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

“Revenge Of The Conservative Pragmatists?”: Willing To Save The GOP From Itself By Doing Common Sense Constructive Things

Even as the uncertainty around who will succeed John Boehner as Speaker of the House seemed to grow murkier today, there was also a rare sighting of governing amid all the chaos.

Democrats announced at a press conference today that 218 House members have signed a discharge petition to force a vote to reauthorize the Export-Import Bank. Discharge petitions are very rare — the last one that worked came in 2002, forcing a vote on campaign finance legislation some 13 years ago.

The Ex-Im Bank finances deals involving American exports, and its supporters say it is crucial in helping American companies compete with companies abroad for contracts and thus in sustaining U.S. jobs. But it has been a longtime target of conservatives who discern “crony capitalism” afoot.

At the presser today, Nancy Pelosi said:

“This is a very important day, because we have broken through the wall of obstruction in the Congress to get the job done in a bipartisan way. Which is what we all come here to do.”

And Democratic whip Steny Hoyer said:

“What today showed was, when people are allowed to express their will, we had 42 Republicans sign a discharge petition.”

What Pelosi and Hoyer are saying is that the success of today’s discharge petition shows that it is possible for a bipartisan coalition to come together on something if a way can be found to get around the GOP leadership’s refusal to hold a vote on it.

Now, we don’t know if Ex-Im will actually get reauthorized. Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell is already dumping cold water on the possibility of it getting to the Senate floor. But the question today’s discharge petition raises is whether it could be used to bring together a bipartisan coalition on other things that conservatives will insist that GOP leaders prevent votes upon.

“This suggests another way to go about this,” congressional scholar Norm Ornstein tells me. “If you end up with leaders who refuse to bring things to the floor that would pass with a lot of Democrats and that some Republicans want, make the discharge petition a regular tool. Don’t just do it once.”

Ornstein says that many of the House Republicans who signed the discharge petition aren’t necessarily moderates, which are a rarity in today’s GOP, but are better described as “conservative pragmatists.” Ornstein argues that, theoretically at least, many of these Republicans might be willing to sign discharge petitions to accomplish things like more funding for infrastructure and even lifting the debt limit, getting around a protracted standoff that GOP leaders might feel constrained to pursue to prove to conservatives that they are “fighting.”

The question would be whether Republican moderates would be willing to repeatedly defy the leadership, as well as conservatives activists and voters. “How willing are they going to be to say, ‘we’re going to save our party from itself by doing common sense things that are constructive, even if the crazy people say they don’t like it’?” Ornstein says.

All of this of course seems very far fetched. So do other solutions that would require breaking out of partisan patterns, such as Brian Beutler’s suggestion of the election of a coalition Speaker who, supported by Democrats and Republicans, would not have to live in fear of the House Freedom Caucus. But in a way that’s the point: Anything that is going to achieve results seems far fetched right now. Which means everything is worth trying.


By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, October 9, 2015

October 10, 2015 Posted by | Bipartisanship, Conservatives, Discharge Petition, Export-Import Bank | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“The Eric Cantor Story”: Waste, Fraud, And Abuse

The farm bill was defeated in part because they got fewer yea votes out of Democrats than they were hoping for. This happened, according to moderate Democrat Collin Peterson of Minnesota, because of a last-second amendment from Eric Cantor that sought to impose sterner work requirements on recipients of food stamps. Democratic whip Steny Hoyer says it took a bipartisan bill and turned it into a partisan bill.

This was just a cat-piss mean amendment that you have to think was almost designed to push Democrats away. Fraud in the food-stamp program (known by the acronym SNAP) is a frightening 1 percent, according to Think Progress. And existing work requirements are pretty stringent already. If you live in Cantor’s Virginia and want food stamps, here’s what you have to do, according to the state’s web site:

If you are age 18 to 50 and able to work, you may be subject to a work requirement in order to receive SNAP. This requirement would limit the number of months for which you could receive SNAP to three months in a 36 month period. After you receive SNAP for three months, you may be able to receive three additional months if you complete certain work related requirements. You may be exempt from this work requirement if you are currently working or participating in an approved work program; responsible for the care of a child; pregnant; medically certified as unable to work; meet one of several work registration exemption reasons; or live in an exempt locality.

I can’t find what these “certain work requirements” are, but it seems to me that having to re-meet them every three months provides a pretty constant check on people and meets a high standard of being responsible with the taxpayers’ money.

It’s just amazing to me the way they keep finding new ways to kick poor people. One, deregulate everything so that banks can start placing bets against their own securities. Two, destroy the economy, so that millions more people lose their jobs and have to go on food stamps in the first place. Three, decide that poor people have to pay the penalty for all this financial hanky-panky, and cut the federal programs they depend on to the bone. Four, cut food stamps even more, and make the recipients work more.

“Waste, fraud, and abuse” describe Eric Cantor’s contribution to this nation, his character, and his attitude toward people who aren’t rich.

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 21, 2013

June 23, 2013 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

After Payroll-Tax Debacle, GOP Goes Into Damage-Control Mode

Atop the House chamber Wednesday morning, the flag fluttered in the breeze. In his office underneath the Capitol dome, House Speaker John Boehner twisted in the wind.

His House Republicans had killed a bipartisan plan to cut taxes for 160 million Americans, earning themselves an avalanche of criticism and condemnation from friend and foe alike. So Boehner assembled nine of his House Republican colleagues in his conference room, invited in the TV cameras, and proclaimed that Republicans really and truly want to enact the payroll-tax break that they just defeated.

“We’re here. We’re ready to go to work,” Boehner announced.

But the only thing he was working on, it turned out, was damage control.

Fox News’s Chad Pergram, noting that Boehner’s talking points were mostly about legislative process, asked: “Do you think that you’ve lost the argument?”

“We’re here. We’re ready to work,” the speaker repeated.

Reuters’s Tom Ferraro asked what Boehner made of the criticism from Senate Republicans “like Scott Brown, who says you’re playing politics.”

“We’re here, ready to go to work,” Boehner answered.

CNN’s Deirdre Walsh further annoyed the speaker by mentioning the savage editorial in Wednesday’s Wall Street Journal that branded the GOP payroll-tax strategy a “fiasco.” Another reporter asked if there might be some way to back down on his refusal to accept the Senate’s two-month extension of the payroll-tax cut.

“We’re here, ready to work,” Boehner said.

The Associated Press’s Dave Espo asked “if any of the 10 of you intend to go home for Christmas.

“We’re here, ready to do our work,” Boehner said.

At exactly the moment House Republicans were executing the failed photo-op, Democrats were on the House floor, trying to disrupt the day’s “pro forma” session with a stunt designed to further embarrass the majority.

Although most House members had gone home for the holidays, House leaders arranged the perfunctory sessions so that the chamber wouldn’t technically go into recess without passing the payroll-tax cut.

But as the speaker pro tempore, Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), sought to bring the pro forma session to a close, “pursuant to Section 3B of House Resolution 493,” Steny Hoyer, the Democratic whip, interrupted to request that the chamber bring up the Senate bill. Fitzpatrick walked off the dais.

“Mr. Speaker, you’re walking out!” Hoyer called after him. “You’re walking away just as so many Republicans have walked away from middle-class taxpayers.” A few seconds later, the sound system was cut off and the C-SPAN cameras were disabled.

Hoyer, joined by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), took his case to the microphones outside the House chamber, where a statue of the late humorist Will Rogers, hands in pockets, seemed to gaze at the pair with a look of amusement.

“The speaker of the House and the Republican leadership were AWOL,” Van Hollen complained.

That’s because the leaders were conferring nearby with their “conferees” – the people Boehner wants to negotiate a new tax deal with Democrats. But there is a problem with this plan: Senate Democrats already negotiated a compromise with Senate Republicans, and the House Republicans rejected it. And, to the Democrats’ delight, several of the “conferees” Boehner appointed are on the record opposing the payroll-tax cut.

“I’m not in favor of that. I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said one conferee, Dave Camp (Mich.), according to the Hill newspaper.

“From a policy standpoint, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense,” another conferee, Tom Price (Ga.) told National Public Radio.

The conferees did not address this awkwardness at their photo-op (aides, handing out seating charts to the photographers, didn’t pretend it was anything more than that), instead turning the discussion to non-sequiturs.

Price gave his perspective “as a physician.” Renee Ellmers (N.C.) delivered her remarks “as a nurse” and “as a mom.” Rep. Nan Hayworth (N.Y.) added the information that “I’m a doctor and a daughter of elderly parents” and has “also been a small employer.” Tom Reed (N.Y.) let everybody know “I have an 11- and 13-year-old at home.”

Congratulations, all around. None of these credentials, however, avoided the conclusion that the House Republicans had screwed up badly and now stand to take the blame if payroll taxes rise.

Two minutes after their photo-op, the conferees, abandoning the conceit that they were conferring over anything, left Boehner’s conference room.

“Is the conference over?” I asked Price.

He chuckled. “Legislation is not a game of solitaire,” he said.

But for House Republicans, it’s getting very lonely.


By; Dana Milbank, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 21, 2011

December 22, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, GOP, Teaparty | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

An Efficient Metaphor For What’s Wrong With Congress

We know Congress isn’t getting along. But that’s no good  reason to spend less time together.

The House’s 2012 calendar is out, and it reflects some of  the  divisions the chamber is experiencing. Majority Leader Eric Canto has scheduled   just 109 days in session, a schedule he said will  make for a more streamlined legislative process while giving  lawmakers the  opportunity to spend time with their constituents. House  Democratic Whip Steny  Hoyer complained that the schedule is “more of  the same.” This year so far,  the House has conducted legislative  business for just 111 days, Hoyer noted,  nearly equal to the 104 days  spent in recess or in pro forma session.

Let’s be clear: when the House is back home, they are not  on  vacation. Their work schedules in the district are sometimes more  arduous  than those they have in Washington, since lawmakers are  expected to travel  around their districts, speaking to a myriad of  constituencies. They also have  to raise campaign cash during these  trips, a task that is becoming an  increasingly larger part of their  jobs.

Nor is Congress slacking off when they are not actually  on the floors  of the House and Senate. They have committee hearings, meetings  with  constituents, and (hopefully) negotiating sessions with fellow  lawmakers.

But spending less time in Washington is not going to heal  the  divisions in Congress. In fact, it’s likely to get worse. Especially in  the  House, with its 435 members, personal relationships are critical to  achieving  compromise. Lawmakers who barely see each other will never  get past the  party-identification barrier.

Further, the calendar (like this year’s) is out of synch  with the  Senate calendar. The two chambers take week-long recesses at different   times, making it harder for the House and Senate to reach the  compromises  necessary to pass legislation.

The 2012 calendar is campaign-friendly, however. After  October 5,  members are free until after the 2012 elections, giving them the  time  to keep their jobs, but not actually do their jobs. The new calendar is   indeed more efficient, as Cantor contends. But it’s an efficient  metaphor for  what has gone wrong with Congress.

By: Susan Milligan, U. S. News and World Report, October 28, 2011

October 31, 2011 Posted by | Conservatives, Elections, GOP | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Walking Away From The Truth: GOP Playing With Matches On The Debt

Just ignore Tuesday’s vote against raising the debt ceiling, House Republican leaders whispered to Wall Street. We didn’t really vote against it, members suggested; we just sent another of our endless symbolic messages, pretending to take the nation’s credit to the brink of collapse in order to extract the maximum concessions from President Obama.

Once he caves, members said, the debt limit will be raised and the credit scare will end. And the business world apparently got the message. It’s just a “joke,” said a leader of the United States Chamber of Commerce, and Wall Street is in on it. Not everyone found it funny.

No matter how they tried to spin it, 318 House members actually voted against paying the country’s bills and keeping the promise made to federal bondholders. That’s an incredibly dangerous message to send in a softening global economy. Among the jokesters were 236 Republicans playing the politics of extortion, and 82 feckless Democrats who fret that Republicans could transform a courageous vote into a foul-smelling advertisement.

The games that now pass for governing in an increasingly embarrassing 112th Congress are menacing the nation’s future. It was bad enough when Republicans threatened to shut down the government to achieve their extreme and extremely misguided spending cuts, but that threat would have caused temporary damage. The debt limit is something else altogether. If the global credit markets decide that the debt of the United States will regularly be held hostage to ideological demands, it could cause significant harm to investment in long-term bonds and other obligations. That, in turn, could damage domestic credit markets and easily spark another recession.

To prevent this from happening, 114 Democrats in April asked for a “clean” vote without conditions. But Republicans were not about to set their hostage free. Knowing that the clean vote would not pass — and imposing a two-thirds majority requirement to ensure its failure — House Republicans gave the Democrats what they requested. They then voted it down, sending their reckless message to the world.

But there was no excuse for so many Democrats to go along with that message, including the leadership. Steny Hoyer, the minority whip, urged his members to vote no so they would not “subject themselves to a political 30-second ad attack” with all Republicans voting no. Apparently Mr. Hoyer did not trust voters to understand what a dangerous and dishonest game the Republicans are playing.

The exercise has prompted the White House to convene talks to discuss the Republicans’ scattershot demands, which have ranged from trillions in spending cuts to the outright dismantling of vital safety-net programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Democrats have hoped to get an increase in revenues out of any deal, but House Republican leaders emerged from a White House meeting on Wednesday spouting the usual discredited claims that higher taxes on the rich would impede job growth.

What Republicans seem unwilling to acknowledge is that the debt-limit debate is not about future spending. It is about paying for a deficit already incurred because of two wars and tax cuts approved by both Republicans and Democrats at the behest of a Republican president. Tuesday’s vote was a chance to do the right thing and educate the public on why it was necessary. Instead, too many lawmakers walked away from the truth.

June 2, 2011 Posted by | Congress, Conservatives, Debt Ceiling, Deficits, Democrats, Economy, Elections, GOP, Government, Government Shut Down, Ideologues, Ideology, Medicaid, Medicare, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, Taxes, Voters | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment


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