John Boehner resign

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 Fragile House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses a joint meeting of Congress in the House Chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, 3 March 2015. (Photo: Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“I was just planning on serving out my tenure as Ways and Means chair and then going, finding out something else to do with my life. I really don’t know how long this is going to last. This wasn’t something I was planning on doing in the first place.”

Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI01)

It has not exactly been the quietest of months in the House of Representatives, but as the new Speaker settles in, we find a teaser for the sequel. Kate Ackley of Roll Call explains:

Speaker Paul D. Ryan, after two weeks on the job, said he has “no idea” how long he may lead the House, committing only to the 14 months left in the current Congress during an interview on CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

Paul RyanNo matter the duration of his tenure, the Wisconsin Republican told Scott Pelley of CBS News he is willing to risk losing the job in pursuit of major policy initiatives including tax and entitlement overhauls. The speaker also said in the interview that aired Sunday he and President Barack Obama could find common ground on select issues.

As for his own future, Ryan portrayed an uncertainty that belies his otherwise smooth start in the House’s top job. Given the chaos following Speaker John A. Boehner’s resignation announcement, a short speakership for Ryan could once again embroil the Republican Party.

“I was just planning on serving out my tenure as Ways and Means chair and then going, finding out something else to do with my life,” he said during the interview taped last week in his hometown of Janesville, Wis. “I really don’t know how long this is going to last. This wasn’t something I was planning on doing in the first place.”

This is one of those things. If we don’t make a note of it, we feel stupid when it comes up later. At least now we can say we were warned.

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Ackley, Kate. “Ryan: ‘No Idea’ How Long I’ll Be Speaker”. 218. Roll Call. 15 November 2015.

Serial Metaphorical Murderlust

>The dome of the United States Capitol building, under repair, in 2015.  (Detail of photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

“This budget and debt deal is being brokered by a lame duck speaker and a lame duck president. It represents the very worst of Washington―a last minute deal that increases spending and debt under the auspices of fiscal responsibility. If this deal moves forward, it will undermine efforts to unite the party by those promising to advance serious policy reforms.”

Michael A. Needham (Club for Growth)

There comes a point at which conservative true colors shine through. The Club for Growth, of course, is the organization that likes to use murder metaphors to describe government, and enjoys the fantasy of deliberately drowning someone in a bath tub. It is the organization Republicans kneel before, to which they offer up fealty. Just as social conservatives reject the supreme law of the land for their own ad hoc Biblical “doctrine”, so do fiscal conservatives reject the fact that they are elected to government office in favor of murder fantasies and deliberately inflicting deprivation on their fellow human beings because they actually openly loathe and want to destroy the government they ask to serve.

Yeah. Republicans.

It’s a free country.

And, you know, when they succeed in making the former sentence false, Republicans will just blame Democrats, because that’s what they always do; and a significant number of people well enough educated to know better will pretend it’s some manner of fair argument, and many of these will have employment in the press.

At the moment, we can see the rough outline emerging. John T. Bennett of Roll Call reported this morning:

GOP senators highlighted parts of the package meant to offset increased defense and domestic spending as their chief concerns. Their comments were followed by a blistering critique of the deal from the conservative groups Heritage Action for America and the Club for Growth.

The problem here is the problem with any Republican action; the underlying principle requires exclusion and deprivation. With the Cult of Grover muttering its incantations and instructions, we can expect its Republican minions to go forth and do the Club for Growth’s bidding like the good little House servants they are. Going forward, we should remember that this is the proposed budget deal; it is exactly the sort of thing that leads to budget standoffs; it will not get President Obama’s signature. The Club for Growth would like to extend this farce as long as possible, because, hey, bawling about who Republicans get to hurt is better than actually governing, and, you know, we should dump this mess onto the incoming Speaker of the House because that would give the Cult a way to inform Mr. Ryan of his proper place in the hierarchy beneath Grover Norquist.

Remember, for conservatives the whole point is to prevent the American government from functioning. This is the first principle of Grover: Government should be weak enough to drown in a bathtub.

No, really, is there a shutdown standoff Republicans can actually resist? This is such an intractable horde that they won’t even let the Speaker of the House resign properly; this is just another opportunity for conservatives to attempt to plunge the government into crisis in order to show us all what it looks like when government just doesn’t work.

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Image note: The dome of the United States Capitol building, under repair, in 2015. (Detail of photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Bennett, John T. “GOP Senators Concerned by ‘Gimmicks’ in Budget Deal”. #WGDB. Roll Call. 27 October 2015.

Congressional Speculation

Congressman Paul Ryan, the Republican vice presidential candidate, does a sound check during the third day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida. Ryan delivered his speech at the convention Wednesday night, 29 August 2012. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

“One senior GOP aide familiar with discussions between leadership and the Freedom Caucus used Dante Alighieri’s description of hell in ‘The Divine Comedy’, with its varying concentric circles, to describe the HFC. No candidate will get to the innermost circle. But Ryan could pick off a lot of members on the outer rings.”

Matt Fuller

The upshot here is that the idea of static or patterned chaos, which really does sound somewhat counterintuitive until you do the thing with a triangle and dice, but in this case we mean something yet altogether different: Meet the new chaos; same as the old chaos. House Republicans seem caught up in some sort of loop, waiting for Ryan while trying to deliberately ignore the gigantic question mark they keep glancing aside in hopes of checking.

Matt Fuller of Roll Call explains:

If the HFC, after largely taking credit for pushing out Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and blocking the ascension of Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is seen as having scuttled a Ryan speakership, the divide between the ultra-conservative group and the rest of the conference could become even more unmanageable.

Without Ryan, the speaker’s race threatens to turn into a free-for-all. On Tuesday, there were at least a half dozen new names of Republicans quietly testing the water for runs of their own, including a couple of Texans (Reps. Bill Flores and Michael McCaul), the wealthiest man in Congress (Rep. Darrell Issa) and a woman, Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn ....

.... Sources close to Ryan say the 2012 GOP vice presidential nominee has no intention of putting up with an insurrection on his right flank. If Ryan agrees to take the speakership, he will tell colleagues he’ll only do it with all of their support. What’s more, he is making no promises about overhauling the process, shaking up the Steering Committee or any of the other concessions being floated by conservatives.

If that’s Ryan’s position, there will almost certainly be Republicans who will oppose him. And then conservatives will have a choice of their own. They can either hold fast to their procedural demands, or they can get on board with a Ryan speakership.

In truth, Mr. Fuller’s running commentary about sources is much more enlightening. After all, Congress is Congress, and reporters are merely human. Every little piece, you know? It’s not just the stories they tell, but also whether or not we are capable of understanding them. In communicative relationships, the burdens of transmission are much more apparent than the obligations of actually being able to receive.

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Image note: Detail of photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

Fuller, Matt. “Oh, and another thing I noticed”. Twitter. 13 October 2015.

—————. “Ryan’s Choice and the House Freedom Caucus Fallout”. 218. Roll Call. 13 October 2015.

Something About the House of Representatives

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI01), promoting his budget agenda.

“After we finished our wine and chicken wings, I thought, ‘This is someone who isn’t inclined to do it but understands he could have that legacy as speaker if the circumstances were right’. That’s why it’s a live possibility.

Stephen Moore

How can anybody possibly resist that quote?

No, really, until Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI01) makes some sort of move, either bowing to pressure or finding some other way to silence the groveling, this would appear to be the holding pattern. Paul Kane and Robert Costa peruse the tea leaves, and perhaps the next best indicator of what’s going on is another marvelous quote from their effort for Washington Post:

“There is a story in ‘The Book of Virtues’ called ‘Boy Wanted,’ ” said William J. Bennett, a former education secretary in the Reagan administration and a mentor to Ryan. “Boys want him; girls want him. That’s what’s happening to Paul. He also has a sense of duty to his family, to the things he knows, like the Ways and Means Committee.”

Yeah, good luck with that one.

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Accursed Extraneity

Rep Trey Gowdy (R-SC04), chair of the House Select Committee on Benghazi Conspiracy Theories. (Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP).

There are, of course, partisan considerations, but still, this stands out:

Rep. Trey Gowdy, chairman of the House Select Committee on Benghazi, hit back Sunday at a former committee staffer who said he was fired for not cooperating with the panel’s focus on former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s actions in response to the 2012 terrorist attack.

“Until his Friday conversations with media, this staffer has never mentioned Secretary Clinton as a cause of his termination, and he did not cite Clinton’s name in a legally mandated mediation,” the South Carolina Republican said in a written statement. “He also has not produced documentary proof that in the time before his termination he was directed to focus on Clinton.”

(Roll Call)

Okay, look, there is obviously a lot going on with the House Benghazi farce, but Gowdy might have overplayed his hand.

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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.

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.

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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The Ted Cruz Show (Speaking of the House)

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, prepares to address the Faith & Freedom Coalitions Road to Majority conference which featured speeches by conservative politicians at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, June 18, 2015. (Photo: Tom Williams/GQ Roll Call/Getty)

True, these are nine paragraphs from Steve Benen, but they’re short, and worth the moment for reading:

In September 2013, just eight months into his congressional career, Cruz strategized with House Republicans privately. GOP lawmakers shut down the government a few days later.

In October 2013, Cruz met again with House Republicans about their shutdown gambit.

In April 2014, Cruz hosted a chat with House Republicans about strategy on immigration reform. A bipartisan reform bill died in the chamber soon after.

In June 2014, on the same day as the election of the current House GOP leadership team, Cruz met again with a group of House Republicans.

In July 2014, Cruz huddled with House Republicans, who took his advice, ignored their party’s leadership, and derailed a GOP border bill.

A week later, also in July 2014, they met again, this time as members were getting ready for their August break.

In December 2014, with Congress facing a funding deadline, Cruz huddled again with House Republicans.

In September 2015, Cruz met privately with a group of House Republicans once more as the party weighed another government-shutdown plan.

And today, with House Republicans poised to choose a new Speaker, there’s Ted Cruz hanging out with House Republicans.

The Tortilla Coast Junta would appear to be in effect.

Stay tuned.

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Image note: Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, prepares to address the Faith & Freedom Coalition Road to Majority conference which featured speeches by conservative politicians at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, June 18, 2015. (Photo: Tom Williams/GQ Roll Call/Getty)

Benen, Steve. “Cruz huddles with House Republicans on eve of Speaker vote”. msnbc. 7 October 2015.