Tag Archives: Congress

On the perils of aspirationalism

The trouble with political aspirationalism: if you are, say, Joe Biden, you’ve spent decades climbing ever closer to the center of power. You have little incentive to question much less dismantle this ladder. You accept the assumptions because without those assumptions your ascension wouldn’t have happened. This phenomenon works doubly so for minorities. Continue reading

The Senate: ‘a graveyard of liberal legislation’

Swatting away Mitch McConnell’s bad faith and worse history, Jamelle Bouie schools NYT readers on the filibuster: “an extra-constitutional innovation that lay dormant for a generation after its unintentional creation during the Jefferson administration.” The Senate was supposed to a less efficacious chamber, not a chamber that grinds to a halt. The Constitution contains not one syllable addressing a fifty-nine-vote requirement. Indeed, after that fascinating rapscallion Aaron Burr stumbled upon its existence, it went dormant for decades until, well, you know: Continue reading

‘Together, we can do the necessary work’: the Georgia Senate runoffs

I suffered no anxiety because I didn’t think Democrats would beat smiling offal like David Purdue or an unlettered hack like Kelly Loeffler. Figured Joseph Robinette Biden would govern by executive order while Mitch McConnell made life miserable for his putative Old Friend. Hours after most networks declared Reverend Raphael Warnock the winner of his Senate race, the extent of Stacey Abrams’ triumph is just coming into focus. Should Jon thirty-three-year-old (!) Jon Ossoff win his race, as I expect he will, Georgia will have not only elected a president but ended McConnell’s perfidious tenure as minority leader: six years of serving Moloch for the sake of appointing judges and SCOTUS justices. Continue reading

Blame everything on Newt

I read an insightful comment on Lawyers, Guns & Money this morning. To what degree, the reader asks, did the GOP’s victory in 1994 strengthen its radicalism? The comment:

The fact that they went for 40 years without ever holding it meant that they had to compromise on budgets and a vast range of measures. It’s interesting that the critical political function that the GOP excels at, obsessively focusing on judges, is one that doesn’t go through the House. It’s also interesting that a lot of their current anti-democratic focus has its strongest effect in the House. I might be wrong, but I bet the GOP remembers that 40-year run in the wilderness more strongly than Democrats do.

Imagine how Democratic policies would be affected if we couldn’t, for election after election after election, win the House? It would push us towards the centre, and this argument of whether we should compromise and accommodate the racists wouldn’t even be an argument — we’d have to.

During this postwar period of great strife and acrimony the Republicans controlled twice: 1946 to 1948, and as a result of the Ike landslide 1952-1954. They suffered devastating losses in the 1958 midterms. The Democrats lost few seats in 1962. The only significant setback for Democrats until Ronald Reagan ushered in a GOP-controlled Senate for the next six years were the 1966 midterms, the reaction against the Great Society. The insufferable encomia to George H.W. Bush and his putative moderateness failed to mention that to have any seat at the table Republicans had to compromise.

As the two parties sorted themselves in the nineties into voting blocs similar to parliamentary systems, turnover accelerated, which means that the GOP has even less reason to stabilize and why the Democrats have only in the last election cycle paid more than lip service to their left flank. Democrats, however, have a few years to go before they approximate the GOP’s inexorable purism. This won’t stop Beltway types from both-sides-ism, though.

Waving magic wands: the myth of Democratic power

Pressing his ears against the commentariat’s din, Matthew Yglesias comes to obvious conclusions: only a Democratic majority in the Senate could have stopped the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation. Conversely, Mitch McConnell’s legislative genius, such as it is, consisted in whipping a bare majority. Even in those halcyon days of the sixty-vote filibuster over which Harry Reid presided, Barack Obama got nominees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan confirmed not because a spirit of benign comity persuaded Susan Collins and Lindsey Graham to vote for them: the Senate confirmed them because he still enjoyed a fifty-plus Democratic majority that could’ve gummed up the works if it wanted to. Reid and Obama didn’t need Collins and Graham.  Continue reading

The way we live now

If in 2005 a friend had asked me to endorse a candidate with “socialist” somewhere in her literature I’d have looked nervously over my shoulder — this is Miami, and I’m of Cuban-American descent. Andrew Sullivan bewitched me. I was proud to use my lack of party affiliation as a demonstration of my freedom from the scrim of politics. But these are strange times. Living during the Obama and Trump years occasion unexpected nudges, encouragements, and, at last, the collapse of long-held assumptions.

A summa:

Looking back, it’s also striking that Crowley never actually won a competitive congressional election. He was slotted into a safe seat back in 1998 by his predecessor, who only officially retired too late to have an open primary competition for the seat, thus allowing Crowley to be crowned without really running. Crowley is well liked by his colleagues in the House, but he’s not particularly charismatic. And in retrospect, his decision to skip a couple of debates looks borderline catastrophic.

Ocasio-Cortez, meanwhile, is a young, dynamic public speaker in a city whose machine-oriented politics tends to toss up drab nonentities as its politicians. She had uncommon social media savvy, and cut a fantastic video while waging a campaign that did a brilliant job of both channeling long-simmering national progressive disgruntlement with the idea of Crowley’s eventual accession to the speakership and emphasizing her greater rootedness in the district as currently conceived.

Bring on Election Day.

The GOP war on the poor, part 44557

While y’all tittered about Melania Trump and her Coat of Smarm, the House reminded Americans that Paul Ryan and his GOP caucus despise the poor. Although putatively a “farm bill,” it’s a cruel piece of legislation written to exact work from people who already drop dead in exchange for a pittance from Washington:

The House farm bill would also tighten eligibility criteria under SNAP — changes that would result in some 400,000 households losing SNAP benefits. Thousands of children would also risk losing their enrollment in free and reduced-price school meal programs.

Republicans contend the plan would put people on a pathway to self-sufficiency. Democrats and anti-hunger groups say it would make it more difficult for millions of needy Americans to receive nutrition assistance, and also would invest in a state-run job training bureaucracy under SNAP that has yet to prove it helps people move out of poverty.

Whether bill survives in conference despite Pat Roberts of Kansas’ altruism remains a mystery. But concentrating on ephemera is a symptom of a Beltway pundit class that doesn’t have to worry about having enough money in their credit cards to buy cashews and lamb shanks. I warrant that Nicole Wallace will spend not a second discussing the implications of this bill on MSNBC this afternoon.

The honorable, stalwart Willard Romney

I’m late to the story, but Scott Lemieux wrote the sharpest squib about the announcement that Willard Romney, Scion of the Binder and Emperor of Bain and Father of Tagg, may run for the departing Orrin Hatch’s Senate seat in Utah:

A Republican senator who is a lockstep vote for Trump’s agenda and appointments and a lockstep vote against any attempt to investigate him will be replaced by a Republican senator who is a lockstep vote for Trump’s agenda and appointments and a lockstep vote against any attempt to investigate him but occasionally gives quotes to the media suggesting that he finds Trump vaguely distasteful.

Having returned to work, I couldn’t watch the phalanx of homeless conservative Trump victims who consume MSNBC air time. Do they consider Romney a man of principle or a vulture capitalist with handsome coif who governed Massachusetts as you might expect a Republican to do with a Democratic legislature? It’s called a rhetorical question.

Puerto Rico and imperial machinations

Ricardo Rosselló, governor of a U.S. territory where power, thanks to Hurricane Maria, remains out for 36 percent of the population, tried making nice with Congress; now, incensed by how the tax bill on the verge of passing will punish investors, he’s lashing out.

Rosselló is particularly irked over portions of the law that impose a 12.5 percent tax on “intangible assets” of U.S. companies abroad and a minimum of a 10 percent tax on companies’ profits abroad, meaning businesses with operations in Puerto Rico will pay higher taxes than their counterparts on the U.S. mainland. The measure in the GOP tax bill is designed to stop American companies from avoiding taxes by shifting profits overseas. But it would also apply to Puerto Rico because the island is treated as both a foreign and domestic entity under the U.S. tax code.

Speaking of scathing, Refugees International excoriated the Puerto Rican government and FEMA’s bungled coordination:

Comparing it with past natural disasters, such as the 2010 Haitian earthquake, the group found the U.S. response lacking. In Haiti, the group says 8,000 U.S. troops were deployed to the island within two days of the disaster. In Puerto Rico, it took 10 days for 4,500 U.S. troops to arrive. Central to FEMA’s problematic response, Refugees International says, is that the federal agency is designed to supplement local and state disaster response efforts. But in Puerto Rico, the group found, municipalities and the Commonwealth had “limited capacity and ability to respond.”

Fifteen days ago, I dined with the warm and marvelous parents of a Puerto Rican friend. From their smiles it was impossible for me to tell that at home they still had no power and didn’t expect restoration until March. Please ponder this revelation for a moment. March 2018. Puerto Ricans enjoy no respite from the tropical climate; it’s humid or less humid. The machinations of their government fascinate them not a bit. Whether the imperial capital located thousands of miles north shows little besides a mercenary interest in the territory it regards as a colony matters less than fresh hot coffee in the morning.

Starving the punditry class

“If we listen to those who wail that taking someone’s punditry gig and book contract is the same as if you “kill a guy,” Ana Maria Cox writes, “I suspect we’re in for a whole rash of reincarnation.”

Franken will leave the Senate quite alive, and with little threat (at this moment) of legal damage. He might have been denied “due process,” but that’s not because he won’t appear in front of the Ethics Committee, which will drop its recently opened investigation if he leaves the Senate; it’s because he’s not being criminally charged. His life won’t just not be over, it won’t even be ruined — he’s a wealthy man with many friends who show no sign of desertion. And I can’t see a man with Franken’s sizable talents and ego ever totally disappearing from the national stage.

I haven’t written much about the accusations, counter-charges, and resignations; I have nothing to add to matters that seem, to my eyes, self-evident. But watching even a nanosecond of cable news — I know, bear with me — creates the impression that losing a guest commentator spot on Chris Matthews’ show is the equivalent of the pillory post. I roll my eyes at Charles Pierce’s also self-evidently obvious warnings about asymmetrical warfare. Let fucks like Newt Gingrich and Hugh Hewitt whine about the Democrats’ moral high ground. Whether men in Congress accused of sexual assault wait for an ethics committee investigation (rigged against the victim, I know), resign, or endure a punishment that still leaves them comfortable doesn’t concern me. Now, if Dems want to play politics, they can let victims of sexual assault denounce the men in the GOP and their own party. The GOP doesn’t have a monopoly on swinish men. That’s, to use the jargon, a better look than imitating Ruth Marcus.