Browsing the archives for the Congress category.

Icky Issa

Congress, Obama Administration

House Democrats issued a strongly worded motion condemning Rep. Darrell Issa for his thuggish behavior. If you haven’t heard about it already, Dana Milbank provides detailed account of what happened yesterday at the House Oversight and Government Reform panel at which Issa made goons seem genteel.

Joan Walsh provides some information I did not know:

Issa had once again called former IRS supervisor Lois Lerner to testify before the committee, knowing she was going to again use her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. But what Issa didn’t reveal is that Lerner’s attorney had offered last month to share her answers to the committee’s questions via what’s called a “proffer.” That’s when the subject of an investigation reveals the rough outlines of what they know, which can also help determine whether they deserve immunity from prosecution (in order to get them to share more). But Issa rejected the proffer and staged a show trial designed to have Lerner take the Fifth again, in front of television cameras and a packed hearing room.

The Republicans ought to be embarrassed, but of course, they aren’t.


The Extortionists

Congress, Obama Administration, Republican Party, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

The House Republicans still think they will win and the Senate and White House will cave on delaying the ACA for a year.

House Republicans may appear to observers to be pushing the government toward a shutdown, but that’s not even remotely how they see it.

The GOP rank-and-file still believe that the Senate might accept and the White House might sign a one-year delay of Obamacare in exchange for two months of sequester-level spending to briefly stave off a government shutdown.

“How dare you?” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said when reporters asked how the House would respond when the Senate rejected its offer. He grew angrier as he continued to question how one could assume the bill was dead on arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

“I have never foreseen a government shutdown and I continue not to see a government shutdown,” said Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.), who was a senior Hill staffer before being elected to Congress in 2010. “The Senate has plenty of time to deal with this. This is good, common middle ground that is in this package. I think we’re gonna get a big bipartisan vote in the House. I think we’re gonna get a big vote in the Senate too.”

A right-wing news outlet reports that House Rules committee attendees actually laughed when someone said the President would veto their bill. They seem supremely confident that either they will win, or if they don’t win nothing bad will happen, or if it does happen people will blame President Obama.

What galls me is that the baggers and the media still talk about the impasse as a “negotiation.” A negotiation happens when two sides agree to give up something they want to get something else they want more. The Republicans are not offering to give up anything they want. If they had offered to raise taxes on the rich or increase the budget for entitlement programs, that would be a negotiation. But they’re saying, in effect, buy our plan or we’ll shoot the dog. That’s not negotiation; that’s extortion.

As I understand it, there are enough votes in the House to pass a clean cr if Boehner would put it up for a vote. But the baggers apparently have Boehner’s boy parts in an industrial compactor.

A government shutdown would be bad, but not nearly as catastrophic as a failure to raise the debt ceiling, which is going to have to be done within the next couple of weeks. Ezra Klein argues that it’s a good thing the baggers are throwing their temper tantrum over the cr, and when they lose it will make it less likely they’ll pull the same stunt over the debt ceiling. I think that’s wishful thinking, though.

Bill Keller has an interesting thought:

The Republicans are finally having their ’60s. Half a century after the American left experienced its days of rage, its repudiation of the political establishment, conservatives are having their own political catharsis. Ted Cruz is their spotlight-seeking Abbie Hoffman. (The Texas senator’s faux filibuster last week reminded me of Hoffman’s vow to “levitate” the Pentagon using psychic energy.) The Tea Party is their manifesto-brandishing Students for a Democratic Society. Threatening to blow up America’s credit rating is their version of civil disobedience. And Obamacare is their Vietnam.

To those of us who lived through the actual ’60s, the conservative sequel may seem more like an adolescent tantrum than a revolution. For obvious starters, their mobilizing cause is not putting an end to an indecent war that cost three million lives, but defunding a law that promises to save lives by expanding access to insurance. Printing up unofficial “Obamacare Cards” and urging people to burn them is a silly parody of the protest that raged 50 years ago. But bear with me.

There are significant differences, of course. For example, the 1960s New Left stayed out of party politics and never became a force within the Democratic Party. But I think the differences are in keeping with the temperaments and psyches of righties and lefties. Lefties want equality and justice; righties want power.

See also Paul Krugman, “Rebels Without a Clue.”


House GOP: Terrorists or Traitors?

Congress, Obama Administration, Republican Party

Yeah, the title is a tad inflammatory, but I’m with James Fallows on this:

This time, the fight that matters is within the Republican party, and that fight is over whether compromise itself is legitimate.** Outsiders to this struggle — the president and his administration, Democratic legislators as a group, voters or “opinion leaders” outside the generally safe districts that elected the new House majority — have essentially no leverage over the outcome. I can’t recall any situation like this in my own experience, and the only even-approximate historic parallel (with obvious differences) is the inability of Northern/free-state opinion to affect the debate within the slave-state South from the 1840s onward. Nor is there a conceivable “compromise” the Democrats could offer that would placate the other side.

Here is the footnote, btw:

** The debt-ceiling vote, of course, is not about future spending decisions. It is about whether to cover expenditures the Congress has already authorized. There is no sane reason for subjecting this to a repeated vote. And there is no precedent for serious threats not to honor federal debt — as opposed to symbolic anti-Administration protest votes, which both parties have cast over the years. Nor for demanding the reversal of major legislation as a condition for routine government operations.

First, I agree with Fallows and David Kurtz that this crisis is not a standoff between President Obama and the Republican Party. It’s between extremists in the GOP versus the “not enough Thorazine on the planet to deal with these whackjobs” wing of the GOP. And Abraham Lincoln couldn’t reason or negotiate with the whackjobs of his day, either.

Second, the time for polite and tempered rhetoric on anyone’s part is over. Steve Benen called out Senior White House adviser Dan Pfeiffer for saying “What we’re not for is negotiating with people with a bomb strapped to their chest.” No, Republicans are not al Qaeda. But it’s becoming a difference in degree, not in kind.

I don’t expect anyone in Congress to strap a real bomb to his chest. They and their followers are not so much motivated by a cause, or a faith, but by a fundamental belief that they are the real Chosen People, the real Americans, dammit, and they deserve to rule. Self-sacrifice isn’t their thing, I don’t believe. But if the current fiasco ends in their humiliation, expect the more-unglued among them to step up with “second-amendment solutions.” They’re more than flirted with the idea already –

Steve Benen again,

In 2010, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said he could “empathize” with a madman who flew an airplane into a building on American soil. In 2009, shortly after President Obama’s inauguration, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) said if congressional Democrats didn’t allow Republicans to influence policy debates, the GOP would have to emulate the “insurgency” tactics of “the Taliban.” Sessions added, “[W]e need to understand that insurgency may be required,” and that if Democrats resist, Republicans “will then become an insurgency.” The Taliban, Sessions went on to say, offers the GOP a tactical “model.”

If a White House aide compares Republicans to suicide bombers, it’s outrageous, but if a Texas Republican congressman compares his own party to the Taliban, it’s fine?

Yes, because freedom.

But if you’re familiar with antebellum history, you must recognize the strong parallels between the old southern fire-eaters and today’s wingnuts. So the traitor label works, too. And it serves no purpose for people in the national spotlight to be expected to mince words and extend the usual courtesies to them.

Greg Sargent:

Do Dems have to give Republicans something in exchange for not allowing economic havoc to break out, and if so, why isn’t that threatening extensive harm to the country, and to all of us, in order to get your way? Or are Republicans of course going to raise the debt limit in the end, because of course they know it’s the right thing to do, and if so, why do Dems have to give them anything in exchange for it? …

… This gets to the core truth about this debate: As long as it’s an open question whether Republicans are prepared to allow default, the claim that Republicans are threatening to do extensive harm to the country in order to extort concessions from Dems that a radical faction of their party is demanding is 100 percent right.

So the suicide bomber metaphor is off. It would be more correct to compare them to hostage takers holding a gun to America’s head while they demand tax cuts for the rich and building the Keystone pipeline.


Like We Didn’t See This Coming


Harry Reid says Senate Republicans have enough votes to filibuster the Chuck Hagel nomination. Way to go Harry.


The Secret Buddhist Plot to Take Over America Continues

Congress, elections

A big shout-out to Mazie Hirono, the new senator-elect (and a Democrat) from Hawaii. Although I don’t know if she practices now, she was raised Jodo Shinshu, and has said she takes a lot of her values from Buddhism.


Darrell Issa and the House Witch-hunt Committee

Congress, Middle East, Obama Administration, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Rep. Darrell Issa dealt another blow to American security yesterday by compromising the identities of several Libyans working with the U.S. government. Josh Rogin reports at Foreign Affairs that Issa, as Chair of the House Oversight Committee, released a “document dump” of State Department communications without consideration of the people named in the “dump.”

Issa posted 166 pages of sensitive but unclassified State Department communications related to Libya on the committee’s website afternoon as part of his effort to investigate security failures and expose contradictions in the administration’s statements regarding the Sept. 11 attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi that resulted in the death of Amb. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. …

… But Issa didn’t bother to redact the names of Libyan civilians and local leaders mentioned in the cables, and just as with the WikiLeaks dump of State Department cables last year, the administration says that Issa has done damage to U.S. efforts to work with those Libyans and exposed them to physical danger from the very groups that had an interest in attacking the U.S. consulate.

Way to go, genius.

One of the cables released by Issa names a woman human rights activist who was leading a campaign against violence and was detained in Benghazi. She expressed fear for her safety to U.S. officials and criticized the Libyan government.

“This woman is trying to raise an anti-violence campaign on her own and came to the United States for help. She isn’t publicly associated with the U.S. in any other way but she’s now named in this cable. It’s a danger to her life,” the administration official said.

Another cable names a Benghazi port manager who is working with the United States on an infrastructure project. …

… One cable names a local militia commander dishing dirt on the inner workings of the Libyan Interior Ministry. Another cable names a militia commander who claims to control a senior official of the Libyan armed forces. Other cables contain details of conversations between third-party governments, such as the British and the Danes, and their private interactions with the U.S., the U.N., and the Libyan governments over security issues.

Issa is turning into a one-man threat to national security. He’s so focused on trying to find dirt on the Obama Administration regarding national security that he is totally oblivious to, you know, actual national security issues. But you know GOP priorities — they’ll destroy Obama if they have to burn down the whole United States to do it.

A spokesman for the House Witch-hunt Committee said that the Obama Administration hadn’t protected sensitive documents within the Benghazi consulate when it was attacked, so nyah nyah nyah, they leaked first. The State Department says that Issa didn’t consult with them about releasing the documents and apparently gave no consideration to the consequences of the release.


Warren Up by 9 in Massachusetts!

Congress, elections

Read, and rejoice.


Senate Dems Grow a Pair

Congress, Taxes

I need to interrupt our gleeful snarking about Mitt Romney and his money and point to something significant that has happened in the Senate:

Until last week Senate Democrats seemed to lack a majority of votes to extend the middle class tax cuts alone. That allowed Republicans to portray the battle as between President Obama and Congress. But that changed when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) challenged Republicans to permit separate up-or-down votes on middle-income and high-end tax cuts, signaling he’s rounded up the votes to win. Republicans denied the offer.

Democrats hardened their position this week as party’s fourth-ranking Sen. Patty Murray (WA) vowed that Democrats won’t permit the lower rates for the rich to continue beyond their Dec. 31 expiration date, even if Republicans repeat their 2010 strategy and block tax cuts for the middle class if the wealthy don’t also get a full break.

Democrats scoffed at the Republican attacks Tuesday and pressed their advantage.

In other words, they are calling Mitch McConnell’s bluff. They will allow ALL Bush tax cuts to expire rather than extend the tax cuts for the wealthy.

Senate Republicans are frantically claiming the Dems are playing Russian Roulette with the economy, or saying they are holding the economy hostage. Of course, Dems say the same thing about Republicans.

Polling on what the public thinks is all over the map, btw. A recent McClatchy-Marist poll says that 52 percent of Americans want all tax cuts extended, while a recent Pew poll said they favor ending tax cuts for the wealthy by 2 to 1. I suspect the way the question is framed makes a big difference.


Games Republicans Play

Congress, Obama Administration, Republican Party, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Since the country apparently has no real problems that Congress needs to be addressing, Republicans in Congress have invented a game called “let’s defeat Obama’s budget.” Here’s how it works –

Every few months, to fight the boredom, some Republican will crank out some farce legislation and submit it for a vote as “President Obama’s budget.” Be clear that the legislation is not, in fact, President Obama’s budget, but a Republican concoction inspired by those crazy copy-and-past 5,000-word emails you get from your wingnut uncle. As near as I can tell, the “budgets” are created by taking top line numbers from the President’s actual budget and leaving out about 1,944 pages worth of details, including revenue enhancements. The result is a monstrosity that the White House wouldn’t vote for, either.

For example, the here’s how the White House responded to the most recent gag budget, introduced by Republican Senator Jeff Sessions of MississippiAlabama –

Thus, a White House official said, the Sessions proposal was a “shell that could be filled with a number of things that could hurt our economy and hurt the middle class,” a White House official said. “For example, rather than ending tax breaks for millionaires his budget could hit the revenue target by raising taxes on the middle class and rather than ending wasteful programs, his budget could hit its spending target with severe cuts to important programs.”

Jason Linkins explains further:

This vote, on a Potemkin “Obama Budget,” is not intended to be taken seriously. It’s a stunt designed to get a slag into the newscycle, and they tend to work. What happens is a Republican legislator presents a “budget proposal” that’s designed to be a satirical presentation of an “Obama budget.” Democrats don’t vote for it, because they recognize that it bears no resemblance to their budgetary preferences.

Good times! Anyway, the Republicans then put the “President’s budget” up for a vote, and because it’s such a joke no Democrat votes for it, either. Then the Republicans send out press releases saying that the President’s budget was unanimously defeated. And that Democrat-controlled liberal media cranks out amusing headlines repeating the charge about the unanimous defeat. The news stories often leave out the detail about how the defeated budget actually was a joke, which makes it all even funnier. And then wingnut bloggers write posts about it like this one:

It’s Hope and Change we can believe in as Obama proposes legislation that sweeps to unanimous votes in the House and Senate:

President Obama’s budget suffered a second embarrassing defeat Wednesday, when senators voted 99-0 to reject it.

Coupled with the House’s rejection in March, 414-0, that means Mr. Obama’s budget has failed to win a single vote in support this year.

It’s great to see Obama uniting Washington and developing some momentum. Especially as that momentum seems to be carrying him to the exit.

Of course (wink, wink) the legislation that was voted down was not what President Obama proposed, but what a Republican imagined the President would propose if he were as demented as they are. But it’s great to see so many people keeping their sense of humor through all these trying times of not having anything else to do.

Update: See also What It Means That The ‘President’s Budget’ Went Down 99 To 0 In The Senate

Update: Some are complaining that the Democrats haven’t introduced a budget lately. Jason Linkins writes,

But if you want to divine what another famous character of the stage termed the “method in the madness,” look at the latter half of Stephens’ statement, and the complaint that the Democrats have not put forth a budget. That’s fair, but it invites a trip into the weeds. There are reasons why the Democrats haven’t done so: 1) they know that any real “Obama budget” is a legislative nonstarter in the current climate of obstruction, and 2) the Democrats hold that the conditions created by the Budget Control Act are their de facto budget. This does not cover the lack of a budget in 2010 and 2011 — those didn’t happen because of the aforementioned obstruction, and some off-year election Democratic Party theories that failed votes would be more costly at the polls than no vote at all. (The results of the 2010 elections suggest that this was, perhaps, too clever by half.)

Let’s face it; Republicans would go ballistic and vote NO NO NO NO if Obama submitted so much as a deli menu. Even so, Dems might as well submit the real budget, which would get a majority of Dem votes. Call out the game-players.


Wingnutism as an Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder

Congress, Health Care, Medicare, Republican Party, Wingnuts Being Wingnuts

Along with not being able to control their fear/loathing of women, wingnuts also are decidedly knee-jerk when it comes to government social programs. So it is that some Republican Senators (Rand Paul, LIndsey Graham, Jim DeMint, and Mike Lee) have trotted out a new plan to “save” Medicare by destroying it.

Dana Milbank writes,

If you’re thinking of answering this in the affirmative, you might want to pause long enough to learn what transpired on the third floor of the Capitol on Thursday. There, four prominent Republican lawmakers announced their proposal to abolish Medicare — “sunset” was their pseudo-verb — even for those currently on the program or nearing retirement. …

… For years, Republicans have insisted that they would not end Medicare as we know it and that any changes to the program would not affect those in or near retirement. In the span of 20 minutes Thursday, they jettisoned both promises.

And in an election year, too, although I don’t know if any of these four is up for re-election this year. Rand Paul isn’t, of course.

DeMint and his colleagues think the time to end Medicare is now — with a cold-turkey conversion to a private program, effective in 2014. “I think if Americans actually find out the truth about what we’re doing, it will be a very big positive for Republicans in the fall,” DeMint forecast.

The plan is to scrap Medicare and enroll seniors in the health care plan for federal workers. Exactly how this would save money is a mystery to me, although Rand Paul says it would save Medicare $1 trillion over ten years, a figure I assume he pulled out of his ass. It’s possible he doesn’t appreciate that adding all those seniors to the federal group insurance plan would drive up the cost of the federal group insurance plan.

At Thursday’s news conference, Jonathan Weisman of the New York Times pointed out that the lawmakers were proposing to do with Medicare almost exactly what President Obama’s reforms do for non-retirees: Direct them into private insurance with a subsidy for those who need it most.

Paul was flummoxed. “Uh, anybody want to comment on that?” he asked, producing laughter in the Senate TV studio.

DeMint gave it a try. “Medicare’s already set up as a government program, so we’re beginning to privatize with this idea,” he said. He said his plan takes Medicare recipients “out from under that manipulative umbrella of the Democratic Party.”

I’ve seen primary exit polling that suggests many seniors vote for Republicans because they believe they will “save” Medicare from the evil President Obama, who wants to “cut” it. Of course, the opposite is actually true. The President is trying to keep the program as it is but keep it solvent by putting tighter controls on payments to providers. On the other hand, all of the GOP candidates, including Mittens, have endorsed some variation of the Paul Ryan Medicare-killing plan. But a big talking point with them is a promise to maintain the current program for people already on it.

Now Rand, DeMint et al. are challenging the candidates to go even further Right on Medicare than they were already, which would be a disaster for whichever one of them is in the general election. That they couldn’t contain themselves and wait until after the November election to make this proposal makes them all look even more like lemmings than they did already.

Related: “The Case for Crazy.” John Avlon argues that the best thing that could happen to the GOP is to nominate Rick Santorum and lose in a historic landslide in November.

If Mitt Romney does finally wrestle the nomination to the ground, and then loses to Obama, conservatives will blame the loss on his alleged moderation. The right wing take-away will be to try to nominate a true ideologue in 2016.

But if someone like Rick Santorum gets the nomination in an upset, the party faithful will get to experience the adrenaline rush of going off a cliff together, like Thelma and Louise—elation followed by an electoral thud.

Part of the delusion that is “movement conservatism” is the belief that a large majority of the American people agree with teabaggery, and that only a fringe of elitist liberals stand against them. A teabag candidate sinking like the Titanic might wake some of them up, and might also be a warning to the small group of gazillionaires underwriting this nonsense that there’s a limit to what their money can buy, even in the age of Citizens United.

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