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“A Gaping Void Of Their Own Making”: No Republican Is Fit, Able, And Willing To Run The House Of Representatives

If House Speaker John Boehner secretly had no intention to resign, and was instead using the threat of retirement to teach Republican House members that they need him—not the other way around—he’s doing a masterful job. But Boehner was engaged in no such ruse, and the Republican Party is drastically worse off as a result.

After making a series of ill-considered remarks over the past week that underscored his unfitness for the job, Boehner’s heir presumptive, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, withdrew his candidacy for the Speakership at a conference meeting Thursday afternoon. McCarthy, who helped recruit a huge class of conservative freshmen ahead of the GOP’s 2010 midterm landslide, had significant support within the conference. But he lacked the trust of a few dozen conservative hardliners, some of whom comprise the House Freedom Caucus, who have grown frustrated with the existing leadership team for its strategic reluctance to use legislative deadlines—especially those governing appropriations and the debt limit—as leverage to seek substantive concessions from Democrats. As doubts about McCarthy’s candidacy grew, it became clear that conservatives would resist a clean succession and fight his election on the House floor. 

This creates a void almost nobody in the House Republican conference is fit, able, or willing to fill. Minutes after McCarthy announced his decision, Representative Paul Ryan, whom most House Republicans consider the only senior member with the skill to bridge strategic divisions in the party, reiterated his absolute unwillingness to run.

“Kevin McCarthy is best person to lead the House, and so I’m disappointed in this decision,” Ryan’s statement read. “Now it is important that we, as a Conference, take time to deliberate and seek new candidates for the speakership. While I am grateful for the encouragement I’ve received, I will not be a candidate. I continue to believe I can best serve the country and this conference as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.”

The most rational outcome, and the most ironic, would be for Boehner to rescind his own resignation, and to cite the chaos that took hold after his announcement as a reminder that the reactionaries who deposed him are completely lost without his leadership. When the people who threatened to fire you beg you not to quit instead, their bluff has been called.

But Boehner’s decision to resign was almost certainly not a feint. He has vowed to serve as Speaker until a replacement is selected, but not on a permanent basis. Somebody else—a somebody we don’t yet know, and whose motives and capabilities won’t be well understood—will have to emerge to fill the power vacuum. Representative Jeb Hensarling—a wily, far-right Republican from Texas—has played footsie with the idea. As a Boehner surrogate, Oklahoma Representative Tom Cole’s name has been kicked around, too, but he’s probably been too critical of Boehner’s antagonists to easily secure the gavel. None of the plausible candidates enjoys Ryan’s unique mix of support among conservatives and trust among the party establishment. But as willing members with broad support begin to express interest, the leadership race will resume, and the election that was supposed to occur today will be rescheduled.

What’s more clear now than it was two weeks ago—and it was fairly clear back then—is how crucial it is for Boehner to use his numbered days to clear the deck for the next Speaker, and most importantly to increase the national debt limit in advance of an anticipated lapse in borrowing authority early next month. The consequences of a default on the national debt are too high to hand the debt limit to an untested speaker, or to allow Freedom Caucus members and other conservatives to hijack the issue. Boehner has committed, again, to remaining Speaker until a new one is selected. If Boehner hands responsibility for the debt limit over to this crew, instead of increasing it unconditionally while he has control, it’ll be his most reckless, cowardly, shameful moment.


Brian Beutler, Senior Editor, The New Republic, October 8, 2015

October 9, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, John Boehner, Speaker of The House, U. S. House of Representatives | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Life After John Boehner”: Things Could Get Much Worse In The House And It Looks Like They Will

In non-Syria news, HuffPo’s Ryan Grim and Jon Ward reported yesterday that some GOP Hill rats are now starting to say on background what most of us have been assuming for quite some time—that John Boehner won’t seek reelection in 2014 and thus will end his tenure as speaker.

If so, he will have lasted just four years, and, it must be said, a pretty crappy four years, when the House has passed almost no meaningful bills and when the most meaningful one it did pass, the sequester, is widely acknowledged to be a disaster and an admission of Congress’s inability to do its job. And remember, we still have, after the Syria vote, the looming government shutdown and the debt-limit fight coming this fall. A brief government shutdown and a credit default, while undesirable generally, would provide fitting capstones to a terrible tenure.

Now of course all this failure isn’t his fault. He’s got a lot of people in that caucus who weren’t elected to govern, but to burn down. His length of tenure reflects this problem. As speaker, you have to make some sort of attempt to govern. That’s the gig. But when half or more of your caucus is against governing, well, they’re going to get mad at you and consider you a sellout. As Grim and Ward point out, he won the speakership last time by just three votes.

It’s worth reflecting on this before he goes back to Cincinnati (back to Cincinnati? What am I talking about? He’s staying right here, I would imagine, and will earn a few million dollars a year as a post-lobbyist lobbyist, doing most of his work on the courses at Burning Tree and Congressional; I guess in a way he will have earned that, and a carton of smokes): the current House Republican caucus doesn’t want a speaker who will attempt to perform the basic job of speaker—shepherd through compromise spending bills in a semi-timely fashion, work with the Senate to pass a few other respectably significant bills, keep something resembling an orderly appearance. Boehner did none of these things, and probably couldn’t do any of them. Immigration is a great case in point, when he was forced by the yahoos to say he wasn’t taking up the Senate bill at all.

But the more important question is who replaces him. HuffPo:

The assumption that Boehner’s departure is imminent has set off a round of jockeying for the positions that would open up. The current power structure includes an ad hoc leadership-in-waiting, consisting of five conservatives who serve as go-betweens for the leadership and the tea party. Getting the blessing of that group is usually the first step toward getting broader tea party buy-in. According to GOP sources, this group includes Reps. Jeb Hensarling (Texas), Jim Jordan (Ohio), Paul Ryan (Wis.), Tom Price (Ga.) and Steve Scalise (La.). All but Ryan have chaired the Republican Study Committee, the bloc of arch-conservatives in the House. Much of the speculation has focused on Hensarling, chairman of the Financial Services Committee, who is considered a viable candidate for either speaker or majority leader. Price, who lost a leadership race last round to Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.), is considered a viable challenger to current Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (Calif.).

A grim menu. These people make Boehner look like Nelson Rockefeller. Under any of them, the point of the House of Representatives will be to throw as many wrenches into as many gears of government as they can possibly get away with. You think things couldn’t get worse? Oh, trust me, they could get much worse. And it looks like they will.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, September 5, 2013

September 6, 2013 Posted by | John Boehner | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Not Even Close”: Conservatives Can’t Win At The Negotiating Table What They Lost At The Ballot Box

The final, final results from the 2012 presidential election are now in. While we already knew President Obama won (and the House certified that result today when it tallied the electoral votes), it’s worth revisiting the final totals and reminding ourselves of one important fact: It wasn’t particularly close.

Sure the election was widely expected to be a nail-biter, but it wasn’t. But in the days and weeks afterward you still heard the occasional GOPer insist that it was—see Texas Rep. Jeb Hensarling last month saying it was a tight, 51-49 race, for example.

Here are some final stats about Obama’s victory, courtesy of Bloomberg’s Greg Giroux:

Obama got 51.1 percent of the popular vote to Mitt Romney’s 47.2 percent, a four point margin. (Let’s all pause for a moment and savor the fact that history will show that Romney won … 47 percent.) That’s a wider margin than George W. Bush won by in 2004 (51-48), when pundits on the right like Charles Krauthammer declared that he had earned a mandate.

That makes Obama the first president to crack 51 percent since Dwight Eisenhower more than a half-century ago. (Sorry, conservatives, Ronald Reagan only reached 50.75 percent in 1980.)

Obama won 26 states and the District of Columbia, piling up 332 electoral votes. You can think of it another way: There is no state in Obama’s column which would have swung the election to Romney had he won it. In other words, if Romney had pulled a stunning upset and won California’s 55 electoral votes … he’d still have lost.

There were only four especially close states in the 2012 election. Only Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia were decided by less than 5 percentage points. (Note: Romney won one of them, North Carolina; had he swept those four states … he’d have still lost the election as Obama totaled 272 electoral votes in the rest of the country.) Four is the smallest number of close states in a presidential election since Reagan trounced Walter Mondale nearly 30 years ago.

So no matter how you slice or dice the election results, this was not a close race. It wasn’t a landslide, but it wasn’t a coin flip. The voters selected Obama and his vision over Romney and his, and they did it decisively.

And you can layer onto that the fact that, against all expectations, Democrats picked up seats in the U.S. Senate and also in the U.S. House. And while the GOP did retain control of the House, nearly 1.4 million more people voted for Democratic House candidates than for Republicans. 1.4 million—remember that figure the next time someone says Americans voted for divided government last year.

All of which brings me to a great point that the Maddow Blog’s Steve Benen made yesterday. He noted that South Carolina GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham vowed that the upcoming fiscal fights, over raising the debt ceiling at the end of February and over funding the government a few weeks later, would be “one hell of a contest about the direction and vision of this country.”

Benen writes:

…what Graham and too many of his allies seem to forget is that we already had “one hell of a contest about the direction and the vision of this country.”

It was a little something called “the 2012 election cycle,” and though Graham may not have liked the results, his side lost.

Memories can be short in DC, but for at least a year, voters were told the 2012 election would be the most spectacularly important, history-changing, life-setting election any of us have ever seen…

Election Day 2012, in other words, was for all the marbles. It was the big one. The whole enchilada was on the line. The results would set the direction of the country for a generation, so it was time to pull out all the stops and fight like there’s no tomorrow—because for the losers, there probably wouldn’t be one.

Obama won. Republicans lost. And, again, it wasn’t especially close.

So it is not only tiresome but more than a little undemocratic for conservatives to suggest that, having lost at the ballot box, they should be able to dictate the direction and vision of the country at the negotiating table.


By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, January 4, 2013

January 5, 2013 Posted by | Election 2012 | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

GOP Super Committee Co-Chair: Lawmakers Failed Because Democrats Refused To Privatize Medicare

Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX) faults the Democrats’ refusal to accept partial Medicare privatization for the super committee’s inability to come up with a bipartisan plan to lower spending in today’s Wall Street Journal. He writes, “Democrats on the committee made it clear that the new spending called for in the president’s health law was off the table” and pretends that the spending in the Affordable Care Act added to the deficit (it actually reduces it). “Republicans offered to negotiate a plan on the other two health-care entitlements—Medicare and Medicaid—based upon the reforms included in the budget the House passed earlier this year,” he continues and lays out the premium support proposal offered by Alice Rivlin and Pete Domenici:

The Medicare reforms would make no changes for those in or near retirement. Beginning in 2022, beneficiaries would be guaranteed a choice of Medicare-approved private health coverage options and guaranteed a premium-support payment to help pay for the plan they choose….These seniors would be able to choose from a list of Medicare-guaranteed coverage options, similar to the House budget’s approach—except that Rivlin-Domenici would continue to include a traditional Medicare fee-for-service plan among the options.

This approach was also rejected by committee Democrats.

The Congressional Budget Office, the Medicare trustees, and the Government Accountability Office have each repeatedly said that our health-care entitlements are unsustainable. Committee Democrats offered modest adjustments to these programs, but they were far from sufficient to meet the challenge. And even their modest changes were made contingent upon a minimum of $1 trillion in higher taxes—a move sure to stifle job creation during the worst economy in recent memory.

Hensarling doesn’t mention that the Rivlin-Domenici premium-support proposal doesn’t so much lower national health care spending as it shifts it to the beneficiary. The plan reduces the federal contribution to Medicare by capping costs for each beneficiary and offering premium support credits that won’t keep up with actual health care spending. The federal government spends less, but seniors will pay more out of pocket for health care benefits every year. The proposal also breaks up the market clout of traditional Medicare and rather than ratcheting up some of efficiencies and payment reforms in the Affordable Care Act, it sets the nation on an untested path of private competition — leaving seniors vulnerable to the manipulations of for-profit health insurers.

Democrats, for their part, offered rather substantial concessions on Medicare spending. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities argued, the Democrats’ $3 trillion deficit proposal to the super committee “stands well to the right of plans by the co-chairs of the bipartisan Bowles-Simpson commission and the Senate’s ‘Gang of Six,’ and even further to the right of the plan by the bipartisan Rivlin-Domenici commission.” The plan contained “substantially smaller revenue increases than those bipartisan proposals while, for example, containing significantly deeper cuts in Medicare and Medicaid than the Bowles-Simpson plan.” For instance, Bowles-Simpson offered $383 billion in Medicare and Medicaid, while Democrats put $475 billion on the table.

President Obama introduced $320 billion in health care savings, mostly from the pharmaceutical industry and other providers, including rural hospitals, teaching hospitals, and biotechnology firms. But the plan even incorporated the GOP’s push for greater means testing in Medicare, asking some wealthier beneficiaries to pay more for coverage and sought to give beneficiaries “skin in the game” — as the GOP puts it — to discourage over treatment.

All of these are significant concessions — as are the health cuts included in the trigger mechanism — but Hensarling and Republicans aren’t interested in bipartisan agreement. They’re not accepting anything short of Medicare privatization.

By: Igor Volsky, Think Progress, November 22, 2011

November 23, 2011 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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