A day that was supposed to bring Washington to the edge of resolving the fiscal showdown instead seemed to bring chaos and retrenching. And a bitter fight that had begun over stripping money from the president’s signature health care law had essentially descended in the House into one over whether lawmakers and their staff members would pay the full cost of their health insurance premiums, unlike most workers at American companies, and how to restrict the administration from using flexibility to extend the debt limit beyond a fixed deadline.
That is the state to which the whole thing has devolved. The denizens of the monkeyhouse are bringing the world economy to the brink of chaos in order to fk their own staffs over on health insurance. Or at least that’s what they say. In reality, what this is about is a rump faction of one of our two major political parties that doesn’t think we should have a federal government at all, that wants to roll back its functions to a state half-past the Articles of Confederation, and that is doing so while believing itself to be some unholy combination of the Founding Fathers and the X-Men. They have cast themselves in their own action adventure movie, and the rest of us serve pretty much the same function as New York City does in The Avengers. We’re the set decoration that gets demolished as Our Heroes fight evil. These are pathetic, worthless children, playing dress-up, and smashing things because they like the sound of things breaking.
By Tuesday afternoon, House Republican leaders were back with a new proposal to fund the government through Dec. 15, extend the debt ceiling into February and deprive not only lawmakers but all their staff members of employer assistance to buy their health care. By extending that provision to staff members, Republican leaders hoped to appeal to its far-right flank, but it angered more moderate Republicans and was not enough for the conservative hard core. Complicating the speaker’s task, Heritage Action, the conservative Heritage Foundation’s political arm, which wields great influence with the most conservative elements of the Republican Party, opposed the plan. “I think there’s always hope there can be a final package I can vote on, but this is not the one,” said Representative Ted Yoho, Republican of Florida, as he and two other Tea Party conservatives left the speaker’s office.
The power rests with Ted Yoho because the castrato Speaker Of The House, Boehner of Ohio, cares more about his job than he does about his country. The power rests with Ted Yoho because the American political system has tolerated carefully cultivated ignorance and carefully tailored bigotry for far too long. Ted Yoho has been coming for years. Ted Yoho was made inevitable by the NCPAC campaigns of the late 1970’s and by the elevation of Ronald Reagan to the presidency in 1980 and, subsequently, to an artificially exalted place in our history after he left office. The Republican party revelled in all the forces that are now tearing it apart. The Democratic party was criminally negligent and abdicated its profound responsibility to fight against those forces; indeed, it spent the better part of the 1980’s and 1990’s trying to surf the wave itself. The Democratic Leadership Council, and Blue Dog Democrats generally, bear a heavy burden of responsibility for failing to demonstrate to the American people in election after election how extreme the Republicans were becoming.
House Republican leaders withdrew Thursday from defending the Defense of Marriage Act and similar statutes in a court case in Massachusetts, citing the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the gay-marriage ban.
This is not to suggest that reform won’t happen. House Republican leaders are highly motivated to lance this boil. “This is going to be an issue that Democrats use to beat up Republicans until it’s taken off the table,” acknowledges Cole.
And although much has been made of Boehner assuring his conference that he will abide by the so-called Hastert Rule on immigration (meaning that he won’t move a bill that doesn’t have the support of a majority of the majority), Hill veterans note that there are ways around this unofficial mandate.
In some cases, leadership can get a majority of its members to express private support for a bill even when they’re unwilling to vote for it, notes Feehery. (Cole cites the fiscal cliff deal an example.) As for the official vote count, Republican staffers are already allowing for a bit of wiggle room. While passing legislation with more Ds than Rs would be a no-no, passing it with, say, 120 votes from each team would be just fine. Of the Hastert Rule hubbub, the GOP aide says, “It’s kind of a lot of ado about nothing.”
Or as Cole puts it, “The Hastert Rule is a rule except when it’s not.”
Just don’t talk that way in front of the conference’s right wing. They already have issues with the leadership, and some have even launched a crusade to make the Hastert Rule binding. (As if the House needed any more hurdles to getting stuff done.) All of which suggests that Boehner et al. should rest up over the recess and brace for a July 10 “listening session” that will, by comparison, make their last colonoscopy seem like a week in Palm Beach.
This bill, championed by Arizona Republican Rep. Trent Franks, sought to ban abortions after 20 weeks nationwide, with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest. “I’ll be very frank: I discouraged our leadership from bringing this to a vote on the floor,” Dent said.
My e-mail box was flooded with headlines that began “This again?” and “This … is the GOP’s idea of outreach to women? Really?” and “He said what?” The latter referred to a remark by Franks, chairman of the committee, that “incidents of rape resulting in pregnancy are very low,” as a justification for the bill ignoring rape and incest victims.
Democrats on the Judiciary Committee were apparently willing to allow the time when an abortion is legal to be reduced by one month. They sought to add exceptions for rape, incest and the woman’s health — all of which were rejected by Republicans on the panel.
But it appears the House Republican leaders, recognizing a train wreck, added the language to the bill anyway to avoid an embarrassing defeat. The bill will also include an exception for a medical emergency in which the woman might die. This new altered version goes before the Rules Committee on Monday. There are, by the way, 22 Republicans on the Judiciary Committee. All men. Not a single woman.
Facing a bipartisan uprising from Northeast lawmakers, House Republican leaders scheduled a Friday vote on an initial installment of aid for states damaged by Superstorm Sandy.
In addition to this week’s action on $9.7 billion in additional borrowing authority for the National Flood Insurance Program, Speaker John A. Boehner of Ohio and Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia announced that the House will vote on the $50 billion remainder of the Obama administration’s disaster relief request on Jan. 15.
House Republican leaders faced bipartisan criticism Sunday for proposing just 30 day patches to forestall the threatened spike in milk prices next month — with senior lawmakers mocking the approach as a “poor joke on farmers” and asking who plants a crop for just 30 days.
At a lively GOP whip meeting, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Frank Lucas pressed hard for his longer-term extension to provide more certainty and the time needed to write a new farm bill next year. But the Oklahoma Republican met stiff — and colorful — resistance from Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) who went so far as to liken new dairy provisions in the Lucas bill to “communism.”
The exchanges between the two men continued in a meeting of the full GOP conference Sunday night, where Boehner again laced into the dairy program. But Lucas — the traditional “good soldier” for his party — held his ground. And the back-and forth illustrates the problems still facing Boehner as he tries to untangle himself from the milk crisis brought on in large part because of his refusal to allow floor debate in this Congress on a full-scale, five-year farm bill.
In a way, the Republicans have done what the White House wanted: They have put out their own plan in response to President Obama’s proposal last week for deficit reduction.
But it didn’t take long for the White House to dismiss the GOP offer, released Monday afternoon by Speaker John Boehner and other House Republican leaders. Not only does the Republican plan call for only half the revenue the president wants - $800 billion over 10 years versus $1.6 trillion - it does so by limiting tax breaks, not by raising tax rates on the most wealthy.
The Boehner plan also includes a $1.4 trillion cut in spending, for a total of $2.2 trillion of deficit reduction over the next 10 years. The cuts include reductions in federal health-care spending on programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. Savings are also derived by lowering cost-of-living increases in Social Security.
“The Republican letter released today does not meet the test of balance. In fact, it actually promises to lower rates for the wealthy and sticks the middle class with the bill,” White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said in a statement. “Their plan includes nothing new and provides no details on which deductions they would eliminate, which loopholes they will close, or which Medicare savings they would achieve.”
An effort to provide emergency aid for American ranchers and farmers reeling from a year of drought, frost and other calamities collapsed on Thursday as members of Congress departed for their five-week August recess, leaving behind a pile of unfinished legislation as they go home to campaign for re-election.
Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, who as chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee helped pass a five-year farm bill in her chamber, refused to take up the new House measure.
After refusing to consider a sweeping five-year farm measure, House Republican leaders jammed through a short-term $383 million package of loans and grants for livestock producers and a limited number of farmers. The measure passed 223 to 197, a narrow margin for a bill that has an impact on so many states. But Democrats balked in protest over the way the farm legislation has been handled and some Republicans objected to the costs.
Democratic leaders in the Senate, which had already passed a bipartisan five-year bill, refused to take up the House measure, faulting House Republican leaders for failing to consider the broader legislation in time.
What “religious freedom” bill?
Republicans stung by the culture wars that dominated the nation’s political discourse this year are standing down on social issues, acutely aware that the presidential and congressional elections five months off are expected to turn on a thin margin of cash-strapped independent voters neither party can afford to alienate.
How about House Speaker John Boehner’s vow to reverse President Barack Obama’s birth control policy? There’s no sign of any such legislation. The Ohio Republican reminds people daily that he is focused on jobs now.
Obama’s revelation that he supports gay marriage? Told ya so, said social conservatives at the core of the GOP - before they turned back to assailing the president’s stewardship of the economy.
And what happened to the GOP’s efforts to curb abortion? House Republican leaders made it go away by offering a vote on a bill to ban gender-based abortions Thursday - under special rules that guaranteed it would fail.
House Republicans investigating the Fast and Furious scandal plan to pursue a contempt citation against Attorney General Eric Holder, senior congressional aides told CBS News.
The resolution will accuse Holder and his Justice Department of obstructing the congressional probe into the allegations that the government let thousands of weapons fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
The citation would attempt to force Holder to turn over tens of thousands of pages of documents related to the probe, which has entered its second year.
For months, congressional Republicans probing ATF’s Fast and Furious “Gunwalker” scandal - led by California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, have been investigating a contempt citation. They’ve worked quietly behind the scenes to build support among fellow Republicans, since it could ultimately face a full House vote.
CBS News has confirmed that House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, was provided a 48-page long draft by Issa, who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
“While there are very legitimate arguments to be made in favor of such an action, no decision has been made to move forward with one by the Speaker or by House Republican leaders,” a Republican leadership aide told CBS News.