Richard Burr

The Trump Fantastic (#trumpstyle)

#trippingthetrumpfantastic | #WhatTheyVotedFor

U.S. President Donald Trump addresses the Central Intelligence Agency, 21 January 2016, in Langley, Virginia. (Photo: Olivier Doulier/Pool/Getty Images)

“Usually, even the laziest of partisans aren’t quite so ridiculous when dealing with the legislative branch’s oversight role over the executive branch.”

Steve Benen

Something goes here about striking decay. And something unfortunate about how that sounds about right. No, really: In what universe?

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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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The Dance (Trumping the Line Fantastic)

Detail of cartoon by Lalo Alcaraz, via Daily Kos, 9 December 2015.

Vicki Needham of The Hill offers this glimpse:

A top Senate Republican called Donald Trump’s call to ban Muslims from entering the United States a “huge mistake” that would fuel terror recruitment in the United States.

Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that the move could damage vital alliances in the region.

“I think this sends the wrong message to people that have to be part of our partnership for a solution,” Burr said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday.

“Yes, it does serve as fuel [for recruitment].”

Indeed; it’s a point Lalo Alcaraz made quite clearly last week.

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A Long Note on Political Tradition in These United States

President Barack Obama, delivers his State of the Union speech at the U.S. Capitol on Feb. 12, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Charles Dharapak/AP)

By now of course we have become accustomed to the proposition that Republicans, once elected, would rather sit around. To some it actually seems a very sick idea; not only did the Speaker of the House demonstrate that Republicans conisder their job description to include going on vacation instead of actually working because, well, the most important part of the job is election and re-election, but in recent months the GOP has shown more and more willingness to simply admit that the inherent failure of government is more of a conservative goal than anything else.

Boehner and the band skipped out on gigs that might need Congressional attention, such as the Daa’ish question, the Ebola question, and the Immigration Reform question; despite their howls of rage regarding the latter, the fact of executive action occasionally arises when Congress refuses to pass a bill and the Speaker of the House calls on the President to use his executive authority. They could have skipped screeching themselves hoarse by simply sticking around and doing their jobs. Then again, the prior statement is controversial if only because it would appear that Congressional Republicans appear to believe their first, last, and only job is to win votes. Given their reluctance to undertake day-to-day Constitutional functions of Congress, such as advising and consenting to presidential appointments—or, as such, formally refusing the nomination—we ought not be surprised that the latest duty Republicans wish to shirk is sitting through an annual speech.

Nearly 16 years later, another Democratic president, also hated by his Republican attackers, is poised to deliver his penultimate State of the Union address. And like Pat Robertson, the idea of denying the president a SOTU invitation is once again on the right’s mind.

“Yes, there’s a risk to overreacting, but there’s a risk to underreacting as well,” said Rich Lowry, the editor of National Review. “And I fear that’s the way the congressional leadership is leaning.”

Mr. Lowry suggested one way Congress could react. “If I were John Boehner,” he said, referring to the House speaker, “I’d say to the president: ‘Send us your State of the Union in writing. You’re not welcome in our chamber.'”

Lowry may not dictate GOP decision making the way Limbaugh and Fox News do, but it’s important to note that he isn’t the only one publicly pushing the idea.

Politico reported yesterday that congressional Republicans are weighing a variety of tactics to “address” their disgust over Obama’s immigration policy, and “GOP aides and lawmakers” are considering the idea of “refusing to invite the president to give his State of the Union address.”

Late last week, Breitbart News also ran a piece of its own on the subject: “Congress should indicate to President Obama that his presence is not welcome on Capitol Hill as long as his ‘executive amnesty’ remains in place. The gesture would, no doubt, be perceived as rude, but it is appropriate.”

(Benen)

Wait, wait, wait—sixteen years ago?

Yes. Like impeachment chatter and stonewalling, Republicans want to make refusing to hear the State of the Union Address part of their standard response to any Democratic president.

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A Quote: Sen. Thune (R-SD) on Wasting Time

Sen. John Thune (R-SC)

“If it’s not pay equity, it’s going to be something else. We realize the next couple of weeks are going to be a bust around here and we want to get to the important business, which is [government funding], and we’ll get to that faster hopefully.”

Sen. John Thune (R-SD)

Republicans recently emerged with a new tactic in their campaign to win the U.S. Senate and grow their House majority in November: Pretend to flank Democrats from the left. Over the summer, for instance, GOP challengers to Democratic Senate incumbents have pitched over-the-counter birth control access, an idea that might sound good at first, but important questions persist about whether increased out-of-pocket costs will actually have the effect of reducing access.

The plot has opened a new chapter; Burgess Everett of Politico explains the way it works:

Senate Republicans have a new strategy: Vote to advance bills they oppose.

On Wednesday, 19 Republicans joined with Senate Democrats to overcome a filibuster of legislation aimed at ensuring pay equity for men and women. That vote was 73-25, an overwhelming margin by Senate standards. On Monday, 25 Republicans voted with Democrats to advance a constitutional amendment on campaign finance reform.

The GOP broadly opposes both of these proposals — but they are voting to extend debate on them to chew up the remaining few days on the legislative calendar and prevent Democrats from holding even more campaign-themed votes on raising the minimum wage, reforming the student loan system and striking back at the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.

Even though those measures have already failed this year, Democrats believe holding a second round of failed votes on them will place Republicans on the wrong side of poll-tested issues right before the election. But because everyone in Congress is eying the exits for general election season, the GOP figures if it strings out debate on proposals that it opposes, the damage will be limited.

“If it’s not pay equity, it’s going to be something else,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), the chamber’s top GOP messaging man. “We realize the next couple of weeks are going to be a bust around here and we want to get to the important business, which is [government funding], and we’ll get to that faster hopefully.”

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The V.A. Shuffle

Grieving in Columbia

“If the price tag is any indication, Sanders compromised quite a bit – the Senate bill, which passed in June on a 93-to-3 vote, had a price tag of $35 billion over 10 years. This new agreement with the GOP-led House has reduced the aid package to $15 billion, less than half the original total.”

Steve Benen

Perhaps some of us recall a recent Beltway dustup when it was discovered that the Veterans Administration was apparently failing to do its job, even going so far as to keep secret lists describing reality while devising all sorts of lies on paper to suggest everything was … well … that is the question, isn’t it?

After all, perhaps some of us also remember that the idea of the VA as a bureaucratic nightmare akin to that planet-eating monster thing in Rise of the Silver Surfer, a film that, like the 113th Congress, probably should have been shelved, or else simply never greenlit.

We all know the cycle; this is just a particularly ugly manifestation. Indeed, it seems a perpetual part of our American experience; take a noble endeavor that cannot be recorded in body counts, territorial annexations, or ledgers, and think about how a society engages those challenges.

Twenty years ago, it was schools. The “No Child Left Behind” debacle was the height of a movement idea. The schools, facing budgetary issues challenging their ability to perform their jobs, were told that they needed to show they could do the job without the extra money, and then the legislatures would consider writing the checks.

Step one? Describe the problem.

Step two? Refuse to do anything about the problem.

Step three? Tell people that if they show they can solve the problem without the legislature’s help, the legislature will consider the possibility of just maybe deciding to do something to help.

To wit, perhaps some might also conjure up a strange memory, seemingly recent, in which a sitting U.S. Senator castigated veterans support groups for failing to agree with him. (more…)