"Do or Do not. There is no try."

“Worse Than Useless”: Emergencies Causing Problems For The Do-Nothing Speaker

At the New Republic David Dayen has an appropriately scathing appraisal of House Speaker Paul Ryan’s accomplishments this year. He famously cannot get a budget resolution passed. He’s done nothing on the list of priorities he announced when he took up the gavel. But beyond those failures, he can’t even deal with emergencies, including the Puerto Rico debt crisis, the Zika crisis, the Flint water-poisoning disaster, and the opioid epidemic.

To Dayen, that makes Ryan worse than useless, because “[t]he basic test of governance is the ability to respond to rapidly changing events.” This may be true in theory, but the entire premise of Ryan’s accession to the Speakership is that he’d place “governance” on hold until November, despite a Potemkin village semblance of “regular order” and other legislative activity. Here’s how I put it back in December:

What Boehner, McConnell, and Ryan in turn appear to have accomplished is to convince conservative activist groups and the members of Congress who listen to them to become satisfied with an apocalypse later rather than an apocalypse now. Ryan will get the lion’s share of praise as some sort of party-unifying genius, but it’s the promise of a postelection conservative ideological feeding frenzy that’s really done the trick. If Republicans pull off the POTUS/House/Senate trifecta next year, then the kind of policies now considered “divisive” when pushed against the resistance of Senate filibusters or presidential vetoes will then be noncontroversial.

And so, all the controversial stuff was dumped out of a continuing appropriation and tax extender package (the so-called “taxibus”) that ensured the federal government would continue to function until the end of the fiscal year (conveniently near Election Day), with the gamble being that divisions over what to do with a Democratic president might soon be moot.

But this do-nothing plan didn’t take emergencies into account, and thus emergencies are hanging fire for Ryan.

He will presumably muddle his way through, but the steadily darkening prospects for any sort of Republican mega-win in November is making all the signatories to this implicit deal uneasy. And if things go south on Election Day, so will Ryan’s reputation:

If, on the other hand, the GOP loses the presidency and/or the Senate, then the party could be back to where it was when Boehner was Speaker, and Paul Ryan won’t necessarily be any better at dealing with frustrated right-wingers.

The difference is that Ryan may be exposed as a fraud, which is not what he had in mind when he agreed to take the gavel.


By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, April 22, 2016

April 24, 2016 Posted by | Emergency Resolutions, Federal Budget, Governing, Paul Ryan | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“How Could Paul Ryan Have Known?”: Super-Wonk, Budget Wizard And Speaker-Designate Ryan Didn’t Know What His Staff Was Up To?

One of the more ridiculous and cynical features of this whole surprise budget deal is Paul Ryan’s expressions of horror and anger. Aside from the fact that the Republican House leadership is not about to blindside their hand-picked Speaker on something this big, there’s the little issue that Ryan’s staff helped draft a big chunk of it. HuffPost’s Arthur Delaney has the story:

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Tuesday morning that he hadn’t seen the new bipartisan budget deal and that the secretive process used to craft it “stinks,” but there’s stuff in the bill that should smell good and familiar to him.

One of its most important provisions makes changes to the Social Security Disability Insurance program, and some of those changes came from the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees Social Security and which Ryan chairs.

“Paul Ryan’s staff was involved in crafting the provision for weeks,” a Democratic aide told HuffPost. “His staff signed off on the provision, his staff also signed off on other key provisions” related to tax compliance and Medicare.

Ryan spokesman Brendan Buck denied that Ryan’s committee staff crafted the disability provision within the context of the legislation, which was negotiated by the White House with party leaders in the House and Senate. The committee had been working on changes to disability benefits earlier this year; Buck acknowledged that Ways and Means staff were aware the disability provision would be included.

At 52 pages, the disability insurance provision comprises a significant portion of the 144 page bill. It would prevent a 20 percent benefit cut scheduled to kick in next year for SSDI’s 11 million beneficiaries by diverting revenue from Social Security’s better-known retirement insurance program — a strategy some Republicans previously said amounted to “raiding” that program’s coffers.

The bill is also supposed to save $4 or $5 billion by tightening eligibility requirements for disability benefits, partly by requiring the Social Security Administration to make sure all initial applications include a medical screening.

But we’re supposed to believe super-wonk, budget wizard and Speaker-designate Ryan didn’t know what his staff was up to or how it related to an overall budget deal. Give me a break.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 27, 2015

October 29, 2015 Posted by | Federal Budget, Paul Ryan, Social Security | , , , , | 3 Comments

“More Irrational Chatter”: Ben Carson Thinks Hillary Clinton Is Going To Jail

Ben Carson has predicted many things in his day. He has claimed that End Times were nigh. He has said that a new Hitler could rise. And yesterday, he said that Hillary Clinton will end up behind bars for her actions as Secretary of State.

“Hillary can well be in jail and it’s hard to run from there,” Carson said bemusedly during an interview on The John Gibson Show. He claimed that Joe Biden would be the Democratic nominee less than an hour before the vice president announced that he would not seek the nomination. Gibson’s show runs from noon to 3 p.m.; the announcement came a little before 1 p.m.

“I would think that it would be Biden,” Carson said in his traditional deep-toned whisper, when asked who he would place his bets on.

After Gibson began laughing at the suggestion that Clinton would be in jail, he questioned whether Carson believed that an indictable offense would be discovered in Thursday’s Benghazi hearing.

“Or the computer server—uh—problems,” Carson drawled. Then he started walking it back on the spot.

“I think she may not be actually in jail but I think the controversy swirling around that will have an extremely damaging effect.”

Carson’s campaign did not respond when I asked what Carson had thought of the hearing, now entering its sixth hour, so far.

He spent the remainder of the interview discussing Paul Ryan’s bid for Speaker of the House, which he said he would support if the various caucuses did likewise, and suggested that saying President George W. Bush was responsible for 9/11 is a “blame game” that is not productive.

“Was there chatter going on about terrorist activity?” Carson asked, then proceeded to answer himself. “Of course there was. But not the kind of specific thing that would allow you to, through executive action, prevent such a thing. He certainly went into overdrive after that.”

The campaign has not provided clarification on what he meant by “chatter.”


By: Gideon Resnick, The Daily Beast, October 22, 2015

October 23, 2015 Posted by | Ben Carson, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden | , , , , | 4 Comments

“The House Kharijites”: The Freedom Caucus’ Forebears; The Original Islamic Extremists

So how is it exactly that even the most conservative leaders among House Republicans, such as Congressman Paul Ryan (R-WI), have become vilified as a bunch of sellouts by the Tea Party base and its faction in Congress, the Freedom Caucus?

The compromises of governance have truly infuriated the House GOP’s far-right wing — and now they want it all to stop. The participants in the current crisis over the speakership, with a minority fringe of House Republicans threatening to vote against the GOP leadership itself on the House floor, are now going way over the top in a variety of ways: comparing the leaders to dictators; calling for the rise of “Valley Forge Americans” in the spirit of the American Revolution; boasting that they’ve taken down their own party leaders; and issuing a set of demands for total purism that would trigger a government shutdown (plus the impeachment of the heads of the IRS).

But there might actually be a great basis of comparison for these wreckers, who prize the cause so much that the party itself has become their hostage: The Freedom Caucus mirror nothing else so much as the earliest Muslim extremists, known as the Kharijites — although the caucus members are probably the last people on Earth who would admit to the resemblance.

As is commonly known in the West, the seeds of the Muslim schism began after the death of Muhammad, with the question of succession creating rival camps around the Prophet’s father-in-law and partner Abu Bakr, whose faction became the majority Sunni; or his son-in-law Ali, whose followers are the minority Shia.

Ali did in fact become the caliph, after 26 years of deference to other men — but by the time this occurred, the Muslim empire itself was splitting in the first Islamic civil war, which erupted after an angry mob had assassinated the previous caliph Uthman.

After years of horrific bloodshed, resulting in the deaths of possibly many tens of thousands of people, Caliph Ali eventually entered into negotiations with his primary rival, the breakaway leader Muawiyah, to reach a settlement that ultimately granted huge concessions of autonomy (and even equality) to the latter.

And that’s when Ali’s most ardent followers got really angry — at Ali, for betraying God’s holy will that had animated the cause of… Ali.

From an excellent book on the history of Islam, Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World Through Islamic Eyes, by Tamim Ansary:

Compromising with the enemy disappointed a faction of Ali’s most committed followers, and these younger, more radical of his partisans split away. They came to be known as Kharijites, “ones who departed.” This splinter group reformulated the ideals of Ali’s followers into a revolutionary new doctrine: blood and genealogy meant nothing, they said. Even a slave had the right to lead the community. The only qualification was character. No one was born to leadership, and mere election could not transform someone into the khalifa. Whoever exhibited the greatest authentic devotion to Muslim values simply was the khalifa, no election needed. He was, however, accountable to the people. If he ever fell a hair short of complete moral excellence, he forfeited his right to high office and someone else became khalifa. Through what actual machinery all this demotion and promotion was to occur, the Kharijites didn’t say. Not their problem. They only knew that Ali had squandered his entitlement and needed to step down; and since he didn’t step down, one young Kharijite took matters into his own hands. In the year 40 AH [approx. 661 C.E.], this hothead assassinated Ali.

The lesson here: If the cause is made out to be holy and sacrosanct, then not even the most dedicated leaders are safe from the true believers.


By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, October 16, 2015

October 17, 2015 Posted by | House Freedom Caucus, House Republicans, Tea Party | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Devolving The Gingrich Revolution”: In The End, It’s All About The Same Thing Gingrich Was About; “Not To Reform, But To Destroy”

According to Mike DeBonis, the Freedom Caucus usurpers in the House might not be as focused on WHO becomes Speaker as much as HOW he (I don’t think any women are under consideration) wields the gavel.

When the 40 or so Republican lawmakers responsible for the recent upheaval in the House talk about what it would take to quell their rebellion, they do not necessarily talk about the debt ceiling, the federal budget or any other demand of the party’s energized conservative base.

They speak instead about rule changes, committee assignments and the hallowed pursuit of “regular order” — a frequently invoked, civics-textbook ideal by which legislation bubbles up through subcommittees to committees to the floor to the president’s desk and into law.

“The false, lazy narrative is that we want a more conservative speaker,” Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) told reporters at a forum of hard-line House members last week. “But the reality is: What we want is a process-focused speaker. What we need is a speaker who follows the House rules.”

There are those who fear that such a change would make the House even more ungovernable than it already is. But putting those concerns aside, it is interesting to take a historical look at where this “top-down” management the usurpers want to get rid of originated. Paul Glastris and Haley Sweetland Edwards laid it out for us not too long ago.

When Newt Gingrich became speaker of the House in the fall of 1994, he set about almost immediately creating “the most controversial majority leadership since 1910,” according to longtime Congress watchers and political scientists Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein in their 2006 book, The Broken Branch. Under his leadership, backed up by seventy-three conservative Republican freshmen who swept to power that year, the goal was not to reform, but to destroy; not to compromise, but to advance a highly conservative agenda no matter the means.

Sound familiar? Those who suggest that the current iteration of the Freedom Caucus has its roots in the precedent set by Newt Gingrich have a point. But back then the usurpers embraced an opposite means to reach their ends.

Gingrich’s strategy, as he explained it to Mann and Ornstein, was simple: Cultivate a seething disdain for the institution of Congress itself, while simultaneously restructuring it so as to eliminate anything—powerful chairmen, contradictory facts from legislative support agencies, more moderate Republicans—that would stand in the way of his vision.

Gingrich’s first move in 1995 was to dismantle the decentralized, democratic committee system that the liberals and moderates had created in the 1970s and instead centralize that power on himself. Under his new rules, committee chairs were no longer determined by seniority or a vote by committee members, but instead appointed by the party leadership (read: by Newt himself, who often made appointees swear their loyalty to him). Subcommittees also lost their ability to set their own agendas and schedules; that too largely became the prerogative of the leadership. At the same time, Gingrich imposed six-year term limits and required chairs to be reappointed (by leadership) every two years. Finally, Gingrich protected, and in some cases bulked up, the staff leadership offices and increasingly had those offices write major pieces of legislation and hand them to the committees.

These rules, taken together, essentially stripped all congressional Republicans, especially those in previously senior positions, of power; instead, whether or not they advanced in their careers—whether they were reappointed or on which committee they were appointed—would be determined by party leaders based on their loyalty and subservience. (Two years after the Democrats took the majority in the House in 2007, they eliminated the term-limits rule; Speaker John Boehner reinstated it when the Republicans regained control in 2010.) “If you were thinking about the next stage in your career, you did what you were told to do,” observes Scott Lilly. The point of this centralization of power was to give the leadership maximum control of the legislative agenda and to jam through as many conservative bills as possible.

Fascinating, huh? The very rules these usurpers want to throw out are the ones put in place by the original usurper…Newt Gingrich.

Now the so-called “Freedom Caucus” will dress up their aims in talk of “regular order” and “decentralization.” But in the end, they’re all about the same thing Gingrich was about: “not to reform, but to destroy; not to compromise, but to advance a highly conservative agenda no matter the means.”


By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, October 11, 2015

October 13, 2015 Posted by | Conservatives, House Freedom Caucus, Newt Gingrich | , , , , , | 1 Comment

%d bloggers like this: