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“For The Far-Right, It’s One Leader Down, One To Go”: Emblematic Of The Larger Story About GOP Radicalization

There may be 54 Republicans in the Senate, but only one has publicly expressed support for Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). That endorsement came from none other than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Paul’s grudging home-state partner.

With this support in mind, it was curious to see Kentucky’s junior senator on Fox News this morning, confronted with a simple question: do you support McConnell’s position as majority leader? Three times the Fox host asked Rand Paul for an answer, and as TPM noted this morning, three times the senator dodged.

The furthest Paul was willing to go was this faint praise for his colleague: “Well, there is no election. There is no battle going on.” In other words, Paul supports McConnell insofar as he has no other choice right now.

But for many Capitol Hill conservatives, the fact that there is “no battle going on” is precisely the problem. Far-right members have helped force House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) out of Congress, and Politico reported late last week that many of these same lawmakers are equally eager – if not more so – to change Senate leaders, too.

Rep. Matt Salmon (R-Ariz.), a hardliner who frequently worked at odds with Boehner, was texting Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) on Friday morning to make a suggestion: “Next guy in the crosshairs is probably gonna be McConnell.” Lee, who chairs the conservative arm of McConnell’s GOP conference, texted back to doubt that conclusion.

But Salmon and many other House conservatives are unswayed.

“Mitch McConnell is infinitely worse as a leader than Boehner. He surrenders at the sight of battle every time,” Salmon said.

To the extent that reality matters, Mitch McConnell, perhaps more than any Republican in the nation, has been the embodiment of anti-Obama obstructionism. No GOP lawmaker of the Obama era has gone as far as McConnell to reject every White House proposal – regardless of merit, regardless of consequence, regardless of whether or not Republicans actually agreed with the administration.

The Kentucky senator has practically pioneered the art of mindless, knee-jerk obstructionism, relying on tactics with no precedent in the American tradition, undermining governance in ways that seemed impossible in the recent past.

But for far-right lawmakers, this record just isn’t good enough.

Boehner’s resignation “should be an absolute warning sign to McConnell,” Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) told Politico. He added that conservatives’ focus will now “invariably and should turn to McConnell in the Senate.”

Over the weekend, the chairman of the Republican Party of Louisiana urged McConnell to resign.

The odds of McConnell stepping down anytime soon are roughly zero. Boehner faced growing pressure from a significant faction of his own caucus, but McConnell faces sporadic pressure from Ted Cruz – whom most Senate Republicans are generally inclined to ignore. The qualitative and quantitative differences between the two GOP leaders are striking: McConnell was elected unanimously by his members, for example, while Boehner was not.

The importance of these developments isn’t the practical threat McConnell faces. Rather, the fact that the anti-McConnell push exists at all is emblematic of the larger story about GOP radicalization. The rationale behind the far-right campaign against Boehner is that he failed to beat President Obama – as if that were a credible outcome – which put him at odds with Republican expectations. As the bulls eye shifts from one end of Capitol Hill to the other, McConnell faces the same foolish, misguided complaint, his record of confrontation with the White House notwithstanding.

The Majority Leader’s position is secure, at least for the foreseeable future, but as the GOP base continues to direct its ire at party leaders, it’ll be worth watching to see how many Senate Republicans dodge as clumsily as Rand Paul did this morning.


By: Steve Benen, The Madow Blog, September 28, 2015

September 29, 2015 Posted by | John Boehner, Mitch Mc Connell, Right Wing Extremisim | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“The Double Play Game”: Do Republicans Believe In Their Own Crisis?

You would think Republicans would be the ones trying to scare the country about the imminent expiration of the Treasury’s borrowing authority. After all, they’re the ones trying to use the debt ceiling (and the government shutdown) as leverage to get their way on policies that would be laughed out of Washington at any other moment.

The leverage only works if the country is really worried about the potential economic catastrophe that would result from a failure to lift the ceiling. In the Republican fantasy, that would pressure Democrats to end health care reform, cut spending on entitlements and say farewell to all their liberal dreams.

But instead, the reverse is happening. It’s Democrats who are warning the country about the unimaginable consequences of default, and many Republicans who are minimizing it.

This phenomenon could be seen last week at the beginning of the shutdown, when right-wing lawmakers started pooh-poohing the effects of a closed government. Fox News called it a “slimdown,” and several House members said less government might be good for the country. Now, 10 days before (a potential) Default Day, several House members are deriding the notion that it would be a very big deal.

Senator Tom Coburn, flatly contradicting the clear explanation from the Treasury, said the country would continue to pay its interest and redeem bonds, so why worry? Mick Mulvaney, a congressman from South Carolina, repeated the well-known canard that the Treasury could prioritize its payments and that there would be no default.

And Ted Yoho of Florida, who is quickly replacing Steve King and Louie Gohmert as the congressman to whom reporters flock for the jaw-dropping quotes so beloved by Twitter, said that not raising the debt ceiling would actually be beneficial.

“I think we need to have that moment where we realize [we’re] going broke,” Mr. Yoho told the Washington Post. “I think, personally, it would bring stability to the world markets.”

If you think that remark is not only detached from reality but also utterly aberrant, take a look at the Pew Research poll that came out today. It shows that 54 percent of all Republicans (and 64 percent of Tea Partiers) believe the country can go past the debt-limit deadline without causing major problems. In that sense, Mr. Yoho better represents his party than Speaker John Boehner, who claims to believe that default would be terrible, but is nonetheless demanding concessions in exchange for preventing it.

That the very people who are causing the crisis are dismissing it shows the double game that’s being played here. Republicans don’t want the country to understand how big a threat they are posing to its well-being. A growing number of Americans already blame them for the whole mess, as the same poll shows. If people truly understood how bad a default would be — if they understood credit markets and interest rates, and how they would be affected by the global loss of faith in Treasury bonds — the anger would be much greater, and Republican control of the House would be threatened.

In the cynical game of spin and messaging that this crisis has become, the goal is to scare Washington Democrats while keeping ordinary people calm. It’s not working, though — Democrats have correctly refused to be intimidated, while businesses and average Americans are growing increasingly nervous. As they should be.


By: David Firestone, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, October 7, 2013

October 11, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Default, Government Shut Down | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Just A Bunch Of Nativists”: Making Laws No Longer Part Of The Lawmaking Process

Reading through some headlines today, I came across one link that began, “House Votes To…” and I realized that no matter what the end of the headline was, you can almost always insert, “…Make Pointless Statement As Sop to Conservative Base” and you’ll be on target. In this case it happened to be a vote to block energy-efficiency standards for light bulbs, but it could have been any of a thousand things. You could argue, as Jonathan Chait does, that Republican lawmakers have basically given up on lawmaking altogether, and you wouldn’t be far off. But it’s more than that. They’ve reimagined the lawmaking process as a kind of extended ideological performance art piece, one that no longer has anything to do with laws in the “I’m Just a Bill” sense. It’s not as though they aren’t legislating, it’s just that laws have become beside the point.

Granted, the lawmaking process has always involved a lot of grandstanding and occasional votes taken more to make a statement than to alter the rules under which American society operates. Congress passes plenty of resolutions that do nothing more than express its sentiments, like saluting the patriotism of the East Burp High students who raised money to buy a new flag for their school, or declaring August to be Plantar Fasciitis Awareness Month. But those things always went alongside with actual lawmaking.

We’re now in a situation where the lawmaking process—you know, bills being written, introduced, voted on, that sort of thing—has, in the House at least, been given over almost entirely to this legislative kabuki, where the point of the exercise isn’t passing laws but making statements and taking positions. The current Congress is on pace to be the least productive in history when you measure by actual laws passed.

And it is really all about the House. Whenever you see someone say that “Congress” or “Washington” is stuck in gridlock or can’t get its act together, the underlying truth is almost always that it’s the Republican House gumming things up. There are more than a few crazy Republicans in the Senate, but as a group they’re willing to legislate, and sometimes even compromise with Democrats. Not so in the House. I think this reached its apogee when they took their 37th vote to repeal Obamacare a couple months back, in part because freshman Tea Party members hadn’t had the chance to perform the ritual. “The guys who’ve been up here the last year, we can go home and say listen, we voted 36 different times to repeal or replace Obamacare,” said South Carolina Representative Mick Mulvaney, with a touching compassion for his colleagues. “Tell me what the new guys are supposed to say.” There was a time when members of Congress would want to go to their constituents and tell them about funding they’d obtained for projects in the district or reforms they’d fought for and passed. These days, Republicans in the House know that none of what they vote for with such enthusiasm will ever even be considered in the Senate, much less voted on, passed, and sent to the president for his signature. But they don’t seem to care.

The kicker to this is that it’s only going to get worse, because the GOP is poised to erect a giant wall around the House of Representatives as its last redoubt of national power. As we’ve been discussing, the party is split between those who worry about their prospects in future presidential elections and therefore want to reach out to growing minority populations and soften the GOP’s hard-earned image as a bunch of nativists, and those who not only can’t stand the immigration reform currently on offer but fear only threats from their right in primary campaigns, since they’re in safe Republican districts. Most everyone in Washington now believes that immigration reform is all but dead, which is bad for the party’s next presidential nominee, but perfectly fine with House Republicans.

Although I’m always wary of assuming that the way things are in politics is the way they’ll remain for too long, we could well see an extended period in which a Democratic president is stymied by a Republican House dominated by legislators who couldn’t care less about legislating. It’s almost enough to make you cynical about politics.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, July 10, 2013

July 14, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Ideologues | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Unending War On Obamacare: Count On Republicans To Stand In The Way Of Fixing Whatever’s Wrong With It

I’m not a historian, so maybe there’s something I don’t know, but it seems to me that there may never have been a piece of legislation that has inspired such partisan venom as the Affordable Care Act. Sure, Republicans hated Medicare. And yes, their rhetoric at the time, particularly Ronald Reagan’s famous warning that if it passed, “We are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free,” was very similar to what they now say about Obamacare. But once it passed, their attempts to undermine it ran more to the occasional raid than the ongoing siege.

I bring this up because Kevin Drum makes an unsettling point today about the future of Obamacare:

No, my biggest concern is what happens after 2014. No big law is ever perfect. But what normally happens is that it gets tweaked over time. Sometimes this is done via agency rules, other times via minor amendments in Congress. It’s routine. But Obamacare has become such a political bomb that it’s not clear that Congress will be willing to fix the minor problems that crop up over time. There’s simply too big a contingent of Republicans who are eager to see Obamacare fail and are actively delighted whenever a problem crops up. This has the potential to be a problem that no other big law has ever had to face.

It’s hard to overstate just how enormous a symbolic presence Obamacare has come to occupy in Republicans’ minds. They’ve invested so much time in not just criticizing it but telling their constituents that it is the worst thing to ever happen to America—and yes, sometimes they literally say things like that—that they’ve lost all moral perspective. To them, trying to fix a feature of the law so that it works better or helps people more would be a horrifying moral compromise, tantamount to sending fur coats to the guards at Stalin’s labor camps in Siberia. If you say to them, “Look, it’s the law now—why don’t we make sure it works as well as possible?” it just won’t register.

Combine that with the fact that in general, congressional Republicans have stopped caring much about policy at all, and they never cared about health care in the first place. They don’t want to know the details of issues; it just isn’t their priority. In the House, conservatives are spending their time clamoring for an opportunity to cast yet another vote to repeal Obamacare. “The guys who have been up here the last two years, we can go home and say, ‘Listen, we voted 36 different times to repeal or replace ObamaCare,” said Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina. “Tell me what the new guys are supposed to say?” Your tax dollars at work.

You can look at this state of affairs and assume that as new difficulties with the law come to light, it will be possible for the Obama administration to address them with administrative action, through the Department of Health and Human Services. And that may be true to an extent. But other changes could require legislation, and it’s a fair bet that no matter what is involved, Republicans in Congress would reject anything having to do with the law that didn’t involve repealing it. You could tell them that there was a typo in the bill which was causing orphans to be turned into Soylent Green and all it would require to fix was a quick voice-vote, and they’d say no, because Obamacare kills freedom.

And let’s not forget, it’s entirely possible that 45 months from now, there will be a Republican president. If that happens, it’s possible that in order to get confirmed, his or her nominee to be secretary of Health and Human Services will have to pledge to Senate Republicans to work every day to dismantle Obamacare. The clock is ticking.


By: Paul Waldman, Contributing Editor, The American Prospect, April 25, 2013

April 26, 2013 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cut Cap & Balance And The New Frontiers of Kookery

A scant few months after the Paul Ryan budget redefined the boundaries of conservative fanaticism, the Republican Party’s new “Cut, Cap, and Balance” Constitutional Amendment makes that document seem quaintly reasonable. Ezra Klein sums up the policy:

Ronald Reagan’s entire presidency would’ve been unconstitutional under CC&B. Same for George W. Bush’s. Paul Ryan’s budget wouldn’t pass muster. The only budget that might work for this policy — if you could implement it — would be the proposal produced by the ultra-conservative Republican Study Committee. But that proposal was so extreme and unworkable that a majority of Republicans voted it down.

37 House Republicans and 12 Senate Republicans have pledged not to support a debt ceiling increase unless the CC&B Constitutional Amendment passes. Mitt Romney has signed this insane pledge. Ramesh Ponnuru has some gentle questions:

Representative Mick Mulvaney, a freshman Republican from South Carolina who is a leading supporter of the amendment, said in an interview that if “the president wants this debt-ceiling increase, he’s going to help us get the votes.” He argued that Obama should deliver 50 Democratic votes in the House and 20 to 30 in the Senate. “That’s a good compromise for both sides.”

Does the congressman think that 50 Republicans would vote for a constitutional amendment that contradicts everything they stand for if President Romney asked them to?

What a congressman who pledges to increase the debt limit only if a spending-limit amendment passes is really saying is that he opposes increasing the debt limit. Because there is no way that two-thirds of Congress is going to pass this amendment now, or ever.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the CC&B amendment is the casual way in which it attempts to enshrine specific spending levels and to freeze current taxes into the Constitution. I would like to see its advocates explain why it is necessary for the Constitution to require their agenda. What is keeping the public from electing officials who will enact this agenda? If people want to enact policies like this, why not just let them do it? And if they don’t, why force these policies upon them?


By: Jonathan Chait, The New Republic, July 19, 2011

July 20, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Conservatives, Constitution, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democracy, Economic Recovery, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Lawmakers, Politics, Public Opinion, Republicans, Right Wing, Senate, Voters | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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