• How Congress Used to Work
• Gorsuch Could Ensure Republican Control for a Generation
• Spicer Blames Horrendous Poison Gas Attack in Syria on Obama
• Americans Happy that the AHCA Didn't Pass
• NAFTA Could be the Next AHCA for Trump
• Two Democrats Win California Congressional Primary
• National Archives Advises Trump to Save All His Tweets
• Trump Stumbles in Public Appearance
• O'Reilly Could Be in Trouble, After All
Yesterday Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he had the votes to eliminate the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees. He also said that he would not attempt to end the filibuster for legislation. Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) was so confident that the votes are there that he flatly stated that Gorsuch will be on the Supreme Court by Friday.
If McConnell carries out his plan, relations between the parties are going to be bitter for years. While it is unlikely that Democrats will take control of the Senate in 2018, if they avoid losing too many seats then, they have a shot at becoming the majority in 2020, in which case McConnell may end up regretting reducing the power of the minority. (V)
Bruce Bartlett is an economist, historian, and former Washington insider who once worked for Ron Paul, Jack Kemp, and George H. W. Bush. And though his resume suggests "Republican," he's actually a registered independent, having moved away from the GOP during the George W. Bush years, when he was a prominent critic of the 43rd president's economic policies. Bartlett has an interesting essay in Politico Magazine in which he talks about what Congress looked like when it was more functional, and shares his views on how and when things went wrong.
To illustrate what a functional Congress looks like, Bartlett uses the Tax Reform Act of 1986 as his case study. That bill was born out of President Ronald Reagan's 1984 State of the Union address, which led to an extensive Treasury Dept. study, which then allowed the White House to craft a legislative proposal that was sent to Congress in May 1985. There were extensive hearings, discussions, and alterations to the bill, with both sides doing some horse trading. Each new iteration of the act was carefully studied by both government agencies and think tanks. The final version of the bill cut the top personal tax rate steeply (to 28%), which Reagan badly wanted, but there was enough in the law for Democrats (an increase in the capital gains tax) that it was actually a Democrat (Dan Rostenkowski) who shepherded the bill through the House. Reagan signed it into law in October 1986.
The point, then, is that the process was once very deliberative, as well as bipartisan. What happened? Well, Bartlett lays most of the blame at the feet of the Republican Party, starting with Newt Gingrich. When Gingrich became Speaker of the House, he wanted to quickly achieve many of the items on his "Contract with America." 'Quickly' is, of course, the antithesis of 'deliberative,' and so Gingrich eliminated much of the machinery that was in his way. He slashed committee staffs, reduced the time allowed for markups of bills, and got rid of many of the Congressional agencies that provided research and analysis. During George W. Bush's presidency, he allowed these trends to go unchecked, essentially leaving the job of crafting legislation entirely in Congress' hands. Then, during Barack Obama's presidency, the GOP became the party of obstruction, trying to avoid doing much of anything at all. The upshot:
Now, Republicans in Congress have what they always hoped to have—a president with few ideas of his own, who won't try to ram his own ideas down their throat and will passively sign whatever legislation is sent to him. The problem is that the legislative machinery has atrophied from lack of use for so many years on the Republican side. Republicans have forgotten how to properly draft a bill, vet it, build coalitions, make deals and put a major piece of legislation across the finish line. The president can't help because he knows nothing whatsoever about the legislative process, not to mention the larger policymaking process that includes lobbyists, trade associations, citizen groups, think tanks and the news media.
Bartlett proposes that Congressional Republicans have two paths forward. The first is to learn how to govern again, which means—in part—learning to reach across the aisle again. The alternative is to get as much done as they can before 2018, when they will take a beating in the midterm elections, lose seats to the Democrats, and be left with little or no margin for error going forward. He wonders which path they will choose, though that's probably a rhetorical question, because the answer seems fairly obvious. (Z)
If Neil Gorsuch is confirmed to the Supreme Court, one way or another, he could well be the deciding vote on a number of issues that could help cement Republican control of the government for a generation. While abortion and same-sex marriage get a lot of attention, far more important are issues like campaign finance and laws making it harder to vote. By shooting down laws that aim at getting money out of politics and supporting laws that allow states to require ID cards to vote but make it hard to obtain those ID cards, he could help the Republicans stay in power for years to come. Just one example that is likely to come before the Court repeatedly is whether states can pick and choose among forms of state-issued photo ID cards to accept for voting. Can a state decide that state-issued drivers' licenses and gun permits are valid ID but state-issued student ID cards and public assistance cards are not? If a majority on the Court rules that states are free to determine which state-issued photo ID cards are valid for voting and which are not, Republican controlled states are likely to be very creative in using this power to disenfranchise students and minorities.
During his confirmation hearings, Gorsuch was careful not to tip his hand on any issues that might come before the Court. However, as a judge, he has consistently supported conservative positions. In fact, he is more conservative than the four Republican appointees currently on the Court. Also of note is that he comes from a very conservative family. His mother was a conservative Colorado state legislator before she was appointed to Ronald Reagan's cabinet, where she ran the EPA. Conservative groups are so sure that he is a solid vote for them on most key issues that they are spending $10 million on television ads encouraging people to tell their senators to vote to confirm him. (V)
The regime of Bashar al-Assad has been using chlorine gas to attack its own people on a regular basis, but now it is employing a much more deadly nerve agent as well. The attacks have killed dozens of people in Idlib province. The White House called the attack a "reprehensible" act against innocent people. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the slaughter was unlikely to change the U.S. position toward Assad due to the political realities in Syria (meaning that Assad is being supported by Russia). Then he added:
[T]hese heinous actions by the Bashar al-Assad regime are a consequence of the last administration's weakness and irresolution. President Obama said in 2012 that he would establish a red line against the use of chemical weapons and then did nothing.
At some point, however, Donald Trump is going to be forced to either take action or do nothing in Syria. Blaming the problems in Syria on Obama has a limited shelf life. Ultimately, Trump will be forced to decide what to do and he will probably discover that his advisers are divided, so it will have to be his decision in an extremely complex situation that he barely understands. It's worth noting that, in the past, he supported Obama's non-interventionist position. Of course, that was back in 2013, and given that Trump sometimes changes his positions on the issues two or three times a day, it's plausible he's changed his mind 3,600 times or so since then. (V)
A new Kaiser Foundation poll reveals that nearly two-thirds of Americans say it is a "good thing" that the AHCA bill did not pass. The breakdown by partisanship of those who are happy it did not pass is Democrats (87%), independents (63%), and Republicans (54%). In contrast, three-fourths of the public now thinks the Trump administration should make the current health law work. Trump is trying to revive the AHCA bill, but with numbers like these, he had better be careful.
In fact, being careful may not even be enough. A new Gllup poll shows that 55% of Americans now support the ACA. This is the first time a majority supported it. Gallup didn't ask: "How come you changed your mind?" but most likely people now have a much better idea of what the alternative looks like, and they are not pleased. (V)
Donald Trump made many promises while running for president, and one of the loudest was that he would renegotiate NAFTA or, failing that, drop out of the pact. Politico's Michael Grunwald has written an excellent piece arguing that Trump has essentially set himself up for failure, in many of the same ways as he did with the AHCA.
To start, while Trump has repeatedly declared that both NAFTA and Obamacare are failures, that is far from the truth. Both are undoubtedly flawed, but they are also successful in many ways. As with the Obamacare repeal, there will be much collateral damage if Trump torpedoes NAFTA instead of improving it. This collateral damage will make many millions of workers and many thousands of companies unhappy with him.
Similarly, with both the AHCA and NAFTA, Trump has promised far more than he can possibly deliver. Trump's campaign promises on healthcare ("Everyone will be covered") would have come with tradeoffs (higher taxes); the AHCA would have come with a different set of tradeoffs (24 million people losing insurance, etc.). Though Trump seems to think he can treat NAFTA like it's a New York real estate transaction, where he can simply flex his muscle and force his opponents to agree to very favorable terms, he is wrong. Canada and Mexico are not going to give something without getting something—in other words, tradeoffs. Not helping matters is that The Donald is wildly unpopular in both Canada and Mexico, and both Justin Trudeau and Enrique Peña Nieto will be rewarded politically if they return home and announce that they stood firm in the face of Trump's threats. Also not helping matters is that many of the things that Trump wants out of a new and improved NAFTA—for example, stronger intellectual property rules—he already had, in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which he threw in the garbage.
There are also some challenges with NAFTA that did not exist with Obamacare. For example, Congressional Republicans hate Obamacare, as does a sizable segment of the American public. The same is not true with NAFTA; in particular, the pooh-bahs of the Republican Party are actually pretty happy with the deal. So, if Trump tries to jump ship on the trade pact, he will largely be on his own. And while he would try to blame the inevitable consequences on anyone and everyone but himself, that will be a hard sell. The bottom line is that Trump the candidate has written yet another check that Trump the president is not likely to be able to cash. (Z)
When Kamala Harris won the Senate seat of the retiring Barbara Boxer in November, it set off a chain of events that will lead to a congressional election in CA-34 on June 6 featuring two candidates, both Democrats. After Harris' victory, Gov. Jerry Brown (D-CA) appointed then-representative Xavier Becerra to replace Harris as California's attorney general, a job that he has embraced, saying that he plans to sue the Trump administration on many fronts. Becerra's departure from the House led to a primary election yesterday for the Los Angeles district that Becerra had represented. California uses a jungle primary system, with the top two finishers meeting in a runoff (unless one of them clears 50% in the primary). State Assemblyman Jimmy Gomez came in first with 8,156 votes (28%). City planning commissioner Robert Ahn, a Korean-American, came in second, with 5,504 votes (19%). There were 23 candidates in all. The 9.5% turnout was miserable for a district in the heart of L.A. with 305,000 registered voters, although a few absentee ballots are yet to be counted.
Some people tried to cast this election into Hillary vs. Bernie terms, but it is not so easy. Gomez had strong backing from the entire party establishment, but ran on a progressive platform. Ahn, in contrast, ran on a pro-business platform. So it is a bit hard to read the tea leaves here about whether the Democrats should move to the left to pursue progressive voters who are still sulking, or move to the right to pick up white blue-collar workers who are pro-Trump. The only conclusion is that when you have a solidly establishment candidate who runs on a progressive platform in a very left-wing district in which nobody votes, the establishment-progressive hybrid can beat a business-oriented Korean-American while getting barely a quarter of the votes in a 23-candidate field.
A more interesting test for the Democrats is the special election in GA-06 in two weeks to replace Secretary of HHS Tom Price. The most recent poll, from Atlanta's channel 11 TV, shows progressive Democrat Jon Ossoff at 43% with Republican Karen Handel second at 15%. If this result holds, Ossoff and Handel will face off in a runoff on June 20. Ossoff is pitching himself very much as "Son of Bernie," with backing from young voters and affluent voters. Handel is a conservative Republican who was Georgia's secretary of state from 2007 to 2010. In 2016, Price won reelection with 62% of the vote. If Ossoff wins this one, a lot of people on both sides of the aisle are going to perk up their ears and take notice. (V)
The director of the National Archives, David Ferriero, has advised the White House that to comply with the Presidential Records Act of 1978, the president is required to preserve all his records, which would include his tweets, even those he has deleted. The law puts the responsibility for collecting and maintain presidential records on the president. The National Archives provides only advice. Trump often sends out a tweet and then deletes it. This could be a violation of federal law, unless the deleted tweet is archived somewhere. (V)
In the last year or two of his presidency, Lyndon B. Johnson was wildly unpopular, thanks (primarily) to the Vietnam War. He was also possessed of a huge ego, and so his handlers made sure that his public appearances took place only in front of friendly audiences (military bases, mostly). Like LBJ, Donald Trump is an unpopular egotist, and has taken care to appear only before friendly crowds. At a Tuesday appearance, however, he (or his handlers) screwed up.
The appearance was before the North America's Building Trades Unions National Legislative Conference, which was being held in Washington. Trump, of course, fancies himself the hero of the blue collar America, but the unions represented at the conference all endorsed Hillary Clinton. It was thus something of a mixed crowd, and when Trump launched (yet again) into a monologue about his surprise electoral victory, they grew a little restless. The president then doubled down, declaring that, "I had the support of, I would say, almost everybody in this room. We had tremendous support." That was greeted with palpable booing, which clearly aggravated Trump. So, he told the crowd, "Well, would you like to make a change, folks? Would you like to make a change? Because if anybody wants to make a change, you won't have so many jobs, that I can tell you. Your jobs will be a whole different story." The crowd didn't much care for being threatened, of course.
As is so often the case with Trump, much of this is unprecedented. While it's true that LBJ began sequestering himself, that took four years, and not two months. Meanwhile, one struggles to think of a president who was so bad at handling hostile crowds, to the point of essentially taunting them when things go south. Trump is already running for re-election in 2020 (such that any public appearance should really be regarded as a campaign stop). Can he possibly run a campaign where he only speaks to the true believers and avoids everyone else? It's true that he essentially did so in 2016, but he won by the barest of margins, and he almost certainly needs to broaden his support to win again. It is also the case that he flew under the radar for much of the campaign; that won't happen again, and we can expect that 2020 rallies and speeches will be liberally populated by opponents. The upshot is that he needs to improve in terms of learning to keep his cool, or he's setting himself up for a yuuuge defeat in his re-election bid. (Z)
Following the Roger Ailes fiasco, Fox News announced a "no tolerance" policy as regards sexual harassment in the workplace. It would seem, however, that high ratings entitle one to an exception to the policy, since host Bill O'Reilly is a serial harasser and yet has kept his job. In fact, he even signed a new contract on literally the same day that news broke of the five settlements that have been reached on O'Reilly's behalf, totaling $13 million in damages.
Now, it turns out that O'Reilly might not be bulletproof. Fox News clearly has no interest in killing their cash cow, principles be damned, but the channel's advertisers may have a different idea. On Tuesday morning, Mercedes-Benz and Hyundai said they would no longer purchase ads on O'Reilly's program. Throughout the day, more and more companies joined them, and by Tuesday night the total number was 21—the two already named, plus BMW of North America, Mitsubishi Motors, Lexus, Constant Contact, Bayer, Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, Orkin, UNTUCKit, Allstate, Esurance (which is owned by Allstate), T. Rowe Price, GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi, Credit Karma, Wayfair, The Wonderful Company, TrueCar, the Society for Human Resource Management, and Coldwell Banker. If these companies stick to their guns, and if the boycott spreads further, the cash cow may stop producing cash. And, at that point, it could mean the slaughterhouse. (Z)Email a link to a friend or share:
---The Votemaster and Zenger
Apr04 White House Is Trying to Revive the Healthcare Bill
Apr04 Trump Officially Kills Internet Privacy
Apr04 Blackwater Founder Tried to Create Secret Trump-Putin Connection
Apr04 Former Trump Adviser Met with Russian Spy in 2013
Apr04 Bannon Keeping an Eye on Georgia Election
Apr04 Bidding Closes Today on the Border Wall
Apr04 Trump Donates His First-Quarter Salary to the National Park Service
Apr04 Trump Can Draw Money from Trust at Any Time
Apr04 Science Doesn't Unite Liberals, Conservatives
Apr03 Donnelly Backs Gorsuch
Apr03 Trump Says U.S. Can Handle North Korea Alone
Apr03 Kasich Is Acting Like a Candidate While Claiming He Is Not
Apr03 Rooting for Failure
Apr03 Why Can't Republicans Find Massive Voter Fraud?
Apr03 Far-Right Sharks Are Circling the White House
Apr03 How Much Does Trump's Security Cost?
Apr02 Republicans Are Split on Tax Reform
Apr02 Uniqlo Threatens Trump
Apr02 Chinese Acquisition of U.S. Financial Company Raises Questions
Apr02 Poll: Americans Want an Independent Commission to Investigate Russia Ties
Apr02 Trump Blasts Chuck Todd
Apr02 Mark Cuban: Trump Isn't Smart Enough to Have Colluded with the Russians
Apr02 Fox Stands With O'Reilly
Apr02 The Kushner Chronicles, Volume III
Apr02 Russians Celebrate April Fools' Day
Apr01 Top Cabinet Officials Openly Disagree with Trump on Russia
Apr01 How Trump Could Get a Big Win Easily and Tear the Democrats Apart
Apr01 McCaskill Will Oppose Gorsuch
Apr01 Trump's Motto: Screw Them 10x Harder
Apr01 Top Government Officials Release Income and Net Worth
Apr01 Cornyn Might Be OK with a Temporary Tax Cut
Apr01 Democrats Will Try to Knock off Cruz
Apr01 Can A Sanders-Style Democrat Be Elected to the House in Montana?
Apr01 Travel Ban Is Operating Smoothly
Apr01 Former Kushner Employee: He's Not the Man for the Job
Mar31 Republicans Are at Each Others' Throats
Mar31 Trump to Issue Two Executive Orders on Trade Today
Mar31 Flynn Has "Story to Tell," Wants Immunity
Mar31 Heitkamp and Manchin Will Vote for Gorsuch
Mar31 North Carolina Repeals "Bathroom Law"
Mar31 Pence Worked Yesterday
Mar31 Pence Won't Dine With Women Who Aren't His Wife
Mar31 Jared Kushner's Friends Are Cutting Him Loose
Mar31 Some Trump Voters Already Have Buyer's Remorse
Mar30 Travel Ban Suspended Indefinitely
Mar30 Can Trump Make a Deal with the Democrats on Infrastructure?
Mar30 NRA Is Running Ads Against Democratic Senators
Mar30 Privacy Vote Not Going over Well
Mar30 Majority of Americans Believe Traditional Media Outlets Publish Fake News