government dysfunction

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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What They Voted For: Why Government Doesn’t Work (Educational Remix)

#wellduh | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Betsy Devos (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

It is said, sometimes, that there are no stupid questions, and we all know better, but that really does not seem the problem challenging Steve Benen when his consideration of Education Secretary Betsy Devos would seem to wonder after the obvious:

There’s a reason Betsy DeVos doesn’t sit down for a lot of interviews.

My question, however, is for the 51 Republicans who put elevated her to her current post: any regrets?

Of course not; they’re Republicans. This is the party that tells us government does not work; we ought not be surprised, and instead remember that Secretary DeVos only “embarrasses herself (and the 50 senators who voted to confirm her)” according to contexts by which competence and functionality are considered admirable, desirable, or, at the very least, a necessary component according to purpose. To the other, it seems worth reminding that even into the twenty-first century it was inappropriate to presume so poorly of public servants as we would to account for the incompetence, corruption, and sheer stupidity of the Trump administration.

Sixty-two million nine hundred eighty-four thousand eight hundred twenty-five. This is what they voted for.

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Image note: Betsy Devos (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Benen, Steve. “DeVos embarrasses herself (and the 50 senators who voted to confirm her)”. msnbc. 12 March 2018.

Your Tweet of the Day (Senator Speechless)

#dysfunction | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Paul McLeod (@pdmcleod): "Senator Susan Collins was just told in a scrum that Ted Cruz claimed to be consistently against government shutdowns. She stood there, mouth literally agape, for several seconds before saying 'you've rendered me speechless.'" [via Twitter, 22 January 2018]

Yes, really:

Senator Susan Collins was just told in a scrum that Ted Cruz claimed to be consistently against government shutdowns. She stood there, mouth literally agape, for several seconds before saying “you’ve rendered me speechless.”

Paul McLeod

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.

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Mundane Strangeness (Trump Turnover Mix)

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

The lede from CNN

White House aides have been told to decide before the end of January whether they intend to leave the administration or stay through the November midterm elections, an official said, a deadline intended to help bring a sense of order to an anticipated staffing exodus.

—seems yet another bit of news that makes no real sense, though we really do not intend to dispute with the reporters. That is to say, this is the Trump administration, so, yeah, sure, sounds about right.

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Image note: The sun rises near the White House on Nov. 8, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

Zeleny, Jeff, Kevin Liptak, Dana Bash, and Dan Merica. “Facing staffing exodus, Trump struggles to fill West Wing”. CNN. 9 January 2018.

What Mitch Made

#unprincipledleadership | #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)

There is the saying about how we Americans will get around to doing the right thing eventually; it is usually a begrudging concession, that we have no remaining alternatives or excuses. Perhaps a better way of looking at it is that, generally speaking, we do not actually intend the harm we cause. Or maybe not; at some point, pleading stupidity over and over again is the sort of ritual that breeds resentment. Among Americans. Toward everyone else. Because how dare you say you’re smarter than we are every time we say how were we supposed to know.

Or, y’know … something like that.

Oh, hey, Steve Benen, ladies and gentlemen:

The Timesarticle added that McConnell has privately marveled at Trump’s unwillingness “to learn the basics of governing.” The Senate GOP leader has also “expressed a sense of bewilderment about where Mr. Trump’s presidency may be headed.”

McConnell’s concerns are obviously grounded in fact, and on the surface, it’s tempting to feel some sympathy for him. But it’s important not to lose sight of the senator’s role in making the mess he finds himself in the middle of.

Like Dr. Frankenstein, McConnell created a monster he thought he could control, only to discover he doesn’t care for the results.

His quiet, unassuming demeanor notwithstanding, Mitch McConnell has spent many years taking a sledgehammer to American political norms. The Washington Post’s Dana Milbank argued persuasively in April that the Kentucky Republican effectively “broke America.” The columnist added, “No man has done more in recent years to undermine the functioning of U.S. government. His has been the epitome of unprincipled leadership”.

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The Republican Way

Photo by Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

This is the picture:

For several years, much of the political establishment has fiercely resisted the idea that congressional Republicans have been radicalized. A wide variety of Beltway pundits and insiders have even blamed President Obama for not successfully compromising and striking deals with the radicalized GOP – if only the president would lead like a leading leader, Republicans would transform into constructive, mainstream policymakers. This is a problem, we’ve been told repeatedly, that schmoozing can solve.

The lazy punditry was wrong. Since early 2011, legislative productivity has reached depths without modern precedent. The list of major legislative accomplishments is effectively empty. Bills have routinely been brought to the floor for passage, only to have the GOP leadership discover their own members are defying their own party’s legislative priorities.

Under Republican leadership – or what passes for “leadership” in 2015 – the legislative branch has careened between hostage standoffs and self-imposed crises, over and over again, to the point that some have begun to see these ridiculous circumstances, never before seen in the American tradition, as the new normal.

And now, House Republicans can’t even elect their own Speaker.

Steve Benen also reminds, “What political observers should not do, however, is consider this a new development. It’s not.” And this is important.

Because these are Congressional Republicans. This is the Party that reminds over and over that government just doesn’t work. And they have a point: Government just doesn’t work when Republicans are in charge.

Nor does equivocation bring any good. For all the cynicism we hear about how the parties are the same, and Democrats do it, too, this is not a circumstance in which such pathetic, mewling excuses in lieu of excuses should find any traction. No, really, this is Republicans so botching up that the Worst Speaker of the House in American history can’t even resign properly; this is a purely Republican problem. And on its face, given the farce playing out before our eyes, anyone who tries to tell you both parties do it, or Democrats do it too, or they’re all the same, isn’t simply drowning in cynicism, but, rather trying to lie to you as they go down for the third time. It is uncertain what rescue method would actually succeed if pride so compels them to deny they have fallen overboard.

This is the Republican Party.

This is your United States House of Representatives.

This is what governance looks like when entrusted to conservatives who posture a vested interest in government dysfunction.

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Image note: The statue of Grief and History stands in front of the U.S. Capitol Dome in Washington October 16, 2013. The Senate prepared a last ditch effort on Wednesday to avoid a historic lapse in the government’s borrowing authority, a breach that President Barack Obama has said could lead to default and deliver a damaging blow to the global economy. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

Benen, Steve. “GOP finds itself lacking leadership, direction, and purpose”. msnbc. 9 October 2015.