Mitch McConnell

The Avoidance of Stupidity (McConnell Mix)

#SomethingTerrific | #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)

This ought to be a striking note from Axios:

Senate Republicans are working to finish their draft health care bill, but have no plans to publicly release it, according to two senior Senate GOP aides.

“We aren’t stupid,” said one of the aides.

Then again, this is the twenty-first century, and these are Congressional Republicans.

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A Conservative Fallacy: Dualism (Bust It or Bust)

#ryancare | #trumpcare

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump (left) meets with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI01; center) and Vice President-elect Mike Pence on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., 10 November 2016. (Photo: Reuters/Joshua Roberts)

This is a basic conservative fallacy:

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan is selling the Republicans’ health care bill the same way he did the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump. But on the health front, his pitch is falling flat with conservatives.

“Binary choice” is the phrase the Wisconsin Republican used during the presidential election to describe his reason for supporting Trump over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Ryan acknowledged throughout the campaign that both candidates were flawed but Trump was the better of two options, the only one who would help Republicans advance their legislative agenda.

“It really comes down to a binary choice,” the speaker said Thursday during his weekly press conference about moving forward with the GOP’s plan or leaving in place the 2010 health care law.

“This is the closest we will ever get to repealing and replacing Obamacare,” Ryan said. “The time is here. The time is now. This is the moment. And this is the closest this will ever happen.”

(McPherson)

The only subtlety about it is Speaker Ryan’s lack of subtlety.

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#DimensionSteve

#DimensionTrump | #WhatTheyVotedFor

Donald Trump awaits inauguration, 20 January 2017, at the White House, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

A day in the life―a.k.a., #DimensionTrump―quotably courtesy Steve Benen of msnbc:

#AlternativeFacts: “If only that made sense, it might be easier to take the White House press secretary seriously.”

#Priorities: “It’s worth pausing to appreciate the fact that Trump can apparently be baited into doing almost anything.”

#Spicy: “I have no idea if Spicer was lying or simply ignorant, but either, his defense is completely at odds with the facts.”

#Ironicish: “Given the circumstances, it seems the obvious Democratic response is simple: They should promise to be every bit as constructive and cooperative as McConnell was when there was a member of the opposing party in the White House.”

#Prerogative: “As a rule, people who are eager to dismiss specific, quantifiable economic measurements tend to believe the ‘stats’ will be unflattering for them.”

#AlternativeFactsRedux: “Smith’s bizarre speech from the floor of the House serves as a reminder: for much of the country, the fact that Trump has been caught telling ridiculous lies isn’t a fact at all.”

#AlternativeFactsReduxSequel: “Maybe everything will be fine.”

#AnotherBrickInTheWall: “Or put another way, the president now plans to have a plan to someday have a wall that Mexico will someday pay for.”

#WhatTheyVotedFor: “I remember when Trump ran against Goldman Sachs”.

It is possible to let the game show host take up too much of one’s time, except it’s President Trump, these days, so … yeah, y’know … make the adjustment, get used to it, whatever. Or perhaps it’s worth taking a moment to recall, if we can, the number of unbelievable escalations we witnessed during the Obama presidency. That is to say, if Republicans were willing to take it that far over the last eight years, maybe we should consider ourselves lucky if these are the days for the next four.

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Image note: Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images.

Even Less Admirable (The Chairman’s Daughter’s Whatnot)

Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-UT03) questions Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. during her testimony in a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on Capitol Hill, on 29 September 2015, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

This is not what we would ordinarily call a profile in courage:

Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz again reversed his position on Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy on Wednesday night, saying he’d vote for the Republican nominee but wouldn’t endorse him.

“I will not defend or endorse @realDonaldTrump, but I am voting for him,” Chaffetz tweeted Wednesday. “[Hillary Rodham Clinton] is that bad. HRC is bad for the USA.”

The House Oversight Committee chairman had previously backed Trump’s candidacy before withdrawing his endorsement on Oct. 8 following the revelation that the Republican nominee had made lewd and sexually aggressive comments while filming for an “Access Hollywood” interview in 2005.

(Lima)

Then again, this is Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT03) we’re talking about, so it’s not like anyone expects a lot. To that end, we should at least note the accomplishment, the e’er graceless flip-flop-flip.

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Something About the Speaker (Footnote Fury)

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI01) speaks at his primary night press conference, 9 August 2016, in Janesville, Wisconsin. (Photo by Darren Hauck/Getty Images)

“The new Paul Ryan tax cuts make the Bush tax cuts look like socialism.”

Jonathan Chait

Steve Benen frames the issue well enough:

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has largely pulled off an impressive public-relations gambit in recent years. The Republican leader has recast himself as an anti-poverty crusader, without making any meaningful changes to his far-right agenda, simply by using the word “poverty” a whole lot.

But it’s occasionally worthwhile to look past the rhetoric and focus on the hard data ....

.... Ryan’s tax plan is crafted in such a way as to give 99.6% of the benefits to the wealthiest of the wealthy by 2025. The other 0.4% would be divided up across the other 99% of us.

This is a feature, not a bug, of the House Speaker’s approach to economic policy. Ryan genuinely believes that massive tax breaks for those at the very top will spur economic growth that would, in time, benefit everyone. For the Wisconsin congressman, trickle-down policy, its track record notwithstanding, remains the most responsible course to broad national prosperity.

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Ominous, or, Your Congressional Forecast

A portion of the U.S. Capitol dome. (Detail of photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images, 2013)

This is what we might call not hopeful; other days we might just call it normal. Either way, Andrew Taylor offers the grim look ahead:

Lawmakers return to Washington this week for an abbreviated election-season session in which they will likely do what they do best: the bare minimum.

All Congress must do this month is keep the government from shutting down on Oct. 1 and, with any luck, finally provide money for the fight against the mosquito-borne Zika virus. Republicans controlling Congress promise they won’t stumble now, but the weeks ahead could prove tricky.

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Communicable Stupidity

MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 22: Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks to the media during a visit to the Advanced Pharma to kick-off the grand opening of their new facility that hopes to create 60 new jobs by 2014 on February 21, 2013, in Miami, Florida. Florida Gov. Rick Scott reversed himself on February 20, 2013 and is now calling for an expansion of Medicaid to Florida residents under the federal Affordable Care Act. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

There is, of course, the part where Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) is complaining about Congressional Republicans while invoking the necessity of federal assistance for the Sunshine State.

And then there is, of course, Congress.

Lawmakers are currently in the middle of a 10-day vacation, which comes on the heels of a separate 10-day vacation last month. In July, Congress is only scheduled to be in session for a total of six days, and members won’t work at all in the month of August. All told, federal lawmakers will have the lightest schedule in 2016 of any Congress since 1956.

In February, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared, “We need to get out in front of the Zika virus.” That was on Feb. 2, shortly before Congress took … wait for it … a 10-day vacation in the middle of February.

(Benen)

This is important, Steve Benen suggests, in no small part because despite Governor Scott’s plea that, “Florida needs action from the federal government now”―

Unfortunately, “now” doesn’t appear to be much of an option. The Republican-led Senate approved a $1.1 billion package, while the Republican-led House passed a bill about half as large. Under the current Republican approach, it may be “well into the summer, or even longer” before Congress approves an inadequate final bill to address the Zika virus.

―that just isn’t going to happen.

Moreover, it seems worthwhile to mutter something about Republicans complaining that government doesn’t work. This bit about taking vacations at really obviously stupid times is at least a little familiar.

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Image note: Florida Gov. Rick Scott speaks to the media during a visit to the Advanced Pharma on 21 February 2013, in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Benen, Steve. “Even Rick Scott thinks the GOP Congress is negligent on Zika”. msnbc. 2 June 2016.

Unsurprising Cowardice (Leadership)

The shadow over Congress, and Mitch McConnell.

In February, Republicans said no to an Authorization for Use of Military Force specifically crafted to address Daa’ish because it wasn’t a big enough war. And while Republican presidential candidates might be lining up to take it out on Syrian refugees and Muslims both at home and around the world, the one thing they won’t do, according to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, is grant an Authorization for Use of Military Force against Daa’ish.

“The president obviously feels he has the authority now to do what he’s doing,” McConnell said. “And the discussions with Democrats on AUMF make it clear that the only kind of AUMF they would support is one that would include such micromanagement of the military exercise as how many troops you could have, how long they could stay, and all of this.

“I would not want to saddle the next president with a prescriptive AUMF. We’re going to have a new president a year from now,” McConnell continued. “He or she may have a different view about the way to deal with ISIS and that part of the world. I don’t think we ought to be passing an AUMF as the president exits the stage when he already thinks he has the authority to do what he’s willing to do now.”

(Lesniewski)

This is a weird back and forth; as near as anyone can tell, the Obama administration is operating in the Levantine Theatre under the auspices of the same post-9/11 AUMF that saw President Bush invade Iraq. We are, essentially, living in the time of perpetual warfare authorized fourteen years ago.

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The Szubin Question (Forty-Seven Rise Again Remix)

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) speaks with reporters before the Senate luncheons in the Capitol, 15 May 2012. (Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

“It’s grossly irresponsible of McConnell and his colleagues to keep government from doing what they say it should do: operate efficiently and protect its citizens.”

Jonathan Bernstein

Perhaps some recall an occasion not so long ago when the United States faced such a potential health crisis that small-government conservatives, Republicans who purport to disdain the idea of an American czar, called for President Obama to appoint a new policy czar to deal with Ebola.

The White House, Democratic supporters, and many others pointed out that the Senate could start by simply confirming the nominated Surgeon General; Vivek Murthy’s nomination languished for over a year because Republicans objected to the idea that gunshot wounds are a health issue.

With a potential health crisis pitching Republicans into panic, they sought another executive-appointed czar, instead of confirming a qualified nominee to lead the uniformed service whose job it is to respond to public health threats.

The president already has a “czar” to deal with Daa’ish; his name is Brett McGurk, and last month he replaced Gen. John Allen (USMC, Ret.) as Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL”, but he also needs his Undersecretary of the Treasury for terrorism and financial crimes, currently occupied as an interim appointment for over two hundred days because Senate Republicans refuse to slate his confirmation hearing.

Szubin’s nomination got a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee on Sept. 17, and Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) praised his past work in countering terrorist financing during his time with both Republican and Democratic administrations.

“He is eminently qualified for this,” Shelby said at the time.

But Szubin’s nomination hasn’t moved since. There’s no clear reason why, beyond trying to make it difficult for President Barack Obama to fill administration posts.

“Treasury must have in place an experienced watchdog, with the know-how and authority to lead U.S. efforts to track and choke off the financial lifeblood of terrorist organizations,” Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), the top Democrat on the Banking Committee, said Wednesday. “Republicans in Congress need to stop holding our national security apparatus hostage to political demands, and allow Adam Szubin and other national security nominees to be approved as soon as possible.”

A Shelby spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Don Stewart, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), noted that Republicans recently lined up a confirmation vote on a separate nominee, Gayle Smith, for USAID administrator, but couldn’t say when Szubin might move.

Stewart dinged Democrats for “politicizing Paris” with this week’s push on stalled national security nominees.

(Bendery)

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The Brownback Effect

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) speaks at CPAC, 28 February 2015.  (Detail of photo by Gage Skidmore)

This is the part where reality comes crashing down:

Lots of numbers in a new statewide survey of Kansas from Fort Hays State University, but here’s the stunner:

Only 18 percent of state residents said they were “very” or “somewhat satisfied” with GOP Gov. Sam Brownback.

Kansas, in case there’s any misunderstanding, is a heavily Republican state.

President Barack Obama, long a punching bag for Republicans, rated higher. Some 28 percent of respondents expressed satisfaction with the Democratic chief executive.

(Krase)

The whole thing with Kansas and Mr. Brownback really is a puzzle; it’s one thing to point out that he is wrecking the state’s finances to the point that schools can’t function, thus observing that there is a reason Kansans are annoyed with their governor. But there is also a twist, that Sunflower State voters already knew most of that when they re-elected Gov. Brownback last year.

Certainly, the numbers are remarkable; Mr. Brownback is so awful, in Kansans’ eyes, that President Obama now suffers less ill will in the Jayhawk Midway Wheat State. To the other, though, the notion of self-inflicted damage asserts itself. Kansans quite literally did this to themselves, and we might make that crass joke, “And we’re all just so proud of them for doing such a super job!” but in truth, no, nobody is proud. Nor is this merely a Kansas thing; the Brownback Way is merely a revival of the supply-side mysticism, the “voodoo” economics, of thirty years ago. And this Republicans would inflict on the nation.

Steve Benen recalls Mitch McConnell, who described the Brownback Way as, “exactly the sort of thing we want to do here, in Washington, but can’t, at least for now”:

“At least for now,” of course, refers to the fact that there’s a Democrat in the White House.

In other words, Kansas’ “experiment” – massive tax breaks, coupled with drastic cuts to public investments – is “exactly” the model Republicans want to impose on the nation. They’re just waiting for a far-right president to work with a far-right Congress, just like Kansas’ far-right governor worked with a far-right legislature.

It really is the strangest thing.

Then again, this is Kansas. They have their priorities.

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Image note: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) speaks at CPAC, 28 February 2015. (Detail of photo by Gage Skidmore)

Benen, Steve. “Obama tops Brownback in ruby-red Kansas”. msnbc. 26 October 2015.

Krase, Steve. “Gov. Sam Brownback in deep hole with Kansans”. The Kansas City Star. 24 October 2015.