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“A Genuinely Dangerous Situation”: The Republican Party’s Dysfunction Is An Embarrassment To Us All

The movement within the House Republican conference to make Paul Ryan the next speaker has evolved into a desperate clamor, with members from almost every faction practically begging him to enter the race.

Ryan remains reluctant, if not quite Shermanesque in his reluctance, and for obvious reasons. Ryan has political ambitions beyond the House, but knows that the speakership is an office built to destroy a Republican leader’s partisan bona fides. Ryan is a great theoretical fit for the speakership, because he shares the right’s ideological extremism and the party establishment’s pragmatism, but stands to lose his good will with conservatives the instant he applies that pragmatism to funding the government or increasing the debt limit.

Under the circumstances, the only way for him to occupy the speakership without cashing in all his political stock would be to bring the House Freedom Caucus to heel in advance: Make its members pledge support to him, irrespective of his tactical opposition to defaulting on the debt and shutting down the government. The central question is whether House hardliners are chastened enough after two weeks of chaos to let Ryan dictate terms to them, not the other way around, and we have no indication that they are yet.

Assuming Ryan sticks to his guns and refuses the speakership (and that Boehner will ultimately resign, whether or not a new speaker has been elected), rank and file Republicans are going to have to take a serious look at forming a temporary coalition with Democrats.

At this point, Congress accomplishes little more than the bare minimum required to maintain status quo governance. Sometimes it’s unable to muster even that (see the Export-Import Bank, for just one example). But this thin record isn’t the bragging right of the Republican Party. It’s a bipartisan effort. And in the House, it’s mostly a Democratic one. The onus is on Democrats to supply most of the votes for the handful of things Congress actually does.

Under the circumstances, there’s a real logic to electing a coalition speaker—a placeholder who doesn’t fear activist retribution and can basically keep his hand on the tiller for the next year and a half, accomplishing little, but creating no damage. This person might have to make some nominal concessions to Democrats—no more debt limit or appropriations-driven extortion crises. Maybe the Benghazi committee would have to go. But the output of Congress would basically go unchanged.

The reason this is so unlikely, of course, is that partisan realities are solidified. Most Republicans might secretly wish for a drama-free resolution to the speakership crisis, but none of them want to place their careers on the line to join the coalition. Democrats, too, have a strong incentive to let Republicans eat themselves alive.

But that is ultimately the source of the House Freedom Caucus’ power. If one Republican were willing to make the sacrifice, or Boehner were willing to stick it out for the remainder of his elected term, the Freedom Caucus would be neutered. Instead, the Freedom Caucus is empowered to play whack-a-mole with various pretenders to the speakership, and can hold out until a candidate emerges who will make insane promises to them, and then attempt to deliver. Crises at every turn. Everyone loses, except them—and perhaps the press, which is understandably reveling in this story.

There’s also probably some difficult-to-measure upside for Democrats, who right now look like the model of competence and maturity compared to Republicans. But on the whole, it’s a disaster. There’s nothing partisan or biased about saying that one of the two major political parties in the country is broken, unable to work within its main governing institution, liable to inflict severe economic damage on the country. It’s a genuinely bad state of affairs, a huge embarrassment for the country, and—unless Boehner, Ryan, or some other white knight asserts himself—a genuinely dangerous situation.

 

By: Brian Beutler, Senior Editor at The New Republic, October 9, 2015

October 11, 2015 Posted by | GOP, House Freedom Caucus, House Republicans, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Gaping Void Of Their Own Making”: No Republican Is Fit, Able, And Willing To Run The House Of Representatives

If House Speaker John Boehner secretly had no intention to resign, and was instead using the threat of retirement to teach Republican House members that they need him—not the other way around—he’s doing a masterful job. But Boehner was engaged in no such ruse, and the Republican Party is drastically worse off as a result.

After making a series of ill-considered remarks over the past week that underscored his unfitness for the job, Boehner’s heir presumptive, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, withdrew his candidacy for the Speakership at a conference meeting Thursday afternoon. McCarthy, who helped recruit a huge class of conservative freshmen ahead of the GOP’s 2010 midterm landslide, had significant support within the conference. But he lacked the trust of a few dozen conservative hardliners, some of whom comprise the House Freedom Caucus, who have grown frustrated with the existing leadership team for its strategic reluctance to use legislative deadlines—especially those governing appropriations and the debt limit—as leverage to seek substantive concessions from Democrats. As doubts about McCarthy’s candidacy grew, it became clear that conservatives would resist a clean succession and fight his election on the House floor. 

This creates a void almost nobody in the House Republican conference is fit, able, or willing to fill. Minutes after McCarthy announced his decision, Representative Paul Ryan, whom most House Republicans consider the only senior member with the skill to bridge strategic divisions in the party, reiterated his absolute unwillingness to run.

“Kevin McCarthy is best person to lead the House, and so I’m disappointed in this decision,” Ryan’s statement read. “Now it is important that we, as a Conference, take time to deliberate and seek new candidates for the speakership. While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate. I continue to believe I can best serve the country and this conference as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.”

The most rational outcome, and the most ironic, would be for Boehner to rescind his own resignation, and to cite the chaos that took hold after his announcement as a reminder that the reactionaries who deposed him are completely lost without his leadership. When the people who threatened to fire you beg you not to quit instead, their bluff has been called.

But Boehner’s decision to resign was almost certainly not a feint. He has vowed to serve as Speaker until a replacement is selected, but not on a permanent basis. Somebody else—a somebody we don’t yet know, and whose motives and capabilities won’t be well understood—will have to emerge to fill the power vacuum. Representative Jeb Hensarling—a wily, far-right Republican from Texas—has played footsie with the idea. As a Boehner surrogate, Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole’s name has been kicked around, too, but he’s probably been too critical of Boehner’s antagonists to easily secure the gavel. None of the plausible candidates enjoys Ryan’s unique mix of support among conservatives and trust among the party establishment. But as willing members with broad support begin to express interest, the leadership race will resume, and the election that was supposed to occur today will be rescheduled.

What’s more clear now than it was two weeks ago—and it was fairly clear back then—is how crucial it is for Boehner to use his numbered days to clear the deck for the next Speaker, and most importantly to increase the national debt limit in advance of an anticipated lapse in borrowing authority early next month. The consequences of a default on the national debt are too high to hand the debt limit to an untested speaker, or to allow Freedom Caucus members and other conservatives to hijack the issue. Boehner has committed, again, to remaining Speaker until a new one is selected. If Boehner hands responsibility for the debt limit over to this crew, instead of increasing it unconditionally while he has control, it’ll be his most reckless, cowardly, shameful moment.

 

Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, October 8, 2015

October 9, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, John Boehner, Speaker of The House, U. S. House of Representatives | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Put Up Or Shut Up”: An Open Letter To The GOP Regarding Its Dearest Enemy

Dear Republican Party:

Impeach President Obama.

Go ahead, you know you want to do it. The very thought makes you warm and gooey inside.

Yes, your leadership has disavowed any intention of initiating impeachment, but that sure hasn’t stopped your rank and file from speculating on the possibility with undisguised glee. The prospect has long had them salivating.

Soon-to-be former Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann once said nary a weekend goes by without someone asking her what Congress is waiting for. Once-and-perhaps-future presidential aspirant Mike Huckabee once said the president has done many things “worthy of impeachment.” Texas Rep. Randy Weber once said the president “absolutely” deserves that fate. Earlier this year, a CNN poll found 57 percent of your party in agreement.

And surely this year’s midterms, wherein you tightened your hold on the House and took over the Senate only makes the idea more tantalizing. Indeed, just this week, Texas Rep. Joe Barton said impeachment was a definite possibility.

Impeach President Obama.

You have already floated many rationales for doing so. You’ve wanted to impeach him both for things he’s done and for things you only think he’s done: failing to protect the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi; trading Taliban fighters for a captured American soldier; passing legislation — the Affordable Care Act — you dislike; making unconstitutional appointments to executive branch offices. You’ve also wanted to impeach him for things he’s only been reported to be thinking about: sending troops to Syria or using executive orders to change the immigration system.

Pick one of those. Or just impeach him for being from Kenya. At this point, does the rationale even matter? Impeach President Obama.

Do it for America.

The U.S. electorate, after all, has a short memory and shorter attention span. It periodically needs what you have periodically provided and what impeachment proceedings would provide yet again: a reminder that something has gone awry in the Grand Old Party. It is no longer the party of Eisenhower or Reagan, nor the party of Bush the elder nor even the party of Bob Dole, your 1996 standard bearer who said in April, “I thought I was a conservative, but we’ve got some in Congress now who are so far right they’re about to fall out of the Capitol.”

The ever-blunt Dole was only saying what other GOP elders and other concerned observers have been saying for years: You have become an outlier, a haven of cranks and extremists. And you are driven by hatred — the word is not too strong — of the 44th president.

You don’t like his politics, nor should you. But this is not solely about politics and never has been. This is personal. You don’t like him. Your reasons for that antipathy have never been definitively defined — at least, not by you — but its existence can no longer be denied, not after all you’ve done to make it plain.

You’ve refused to accept the legitimacy of his presidency, though he was twice elected without Supreme Court help. You’ve supported false theories of foreign birth. You’ve damaged the nation’s credit rating rather than pass a routine authorization. You’ve killed your own legislation when you learned that he supported it. You’ve made compromise a curse word. You’ve raised obstruction to high art and made getting nothing done a badge of perverse honor.

Yet, you haven’t managed to get rid of him. What’s left except the ultimate sanction? So for yourself and for the rest of us, please put up or shut up:

Impeach President Obama.

Show America what you’re made of. Yet again.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, November 12, 2014

November 12, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Impeachment, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Karl Rove: Setting The Bar For “Success” Too Low

Karl Rove’s new Wall Street Journal column is all about House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) “surprising success” so far in 2011. As Rove sees it, Boehner has had a “remarkable run” by having “out-maneuvered” President Obama repeatedly.

Mr. Boehner may not be an inspiring orator, but he has moved the country and Congress in his direction. He has succeeded in large part because he had a more modest view of the post than his recent predecessors. […]

So Washington’s agenda this fall will reflect the priorities not of the glitzy Mr. Obama but of the modest, well-grounded Mr. Boehner.

Rove’s larger point seems to be that Boehner — or at least Boehner’s caucus — is largely dictating the agenda in Washington, and there’s obviously some truth to that. By refusing to compromise, adopting an unyielding right-wing agenda, and normalizing extortion politics, House Republicans have had considerable success, at least insofar as they’re dictating terms and fighting debates on their turf.

But Rove’s column comes across as kind of silly if one stops to think about the larger context.

For all of Rove’s gushing about the Speaker’s “surprising success,” Boehner’s tenure has been a seven-month-long fiasco. The Speaker has routinely struggled to keep his caucus in line behind his leadership, for example, and has found in many key instances that House Republicans simply don’t care what Boehner thinks. Whereas the Speaker traditionally is one of Washington’s most powerful players, Boehner is arguably the weakest Speaker we’ve seen in many decades — he’s not leading an unruly caucus; his unruly caucus is leading him.

Indeed, Rove seems especially impressed that Boehner has blocked White House attempts at additional revenue. What Rove neglects to mention is that Boehner was fully prepared to make an agreement with Obama for additional revenue, only to find that the Speaker’s caucus would forcefully reject the compromise.

What’s more, looking back at Boehner’s “successes,” it’s hard not to notice that Congress hasn’t passed any meaningful legislation at all this year — and in all likelihood, the Speaker will help oversee a Congress in which nothing of significance passes at all.

What have we seen from Boehner’s chamber since January? Five resignations, zero jobs bills, two near-shutdowns, no major legislative accomplishments, and the first-ever downgrade of U.S. debt, attributed almost entirely to the antics of Boehner’s Republican caucus.

Also note, thanks to Boehner’s sterling work, Congress now has its lowest approval rating in three decades, and Boehner’s personal approval ratings are spiraling in the wrong direction.

If Rove finds this impressive, I’m afraid he’s set the bar for “success” much too low.

 

By: Steve Benen, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, August 25, 2011

August 26, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Jobs, Lawmakers, Middle Class, Politics, President Obama, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, Standard and Poor's, Tax Increases, Taxes, Teaparty, Unemployed | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eric Cantor’s Slick Upper Lip: “I Want What I Want When I Want it”

Eric Cantor has perfected the strategic sneer.

It comes, frequently, when he answers a reporter’s question about something President Obama has said: The House majority leader’s lip curls up on the left side and a look of disgust washes over his face. This week, he has been coupling the sneer with lines such as:

“How in the world can you even accept that notion?”

And, “That is laughable on its face.”

And, “That doesn’t make sense. . . . That again is just nonsensical.”

And, “Come on — let us think about this.”

Cantor, who is establishing himself as the lead GOP negotiator with the White House as the Aug. 2 default deadline approaches, is answering calls for compromise with contempt. He shook his fist during a news conference Tuesday and said that Obama’s thinking is “unfathomable to me.” To Obama’s complaint that the wealthy are not sharing in the budget sacrifice, he scoffed: “There is plenty of so-called shared sacrifice.” Asked about Obama’s belief that people like him should pay more in taxes, Cantor retorts: “You know what? He can write a check any time he wants.”

He draws out the vowels in a style that is part southern, part smarty-pants. Had young Cantor spoken like this at his prep school in Richmond, the bigger boys may well have wiped that sneer off his face. Yet even then, Cantor was accustomed to having things his way. According to Cantor’s hometown Richmond Times-Dispatch, the quotation he chose to accompany his yearbook photo was “I want what I want when I want it.”

What Cantor wants now is power — and he is prepared to risk the full faith and credit of the United States to get it. In a primacy struggle with House Speaker John Boehner, he has done a deft job of aligning himself with Tea Party House members in opposition to any meaningful deal to resolve the debt. If the U.S. government defaults, it will have much to do with Cantor.

He pulled out of debt-limit talks with Vice President Biden. He shot down the outline of a compromise that Boehner attempted to negotiate. Now Cantor has essentially taken over talks with the White House, and he has tamped down any hint of conciliation.

On Monday, Boehner hinted that he could accept a tax-reform deal that brought “additional revenues to the federal government” — and his spokesman confirmed that the proposal would be “scored” by the Congressional Budget Office as increasing tax revenue. But Cantor was having none of it: “We are not raising taxes, so it has to be net revenue neutral.”

Cantor’s aides say he is merely reflecting his caucus. But Cantor, a veteran of a decade in the Capitol, surely knows that he is jettisoning the last chance in the next couple of years to make a serious dent in the national debt. The White House has so far offered up a tantalizing array of concessions — $4 trillion in budget cuts and overhauls of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – but Cantor has yet to offer anything but sneers.

He flashed the trademark facial expression even before taking his seat at a Monday news conference. Asked whether he would offer any concessions, Cantor responded by saying that the cuts he demanded from the White House were in fact concessions by him, too. “Nobody relishes the opportunity to go and cut these programs,” said the creator of the YouCut Web site that made budget-cutting into an online game. Cantor further said that it was a concession merely to avoid a government default.

The search for a Cantor concession continued. “In terms of shared sacrifice across the country, do you see that one as necessary?”

Cantor swung his arm over his chair back and raised his upper lip. “I think behind this notion of ‘We want shared sacrifice’ that they continue to say means, ‘We want to raise taxes,’ ” he said.

Claiming that there have been “concessions made already” by his side, Cantor was pressed to name some of them. “I don’t want to get into specifics now,” he said.

Leaving a House Republican caucus meeting Tuesday morning, Cantor approached the microphones, flashed the cameras a good-morning sneer and demanded to know “why in the world” Obama wants to increase taxes.

NBC’s Luke Russert asked what “sacred cows” Cantor would be willing to sacrifice. Cantor repeated his denunciation of Obama’s tax policy.

“Where do the Republicans feel pain here, though?” Russert persisted.

After a long and contemptuous day, the majority leader probably feels it most in his upper lip.

 

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 12, 2011

July 13, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Democracy, Economic Recovery, Economy, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, Tax Loopholes, Taxes, Unemployed, Wealthy | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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