A Flea in the Fur of the Beast

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

Tag: house gop

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?

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 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.

2011: The Good Ol’ Days

by evanmcmurry

Following the government shutdown on Tuesday, economic confidence is at its lowest since December 2011, when it had plummeted in response to the debt ceiling crisis. The lowest before that? The 2008 financial collapse. So, great precedents all around, and good thing the House GOP shut down the government over whatever reason they had for doing that.

You look at graph now:


This is before the coming showdown over the debt ceiling, mind you. Whispers from the Capitol (worst romance novel ever) say John Boehner no-way-no-how will allow us to default on our debt. There’s evidence Boehner is more in charge than he appears—he kept the moderate revolt on Monday night from happening, for instance, suggesting he hasn’t completely ceded his will to power—and he definitely has the votes among his caucus to join with Democrats to raise the debt ceiling, as even a good portion of  the House GOP realize the catastrophic consequences of default. But the longer the shutdown goes on, the less predictable everybody gets…

So, Who’s Driving?

by evanmcmurry

Shortly after word that the House GOP was attaching a provision to the CR that limits contraception access comes this:

Screen Shot 2013-09-28 at 10.08.48 PM

Legislating is like shooting pool: after two drinks, you’re great; after three, you shouldn’t be playing at all.

The Coming Debt Ceiling Hostage Negotiation Meltdown Spectacular (Now With Abortions!)

by evanmcmurry

Hey, remember how the deficit is shrinking at an unexpectedly rapid rate, thus pushing any debt crisis, even imaginary ones, far into the future? Ya don’t? You must be a House Republican:

Even though the deficit is plunging at an extraordinarily fast rate, and saving the Republic from the supposed imminent threat of the debt crisis was the entire rationale for using the novel and dangerous tactic of holding the debt ceiling hostage, absolutely nobody within the House Republican caucus is even considering just lifting the debt ceiling. Everybody agrees they must demand a new hostage.

Relevant hostages, right?

The proposed demands change from tax reform to spending cuts to delaying Obamacare to the Keystone pipeline to the Paul Ryan budget to banning certain types of abortion.

I can’t wait to hear the explanation of how abortions are causing the deficit problem we don’t have.

As Chait goes on to point out, the real enemy of this stunt is the business community, which has put the kabosh on the hostage strategy before, and will again if need be. In the meantime, the House will do nothing but further tarnish the GOP brand at a time when the party is desperately trying to reinvent itself as not insane. Oh, and nothing will be done for the un- and underemployed, but you already knew that.

Why The House Would Be Committing Suicide To Debate The Debt Ceiling, Reason #2

by evanmcmurry

More and more noise that the “business community,” whatever  it is, will pitch one gigantic hissy fit if the House GOP comes even close to holding the economy hostage over the debt ceiling. Combine this with the fact that doing so will be electoral poison for Republicans, and I can’t see any rational reason for them doing so. None of which, of course, means they won’t do it.