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“Obstruction And Destruction”: Republicans Will Be Destroyed If The Far Right Keeps Clinging To Its Unachievable Agenda

While Washington waits to see who the next speaker of the House of Representatives will be, the far right seems to be doing everything in its power to destroy the Republican Party.

When current Speaker John Boehner announced at the end of September that he would retire, he said that he did so because the controversy surrounding his leadership wasn’t good for his party. Other Republican leaders called on House Republicans to work on “healing and unifying” in the wake of the leadership upset. Unfortunately, the opposite is happening, and the badly needed party unity looks like it may be an elusive goal.

Instead of working with party stalwarts to find common ground, the far right continues to campaign against candidates for speaker they consider to be too “establishment.” The New York Times reported that their latest target is Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., Boehner’s current draft pick to run for the House’s top spot. Ryan hasn’t even decided if he will enter the race yet, but is already being criticized for being “too liberal.” Ryan’s positions on immigration and his past work to find consensus on fiscal issues seem to be the cause for the ire against him.

The criticism is misplaced and calls into question the intentions of those who are lobbing it. Ryan has long been one of the most conservative members of the House. Additionally, as the vice presidential nominee in 2012, he was standard bearer for his party. To categorize Ryan as “too liberal” for his party’s conservative base is a bridge too far.

As Rep Tom Cole, R-Okla., told the Times, “Anyone who attacks Paul Ryan as being insufficiently conservative is either woefully misinformed or maliciously destructive. Paul Ryan has played a major role in advancing the conservative cause and creating the Republican House majority. His critics are not true conservatives. They are radical populists who neither understand nor accept the institutions, procedures and traditions that are the basis of constitutional governance.”

It would appear that the goals of the far right are not governance, but rather obstruction and disruption. Without fail, it has consistently pursued policy goals for which there is no likelihood of consensus and has viewed any type of compromise as a defeat and a betrayal of conservative causes. This stance is not realistic in a democratic government, nor is it responsible. The far right forgets that the foundation of democracy is based on compromise and that the principal job of a member of Congress is to participate in activities that keep the government operational. Threatening government shutdowns and turning the House into a chaotic mess because the most conservative members don’t get their way is an abdication of this basic duty.

That’s bad for the American people who elected them, but even worse for the Republican majority that’s trying to govern them. The far right’s obstructionist activities have made their party look divided and ineffective. It’s possible that their interference with the speaker’s race could leave the party in an even more vulnerable position without an effective leader. If the party can’t “heal and unify,” as its current leaders have suggested it should, how can it move forward?

Politico reported that Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., said the far-right movement isn’t about pushing conservative ideals, but rather about changing the way the House works. If that’s truly the case, Ryan’s idealism shouldn’t matter. In reality, it seems the far right is more interested in pursuing its unachievable policy agenda at any cost. And while that may seem like good politics right now, it may ultimately be the party’s undoing.


By: Cary Gibson, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, October 16, 2015

October 18, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, House Republicans, Paul Ryan, Speaker of The House of Representatives | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Devolving The Gingrich Revolution”: In The End, It’s All About The Same Thing Gingrich Was About; “Not To Reform, But To Destroy”

According to Mike DeBonis, the Freedom Caucus usurpers in the House might not be as focused on WHO becomes Speaker as much as HOW he (I don’t think any women are under consideration) wields the gavel.

When the 40 or so Republican lawmakers responsible for the recent upheaval in the House talk about what it would take to quell their rebellion, they do not necessarily talk about the debt ceiling, the federal budget or any other demand of the party’s energized conservative base.

They speak instead about rule changes, committee assignments and the hallowed pursuit of “regular order” — a frequently invoked, civics-textbook ideal by which legislation bubbles up through subcommittees to committees to the floor to the president’s desk and into law.

“The false, lazy narrative is that we want a more conservative speaker,” Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) told reporters at a forum of hard-line House members last week. “But the reality is: What we want is a process-focused speaker. What we need is a speaker who follows the House rules.”

There are those who fear that such a change would make the House even more ungovernable than it already is. But putting those concerns aside, it is interesting to take a historical look at where this “top-down” management the usurpers want to get rid of originated. Paul Glastris and Haley Sweetland Edwards laid it out for us not too long ago.

When Newt Gingrich became speaker of the House in the fall of 1994, he set about almost immediately creating “the most controversial majority leadership since 1910,” according to longtime Congress watchers and political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein in their 2006 book, The Broken Branch. Under his leadership, backed up by seventy-three conservative Republican freshmen who swept to power that year, the goal was not to reform, but to destroy; not to compromise, but to advance a highly conservative agenda no matter the means.

Sound familiar? Those who suggest that the current iteration of the Freedom Caucus has its roots in the precedent set by Newt Gingrich have a point. But back then the usurpers embraced an opposite means to reach their ends.

Gingrich’s strategy, as he explained it to Mann and Ornstein, was simple: Cultivate a seething disdain for the institution of Congress itself, while simultaneously restructuring it so as to eliminate anything—powerful chairmen, contradictory facts from legislative support agencies, more moderate Republicans—that would stand in the way of his vision.

Gingrich’s first move in 1995 was to dismantle the decentralized, democratic committee system that the liberals and moderates had created in the 1970s and instead centralize that power on himself. Under his new rules, committee chairs were no longer determined by seniority or a vote by committee members, but instead appointed by the party leadership (read: by Newt himself, who often made appointees swear their loyalty to him). Subcommittees also lost their ability to set their own agendas and schedules; that too largely became the prerogative of the leadership. At the same time, Gingrich imposed six-year term limits and required chairs to be reappointed (by leadership) every two years. Finally, Gingrich protected, and in some cases bulked up, the staff leadership offices and increasingly had those offices write major pieces of legislation and hand them to the committees.

These rules, taken together, essentially stripped all congressional Republicans, especially those in previously senior positions, of power; instead, whether or not they advanced in their careers—whether they were reappointed or on which committee they were appointed—would be determined by party leaders based on their loyalty and subservience. (Two years after the Democrats took the majority in the House in 2007, they eliminated the term-limits rule; Speaker John Boehner reinstated it when the Republicans regained control in 2010.) “If you were thinking about the next stage in your career, you did what you were told to do,” observes Scott Lilly. The point of this centralization of power was to give the leadership maximum control of the legislative agenda and to jam through as many conservative bills as possible.

Fascinating, huh? The very rules these usurpers want to throw out are the ones put in place by the original usurper…Newt Gingrich.

Now the so-called “Freedom Caucus” will dress up their aims in talk of “regular order” and “decentralization.” But in the end, they’re all about the same thing Gingrich was about: “not to reform, but to destroy; not to compromise, but to advance a highly conservative agenda no matter the means.”


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 11, 2015

October 13, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, House Freedom Caucus, Newt Gingrich | , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Year Of Living Negatively”: The Tea Party’s View Takes Precedence Over Majority Opinion Among Republicans.

Republicans feel good about this fall’s election even though their party is sharply divided and its brand is badly tainted.

The House GOP last week elected a balanced ticket of leaders in a relatively harmonious process. Nonetheless, the party’s right still complained that its voices were not heard.

And a party leadership that thought it had quelled the tea party rebellion faces a runoff in Mississippi on Tuesday that will end either in a victory for the insurgent challenger or in claims that the establishment candidate prevailed only because Democrats, particularly African Americans, crossed into the Republican primary to save him.

Is it any wonder that the GOP’s governing game plan for the rest of the year is to do as little as possible? Since the party can’t agree to anything that would pass muster with President Obama and the Democratic Senate, it will bet that Obama’s low poll ratings will be enough for Republicans to make gains in House races and, potentially, give them control of the Senate.

All of this is why 2014 will be the year of living negatively.

The prospect of months of attacks and more attacks reflects the depth of disillusionment with Washington. This is the best thing Republicans have going for them, but it might also provide Democrats with their clearest path to holding the Senate. Consider the findings of last week’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll.

The number that got the most attention was the president’s depressed 41 percent approval rating. But the survey also found that only 29 percent of those surveyed had a positive view of the Republican Party while 38 percent had a positive view of the Democrats. Democratic candidates have remained competitive in many key races because so many voters find the GOP alternative unpalatable.

The survey also showed that Republican divisions are not the invention of right-wing talk-show hosts or bloggers. Republicans who support the tea party are well to the right of others in their party. As NBC’s First Read reported, 68 percent of tea party Republicans said that immigration hurts the United States, compared with only 47 percent of non-tea party Republicans and 42 percent of all Americans. And a PRRI/Brookings survey (with which I was involved) found that while 41 percent of tea party members favored identifying and deporting illegal immigrants, only 26 percent of non-tea party Republicans preferred this option.

By a 74 percent to 23 percent margin in the NBC/Journal poll, tea party Republicans disapproved of requiring companies to reduce greenhouse gases, “even if it would mean higher utility bills for consumers.” By contrast, 57 percent of Americans and 50 percent of non-tea party Republicans backed the idea.

The Republican congressional leadership thus continues to be caught between an aspiration to appeal to middle-ground voters and a fear, reinforced by Eric Cantor’s recent loss, that efforts to do so will be punished by the party’s right, which plays an outsize role in low-turnout primaries. On policy — notably on immigration — this often means that the tea party’s view takes precedence over majority opinion among Republicans.

In electing Rep. Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) as majority leader over the more conservative Rep. Raúl Labrador (Idaho), House Republicans were actually trying to avoid ideology altogether. To replace Cantor (Va.), they picked a pragmatist focused on winning elections and an extrovert known for making friends across factional lines. Policy ambition is not McCarthy’s calling card.

The victory of Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana as whip pleased many conservatives and Southerners, but not all — and especially not the most ardently conservative bloggers and talk-show hosts who influence rank-and-file tea party opinion. Erick Erickson of the RedState blog, for example, accused Scalise of having worked “behind the scenes to marginalize conservatives.” Rep. Justin Amash, a young libertarian from Michigan, said the result of the leadership races showed that the House GOP “unfortunately hasn’t heard the message loud enough.”

There will be more loud commotion on Tuesday in Mississippi’s Republican runoff between the tea party’s Chris McDaniel and Sen. Thad Cochran, a six-term incumbent. McDaniel is seen as having the momentum, but his supporters are already attacking Cochran’s campaign for encouraging Democrats to participate in the Republican contest.

Cochran, a McDaniel e-mail insisted, “is so desperate to keep his seat that he’s going to use Democrats to steal the Republican primary.”

So the next stop in the battle for the Republican soul could see either a victory that emboldens the tea party — or a defeat that will be blamed on Democrats and infuriate the movement.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, June 22, 2014

June 25, 2014 Posted by | GOP, House Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The ‘Lawless’ Presidencies Of Barack Obama And Ronald Reagan”: Consistency Must Count For Something, Otherwise It’s Hypocrisy

The headline emerging from last week’s SOTU address continues to be the President’s stated intent to go around Congress, where necessary, to effectuate elements of his agenda through the use of the executive order.

So grave is the situation—according to conservative leaders and pundits—Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) took to the airwaves this weekend to warn one and all that we now have “an increasingly lawless presidency.”

Tea Party firebrand, Rep. Steve King of Iowa, could not agree more.

Indeed, so concerned is King with Obama’s decision to order up a raise for those employed by federal contractors, he referred to the executive action granting the wage increase as a “constitutional violation”, adding “we’ve never had a president with that level of audacity and that level of contempt for his own oath of office.” 

Still, a highly placed White House aide noted that there are a number of things “the President can unilaterally do,” stating that “With a hostile Congress that doesn’t show much sign of coming toward us on some of these issues, it behooves us to take the initiative when we can take it.”

There is, however, one thing I should point out regarding the sequencing of events set forth above.

While Paul Ryan and Steve King are certainly functioning in today’s highly charged political environment, the White House aide who made the statements regarding the President’s ability to do many a thing unilaterally—particularly when a hostile Congress is not cooperating with the president’s agenda—was none other than Gary L. Bauer, chief domestic policy advisor to President Ronald W. Reagan. What’s more, the statements were made in August of 1987 and were the direct result of the years of frustration Reagan had experienced at the hands of a Congress that simply would not get with his program.

Sound familiar?

Of course, nothing President Reagan did through the use of his executive order power could possibly match the severity of Obama’s attempt to get around an obstructionist Congress in order to accomplish his own agenda, right?

Not so much.

Do the words ‘National Security Agency’ ring a bell?

The NSA, of course, is the government body that has been collecting our phone and Internet data while spying on Americans and foreigners (including foreign leaders) in ways that have infuriated the very Republicans—along with just about everyone else—who hold Ronald Wilson Reagan up to be the icon of modern day conservatism.

As a result, you might be surprised to learn the following bit of history:

It was President Reagan’s infamous Executive Order 12333 (referred to as “twelve-triple-three”) that established and handed to the NSA virtually all of the powers under which the agency  operates to this day—allowing the agency to collect the data that so many now find to be so offensive.

McClatchy describes Executive Order 12333 as follows:

“It is a sweeping mandate that outlines the duties and foreign intelligence collection for the nation’s 17 intelligence agencies. It is not governed by Congress, and critics say it has little privacy protection and many loopholes.”

If you view Reagan’s actions as an appropriate use of the executive order, Tea Party/GOP Congressman Justin Amash (R-MI) would beg to differ.

Speaking at a gathering hosted by the Cato Institute, Amash described Congressional hearings into the actions of the NSA as follows:

“Amash describes those briefings as a farce. Many times, he says, they focused on information that was available from reading newspapers or public statutes. And his account of trying to get details out of those giving the briefings sounds like an exercise in frustration:”

“So you don’t know what questions to ask because you don’t know what the baseline is. You don’t have any idea what kind of things are going on. So you have to start just spitting off random questions: Does the government have a moon base? Does the government have a talking bear? Does the government have a cyborg army? If you don’t know what kind of things the government might have, you just have to guess and it becomes a totally ridiculous game of 20 questions.”

Congressman Amash’s displeasure over Congress’ neutered role when it comes to the NSA does not stop him from frequently quoting the words of Ronald Reagan—despite Reagan’s responsibility for supplanting Congress in this regard—particularly when it comes to The Gipper’s declaration that “libertarianism is the heart and soul of conservatism.”

The use of the Executive Order has long been controversial, dating back to President Abraham Lincoln’s use of the device to suspend habeas corpus along the Philadelphia to Washington line in response to the assault on Union troops in Baltimore.

What made Lincoln’s move so dramatic is that the suspension of habeas corpus is placed by the Founding Fathers in Article I of the Constitution—the section that lays out the powers reserved for Congress.

However, as Jennifer Weber of the New York Times notes in her excellent piece on Lincoln’s use and abuse of power, the Founders “muddied the water” on just who could order a suspension of habeas corpus by writing, “the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it.”

Whether you view Lincoln’s actions as a proper exercise of power by the Commander-In-Chief during a time of emergency, or blatant defiance of the Constitution by the President of the United States, I don’t recall too many modern Americans—Democrat, Republican or otherwise—referring to Abraham Lincoln as a “lawless” president.

Nor do I recall many of the Republicans who worship at alter of Ronald Wilson Reagan referring to him as a “lawless” president.

None of this is to say that Presidents Lincoln, Reagan, Obama—or the many other American presidents who have relied upon the executive order—are acting in obedience to our Constitution or that they are not. That is up to the Courts to decide.

What it is to say is that, once again, consistency must count for something.

If you disagree with what President Obama might have in mind to do through the use of the executive order, you may have constitutional authority to back you up. Indeed, I acknowledge my own concerns about presidents who go around Congress’ lawmaking authority by using the executive order, no matter how much I may disapprove of our current and recent incarnations of Congress.

However, to take the tact of accusing Mr. Obama of a “lawless presidency”, while lauding previous presidents who did the identical thing, is just so much more hypocrisy on the part of leaders like Congressman Ryan who are far more wedded to the process of scoring political points than they are to remaining true to history or governing with good intent.

Or could it be that people like Paul Ryan—a man who holds a great deal of power and responsibility in our government—are simply ignorant of our history and the subject matter upon which they deign to expound?

Either way, there is little comfort to be gained when our system is so disgustingly politicized that a president is accused of lawlessness when following in the very same footsteps of previous presidents hailed as some of the greatest heroes of the nation.


By: Rick Ungar, Op-Ed Contributor, Forbes, February 3, 2014

February 5, 2014 Posted by | Executive Orders | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Modern Republican Party”: House Conservatives Fed Up With Conservative Caucus, Form Even More Conservative Caucus

The National Journal reports that a few liberty-loving Republican members of Congress, led by Rep. Justin Amash, have started a little caucus to represent the true, “hard-core” alternative to the Republican Study Committee. The idea that anyone needs a more “hardcore” Republican Study Committee seems to require some explaining. The RSC is (and has been for decades) effectively the House of Representatives’ “conservative caucus,” the group you join to announce that you are officially not a RINO. It is also a sort of miniature right-wing think tank with extensive ties to the business and other interests that fund the right and keep Republicans in line. For years, it has produced alternative budgets and decried compromise and criticized leadership for being insufficiently dedicated to small government.

It has, it turns out, been too successful. The RSC’s membership has increased rapidly as it became necessary for most House Republicans to signal their allegiance to ultra-conservatism; it now counts more than 170 members, including the most extreme members in the House, like Louie Gohmert, Michele Bachmann and Paul Broun, but also many more who rarely make headlines. There have been attempts to replace the RSC with something even more conservative in the past, but most of them — like Michele Bachmann’s pathetic “Tea Party Caucus” — were more about an individual lawmaker’s play for press than about creating an alternative organization.

The problem is, the RSC, by any measure, won the battle for the House Republican caucus long ago. More than three-quarters of the GOP conference are now members, including everyone in leadership besides Boehner and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy. Its primary “rival,” the “moderate” Republican Main Street Partnership, currently has fewer than 50 members in the House.

This criticism is nothing new. Many RSC members, including some former chairmen, have long expressed concerns about its membership—which now stands at 179 of 233 House Republicans. If three-quarters of the GOP Conference belongs to the RSC, they argue, the group cannot possibly practice the ideological purity on which its reputation was established.

“The RSC today covers a fairly broad philosophical swath of the party. It’s no longer just the hard-core right-wingers,” [South Carolina Rep.. Mick] Mulvaney said, adding: “If you want to pay dues, you can get in.”

What Mulvaney doesn’t seem to understand is that the RSC is still “just the hard-core right-wingers,” it’s just that now the vast majority of the Republican conference is “the hard-core right-wingers.” When everyone is a true conservative, then, how do you distinguish yourself as a true conservative? Easy! You just stake out a new position to the right of the right-wing majority. Hence, Amash’s “House Liberty Caucus,” which has a Rand Paul-ish name and a (somewhat fluid) membership of “core” House conservatives, like Mulvaney, Rep. Raul Labrador and Rep. Jim Jordon.

So, while Amash and others insist that the Liberty Caucus is a complement, not a competitor to the RSC, the National Journal says that “several RSC members are considering leaving the group altogether next year and pouring their energy into growing the Liberty Caucus.” In other words, a few years from now, don’t be hugely surprised if the far-right RSC is the “mainstream” House Republican caucus to the “conservative” Liberty Caucus, all without any Republican having moved even slightly toward “the center.” (Either that or this Liberty Caucus will flame out after failing to repeal Obamacare by 2016 or whatever.)

This is the entire story of the modern Republican Party, writ small: ratcheting ever rightward.


By: Alex Pareene, Salon, January 18, 2014

January 19, 2014 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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