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“The GOP Is One Heck Of A Dysfunctional Family”: Republican’s Having A Lot Of Trouble Getting That Governing Thing Down

If you wonder why Congress is so feeble these days that it can’t even find a simple way to pass a transportation bill, look no further than Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who proffered a little resolution on Tuesday night to oust John Boehner from the speakership.

The move was quickly dismissed by Boehner loyalists as showboating by a second-term member, and Meadows himself said he might not even seek a vote on his own measure. His hope is to provoke a “family conversation” among Republicans. It’s a heck of a dysfunctional family. The GOP these days may have its advantages on the Lannisters of “Game of Thrones” fame, but it’s a very long way from the Brady Bunch.

Perhaps by crushing Meadows’s insurrection, which many of even the most rebellious right-wing Republicans thought was ill-timed, Boehner will strengthen his hand. The more likely outcome is that this resolution to “vacate the chair” will once again remind Boehner of the nature of the party caucus over which he presides. I use “preside” rather than “lead” precisely because his difficulty in leading these folks is the heart of his problem.

The House GOP (and this applies more than it once did to Senate Republicans as well) includes a large and vocal minority always ready to go over a cliff and always ready to burn — fortunately, figuratively — heretical leaders and colleagues. More important, a significant group sympathizes with Boehner privately but is absolutely petrified that having his back when things get tough will conjure a challenge inside the party by conservative ultras whose supporters dominate its primary electorate in so many places.

This means that Republicans have to treat doing business with President Obama and the Democrats as something bordering on philosophical treason. Yes, on trade, where Obama’s position is relatively close to their own, they will help the president out. But it’s very hard to find many other issues of that sort. Politicians of nearly every kind used to agree that building roads, bridges, mass-transit projects and airports was good for everybody. Now, even pouring concrete and laying track can be disrupted by weird ideological struggles.

The text of Meadows’s anti-Boehner resolution is revealing. He complains that the speaker has “caused the power of Congress to atrophy, thereby making Congress subservient to the Executive and Judicial branches, diminishing the voice of the American people.” Actually, Congress has done a bang-up job of blocking Obama’s agenda since Republicans won control of the House in 2010. How, short of impeachment, is it supposed to do more to foil the man in the White House?

Meadows also hits Boehner for “intentionally” seeking voice votes (as opposed to roll calls) on “consequential and controversial legislation to be taken without notice and with few Members present.” He has a point. But since so many Republicans are often too timid to go on the record for the votes required to keep government moving — they don’t want to be punished by Meadows’s ideological friends — Boehner does what he has to do.

On the other hand, Meadows’s charge that Boehner is “bypassing the majority of the 435 Members of Congress and the people they represent” is absolutely true.

But the logic of this legitimate protest is that Boehner should allow many more votes on the floor in which a minority of Republicans could join with a majority of Democrats to pass legislation, thereby reflecting the actual will of the entire House. If Boehner had done this with immigration reform, it would now be a reality. Boehner didn’t do it precisely because he worried about what Republicans of Meadows’s stripe would do to him.

Meadows’s move bodes ill for the compromising that will be required this fall to avoid new crises on the debt ceiling and the budget. Republicans already faced difficulties on this front before the “vacate the chair” warning shot, as Post blogger Greg Sargent noted Wednesday.

And Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.), another Boehner critic, reacted to the resolution by invoking the Lord Voldemort all Republicans fear. Jones expressed the hope that “the talk-show hosts who are so frustrated would pick up on this thing and beat the drum.” It’s enough to ruin a speaker’s summer.

Republicans are talking a good deal about the threat to their brand posed by Donald Trump’s unplugged, unrestrained appeal to the party’s untamed side. The bigger danger comes from a Republican Congress that is having a lot of trouble getting that governing thing down.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, July 29, 2015

July 30, 2015 Posted by | GOP, House Republicans, John Boehner | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Different America”: Where The G.O.P.’s Suicide Caucus Lives

The geography of Congress’s so-called suicide caucus. Click to expand.

On August 21st, Congressman Mark Meadows sent a letter to John Boehner. Meadows is a former restaurant owner and Sunday-school Bible teacher from North Carolina. He’s been in Congress for eight months. Boehner, who has served in Congress for twenty-two years, is the Speaker of the House and second in the line of succession if anything happened to the President.

Meadows was not pleased with how Boehner and his fellow Republican leaders in the House were approaching the September fight over spending. The annual appropriations to fund the government were scheduled to run out on October 1st, and much of it would stop operating unless Congress passed a new law. Meadows wanted Boehner to use the threat of a government shutdown to defund Obamacare, a course Boehner had publicly ruled out.

Back home in Meadows’s congressional district, the idea was quite popular. North Carolina’s Eleventh District had been gerrymandered after the 2010 census to become the most Republican district in his state. Meadows won his election last November by fifteen points. The Presidential contest there was an even bigger blowout. Romney won the district by twenty-three points, sixty-one per cent to thirty-eight per cent. While the big story of the 2012 election was about demographics and a growing non-white population that is increasingly Democratic, that was not the story in the Meadows race. His district is eighty-seven per cent white, five per cent Latino, and three per cent black.

Before Meadows sent off his letter to Boehner, he circulated it among his colleagues, and with the help of the conservative group FreedomWorks, as well as some heavy campaigning by Senators Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Mike Lee, seventy-nine like-minded House Republicans from districts very similar to Meadows’s added their signatures.

“Since most of the citizens we represent believe that ObamaCare should never go into effect,” the letter said, “we urge you to affirmatively de-fund the implementation and enforcement of ObamaCare in any relevant appropriations bill brought to the House floor in the 113th Congress, including any continuing appropriations bill.”

They ended the letter with a stirring reference to Madison:

James Madison wrote in Federalist No. 58 that the “power over the purse may, in fact, be regarded as the most complete and effectual weapon … for obtaining a redress of every grievance…” We look forward to collaborating to defund one of the largest grievances in our time and to restore patient-centered healthcare in America.

Not everyone thought it was a terrific idea or one worthy of comparison to the brilliance of the Founders. Noting the strategic ineptness of threatening a government shutdown over a policy that neither the Democratically controlled Senate nor the President himself would ever support, Karl Rove railed against the idea in the Wall Street Journal. The conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer dubbed the eighty Republicans the “suicide caucus.”

And yet, a few weeks later, Boehner adopted the course demanded by Meadows and his colleagues.

The ability of eighty members of the House of Representatives to push the Republican Party into a strategic course that is condemned by the party’s top strategists is a historical oddity. It’s especially strange when you consider some of the numbers behind the suicide caucus. As we approach a likely government shutdown this month and then a more perilous fight over raising the debt ceiling in October, it’s worth considering the demographics and geography of the eighty districts whose members have steered national policy over the past few weeks.

As the above map, detailing the geography of the suicide caucus, shows, half of these districts are concentrated in the South, and a quarter of them are in the Midwest, while there’s a smattering of thirteen in the rural West and four in rural Pennsylvania (outside the population centers of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh). Naturally, there are no members from New England, the megalopolis corridor from Washington to Boston, or along the Pacific coastline.

These eighty members represent just eighteen per cent of the House and just a third of the two hundred and thirty-three House Republicans. They were elected with fourteen and a half million of the hundred and eighteen million votes cast in House elections last November, or twelve per cent of the total. In all, they represent fifty-eight million constituents. That may sound like a lot, but it’s just eighteen per cent of the population.

Most of the members of the suicide caucus have districts very similar to Meadows’s. While the most salient demographic fact about America is that it is becoming more diverse, Republican districts actually became less diverse in 2012. According to figures compiled by The Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman, a leading expert on House demographics who provided me with most of the raw data I’ve used here, the average House Republican district became two percentage points more white in 2012.

The members of the suicide caucus live in a different America from the one that most political commentators describe when talking about how the country is transforming. The average suicide-caucus district is seventy-five per cent white, while the average House district is sixty-three per cent white. Latinos make up an average of nine per cent of suicide-district residents, while the over-all average is seventeen per cent. The districts also have slightly lower levels of education (twenty-five per cent of the population in suicide districts have college degrees, while that number is twenty-nine per cent for the average district).

The members themselves represent this lack of diversity. Seventy-six of the members who signed the Meadows letter are male. Seventy-nine of them are white.

As with Meadows, the other suicide-caucus members live in places where the national election results seem like an anomaly. Obama defeated Romney by four points nationally. But in the eighty suicide-caucus districts, Obama lost to Romney by an average of twenty-three points. The Republican members themselves did even better. In these eighty districts, the average margin of victory for the Republican candidate was thirty-four points.

In short, these eighty members represent an America where the population is getting whiter, where there are few major cities, where Obama lost the last election in a landslide, and where the Republican Party is becoming more dominant and more popular. Meanwhile, in national politics, each of these trends is actually reversed.

In one sense, these eighty members are acting rationally. They seem to be pushing policies that are representative of what their constituents back home want. But even within the broader Republican Party, they represent a minority view, at least at the level of tactics (almost all Republicans want to defund Obamacare, even if they disagree about using the issue to threaten a government shutdown).

In previous eras, ideologically extreme minorities could be controlled by party leadership. What’s new about the current House of Representatives is that party discipline has broken down on the Republican side. On the most important policy questions, ones that most affect the national brand of the party, Boehner has lost his ability to control his caucus, and an ideological faction, aided by outside interest groups, can now set the national agenda.

Through redistricting, Republicans have built themselves a perhaps unbreakable majority in the House. But it has come at a cost of both party discipline and national popularity. Nowadays, a Sunday-school teacher can defeat the will of the Speaker of the House.


By: Ryan Lizza, The New Yorker, September 26, 2013

September 30, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Just Don’t Say It Out Loud”: Every Member Of Congress Who Gets Coverage Through An Exchange Will Be Participating In Obamacare

In the very near future, congressional Republicans have some important decisions to make when it comes to health care policy. Will they threaten a government shutdown over funding for the Affordable Care Act? Will they use the issue as the basis for a debt-ceiling crisis?

And perhaps more directly, will they personally sign up for subsidized insurance through an exchange created by the health care law?

As we discussed a couple of weeks ago, the right is heavily invested in the idea that members of Congress are “exempt” from “Obamacare.” The claim is plainly untrue — thanks to a scheme Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) stumbled into, lawmakers will give up their current health care coverage and get coverage through a marketplace where insurers compete for their business.

There are, however, some complications — these exchanges were designed for the uninsured and small-business owners looking to cover their employees, not wealthy federal lawmakers who already have perfectly good coverage. It’s why the Obama administration had to work out a fix for members of Congress and their aides a few weeks ago.

But for Republicans this creates yet another problem: if they sign up for coverage, doesn’t that mean they’re necessarily participating in the health care system they claim to hate? As far-right groups urge the uninsured to stay that way on purpose by staying out of the exchange, won’t those same lobbying efforts apply to lawmakers themselves?

If conservatives genuinely believe that Obamacare is a threat to the country they will extend their campaigns to convince people to skip Obamacare from nameless powerless young people to elected officials and their aides. And if those members and aides have the courage of their convictions they’ll follow suit.

To the extent that none of this happens — that conservative groups keep quiet, and conservative members and aides enroll in the exchanges — it’ll expose the right’s anti-Obamacare activism as a shallow enterprise undertaken by people who are happy to see millions go without insurance, so long as it’s not themselves or their families.

So, what are far-right lawmakers going to do? I’m glad you asked.

As Igor Volsky reported, so far, two current members are prepared to bypass the system on purpose.

[North Carolina Republican Robert Pittenger has] voluntarily withdrawn from health coverage altogether. [North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows] added that his staff has also voluntarily declined the subsidies. And while most members of Congress may be able to afford to forfeit the government contribution — Meadows has a net worth between $1,674,034 to $12,017,998 [and] Pittenger is worth between $18,615,005 to $48,551,997.

Two GOP members out of 233 in the House obviously isn’t a large number, but don’t be surprised if this number grows as right-wing lobbying becomes more intense.

Also note, a lot of these folks have convenient outs — if they have spouses with employer-based coverage of their own, members and staffers can get insurance anyway. For that matter, if you’re a multi-millionaire lawmaker, you can afford to get coverage without a subsidy anyway.

But the underlying point remains the same: every member of Congress, in both parties, who gets coverage in the coming months through an insurance exchange will be participating in “Obamacare,” even conservatives who will be reluctant to say so out loud.

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 26, 2013

August 27, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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