Ah, the sweet tradition of civil debate in the hallowed halls of Congress:
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) on Thursday objected over and over again in order to keep statements out of the congressional record that accused Republicans of hurting working families by taking food stamps out of the farm bill. (Raw Story)
It is a sad, sad thing to be a Democrat in the US House of Representatives these days. Unable to move any legislation for the betterment of the country, they are forced to sit idly by and watch as the bumbling clown circus, also known as the Republican caucus, takes meaningless votes to repeal Obamacare for the eleventyith time or to appeal to women voters by attacking their reproductive rights, all while stymieing any hope of passing legislation which anytime prior to 2010 would have been bipartisan-feel-good ventures.
But just because you may not have the votes to make anything happen in the House doesn’t mean you aren’t there to represent the people. Sometimes, the best you can do on that front is to simply insure that you voice strong opposition to what the majority is doing.
So today, numerous Democratic reps took time on the House floor to ask their colleagues for unanimous consent to allow their concerns over the removal of the food stamp (SNAP) program from the Farm bill to be reflected in the Congressional record. It’s not going to change anything, of course, but their concerns that the GOP bill would hurt hungry American families would officially be on the record. Perhaps it’s unmeaningful in the larger scheme of things, but it is a quaint and civil form of minority protest which has always been respected in the House.
But that was before Louie Gohmert (R – Jackassville) got a hard-on to put the undeserving poor on a diet. Allowing members of the minority party to place their concerns with pending legislation into the congressional record is Just. Not. Okay. with Louie “The Troll King” Gohmert. As Democrat after Democrat asked to “revise and extend” their remarks in opposition to what the GOP is doing to the Farm Bill, putting nutrition assistance for the nation’s most vulnerable in jeopardy, Louie Gohmert repeatedly shouted, “Objection!”
As several more Democratic representatives attempted to insert remarks that the bill “hurts the working poor” and “increases hunger and poverty,” Gohmert repeatedly objected.
“I think it is extremely unfortunate that that members on the other side of the aisle would deny members on this side of the aisle the ability to insert written materials in the record,” McGovern noted. “In all my years here, I’ve never seen such uncourteous gesture.”
It’s not terribly exciting to watch, but you can view the proceedings here:
Louie Gohmert has become a bit of a celebrity compared with the national stature of most House members. (Politichicks even put him on their list of “Hottest Conservatives”.) –shudder– So maybe his increasingly dickish and bullying behavior should be expected. Ho hum, right? I mean, who the hell cares if one congresscritter is a complete ass to a bunch of other congresscritters about something that won’t ultimately matter to anyone?
But it’s just another in an ever-growing list of examples of Tea-Party affiliated congresscritters being assholes in D.C because it makes their supporters
all wet between the knees happy. It’s a huge part of why Congress no longer works at all. For all the talk of the Tea Party being over (“so 2010!”), the impact of the idiots they put in office and the ones, like Gohmert, that have been bolstered by Tea Party reactivistim is far from over. Just ask John Boehner.
It is also an example of what happens when a complete nincompoop like Louie Gohmert decides to affect public policy. You need look no further than Gohmert’s own House floor arguments against the food stamp program because of this one guy who told him about being in line at the grocery store buying ground beef and watching the people in front of him buying king crab legs with their food stamps. And Louie has just about had it with that!
Perhaps it is unsurprising that someone of Gohmert’s intellectual capacity can be fed a tired old trope and choose that as a jumping off point for serious policy discussion. But it should infuriate the rest of us that the “elites” representing us in Washington are so dim-witted (or think we are) that they choose to govern based on stereotyping and urban legend.
The University of Denver will bestow its “Improving the Human Condition” award this year upon former President George W. Bush. If you’re waiting for the punchline, I’m afraid there is none. This is for reals, people.
Yes, the Josef Korbel School Of International Studies at the University of Denver has chosen to honor the smirking, intellectually incurious, former warmongerer-in-chief for his contributions to the human condition. This will take place at a dinner on September 9th, assuming a great rift in the universe formed from the overload of irony doesn’t swallow us all up first.
Unfamiliar with Korbel? It’s a very well-respected graduate program which “trains practical idealists who live their values in their actions while navigating the complex political, cultural and administrative realities of our globally interdependent world” and “emphasizes the impact of policy on human welfare, illuminating the interconnectedness of our emerging global society.”
We could, I suppose, debate whether W is a practical idealist who lives his values. It would be much harder to argue that his legacy of human rights abuses, including torture and indefinite detention, preemptive war, and an ever-expanding police state here in the US has in any way improved the human condition. (Unless, of course, we count only war profiteers.)
So what’s going on here? Two things, working in tandem. On the one hand, there is a concerted effort on the right to rehabilitate George W. Bush’s image and reputation. This has begun in earnest with the opening of his presidential library. On the other hand, the Korbel school needs big money donors. And voilà — meet George W. Bush, Great Humanitarian™.
Note: Since receiving the invite and starting this post, I have come to learn of a change.org petition set up to protest the award. It won’t change a thing, but it’s important to let the school know we’re watching. You can find the petition here.
Yesterday we took a look at new Republican approaches to blocking immigration reform. As difficult as it is to swallow that Ted Cruz cares about the humanity of “illegals”, or that Jeff Sessions is suddenly against rewarding “job creators”, they gave it a shot. (Hey, they’ve gotta say something besides “our base doesn’t like immigrants and we don’t think they’ll vote Republican.”)
So demands and excuses continue to be made, primarily calling for even greater border security, all while launching a brand-spanking new Hispanic outreach campaign. Wonder how that’s going?
House Republican leadership’s outreach to the Hispanic community ran smack into a tea party wall on Wednesday.
Outside the Capitol, a tea-party-fueled rally on immigration put the spotlight on the dilemma facing Speaker John A. Boehner. The Ohio Republican met with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus on Wednesday and hopes to cure his party’s huge demographic challenge with Hispanics by passing an immigration overhaul this year. But the tea party energy on display outside the Capitol, which catapulted him into power in 2010, has turned on the speaker.
The contrast was on full display at an ill-timed news conference held by GOP Conference Chairwoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington outside the Capitol in the House Triangle, competing with the larger, daylong anti-immigration-bill news conference and rally on the East Front. [Roll Call]
Yes, putting the inter-party fracture on vibrant display, we simultaneously had one set of GOP lawmakers attempting to reach out to Hispanic voters and Spanish-language media while, just across the lawn, a second group of GOP lawmakers (including Steve King, Louie Gohmert and Michele Bachmann) fired up a Tea Party group to rally against any kind of immigration reform.
“I want to make a call for unity,” said Becky Keenan, a pastor with the Gulf Meadows Church of Houston, Texas, “a call for a tone that is civil, where we can discuss issues, see where we can compromise.”
Across the East Front lawn, a woman was shouting wildly into a much louder microphone, almost drowning out Keenan. Protesters wore T-shirts emblazoned with American flags and tea party slogans, and they waved homemade signs that read, “John Boehner: no amnesty, get a backbone,” “Boehner: go home,” “exporting illegals = importing jobs for Americans, stop socialism,” and “if we lose rule of law we become Mexico.”
Earlier, a mention of Boehner’s name brought a chorus of boos.
It would be funny if it weren’t so sad. So what are the big GOP issues with the Gang of 8 bill? Well, they do keep harping on about securing the border, for one thing. So as of this morning that portion of the bill has been beefed up to the point that one of the Republicans responsible for penning the amendment, Sen. Bob Corker, calls it “almost overkill.”
So maybe that will do it, eh? Nope. Because you still have the likes of Ted Cruz in the Senate, and the nutjobs out at that Tea Party rally, that will simply never go for anything which includes a path to citizenship. (Even a laboriously long and complicated 13 year path.) I love the way Maddow Blog’s Steve Benen puts it:
The single most popular provision — a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants — is the one thing congressional Republicans say they oppose most. Indeed, some, including Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), have characterized this element as the one thing Democrats need to give up on in order to get a deal done, as if the citizenship provision were some superfluous add-on, instead of the point of the endeavor. [Maddow Blog]
As Steve mentions, the path to citizenship is the most popular part of the whole effort. Just how popular? According to a new Gallup poll:
A majority of Americans would vote for each of six different policy changes that Congress is considering as part of a comprehensive immigration reform bill. Support ranges from a high of 87% for a multifaceted pathway to citizenship that includes a long waiting period, taxes and a penalty, background checks, and learning English, to a low of 53% for a law that would vary the number of immigrants the U.S. lets into the country, depending on economic conditions. [Gallup]
87%?!?! You don’t get that kind of broad support for many things in this country. Yet still the GOP (or at least a good portion of the GOP) balks. And this, gentle readers, is why the GOP can’t have nice things. The Tea Party monster they embraced for short-term gain in 2010 just can’t be tamed.
Republicans are not at all happy about the release of a CBO report yesterday showing that immigration reform may just be the pain-free, deficit-reducing, non-tax-raising dream we’ve been looking for. After all, it sort of destroys their argument that undocumented immigrants are moochers looking for a free ride on the taxpayer dime. So, we turn today to more novel arguments.
Witness Tea Party fav Ted Cruz concern trolling about how this immigration bill won’t fix the real problem — which, if we are to believe Ted Cruz today, is all about the humanity and safety of undocumented immigrants themselves.
He stood before a blown-up picture of a graveyard as he solemnly eulogized on behalf of unnamed souls who had been killed crossing the border:
“No one who cares about our humanity would want to maintain a system where the border isn’t secure,” Cruz said, noting that ”vulnerable women and children” are being preyed upon by drug dealers and are being “left to die in the desert.”
“This is a system that produces human tragedy,” Cruz continued. “And the most heartbreaking aspect of this gang of eight bill is it will perpetuate this tragedy. It will not fix the problem. It will not secure the borders.” [Greg Sargent - WaPo]
Never mind the billions of dollars already spent annually on border security to which the bill would only add. The Republican party line is that the border will pretty much never be secure enough. It’s all a tad too saccharine and hypocritical to this observer; but it still pales next the gall of Jeff Sessions.
That CBO report showing that the Senate bill will boost the economy? It’s not good enough for Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.). Even if it does help the economy, he says, “the benefit will go to the business owners.” He worries that “the 21 million Americans who can’t find full-time work will have an ever harder time getting a job and supporting their families.” Immigration, he warns, could be “the biggest setback for poor and middle-class Americans of any legislation Congress has considered in decades.” [Ezra Klein - WaPo]
How precious. That’s right, folks, Jeff Sessions is suddenly very worried about making the rich richer at the expense of the poor. The same guy who has repeatedly voted against legislation to promote jobs and assistance to the working and middle class: against extending the Payroll tax cut; against the American Jobs Act; against the Buffet Rule; against extended unemployment benefits; against the Employee Free Choice Act…
Sessions isn’t opposed to everything, though. He voted yes on the Ryan budget, which would have lowered the capital gains tax even as it cut food stamps and Medicaid. He also voted for the Bush tax cuts, which lowered both capital gains and income taxes for wealthy Americans, and the 2005 bankruptcy bill, which made it harder for low-income Americans to wipe their debts clean. He’s also voted in favor of a slew of balanced-budget amendments which would have required deep cuts in social spending. His budget speeches recite a bunch of policies that will directly benefit the rich, like corporate tax reform, with nothing to directly help the poor.
What doesn’t appear to interest Sessions are the policies that follow from the economic theories he’s wielding against immigration reform. His record shows no consistent opposition to bills that primarily benefit business owners or the wealthy, or that empower labor to wrest more economic gains from capital. It shows no sustained interest in the fortunes of the least fortunate. And Sessions has rejected policies that would help the unemployed get work and fought policies that would ease the pain of unemployment. [Ezra Klein - WaPo]
So it’s little surprise that no one is actually buying this new line of political cover for killing immigration reform. Remember how it used to seem almost impossible for comprehensive immigration reform to become a reality? And then remember the 2012 election and how after that it looked like maybe it would be possible? Well, the GOP did some soul-searching. And for all the talk about how the GOP needs to recognize the demographic shift and reach out with policies that appeal to a growing Hispanic population, at its core the GOP is just not ready.
Last week we took a look at just how big a lying liar Darrell Issa (R – Liartown) is on this whole IRS scandal! thing. At that time we noted that Issa had promised on national television to release the full transcripts — not just cherry-picked excerpts of under-whelming “proof” — but had thus far failed to do so. In response, the ranking Dem on the committee, Elijah Cummings (D – Badassville), went on the same national television program and said that if Issa didn’t release the transcripts within the week, we would do so himself. Issa didn’t like that one bit and said it would now be “reckless” to release the full transcripts which he himself had already promised to release. (With me so far?)
Well, suffice it to say that as of Monday, Issa still had not released those transcripts, nor had he responded to Cummings request to clarify what or how the transcripts’ release could actually damage the investigation. So today, Cummings followed through.
Cummings released the full transcript today in two parts, making it available to a select group of reporters, with redactions of names of individuals, and accompanied it with a letter to Issa explaining his decision, in which Cummings concludes that the transcript “debunks conspiracy theories about how the IRS first started reviewing these cases.”
This comes after Cummings had previously insisted Issa release the full transcript himself, arguing it would show that the Republican chairman’s claims of White House involvement are false, and that Issa’s own selective release of testimony was misleading the public. Issa refused, insisting that releasing full transcripts would damage the investigation. Cummings then asked Issa to detail what specifically in the transcript would do this, and demanded an answer by yesterday. According to Cummings’ letter, Issa has yet to reply — hence the decision to go forward with the release today. [Greg Sargent - WaPo]
At any rate, you can probably guess what the transcripts show. As you probably already knew, Issa’s claim that the “scandal” started in Washington is poppycock. Wishful thinking, if I’m being generous. A blatant attempt to lie and mislead the public if I’m being frank.
In the testimony, the screening manager says that he first became aware of the initial Tea Party application when an “agent who worked for me” asked for “guidance concerning a case for him.” The manager testified that in this case he agreed with the agent that “there was not enough information” to figure out whether to grant the group tax exempt status.
“I told him at that point in time I agreed with his thinking,” the manager testified, adding that he informed the agent that he would “elevate that issue to my area manager.”
“This was the first case that came in that was brought to my attention,” the manager continued.
The manager further testified that the Tea Party groups were deliberately grouped together so that they would receive consistent treatment. “There was a lot of concerns about making sure that any cases that had, you know, similar-type activities or items included, that they would be worked by the same agent or same group,” the manager testified.
In the testimony, the screening manager also flatly stated he had no reason to believe there was White House involvement. [Greg Sargent - WaPo]
You should probably just go give Greg Sargent’s report a read if you’re interested in more details. Me? I’m just looking forward to the next act in Darrell Issa’s Circus Of Fail™.
By now you have probably heard that the Supreme Court has struck down Arizona’s law requiring proof of citizenship to be able to register to vote. Surprisingly, the decision wasn’t even close, with only two justices (Thomas and Alito) dissenting. Perhaps even more surprising (and certainly a demoralizing blow to some on the right) the majority opinion was written by none other than Antonin Scalia. Cue the hand-wringing…
But would Scalia, who just a year ago strongly dissented when the court more narrowly overturned most of Arizona’s egregious “papers please” anti-immigration law, really leave the right in a lurch and without hope? Of course not. Here’s what the search for the silver-lining has turned up:
While the court was clear in stating that states cannot add additional identification requirements to the federal forms on their own, it was also clear that the same actions can be taken by state governments if they get the approval of the federal government and the federal courts.
Arizona can ask the federal government to include the extra documents as a state-specific requirement, Scalia said, and take any decision made by the government on that request back to court. Other states have already done so, Scalia said.
The Election Assistance Commission “recently approved a state-specific instruction for Louisiana requiring applicants who lack a Louisiana driver’s license, ID card or Social Security number to attach additional documentation to the completed federal form,” Scalia said. [Register Guard]
If that passage isn’t entirely clear, here’s what Scalia is suggesting: the state could make a request to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to allow this additional documentation. They just might get approval. Failing that, the state would then have legal cause to turn to the courts for remedy, where Scalia suggests they may find a more favorable outcome.
So two things:
For one, it is clear from reading the court’s opinion that this is a victory for Federal authority. The case was not decided on the basis of voting rights and civil liberties. So liberals celebrating the win should perhaps keep that in mind.
The more interesting thing, however, is this:
Currently, the Election Assistance Commission doesn’t have any active commissioners. The four commissioners are supposed to be nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The last two commissioners, Donetta L. Davidson and Gineen Bresso, left in 2011, according to the EAC website.
Oh. Well that’s a hiccup, isn’t it? Scalia’s roadmap for successful, federally-approved state suppression of voting rights relies on the constitution of a board held hostage by the extreme partisan dysfunction of the U.S. Senate. How amusing.
But lest you think the problem only exists in the Senate:
During the 112th Congress, two Republican-sponsored bills — H.R. 672 and H.R. 3463 — were introduced to eliminate the Election Assistance Commission. [HuffPo]
In case you’re unfamiliar, the EAC was created as part of the bi-partisan Help America Vote Act (HAVA) following the debacle of the 2000 election. While many of us would argue that the commission’s work is far from complete, and that it indeed could use a revamp including updated standards, others (read: Republicans) say it’s work is done and that we no longer need it.
Which is funny, because for at least some Republicans, the EAC just became that weird thingamajig in the back of the junk drawer that you keep meaning to throw out because you don’t need it. Until you find that you do.