US House of Representatives

Congress, As Only Congress Can

#dysfunction | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A reflection of the U.S. Capitol, 17 February 2012. (Detail of photo by Kevin LaMarque/Reuters)

This is what it is—

At last count, one member has stepped down for health reasons (Mississippi’s Thad Cochran), one member resigned to seek a statewide office (California’s Xavier Becerra), four members gave up their seats to serve in the Trump administration (Georgia’s Tom Price, South Carolina’s Mick Mulvaney, Kansas’ Mike Pompeo, and Montana’s Ryan Zinke), five resigned under a cloud of scandal (Arizona’s Trent Franks, Michigan’s John Conyers, Pennsylvania’s Tim Murphy, Minnesota’s Al Franken, and Texas’ Blake Farenthold), and two stepped down because they didn’t feel like being in Congress anymore (Ohio’s Pat Tiberi and Utah’s Jason Chaffetz).

A recent FiveThirtyEight analysis noted, “If that feels like a lot, that’s because it is; it’s the most people who have resigned from Congress through this point in the session in at least 117 years.”

(Benen)

—but does not account for three U.S. Senators and thirty-three Members of Congress who are simply not running for any office, nor nineteen leaving their House seats in search of statewide office.

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A Quote: Kansas Cluck

Great Seal of Kansas (detail)

“The KFC bucket came with a side of Republican panic.”

Hunter Woodall and Bryan Lowry

It takes two, or perhaps some occasions simply beg a hook in lieu of a lede, but still, Woodall and Lowry do eventually get around to such niceties ‘twixt cluckin’ buckets:

Anxiety over the GOP’s weakened grasp on Kansas’ 2nd congressional district, which includes Topeka and Lawrence, was on full display during last month’s state party convention.

Kansas Congressional candidate Paul Davis [D-02]. (Photo: Associated Press)GOP Rep. Lynn Jenkins is retiring. Republicans lack a clear front runner in the race to replace her, while Democrats have coalesced around Paul Davis, a former state lawmaker who won the district during his unsuccessful campaign for governor in 2014.

“If the election were held today, (there’s) a 70 percent chance Davis gets elected,” Mike Stieben, co-chair of Kansans For Life’s political action committee, told the crowd at a convention prayer breakfast.

He passed an empty KFC bucket around the room, urging people to drop in donations so his anti-abortion group could start campaigning in the district.

“We cannot elect Paul Davis,” Stieben said. “And he’s ahead. Wake up. We need your help.”

There is a great moment in which we might toss coins or play some obscure dice game to decide between “now more than ever”α, and why not pitch for one’s own anti-abortion group. This is, after all, Kansas.   (more…)

About as Stupid as We Might Expect

#PutiPoodle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Rep. Dana Rohrabacher [R-CA48]. (Photo by Maria Danilova/Associated Press)

This is not a joke:

Blackwater founder Erik Prince will host a fundraiser for California Rep. Dana Rohrabacher as the Republican faces a tough re-election.

(Garcia)

No, really, it’s not a joke.

(more…)

A Matter of Perspective (Poodlefinger Mix)

#PutiTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

A child walks past a graffiti depicting Russian President Vladimir Putin and Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on the walls of a bar in the old town in Vilnius, Lithuania, 14 May 2016. (Photo by Mindaugas Kulbis/AP Photo)

This is important:

When Donald Trump makes ridiculously untrue comments, few are surprised. The president has a reputation for breathtaking dishonesty, which is well deserved. Making matters much worse, however, is the degree to which his White House makes no real effort to be more trustworthy.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders. (Photo: Evan Vucci/AP Photo)For example, the White House issued a formal written statement late Friday responding to the federal indictment of 13 Russian operatives who are accused of attacking our elections to help put Trump in power. A Washington Post analysis described the statement as “extremely dishonest,” and documented several demonstrable falsehoods—none of which has been corrected.

But West Wing officials weren’t content to stop there. On Twitter, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said, “Unlike Obama, [Trump] isn’t going to be pushed around by Russia or anybody else.” That might be slightly less laughable if Obama hadn’t imposed sanctions on Russia, which is the opposite of what Trump did.

In a certain way it does not matter what the esteemed Steve Benen finds laughable. There is a long story, of course, behind the statement that, brain chemistry is brain chemistry, or that brain chemistry will as brain chemistry does, but the proposition of laughability depends on circumstantial norms observably not in effect.

When the Press Secretary says President Trump will not be “pushed around by Russia or anybody else”, we need to consider what that means to her. Because either Sarah Huckabee Sanders believes what she says or she does not. The latter is actually the extraordinary alternative, so the question becomes how she believes such a seemingly ridiculous statement.

And to this the answer is actually straightforward:

• President Trump will not be pushed around by Russia because Russia is not pushing him around.

• President Trump will not be pushed around by anybody else because he will not be pushed around by Congress or the Special Counsel’s Office.

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The Suicide Pact as a Political Argument

#PutiPoodle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Contemplation of Justice

This is an interesting starting point:

If the Justice Department and the FBI knowingly used an unreliably biased witness to win a FISA warrant against Carter Page, violating his civil liberties in the process, you would therefore expect that there are some judges on the FISC who are concerned. They, after all, are the ones who were misled. They are the ones who signed warrants and renewals based on shoddy information. Conversely, if the judges on the FISC are not hopping mad, you might take that as evidence that they don’t, in fact, feel misled and that the Justice Department and FBI conduct was, after all, reasonably within the obligations of lawyers and investigators before the court.

(Wittes)

One particularly difficult aspect of the #TrumpRussia scandal is the manner in which the context of dispute overshadows history itself. It is telling, in comparison, that Democrats have come to defend and advocate the individual mandate, but also that Republicans and conservatives turned on their own idea; at some point, we ought to take the note about insincerity. It has, for years, also been true that a liberal political relationship to law enforcement is fraught, to say the least; but it is also true that conservatives have simultaneously drummed up tough law-and-order talk while relying more and more on conspiracy theories denigrating and defaming law enforcement institutions. Naturally, the allegedly liberal party finds itself defending the law enforcement agency and agent that, to the one, undertook irregular actions wrecking the Democratic presidential candidate, and that alone ought to be boggling. To the other, if we set aside Donald Trump for a moment, the FBI is also the agency that reviews its own duty-related killings, and has found itself to be perfect, something like a hundred fifty out of a hundred fifty. Given a day in court to indict all the sleazy tactics of a powerfully effective eugenic “drug war” any liberal would find the FBI in line to defend the necessity of allowing law enforcement to behave that way. Yet the spectacle continues apace, with Republicans hollering until they wheeze and Democrats breathlessly defending one of the most controversial law enforcement agencies on the planet. Without this extraordinary, self-inflicted presidential scandal requiring our priority, what is up with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, anyway? Federal law enforcement is still law enforcement.

Just as Democrats finding themselves rallying to defend the individual mandate ought to be significant of something about how we reached this point, or Jade Helm leaving liberals to consider posturing an ostensible general defense of the American military; or, if we can remember back to 2009, the conservative roll from patriotism and the indignity of protesting against the president to the patriotic necessity of threatening the president with firearms; or, hey, we might consider decades of conservative conspiracism including the National Rifle Association, and then wonder whether it will be law enforcement or the military confiscating the guns; so, too, might we wonder at the trend of conservatives behaving so badly that others need to do their jobs for them.

(more…)

SOTU Speculation

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

#PutiTrump: Protest image of Vladimir Putin, artist unknown. Donald Trump addresses supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016.

Take the note, via Steve Benen:

On Jan. 30, 1974, exactly 44 years ago today, Richard Nixon delivered his State of the Union address and argued that the investigation into the Watergate scandal should end. “One year of Watergate is enough,” the Republican president said at the time.

And this, of course, is a setup to noting that Rep. Steve King (R-IA04), never known as a bastion of measured rhetoric, described the content of a House Republican staff-written memorandum as worse than Watergate. Similarly, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi (R) attacked the Special Counsel investigation into the #TrumpRussia affair as corrupt and worse than Watergate. And famed conspiracist Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) worried that collusion to stop Trump’s election is Worse than Watergate. President Trump himself adores making Watergate claims: Uranium One, imagined wiretapping, and Benghazi conspiracism, at least, he declares on par with Watergate. The Birther conspiracy? Even bigger than Watergate. This is hardly a new GOP obsession; Benen counted at least ten assertions of scandal in the Obama White House that Republicans chose to compare to Watergate, and that was in 2013.

It is easy enough to wonder if perhaps a soberish president carefully reading staid remarks prepared by professional hands would be sufficient to win critical praise, but given the state of things, it starts to seem more likely that Mr. Trump will, instead, afford himself the indulgence of simply going off.

For public safety, drinking games ought to be prohibited.

____________________

Image note: #PutiTrump — Protest image of Vladimir Putin, artist unknown; Donald Trump addresses supporters in Everett, Washington, 30 August 2016.

Benen, Steve. “The bar has already been lowered too much for Trump”. msnbc. 29 January 2018.

—————. “The curious Republican preoccupation with Watergate”. msnbc. 30 January 2018.

—————. “‘Worse than Watergate'”. msnbc. 11 November 2013.

A Deep Dark Secret, and Other Notes

A portion of the U.S. Capitol dome. (Detail of photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images, 2013)

Nathan L. Gonzales notes—

The deep, dark secret of political handicapping is that there isn’t a singular equation that can project the winner of each congressional race.

—and I believe the polite response is to cough gently as if I just failed to properly drink coffee, smile sheepishly, and say, as near to apologetically as I can without actually achieving the tone, “Really?”

As in, “Really? That’s it? That is the secret?”

Honestly, it feels disappointing; the obvious is neither deep nor secret. Darkness is as darkness does in the eye of any given beholder.

Perhaps it sounds better than, “We don’t know what we’re doing”, but neither would that statement be fair; still, voters and advocates are well-advised to remember that election prognostication—calculating and projecting human behavior on constrained mass scale according to vaguely-identified and constantly-shifting circumstances evoking broadly diverse responses according to unknown and dynamic criteria—is not a science. The diverse arts of politics, dark or otherwise, are by nature rather quite occult.

To the other, here is an interesting question: “How do you rate a race for a seat that doesn’t exist?”

It is true, science cannot answer this one. Maybe someday, but not now:

The deep, dark secret of political handicapping is that there isn’t a singular equation that can project the winner of each congressional race. It is helpful to know who is running and where they are running. But thanks to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court throwing out the congressional map and GOP Rep. Patrick Meehan’s retirement, we barely know anything about this year’s race in the 7th District ....

.... Normally, this is where I would relate the recent presidential results of his 7th District (Hillary Clinton carried it narrowly in 2016 after Mitt Romney carried it narrowly in 2012, if you have to know), but those numbers aren’t particularly relevant considering the race is likely to take place under a new congressional map.

Nonetheless, the Roll Call handicapper has shifted his assessment of Pennsylvania Seven from Leans Republican to Tilts Democratic. As to dark arts, only time will tell, and something goes here about rabbits and flying monkeys and from where any magician is pulling them.   (more…)

Disaster, Dreaming

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY; left), walks with President-elect Donald Trump at the U.S. Capitol for a meeting, 10 November 2016, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Steve Benen, on the obvious:

As I understand it, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has agreed to a vote on an immigration bill, and unlike before, he won’t wait for Donald Trump’s guidance on the subject. If a comprehensive proposal isn’t ready by Feb. 8, today’s agreement says a DACA bill will get a vote on the Senate floor (though we don’t know precisely which DACA bill).

If you’re thinking, “Won’t McConnell just betray Democrats and refuse to bring up the bill?” that’s certainly possible, though that would practically guarantee another shutdown, for which the Kentucky Republican would be solely responsible.

Alternatively, if you’re thinking, “There’s no reason to assume a Senate-passed bill to protect Dreamers will pass the House,” you’re right to be concerned. But Democrats aren’t exactly negotiating from a position of strength right now, and they feel like they have no choice but to pursue incremental steps.

In the meantime, they’re taking CHIP off the table for the next six years, securing a key progressive priority. If there’s another shutdown on the horizon—a distinct possibility—Republicans won’t be able to hold children’s health care hostage.

Heads: McConnell backs out entirely, just walking away for his own reasons. Tails: The DACA vote is to table whatever DACA bill comes to hand.

(more…)

The Man of the Hour

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Political strategist Stephen Bannon speaks at a Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore campaign rally in Midland City, Alabama, 11 December 2017. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

The triple-bylined exclusive from The Daily Beast opens like sublime comedy:

Steve Bannon is lawyering up as he gets ready to face investigators looking into the Trump-Russia nexus.

The Daily Beast has learned that the former top White House strategist has retained Bill Burck, of the firm Quinn Emanuel. Two sources tell us Burck is helping Bannon prepare for an interview with the House intelligence committee, which is currently scheduled for next week. Sources also said Bannon plans to “fully cooperate” with investigators.

Puti TootsBurck also represents White House Counsel Don McGahn and former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus for the purposes of the Russia probe ....

(Woodruff, Markay, and Suebsaeng)

To the one, this ought to be in some manner artistically appreciable; to the other, we cannot reiterate enough that as much as Mr. Bannon needs to testify under oath, and about more than simply his time with the Trump campaign, neither, really, can he be trusted. That is to say, spectacularly flaming paragon of right-wing cynicism he might be, Steve Bannon not only can be expected to throw the House Intelligence Committee, and thus the entire Beltway, into chaos, but virtually cannot fail to discredit Congressional inquiries into the #TrumpRussia affair.

(more…)

Nearly Laughable

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump delivers remarks at a press conference in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., 16 February 2017. (Photo: Associated Press)

At first glance, it seems nearly laughable—

President Donald Trump’s former chief strategist Steve Bannon will be interviewed next week by a U.S. House of Representatives committee investigating alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, a person familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The interview behind closed doors on Tuesday with the House Intelligence Committee will focus on Bannon’s time on the campaign, not the transition or his time in the White House, the source said.

Political strategist Stephen Bannon speaks at a Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore campaign rally in Midland City, Alabama, 11 December 2017. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)—but the news from Reuters reporters Karen Freifeld and Patricia Zengerle can also sound like the start of something, well, if not good then at least spectacular.

To the other, this is Steve Bannon, and if he can tell news consumers precisely what they want to hear, he can tell politicians exactly what needs to in order that the Beltway should rupture into flaming panic.

____________________

Image note: Top —President Donald Trump delivers remarks at a press conference in the East Room of the White House, in Washington, D.C., 16 February 2017. (Photo: Associated Press)  Right — Political strategist Stephen Bannon speaks at a Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore campaign rally in Midland City, Alabama, 11 December 2017. (Reuters/Carlo Allegri)

Freifeld, Karen and Patricia Zengerle. “Bannon to appear before Congress committee for Russia probe”. Reuters. 11 January 2018.