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“A Complete Lack Of Credibility On The Subject”: After Sabotage Letter, Cotton Wants US To ‘Speak With One Voice’

Congressional Republicans are unanimous in their opposition to the international nuclear agreement with Iran, but even among GOP lawmakers, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) stands out as unique. Arguably no American lawmaker has done more to undermine U.S. foreign policy than the right-wing freshman.

This week, as support for the diplomatic deal grows on Capitol Hill, opponents confronted the very real possibility that a Republican bill to derail the agreement may not even get the 60 votes it needs in the Senate to overcome a Democratic filibuster. This in turn led Cotton to issue a fascinating press statement (via Salon’s Simon Maloy).

“First, the president did an end-run around the Constitution by refusing to submit the Iran deal as a treaty requiring a two-thirds vote of the Senate for approval. Now Harry Reid wants to deny the American people a voice entirely by blocking an up-or-down vote on this terrible deal. […]

 “The Congress and the president should speak with one voice when it comes to dealing with the Iranians, but it seems that Harry Reid believes that only his and the president’s voices matter.”

Tom Cotton, in case anyone has forgotten, wrote a letter to Iranian officials in March, telling them not to trust U.S. officials, all in the hopes of sabotaging American foreign policy and derailing the international diplomatic talks. The Republican senator corralled 46 of his GOP Senate colleagues to join him in this dangerous stunt, which according to our allies, had the effect of helping Iran during delicate negotiations and embarrassing the United States.

Here’s a radical idea: maybe Tom Cotton should avoid lectures about the importance of Congress and the White House speaking “with one voice when it comes to dealing with the Iranians.” Unless the right-wing senator is deliberately trying to become a laughingstock, he should take a moment to acknowledge his lack of credibility on the subject.

As for Cotton’s affection for up-or-down votes, I’m tempted to ask the senator, “Are you new here?” The answer, as it turns out, is, “Yes” – the Arkansas Republican was only in the U.S. House for a year when he announced his Senate bid, and he’s only been in the upper chamber for seven months.

In other words, Cotton may not realize that his own GOP colleagues effectively created a new standard in the Senate, mandating that practically every bill of any consequence needs a minimum of 60 votes to advance. If Cotton disapproves, he can blame Mitch McConnell.

Of course, the Arkansan’s press release yesterday serves as a reminder of just how poorly the debate is going for the far-right. The Republican target in the Senate has always been 67 votes – in part because they saw 60 votes as a foregone conclusion. As of this week, however, even that goal is in doubt.

Cotton added yesterday, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) “is obstructing because he is scared.” Someone’s scared, but I don’t think it’s Harry Reid.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 26, 2015

August 27, 2015 Posted by | 47 Traitors, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Tom Cotton | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Minimum Wage Is A Self-Made GOP Problem”: Conservatives Believe Losing Now Means Losing Forever

Too bad George W. Bush is persona non grata among congressional Republicans. If he were less unpopular, they might find in the waning years of his presidency an example of what to do about a vexing issue facing them in 2016, an issue Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called that “gosh darn” minimum wage.

In their bid to take over the Congress in 2006, the Democrats vowed to raise a federal minimum wage that had remained unchanged since the second term of the Clinton administration. After sweeping midterm victories in both chambers, congressional Democrats put the issue on their agenda, calling for an incremental increase from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 by 2009.

That wasn’t enough for Barack Obama, who vowed to raise the minimum wage to $9.50 by 2011 if elected president. His promise, however, came before the Great Recession cast a pall over many of his campaign promises. The minimum wage has remained $7.25 since he took office. (It is now higher in some cities and states; New York State recently raised it to $15 an hour in the New York City metropolitan area and $12.50 upstate.)

So the push to raise the minimum wage isn’t new. That’s a bit counterintuitive given the attention being paid to economic inequality, an issue that arose in the aftermath of the 2007 financial collapse. Even Republican contenders for the White House are obliged at least to pay lip service to the issue. And to be sure, a stagnant minimum wage is the bedrock of economic inequality. But the thread of the debate began during the second Bush administration, which was hostile or indifferent to the law, and allowed the purchasing power of the base wage to erode while the cost of living continued to climb or, indeed, soar. (To briefly illustrate, using 2013 dollars: if the minimum wage were $7.25 in New York City, the actual value would be about $4 an hour.)

What did President Bush do that could serve as a model for today’s congressional Republicans? First, two observations. One, Bush’s presidency was nearing historic levels of unpopularity by 2007. Two, voters tend to punish the party in power in hard times. The 2008 election was going to be rough for any GOP candidate.

But also keep in mind the nature of the business wing of the GOP. It is against wage mandates, because wages cut into profits. But the faction is also politically canny. It was willing to concede to demands for a higher minimum wage, if conceding weakened Democrats in 2008. Put another way: if Republicans had continued to resist raising the wage, then the wage issue may have become more potent for Barack Obama. So the business wing of the Republican Party — including 82 members of the House, all but three senators, and the president — held its nose and supported a wage hike.

The conservative wing of the GOP, on the other hand, is the opposite of canny. It does not see the wisdom of conceding on the minimum wage, even as the minimum wage has taken on more significance than it had a decade ago. Conservatives believe losing now means losing forever, and losing is inconceivable given the righteousness of their cause. Therefore, the more they resist raising the minimum wage, the more potent it will be for the Democratic Party’s nominee. As Harry Reid told The Hill yesterday: “If Republicans don’t do something about it, it’s a major issue.”

Reid was commenting on the most recent effort to exploit conservative intransigence. In the past, the Democrats called for $10.10 an hour. Yesterday, Senator Patty Murray introduced a bill raising the wage to $12 by 2020. The Raise the Wage Act, she said, would affect 38 million workers. Moreover, she was clearly relishing the moment. “I want to hear what the Republican presidential candidates have to say about this,” she said.

And they responded in predictable fashion.

Ted Cruz said the bill would be a “job-killing” disaster. Marco Rubio warned that workers would be replaced by robots. Scott Walker questioned the validity of wage mandates in general. Rand Paul said a base wage is good for young people but nobody else. And Jeb Bush, who most represents the interests of the business wing of the Republican Party, punted to the “private sector.”

You’ve got to wonder whom they think they are speaking for. According to a February poll by the Associated Press, 6 in 10 favor raising the minimum wage, including 40 percent of Republicans. In 2013, Gallup found more than 71 percent in favor, including half of Republicans. Last year, a Washington Post/ABC News survey found that 50 percent of respondents are more likely to vote for candidates who favor raising the minimum wage.

Clearly, the Republican presidential field isn’t speaking for the majority, or even for members of their party who see the good in increasing the wage. Jeb Bush is speaking for a business faction that fears higher wages eating into profits, while the rest is speaking for conservatives who believe compromise equals surrender.

The smart thing would be to give in now to prevent the minimum wage from haunting the Republican candidate later. But don’t hold your breath. On the occasion last summer when Mitch McConnell complained about the Democrats proposing to raise that “gosh darn” minimum wage (once again!), he added one more comment suggesting there’s no returning to the political pragmatism the George W. Bush administration exhibited in 2007.

“These people believe in all the wrong things,” he said.

 

By: John Stoehr, Managing Editor of The Washington Spectator; The National Memo, May 8, 2015

May 9, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Minimum Wage, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Pain For The Afflicted, Benefits For The Rich”: The Republican Party’s Top Priority Is To Raise Taxes On The Poor. Literally.

Following their convincing victory in the 2014 elections, everyone is wondering what Republicans will do with their new majority in the Senate and House. Well, their policy agenda is becoming clear. It will be unrestrained class warfare against the poor.

This priority was made apparent over the last week during the negotiation of a colossal tax cut package. Senate Democrats and Republicans had been doing some low-key negotiations to renew a slew of tax cuts for corporations and lower- and middle-income Americans, according to reporting from Brian Faler and Rachel Bade at Politico.

Then President Obama announced his executive action on immigration. Enraged Republicans promptly took vengeance on all the goodies for the working poor (as well as for clean energy), cutting them out of the deal and proposing a raft of permanent tax cuts for corporations alone worth $440 billion over 10 years. Cowed Democrats, led by Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), were about ready to go along, prompting a decidedly justified outcry from liberals. Obama then threatened a veto, and the negotiations broke down entirely.

A few takeaways from this. First, it’s yet another reminder that Republicans don’t care about the national debt. Conservative carping about the debt is 100 percent of the time a rhetorical cudgel deployed with utter cynicism against programs they dislike for other reasons. When the topic is food stamps or unemployment insurance, they demand offsets to pay for them. (Because “we’re broke,” as Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) put it in a similar context.) But when it comes to dropping planeloads of money on corporations and rich people, Republicans will casually blow a half-trillion hole in the 10-year budget without blinking.

We can safely assume that should Republicans win in 2016, they’ll take all the reduction in the budget deficit accomplished over the Obama years (at great cost and for no benefit, but that’s another story) and do the same thing that George W. Bush did: hand it immediately to the rich.

That’s not all, though. Unlike Bush, who gave his eye-wateringly regressive tax cuts a patina of democratic legitimacy by cutting the non-rich in on a small fraction of the spoils, Republicans are now firmly committed to the idea that poor people don’t pay enough in taxes. The Earned Income Tax Credit was originally a conservative alternative to the welfare state, but increasingly only Democrats support it. Republicans are convinced that the EITC is riddled with fraud, and that voting for it means giving welfare to unauthorized immigrants. (In reality, the EITC results in quite a lot of technically improper payments, but mostly as a result of unnecessary complexity.)

Massive transfers of money to the rich are one half of the Republican economic policy agenda; massive transfers of money away from poor are the other half. And the cuts would be cruel indeed:

For example, a single mother with two children working full time in a nursing home for the minimum wage and earning $14,500 would lose her entire [Child Tax Credit] of $1,725 if the CTC provision expires. [CBPP]

Apparently, cutting the income of a poor working single mother by 12 percent is good and proper conservative policymaking in 2014. Because immigration.

Finally, we see that Republicans are still incapable of the basics of political governance. They can’t maintain any sort of agenda outside of being against what Obama is for. Once the president drives them into a frenzy — which is to say, anytime he does anything at all — any negotiations on deck will be blown up as punishment. These days, divided government means constant high-stakes conflict, as everything, including tax credits for working moms, is weaponized in a naked struggle for power.

But should Republicans ever get the run of things, we now have a very good idea of what’s in store: pain for the afflicted, and benefits for the comfortable.

 

By: Ryan Cooper, The Week, December 3, 2014

December 4, 2014 Posted by | Poor and Low Income, Republicans, Tax Cuts | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Blame-The-Victim Mentality”: Senate Obstruction Through The “Funhouse Mirror”

One of the most durable GOP talking points in support of its plea to gain control of the Senate is that mean old Harry Reid, doing the bidding of scary radical Barack Obama, runs the place like the House (well, the House as run by Democrats when they controlled it!), allowing no debate or amendments. That argument apparently got under the skin of Juan Williams of Fox News and The Hill, not exactly a big liberal, who called it out as the inverse of the truth, using the stalled confirmation of the president’s Surgeon General nominee as an example:

The nation has not had a surgeon general since November 2013 because the GOP is blocking the president’s nominee, Dr. Vivek Murthy. At a time of medical emergency, what is the Republicans’ problem with Murthy?

In October 2012, the doctor tweeted: “Tired of politicians playing politics w/guns, putting lives at risk b/c they’re scared of the NRA. Guns are a health care issue.”

Dr. Murthy, a graduate of Harvard and the Yale School of Medicine, has impressive credentials for a 36-year-old. He created a breakthrough new company to lower the cost of drugs and bring new drugs to market more quickly.

But his big sin, for Senate Republicans, is that as a veteran of emergency rooms Dr. Murthy expressed his concern about the nation’s indisputable plague of gun violence.

When Dr. Murthy was nominated, the National Rife Association announced plans to “score” a vote on the doctor’s nomination, meaning any Republican or Democrat running in a conservative state who voted for Murthy would be punished in NRA literature and feel the pain in their fundraising come midterm election season.

When public anxiety over Ebola became a GOP talking point, 29 House Democrats wrote to Reid calling for the Senate to expose the Republicans for their deceitful strategy. They wanted, and still want, Senate Democrats to push for a vote on the surgeon general nominee and force the Republicans to explain their opposition. Their thinking is that swift action is needed to put a surgeon general in place and give the American people a trusted source of guidance on Ebola.

The Tea Party’s favorite senator, Republican Ted Cruz of Texas, last week agreed on the need for a surgeon general in a CNN interview. But in the funhouse mirror-style so loved by the Republican base, Cruz blamed Obama for the vacancy.

“Of course we should have a surgeon general in place,” Cruz told CNN’s Candy Crowley. “And we don’t have one because President Obama, instead of nominating a health professional, he nominated someone who is an anti-gun activist.”

This is a pretty good example of the kind of blame-the-victim mentality whereby the party of obstruction is projecting its posture onto its opponents. And we can obviously expect a lot more of it if Republicans gain control of the Senate and with Harry Reid out of the way begin cooperating with House GOPers to send bill after bill to the White House.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal, The Washington Monthly, October 27, 2014

October 28, 2014 Posted by | Ebola, GOP, U. S. Surgeon General | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Another New Low”: Dick And Liz Cheney Return To Trash Obama Foreign Policy

The neoconservative campaign to discredit President Barack Obama’s foreign policy in Iraq — despite the fact that the critics themselves started, and bungled, America’s military involvement in the country in the first place — hit another new low on Tuesday evening, in the form of an op-ed and accompanying video from former vice president Dick Cheney and his daughter, Liz.

“Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many,” the Cheneys write in The Wall Street Journal, apparently unacquainted with the concepts of irony or shame.

“Al Qaeda and its affiliates are resurgent and they present a security threat not seen since the Cold War. Defeating them will require a strategy – not a fantasy. It will require sustained difficult military, intelligence and diplomatic efforts – not empty misleading rhetoric,” they continue.

In fairness, if anyone knows about the dangers of substituting strategy for fantasy, it would be the vice president who promised that Americans would be “greeted as liberators” in Iraq. And if anyone knows about misleading rhetoric, it would be the failed U.S. Senate candidate who can hardly go two sentences without uttering a crazy lie.

In addition to the op-ed, the Cheneys also released a video announcing the formation of their new 501(c)(4) “dark money” group, The Alliance for a Strong America.

“Threats to America’s security are on the rise. Iran is marching towards a nuclear weapon. Al Qaeda is resurgent, establishing new safe havens across the Middle East, including in Iraq where President Obama withdrew all American forces with no stay-behind agreement,” Dick Cheney says in the video, ignoring the fact that President George W. Bush was the one who signed the Status of Forces Agreement mandating that all U.S. forces depart the country by January 1, 2012.

Despite the Cheneys’ bluster, they are unlikely to sway the public back toward a neoconservative foreign policy; both polls and elections have shown that that bridge is burned. And Democrats certainly don’t seem too concerned with the Cheneys’ re-emergence on the national stage. As Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) put it on Wednesday: “Being on the wrong side of Dick Cheney is being on the right side of history.”

 

By: Henry Decker, The National Memo, June 18, 2014

June 19, 2014 Posted by | Dick Cheney, Foreign Policy, Iraq | , , , , | Leave a comment

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