A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

“Death, fire, and burglary make all men equals.” —Dickens

Category: Congress

Super Scholar to Primary the Thomas Jefferson Out of John Cornyn, for America

by evanmcmurry

Wait for it………………..wait for it………………………Here we go:

Texas tea party activists eager to send another firebrand in the mold of Ted Cruz to the Senate have launched a movement to draft evangelical historian David Barton to run against Sen. John Cornyn.

Barton, who hosts a daily radio broadcast, has wide name recognition and respect on the religious right as a Constitutional scholar dedicated to restoring the America the Founding Fathers envisioned, though his scholarship on that point has been widely discredited in the world of academia.

Political analysts doubt he could take down a candidate as well-funded, well-known and widely endorsed as Cornyn. But they’re not willing to count out an insurgent from the right — not after watching Cruz come from nowhere two years ago.

Oh, and this launched today:

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 8.20.46 AM

BARTENDER!

Update, via Texas Tribune:

A new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll in Texas finds Greg Abbott (R) leading Wendy Davis (D) in the race for governor, 40% to 34%. 

In a three-way race against Davis and Libertarian Kathie Glass, Abbott’s lead shrinks to 5 points, 40% to 35%.

Sentence of the Day

by evanmcmurry

“The senator’s office got phone calls urging him to vote against ‘keister’ and ‘cluster’ rather than cloture, for instance, and to ‘stand with Tom Cruise,’ presumably meaning Senator Ted Cruz.” (via)

Mitch McConnell: For the LULZ

by evanmcmurry

This guy’s always on:

Look, shutting down the government, in my view, is not conservative policy. I don’t think a two-week paid vacation for federal employees is conservative policy.

Two week paid vacation, amiright? Nailed it!

In all seriousness, McConnell just stepped on a legitimate cause of the GOP’s tactical shambling, namely the extent to which awful conservative policy is rooted in the average Republican’s disdain for federal employees as personifications of the bureaucracy they claim to hate (but always expand when in power). Viewing the people—and they are people!—who work for the government as entitled slugs enables disastrous decisions like a gratuitous government shutdown; it’s much easier to capriciously shutter an institution when you think of its 800,000 employees who have bills to pay as getting hammock time. The above line, quoted by Chris Cillizza as an indicator of McConnell’s strategic comprehension, is ideological delusion masquerading as self-awareness.

Is Our Tim Huelskamps Learning?

by evanmcmurry

Consider these two developments next to each other:

Republican donors were horrified in November after pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into campaigns for president and Congress with nothing to show for it. A year later they’re appalled by how little has changed, angered by the behavior of Republican lawmakers during a string of legislative battles this year capped by the shutdown, and searching for answers.

In conversation after conversation, donors express growing frustration with the party and the constellation of outside groups they’ve been bankrolling. After getting squeezed last year by an array of campaign committees, party committees and disparate super PACs, many of them are still sitting on their checkbooks — a worrisome sign for the party with the 2014 midterm elections fast approaching.

And then this one, on the prospects for immigration reform:

That means Boehner, who struggled to unify his members throughout the shutdown, would have to “divide the conference” to pass an immigration bill, said Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan.

“That would really melt down the conference,” said Huelskamp, a Tea Party conservative.

Does anybody, including and especially GOP donors and supporters, care what Huelskamp thinks of caucus unity at this point? What’s GOP House unity gotten the GOP or anybody else? At what point will the “only the most conservative, intransigent policy will keep House GOP happy” response no longer matter? Can it be now?

Tea Party Rep Takes Founders Comparison to the End of the Line

by evanmcmurry

Ladies and gents, fallacy by analogy:

[Rep. Morgan] Griffith suggested the House should reject an unfavorable agreement from the Senate, even if it resulted in a debt default that severely damaged the economy.

“We have to make a decision that’s right long-term for the United States, and what may be distasteful, unpleasant and not appropriate in the short run may be something that has to be done,” he said.

Griffith, a former majority leader of the Virginia House of Delegates, cited as an example the American Revolution.

“I will remind you that this group of renegades that decided that they wanted to break from the crown in 1776 did great damage to the economy of the colonies,” Griffith said. “They created the greatest nation and the best form of government, but they did damage to the economy in the short run.”

Too bad he didn’t work Hitler into that.

How the VA Gubernatorial Race Really Affects the 2014 Midterms

by evanmcmurry

Today in correlation without causation:

Republicans should pay attention to what’s looking increasingly like a Democratic win in the making in the 2013 Virginia gubernatorial election; that ought to make them at least a little worried for the 2014 midterms.

Historically, whichever party is in the White House loses the Virginia gubernatorial election, just as the White House’s party loses House seats in midterm elections. The last time this did not happen was 40 years ago, in 1973.

Meh. Talk to Newt Gingrich and South Carolina about what 40-year-old electoral trends mean. More interesting is not the fact that the Democrats are winning an election with strong GOP fundamentals, but that they’re doing so with a candidate by all accounts weak (AP retractions aside); even ardent Democrats admit McAuliffe is missing a certain si se puede.

This last fact casts the 2014 House races in a different light. The chances of the Democrats retaking the House next November are still next to none, no matter how much recent Quinnipiac and Public Policy Polling results made everybody salivate. Democratic House candidates received 1.7 million more votes than their GOP counterparts in the 2012, when Democratic turnout was high, but still didn’t gain enough seats; the idea that they could replicate that result in a low-turnout, historically right-leaning midterm yet somehow do so in a more targeted way so as to maximize gains is simply far-fetched.

But! One way in which the government shutdown’s negative effects on the GOP brand is truly being felt is in candidate recruitment. As individual races appear more attainable, potential candidates who had written 2014 off are giving running another look. Via Greg Sargent:

Rep. Steve Israel, who is in charge of winning House races for Democrats, told Dem lawmakers at a closed door meeting today that GOP shutdown shenanigans were giving Dems a big recruiting boost, by prompting reluctant Dem candidates to express renewed interest in running in very tough GOP-held districts.

Fielding a strong bench is no small accomplishment. It makes midterm gains more likely, even if the majority is not attained. But more important over the longterm, it readies a bench of viable, tested candidates for 2016, when the fundamentals shift back in the Democrats’ favor, including in the Senate, when, unlike the previous two races, the GOP will be the party defending an excess of vulnerable seats.

In other words, the lesson of the Virginia gubernatorial race might not be Cuccinelli losing a race he should have won—for the fundamentals of 2014 can buoy even a very unpopular GOP—but McAuliffe winning a race he should have lost. After all, if McAuliffe can win, what might stronger candidates be able to accomplish? The mere fact of their trying is encouraging, if not for 2014, then certainly for 2016.

NB: If you haven’t watched Bill Kristol try to spin Cuccinelli’s loss as an endorsement of small government, do so, for the children.

The Anti-Cavalry Has Arrived

by evanmcmurry

No:

Obama has work to do as far as keeping the caucus in line. The Times also reported that 26 House Democrats would attend an event Thursday sponsored by the group No Labels, an organization helmed by former Utah governor Jon Huntsman and former Indiana senator Evan Bayh, a Republican and Democrat, respectively. No Labels is calling for immediate negotiations between the two parties. (via)

No.

The Most Jaw-Dropping Line About Default Yet

by evanmcmurry

So this is terrifying:

“We always have enough money to pay our debt service,” said Mr. Burr, who pointed to a stream of tax revenue flowing into the Treasury as he shrugged off fears of a cascading financial crisis. “You’ve had the federal government out of work for close to two weeks; that’s about $24 billion a month. Every month, you have enough saved in salaries alone that you’re covering three-fifths, four-fifths of the total debt service, about $35 billion a month. That’s manageable for some time.” (via)

Unless I’m misreading that, Senator Burr is suggesting that we avoid default by keeping the government closed, thereby freeing up money to plug our debt by using funds that would otherwise pay the salaries of 800,000 government employees. The phrases “every month” and “some time” suggest he does not consider this a short term solution.

Bill Kristol made the extraordinarily cynical point the other day that the GOP might as well ride out the shutdown, as the party had already absorbed the negative effects and couldn’t get any more unpopular. I guess that sounded like a wager to Burr.

For more Burr, click here.

Today in Legislating as a Pointless Beckettian Exercise

by evanmcmurry

Hey, who missed the debate over whether Obama can/should invoke the Fourteenth Amendment to unilaterally raise the debt ceiling? It’s rock-and-hard-place politics, as it gets Obama out of the jam while handing his critics, who believe him to be a sinister usurper to begin with, a blaring example of the president snatching power of the purse for the executive, and all to continue Bush’s his reckless spending. The other option is default.

But to add to the frustrating waste of the shutdown—Republicans don’t even know what they want from it anymore, and ObamaCare rolled out on Tuesday even as the effort to defund it shuttered unrelated portions of the federal government—the debt ceiling is an especially pointless little twig of a law: “The debt ceiling is the fiscal equivalent of the human appendix—a law with no discoverable purpose,” writes Henry J. Aaron of the Brookings Institution. (Except that appendices ultimately get removed…)

We’re going through all this for literally nothing.

The New Democratic Strategy to Force a Clean CR Has a Built-in Timebomb

by evanmcmurry

The good news is the Democrats may have found a way to force a clean CR through the House despite the opposition of the House GOP leadership.

Stay with me here: the trick is called a “discharge petition,” which forces a House vote on a bill if a majority of representatives sign it. Democrats had considered using this before, but it takes 30 days for a discharge petition to mature. But Dems have discovered a previously filed bill, written by James Lankford (R-OK), that would pass sequester-level spending to avoid a shutdown; Lankford’s bill was written in March, clearing the 30-day hurdle. So a pair of Democratic reps will introduce the DP—that’s what I’m calling it now!—today, and if they gather 218 signatures from House reps, which they should be able to if all twenty GOP members who say they want a clean CR are telling the truth, the thing passes and goes to the Senate. Bam, government reopens. (<- All this via Greg Sargent.)

All good, right? For now. Here’s the bill’s language:

If Congress fails to approve a budget by the end of each fiscal year, the Government Shutdown Prevention Act would ensure that all operations remain running normally without any interruption of services by automatically triggering a continuing resolution (CR) or short-term, stop-gap spending device. The bill creates an automatic CR for any regular appropriations bill not completed before the end of the fiscal year. After the first 120 days, auto-CR funding would be reduced by one percentage point and would continue to be reduced by that margin every 90 days.

Catch that last sentence? The bill has a built-in spending cut of 1% every three months. Keeping in mind that for a decent amount of GOP reps, the sequester-induced spending cuts and the 18% of government currently furloughed are not unintentional consequences but the exact sort of government shearing they’re after, introducing a bill that automatically cuts spending if Congress doesn’t get its act together to pass appropriations bills incentivizes House Republicans to never, ever get their acts together to pass appropriations bills. It guarantees future chaos at regular intervals.