Obama on MTP: ‘Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem’

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-12-2012-05-2008

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That was the title of a now-famous essay by Thomas Mann and Norm Ornstein:

Let’s just say it: The Republicans are the problem

The GOP has become an insurgent outlier in American politics. It is ideologically extreme; scornful of compromise; unmoved by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.

When one party moves this far from the mainstream, it makes it nearly impossible for the political system to deal constructively with the country’s challenges.

Here is President Barack Obama on Meet the Press Sunday, taped Saturday:

Mr. Obama told host David Gregory that “the only thing I would caution against…is I think this notion of, ‘Well, both sides are just kind of unwilling to cooperate.’ And that’s just not true. I mean if you look at the facts, what you have is a situation here where the Democratic Party, warts and all, and certain me, warts and all, have consistently done our best to try to put country first.”

That the standoff persists, he said, “is an indication of how far certain factions inside the Republican Party have gone where they can’t even accept what used to be considered centrist, mainstream positions on these issues.”

The Mann Ornstein piece is from April 2012. The Republicans have done their best to prove the point every day from then until now. And it’s a major reason why they lost the 2012 election, and why the tea party is one of 2012’s biggest losers.

The media’s inability to get this point, when they should be repeating and amplifying it every time Republicans prove it yet again, instead of constantly making excuses for them in the guise of “analysis” (it’s redistricting, it’s solid red districts, it’s political self-interest … actually it’s a lack of willingness to compromise, a radicalization of the party, a result of being funded by billionaire nut jobs and a complete inability to do their own job) is their biggest failure of 2012. And the inability to tell the truth is one reason why media is so disrespected by the public.

Let’s hope 2013 is a better year for all concerned. The American public’s patience for this crap is not infinite—see 2012 election results.

(Full interview available here.)

McConnell’s gambit

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-12-2012-05-2008

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U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) makes a point about his meeting with President Barack Obama regarding the country's debt ceiling, during a news conference at the Capitol in Washington May 12, 2011.   REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst   (UNITED STA

Brian Beutler on Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s latest gambit:

On the Senate floor a few minutes ago Mitch McConnell made Democrats an offer. Now that he and the White House basically agree on the tax piece of the so-called fiscal cliff, Congress should pass legislation to prevent the Bush tax cuts from expiring at midnight, and grapple with the “sequester” in the coming days.

This is an offer Democrats will have a hard time turning down.

True, but there’s an important caveat. Given that the tax cut threshold of $450,000 that Democrats negotiated with Mitch McConnell was predicated on delaying the sequester’s spending cuts, there’s no reason that they should feel compelled to stick by that number now that McConnell is taking the sequester off the table. Instead, Democrats should go back to their original alternative plan: putting forward legislation that would extend tax cuts on all income below $250,000 along with unemployment benefits.

Given the logic of McConnell’s statement, he should be willing to support that plan. And if he can’t bring himself to support it, he needs to either pay the political price for opposing it or put something else on the table as a concession. And that means delaying the sequester.

Basically, McConnell is saying that he only wants to enact the parts of the deal that he likes—the parts where Democrats compromised. But he doesn’t want to enact the parts where Republicans would have had to compromise. And while I wouldn’t bet against Democrats accepting that “offer,” they really should reject it—especially now that House Republicans have announced they plan to take us over the “cliff.”

House won’t vote before midnight on ‘cliff’ deal

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-12-2012-05-2008

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WASHINGTON (AP) — The House will miss the midnight Monday deadline lawmakers set for voting to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”

House: Over the cliff we go

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-12-2012-05-2008

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Unless House Republican leadership changes its mind, this seems pretty close to an official announcement: we’re going “over the cliff.”

House Maj Whip’s office: “[at] roughly 5:30-6:00 pm we will have our first and only vote series of the day on suspensions.” Over the cliff.
@brianbeutler via Janetter for Mac

Of course, they could come back and vote on something tomorrow, and it would be just as good as voting on something today. So substantively, it’s not really that big a deal. And in a way, the fact that it’s not all that big a deal is a fitting symbol of just how absurd this whole process is.

1:10 PM PT: Doesn’t this kind of put the lie to Boehner’s promise to hold a vote if the Senate passes legislation? Basically, he’s shutting down before the Senate has acted despite demanding that the Senate act first.

Midday open thread

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-12-2012-05-2008

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  • Today’s comic by Tom Tomorrow is The year in review, part two:
    Cartoon by Tom Tomorrow - The year in review, part two
  • What you missed on Sunday Kos …
  • Hair tearing time for the right-wingnuttia:

    Americans again this year name Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama as the Most Admired Woman and Most Admired Man living in any part of the world.

  • File this under ewwwww:

    It reads like a hoax, but I did some Googling, and prisons apparently have been using “anal” scanning chairs for a while now.

    Reportedly the British embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan is now using the creepy chairs as well.

    (How long before we have to sit down for an anal exam at the nation’s airports too?)

    Oh, the chairs do vaginal exams too. (No word on whether they offer you a cigarette after.)

  • Watch your step:

    Just about everyone in Washington is worried about stepping off the “fiscal cliff” on Tuesday. What they should really worry about, though, is stepping off the curb: New Year’s Day is the deadliest time to be a pedestrian.

  • Drink fast:

    Many Russians consider beer a soft drink – a light refresher that can be guzzled on the way to work or sucked down in great quantities before a picnic and a swim in the river.

    Hard drinkers sniff at its weakness, as the saying goes: “Beer without vodka is like throwing money to the wind.”

    But a hung-over nation will wake up to a new and troubling reality on New Year’s Day when beer in Russia becomes classified as an alcoholic drink for the very first time.

  • On today’s Kagro in the Morning show, it’s Fiscal Thingy-mania! Greg Dworkin joined us for a laugh/cry at blaming “both sides” for winning the election and expecting that to make a difference. So just what would the mechanics of a last minute deal be, that any single Senator could blow it u?. Hmm. Anyone know where Jim DeMint is? Plus, our UK friend, Gideon on everything from the NRA’s nuttiness on violent video games, to Mitt Romney’s self-depricating humor at the Al Smith dinner, to the lack of progressive policy representation on the Tee-Vee machine./

Obama: Deal is ‘within sight,’ not yet complete

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-12-2012-05-2008

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First Read: As of Monday afternoon, there appeared to be significant movement toward a solution to stave off the fiscal cliff before it can inflict damage on the economy.

Farm bill still languishes in House, despite House/Senate committee agreement

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-12-2012-05-2008

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Jugs of milk on store shelf.

How dysfunctional is the House of Representatives? This dysfunctional, and it’s not even about the fiscal cliff curb. For months and months, House Speaker John Boehner has refused to bring the farm bill to the floor for a vote, held hostage by his caucus that has been locked in a battle over how much food stamp recipients should be punished. For the first time in modern history, the House is poised to fail on a farm bill.

It’s so bad that House Agriculture Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) has negotiated his own agreement, apart from leadership, with Senate Chair Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) to try to stave off the worst impact of a failed farm bill by extending the current bill and replace dairy programs that expire with the end of 2012. Without some replacement for those dairy programs, the law reverts to a decades-old formula that could result in milk prices tripling within weeks. And yet:

[T]he House GOP has yet to endorse the committees’ extension agreement, and leaders are also considering two narrower extension bills: a one-month extension and an even smaller bill that would merely extend dairy policy. As of Sunday night, Republican leaders had not scheduled a vote on any of them. […]

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said Sunday that Republican leaders had not decided how they would proceed on the farm extension, though a vote could come as soon as Monday.

The fight over the farm bill, and specifically milk price supports, reflects larger problems Boehner is having with his caucus. Boehner and Lucas are in all-out public war over the program Lucas has come up with for fixing the dairy issue.

The sparring 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 facing the GOP as it tries to untangle itself from the milk crisis brought on in large part because of Boehner’s refusal to allow floor debate in this Congress on a full-scale, five-year farm bill.

“We need to take positive action to put this issue to rest,” Lucas told reporters. “And make sure that it is clear to everybody in this country that the farm bill policy has certainty and we will not have eight- or nine-dollar milk.”

If we have $8 or $9/gallon milk, that’s John Boehner’s fault, just to be clear. It’ll be a great thing to wash austerity down with.

Obama makes fiscal cliff statement

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-12-2012-05-2008

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President Obama is scheduled to make a statement on the fiscal cliff today at 1:30 PM ET. It will be one of those events with a group of middle-class Americans assembled behind him and is expected to be designed to put pressure on Congress to get a deal done. We’ll post updates throughout the statement.

10:27 AM PT: The president probably won’t be announcing any new deal when he speaks, but it will be interesting to see whether he focuses his remarks on a general call to action or if he pushes for a particular solution.

10:37 AM PT: I have no idea why anybody is even talking about a two-month delay in sequestration. It would be crazy for Democrats to agree to that:

GOP aide: Dems only need $24B in short-term cuts for 2-month sequester "buy-down." Dems seek 1-yr delay as members bridle at tax-thresholds
@JohnJHarwood via Twitter for BlackBerry®

10:41 AM PT:

Rep Rogers (R-MI) says even if there’s a deal in the Senate "I don’t see how you get something voted on today" (in the House)
@frankthorpNBC via TweetDeck

Rep Rogers (R-MI) also says if delay in sequester not offset: "I don’t know how it passes the House, I just don’t see it."
@frankthorpNBC via TweetDeck

So there’s two issues with delaying the sequester: first, how long will it be delayed, and second, whether the delay will be paid for by revenue or by offsets (which basically would set up a new cliff). Those are very, very big issues and the fact that there isn’t more clarity about them suggests there really isn’t a deal on these points.

10:43 AM PT: “Middle-class Americans” have taken the stage behind the president’s podium, so we should be starting momentarily.

10:46 AM PT: Obama says he will address “the progress” being made in Congress today. Says negotiations have been going on to avoid tax hikes, and avoiding those tax hikes have been his top priority. “Today it appears that an agreement to prevent this New Year’s Tax Hike is within sight, but it’s not done.”

10:47 AM PT: Obama says he wants to “emphasize to Congress” so that “members of both parties” remember this is an important issue “all across America.”

10:48 AM PT: Obama is starting to make the case for the deal, which he says isn’t done yet. Very, very weird seeing him advocate a deal that he says isn’t complete. Almost makes it seem like the deal actually is complete.

10:48 AM PT: Now Obama is talking about solving deficit problems “in stages.”

10:49 AM PT: So far, most of the stuff Obama is saying about the deal is designed to appeal to the political left.

10:50 AM PT: Now Obama is shifting to a discussion of the sequester’s automatic spending cuts. “That is a piece of business that still needs to be taken care of.” But at least so far, it’s not clear if he’s saying they need to be dealt with today or not.

10:51 AM PT: Here’s what I’m not understanding: what, exactly, did Democrats get by agreeing to a higher threshold for tax rates? Based on what I’m hearing from the president, it seems like the answer is “nothing.”

10:53 AM PT: This speech is not a speech to Republicans. It’s a speech to Democrats. Which presumably means the president thinks he has a deal done and now must rally his base around the deal.

10:55 AM PT: Cheer up. Next time will be different!

Obama says if GOP thinks future deficit reduction will be only by spending cuts, "they’ve got another think coming"
@jamiedupree via TweetDeck

10:57 AM PT: Predictably, Republicans respond with outrage to the president’s speech, although I have to say, I have no idea what speech they were watching:

Cantor’s lead spokesguy // RT @dougheye: If Obama’s goal was to harm the process and make going over the cliff more likely, he’s succeeding.
@edatpost via HootSuite

RT @JakeSherman: a top McConnell aide –> RT @HolmesJosh: Potus just moved the goalpost again. Significantly. This is new
@samsteinhp via TweetDeck

NYT: Senate Dems seek one-year ‘pause’ in sequestration cuts as part of deal

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-12-2012-05-2008

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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) speaks to the media after a caucus meeting with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill in Washington August 1, 2011.

Jonathan Weisman of The New York Times reports a senior Democratic aide in the Senate says any last-minute deal with Republicans to avert the fiscal cliff must include a one-year delay in sequester spending cuts:

Senate Democrats are pushing back hard on a deal that Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and Senator Mitch McConnell are closing in on, objecting vociferously to any compromise that suspends automatic across-the-board spending cuts for any time frame short of a year.

A senior Senate Democratic aide said a one-year “pause” in those cuts — known as sequestration — is nonnegotiable. Mr. McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader, has suggested a three-month suspension, according to officials knowledgeable about the negotiations.

Remember, the delay in sequester spending cuts is the primary reason Democrats would be wiling to discuss moving off of the $250,000 threshold on tax cuts, so the three-month timeframe Republicans are talking about is a joke. Even one year seems like it’s giving away too much: a temporary spending reprieve in exchange for permanent tax concessions. That’s especially true when you consider that Republicans claim to oppose at least half of the sequester’s spending cuts. (Remember when Paul Ryan denied voting for them during the campaign?)

But even though one year probably is giving away too much, debating whether it is or it isn’t will turn out to be a pointless exercise if Biden and McConnell reach a deal only to have House Republicans reject it. From my outsider’s perspective, I suspect that House Republicans would be extremely reluctant to agree to any delay in the sequester. The way they justify giving up on the tax cut hostage crisis is to say that they’d rather have a fight over spending over the next couple of months, culminating with the debt limit. But if the sequester is delayed past that point, the only thing they’ll be able to fight about is the debt limit, and if President Obama refuses to negotiate with them on the debt limit, they won’t have a very interesting fight.

To be clear, I’m not saying that I think House Republicans would win a spending cut battle if the sequester cuts aren’t delayed, but I am saying that I think they believe they would win such a battle. Therefore, they won’t want to give it up. The implication of that is that House Republicans might actually be more likely to accept a $250,000 threshold for tax increases without a sequester delay than they would be to accept a $500,000 threshold with a sequester delay. (And they’d accept unemployment benefits in both.)

At least from my perspective, if there’s a deal, the thing I’ll be most interested in evaluating is how much Democrats gave up on the tax cut front and how much they got in return on the spending side. But the fact that they are already at the one-year mark is not a good sign, unless they’ve also cut back on what they are offering to give up on the tax side.

Hopefully, Democrats remember that their best alternative to a negotiated agreement—their BATNA—is pretty strong: putting a simple bill on the Senate floor to extend tax cuts on all income below $250,000 and simultaneously extend unemployment benefits.

9:49 AM PT: President Obama will be speaking at 1:30 PM ET. According to the White House, “THE PRESIDENT delivers remarks about the fiscal cliff at a White House event with middle class Americans.” That doesn’t sound like the sort of event at which a deal is announced—rather it sounds like one designed to put pressure on Congress to get something done. We’ll cover it live.

9:54 AM PT: And at about the same time as the Obama speech was announced, Senate Republicans say a majority of their caucus will likely support a deal. Unclear whether that means “if there’s a deal, a majority will support it” or if it means that “There is a deal, and a majority will support it.” I guess the answer to that will determine who President Obama is trying to pressure, unless he’s trotting out a bevy of middle class Americans to celebrate a deal, which seems a bit unlikely.

10:00 AM PT: Ezra Klein tweets what he is hearing the deal consists of here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here. Note that according to him, the sequester delay remains “unclear” which is another sign that the sequester is one of the big hangups at this moment. That’s reasonable as Democrats basically don’t get much of anything out of the deal other than a delay in sequester spending cuts. The fact that it’s not clear what that delay would consist of isn’t exactly heartwarming news.

10:11 AM PT: More stuff coming out making it seem like a deal is coming together:

Senior officials from both sides now confirm: $400,000 for individuals, $450,000 for families.
@nancycordes via TweetDeck

However, without knowing what will happen with the sequestration spending cuts, it’s impossible to say what Democrats would be getting in exchange for moving from $250,000 to $450,000—unless they never really wanted $250,000 in the first place.

House broken: How the GOP legislative machine turned into a doomsday device

Posted by admin | Posted in Politics | Posted on 31-12-2012-05-2008

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If it wasn’t already obvious, the past few weeks surely have made it so: The House of Representatives has collapsed.

Sure, the buildings are still there: The chamber in the right-hand wing of the Capitol, those dumpy offices across Independence Ave. And the buildings are still filled with representatives and their staff—or will be, once they all get back to town.

But as far as acting as a functioning branch of the federal government, those people might just as well be the walking dead (although that could be a little unfair to flesh-eating zombies).

The House GOP leadership—or what now passes for it—can’t even schedule a vote to stop taxes from rising for millions of Americans on New Year’s Day, much less come up with a constructive bill for members to vote on.

The speaker of the House, a man just two heartbeats from the presidency, has been reduced to a cipher, watching passively as the Senate (the Senate!) tries to take the lead in finding a way out of a fiscal crisis.  

The once mighty Republican machine, which twice in living memory (1995 and 2011) vowed to roll over the White House like an M1 tank, sits paralyzed—rusted frozen, like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz.

The upshot of all this is that the House of Representatives—one of the two heads on the shoulders of our bicameral congressional beast—has been rendered largely irrelevant. The GOP majority can’t even negotiate with itself, much less with anyone else.

How did we reach this point? And can a broken House be put back into some kind of working order in time to head off a fiscal disaster? I have serious doubts.