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“The Self-Defeating GOP”: The Difference Between Trying To Actually Legislate And Simply Grandstanding

These days, there is never a dull moment in the Republican Party. Today, the House of Representatives voted to pass a bill that would repeal significant portions of the Affordable Care Act, President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform law. This time the repeal measures are packaged in a budget reconciliation bill, so named because it carries out instructions that were outlined in the budget resolution which passed Congress earlier this year.

Budget reconciliation bills are subject to special rules which allow for limited debate in the Senate and are thus able to pass that chamber with a simple majority rather than the 60 votes necessary to end a filibuster. Opponents of the health care law view the reconciliation bill as their first opportunity to move a bill targeting the Affordable Care Act through the Senate and on to the president’s desk. Although the president is expected to veto the measure, many Republicans feel the political exercise would be a symbolic victory.

However, not everyone in the Republican Party is happy with the legislation. The Hill reports that three Republican senators, Ted Cruz of Texas, Marco Rubio of Florida and Mike Lee of Utah, will oppose the bill because it only repeals parts of the Affordable Care Act and not the entire law. The authors of the reconciliation bill were limited in what they could include in the package by the rules of the reconciliation process in the Senate. With narrow margins in the Senate, the defection of the three Senators puts Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., perilously close to losing the vote altogether.

The three opposing senators have offered a plan to override the Senate parliamentarian and pass a more aggressive bill as the solution to the conundrum. As of this moment, it does not appear that their proposal has a lot of support.

The revolt over the reconciliation bill is illustrative of the overwhelming tension within the Republican Party. On the one hand is the segment of the party that wants to operate within the parameters of what is achievable, and on the other is the segment of the party that wants to adhere to strict conservative principles no matter what. It’s the difference between trying to actually legislate and simply grandstanding.

The commitment of Cruz and his followers to their talking points regarding full repeal is so blind they don’t even realize they are trying to nullify Senate rules just a few weeks after the conservative House Freedom Caucus managed to force out Speaker John Boehner for his supposed disregard of the House rules. The current party dust up is even more striking because it is over a bill that never has a chance to become law to begin with. As Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., told The Hill, “It’s a pretend vote and people are upset because it doesn’t pretend enough.”

The conflict is not serving the party well. Never mind trying to keep the government open or negotiate a budget deal. It appears that even symbolic political achievements – in this case a standoff with the president – are now at risk. If this keeps up, Democrats won’t have to do anything. They’ll be able to stand back and watch the Republican Party defeat itself.

 

By: Cary Gibson, Thomas Jefferson Street Blog, U. S. News and World Report, October 23, 2105

October 24, 2015 Posted by | Budget Reconcilation, Conservatives, GOP, Obamacare | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“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 GOP’s Recipe For Disaster”: A Highly Emotional, Politically Toxic And Take-No-Prisoners Agenda

Many people have noted that Republican candidates have completely abandoned the recommendation on reaching out to Hispanics about immigration reform in the autopsy they completed following their loss in the 2012 presidential election. But the autopsy also included statements like this:

When it comes to social issues, the Party must in fact and deed be inclusive and welcoming.

If we are not, we will limit our ability to attract young people and others, including many women, who agree with us on some but not all issues…

The RNC must improve its efforts to include female voters and promote women to leadership ranks within the committee. Additionally, when developing our Party’s message, women need to be part of this process to represent some of the unique concerns that female voters may have. There is growing unrest within the community of Republican women frustrated by the Party’s negative image among women, and the women who participated in our listening sessions contributed many constructive ideas of ways to improve our brand with women throughout the country and grow the ranks of influential female voices in the Republican Party.

The prospect of shutting down the federal government in an effort to defund Planned Parenthood is probably not one of the recommendations they heard from women in those listening sessions. And yet that is becoming a very real possibility.

Stan Collender at Forbes puts the odds of a government shutdown at 60% (up from his previous prediction of 40% ). Here’s his wonderfully descriptive way of saying what happened.

But the biggest change from last week in the odds of a government shutdown is because of the emergence of the one big thing that has been missing so far from the appropriations debate: a highly emotional, politically toxic and take-no-prisoners issue.

There are two ways that this is a political nightmare for Republicans. Previous to the emergence of the push to defund Planned Parenthood, they were making very little progress on putting together a budget to meet the October 1st deadline. Given that, the most likely scenario would have been the passage of a “continuing resolution” – which would have simply extended the current budget. That would have kept all their actual “governing” issues quiet.

But it’s not likely that will happen now. Instead, Senators Mike Lee and Ted Cruz – joined by the House Freedom Caucus – will do everything they can to cause a government shutdown over funding for Planned Parenthood. If they are successful, it will probably end the same way their similar effort did in 2013 over defunding Obamacare. That means that Boehner and McConnell will have to negotiate with Democrats on a budget – likely a continuing resolution. All Republicans will gain in the process is having to shoulder the responsibility for causing another government shutdown and the chaos that ensued. The one difference this time is that they now control both Houses of Congress (in 2013 Democrats controlled the Senate).

But this will also be a nightmare for Republicans when it comes to the presidential election. Simply note that last night the front-runner in that contest right now – Donald Trump – declared his support for a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood. Any candidate who had doubts about whether or not a government shutdown would be good for their campaign will now have to weigh in with that in mind.

We’ve already seen one example of a candidate making a mess of that when, in commenting about Planned Parenthood funding, Jeb Bush said yesterday that he was “not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” His campaign pretty immediately tried to walk that one back. Overall it’s very likely that, in order to win the GOP primary, these candidates will all wind up taking positions that their own autopsy suggested were one of the causes of their defeat in 2012.

The spectacle we’re now witnessing is that a candidate who is leading the field by polling at 20-25% with Republicans has insulted Mexican Americans, called for a government shutdown over funding for women’s health care, and – in the midst of the #BlackLivesMatter movement against police killings – suggested that the police don’t have enough power. And yet he is driving the Republican agenda on the campaign trail. According to their party’s own analysis, that is a recipe for disaster.

 

By: Nancy Le Tourneau, The Political Animal Blog, The Washington Mnnthly, August 5, 2015

August 6, 2015 Posted by | GOP, GOP Presidential Candidates, Republican National Committee | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Hey, Liberals; SCOTUS Ain’t Your Friend”: Conservatives Literally Want To Roll Back The Judicial Clock To 1905

It would be understandable if liberals were feeling kind of relaxed, kind of “Supreme Court, what’s so bad?” over the weekend. John Roberts and Anthony Kennedy delivered for our team on Obamacare, and then Kennedy came through again on same-sex marriage. If this is a conservative court, is getting a liberal one—which will be one of the trump-card arguments for voting for Hillary Clinton next fall—really a matter of such pressing urgency?

Well, yes. As we saw yesterday with the court’s death-penalty and EPA rulings, it’s still a long way from being a liberal court. But there’s more to it than that. People should remember that if a Republican is elected president next year and has the chance to replace Kennedy and/or Ruth Bader Ginsburg with another Samuel Alito, the Obamacare and same-sex marriage standings could easily be reversed. And don’t think there aren’t conservatives out there thinking about it, because there most certainly are, and they literally want to roll back the judicial clock to 1905.

An interesting and important debate opened up over the weekend in conservative legal circles that you should take time to educate yourself about. Many conservatives, of course, are furious with Roberts and Kennedy and are wondering, with conservatives like this, who needs liberals?

The ins and outs of the debate were deftly summarized yesterday by Ian Millhiser of Think Progress. I’m not going to take you as deep into the jurisprudential weeds as Millhiser does, but here’s the basic story. Since the 1980s, “judicial restraint” has been the guiding principle of conservative jurisprudence—the idea that judges shouldn’t make law from the bench but should rule more narrowly and modestly, deferring to the other branches. Roberts was invoking judicial restraint during his confirmation hearings with that famous line about judges just calling “balls and strikes.”

Judicial restraint was appealing to conservatives at the time because to a large extent, majorities of the public shared their views on pressing issues of the day. It was liberals back then who were trying to gain through the courts what they could not accomplish through legislatures and the political process.

But now that reality is to a considerable extent reversed. Public opinion is firmly against conservatives on same-sex marriage, and even on Obamacare, though the law (or the name of the law) remains unpopular, polling before last week’s decision showed that majorities didn’t want the Court to take away people’s health-care subsidies. And besides, Obamacare is after all a law, duly passed by the people’s representatives in Washington.

So now it’s the right trying to achieve through the courts outcomes that it could not through the political process. This is what Roberts in essence said in his majority opinion upholding the health-care law. “Congress passed the Affordable Care Act to improve health insurance markets, not to destroy them,” Roberts wrote. “If at all possible, we must interpret the Act in a way that is consistent with the former, and avoids the latter.”

All of this takes us back to Lochner v. New York, a 1905 decision that I’m not going to get into here (Millhiser does) but that in essence used the Fourteenth Amendment to extend rights not to individuals but to employers. The decision led to a series of decisions up through the New Deal that invalidated several key pieces of progressive legislation protecting workers and more. The Lochner majority relied on a view of the Fourteenth Amendment that is now discredited—except on the far right.

Which brings us to this past weekend. Conservative Georgetown law professor Randy Barnett wrote a column lambasting judicial restraint, arguing that “selecting judges with the judicial mindset of ‘judicial restraint’ and ‘deference’ to the majoritarian branches leads to the results we witnessed in NFIB [the first upholding of Obamacare back in 2012] and King.” He wants judges who embrace Lochner and who understand the “duty of judges to invalidate unconstitutional law without restraint or deference.”

Barnett specifically cited Clarence Thomas as an example of a judge who has this depth of understanding. And conservative law professor Jonathan Adler, one of the two, ah, creative minds who brought us the bogus King v. Burwell lawsuit in the first place, tweeted over the weekend that if a Republican wins the election next year, he ought to put Utah Senator Mike Lee on the court. As Millhiser notes, Lee is huge Lochner-ian, to the point that he thinks that Social Security, Medicare, and child labor laws are all unconstitutional.

Barnett wrote in his column that there would heretofore be a new standard that conservative legal scholars will demand of Republican presidential nominees. Now, dimwit candidates like Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio who yammer on about “judicial restraint” and “deference to the other branches” will be exposed as the traitors in waiting that they are, capable of upholding abominable notions like letting people who love each other get married or giving working-class and poor people a little financial help so they can take their kids to the doctor. Judicial restraint, apparently, breeds certain counter-revolutionary tendencies.

And this, finally, circles us back to the 2016 election and health care and marriage equality. Several legal challenges to Obamacare are still pending. Other inventive approaches no doubt await us. For example, a group of legislators in some red state could sue claiming that as the elected representatives of the people, they were denied by the court their proper deliberative role in the process of deciding how to bring health care to their state. If we get a Republican president and he puts a Barnett/Adler-approved justice on the court, poof, sayonara subsidies.

Same-sex marriage’s majority is even more precarious. For example: A gay plaintiff or plaintiffs could bring some kind of discrimination lawsuit (despite the marriage win, there still are other kinds of discrimination lawsuits on the books). A Lochner-loving majority of five could use that suit as the occasion to say, actually, discrimination here is legal, and while we’re at it, this marriage business…

And mind you, from a legal point of view, this would be legitimate. After all, think of it this way: If Kennedy had retired shortly after Citizens United and Barack Obama had put a liberal on the bench, liberals would have advanced at least one legal vehicle to try to get campaign-spending issues before the Court again hoping for reversal. All’s fair in campaign-finance, health care, love, and bigotry.

Imagine how that would feel—same-sex marriage overturned. Right now it’s hypothetical, but it is a long, long way from impossible. And if the Republican wins in 2016, and if Barnett’s arguments carry the day, we could end up with two or three more Alitos on the bench.

Still feeling relaxed?

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 30, 2015

July 1, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, Liberals, SCOTUS | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Republicans Return To Tax Cut Fantasyland”: Every Argument Republicans Have Made In Last 20 Yrs About Taxes Have Been Wrong

One surprising thing about the campaign Mitt Romney ran in 2012 was that cutting taxes, a theme you might have expected from someone of his profile, wasn’t at the center of it. Perhaps wary of getting painted, even more than he already was, as the representative of the rich, Romney proposed a tax cut plan that was, by Republican standards anyway, rather modest. But those were the bad old days—tax-cut fever is back in the GOP, with a vengeance. From Bloomberg’s Richard Rubin:

The campaign for the Republican nomination for president is poised to become a race to the biggest tax cut.

More than a dozen candidates are vying for attention from donors and the party’s base voters, and they aren’t letting the U.S. budget deficit get in their way.

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida kicked off the competition with his plan to boost economic growth by slashing taxes on investments, wages and business income. Even the plan’s proponents concede it would reduce tax collections by at least $1.7 trillion in the first decade, largely favoring the top 1 percent of Americans over the middle class.

Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky says he will propose the biggest tax cut in U.S. history. Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, both considering repeat presidential campaigns, ran on reducing taxes four years ago and would be expected to do so again.

The shrinking deficit—it’s less than half of what it was four years ago—creates an opening for Republicans to return to the tax-cut politics that propelled Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush into the White House.

“It focuses on the right question at the right time, which is: How will we grow more rapidly?” Douglas Holtz-Eakin, a Republican and former director of the Congressional Budget Office, said of the proposal Rubio released last week with Senator Mike Lee of Utah. Holtz-Eakin acknowledged that the tax cuts require spending reductions to keep the deficit in check.

Holtz-Eakin is not just wrong about that, but wrong in two separate ways. First, how we grow more rapidly is not at all the right question. The question everyone is asking now is how we spread the gains of a growing economy more widely. And second, even if the question were how to grow more, tax cuts would not be the answer.

You have to admire one thing about the Republican perspective on this issue: their unflagging insistence, despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary, that the best and perhaps only way to affect the economy is by adjusting the tax rate paid by wealthy people. Here’s a quick history review of the last two decades: In 1993, Bill Clinton signed a budget that included tax increases. Republicans unanimously said it would bring a “job-killing recession.” It didn’t; in fact, almost 23 million jobs were created during Clinton’s two terms. Then George W. Bush got elected and signed two rounds of enormous tax cuts. Republicans promised these cuts would super-charge the economy. They didn’t; job growth was weak throughout Bush’s term. Then at the end of 2012, the deal ending the “fiscal cliff” allowed the top income tax rate to revert back to what it had been during the Clinton years. Republicans grumbled that this increase would hamper job growth. That didn’t happen either; in the two years since, the economy has created 5 million jobs.

In other words, the Republicans’ essential theory about upper income taxes—increasing them destroys jobs and smothers growth, while cutting them explodes growth and creates huge numbers of jobs—is not just wrong, but demonstrably, obviously, spectacularly wrong. Yet they keep saying it.

The reason isn’t all that difficult to concern. For conservatives, cutting upper-income taxes isn’t a practical imperative, it’s a moral imperative. It’s just the right thing to do. Taxes are an inherent moral evil, and taxes on those who have proved their industriousness and virtue by being rich are the most profound moral evil of all. This is a very different argument from the practical one, which says that if we cut taxes for the wealthy then good things will happen to everyone as a consequence.

Republicans know that the moral argument has appeal to only a very small number of Americans, mainly those would benefit directly from upper-income tax cuts. So the practical argument is the one they must offer, even if it happens to be utterly false.

So here’s the question they ought to be asked: “Every argument Republicans have made in the last 20 years about taxes has turned out to be wrong. Now you’re saying if we cut upper-income taxes, it will produce terrific growth. Why would that be true now when it hasn’t been true before?”

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect, March 13, 2015

March 15, 2015 Posted by | Deficits, Republicans, Tax Cuts | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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