mykeystrokes.com

"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“How Conservatives Lost 2015”: Talked A Big Game But Ended Up Losing Almost Every Big Legislative Battle

Establishment Republicans had a miserable year on the campaign trail. But on Capitol Hill—far from Make America Great Again hats—they cleaned up.

Conservatives on the Hill, emboldened by Republican gains in the midterm elections, followed the battle cry of the Heritage Foundation’s powerful lobbying arm against their Establishment overlords. But over the past year, they’ve faced defeat after biting defeat.

Most of these wins were on wonky, unsexy issues—like funding for infrastructure construction and rules about how the president can negotiate trade agreements. Not exactly the most scintillating stuff.

But while these individual debates may not have galvanized national attention, they were hugely important to Tea Party-friendly conservative groups. And the cumulative losses these groups face suggest that their clout may have flatlined or they overplayed their hands.

Heritage Action, the lobbying wing of the powerful Heritage Foundation think tank, got a major shellacking in March during the fight over “Doc Fix” legislation, which overhauled how doctors who treat Medicare patients get reimbursed. Heritage Action key-voted against the bill, citing concerns that it would grow the national debt by half a trillion dollars over twenty years. Despite the group’s protestations, though, the Doc Fix passed the House with just 37 no votes (only 4 of whom were Democrats). In the Senate, just 8 members voted against it.

It was a tough loss for Heritage Action. And many more followed. Trade legislation drew significant opposition from the group in June, as members fought over whether Congress would give the president extra authority to negotiate trade deals, allocate funds to support Americans who lose jobs due to said deals. While issues like Trade Adjustment Assistance and Trade Promotion Authority may not roll off the tongue of your average Tea Partier (or, well, your average human being), Heritage Action’s key-voting against trade provisions helped energize grassroots conservative opposition. That, combined with Breitbart News and the Drudge Report’s liberal (and frantic) use of the “Obamatrade” moniker stoked opposition on the right.

And all those guys lost.

Congress gave the president additional authority to negotiate trade deals and allocated more funds to help Americans who lose jobs to overseas competition, and the president announced he plans to have the U.S. sign on to the new Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal.

“Is Anyone Still Scared of Heritage Action?” wondered National Journal. It was a good question.

And it was a question that arose again in July, when legislation came up to change funding for the National Institutes of Health and the FDA. The bill was called the 21st Century Cures Act, and, well, was complicated. Heritage Action opposed it adamantly, for comparably complicated reasons. If NIH funding mechanisms get your juices flowing, check out Heritage Action’s release explaining its stance. If not, just rest assured that it was a big deal for the group, and the group lost. Seventy-seven House members voted against the bill, seventy of whom were Republicans.

And, of course, there’s perhaps the unsexiest issue of all: the highway bill! Next time you’re trying to get out of an unpleasant conversation, just bring up infrastructure funding and see what happens. The highway bill allowed more than $300 billion for transportation spending, and it reauthorized the Export-Import Bank—a program that gives loans to U.S. businesses that have overseas commerce, and that conservatives have long criticized as corporate welfare. Heritage Action’s denunciation of the bill said the highway projects were funded with “almost exclusively with embarrassing budget gimmicks.”

The Ex-Im bank’s funding expired this summer, and Congress couldn’t get it reauthorized—due in large part to conservative opposition—until the Highway Bill came up.

“Ending this bank was a major blow to the culture of crony capitalism festering in Washington,” said Heritage Action’s statement, “and reviving it now damages the conservative movement and the credibility of efforts to rid the federal government of favoritism for special interests.”

The president signed the bill early in December.

But there was one last loss to be felt: the year-end omnibus spending bill—a legislative package full of the kind of spending projects that make conservatives want to scratch their eyeballs out, including funding for Planned Parenthood. Heritage Action, naturally, key-voted against it. And the House, as was natural in 2015, passed it anyway.

It wasn’t always this way. During the 2013 government shutdown, Heritage Action exerted enormous influence to pressure members of Congress against supporting any funding for the Affordable Care Act. And members shivered at the prospect of facing primary challengers who would attack them over low marks on the group’s vote scorecard. But now, much of that fear seems to have abated.

“When Heritage key-votes against a bill now, it is almost guaranteed to get less conservative, and guaranteed to pass both chambers and become law,” said one former Republican House leadership staffer. “They have reverse Midas touch.”

Heritage Action didn’t respond to a request for comment on this story.

 

By: Betsy Woodruff, The Daily Beast, January 2, 2016

January 4, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Establishment Republicans, Heritage Foundation | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Making Themselves Irrelevant”: Conservatives Are Out Of Touch With The World

The climate change conference in Paris is the closest the world has ever come to reaching an agreement that covers 90 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, but conservatives in the United States are focused on other matters. For example, President Barack Obama’s indifference to time limits. Addressing the world leaders assembled in Paris on Monday, he went over his allotted time by 11 minutes, ignoring multiple buzzers along the way. It caught the attention of the Washington Free Beacon, The Blaze, and the Drudge Report.

Why the focus on relatively minor developments? Conservatives are hitting on the point that they think this conference is a waste of America’s time.

You can get a taste of what else conservatives have been paying attention to at the conference from Drudge’s feed:

According to conservative columnist Charles Hurt, another of Obama’s infractions came at his press conference on the conference’s second day, held just before he returned home to Washington, where he looked “so old and gaunt, he makes Keith Richards look like Justin Bieber.” Hurt continued: “Part of the looniness of it all stemmed from the giant scam he and other world leaders are trying to put over on advanced countries, punishing them for their industriousness by redistributing billions and billions of dollars from hardworking American taxpayers and handing it over to tin-pot dictators in disheveled Third World countries.”

Some conservatives, though, insist there is a bigger conspiracy going on. They claim Obama has hatched a plot to make the U.S. inferior to the rest of the world. “President Obama’s opening remarks at the Paris climate agreement were effectively an apology for industrial progress,” was Heritage Action Nicolas Lori’s interpretation of Obama’s line that he recognizes America’s role in creating the climate change conundrum and the country’s responsibility to address it.

The other strain of conservative thinking is that this deal is undemocratic. Fox Business host Stuart Varney made the argument that reaching a climate change agreement somehow goes “around the will of the people.” “Not since Woodrow Wilson’s failed campaign to impose the League of Nations on America has a president been so contemptuous of the will of the people,” wrote Jeffrey Folks at American Thinker. They ignore the fine print of the Paris agreement: It rests primarily on countries setting their own targets and establishing their own plans for how to meet those goals.

If all else fails, conservatives have also reminded us that this whole climate issue is probably some hoax. Breitbart listed 12 reasons why the conference is a waste of time—arguing both that there is no global warming to worry about and that, if there is, the agreement wouldn’t make a difference anyway. Another reason to ignore Paris, according to Breitbart: Climate scientists are “talentless low-lives.”

If a Republican wins the presidency in 2016, then there’s nothing to worry about if you’re someone who doesn’t think climate change is real. Several GOP candidates have pledged that they wouldn’t go to a meeting like Paris, despite all of America’s major allies sending their top leaders.

Jeb Bush wouldn’t waste his time, and Donald Trump thinks even sending a vice president “might be too high a position.” Chris Christie said Obama is “focused on the wrong climate change.” “The climate change that we need is the climate change in this country,” he said, suggesting that issues such as race and religion should take priority. Marco Rubio insisted the climate “has always been changing” and there is no consensus on “what percentage of that is due to man’s activity.” Not to be outdone, Ted Cruz is hosting a hearing next week disputing climate change science.

“I watched much of his press conference, and his passion comes when he’s talking about climate change,” Carly Fiorina said of Obama on a conservative radio show. “He has no passion when he’s talking about defeating our real enemy, which is ISIS.”

Moreover, both the House and Senate voted to overturn the Environmental Protection Agency’s power plant regulations. The House vote fell in the middle of the Paris talks this week, in an attempt to cast doubt on the U.S.’s commitment to its own domestic proposals that are so key to the agreement. Obama, of course, will veto it.

Conservatives in the U.S. may be turning their backs on the Paris talks. That doesn’t make the conference irrelevant, however. On the contrary, as the rest of the world moves toward a deal—one that is critical to the future of civilization—it’s Republicans who are making themselves irrelevant.

 

By: Rebecca Leber, The New Republic, December 4, 2015

December 6, 2015 Posted by | Climate Science, Congress, Conservatives, Conspiracy Theories | , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

“Heading To The Hall Of Shame?”: Jeb Goes South, Perhaps In More Ways Than One

So after a meh performance in the CNN debate, and with Matt Bai telling the whole world the Establishment’s on the edge of dumping him, the Great White Hope of the donor class and the political science community (just teasing you, just teasing you!) heads South, where he hopes to compete in some key primaries unless he finishes fifth in New Hampshire and has to join Phil Gramm in the Hall of Shame for presidential candidates with a whole lot more money than votes.

Today Jeb’s joining nine other candidates (overshadowed once again by Donald Trump, who canceled his appearance supposedly because he needs to go close a deal somewhere, though some suspect he wants to avoid questioning on the little Islamaphobia event that occurred at one of his rallies yesterday) in South Carolina this afternoon at a forum hosted by Heritage Action, the influential right-wing enforcer and adjunct to the Heritage Foundation. I’m assuming the event is in the Palmetto State partially because it’s an early primary state but mostly as a tribute to Heritage president Jim DeMint, who is co-hosting the forum with Nikki Haley. Since he didn’t get around to it on Wednesday night, you’d guess Scott Walker will finally talk about his new Power to the People union-busting initiative in the world’s most congenial venue maybe this side of Beijing.

Tomorrow Jeb traverses the 95 miles from Greenville, SC to Athens, GA to take in the Georgia-South Carolina football game–a game I was once planning to attend in person, but now that I’m not, I’m happy I won’t have to deal with the extra traffic his security detail will create.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Greg Bluestein offers Team Jeb some advice on getting through this game without offending too many people, a process that’s made trickier by the fact that he was Governor of Florida for some of the many years that current South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier was tormenting the Georgia Bulldogs from his perch at the University of Florida.

Jeb Bush will have to walk a thin line when he heads to Athens on Saturday to campaign before the annual gridiron matchup between Georgia and South Carolina. And just who the former Florida governor will root for may be one of the tougher questions he gets.

Will he don the red and black of the Georgia faithful? Will he sport a shiny visor, the favored headgear of South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier? Or will he fall somewhere in between, perhaps favoring a nice neutral shade of gray?

South Carolina is an early-voting state that Bush has crisscrossed trying to curry favor. But he’s also visited Georgia a half-dozen or so times in the past year — downing a Frosted Orange at the Varsity and hanging out with Ludacris under the Gold Dome — ahead of this state’s March 1 primary.

Local Republicans gave Bush some more advice:

Bush, a University of Texas graduate, will most likely try to appeal to both sides. If he goes that route, Republican strategist Brian Robinson came up with a handy list of how he can appeal to UGA’s Republicans without offending fans of South Carolina or his home base of Florida.

Among them: Point out that UGA has a tight end named Jeb, highlight the power of the Southeastern Conference and offer Georgia standout Nick Chubb a chance to be his Polk County campaign chairman.

As to what not to say, Robinson also had some ideas:

* I used to golf with Steve Spurrier when he was coach at Florida. Great guy.

* There’s too much inbreeding in the Uga line.”

* Sir, I think you’ve had enough to drink.”

Yuk Yuk.

I don’t know if Bush is going to be introduced to the 92,000 fans attending the game, but even in Georgia, I doubt he’ll get the reception gained by a political celebrity at a game I witnessed way back in the day. It was Prince Charles (before his marriage to Diana), who came out on the field at half-time, with the Georgia faithful dutifully chanting: “Damn Good Prince! Damn Good Prince!”

Good times.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 18, 2015

September 20, 2015 Posted by | Georgia, GOP Primaries, Jeb Bush, South Carolina | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“So, Who’s Getting The Gigs?”: When The GOP Goes On A ‘Hiring Spree’

If you want to know where Congress is headed, it obviously makes sense to take a close look at elected lawmakers themselves.  But to understand how they intend to get there, you’ll need to understand who they’re hiring.

As Republicans get ready to take complete control of Capitol Hill, GOP officials are going on a “hiring spree,” especially in the Senate, where the new majority will have expanded staffs at both the leadership and committee level.

So, who’s getting the gigs? We can break them down into two broad groups of people. The first, as Anna Palmer reported the other day, are corporate lobbyists.

Lobbyists can come home again.

As Republicans take control of Congress, they are bringing in veteran influence peddlers to help them run the show. Nearly a dozen veteran K Streeters have been named as top staffers to GOP leaders or on key committees as lawmakers prepare to take the gavel in January.

And why would lobbyists leave better-paying jobs at K Street firms in order to tackle unglamorous work on Capitol Hill? Because as any good lobbyist knows, they can, when they’re done with their congressional work, return to K Street and demand even more money.

In the meantime, the line between corporate lobbyists and congressional Republicans has long been blurry, but the partnership will now be even stronger as the GOP takes over the Senate for the first time in eight years.

But they’re not the only ones getting new gigs in Congress. The other group includes Heritage Action staffers.

Heritage Action for America is losing three staffers, including its top House lobbyist, to a trio of newbies in the 114th Congress. […]

“One of the great roles of having a permanent 300-person institution is that people take what they learn here and spread that throughout the universe,” said Heritage Action for America’s CEO Michael Needham.

Depending on one’s perspective, that’s either very nice or very scary.

Regardless, taken together, staffing moves like these tell us something interesting about who’ll be doing the legislative legwork for the next couple of years.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, December 22, 2014

December 24, 2014 Posted by | Congress, GOP, Jobs | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Troublesome Ted”: Ted Cruz Is The Symptom, Not The Disease

Ted Cruz seems to be becoming something of a Republican bogeyman. One can imagine Republican lawmakers trudging home and telling their recalcitrant kids that if they don’t brush their teeth and go to bed, Ted Cruz is going to bring a mob of torch-bearing tea partiers over to take them away. But they should remember that Ted Cruz is a particularly irritating symptom, not the problem.

So per the San Francisco Chronicle (h/t Hot Air’s Allahpundit), House Republicans lay the blame for immigration reform stalling in their chamber at … Cruz’s feet:

House Republicans who supported the “principles” of immigration reform floated by Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, late last month grumbled Tuesday that the plan was dead on arrival because Cruz blasted it as “amnesty,” spurring a blizzard of negative phone calls to House Republicans.

Then there was the debt ceiling near-fiasco – or, depending on your point of view, actual fiasco – this week. The House passing the clean debt ceiling suspension teed up Senate Republicans perfectly: They could all vote against the legislation but it would still pass. The GOP would avoid crashing the economy but still get an issue with which to beat Democrats.

It was Cruz who put the kibosh on that plan, compelling a 60-vote threshold for passage (as is his prerogative as a senator), prompting the vote to last an hour before GOP leaders Mitch McConnell (facing a serious primary) and John Cornyn (facing a farcical primary) fell on their proverbial swords and cast the votes necessary to nudge the majority north of 60.

These antics have won Cruz no friends among Senate GOPers, but as Byron York points out today, he’s a cipher for a particularly problematic part of the party:

Many in the GOP believe Cruz is just out for himself. But even if that’s true, they have to remember that he represents more than just Ted Cruz. There are a lot of Republicans — it’s not clear how many, but a significant portion of the party’s base — that cheers Cruz on when he battles with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They want to see a Republican throw a wrench in the Washington spending machine, even if it creates chaos and damages the GOP’s standing with independent voters. And it is that conviction that is really behind the party’s problems; it is why Republicans would not enjoy smooth sailing even if Cruz were to retire tomorrow.

Cruz is adept at whipping up that section of the GOP and is equally skilled at self-promotion. But make no mistake: He’s riding a wave of sentiment, not causing it. If there was no Ted Cruz someone else would fill that role; it might be someone in the Congress, like Utah Sen. Mike Lee, or it might be one of the professionally aggrieved outside conservative groups like Heritage Action or the Senate Conservatives Fund, who know a rich fundraising vein when they see one.

As Hot Air’s Allahpundit writes:

Would any tea-party Republicans in the House have embraced the leadership’s immigration plan if Cruz had kept quiet? It’s not pressure from big-name conservatives that keeps them in line, it’s the fact that they come from overwhelmingly red districts and know what backing amnesty would mean for their primary chances.

So go ahead, GOPers, roll your eyes at Troublesome Ted. But remember that there are many more where he came from.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, February 14, 2014

February 15, 2014 Posted by | GOP, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

%d bloggers like this: