POST UPDATED (See end)
A secret recording of a campaign strategy session between U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell and his advisors was taped by leaders of the Progress Kentucky super PAC, says a longtime local Democratic operative.
Mother Jones Magazine released the tape this week. The meeting itself took place on Feb. 2.
Jacob Conway, who is on the executive committee of the Jefferson County Democratic Party, says that day, Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison, who founded and volunteered for Progress Kentucky, respectively, bragged to him about how they recorded the meeting.
Conway says neither the local nor the state Democratic party had any part in the incident.
Instead of wasting the FBI’s time, McConnell might want to invest in some soundproofing for his Kentucky campaign headquarters.
Morrison and Reilly did not attend the open house, but they told Conway they arrived later and were able to hear the meeting from the hallway.
“They were in the hallway after the, I guess after the celebration and hoopla ended, apparently these people broke for lunch and had a strategy meeting, which is, in every campaign I’ve been affiliated with, makes perfect sense,” says Conway. “One of them held the elevator, the other one did the recording and they left. That was what they told to me from them directly.”
The meeting room door is next to the elevators on that floor. McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton has told multiple media outlets the door was shut and locked on Feb. 2. But the door has a vent at the bottom and a large gap underneath….if the conversation was audible from a hallway, it’s disputable whether recording qualifies as eavesdropping.
And perhaps McConnell’s campaign manager Jesse Benton might want to tone down his public statements just a tiny bit. From Mother Jones:
A day after Mother Jones published audio of a Louisville meeting in which Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and his campaign staff discussed opposition research on prospective challengers, McConnell campaign manager Jesse Benton has validated Godwin’s law by playing the Hitler card. In an interview with NBC News, Benton compared the leaking of the recording to Nazi Germany. “This is Gestapo-kind of scare tactics, and we’re not going to stand for it,” Benton told Michael O’Brien.
The Gestapo, who served as Hitler’s secret police from 1933 until 1945, were best known for enforcing a reign of terror typified by abductions and executions, as well as aiding and abetting genocide. That’s all quite a bit different than recording 12 minutes of a political strategy session or publishing a legally-obtained tape.
And there’s no evidence that the audio was the result, as the McConnell campaign has insisted, of a Watergate-style bugging operation. Still, that hasn’t stopped McConnell from taking the opportunity to play the victim, blasting out a fundraising pitch accusing the “liberal media” of “illegal and underhanded tactics.”
In other news, Mother Jones reports that
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a nonprofit government watchdog, has asked the Senate ethics committee and the Federal Bureau of Investigationto probe whether aides to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell improperly conducted political opposition research on federal government time.
A tape of a February McConnell campaign meeting that Mother Jones released Tuesdayincludes a section in which a McConnell aide states that McConnell’s “LAs”—congressional parlance for legislative assistants—helped gather background information on Ashley Judd, who was at the time considered a potential opponent in McConnell’s 2014 reelection race. The tape also refers to a “Josh” who worked on the research, which CREW’s complaint speculates might be Josh Holmes, McConnell’s congressional chief of staff.
Senate ethics rules forbid legislative assistants and other Senate employees from participating in political activities on government time. “In general, however, the ethics rules do not bar staffers from engaging in campaign activity provided they do it on their own time and do not involve government resources or property,” Tara Malloy, a government ethics expert at the Campaign Legal Center, told Mother Jones on Tuesday. You can read the relevant section of the ethics rules here. Bottom line: If McConnell’s aides did the research in their free time, they’re in the clear. But if they used government resources or worked on political matters on government time, they could be in trouble.
This is an open thread.
More is coming out on this story. TPM reports:
The co-founder of Progress Kentucky, a liberal group accused of recording a private strategy session by aides of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConell on the potential candidacy of actress Ashley Judd, has denied doing so, at least according to Joe Arnold, a political editor for the local TV station WHAS11.
The county Democratic Party official who outed two Democratic super PAC operatives in the Mitch McConnell secret tape case has been contacted by the FBI.
Jacob Conway, who sits on the executive committee of the Jefferson County, Ky. Democratic Party, told TPM on Thursday that he was going in to be interviewed at the bureau’s Louisville, Ky. office….
According to Conway, the FBI contacted him only after a local NPR station published its story in which Conway claimed that two local activists from the group Progress Kentucky, Shawn Reilly and Curtis Morrison, had admitted to him that they were the source of the recordings published by Mother Jones earlier this week.
Erik Wemple posted yesterday on the legal issues related to David Corn receiving the tape of McConnell and aides: How did Mother Jones obtain McConnell tape?
I’ll post any further updates in the comments to this post.
Tuesday Reads: Margaret Thatcher’s “Dark Legacy,” Death of a Feminist Revolutionary, and Mitch McConnell’s Ugly PlansPosted: April 9, 2013
The death of Margaret Thatcher is still dominating the news this morning. It seems she was one of those public figures that inspired varied but passionate reactions–you either loved her or hated her.
I was a teenage Thatcherite, an uber-politics nerd who loved her for her utter lack of apology for who she was. I sensed in her, as others did, a final rebuke to the collectivist, egalitarian oppression of the individual produced by socialism and the stultifying privileges and caste identities of the class system. And part of that identity – the part no one ever truly gave her credit for – was her gender. She came from a small grocer’s shop in a northern town and went on to educate herself in chemistry at Oxford, and then law. To put it mildly, those were not traditional decisions for a young woman with few means in the 1950s. She married a smart businessman, reared two children and forged a political career from scratch in the most male-dominated institution imaginable: the Tory party.
She relished this individualist feminism and wielded it – coining a new and very transitive verb, handbagging, to describe her evisceration of ill-prepared ministers or clueless interviewers. Perhaps in Toynbee’s defense, Thatcher was not a feminist in the left-liberal sense: she never truly reflected on her pioneering role as a female leader; she never appointed a single other woman to her cabinet over eleven years; she was contemptuous toward identity politics; and the only tears she ever deployed (unlike Hillary Clinton) were as she departed from office, ousted by an internal coup, undefeated in any election she had ever run in as party leader.
Her policies “inspired” the revolutionary reactions that created a “cultural transformation.”
Thatcher’s economic liberalization came to culturally transform Britain. Women were empowered by new opportunities; immigrants, especially from South Asia, became engineers of growth; millions owned homes for the first time; the media broke free from union chains and fractured and multiplied in subversive and dynamic ways. Her very draconian posture provoked a punk radicalism in the popular culture that changed a generation. The seeds of today’s multicultural, global London – epitomized by that Olympic ceremony – were sown by Thatcher’s will-power.
And that was why she ultimately failed, as every politician always ultimately does. She wanted to return Britain to the tradition of her thrifty, traditional father; instead she turned it into a country for the likes of her son, a wayward, money-making opportunist. The ripple effect of new money, a new middle class, a new individualism meant that Blair’s re-branded Britain – cool Britannia, with its rave subculture, its fashionistas, its new cuisine, its gay explosion, its street-art, its pop music – was in fact something Blair inherited from Thatcher.
Of course Sullivan no longer lives in Great Britain, and he has the means to avoid the worst effects of the elite’s austerity policies regardless of where he lives. Others aren’t so fortunate.
Several hundred people gathered in south London on Monday evening to celebrate Margaret Thatcher‘s death with cans of beer, pints of milk and an impromptu street disco playing the soundtrack to her years in power.
Young and old descended on Brixton, a suburb which weathered two outbreaks of rioting during the Thatcher years. Many expressed jubilation that the leader they loved to hate was no more; others spoke of frustration that her legacy lived on.
To cheers of “Maggie Maggie Maggie, dead dead dead,” posters of Thatcher were held aloft as reggae basslines pounded.
Clive Barger, a 62-year-old adult education tutor, said he had turned out to mark the passing of “one of the vilest abominations of social and economic history”.
He said: “It is a moment to remember. She embodied everything that was so elitist in terms of repressing people who had nothing. She presided over a class war.”
Builder Phil Lewis, 47, a veteran of the 1990 poll tax riots, said he had turned out to recall the political struggles the Thatcher years had embroiled him in. “She ripped the arsehole out of this country and we are still suffering the consequences.”
Just as Ronald Reagan did to the U.S.–and we’re still suffering the consequences.
Here’s a video from Brixton.
Hugo Young, Thatcher biographer, writes in The Guardian: Margaret Thatcher left a dark legacy that has still not disappeared. For Young, a positive was Thatcher’s indifference to her popularity with the public.
I think by far her greatest virtue, in retrospect, is how little she cared if people liked her. She wanted to win, but did not put much faith in the quick smile. She needed followers, as long as they went in her frequently unpopular directions. This is a political style, an aesthetic even, that has disappeared from view. The machinery of modern political management – polls, consulting, focus groups – is deployed mainly to discover what will make a party and politician better liked, or worse, disliked. Though the Thatcher years could also be called the Saatchi years, reaching a new level of presentational sophistication in the annals of British politics, they weren’t about getting the leader liked. Respected, viewed with awe, a conviction politician, but if liking came into it, that was an accident.
But this attitude “didn’t come without a price” and “Thatcher left a dark legacy…”
What happened at the hands of this woman’s indifference to sentiment and good sense in the early 1980s brought unnecessary calamity to the lives of several million people who lost their jobs. It led to riots that nobody needed. More insidiously, it fathered a mood of tolerated harshness. Materialistic individualism was blessed as a virtue, the driver of national success. Everything was justified as long as it made money – and this, too, is still with us.
Thatcherism failed to destroy the welfare state. The lady was too shrewd to try that, and barely succeeded in reducing the share of the national income taken by the public sector. But the sense of community evaporated. There turned out to be no such thing as society, at least in the sense we used to understand it. Whether pushing each other off the road, barging past social rivals, beating up rival soccer fans, or idolising wealth as the only measure of virtue, Brits became more unpleasant to be with. This regrettable transformation was blessed by a leader who probably did not know it was happening because she didn’t care if it happened or not. But it did, and the consequences seem impossible to reverse….
[I]t’s now easier to see the scale of the setback she inflicted on Britain’s idea of its own future. Nations need to know the big picture of where they belong and, coinciding with the Thatcher appearance at the top, clarity had apparently broken through the clouds of historic ambivalence.
At least the British media isn’t trying to canonize Thatcher as the corporate media in the U.S. did to Reagan.
A Less Remarked Upon Death: Shulamith Firestone
At The New Yorker, Susan Faludi pays tribute to a feminist icon of the 1970s, “Death of a Revolutionary: Shulamith Firestone helped to create a new society. But she couldn’t live in it.”
When Shulamith Firestone’s body was found late last August, in her studio apartment on the fifth floor of a tenement walkup on East Tenth Street, she had been dead for some days. She was sixty-seven, and she had battled schizophrenia for decades, surviving on public assistance. There was no food in the apartment, and one theory is that Firestone starved, though no autopsy was conducted, by preference of her Orthodox Jewish family. Such a solitary demise would have been unimaginable to anyone who knew Firestone in the late nineteen-sixties, when she was at the epicenter of the radical-feminist movement, surrounded by some of the same women who, a month after her death, gathered in St. Mark’s Church In-the-Bowery, to pay their respects.
The memorial service verged on radical-feminist revival. Women distributed flyers on consciousness-raising, and displayed copies of texts published by the Redstockings, a New York group that Firestone co-founded. The WBAI radio host Fran Luck called for the Tenth Street studio to be named the Shulamith Firestone Memorial Apartment, and rented “in perpetuity” to “an older and meaningful feminist.” Kathie Sarachild, who had pioneered consciousness-raising and coined the slogan “Sisterhood Is Powerful,” in 1968, proposed convening a Shulamith Firestone Women’s Liberation Memorial Conference on What Is to Be Done. After several calls from the dais to “seize the moment” and “keep it going,” a dozen women decamped to an organizing meeting at Sarachild’s apartment.
I well remember reading Firestone’s book, The Dialectic of Sex: The Case for Feminist Revolution. It was mind-blowing stuff in those days.
In the late nineteen-sixties, Firestone and a small cadre of her “sisters” were at the radical edge of a movement that profoundly changed American society. At the time, women held almost no major elected positions, nearly every prestigious profession was a male preserve, homemaking was women’s highest calling, abortion was virtually illegal, and rape was a stigma to be borne in silence. Feminism had been in the doldrums ever since the first wave of the American women’s movement won the vote, in 1920, and lost the struggle for greater emancipation. Feminist energy was first co-opted by Jazz Age consumerism, then buried in decades of economic depression and war, until the dissatisfactions of postwar women, famously described by Betty Friedan in “The Feminine Mystique” (1963), gave rise to a “second wave” of feminism. The radical feminists emerged alongside a more moderate women’s movement, forged by such groups as the National Organization for Women, founded in 1966 by Friedan, Aileen Hernandez, and others, and championed by such publications as Ms., founded in 1972 by Gloria Steinem and Letty Cottin Pogrebin. That movement sought, as now’s statement of purpose put it, “to bring women into full participation in the mainstream of American society,” largely by means of equal pay and equal representation. The radical feminists, by contrast, wanted to reconceive public life and private life entirely.
What a brilliant tribute by Faludi. It’s well worth the read.
Mother Jones’s David Corn has gotten his hands on a tape of “a private meeting between the Senate GOP leader and campaign aides reveals how far they were willing to go to defeat” Ashley Judd.
On February 2, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the US Senate, opened up his 2014 reelection campaign headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, and in front of several dozen supporters vowed to “point out” the weaknesses of any opponent fielded by the Democrats. “They want to fight? We’re ready,” he declared. McConnell was serious: Later that day, he was huddling with aides in a private meeting to discuss how to attack his possible Democratic foes, including actor/activist Ashley Judd, who was then contemplating challenging the minority leader. During this strategy session—a recording of which was obtained by Mother Jones—McConnell and his aides considered assaulting Judd for her past struggles with depression and for her religious views….
For much of the Judd discussion, McConnell was silent as aides reviewed the initial oppo research they had collected on Judd and weighed all the ways they could pummel her. The recording was provided to Mother Jones last week by a source who requested anonymity. (The recording can be found here; a transcript is here.) McConnell’s Senate office and his campaign office did not respond to requests for comment.
The aide who led the meeting began his presentation with a touch of glee: “I refer to [Judd] as sort of the oppo research situation where there’s a haystack of needles, just because truly, there’s such a wealth of material.” He ran through the obvious: Judd was a prominent supporter of President Barack Obama, Obamacare, abortion rights, gay marriage, and climate change action. He pointed out that she is “anti-coal.”
But the McConnell gang explored going far beyond Judd’s politics and policy preferences. This included her mental health. The meeting leader noted:
She’s clearly, this sounds extreme, but she is emotionally unbalanced. I mean it’s been documented. Jesse can go in chapter and verse from her autobiography about, you know, she’s suffered some suicidal tendencies. She was hospitalized for 42 days when she had a mental breakdown in the ’90s.
So what? Mitch McConnell is a sick, closeted, hateful old freak who appears to lack any semblance of human feelings.
I’m running out of space, so I’ll add a few more links in the comments. I hope you’ll do the same. What are you reading and blogging about today?
Good Morning Everyone!!
The media talking heads are going on and on about the supposed “bi-partisan agreement” on Immigration reform. I’m not really clear on what policies have been “agreed” on, but frankly, I’ll believe it when I see it. TPM reports: Gang Of 8’s Path To Citizenship Is Still A Rocky Road.
While reformers are excited that a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants is the centerpiece of the Senate’s new bipartisan immigration deal, it’s still unclear just how accessible that path will be for the undocumented population.
Without the proper components, experts warn the Senate plan could be the beginning of a long process to bringing illegal immigrants fully into American society, one that could take not years but decades.
So what does the process involve?
Under the plan, undocumented immigrants would receive a probationary status if they pass a criminal background check, pay a fine, and pay any back taxes owed to the government. After that, they’d have to wait to apply for permanent residency – a prerequisite to citizenship – until after a series of border security measures go into effect.
None of the new border measures, which will be overseen by a commission of southwestern state officials and community leaders, appear too difficult to implement at first glance (although there are concerns as to how much power conservative state politicians would wield in the process). The big question is what comes next when 11 million newly legal immigrants apply for a green card.
According to the framework, these applicants will then be required to “go to the back of the line of prospective immigrants.” But for many of them, a clear line doesn’t actually exist at the moment. Individuals can apply for green cards through a number of categories, mostly based on having family already in the country or on their employment status, which experts say are inadequate to the task of absorbing so many immigrants at once.
Greg Sargent says that the assumption that conservative Southern governors will control the process because they will be the ones to certify that the border is secure is “not true.”
I’ve now got clarification from Senate staff working on the bill, and it turns out that the enforcement commission’s judgments will only be advisory, and are entirely nonbinding. Congress’ actions will not be dictated by what this commission concludes; neither will actions taken by the Department of Homeland Security. The citizenship process will be triggered by other means (more on this soon).
This is central to the debate. If this commission had the power to dictate when the citizenship process begins, it could endanger the entire enterprise by giving people like Jan Brewer veto power. Second, this enforcement commission is being seen as a major concession Republicans won in exchange for agreeing to grant citizenship to the 11 million.
So what did Republicans get in this deal then?
The concessions Republicans got in this deal — in exchange for agreeing to citizenship for 11 million — include beefed up border security, a new program designed to help employers verify their employees’ status, tougher checks on immigrants overstaying visas, and the need for undocumented immigrants to go to the end of the immigration line.
Meanwhile, President Obama will roll out his own, supposedly “more liberal” immigration reform plan beginning today in a speech in Las Vegas.
The Obama administration has developed its own proposals for immigration reform that are more liberal than a separate bipartisan effort in the Senate, including a quicker path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, people with knowledge of the proposals said.
President Obama is expected to provide some details of the White House plans during a Tuesday appearance in Las Vegas, where he will call for broad changes to the nation’s immigration laws. The speech will kick off a public push by the administration in support of the broadest overhaul of immigration law in nearly three decades.
Obama plans to praise the proposals laid out Monday by an eight-member Senate working group, saying they reflect the core tenets of the administration’s immigration blueprint developed in 2011, a senior administration official said.
But the president’s remarks also are likely to emphasize differences that could foreshadow roadblocks to passage in Congress at a time when both parties say there is momentum for a comprehensive deal.
Naturally, the wingnuts in the House will provide roadblocks galore for whatever plan the Senate approves. Read all about it at Politico.
Politico reported yesterday on a possible collaboration between the Tea Party and Democrats in Kentucky to dump Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
Big Democratic donors, local liberal activists and a left-leaning super PAC in Kentucky are telling tea partiers that they are poised to throw financial and organizational support behind a right-wing candidate should one try to defeat the powerful GOP leader in a 2014 primary fight.
The idea: Soften up McConnell and make him vulnerable in a general election in Kentucky, where Democrats still maintain a voter registration advantage. Or better yet, in their eyes: Watch Kentucky GOP primary voters nominate the 2014 version of Todd Akin or Richard Mourdock, weak candidates who may actually lose.
Interesting… Once again, I’ll believe it when I see it. Still, anything is possible. Plus McConnell is very unpopular in his home state according to the latest poll
With his re-election bid just a year away, those opposed to U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell outnumber his supporters 2-1 among Kentucky voters, according to the latest Courier-Journal Bluegrass Poll.
In the poll of 609 registered voters, 34 percent said they plan to vote against McConnell — while just 17 percent say they will vote to give him six more years. Forty-four percent said they will wait to see who is running against him before deciding, and 6 percent said they are not sure.
The poll, conducted by SurveyUSA, has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. It comes as groups on both McConnell’s right and left seek candidates to challenge him in the primary and general elections in 2014. McConnell, the most powerful Republican in the Senate as minority leader, is seeking his sixth term.
More information is coming out
about the over-the-top prosecution that probably contributed to the suicide of genius cyber-activist Aaron Swartz. Rolling Stone reports:
Swartz’s friends and family have said they believe he was driven to his death by a justice system that hounded him needlessly over an alleged crime with no real victims. “[He was] forced by the government to spend every fiber of his being on this damnable, senseless trial,” his partner Taren Stinebrickner-Kauffman said at the memorial, “with no guarantee that he could exonerate himself at the end of it.”
Two zealous federal prosecutors handled Swartz’s case: U.S. district attorney Carmen Ortiz and assistant attorney Stephen Heymann. In the days after his death, writers, tech experts, and many of Swartz’s friends have called out Heymann and Ortiz for prosecutorial overreach. A White House petition demanding the removal of Ortiz garnered well over 25,000 signatures, reaching the level which guarantees an eventual response from the Obama administration.
Some of Swartz’s advocates believe the prosecution sought excessive punishment to set an example in the age of Wikileaks and Anonymous.
Declan McCullough writes at CNet that when Swartz’s case was being prosecuted by the Middlesex County DA’s office, there was no thought of sending Swartz to prison for what was essential a minor, victimless crime.
State prosecutors who investigated the late Aaron Swartz had planned to let him off with a stern warning, but federal prosecutor Carmen Ortiz took over and chose to make an example of the Internet activist, according to a report in Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.
Middlesex County’s district attorney had planned no jail time, “with Swartz duly admonished and then returned to civil society to continue his pioneering electronic work in a less legally questionable manner,” the report (alternate link) said. “Tragedy intervened when Ortiz’s office took over the case to send ‘a message.’”
The report is likely to fuel an online campaign against Ortiz, who has been criticized for threatening the 26-year-old with decades in prison for allegedly downloading a large quantity of academic papers. An online petition asking President Obama to remove from office Ortiz — a politically ambitious prosecutor who was talked about as Massachusetts’ next governor as recently as last month.
Ortiz no longer has a political future, and other abuses of power by her office are now coming out. Read more at the link. I posted links to more damning information about Ortiz in a recent post.
The Massachusetts Lawyers’ Weekly post by Harvey Silverglate is behind a paywall, but it has been republished with permission at Media Nation.
The ill-considered prosecution leading to the suicide of computer prodigy Aaron Swartz is the most recent in a long line of abusive prosecutions coming out of the U.S. attorney’s office in Boston, representing a disastrous culture shift. It sadly reflects what’s happened to the federal criminal courts, not only in Massachusetts but across the country….
the palpable injustices flowing regularly out of the federal criminal courts have by and large escaped the critical scrutiny of the lawyers who are in the best position to say something. And judges tend not to recognize what to outsiders are serious flaws, because the system touts itself as the best and fairest in the world.
Since the mid-1980s, a proliferation of vague and overlapping federal criminal statutes has given federal prosecutors the ability to indict, and convict, virtually anyone unfortunate enough to come within their sights. And sentencing guidelines confer yet additional power on prosecutors, who have the discretion to pick and choose from statutes covering the same behavior.
This dangerous state of affairs has resulted in countless miscarriages of justice, many of which aren’t recognized as such until long after unfairly incarcerated defendants have served “boxcar-length” sentences.
Aaron Swartz was a victim of this system run amok. He was indicted under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, a notoriously broad statute enacted by Congress seemingly to criminalize any use of a computer to do something that could be deemed bad.
If you care about this issue, please go read the whole thing. Read Charles Pierce’s take on it here.
There have been some reports that Swartz had contacted Wikileaks’ Julian Assange and could possibly have been working with the organization, but it’s not clear what Swartz could have leaked to them. I can’t imagine Wikileaks being interested in distributing a bunch of academic journal articles that are already available to millions of people from numerous sources. Nevertheless, the Feds are so obsessed with Wikileaks and cyber-security generally that that could have led to their taking over Swartz’s case.
I have a number of other suggested reads that I’ll list link dump style.
Alex Pareene at Salon: 3 reasons to be skeptical that immigration reform will pass /
Irin Carmon at Salon: Is abortion about women?
USA Today: Iran says it launched a monkey into space (Video)
ABC News: Bigfoot: Is Mysterious Screech Sasquatch? (Hey, is Bigfoot really any weirder than the Tea Party Republicans? I don’t think so.)
So….what’s on your reading and blogging list today? I look forward to clicking on your links!
I’ve been having this feeling all weekend that the entire country is holding its breath as we mark time until Washington DC blows sky high. Is anyone else feeling that way or is it just me? I’ve been somewhat out of the loop the past couple of days. I have some kind of sinus thingy and I ended up spending a lot of time updating my computer drivers and other software. But I’ve been surfing around this evening, and everything is looking very weird and wacky in the nation’s capital.
In the first place, why are Republicans all over the place threatening a government shutdown? And why aren’t Democrats countering the Republican lies? Failing to raise the debt limit won’t trigger a government shutdown. If the U.S. defaults on its debts it will trigger a national economic disaster–and perhaps a global meltdown. A shutdown would happen if Congress refused to appropriate funds to keep the government running. Defaulting on the debt would mean another lowering of our credit rating and higher interest on the debt in the future.
I can’t figure out if the Democrats are just giving the Republicans rope to hang themselves or if there is something else going on.
This morning on Dancin’ Dave’s Disco Dance Party, Mitch “Pruneface” McConnell wouldn’t respond to questions about the threatened “government shutdown.”
Pressed repeatedly on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” McConnell instead placed responsibility on President Obama for leading the country and avoiding a shutdown.
“I know what your question is,” McConnell said. “What I’m telling you is I haven’t given up on the president stepping up to the plate and tackling the single biggest issue confronting the country.”
Neither Dancin’ Dave nor McConnell addressed the most important issue–raising the debt ceiling. McConnell’s focus is squarely on cutting Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, but he wants the President to spell out the cuts. As Josh Marshall writes:
In other words, big cuts to key social insurance programs are not only the price of avoiding what would likely be a catastrophic government shutdown (a real one, not like what we had back in the 90s). But Democrats must also shield Republicans from the political consequences of cutting these programs by cutting them on the Republicans behalf.
McConnell apparently also claimed that “He Doesn’t Want Debt Ceiling Negotiations to Turn Into a Hostage Situation.”
In one of three Sunday talk show appearances, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wasn’t sure whether he’s prepared to “shoot the hostage” by letting the country default on its loans in the next round of the fiscal fight. While some Republicans are threatening to block a debt ceiling increase unless Democrats agree to major spending cuts, McConnell sidestepped the issue on ABC’s This Week. “It’s not even necessary to get to that point,” he said. “Why aren’t we trying to solve the problem? Why aren’t we trying to do something about reducing spending? … Waiting until the last minute is no way to run the government.” He added that he would not accept any new tax revenues in the next deal. “The tax issue is finished. Over. Completed. That’s behind us.”
According to The Hill, some “appropriators” in Congress have been “working quietly to avoid government shutdown.”
House and Senate appropriators have been quietly working behind the scenes for months to craft 12 compromise annual spending bills to avoid a shutdown that is slated to occur when the current six-month stopgap spending bill expires.
That sounds ominous. Are these unnamed Congresscritters working out the details of “entitlement” cuts so they can whip them out at the last minute when everyone is desperate for an agreement?
“We’ve got most of it worked out,” said Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), the chairman on Interior and Environment appropriations subcommittee.
A Senate Democratic aide concurred that work is far along and will pick up again when the Senate returns Jan 22. Appropriators had been striving to attach an omnibus to the year-end “fiscal cliff” deal and new Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) is ready to continue the effort.
The negotiations mean that disputes over individual programs and policy riders — such as those on abortion and defunding Obama’s health reform — that have exacerbated government shutdown crises like that in April 2011 are being minimized.
Nancy Pelosi did talk about the debt ceiling, and she recommended that Obama just take the bull by the horns and raise it himself.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) urged the president on Sunday to drop his resistance to the idea and simply bypass the upcoming debate over raising the debt ceiling by deeming the entire cap unconstitutional.
Appearing on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” Pelosi offered her strongest endorsement to-date of the 14th Amendment option, which holds that Congress doesn’t have the power to use the debt ceiling as a hostage-taking device because the validity of the debt “shall not be questioned.”
Nancy Pelosi: Well, you ask the Republicans, because we always passed the debt ceiling. When President Bush was president, as he was incurring these massive debts, and the Republicans weren’t saying ‘boo’ at the time. There should be, this is a conversation where there should be no doubt. In fact, if I were president, I’d use the 14th Amendment, which says that the debt of the United States will always be paid.
Bob Schieffer: You would just go ahead and do it, you wouldn’t wait for the Congress?
Nancy Pelosi: I would just go do it. But the Congress has incurred much of this debt. And so what are you saying, we incurred it but we’re not going to pay it? If you want to say, ‘We are not going to do it so much in the future,’ well that’s another thing. But you can’t say, ‘I’m not paying my past debts.’
Go Nancy, Go!!
Now check this out from the Wall Street Journal: The Education of John Boehner.
What stunned House Speaker John Boehner more than anything else during his prolonged closed-door budget negotiations with Barack Obama was this revelation: “At one point several weeks ago,” Mr. Boehner says, “the president said to me, ‘We don’t have a spending problem.’” [....]
The president’s insistence that Washington doesn’t have a spending problem, Mr. Boehner says, is predicated on the belief that massive federal deficits stem from what Mr. Obama called “a health-care problem.” Mr. Boehner says that after he recovered from his astonishment—”They blame all of the fiscal woes on our health-care system”—he replied: “Clearly we have a health-care problem, which is about to get worse with ObamaCare. But, Mr. President, we have a very serious spending problem.” He repeated this message so often, he says, that toward the end of the negotiations, the president became irritated and said: “I’m getting tired of hearing you say that.”
Boehner, like McConnell announced there will be no more tax increases, period–only tax reform, and by that he means lower tax rates.
The speaker is adamant on two points: First, Republicans won’t be agreeing to any more tax increases during the next two years. “The tax issue is resolved,” he says, and it will be discussed only in the context of a broader debate about tax reform—specifically, lower rates. He dismisses the president’s declaration that any future budget cuts will have to be “balanced” with more tax hikes.
Second, Mr. Boehner says he won’t engage in any more closed-door budget negotiations with the White House, which are “futile.” He adds: “Sure, I will meet with the president if he wants to,” but House Republicans will from now on proceed with establishing a budget for the year following what is known as “regular order,” and they will insist that Harry Reid and Senate Democrats pass a budget—something they haven’t done in nearly four years—before proceeding.
The real showdown will be on the debt ceiling and the spending sequester in March….The debt bill is “one point of leverage,” Mr. Boehner says, but he also hedges, noting that it is “not the ultimate leverage.” He says that Republicans won’t back down from the so-called Boehner rule: that every dollar of raising the debt ceiling will require one dollar of spending cuts over the next 10 years. Rather than forcing a deal, the insistence may result in a series of monthly debt-ceiling increases.
The Republicans’ stronger card, Mr. Boehner believes, will be the automatic spending sequester trigger that trims all discretionary programs—defense and domestic.
It’s a long interview and it provides some insight into Boehner’s thinking, such as it is.
Roll Call has a piece called: Boehner Coup Attempt Larger Than First Thought
A concerted effort to unseat Speaker John A. Boehner was under way the day of his re-election to the position, but participants called it off 30 minutes before the House floor vote, CQ Roll Call has learned.
A group of disaffected conservatives had agreed to vote against the Ohio lawmaker if they could get at least 25 members to join the effort. But one member, whose identity could not be verified, rescinded his or her participation the morning of the vote, leaving the group one person short of its self-imposed 25-member threshold. Only 17 votes against Boehner were required to force a second ballot, but the group wanted to have insurance.
Even with 24 members, the group would easily have been able to force a second ballot round, but the effort was aborted in frenetic discussions on the House floor.
“Aborted?” I thought Republicans were against that.
And did you hear that Thomas Gibson was arrested for DUI today?
The 50-year-old actor, known for his roles on “Criminal Minds” and “Dharma & Greg,” was driving in downtown L.A. at around 1:00 a.m. on Jan. 6 when he attempted to continue through a part of town that had been sectioned off for a half marathon.
Sources tell The Huffington Post that the race was not over when Gibson drove his Audi SUV right onto the course, interrupting several runners. The race started at 9 p.m., but the road was still blocked off and authorities were making sure no vehicles were let through.
According to TMZ, Gibson was stopped by police and told to go a different way, but he proceeded anyway.
I hope that won’t cause any problems for my favorite TV show, Criminal Minds.
So what are you all hearing? Are we headed for the storm of the century?
Good Morning and Happy New Year!!!
Sorry to be late with this post. I got so discouraged last night with our dysfunctional government that I went to bed completely disgusted. After a good night’s sleep, I’m feeling slightly more optimistic, if not truly hopeful. If I have any hope, it’s that perhaps the American people will rise up and let the president and Congress know what a horrible job they are doing.
So, what’s happening this morning? We officially went over the fiscal cliff at midnight even though the Senate approved a half-baked, crappy “deal.” Politico reports:
Congress lost a mad, New Year’s Eve dash to beat the fiscal cliff deadline, cinching a deal with President Barack Obama to raise taxes on the wealthy and temporarily freeze deep spending cuts but failing to get it through both chambers before midnight.
So over the cliff the country went — though perhaps for only a day or two and, assuming no snags, without incurring the double whammy of another recession and higher unemployment.
The measure, which would raise tax rates for families making more than $450,000 and delay deep across-the-board spending cuts for two months, cleared the Senate by an overwhelming 89-8 vote shortly after 2 a.m. The Republican-controlled House could take up the pact in a rare New Year’s Day session, though the timing of that chamber’s vote was not clear.
The $620 billion agreement was a major breakthrough in a partisan standoff that has dragged on for months, spooking Wall Street and threatening to hobble the economic recovery. It turned back the GOP’s two-decade-long refusal to raise tax rates, delivering a major win for the president.
The bill also canceled pay raises for members of Congress and averted an expected hike in the price of milk by extending expiring dairy policy.
Wow, they cancelled their own pay raises? That was big of them–not. They probably did that out of fear of an angry populace. And of course, we still have to watch the shameful spectacle of the tea party House wrangling over a deal that basically give them everything they wanted and more than they ever dreamed of.
From TPM, the Senators who voted against the deal:
The eight senators voting no were Michael Bennet (D-CO), Tom Carper (D-DE), Charles Grassley (R-IA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and Richard Shelby (R-AL).
Robert Reich calls it “A Lousy Deal on the Edge of the Fiscal Cliff.” I’m thinking that could be the new logo for this administration–”The Lousy Deal” as opposed to Roosevelt’s “New Deal.” Reich writes:
Details of the agreement reached by the president and congressional Republicans are still forthcoming, but from the look of it, Obama gave ground where he need not have.
What else is new?
Yes, the deal finally gets Republicans to accept a tax increase on the wealthy, but this is an inside-the-Beltway symbolic victory. If anyone believes this will make the GOP more amenable to future tax increases, they don’t know how rabidly extremist the GOP has become.
The deal also extends unemployment insurance for more than 2 million long-term unemployed. That’s important.
But I can’t help believe the president could have done better than this. After all, public opinion is overwhelmingly on his side. Republicans would have been blamed had no deal been achieved.
More importantly, the fiscal cliff is on the president’s side as well. If we go over it, he and the Democrats in the next Congress that starts later this week can quickly offer legislation that grants a middle-class tax cut and restores most military spending. Even rabid Republicans would be hard-pressed not to sign on.
I hate to say it, but it really looks like Obama pushed for this so he could give more away that he would have had to if we had just gone over the cliff without all the fake deal making.
Noam Scheiber writes at The New Republic: Democrats’ Cliff Compromise Is Bad; But the Strategic Consequences Are Disastrous.
I think the president made a huge mistake by negotiating over what he’d previously said was non-negotiable (namely, the expiration of the Bush tax cuts on income over $250,000). Then the White House compounded that mistake by sending Biden to “close” the deal when Harry Reid appeared to give up on it. As a practical matter, this signaled to Republicans that the White House wouldn’t walk away from the bargaining table, allowing the GOP to keep extracting concessions into the absolute final hours before the deadline….
I think a reasonable person can defend the bill on its own terms. The fact is that nudging up the tax threshold to $450,000 only sacrifices $100-200 billion in revenue over the next decade (against the $700-800 billion the administration would have secured with its original threshold), while allowing unemployment benefits to lapse would cause real pain to both the 2 million people directly affected and, indirectly, to the economy. Yes, Obama could have gotten the latter without giving up the former had he just waited another few days—at which point what the GOP considers a tax increase suddenly becomes a tax cut. But these things are always easier to pull the trigger on when you, er, don’t actually have to pull the trigger. I can’t begrudge Obama his wanting to avoid some downside risk for only a marginally better deal.
My far bigger gripe with the whole fiscal-cliff exercise has always been the strategic dimension—how it affects the next showdown with the GOP, and the one after that. Coming into the negotiation, Obama had two big problems: First, no matter how tough he talked, Republicans always assumed he’d blink in the end, for the simple reason that he pretty much always had. (This is one of the major themes of my book about his first term.) Second, despite the results of the most recent election, in which Obama won a fairly commanding victory on a platform of raising taxes on wealthy people, the GOP continued to believe that public opinion was mostly on its side. House Republicans cited the preservation of their majority—never mind that their own candidates received fewer total votes than House Democratic candidates—and polls showing most Americans still think government is too big.
No kidding. And I disagree that we shouldn’t begrudge Obama for not sticking to his promise to hold the line at $250,000. As I’ve written previously, Obama should not be involved in negotiations, because he either wants to lose to the Republicans or his need to please the people who hate him is just too strong. I don’t know which is the real problem, and it really doesn’t matter for practical purposes. He’s just a horrible negotiator, period. Now we have to watch another repulsive display of childish squabbling in a couple of months. Is this going to be the extent of what happens in Obama’s second term? With this incompetent, useless Congress, it’s entirely possible.
And of course we still have to wait and see what Boehner and his gang do.
In a joint statement late Monday, House GOP leaders promised to keep their commitment to act on the measure if it passes the Senate. But they say they won’t decide whether to accept the measure or to amend it and send it back to the Senate until lawmakers and their constituents have a chance to review the legislation.
Give me a frickin’ break! I’m going to end here, because there doesn’t seem to be much other news. What are you reading today. I look forward to clicking on your links.