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“A Beginning, Not A Conclusion”: Showing Resolve, President Obama Pushes Republicans Toward Surrender

Watching his Republican adversaries in the House of Representatives tiptoe gingerly away from another destructive confrontation over the debt ceiling just before his second inaugural celebration, President Obama must feel a measure of satisfaction. Yet this is a beginning, not a conclusion. The hopes of the nation that re-elected him depend on whether he understands why he is winning – and how he can continue to prevail.

The formula for success was simple enough: He wouldn’t relinquish fundamental positions on taxes and spending. He stopped pretending that the old bipartisanship is currently possible on Capitol Hill. He refused to negotiate under threat from the Republicans. And he called their bluff on the fiscal cliff and the debt ceiling.

Adopting those firm positions, he persevered despite the usual deluge of complaint from commentators, politicians, editorial boards, and other Beltway sages, who predictably roasted him for behaving as if he meant what he said during last year’s campaign. Not surprisingly, however, the popular majority admires him and ignores his critics.

Of course, there is nothing new here: Americans prefer a political leader who displays a touch of grit, even if they don’t fully agree with that leader’s views or actions. Establishing a determined and principled persona is vital; compromise can come later.

Certainly Obama’s power has been enhanced by his election victory — a victory achieved by stiff resistance to the Republican agenda and willingness to fight back. Except for the second debate, when he reverted to old habits of vacillation and diffidence, the president showed steel during the campaign. And since Election Day, he has remained consistently decisive.

The rewards of steadfastness can be seen in the polls. Gallup shows a 7-point climb in his approval rating since last August, from 46 percent then to more than 53 percent last week. Rasmussen shows a climb of roughly 10 points during the same period, with a corresponding decline in disapproval. In the CNN/Time surveys, the president’s margin of approval has risen from 3 points last August to 12 points today. The latest ABC News/Washington Post poll finds that 61 percent regard him as a “strong leader,” 58 percent agreed with his view of the debt ceiling – and 67 percent say that congressional Republicans haven’t done enough to compromise with him on important issues. In all these polls and others, the public voices an exceptionally low opinion of Congress — and especially of congressional Republicans.

The Republicans still mutter threats about the budget, but their slow-motion surrender resulted directly from a growing perception of Obama’s resolve. He should continue to stare them down, unblinking, unless and until they abandon the Tea Party tactics of obstruction and blackmail.


By: Joe Conason, The National Memo, January 19, 2013

January 19, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Politics | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fundamentally Stupid And Dangerous”: The GOP Debt Ceiling Strategy Is “Hostage Taking”

Paul Krugman on Sunday accused the Republican leadership of holding the country hostage.

The Nobel-Prize winning economist and New York Times columnist argued that congressional Republicans are “threatening to blow up the world economy” if they don’t get their way in the debt-ceiling debate. After a difficult fiscal cliff battle, President Barack Obama said he would not negotiate over the debt ceiling, but Republicans have said they won’t authorize an increase in the country’s spending limit without major spending cuts.

“We should not allow this to become thought of as a legitimate or normal budget strategy,” Krugman said on ABC’s “This Week.” “This is hostage taking.”

Krugman has made similar statements in the past, particularly when defending the idea of minting a trillion-dollar platinum coin to avoid the debt ceiling crisis — a loophole the White House ruled out Saturday. In a blog post earlier this month, Krugman argued that Obama should be ready to mint the coin because it offered a “silly, but benign” solution to the crisis. The alternative: Putting the nation’s ability to meet its financial obligations at risk, an option that Krugman described as “both vile and disastrous.”

“The debt ceiling is a fundamentally stupid but dangerous thing,” Krugman said on “This Week.” “It’s incredibly scary, this is much scarier than the fiscal cliff,” he added later.

If Congress does nothing to raise the debt ceiling, the U.S. could lose its ability to meet its financial obligations by as early as February 15, according to a recent report from the Bipartisan Policy Center. Republican leaders and the White House came to an agreement earlier this month to address the so-called fiscal cliff, a combination of tax increases and spending cuts that economists warned could have plunged the country into recession.


By: Jillian Berman, The Huffington Post, January 13, 2013

January 14, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Congress And Cockroaches: A Rapidly Descending Congress Hasn’t Quite Hit Bottom Just Yet, But They’re Working On It

Think the “fiscal cliff” shenanigans and the upcoming debt limit fiasco have damaged the already battered reputation of Congress? If so, looks like you are right. PPP has a new survey out showing Congress’ favorability rating is down to single digits: a booming 9%, with 85% registering negative impressions.

Being playful folk (particularly for pollsters), the PPP staff decided to offer respondents a choice of preferances between Congress and various and sundry other highly unsavory people and things—and the lawmakers didn’t do very well:

It’s gross to have lice but at least they can be removed in a way that given the recent reelection rates members of Congress evidently can’t: Lice 67 Congress 19

Brussel sprouts may have been disgusting as a kid, but evidently they’re now a lot less disgusting than Congress: Brussel Sprouts 69 Congress 23

The NFL replacement refs may have screwed everything up, but voters think Congress is screwing everything up even worse: Replacement Refs 56 Congressmen 29 (the breakdown among Packers fans might be a little bit different).

Colonoscopies are not a terribly pleasant experience but at least they have some redeeming value that most voters aren’t seeing in Congress: Colonoscopies 58 Congress 31

And you can make the same point about root canals: Root Canals 56 Congress 32

It goes on and on, with used car salesmen, traffic jams, France, carnies, Nickelback, Genghis Khan, DC pundits, Donald Trump, and yes, cockroaches all beating Congress in public approbation. But there’s a slim silver lining:

The news isn’t all bad for Congress:

By relatively close margins it beats out Lindsey Lohan (45/41), playground bullies (43/38), and telemarketers (45/35). And it posts wider margins over the Kardashians (49/36), John Edwards (45/29), lobbyists (48/30), Fidel Castro (54/32), Gonorrhea (53/28), Ebola (53/25), Communism (57/23), North Korea (61/26), and meth labs (60/21).

So Congress hasn’t quite hit bottom just yet.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, January 8, 2013

January 9, 2013 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fools On The Hill”: “Nothing” Is Why Some Members Of Congress Went To Washington

We used to have a ship of state, and now we have a ship of fools.

To call what happened on Capitol Hill over the past few days Kabuki is to insult Kabuki. What actually happened was more like ancient farce when actors used to come out and hit each other over the head with socks full of cowpies.

Contrary to what you have heard, we did not face up to a financial or economic or budgetary crisis. All Congress and the White House did was slog through another political crisis.

And the way they did it was comical: a 2 a.m. vote in the Senate followed by an 11 p.m. vote in the House. This is drive-by government.

That the White House was going to win was never in doubt. Barack Obama won reelection in November by nearly 5 million votes. According to CBS News, his approval rating is at 57 percent.

The members of Congress, on the other hand, are close to being put in stocks and pelted with vegetables. According to CBS, congressional job approval is at 11 percent. Any lower than that and Congress might as well move to Canada and try there.

One of the reasons our politicians are held in such low regard is that what they do is so divorced from reality.

What was the No. 1 issue of the last election? What did both sides promise the American people? As I recall, it was jobs, jobs and more jobs. But what did the recent fiscal cliff law do about creating more jobs? Nothing.

Some politicians like nothing. Nothing is why they went to Washington. They want to shrink government, in the famous words of Grover Norquist, “down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub.”

Why? Because as Mitt Romney said in the campaign, 47 percent of voters “believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.”

(If you haven’t heard much from Romney since the election, it’s probably because he has been down in the Cayman Islands visiting his money.)

In this view, the government spends far too much on “entitlements” like Medicare. Medicare costs are strangling America, we hear, and according to the Congressional Budget Office, spending for Medicare in 2012 was a very hefty $555 billion.

But Medicare recipients are not exactly rolling in dough. In 2006, the last study my ace research team (Wikipedia) could find, the “average household income of Medicare enrollees was $22,600 compared with a U.S. median income of $48,201.”

Yet these people are viewed as greed-heads sucking up precious dollars that could be better spent on … defense contractors!

The defense budget for 2012 was more than $600 billion, which is nearly twice as much as the rest of the planet combined. We outspend China, the next biggest military power in the world, by about 6-to-1.

Maybe this wild spending would not be so bad if it bought us quick and easy victories over ill-armed opponents. But it doesn’t. We have poured more than a trillion dollars into the war in Afghanistan over the past 11 years — to say nothing of more than 2,000 precious U.S. lives lost — and we are still fighting there.

Some say this is good for the U.S. economy because it means we have to buy more and more bullets and bombs and drones, but personally I’d rather buy more liver transplants for the 47 percent.

Yet nobody in Washington is talking about serious cuts to the defense budget. On the contrary, they are talking about ways to avoid making serious cuts to the defense budget.

In the meantime, the government borrows more and more money, which means it keeps bumping up against the debt ceiling. The debt ceiling was invented as a way to keep Congress from spending too much, but it doesn’t work.

So we keep raising the debt ceiling. We raised it 18 times under Ronald Reagan, four times under Bill Clinton, seven times under George W. Bush and three times, as of August 2011, under Barack Obama.

As Obama points out, the debt ceiling does not allow Congress to spend more money. It merely allows the government to pay the bills Congress has already racked up.

In just a few weeks, we will face another crisis over the debt ceiling. It shouldn’t be a crisis, but politics will make it a crisis.

It’s a broken system. It’s why Americans hate politics.

Late on Jan. 1, President Obama briefly addressed the nation from a nearly empty White House briefing room. “I think, hopefully, in the new year we’ll focus on seeing if we can put a package like this together with a little bit less drama, a little less brinksmanship, not scare the heck out of folks quite as much,” he said.

A little bit less drama? Drama is what government is about these days. Drama is the only thing our elected leaders seem good at.

So you bring the socks. I’ll bring the cowpies.

By: Roger Simon, Politico, January 3, 2013

January 4, 2013 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A House Divided Against Itself”: The GOP Will Either Become All One Thing, Or All The Other

When House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) announced his opposition to the bipartisan fiscal agreement, it caused quite a stir. Cantor is not only a very influential GOP figure, but his comments came before House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) had even taken a position on the bill, and certainly gave the impression that the two were sharply at odds.

As speculation intensified — was this a precursor to Cantor challenging Boehner for the Speaker’s gavel? — the Majority Leader’s office tried to lower the temperature. Cantor’s chief spokesperson insisted that the Virginia Republican “stands with” Boehner, and rumors to the contrary were “silly, non-productive and untrue.”

But Cantor really didn’t stand with the Speaker, and speculation wasn’t — and isn’t — silly at all.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy broke with Speaker John Boehner Monday night, voting against a multi-trillion tax package designed to avert the fiscal cliff.

The decision to abandon Boehner — which came after Boehner’s leadership team whipped not only rank and file members but even other lower ranking members of leadership — will almost certainly set off a furious round of speculation about the future of his speakership, less than 48 hours before members are scheduled to vote on it.

It’s worth emphasizing, as John Stanton reported, that both Cantor and McCarthy waited to register a vote until the bill had 218 supporters, paying Boehner “the courtesy” of registering a preference without actively trying to bring down the entire bill.

But that doesn’t make up for the fact that when it came time for the biggest House vote in the last year, the Speaker was on one side and his top two lieutenants were on the other. Boehner is regularly ignored by his rank-and-file members, but it’s one thing when backbenchers go their own way on key pieces of legislation; it’s something else when the GOP leadership is split down the middle.

The next question, of course, is the short-term consideration: what happens tomorrow when House Republicans elect their Speaker for the next Congress?

The working assumption, which I’ve generally accepted, was that Boehner was in deep trouble if he passed the fiscal agreement by relying overwhelmingly on Democratic votes. There was no magic number, per se, but if the Speaker relied on 25 to 30 House Republicans to pass the bill, it would amount to a practical vote of no confidence.

But when the dust settled overnight, it was hard to miss the fact that 85 House Republicans voted with Boehner in support of the measure. Sure, the Speaker had to forgo the “Hastert Rule” and rely on a majority of the minority, and 151 House GOP members went the other way, but it’s tough to see 85 votes as a career-ender for Boehner.

Over the weekend, Politico reported, “It’s a truth that fire-breathing conservatives will have to handle: John Boehner isn’t going anywhere as speaker of the House.” To be sure, that was before the Senate agreement was reached and three days before last night’s vote, but it nevertheless seems accurate, barring 11th-hour drama.

The vote, after all, is tomorrow, and as of this minute, Boehner has no opposition. This has been an ugly couple of weeks for the Speaker, but he appears to have survived — weakened, but still standing. This, like the intra-party divisions, won’t help Boehner govern in the next Congress, but it should be enough to help him keep his gavel.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, January 2, 2012

January 3, 2013 Posted by | Congress | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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