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“Bye Bye Boehner”: The Speaker’s Exit Has The Potential To Cause Chaos On Capitol Hill

Friday morning, House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, announced his resignation and rocked the political world. The embattled speaker will step down at the end of October. Boehner’s latest move was abrupt and unexpected. Until this morning’s announcement, Washington was still collectively basking in the afterglow of Pope Francis’s historic visit to our city. Now, the speaker’s impending exit has everyone wondering what happens next.

The most immediate matter on Congress’ agenda is the continued funding for the operations of the federal government. Current funding is due to expire at the end of the fiscal year, which is Sept. 30. Congress has not passed the funding bills for fiscal year 2016, so it must take some type of action next week to avoid shutting the government down. According to the Washington Post, the speaker’s resignation has cleared the way for this to happen, and Congress will pass a short-term funding deal that would keep the government running.

Until this morning, some House Republicans were threatening to vote against continued funding for the government unless the necessary legislative package also included provisions to defund Planned Parenthood. The division within his own party could have left Boehner without the votes needed to pass even a temporary funding bill, but his resignation seems to have appeased the conservatives who opposed him. Rep. John Fleming, R-La., told the Post, “The commitment has been made that there will be no shutdown.”

While the initial crisis of a potential government shutdown will be averted, Congress still has much more to do before the end of the year. These matters will become more complicated with the new hole in the House’s Republican leadership. Although the member next in line for the speakership seems to be House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., the Washington Post noted that many House Republicans “believe he lacks the political and tactical gravitas to be a force in the House,” adding “The resignation sets up a bruising leadership race that will represent a long-delayed open clash between conservative and establishment Republicans.”

The crucial matters that Congress must decide on before the end of the year include a long-term funding package for the remainder of fiscal year 2016 and legislation to raise the debt ceiling, which is expected to become necessary in late October or November. The potential for a contentious leadership race, which pits conservatives against the rest of Republican conference, could make reaching consensus on these remaining matters difficult. Unless House Republicans are able to decide on a new leadership slate quickly, the rest of the year could be ugly on Capitol Hill.

Long-term, the effects Boehner’s retirement could be more far reaching. The speaker may not have been beloved by Democrats or by some of the members of his own party, but he was a force in the House and he won more than he lost. He had one of the most difficult jobs in Washington, but he worked every day to bring the factions of his House majority together so that Congress could continue with the work of the people. Most of the time, he succeeded.

It remains to be seen whether any of those who will run to replace him will be able to do the same. Recent calls from members of his own party for his removal had damaged the speaker somewhat, but he was still the most powerful, effective and thoughtful member of his party’s leadership in the House. With a relatively weak bench lined up to succeed him, Boehner’s resignation has the potential to create chaos now and in the years to come.

 

By: Cary Gibson, Government Relations Consultant, Prime Policy Group; Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, September 25, 2015

September 27, 2015 Posted by | Federal Budget, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Drag-Racing Off A Political Cliff”: Republicans Attack Immigrants While Putting America In Danger

The House of Representatives’ Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill, which is really a law seeking the mass deportations of undocumented people, including children, died on the Senate floor, victim of arithmetic certainty.

Mathematical reality seems to be a challenge to the GOP House majority. While most Americans have heard about the 60-vote rule in the U.S. Senate that impacts most legislation — the cloture/filibuster, as it is commonly known — House Republicans insist in passing bills that cannot make that threshold, and are subsequently dismayed that their legislation dies an ignominious death.

Yet once again, and this would now seem to be par for the course for Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) House, Republicans have passed a bill that, with zero support of Senate Democrats, failed to meet the basic 60-vote threshold — three times.

It has been clear for some time that Democrats will not support the liquidation of President Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Moreover, should such a bill pass by some deus ex machina event, the president would veto it.

So why insist on passing a bill that cannot become law? One must assume that the potency of a quixotic quest to achieve the impossible is irresistible to many members of the Republican caucus in the House. Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) seemed to insist that two plus two does not equal four when he told The Hill that “There’s not a Plan B, because this is the plan.”

In other words, after the mass deportation bill crashed and burned in the Senate, the House has no other plan, no other path forward to fund America’s shield from terrorism, Homeland Security.

Showing the triumph of ideology over logic, The Hill further reports that Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) said before the Senate vote that: “[M]any of us agree that we should stand behind the one bill that we sent over there. Most of us feel that way. … Anything less than that, we’re not going to get any better result anyway. So why not just go for what’s really right?”

Of course, the obvious “better result” would be not to put America’s security at risk, and instead pass a clean DHS funding bill that would keep the nation safe. Immigration can always be tackled as a separate issue by the Republican-controlled Congress.

In fact, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) recently told me on my radio show that the House leadership has given immigration-reform Republicans encouragement to develop a set of sweeping immigration reform bills. So at least in the pro-arithmetic wing of the Republican Caucus, there is a reality-based path forward to deal with immigration without the perennial government shutdown threat — implicit in Scalise’s “not a Plan B” comment — that has become Republicans’ go-to tactic for forcing through their agenda when they fail to muster the votes necessary to pass legislation in both chambers.

It would be refreshing to see the big House Republican majority have as much passion for governing as they do for deportation. As Americans look at our society, polling clearly suggests that bread-and-butter issues dominate the agenda of the people. The economy, of course, and education, healthcare and the sense of economic insecurity that hangs like a shadow over most American families are the issues that should be tackled by a giant majority with ambitions to govern for more than two years.

I have yet to see one poll in which Americans rank mass deportations of undocumented immigrants as a top priority. Moreover, it’s hard to imagine that Americans favor such deportations over the continued funding and smooth operation of the country’s principal anti-terrorist agency, DHS.

Ironically, the party that has claimed the mantle of being the true fighters against a global jihadist threat is willing to drag-race off a political cliff to deport people rather than fund Homeland Security.

This is a choice that has both practical and symbolic resonance. The practical impact is obvious: Even one day, contrary to Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s (R-Fla.) jaunty declaration otherwise, when DHS is not funded is one day too many. Republicans willfully weakening America’s national security would be irresponsible, bordering on seditious.

And the political and symbolic effects would also be notable. Will Americans easily forget that Republicans bet with their safety, indeed the safety of the nation, for the unachievable policy goals of deporting millions of people?

Perhaps we’re seeing here the inherent weakness of a Republican majority so divided among ideologies and passions that it is literally incapable of governing for the benefit of the nation.

At the very least, we are witness to the fact that even GOP leaders such as Rep. Scalise are a little weak on the universal truths of basic arithmetic.

 

By: Fernando Espuelas, Univision America Host; THe Blog, The Huffington Post, February 6, 2015

February 8, 2015 Posted by | Deportation, Immigration Reform, National Security | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“More Republican Fringe Views”: Tinfoil Hats, Black Helicopters, And The Politics Of Paranoia

Public Policy Polling released the results of an interesting survey this week, which you probably heard a bit about — it dealt with public attitudes towards conspiracy theories (some of which weren’t really conspiracy theories). Not surprisingly, we learned that a lot of folks believe a lot of strange stuff.

But it’s worth appreciating the fact that this phenomenon isn’t limited to the general public. We’re occasionally reminded that federal lawmakers buy into some bizarre conspiracy theories, too.

We talked yesterday, for example, about the Arms Trade Treaty at the United Nations, and the oddity of watching Republicans align themselves with the position adopted by Iran, North Korea, and Syria. Let’s also take a moment, though, to highlight the GOP’s reasons for doing so. For example, Rep. John Fleming (R-La.) appeared on a right-wing radio show yesterday, arguing that the treaty would “literally change” and “essentially repeal” the Second Amendment. This is patently ridiculous, but Fleming said it anyway.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), whose affinity for conspiracy theories is bordering on unhealthy, wrote a fundraising letter on the treaty for the National Association for Gun Rights that was truly crazy, even for him.

“I don’t know about you, but watching anti-American globalists plot against our Constitution makes me sick. […]

If we’re to succeed, we must fight back now. That’s why I’m helping lead the fight to defeat the UN “Small Arms Treaty” in the United States Senate. And it’s why I need your help today.

Will you join me by taking a public stand against the UN “Small Arms Treaty” and sign the Official Firearms Sovereignty Survey right away? Ultimately, UN bureaucrats will stop at nothing to register, ban and CONFISCATE firearms owned by private citizens like YOU.

Paul’s letter added that the United Nations intends to “force” the United States to “CONFISCATE and DESTROY ALL ‘unauthorized’ civilian firearms,” while creating “an INTERNATIONAL gun registry, setting the stage for full-scale gun CONFISCATION,” which isn’t part of the Arms Trade Treaty and also isn’t sane.

But it does offer a reminder about why the politics of paranoia makes governing so difficult.

Reflecting on the hysterical opposition to the ATT, Greg Sargent raised an important point yesterday.

Republican Senators (and too many red state Dems) have fallen into line behind the NRA’s lurid claims not just about the treaty, but also about gun control, endorsing its paranoid and false claim that expanding background checks would create a national gun registry. With United States Senators eagerly feeding such fringe views rather than engaging in genuine policy debate, is it any wonder that it’s a major struggle to implement even the most modest and sensible effort to limit the ongoing murder of innocents, one that is supported by nine in 10 Americans?

I strongly agree, and the more I thought about it, the more I started noticing how broadly applicable this is.

We couldn’t pass a disability treaty because Republicans believed conspiracy theories. We can’t address global warming because Republicans believe the entirety of climate science is a giant conspiracy. We couldn’t pass bipartisan health care reform in part because Republicans were too heavily invested in the “death panel” conspiracy theory.

This problem, in other words, keeps coming up, and probably won’t get any better until the electorate sends fewer conspiracy theorists to Washington.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, April 4, 2013

April 6, 2013 Posted by | Conspiracy Theories, GOP | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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