Mitch McConnell

Less than 15 Hours After Winning Senate Majority GOP Started Laying Plans to Grow the Deficit

As I laid out yesterday, Mitch McConnell’s victory lap made it clear he plans to set up ObamaCare — the individual mandate — as a key campaign issue for 2016.

There were another few details from that speech that were very telling.

First, McConnell said he would roll out tax reform — that is, very large tax cuts for corporations. That’s clearly payback for the Chamber of Commerce, which had a very critical role in the GOP’s success, according to this great article from the WaPo.

American Crossroads and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce played aggressively in primaries to boost the candidates they believed could win general elections — including Thom Tillis in North Carolina and Dan Sullivan in Alaska.

[snip]

For much of the primary, Cochran was sleepy and might have been defeated outright were it not for a late push from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which aired a pro-Cochran testimonial from football legend Brett Favre on his farm in Hattiesburg, Miss.

[snip]

Despite his corporate pedigree, Perdue was one of the few Republicans running without the backing of the U.S. Chamber. In late 2013, the Chamber’s Rob Engstrom scheduled an endorsement interview with Perdue in Atlanta at 8 a.m. Perdue arrived at 8:35 and did not apologize for being late, according to three people familiar with the exchange. Sitting with his arms folded, Perdue told Engstrom, “I don’t give a damn about the U.S. Chamber.” Perdue put his finger on the table and said, “You’re either going to endorse me right here, right now, or you’re wasting my time.”

Seven minutes in, the meeting was over.

[snip]

It was Republican former Senate leader Robert J. Dole, 91, who first sensed trouble for Roberts. Amid a tour of Kansas, Dole in May called Scott Reed, his 1996 presidential campaign manager and now an adviser at the U.S. Chamber, with a warning. “There wasn’t the enthusiasm I expected for Pat,” Dole said.

Of course, that’s going to leave a hole in the budget. Eliminating the medical device tax — another tweak McConnell promised to make to ObamaCare — will create another hole in the budget.

McConnell revealed part of how he was going to fill it with his response to a question about the Democrats’ filibuster reform. He noted that the Senate doesn’t need 60 to get things done for some issues. He noted they can use reconciliation and push stuff through with just 51 votes.

The GOP has spent 4 years complaining that the Democrats pushed ObamaCare through using reconciliation. But it took just 15 hours after winning the majority for McConnell to make clear that he plans to push through aggressive ideological legislation using the same tool.

Still, all the cutting in the world isn’t going to make up for steep drops in corporate tax cuts. Which means — as always happens when Republicans are in charge — we should expect the deficit to start growing again.

Why the 2016 Senate Election Is Sure to Be About ObamaCare, Again

Mitch McConnell already announced how the GOP plans to retain the Senate in 2016: ObamaCare.

Again.

In his press conference today, he said that one tweak they’ll make to ObamaCare will be to eliminate the individual mandate, which is one of the least popular parts of the law. That will pass immediately, probably before the first January snowfall. It’ll probably, on that first go-around, even get a few Democratic votes.

Obama will then veto the bill.

Then the GOP will take it up — probably in the Senate — for an override vote.

Democrats will be faced with the choice of voting to uphold Obama’s veto. Or making the politically far more popular vote, helping the GOP to override Obama’s veto.

One way or another it’s a huge win for the GOP. If they override the veto, the Executive will have to jump through major hoops to make insurance attractive and affordable enough (ha) to keep enrollment high enough it works for insurers. If they don’t override the veto — meaning fewer than 12 Democrats vote to override it — then retention of the very unpopular mandate will be the issue the GOP runs on in every Senate race next cycle.

There are currently expected to be 10 Democratic seats up for reelection in 2016, so technically the Dems could free those 10 to vote with the GOP to help them avoid a very unpopular vote. But that doesn’t include several of the Democrats who are most likely to vote with the GOP on the mandate in any case (people like Jon Tester, for example).

In any case, it’s an obvious play for Mitch to do, and one with huge upsides for the GOP whichever way it turns out.

Mind you, by 2016, the benefits of ObamaCare will also finally be more evident (and if the GOP overturns Medicaid in states where it has vastly expanded coverage, especially KY and AR, that’ll be a huge issue for Republicans to defend against). But the GOP clearly intends to continue to make it an electoral problem for the Democrats.

The Flake Effect

As you no doubt know, Democrats got shellacked yesterday. Not only did they lose the Senate in spectacular fashion, but Jim and I are stuck with our shitty Republican governors. Locally, the GOP succeeded in term-limiting our Mayor who wins with 80% of the vote.

Steve Vladeck has a post considering how this will affect national security politics. I agree with his ultimate conclusion:

Thus, the real question that I think yesterday’s results raise for national security policy in the 114th Congress is not what this “genuine debate about how best to preserve constitutional values while protecting the Nation from terrorism” will look like, but rather whether the absence of such a debate (which seems increasingly likely) will indeed provoke courts to play the more aggressive role to which Justice Kennedy alluded.

But along the way, Vladeck makes a grave category error by suggesting that Ted Cruz is a libertarian.

Although the realignment thesis requires decent support from the wings of both parties, the consequences of yesterday’s results are to put the focus squarely on how libertarian Republicans approach national security policy–since theirs is the party in power in both chambers. With that in mind, consider Senator Ted Cruz’s fairly remarkable unwillingness to openly endorse Senator Mitch McConnell as majority leader. Whatever that portends with respect to the leadership race, it suggests at the very least that, on some issues, the more libertarian wing of the Republican party may not exactly fall into lockstep with the party’s more moderate elements. And while that was an intriguing enough phenomenon when Republicans only controlled the House, how that plays out when Republicans control both sides of the Capitol will be very interesting to watch.

Ted Cruz is a dangerous narcissistic authoritarian piggybacking on Tea Party popularity and amorphousness to advance his own career. He is not a libertarian.

There are, to be sure, some libertarian senators. Along with Mike Lee and Dean Heller, who get little notice, Rand Paul has learned how better to use Senate procedure to advance libertarian aims. (One piece of evidence that Cruz is not a libertarian is that both he and Paul appear to be running for President, making it clear they don’t have the same agenda.)

That said, one of the most interesting aspects of this election is that Paul did some real campaigning for authoritarian hack Pat Roberts, lending him his Tea Party cred.

Ted Cruz, however, was not out campaigning. Update: According to this, Cruz also campaigned for Roberts.

But the question of how having Cory Gardner and Joni Ernst in the Senate has little to do with their politics, in my opinion.

They have a lot more to do with the difference between Mitch McConnell and John Boehner.

John Boehner is an ineffective leader whose attempt to discipline his party ended up creating leaders who had little to lose.

Mitch McConnell is not an ineffective leader. He has long been able to demand discipline.

Perhaps the best indicator of that is what happened when Jeff Flake, who was superb on civil liberties in the House, moved to the Senate. He’s terrible on those issues now. Pretty much runs and hides in a corner, whimpering, when such issues come up. I’m not sure how Mitch did it, but he managed to neutralize someone who challenged GOP authoritarianism. Completely. I expect the same of Cory Gardner (though will be happy to be proven wrong).

In any case, I would be shocked if Mitch made the error of putting someone like Gardner (or Paul) in one of the at least 3 new Republican slots that will open up on the Intelligence Committee.

The story of the next two years will be about what Mitch — and his heavy discipline — wants to accomplish in the Senate, not about what a few libertarians or pseudo-libertarians want.

Complicit in 20 Children’s Death, Mitch McConnell Claims He Can Do Nothing

[youtube]Pa10PnVzkgE[/youtube]

This afternoon, the man who will soon lead a filibuster against laws intended to lessen the chances that a massacre like Newtown will happen again had this to say for the people for Newtown.

So we stand with the people of Newtown today and in the days ahead. We can do nothing to lessen their anguish, but we can let them know that we mourn with them, that we share a tiny part of their burden in our own hearts. And that we lift the victims and their families and the entire community in prayer.

He said nothing in his speech about the personal responsibility he bears for not having acted to prevent this massacre and similar ones before 20 children died. He said nothing about immunizing gun manufacturers and making it easier to buy a gun. Indeed, he remained silent–simply clearing his throat once–when specifically asked about the actions he might take or obstruct to prevent similar massacres in the future.

No, Mitch McConnell. We may not be able to do anything to lessen their anguish, but we sure as hell can do more than your proposed solution–to pray.

I’ve been mentally responding to reactions like this much as The Economist’s Democracy in America did generally.

So unless the American people are willing to actually do something to stop the next massacre of toddlers from happening, we should shut up and quit blubbering. It’s our fault, and until we evince some remorse for our actions or intention to reform ourselves, the idea that we consider ourselves entitled to “mourn” the victims of our own barbaric policies is frankly disgusting.

Unless Mitch McConnell is willing to reverse his career of catering to the NRA, he has no business offering solace to the victims. Because he was one of the people ensuring the perpetrators of this gun violence would have easy access to their guns.

Note, McConnell is not the only one who followed bold words with silence (though he does have the NRA A rating, unlike these others). The White House today refused to say whether gun control was a top priority. And as Alec MacGillis notes, “in the decade since [2000], we’ve heard nary a peep from the side of the spectrum that had previously made this one of their causes.”

While Obama Urges Caution, Netanyahu, McConnell, IAEA Fan Anti-Iran Rhetoric, Iran Takes Positive Diplomatic Steps

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UdECxrhmFbc[/youtube]

President Obama and his administration have spent the last week trying to point out the extreme downside to an attack by Israel on Iran’s nuclear sites. Unfortunately, Obama’s words of caution are getting little play while Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell made appearances before the war-hungry mob at AIPAC to make the case for an attack now. In the meantime, Iran took positive diplomatic steps that are likely to be overlooked, reversing a death-sentence conviction on an accused US spy and committing to an IAEA visit to the disputed Parchin site.

As seen in the video above, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano made public statements associated with his appearance before the Board of Governors.  From his prepared remarks:

As my report on Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and Relevant Provisions of Security Council Resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran makes clear, the Agency continues to have serious concerns regarding possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme.

In January and February, a senior Agency team held two rounds of talks in Tehran with Iranian officials aimed at resolving all outstanding issues in connection with Iran’s nuclear programme. Despite intensive discussions, there was no agreement on a structured approach to resolving these issues. Iran did not grant access to the Parchin site during the visits, as requested by the Agency. Iran provided an initial declaration on the issues listed in the Annex to my November 2011 report, although it did not address the Agency’s concerns in a substantive manner. During the visits, the Agency also submitted questions on Parchin and the possible role of a foreign expert.

Iran’s Ambassador to the UN agency Ali Asghar Soltanieh dismissed Amano’s report as “only a summary of his earlier report“. Today, Soltanieh announced that Iran remains prepared to define the conditions under which IAEA will be allowed access to Parchin: Continue reading

How Dare the President Protect Consumers!?!?!

We’ll have to come back to the issue of why President Obama decided to use his recess authority to appoint Richard Cordray to head the Consumer Financial Protection Board but not Dawn Johnsen or Elizabeth Warren. But for now, I’d like to collect the wails of Republican outrage.

Shorter John Boehner: Protecting consumers from rapacious banks is an extraordinary and entirely unprecedented power grab! Protecting consumers is bad for the economy!

Shorter Mitch McConnell: Obama has arrogantly circumvented the American people by protecting the American people!

Shorter Orrin Hatch: It is a very grave decision by this heavy-handed, autocratic White House to appoint someone to protect consumers. The American people deserve to be treated with more respect than this White House is affording them by protecting them from the banks!

Shorter Spencer Bachus: Appointing a director to the CFPB will cripple it for years. The greatest threat to our economy right now is uncertainty, and by protecting consumers the President just guaranteed there will be even more uncertainty.

 

Mitch McConnell’s Greatest Fear: DOJ Proved Him Wrong for 5% of the Cost

When the Obama Administration charged two Iraqis on al Qaeda related charges in Bowling Green, KY, Mitch McConnell wrote an op-ed wailing about all the fearful things that could happen as a result.

In short, these two are not common criminals who should be provided all the rights and privileges of American citizens. They are enemy combatants who should be transferred to the military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where they can be interrogated, detained, and brought to justice.

I commend the skill and professionalism of law enforcement and prosecutors for apprehending these terrorists and preventing further violence on our troops. And yes, it is possible to simply try them as common criminals in a civilian court. But after Congress created a $200-million, state-of-the-art facility in Guantanamo Bay precisely to handle foreign fighters like them, why would we want to? It simply makes no sense to saddle Kentuckians with the security and logistical costs associated with ensuring the safety of our residents during a civilian trial.

[snip]

Trying these terrorists in a civilian courtroom could also risk compromising classified information used as evidence in the trial. That too has happened before in trials of this sort—and the Justice Department has already said that they expect the use of classified information in this case.

[snip]

And what happens if these detainees are acquitted, as nearly happened with Ahmed Ghailani?

[snip]

Unlike the Attorney General, Eric Holder, who believes that our “most effective terror-fighting weapon” is our court system, the good people of Kentucky know that our military is what keeps us safe. Our men and women in uniform have sacrificed everything to preserve our freedom and our rights as Americans.

Today, one of the two, Waad Ramadan Alwan, pleaded guilty to all charges against him.

Alwan, 30, a former resident of Iraq, pleaded guilty to all counts of a 23-count indictment charging him with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals abroad; conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction (explosives) against U.S. nationals abroad; distributing information on the manufacture and use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs); attempting to provide material support to terrorists and to al Qaeda in Iraq; as well as conspiracy to transfer, possess and export Stinger missiles. Alwan was indicted by a federal grand jury in Bowling Green, Ky., on May 26, 2011.

Alwan faces a maximum sentence of life in prison under the sentencing guidelines and a mandatory minimum of 25 years in prison.

Presumably, Alwan will testify against his co-defendant, Mohanad Shareef Hammadi under the kind of cooperation agreement not readily available at Gitmo.

Thus far, the citizens of KY have only had to pay for security for a few hearings (if my experience at a hearing for the much more dangerous Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab is any indication, the additional security amounted to a few more burly guards). Alwan released no classified information. He plead guilty without even a trial.

In short, at least for Alwan, McConnell’s fear-mongering proved to be totally baseless.

And rather than spend the $400,000 we would have spent to house Alwan for six months at Gitmo–with similar amounts to be expected for the length of his potential life sentence–we have probably spent $20,000 to house him, even assuming SuperMax levels of security (which Abdulmutallab, at a low security prison, presumably didn’t have). Why was Mitch afraid of saving $380,000?

More importantly, why was Mitch so afraid of this typical result, in which a terrorism suspect pleads guilty before trial?

So Much for the Apolitical Fed

The claim that the Federal Reserve is insulated from politics has always been a farce. Greenspan did a number of ideologically inconsistent things that just happened to help Republicans. And given that the banks run the Fed, it would be impossible to say it is isolated from the politics of the MOTUs (which is increasingly the politics of Congress, anyway).

Nevertheless, when a transpartisan group threatened to require Fed audits during the Dodd-Frank debates, people on both sides of the aisle objected because it would politicize the Fed.

No such worries for the top four Republicans, I guess.

Dear Chairman Bernanke,

It is our understanding that the Board Members of the Federal Reserve will meet later this week to consider additional monetary stimulus proposals. We write to express our reservations about any such measures. Respectfully, we submit that the board should resist further extraordinary intervention in the U.S. economy, particularly without a clear articulation of the goals of such a policy, direction for success, ample data proving a case for economic action and quantifiable benefits to the American people.

It is not clear that the recent round of quantitative easing undertaken by the Federal Reserve has facilitated economic growth or reduced the unemployment rate. To the contrary, there has been significant concern expressed by Federal Reserve Board Members, academics, business leaders, Members of Congress and the public. Although the goal of quantitative easing was, in part, to stabilize the price level against deflationary fears, the Federal Reserve’s actions have likely led to more fluctuations and uncertainty in our already weak economy.

We have serious concerns that further intervention by the Federal Reserve could exacerbate current problems or further harm the U.S. economy. Such steps may erode the already weakened U.S. dollar or promote more borrowing by overleveraged consumers. To date, we have seen no evidence that further monetary stimulus will create jobs or provide a sustainable path towards economic recovery.

Ultimately, the American economy is driven by the confidence of consumers and investors and the innovations of its workers. The American people have reason to be skeptical of the Federal Reserve vastly increasing its role in the economy if measurable outcomes cannot be demonstrated.

We respectfully request that a copy of this letter be shared with each Member of the Board.

Sincerely,

Sen. Mitch McConnell, Rep. John Boehner, Sen. Jon Kyl, Rep. Eric Cantor

Especially nice is that McConnell’s signature is first. You know, the guy who has said his single most important goal is to make Obama a one-term President?

To be fair, there are reasons to oppose QE3, which is the most likely form any Fed intervention would take. Masaccio described last year, for example, how it hurts savers. So it’s not that I’m sure QE3 would do anything but goose the stock market. But I am shocked that more people aren’t objecting to this naked political ploy.

Further, these Republicans pretend that the Fed doesn’t already have a clear mandate to do something about the economy. Mind you, the Fed has mostly forgotten itself that, in addition to “maintaining stable prices” it is supposed to achieve maximum employment. But it is part of its charter to pursue policies that will bring unemployment down from 10%.

That seems to be precisely what the Republican leadership is trying to prevent.

These boys have blatantly broken one of the rules of the Village, which is that it at least pretend that politics is not directing the Fed. Thus far, though, the Village wailers have not yet commented on it.

Update: Now that I note the coincidence, I wonder whether Lamar Alexander’s letter announcing he was stepping down from his leadership position–sent the same day as the leadership letter to Bernanke–is more than a coincidence. After all, the decision amounted to an admission that Republican partisanship was impeding actual useful policy. His letter focused on the Senate, mind you, not on inappropriate interventions in the Fed. Still, I wonder whether this was a factor?

Reid and Republicans Tee Up Another PATRIOT Extension

This is the disrespect in which our Congress holds our Constitution: they will continue to chip away at the Fourth Amendment, by passing yet another extension of the PATRIOT Act without addressing the clear abuses identified since the last extension.

US Congress leaders have agreed to extend for four years an array of counter-terrorism surveillance and search powers adopted after the September 11, 2001 attacks, sources said Thursday.Under the arrangement, the Senate and House of Representatives will hold a vote on extending the controversial powers at the core of the Patriot Act before they lapse on May 27, according to several congressional aides.

The officials said the vote would be “a clean extension” to June 1, 2015, meaning it would not include new civil liberties safeguards sought by some senior lawmakers of both major parties.

Apparently, it’s just too much work to do their fucking jobs and deal with the sound reform proposals on the table.

The ACLU is trying to get a barrage of contacts to legislators.

But if your legislator is either a real liberal or a TeaPartier, please contact them one way or another.

Obama to Shelby (and Others): Let Those Hostages Go

graphic: twolf1

Apparently, Obama told Mitch McConnell that if the GOP didn’t start releasing their hostages, he would recess appoint the whole lot of them. And, as a result of a direct threat, McConnell and his buddies released 27 of their hostages.

But Obama is calling for the Republicans to release all their hostages.

Today, the United States Senate confirmed 27 of my high-level nominees, many of whom had been awaiting a vote for months.

At the beginning of the week, a staggering 63 nominees had been stalled in the Senate because one or more senators placed a hold on their nomination. In most cases, these holds have had nothing to do with the nominee’s qualifications or even political views, and these nominees have already received broad, bipartisan support in the committee process.

Instead, many holds were motivated by a desire to leverage projects for a Senator’s state or simply to frustrate progress. It is precisely these kinds of tactics that enrage the American people.

And so on Tuesday, I told Senator McConnell that if Republican senators did not release these holds, I would exercise my authority to fill critically-needed positions in the federal government temporarily through the use of recess appointments. This is a rare but not unprecedented step that many other presidents have taken. Since that meeting, I am gratified that Republican senators have responded by releasing many of these holds and allowing 29 nominees to receive a vote in the Senate.

While this is a good first step, there are still dozens of nominees on hold who deserve a similar vote, and I will be looking for action from the Senate when it returns from recess. If they do not act, I reserve the right to use my recess appointment authority in the future.

Sure, it reads like a sternly-written letter. But with recess upon us in just over a week, it may not be an idle threat. I’ve asked for clarification, but the general read on this is that Obama is not going to recess anyone this time around.

So it is, indeed, a sternly-written letter.

Emptywheel Twitterverse
bmaz @goodyk Had to go to the airport. Which prevented me from saying you were right. Ugh.
8hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @robertcaruso @KatieSimpsonCTV Hey, in Ohio that person would be dead; the border is apparently safer!
9hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @goodyk Meh, I think the defense looks different if they were not gambling and pressing because there is no possibility of offense.
9hreplyretweetfavorite
bmaz @goodyk No. But would really like to have seen how this game went with Carson Palmer, or, really, any quarterback, around.
9hreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV RT @remesdh: Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses http://t.co/eB7tiZlzCH
10hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @thegrugq Precisely. Some criminal networks are more lucrative than others--esp if top govt officials are revolving door in and out of it.
10hreplyretweetfavorite
emptywheel @thegrugq See also Wall Street.
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JimWhiteGNV RT @JasonLeopold: NYT Editorial Board: Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses http://t.co/BPPranpgDy
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JimWhiteGNV RT @froomkin: NYT editorial: Prosecute Torturers and Their Bosses http://t.co/nqXkNZ3VQY
10hreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV @bsonenstein Maybe tomorrow?
10hreplyretweetfavorite
JimWhiteGNV Costas the philosopher. #Destiny
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bmaz @JimWhiteGNV Yes. But the inevitable has started.
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