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Chuck Schumer Is Secretly Sabotaging the Next Democratic President

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Jonathan Chait writes in New York:

President Trump periodically registers his totally correct opinion that the legislative filibuster is a stupid relic that the Senate should abolish. Senate Republicans continue to oppose him out of the highly rational belief that abolishing the filibuster would one day open the door to progressive legislation they oppose. But the real news in this story about Trump’s fruitless argument against the filibuster is that, according to Senate Republicans, Minority Leader Charles Schumer has promised Republicans not to change the filibuster if Democrats gain power.

“According to a senior GOP senator who spoke on condition of anonymity,” reports Politico, “Schumer has privately reassured Republican senators in recent weeks that he would not change the rules and is committed to keeping the filibuster.” What this means is that the decision to bottle up the agenda of the next Democratic president is being made right now, in private, in a secret deal between Schumer and Senate Republicans.

Contrary to popular belief, the supermajority requirement to pass legislation is not in the Constitution, and indeed was considered and consciously rejected by its framers. It evolved by accident and has changed many times. In 1917, the threshold to defeat a filibuster was set at two-thirds, and in 1975 reduced to 60 percent. In 2013, the Senate eliminated the filibuster on Executive branch appointments and judges below the Supreme Court, then last year it eliminated the filibuster for the Supreme Court, too.

I have yet to see anybody construct a good-government defense of the current arrangement of a supermajority threshold for legislation, regular majority for appointments. There are at least plausible arguments one could make for (1) a supermajority requirement for everything, (2) a majority requirement for everything, or (3) a majority requirement for legislation and a supermajority requirement for a judgeship. (After all, legislation can be undone, but a judicial appointment is forever.)

The status quo, in which you need a supermajority to pass routine legislation, while being able to give judges a lifetime appointment with a mere majority, has no public purpose whatsoever. Nobody would ever consciously design a system where you can seat a judge to the Supreme Court, with unlimited authority, with 50 senators, while needing 60 senators just to fund annual government appropriations.

So why does it exist? Because it stands to the advantage of Republicans, who currently hold the Senate majority.

That might sound strange, given that the legislative filibuster is a weapon that is momentarily useful for Democrats. But the reality is that the filibuster isn’t stopping very much right now. Republicans have only 51 senators, one of whom is incapacitated, and several of whom are in various states of rebellion from their party’s president. What’s more, the party has few domestic policy ideas it would pass if it had the chance. The crusade to repeal and replace Obamacare failed mainly because Republicans couldn’t design a practical alternative. What Republican senators could agree on eventually wound up in a budget-reconciliation bill that failed because it only got 49 votes.

This, by the way, points to another irrational aspect of the status quo: Budget reconciliation is a loophole that allows certain kinds of legislation to pass with a majority, but only bills related to budget policy, a restriction that severely impairs Congress’s ability to design well-functioning laws. Last year, Republicans came within a hair of defunding with 50 votes — a law Democrats had to find 60 votes to create. The status quo makes complicated reforms difficult to build and easy to wreck.

So the filibuster is a momentary annoyance for the Republicans. No doubt Republicans are constantly telling Trump that the filibuster is stopping many of his kooky ideas from being passed into law. But the truth is that very few of the proposals Trump imagines could pass if the filibuster didn’t exist would actually get 50 votes. It’s a convenient shield for Republican senators to steer clear of bills they would rather not have to debate in public.

The vast majority of the conservative agenda can be carried out without securing 60 Senate votes. Tax cuts — by orders of magnitude the right’s highest domestic priority — can be passed with 50 votes through reconciliation. So can spending cuts, except to Social Security. Republicans can’t legislate weaker regulation, but they don’t have much stomach to vote for rules letting coal companies dump pollutants into the air, or denying overtime pay to workers. They are much happier undermining these rules bureaucratically, below the radar and without exposing elected officials to accountability for it. And of course judges can be seated with 50 votes, and those judges have increasingly used activist rulings to enact policy goals conservatives don’t have the votes to pass in Congress.

Republicans prefer a system with imposing barriers to passing legislation because, over the long run, they have less workable legislation to pass. The Bush and Trump administrations alike have exposed the bankruptcy of conservative-movement dogma as a practical governing blueprint. The Republicans are like a putrid football team with a moribund offense, which would naturally prefer to play all its games in a mud pit.

Why, though, would Democrats go along with this? Because they hope a supermajority requirement will result in bipartisan cooperation? That is is a forlorn hope. Republicans have greeted every major legislative initiative by a Democratic president with total opposition. This was true when Barack Obama passed a fiscal stimulus at the outset of the biggest economic calamity since the Great Depression, or when he tried to pass Mitt Romney’s health-care plan, or the cap-and-trade program John McCain had endorsed. It was likewise true when Bill Clinton eschewed social activism to focus on deficit reduction in 1993. The modern Republican Party is constructed to hysterically attack every Democratic policy initiative, however moderate, as the final extinction of human freedom on Earth.

Schumer is surely not alone among Democrats in his fondness for retaining the Senate’s antiquated supermajority requirement. Some members of his caucus probably worry about the optics of eliminating it, which would surely open Democrats to a few days of scolding from Morning Joe and the Sunday talk shows.

But Democrats are deluding themselves if they think that . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

28 June 2018 at 2:05 pm

Posted in Congress, Democrats

One helluva campaign ad—worth watching (and it’s just over 3 minutes)

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Written by LeisureGuy

22 June 2018 at 7:22 pm

If Obama had held this summit, we know how the GOP would’ve reacted

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Dana Milbank writes in the Washington Post:

Let us ponder what the reaction among Republicans and conservatives would have been if President Barack Obama had done what President Trump did on Tuesday:

  • Sat down with a dictator whose regime had killed hundreds of thousands of people and who tortures and enslaves as many as 130,000 political prisoners in gulags.
  • Set no specific preconditions for the meeting and secured no commitment on human rights nor any firm promise to denuclearize.
  • Blindsided allies by agreeing to the dictator’s request to cease “provocative” military exercises with those allies.
  • Praised the dictator in lavish terms: “very talented man . . . wants to do the right thing . . . very worthy, very smart negotiator . . . excellent relationship . . . funny guy . . . loves his people . . . great personality . . . a great honor . . . very special bond . . . I do trust him.”

But we don’t have to wonder what the reaction would have been to Obama doing such things, because we know what happened when he even floated the idea. In 2007, then-Sen. Obama answered in the affirmative when asked if he would be willing to meet without precondition the leaders of repressive regimes, including North Korea’s, “to bridge the gap that divides our countries.”

His presidential opponent John McCain and other Republicans hit Obama near daily for what they deemed “inexperience and reckless judgment.” (Hillary Clinton gave him grief, too.) Later, Sarah Palin, specifically mentioning North Korea, proclaimed the Obama doctrine was “coddling enemies and alienating allies.” Mitt Romney mocked Obama for saying he was going to “engage North Korea.”

Republican lawmakers criticized the Obama administration for having a “buddy-buddy” relationship with Iran, Sen. McCain (Ariz.) likened Obama’s handshake with Cuba’s Raúl Castro to Neville Chamberlain’s handshake with Adolf ­Hitler, and Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) condemned Obama for meeting Castro while there were “political prisoners languishing.”

John Bolton, now Trump’s national security adviser, in 2013 mocked the “fanciful” idea “that we could talk North Korea out of its nuclear weapons program.”

The website NowThisNews made a video compilation of Fox News commentators’ thoughts on Obama meeting with repressive regimes. Among them: “Obama likes talking to dictators” (Mike Huckabee), “he would meet with some of these madmen without any preconditions” (Palin), “Obama is bowing and scraping before dictators” (Dana Loesch), Obama is “going to reach out to these crazy people around the world” (Steve Doocy).

This changed on a dime when Trump was the one proposing such action. Fox personalities dutifully praised a “stunning Donald Trump breakthrough” and a “stunning diplomatic triumph.” Sean Hannity, who said in 2008 that Obama’s inclination to meet with rogues was “one of the most disturbing displays” of inexperience, said this year that Trump’s willingness to meet Kim Jong Un “is a huge foreign policy win.”

As Trump and Kim shook hands for the first time Tuesday night, Hannity proclaimed it “officially” historic, compared Trump to Ronald Reagan, called Secretary of State Mike Pompeo a “rock star” and hosted Trump loyalists proclaiming “peace and progress” and “peace and prosperity.” He dismissed “artificial unrealistic expectations” of Trump’s opponents — that is, the complete denuclearization Trump himself demanded.

What Trump has gotten, at least so far, is far flimsier than the Iran nuclear deal he tore up. Trump, in his news conference after the talks, admitted that his joint statement with Kim does not deal with “verifiable or irreversible denuclearization,” said human rights were discussed only “relatively briefly,” and hemmed and hawed when asked what North Korea gave in return for his concession calling off “war games” with South Korea: “Well, we’ve got, you know, I’ve heard that, I mean, some of the people that — I don’t know . . . ”

Still, Republican lawmakers filled Twitter with applause emojis for Trump after he did the very thing they denounced Obama for even suggesting. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), like many colleagues, called the meeting a “major step” toward peace.

Democrats, were they inclined to be demagogic, could have attacked Trump for sitting down with a murderous dictator. Most didn’t. Though critical of Trump’s deference to Kim and the meeting’s lack of substance, they generally didn’t criticize the idea of meeting.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. ­Schumer (N.Y.) reflected the tone of many Democrats when he said “we remain supportive of American diplomatic efforts,” while noting that if a Democratic president did what Trump did, “the entire Republican Party would be shouting grave warnings about the end of American leadership and the belittling of our country.”

This points to the asymmetrical partisanship in our current politics:  . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 June 2018 at 5:14 pm

Out of Poverty and onto The Ballot: The New Wave of Working-Class Candidates Trying to Take Congress

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Aida Chávez reports in the Intercept:

THE FIRST WEDNESDAY in August was a busy one for David Trone. In the morning, Trone, the co-founder of retail chain Total Wine & More, which has made him very wealthy, announced that he would make his second run for Congress.

Trone’s first bid for Congress had come the year before, when he had spent $13 million of his own money and still lost the primary in Maryland’s 8th Congressional District, to the east of his current target.

This time around, he said, he would raise some money from supporters. That would perhaps shed the image that he was trying to buy his way into Congress.

By the end of the day, he and his wife had cut four checks to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, for a total of $267,200.

That was never an option on the whiteboard for Roger Manno, Trone’s opponent in the Democratic primary in Maryland’s 6th District.

Manno is now a Maryland state senator and the party’s majority whip, but it’s been a long road that has taken him through extended bouts of homelessness, unemployment, and other economic depredations rarely found in the biographies of members of Congress, who are much more likely to note that they are the sons or daughters — or even grandchildren — of millworkers or the like.

With an explosion of grassroots energy this cycle, however, the new class of candidates has swept in some whose populist anger has been earned honestly.

Like Manno, they’ll have to overcome big money to get where they’re trying to go.

When political parties and outside groups begin to estimate the chances that a congressional candidate has of winning a race, the first thing they look at is fundraising — particularly money raised within the district. Those cash contributions from wealthy donors in the area serve as a proxy for support from the local elite and translate, in the party’s mind, into a high chance of victory.

The process has a culling effect on the field, which has left Congress with a total net worth of at least $2.43 billion, according to the political news outlet Roll Call’s conservative estimates, with nearly 40 percent of all members being millionaires.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t Democrats from poor and working-class backgrounds who run for Congress. It means that they’re often beaten back by wealthier, establishment-backed candidates who’ve been able to forge better connections. A new wave of candidates this cycle is hoping to change that.

Democratic congressional hopefuls Manno, Will Cunningham, and James Thompson all were in and out of homelessness as children. As a little girl, Karen Mallard had taught her father how to read. Other candidates like them slept on friends’ couches, lived in trailers, and worked multiple minimum-wage jobs to make ends meet.

For a party that purports to reflect the regular people of the United States, rather than the top 1 percent, these candidates are seemingly the perfect kind of representatives to have in Washington. Yet in almost every case, they have been met by the national party with either indifference or outright opposition. There are a select few candidates who’ve gotten Democratic Party support — those who’ve fully escaped the grip of poverty and climbed to the top rungs of the economic ladder.

As primary elections wrap up between now and August, these candidates are fighting to stay in the game.

Here are their stories. . .

Continue reading. There’s much more: the meat of the article.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 June 2018 at 7:24 am

The backstory of an interesting campaign video that reflects the chasm between Democrats and Establishment Democrats

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Fascinating report in the Intercept by Zaid Jilani (and it includes the brief video and a good description of what that video represents). Here’s the 2-minute video:

And if you’re intrigued, as I was, here are other videos of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez—making speeches, campaigning, etc.

And if you want to donate to her campaign, you can do that at her campaign website. Full disclosure: I did donate.

Written by LeisureGuy

9 June 2018 at 6:35 am

Bowing to pressure, White House to host bipartisan briefing on Russia investigation

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He blinked.

Written by LeisureGuy

23 May 2018 at 6:00 pm

Amy McGrath won her Kentucky Democratic primary against an establishment opponent

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Check out her campaign ad. She’ll be running against the GOP candidate Andy Barr in November.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 May 2018 at 9:30 pm

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