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The Beltway Sketch (Civics: General and Particular)

#trumpswindle | #WhatTheyVotedFor

President Donald Trump speaks about trade in the Oval Office of the White House, 31 March 2017, in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Olivier Douliery-Pool/Getty Images)

What additional commentary could possibly go here? You will, eventually, encounter a conservative complaining about Democratic obstructionism, and these are some points worth keeping in mind:

1. Democrats are in the minority, and don’t control the Senate calendar.

2. Filibusters on executive-branch nominees have been eliminated. Senate Dems can slow the process down a bit when they want to, delaying votes by a couple of weeks in some instances, but they don’t have the power to block any of Trump’s nominees on their own. It’s simply not possible as a procedural matter.

3. In order for nominees to be confirmed, they have to be sent. Of the 559 key positions in the administration requiring Senate confirmation, Trump has not yet nominated anyone for 442 of the posts. This is especially true when it comes to ambassadors: for the vast majority of these diplomatic positions, the White House hasn’t yet nominated anyone. Josh Barro noted that only five countries currently have U.S. nominees awaiting Senate confirmation: Bahamas, Ethiopia, Holy See, Japan, and New Zealand (and the Vatican doesn’t really count as a country, per se).

All of this is of particular interest right now because there is no current U.S. ambassador to Great Britain, which affects our response to the two recent British terrorist attacks. Trump chose Woody Johnson for the post months ago, but the administration never formally nominated Johnson, so the Senate hasn’t been able to even consider acting.

Trump apparently wants to blame Democrats for this. Even by his standards, that’s completely bonkers.

(Benen)

(more…)

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An Attempt to Explain Republicans to an Overseas Neighbor

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 29: Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) (C) speaks during a news conference to introduce a GOP-sponsored Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reform. (Photo: Chip Somodevilla)

Ed. note: The following is a repost of a Facebook comment offered to a friend from New Zealand who is constantly baffled by what he witnesses in the American political process, and happened to inquire about Republican efforts to … well, right. It has to do with recent House bills pertaining to the role of science in government policy.

I think the best way to explain it is to once again invoke a Cold War analogy; after all, depicting Democrats as “liberals”, with “liberals” meaning “Soviet Communists” was a key to Ronald Reagan’s electoral success.

But think about it this way, too: By that analogy, Republicans are the “capitalists”.

So it goes, then, that if we look at votes as “capital”, then the actions of the RNC, Congressional Republicans, and various surrogates and allies make sense: Get the capital by whatever means necessary.

That’s why the whole thing is so puzzling to people who, you know, have a conscience. The GOP ain’t playin’ that way. This is about winning votes, and nothing more. And in the United States, conservative voters will take whatever they can get to reinforce their platform. Additionally, superstition and subjective moral outrage are much more attractive to most American voters than obvious logic that, if attended, would skip the melodrama and slapstick that has become our political system.

To that end, we might consider Manichean dualisms or, simply, reality television. Just as many people believe in a basic struggle between good and evil, so also do many people believe reality television depicts reality.

In that context, it becomes a capitalistic ratings game; our elections become a functional part of our entertainment industry.

What Republicans are trying to do here is twofold: (1) Bolster their own political fantasies by excluding reality; (2) create a situation in which government will experience an even greater failure about its performance of duty so that they can complain even louder that government just doesn’t work.

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Abrams, Lindsay. “House Republicans just passed a bill forbidding scientists from advising the EPA on their own research”. Salon. 19 November 2014.

Benen, Steve. “Republicans take aim at imaginary target: ‘secret science'”. msnbc. 20 November 2014.