Browsing the archives for the Congress category.


Trump’s Day of Reckoning

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Congress, Trump Maladministration

Charles Pierce, today:

The Rules Committee of the House of Representatives met shortly after dawn on Friday to try and set up a process by which Paul Ryan’s tax-cut plan could pass the full House at some point later in the day. On Thursday, after everything fell apart, the president* sent the head counselors at Camp Runamuck down to the Capitol to tell recalcitrant Republicans that what they had before them was his take-it-or-leave-it offer and that, if they chose not to pass it, then 24 million Americans wouldn’t lose their health insurance, get sick, go broke and/or die. The president* is betting that Republicans in Congress don’t want that on their consciences.

So they’re going to attempt another vote today on an Obamacare replacement bill that’s been rewritten so many times the Congressional Budget Office can’t keep up. As I wrote yesterday, Trump tried to get the Freedom Caucus on board by letting them make changes that made the whole thing even worse, but even that failed to close the deal. So, Trump-style, the so-called president told Congress that if they didn’t pass their bill today, they’d never get another chance at it and Obamacare would have to remain on the books.

Such a deal-maker, this guy. James Hohmann wrote,

 If you read Donald Trump’s “The Art of the Deal,” substituting “contractors” for “conservatives,” the president’s ultimatum to House Republicans on health care is not at all surprising. “You have to be very rough and very tough with most contractors or they’ll take the shirt right off your back,” Trump wrote in the 1987 business classic.

As a businessman, Trump bragged about his ability to drive a hard bargain to win favorable terms and make lots of money. “I also protect myself by being flexible,” he explained. “I never get too attached to one deal or one approach. … I keep a lot of balls in the air, because most deals fall out, no matter how promising they seem at first.”

One theme he kept coming back to is that you’ve got to be willing to walk away or, more precisely, convince the people you’re negotiating with that you are. Trump recalled a 1981 meeting with the attorney general and the head of gaming enforcement for New Jersey in which he threatened to walk away from Atlantic City – despite already making huge investments on the Boardwalk there – if he didn’t get certain concessions.

He described the pitch: “Much as I wanted to build a great casino on the great site I’d assembled, I said, I have a very successful real estate business in New York and I was more than willing to walk away from Atlantic City if the regulatory process proved to be too difficult or too time-consuming. The bottom line, I concluded, was that I didn’t intend to invest any more money – or to begin any construction – until I got a decision one way or the other on my licensing.”

The problem, of course, is that a president has absolutely no authority — or “leverage,” as they say — to stop the House from passing any dadblamed bill it wants to pass. Sure, he could eventually veto it. But if sometime down the road Congress managed to pass an ACA replacement bill that nearly all Republicans and a couple of Democrats actually liked — a long shot, I realize — those same Republicans could do Trump a world of political hurt if he vetoed the thing.

But of course, it’s possible a sufficient number of House Republicans are too stupid to realize all that, and seriously think OMG if we don’t vote yes today Obamacare will be the law of the land forever!

The Koch boys are adding to the generally merriment by promising candy and flowers to Republican reps who vote no.

Americans for Prosperity and Freedom Partners, the two political action hubs of the Koch donor network, announced Wednesday night that they had a “seven-figure fund” ready to help Republicans who reject the American Health Care Act.

The fund will supplement an ongoing online campaign that’s thanking lawmakers who’ve promised to oppose the bill, which they say retains too many elements of the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

“In seven years, we have never wavered in our commitment to a full repeal of this disastrous law,” AFP President Tim Phillips said in a statement. “We want to make certain that lawmakers understand the policy consequences of voting for a law that keeps Obamacare intact. We have a history of following up and holding politicians accountable, but we will also be there to support and thank the champions who stand strong and keep their promise.”

One suspects that wavering congress critters are getting a lot of phone calls today, and not just from their constituents.

Politico is saying the vote today is too close to call. I am making no predictions. If it passes, the Senate is likely to take it apart and rewrite it anyway. And if it fails, that certainly doesn’t mean the danger is over. But failing would make the so-called president look very, very weak.

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Worse Than McCarthyism

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Bad Hair, Congress, Republican Party

In the last post I quoted Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics, who criticized Donald Trump’s so-called “plan” to plop a fig leaf over obvious conflicts of interest by allegedly separating himself from his businesses without actually separating himself from his businesses. Such criticism would seem to be to be part of Shaub’s job; he’d be remiss if he said nothing. My understanding is that most people who knows stuff about government ethics agree with Shaub.

Republicans might have reacted to this criticism in many ways. They might have disagreed with it; they might have offered counter-arguments. But here’s what they did, courtesy of  Jason Chaffetz, the head of the House Oversight Committee.

On Thursday, Chaffetz opted to go full Salem on the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics, attacking Shaub for having done his job. The Republican threatened to subpoena Shaub if he refuses to participate in an official transcribed behind-closed doors interview. The calculus here seems to be that if nobody sees this crooked behavior by supposed ethics guardians like Chaffetz, then it didn’t happen.

OGE, set up post-Watergate, is nonpartisan and advises executive branch officials on avoiding conflicts. Shaub’s five-year term expires in January 2018.

Chaffetz demanded in a letter that he appear before lawmakers in the aforementioned closed-door, transcribed interview, to answer questions in a deposition-style setting. Richard Painter, who served as the ethics lawyer for George W. Bush, told the New York Times that this was “political retaliation” by Republicans against nonpartisan ethics officers for doing their basic duty.

Using threats of subpoenas and hearings to intimidate and silence political opponents is an old tactic for the American Right. Sen. Joe McCarthy was infamous for it back in the day, as was the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee.

But why do I claim that what Chaffetz tried to do is worse? Because he had no excuse. At least HUAC and McCarthy were ostensibly trying to investigate espionage and subversion in the United States, even though they were mostly just using said investigations as partisan political tools. But Chaffetz didn’t even bother to concoct some reason to harass Shaub that served some greater good. Back to Dahlia Lithwick in Slate:

In an interview with me on Friday, Norm Eisen—who led ethics initiatives during President Obama’s first term—agreed with Painter’s assessment that this is simply retaliation:

Democrats and Republicans alike, Richard Painter and myself included, are outraged by the chairman’s demand for a closed, Star Chamber–style interrogation of Director Shaub simply because he said exactly what bipartisan experts agree upon: that Trump’s proposed conflicts solution is woefully inadequate. An even more chilling aspect of the chairman’s letter is the not-so-veiled threat to cut OGE’s funding. All of this is merely the latest salvo in all-out attack on ethics oversight. The effort to shut down OCE, the four [Cabinet] nominees who had no ethics vetting who the majority tried to ram through confirmation hearings, Trump’s flouting precedent and the Constitution in his own [conflicts of interest] plan, and now this bullying of Shaub and threat to close OGE.

“It’s open season on ethics in D.C.,” Eisen added.

In the old days the enemy was Communism; now the enemy is ethics.  See also “Earnest: ‘Outrageous’ For Chaffetz To Threaten To Subpoena Ethics Chief” by Matt Shuham at Talking Points Memo.

In other news, Trump has now taken to tweeting insults about Rep. John Lewis. The creature has no shame at all.

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Abnormal Is the New Normal?

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Bad Hair, Congress

I was busy doing other things and missed all the fireworks. So I’m still catching up on the dossier scandal. What fun! And then there was Trump’s bizarre “press conference,” in which he pretty much dashed anyone’s lingering hopes that he’d drop out of Asshole Mode once elected.

Trump is going to turn his companies over to his sons, he said. PBS Newshour did a segment on this yesterday that’s very much worth watching.

See also Remarks of Walter M. Shaub, Jr., Director, U.S. Office of Government Ethics.

The only thing this has in common with a blind trust is the label, “trust.” His sons are still running the businesses, and, of course, he knows what he owns. His own attorney said today that he can’t “un-know” that he owns Trump tower. The same is true of his other holdings. The idea of limiting direct communication about the business is wholly inadequate. That’s not how a blind trust works. There’s not supposed to be any information at all.

Here too, his attorney said something important today. She said he’ll know about a deal if he reads it in the paper or sees in on TV. That wouldn’t happen with a blind trust. In addition, the notion that there won’t be new deals doesn’t solve the problem of all the existing deals and businesses. The enormous stack of documents on the stage when he spoke shows just how many deals and businesses there are.

I was especially troubled by the statement that the incoming administration is going to demand that OGE approve a diversified portfolio of assets. No one has ever talked to us about that idea, and there’s no legal mechanism to do that. Instead, Congress set up OGE’s blind trust program under the Ethics in Government Act. Under that law anyone who wants a blind trust has to work with OGE from the start, but OGE has been left out of this process. We would have told them that this arrangement fails to meet the statutory requirements.

Republicans will do their best to keep Trump’s butt covered on this matter, but it’s also the case that if, someday, they decide he’s a liability to the party and their careers, and they want to get rid of him, the guy comes with a built-in impeachable offense. So that’s something.

With everything else going on, you might not have noticed that yesterday, the House of Representatives passed a bill that could cripple the ability of government to regulate private industry. Also yesterday, as predicted, the Senate — at 1:30 a.m., no less — approved a budget procedure that will allow them to gut the Affordable Care Act through a simple majority vote. The actual repeal legislation is supposed to be ready to go by January 27.

Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing yesterday went badly enough that Charles Pierce thinks he could nixed for the Secretary of State position.

Our journey into the Twilight Zone continued today, with the Justice Department announcing an investigation of the FBI.

Dr. Ben Carson was grilled by the Senate as the nominee for heading Housing and Urban Development. As expected, Carson barely knew where he was, but the hearing went smoothly enough. He could not promise that the Trump family would not profit from HUD decisions.

And then this happened:

C-SPAN confirmed Thursday afternoon that its online feed had been temporarily interrupted by the Kremlin-backed news outfit RT, formerly known as Russia Today.

Of course.

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House Republican Priorities

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Congress

So the very first thing House Republicans did when they got back to work was to vote to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics.

In a closed-door meeting Monday night, Republicans adopted House rules changes that would have essentially gutted their own oversight watchdog — a move that would have defied Trump’s “drain the swamp” mantra aimed at making Washington more transparent and less cozy.

The surprise move on Monday night appeared to catch even House GOP leadership off guard, and the conference approved a pitch that would have put the Office of Congressional Ethics under the thumb of lawmakers on the House Ethics Committee. Monday’s effort was led, in part, by lawmakers who have come under investigation in recent years.

The Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) came into being in 2008, when Nancy Pelosi was Speaker. The House Ethics Committee had devolved into something that simply made excuses, it was said. The OCE operates independently of Congress. It has no subpoena power but has investigated both Dems (Maxine Waters and Charlie Rangel) and Republicans (Michele Bachmann).

Some people thought the OCE was overzealous, apparently.

In place of the office, Republicans would create a new Office of Congressional Complaint Review that would report to the House Ethics Committee, which has been accused of ignoring credible allegations of wrongdoing by lawmakers.

“Poor way to begin draining the swamp,” Tom Fitton, president of the conservative group Judicial Watch, said on Twitter. He added, “Swamp wins with help of @SpeakerRyan, @RepGoodlatte.”

Mr. Goodlatte defended the action in a statement on Monday evening, saying it would strengthen ethics oversight in the House while also giving lawmakers better protections against what some of them have called overzealous efforts by the Office of Congressional Ethics.

To be fair, I understand Speaker Ryan was caught off guard by the announcement as well, which shows us even other Republicans think he is a useless dweeb.

The announcement yesterday quickly became a public relations debacle and blew up in the announcers’ faces.

Then The Donald issued a couple of tweets expressing mild disapproval. The plan was reversed. Although most news outlets are reporting that the tweets caused the reversal, Josh Marshall denies this is true. ” … the bigger point is that this started blowing up last night and was full firestorm before Trump said anything,” he wrote.

Even so, news media are crediting Trump with saving the OCE. The Times also said,

The comments constituted a public break by Mr. Trump with rank-and-file Republicans, who overrode their top leaders on Monday in a vote to significantly curtail the power of the ethics office, which was set up in the aftermath of corruption scandals that sent three members of Congress to jail.

I think the three members were Rep. William Jefferson, Rep. Rick Renzi and Sen. Ted Stevens, but I’m not sure. Tom DeLay didn’t ever do jail time, I don’t think.

I just think it shows us what House Republicans consider to be priorities. As soon as Trump is elected, Paul Ryan started babbling about gutting Medicare. As soon as they get back to work, their first act is to try to relieve themselves of ethical oversight.

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My Plan for Fighting Zika

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Congress

The Senate has nixed another Zika funding bill.

As Congress returned from a seven-week recess on Tuesday, Senate Democrats again stymied a $1.1 billion plan to fight the Zika virus, demanding that Republicans drop an effort to block Planned Parenthood from receiving money to combat the mosquito-borne disease.

Democrats, who had essentially blocked the same legislation in late June, had enough votes Tuesday to prevent Congress from moving emergency funding public health experts say is desperately needed as they prepare for the possibility that Zika will spread to other states along the gulf coast. The vote was 52 to 46, and Republicans needed 60 votes to advance the bill….

… The Republican-driven package was supposed to resolve the differences between a bipartisan Senate plan and a less Democrat-friendly House version. The bill would exclude Planned Parenthood from the list of providers that get new funding for contraception to combat spread of the virus, which can be sexually transmitted.

Mitch McConnell sorrowfully wondered how Democrats could be so stubborn.

“It’s hard to explain why, despite their own calls for funding, Democrats would block plans to keep women and babies safe from Zika,” Mr. McConnell said before the vote.

Tell us about how you want to keep women and babies safe by blocking Planned Parenthood funding, Mitch. I’m sure you’ve got an excuse, somewhere.

Oh, and my plan is to spread a rumor in Washington that Zika doesn’t just affect pregnant women; it also causes permanent and untreatable erectile dysfunction. In a month or two there wouldn’t be a mosquito left on the East Coast. Maybe in the Western Hemisphere.

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No More Thoughts and Prayers

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Congress, Democratic Party, firearms

Update: “Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) ended a blockade of the Senate floor after nearly 15 hours Thursday, announcing Republican leaders had agreed to hold votes on Democrat-backed measures to expand background checks and prevent suspected terrorists from acquiring guns.” (WaPo)

***

Some House Democrats walked out on the House’s “moment of silence” for the victims of Orlando, and as soon as the moment had passed some remaining Democrats shouted their frustration at speaker Paul “granny starver” Ryan.

House Democrats staged protests Monday evening in response to a moment of silence on the floor to remember the victims of a mass shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando, the deadliest in American history.

After Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) led the House in the moment of silence in honor of the 49 people who died in the massacre on Sunday, the chamber erupted into shouting as Democrats expressed frustration over the lack of votes to restrict guns after repeated mass shootings.

“Where’s the bill?” Democrats chanted.

Today, Senate Dems are holding an old-fashioned filibuster on gun control.

Led by the senators who represent Newtown, Connecticut — where a gunman fatally shot 26 people, including 20 children, in 2012 — Democrats took control of the Senate floor Wednesday and vowed to keep talking until lawmakers start doing something about gun violence.

“Newtown is still putting itself back together, probably will be for a long time,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), who launched the filibuster-style takeover, declaring it was time for the Senate to do something about gun violence beyond the usual ineffective debates.

He said lawmakers could not go about business as usual after a mass killing at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, on Sunday claimed 49 victims.

“This is a different moment today than it was at the end of last week,” Murphy said. “There is a newfound imperative for this body to find a way to come together and take action, to try to do our part to stem this epidemic of gun violence and in particular this epidemic of mass shootings.”

This filibuster is still going on as I write this.  There’s a live feed at Wired.  It’s several hours of not-silence. A number of Democrats have participated; I don’t have a list of them yet.

So credit where credit is due. I hope this is just a beginning.

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I’m Back

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Congress, Obama Administration

Brought the Mahalaptop home today. The geeks had to do a factory restore, meaning it was pretty much wiped, and I’m having to reinstall software now. The problem apparently was caused by the Windows 10 upgrade I did a few weeks ago, so if you haven’t done that yet, hold off until they get more bugs fixed.

I see Canada has nixied Stephen Harper in favor of the more progressive and also more handsome Justin Trudeau. Yay.

Let’s look at what’s going on with Obamacare, starting with the newest effort by Republicans to repeal it.

The repeal legislation, Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Ac, is being brought through a legislative procedure known as budget reconciliation, which only requires a simple majority to advance in the Senate and thus could overcome Democratic opposition to land on President Obama’s desk. However, the maneuver is only workable, under parliamentary rules, if it reduces the deficit and a full-on Obamacare repeal would add $353 billion to the deficit, the Congressional Budget Office has found. So Republicans are targeting only certain aspects of the law — such as the individual and employer mandates — that, if repealed, would reduce the deficit. It would also almost certainly be vetoed by the president.

However, according to Heritage Action, this is not good enough.

Heritage Action for America — the lobbying arm of the conservative think tank the Heritage Foundation — issued a statement threatening to consider the vote on the House bill, expected Friday, a key vote for conservative members.

In the statement, communications director Dan Holler accused GOP leadership of “putting their members in a terrible position,” as the legislation leaves in place some aspects of Obamacare, and argued that by voting in favor of the bill, Republicans are “undermining any serious effort to repeal the law in 2017.”

Actually repealing it would require Republican majorities in both the House and Senate, plus the White House. Well, they’re going to keep the House for awhile. However, my understanding is that the Dems are in pretty good shape to take back the Senate. And I sincerely think the White House is out of reach for Republicans. So good luck with that, Heritage Action.

Heritage Action is complaining because the partial repeal bill leaves the exchanges and medicaid expansion intact. If Heritage Action had half a brain, it would know that ending the individual mandate all by itself would kill the exchanges, and the rest of Obamacare as well, but we’re talking about wingnuts here.

Oh, and Fun Fact — states that didn’t expand Medicaid are paying more for it.

Insurance co ops also are in trouble. Nonprofit insurance co ops were allowed under Obamacare as a weak alternative to the private option.  Republicans saw to it that the co ops would be fragile, at best; see Richard Mayhew for an explanation. Since some co ops are failing, Republicans are trying to kill the entire program.

In other news, Jim Webb dropped out of the presidential race. Bye, Jim Webb.

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Speaker Watch

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Congress, Republican Party, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

The question of the day is, “Is he dumb enough to do it?” — he being Paul Ryan and it being running for Speaker of the House. Ryan allegedly is considering his options today.

As Paul Krugman points out in a column and blog post today, Ryan’s strength is that he’s the guy non-Republicans take seriously. But he needs to avoid the Speaker position to maintain that impression.

If Paul Ryan has any sense of self-preservation — and that is one thing he surely has — he will look for any way possible to avoid becoming Speaker. The hard right is already attacking him, essentially accusing him of not being sufficiently crazy, and they’re right. On policy substance he’s totally an Ayn Rand-loving, reward-the-rich and punish-the-poor guy, but so are lots of other Republicans; what they want is someone willing to go along with kamikaze tactics, and he isn’t. His fall from grace would be swift.

But if Ryan isn’t distinctive in his political positions, why does he loom so large within his party? The answer is that he’s more or less unique among extreme right-wingers in having the approbation of centrists, especially centrist pundits. That is, he’s a big man within the GOP because people outside seem to approve of him. And it’s important to ask why.

And the reason is …

Mr. Ryan has been very good at gaming the system, at producing glossy documents that look sophisticated if you don’t understand the issues, at creating the false impression that his plans have been vetted by budget experts. This has been enough to convince political writers who don’t know much about policy, but do know what they want to see, that he’s the real deal. (A number of reporters are deeply impressed by the fact that he uses PowerPoint.) He is to fiscal policy what Carly Fiorina was to corporate management: brilliant at self-promotion, hopeless at actually doing the job. But his act has been good enough for media work.

His position within the party, in turn, rests mainly on this outside perception. Mr. Ryan is certainly a hard-line, Ayn Rand-loving and progressive-tax-hating conservative, but no more so than many of his colleagues. If you look at what the people who see him as a savior are saying, they aren’t talking about his following within the party, which isn’t especially passionate. They’re talking, instead, about his perceived outside credibility, his status as someone who can stand up to smarty-pants liberals — someone who won’t, says MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, be intimidated by “negative articles in The New York Times opinions page.” (Who knew we had such power?)

It helps that much of the punditocracy suffers from a pathological need to see Democrats and Republicans as equally crazy; this is what passes for “balance” these days.

Ryan is being maligned wholesale on the Crazy Fringe today, not because he’s a con but because he allegedly is soft on immigration. As near as I can tell, his actual voting record makes him an immigration hard-liner. He’s even called for building the damnfool fence and sending little Nicaraguan refugee children back to Central America. But the Whackjobs apparently need to hate him for something, and that’s what they’ve come up with.

The political establishment largely is ignoring this development and promoting Ryan as the man who can bring together the allegedly “centrist” faction of the Republican Party and the teabagger fringe. As Andrew Rosenthal writes, this is basically a “plea for attention from the increasingly irrelevant conservative establishment. ” Those who still take the Republican Party seriously are talking about needing unity in “moving public policy in a conservative direction.”

But, as Rosenthal says, “The Republicans moved way past conservatism long ago.” And going back to Krugman,

To understand Mr. Ryan’s role in our political-media ecosystem, you need to know two things. First, the modern Republican Party is a post-policy enterprise, which doesn’t do real solutions to real problems. Second, pundits and the news media really, really don’t want to face up to that awkward reality.

The Freedom Caucus wants Daniel Webster of Florida, the guy who beat Alan Grayson in 2010 and who has rarely met an excuse for a government shutdown he didn’t like. I’m betting that Ryan will stay on the sidelines and that Webster will end up with the Speaker’s job eventually, once the establishment has bullshitted itself into thinking maybe he’s not that bad. But anything could happen.

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Cannibal Dance

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Congress, Republican Party, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

So the House is in chaos, and John Boehner may be Speaker awhile longer. As I write this the talking heads are saying that Paul Ryan is the Man of the Hour who will take the Speaker position and bring order out of chaos. But Ryan says he doesn’t want the job, possibly because even he isn’t that stupid.

This is especially true since the base has turned on Ryan, according to this article by Sophia Tesfaye.  Word has come down from the likes of Erick Erickson, the Breitbrats, David Horowitz, Laura Ingraham, and some members of the House Freedom Caucus that Ryan is another “centrist” like Boehner. Erickson wrote,

Paul Ryan has been the brains behind most of the fiscal deals John Boehner has cut with Barack Obama. Then there are his votes.

While in Congress, he voted for No Child Left Behind, the Prescription Drug Benefit, TARP, caps on CEO pay, the AIG bill, the GM bailout, the debt ceiling, and now the fiscal cliff. In fact, Paul Ryan is one of less than a dozen Republican congressmen to have voted for every bailout to come before Congress.

Paul Ryan is a creature of Washington. He worked on Capitol Hill, worked in a think tank, then went back as a congressman. He speaks Washingtonese with the best of them.

It’s the House Freedom Caucus causing the chaos, it appears. It was the Freedom Caucus that drove Kevin McCarthy out of the running.

Who are the Freedom Caucus? I think Josh Marshall sums them up best:

Quite simply they’ve actually convinced themselves that they’re in the midst of some grand world historical moment when in fact they’re just floundering in derp.

To me, they’re also something like the Jacobins, except they are right-wing and a lot dumber. Nobody is pure enough for them. Like the Jacobins, they are so ideologically rigid they are consuming themselves and sending their Robespierres to the guillotine, so to speak.

To fully appreciate what I’m talking about, read this article by Jedd Legum, This Document Reveals Why The House Of Representatives Is In Complete Chaos. A few snips:

For example, the document seeks a commitment from the next speaker to tie any increase in the debt ceiling to cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. …

… The House Freedom Caucus wants the next speaker to commit to not funding the government at all unless President Obama (and Senate Democrats) agree to defund Obamacare, Planned Parenthood and a host of other priorities. This is essentially the Ted Cruz strategy which prompted at 16-day shutdown in 2013. This would now be enshrined as the official policy of the Speaker Of The House.

The House Freedom Caucus wants the next speaker to commit to oppose any “omnibus” bill that would keep the government running. Rather, funding for each aspect of government could only be approved by separate bills. This would allow the Republicans to attempt to finance certain favored aspects of government (the military), while shuttering ones they view as largely unnecessary (education, health).

As Jedd Legum also explains,

Any potential speaker needs the support of 218 Republicans on the floor of the House. There are currently 247 Republicans in the House. That’s a large majority but without the Freedom Caucus, no candidate can get to 218.

In other words, the Freedom Caucus has the rest of the House Republicans by their boy parts.

The Freedom Caucus hounded McCarthy to drop out, partly by spreading an unsupported rumor that he was having an affair. They couldn’t just disagree with him; they had to destroy him.

Seems to me the only way the impasse may be broken is for some of the less-demented Republicans to work out a deal with Democrats in order to get to 218 votes.

What’s also hysterical about the current madness is that some parts of the media still cling to the view that both sides are just as bad. Yeah, the Right is crazy, but Bernie Sanders.

Scott Lemieux writes, “The Freecom Caucus’s reason for being is to threaten to destroy the country unless the president agrees to destroy the country.” He also said,

I know that this Green Lanternism is not unique to the right per se.  There are people on the left who thought that Congress could have unilaterally ended the Iraq War in 2007 or that the Democratic minority in the Senate could have serially rejected Bush’s Supreme Court nominees.  There are also people on the left who believe that had Obama demanded single payer Joe Lieberman and Evan Bayh and Ben Nelson would have had no choice but to vote for a Medicare buy-in.   But 1) these are generally obscure People on the Internet Somewhere, not the core of the Democratic caucus in Congress, and 2) they at least support the use of completely irrational tactics to advance desirable ends.

The Freedom Caucus is genuinely frightening. Charles Pierce:

There are all kinds of chickens coming home to roost. This development – which, I would point out, leaves Jason Chaffetz (R-Zygote) as the “moderate” choice for Speaker of the House, and third in line to be president of the United States – is the final justification for all of us who have been saying for a while now that there is no “extreme” wing of the Republican party any more. The prion disease has taken full hold of the party’s higher functions. It is already being bruited about the monkeyhouse that Chaffetz may not be pure enough to satisfy the Freedom Caucus, the claque of angry gossoons who sank McCarthy the moment that McCarthy told the truth about what the House is up to with its hearings on Benghazi, Benghazi!, BENGHAZI!

Like the Jacobins they’ll destroy themselves eventually, but they’re going to cause a lot of damage and suffering first.

 

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This Says a Lot

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Congress, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Catholic Congress Critter Paul Gosar (R-Arizona) explains why he’s boycotting the Pope when His Holiness addresses the House of Representatives:

Many believed, like I did, that this was an opportunity for the Pope to be one of the world’s great religious advocates and address the current intolerance of religious freedom. An opportunity to urgently challenge governments to properly address the persecution and execution of Christians and religious minorities; to address the heinous and senseless murders committed by ISIS and other terrorist organizations. An opportunity to address the enslavement, belittlement, rape and desecration of Christian women and children; to address the condoned, subsidized, intentionally planned genocide of unborn children by Planned Parenthood and society; and finally, an opportunity for His Holiness to refocus our priorities on right from wrong.

Gore, sex, death, Islamophobia and more sex and death, plus persecution. Who wouldn’t be quivering with anticipation?

Media reports indicate His Holiness instead intends to focus the brunt of his speech on climate change.

Jeez, Popes can be buzzkills sometimes.

More troubling is the fact that this climate change talk has adopted all of the socialist talking points, wrapped false science and ideology into “climate justice” and is being presented to guilt people into leftist policies.

“Leftist” policies like taking care of the poor and the earth?

If the Pope stuck to standard Christian theology, I would be the first in line.  If the Pope spoke out with moral authority against violent Islam, I would be there cheering him on. If the Pope urged the Western nations to rescue persecuted Christians in the Middle East, I would back him wholeheartedly. But when the Pope chooses to act and talk like a leftist politician, then he can expect to be treated like one.

There’s theology, and then there’s other theology. I say to those who take delight in wallowing in persecution porn and fomenting hate speech against those tagged as an “enemy” might want to read their Bibles — Matthew 5:43-46

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?”

Yeah, we all know ISIS and other violent extremists in the Middle East are really awful and doing bad things. Standing on the other side of the world and bloviating about it doesn’t so much as butter toast, however. On the other hand, ratcheting down the wrathful rhetoric might make a small contribution toward slowing the spread of radicalization.

Anti-Christian persecution is really happening in the Middle East, and it’s genuinely terrible. ISIS is behind much of it. But, let’s see, where did ISIS come from … oh, a U.S. military prison? As an unintended consequence of the U.S. invasion of Iraq? Maybe we’re not the ones to talk. And, anyway, there’s little we can do about it, from what I see. Making speeches about how awful it is won’t change a thing. And Pope Francis has spoken out against it already.

And don’t get me started on why the allegations against Planned Parenthood are a hoax.

Instead, His Holiness will lecture the U.S. House on global climate change, which is actually happening in spite of the Right’s dogged efforts to pretend otherwise.

What is it about global climate change that’s different than Islamic violence, the persecution of Christians, and something alleged about Planned Parenthood that isn’t happening?

The U.S. could actually do something about global climate change, that’s what.

In other words, His Holiness wants Congress to do something. What a concept.

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