Senate Republican Leadership

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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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.

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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The Rand Paul Show (B-Roll Rules)

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 06: U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) listens during a news conference on military sexual assault November 6, 2013 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. A bipartisan group of senators are pushing to create an independent military justice system with the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images).

It was enough to note Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-KY) tiptoeing fake filibuster that was intended solely to grandstand and annoy his Republican colleagues. And then, of course, he moved on to trying to merchandise the stunt. We ought not, then, be surprised at the latest news from Bridget Bowman for The Hill:

Sen. Rand Paul has lauded his fight against a Patriot Act extension in his presidential campaign, but one campaign video appears to violate Senate rules.

Senate rules state, “The use of any tape duplication of radio or television coverage of the proceedings of the Senate for political campaign purposes is strictly prohibited.” But a video posted by the Kentucky Republican’s campaign Friday appears to violate that rule.

The video, titled “Rand Paul: Filibuster for the Fourth Amendment” lasts one minute and 19 seconds and has garnered nearly 1,000 views. It uses video footage and audio from his May 20 marathon speech on the Senate floor. The video utilizes roughly 20 seconds of video footage of Paul on the floor, and the audio of his speech is then used as b-roll footage of people on the phone and utilizing computers rolls. The audio is also heard as the video shows photos of “Stand with Rand” supporters posing with C-SPAN 2 on in the background as Paul gave his speech.

Because, you know, he’s Rand Paul. Maybe he’ll start his own Rules Committee.

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Bowman, Bridget. “Rand Paul Campaign Video Appears to Violate Senate Rules”. The Hill. 31 May 2015.

Not Surprising (Lazy Days Delays Mix)

Loretta Lynch, President Obama's nominee to be the next attorney general, meets with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-VT, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The news shouldn’t be surprising; Senate leadership has once again pushed back any prospect of a confirmation vote for Attorney General nominee Loretta Lynch. The situation as it stands in the wake of reports that mid-April will be the earliest possibility for a vote:

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters yesterday, “The continued delay is unconscionable.”

Note, the problem is not that Republicans have imposed a blanket blockade on all confirmation votes. On the contrary, since Lynch was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee with bipartisan support on Feb. 26, the GOP majority has confirmed four Obama administration nominees, including one yesterday. Republicans have also allowed Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s nomination to reach the floor, despite the fact that Carter was nominated after Lynch.

But the A.G. nominee, for reasons Republicans have struggled to explain, is being denied an up-or-down vote, even though Lynch appears to have the votes necessary for confirmation.

All of this has unfolded despite Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) public vow that he would allow a vote on Lynch last week – a commitment he has since broken.

As of this morning, Lynch was nominated 136 days ago. As we discussed last week, the first African-American woman ever considered for this post has waited longer for a vote than any A.G. nominee in history, and longer than the last five A.G. nominees combined. Even her fiercest critics have failed to raise substantive objections to her qualifications, background, temperament, or judgment.

(Benen)

What we have here is another example of the Republican thesis that government does not and cannot work. And what we have here is also another example of Republicans trying to prove the thesis by deliberately botching up basic governance.

No, really, how is any of that actually surprising?

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Image note: Loretta Lynch, President Obama’s nominee to be the next attorney general, meets with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-VT, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2014. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Benen, Steve. “Senate GOP delaying Lynch nomination (again)”. msnbc. 24 March 2015.