Tag Archives: House GOP

Congress: Gimme That Ol’ Time Division

By now it shouldn’t be a surprise to most Americans that the United States Congress has entered an unprecedented era of dysfunction and inaction.  Time and again, analysts have termed the 113th as the least productive Congress in history, and with a full month of August recess and precious few months in the term, that sad streak is unlikely to be reversed.
But what most Americans don’t know is that there are very specific cause for that inaction, and they cannot be blamed on President Obama or divided government.
When the President is of one Party and one or both Houses of Congress of another, it’s natural to expect some grandstanding, inflamed rhetoric, and yes a few “show votes” that have no realistic chance of becoming law.  These are common occurrences of divided government.  But when that division is happening within a Party, it has reached a level that can become harmful to the nation.  And such is the case with members of the Republican caucus.  Ever since taking the House majority in 2011, GOP Representatives have worked tirelessly to make President Obama the most hated man in the country.  They block his initiatives at every turn, even when he’s putting forth ideas that they agree with.
It was this week in Washington that brought Republican division to another level.  The GOP’s latest “blame Obama” tactic is to wage frivolous lawsuits against the President for taking executive actions, claiming that he is trying to circumvent Congressional authority.  By doing this action, it would suggest that House Republicans want Obama to STOP issuing Executive Orders, right?  Sure, that’s what they wanted until yesterday.  Here’s more on the madness from Steve Benen of the Maddow Blog, because I can’t even explain it well enough…
Even by congressional standards, the mixed message from Capitol Hill this week was jarring. On Wednesday, House Republicans approved a civil suit against President Obama – the first such suit in American history – complaining that the White House shouldn’t circumvent Congress when making public policy.
Literally one day later, House Republicans killed their own border bill, prompting GOP leaders to issue a statement urging the White House to circumvent Congress.
On msnbc’s “Morning Joe,” Eugene Robinson asked Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a close ally to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), to help reconcile the contradiction. The Republican congressman’s response was striking. For those who can’t watch clips online:
ROBINSON: There was a contradiction yesterday that I’m still struggling to understand. The leadership statement, when the [border bill] didn’t pass essentially said, ‘Well, there are plenty of administrative things that President Obama can do and should be doing at the border, and that was a day after the House voted to sue President Obama for taking administrative actions.
COLE: (Laughs)
ROBINSON: So, how does that square?
COLE: Well, I’m not going to disagree with you because it’s a point I made myself in conference. Look, you can’t say on the one hand that the president’s overreaching by acting without legislative authority and direction, and then refuse to give him legislative authority and direction in another area. So, I don’t disagree with what you have to say at all.
Well, at least Congressman Cole is smart enough to figure it out.
Even the darkest times in recent partisan gridlock, like the Clinton-era shutdowns or impeachment proceedings, the one thing we could count on in divided government was for opposing sides to agree on some goals for their particular side.  And even when they did draw attack lines for the election, those former Congressional sessions at least knew that some things had to get done, like infrastructure investments or disaster relief.  But for this newest iteration of the GOP, all works of government are viewed as not necessary.  Have they just decided to wait until the bridges actually collapse?
Democrats are far from perfect.  There is plenty of disagreement and election-year politics to go around in that Party, and we see it every day.  But the Republicans have reached a new, terrifying level of divisive behavior that, if left unchecked, could ruin the country.  The only way to stop them in their tracks is to vote for Democrats in 2014.  If this week’s antics are any indication, there’s only one sane option left on Capitol Hill, and it ain’t the GOP.

Coalition EXPOSED: Post Cliff, The House GOP’s new reality

Well, now we know. Thanks to tireless work on behalf of Vice President Biden, President Obama, and Congressional leaders, the big bad Fiscal Cliff was officially averted. After a rousing show of Senate Bi-Partisanship, the ‘Fiscal Deal’ was also approved by the House 257-167.

Most pundits today are talking about the deal, and about how “disappointed” they are, or about how “terrible it was for the country. But I’m actually very VERY happy about last night’s House vote. It may have been the best gift ever delivered to the Obama administration, and to the country. Here’s why…

All but 16 Democrats voted for the bill, and that’s as expected because Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has a great relationship with her caucus. We all knew that Speaker John Boehner’s caucus was split, with a majority of them oppsing him at every turn. But what we didn’t know until last night, was exactly where those fault lines lie.

Now we do.

Boehner’s decision to cave and bring the bill to a clean vote was a total game-changer for the White House and for Democrats. Of the 257 yes votes, 85 of them were Republicans. This is it!! This is the group of people that actually listen to the Speaker, and most importantly, are willing to listen to others and put country before party. The official roll call tells this tale like the best of political novels. For the first time since the “Hastert rule” was enacted, a party caucus was knowingly split up by its leadership. As a result, we now see the House GOP for what it really is… a two-party coalition in which John Boehner is actually part of the minority. On one side, you’ve got roughly 150 members that grab all of the attention, and on the other side you have 85 members that want to WORK. 85 members that are (at least briefly) capable of putting the interests of the country above the sanctity of their party.

Many of those members are what you’d expect… blue state Republicans like New Hampshire’s Charlie Bass, or those that have their eye on future offices like Illinois’ Aaron Schock, knowing that bipartisanship is a necessary step were he to run for Governor or Senator of a bifurcated state. And some of them were just people that actually respect Speaker Boehner’s leadership and trust the decision of the caucus… the “old school” politicians. After 3 years of the Tea Partiers hogging the spotlight, we were suddenly reminded that the GOP isn’t completely over-taken… at least not yet.

Now sure, out of those 85 some of them would never do this again. They would never join up with Democrats to help the President. But there’s likely a good 40 to 50 of them that the public can now target to get our government in the right direction again. And as long as Boehner keeps his Speakership in the 113th, Congress will be able to pass important things like Immigration reform and simplification to the tax code.

Republicans and Democrats will always have differences, but we shouldn’t be so far apart that we would allow our country to go to ruins. Sadly, that faction is alive and well within the GOP… some of them care nothing more for the well-being of the United States as long as their narrow viewpoint is advanced. But what we learned on the first night of 2013? That’s not all of them. There are still reasonable, hard-working, SANE people in Congress that want this country to succeed, and are willing to compromise even if they don’t always agree with the views of others. There’s still people in the House of Represenatatives that want to legislate, and not just waste people’s time.

In normal voting procedure, the Speaker of the House does not actually cast a vote. But sometimes, when they think it’s needed (like then Speaker Nancy Pelosi casting a vote for the Affordable Care Act), they will vote. Last night, Speaker Boehner cast a vote, eventhough he knew that enough of the other members of the caucus would join Democrats. He knew the bill would pass, but he voted anyway. Why would the Speaker do that?

If I were a betting man, I’d say that Boehner’s vote was a signal. He’s communicating to the President and Senate that he’s one of the “good guys”. Or at least that he’d like to be.

But in order to be a truly good guy, Mr. Boehner needs one other thing… COURAGE. One vote is simply not enough to save the reputation of the 112th Congress. And letting bills like the Violence Against Women Act and vital aid for Hurricane Sandy victims die in the House is not courageous. It’s wrong. I hope the Speaker finds more courage in the 113th Congress, and FAST.

The ABCs of the GOP: Q is for


To paraphrase from the great William Shakespeare…

Bush Tax Cuts, or Obama Tax Cuts? That is the question.

What’s in a name? That which we call a tax cut By any other name would smell as sweet.

But unfortunately for one political party, it simply doesn’t work that way. The “Bush Tax Cuts” are now much more than a name for the Republicans… they are are a legacy, and a philosophy. For the Republican party in the twenty-first century, the BUSH Tax Cuts have really been the central orb around which all Conservative fiscal policy gravitates. Lest we forget that Democrats now have greater advantage as the party of the new, more diverse America, the party of foreign policy, and the party of defending minority and women’s rights. Fiscal Conservatism is the only real game Republicans have left. Never mind that President Obama has already cut government spending by 1.5 Trillion Dollars and continues to argue for a balanced approach, proving more fiscally Conservative than his GOP predecessors. Hell or high water, Republicans believe in tax cuts. It is their Raison d’etre.

Which is why it may surprise some that House Republicans have continued to be so adamant against the President’s plan to preserve tax cuts for ALL Americans on their first $250,00 dollars of income (that’s right… EVERYONE still gets a tax cut!!). It is quite literally a chance to preserve the GOP’s false identity as the party of lower taxes and cutting spending. This is what’s important about having the name BUSH associated with TAX CUTS.

Here lies the ultimate quagmire for Republicans in the House… come January 1st, that legacy of the BUSH TAX CUTS and of Republicans being exclusively known as “the tax cut party” dies. If they don’t reach a deal to extend the BUSH Tax Cuts, they lose the name Bush forever from the measure. Any tax cuts they pass in 2013 would then be forever known as the OBAMA TAX CUTS. Talk about a tough pill to swallow… do Republicans in this really want to be remembered as the ones who created the Obama Tax Cuts??

As lawmakers, we should expect that Republicans and Democrats don’t care about nomenclature… they care about doing what’s right for the American People. But sadly, this has not been the case at all during the Obama era. The GOP fought this President’s agenda at every chance. They crippled the Senate with filibuster abuse, held the country hostage over the debt ceiling, and basically prolonged the economic Recession by refusing to make any public sector contribution to the Recovery… all in the hope of weakening President Obama, and his chances for re-election. None of it worked.

For all of that malice, November 6th was their reward. There will be no President Romney, and (barring an unprecedented catastrophy that none would hope for) no chance of any Republican taking the White House before January of 2017.

So Democrats… if you want a deal to happen before the beginning of the year that raises tax rates on the wealthy and does not cut social programs, pressure the GOP with their impossible choice. Do they extend the Bush Tax Cuts now for 98 percent of the country, or do they erase the Bush/GOP legacy and CREATE the Obama Tax Cuts later?

For the GOP, it has come to this.

The ABCs of the GOP: I is for


One thing is absolutely crystal clear about politics… it is hard work. Whether it be the media members that have to cover this ever-evolving rollercoaster of stuff, the super-smart staffers that have to be on-call all hours of the day and night, or the politicians themselves giving speeches and shaking the hands of millions of people, it’s HARD. Despite what they may say on TV, every person that you see as a Washington politician has worked very hard to get to where they are. Each one has run a successful campaign, and has the will of thousands and sometimes millions of voters.

From this, we know that the national Republican party works extremely hard to deliver their message and ideology. In many ways, delivery and discipline are their greatest strengths. But what is not a strong point of the current GOP?? Actually running the country. For their part, they are most just creating the illusion of doing that.

What more proof could you ask for than the 33rd vote to repeal the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act… 33 repetitive votes in just 18 months. Eventhough Republicans know that the result of the vote will be the same as the 32 other times they’ve tried it, they decided to do it again. Clearly the choice to do something like this over and over again is wasting the time of the American people. It may give the illusion of actual legislation, but it’s nothing more than running out the clock.

Well maybe I’m wrong about that…

The votes didn’t just waste our time. They also wasted our money. In trying to hold up this illusion of total outrage, the House GOP spent $50 million dollars of our tax money. For the party that claims to be such careful stewards of the public purse, these votes seem to be a pretty outlandish and useless expenditure. Meanwhile every day in this country, more teachers, firefighters and polieceman are laid off from work. How many of them would still have their jobs if Congress had decided to put that money to better use?

Speaking of illusions, it’s pretty odd how the GOP works in that regard. After three years of constant fighting and posturing, Republicans suddenly joined Congressional Democrats last week and passed the highway and student loan bill. This legislation could have been passed years earlier, but Republicans have been using the controversial Keystone XL pipeline as their latest energy whipping boy. Yet when the clock finally ran down to the wire and 2 million American Jobs were on the line, the GOP decided to compromise and Keystone was left out of the bill entirely. I’m glad for this, don’t get me wrong. But isn’t it a little hypocritical? If Keystone was so important to them, why is it suddenly not mentioned for weeks? If your greatest concern is the sky falling due to the deficit, then why is it ok for you to BORROW $105 Billion more dollars without paying for it. They’ve just INCREASED the deficit by voting on this bill, yet there is no outrage, the sky is not falling, and China has not invaded our shores.

Maybe all of those temper tantrums are illusions too.

The GOP’s ‘Fast and Frivolous’ Conquest

Our Federal Government saw an historic move this week, as the House Oversight Committee voted to hold Attorney General Eric Holder in contempt of Congress. This vote was related to the “Fast and Furious” scandal.

Here’s my best attempt to sum up “Fast and Furious”. The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms has been working undercover for years to gain intel in the Mexican Drug War. Part of this undercover intel is to run with the gangs, and that type of information gathering also involves exchanging of drugs, and guns. So yes, the United States Government has knowingly placed working guns in the hands of Mexican Drug operatives (and probably lots of other nations as well). These guns are then traced to follow the moves of the drug operatives. This exchange, known as “gun walking” was started by the Bush Administration in 2006. President Obama and his administration continued it.

In December of 2010, one of these operations failed, and hundreds of the guns were lost. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered by a gun linked to this botched operation.

So here’s the disconnect… the congressional hearings, which have now taken place over 11 months, have not been about the murder of Brian Terry, but instead focused mostly on Attorney General Eric Holder. After all, the leader of the Phoenix ATF division directly oversaw the operation, but only delivered testimony to Congress once. AG Holder just completed his ninth testimony to Congress regarding this matter. And after all of those testimonies, and the release of over 7600 documents, chairman Darrell Issa held Mr. Holder in contempt. Of course Mr. Issa claims to be only concerned about the gun-walking operation, but he wasn’t opposed to such things in 2008. The Daily Kos reports Congressman Issa voted for Project Gunrunner in 2008, eventhough during Mr. Holder’s hearings, he claims to know nothing about it. So he’s accusing the Attorney General for lying under oath, but he hasn’t been truthful himself? Hopefully the Left will take notice, and call Mr. Issa out for his hypocrisy.

Never before has a sitting AG been held in contempt of Congress. That’s the historic part.

But here are the things that happened this week that have become rather commonplace in today’s hostile Washington environment…

-The Republican-led House of Representatives didn’t pass any jobs bills

-The Republican-led House of Representatives used taxpayer money and Congressional resources on a matter that isn’t related to jobs.

-The Republican-led House of Representatives doesn’t like Obama

-The Republican-led House of Representatives staged a very dramatic vote that fell 23-17 along party lines.

-The Democratic House members questioned GOP motives and authority.

-The Republicans made political history in advancing Washington’s party divide.

How many times has this scenario played out in Washington since Obama was elected? We’ve already seen an historic number of Filibusters waged by the Senate GOP… so much so that Americans are now conditioned to believe that the Senate requires a 60-vote majority to pass legislation. No one should be surprised at the results here, but we should be unhappy. The GOP continues to “say” that jobs are their most important priority, but instead of focusing their time and energy on getting Americans back to work, they spend their time trying to persecute the Obama Administration. Even during yesterday’s hearing, a Democratic committee member tried to read a “cost estimate” for the hearings but was cut off. So the voting public is left to ask ourselves… How many school teachers could have been hired? How many more police and firefighters could be keeping our street and neighborhoods safe? How many more states could be given help in an extraordinarily difficult recovery to meet the needs of its citizens?

The murder of Mr. Terry is real. It happened, and his loved ones deserve to know the truth. But it doesn’t concern the United States Attorney General. The need of our Federal Government to have some operations take place in secret is also real. As the Executive Branch is charged to protect our nation, hundreds of thousands of employees “maintain secrets” everyday. It’s just a fact of life when you live in a world with people that are constantly trying to harm our nation. As Attorney General, many of those secrets are going to be seen by Mr. Holder, but that doesn’t automatically mean that he was directly involved. There is no reason for him to have wasted his time, resources and taxpayer money to prepare for copious inquiries for a situation which he wasn’t involved.

The rate at which Congressional Republicans are burning through our resouces? The only way to describe that is Fast and Frivolous.