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“Fulfilling Their Constitutional Duties”: On SCOTUS, Pressure Falls On Endangered GOP Senators

All corners of the Republican Party have made themselves very clear: they intend to, in Donald Trump’s words, “delay, delay, delay” the confirmation of Antonin Scalia’s replacement on the Supreme Court until after the 2016 election. Ted Cruz has signaled his intention to lead a blockade, and Mitch McConnell intends to run a blockade.

All of this would be unprecedented, despite conservative protestations to the contrary. Conventional wisdom seems to suggest that McConnell can hold the Supreme Court nomination hostage for the whole year. But is that true?

It’s not necessary for the entire GOP to confirm the nominee. It only requires a few GOP Senators to join with the Democrats to fulfill their Constitutional duties. And as it turns out, there are quite a few Republican Senators in blue states who would be pilloried as intransigent obstructionists if they refused to confirm commonsense consensus nominees.

Among these Senators would be Senator Mark Kirk in Illinois, who is already Democrats’ primary target for a Senate takeover. Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson is less ideologically likely to cross the aisle, but with Russ Feingold already seeming likely to defeat him in November, it’s not clear that Johnson can afford to give Democrats yet another cudgel with which to attack him. The same goes for Senator Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania and Rob Portman in Ohio.

President Obama will certainly nominate a number of popular, reasonable and consensus nominees, from recently confirmed Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson to D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Sri Srinivasan. With each attempted and withdrawn nomination the Republican Party would look worse as a whole, but the careers of the specifically imperiled Senators would be particularly threatened–and with them the Republican Senate majority itself.

Will Ayotte, Kirk and their colleagues kowtow to McConnell and Cruz and likely eliminate their ability to hold their seats, or will they do the right thing, perform their constitutional duty and protect their Senate careers?

Time will tell.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, February 14, 2016

February 14, 2016 Posted by | GOP, Mitch Mc Connell, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Politics Of Fear, Getting Worse”: Scott Brown Combines ISIS, Ebola, And Border Security

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson was dismissive yesterday of an unfounded concern: Islamic State terrorists using the Ebola virus. In remarks to the Association of the United States Army, Johnson specifically said, “We’ve seen no specific credible intelligence that [ISIS] is attempting to use any sort of disease or virus to attack our homeland.”

That’s good to hear, of course, but the fact that it was necessary for the DHS secretary to make these comments was itself rather striking.

As a friend reminded me yesterday, we’ve heard quite a bit about possible threats from ISIS terrorists; and we’ve heard plenty about the dangers of Ebola; but we’ve apparently entered a new phase in which ISIS may strike with Ebola.

And where is such talk coming from? Greg Sargent reported yesterday on the latest remarks from former Sen. Scott Brown (R), now running in New Hampshire after losing two years ago in Massachusetts. In this case, the Republican was asked whether he supports travel restrictions on countries in West Africa. Brown replied:

“We need a comprehensive approach and I think that should be part of it. I think it’s all connected. For example, we have people coming into our country by legal means bringing in diseases and other potential challenges. Yet we have a border that’s so porous that anyone can walk across it. I think it’s naive to think that people aren’t going to be walking through here who have those types of diseases and/or other types of intent, criminal or terrorist. And yet we do nothing to secure our border.”

Brown has dabbled in this before, but I think this was the most direct he’s been to date to tie together the disparate threads of terrorism, Ebola, and border security, all at the same time, all in the hopes of exploiting public anxiety to advance his personal ambitions. (North Carolina’s Thom Tillis recently pushed a similar tack, though he didn’t go for the full trifecta.)

The politics of fear isn’t pretty, and as Brown makes clear, it’s getting worse. The public can, however, take at least some comfort in the fact that the New England Republican doesn’t seem to have any idea what he’s talking about.

For example, Brown believes “that anyone can walk across” the border because “we do nothing to secure” it. For an issue the Republican claims to take seriously, he’s badly confused – border security is actually at an all-time high.

But the more amusing takeaway is the degree to which the right wants to connect every story to its unrelated goal. Want to improve the economy? Secure the border. Want to fight terrorism? Secure the border. Worried about public health? Secure the border. Worried about crime? Secure the border.

If you’ve got a problem, Republicans have a border that needs securing.

It’s reminiscent of the Bush/Cheney era, when just about every possible challenge – economy, energy policy, terrorism, health care – was met with a call to cut taxes.

Of course, the difference is, when it comes to immigration, Democrats are fully prepared to give Republicans the exact border-security measures the GOP wants as part of a comprehensive reform package. It’s a shame Republicans won’t consider a compromise.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 15, 2014

October 16, 2014 Posted by | Border Security, Ebola, ISIS | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“We Have To Impeach Someone!”: The Right’s Competing Targets For An Impeachment Drive

The Republican message on impeachment is something of a mess. For every GOP leader who dismisses such talk as a Democratic “scam,” there are two more Republicans taking the idea seriously. For example, in Alaska last week, two GOP Senate candidates touched on the idea – and the more credible of the two, former state Attorney General Dan Sullivan, said he would take impeachment “very, very seriously” if elected and “would focus on it” if it reached the Senate.

So much for the notion of a Democratic “scam.”

Mike Huckabee is further helping exemplify the confusion. Last week, the former Arkansas governor said President Obama “absolutely” deserves to be impeached, adding there’s “no doubt that he has done plenty of things worthy of impeachment.” And then over the weekend, Huckabee added, “Let me be very clear. I never said he should be impeached.”

While Republicans work on sorting this out, some of their brethren are prepared to move on – not to other issues, but to other executive-branch officials they’d like to see impeached.

Senator Ted Cruz (R., Texas) doesn’t want conservatives to try to impeach President Obama, but he supports targeting Attorney General Eric Holder.

“It is clear, with the Harry Reid Senate, impeachment of the president is not going anywhere,” Cruz told National Review Online during an interview at the 2014 RedState Gathering in Fort Worth, Texas. “If the House of Representatives were to impeach the attorney general, that process would shine much needed light on the indefensible abuse of power by the attorney general,” he says.

And what, pray tell, is the evidence of Eric Holder abusing his power? Cruz says he’s still outraged by the IRS “scandal,” a controversy that evaporated a year ago when no one could find any evidence of wrongdoing by anyone. The far-right senator nevertheless suspects Holder of “obstruction of justice” for reasons he has not been able to explain.

(Others on the far-right have different targets in mind. Rep. Michele Bachmann last week raised the prospect of impeaching Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson.)

No good can come of this.

To be sure, Cruz conceded that he doesn’t expect Holder to be removed from office by the Senate, even if House Republicans impeach him. But the Texas Republican – who has a little too much influence over the direction of the lower chamber – told National Review he’d like to see the House pursue articles of impeachment against the Attorney General anyway in order to “shine a powerful light” on whatever it is Cruz finds important.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because far-right GOP lawmakers have been slowly moving in this direction for a long while. In November 2013, some House Republicans began pushing for Holder’s impeachment. A month ago, a House GOP leadership aide said that the impeach-Holder caucus has “been picking up a lot recently.”

As we talked about at the time, this seems to be the manifestation of a bizarre sort of frustration. “We may not be able to impeach the president,” some GOP lawmakers appear to be arguing, “but gosh darn it we’re going to have to impeach someone.”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 12, 2014

August 13, 2014 Posted by | Impeachment, Republicans, Right Wing | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Limits Of Presidential Photo-Ops”: A Bipartisan Hunger For More Political Theater, Just For The Sake Of Symbolism

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), this week, on a presidential photo-op at the U.S/Mexico border:

“If it’s serious enough for him to send a $3.7 billion funding request to us, I would think it would be serious enough for him to take an hour of his time on Air Force One to go down and see for himself what the conditions are,” Cornyn told reporters.

Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Tex.), three years ago, on a presidential photo-op at the U.S/Mexico border (via Chris Moody):

“What Sen. Cornyn is looking for, President Obama cannot deliver with another speech or photo op, and that’s presidential leadership. Words matter little when there is no action,” said Kevin McLaughlin, a Cornyn spokesman.

I’ll confess that this is one of the unexpected political hullabaloos of the week. It’s not at all surprising that policymakers in both parties are taking the border crisis and the plight of these poor children seriously, but it was hard to predict that much of the political conversation would focus less on a proposed solution and more on whether or not the president literally, physically makes a symbolic gesture by going to the border itself.

Much of the overheated rhetoric has come from the far-right – Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) inexplicably said the president “disrespects our military” by not going to the border – but it’s not entirely partisan. Some congressional Democrats have added to the criticism.

“I hate to use the word ‘bizarre,’ but … when he is shown playing pool in Colorado, drinking a beer, and he can’t even go 242 miles to the Texas border?” Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) told msnbc’s Andrea Mitchell yesterday.

As best as I can tell, no one in either party has said exactly what they want Obama to do at the border, other than just go there for some undefined period of time before leaving. It appears to be a bipartisan hunger for more political theater, just for the sake of symbolism.

President Obama, at least so far, is pursuing a very different approach.

After meeting with Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) and a variety of officials in Dallas yesterday, the president held a press conference in which the very first question was on this topic. “There are increasing calls not just from Republicans, but also from some Democrats for you to visit the border during this trip,” the reporter noted. “Can you explain why you didn’t do that?” Obama replied:

“Jeh Johnson has now visited, at my direction, the border five times. He’s going for a sixth this week. He then comes back and reports to me extensively on everything that’s taking place. So there’s nothing that is taking place down there that I am not intimately aware of and briefed on.

“This isn’t theater. This is a problem. I’m not interested in photo ops; I’m interested in solving a problem. And those who say I should visit the border, when you ask them what should we be doing, they’re giving us suggestions that are embodied in legislation that I’ve already sent to Congress. So it’s not as if they’re making suggestions that we’re not listening to. In fact, the suggestions of those who work at the border, who visited the border, are incorporated in legislation that we’re already prepared to sign the minute it hits my desk.”

For the president’s critics, this wasn’t good enough. I’m not sure why.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, July 10, 2014

July 13, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Politics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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