immigration reform

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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The House Freedom Caucus (Feature the Bug Bass Beat Mix)

U.S. Capitol building at dusk on a winter's eve. (Photo credit: Peterson)

Here is a strange proposition: The Trump effect, currently plaguing the 2016 GOP presidential nomination contest, is a feature, not a bug.

While the notion of sucking up all the oxygen is certainly evident as Republican candidates struggle for breath, consider for a moment that there is also a Democratic contest afoot. To the other, all we really hear about it is a string of scandal stories about Hillary Clinton, and how many people turn out for Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

And, of course, any time we might lead with a joke like, What do Kim Davis and Donald Trump have in common? we might rest assured that our uneasiness is genuine because things really have gotten that far out of hand.

The question of the hour:

Barring a historic meltdown, Republicans will select Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy to be their nominee for speaker Thursday. But does that mean McCarthy will get 218 votes in the House floor vote on Oct. 29?

(Fuller)

Meanwhile, House Democrats aren’t exactly sitting back and watching, but nobody should feel badly for thinking otherwise. There is plenty of intrigue to go around, but the drama in the House of Representatives is exclusively Republican.

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Your House of Republican Chaos

Speaker Boehner announced his resignation 25 September 2015.

Follow the bouncing something, as the spectacle inside the House GOP seems a performance for the ages. As the factions line up, Speaker Boehner’s allies are scorching the insurgency:

GOP lawmakers who’ve stood by Boehner’s side throughout his rocky five-year tenure as Speaker bitterly blamed the right flank for forcing a contested leadership race less than a year after the party won control of Congress in the 2014 midterm elections.

A fired-up House Ethics Committee Chairman Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), speaking not long after Boehner dropped the bombshell at a Friday conference meeting that he’ll leave Congress at the end of next month, ripped into hard-line conservatives.

He accused them of opposing Boehner at every turn, and noted they have “never had a horse of their own.”

“Any jackass can kick down a barn door. It takes a carpenter to hang one. We need a few more carpenters around here. Everybody knows it,” Dent said off the House floor.

Leadership allies are frustrated by what they see as a repeated exercise in futility.

(Marcos)

And the hardliners posture:

A co-founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus has a warning for any Republican hoping to replace outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio): No one will get the promotion without our blessing.

Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a sharp critic of Boehner, said Friday that there are roughly 40 members of the group — and another 20 conservatives outside of it — who won’t back any new Speaker who fails their litmus test for conservative purity. And the group’s leadership endorsements, he warned, will be “a collective, corporate decision.”

“We have enough votes in the House Freedom Caucus to prevent anybody from being Speaker. We will be a voting bloc,” Huelskamp said.

“We’re looking for someone who, number one, has conservative principles and actually can articulate them, but also … follows through on John Boehner’s [2011] promise … [to] open up this House and let conservatives have a shot at things,” he added. “And at the end of the day, the Democrats had more shot at amendments than conservatives. So we’ve gotta talk about process as well.”

(Lillis)

And Rep. Daniel Webster (FL-10) pretends his gavel ambitions have a chance of success, while other House players scramble to fall up the ladder.

This is the point at which we are supposed to make some sort of joke about things either starting or ceasing to make sense, and it is our shame to disappoint you; there is no baseline by which the idea of making sense makes any sense.

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The Donald Trump Show (Artful Dodger)

Donald Trump.

“Watching the video, it’s hard not to get the impression that Trump almost certainly hasn’t read the Bible; he probably doesn’t have a favorite verse; and the GOP White House hopeful has no idea what the differences are between the Old and New Testaments.”

Steve Benen

Uh … ya think?

The thing is that Donald Trump is clearly pulling a really simple sales bit; indeed, as annoying as we might find the man, we might also sympathize with the part of him that wrestles with the question of whether or not he believes they’re really gobbling it up like this.

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The Donald Trump Show (Artless)

Republican presidential candidate, real estate mogul Donald Trump, speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Saturday, 18 July 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Among the challenges presented by the mere proposition that anyone should take the Donald Trump Show seriously are, first, that such considerations should be necessary, and also that as such spectacular pretenses of scandal swirl around the Consummate Clown’s candidacy, few will attend these aspects:

For a variety of pundits, this effectively marked the end of Trump’s campaign – it was the ultimate flame out, the argument goes, for a narcissistic candidate who simply can’t control his impulses.

And those assumptions may very well prove to be true, but I wouldn’t bet on it just yet.

Keep in mind, right-wing hostility towards McCain is quite common, despite his conservative voting record, so Trump’s classless rhetoric may not necessarily be a deal-breaker with the GOP base. Indeed, at the Iowa event, after Trump made his remarks, he left the stage to a standing ovation – if the party activists in attendance were offended by what they heard, they didn’t show it.

We’ll have to wait for the next round of polling, but it’s hardly a foregone conclusion that Trump has burst his own balloon.

As for the larger context, I remain eager to hear Republicans explain the selectivity of their outrage. When Donald Trump relies on racism to advance his ambitions, GOP officials tolerate his antics, but when Trump criticizes John McCain, that’s a bridge too far? By what standard is that acceptable?

For that matter, if Republican leaders want to argue that attacks on Americans’ military service are simply beyond the pale, perhaps party officials can take this opportunity to apologize to John Kerry, who was smeared by Swiftboat lies in the 2004 cycle – lies that were celebrated at the time by 2016 candidates like Jeb Bush and Rick Perry – and who saw the spectacle at the Republican National Convention of party activists mocking Purple Hearts. While they’re it, Republicans can express some regret for related smears directed at former Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.).

(Benen)

Perhaps this is Donald Trump’s greatest service to the Republican Party. That it will hurt is its own question. For while some might rush to Mr. Trump’s aid and suggest he has some sort of point, be it about Mexicans or McCain or whatever, it is also important to take note of why so many conservatives would rather take a middling path.

It is easy enough to suggest Mr. Trump’s candidacy represents the height of Republican anti-intellectualism, but that would only be to date, in any case. And there is much talk this cycle about the FOX News debate, which is virtually accepted as winnowing the field from seventeen candidates to ten according to national polling in such a manner they might as well simply draw lots; and it does seem true that instead of playing to state-level concerns as we have traditionally seen, candidates are passing on those issues and aiming to make headlines in order to boost national polling numbers. And while far too few make the note about the fact that these are conservatives shifting poiltical power within their ranks from state to national considerations, perhaps it is because that sparkling gem is actually beside the point. That is to say, enjoy it, but such incongruity can wait for another day; there are more important issues afoot.

The real problem for Republicans is that Mr. Trump’s reckless rhetoric is nothing more than an ill-expressed distillation of American conservatism. The arrogant, vicious bigotry is unwieldy even in its most artful expressions, and much like an old saying, it might be hard to define art affirmatively, but its absence is clear about Mr. Trump.

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Image note: Republican presidential candidate, real estate mogul Donald Trump, speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa, Saturday, 18 July 2015. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Benen, Steve. “Trump has no regrets after smearing McCain’s service”. msnbc. 18 July 2015.

A Betrayal

Mitch McConnell

Yesterday, Steve Benen described what he sees as a “silent governing failure” of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Following a Huffington Post report that the Senate would, under his leadership, become even less productive and more intransigent about the federal judiciary, Mr. Benen reminded:

Now, some of you are probably thinking this is normal. President Obama’s second term is starting to wind down; the opposition party controls the Senate; so it stands to reason that the GOP majority would scrap plans to confirm qualified court nominees. Perhaps, the argument goes, McConnell is doing exactly what Democrats did when they had a similar opportunity.

It would be a credible argument if it were in any way true.

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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.

When the GOP Turns Against ‘Job Creators’

Mike Huckabee, circa 2012.  (Photo: Gage Skidmore)

“But let’s not miss the forest for the trees – since when do Republicans argue, in effect, ‘Let’s stop listening to private-sector business leaders’?”

Steve Benen

It’s a fair question. And it’s also an ugly, sticky mess Republicans have gotten themselves into.

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Benen, Steve. “The GOP finds itself at odds with ‘job creators'”. msnbc. 6 April 2015.

A Texas Blooper

House Rules Committee Chairman Pete Sessions, R-Texas, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, May 7, 2014.  (J. Scott Applewhite/AP Photo)

“Every day, all along border states, maybe other places, there are murders by people who have been arrested coming into this country, who have been released by the Obama administration, I believe in violation of the law, who are murdering Americans all over our cities. We hold the Democrat Party and the president personally accountable for this action”

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX32)

The phrase is, “Can of corn”.

With a blooper so facially ridiculous that even a newspaper fact checker wants in on the action, Rep. Pete Sessions, hardly a man known for dignity and restraint, aimed for the bleachers.

Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) accused President Barack Obama and Democrats Thursday evening of continually releasing undocumented immigrants who are murdering Americans.

“Every day, all along border states, maybe other places, there are murders by people who have been arrested coming into this country, who have been released by the Obama administration, I believe in violation of the law, who are murdering Americans all over our cities,” the Rules Committee chairman said at a meeting while discussing Obama’s deportation relief policies. “We hold the Democrat Party and the president personally accountable for this action.”

The comment came during a discussion of a funding bill for the Department of Homeland Security, which many Republicans believe needs to include measures to block Obama’s executive actions on immigration. Congress must pass funding for DHS by the end of Friday to avoid a shutdown, and House Republicans are planning to vote on a three-week bill.

(Foley)

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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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