Archive for category Party Politics
The Republican members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee boycotted today’s hearing on Gina McCarthy, President Obama‘s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Lacking the votes to defeat approval of McCarthy’s nomination, they decided to deprive the committee of a quorum. Apparently Republicans are worried that the EPA might enforce the Clean Air Act, thus helping to reduce the effects of climate change.
Chairwoman Barbara Boxer (D-CA) was not happy.
“Their opposition, even to allowing us to vote, shows how outside the mainstream they are, it shows how obstructionist they are,” the senator continued. “It shows how their pledge to do better with women voters is false. How could you have a more qualified woman than Gina McCarthy? This is outrageous.”
“They’re fringe, they’re out of the mainstream,” she reiterated — and trying to impose their “pro-pollution stance” on the Obama administration. Boxer further noted that they’d be examining their parliamentary options, which would include potentially changing committee rules.
To the opposition, Boxer offered some advice: Take a page out of the mainstream Republicans’ playbook and “get out of the fringe lane.”
McCarthy has already answered over 1,000 written questions from GOP committee members, more than any other Obama nominee.
This is how the tail wags the dog in the U.S. Senate. Nice work, GOP
UPDATE: An instrument near the summit of Mauna Loa in Hawaii has recorded a long-awaited climate milestone: the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere there has exceeded 400 parts per million (ppm) for the first time in 55 years of measurement—and probably more than 3 million years of Earth history.
350 parts per million is what many scientists, climate experts, and progressive national governments consider to be the safe upper limit for CO2 in our atmosphere.
Map of former USA from NBC’s “Revolution”
The most recent national survey of registered voters from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds that attitudes regarding the perceived likelihood of an armed revolution to protect liberties are influencing the debate over gun safety legislation.
Supporters and opponents of gun control have very different fundamental beliefs about the role of guns in American society. Overall, the poll finds that 29 percent of Americans think that an armed revolution in order to protect liberties might be necessary in the next few years, with another five percent unsure. However, these beliefs are conditional on party. Just 18 percent of Democrats think an armed revolution may be necessary, as opposed to 44 percent of Republicans and 27 percent of independents.
Only 38 percent of Americans who believe a revolution might be necessary support additional gun control legislation, compared with 62 percent of those who don’t think an armed revolt will be needed. “The differences in views of gun legislation are really a function of differences in what people believe guns are for,” said Cassino. “If you truly believe an armed revolution is possible in the near future, you need weapons and you’re going to be wary about government efforts to take them away.”
This is one poll that I hope is wrong. Almost a third of Americans believe a bloody revolution is coming soon to our country? Nearly half of Republicans believe it?
Tucson shooting survivor Patricia Maisch spoke for 90 percent of Americans today. After the Republicans stopped a weak firearm background check bill with a silent filibuster that required a 60-vote super-majority, she called out “Shame on you!” from the Senate gallery. The bill failed despite the support of 54 senators. Only four Republicans voted to break the filibuster (Utah senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee voted to kill the bill).
President Obama commented on the absurdity of this vote:
I’m going to speak plainly and honestly about what’s happened here because the American people are trying to figure out how can something have 90 percent support and yet not happen. We had a Democrat and a Republican -– both gun owners, both fierce defenders of our Second Amendment, with “A” grades from the NRA — come together and worked together to write a common-sense compromise on background checks. And I want to thank Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey for their courage in doing that. That was not easy given their traditional strong support for Second Amendment rights.
As they said, nobody could honestly claim that the package they put together infringed on our Second Amendment rights. All it did was extend the same background check rules that already apply to guns purchased from a dealer to guns purchased at gun shows or over the Internet.
Broadcast and cable networks interrupted regular programming to bring viewers Obama’s remarks, except for the Faux News Channel.
Four Democratic senators voted against the baby-step background check bill, but the filibuster was 100 percent Republican – so they get the blame. Must be used to wearing the black hats by now, anyway.
Gabrielle Giffords: A Senate in the Gun Lobby’s Grip
I watch TV and read the papers like everyone else. We know what we’re going to hear: vague platitudes like “tough vote” and “complicated issue.” I was elected six times to represent southern Arizona, in the State Legislature and then in Congress. I know what a complicated issue is; I know what it feels like to take a tough vote. This was neither. These senators made their decision based on political fear…
UPDATE: Gun Violence Victims Detained, Put Through Background Check For Yelling ‘Shame On You’ At Senators. Imagine that, a background check.
Once again, President Obama is pressing for a “Grand Bargain” that basically gives the right-wing Republican Party everything they have been asking for. The President wants to implement cuts to Social Security and Medicare, coupled with across-the-board discretionary spending reductions (aka austerity budgeting), and tax reform. You may recall that Willard (“Mitt”) Romney and his running mate, Rep. Paul Ryan, talked constantly about a plan to eliminate tax deductions during the 2012 election campaign.
So, basically, Obama is telling the right-wing “Here’s something you want, and something else you want, and I’m not going to ask for anything that progressives want.” And the GOP answer so far is a big fat NO. They would rather take the blame for a partial government shutdown. Does this make sense?
Jonathan Chait tries to explain:
President Obama is offering up something — hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Social Security and Medicare — that Republicans say they want and which (because of their unpopularity) they have proven unable to obtain even when they have had full control of government. They are instead undertaking a public showdown against a figure who is vastly more popular and trusted, who possesses a better platform to communicate his message, and whose message itself — spread the pain among rich and middle class alike, don’t cut retirement programs more deeply than needed in order to protect tax loopholes for the rich — commands overwhelmingly higher public support.
I think the Republican Party’s behavior can be at least partly explained, though not necessarily rationalized. The main thing that’s going on is that, in the face of cross-pressures, the party’s anti-tax wing has once again asserted its supremacy.
…Part of the confusion is that Republicans have been saying for months that they really just want to stop tax rates from raising. They’re happy — nay, eager — to make the rich pay more taxes by reducing their tax deductions. Certain conservative economists believe this as well. Since Obama is offering to increase revenue in exactly this way, his plan might seem inoffensive to Republicans.
…The answer to this piece of the mystery is clear enough: Republicans in Congress never actually wanted to raise revenue by tax reform. The temporary support for tax reform was just a hand-wavy way of deflecting Obama’s popular campaign plan to expire the Bush tax cuts for the rich. Conservative economists in academia may care about the distinction between marginal tax rates and effective tax rates. But Republicans in Congress just want rich people to pay less, period.
Robert Reich offers a better strategy for President Obama: Clear up all the confusion by taking on the Republicans’ big lies directly.
The first big lie is austerity economics — the claim that the budget deficit is the nation’s biggest economic problem now, responsible for the anemic recovery.
Wrong. The problem is too few jobs, lousy wages, and slow growth. Cutting the budget deficit anytime soon makes the problem worse because it reduces overall demand. As a result, the economy will slow or fall into recession — which enlarges the deficit in proportion. You want proof? Look at what austerity economics has done to Europe.
The second big lie is trickle-down economics — the claim that we get more jobs and growth if corporations and the rich have more money because they’re the job creators, and job growth would be hurt if their taxes were hiked.
Wrong. The real job creators are the broad middle class and everyone who aspires to join it. Their purchases keep economy going.
The Obama administration doesn’t have to play this crazy game of offering right-wing Republicans everything they say they want, knowing that they will refuse to take it. What they ought to be doing is explaining to the public that the right-wing is wrong, that they are lying.
Republicans have run on big across-the-board spending cuts for literally decades.
…But here we are. For the first time I think in our history we are about to go over the precipice of genuine across-the-board spending cuts. And Republicans are completely freaking out. There’s no other way to describe it.
I’ve highlighted the idea that US politics are driven as much by historical cultural forces as by contemporary ones. Colin Woodward’s eleven nations thesis argues that the US is divided into 11 distinct cultural areas which align themselves in a series of shifting alliances and thus shift and move national political power. Certain longstanding alliances (Yankeedom, the Left Coast and the Midlands on the one hand and the Deep South, Tidewater and Greater Appalachia endured for decades). Woodward summed up his thesis:
The Tea Party agenda may hold sway over large parts of the South and interior West, and with the economy and the president in such a weakened state a Tea Party favorite like Rick Perry could conceivably win the White House. But the movement has no hope of truly dominating the country. Our underlying and deeply fractured political geography guarantees that it will never marshal congressional majorities; indeed, it almost guarantees that the movement will be marginalized, its power and influence on the wane and, over large swaths of the nation, all but extinguished.
Woodard’s argument is that South is not a unified region – it consists of multiple cultural areas that have a long standing tradition of allegiance – Michael Lind’s Chesapeake Bay area is part of the Tidewater region
Tidewater has always been fundamentally conservative, with a high value placed on respect for authority and tradition, and very little on equality or public participation in politics.
Tidewater is a nation in decline as the Midlands have taken over sizable portions of Tidewater (think of Northern Virginia for a good example). Read the rest of this entry »
“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” (1939)
I am still wondering why the Democrats didn’t rewrite the Senate rules in 2009 or 2011. But now Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he wants to end what amounts to a Republican minority veto power via the “silent filibuster” or the “60-vote rule” that isn’t really a rule. Under our Constitution, all it takes is a 51-vote majority to change the rulebook, and Reid says he has the votes.
“I hope that within the next 24 to 36 hours we can get something we agree on. If not, we’re going to move forward on what I think needs to be done,” Reid told reporters. “The caucus will support me on that,” he added.
There is a package of reforms on the table that will make the Senate able to legislate again. Those reforms are:
- Eliminate the ability to filibuster the motion to proceed;
- Require that those wishing to block legislation or nominations take the floor and actually filibuster— i.e., mandating “talking filibusters”;
- Assert that 41 Senators must affirmatively vote to continue debate rather than forcing 60 Senators to vote to end debate; and,
- Streamline the nomination process so that nominees will get a yes or no vote on the Senate floor, including a reduction of the required 30 hours of post cloture debate on a nominee to 2 hours.
In the last Congress, only 3 percent of the bills introduced in the Senate made it to final passage. This was the most dysfunctional Senate anyone can remember.
UPDATE: No talking filibuster, no 41-vote rule. To say Harry Reid and the Dems folded like a cheap suit is an insult to cheap suits.
Minority rules: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will continue to control the Senate after so-called Majority Leader Harry Reid agrees to a deal that does almost nothing to restrain the abuse of the filibuster.
UPDATE: HuffPo nails it with their headline (see continuation)
Read the rest of this entry »
Via TPM: “The jig is up. Republicans are going to increase the debt limit. Probably for free.”
First, the “Hastert rule” isn’t actually all that big a deal (it’s not really a rule). Republicans are now saying that the principle that legislation shouldn’t come to the House floor unless the majority of the GOP conference supports it only applies when there is a Republican in the White House.
Both the “fiscal cliff” deal and a relief bill for victims of Superstorm Sandy recently passed the House without a “majority of the majority” voting for them.
Second, the so-called “Boehner rule,” which requires a dollar in spending cuts for every dollar increase in the debt limit, is really, truly dead.
Third, Republicans’ big talk about forcing a partial government shutdown to avoid defaulting on the nation’s debts has faded away.
House John Boehner (R-OH) has proposed a tax increase on income in excess of $1 million. This is the first time that Boehner has proposed raising tax rates, but it’s a joke.
Pat Garofalo on Think Progress points out that (1) income tax rates are going to reset to the Clinton-era levels at the end of the year anyway, and (2) Dems have already made cuts to Medicare and elsewhere in the federal budget.
So by agreeing to Boehner’s deal, Democrats would be trading something that is going to happen anyway for something else that they’ve already done.
Also Boehner’s proposal reportedly does not include an increase in the debt ceiling, however The Washington Post is now reporting that Boehner has also offered “to push any fight over the federal debt limit off for a year.”
Via HuffPo. Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero reacts to the right-wing Republican sneak attack on Michigan workers.
“The Republicans put this through in lightning speed, in lame duck. It’s outrageous and despicable what they’ve done, in my opinion. They did no public hearing. They did the best they could to shut out any public input at all into the process.
…A democracy is not a forever thing. You have to get up every day. Every day liberty and freedom must be won anew.
We’re back to the politics of fifty years ago…”
RTW, the right to work more for less money, is supported by only 6 percent of the people of Michigan.
It’s no mystery where Michigan’s RTW legislation came from. The aggressively pro-corporate American Legislative Exchange Council, ALEC, is a policy clearinghouse… for bills that can be introduced at a moment’s notice in state legislative chambers.
Awesome. Via Think Progress:
On Sunday, during an appearance on Meet The Press, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell confronted Newt Gingrich for falsely predicting in 1993 that the economy would suffer if then-President Bill Clinton raised marginal tax rates.
Republican are making a similar argument against President Obama’s call to raise marginal tax rates on the richest Americans, even though the economy and jobs grew exponentially during the Clinton years when the top marginal tax rate was at 39.6 percent for the top income earners.
…Indeed, in 1993 when President Bill Clinton raised taxes on the top income earners, Gingrich and the Republicans argued that the hikes would result in economic decline and result in huge deficits. They were proven wrong. The country experienced the “longest period of economic growth in U.S. history, increased business investment, 23 million jobs added, and, of course, budget surpluses.” The same boom did not materialize after President George W. Bush enacted his tax cuts; the country experienced large deficits and the weakest job and income growth in the post-war era.
O’Donnell actually said: “Newt, [we] have been waiting for your apology for 20 years for being completely wrong about that.”
Of course, in the fake world of the media, no one ever apologizes for being flat wrong. In this case the cost of being wrong was a decade of flat wages, lost jobs, and rising poverty in America – culminating in the worst financial collapse since the Great Depression, and ongoing economic sabotage by Republicans in Congress. They are still threatening to kill the recovery out of pure hyperpartisanship even after President Obama agreed to make 98 percent of the Bush Tax Cuts For The Rich permanent.
Just not a good moment. The Senate reached the height of dysfunction today when Minority Leader Mitch McConnell filibustered his own bill.
Today, the United States Senate hit a new low. This morning, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced a bill to reform the debt limit charade so that the president could spend money authorized and appropriated by Congress as long as the Congress didn’t vote by two-thirds to prohibit him from borrowing the money necessary to conduct United States operations at home and abroad. This would eliminate the absurdity — and economic damage — done last summer when the Congress held the debt limit hostage in budget negotiations.
Senator Harry Reid (D-NV), the Senate Majority Leader then decided to let the bill come to a vote this afternoon. To which Senator McConnell objected, calling for a 60-vote threshold to pass the bill.
He filibustered his own bill.
Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) asked the parliamentarian to determine if this has ever happened before, but it couldn’t happen at a better time as the Senate prepares to reform (or eliminate!) the filibuster. This craziness, as demonstrated by McConnell’s absurd pretzel logic on the floor today, must end.