executive order

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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The Brownback Way

Naota (at right), tugs on the electrical cable rectally feeding a sex toy designed to look like his father (bottom), while MiuMiu the cat catches some rays. (FLCL episode 4, 'Full Swing')

“In a development that falls somewhere between ‘I can’t believe he hadn’t done this already’ and ‘My God, what a monumental prick,’ Brownback issued an executive order Tuesday removing gender identity and sexual orientation from the classes of protected Kansas government employees, which include race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ancestry or age.”

Luke Brinker

Because what would we do without Kansas?

The critique is fairly straightforward; Luke Brinker of Salon opens with the basic review:

Confronting a $344 million budget deficit following the failure of his supply side economic experiment, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback is a busy man these days, further slashing education in a state that had already imposed among the largest cuts in the nation, gutting the state’s pension system, and diverting funds from vital infrastructure programs in an effort to clean up the mess his tax cuts for the wealthy created. But amid all this, the governor still has time to deal with other matters, as he demonstrated today, with a quintessentially Brownbackian assault on the civil rights of LGBT Kansans.

Steve Benen wraps it into a larger consideration of conservative “culture warriors”:

Anyone tempted to believe Republican officials are slowly giving up on their staunch opposition to gay rights received quite a wake-up call this week. Much of Alabama is defying the federal courts on marriage equality; Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) are talking about amending the U.S. Constitution; and in Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has decided to roll back LGBT protections for no apparent reason.

Or perhaps a more bland description, you know, like an actual news article from Jonathan Shorman for the Capital-Journal:

Then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, signed the order in 2007 prohibiting discrimination against most state employees on the basis of sexual orientation, The Associated Press reported at the time.

The order required agencies under the governor’s direct control to ensure they have programs to prevent harassment against gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and people who have had surgery for sex changes. It covered 25,000 of the 41,000 state employees.Sam Brownback loves riding gays' asses.  (FLCL episode 4, 'Full Swing')

On Tuesday, Brownback issued a new executive order canceling Sebelius’ order.

“This Executive Order ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional ‘protected classes’ as the previous order did,” Brownback said in a statement.

“Any such expansion of ‘protected classes’ should be done by the legislature and not through unilateral action. The order also reaffirms our commitment to hiring, mentoring and recognizing veterans and individuals with disabilities.

In other words, equality in America should be subject to the kind will of supremacists. Just like Brownback’s deep Christian faith instructs him to usurp God’s authority on Earth. Recent generations have included in their puerile instruction from parents that the commandment about not taking God’s name in vain pertained to things like not saying, “God damn it!” or, “Jesus Christ! what was that?”

Governor Brownback reminds exactly the cost of that sinful deception; he should not take the Lord’s name in vain. Just like he pretends to supersede the U.S. Constitution, he also acts to supersede Jesus fucking Christ.

Then again, this is Kansas we’re talking about. Hateful megalomania seems epidemic in the Sunflower State.

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Your Republican Party: Policy Outlook Edition

GOP-logo-banner-bw

Sometimes the message couldn’t be any more clear:

With negotiators nearing an accord on permanent tax breaks for businesses worth $440 billion over 10 years, President Obama rallied Democratic opposition on Tuesday and promised a veto.

“The president would veto the proposed deal because it would provide permanent tax breaks to help well-connected corporations while neglecting working families,” said Jennifer Friedman, a White House spokeswoman.

† † †

Left off were the two tax breaks valued most by liberal Democrats: a permanently expanded earned-income credit and a child tax credit for the working poor. Friday night, Republican negotiators announced they would exclude those measures as payback for the president’s executive order on immigration, saying a surge of newly legalized workers would claim the credit, tax aides from both parties said.

(Weisman)

Really, this is what it comes to.

Then again, this is what Americans wanted, right? It’s what they voted for.

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Weisman, Jonathan. “Obama Threatens to Veto $440 Billion Tax Deal”. The New York Times. 25 November 2014.

A Lion Flipping Off a Turtle

Detail of 'Animal Nuz #2261 by Eric Lewis, 22 November 2014, via Daily Kos Comics.Because how can we resist?

(Detail of Animal Nuz #226 by Eric Lewis, 22 November 2014, via Daily Kos Comics.)

The Logic of Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL05)

Chris Hayes discusses immigration reform with Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL05), who cannot explain why he thinks President Obama, out of several presidents who undertook the issue within executive purview, is the only one who ever broke the law in doing so.  On Hayes' msnbc show, "All In" (21 Nov. 2014), the Alabama congressman was incapable of even recognizing that President Ronald Reagan had granted amnesty to undocumented immigrants.

Any number of questions come to mind. There are the humorous musings about whether we might include political conservatism under the spectrum of disorders and disabilities requiring reasonable accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. And, yes, that sounds cruel for any number of reasons; first, let us clear up that yes, one of the problems with such a joke is that it trivializes much more established and objective disabilities; but then we might also point out that we are already bending over backwards to accommodate delusional behavior from many Republicans, and yes, there are mental health issues that land squarely within the ADA.

Denial can be a powerful emotional response, can’t it? If the right believes President Obama’s economic policies have failed, and they’re confronted with evidence of a falling unemployment rate, then there must be a conspiracy involving the jobless numbers. If the right believes Benghazi conspiracies are real, and they’re confronted with proof to the contrary, then the proof must be rejected.

But on Friday’s “All in with Chris Hayes,” Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) took this to a whole new level.

Brooks, you’ll recall, believes President Obama’s executive actions on immigration may be criminal acts that could land the president in prison. With this in mind, Chris asked a good question: “When President Reagan granted deferred action from 200,000 people from El Salvador who come here illegally, was he breaking the law in the same way?” It led to this exchange:

BROOKS: I have not examined what Bill Clinton did. This is a very serious manner. The Constitution imposes a heavy burden on us–

HAYES: No, no, no, I’m sorry. President Ronald Reagan. President Ronald Reagan, sir?

BROOKS: I think the individual facts are important, the mental intent of the actor. That case, Bill Clinton, now Barack Obama, those factors are important.

It really is a smooth evasion. He does not even try to deflect the point, just moves past it as if it doesn’t exist. One wonders how much calculation and practice goes into that maneuver, or if it is just pathological.

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Benen, Steve. “Mo Brooks and the power of denial”. msnbc. 24 November 2014.

Hayes, Chris. “Rep. Mo Brooks: Obama encouraging illegal immigration”. All In with Chris Hayes. msnbc. 21 November 2014.

The Main Attraction?

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH8)

“Just because some Republicans want to pretend that before January 2009 presidential power had been limited to pardoning Thanksgiving turkeys doesn’t mean they are right.”

Jonathan Bernstein

And the hits keep coming. ‘Tis a bold headline for Bloomberg View: “Boehner Betrays Congress”, and Jonathan Bernstein leaves little room for doubt about his perceptions:

I’ll say it again: Speaker John Boehner and House Republicans aren’t asking for authority to be returned from the White House to Congress. They want an imperial judiciary that could trump either of the elected branches.

Jonathan Bernstein (via BloombergView)In a system of separated institutions sharing powers, which is what the Constitution created, all three branches do things that look a lot like legislating, but laws can trump administrative or judicial rule-making. That gives Congress serious clout within the system. This lawsuit, however, is an abdication of that clout. In effect, it says that the courts, not Congress, should have the last word when there’s a dispute between branches.

Filing this lawsuit amounts to institutional treason. Boehner and House Republicans should be ashamed. The rest of us can only hope that the courts rescue them by keeping to precedent and tossing this lawsuit into the garbage.

To the other, the suit is filed. In a way, that is actually surprising. It is not quite that it seems like yesterday that House Republicans found themselves in need of a new lawyer after the one they hired quit the case, owing to the sort of political pressure one’s law firm might apply when one is about to publicly humiliate the firm with an act of juristic malpractice; it wasn’t yesterday, but two months ago. After hyperpartisan lawyer David Rivkin quit the case for having bitten off too much hyperpartisanship for his firm, Baker Hostetler, to chew, the GOP turned to William A. Burck of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, who had just finished the laborious task of failing to defend former Virginia First Lady Maureen McDonnell.

Late last month, then, we learned that Mr. Burck was also stepping down. Josh Gerstein and Maggie Haberman of Politico summarized the situation thus:

Rivkin’s firm withdrew in September after health-care-related clients pressured the firm to back out of representing the House in the Obamacare-related suit. Two sources told POLITICO in recent days that a similar scenario played out with Burck’s firm, with clients bringing pressure to get the firm off the case.

How about three days ago? Is that close enough to feel like yesterday? For whatever reason, Jonathan Turley of George Washington University decided to take up the case. Lauren French of Politico reported ot Tuesday:

“Professor Turley is a renowned legal scholar who agrees that President Obama has clearly overstepped his constitutional authority,” said Michael Steel, a spokesperson for Speaker John Boehner. “He is a natural choice to handle this lawsuit” ....

.... “Even for $500-per-hour in taxpayer dollars, Speaker Boehner has had to scour Washington to find a lawyer willing to file this meritless lawsuit against the president,” said Drew Hammill, a spokesperson for Minority Leader Pelosi. “Now, he’s hired a TV personality for this latest episode of his distraction and dysfunction.”

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