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Posts tagged ‘Mitch McConnell’

McConnell tries to unify GOP


Reported 

Friction among Senate Republicans on the next round of coronavirus relief legislation and a suddenly shaky stock market has eroded President Trump’s leverage in the ongoing standoff with Democrats.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) was still searching Tuesday afternoon for 51 Republican votes for a half-trillion-dollar economic relief package that he hopes will put pressure on Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) to soften their demands.

Meanwhile, the stock markets in the past week have suffered their worst one-day drops since the coronavirus first froze the U.S. economy in March. On Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S&P 500 dropped 632 points and 95 points, respectively — more than 2 percent each — while the tech-heavy Nasdaq composite dropped 465 points, or 4.11 percent.

While the stock markets surged upward through July and August, the start of September has brought a stark shift in sentiment. Coronavirus infections are expected to spike when the fall temperatures drop and there doesn’t appear to be a clear path to getting another federal relief package.

“Trump needs a package just because the stock market has been declining. There is a possibility that COVID infections will increase in the fall and we know the economy is a big variable in how people vote,” said Darrell West, director of governance studies at the Brookings Institution.

“Republicans want to protect the Senate and protect the presidency and they’re going to need a deal,” he said.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell warned Congress during testimony in June that “significant uncertainty” remained in the economy and that “support would be well-placed at this time.” The recent big drop in the stock indices is a significant political development because Trump often cites Wall Street to argue that the economy is making a strong recovery.

“The Dow Jones Industrial just closed above 29,000! You are so lucky to have me as your President. With Joe Hiden’ it would crash,” Trump tweeted exuberantly on Sept. 2, just before the markets started tumbling.

Another relief package passed by Congress, especially one as large as what Pelosi and Schumer want, is expected to give another boost to the markets.

“You live by the sword and you die by the sword. If you’re claiming credit when the market is high, you have a problem when the market drops,” West said.

One Republican senator who wants a larger relief bill said the market turmoil “ought to” put pressure on the White House and colleagues to agree to more federal aid. But the lawmaker, who requested anonymity to discuss Trump’s motives, conceded “I’m having trouble mapping out a scenario one way or another.”

Pelosi on Tuesday seized on calls by Fed officials for more fiscal stimulus from Congress as well as divisions among Republicans to press her growing leverage.

“The chairman of the Fed and other Fed leaders around the country have said clearly that we need a stimulus, that we need a boost,” she noted in an interview with Bloomberg’s “Balance of Power.”

At the same time she slammed McConnell’s revised relief bill, which is estimated to cost around a half-trillion dollars, as “pathetic.” She pointed out it is roughly “half of what [Treasury] Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin has proposed.”

“They are not even in agreement. They are in disarray,” she said of Republicans.

The Senate Republican bill needs 60 votes to overcome an anticipated Democratic filibuster and pass. It will fall well short of that threshold, but McConnell is hoping to get at least a simple majority in favor of it so he can argue that Democrats are acting as obstructionists.

He said on the Senate floor Tuesday that he will schedule a vote this week and indicated to reporters in the hallway that it would happen Thursday.

“Republicans are making yet another overture,” McConnell said.

Conservatives such as Sens. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Rand Paul (R-Ky.), Mike Lee (R-Utah) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) are skeptical about spending hundreds of billions of dollars in more federal aid and are pushing for concessions from the GOP leadership. With all Democrats likely to oppose the Republican bill, McConnell can only afford three defections.

Paul on Tuesday said he would oppose the measure.

“We don’t have any money up here. I’m not for borrowing any more money,” he said.

Johnson on Tuesday afternoon said he would support the bill after McConnell and Mnuchin agreed to repurpose about $350 billion in funding from the $2.2 trillion CARES Act passed in March to new relief measures. He said the revised bill would add only $150 billion to $300 billion to the deficit, though he cautioned the numbers aren’t final yet. Johnson said he worked closely with the GOP leadership and Mnuchin to make changes to the measure to make it more appealing to conservatives but didn’t know if it would get 51 votes.

“We’ll see what all ends up happening. We’ll probably have a discussion. There might be some further arm twisting,” he said.

Hawley, a rising conservative star, is pressing for a fully refundable tax credit for homeschooling expenses such as books, technology and laboratory equipment. His proposal was not in the bill as of Tuesday afternoon and he remains undecided. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) used his leverage with Republican leaders to gain two years of tax credits for individuals and businesses that donate to nonprofit scholarship funds, a proposal designed to help subsidize private school tuition.

There are also questions as to whether more-moderate Republicans in tough reelection races such as Sens. Susan Collins (Maine) and Cory Gardner (Colo.) will be satisfied with the smaller price tag for the revised package, and the lack of additional federal aid for state and local governments, other than money set aside for schools.

Without the repurposed federal funding offsetting some of its cost, the package would be in the range of $500 billion to $700 billion, according to Senate GOP aides. The Republican bill, which McConnell unveiled Tuesday, would provide $300 a week in federal unemployment assistance, a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans, $105 billion to help reopen classrooms and $16 billion in more money for COVID-19 testing.

Failure to win a simple majority vote for a largely symbolic bill would be another setback for the White House and Senate Republicans, who declined to put the $1.1 trillion coronavirus relief proposal they drafted in July on the Senate floor because of divisions within their conference. Plans to vote during the first week of August on proposals to extend federal unemployment assistance and to fund a second round of small-business loans were scrapped after disagreements again broke out among Republican senators.

Democrats, however, have stayed unified behind their own proposal, the $3.4 trillion HEROES Act, which the House passed in May, as well as a trimmed-down $2.2 trillion proposal that Pelosi and Schumer offered to White House negotiators in late August.

Pelosi and Schumer on Monday said McConnell’s bill was “headed nowhere” and dismissed it as a “political” gesture.

Trump appointments blitz a ‘shock wave’ to liberal 9th Circuit


Reported by Madison Dibble | February 24, 2020 12:41 PM

President Trump and the Republican-controlled Senate have taken the reliably liberal 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and tilted it to the Right. The 9th Circuit is the largest circuit court, covering many of the West Coast states, including California, Hawaii, and Arizona. The court just received its 10th judge from the Trump administration, effectively changing the court’s liberal makeup into a more ideologically diverse lineup. In just three years, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Trump joined forces to place more justices to lifetime appointments on the 9th Circuit than President Barack Obama did in his eight years in office.

One judge from the circuit said the rapid influx of Trump appointees had been jarring, telling the Los Angeles Times, “Ten new people at once sends a shock wave through the system.”

Many of Trump’s appointments have been praised by their peers on the 9th Circuit, but others appear to be rattled. For instance, Judge Daniel Collins has been criticized for his “combative” objections to other judges on the circuit.

“Collins has definitely bulldozed his way around here already in a short time,” one judge from the 9th Circuit said. “Either he doesn’t care or doesn’t realize that he has offended half the court already.”

Democratic-appointed judges still hold a slight majority in the circuit, with 16 appointees compared with 13 Republican appointees, but 9th Circuit Judge Milan Smith Jr., an appointee of George W. Bush, said Trump’s judicial picks were about to take over.

“Trump has effectively flipped the circuit,” Smith said. “You will see a sea change in the 9th Circuit on day-to-day decisions.”

Democratic appointees have controlled the 9th Circuit Court since 1978, when federal law changed to add 10 seats to the court, allowing President Jimmy Carter to select every judge to fill the openings. President Ronald Reagan got only three nominations on the circuit, and appointees from President Bill Clinton and Obama built out the rest of the former liberal stronghold.

Because the court was reliably liberal, it was often the go-to court to challenge Trump’s policies, often forcing a review from the Supreme Court. In the early days of Trump’s presidency, the 9th Circuit struck down his “travel ban” from several Muslim-majority countries and deemed many of his immigration policies unconstitutional. The Supreme Court overturned many of the rulings from the 9th Circuit. Still, delays caused by the lower courts can hinder the president’s policies from moving forward when he wants them to begin.

In total, Trump has appointed 51 circuit court judges to lifetime appointments alongside the two justices he landed on the Supreme Court. McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has joked that his motto while leading the GOP majority in the Senate is to “leave no vacancy behind.”

Today’s Politically INCORRECT Cartoon by A.F. Branco


A.F. Branco Cartoon – Hurry Up and Wait

Tortoise and the Hairbrained – Democrats in the House were urgently in a hurry to impeach President Trump only to withhold passing it on to the Senate.
Pelosi Withholds Impeachment from SenatePolitical cartoon A.F. Branco ©2019.
See more Legal Insurrection Branco cartoons, click here.

A.F. Branco 13/Month 2020 Calendar here.

A.F. Branco Coffee Table Book “Make America Laugh again”

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  • Will impeaching the President backfire on Democrats in the next election?

A.F. Branco has taken his two greatest passions, (art and politics) and translated them into the cartoons that have been popular all over the country, in various news outlets including “Fox News”, MSNBC, CBS, ABC and “The Washington Post.” He has been recognized by such personalities as Dinesh D’Souza, James Woods, Sarah Palin, Larry Elder, Lars Larson, Rush Limbaugh, and has had his toons tweeted by President Trump.

High anxiety hits Senate over raising debt ceiling


Reported

Senators are growing anxious that they might have to vote to raise the nation’s debt ceiling in a matter of weeks given new estimates that the government could hit its borrowing limit earlier than expected. The debt limit was exceeded earlier this year, and the Treasury Department is now taking steps known as “extraordinary measures” to prevent the government from going over its borrowing limit.

Lawmakers had hoped they would be able to avoid the politically painful vote to raise the debt ceiling until the fall — and that it could be packaged with other legislation to fund the government and set budget caps on spending. But that could be much more difficult if Treasury’s ability to prevent the government from going over its borrowing limit ends in mid-September — just days after lawmakers would be set to return from their summer recess.

“I think we need to hustle to a caps deal as soon as we possibly can and include the debt limit in it, no doubt,” said Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The debt limit has been far from the front page and has been essentially put on the back burner as lawmakers debate the treatment of migrants at the border and battle over nominations and spending bills. Members of the Appropriations Committee on Tuesday were openly skeptical about whether their colleagues would jump on the issue.

“The question is, will anybody act until the urgency is on top of us?” said Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). “We need to avoid the brink.”

Failing to raise the debt ceiling would be a catastrophic move that could roil worldwide financial markets. Shelby said the mere possibility that the debt ceiling could be breached in September should give “more sense of urgency” to Congress taking quick action, while Capito said it was not in “anybody’s best interest to have that fight in September up against the debt limit.”

A study released this week by the Bipartisan Policy Center said there was a “significant risk” that the government could reach its debt limit in early September unless Congress raises the cap. The estimate was a shift from its previous forecast, which estimated the debt limit could be reached in October or November, which would give Congress more breathing room.

The earlier timeline comes after Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told Congress in May that the debt ceiling increase could happen in “late summer.”

Sen. John Thune (S.D.), the No. 2 Senate Republican, said it would be “preferable” for Congress to deal with the debt ceiling before leaving for the August recess, adding that a mid-September deadline “puts a lot of pressure” on lawmakers to act.

“We could write a caps deal and attach the debt limit to it, to kind of get those issues resolved before August, which I think would be in everybody’s best interest,” Thune said.

Getting a deal done this month leaves little room for error, and few are optimistic such a timeline will be met. The House is scheduled to leave town on July 26, while the Senate is set for vacation on Aug. 2. Lawmakers would return after Labor Day, on Sept. 9, which could give them less than a week to cobble together a deal.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Tuesday didn’t rule out action on the debt ceiling this month.

“We’ll see how those conversations go. We certainly do not want any default on the part of the full faith and credit of the United States of America,” she said. “That’s never been what we’ve been about, but there are those on the Republican side who have embraced that again and again. So, we’ll see.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) appeared confident during a weekly leadership press conference that lawmakers wouldn’t let the United States default on its debt, but he didn’t offer a clear pathway to approving a debt ceiling increase.

“Time is running out, and if we’re going to avoid having either short- or long-term CR or either a short- or long-term debt ceiling increase, it’s time that we got serious on a bipartisan basis to try to work this out and not have the kind of chaos that goes along with our inability to come together on these important issues,” McConnell said. A CR, or continuing resolution, would fund the government at current spending levels.

Asked if Congress had to raise the debt ceiling before the August recess, McConnell sidestepped the question, saying lawmakers are in close contact with Mnuchin about the timeline but that he doesn’t “think there’s any chance that we’ll allow the country to default.”

Broader budget talks on the debt ceiling and government funding unraveled last month, with the White House floating a one-year CR and debt ceiling hike. Senate Republicans are hoping to jumpstart the negotiations with new meetings as soon as this week, though nothing was on the books as of Tuesday afternoon.

The spending deal is also crucial, as spending cuts triggered by an earlier budgetary law would snap into effect in January if Congress does not approve new spending levels. The debt ceiling fight has always had an earlier deadline, but the new estimates are moving it up further.

Shelby argued that it makes sense to link the two issues but didn’t rule out that the debt ceiling could get a stand-alone vote, or be attached to another must-pass bill, in a time crunch.

“The path is a good question,” Shelby said. “You could raise the debt ceiling without getting a caps deal, but it makes more sense to me that if you can run them parallel, they are two big issues staring us in the face.”

 

Democrats plot strategy to win back Senate


Written

Democrats plot strategy to win back Senate
© Greg Nash

Democrats planning their bid to win back control of the Senate will run hard against the Washington swamp next year, repurposing one of President Trump’s most effective campaign messages from the 2016 election as their own.

Top party operatives are poll-testing messages aimed at winning over voters who are fed up with a gridlocked capital, searching for ways to build an advantage among swing voters who may still like Trump, but not the senators who are seeking reelection in 2020.

And while Democrats could not convince some of their best-known candidates to forgo long shot presidential campaigns in favor of bids for Senate seats, the party will now rely on a once-unorthodox stable of candidates with little or no experience in elected office. 

It is a strategy reminiscent of 2006 and 2018, when House Democrats ousted Republican majorities on the backs of candidates with unusual profiles. This year, the stable of Senate Democratic candidates includes more women and veterans than has been typical in recent cycles.

“In races around the country, there are strong Democrats stepping up to run who fit their states and will be a breath of fresh air with new perspectives to bring to the Senate,” said Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), who heads the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

When former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D) opted against challenging Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), Democrats turned to M.J. Hegar, a veteran and businesswoman who lost a closer than expected bid for Congress last year. 

In Iowa, another former congressional candidate, Theresa Greenfield, is Democrats’ preferred candidate against Sen. Joni Ernst (R), though she faces a primary fight.

Arizona Sen. Martha McSally (R) will face Mark Kelly, the retired astronaut making his first run for public office. In North Carolina and Maine, Democrats recruited two state legislators to challenge Sens. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). 

Those candidates will pitch themselves as fresh-faced outsiders who can shake up a corrupt and broken political system — even if, as is the case in Texas, Iowa and North Carolina, the favored Democratic candidate has lost a race before.

“In this race for Senate, it’s time for somebody who will stand up and fight, to build an economy that works for everybody, for the health care that each family deserves, and to reform the corrupt political system in Washington,” former North Carolina state Sen. Cal Cunningham (D) said in a video announcing his bid to unseat Tillis.

Complicating matters for Democrats, only two states that voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 have incumbent
Republican senators today: Maine and Colorado. To win back the Senate majority, Democrats must win states like North Carolina, Arizona, Iowa and even Texas — all states that gave Trump their electoral votes three years ago and where he remains either popular or at least competitive today.

That has Democrats also focusing on a different villain: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Several Democratic groups are testing whether portraying Republican senators as McConnell’s minions can be effective. 

Those surveys and public polls show McConnell is surprisingly well-known, and not in a good way. 

A Harvard-Harris Poll survey conducted in May pegged McConnell’s favorable rating at just 23 percent, lower than Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), at 36 percent, or Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), at 27 percent. His unfavorable rating stood at 44 percent, lower than Pelosi’s 50 percent but higher than every other politician tested except Trump, Clinton and Vice President Pence.

In a poll conducted for the Democratic group End Citizens United, Global Strategies Group found reading messages against McConnell moved voters toward Democratic candidates more effectively than messages against Trump or the Republican Congress at large.

“Mitch McConnell is beholden to special interests and he’s blocking progress on everything from making prescription drugs more affordable to addressing political corruption to making health care more affordable,” said Patrick Burgwinkle, who heads communications for End Citizens United.

McConnell appears twice in Maine House Speaker Sara Gideon’s (D) video announcing her bid against Collins. Greenfield lumped Ernst and McConnell together in her own video. In Texas, Hegar called Cornyn “that tall guy lurking behind” McConnell.

More than half of the 295 advertisements the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is currently running on Facebook show McConnell’s image or mention his name.

Attacks against national party leaders are nothing new to Republicans, who spent several cycles using Pelosi as shorthand to tie every prominent Democratic challenger to liberal San Francisco values.

Republicans aren’t convinced that McConnell will be the poison pill that they saw in Pelosi.

“You use party leaders in midterms to polarize an electorate when you have registration advantages in the state or district. In a presidential election the electorate is polarized and motivated. The middle isn’t making a decision to show up for a presidential election based upon a three-way bank shot in the side-pocket about whether a senator serves in the same conference as somebody else,” said Josh Holmes, a longtime Senate Republican strategist and top aide to McConnell.

“The reality for him is that any resource spent attacking Mitch McConnell is a resource that is not used to attack his Republican colleagues, and that’s just the way he likes it,” Holmes said.

But Democrats hope the focus on corruption can be the beginning of a discussion of other issues, too: That health care costs rise because of pressure from special interest groups or that gun safety legislation has not passed because of the power of the National Rifle Association.

Democrats “can make the case that Mitch McConnell and special interests in Washington are the ones preventing these priorities from being addressed,” Burgwinkle said.

Mitch McConnell pushes forward with rule change to speed lower-level confirmations


Reported by    Monday, April 1, 2019 at 8:30pm

No change for SCOTUS, Appeals Court, Cabinet and senior nominees, “[b]ut for most other nominations – for the hundreds of lower-level nominations that every new president makes – post-cloture debate time would be reduced from 30 hours to 2 hours.”

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cldpQa_kCwI

Mitch McConnell has been a bad boy (in the eyes of Democrats) according to my email inbox:

PFAW Statement on McConnell’s Threatened Rules Change: A Naked Power Grab Based on Lies and Distortions

WASHINGTON — In response to Mitch McConnell’s threat to break the Senate’s rules yet again in order to expedite GOP efforts to confirm as many of Donald Trump’s nominees as possible, People For the American Way Executive Vice President Marge Baker issued the following statement:

“There’s literally no one in the world with less credibility to accuse Democrats of obstructing the confirmation process than Mitch McConnell. His latest effort to break the Senate’s rules is a naked power grab based on lies and distortions. By attempting to speed up Republicans’ confirmation machine, Senator McConnell is trying to ensure that nominees to lifetime seats on the federal bench receive as little scrutiny as possible. That’s not because of Democratic obstruction—the Senate has confirmed almost the same number of district court nominees for Donald Trump as it did for President Obama, and far more circuit court nominees. It’s because time and again these nominees have been shown to be embarrassingly unfit. But Senator McConnell’s answer isn’t to find better nominees; it’s just to make sure there’s less transparency for the entire process.

“Judicial nominees, if confirmed, serve for life. And several of the nominees awaiting votes have frighteningly extreme records when it comes to opposing reproductive freedom, attacking the rights of LGBTQ people, undermining voting rights, and enabling torture. Rushing these nominees through the process would be profoundly irresponsible.” …

So what’s all the hysteria about?

McConnell is finally doing what has been threatened for over a year, to reduce floor “debate” time to get around Democrat obstruction where they invoke 30 hours of debate even for non-controversial non-debatable nominees. That drags out the process interminably.

McConnell explained the problem in a Politico Op-Ed, Time to Stop the Democrats’ Obstruction:

It took six months of partisan delays — and several railroad accidents — before Democrats let the Senate confirm a federal railroad administrator, even though none of them actually voted against the nominee in the end.

It’s been 354 days and counting in Senate purgatory for the president’s nominee to head the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Two-hundred eighty-seven days and counting for the under secretary of state for management. Noncontroversial lower court nominees have languished for weeks and weeks — for no discernible reason — before they, too, were confirmed unanimously. These are just a few examples of the historic obstruction Senate Democrats have visited upon President Trump’s nominees for two years and counting.

Since January 2017, for the first time in memory, a minority has exploited procedure to systematically obstruct a president from staffing up his administration. This new, across-the-board obstruction is unfair to the president and, more importantly, to the American people. Left unchecked, it is guaranteed to create an unsustainable precedent that would see every future presidency of either party obstructed in the same mindless way.

The Senate needs to restore normalcy. And this week, we will vote to do just that….

… in President Trump’s first two years? We had to hold a stunning 128 cloture votes to advance nominations. Our Democratic colleagues made the Senate jump over five times as many hurdles as in the equivalent periods in the Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama administrations combined….

The all-encompassing, systematic nature of this obstruction is not part of the Senate’s important tradition of minority rights. It is a new departure from that tradition.

Here is McConnell’s statement, made on the floor of the Senate, in part:

“So today, I am filing cloture on a resolution that takes that bipartisan effort as its blueprint. This resolution from Senator Blunt and Senator Lankford would implement very similar steps and make them a permanent part of the Senate going forward. The Supreme Court, circuit courts, cabinet-level executive positions, and certain independent boards and commissions would not change.

“But for most other nominations – for the hundreds of lower-level nominations that every new president makes – post-cloture debate time would be reduced from 30 hours to 2 hours. This would keep the floor moving. It would facilitate more efficient consent agreements. And most importantly, it would allow the administration — finally, two years into its tenure — to staff numerous important positions that remain unfilled, with nominees who have been languishing.

“This resolution has come up through regular order, through the Rules Committee. And next week, we will vote on it. It deserves the same kind of bipartisan vote that Sen. Schumer and Sen. Reid’s proposal received back during the Obama Administration. I understand that many of my Democratic colleagues have indicated they would be all for this reform as long as it doesn’t go into effect until 2021, when they obviously hope someone else might be in the White House. But they’re reluctant to support it now.

“Give me a break. That is unfair on its face. My Democratic colleagues were more than happy to support a similar proposal in 2013 under President Obama. They whisper in our ears privately that they’d support it now if it took effect in 2021. But they can’t support it now, especially under these unprecedented circumstances, simply because we have a Republican president. So look, fair is fair. Members of this body should only support reforms that they would be ready to support in the minority as they are in the majority. Put another way, if my side is in the minority two years from now, I don’t think this will be unfair – it will not disadvantage us in the wake of a new Democratic president. This is a change the institution needs, a change the institution made already basically with a two-year experiment when President Obama was in office. This is a reform that every member should embrace — when their party controls the White House and when it does not control the White House.

This should help speed along the process, particularly for judicial nominees. There remain many empty seats to fill, and Republicans want as many as possible filled prior to the 2020 election, just in case.

Here are the numbers on vacancies from Carrie Severino as of March 25, 2019:

Current and known future vacancies:  167

Courts of Appeals:  10

District/Specialty Courts*: 157

Pending nominees for current and known future vacancies:  66

Courts of Appeals: 6

District/Specialty Courts*:  60

 

More Politically INCORRECT Cartoons


JERRY BROUSSARD PICK OF THE DAY POLITICAL CARTOON: “FANTASTIC IMAGE BY LISA BENSON

 

 

 

Mitch McConnell Gets Bad News… Asked To Step Down


Reported 

URL of the original posting site: https://www.westernjournalism.com/conservatives-demand-mcconnel-step-down-as-senate-leader/?

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been hit with a heavy vote of no confidence from conservative groups around the country. On Wednesday, leaders from several conservative organizations called on McConnell to abdicate his position, citing a list of broken promises he made to Republican voters.

They are calling on not only McConnell, but also members of his leadership team, to step down.

“You and the rest of your leadership team were given the majority because you pledged to stop the steady flow of illegal immigration,” states their letter to McConnell, according to Fox News. “You have done nothing. You pledged to reduce the size of this oppressive federal government. You have done nothing. You pledged to reduce, and ultimately eliminate the out-of-control deficit spending that is bankrupting America. You have done nothing. You promised to repeal Obamacare, ‘root and branch.’ You have done nothing. You promised tax reform. You have done nothing.”

Disgruntled conservatives held a news conference in Washington, D.C. to address their concerns and desire to see the leadership team dissolved.

“We call on all five members of the GOP Senate leadership to step down, or for their caucus to remove them as soon as possible,” Ken Cuccinelli, the president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, said at the conference.

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The Senate Conservatives Fund, founded in 2008 by former Senator Jim DeMint, has worked for years to elect more conservative GOP candidates to the upper chamber in Congress. The group has regularly clashed with the more moderate wing of GOP leadership. The SCF wasn’t the only group calling for McConnell to vacate his position.

Members from FreedomWorks, For America and the Tea Party Patriots also joined the chorus in demanding GOP Senate leaders step aside after failing to enact conservative legislation, despite voters giving the Republican Party full control of Washington, D.C. on Election Day.

This is not the first time conservatives have called on McConnell to step down as majority leader, but the ferocity of Wednesday’s press conference certainly puts an added weight on Republican lawmakers to get things done this legislative session.

The letter and press conference come as congressional Republicans are currently working to enact tax reform. GOP leaders so far have not succeeded in repealing Obamacare, failing several times to push through their own GOP health care bills. Republicans are hoping tax reform will be an issue the entire party can rally behind.

“If this was a football team, and you’d lost this many times, you’d start seriously considering firing the coaches,” said For America President David Bozell.

Despite all agreeing that they’d wish to see McConnell go, many conservative leaders are not certain who they would like to see as a replacement.

“If I had to pick someone, I’d love to draft like Pat Toomey maybe,” FreedomWorks President Adam Brandon said, referring to the GOP Pennsylvania senator. “There’s a lot of different people out there who I think could unite this caucus and actually lead on some issues.”

Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots group, said she could see herself supporting Georgia GOP Senator David Perdue. “I’m from Georgia, so I’m not opposed to him,” Martin explained, touting the junior senator’s extensive business background as a former CEO.

Conservative candidates are taking notice as well. As the 2018 election cycle begins to heat up, many pro-Trump candidates are hoping to gain traction by displaying stronger support for the president.

“With rare exception, GOP senators blocking Trump’s agenda are impediments we can not afford. Double that for Senate leaders,” Ron Wallace, a Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in Virginia, said in a statement to Western Journalism.

Wallace is an insurgent candidate hoping to win the GOP primary and take on incumbent Democrat Senator Tim Kaine. Wallace is running on a pro-Trump platform and believes it’s imperative the GOP majority pass what they promised to do.

“The American People voted for Tax Cuts, Border Walls, Rapid Growth, Excellent Law Enforcement, and Better Education. I expect strong proactive policies to make those outcomes possible and deliver cost-effective solutions, by whatever means may be necessary,” he said.

House passes budget, paving way for tax reform


Reported

House passes budget, paving way for tax reform

 

The House passed its 2018 budget resolution Thursday in a party-line vote that represents a step toward its goal of sending tax-reform legislation to President Trump. In a 219-206 vote, lawmakers approved a budget resolution for 2018 that sets up a process for shielding the GOP tax bill from a filibuster in the Senate.

A total of 18 Republicans voted against the resolution, along with all the Democrats who were present.

GOP lawmakers hailed the vote as meaningful because of the tax measure.

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“We haven’t reformed this tax system since 1986. We need to pass this budget so we can help bring more jobs, fairer taxes and bigger paychecks for people across this country,” Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said during House floor debate.

Democrats lambasted it for the same reason.

“This budget isn’t about conservative policy or reducing the size of our debt and deficits. It’s not even about American families. This budget is about one thing — using budget reconciliation to ram through giant tax giveaways to the wealthy and big corporations — and to do it without bipartisan support,” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), the ranking member of the House Budget Committee.

The budget reconciliation rules would allow Republicans in the Senate to pass tax reform without any Democratic votes, though Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) can only afford two defections. Republicans used the same strategy for ObamaCare repeal but failed, and are hoping for a better outcome on taxes.

Yet there are already signs of trouble, with some Republicans questioning whether the tax proposal would add too much to the deficit, and others balking at plans to eliminate a deduction for state and local taxes. The tax plan is now estimated to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over a decade, but that figure would grow if the state and local tax deduction is not eliminated.

Republicans have yet to secure a major legislative win despite having unified control of government. They hope to secure a tax win by the end of the year, which is an ambitious timeline.

The GOP tax reform framework unveiled last week would cut the top tax rate for the wealthy and lower taxes for businesses. The proposal would consolidate the current seven individual tax brackets into three, with rates of 12 percent, 25 percent and 35 percent. Committees may choose to establish a fourth rate above 35 percent for the wealthiest Americans. The current top individual rate is 39.6 percent. 

House Republicans are far behind schedule in passing the budget, which is normally approved in the spring. Thursday’s vote comes five days into the new fiscal year, and a month after the House passed all 12 of its spending bills for 2018. 

The government is operating under a temporary spending measure that runs out on December 8. Congress and Trump must strike a new deal to prevent a shutdown after that deadline. The House budget is in many ways an opening bid in that battle. 

Like the already-passed spending bills, it would increase defense spending by $72 billion, and cut nondefense spending by $5 billion. The Senate’s plan keeps overall funding levels steady.

It also includes plans for trillions of dollars in spending cuts over a decade, including from programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, but does include enforcement mechanisms to enact those plans. The budget outline, for example, assumes the adoption of a House-passed ObamaCare repeal bill that has not advanced.

The House budget leaves no room for tax reform to add to the deficit. Instead, it provides instructions for $203 billion in spending cuts from welfare programs in areas such as nutritional assistance and education. 

To unlock the reconciliation rules for tax reform, lawmakers will likely have to go to conference to sort out differences with the Senate’s budget resolution. The upper chamber’s version is being marked up in committee Thursday and is expected to move to the Senate floor in two weeks. 

The Senate budget carves out $1.5 trillion in possible tax cuts for the reform effort, a figure the House is expected to agree to. The Senate is not expected to accept the $203 billion in mandatory cuts from the House budget, but House Budget Committee Chairman Diane Black (R-Tenn.) said she will fight to keep them in. 

Senate approves resolution condemning white supremacist groups


Reported

Senate approves resolution condemning white supremacist groups

The Senate easily passed a resolution on Monday condemning white supremacist organizations and urging President Trump to speak out against hate groups. The resolution — introduced last week by Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) — cleared the upper chamber by unanimous consent. 

The Senate measure formally condemns “the violence and domestic terrorist attack” that occurred last month around a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va. 
 
In addition to urging Trump and the administration to publicly push back against hate groups, the resolution urges Trump and his Cabinet to “address the growing prevalence of those hate groups in the United States.”
 
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Senators want Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Department of Homeland Security to investigate “all acts of violence, intimidation and domestic terrorism” by white supremacists, white nationalists or associated groups and prevent them “from fomenting and facilitating additional violence.” 

 
The resolution formally gained the backing of 55 senators, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), before it passed the Senate on Monday night. 
 
Trump received widespread criticism for his response to violence in Virginia last month, including saying during a press conference that both what he called “alt-left” and white nationalist groups and there were “very fine people” on both sides.
 
The rally began began as a protest against the Charlottesville City Council’s decision to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, but turned violent and led to the death of one counter protestor. 

Senate Republicans unveil revised healthcare bill


Reported

Senate Republican leaders on Thursday unveiled a revised version of their bill to repeal and replace ObamaCare as they race toward a high-stakes vote next week. The measure includes changes intended to win over additional votes, with leadership making concessions aimed at bringing both conservatives and moderates on board. (READ THE BILL HERE.)

But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is facing a tough task in finding enough votes to pass the bill. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) appear to be firmly against the measure, and one other defection would kill the bill. Overall, McConnell appears to have shifted the revised bill more toward the conservatives than the moderates.

Importantly, the bill largely keeps the Medicaid sections the same, meaning that deeper cuts to the program will still begin in 2025, and the funds for ObamaCare’s expansion of Medicaid will still end in 2024. The changes to Medicaid have emerged as a top concern for moderates such as Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) found that those Medicaid changes in the original bill would result in 15 million fewer people being enrolled in the program and cut spending by $772 billion over 10 years.

Collins said she still plans to vote against a motion to proceed to the bill, adding that the legislation should move through the normal committee process.

“My strong inclination and current intention is to vote no on the motion to proceed,” Collins told reporters after leaving a briefing on the legislation.

“The only way I’d change my mind is if there’s something in the new bill that wasn’t discussed or that I didn’t fully understand or the CBO estimate comes out and says they fixed the Medicaid cuts, which I don’t think that’s going to happen.”

For the conservatives, the measure includes a version of an amendment from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee  (R-Utah) aimed at allowing insurers to offer plans that do not meet all of ObamaCare’s regulations, including those protecting people with pre-existing conditions and mandating that plans cover certain services, such as maternity care and mental healthcare.

Conservatives argue the change would allow healthier people to buy cheaper plans, but moderates and many healthcare experts warn that premiums would spike for the sick people remaining in the more generous insurance plans.

Cruz said he will support the bill so long as the provisions he sees as a priority are not changed in amendment votes on the floor.

“If this is the bill, I will support this bill,” Cruz told reporters after a meeting of GOP senators. “Now, if it’s amended and we lose the protections that lower premiums, my view could well change.”

Senate Republicans had vowed to not change the ObamaCare protections for people from being charged more based on their health in their bill, which is why the debate over the Cruz-Lee amendment has been heated. A Senate GOP aide said Thursday it is possible that the Cruz amendment would not be analyzed by the CBO in time for the vote next week. It is possible the Department of Health and Human Services could provide an alternative analysis.

Lee cautioned that he was not involved in the changes to the proposal, including the amendment, and would have to review the new language before deciding whether to support it. The bill does include new funding, $70 billion over seven years, aimed at easing costs for those sick people remaining in the ObamaCare plans.

However, the new measure does not boost the generosity of the tax credits, as some moderates wanted. It still replaces ObamaCare’s tax credits to help people afford insurance with a smaller, scaled-down tax credit that provides less assistance.

The Kaiser Family Foundation found premium costs would increase an average of 74 percent for the most popular healthcare plan, given the reduced assistance in the GOP bill.

The new measure will leave in place two ObamaCare taxes on the wealthy, in a departure from the initial bill.

That original measure lacked the support to pass, as more moderate members pointed to the CBO’s finding that 22 million fewer people would have insurance over a decade.

Senate Republicans are now awaiting a new score of the revised legislation from the CBO, which could come early next week.

The new bill does include $45 billion to fight opioid addiction, but moderates such as Capito and Portman who hail from states where the problem is rampant have said they also want changes to the Medicaid portion of the legislation.

Portman said his position on the bill had not changed, but he did not give a clear answer on whether he’d back his party on the procedural vote.

“I’m the same position I’ve been in. I’m looking at the language,” he said.

Capito also said she doesn’t know whether she’ll vote to proceed to the bill.

“We have another meeting this afternoon on the Medicaid cuts,” she told reporters. “I need to really look at it, look at the score; I still have concerns.”

Asked if she would vote for the motion to proceed next week, she said, “Wait and see.”

In a change that could appeal to Murkowski, the bill sets aside 1 percent of the stability funds for states with costs that are 75 percent above the national average, which would benefit high-cost states like Alaska.

— This story was updated at 3:15 p.m. Alexander Bolton contributed.

Today’s Politically INCORRECT Cartoons from TOWNHALL.COM


Pelosi: ‘Hundreds Of Thousands’ Will Die If GOP Health Care Bill Passes


Reported 

URL of the original posting site: http://www.westernjournalism.com/pelosi-hundreds-of-thousands-will-die-if-gop-health-care-bill-passes/

The California congresswoman went on to contend that Republicans should join with Democrats to fix Obamacare, not scrap it, and she argued that Republicans are currently sabotaging the law. According to Pelosi, the GOP House and Senate bills are “systemically, structurally, they are very, very harmful to the American people. They will raise costs, with fewer benefits. …They will undermine Medicare.” The minority leader likely meant to refer to “Medicaid,” because neither GOP bill seeks to change Medicare.

As reported by Western Journalism, Obamacare has failed to live up to many of the promises made by former President Barack Obama and the Democrats.

Perhaps the most infamous promise broken was Obama’s claim, both before and after the bill’s passage, that “If you like your health care plan, you can keep it.”

Politifact named this promise the “Lie of the Year” in 2013, as over four million cancellation letters went out to policy holders that year, and such letters continued in the years thereafter.

Despite the insurance mandates contained in Obamacare, the former president promised that premiums would go down an average of $2,500 a year per family of four, thereby living up to the name “Affordable Care Act.” However, the opposite proved to be true, and Politifact listed Obama’s assurance as a “Promise Broken.”

The average nationwide premium cost has increased by 99 percent for individuals and 140 percent for families from 2013 through February 2017, according to an eHealth report.

Moreover, the Heritage Foundation determined that 70 percent of U.S. counties have only one or two insurers offering coverage through the Obamacare exchange. Some areas of the country could face having no insurers on the exchange at all in 2018, according to Bloomberg.

Despite the law’s major failings, Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., joined with Pelosi in arguing that the only solution is to fix Obamacare.

Appearing on Fox News Sunday, Durbin pointed to the Republican plan to provide Medicaid funds to the states in block grants as something he could not support. He added that the Republican plan would result in 23 million less people obtaining health insurance, which is what the Congressional Budget Office projected would be the result over 10 years.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., responded, “The amount of dollars going into Medicaid continues to go up year after year. So if Senator Durbin refers to a cut, only in Washington is giving more each year, something you can conceive as a cut, if it doesn’t go up as fast as he would like it to go up.”

Under Obamacare, the Medicaid rolls grew by approximately 12 million people, thanks to new eligibility guidelines. Over 70 million are now enrolled in the program, or about one in every five Americans.

Michael Cannon, director of health policy studies with the Cato Institute, told Western Journalism that even the so-called cuts designed to slow the growth of Medicaid should be viewed with skepticism.

Cannon explained that proposed legislation does not call for true block grants, but rather matching grants based on the number of Medicaid enrollees in each state. States can increase the grant cap simply by increasing the number of enrollees.

Further, Cannon noted, in both the Senate and the House plans, the restraints in the increase in Medicaid spending are not due to take effect until the 2020s, after multiple intervening federal elections. Therefore, he believes the chances of them being repealed is high, particularly since many Republican governors support Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion.

“This is a Medicaid expansion repeal that was designed never to take effect,” he said.

Senate confirms Gorsuch to Supreme Court, giving Trump big win


The Senate on Friday confirmed Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, giving President Trump the biggest victory of his first 100 days in office. The 54-45 vote caps a bitter political battle that began with the death of Justice Antonin Scalia more than a year ago and resulted in the Senate triggering the “nuclear option,” breaking Democrats’ blockade and ending filibusters for Supreme Court nominees.

Three Democrats facing reelection next year in strongly pro-Trump states voted for Gorsuch: Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), and Joe Donnelly (Ind.).

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But two Democrats facing reelection in 2018 in states Trump won by double digits — Sens. Claire McCaskill (Mo.) and Jon Tester (Mont.) — voted no, a reflection of Trump’s slumping approval rating among independents and the boiling rage of the Democratic base over his 2016 electoral victory.

Gorsuch will be sworn in as the Supreme Court’s 101st associate justice on Monday. 

Chief Justice John Roberts is set to administer the Constitutional Oath in a private ceremony at 9 a.m., and Justice Anthony Kennedy will administer the oath at a public ceremony at the White House later in the morning.

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) said the fight will leave a scorch mark on the Senate because Republicans employed the nuclear option.

“It will make this body a more partisan place. It will make the cooling saucer of the Senate considerably hotter, and I believe it will make the Supreme Court more of a partisan place,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Friday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), however, argued that the change to the filibuster, which Republicans made with a party-line vote Thursday, would restore the Senate to its tradition of not filibustering judicial nominees.

He praised Gorsuch’s credentials Friday as “sterling,” his record as “excellent” and his judicial temperament as “ideal.” He said he wished “that important aspects of this process had played out differently” but held out hope that “today is a new day” and that Democrats would not hold a grudge as the chamber considers other priorities this year.

“I hope my Democratic friends will take this moment to reflect and perhaps consider a turning point in their outlook going forward,” he said.

Some Democrats questioned whether it was worth getting into a showdown with McConnell over Gorsuch and losing their power to filibuster future Supreme Court nominees. These few dissenters thought it might be tougher for Republicans to change the rules if a swing seat on the court became open later on in Trump’s term, when he might have less political capital.  Democratic leaders, however, disagreed, arguing that McConnell would be just as likely like to change the rules in the future.

Democrats tried to block Gorsuch because they said his rulings tended to favor powerful interests over average people and also because they were still furious over Republicans’ treatment of Merrick Garland, whom President Obama nominated a year ago to fill the vacancy left by Scalia.

McConnell announced immediately after Scalia’s death that Garland would not receive consideration by the GOP-controlled Senate and that the winner of the presidential election should pick the nominee. Democrats argued that decision broke 230 years of precedent and would best be remedied by Gorsuch withdrawing and Trump picking a “more mainstream candidate.”

That proposal went nowhere as Republicans argued that Trump made clear during last year’s campaign that he would pick a judge from a list of 21 conservatives, on which Gorsuch was included.

A CNN exit poll showed that 56 percent of Trump voters said the Supreme Court was “the important factor” in their votes, and 46 percent said it was “an important factor.”

Gorsuch isn’t likely to change the most recent ideological balance of the court as he replaces one of its most outspoken and conservative jurists. He called Scalia a “mentor” at his confirmation hearings and, like his predecessor did, takes an “originalist” approach to the law meant to hew to the intentions of the Founding Fathers and follow legal language strictly. That approach became a sticking point for Democrats, who criticized him for relying on what they called overly literal readings of the law to decide in favor of those in power, such as a trucking company in TransAm Trucking v. Administrative Review Board that fired a driver who refused to stay for hours with a disabled vehicle in freezing weather.

Republicans countered by touting Gorsuch’s academic and professional credentials; his clerkships with two Supreme Court justices, Anthony Kennedy and Byron White; his unanimous rating of well-qualified by the American Bar Association; and his record of deciding with the majority in 99 percent of the cases he heard.

Gorsuch appeared poised to sail through the Senate as Democrats earlier this year were more focused on Trump’s more controversial Cabinet appointees, such as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Democrats had failed to dig up any seriously damaging writings, statements or indiscretions, and even Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the most liberal justice on the high court, said Gorsuch was “very easy to get along with.”

The lack of strong early resistance angered liberal groups, including NARAL Pro-Choice America, MoveOn.Org and the Services Employee International Union, which wrote a stern letter to Democratic senators early last month exhorting them to “do better.” The Judicial Crisis Network, a conservative group backing Gorsuch, countered pressure from the left by launching a $10 million advertising campaign to bolster his nomination. The National Rifle Association also poured in $1 million to help Gorsuch.

It became apparent Monday,  when several Democrats who were on the fence came out against his nomination, that Gorsuch would not win confirmation unless Republicans moved to eliminate the filibuster. By Monday evening, 42 Democrats and one Independent, Sen. Bernie Sanders (Vt.), had announced they would block the final vote. McConnell announced the next day that he had the votes to trigger the nuclear option. 

Vice President Pence presided over the vote. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who recently underwent back surgery, missed it.

– Updated at 12:47 p.m.

Senate goes ‘nuclear’ to advance Trump Supreme Court pick


The Senate voted Thursday to move forward with Neil Gorsuch’s Supreme Court nomination after Republicans took a historic step that lowers the vote threshold for high court nominees to a simple majority.  Senators voted 55-45 to end debate on Gorsuch’s nomination, setting up a final confirmation vote for Friday. Thanks to a procedural move that changed Senate rules earlier Thursday, a simple majority was needed to move forward.

Democrats had successfully blocked Gorsuch’s nomination from getting 60 votes earlier, prompting Republicans to employ the “nuclear option,” which effectively ends filibusters for all Supreme Court nominees. Democrats tried to delay the rule change vote by offering motions to postpone a vote and to adjourn the chamber, but both fell short as Republicans stayed unified.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) voted with Republicans to allow President Trump’s pick to move forward.

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Republicans defended the party-line vote on the nuclear option, saying Democrats were to blame for blocking Gorsuch, who they believe is eminently qualified to sit on the Supreme Court.Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) argued that Democrats should “come to their senses.” 

“The truth of the matter is that throughout this process, the minority led by their leader has been desperately searching for a justification for their preplanned filibuster,” he said ahead of Thursday’s votes.

Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) added that the current stalemate was part of a decades-long Democratic effort to “politicize the courts and the confirmation process.” 

“The opposition to this particular nominee is more about the man that nominated him and the party he represents than the nominee himself,” he said. 

Republicans hinted for weeks that Trump’s nominee would be confirmed one way or another. McConnell confirmed during a leadership press conference that he had the votes to go nuclear if needed. Republicans appeared resigned to the tactics, arguing if Democrats won’t support Gorsuch — who received the American Bar Association’s highest rating — they won’t allow any GOP nominee to join the Supreme Court.

But Democrats made a last-minute pledge for Republicans to back down and change the nominee, an argument that never gained traction with GOP senators.

“It doesn’t have to be this way,” Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. “When a nominee doesn’t get enough votes for confirmation the answer is not to change the rules, it’s to change the nominee.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) during an eleventh-hour press conference blasted the GOP tactics, saying it “is just wrong to pack the court through this stolen seat.” 

“That’s why it’s so important that we still in the few hours that we have left hopefully stop this really crime against the Constitution,” he said. 

Progressives groups also stepped up their attacks heading into Thursday’s vote, warning that Republicans will be to blame for going “nuclear.”  The People’s Defense — a coalition of roughly a dozen progressive groups led by NARAL Pro-Choice America — released a digital ad campaign targeting Republicans in Arizona, Alaska, Maine, Nevada and South Carolina, warning them that “history is watching.”

Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Dean Heller (Nev.), among those being targeted by outside groups, are Republicans’ two most vulnerable incumbents. Schumer echoed that from the Senate floor on Thursday, saying that Republicans “had other choices. They’ve chosen this one.” 

“The responsibility for changing the rules will fall on Republicans and Leader McConnell’s shoulders,” he said. 

Democrats remain deeply bitter of Republicans treatment of Merrick Garland, whom former President Barack Obama’s nominated to fill the vacancy created by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death in February 2016. GOP leaders refused to give Garland a hearing or a vote. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) argued that the current stalemate over the Supreme Court dates back Scalia’s death and “what we’re facing today is the fallout.” 

But the hardball tactics drew skepticism from both Republican and Democratic senators, who held around-the-clock negotiations to try to prevent the rule change but ultimately failed.

Told that by a reporter that some people think the Senate will function better without the filibuster, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) fired back: “Whoever said that is a stupid idiot.” 

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) also warned that without the need for 60 votes to break a filibuster, Trump might easily appoint Attorney General Jeff Sessions or EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt to the Supreme Court in the future.

“Partisanship should give way to patriotism,” said Bennet, who backed ending debate on Gorsuch’s nomination earlier Thursday but voted against it in the second vote. “If we go down this road we will undermine the minorities ability to check this administration and all those who follow.”

Senate confirms Carson to lead HUD


waving flag disclaimerAuthored

The Senate on Thursday confirmed Ben Carson to be President Trump’s secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The final vote was 58-41. Carson needed a simple majority to be approved.

Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (W.Va.), Mark Warner (Va.), Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Jon Tester (Mont.), Joe Donnelly (Ind.) and Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine) joined all Republicans in backing Carson. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) did not vote.
The former neurosurgeon wasn’t a top target for Senate Democrats. But Carson’s nomination and lack of government experience has divided the caucus.
Top Democrats — including Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.) — voted against Carson’s nomination earlier this week.

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But red-state Democrats, including Manchin, Donnelly and Heitkamp, voted with Republicans to support him.

Republicans have rallied around Carson’s nomination. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) predicted ahead of the vote that he would be confirmed with bipartisan support. “[He] can begin bringing much needed reforms to the Department of Housing and Urban Development,” he said from the Senate floor.
Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) also urged his colleagues to support Carson. “Once Dr. Carson is confirmed we can begin working on several important issues under HUD’s jurisdiction,” he said.
Carson easily cleared the Senate Banking Committee in late January, picking up the support of liberal senators elizabeth-lieawatha-warrenincluding Brown and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.). Warren defended her committee vote amid backlash from progressive outside groups, writing on a Facebook post: “Yes, he is not the nominee I wanted. But ‘the nominee I wanted’ is not the test.” Warren didn’t vote for Carson during the Senate’s procedural vote on Wednesday, and she voted against him again Thursday.
Carson’s nomination has been largely free of controversy. Senators only questioned Carson for 2 1/2 hours during his confirmation hearing, in contrast to more controversial picks — including Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who faced hours of intense grilling. Democrats have voiced public skepticism about Carson’s qualifications, noting that the onetime presidential candidate also previously questioned whether he was fit to run a federal agency.
“Having me as a federal bureaucrat would be like a fish out of water,” he said in November, on the heels of rumors that he would be considered for Trump’s Cabinet.
Carson, a conservative Christian, also received some criticism for suggesting that LGBT Americans don’t deserve “extra rights.” picture2
But neither impeded his nomination. Crapo thanked Brown from the Senate floor for being willing to work with him to get Carson to the Senate floor for a vote.  It is unclear how Carson will shape the agency. He told lawmakers in his confirmation hearing that he wants to have “listening sessions” with housing officials around the country. He was also noncommittal about upholding an Obama-era rule that beefed up a fair housing law.

EXCLUSIVE: Gravy Train Flows Wide And Deep At Elizabeth Warren’s Consumer Agency


waving flagAuthored by Photo of Richard Pollock Richard Pollock | Reporter | 8:51 PM 02/07/2017

Pay is flowing so generously at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) that hundreds of bureaucrats there receive more than most members of Congress.

  • The Senate majority and minority leaders are paid $193,000 annually. Two hundred and one CFPB employees outdo Sens. Mitch McConnell and Charles Schumer in pay.
  • Speaker of the House Paul Ryan of Wisconsin receives $223,000 per year, but that’s less than what 54 CFPB employees are paid.
  • Another 170 CFPB employees earn more than the secretaries of defense and state, the attorney general and the director of national intelligence. All cabinet salaries are capped at $199,700, but not at the bureau. Thirty-nine CFPB employees earn more than the $230,000 paid to Vice President Mike Pence.
  • A total of 198 CFPB employees also earn more than their ultimate boss, Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellin, who is paid $201,700.
  • Overall, 449 CFPB employees get at least $100,000 per year and 228 CFPB are paid more than $200,000, according to publicly available 2016 data.

These findings are part of a Daily Caller News Foundation Investigative Group salary analysis for the consumer agency that was founded by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and then-President Barack Obama in 2011.  The agency was created under the Dodd-Frank Act to serve as a consumer agency protecting the poor against financial fraud.

Warren deliberately placed the agency inside the Federal Reserve Board. As a result, the salaries there do not have to conform to the pay scale set for federal workers at all other department and agencies.not-okay

CFPB spokesman Samuel Gilford justified the high salaries by citing Dodd-Frank’s section 1013, saying “compensation at the CFPB is set pursuant to the federal law that established the agency.”

“It’s ironic that the agency that is supposed to be looking out for the ‘little guy’ is actually padding the pockets of their own employees with exorbitant salaries,” David Williams, president of the Taxpayer Protection Alliance, told TheDCNF. The top salary at CFPB is reserved for Gail Hillebrand, the associate director for consumer education. She received $259,500 in 2016.i-am-definitly-not-okay-with-that

Not only do CFPB employees earn more than most of America’s top leaders, but 240 CFPB employees earn more than all 50 governors. The highest current salary for a sitting Democratic governor is Pennsylvania’s Tom Wolf, who is paid $187,818, according to Ballotpedia.

CFPB now is an embattled agency with congressional calls for its elimination. Others favor sharply reorganizing it and removing CFPB from the Federal Reserve Board so it can operate like a regular agency with congressional oversight. Unlike all other federal departments and agencies, Congress cannot set its budget or enact reforms at the agency due to the Dodd-Frank restrictions.picture4

Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Financial Services oversight and investigations subcommittee, told TheDCNF that it’s “outrageous” CFPB continues to “use taxpayer dollars to pay themselves lavishly. This is just another reminder that the CFPB must be reined in and held accountable to the American people. The CFPB is one of the most unaccountable agencies in the federal government.”

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, called CFPB, “one more secret part of Dodd Frank, hidden away from the American people’s eyes.” Norquist said the Dodd-Frank Act is “Obamacare for the financial world. The fact that 170 earn more than sitting cabinet members and many more than the Vice President just shows how out of line the CFPB is.”

Paul H. Kupiec, resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, compared the salaries of federal employees at financial regulatory agencies and found that most federal bureaucrats earn more than those in the private banking sector.

Kupiec worked for a decade at the Federal Reserve, and later at FDIC, Freddie Mac and at the International Monetary Fund. He found in a 2014 study that federal workers “earned average total compensation that exceeded the average total employee compensation paid by 99.9 percent of all banks that filed regulatory reports in 2012.“As a group, those lucky enough to find employment at any of these bank regulatory agencies earned average total compensation that exceeded the average total employee compensation paid by 99.9 percent of all banks that filed regulatory reports in 2012,” he concluded.

“There’s kind of been a nuclear war in terms of salary and benefit between these agencies trying to one-up each other,” Kupiec told TheDCNF in an interview. “Nobody looks at it. And nobody stops them.”i-am-definitly-not-okay-with-that

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McConnell: If GOP unites, we will win


waving flagAuthored

McConnell: If GOP unites, we will win / © Greg Nash

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has a clear and simple message for his party: Success depends on unity.

In an interview with The Hill, the Senate majority leader said he has told his GOP colleagues not to expect any help from Democrats on an array of legislative priorities.

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In contrast to past years, when McConnell had to face down rebellions from conservative colleagues — most notably Texas Sen. Ted Cruz (R) — the entire Senate GOP conference appears to be on the same page. How long that lasts remains uncertain, however.

“The only way you can achieve success in an environment like now, where there’s not much bipartisanship, is for us to have our act together and to work out our differences among ourselves,” McConnell said Friday.amen

During former President Obama’s administration, McConnell said he had to contend with “individuals” in the Senate and House who “just really enjoy the publicity associated with doing something the vast majority of Republicans didn’t agree with, and it was a great headline producer.”no-more-rinos-2

After a highly unusual and charged election year, McConnell is looking forward to making new laws in 2017. Against the odds, McConnell preserved his GOP majority in November and now has a willing partner in the White House. The relationship between President Trump and McConnell was tenuous at best throughout 2016. But times have changed. McConnell, who refused to answer questions about Trump in the fall, last week compared him to President Andrew Jackson, the nation’s first populist commander in chief.

Ten Senate Democrats are running for reelection in 2018 in states that Trump won last year. McConnell is expecting that Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer(D-N.Y.) will pull out all the stops to keep them from defecting on big votes.

“We’re not anticipating much Democratic cooperation here,” he said with a laugh.

He says most Democrats are “not interested” in working with the GOP on legislation to repeal and replace parts of ObamaCare and to overhaul the tax code. As a result, Republicans are looking to pass those bills on party-line votes under a special budgetary process that protects them from filibusters. 

“When you’re taking that path, you better have your people all lined up, because if you can’t get your own guys together, particularly in the Senate, you can’t get where you want to go,” he said.

Republicans have control of the White House and both chambers of Congress for the first time in a decade, and they know they have a limited amount of time to enact major legislative initiatives such as comprehensive tax reform, which was last accomplished in 1986. At that time, Democrats and Republicans worked together to revamp the tax code. McConnell, who was a backbencher back then, said such a bipartisan endeavor is just not possible now — it’s “a different era.”

Despite the high stakes and the pressure, McConnell seemed comfortable and at ease throughout The Hill’s interview. He stayed on message and calmly dodged questions about policies Republicans have not yet decided on.

McConnell in 2015 became majority leader, his dream job ever since he worked as a junior aide to late Sen. Marlow Cook (R-Ky.).

The Senate electoral map looks quite good for Republicans, who have only eight seats up for reelection in 2018, while Democrats will have to defend 25.

But McConnell, 74, says anything can happen, chuckling over the brimming confidence of Democratic colleagues last year who thought they were a lock to win back the upper chamber. Before the election, media outlets were publishing profiles of Schumer, assuming he would be the next Senate majority leader.

“I sat here and observed on a daily basis my soon-to-be counterpart, Sen. Schumer, giving interviews on his agenda, measuring the curtains,” he recalled with a wry smile.

McConnell, who has a reputation as one of the shrewdest tacticians on Capitol Hill but sometimes draws criticism even from GOP colleagues for being too focused on politics, says he’s now entirely focused on governing.

“Rather than becoming consumed about what might happen in 2018, we need to try to succeed,” he said.

McConnell, an institutionalist who reveres the Senate, said Republicans don’t work for Trump. He pointedly noted that the Senate decides its own rules when asked about pressure from the White House to strip senators of the power to filibuster Supreme Court nominees.

Over the years, conservative groups have taken shots at McConnell on a variety of issues. But they have no complaints about his decision to not vote on Merrick Garland, Obama’s 2016 Supreme Court nominee. Now, late Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat will be filled with a conservative. Trump is scheduled to announce his pick on Tuesday (UPDATE: Tonight).

Trump and McConnell are both dealmakers, but they don’t see eye-to-eye on trade, Russian sanctions and other matters. What’s more important than their differences, McConnell said, is their shared desire to cut tax rates, simplify the tax code and reverse what he calls the “rampage” of overregulation under Obama. He says regulatory excess is the chief culprit responsible for the nation’s tepid economic recovery and scoffs at the Democratic narrative that frames Obama as a savior who turned around a national economy severely damaged by former President George W. Bush’s mismanagement.

“Obama didn’t have a single year of 3 percent growth, and the statute of limitations on blaming Bush ran out a long time ago,” he said.

Unlike Trump, McConnell rarely talks publicly about the stock market. But it has gone up because of Trump’s victory, McConnell said.

“Everybody I know who watches the market thinks the reason it has been booming is the expectation of regulatory relief and tax reform,” he said.

As partisan as the atmosphere is in Washington, McConnell knows that he’ll still need centrist Democrats to join him for the 115th Congress to be a success. He says that Republicans cannot entirely replace ObamaCare under reconciliation — the special budget process that empowers the majority party to enact legislation with only 51 votes. Some healthcare reforms, such as allowing companies to sell insurance across state lines or other policy changes that have a negligible budgetary impact must be adopted with 60 votes. That means winning over centrists such as Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), who are up for reelection next year.

“[Red-state Democrats] will be necessary,” he concedes.

After spending the past two years playing defense, when Republicans had to defend 24 Senate seats in the 2016 election cycle, McConnell — an avid sports fan — is eager to play offense.

“I’m assuming that each of them will be calculating whether it’s to their advantage to be cooperative or not,” he said of the 10 Democrats up for reelection in pro-Trump states.

“I’m hoping that frequently they will conclude that it’s actually good for them to be helpful to us,” he said.

Cruz, DeSantis push for congressional term limits


waving flagAuthored

Cruz, DeSantis push for congressional term limits / © Getty Images

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Rep. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) are pushing for an amendment to the Constitution to place term limits on lawmakers, arguing the move will help overhaul Washington.

“The American people resoundingly agreed on Election Day, and President-elect Donald Trump has committed to putting government back to work for the American people,” Cruz said in a statement on Tuesday. “It is well past time to put an end to the cronyism and deceit that has transformed Washington into a graveyard of good intentions.” 
 partyof-deceit-spin-and-lies
Under an amendment the two GOP lawmakers filed on Tuesday, House members would be allowed to serve three two-year terms and senators would be able to serve two six-year terms.
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DeSantis added that the measure would be a “first step toward reforming Capitol Hill.” 

GOP Sens. Deb Fischer (Neb.), Ron Johnson (Wis.), Thom Tillis (N.C.), Marco Rubio (Fla.), Mike Lee (Utah) and David Perdue (Ga.) are backing the proposal. Cruz and DeSantis previously pledged in a Washington Post op-ed to introduce the measure this year. stupid

According to the resolution, any congressional term before the amendment becomes law wouldn’t be taken into account when determining if a lawmaker can run for reelection or not. Trump backed term limits during his White House run, but the measure could face an uphill battle in Congress.

Neither House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), who has said he supports term limits, nor Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has signaled it could come up for a vote. McConnell appeared to shut down Trump’s push after the election, telling reporters, “We have term limits — they’re called elections.”

In addition to clearing Congress, the Cruz-DeSantis proposal would also need to be ratified by three-fourths of state legislatures before going into effect.

Cruz accuses McConnell of working for Dems


waving flagBy  Susan Ferrechio (@susanferrechio) 10/29/2015

Sen. Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican presidential candidate, conducted a 90-minute takedown late Thursday of his own Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, who he characterized by name as a weak leader unwilling to fight for conservative causes. Cruz, a Tea Party conservative, frequently bucks Senate GOP leaders and has on at least one other occasion criticized McConnell in a Senate floor speech.

But late Thursday, he took on McConnell with renewed antipathy, using pie charts to demonstrate that the Kentucky no more rinosRepublican has bolstered the Democratic agenda rather than conservative goals during his ten-month tenure. “Why is a Republican majority leader fighting to accomplish the priorities of the Democratic minority?” Cruz asked.

Cruz criticized a broad budget and debt limit deal the Senate is scheduled to vote on early Friday, arguing that the accord gave President Obama and Democrats all that they wanted, with nothing in return for Republicans seeking to rein in spending and shrink the debt.

Many conservatives have waved off as insignificant a provision in the bill that aims to cut the cost of the nearly insolvent Social Security Disability Insurance program with heightened fraud scrutiny.

The legislation increases spending by $80 billion over two years, breaking budget caps. It also suspends the nation’s $18.1 trillion borrowing limit until March 2017.

“This means that Republican majorities in both parties will be extracting nothing significant from President Obama,” Cruz said in opposition to the bill. “This deal means that Republican leadership will have fully surrendered.”AMEN

Cruz’s drubbing didn’t stop with the budget.

Using pie charts, Cruz made the case that McConnell has helped to pass legislation opposed by the majority of Senate Republicans but supported by the majority of Democrats.

Climate change legislation and an amendment to revive the Export-Import were among the measures brought to the floor despite opposition from a majority of Republicans, Cruz noted. The provisions passed with mostly Democratic support.

Cruz said McConnell should employ an old GOP House rule to bring to the floor only legislation that has a majority of Republican Senators backing it. He said the established congressional leaders aren’t looking out for ordinary Americans but rather big corporations, who cut them checks for them at D.C. cocktail parties and reward them later with million-dollar jobs.

Cruz also targeted now former Speaker John Boehner, who retires Friday. Boehner wrote much of the budget deal Cruz opposes. “The lame duck speaker, on his way out, will no doubt land in a plush easy chair, in the Washington D.C. cartel, and will soon be making millions of dollars, living off the cartel,” Cruz said. GOPNoSpineCartoon

Cruz said Americans are onto the scheme and are tired of Republicans making promises on the campaign trail, only to shy away from big fights once elected. “That frustration is driving every day, the growing rage from the American people,” Cruz said.AMEN

McConnell has traditionally chosen to avoid responding to Cruz’s attacks and has discouraged other GOP lawmakers from defending him on the Senate floor. Most Senate Republicans support McConnell and have privately and publicly accused Cruz of using floor diatribes to raise campaign cash from the conservative base and support for his presidential bid. 

Jim Manley, a former top aide to Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Cruz had taken an unprecedented step in attacking McConnell Thursday night. “I have never, EVER, seen anything like it,” Manley said on Twitter. “McConnell should not dignify with a response, but wow.”

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