If you need a little amusement, watch Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) go after the misbehaving Republicans.
In the latest expression of Republican frustration with conservative GOP colleagues, Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Susan Collins (R-ME) excoriated Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY) for persistently refusing to initiate House-Senate budget negotiations.
Their comments on the Senate floor Tuesday reflect a growing Republican schism over how to approach the tax and spending fights that have hamstrung Congress for years and dragged its approval ratings to historic lows.
“For four years, four years, we complained about the fact that the majority leader … would refuse to bring a budget to the floor of the United States Senate,” McCain said. “What [do] we on my side of the aisle keep doing? We don’t want a budget unless — unless — we put requirements on the conferees that are absolutely out of line and unprecedented.”
According to Mike Allen and Jim Vandehei at Politico, the biggest scandal in Washington isn’t Benghazi!, the IRS, or the AP. It’s President Obama not playing nice with the people of the Village.
The town is turning on President Obama — and this is very bad news for this White House.
Republicans have waited five years for the moment to put the screws to Obama — and they have one-third of all congressional committees on the case now. Establishment Democrats, never big fans of this president to begin with, are starting to speak out. And reporters are tripping over themselves to condemn lies, bullying and shadiness in the Obama administration.
Buy-in from all three D.C. stakeholders is an essential ingredient for a good old-fashioned Washington pile-on — so get ready for bad stories and public scolding to pile up.
Vernon Jordan, a close adviser to President Bill Clinton through his darkest days, told us: “It’s never all right if you’re the president. There is no smooth sailing. So now he has the turbulence, and this is the ultimate test of his leadership.” Jordan says Obama needs to do something dramatic on the IRS, and quick: “He needs to fire somebody. He needs action, not conversation.”
Obama’s aloof mien and holier-than-thou rhetoric have left him with little reservoir of good will, even among Democrats. And the press, after years of being accused of being soft on Obama while being berated by West Wing aides on matters big and small, now has every incentive to be as ruthless as can be.
Oh my stars and garters, he’s gotten the kidz at Politico and the Georgetown cocktail circuit positively miffed by being aloof and not sucking up to the right people. Who does he think he is? Bill Clinton?
Question for you: When the news broke about the Justice Department going after the phone records of journalists at the AP, how many of you immediately thought that the government was up to no good and that we were once again on the road to a Watergate-style scandal of enemies lists and political retribution? Or, how many of you held back judgment, waiting until the immediate dust had settled before coming to a conclusion?
I’m willing to bet that most of you — and me — went for the first option.
It’s human nature to automatically assume the worst about a situation, then, after getting more information, re-evaluate and re-assess. Sometimes the first instinct is right. And sometimes it turns out to be either less than we initially thought or nothing at all. We still don’t know about the AP story, but that didn’t stop a lot of us from harking back to the Nixon White House and their targeting of political enemies, and Benghazi! brought back memories of cover-ups in places like Vietnam and Iraq. Even if it’s a president or an administration we’re nominally in favor of, we immediately think they’re up to no good.
It’s the lizard-brain survival instinct: assume the worst and get the hell out. Trust no one and believe nothing you hear; they’ve got to be hiding something. Even when all the facts are in and the whole story is laid out in front of us, we have a healthy dose of skepticism.
In a way I envy the conspiracy theorists. They have a very interesting take on life; there are nuances and complexities to everything that the average person going through their hum-drum life never see or think about, such as why are the stop lights in U.S. 1 synchronized the way they are, or who really knows anything about the guy driving the limousine in Dallas on November 22, 1963? It really does make life an adventure, doesn’t it?
I’m not dismissing the concerns about the AP phone records, and I say we should treat everything we hear about it with the same amount of care and scrutiny that we give to late-night infomercials about the stunning breakthroughs in hair restoration and boner pills. After all, I’ve made it through everything from Watergate and Vietnam to Milli Vanilli. But to immediately assume the worst about our government, whether it’s run by a president we like or loath assumes the worst about us all, and I’m not that cynical. Yet.
Meanwhile, Jodi Arias has been found guilty. I have no idea who that is, but it was apparently big enough news to get the cable networks to break away from their coverage of the hearings to cover the verdict live from Phoenix.
Jennifer Rubin, the right-wing columnist for the Washington Post, is peeved at Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) for not playing nice with other Republicans and calling those who supported background checks for guns “squishes.”
For starters, it’s just not smart to annoy colleagues whose cooperation and support you’ll need in the future. Second, as a conservative he should understand humility and grace are not incompatible with “standing on principle”; the absence of these qualities doesn’t make him more principled or more effective. Third, for a guy who lacks manners (see his condescending questioning of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) he comes across as whiny. They yelled at me! Boo hoo, senator.
When liberals go after each other, it’s like watching Quakers argue: “Friend, I have a concern,” and you can practically hear the sorrowful sighs. Not so with conservatives. They can really get into it.
In Ms. Rubin’s case, it’s not surprising that she’d be put out. She just got herself pilloried by just about everyone for the puff piece she wrote last week about how wonderful George W. Bush was and how history will treat the gentle fool with kindness. Then in comes this new senator from Texas like he was Godzilla and Washington was a Japanese fishing village. Squish. There goes the compassionate-conservative rehab.
What’s interesting is that it’s not like they didn’t know what they were getting when he ran. He campaigned as a whack-job, he won the primary against the hand-picked Republican establishment candidate, and he won as a whack-job. Unlike Democrats — or anyone with prefrontal development beyond the age of 14 — he never learned that once you get into office you pretty much have to learn that to do much more than get your 15 minutes on CSPAN, you have to work together. Your constituency is slightly larger than the Tea Party rally in the parking lot of Family Dollar in Buzzard Gulch.
The House overwhelmingly passed a bill on Friday to give the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flexibility to defray spending cuts from its budget as part of the sequester, allowing the agency to restore furloughed air traffic controllers whose absences had spurred nationwide flight delays.
The House moved quickly late Friday morning to follow the lead of the Senate, which unanimously approved legislation late Thursday evening to give the secretary of transportation increased authority to transfer funds from its existing budget to restore furloughed air traffic controllers.
The legislation heads to the White House next for President Barack Obama’s signature. White House press secretary Jay Carney said at his press briefing on Friday that Obama would sign the legislation.
Though some House Democrats griped on Friday that the air traffic controller furloughs should provide the impetus for Congress to address all of the cuts prescribed by the sequester, the House easily cleared the two-thirds procedural threshold it needed to approve the FAA patch.
So while it’s perfectly okay with the House and the Senate that hundreds of teachers get laid off from Head Start and cutbacks go into effect for other critical programs, dog forbid that some congressperson has to cool their heels at the Cinnabon at O’Hare for an extra hour because the FAA was short-staffed. Got it.
I guess Harry Reid has a sense of humor after all.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday introduced a bill that would require background checks to be run on anyone buying explosive powder, a reaction to last week’s Boston Marathon bombing.
Reid introduced the bill, S. 792, for Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.), who has been out sick for much of the year. But in a press statement, Lautenberg said the Boston bombing shows that background checks are needed for explosive materials.
“It defies common sense that anyone, even a terrorist, can walk into a store in America and buy explosive powders without a background check or any questions asked,” Lautenberg said Tuesday. “Requiring a background check for an explosives permit is a small price to pay to ensure the safety of our communities.
Under current law, people can buy up to 50 pounds of explosive “black powder” with no background check, and can buy unlimited amounts of other explosive powders, such as “black powder substitute” and “smokeless powder.”
Lautenberg’s bill would require a background check for the purchase of any of these powders.
Let’s see how many Republicans vote to infringe our rights to keep and bear fertilizer.
It wasn’t a typo when I noted in Short Takes this morning that Sen. Max Baucus of Montana is retiring and inserted a “?” after the “D” in his party designation. To say that his Democratic credentials are slightly lacking is an insult to the term “slightly.”
Brian Beutler at TPM sums up the recent record of the gentleman from the Big Sky:
He voted for the Bush Tax Cuts in 2001; then after securing re-election, and against the will of Democratic leadership, supported a Medicare prescription drug benefit that routed tax payer money through private insurers. He spent months and months behind closed doors with GOP lawmakers in 2009 in a futile search for bipartisan support for what became the Affordable Care Act. That quixotic effort dragged on well past the point at which party leaders believed it might pay off, and it delayed legislative action for so long that the bill nearly died when Democrats lost Ted Kennedy’s seat to Scott Brown in early 2010.
His biggest contribution to ACA was to help build industry support for the process by cutting secret deals with pharmaceutical manufacturers and other powerful stakeholders, some of which may have been necessary to pass the bill, but which nevertheless came at the expense of beneficiaries and taxpayers.
In late 2010, Baucus voted against the DREAM Act.
I don’t expect every Democrat to march in lockstep with every other member or even the president when he’s a Democrat; blind obedience in defiance of reality is the GOP schtick, and besides, Democratic disarray is what makes them so gosh-darn loveable. But when you buck the party for reasons that stink of corporate cronyism whether or not its good for your home state or the people you represent, then it’s time to either switch parties or go home.
I’ve already gotten a “draft Brian Schweitzer” e-mail solicitation to get the former Montana governor into the race.
Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Chuck Grassley (R-IA) got into a heated argument during a hearing on immigration reform as Schumer berated opponents of a bill for exploiting the Boston Marathon bombing to delay its passage and for mischaracterizing groups backing the legislation.
The exchange began when Schumer took issue with Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL), a leading critic of the bill, characterizing labor, business, and immigrant rights groups supportive of the bill as “special interests,” and launched into a lengthy diatribe against the bill’s detractors.
Schumer said that Americans “will not be satisfied with calls for delays and impediments.”
“I would say to my colleagues — and I understand their views are heartfelt — the chairman has a very open process to review ways to — if you have ways to improve the bill, provide amendments,” Schumer said. “And those who point to the terrible tragedy in Boston as, I would say, an excuse for not doing a bill or delaying it many months or year–”
At this point Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who defended linking the Boston attack to the bill earlier in the hearings, took issue.
“I never said that!” he shouted. “I never said that!”
After committee chair Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) restored order by slamming his gavel repeatedly, Schumer walked back his remarks a bit and suggested he was referring only to critics outside the Senate.
Well, of course Mr. Grassley said that. Anyone with a memory longer than a goldfish knows he said that, and his overreaction is the tell.
The reason that he’s pissed is because exploiting a national tragedy for political gain is a patented GOP tool and they don’t take kindly to it when they think someone else might be horning in on their schtick, even if it’s not true.
The four Democrats in the Senate (Max Baucus, Mark Begich, Mark Pryor, and Heidi Heitkamp) who voted against background checks in the gun bill in the Senate explain why.
It’s pretty much what you’d expect: either they’re up for a tough re-election fight next year and they’re afraid of the NRA. One — Mark Begich of Alaska — mumbled something about not wanting to get caught up in an “an emotional moment” (where was this guy when the Senate whooped through the USA PATRIOT Act?).
But noticeably, none of the reasons have anything to do with actually doing something about gun violence.
Former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords has an editorial in the New York Times on the Senate’s failure to enact gun legislation.
They looked at these most benign and practical of solutions, offered by moderates from each party, and then they looked over their shoulder at the powerful, shadowy gun lobby — and brought shame on themselves and our government itself by choosing to do nothing.
They will try to hide their decision behind grand talk, behind willfully false accounts of what the bill might have done — trust me, I know how politicians talk when they want to distract you — but their decision was based on a misplaced sense of self-interest. I say misplaced, because to preserve their dignity and their legacy, they should have heeded the voices of their constituents. They should have honored the legacy of the thousands of victims of gun violence and their families, who have begged for action, not because it would bring their loved ones back, but so that others might be spared their agony.
This defeat is only the latest chapter of what I’ve always known would be a long, hard haul. Our democracy’s history is littered with names we neither remember nor celebrate — people who stood in the way of progress while protecting the powerful. On Wednesday, a number of senators voted to join that list.
Mark my words: if we cannot make our communities safer with the Congress we have now, we will use every means available to make sure we have a different Congress, one that puts communities’ interests ahead of the gun lobby’s. To do nothing while others are in danger is not the American way.
It finds that only 23 percent of Americans — that would be fewer than one in four — believe the Republican Party is “in touch with the concerns of most people in the United States today,” while 70 percent believe that it is “out of touch.” Among independents, those numbers are 23-70. Among moderates they’re 20-75.
By contrast, Americans say by 51-46 that Obama is in touch. Among moderates that’s 56-42 (he fares worse among independents, 44-53, though far better than Republicans).
At the same time, the poll finds the public siding with Obama and Democrats on many major issues surveyed. Americans disapprove of the sequester cuts, 57-35 — cuts that Republicans are describing as a “victory” for them. Americans support a path to legality for illegal immigrants by 64-32. In fairness, the poll doesn’t test citizenship specifically, so this finding is somewhat inconclusive, but a new CNN poll finds that 84 percent back a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who have a job and pay back taxes.
Meanwhile, on guns, the new Post poll finds that Americans support a law requiring background checks on gun sales at gun shows or online by 86-13. A majority, 55 percent, believes it’s possible to make new gun control laws without interfering with gun rights.
And yet… chances are very good that the Republicans will be able to stop any meaningful gun control legislation, they’ll stymie immigration reform, and they’ll refuse to do anything about the economy because, well, they can. And chances are that they will hold on to the House in 2014 because thanks to gerrymandering and manipulation in state legislatures, they are all in safe seats even if the majority of the people vote for someone else.
But is there any point at which the party’s overall image — and its unpopular stances on specific issues — actually do begin to matter in some concrete way? Is there any point at which it becomes clear that the current GOP strategy — make a deal with Democrats on immigration, but nothing else — is insufficient? What would that look like? Anyone?
Probably when it looks like Rand Paul will be the GOP nominee in 2016.
After a meeting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Monday, a frustrated Feinstein said she learned that the bill she sponsored — which bans 157 different models of assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines — wouldn’t be part of a Democratic gun bill to be offered on the Senate floor. Instead, it can be offered as an amendment. But its exclusion from the package makes what was already an uphill battle an almost certain defeat.
This is probably based on the theory that the NRA is too big to fail and that something like Newtown will never happen again anyway. Such is what passes for common sense conventional wisdom.
A Dominican lawyer paid three women to falsely claim on camera last year that they had sex with U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, police said Monday.
The women told police that attorney Melanio Figueroa paid them each between $300 and $425 to record interviews in October, National Police spokesman Gen. Máximo Báez Aybar said at a news conference.
Two of those interviews might have been published by conservative news website The Daily Caller just before the November elections. The women, whose faces were blurred out to conceal their identity, claimed to have been paid as escorts for sex with a man named “Bob.”
The police announcement provides the strongest evidence yet contradicting accusations that Menendez flew to the Dominican Republic for sex parties in the vacation home of political benefactor and prominent Florida eye doctor Salomón Melgen.
The accusations along with other claims that later surfaced helped enmesh Menendez and Melgen in scandal.
The original story was breathlessly reported by Tucker Carlson’s blog, sure that they had come across the scoop of the century. When one of the women recanted her story, Mr. Carlson’s mouthpiece said that she was not the source of the story, so they stood by it. Now that it appears the whole thing was a scam, we can all anticipate a retraction and humble apology from the bow-tied poor man’s Mencken… right after we see donkeys fly.
PS: Mr. Menendez is not out of the woods; he’s still under investigation by a grand jury. But at least this bit of creative writing on behalf of the orcosphere is a nothingburger.