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“Why Everyone Hates Congress”: Republicans Are Still Incapable Of Governing

If you want a demonstration on why it’s so easy for regular folks to despise politicians, look no further than the shenanigans that went on in the U.S. House of Representatives, yesterday. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), who is openly gay, has been attaching a LGBT rights amendment to Republican bills. He’s able to do this because Speaker Ryan has decided to allow for a much more open amendments process than his predecessors, but that comes with a cost. The cost is that the opposition finds it much easier to mess with you by offering amendments that drive wedges into your caucus.

Gay rights is one of those wedge issues. First, Rep. Maloney attached his amendment to a military construction bill. It provided “that nothing in the underlying spending bill can undermine President Obama’s executive order barring discrimination by government contractors based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

When it became clear that the amendment would pass, the House leadership held the vote open until they could whip enough votes to defeat it, 212-213. That was last week.

On Wednesday night, Rep. Maloney attached the amendment to an energy spending bill and it passed 223-195, with 43 Republicans and all the Democrats supporting it.

Isn’t it amazing that the same body of 435 representatives could have such a different opinion of an amendment depending on whether it was attached to a military construction bill or an energy bill?

In truth, those 43 Republicans don’t object to the amendment. They didn’t want to go on the record opposing it the first time.

But, fine, they eventually exercised their independent judgment and passed it, right?

What happened then?

The victory was short-lived, however, as the amendment proved to be a poison pill that led scores of Republicans to oppose the underlying energy bill, which suffered a crushing 112-305 defeat on the floor Thursday. One hundred and thirty Republicans voted against the package, while just six Democrats supported it.

The Republicans voted against gay rights before they voted for them before they voted against them again?

Of course, they blamed the Democrats for not supporting the energy bill, but the energy bill wasn’t crafted to win Democratic support. What actually happened is that gay-hating Republicans who supported the energy appropriations decided to vote against them once the funds became attached to an anti-discrimination provision.

This is, of course, Speaker Ryan’s fault because he decided to let the Democrats offer these types of amendments to bills they have no intention of supporting. And that allows the Democrats to have a good old time exposing the Republicans’ divisions and horrible record on gay rights.

It’s another demonstration that the GOP is not capable of acting as a cohesive governing coalition. They cannot fund the government. And they couldn’t fund it even before they opened the door for the Democrats to shiv them at every opportunity.

The average citizen doesn’t understand all the procedural and strategic maneuvering here. All they see is a bunch of politicians who shift their votes with no regard for principle, who are more interested in embarrassing each other than in getting things done, and who simply cannot preform even the most basic elements of their jobs.

I’m not making a moral equivalency argument here. The Democrats are right on the merits and, given a majority, would have no problems figuring out how to fund the government. But that’s difficult to see. What’s easy to see is why everyone now seems to hate Congress.

 

By: Martin Longman, Web Editor, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 27, 2016

May 29, 2016 Posted by | Congress, Governing, House Republicans | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Martinez Is Not Having It”: Latina GOP Governor Susana Martinez To Trump: ‘I Will Not Be Bullied’

When the chairwoman of the Republican Governor’s Association and the only Latina governor in the United States of America failed to endorse Donald Trump before he was set to campaign in her state on Tuesday night, dismayed Republican political strategists nationwide held their breath: What Would Donald Do?

Trump came out swinging.

“Since 2000, the number of unemployed people in Albuquerque has nearly doubled. Come on folks. What’s wrong here? It’s your fault? Is it your fault or is it your government’s fault? It’s your government’s fault…”

“We have to get your governor to get going! She’s got to do a better job, okay? Your governor has got to do a better job, okay? She’s not doing the job.”

“Hey! Maybe I’ll run for governor of New Mexico, I’ll get this place going! She’s not doing the job. We got to get her moving, come on, let’s go, governor!”

“Syrian refugees are being relocated in large numbers to New Mexico. If I was governor, that wouldn’t be happening. I couldn’t care less. They say the governors have no choice? If I’m governor, I have a choice, okay? Believe me.”

Fact check: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average number of unemployed people in a given month in Albuquerque in 2000 was 15,052. In March of 2016, according to the most recent preliminary data, the total number of unemployed in the city was 22,562. Trump’s guess was twice as large as reality, and Gov. Susana Martinez has only been in office for five of those years.

According to factcheck.org, over Martinez’s entire term, only 10 refugees of the Syrian Civil War have been relocated to New Mexico. And if Trump was governor, he would have no legal authority to stop refugees from traveling to New Mexico. Doing so would create a constitutional stand-off.

Gov. Martinez was not having it.

“Apparently, Donald Trump doesn’t realize Governor Martinez wasn’t elected in 2000, that she has fought for welfare reform, and has strongly opposed the president’s Syrian refugee plan,” Martinez’s press secretary said in a statement.

“But the pot shots weren’t about policy, they were about politics. And the governor will not be bullied into supporting a candidate until she is convinced that candidate will fight for New Mexicans. Governor Martinez doesn’t care about what Donald Trump says about her — she cares about what he says he will do to help New Mexicans. She’s disappointed that she didn’t hear anything about that last night.”

Spurred by all the commotion, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio offered some encouragement on Twitter.

The truth is @ Gov_Martinez is one of the hardest working and most effective Governors in America. https://t.co/QcADopQCYe

— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) May 25, 2016

Martinez is the exact wrong person for Trump to be bullying, in the middle of a awkward span of trying unite his supporters with establishment Republicans, and at the first signs of a long, expensive general election fight against Hillary Clinton.

Paul Ryan reiterated Tuesday, in response to reports floating around D.C. to the contrary, that he hadn’t “made a decision” about endorsing Trump yet, and though the two speak on the phone near daily, a spokesman for Ryan clarified that it wasn’t “an endorsement call.”

Ryan responded to Trump’s comments about Martinez by saying that she was a “great governor” and “a friend of mine.” Asked about pressure from the Trump campaign to endorse him, Ryan said “I don’t worry about that stuff.”

Somewhere in the labyrinthian halls of the expansive home of the suspiciously-named billionaire Los Angeles real estate investor Tom Barrack, where tickets to a fundraiser featuring Donald Trump Wednesday cost $25,000 — or $100,000 for a picture with Trump — the reality television star stared deeply into a mirror and repeated to himself:

“I will unite the Republican Party. I will unite the Republican Party. I will unite the Republican Party.”

 

By: Matt Shuham, The National Memo, May 26, 2016

May 27, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Latinos, Susana Martinez | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Fake GOP Engagement Advantage”: Be Aware GOP, The Tide Will Come In And The Shoreline Will Move Against You

Why would Republicans be paying more attention to the presidential election than Democrats at this stage of the game? That’s not very hard to answer.

The most obvious reason is that they don’t have the White House right now and they haven’t had it since January 20th, 2008, when George W. Bush left office. Democrats simply aren’t craving what they already have, and it’s going to take them a while to focus on what they might lose.

That’s a cyclically-dependent variable, but there are others that are persistent, and still others that seem specific to this particular season.

As the electorate has sorted, older voters have trended Republican and younger voters have trended Democratic. Older voters read more newspapers, watch more television news, engage in more political activity outside the home, and vote more often in all elections than young voters.

There has also been a big difference between the parties in the nominating contests. The Republicans had eleventy-billion candidates, no certainty or even much consensus about who the winner might be, and the highly unusual (and famous) Donald Trump adding an entertainment value that could be enjoyed by even the least politically minded people. The Democrats have had (really) only two candidates, much less overall media coverage, and a presumed nominee from beginning to end.

Now, it should be a worrying sign to the Democrats that Republican engagement has been higher, and we’ve seen this not just in survey results but in the ratings for debates and in the voter turnout numbers in the primaries and caucuses.

But, I’m willing to argue that this should probably be of more concern to the Republicans. Despite Trump trending up in the most recent polls, his overall prospects look dim. And where is the room for growth?

Consider that Gallup finds that about twice as many people over fifty years of age are following the election “very closely” as are people under thirty. That number will begin to close and it will continue to narrow straight on through to Election Day. Consider, also, that 45% of whites claim to be watching the presidential election carefully while only 27% of nonwhites say the same.

Gallup says a central challenge for Democrats is to fix this disparity in engagement, and that’s true. But, with two conventions in July, followed by four debates, and the fall campaign, voter interest will rise automatically, and the Democrats have a lot more disengaged voters who will be coming online without any effort by the DNC or the Clinton campaign.

There’s also a current advantage the Republicans are enjoying in that their nomination is now a settled matter, and they’re consolidating a little earlier than the Democrats. Bringing the Clinton and Sanders camps together will more difficult than usual and will probably be somewhat incomplete, but that schism is minor compared to the one on the Republican side where the Speaker of the House can’t even endorse his own party’s nominee.

So, while the Democrats would probably prefer to see numbers that showed more parity in interest, they shouldn’t be overly concerned about these survey results. The Republicans should be aware that the tide will come in and the shoreline will move against them.

 

By: Martin Longman, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, May 23, 2016

May 24, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, General Election 2016, Republicans | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“After Capitol Hill ‘Chaos,’ Democrats Name Names”: House GOP Goes To The Mat To Allow Businesses To Discriminate

In recent years, not much has gotten done in Congress, so there aren’t a lot of opportunities for drama. And yet, yesterday, multiple headlines highlighted the “chaos” that erupted on the floor of the House of Representatives. So, what happened?

It was a chaotic scene on the House floor Thursday morning after an amendment to help protect LGBT people from discrimination failed by just one vote as Republicans succeeded in convincing a few members of their own party to switch their votes to help ensure the measure would not pass.

House Democrats could be heard chanting “shame, shame, shame” on the floor as the measure went from garnering up to 217 votes at one point down to just 212 when the vote was gaveled. Boos erupted from the House floor as the measure failed.

There are a couple of relevant angles to this. The first is the substance: two years ago, President Obama issued an executive order prohibiting government contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees and applicants. Congressional Republicans won’t consider the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, so the White House did what it could under the law.

Two years later, House Republicans want to undo that policy. When putting together this year’s big defense spending bill, the GOP quietly added a provision to restore contractors’ ability to discriminate. Pushing back, Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.) sponsored an amendment yesterday to nullify the anti-LGBT provision and protect the White House’s anti-discrimination policy.

It didn’t go well – the Republican majority defeated Maloney’s amendment. In 2016, the House GOP is still willing to go to the mat to allow businesses to discriminate, even when taxpayers’ money is being used.

Which brings us to the second angle: how House Republicans waged this fight.

The House allotted a couple of minutes to vote on Maloney’s measure, and when time was up, the amendment appeared to have passed. Except, in a fairly unusual move, Republican leaders decided to keep the vote open for a while in order to get some GOP members to switch their vote and endorse discrimination rights. What was a two-minute vote turned into an eight-minute vote – the kind of abuse Republicans used to condemn – so GOP leaders could twist arms and get the outcome they wanted.

And thus, “chaos.”

Democratic leaders, outraged by the ugliness and underhanded tactics, decided to name names, releasing the list of the seven House Republicans who agreed to switch their vote, after time had expired, to advance the anti-LGBT policy (in alphabetical order): Reps. Jeff Denham (R- Calif.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Bruce Poliquin (R-Maine), David Valadao (R-Calif.), Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Mimi Walters (R- Calif.), and David Young (R-Iowa).

Each of these members initially voted to do the right thing, but each reversed course.

And what of House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who ostensibly leads the chamber and opposes keeping votes open like this? The Wisconsin congressman told reporters he agreed with the far-right position and wants to undo the administration’s policy. “This is federalism. The states should do this. The federal government shouldn’t stick its nose in this business,” Ryan said.

Or as Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern put it, the Speaker of the House “believes that states should decide whether the federal government should allow federal contractors to use federal tax dollars to engage in anti-LGBTQ discrimination when working on federal projects overseen by federal agencies. And this man is the intellectual leader of the Republican Party.”

Paul Ryan keeps facing leadership tests. He keeps flunking.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 20, 2016

May 21, 2016 Posted by | Democrats, Discrimination, House Republicans, LGBT | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“House Republicans Want To Impeach Someone, Anyone”: Republicans Get Serious About Impeachment, But Not Obama’s

Quick quiz: when was the last time the U.S. Congress actually impeached an appointed executive branch official? It was 1876 – 140 years ago – when the House impeached Ulysses S. Grant’s War Secretary, William Belknap, over corruption allegations.

Nearly a century and a half later, House Republicans appear eager to give Belknap some company. The Washington Post reported yesterday:

Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) introduced a resolution on Wednesday to censure IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, raising the stakes in the GOP war against the tax collector days before a hearing on whether to impeach him.

The four-page resolution seeks Koskinen’s resignation or removal by President Obama and calls on the IRS chief to forfeit his federal pension.

Chaffetz, the far-right chairman of the House Oversight Committee, explained in a statement yesterday, “I view censure as a precursor to impeachment.” He added a few weeks ago, “My foremost goal is impeachment and I’m not letting go of it.”

No, of course not. That might be responsible.

By any sane metric, the idea of congressional impeachment against the IRS commissioner is bonkers. House Republicans are apparently still worked up about an IRS “scandal” that doesn’t exist, and though Koskinen wasn’t even at the agency at the time of the alleged wrongdoing, GOP lawmakers want to impeach him because they disapprove of his handling of the imaginary controversy.

Given that the year is half over, Koskinen won’t be in the job much longer – he’ll likely leave office when the Obama administration wraps up – and there’s no credible reason to believe the Senate will remove the IRS chief from office, why bother with impeachment? Politico reported something interesting yesterday:

Two weeks ago, in a closed-door meeting with Paul Ryan, Reps. Jim Jordan and Mark Meadows gave the speaker an ultimatum: They would force a House vote to impeach the IRS commissioner — unless he allowed the Judiciary Committee to take action against John Koskinen instead.

The two founding members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus had been working behind the scenes for well over a year to take down Koskinen for accusations that he obstructed a congressional investigation. GOP leaders and senior republicans, however, had never been keen on the idea, fearing it was ultimately futile and that the spectacle would backfire on Republicans.

Right-wing lawmakers would not, however, take no for answer. Jordan and Meadows vowed to force an impeachment vote onto the floor unless House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) signed off an impeachment hearing in the Judiciary Committee, and the Republican leader relented. The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

But given the fact that Koskinen hasn’t actually committed any impeachable offenses, it’s hard not to get the impression that many House Republicans want to impeach someone, anyone, just for the sake of being able to say they impeached someone.

As we discussed last fall, congressional Republicans have spent years talking up the idea of impeaching President Obama. At various times, GOP lawmakers have also considered impeaching then-Attorney General Eric Holder, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. In October, one Republican congressman said he’s eager to impeach Hillary Clinton, and she hasn’t even been elected.

I continue to believe much of this is borne of partisan frustration: Republican investigations into Benghazi and other manufactured “scandals,” including the IRS matter itself, have effectively evaporated into nothing. That’s deeply unsatisfying to GOP hardliners, who remain convinced there’s Obama administration wrongdoing lurking right around the corner, even if they can’t see it, find it, prove it, or substantiate it any way.

Unwilling to move on empty handed, impeaching the IRS chief will, if nothing else, make Republican lawmakers feel better about themselves.

But that doesn’t change the fact that this partisan tantrum is indefensible. Koskinen took on the job of improving the IRS out of a sense of duty – the president asked this veteran public official to tackle a thankless task, and Koskinen reluctantly agreed. For his trouble, Republicans want to impeach him, for reasons even they’ve struggled to explain.

It’s ridiculous, even by the low standards of this Congress.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 19, 2016

May 20, 2016 Posted by | House Republicans, Impeachment, Internal Revenue Service, John Koskinen | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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