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“NRA Corpses Pile Up”: The NRA’s Day Of Reckoning Will Come, And Maybe Sooner Than We All Think

Can the National Rifle Association ever be defeated?

I can’t blame you if you’re thinking “no.” It won again this week, as everyone knew it would. But someday, this dam will break.

I admit that these last few days give us little basis for hope, but I do think Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy’s filibuster had some impact in forcing a vote, albeit an unsuccessful one. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell controls the calendar, decides what gets to the floor. He didn’t have to schedule these votes. Granted, his real motivation was undoubtedly to give that small number of Republican incumbents from purple or blue states a chance to cast a reasonable-seeming vote on guns.

But public pressure exists, and polling is through the roof on support for banning the purchase of guns by people on terror-watch and no-fly lists. Murphy’s stand galvanized gun-control forces.

After the Newtown shooting in December of 2012, it took five months for the Senate to hold a vote. This time it took a week. That may not seem like much, especially given that both efforts came to the same bleak end, but this is progress of a sort. These things take a long time.

It was mildly encouraging, too, to see some red-state Democrats vote for gun legislation sponsored by Dianne Feinstein. To NRA hard-liners, she is Satan. There are four red-state Democrats who risk political suicide if they’re not careful on guns: Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Jon Tester of Montana. All but Heitkamp voted for Feinstein’s amendment to prevent gun purchases by anyone who’s been on a terror watch list for the last five years.

It should be noted that only Donnelly voted for the other Democratic measure, introduced by Murphy and Chuck Schumer, which sought to close the gun-show loophole. And all four of these Democrats opposed a weak amendment from Republican Chuck Grassley.

But ultimately, yes, the votes were election-year theater. Here’s how ridiculous the whole thing is. Maine Republican Susan Collins has this “compromise” bill that would ban purchases of guns by people on the no-fly list. That’s to get Democratic support. Then it allows people to appeal such a decision, which is supposed to lure Republicans, who’ve said they don’t like the ban because some people have been incorrectly put on those lists.

You might think that that would mean that enough senators from both parties could vote yes. But as of Tuesday afternoon, a Senate source explained to me, no other Republican had yet signed on to Collins’s bill. A small number presumably would—Mark Kirk of Illinois, who’s facing a tough reelection fight in a very blue state, maybe a few others. But Collins would need 15 or 16 Republicans to back her to get the 60 votes needed to end cloture. That’s as close to impossible as anything can be.

Now it gets even more baroque: Despite this lack of Republican enthusiasm, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may well give Collins a vote anyway. McConnell, of course, has no personal interest in compromise on this issue. He’s NRA all the way.

However, he probably wants a vote for the sake of Kirk, New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte, Pennsylvania’s Pat Toomey, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson—that is, all the Republicans up for reelection in blue states. It’ll look nice to voters back home that they cast a bipartisan gun vote.

But of course Democratic leader Harry Reid knows this, and so he might respond to such a move by McConnell by encouraging his caucus to vote against the Collins measure, thereby denying Kirk and the rest the desired bipartisan cover. Capische?

So the bill that is an actual compromise, the one bill on which both sides might actually have been able to agree, at least in theory, is the very bill that might lose by something like 95-5.

It’s not just ridiculous. It’s immoral. How high do the carcasses need to pile?

I sense we’re starting to reach the point where we’re going to learn the answer to that question. This just can’t go on forever. For starters, if Hillary Clinton maintains her lead and is elected president, one of the first things she’s going to do is put a liberal on the Supreme Court, making for a 5-4 liberal majority. Even if she settles for Merrick Garland, signs are he’d back gun control measures (the NRA already came out against him).

That could lead to an overturning of District of Columbia v. Heller, which vastly expanded individual gun-ownership rights. Given enough time, and maybe an Anthony Kennedy or a Clarence Thomas retirement and thus a 6-3 liberal majority, it could lead to still bigger changes in gun-law jurisprudence.

That would lead a defensive NRA to try to tighten its grip on Congress even more. And that will probably work, for a time. But it will embolden the anti-NRA forces too. Momentum will then be on their side.

And the mass killings will continue, and the bodies will pile up, and public outrage will grow. And one of these days, there’ll be a tragedy that will make everyone, even the number of Republicans who’d be needed to break a filibuster, say “enough.” It would have to be just the right kind of thing, click all the demographic boxes just right—a white man who bought an assault weapon with no background check and went on a rampage and killed many white people in a heavily Republican part of the country. I’m not wishing this on anyone, but then, I don’t need to. As we continue to do nothing, the odds increase daily that it will happen.

Things look awful until, one day, they suddenly don’t. The day Rosa Parks sat down on that bus, I bet not that many people would have predicted that a president would sign a civil rights bill just nine years later. The evil that is the NRA is so thoroughgoing and so repulsive to most Americans that it just can’t last forever. Newtown and Orlando energized millions of people. The LGBT community, I gather, is going to embrace gun-control as an issue. They’re organized, and they have money and clout. The old saying that pro-gun people vote on that issue while anti-gun people don’t isn’t as true as it once was.

So be angry about what happened. But Wayne LaPierre’s day will come, and maybe sooner than we think. And what a day it will be.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 22, 2016

June 23, 2016 Posted by | Chris Murphy, Gun Control, National Rifle Association, Senate Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“McConnell’s “Three No’s” Under Fire”: No Meetings, No Hearings, No Vote

I have to admit that Senator McConnell’s ability to keep his troops of Republican Senators in line over these last seven years has been what some might call “impressive.” The plan to totally obstruct anything President Obama and Democrats attempted to do meant that he had to get Senators from traditionally blue/swing states to go along. Time after time we witnessed his ability to do that.

Shortly after the death of Justice Scalia, McConnell announced the ultimate in total obstruction tactics. He issued three “no’s” to any nominee put forward by this President: no meetings, no hearings, no vote. But on this one, he hasn’t managed to make it stick.

A quarter of Republican Senators (16) have announced that they will meet with Obama’s nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. Last week, three Senators came out in favor of holding hearings: Kirk, Collins and Moran. And now, Senator Kirk has said that he would consider voting for Garland.

Sen. Mark Kirk on Tuesday became the first Republican to say he might be willing to vote for President Obama’s nominee to the Supreme Court.

“Obviously I would consider voting for him,” the Illinois senator told reporters before he met with the nominee, Judge Merrick Garland. “That’s the whole purpose.”

While not going as far as Kirk, Senator Collins indicated something similar.

“The President, whether Republicans like him or not, is our President until next January, until Inauguration Day and it just seemed to me that there was no basis for saying that no matter who the President nominates, we were not going to consider that individual.”…

Hearings and meetings “are the best way to thoroughly understand a nominee’s views,” Collins said. “Undoubtably, there will be issues that would arise in a hearing that would provide grounds for people who don’t want to vote for Judge Garland or in those who do.”

Obviously this isn’t enough of a break in McConnell’s troop discipline to get movement on hearings – much less a vote – on Judge Garland’s nomination. But the key figure in all this is Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. As Steve Benen reported yesterday, he is going to extraordinary lengths in his blue/swing state of Iowa to avoid public confrontation over his position. First of all, he is not publicly announcing his speaking engagements and/or meetings with constituents. Secondly, he is only visiting staunchly conservative areas of the state where he received 80-90% of the vote in his last election. Finally, even in those areas, he is facing “tough and repeated questions over his refusal to hold hearings on a nominee to the Supreme Court.”

It is anyone’s guess about whether the “no hearings” and “no vote” portion of McConnell’s plan will hold for the next seven months. But it is clear that the Majority Leader is facing some insurrection from the troops he had previously managed to keep in line.

 

By: Nancy Letourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, March 30, 2016

March 31, 2016 Posted by | Merrick Garland, Mitch Mc Connell, Senate Republicans, U. S. Supreme Court Nominees | , , , , | Leave a comment

“You Take Goodwill Where You Can Find It”: Americans Already Like Boehner More Now That He Is As Tired of Congress As They Are

House Speaker John Boehner still has to cross a few things off his to-do list before he’s allowed to say good-bye to Congress forever: (1) Find replacement. (2) Save economy. However, many Americans already seem to like him better now that they know the Ohio Republican is as sick of dealing with Congress as they are.

According to a new Gallup survey, Boehner’s approval rating has jumped from 23 percent in August — the lowest point it ever reached during his tenure — to 31 percent, heights he hasn’t seen since the beginning of last year. His approval rating remained unchanged among the nation’s Republicans, but independents and Democrats are suddenly much more fond of him.

Now, 45 percent of the country still has an unfavorable opinion of the soon-to-be-retired elected official, but when many of your colleagues have spent months griping about how much they hate you, you take goodwill where you can find it. However, the shiny-happy forgiveness of the American people may not last if Congress fails to raise the debt limit in the upcoming weeks — the last big vote that Boehner will have to force-feed his fractious party before he lets it all go, turning away and slamming the door, realizing that distance makes everything seem small.

If that wasn’t difficult enough on its own, a Cutthroat Kitchen–style handicap has been thrown at Congress. Treasury secretary Jack Lew warned Congress today that the U.S. is set to hit the debt ceiling two days earlier than he expected. Now Congress has only until November 3, taking away valuable time to wait until the last minute before rushing to stave off the “political equivalent of a dumpster fire” that awaits us if the debt ceiling isn’t raised. If the debt ceiling isn’t raised, the federal government won’t be able to pay bills, its workers, or soldiers and Social Security checks. Raising the debt ceiling doesn’t give the federal government a thumbs-up to start spending money on new things — it only makes sure that the federal government is able to fulfill its obligations and pay for things it has already approved.

In case that didn’t sound scary enough, Lew wrote a letter to Boehner, who planned on leaving D.C. on October 30, noting that “In the absence of congressional action, Treasury would be unable to satisfy all of these obligations for the first time in the history of the United States.” Or, translated out of bureaucrat-ese, “Dude, this would be a historically bad way to end your career.”

Congress is on recess this week, but Politico reported yesterday that Boehner is planning to quickly do something about the debt limit next week. A few GOP politicians think the debt-limit deadline, growing ever closer, is just the Obama administration’s way of forcing legislators to do what it wants. Senator Susan Collins told Politico, “It is interesting, which is a polite word, that all of a sudden the administration moved up considerably the timing of when the debt limit needs to be extended. What I’ve found over the years is that the date on which the debt limit truly has to be increased seems to be a very squishy date that often changes depending on the political winds.”

Congressional Republicans usually try to get a few spending decreases legislated along with a debt-limit increase, but there may not be time for that this year — which is not going to make his conservative colleagues happy. A Boehner spokesperson told the AP yesterday, “the Speaker has made it clear that he wants to solve some outstanding issues before he leaves. No decisions have been made, but a resolution on the debt ceiling is certainly possible.”

The Wall Street Journal asked 64 economists whether they thought the government was screwed and definitely on the verge of default. “Not enough wackos to do that,” one said, another added, “They are not THAT irresponsible.”

With only a few weeks left for things to be resolved, we’ll see if they’re right.

 

By: Jaime Fuller, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, October 15, 2015

October 20, 2015 Posted by | Congress, Debt Ceiling, John Boehner | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“Iran And The Case For Realism”: The Choices We Face Are ‘Often Between Greater And Lesser Evils’

Foreign policy debates rarely get away from being reflections of domestic political conflicts, but they are also usually based on unstated assumptions and unacknowledged theories.

That’s true of the struggle over the Iran nuclear agreement, even if raw politics is playing an exceptionally large role. There are many indications that Republican Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Susan Collins (Maine) might in other circumstances be willing to back the accord. But they have to calculate the very high costs of breaking with their colleagues on an issue that has become a test of party loyalty.

There is also the unfortunate way in which Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has chosen to frame Congress’s vote as a pro- or anti-Israel proposition. Many staunch supporters of Israel may have specific criticisms of the inspection regime, but they also believe that the restraints on Iran’s nuclear program are real. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), for example, has said that U.S. negotiators “got an awful lot, particularly on the nuclear front.” And the “nuclear front,” after all, is the main point.

But the pressures on Cardin, who is still undecided, and several other Democrats to vote no anyway are enormous. A yes vote from Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, would be a true profiles-in-courage moment — and have a real influence on his wavering colleagues.

President Obama and his allies are right to say that the dangers of having the agreement blocked by Congress are much higher than the risks of trying to make it work. The notion that the United States could go back and renegotiate for something even tougher is laughable, because this is not simply a U.S.-Iran deal. It also involves allies who strongly back what’s on the table. Suggesting that the old sanctions on Iran could be restored is absurd for the same reason: Our partners would bridle if the United States disowned what it has agreed to already.

The administration’s core challenge to its critics is: “What is the alternative?” It is not a rhetorical question.

The counts at the moment suggest that Obama will win by getting at least enough votes to sustain a veto of legislation to scuttle the pact. He has a shot (Cardin’s decision could be key) of getting 41 senators to prevent a vote on an anti-deal measure altogether.

But once this episode is past us, the president, his congressional opponents and the regiment of presidential candidates owe the country a bigger discussion on how they see the United States’ role in the world. Obama in particular could profit from finally explaining what the elusive “Obama Doctrine” is and responding, at least indirectly, to criticisms of the sort that came his way Friday from Republican hopefuls Scott Walker and Marco Rubio.

There are many (I’m among them) who see Obama primarily as a foreign policy realist. Especially after our adventures in Iraq, realism looks a whole lot better than it once did. I say this as someone who still thinks that the United States needs to stand up for democratic values and human rights but who also sees military overreach as a grave danger to our interests and long-term strength. The principal defense of Obama’s stewardship rests on the idea that, despite some miscues, his realism about what military power can and can’t achieve has recalibrated the United States’ approach, moving it in the right direction.

A useful place to start this discussion is “The Realist Persuasion,” Richard K. Betts’s article in the 30th anniversary issue of the National Interest, realism’s premier intellectual outpost. Betts, a Columbia University scholar, argues that realists “focus more on results than on motives and are more attuned to how often good motives can produce tragic results.” While idealistic liberals and conservatives alike are often eager to “support the righteous and fight the villainous,” realists insist that the choices we face are “often between greater and lesser evils.”

“At the risk of overgeneralizing,” he writes, “one can say that idealists worry most about courage, realists about constraints; idealists focus on the benefits of resisting evil with force, realists on the costs.” On the whole, “realists recommend humility rather than hubris.”

For those of us whose heads are increasingly realist but whose hearts are still idealist, realism seems cold and morally inadequate. Yet the realists’ moral trump card is to ask whether squandering lives, treasure and power on impractical undertakings has anything to do with morality. Critics of realism confront the same question that opponents of the Iran deal face: “What is the alternative?”

 

By: E. J. Dionne Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, August 31, 2015

September 1, 2015 Posted by | Foreign Policy, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Republicans | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Not Much Of A Deal”: The Trouble With The Minimum-Wage “Compromise”

Senate Democrats had originally planned to move forward this week on legislation to increase the federal minimum wage to $10.10, but it was delayed in part so the chamber could tackle extended unemployment benefits, which may pass later today.

The delay, however, also carried an unintended consequence: the prospect of a “compromise” on the issue, spearheaded by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Democratic leaders so far are sticking to the $10.10-an-hour wage they’re proposing, while many Republicans, including more moderate lawmakers, say they are likely to filibuster the bill.

But the moderate Maine Republican says she’s leading a bipartisan group of senators hoping to strike a deal.

Collins hasn’t released the details of her proposal, which makes sense given that the talks are still ongoing, but Roll Call’s piece suggests she’s open to a minimum-wage increase, so long as it’s smaller. By some accounts, the Maine Republican is eyeing a $9/hour minimum wage, up from the current $7.25/hour, which would be phased in slowly over three years.

But Collins also hopes to trade this modest minimum-wage increase for a partial rollback of the employer mandate in the Affordable Care Act and some small business tax cuts.

The senator is calling her plan “a work in progress.”

One might also call it “something that won’t happen.”

Greg Sargent had a good piece on this yesterday, noting that Dems don’t seem to have much of an incentive to drop their target minimum-wage threshold.

For one thing, Democratic aides point out, the idea of such a compromise may be fanciful. Even if it were possible to win over a few Republicans for a lower raise, you’d probably risk losing at least a few Democrats on the left, putting 60 out of reach (Republicans would still filibuster the proposal).

Indeed, the office of Senator Tom Harkin – the chief proponent of a hike to $10.10 – tells me he’ll oppose any hike short of that…. Labor is already putting Dems on notice that supporting a smaller hike is unacceptable.

Even the balance of the so-called “compromise” is off. As Collins sees it, Republicans would get quite a bit in exchange for Democrats making important concessions on their popular, election-year idea.

That’s not much of a “deal.”

Complicating matters, even if Dems went along with Collins’ offer, there’s no reason to believe House Republicans would accept any proposal to increase the minimum wage by any amount.

It sets Senate Democrats up with a choice: fight for the $10.10 minimum-wage increase they want (and watch Senate Republicans kill it) or pursue a $9 minimum-wage increase they don’t want (and watch House Republicans kill it).

Don’t be too surprised if the party sees this as an easy call.

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 3, 2014

April 7, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Minimum Wage | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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