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“The Budget Blitz”: Boehner And McConnell Get A Move On To Approve A Deal Before Conservatives Can Counter-Mobilize

Well, you have to credit John Boehner and Mitch McConnell with some chutzpah. On the very eve of Paul Ryan’s planned accession to the House Speakership via a deal with House conservatives to treat their views with more respect and avoid deals with Democrats, the GOP leadership is unveiling the largest bipartisan budget deal since 2011, a measure that would preempt any debt default or government shutdown threat until well after the 2016 elections. Moreover, even as Ryan pledges renewed fealty to the Hastert Rule and promises not to behave imperiously towards other Republicans, this deal was negotiated semi-secretly and will be sprung on Congress for a quick vote, perhaps as early as tomorrow, and is projected to get through both chambers via a minority of Republicans voting with most Democrats. It would indeed make it easier for Ryan to keep his promises because it would take the most contentious issues right off the table.

A lot of the details of the deal are unknown or hazy at this point, but it’s clear the main objective was to set aside sequestration and give Democrats some domestic spending increases and Republicans more defense spending. In that and other respects it resembles the budget deal Ryan himself cut with Patty Murray in December of 2013, not long after the last government shutdown, which constitutes one of the grievances conservatives harbor against the Wisconsin Ayn Rand acolyte.

I suspect the air today will be filled with squawking about this deal, and it could also prove to be a big fat target for the GOP presidential candidates who are debating economic and fiscal policy in Colorado tomorrow night. So yeah, Boehner and McConnell had best get a move on to get the deal approved before conservatives can counter-mobilize, and Paul Ryan should probably remember some pressing appointments back home in his district.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 27, 2015

October 27, 2015 Posted by | Federal Budget, John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“House Freedom Caucus Demands”: Granting The Insurgents Continuing Power To Be Disruptive

It is looking likely that Rep. Paul Ryan will be elected Speaker of the House next week. Who knows what has transpired behind closed doors, but the word is that he and the Freedom Caucus reached a deal that won enough of them over for him to be elected.

What we also know is that the Freedom Caucus designed a questionnaire for speaker candidates. Kevin Quealy and Carl Hulse have done us all a service by translating those demands from Congressional legalese into plain English.

In looking at the list of 21 items, a lot of the things they are pushing for would simply undo the reforms instituted by Newt Gingrich that put power in the hands of the House Leadership – specifically the Speaker. In that way, they grant the insurgents continuing power to be disruptive.

But there are a few things that would mean pretty immediate chaos. For example, item 13 asks: are you willing to hold the debt limit hostage until we prevail on other issues? Specifically, the Freedom Caucus wants “structural entitlement reforms” in the 2016 budget and the Default Prevention Act (which President Obama has promised to veto) included in any legislation that raises the debt ceiling.

Given that the Treasury has informed Congress that the debt limit will be reached November 3rd – exactly one week after the House votes for a new Speaker – that doesn’t give Paul Ryan a lot of time to work this one out.

Making that job even harder is item 7 which seeks to institutionalize the so-called “Hastert Rule.” It would require that Republicans consider only legislation that has the support of the majority of their party. That would eliminate the possibility for Ryan to develop a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats to raise the debt ceiling.

If all that weren’t bad enough, item 15 demands that the new Speaker refuse to pass a budget that contains funding for Planned Parenthood, “unconditional amnesty,” the Iran deal and Obamacare. In other words…”We demand a government shutdown!”

There are several other interesting items, like a demand to impeach the IRS Commissioner, turn the highway program over to states, stick to the spending caps in sequestration, etc. But in a deliciously hypocritical move, item 6 demands that Republicans who signed the discharge petition to fund the Ex-Im Bank be punished, while items 4 & 5 demand that members who oppose rule changes and/or vote their conscience not be punished.

If Rep. Ryan has in any way agreed to these demands, things are going to blow up in the House very quickly. If he and the Freedom Caucus simply put off dealing with them, things are going to blow up in the House very quickly. Get my drift?

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 24, 2015

October 25, 2015 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, House Freedom Caucus, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Paul Ryan Is Doomed, Too”: He Will End Up In The Same Position As Boehner — Held Hostage By The Freedom Caucus

A week ago, Paul Ryan looked doomed. Now, he looks really, truly doomed.

The Wisconsin Republican, who achieved national prominence as Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012, seems more likely than ever to become the next speaker of the House. A devout man of faith, he will need your prayers.

When incumbent John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) announced his resignation, Ryan made clear he did not want the job. Who on earth would? Boehner spent his tenure trying — and failing — to corral ultra-conservative Republicans into a working majority.

GOP victories in the 2010 midterm elections had swept into office a group of nihilistic renegades who believe the way to change Washington is to blow it up.

Now calling themselves the Freedom Caucus, these 40 or so legislative bomb-throwers insisted on fighting battles they had no chance of winning and repeatedly took the country to the brink of calamity.

They threatened government shutdowns (and achieved one). They tried to block routine increases in the federal debt ceiling. They kept the House from passing spending bills in key areas, such as transportation, where there once was bipartisan agreement. They insisted on more than 50 useless attempts to repeal all or part of the Affordable Care Act, knowing these measures would fail in the Senate or be vetoed by President Obama.

As presumptive speaker, Ryan can look forward to more of the same.

Ryan is seen as the only figure who could potentially unite the fractious GOP caucus. As such, he has leverage — and he is trying his best to use it.

He insisted on having the support of all 247 Republicans before he would accept the job. But now he is reportedly willing to settle for less.

The Freedom Caucus announced Wednesday that a “supermajority” of its members would back Ryan. There was no official endorsement from the group, however, which means the unspecified majority fell short of 80 percent.

That doesn’t sound so bad — perhaps 10 or fewer unreconciled renegades, who theoretically could be marginalized. “I believe this is a positive step toward a unified Republican team,” Ryan said. But in courting the ultra-conservatives, he reportedly made concessions that seem to guarantee that the speaker’s gavel will be a symbol of misery, not of power.

The main problem is that Ryan is said to have promised to follow the “Hastert rule,” named for former speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), requiring that legislation have the support of a majority of the GOP caucus before it is brought to the House floor.

Boehner had to break the Hastert rule whenever ultra-conservatives threatened to bring about disaster — a potentially catastrophic default because the debt limit needed to be raised, for example. In those instances, Boehner got the legislation passed with a cobbled-together majority comprising Democrats and moderate Republicans.

To keep his job, Boehner generally kept to the Hastert rule on other, less critical legislation. This is what made the Congresses he led so spectacularly unproductive.

In 2013, the Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Had Boehner brought the legislation to the floor of the House, it almost surely would have passed — but with the votes of Democrats and GOP moderates. A majority of the Republican caucus opposed comprehensive reform, so Boehner never allowed a vote on it.

Immigration, at least, is a hot-button issue; transportation is not. Yet Boehner could not even get a majority of his caucus to support a routine six-year transportation bill. This is the kind of legislation that used to be a simple matter of arithmetic and routinely passed with broad bipartisan support. For today’s House Republicans, however, fixing roads and bridges is somehow an ideological issue. Just about everything, in fact, is an ideological issue.

If Ryan does become speaker and respects the Hastert rule, he will end up in the same position as Boehner — held hostage by the Freedom Caucus. In his meeting with the group, moreover, he reportedly softened his demand to eliminate a House procedure in which any member can call for a vote to “vacate the chair,” or kick the speaker out of his job. And he also reportedly promised to devolve more power to the rank and file, which is precisely the opposite of what needs to happen.

If Ryan gets the job, he will likely enjoy a honeymoon period. But the fundamental problem — no functional GOP majority — will remain. Ryan believes government should be small. Much of his caucus believes it should be thwarted.

Sounds like doom to me.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, October 22, 2015

October 23, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Why Boehner Failed”: No Particular Genius Is Required To Succeed In Politics, But You Do Have To Be Able To Count

Nothing so became John Boehner’s tenure as Speaker as his manner of leaving it. Subjectively speaking, he has never appeared to believe very much of the arrant nonsense his position required him to utter. An old-school politician who literally grew up working in the family bar, his conservatism is of the traditional Midwestern kind — more Bob Dole, say, than Ted Cruz.

More process and negotiation, that is, than ideological certitude and visionary schemes to purge the nation of sin. To be blunt about it, very few Roman Catholics and none who grew up in a bar could ever believe such a thing possible. Unafraid to let his emotions show as Pope Francis urged lawmakers to compromise for the common good, Boehner may have, in that moment, recognized his own complete failure.

On CBS’ Face the Nation, Boehner expressed his frustration in theological terms. Asked if the fundamentalist-dominated Tea Party faction, which views him as a sellout to President Obama, was unrealistic, he almost shouted.

“Absolutely they’re unrealistic!” he said. “But the Bible says beware of false prophets. And there are people out there spreading noise about how much can get done. I mean, this whole idea that we were going to shut down the government to get rid of Obamacare in 2013, this plan never had chance.”“But over the course of the August recess in 2013, and the course of September,” Boehner added, “a lot of my Republican colleagues who knew it was a fool’s errand, really they were getting all this pressure from home to do this. And so we have got groups here in town, members of the House and Senate here in town who whip people into a frenzy believing they can accomplish things that they… KNOW are never going to happen.”

No, and shutting the government down in 2015 to get rid of Planned Parenthood has even less of a chance of accomplishing anything other than pointless melodrama, TV face time for the aforementioned Sen. Cruz, and the near-certain election of a Democratic president.

The late Robert F. Kennedy once told a friend of mine that no particular genius was required to succeed in politics, but you do have to be able to count. It’s because Boehner understands that, yet seemingly lacked the intestinal fortitude to abandon the so-called “Hastert Rule,” that his speakership came to such a sad end.

What with Hastert nearing an ignominious denouement of his own — the former Speaker’s lawyers are reportedly negotiating a guilty plea involving hush money paid to a young man he’d sexually molested as a high school coach — you’d think Republicans would want to avoid the phrase, if not the practice.

The act of refusing to let the House vote on any bill not supported by a majority of Republicans not only placed party above country, it also permitted Tea Party hotheads to paralyze the government. In consequence, The New Yorker’s Jeffrey Toobin points out, a 2013 immigration reform bill favored by GOP leadership that passed 62-38 in the Senate never even came to a vote in the House.

Supported by such luminaries as Senators John McCain and Marco Rubio, the bill would clearly have passed had Boehner allowed a vote — good for the nation, good for the Republican Party. Alas, to keep his job, Boehner caved to Tea Party nativists. In consequence, Toobin writes, “he suffered the fate of all those who give in to bullies; he was bullied some more.”

This year it was the highway bill — another popular, badly needed, job-intensive piece of legislation also opposed by the Tea Party. The tyranny of the minority, you might call it. If they had their way, we’d all have to buy tractors and bush-hog our own roads.

Instead, Boehner permitted the innumerate faction something like 60 votes to repeal Obamacare — each as futile and pointless as the last, and the very definition of “things they know are never going to happen.”

Another consequence of Boehner’s failure, it should be said, is the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, the blowhard billionaire who appears to have convinced millions of voters who failed to master 8th grade civics that he can solve the nation’s toughest problems by yelling at them.

In stepping down, Boehner secured the agreement of his GOP antagonists to vote for a “clean” continuing resolution that would keep the government funded through mid-December with no demands to defund Planned Parenthood — the latest extreme right publicity stunt. After that, all bets are off.

“November and December are going to be like Dante’s Inferno around here,” New Jersey Democrat Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. told the New York Times.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.

A new Quinnipiac poll shows that Republican voters oppose shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood by 56-36 percent. Americans overall oppose the idea by 69-23 percent.

All that’s needed is a Speaker strong enough to put country above party.

 

By: Gene Lyons, The National Memo, September 30, 2015

October 1, 2015 Posted by | House Republicans, John Boehner, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Brief Respite From Madness”: Two Problems With The Boehner Atonement Theory

So even as laurels continue to be thrown towards John Boehner on the theory that he’s sacrificed his career to prevent a government shutdown–and hey! maybe save Eximbank and the Highway Bill!–a more serious look at what’s likely to happen next is far less inspiring. The premier budget wizard, Stan Collender, issued this judgment at Politico:

House Speaker John Boehner’s resignation last Friday steeply reduced the likelihood there will be a government shutdown this week but precipitously increased the possibility of a shutdown in December.

And the idea that some sort of Era of Good Feelings Sayanora Tour for Boehner will enable the enactment of long-stalled agenda items of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce isn’t necessarily all that viable either, because the House isn’t the only problem:

[E]ven if the rumors are true about Boehner being willing to work with Democrats to deal with a wide variety of legislative issues (Export-Import Bank, highway trust fund, full-year CR, tax extenders) before he leaves at the end of October, it’s not clear that McConnell will have the political freedom or votes to move these bills. It’s not hard to imagine Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) setting up the equivalent of a campaign office on the Senate floor and, along with other hard-line conservatives, attempting to prevent anything from passing.

And once Boehner really is gone, there’s no reason to assume the atmosphere in the House will get any less poisonous, particularly if conservatives secure an Enforce the Hastert Rule Pledge from the new leadership team:

[D]on’t expect the next speaker to be any more successful at taming the GOP’s tea party wing when the short-term CR expires in December. The new speaker and the rest of the leadership team will just be learning their jobs as they face the toughest issues in the most difficult political environment of the year. It’s possible—and maybe even likely—that they’ll fare worse than Boehner.

So the John Boehner Atonement Theory I’ve been mocking every chance I get is wrong in two respects. First, the man hasn’t sacrificed a damn thing; he gets to spend a year at his Florida golf resort condo before becoming one of the richest lobbyists ever. Second, he didn’t buy his party much of anything other than a brief respite from madness.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 29, 2015

September 30, 2015 Posted by | House Republicans, John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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