executive authority

House Boehn

House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio responds to reporters about the impasse over passing the Homeland Security budget because of Republican efforts to block President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The House voted last month to end Homeland Security funding on Saturday unless Obama reverses his order to protect millions of immigrants from possible deportation. After Democratic filibusters blocked the bill in the Senate, the chaber's Republican leaders agreed this week to offer a "clean" funding measure, with no immigration strings attached.

Over the years, one constant is that American conservatives have some of the best potential to actually, genuinely surprise me. In a way, this is predictable; if we suggest it is not simply the positions they hold―e.g., a diverse range of prioritized supremacism―but also the severity and desperation, it only makes sense that it would be conservatives offending me, as there are very few liberal advocates of white, Christian, male, heterosexual supremacism. That sort of thing.

But it happens in other ways, too. Imagine an accurate description of George W. Bush’s presidency, offered as a prognostication the night he was elected. And think of it this way, too―it’s not just the wars. Consider: Vice President Cheney will craft energy policy in secret meetings with people who wreck the energy industry, and then claim executive privilege to hide that record from public scrutiny until it is time to surrender those materials to the National Archives, whereupon he will claim to be part of the Legislative branch of government. Back then, it would have seemed a wild claim. Not that a vice president would hold secret policy meetings and try to hide the record, but to suggest Mr. Cheney would be so damnably stupid as to hide behind executive privilege and then claim to not be part of the executive branch―both claims regarding the same issue―would have seemed an insulting condemnation of his character and intellect alike.

Then again, by the time the Bush/Cheney administration was finished, nothing really seemed surprising, did it?

What about the Speakership of John Boehner?

When he took the gavel, would any of us have imagined this end? What would it have sounded like to predict the worst speakership in the history of the nation? What would people have said of purported clairvoyance spinning tales of such incredible incompetence? Here, try this one: No, we don’t want the President to use his executive authority on immigration; I have a bill. No, we can’t pass our bill; I guess the President will have to use his executive authority. No, the President should not have used his executive authority; we will find a way to sue him in order to stop him.α

How about Tuesday?

No, really, I made a joke. It wasn’t a good joke; it was an obvious joke about a House Republican Conference so fractious and intractable that the Speaker of the House could not actually manage to do anything useful. And it is a House Republican Conference so fractious and intractable that we now get to find out whether or not Speaker Boehner is capable of merely resigning properly.

Boehner said in a statement that he’ll continue to serve as speaker until the House selects someone to replace him. “We will announce the date for this election at a later date, and I’m confident we will elect a new Speaker in the coming weeks. Our conference will work together to ensure we have the strongest team possible as we continue to focus on the American people’s priorities,” said the Ohio lawmaker.

(Frumin)

This is really happening.

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α And we’re still waiting for the lawsuit, as I recall.

Frumin, Aliyah. “Kevin McCarthy abruptly drops House speaker bid, race postponed”. msnbc. 8 October 2015.

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Oklahoma Governance

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R), in May 2015. (image: KFOR)

There are days, you know, when it is really easy to pick on an idea. Take Oklahoma for instance. Last week we learned about the strangeness of Oklahoma virtue, and then a spokesman for Gov. Mary Fallin (R) found himself blaming Texas for protests in Durant and Oklahoma City demonstrating support for the Confederacy as President Obama arrived.

Talk about a trifecta; this also happened:

Gov. Mary Fallin (R) and the GOP-led legislature announced they’re prepared to ignore the state Supreme Court, at least for now, while they consider new solutions.​

The Republican governor talked to reporters, saying roughly what you’d expect her to say: she’s “disappointed” with the court’s decision; she thinks they made the wrong call; etc. But as KFOR, the NBC affiliate in Oklahoma City, reported, Fallin added one related thought that wasn’t expected at all:​

Gov. Fallin said she believes the final decision on the monument’s fate should rest with the people.​

“You know, there are three branches of our government. You have the Supreme Court, the legislative branch and the people, the people and their ability to vote. So I’m hoping that we can address this issue in the legislative session and let the people of Oklahoma decide,” she said.​

The KFOR report added, “Despite what the governor said, the three branches of government include the legislative, executive and judicial branches” ....​

.... We can certainly hope that Fallin, a former multi-term member of Congress, knows what the three branches of government are. Indeed, in Oklahoma, she’s the head of one of them – the one she left out this week.​

(Benen)

This is actually one of the big differences. Look, Democrats might well be just as middling, mincing, and incompetent as they seem, but, to the one, to the one, it’s nothing comparable to this, and, to the other, ritual equivocation would only obscure important considerations.

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Hillary and the Clowns

Republicans attempts to turn the discussion to Hillary Clinton and 2016 are getting silly.

“Republicans’ intransigence has created an obvious opportunity for Hillary to rip off our arms and beat us with the bloody ends. She’s expertly exploiting our party’s internal problems.”

Fergus Cullen

Wincing in abject human sympathy is probably fair. So is former New Hampshire Republican Party chairman Fergus Cullen’s assessment. As David Nakamura and Robert Costa explain for the Washington Post:

Hillary Rodham Clinton’s fighting words on immigration this week, designed in part to provoke Republicans into a reactionary counterattack, instead drew an unusual early response from several top-tier GOP presidential candidates: silence.

Two days after Clinton vowed to expand on President Obama’s executive actions to shield up to 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker was one of the only leading Republican 2016 contenders to strike back, calling it a “full embrace of amnesty” that is “unfair to hard-working Americans.”

By contrast, former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did not weigh in publicly on the remarks Clinton made Tuesday at a campaign stop in Las Vegas. Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.), one of Obama’s most vocal critics on immigration, waited to make a late evening post on Facebook, writing that Clinton “wants to expand and continue” Obama’s programs and “lawlessness.”

Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee told MSNBC that Clinton was wrong, saying the country needs to focus on border security first.

This is, as the WaPo duo put it, a “relatively subdued GOP reaction”. Typecast tinfoil and tuneless, tin-can triviality are hardly the stuff of candidates aspiring to show their presidential leadership, but they are hallmarks of the Republican clown car.

And while Jeb Bush might not have responded directly to Hillary Clinton, at least the offered up a Cinco de Mayo message … in Spanish. As platitudes go, that one apparently counts as creative; or, as such, Jeb Bush hopes to be the serious clown.

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Nakamura, David and Robert Costa. “Why Clinton’s immigration speech left many Republican rivals speechless”. The Washignton Post. 7 May 2015.

DelReal, Jose A. “Here is Jeb Bush’s Cinco de Mayo message to Mexican-Americans”. The Washington Post. 5 May 2015.

The Shadow over Indiana

22 FEBRUARY 2015: Indiana Gov. Mike Pence appears on 'FOX News Sunday with Chris Wallace'.  Guest host John Roberts interviewed Mr. Pence regarding various issues, including his status as a 2016 'dark horse' for the GOP presidential nomination, and the Hoosier State's 'religious freedom' bill empowering discrimination, which Pence signed into law in late March.  (Image credit: FOX News)

“Indiana businesses can now discriminate against gay people because of the ACA’s contraception policy?”

Steve Benen

Perhaps it seems an odd question, but there is a reason, after all:

The Republican governor, and possible presidential candidate, published a Wall Street Journal op-ed overnight in which Pence outlined his plan to address businesses that exploit his new law to discriminate against gay consumers: “If I saw a restaurant owner refuse to serve a gay couple, I wouldn’t eat there anymore.”msnbc

As Rachel joked on the show last night, “So, if you were worried that gay people might be refused service by a business in Indiana now, don’t worry. That could never happen because the state has decided to wield the grave threat of depriving businesses of Mike Pence’s personal patronage.”

In the same piece, the Hoosier State governor suggested this whole mess can be traced back to Obamacare.

Many states have enacted [Religious Freedom Restoration Acts] of their own … but Indiana never passed such a law. Then in 2010 came the Affordable Care Act, which renewed concerns about government infringement on deeply held religious beliefs. Hobby Lobby and the University of Notre Dame both filed lawsuits challenging provisions that required the institutions to offer certain types of insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.

Last year the Supreme Court upheld religious liberty in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, based on the federal RFRA. With the Supreme Court’s ruling, the need for a RFRA at the state level became more important, as the federal law does not apply to states. To ensure that religious liberty is fully protected under Indiana law, this year the General Assembly enshrined these principles in Indiana law. I fully supported that action.

Hmm. Indiana businesses can now discriminate against gay people because of the ACA’s contraception policy?

This apparently wasn’t persuasive, either, leading Pence to announce this morning his support for a legislative “fix.”

The question persists: How did Pence not see this coming?

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The Bouncing Boehner Blues (Monkeydelica Mix)

Don’t let the hug and kiss between House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) at the first session of the 114th Congress fool you. (Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Follow the bouncing ball: Despite looking much like other failures of John Boehner’s leadership, what happened with the recent DHS standoff is actually rather quite rare, and even still in comparison to the rarity of the frequency with which the Speaker of the House absolutely botches his job.

Close enough.

Jeffery A. Jenkins, in explaining how that works for the Washington Post, brings what for most of us is a vocabulary lesson:

Boehner’s ongoing struggle with the conservative wing of his caucus is well known. But Friday’s vote was unusual. In fact, it almost never happens. Here’s why.

During his time as Speaker, several majority party failures have occurred, as Boehner has ignored the informal “Hastert Rule” and allowed legislation to go forward when he didn’t have a majority of GOP support. This resulted in what is known as a “roll” — when a majority of the majority party opposes a bill that ends up passing. Notable examples of rolls since the beginning of 2013 have included the revision and extension of Bush-era tax cuts (bundled into the “fiscal cliff” deal), Hurricane Sandy Relief, and the Violence Against Women Act. These examples have been written about extensively. Rolls also feature prominently in political science scholarship, such as the book “Setting the Agenda” by Gary Cox and Mathew McCubbins.

In ignoring the Hastert Rule, Boehner bucked conservative opposition and relied upon Democratic support to pass legislation – which hurt his reputation as a party leader in the short run but preserved (in his estimation) the overall Republican brand name in the longer run.

But what happened Friday was different. It wasn’t a roll, but what we might call a “disappointment.” That is, Boehner had the support of a majority of his majority, but the bill ended up failing. This was because he lost more than 50 members of his caucus and was unable to corral more than a handful of Democrats to help pass the legislation.

Perhaps this is an occasion to make the pedantic point about the state of civics education in these United States. In order to be fascinated by Jenkins’ subsequent discussion of disappointments―he and colleagues Andrew Clarke and Nathan Monroe have apparently figured out that they are “extremely rare”―one must first comprehend the basic components; most are out of their depth well before they ever get to learning what a roll is. That such occasions are remotely significant? Well, that is complicated, or something, so why can’t the oppositional politicians we all voted for just get along?

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The End of the DHS Funding Standoff

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) addresses the media at a news conference in February, 2015.  (Photo: Chip Somodevilla)

And then it was over:

The Republican plan for funding the Department of Homeland Security never really made any sense. As GOP lawmakers saw it, they’d refuse to fund the cabinet agency unless Democrats agreed to destroy President Obama’s immigration policy – but it was painfully obvious all along that Dems would never accept such terms.

The resolution was always going to be the same: Congress would have to pass a “clean” DHS bill, funding the department, and going after the White House’s immigration policy through the courts. It was only a matter of time before Republicans realized they had no other credible option.

(Benen)

Until the next time. The only aspect of Speaker Boehner’s political calculation that is clear would be the suggestion that this will happen again.

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Benen, Steve. “On Homeland Security funding, it’s Obama 1, Boehner 0”. msnbc. 3 March 2015.

Futility (Boehner Repeat Rehash Remix)

Don't ask me, I'm just the Speaker of the Fucking House

“He’s never wanted to just be speaker. He’s wanted to be a historically significant speaker.”

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK04)

It seemed a strange enough thing to say at the time. Consider that John Boehner’s historical significance as Speaker of the House might well be that he is the worst Speaker in history, at least until another Republican holds the job. Mr. Cole spoke of his friend and colleague just last November; Republicans had won a bicameral majority, and the article from Carle Hulse and Jeremy W. Peters is significant to this moment, opening:

John A. Boehner does not want to be remembered as the Shutdown Speaker.

As Congress returns from recess on Monday facing a Dec. 11 deadline for funding the government, Mr. Boehner and his fellow Republican leaders are working to persuade the rank and file — furious over President Obama’s executive action on immigration — that engaging in a spending confrontation is the wrong way to counter the White House. That would set the wrong tone, they argue, as Republicans prepare to take over Congress and fulfill promises to govern responsibly.

And, well, as matters of House leadership go, kicking the can so we can do this for another week works, but the question of tone and avoiding a spending confrontation over immigration worked out just about as well as you might expect.

That is to say, Nancy Pelosi bailed Mr. Boehner out, and all she really gets in exchange is to do this again later this week.

And all of this leading to Josh Hicks’ headline today explaining “Why a DHS shutdown won’t stop Obama’s immigration orders”.

While Boehner’s allies in the House explain, as Jesse Byrnes reported yesterday, that the Speaker’s job is not in jeopardy, it’s worth noting that when Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH04) “repeatedly denied” the prospect of an ouster, it would seem someone was asking him directly.

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The Grudge Match: Republicans vs. Science

In this handout photo, taken in 2011, provided by Jonathan Gero, scientists witness and measured carbon dioxide trapping heat in the sky above, confirming human-caused global warming, using the Atmospheric Emitted Radience Interferometer seen here, located in Barrow, Alaska.  Scientists witnessed carbon dioxide trapping heat in the atmosphere above the United States, chronicling human-made climate change in action live in the wild.  A new study in the journal Nature demonstrates in real-time field measurements what scientists already knew from basic physics, lab tests, numerous simulations, temperature records and dozens of other climactic indicators.  It confirms the science of climate change and the amount of heat-trapping previously blamed on carbon dioxide.  (AP Photo/Jonathan Gero, University of Wisconsin)

There are so many ways to go about this. We might, for instance, pause to consider the pathetic canard about how the competing political parties in these United States are the same. Or perhaps we could take a moment to think about why American progress lurches forward in quick bursts after seeming to stall for extended periods. And it is not exactly impossible that we might also eventually encounter an opportunity to simply look away and give our attention to something else.

First up, science:

Scientists training their instruments on the skies have caught the world’s major greenhouse gas right in the act of warming the planet, researchers reported Wednesday, providing the first direct evidence that human activity is dangerously altering the environment.

The instruments captured more than a decade of rising surface temperatures, changes that were directly triggered by the atmosphere’s increasing burden of carbon dioxide, a team of scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and University of California, Berkeley, reported.

That gas, whose main source is emissions from burning fossil fuels, has long been the principal culprit in global-warming investigations by the vast majority of the world’s climate scientists. Its rising levels in the atmosphere have been the basis for increasingly strong warnings about global warming by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, known as the IPCC.

“We have known for decades that there must be an effect, but getting a direct measurement and isolating the carbon dioxide component are a technological coup,” Christopher Field, a senior scientist at the Carnegie Institution for Science at Stanford University who has led two major IPCC reports, said in an email.

The UC Berkeley scientists’ study, he said, provides concrete evidence for the first time of carbon dioxide’s effect on global warming.

(Perlman)

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Another Beltway Day

Barack Obama

I wonder if this would have been yesterday’s Lede of the Day had I noticed at the time:

President Barack Obama should be asking for more power to wage war against Islamic State extremists, some Republicans on the U.S. House Foreign Affairs committee said.

If Kathleen Miller’s lede for Bloomberg seems strange, well, you wouldn’t be the only one to think so. To the other, though, remember, this is war, and this is President Obama, so naturally Republicans would object that he isn’t asking to kill enough people. Besides, the GOP has a plethora of reasons―current potential candidate field notwithstanding―to think maybe 2016 will be their year. And, well, you know, since they expect one of theirs to take the White House before this AUMF expires, they want to make sure the next Republican president has as much legal backing as possible in order to kill as many nonwhites around the world as possible.

Plenty will note that the GOP has apparently rolled on executive authority, but these are Republicans, and this is war, so we probably shouldn’t be surprised.

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Miller, Kathleen. “For Once Obama Should Have More Power, House Republicans Say”. Bloomberg. 12 February 2015.

Benen, Steve. “GOP flips the script, endorses executive overreach”. msnbc. 13 February 2015.

Farcical

Detail of promotional image from Ark Encounter.

Some fascinating questions should not be so … er … fascinating. To wit: Can one’s equal rights be violated by the proposition that equality is not supremacy?

Catherine Thompson of Talking Points Memo frames the latest iteration of the question:

The saga that is the construction of Ark Encounter, Kentucky’s proposed “creationist theme park,” plowed on Tuesday as the project’s coordinator vowed to sue the state for discrimination.

Ironically, it was the project’s proprietor, Answers in Genesis, refusing to agree to hiring practices that wouldn’t discriminate on the basis of religion that led Kentucky tourism officials to yank about $18 million worth of crucial tax incentives for Ark Encounter in December.

Answers in Genesis said in a statement Tuesday that the decision to reject its application for the tax incentives “violates federal and state law and amounts to unlawful viewpoint discrimination.”

“Our organization spent many months attempting to reason with state officials so that this lawsuit would not be necessary,” Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham said in the statement. “However, the state was so insistent on treating our religious entity as a second-class citizen that we were simply left with no alternative but to proceed to court. This is the latest example of increasing government hostility towards religion in America, and it’s certainly among the most blatant.”

This is a theme conservatives have echoed for years. The general idea is that by some device, the very concept of equality means that some people must be allowed superiority.

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