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“The Insufficient Craziness Theory”: When Plain Old Everyday Crazy Is Just Not Enough

Every time Republicans suffer a rejection of the most right-wing items on their agenda, a significant number decide they haven’t been sufficiently crazy. That was the conclusion that many Republicans drew from the defeat of Mitt Romney in 2012. And now that Republicans in Congress have been forced to surrender in their fight with President Obama over the budget, health care and the nation’s credit, some are drawing the same conclusion.

In this view, as Dylan Scott pointed out on Talking Points Memo today, it was not the far-right that caused Speaker John Boehner problems, it was those pesky moderates (whoever they may be).  ”I’m more upset with my Republican conference, to be honest with you,” said Rep. Raul Labrador, Republican of Idaho. “It’s been Republicans here who apparently always want to fight, but they want to fight the next fight, that have given Speaker Boehner the inability to be successful in this fight. So if anybody should be kicked out, it’s probably those Republicans.”

He said they “are unwilling to keep the promises they made to the American people. Those are the people who should be looking behind their back.”

I don’t really have any idea what Mr. Labrador thinks those promises were. Presumably they did not include withholding paychecks from federal workers and threatening to create a worldwide recession.

But in the view of this crowd, having the same fight again in an election year (which could happen since the debt ceiling was raised only until Feb. 15) could actually be a good thing. That’s not so shocking, I guess, coming from the bomb-throwing Tea Party wing, but the political blindness goes farther than that.

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, for example, said the fight over the debt ceiling was good for Democrats, but for a peculiar reason. “It has been the best two weeks for the Democratic Party in recent times because they were out of the spotlight and didn’t have to showcase their ideas,” Mr. Graham said.

What Mr. Graham perceived as hiding was actually an exercise in not interrupting your enemy while he’s making a mistake. It was a good period for Democrats because Republicans were in the spotlight and showcasing their ideas. Or their lack of ideas, in the words of Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor who always seems on the verge of making a presidential run that never quite seems to materialize.

“We have to have an agenda, we just can’t be against what’s in front of Washington, D.C.,” Bush said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” today. “Much of what goes on in Washington is completely irrelevant to the lives of everyday people. I mean it’s just amazing.”


By: Andrew Rosenthal, Editor’s Blog, The New York Times, October 17, 2013

October 19, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Speaker In Name Only”: Why John Boehner’s Failures Don’t Affect His Job Security

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has struggled since grabbing the gavel 33 months ago, but the last few weeks have been especially brutal. He didn’t want a government shutdown, but his own members rejected his advice. Boehner didn’t want a debt-ceiling crisis, either, but his members balked at following his lead on this, too.

Even last night, after the Speaker endorsed a bipartisan resolution to the crisis his own caucus created, most House Republicans rejected the plan Boehner grudgingly supported.

Indeed, just 24 hours ago, National Review’s Robert Costa had breakfast with some House Republican lawmakers who said they’re “losing faith in their leadership.”

So how much trouble is Boehner really in? Not as much as common sense might suggest.

House conservatives said Wednesday that Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is in no danger of losing his post, despite presiding over a Republican defeat in the fight over government funding and the debt ceiling.

“I don’t think Speaker Boehner has anything to worry about right now,” said Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), a conservative who refused to vote for Boehner in January.

When Boehner hosted a caucus meeting yesterday, breaking the news that the House would have to pass the Senate’s bipartisan compromise, he received a standing ovation – even though most House Republicans opposed and rejected the plan.

Roll Call added, “GOP lawmakers from across the conference say there are no coup attempts in the works and few complaints over the job Boehner did on the shutdown and debt limit fights.”

How is this possible? As implausible as this may seem, congressional Republicans are pointing a lot of fingers this morning, but none of them are pointed at the Speaker. GOP pragmatists are blaming Tea Partiers; Tea Partiers are blaming pragmatists; and they’re both blaming the media. Republicans are furious with President Obama for not caving the way they expected him to, and are even angrier with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for making them look bad.

But Boehner, at least for the time being, is in the clear. He took orders from his followers, so for now, they’re satisfied.

Stepping back, though, the bigger picture offers a good-news/bad-news dynamic for the embattled, accomplishment-free Speaker. The good news is, Boehner’s GOP conference still likes him and sees no need to replace him.

The bad news is his members intend to keep ignoring his wishes and rejecting his advice.

In other words, Boehner is still the Speaker. He’s also still the Speaker In Name Only.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, October 17, 2013

October 19, 2013 Posted by | Debt Ceiling, Government Shut Down, John Boehner | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“When All Else Fails, Just Lie”: Bogus Republican Arguments To Justify A Government Shutdown

The House conservatives who refused to keep the government open without kneecapping ObamaCare seem to believe, now that the government has shut down, they can win the public opinion fight and force Democrats to back down.

But to make the case that their actions and demands were reasonable, Republicans need arguments that are remotely plausible. Instead, they are heading into battle with claims that I would call paper-thin, were that not a grave insult to paper. Here are the five legs on which the Republican position can’t stand.

1. Obama won’t negotiate
Speaker Boehner embraced this argument in a web video with the tag line, “Why is the Obama administration willing to negotiate with Putin on Syria… but not with Congress to address Washington’s spending problem?” That’s a disingenuous reading of the situation. Washington is at an impasse because Republicans have repeatedly snubbed Obama’s offer for a budget compromise that pairs a stingier Social Security cost-of-living formula with corporate tax increases. Republicans refused to negotiate over taxes. They have continually demanded that Democrats scrap President Obama’s biggest legislative achievement in exchange for simply keeping the government operating. Of course Obama won’t negotiate over that. Otherwise, Obama has proved quite willing to negotiate on all aspects of the budget. It’s Republicans who have refused to offer any concession of any sort.

2. Republicans have already compromised
Sen. Ted Cruz tried this one during his Sunday Meet The Press appearance: “My position in this fight was we should defund [ObamaCare], which is different from repeal. And even now what the House of Representatives has done is a step removed from defunding. It’s delaying it. Now that’s the essence of a compromise.” No, the essence of compromise is when each party gives up something. Republicans aren’t proposing to give up anything. They’re just demanding a little bit less than before. Meanwhile, Democrats aren’t asking for any trophies. Keeping the government open and raising the debt limit aren’t ideological prizes, but basic housekeeping.

3. Republicans are just demanding what the people want
Republicans are nominally correct in saying that polling shows a lack of majority support for ObamaCare. But you don’t have to look much deeper in the data to see that doesn’t translate into majority support for threatening government shutdown to defund or delay ObamaCare. Multiple polls show widespread opposition to the Republican strategy linking the funding of government operations to stopping ObamaCare. Sixty-three percent of the electorate says Congress should “provide the funding to keep the government operating and deal with the health care issue separately.” Sixty percent say avoiding a shutdown is more important than “cutting the funds” to implement ObamaCare. Four in five people say threatening shutdown is “not an acceptable way to negotiate.” Even if you take the threat of shutdown out of the question, the Republican position still polls poorly. Only 38 percent support the view that “funding for the 2010 health care law must be cut off as part of any budget agreement,” with 50 percent opposed. Furthermore, the notion of widespread opposition to ObamaCare on conservative grounds is also misplaced. As CNN’s polling has long showed, while support for ObamaCare is below 50 percent, about 10 to 15 percent of that opposition says the program is “not liberal enough.” Support for the Republican view that ObamaCare is “too liberal” is only in the mid-to-upper 30s.

4. Harry Reid is the one who shut down the government
On Meet the Press, Sen. Cruz claimed: “[Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid’s] position is 100 percent of ObamaCare must be funded in all instances, and, other than that, he’s going to shut the government down.” To translate, Sen. Reid’s position is programs that Congress has already established by law should be properly funded. Reid is not the one who brought these issues together. House Republicans are the ones who made the decision to repeatedly link the suffocation of ObamaCare to legislation that would keep the government open; that was the threat, a threat on which Republicans have now followed through.

5. Since Obama is delaying ObamaCare for his friends, he should for everyone else
Also on this Sunday’s Meet The Press, GOP Rep. Raul Labrador tried to make the case for a one-year delay of the entire Affordable Care Act program because there have been delays regarding certain provisions: “The president has already delayed it for big businesses. They have delayed it for all his friends … all we’re asking for in the House of Representatives is for a one-year delay. Just like the unions are asking for a one-year delay.” That doesn’t make any sense. If Obama’s objective was to go easy on his friends and save them from a bureaucratic disaster, don’t you think the unions that supported his re-election would be getting help before the big businesses that didn’t?

The real story is that the delay for the mandate on employers with 50 or more workers was to give extra time to resolve a specific issue that arose: a concern that the paperwork was going to be unnecessarily burdensome on the vast majority of businesses that already provide insurance. So a delay was issued to provide the time to resolve that specific matter. Soon after, certain unions tried to use the employer mandate delay, not to get a similar temporary delay, but to permanently change a rule that denies ObamaCare subsidies to a particular kind of employer-based insurance utilized by union members. Obama told his union friends, no, there’s no legal basis for giving you those subsidies. The president is not doling out special favors. Nor does he consider the need for a few delays to resolve discrete issues to be cause for junking the entire law. In turn, these unions accepted the president’s answer and continue to support ObamaCare. They did not throw a temper tantrum and call for a general strike that would grind the entire economy to a halt.

Perhaps Republicans can take a lesson from that.


By: Bill Scher, The Week, October 1, 2013

October 2, 2013 Posted by | Government Shut Down, Public Opinion, Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Rotten Melon Brain”: Steve King Says In Private, Republicans Actually Agree With His Vulgar, Bigoted Comments

A growing number of Republicans are publicly distancing themselves from Rep. Steve King’s (R-IA) claim that many undocumented youths are drug mules with cantaloupe-sized calves, but the conservative congressman claims that GOP lawmakers are backing him in private.

During an appearance on Fox News on Saturday, King said that Republicans are in fact standing by him, but are afraid to publicly support him for fear of sparking outrage and losing their legislative leverage.

“My colleagues are standing by me. They come up to me constantly and talk to me and say, you’re right, I know you’re right,” King said. “Is the description such that they have to go out to the press and do a press conference or can they come and tell me, I know you’re right, I support you? They can do that privately,” he said:

KING: You know, they have a lot at stake here. There is a leverage within the House of Representatives and they all need to be concerned about their own leverage, so I’m not asking them to step forward, I wouldn’t ask them to step forward. I don’t want them to take repercussions.

King reiterated that he has seen and heard undocumented youths with cantaloupe-sized calves cross the border and even confirmed those details with border patrol agents since his remarks attracted controversy. “I got a call from [border patrol] yesterday and I said, do I need to come back down and refresh myself? They said ‘no, you’re spot on with what you’re saying but maybe you got the weight ten pounds up,’” he said.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), Rep. Raul Labrador (R-ID), and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) are the most prominent Republicans to condemn King’s comments, but the Iowa congressman remains highly influential in the Republican caucus. King recently authored an amendment in the House to deport DREAMers, which passed with nearly unanimous Republican support. Labrador and Ryan were among the 221 GOPers who voted for the measure.

The House of Representatives is expected to consider a series of immigration reform bills in the fall.


By: Igor Volsky, Think Progress, July 27, 2013

July 28, 2013 Posted by | Immigrants, Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The GOP And Its Urge To Purge”: Don’t Get Caught Reading Marx In The Republican Cloakroom

It seems the Republicans have run out of squishy moderates to purge. Now they’re starting to run conservatives out of town for being insufficiently doctrinaire.

Exhibit A: The defenestration of Tom Cole.

Cole, a deeply conservative congressman from deeply Republican Oklahoma, is not to be confused with a RINO: Republican in name only. But when the lawmaker, who has been part of House GOP leadership, floated a perfectly sensible notion this week — that Republicans should accept President Obama’s offer to extend tax cuts for the 98 percent of Americans who earn less than $250,000 a year — he was treated as if he had been caught reading Marx in the Republican cloakroom.

“I think he’s wrong, and I think most of the conference thinks that he’s wrong,” declared rookie Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho). Cole, he said, is “a man who has voted for a lot of the increased spending in Washington, D.C., and that’s the problem. We have a lot of Republicans who are, you know, catching their hair on fire right now, but they’re the ones who were here for 10 or 20 years causing all the problems that we’re now facing.”

Rep. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) called Cole’s position “absurd.” House Speaker John Boehner went before the cameras to deliver Cole a rare public rebuke.

Cole, who enjoys a lifetime rating of 92 percent from the American Conservative Union as he enters his sixth term, isn’t worried about a putsch. “I think I’m going to be hard to sell as a dangerous liberal,” he told me with a chuckle. The outrage, he said, “surprised me a little bit, because I think the politics of this are blindingly clear.”

Cole is correct, for two reasons. On a practical level, his plan calls Obama’s bluff: Because raising taxes on the top 2 percent of earners won’t bring in nearly enough tax revenue to fix the budget problem, Obama would likely be forced to come up with some serious entitlement-program cuts as part of a larger tax-and-spending deal.

But Cole is right for a larger reason: The Republicans’ negotiating position is morally indefensible. They are holding 98 percent of Americans hostage by refusing to spare them a tax hike unless the wealthiest 2 percent are included.

“Some people seem to think this is leverage. I think that’s wrong,” Cole said. “You don’t consider people’s lives as leverage. I live in a blue-collar neighborhood. I’ve got a retired master sergeant as my next-door neighbor, police officer across the street. These are working folks, they’re great people, and the idea that I would ever use them as leverage is just wrong.”

In defying the party purists, Cole is taking a novel approach: doing what his constituents want him to do. His staff reports that calls and e-mails to his Washington office are running 70 percent favorable, and calls to his south-central Oklahoma offices are 90 percent positive.

No surprise: Median income in his district is under $47,000, below the national average of $52,000. Only 1.8 percent of households there have income of $200,000 or more.

“They’re pro-business, they’re pro-free enterprise,” Cole said of his constituents, who are farm and ranch workers, oil employees and the like. “But they’re going to want to know that we’re not going to raise taxes on them because they make $43,000 a year, and $1,000 to $2,000 is a lot of money when you’re trying to raise a family.”

Cole, who worked as a political consultant and as chief of staff at the Republican National Committee before coming to Congress, understands this reality better than many of his peers. In their obsession with protecting the wealthiest, Republicans often work against their own constituents, because red states tend to be poorer and more reliant on government spending.

Cole’s stand is a refreshing reminder that being conservative doesn’t mean you have to be unreasonable. “Both sides, I think, need to be a lot more clear-eyed,” he told me. “We’re going to be living in this house together for four years in all likelihood. Let’s get some things done that we can agree on.”

Thankfully, Cole, who won reelection with 68 percent of the vote, isn’t intimidated. Of his intraparty critics, Cole asks: “Where’s your political courage? It’s pretty easy to vote ‘no’ around here. But we’ve got a divided government. The American people ratified that in this election. They’ve basically told us to work together. Here’s something we both agree on that would be in their interest. Why don’t we do this?”


By: Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 30, 2012

December 2, 2012 Posted by | GOP | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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