Republican Reindeer Games 2013: missives from the front lines of the #Obamaquester

Reuters: The U.S. economy could take a big hit from automatic government spending cuts even if Congress only leaves them in place for a month or two.

What could be more important than a solution to the sequester? Games!

Jonathan Chait says that who’s at “fault” for the sequester is HIGHLY debatable: 

…Most Republicans in the House voted for the sequester, while most Democrats voted against it, and Boehner boasted, “I got 98 percent of what I wanted.”

But do the House Republicans detect any contradiction at all in this messaging strategy? Message No. 1 is that they won’t compromise at all, not even offering any of the tax reform they’ve been dangling for months, not even in exchange for cuts to Social Security and Medicare, to replace the sequester. Krauthammer: “If they do nothing, the $1.2 trillion in cuts go into effect. This is the one time Republicans can get cuts under an administration that has no intent of cutting anything. Get them while you can.” Sequester ho!

Message No. 2: This horrible sequester is all Obama’s fault! It’s devastating!

Obviously you can tie this all together if you maintain that raising tax revenue — even if it comes not by raising rates but by reducing the “special interest loopholes and deduction” he had previously pledged himself to cleaning out — would have horrific consequences. You would have to believe that Boehner’s own December budget offer would have horrific consequences, since it pledged to increase tax revenue by $800 billion, a good $180 billion higher than the revenue increase we got.

They’re still trying to make Obama a one-term president: “Republicans open to letting billions in sequester cuts go through figure they can blame the president if the economy goes south,” Politico reports.

It’s great to see that Politico is on board with this week’s meme:

Steve Benen reminds everyone that “if Republicans don’t like the sequester, they have a terrific option available to them: they can cancel it and end this stupidity once and for all”:

Both sides put some skin in the game: Democrats would be forced to swallow over $500 billion in deep domestic cuts, while Republicans would be forced to swallow over $500 billion in deep cuts to military spending during a war. (Originally, the White House asked that Republicans face a threat of automatic tax increases, but Republicans refused — even hypothetical tax increases were deemed outrageous — so they settled on deep Defense cuts instead.)

At the time, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said the deal gave him “98 percent” of what he wanted. Did Boehner complain at the time about Obama forcing him to accept a sequester idea the Speaker found outrageous? He did not. Not even a little.

Republicans now want Americans to believe this was all Obama’s fault. Let’s consider the evidence:

1. Republicans created the debt-ceiling crisis.

2. Republicans wrote the ransom note and named their price.

3. Republicans endorsed, accepted, and voted for this plan, saying they’d accept the consequences.

and 4. Republicans now refuse to compromise (again) to deal with the mess they created.

So we’re supposed to believe this is Obama’s fault? That’s only true if you ignore literally detail and pretend reality has no meaning.

Let’s make this plain: the sequester is a key part of the ransom the GOP settled for during the debt-ceiling crisis they created. It’s a little late to pass the buck now.

Then Tom DeLay went and let the cat out of the It’s-Obama’s-fault- bag

Tom DeLay, the former House majority leader, who was meeting with a few of his former colleagues on Wednesday at the Capitol, says Boehner’s playbook is “sharp,” since defense spending “can always be replaced during the appropriations process, after the cuts are put into place.” “You can always put money back in for defense,” DeLay says. “I think Boehner is going to stick with the sequester since the cuts are already happening, and if he needs to do something later, he can. I don’t think the president realizes how Boehner has the upper hand.”

And unnamed GOP aides reveal the method behind the madness

And, though GOP aides insist it has not been openly discussed, there could be political advantage if Republicans let Congress pass the delayed sequester deadline. Some of the states that get the most federal discretionary money, defense or domestic, also are home to some of the 2014 cycle’s vulnerable Democrats, Sens. Kay Hagan of North Carolina, Mark Warner of Virginia and Mark Udall of Colorado. Hagan, however, starts out in a weaker position than Udall or Warner. According to the U.S. Census Bureau Statistical Abstract breaking down federal spending by state, Virginia in 2009, for example, was the top recipient of federal defense spending dollars, North Carolina was 13th and Colorado 16th. In nondefense spending, Virginia ranked eighth and North Carolina 10th.

Honeywell CEO David Cote — [who made $37 million in 2011 and] who is part of an organization called Fix the Debt that is pushing for steep cuts in social spending — acknowledged in an interview that the sequester’s spending cuts will harm the economy but he thinks they need to happen anyway.

The reality of Republican Reindeer Games 2013 — How The Sequester’s Budget Cuts Will Devastate Already-Battered Programs

Food safety: The Food and Drug Administration is already facing serious cuts, jeopardizing its ability to safely inspect foreign food imports. Under the sequester, the U.S. Department of Agriculture would be forced to furlough thousands of workers for weeks at a time, causing food processors to shut down. That would cost the industry billions of dollars while further limiting food inspections. Other studies estimate that there would be 600 fewer food inspectors at meat and poultry plants.

Aviation safety: The first round of cuts would force the Federal Aviation Administration to furlough 10 percent of its staff each day, reducing the number of air traffic controllers and regulators on the job at any given time. That could mean the loss of 1,200 air traffic controllers over the next year if the sequester remains in place.

Women, Infants, and Children programs: WIC, which helps low-income women provide for their children up to age 5, is already facing significant reductions under budget caps that could kick 970,000 women out of the program. The first round of the sequester would cut $353 million, meaning 600,000 women and their children would lose access.

Early Childhood Education: As many as 70,000 children would be cut from Head Start and Early Head Start under the first round of cuts, while 30,000 parents would lose access to child care services. Head Start, early childhood education, and child care for working parents provide huge benefits to families and their children. One study in California found that Head Start results in $9 of benefits for every dollar spent on the program.

Disaster relief: The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s budget would be cut by $1 billion right as the spring storm season begins, jeopardizing aid for families, states and localities, and businesses that are devastated by natural disasters. Even the aid package that just passed for victims of Hurricane Sandy would face $1.89 billion in reductions, according to the report.

Health research: The National Institutes of Health would lose $1.6 billion in funding under the initial round of cuts, putting medical research and jobs at risk. Over the year, NIH would lose $12.5 billion, according to research estimates, a hit that could cost the U.S. $860 billion in lost economic growth over the next nine years while resulting in the loss of 500,000 jobs.

Law enforcement: The first cuts would reduce the Coast Guard’s air and sea operations by 25 percent, while 1,000 federal law enforcement officials and 1,500 corrections officers would face furloughs. Border patrol and customs agents would be furloughed for two weeks, resulting in a reduction of 5,000 officers and agents at points of entry to the United States. Over the year, there would be a 25 percent reduction in border patrol agents, according to estimates.

Consider where we are:

  1. Republicans want to replace the entire sequester with cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other social insurance programs, like food stamps. The White House says those ideas are “terrible.”
  2. President Obama, meanwhile, wants a Grand Bargain, which would include combine smaller, more targeted cuts to those programs with additional revenue from tax reform. But for the most part, Republicans have said the president’s proposal is dead-on-arrival because it includes tax increases. These Republicans claim to oppose the sequester, but say they’d prefer to the sequester to any sort of compromise with the president.
  3. Senate Democrats are looking for a set of smaller spending cuts and tax hikes that would replace the first part of the sequester, an effort the administration supports, but their plan requires revenue, which Republicans say they won’t support. And House Progressives have proposed the only plan to eliminate the sequester that would both reduce the deficit and create jobs, but their plan makes too much sense for it to have a prayer.

Given that nobody in Washington, DC can agree on what should replace the sequester, the logical thing for them to do would be to repeal it.

Kevin Drum: don’t panic until Feb. 28th: “In a nutshell, we seem to be in a situation where the sequester, as bad as it is, is less bad than all of the alternatives. Republicans don’t want more defense cuts; Democrats don’t want more domestic cuts; and neither side wants the president to have more flexibility. And of course, simply doing away with the sequester entirely for a couple of years, which is by far the smartest option, is completely off the table. The wise men of Washington, along with the flamethrowers in the GOP, simply can’t be convinced that budget deficits are a good thing to have right now, even though all the evidence in the world points in that direction.

Meanwhile, Boehner 2013 argues with Boehner 2011: 

2

Ditching the Hastert Rule: Could we actually have a functioning government one day?

What’s the “Hastert Rule”? Steve Benen explains: “Boehner is only supposed to bring bills to the floor that most of his own caucus supports (measures that enjoy a “majority of the majority”). The idea is, Republicans shouldn’t even consider bills if they’re dependent on Democratic votes to pass; the real power belongs in the hands of the House GOP’s far-right rank and file.”

What a way to run a railroad! A minority of the majority has been screwing around with the welfare of the entire country and the well-being of its people ever since the 2010 election — all because of a specific reindeer game they’re supposed to play each time they’re required to do their jobs. 

BUT the good news is that in the past two weeks, Boehner has ignored the Hastert Rule and passed (1) the fiscal cliff bill and (2) a Sandy disaster relief bill. [NOTE: nearly 80% of the House GOP -- 179 members -- voted against disaster relief for the victims of Hurricane Sandy]

Boehner’s new approach has Benen feeling cautiously optimistic:

“John Feehery, a former spokesperson and leading aide in Hastert’s office, published a piece today arguing that Boehner can’t stick to the rule if he expects to govern. [...] In a move that raised eyebrows this morning, Boehner’s deputy chief of staff promoted this Feehery piece on Twitter this morning.

This may seem like inside baseball, but it’s extremely important. If Boehner, in the name of getting stuff done, is open to bringing important bills to the floor, and passing them with mostly-Democratic support, the next two years will be far less ridiculous than the last two. It means a debt-ceiling crisis is less likely, comprehensive immigration reform is more likely, and meaningful action on preventing gun violence has a credible chance of success.”

Jed Lewison says this is “as clear a sign as you could possibly get that Republican leaders aren’t going to block a debt limit increase:

“Instead, they’ll let their members create as much drama as possible, but will in the end allow the a debt limit increase to come to the floor where it will pass with the backing of all or nearly all Democrats.

Yes, it’s true that far-right groups like Club for Growth, The Family Research Council, and The Heritage Foundation are still saber rattling about the debt limit. But these are the same clowns that were saber rattling about the Hurricane Sandy vote—and they lost. As Brian Beutler exhaustively outlines, every major sign points to a lack of resolve on the part of House Republican leadership to block an increase in the debt limit.”

Also? The Koch Brothers are now publicly instructing their congressional beneficiaries that the nation’s bills need to be paid.

Rep. John Duncan won’t extend tax cuts to 98% of Americans because of reindeer games

Think Progress: in a recent photo-op with constituents, Rep. John Duncan (R-TN) explained why Republicans are refusing to give in. The Tennessee Republican admitted that he won’t vote to extend tax cuts to 98 percent of Americans because doing so would cede control to Democrats:

CONSTITUENT 1: Are you going to sign the discharge petition?

DUNCAN: Ummm…Oh no, I’m not. No Ma’am. I’m not about to sign the discharge petition.

CONSTITUENT 2: Well if you sign the discharge petition, you’ll immediately etend the tax cuts for the middle class.

CONSTITUENT 1: Yea, why would you not want to do that? [...]

DUNCAN: It would take too long to explain that. I’m not going to give control of the floor to the Democrats.

###

This guy has been parked in the House for almost a quarter of a century and “has never faced a serious or well-funded challenge for reelection.” So, to all the working and middle class Republican-base-rubes of Tennessee: well done! 

Senator Harry Reid calls John McCain on his Benghazi bullshit

“One of you, Senator McCain, has gone so far as to make the outrageous claim that this event was “worse than Watergate”—despite the fact that there is no evidence that any crime was committed, no evidence of any cover-up, and no evidence that the administration has characterized the incident in any way that has not been consistent with the Intelligence Community’s contemporaneous assessments.”

— Harry Reid, rejecting McCain’s request to form a Senate committee to investigate the attack on Benghazi last September. McCain had made the request in part because, per internal Senate rules, he’s term-limited out of his seat as ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and the formation of a new committee would allow him another perch from which to delve into the Benghazi matter. Reid derided McCain’s request as an attempt to use the Senate as “a venue for baseless partisan attacks,” and excoriated the senator for skipping a classified briefing on the incident in order to hold a press conference. source (via shortformblog)

Related: 

John McCain asked why he skipped Benghazi briefing: “Who the hell are you…?”

Huffington Post: 4:25 p.m. — CNN published a more detailed account of its exchange with McCain, in which, when asked why he wouldn’t comment on missing the briefing, the senator responded, “Who the hell are you to tell me I can or not?”

When CNN approached McCain in a Capitol hallway Thursday morning, the senator refused to comment about why he missed the briefing, which was conducted by top diplomatic, military and counter-terrorism officials. Instead, McCain got testy when pressed to say why he wasn’t there.

“I have no comment about my schedule and I’m not going to comment on how I spend my time to the media,” McCain said.

Asked why he wouldn’t comment, McCain grew agitated: “Because I have the right as a senator to have no comment and who the hell are you to tell me I can or not?”

When CNN noted that McCain had missed a key meeting on a subject the senator has been intensely upset about, McCain said, “I’m upset that you keep badgering me.”

The “Maverick” doesn’t like being called on his reindeer games.

Government shutdown: every two weeks through September!

The GOP-Teaparty lawmakers are ready to fund our government — but only in 2-week increments through September. They now plan to add 1 billion here or 4 billion there in spending cuts every 2 weeks, if necessary, to equal their original $61 billion in cuts.

I’m speechless.

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