The Paul Ryan budget, now with electrolytes!
Tag Archives: Congress
Every Democrat in the House of Representatives voted for the $50.5 billion Superstorm Sandy disaster relief package except my Congress Critter, Rep. Jim Cooper.
It’s 7 a.m. here, so obviously I haven’t had a chance to call his office yet and find out why he voted against Hurricane relief, especially after two years ago his own district got flooded and received federal aid. I’m going to guess we’ll hear the usual concerns about pork and debt and spending cuts and blah blah. Perhaps he’s still butthurt over the massive failure of Bowles-Simpson, which he brought to the floor last year with Rep. Steve LaTourette. That plan went down in flames, big-time.
But seriously, spare me the phony concerns about “pork.” It’s hard to take that seriously when I remember Cooper found federal money to build a parking garage for the private, Church Of Christ-affiliated David Lipscomb University a few years ago. Yes, the project included a bus shelter. But please. Lipscomb has got so much money they’re buying up houses in my neighborhood, tearing them down, and putting ginormous new buildings in their place — a nursing school, an engineering school, a pharmacy school. Let them build their own damn parking garage.
Anyway, someone on Twitter last night observed that anyone thinking Cooper can’t be primaried might want to consider all of the pissed off Democrats in New York and New Jersey right now who might be eager to donate to a rival’s campaign. That reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend the other day: this is the internet age, and the concept of Congressional districts has changed. We may physically live in one Congressional district, but more and more of us belong to ideological districts. Virtual districts, if you will. How many of us donated to the campaigns of candidates in other states? I know I have, lots.
People pissed off at a Democrat voting against disaster aid or the fiscal cliff deal might join forces with people in the district who have been itching for a more progressive representative for years. Blue Dogs are an endangered species in Congress. Cooper might have some explaining to do.
Just to clarify, I’m not saying I support the idea of primarying Jim Cooper. Any scenario of that type would of course depend on who any potential candidate would be. But Cooper is only making himself more vulnerable. His district got more blue after redistricting, and if history is any judge, his Republican rival will be another Tea Party wackjob, just like the last ones have been. Those people won’t fly in the Fighting Fifth.
Cooper’s office says he voted no because “it wasn’t paid for and will add $50 billion to deficit.”
So, kinda what I said: debt and spending and blah blah. Same old.
Pith: Why did you vote against the bill?
Cooper: The bill wasn’t paid for. In fact, it wasn’t even partially paid for. Congress really made no effort to pay for even a fracture of it, so it added $50 billion to the deficit. I did support last week $9 billion, free and clear, I did support in this legislation $20-plus billion free and clear, but the extra $30 billion really should have been at least partly paid for.
Talk about moving goalposts. First he complains that the bill “wasn’t even partially paid for,” then says nearly half of it was paid for, then complains that the full package wasn’t “even partially offset.”
Please, next time you want to screw my friends in the Northeast, try making some damn sense.
The DCCC sent the above cards to freshman Republican House members today, as well as media releases to their districts which …
… identify each member as “the newest Tea Party House Republican who will put millionaires ahead of the middle class and dysfunction ahead of progress,” according to DCCC communications director Jesse Ferguson.
Love the expiration date! Seriously, every craptacular thing which happened in President Obama’s first term is because a bunch of fucking Democrats didn’t get off their asses and vote in 2010. Let’s not make that mistake in 2014, ‘mm’kay?
BTW, the NRCC taunted incoming Dems in a similar way today, so put away the Faux Umbrage Concern Kits, Teanuts.
The House approved the Senate’s fiscal cliff deal, barely:
The House vote laid bare some of the internal ideological divisions to plague the GOP over the past two years. More Republican congressmen (151) voted against the Senate bill than for it (85), meaning that Democrats’ support was needed to advance the final deal. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, took the rare step of casting a vote, and did so in favor of the legislation. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the former Republican vice presidential nominee, also supported the package. But Boehner’s top two lieutenants, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., each opposed the deal.
What this really means is that a longstanding Republican rule called “the majority of the majority” died a fiery death, at least as far as this vote goes. The rule goes back to the days of ex-House Speaker Dennis Hastert and is a policy by which the Republican House leader vows not to bring any bill to the floor unless a majority of the Republican caucus supports it. When Boehner took over the Speaker’s position in 2010 he claimed he would not bring back that policy, though in fact he did and, indeed, strengthened it by requiring the support of 218 Republicans.
Apparently this kind of rule is very common in Parliamentary systems, but we don’t have one of those, and the result under our system is often gridlock. The fact that Boehner was willing to ditch this rule to get something done (and save himself from another “Plan B” embarrassment) is, if nothing else, an encouraging sign.
Now, on to filibuster reform in the Senate. Make it so.
This morning I walked the dog down my street and saw a blue men’s button-down shirt lying in a puddle at the end of someone’s driveway. A few doors down a very solid, very permanent brick mailbox lay in rubble at the end of another driveway. Clearly someone(s) had a happy new year last night. Not so the dead opossum I saw further down the street. I’m trying to decide if all three things were connected somehow (hit a possum, veered into a mailbox, took a shirt off because …?)
Anyway, welcome to 2013. There’s actually news! I have a fiscal cliff post up over at First Draft. Give it a look-see.
Nancy Pelosi, earlier today:
“I could have arrested Karl Rove on any given day,” Pelosi said to laughter, during a sit-down with reporters. “I’m not kidding. There’s a prison here in the Capitol … If we had spotted him in the Capitol, we could have arrested him.”
Jesus F. Christ, woman. Why the hell didn’t you? Why the hell didn’t you impeach Bush and Cheney when you had the chance, too?
When Democrats have power, they refuse to use it when it’s warranted. When Republicans have power, they abuse it to score political points. If Clinton could be impeached over a blow job surely Bush and Cheney could have been impeached over the Iraq War.
This has got to change, Democrats. How’s the playing nicey working for ya? In case you haven’t noticed, Republicans don’t play nicey back. They go for the jugular.
Might want to try it next time you have the gavel — assuming that day is ever allowed to happen.
Well, this is certainly strange! Via the New York Times (if you don’t subscribe, you can also read the story here), an attempt to pull a James O’Keefe-type scam on a Harlem community organization backfired when the organizer’s bullshit meter went off:
He wanted to know how to get higher wages.
And, oh yes, he had another question: If he formed a union, could his fellow workers join with the employer to shake down politicians for more money?
At this point, Rhea Byer-Ettinger, an organizer for Manhattan Together, felt her internal baloney detector go on red alert. “Beep, beep, beep,” she said. “I said to him: ‘Well, that’s not how we work. Tell me, why are you asking me about that?’ ”
This is the anatomy of a political sting.
Nothing this fellow said was true. Public records reveal that his real name is John M. Howting. He is active in the conservative movement and does not want to organize a union. His company — for which he built an elaborate Web site — and its officials do not exist. Ms. Byer-Ettinger suspects that he secretly recorded their conversation.
What’s interesting here is that, via Tommy at First Draft, we discover John M. Howting is no ordinary O’Keefe Junior. He’s apparently a staffer for Republican Congressman Thad McCotter of Michigan. Which begs the question: is this an extra-curricular activity for young Master Howting, or part of his duties for the Congressman? Fair question, seeing as how Rep. McCotter was a Breitbart fan, eulogizing him on the House floor for
“…fighting the good fight with every fiber of his soul…”
Either way, I think the people of Michigan’s 11th district might want to know why their Represenatives’ staffers are spending their time trying to trip up a community organization in Harlem, New York.
No wonder voters hold slime mold in higher esteem than Congress. Maybe Rep. McCotter should be more focused on his own district?
On Saturday Nashville’s Congress Critter Rep. Jim Cooper, an unabashed Blue Dog Democrat, met with a small group of local bloggers at a coffee house near me. It was just a chance to chat and answer any questions we might have (I understand he held a similar get-together with the traditional media last week). Sean Braisted has the audio of the event here.
I don’t go to too many blogger events and when I do I try to keep my mouth shut as much as possible. But we all had an informative conversation and my fellow bloggers are a knowledgeable bunch who asked some good questions. I was especially intrigued to learn that Rep. Cooper is thinking about buying a Nissan Leaf. Knowing that Mayor Karl Dean, Sen. Lamar Alexander, ex-Senator Bill Frist and practically the entire Frist family are all Leaf drivers, I think we can now call the Leaf the status symbol of Tennessee politicians.
One of the things we discussed was Washington’s dysfunction. Cooper expressed the view that we have the worst of both worlds, because Congress is functioning as a parliamentary system, without the benefits of such a system, which he said is a huge problem for getting anything done. Precisely, what he said was:
We’ve lost our Congress. We’ve gradually lost it over time. It’s now a parliament. Used to be Congressmen would vote their party 70-80% of the time, now it’s 95% plus, otherwise you’re an outcast, pariah.
We’ve also lost majority rule in Congress because — the filibuster it’s obvious, the power of the minority — but starting with Speaker Hastert in the House, they say it openly: we only listen to a majority of the majority. And that basically means with Republicans holding 240 seats, you basically have 120 Republican votes, and the rest of Congress be damned. So both the House and the Senate now have a filibuster-type problem but it’s only acknowledged in the Senate.
Far be it from me to contradict someone who actually works in the House of Representatives, but from the perspective of an observer, that’s just not how it looks. I’m not sure how you can decry partisanship and in the next breath complain about a loss of majority rule, either. But as someone who has been observing our broken system for the past decade or so, I just don’t see this as the reason Congress can’t get anything done.
Maybe I’m saying this because I’m a progressive sporting permanent tire tracks from constantly getting thrown under the bus, but we can all remember some time when Democrats were in the majority and a Democratic-caucusing politician like Ben Nelson or Joe Lieberman or Bart Stupak hijacked a piece of legislation to make sure their pet issue was addressed or some special interest was appeased. And that will exist regardless of any Senate or House supermajority rules (actual or implicit), because there will always be what Digby long ago referred to as “the pampered little prince or princess who thinks he or she should be running everything and they will hold up the process regardless.” She wrote then:
In the days when legislation was cobbled together on a bipartisan basis, you didn’t want too much discipline or you couldn’t get the other side to cross lines when you needed them. But the realignment has solidified the partisan divide on the basis of ideology, philosophy and region. The Republicans have adapted already and understand that their job is to obstruct when in the minority and steam roll when in the majority. The Democrats are still living in the past.
Such words are anathema to folks like Jim Cooper, I’m sure. And I can understand why. But from my observer’s chair, it seems like too much has changed in the world for anyone to think we can go back to the time when politicians operated away from the glare of the masses and there weren’t two dozen lobbyists per congressman, and the special interest groups didn’t suck all the air out of the national dialogue, and money wasn’t equated with speech. Back then, Americans got their information from a few trusted sources who could reliably be counted on to at least not spread crazy shit like healthcare reform requires patients be implanted with microchips. Those must have been the good ol’ days, but they are gone for good.
Yes, Americans are more engaged in their governance than ever before. But I feel like we have less power than ever before. We’re more splintered. The gatekeepers are gone from every entrance, thanks to the internet and new media, and people are self-segregating into virtual communities based on rigid ideology and issue-based interests. With modern American life fractured, of course our government reflects that. There are very few issues that unite us all, enabling us to speak with a loud enough voice to get anyone’s attention anymore. That opens the door for those players who will always get Washington’s attention: the people with the money. That’s what talks, and that’s why certain people can always get their way. It’s why John Boehner is powerless against the Tea Party, not because this fringe group of crackpots is so powerful, but because of the corporate money behind them.
That’s how it looks to me. As an observer. I could be wrong.
I really don’t have any answers here. I think things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. I’m not advocating Republican-style obstruction, I’m just trying to counter the view that all we need are more bipartisan hugs and everything will be awesome again. Democrats are really great at crossing the aisle; they do it all the damn time. News flash: we’re not getting awesomer.
I’m thinking Washington will have to get irrelevant before it can get relevant again. I’m thinking we’ll need to look elsewhere for our answers — people power, maybe use social media to try to unite some of these self-selected virtual communities. We definitely need to operate on the cultural level, not the political one.
Congress can operate with an all-time low approval rating of 13% because the people don’t matter; maybe what the people need to do is make Congress not matter. Not to be all Oprah-sounding here, but we’re going to have to take our power back and just get done what it is we want to get done. We’re certainly not going to see things change by hoping Congress will do its job.
That’s how it looks to me. As an observer.