democrats, there really is some risk in supporting this deal.

If the agreement proves to be a failure — let’s say that Iran manages to conduct a nuclear weapons program in secret, then announces to the world that they have a nuclear weapon — it will indeed be front-page news, and the Democrats who supported the deal might suffer grave political consequences. So in order to vote yes, they had to look seriously at the deal and its alternatives, and accept some long term political peril.

By contrast, there probably is less long term risk for Republicans in opposing the deal.

It’s true that if the deal does achieve its goals, it will be added to a list of things on which Republicans were spectacularly wrong, but which led them to change their opinions not a whit. The Iraq War didn’t have an appreciable impact on their views about the wisdom of starting new military engagements in the Middle East. Nor did their failed predictions about Bill Clinton’s tax-increasing 1993 budget (they all said it would cause a “job-killing recession” and every one of them voted against it) and George Bush’s tax cuts (they said the cuts would lead to an explosion of economic growth) alter their views on what effect tax increases have on the economy.

But if the deal works as intended, what will be the outcome be? Iran without nuclear weapons, of course, but that is a state of being rather than an event. There will be no blaring headlines saying, “Iran Still Has No Nukes — Dems Proven Right!” Five or ten years from now, Republicans will continue to argue that the deal was dreadful, even if Iran’s nuclear ambitions have been contained.

My guess is that now that the practical fight over this deal is essentially over, Republicans won’t bother to keep arguing about it too much. In the primaries, the presidential candidates will throw in a perfunctory line or two in their speeches about how awful it is, how they’ll tear it up on their first day in office, and how it shows that Democrats are weak. But with the deal now facing the lengthy task of implementation and no substantive victory possible for them, they won’t see much to be gained in harping on it. But they’ll probably continue to believe that calling Democrats weak on national security is tremendously effective, even if the Democrats themselves aren’t as afraid of that attack as they used to be.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, September 2, 2015

 

September 3, 2015 Posted by | Democrats, Iran Nuclear Agreement, National Security | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“McConnell Is Blowing It…Big Time”: McConnell Has Forgotten What Is At The Heart Of The Strategy He Invented

My take on Sen. Mitch McConnell has always been that he is not so interested in issues/policies as he is in the power game of politics. That approach was never on display more clearly than when he said that his number one goal was to ensure that Obama was a one-term president – in the midst of the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Given that, I will credit McConnell with being a good strategist. No matter how bad his total obstructionist tactics were for the country, they were a fairly effective power play. That’s why it’s been so fascinating to watch him fail so miserably lately.

As I wrote at the beginning of this Republican-controlled Congress, McConnell’s initial strategy was to paint President Obama as the new obstructionist by forcing him to veto legislation that would otherwise undo his agenda. But that is getting all gummed up by either the Democrats in the Senate standing strong or the lunatic caucus in his party making compromise impossible. The Majority Leader finds himself between a rock and a hard place and can’t seem to get much of anything to the President’s desk.

So instead of being able to label President Obama as the obstructionist, McConnell is now having to resort to using that one on the Democrats in Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) accused Democrats Wednesday of knee-jerk obstructionist tactics, flipping a script that Democrats used many times in recent years.

McConnell criticized Democrats for filibustering a motion to debate a House-passed bill funding the Department of Homeland Security that contained language blocking President Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

Aside from the irony of that coming from the great wielder of obstructionism, it seems that McConnell has forgotten what is at the heart of the strategy he invented. Here’s former Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren’s explanation.

A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people…

There are tens of millions of low-information voters who hardly know which party controls which branch of government, let alone which party is pursuing a particular legislative tactic. These voters’ confusion over who did what allows them to form the conclusion that “they are all crooks,” and that “government is no good,” further leading them to think, “a plague on both your houses” and “the parties are like two kids in a school yard.”

Those “low-information voters” don’t tend to know which party is pursuing which legislative tactic, but they sure do know which party holds the presidency. And they’ve likely heard about the “shellacking” the President’s party took in the 2014 midterms that gave control of Congress to the opposing party.

So the spectacle voters are witnessing right now is a Democratic President who is busy getting things done while Congress is gridlocked and McConnell whines that Democrats in the Senate won’t let him get anything done.

In other words, you’re blowing it McConnell…big time!

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 14, 2015

February 16, 2015 Posted by | Mitch Mc Connell, Obstructionism, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Lesson Not Learned”: There’s Another Shutdown Fight In Washington. Republicans Will Lose This One, Too

Congressional Republicans are in a tough spot. Funding for the Department of Homeland Security expires on February 27, but conservatives are demanding that any DHS funding bill also block President Barack Obama’s executive actions on immigration. That’s unacceptable to Senate Democrats, who filibustered the legislation three times last week.

And now we’re stuck. Some Republican senators are urging their House colleagues to accept a “clean” funding bill that doesn’t block Obama’s unilateral actions, but that’s unacceptable to House Republicans. “The House did its job,” Speaker John Boehner said Wednesday. “Now it’s time for the Senate to do their work.” No one is quite sure how this will end. “I guess the lesson learned is don’t put yourself in a box you can’t figure out a way to get out of,” Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito said.

The exact outcome may be unpredictable, but this impasse wasn’t.

Think back two months ago, when Congress needed to reach an agreement to fund the entire government. Conservatives were still seething at the president for taking executive action on immigration and wanted to use the government funding deadline as leverage to enact concessions from Obama. Republican leadership, on the other hand, was terrified that another government shutdown would be a political disaster for the GOP, just as they regained full control over Congress. And, they argued, Republicans would have more leverage in the 114th Congress, having won the Senate in November. The compromise was to fund the government through the rest of the fiscal yearwith the exception of the Department of Homeland Security, which was funded only until February 27.

Conservatives weren’t happy with the deal, but Boehner’s job was safe. More importantly, the Republican leadership had limited the political downside of a potential shutdown. Now, it wouldn’t be a full government shutdown, just one department. Given the Tea Party’s fury at Obama, that was a huge victory for Boehner.

But even though the current impasse was the best case scenario for Republicans, they still are in a tough position. The practical effects of a DHS shutdown are relatively minor, since most of DHS’s employees are classified as essential and thus would continue to work in the case of a shutdown. But the political implications of it are much worse. Obama can criticize the GOP for putting the U.S.’s national security at risk. “I can think of few more effective ways for Republicans to re-surrender national security as an issue to Obama than by taking the Department of Homeland Security hostage like this,” The New Republic’s Brian Beutler wrote in December. And that’s exactly what Obama has done in recent weeks. As February 27 approaches, Obama and other Democrats will only amplify that message.

Republicans are already trying to avoid blame for a DHS shutdown. “If there’s a shutdown, it wouldn’t be because of us,” Republican Senator Orrin Hatch said Tuesday. “The Democrats are filibustering it. I don’t know how we get blamed for that this time.” Hatch is rightDemocrats did filibuster the House-passed legislation on three separate occasions. But Republicans will probably take the blame. That’s how the politics of the filibuster work. The minority uses it to obstruct legislation and the majority takes the blame. Americans know that Republicans control both chambers of Congress. They aren’t paying attention to parliamentarian rules.

In all likelihood, this will end the same way every funding fight ends these days: Republican leadership will eventually bring up a clean bill and it will pass with mostly Democratic votes. That’s long been the GOP game plan. It’s also possible that Republican leadership will see this fight, with its relatively small stakes, as a good opportunity to build credibility with the Tea Party by standing up to Obama and refusing to pass a clean bill.

Neither of those outcomes are good for the GOP. But this is what happens when one ideological group has outsized control over a party and wants to pick funding fights that they are certain to lose.

 

By: Danny Vinik, The New Republic, February 12, 2015

February 15, 2015 Posted by | Dept of Homeland Security, Government Shut Down, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Burden Of Governing”: Boehner Tantrum Does The GOP Cause No Favors

If House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) tantrum yesterday was intended to get headlines, it was a striking success. News outlets everywhere were eager to tell the public that the Republican leader wants Senate Democrats “to get off their ass and do something.”

At issue, of course, is the dispute between the Republican-led House and the Republican-led Senate over funding for the Department of Homeland Security. When the Speaker, who still has no legislative accomplishments to his name, says he wants Dems to “get off their ass,” it’s little more than gibberish – Democrats aren’t being lazy; the congressional minority simply remains opposed to the anti-immigrant scheme cooked up by the majority.

Funny, Boehner thought filibusters were great when it was his party in the minority.

Nevertheless, the Speaker’s cursing notwithstanding, we’re left with a dispute that pits the Senate GOP against the House GOP, with each insisting the other has to do something before Homeland Security runs out of money in two weeks.

And if Boehner thought his whining yesterday might turn the tide, he was likely disappointed by the end of the day.

Republican Sen. Mark Kirk said Wednesday that his party made a mistake by picking a fight over President Barack Obama’s immigration actions, and said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) should bring up a “clean” bill to keep the Department of Homeland Security funded.

“I generally agree with the Democratic position here. I think we should have never fought this battle on DHS funding,” the Illinois senator told a few reporters in the Capitol.

The Illinois Republican added, “I don’t think we should have ever attached these issues to DHS funding. I always thought the burden of being in the majority is the burden of governing.” This is, of course, the polar opposite of what Kirk told reporters literally the day before.

But even putting Kirk’s contradictions aside, the larger point to keep in mind is that there are growing cracks in the GOP’s facade.

While Kirk was telling reporters that his fellow Republicans should just give up and pass a clean bill, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) also broke ranks, adding, “Using a spending bill to poke a finger in the president’s eye is not a good move.”

At least one House Republican also wants his party to throw in the towel and end the nonsense.

“From a political perspective, in my view, you’re better off passing a clean Homeland Security appropriations bill because it makes a lot of important changes many of us on the Republican side wanted – more detention beds and all sorts of improvements to border control,” Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.) told reporters.

“I think it’s better politically to vote for a clean appropriations bill,” he added. “That’s better on a policy basis as well as on a political basis. I’m going to urge that we do the DHS bill and not a CR, but a CR is better than a shutdown.”

House Republican leaders have worked from a bizarre assumption: as the deadline neared, Democrats would give in, reward the GOP with everything it wants, and abandon millions of immigrants in order to make the far-right happy. As long as Republicans kept the pressure on and refused to budge, Boehner and Co. thought, Democrats would magically move to the right.

As became clear yesterday, it’s actually Republicans who are giving up on this gambit and endorsing the Democratic position.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, February 12, 2015

February 13, 2015 Posted by | Dept of Homeland Security, John Boehner | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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