Greg Sargent notes that House Taliban lieutenant Rep. Patrick McHenry has finally given voice to the blatantly obvious motivation driving the GOP obstruction uber alles strategy:
McHenry’s description is buried in this new article from National Journal (sub. only):
“We will lose on legislation. But we will win the message war every day, and every week, until November 2010,” said Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., an outspoken conservative who has participated on the GOP message teams. “Our goal is to bring down approval numbers for [Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and for House Democrats. That will take repetition. This is a marathon, not a sprint.”
McHenry’s spokesperson, Brock McCleary, tells me his boss is standing by the quote.
Of course McHenry is standing by the quote. The leaderless GOP insurgency has nothing left in its depleted arsenal except recycled guerrilla tactics, the ideological equivalent of roadside IEDs. They are literally betting the House on the efficacy of this strategy.
And, as D-Day notes, the asymmetrical campaign goes beyond mere electoral gain:
Over the long term, all [Congressional Republicans] are doing is chipping away at the notion that government can perform its core function, demonizing the activities of the Congress, evoking mistrust in elected officials, and poisoning the whole notion of federal spending. That’s their REAL project.
So here’s the picture that scares me: It’s September 2009, the unemployment rate has passed 9 percent, and despite the early round of stimulus spending it’s still headed up. Mr. Obama finally concedes that a bigger stimulus is needed.
But he can’t get his new plan through Congress because approval for his economic policies has plummeted, partly because his policies are seen to have failed, partly because job-creation policies are conflated in the public mind with deeply unpopular bank bailouts. And as a result, the recession rages on, unchecked.
Bottom line is this: The GOP is perfectly willing to sacrifice the economic solvency of the United States–of the entire fucking world–simply to gain a few seats in 2010–and, in the process, will do whatever it takes to guarantee the fulfilment of its by-now tired contention that public investment never, ever works.
[T]he Republican Party has become the party of obstruction at just the time when all Americans should be pulling together for the good of our country. Instead, Republicans are today’s fifth column sabotaging American renewal.
Sen. Arlen Specter, R-Pa., one of the three Republicans who voted for the [stimulus] legislation, said the GOP risks becoming “the party of Hoover,” echoing a warning that Vice President Richard B. Cheney delivered last year during negotiations over the Bush administration’s rescue of the auto industry.
After Hoover left office in 1933, amid the economic rubble of the Great Depression, Specter noted, “not until Eisenhower came up decades later did a Republican win the presidency, and he was a war hero.”
First he lobbies and votes for the recovery package; now he’s standing up against continued GOP douchebaggery in the legislative branch. Arlen must have finally found–and cracked–the safe where the Senate Republican leadership was keeping his testicles locked up all these years.
“If you get the principles right in the first place . . . the politics will take care of itself,” said Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-Tex.), a leader of the new conservative vanguard. “It comes down to basic principles — who’s better at preserving jobs, small business or the government? If you think it’s small business, look to the Republicans.”
Curly Haugland, a Republican National Committee member from North Dakota, said there is little need for ideas when the main task for the GOP will be fighting back Democratic ones. “We’re going to have plenty to do just playing defense,” he said. “These people [the Democrats] are going to be aggressively on the march.”
Not to get all Eastern Elitist on y’all, but when you have a Taliban Wing “conservative vanguard” led by people named ‘Jeb’ and ‘Curly’ determining policy strategy, well, congratulations — you’re no longer a viable national party.
The Senate Labor committee postponed [Hilda] Solis’ nomination yesterday because of a recent USA Today report about her husband’s outstanding California tax liens. (NOTE: it was her husband’s auto repair business, not anything to do with Solis herself.) Though the tax liens have since been repaid, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and his Republican cohorts are still delaying the confirmation vote, claiming they need to investigate Solis’ involvement with American Rights at Work (ARAW), a pro-labor non-profit. But this really boils down to the GOP’s inherent fears over the Employee Free Choice Act, a bill Solis co-sponsored in the House that would enable workers to unionize more easily and negotiate for equitable wages and benefits and safer working conditions.
Solis might understand the needs of workers better than anyone in Congress. There’s no question she could help ensure President Obama’s plan to create 3.6 million jobs by next year actually happens. We must fight like hell to get her approved. Join this Facebook page and help confirm Hilda Solis now. Then, sign American Rights at Work’s petition to support the Employee Free Choice, where you snag their Employee Free Choice widget for your own personal blog.
Chris Isidore of CNNMoney.com puts those numbers into proper context:
As bad as the unemployment rate was, it only tells part of the story for people struggling to find jobs. Friday’s report also showed that 2.6 million people have now been out of work for more than six months, the most long-term unemployed since 1983.
And that number only counts those still looking for work. The so-called underemployment rate, which includes those who have stopped looking for work and people working only part-time that want full-time positions, climbed to 13.9% from 13.5% in December. That is the highest rate for this measure since the Labor Department first started tracking it in 1994.
Absolutely “devastating”, as President Obama just observed during a news conference introducing his new emergency economic advisory board.
Yet, as Ali Frick at Think Progress acidly points out, “Republicans are stonewalling action to help the economy recover. Even as millions of Americans are losing their jobs, conservative Senators insist that there’s no rush to help them.”
LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We do not need any more news conferences. What we need is getting more than 16 people in a room. We need to slow down, take a timeout, and get it right.
ROGER WICKER (R-MS): As Thomas Jefferson reminded Americans in his day — and I quote — “Delay is preferable to error.” Let’s not rush into doing this the wrong way.
JOHN ENSIGN (R-NV): So we need to act much more responsibly than this bill acts. It’s still time. There is no hurry.
TOM COBURN (R-OK): There’s no reason for us to hurry up, number one. There’s no reason for us not to look at every area of this bill and make sure the [American] people know about it.
Over the last two weeks, what should have been a deadly serious debate about how to save an economy in desperate straits turned, instead, into hackneyed political theater, with Republicans spouting all the old clichés about wasteful government spending and the wonders of tax cuts.
It’s as if the dismal economic failure of the last eight years never happened — yet Democrats have, incredibly, been on the defensive. Even if a major stimulus bill does pass the Senate, there’s a real risk that important parts of the original plan, especially aid to state and local governments, will have been emasculated.
Somehow, Washington has lost any sense of what’s at stake — of the reality that we may well be falling into an economic abyss, and that if we do, it will be very hard to get out again.
Would the Obama economic plan, if enacted, ensure that America won’t have its own lost decade? Not necessarily: a number of economists, myself included, think the plan falls short and should be substantially bigger. But the Obama plan would certainly improve our odds. And that’s why the efforts of Republicans to make the plan smaller and less effective — to turn it into little more than another round of Bush-style tax cuts — are so destructive.
As Obama put it in a speech to Democratic lawmakers last night (h/t Steve Benen), “[Y]ou get the argument, ‘Well, this is not a stimulus bill, this is a spending bill.’ What do you think a stimulus is? That’s the whole point. No, seriously. That’s the point.”
Benen further notes that “The Politico‘s Jonathan Martin said that the president’s urgent tone was “reminiscent of the final days of the campaign.” It was actually more than just reminiscent — at one point, Obama literally asked lawmakers, “Fired up?” They shouted back, “Ready to go!“”
Despite the empty promise of a magical unity pony being giddily floated by the Very Serious Set (sample conventional wisdom: “[t]he big argument for centrist governance is that nothing significant can be achieved in Washington without bipartisan support, without members in both parties owning a stake”) politics, as they say, ain’t bean bag. Sooner or later it’s gonna once again get real ugly in Washington and, as Digby observes, nakedly partisan:
Considering that the Republican party really has been purged of moderates now, I’d say that the GOP is going to be the much bigger roadblock to compromise than the left. They’re more radical than ever. The Republican party is now led by Rush Limbaugh. There’s nobody else. And when Obama reaches out his hand to Rush Limbaugh he’s going to get it whacked off with a chainsaw, at which point, these villagers (who haven’t even considered this political problem) are going to blame Obama for being unable to govern in a bipartisan fashion.
All over television this morning the gasbags seemed convinced that Obama had been elected to stop the left from ruining the country. And when it turns out to actually be his supposedly cooperative new partners in governance — the right — that stands in his way, they will blame him for being too far left. It’s a trap.
Something tells me Digby has a Scrying pool somewhere on the grounds of her palatial estate, because the preceding sounds like an all-too-plausible dispatch from the near future. Look, change is not magic, nor is it going to bestowed upon us from on high by any individual, remarkable as he or she may be. It is going to take some hard goddamn work from the ground up and from all of us to move forward with a progressive agenda in the US, Canada and the rest of the world (or, at the very least, put a stop on the regressive course of the past 40 looooong years of movement conservative ascendancy.)
Party time’s over, kids; time to take a deep breath, roll up our sleeves and once again get down to the dirty business of making a better world. We’ve been given an opportunity. Let’s not squander it.
In 2005, Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii), now chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced legislation that would have increased veterans’ medical care by $2.8 billion in 2006. He also introduced another bill that would have set aside $10 million for “readjustment counseling services” — a program to provide a wide range of counseling, outreach and referral services for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, to ease their readjustment back into society. (This program was started in 1979 for Vietnam veterans, so one would think McCain is quite familiar with it.)
But McCain — and other Republicans who are more concerned with using government funds for tax cuts for multimillionaires or for corporate subsidies to oil and gas companies — voted this effort down.
The following year, Akaka requested $1.5 billion for veterans’ medical care and an additional $430 million for the Department of Veteran Affairs for outpatient care and treatment for veterans. But, once again, McCain voted against these proposals, while offering no measures of his own, and without pushing his party to help U.S. veterans.
In 2005, Sens. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.) saw their respective veteran amendments killed. These amendments would have funded additional medical care and readjustment counseling for Iraq veterans with mental illness, post-traumatic stress disorder or substance abuse disorder. McCain voted “no” on both.
In 2005, and again in 2006, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) proposed legislation that would have indexed veterans’ healthcare benefits to take into account the annual changes in inflation and veterans’ population. She proposed paying for the indexing by restoring the pre-2001 top tax rate for income more than $1 million, closing corporate tax loopholes and delaying tax cuts for the wealthy. One guess as to how McCain voted.
In early 2006, Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) proposed an amendment for additional funding to shore up the collapsing infrastructures at veterans’ hospitals around the country. The bill would have mandated a minor rollback in the capital gains tax cuts that the Bush administration has given to the richest one-fifth of 1 percent of Americans. McCain, presumably more concerned about the 100-plus lobbyists associated with his campaign than the health of veterans, opposed this amendment.
Not long after, in February 2007, the Washington Post exposed horror stories about the crumbling infrastructure at Washington, D.C.’s Walter Reed Army Medical Center.
In February 2006, Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) sponsored an amendment that would have rolled back capital gains tax cuts so that much-needed equipment for troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan could be purchased. McCain and the Republican leadership made sure those tax cuts stayed in place, and, as a result, the troops didn’t get what they needed.
Finally, in June 2006, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) authored a bill — S. Amdt. 4442 — “to require the redeployment of United States Armed Forces from Iraq in order to further a political solution in Iraq, encourage the people of Iraq to provide for their own security, and achieve victory in the war on terror.”
It received 13 votes. Needless to say, McCain’s wasn’t one of them.
McCain was also noticeably absent on two measures that members of both parties should be able to embrace.
The Homes for Heroes Act — which Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) introduced in April 2007 — would have helped provide housing for low-income veterans and helped tackle the problem of homelessness among America’s military veterans. The bill died, though the House overwhelmingly passed a similar bill in July; its companion version still awaits a new vote in the Senate.
The Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2007 — introduced by Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) — restores the old GI Bill and provides returning troops with the more robust educational benefits enjoyed by the men and women who served in the three decades following World War II. Although this bill did not initially make it to vote, it was incorporated into the new GI bill that the Senate — absent McCain, who was at a fundraiser in Caliornia — passed in May.
Still, the DLC-Dem charge seems ironic coming from a self-professed “spiteful” Clinton supporter. Um, so, let me see if I’m following: Chart, who claims to have always “disliked Democrats who tore down the Democratic brand, trashed progressives, and praised Republicans”, is standing up to the establishment by supporting a Triangulating perennial DLC favourite/defender (who counts Newt Gingrich as a fan club member) whose husband endorsed Joe Lieberman in ’06 and, during his tenure as both Governor of Arkansas and POTUS, essentially wrote the book on kissing GOP ass (when politically expedient) and eating your own (again, when politically expedient) in order to stake a claim on the mushy middle. All “out of spite”.
Shit, show me a viable Donkey candidate in this election cycle who isn’t a “Lieberdem.” And don’t say “John Edwards”, whose voting record belies his recent populist re-branding as Huey-Long-in-wingtips. Hopefully somebody somewhere is drafting a wide-ranging eulogy for common sense and intellectual consistency during this primary season–to say nothing of bullshit detectors.
I haven’t given him much link love lately, but Sinister Greg (one of the first Canadian bloggers I began to read on a regular basis) hasreally been on fire recently. Today the Sinister One points to this eloquent, pragmatic post from conservative pundit and MMP supporter Andrew Coyne (also published in today’s National Post), who ably explains why the long-term benefits of electoral reform should quell anxious partisan concerns of wary conservatives (small and capital ‘C’):
Living on a knife-edge does strange things to people. On the one hand, it leaves the parties in a perpetual fever of anticipation, convinced they have only to gain a few points in the polls to destroy their opponents. That is one reason the two federal conservative parties, Progressive Conservative and Reform, were so reluctant to merge. It is also the reason why minority governments tend, under our system, to be so unstable.
On the other hand, the consequences of losing a few points makes them excessively, almost neurotically cautious, unwilling to take the slightest risk or advocate the mildest change, but each hugging as close as it can to the median voter, the status quo and each other. Hence the dominance of the two brokerage parties, indistinguishable in philosophy — alike, that is, in the lack of it.
Put the two together, and you have much of Canadian politics — viciously partisan, yet unspeakably trivial; much ado about nothing much. McGuintoryism, in short.
So the case for electoral reform, it seems to me, is one that conservatives, if not Conservatives, should find appealing. It is a cause that has tended, historically, to be identified with the left, not least in the current referendum debate; many conservatives have accordingly rejected it. Yet it is not the left that has suffered most under the current system. It’s the right.
By whatever combination of historical circumstances, the left has a party that will advance its ideas, free of the brokerage parties’ grip: the NDP. Though not often in government, outside of the West, it has succeeded in dragging the entire political spectrum to the left, its policies adopted by Liberal and Conservative governments alikes. Nothing like it exists on the right, federally or provincially, nor has since Reform’s demise. Nor is one likely to emerge, so long as “first past the post” remains the rule.
The same is true of parties less easily categorized, like the Green party. Though it is the party of choice for hundreds of thousands of Canadians, it has yet to win a seat, unable to concentrate its support geographically in the way that FPTP requires. How many more votes might it win if potential supporters were not disheartened at the prospect of “wasting” their votes, or worse, “splitting” the vote, as they are forever warned against doing?
But what if there were a system in which no votes were wasted, where vote-splitting ceased to be an issue? There is such a system, and it’s called proportional representation, of which the proposal before Ontarians is a variant. Not only the Greens, but other parties — libertarian, social-conservative, or other — might then have a fighting chance. The spectrum of acceptable ideas for debate would noticeably broaden.
Related: “Rock-ribbed conservative” Greg Staples (another early Canuckosphere fav of mine) dittos Coyne, and supplements with more pragmatism (the theme of the week, methinks):
I’ve already stated that I think the right-wing would split under proportional representation. In Ontario you would see a Tory party, a libertarian/conservative party and possibly a social conservative party. Nationally you could add a Bleu party. The (red) Tory party could become a natural home for the dissaffected centre-right Liberal and we would not be locked into the perpetual NDP wagging the Liberal dog. All this and we would have actual policy debate. That why I’m signed up.