Tag Archives: Senate

Fear and Loathing in Washington D.C.

Washington DC Capitol - HDR

“President Obama will negotiate with the Syrian butcher Assad and erase his red line, will capitulate to Vladimir Putin, and he will negotiate with the happy face of the killer regime in Iran, President Rouhani, but not with Republicans over issues all presidents have always negotiated over.”

That quote – from American conservative radio host/shame-free liar and propagandist Hugh Hewitt – encapsulates how far the U.S. has to go to overcome the most embarrassing and pathetic government shutdown in the history of the country. Not every conservative in the United States is as crazy or deluded as Hewitt, but enough are to where an angry, xenophobic, racially charged minority, belonging to one faction in one house of government, has been able to manufacture a government shutdown threatening to destroy the US and global economy unless the party opposite capitulates to their bidding.

The truth is, no American president has ever “negotiated” repealing a duly enacted law [the Affordable Care Act] whilst being blackmailed with the destruction of his government, or indeed with the destruction of the global economy. But this line of baseless rhetoric has become the new mantra of the Republican Party and their apologists: repeat the lie until enough Americans have been coerced that they [Republicans] are not singularly to blame for the disastrous impasses the country continuously finds itself in (e.g. sequestration, shutdown, debt ceiling, etc.). This isn’t just a minority problem – it’s a party problem. The American Tea Party may be [entirely] comprised of callous fools and disgraceful opportunists, but we’re mostly here because “moderate” Republicans have consistently folded to these vandals rather than stand up to them.

It’s important not to forget that Republicans manufactured the U.S. government shutdown for one reason and one reason only: to stop poorer Americans from getting health insurance funded by cuts to Medicare and the taxing of the richest Americans. Let’s also keep in mind that Congress itself passed the healthcare law in 2010; the Supreme Court then affirmed its constitutionality through its landmark ruling earlier this year; and the majority of Americans want it – as proven when they re-elected the President who signed it.

In a few weeks (or sooner), the shutdown/default crisis will long be over and maybe even forgotten. The federal deficit will in all likelihood continue to fall, and growth will probably resume. But the long-term inadequacies of the U.S. political system will continue to be exploited by the Republican Party, creating a sort of dystopic future for American politics. The American people put pretty much all of the blame of the shutdown/default crisis on the shoulders of Republicans, but conservatives can still expect to hold enough seats in the House come the 2014 midterm elections (mainly because of the way district lines are drawn. Republicans were lucky enough to have had a huge win at the state level in 2010, which coincided with post-census redistricting or gerrymandering). Democrats may very well win the White House again in 2016 with Hillary Clinton or Papa Joey B, but the Congress will probably remain the same, meaning we’ll see more shutdowns/threats of defaults before it’s all said and done.

I’ve been able to gauge the puzzled, incredulous looks of my international friends at the LSE – many of whom come from democratic countries – when they hear that an extremist minority party caused the “most powerful” democracy in the world to close up shop. I tell them that American politics, as constructed by James Madison (“father” of the Constitution), was designed with stagnation, derision, and polarization in mind. But the country’s founders couldn’t foresee something as inane as the Tea Party (and warned against political party’s altogether); they couldn’t possibly expect the damning practice of gerrymandering districts or the influence of special interest groups both in elections and public policy.

Mostly, I’ve had to tell my foreign friends that what they’re currently seeing and reading about is not at all what American politics was meant to be. But they better start getting used to it, because it’s here to stay.

Photo: Nicolas Raymond


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Could The Shutdown/Debt Ceiling Cost Republicans The House?

Because the American people are a fickle bunch, the usual order of things is that the sitting President’s party loses seats in the House during the midterm election. Conventional wisdom would then lead one to accept the points expressed by The New Republic and Real Clear Politics in their estimation(s) that it’s unlikely Democrats will overturn the Republican majority in 12 months. The rule has exceptions, of course. Clinton’s Democrats actually picked up a few seats in 1998, following Speaker Newt Gingrich’s 21 day government shutdown.

It’s been reiterated quite exhaustingly that one of the main reasons Republicans have been able to keep the House despite losing the national popular vote to Democrats by 1.5% is that they enjoy the considerable majority of gerrymandered districts. In short, Democrats needed to win the House by a margin of more than 7% to become the majority party.

Fast forward to today. If this WaPo/ABC news poll is any indication (and I’d like to think it is), the country soundly puts the blame of the shutdown and the upcoming debt ceiling disaster on the shoulders of the GOP.


But while public opinion of the GOP might be very low, commentators have rightly noted that President Obama garners considerable blame (deservedly or not) for the current Washington impasse. That may be true, but luckily for the President and his party, Obama is not running for re-election in the next 12 months. That point led Public Policy Polling to conduct a set of district-level polls meant for ascertaining Congressional preference — which has, in the past, tracked the national vote pretty closely. So, PPP set out to survey 24 congressional districts held by Republicans, and asked voters there to chose between their current Congressional representative and a Democrat. Here are their results, plotted against last year’s election result:

It’s important to note that we’re talking about surveys taken during a government shutdown explicitly engineered by Congressional Republicans, but the results show that Democrats swung 23 races (below the red line) while Republicans held one race (above the red line). If the results hold (and I don’t expect them to), Democrats will win the House. Comfortably.

I say I don’t expect this to last because, well, Americans have the tendency to forget about things like the shutdown when it comes time to vote. The midterm elections are still a long away off to where Republicans can successfully coerce their constituents to re-elect them to the House. I do expect Democrats to pick up some votes, which is not totally inconsequential since they’d be able to force the chamber to actually vote on resolutions that Boehner refuses to allow.

The survey doesn’t take into account how voters will feel about House Republicans if the Government hits the debt ceiling, but given the plausible disaster that would ensue if such a thing were allowed to happen, when compounded with the shutdown and the [still] terrible sequester, these results could hold true to the midterm, and possibly even increase.

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What The Rest Of The World Thinks Of US

U.S Military Forces in Bosnia - Operation Joint Endeavor

Paul Waldman provides timely perspective on how the rest of the world feels about U.S. military action since 1963:

Some of these operations worked out very well, others didn’t. And just to be clear, this history doesn’t tell us whether bombing Syria is a good idea or a bad idea. But if you’re wondering why people all over the world view the United States as an arrogant bully, reserving for itself the right to rain down death from above on anyone it pleases whenever it pleases, well there you go. It doesn’t matter whether you think some or even all of those actions were completely justified and morally defensible. From here, we tend to look at each of these engagements in isolation, asking whether there are good reasons to go in and whether we can accomplish important goals for ourselves and others. But when when a new American military campaign begins, people in the rest of the world see it in this broader historical context.

If you take a longer look at the list he provides (and do some basic math), you’ll find that the United States has launched one significant overseas assault every three years since 1963 — or every 40 months. Kevin Drum laments how little of this resonates with the American people:

Too many Americans have a seriously blinkered view of our interventions overseas, viewing them as one-offs to be evaluated on their individual merits. But when these things happen once every three years, against a backdrop of almost continuous smaller-scale military action (drone attacks, the odd cruise missile here and there, sending “advisors” over to help an ally, etc.), the rest of the world just doesn’t see it that way. They don’t see a peaceful country that struggles mightily with its conscience and only occasionally makes a decision to drop a bunch of bombs. They see a country that views dropping bombs as its primary means of dealing with any country weaker than we are.

Considering the rate at which we’ve launched bombs against foreign states the past 50 years, we’re actually ahead of schedule for the next round. It’s only been two years since Libya.

(Photo: U.S. military forces in Bosnia — operation Joint Endeavor, by Expert Infantry)

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Best News Of The Day: Liz Cheney Is Going To Lose In Wyoming, Badly

Free Four Teens Jumping in Parking Lot Creative Commons

Sometimes a poll comes out and delivers such good news that one feels obligated to share – this is one of those times. Enter Public Policy Polling:

Raleigh, N.C.- PPP’s latest poll of Wyoming voters finds that Liz Cheney’s Senate hopes in the state may be dead on arrival. She has just a 33% favorability rating across the state, and she trails both Senator Mike Enzi and Congresswoman Cynthia Lummis in head to head primary matchups. She is currently down 41% to 34% against Lummis, trailing with every ideological group besides “very conservative”, which she leads by 5%. Things are even worse against Enzi, who more than doubles Cheney’s total, 54% to 26%

This is my happy dance:

(photo by D. Sharon Pruitt)

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Liz Cheney Really Is The Worst Thing In The World


Dick Cheney’s eldest daughter isn’t new to the political landscape. In fact, she’s so well known for being one of the more odious figures in American politics that for the first time in a long time, both Republicans and Democrats collectively shudder at the thought of her wadding through the halls of Congress as a member. As we reported a couple of days ago, Liz Cheney is running for Senate in the great — ahem — state of Wyoming. The only problem is that there isn’t an open Senate seat in the state of Wyoming. The Senator currently in place — Mike Enzi — is in his third term in office and has already stated his intentions to run again.

So, Cheney needs a valid reason to give the confused voters of Wyoming as to why she sees it necessary to challenge a sitting Senator, who is actually quite popular. She took a shot yesterday during a 15 minute news conference in Cheyenne, promising would-be voters that if elected, she would refuse such paltry things like “cutting-deals” with Democrats (basically her only job):
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Republican Senate Candidate Wants To Share The “Good News of Jesus Christ” With Chuck Schumer

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

During an event put on by Iowa’s Faith and Freedom Coalition on Monday night, three Republican hopefuls tried their darnedest to differentiate between themselves, in the hopes of earning a Senate nomination. But being that all three tow the far-right Republican line, differentiation seemed unlikely. That is until David Young — former Chief of Staff to current U.S. Sen Chuck Grassley — promised the audience that if elected, “he would invite New York Senator Chuck Schumer to lunch so that he could share the good news of Jesus Christ.”

When answering the question about being part of the “brotherhood,” [aka Senate moderates who oppose conservative hardliners] Young said that what really needs to happen in Washington D.C. is a change of hearts and minds. Young said as a Senator, he would invite New York Senator Chuck Schumer to lunch so that he could share the good news of Jesus Christ.

Well, that’s definitely a new approach to bridging the partisan divide. Instead of worrying about convincing opposition Senators to agree with your political principles, just convert them to your religion — the rest will take care of itself.

And Schumer is hardly the only Jew in the Senate, but it makes sense — not really — for Young to set his sights on one of the Jew-iest of Jews, so that the conquest would be even more impressive.

Chait sees this plain backfiring:

Schumer is also a really good negotiator, and Young could walk out of the room having agreed to become a Jew.

Happy hunting.

(photo by Medill DC)

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Cheney, Part Deux

"Cheney Satan '08"

Just when we thought we were safe, a Cheney reminds us we’re not:

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s daughter Liz Cheney will run against Wyoming’s senior U.S. senator in next year’s Republican primary, her campaign said Tuesday.

Cheney, 46, is the elder of Dick Cheney’s two daughters. Her announcement is a political challenge unlike anything Wyoming has seen for years, maybe decades — Republicans in the state rarely challenge incumbents in national office. All three members of the state’s congressional delegation and all statewide elected officials are Republican.

And in what has to be the saddest thing ever said in politics, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wy) responded to Cheney’s announcement by telling WaPo, “I thought we were friends”:

“Money raising’s always been a problem for me,” he added. “My job is to be the U.S. senator that I was elected to be until at least January of 2015. The people of Wyoming expect me to do the job, I do it pretty much full time, I’m in Wyoming almost every weekend, here during the time that we’re voting out here,” he said. “I won’t be doing anything different than I’ve been doing, getting the opinions of the Wyoming people and traveling Wyoming and doing my job out here.”

That might be the first time I can recall actually feeling bad for a GOP senator who represents everything I don’t, but if I lived in Wyoming I’d campaign for Enzi if it meant keeping another Cheney out of government. But not everyone feels that way — here’s a Cheney endorser:

Makes sense considering Cheney’s platform sounds like this:

Obama, she said, “has launched a war on our Second Amendment rights, he’s launched a war on our religious freedom, he’s used the IRS to launch a war on our freedom of speech, and he’s used the EPA to launch a war on Wyoming’s ranchers, our farmers and our energy industry.”

None of that is true, but it sure does sound familiar.

(photo by flickr user futureatlas.com)

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Scariest Tweet Of The Day (Or Maybe Ever)

No. No, no, no. Not again.

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Breaking: Senators Reach An Agreement, Filibuster Lives On

Harry Reid

WaPo has the goods:

Senators reached a tentative deal Tuesday on averting a constitutional showdown over confirming President Obama’s agency nominations.

“We may have a way forward on this, I feel fairly confident,” Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said Tuesday morning on the Senate floor. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) signaled that enough Republicans would support breaking a filibuster on the first test vote of the showdown, for Obama’s pick to lead the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau. “I think everyone will be happy,” Reid said. He indicated that the deal would not be finalized until later Tuesday afternoon.

The Senate’s reported readiness to take unprecedented steps to change the chamber’s rules governing presidential appointees came after nearly all 100 senators spent more than three hours late Monday huddled in a rare bipartisan, closed-door caucus.

Too bad. It’s probably a good thing overall to have Obama’s nominees confirmed, since agencies like the Consumer Protection Financial Bureau literally can’t operate without a head, but i’d be lying if I said I wasn’t hoping for some changes to be made to the filibuster, even if those changes only meant that Presidents could nominate agency heads without threat of obstruction.

Nate Silver thinks that the Republicans are set to take the Senate in 2014, so maybe Reid knew that and planned accordingly. Abolishing the filibuster is a grand idea when you’re the majority, but not otherwise.

(photo by Ryan J. Reilly)

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Elizabeth Warren And The 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act


Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) on Thursday introduced a bill that would reinstate some key provisions of the 1993 Depression-Era Glass-Steagall Act, repealed in 1999. The bill — renamed the 21st Century Glass-Steagall Act — is co-sponsored by Senator John McCain (R-AZ), and would essentially force big banks like Citigroup and Bank of America to split in half, with commercial and investment banking acting as separate entities:

“For about 70 years, Glass-Steagall managed to keep the riskier, more damaging part of Wall Street away from what should be the boring, straightforward side of finance,” Barry L. Ritholtz, chief executive of FusionIQ, an asset management and research firm, said. “It was the height of stupidity repealing Glass-Steagall.”

During the era of Glass-Steagall, there were no systemic banking crises like the one that occurred in 2008. The restrictions the bill put on the financial sector did not seem to do much wider harm. According to analysis of government gross domestic product statistics, the American economy grew an average of 4 percent a year from 1933 until 1999, when Glass-Steagall was in effect. Even some who championed repealing the act, like the former Citigroup chairman Sanford I. Weill, have since called for the breakup of the bank behemoths.

But not everyone is convinced that Glass-Steagall would do much to protect the economy from another banking failure. Kevin Drum notes that 2008 would have happened even if the Act was still in play:

Take a look at the two most serious bank failures in 2008: Bear Stearns and Lehmann Brothers. They were both pure investment banks. IndyMac and Countrywide were pure commercial banks. Wachovia did both commercial and investment banking. AIG was an insurance company. Merrill Lynch was a pure investment bank that got rescued by combining it with Bank of America.

Now take a look at the strongest banks in 2008. JP Morgan Chase and Wells Fargo combined commercial and investment banking. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley were pure investment banks.

Basically, I just don’t see a trend here. Both pure and combined banks failed in 2008, and both pure and combined banks succeeded. And that’s without even getting into the shadow banking system, where many of the problems of the financial crisis originated.

Senator Warren has already admitted that her bill won’t get the necessary support by the Senate Banking Committee, making it yet another bill that probably won’t pass. But she’s going to keep on pushing it through anyway. Which begs the question: why? What is Elizabeth Warren trying to accomplish by introducing bills that have no hope of breaking through the forcefield of big business and special interest?

Kevin Roose thinks he has the answer:

It’s the long-game theory.

This theory says that Senator Warren isn’t trying to change individual laws, so much as move the entire political discussion of the financial sector to a different rhetorical arena and force other legislators to join her there. In this theory, Warren’s anti-bank bills and activism aren’t meant mainly for her constituents in Massachusetts, for the Internet audience, or even for Wall Street. They’re directed to her fellow legislators. And their message is simple: On issues involving Wall Street, the center isn’t where you think it is.

(photo by flickr user Mystery Pill)

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CIA Refutes Senate Torture Report, Calls The Practice “Effective”


In December of last year, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved a 6,000 page report that processed more than 6 million pages of documents about CIA’s post 9/11 interrogation tactics — basically, torture. After the reviewing the documents, Reuters reported that torture tactics rarely, if ever, actually yielded intelligence of any sort. Senator Feinstein — chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee — had this to say at the time of the vote:

“The report uncovers startling details about the CIA detention and interrogation program and raises critical questions about intelligence operations and oversight. I strongly believe that the creation of long-term, clandestine ‘black sites’ and the use of so-called ‘enhanced-interrogation techniques’ were terrible mistakes. The majority of the Committee agrees.”

In response, the Central Intelligence Agency took it upon itself to conduct a review of the review, and according to the Washington Post, summarily rejected the Senate’s findings. CIA director John Brennan is set to present his agency’s findings to Feinstein and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), during a closed meeting today. The core disagreement being whether the torture techniques used by the agency post 9/11 were effective or not:
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CBO: Immigration Reform Will Save $197 Billion Over The Next Decade


Immigration reformers just got some really good news from the independent Congressional Budget Office, while House Republicans coalescing around an attempt to block immigration reform were dealt a serious blow.

Estimated impact on the U.S Population:

CBO estimates that, by 2023, enacting S. 744 would lead to a net increase of 10.4 million in the number of people residing in the United States, compared with the number of people projected under current law. That net increase comprises an increase of about
10.4 million permanent residents; an increase of about 1.6 million temporary workers and their dependents; and a decrease of about 1.6 million unauthorized residents.

And rather than ballooning the deficit, the CBO found that the Senate bill would reduce the deficit by almost $200 billion over 10 years:

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The Weekly Roundup

24 | May | 2013

The Unblinking EyeThe Unblinking Eye: Taken at the October 24th, 2012 campaign event of Governor Mitt Romney at Reno, Nevada (cc photo by Darron Bergenheier)

Friday on Left and Center, Publius shared some background to the new Wikileaks documentary, discussed how California gave Obamacare some really, really good news, argued that the Republican Party can no longer honestly call itself a party of conservatism, mitigated a debate between Andrew Sullivan and Glenn Greenwald on whether or not the London beheading of a British soldier could be categorized as terrorism, and had a good laugh at a photographer’s hilarious depiction of toy storm troopers.

23 | May | 2013

Obama at the John S. Knight CenterObama at the John S. Knight Center (cc photo by Beth Rankin)

Thursday on Left and Center, Publius unearthed the government’s war on whistleblowers, considered a damning opinion by Martin Wolf on austerity, saw Mnemosyne weigh the efficacy of corporate self-regulation, relayed President Obama’s speech on the future of the war on terror, and shared a wonderful photograph of Wadi Rum – Jordan.
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When conservatism left the Republican party

The Unblinking EyeThe Unblinking Eye: Taken at the October 24th, 2012 campaign event of Governor Mitt Romney at Reno, Nevada (cc photo by Darron Bergenheier)

Jonathan Chait does a really fantastic profile of 28 year-old Bloomberg columnist Josh Barro, who he labels as the “loneliest Republican”. What’s been a startling and troubling political trend these last few years has been how the Republican party has openly and damningly retreated from pretty much every single policy ground they once stood on. Parties evolve and ideologies adapt, but that’s not necessarily what’s happened to the so-called “conservative” party. Leaving aside the “why this happened?” for another time, the truth of the matter is that if you’re a policy wonk, and hold yourself to be a conservative – assuming you’re honest with yourself – you don’t really have a political home anymore.
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The Daily Roundup

“We all have a duty to do good. And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.” – Pope Francis

thierry Ehrmann le 112 ème est Jorge Mario Bergoglio (Pope Francis), painted portrait DDC_7831Pope Francis (cc photo by Thierry Ehrmann)

Today on Left and Center, Publius ridiculed the hypocrisy of Oklahoma’s Senators voting against Hurricane Sandy aid then asking for tornado aid, embraced literary rejection as a way to improve a writer’s craft, applauded a wonderful message by Pope Francis on goodness and cooperation, visited Ben Bernanke’s critical testimony to Congress, considered the strategic politicization of gay rights in the immigration reform debate, lamented with horror and disgust at the Islamist motivated beheading of a British soldier in London in broad daylight, and shared another great photo by Paul Bica.

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