Friday Reads: Farewell to Senate Dignity

Good Morning!

imrsThe senate leadership meetings and results are good examples of what’s wrong with each party. The Republicans just did it.  They walked out the door. Nobody spoke to the press. All that hoopla about a Ted Cruz revolution turned out to be just that. On the Democratic side, Reid took a public bruising and there were some obvious changes made.

I’ve never been fond of Harry Reid for a variety of reasons.  He keeps giving me more reasons every day to find him unsuited for his job.  Most of them come under a big question of how this man even became a Democrat, let alone a leader?

Mitch McConnell is more like a political operative than a Senator of these United States.  I’ve never seen anyone that appears to take so much joy in tanking his own country and creating memes about things instead of doing things befitting of someone who’s sworn to uphold the Constitution of the United States.

In that vein, here we go with today’s reads.  Mitch McConnell continues to be the concern troll of the right wing instead of acting like a U.S. Senator.

In another sign that the country is in for a tough two years of battles between the White House and Congress, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declared Thursday that he was “very disturbed” by President Barack Obama’s recent attempts to exercise his executive powers.

Those include moving ahead on dealing with undocumented immigrants, cutting a deal with China on climate change and suggesting that the Internet should be regulated like a utility under so-called net neutrality rules.

“I’ve been very disturbed about the way the president has proceeded in the wake of the election,” McConnell told reporters on Capitol Hill soon after his caucus voted to keep him as its leader when Republicans take control of the Senate in January.

With Congress gridlocked on many of the president’s agenda items, including immigration, Obama announced in January that he had a “pen and a phone” that he would use to move forward on his own, including signingexecutive orders. Among other things, he raised the wages of government contractors, strengthened protections for gay and transgender workers, and expanded the military actions in Iraq. And he had already angered Republicans by stalling deportations of children and delaying parts of Obamacare.

McConnell argued that the recent elections that expanded the House GOP majority and gave Republicans control of the Senate should have chastened Obama.

“I had maybe naively hoped the president wold look at the results of the election and decide to come to the political center and do some business with us,” McConnell said. “I still hope he does at some point, but the early signs are not good.”

He added that Obama should look to some of his predecessors, including Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan, for examples of dealing with a Congress ruled by the opposing party.

“They understood that the American people had elected divided government,” McConnell said. “We’d like for the president to recognize the reality that he has the government that he has, not the one that he wishes he had, and work with us.”

Asked what the GOP would do if Obama insists on pursuing his own agenda, McConnell declined to tip his hand.

2013-02-18-SenatorTedCruzSo, how many executive orders were used by Presidents Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan as compared to President Obama? Reagan used a total of 381.  In his first term, he used 213. Clinton used a total of 364 with 200 of them coming in his first term. President Obama has used 193 to date with  147 of them coming from his first term.   Where was McConnell when Dick Cheney was discussing his “robust view” of executive power?  (Yousefzadeh 2012). Yes, I’m quoting an academic paper.

This Book Review discusses Cheney’s conception of executive power. It reflects on the fact that despite Cheney’s Nixon Administration experience with agencies whose missions and activities went against his small-government instincts, Cheney did not become a skeptic of executive power. On the contrary, even as a member of Congress, he sought to safeguard executive power against what he—and others around him—saw as encroachment by Congress.

You can go to the article to read a number of Cheney quotes and examples of policy areas where Cheney clearly thought the Presidency was quite imperial. That was until a black man got elected president by some odd will of the people.  Now, the little would be dictator is a pearl clutching concern troll with the rest of those who have pivoted positions.  

Sitting for an interview to promote wife Lynne Cheney’s new book on James Madison, the former second-in-command said that, though he’s a “big advocate of the strong executive office,” he believes Obama has taken things too far.

“I really feel as though Barack Obama is ignoring the law in many cases, and going far beyond what was ever intended,” he said. “I mean he, all by himself, sort of routinely changes the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, if it suits his will.”

Cheney added that he believes the president teeters the line of unconstitutional behavior.

“I think much of what’s been done does in fact skate up to the edge of violating the constitution in terms of the way he’s interpreted his executive power,” Cheney said.

Only one day earlier, the former vice president was calling Obama “weak” over his his approach to the crisis in Ukraine and confronting Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“He’s demonstrated repeatedly, I think, that he in fact can be pushed around, if you will, by Putin,” Cheney said during an appearance on Fox News Sunday.

imagesYou might be particularly interested in reading his thoughts and findings on the Iran-Contra Scandal in that paper cited above.  I’ve kept the sources of the footnotes so that you know the exact reports.

Thus, Cheney’s belief that Iran-Contra was “ill-conceived” did little to lessen his belief in the need for a strong Executive Branch. To be sure, the observation in the joint committee minority report that “[n]o president can ignore Congress and be successful over the long term”44 represents a healthy respect for congressional prerogatives. But it is quite notable that in the midst of a scandal involving the failure to properly notify Congress of executive activities, Cheney wanted to make sure that the powers of the Executive Branch would not be circumscribed.
Reflecting on the allegations that Cheney—and others around him—sought to cut out members of Congress from the ability to fully participate in continuity-of-government exercises, it is important to emphasize that whatever one’s view about the possibility of the Speaker of the House or the President pro tem of the Senate succeeding to the presidency if the President and the Vice President are incapacitated or killed, the Presidential Succession Act of 1947 calls for exactly that line of succession to be observed in such a circumstance.45 Pursuant to the dictates of the Act, the rest of the government would expect the Speaker, and the President pro tem to succeed to the presidency. To the
extent that some kind of “secret executive order” was put in place to bypass the stipulated line of succession—and it should be noted anew that these claims appear to be rather thinly sourced—then the “secret executive order” in question would take by nasty surprise the rest of the United States government, which would expect the line of succession to the presidency to unfold as the Presidential Succession Act mandated that it should. As such, in any situation in which the Act were invoked, if the implemented line of succession were to differ from what the Act mandates, the result would be greater chaos and disorganization in what would undoubtedly be an already chaotic situation. If Cheney did indeed countenance the bypassing of the Act in secret, then his decision should surely be held irresponsible.

43. Id. at 147 (quoting Minority Report, S. REP. NO. 100-216, H.R. REP. NO. 100-433,
at 438 (1987)).
44. Minority Report, S. REP. NO. 100-216, H.R. REP. NO. 100-433, at 438 (1987).
45. 3 U.S.C. § 19(a)(1), (b) (2006). No. 2 Cheney’s Conception of Presidential Power 379

Mitch McConnell has announced he’s going after Elizabeth Warren so, it’s interesting that Warren is now part of the Democratic Senatorial leadership. Warren is probably one of the few Democratic Senators with a public (read PRESS) platform GR_PR_100514_HarryReidwho also seems to have a set of clear Democratic values to articulate. 

The same corporate interests who have taken over control of Congress are now gaining control of U.S. courts, warned Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).

Warren told a  gathering Sunday at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California that too many federal judges have been drawn in recent years from the ranks of corporate lawyers and federal prosecutors.

“For the courts to be a level playing field it’s critical that the judges presiding over these playing fields have the kind of knowledge and experience that helps them understand the full range of the issues they will confront,” Warren said. “They need to be the best and brightest practitioners of law in this country, drawn from every corner of the profession.”

“But if that’s the goal, we are in real trouble,” she continued. “Look closely at the composition of the federal bench today, and you’ll see a striking lack of professional diversity among the lawyers who currently serve as federal judges.”

She said President Barack Obama had nominated just 11 judges with a background in working with indigent clients, but she said his nominees had not been diverse enough.

“(Even after the filibuster rules change) nearly ¾ of president’s nominees have been lawyers who have had significant corporate law practice in the private sector, spending years representing those whose voices are already plenty loud and already heard in government,” Warren said.

“Our courts cannot provide a level playing field without judges who know what it’s like to represent a family about to lose a home because someone sold them a mortgage that was designed to explode,” she said, “or represented a teenager accused of a crime because he was walking down the wrong street on the wrong night or represented an employee tossed out of a job for saying that employees should unionize or represented a customer that got ripped off by a big company and can’t afford the cost or a court fight.”

Warren urged the civil rights activists to pressure the president and Congress to find “highly qualified judges whose professional experience extends beyond big firms, federal prosecution, and white-collar defense.”
“That’s our best hope for preventing the corporate capture of our federal courts,” she said.

images (1)Good luck with that Senator Warren!  The Republicans have spent 40 years stacking the courts in their favor.  It’s a little late for the Democratic Party to finally stop playing into that deck of cards. Basically, if you control the Senate, you control the courts. We better see some better maneuverings than the ones that got us stuck with Uncle Thomas and Fat Tony.

Because a majority of senators can block a nomination, control of the Senate becomes critical. If the Democrats retain their majority, they can continue to confirm President Obama’s nominees. If the Republicans gain control of the Senate, however, they will be able to block his nominees—and there is little doubt that they will do so with a vengeance.

Most people pay attention to this only in regards the Supreme Court, but the lower courts are also critically important.

Since taking office, Obama has had approximately 280 federal judicial nominees confirmed. This represents roughly one-third of the federal judiciary. This has had a profound impact on our legal system in at least two very important respects.

First, Obama’s appointments have added substantial diversity to the federal bench. Forty-two percent of Obama’s judicial appointments have been women, as compared to only 22 percent of President George W. Bush’s nominees. Thirty-six percent of Obama’s judicial appointments have been minorities, as compared to only 18 percent of Bush’s judicial appointees.

The nation must care deeply about a president’s federal judicial appointments, because they will shape the meaning of federal law for decades to come.

Second, although Obama has generally been much less ideological in his judicial nominations than Bush, there is no doubt he has appointed much more liberal judges than his predecessor, and the addition of almost 280 Obama-appointed judges has had a dramatic effect on the overall ideological disposition of the federal judiciary.

Indeed, for the first time in more than a decade, judges appointed by Democratic presidents now substantially outnumber judges appointed by Republican presidents. These judges now hold a majority of seats of nine of the 13 United States Courts of Appeals. In 2008, Republican-appointed judges held a majority on 12 of the 13 Courts of Appeals. The shift is dramatic, and it is important.

Across a broad range of issues, such as the rights of persons accused of crime, abortion, the environment, immigration, affirmative action, gun control, religious liberty, campaign finance, women’s rights, the rights of corporations, and the right to vote, judges appointed by Democratic and Republican presidents tend to take very different positions.

Thus, who controls the Senate will determine the fate of as many as 90 federal judicial appointments that are likely to arise in the final two years of Obama’s presidency. If the Democrats control the Senate, the Republicans, no longer able to invoke the filibuster, will have only limited ability to block the President’s nominees. If the Republicans control the Senate, you can be sure that many fewer Obama nominees will be confirmed, and that those who do win confirmation will be much less progressive than the judges this White House has managed to appoint in its first six years. This will have a lasting and important impact on the federal judiciary for decades to come.

Despite a lot of venting both publicly and privately about Harry, he’s back.   Claire McCaskill and Mary Landrieu publicly admitted to not voting for the Nevada Democrat.  images (2)

Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said Thursday that she will not vote for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to remain as leader.

“Yesterday I met with Harry Reid and told him I would not be supporting him for Minority Leader,” McCaskill said in a statement to The Kansas City Star.

“I heard the voters of Missouri loud and clear. They want change in Washington. Common sense tells me that begins with changes in leadership,” she added.
Democrats are holding leadership elections on Thursday morning after a midterm drubbing that saw Republicans capture the upper chamber.

There is no known challenger to Reid, currently the majority leader, for minority leader in the next Congress. But Democrats are still frustrated after their heavy losses in the election.

“We have to do some serious soul-searching to ask why so many of our colleagues lost races,” Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) told The Hill. “They were not bad public servants. They weren’t bad candidates. We have to ask why they lost.”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) declined to commit to Reid when asked by Bloomberg on Wednesday.

“I’m interested in hearing the discussion,” he said.

Lets just mention this one little bitty thing. The number of voters voting for President Obama in 2012 were  65,915,796.    Estimates right now are that  a total of 22,524,388 votes were cast for Republican Senatorial candidates last week. That’s hardly what I’d call a mandate.  It’s more a reflection of the lowest voter turnout  for possibly of all US history. The weird thing is that more votes were actually cast for Democrats running for Senate in total than Republicans.  Just remember, a podunk state like Nebraska or Wyoming sends senators to the Hill who capture fewer votes in an election than a mayor of any  major urban area.   Tiny states send their senators based on a really tiny voting base. We basically were screwed over by the few and the driven.

Turnout was low last week. Not “midterm low,” or “unusually low,” but “historically low.” As we noted on Monday, it was probably the lowest since World War II. But it was possibly also one of the four lowest-turnout elections since the election of Thomas Jefferson. You know, before there was such a thing as “Alabama.”

The U.S. Election Project, run by Michael McDonald of the University of Florida, compiles data on voter turnout over time. It’s tricky to estimate voter turnout in the 1700s and 1800s, and McDonald explains on his site how the numbers are calculated. So comparing 2014 to 1804 (the Jefferson example) should be considered a rough comparison at best.

So, that’s one thing to hold on to as we head towards two years of hell.  We may have gotten a lot of crazies, but those crazies generally got in the back door via states that are so small they hardly contribute to GDP let alone national dialogue.

So, any way that’s my two cents for today!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


37 Comments on “Friday Reads: Farewell to Senate Dignity”

  1. Pat Johnson says:

    I am wrestling with the thought that we are all “doomed”.

    A stacked Right Wing SC, a GOP majority in congress, and “right slanted” press spells out an agenda that will set this nation back for another generation.

    And heaven only knows what this will do to environmental affairs.

    Pass the Aleve. We are all going to need a huge supply to get us through.

  2. Damn Dak, this post just proves the comic-ill one I did yesterday. McConnell, Dick Vader, et al, truly are the Legion of Doom.

  3. bostonboomer says:

    Very interesting post this morning. I especially found the Daily Beast article about judicial appointments helpful. It sounds like Obama has managed to have a positive effect on the Federal courts, despite the efforts of GOP Senators. He has appointed two relatively young women to the Supreme Court too, so those are some accomplishments to celebrate.

  4. bostonboomer says:

    According to this HuffPo article, Senate Democrats aren’t thrilled with Elizabeth Warren’s appointment to the leadership.

    Senate Democrats Have No Idea Why Elizabeth Warren Got A New Leadership Role

    “A liaison to liberals? I’ve never heard of such a thing,” said Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), throwing his hands in the air. “I asked her about it and she said she was some kind of adviser. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what that all means.”

    “I didn’t even know this was happening. I never knew it,” said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). “I mean, they can pick whoever they want to.”

    Asked if he thought it was to help position Warren for a potential 2016 presidential run, Manchin said, “I really couldn’t speak to that.”

    The move to bring such a prominent progressive into Senate leadership will certainly fuel speculation about Warren’s interest in a White House bid, a topic she regularly brushes off. It also signals that Democratic leaders plan to keep pushing progressive policies, even as Republicans take control of the chamber next year.

    Harry Reid worked hard to get the nomination for Obama over Clinton in 2008. Is he trying to undermine her again?

    • NW Luna says:

      I think Elizabeth Warren won’t want to undermine Hillary.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I don’t think so either, but I’m still nervous about all the talk.

        • mablue2 says:

          I’m with BB on this. I think there’s a movement in the underground to sabotage Hillary Clinton again. Never underestimate the Dems ability to self-destruct, especially is the price is the scalp of a Clinton.

        • ANonOMouse says:

          I agree BB, I don’t think Warren has any interest in undermining Hillary. But we have to remember that past is prologue, especially in politics.

    • Fannie says:

      I can’t help but remember when they attacked Geraldine Ferraro to get to the Clinton Campaign. She had to step down, and then the media went into full force to promote Obama.

      The dems have a stack of tricks, especially when it comes to women. How sad to think once again they will pit woman against woman. It sounds like a bunch of bullshit, when I read that Elizabeth will be a voice for Progressives, and a liaison. How fucking long have we been set up to play this kind bullshit in politics. That is why we are losing. People are now portraying Warren as being real, and Hillary as being a rag. That’s the way I see it, and I don’t like it.

  5. bostonboomer says:

    USA Today: Obama considers plan to delay deportation for millions

    President Obama is considering an executive order that would prevent as many as 5 million people from being deported, administration officials said Thursday.

    But the officials — speaking on condition of anonymity, citing internal deliberations — said the details of the immigration plan are still being developed and called reports of specific action “pre-decisional.”

    The New York Times, citing anonymous administration officials, reported Thursday that a key part of the plan would allow immigrant parents of American citizen children to apply for work authorizations that would allow them to stay in the country. The newspaper said the order could come as soon as next week, when President Obama returns from a week-long trip to Asia.

    And Fox News reported that a draft of the administration plan includes 10 proposals, including increased border security, improved pay for immigration officers and expanded “deferred action” on immigrant children and their parents. Fox News cited a source “close to the White House” who had seen the draft.

    • NW Luna says:

      That is a long chain of errors — everything from talking on a personal cell phone, to assuming the intruder wasn’t armed. They look like buffoons. I sure hope security’s a lot better now.

  6. bostonboomer says:

    The House has approved the Keystone pipeline, and Dak’s favorite Senate candidate, Crazy-Eyes Cassidy, is thrilled.

    • dakinikat says:

      Mary Landrieu argued for it yesterday on the senate floor and now all the repubs are saying she was against it before she was for it. She’s always been a shill for it. Do you know it will only create 35 permanent jobs? It will create about 42,000 construction jobs but only 35 are permanent. It’s a freaking boondoggle if there ever was one. The only ones that really benefit are Canada and oil and gas companies.

      • bostonboomer says:

        I know. I hope Obama vetoes it.

        • RalphB says:

          I think he has made a veto threat and imagine he would follow through on it.

          • dakinikat says:

            Stupid to pass it now anyway with those lawsuits from Nebraska out there.

          • RalphB says:

            Stupid to pass it period. Hellishly expensive oil to refine makes no sense at the current prices anyway.

          • RalphB says:

            The potential environmental damage is apocalyptic on top of it.

          • dakinikat says:

            It could wipe out a good deal of our grain and meat productive capacity

          • ANonOMouse says:

            I agree that Obama will likely veto it. The XL brings no real benefit to the Country as a whole. Very little U.S. oil (currently being transported by rail) will be pushed through the pipeline and very few long term jobs are created. The downside is that it’s a 1200 mile monstrosity that takes away property rights and endangers one of the largest aquifers in North America. This is nothing but butt kiss to big oil and Canada.

          • ANonOMouse says:

            “Hellishly expensive oil to refine makes no sense at the current prices anyway”

            True That !!!!!! I paid 2.55 a gallon today and from what I read it looks like it will go down more.

    • ANonOMouse says:

      Another FYI…..This isn’t the 1st time the House has approved Keystone, I think it’s the 8th or 9th time. I don’t think it’s ever been voted on in the Senate. Reid may not even allow a vote to come to the floor this time, unless he thinks it can help Landrieu. If they wait it out until January the GOP Senate can vote on it, if it doesn’t fall victim to Cloture. Either way the GOP doesn’t have enough power in either chamber to override Cloture or the Veto Pen.

  7. ANonOMouse says:

    FYI…..A suit brought by the National Center for Lesbian rights and the ACLU was filed with SCOTUS this afternoon. I try to follow all of these cases but this suit is of particular interest to me because I know some of the folks involved

    Click to access Tanco-Petition-for-Cert.pdf

  8. NW Luna says:

    Local case in which a brave, brave rape survivor and her family speak out in the courtroom as her assailant is sentenced:

    She talks about how she survived that night, how the detectives don’t know how she did, but she again says every year she will make sure as many people as possible know what he did. “This is a hate crime against all women.” She derides him for believing it’s “OK to beat pregnant women and old ladies” and tells him he messed with the wrong family.

    ….Judge Spector says the 171 months is the most she can sentence him to for the rape. She says that Brown’s family did not confirm his claims of growing up, abused, in a tough neighborhood, “so it’s unclear to the court where this behavior originates. There’s no excuse for it (regardless). … For your sake, I hope you ARE mentally ill, because it’s the only explanation for what you did to this family. It doesn’t justify it, it sort of explains it.”

    She says she knows the area where it happened “very well” because she has a friend who lives in the area, “but it doesn’t really matter where it occurred … it occurred here, it affected those individuals, it was done by you and no one else.” She says she can’t give him any more time legally but she can recommend to the Indeterminate Sentencing Review Board “that you never get out.”

    • Fannie says:

      What a story, I certainly hope that this can start a nation wide movement “assault against her is an assault against all women”………………we need to help women, daughters, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, all women to learn to speak during the court process. I think that the victim and her families should be appointed counselors to help them speak up, and out, and for the long haul. Don’t you think so? You can’t stop when you think it’s over, cause it isn’t. They defined the torture, the pain of rape and violence, and I hope others will support these families, as well as organize across the this country for all women.