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

“Donald Trump Has Enough Fingers To Handle A Pen”: That’s Good Enough For Paul Ryan

In 2012, anti-tax activist Grover Norquist argued that the only thing the GOP needed in its next president was “enough working digits to handle a pen.” More specifically, Norquist wanted a president who would use those digits to sign Paul Ryan’s austerity budget. On Thursday, the Speaker of the House endorsed Norquist’s argument — by (belatedly) endorsing Donald Trump.

In an op-ed for his hometown newspaper, Ryan announced that the House GOP caucus would spend the next month “introducing a series of policy proposals that address the American people’s top priorities.” The Speaker does not detail the proposals, but from his thumbnail sketches they appear to entail cutting taxes on the rich and benefits for the poor, repealing Obamacare and most environmental regulations, and repeating the words radical Islamic terrorism until ISIS spontaneously combusts. Anyhow, after touting his party’s innovative policy vision, Ryan asks himself what kind of president would be most likely to sign off on his wish list.

“One person who we know won’t support it is Hillary Clinton,” Ryan concludes. “To enact these ideas, we need a Republican president willing to sign them into law.”

Enter Donald Trump.

“Donald Trump and I have talked at great length about things such as the proper role of the executive and fundamental principles such as the protection of life … But the House policy agenda has been the main focus of our dialogue,” Ryan writes. “Through these conversations, I feel confident he would help us turn the ideas in this agenda into laws to help improve people’s lives. That’s why I’ll be voting for him this fall.”

Trump’s digits might be short (and he might be an authoritarian demagogue with transparent contempt for the norms of liberal democracy), but those stubby fingers can handle a pen. For Paul Ryan, that’s enough.


By: Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, June 2, 2016

June 3, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Grover Norquist, Paul Ryan | , , , | 1 Comment

“House Republicans Exhausted By Failure”: They Would Prefer To Start Working Even Less

Following up on a segment from last night’s show, it appears the U.S. House of Representatives, just nine months into the current Congress, can’t think of anything to do. The Republican leadership hasn’t scheduled many work days for the remainder of 2013, and they’re now considering a plan to scale back even further.

For the first time in months, House Republicans are facing no immediate cataclysmic deadlines, and GOP leaders are struggling to come up with an agenda to fill the 19 legislative days that are left in 2013.

Need evidence? The House votes Monday evening and will finish its work week Wednesday. After that, the House is out of session until Nov. 12. Internally, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and senior Republicans aren’t discussing coming back early from the scheduled recess, but instead, they are wondering if they’ll cancel some of the remaining days in session.

This Politico item was published yesterday, so there are really only 18 legislative days remaining until New Year’s Eve – it’s great work if you can get it – a total which may be poised to shrink.

The 112th Congress was the least productive since the clerk’s office started keeping track seven decades ago, and this current 113th Congress is on track to do even less. Presumably, the Republican majority could at least try to take up meaningful bills in the hopes of passing something, but at this point, they’re not even inclined to bother. Rather, they’re thinking about showing up to work even less.

What about the House Republican policy agenda? It apparently doesn’t exist. What about the desire to have some legislative accomplishments? It’s been overwhelmed by political lethargy. This crop of lawmakers is giving new meaning to the phrase “do-nothing Congress,” and instead of scurrying to prove themselves capable of governing, they’re content to just accept the label and go home.

As pathetic as this may be, the larger point isn’t just to point and laugh at the House’s ineptitude. Rather, one of the key takeaways of this is that House Republicans keep saying they’d love to tackle immigration reform – if only they had more time.

The problem, of course, is not with a lack of time, but rather what they choose to do with it.

I’m reminded of an item from two weeks ago, when Byron York quoted a Senate Republican staffer commenting on the House GOP. “They are a majority party that wants to be a minority party,” the aide said.

The evidence to bolster that thesis is increasingly apparent. There is such a thing as a governing party. It just so happens that the House Republican conference isn’t one of them. For those in doubt, look no further than the fact that these lawmakers have accomplished practically nothing this year, and are apparently so exhausted by their failures that they’d prefer to start working even less.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 29, 2013

October 30, 2013 Posted by | Congress, GOP | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Breaking Point”: With No Light At The End Of The Tunnel, John Boehner Is Losing Control

Trust between John Boehner and his Republican Caucus members has worn so thin that he’s been forced to swat down rumors (again) this week that he’s retiring, while conservatives worry the speaker is plotting to pull a fast one on them in the immigration reform debate.

Of the 234 Republicans in the House, just 20 percent reliably support the speaker, according to a recent Washington Post analysis. And a new poll shows that among Republican voters overall, just 37 percent think GOP leaders are taking the party in the right direction, while 52 percent say leadership is going the wrong way. Compare that to 72 percent of Democrats who favor their party leadership’s approach. And all this comes on the heels of the Farm Bill debacle, the latest in a string of legislative misjudgments for Boehner and his leadership team.

But nowhere is the divide between leadership and base more apparent than on immigration reform, where conservative House members and outside activists are now worried that Boehner will actively deceive them through procedural trickery to pass his alleged ”amnesty” agenda. Never mind that it’s not even clear Boehner really wants a comprehensive bill passed. He said Sunday that immigration isn’t his top priority (though he also said, “If I come out and say I’m for this and I’m for that, all I’m doing is making my job harder”). And never mind that Boehner has repeatedly pledged to stick to the “Hastert Rule,” the informal rule that nothing be given a vote unless it already has support from a majority of Republicans.

But some House conservatives are convinced that Boehner is planning a secret “gambit to save [the] amnesty agenda,” as the conservative news site TownHall explained yesterday. When the House and Senate pass different versions of the same bill, lawmakers meet in a bicameral Conference Committee, where they hash out the differences and produce a single final bill. The Senate has already passed a bill with a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. The House has not passed anything, in part because conservatives fear that Boehner will use it as a backdoor way to introduce “amnesty” into the final bill.

TownHall explained that “the worry among Capitol Hill conservatives was that Boehner would take any House-passed bill with the word ‘immigration’ in it and set up a conference that would produce a bill with the trappings of compromise,” but would really be something unacceptable to the right. Conservative firebrands like Rep. Steve Stockman and Steve King have already raised the alarm. Ann Coulter told Fox News, “If they pass a bill that does nothing but enforce e-verify, does nothing but enforce the fence, it will go into conference with the Senate and it will come out an amnesty bill.” “Ann Coulter got it exactly right,” an unnamed senior aide to a conservative lawmaker told Breitbart News. “We are scared to death of what we figure is already Boehner’s end game.”

What these conservatives seem to miss is that the House would still need to pass whatever comes out of the conference committee. And the only way a pathway to citizenship will pass after the conference, as now, is if conservative Republicans allow it, or if Boehner is willing to break the Hastert rule and let it pass with Democratic votes. But he’s already said: “For any legislation, including a conference report, to pass the House, It’s going to have to be a bill that has the support of the majority of our members.”

If Boehner went back on that pledge, he’d face open revolt in his caucus, just as he would if he broke it now to bring the Senate bill up for a vote (which would likely pass with Democratic votes). Boehner has also so far done everything he can to avoid a revolt, considering his speakership would be on the line, and there’s no reason to think he’d be any more willing to risk it in a few months, after a conference committee, than he is now.

Perhaps it’s that conservatives don’t trust themselves to recognize secret “amnesty” in a conference bill. Breitbart’s Matt Boyle warned that the report would only “get a short amount of time for actual review, and votes would be whipped up and sold using talking points just like how the Senate bill passed,” as if talking points are some kind of Jedi mind tricks. But if a conferenced bill contained a pathway to citizenship and they vote for it, that’s on them, especially given their “read the bill” rhetoric.

Worse yet for Boehner, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel. Immigration reform will come to a head after the August recess, just as the debate ramps up on the debt ceiling, another issue which will inevitably pit Boehner against his rank-and-file. Maybe retirement will start to sound like a pretty good idea.


By: Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon, July 23, 2013

July 24, 2013 Posted by | John Boehner, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Eric Cantor, Cornered”: Another Of The People Who Needs To Be Replaced

Ever since Eric Cantor became No. 2 to John Boehner four years ago, the conventional wisdom in Washington has been that the hyperambitious Cantor would knife his nominal boss in the back as soon as he had the chance. “You know Cantor’s trying to get your job,” President Obama tauntingly told the House speaker during their debt-ceiling talks in 2011. And yet, despite obvious tensions between Cantor and Boehner, the two Republicans always managed to strike a unified public front.

Until last week: On New Year’s Day, Boehner cast his lot with 172 Democrats and only 84 other members of his party and voted for the tax-­hiking legislation that ultimately ended the “fiscal cliff” drama; Cantor, saying he couldn’t abide by the bill’s lack of spending cuts, voted against it. It was a shockingly brazen split, and some in Washington believed that with Boehner up for reelection as speaker two days later, it marked the opening volley of the long-awaited Cantor coup. Or as put it in a headline: “ERIC CANTOR MAKES FIRST MOVE TO UNSEAT BOEHNER IN ‘FISCAL CLIFF’ KABUKI THEATER.” And then … nothing happened. “All is not well in the palace,” says one GOP member, “but it’s clear the prince is not trying to poison the king’s chalice.” Now Cantor loyalists worry that their guy, rather than seizing more power, has shot himself in the foot.

It’s a misconception that Cantor is reckless. Although he became the No. 2 House Republican at the tender age of 45 and clearly has designs on the top job, he is playing a long game. “He wants Boehner to have a successful speakership, which would maintain a Republican majority and give Eric the opportunity to become speaker down the road,” a House Republican close to Cantor explained to me in 2011, when talk of a Cantor coup was especially loud. “And Eric is young enough to wait for that.”

The problem for Cantor is that the longer he has waited, the more he has become identified in his fellow Republicans’ eyes with Boehner, who’s on his way to going down as the least effective speaker in modern political history. During the 2011 debt-ceiling negotiations, when Cantor privately signaled that he wouldn’t abide by any plan negotiated with Obama that raised revenues, he was a hero to the GOP rank and file and a clear alternative to Boehner. But during the fiscal-cliff talks, Cantor voiced strong public support for Boehner’s negotiating strategy while staying largely silent inside the House. When Cantor ultimately voted against the compromise legislation, some fellow Republican members, including those who voted with him, viewed it as a desperate stab at shoring up his future prospects.

“There was no predicate for his ‘no’ vote,” concedes one Cantor friend. “There was no setup to it.” Within the GOP caucus, there are solid supporters of the Virginia congressman, another bloc that would never get behind him for speaker, and a swing group in the middle, and it’s that last camp that is most put off by his move on the fiscal-cliff bill. Indeed, even if Cantor had tried to overthrow Boehner last Thursday, he wouldn’t have had the votes.

Cantor allies fear that by doing too little to differentiate himself from Boehner within the caucus since the fireworks of 2011, he may have missed his moment. “Eric has almost become Boehner Lite” to other GOP members, says the supporter. “The longer that goes on, it becomes increasingly likely that he doesn’t become the heir apparent. Instead, he becomes part of the people who need to be replaced once Boehner decides to walk off into the sunset.”


By: Jason Zengerle, New York Magazine, January 4, 2012

January 7, 2013 Posted by | Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 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

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