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“An Upending Of Reason In The House”: Republican Efforts To Placate Conservatives Aren’t Working

After conservatives on Thursday brought down House Speaker John Boehner’s bill to address the border crisis, the new House Republican leadership team issued a joint statement declaring that President Obama should fix the problem himself.

“There are numerous steps the president can and should be taking right now, without the need for congressional action,” the leadership quartet proclaimed, “to secure our borders and ensure these children are returned swiftly and safely to their countries.”

Who’s in the what now?

Just the day before, House Republicans had voted to sue Obama for using his executive authority. They called him lawless, a usurper, a monarch, a tyrant — all for postponing deadlines in the implementation of Obamacare. Now they were begging him to take executive action to compensate for their own inability to act — even though, in this case, accelerating the deportation of thousands of unaccompanied children coming from Central America would likely require Obama to ignore a 2008 law.

This was not a momentary lapse but a wholesale upending of reason.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the Appropriations Committee chairman who had been leading the GOP side in the border legislation debate, told reporters much the same thing after the legislation was pulled from the floor. “I think this will put a lot more pressure on the president to act,” he said, according to The Post’s Paul Kane and Ed O’Keefe. “He has the authority and power to solve the problem forthwith.”

Apparently, if Obama is using his executive authority to advance a policy House Republicans support, it’s a meritorious exercise of presidential authority; if he uses that same authority to aid a policy they oppose, it’s time to write up articles of impeachment.

In another action this week, Republicans acknowledged, at least tacitly, that Obama has the executive authority to postpone deportations. The House majority drafted, and scheduled a vote on, legislation that would forbid the executive branch from anything that would “expand the number of aliens eligible for deferred action.”

But in proposing such legislation (which was pulled from the floor along with the border bill), Republicans implicitly acknowledged that Obama has such power now. Therefore, until both chambers of Congress can pass such a law by veto-proof margins, Obama retains the power. This is probably why House Republicans, just two weeks earlier, scoffed at the suggestion that they pass this sort of legislation when the idea came up before the Rules Committee.

If the GOP position sounds contradictory, that’s because it’s less about the Constitution than cleavages within the party. There are real questions about Obama’s abuses of power — say, the spying on Americans by the National Security Agency or the use of drones to kill U.S. citizens overseas — but the opposition party has left those largely untouched. The planned lawsuit was a bone thrown to conservatives to quiet their impeachment talk. The legislation restricting Obama’s executive authority on immigration was a similar effort to buy off conservatives who had been encouraged to rebel by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.).

But the efforts to placate conservatives aren’t working. The new House GOP leadership team took over Thursday, but a mere two hours after Rep. Eric Cantor gave his valedictory as majority leader on the House floor, his successor did a face-plant.

All morning, GOP leaders had been predicting that they had sufficient Republican votes to pass Boehner’s border bill. But then conservatives, under pressure from Cruz and far-right interest groups, began to go squishy, and the new leader, Kevin McCarthy, announced that he was pulling the border bill from the floor and that members could depart early for their five-week summer break.

What followed was as close as Congress gets to one of those fistfights in the Taiwanese parliament. Mainstream Republicans besieged Boehner and McCarthy on the House floor, noisily demanding that they do something about the border crisis before going on holiday. Half an hour later, McCarthy announced that “additional votes are possible today.”

Boos and jeers rained down on the new leader. The speaker pro tempore, Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.), banged the gavel violently for order. Some lawmakers had to be called back from National Airport.

The hapless new majority leader, and his equally hapless new majority whip, Steve Scalise, called Republicans to an emergency meeting, where after fierce argument it was decided . . . that they would meet again on Friday.

Boehner, earlier in the day, tried to be philosophical. “I take my job one day at a time,” he said.

The problem with day-by-day leadership, though, is inconsistency: What you do on Thursday has a way of contradicting what you said on Wednesday.

 

By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 1, 2014

August 2, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Poison Of Ideology”: Republicans Have Even More Pain In Store For Their Base In Poor White Real America

Rick Santorum is right. Not far right, crazy right, piously right or, on most issues, never right. He is all of those things. But under the rubric that even a blind pig can find an acorn every now and then, the moral scourge of the Republican Party is on to something — a greater truth.

Earlier this summer, Santorum said Republicans look like the party of plutocrats, stiffing working people and the poor. The 2012 convention, he noted, was a parade of one-percenters, masters of the universe and company owners.

“But not a single — not a single — factory worker went out there,” he said. “Not a single janitor, waitress or person who worked in that company! We didn’t care about them.”

They still don’t care, and the darkening events of what looks to be an autumn of catastrophic failure by a Congress stuffed with extremists will prove Santorum’s point ever more.

Late Thursday, despite pleas from Catholic bishops and evangelicals, the Republican-dominated House passed a bill that would deprive 3.8 million people of assistance to buy food next year. By coincidence, this is almost the exact amount of people who have managed to remain just above the poverty line because of that very aid, the Census Bureau reported a few days ago.

A Republican majority that refuses to govern on other issues found the votes to shove nearly 4 million people back into poverty, joining 46.5 million at a desperation line that has failed to improve since the dawn of the Great Recession. It’s a heartless bill, aimed to hurt. Republicans don’t see it that way, of course. They think too many of their fellow citizens are cheats and loafers, dining out on lobster.

Certainly there are frauds among the one in seven Americans getting help from the program formerly known as food stamps. But who are the others, the easy-to-ignore millions who will feel real pain with these cuts? As it turns out, most of them live in Red State, Real People America. Among the 254 counties where food stamp use doubled during the economic collapse, Mitt Romney won 213 of them, Bloomberg News reported. Half of Owsley County, Ky., is receiving federal food aid. Half.

You can’t get any more Team Red than Owsley County; it is 98 percent white, 81 percent Republican, per the 2012 presidential election. And that hardscrabble region has the distinction of being the poorest in the nation, with the lowest household income of any county in the United States, the Census Bureau found in 2010.

Since nearly half of Owsley’s residents also live below the poverty line, it would seem logical that the congressman who represents the area, Hal Rogers, a Republican, would be interested in, say, boosting income for poor working folks. But Rogers joined every single Republican in the House earlier this year in voting down a plan to raise the minimum wage over the next two years to $10.10 an hour.

The argument holding back higher pay — a theory that Republicans accept without challenge — is that raising wages for the poorest workers would be bad for companies, and bad for hiring.

But experience debunks this convenient political shelter. Washington State has the highest state-mandated minimum wage in the country, $9.19 an hour, and an unemployment rate that has been running below the national average. It’s not all Starbucks, Amazon and Microsoft in Seattle, either. In the pine-forested sliver of eastern Washington, a high-wage state bumps right up against low-wage Idaho. Fast-food outlets flourish in Washington, the owners have said, because they can retain workers longer, while Idaho struggles to find qualified people to hold entry-level jobs.

Costco, they of the golf-cart-size containers of gummy bears, has long paid wages and benefits well above the industry average for big-box stores, and it hasn’t hurt the bottom line. The stock is up 79 percent over the last five years. Costco, to its credit, is urging Congress to raise the minimum wage. But that’s one big business Republicans will not listen to, because it breaks with the heartless credo of the new G.O.P.

The movement for higher minimum pay is raging through the states just now, with ballot initiatives and legislation plans. The people, in this case, will have to circumvent a Congress bent on actively trying to hurt the poor.

Republicans have more pain in store for their base in poor white America. Shutting down government, for one, will cause a ripple effect that will be hardest on those living paycheck-to-paycheck. The biggest obsession, the Moby-Dick of the right wing, is making sure millions of people do not have access to affordable health care. This week, Republicans drew the line for any doubters: they will wreck lives to blow up the health care law.

You have to wonder where this animus for those in the economic basement comes from. It’s too easy to say Republicans hate the poor. Limousine liberals can seem just as insensitive. And if Republicans were offering some genuinely creative approaches to helping the 26 million Americans who self-identified as “lower class” in a recent survey, they would deserve a listen. Tax cuts, the party’s solution to everything, do nothing for people who pay no federal income tax.

What’s at work here is the poison of ideology. Underlying the food assistance fight is the idea that the poor are lazy, and deserve their fate — the Ayn Rand philosophy. You don’t see this same reasoning applied to those Red State agricultural-industrialists living high off farm subsidies, and that’s why Republicans have separated the two major recipient groups of federal food aid. Subsidized cotton growers cannot possibly be equated with someone trying to stretch macaroni into three meals.

But Republican House leaders do have some empathy — for themselves. National Review reported this week that Representative Phil Gingrey, a hard-right conservative who wants to be the next senator from Georgia, complained in a private meeting about being “stuck here making $172,000 a year.” To say the least, he doesn’t yet qualify for food assistance.

 

By: Timothy Egan, The New York Times, September 19, 2013

September 20, 2013 Posted by | Poverty, Republicans | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Long-Predicted Comeuppance”: House Falls Apart When The GOP Actually Tries To Implement The Ryan Budget Plan

House Republicans failed to pass an appropriations bill on Wednesday that would have cut federal transportation spending by $4.4 billion, halting their first attempt to implement the deep cuts to federal spending they have campaigned on and supported in the past.

In March, for the third time, House Republicans passed a budget outline written by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI). This Ryan Budget included a radical re-do of Medicare for anyone 55 and under along with even more cuts than the previous two because it kept the sequestration in place, while shifting the defense cuts to other areas of the budget, and set a course for the budget to be balanced within 10 years.

“With this action, the House has declined to proceed on the implementation of the very budget it adopted three months ago,” said appropriations chair Hal Rogers (R-KY). “Thus I believe that the House has made its choice: sequestration — and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary cuts — must be brought to an end.”

It’s much harder to vote for $4.4 billion in cuts when you — and your opponents — see how those cuts would actually hit your district and you know they have no chance of passing the Senate or being signed into law by the president.

Talking Points Memo‘s Brian Beulter called the collapse of the bill as the House breaks for its August recess “the GOP’s long-predicted comeuppance.”

“It might look like a minor hiccup, or a symbolic error,” he wrote. “But it spells doom for the party’s near-term budget strategy and underscores just how bogus the party’s broader agenda really is and has been for the last four years.”

Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) in a press conference on Thursday asserted that the votes were there to pass the bill, even though the bill’s manager, Tom Latham (R-IA), said, “I’m not sure that the votes were all there,” on Wednesday.

Boehner assured reporters that his caucus’ strategy was not falling apart, but he did call for a short-term continuing resolution to prevent a government shutdown.

“It’s clear that we’re not going to have the appropriations bills finished by September 30,” Boehner said Thursday morning. “I believe a continuing resolution for some short period of time would probably be in the nation’s interest. But having said that, the idea of operating for an entire year under a CR is not a good way to do business. And I’ve been working with [appropriations chairman Hal Rogers] to try to find a way to actually do all of these appropriations bills. I think it’s important for Congress to do its work.”

It’s so important that Boehner has the House scheduled to be in session for nine whole days in September.

 

By: Jason Sattler, The National Memo, August 1, 2013

August 2, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Nature Of His Public Service”: John Boehner’s Plan To Hurt The Country On Purpose

Sequestration cuts, we learned yesterday, continue to undermine the U.S. economy severely, and are quickly losing support of the congressional Republicans who pushed for the policy in the first place. As the GOP budget strategy unravels, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) said yesterday the sequester is “unrealistic,” “ill-conceived,” and a policy that “must be brought to an end.”

For now, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) doesn’t give a darn.

Speaker John A. Boehner came before the mics on Thursday, and he made one thing clear: The sequester is here to stay until the White House gets serious about spending cuts.

“Sequestration is going to remain in effect until the president agrees to cuts and reforms that will allow us to remove it,” the Ohio Republican said to reporters in his weekly news conference. “The president insisted on the sequester none of us wanted, none of us like it, there are smarter ways to cut spending.”

It’s frightening how little Boehner understands about this policy. He’s the Speaker of the House, for goodness sake.

First, the president didn’t “insist on the sequester.” That’s just crazy.

Second, if “none of us” want this stupid policy, it’s within Boehner’s power to stop the cuts that are hurting the country on purpose. For reasons that only make sense to him, the Speaker refuses.

Third, Boehner’s argument is that he’ll stop deliberately undermining the country when Obama “agrees to cuts and reforms.” But Obama has already approved $1.5 trillion in spending cuts, and offered Republicans even more. So far, GOP officials have offered no comparable concessions.

And finally, there’s the problem Boehner doesn’t like to talk about: he has no alternative.

In effect, he’s saying, “When Obama agrees to make me happy, I’ll agree to end the pain.” And what would make Boehner happy? He won’t say — Obama is supposed to just offer Republican goodies, in the hopes that the House Speaker will eventually say he’s satisfied and turn off the policy that’s hurting the country on purpose.

Maybe Boehner should take a moment to consider how he defines the nature of “public service.” Does he seriously believe he’s acting in the nation’s best interests by pushing a policy both parties hate and is clearly undermining economic growth and job creation?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 1, 2013

August 2, 2013 Posted by | Sequester, Sequestration | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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