Priorities, People

The NRA has succeeded in killing the nomination of a highly-qualified doctor, Vivek Murthy, to be surgeon general because he stated the obvious — gun violence is a public health issue.  And today is Saturday.  Obama can’t even get him through the Senate with a simple majority because so many Dems are scared of the gun nuts.  I guess when Harry Reid changed the filibuster rules on nominations, he forgot to check that the members of his caucus had balls.

Instead of focusing their outrage at a fine nominee being trashed and scuttled just because the NRA wants to raise money and demonstrate their disproportionate power, what has America up in arms, as it were, today?  That Kim Kardashian and Kanye West are on the cover of Vogue.

Debt Ceiling Done

The Senate passed the debt ceiling bill, 55-43.

The procedural vote to move the bill forward took an hour as they were having trouble getting to 60.  Eventually, 12 Republicans joined with all 55 Dems, so that there were 67 votes to end the filibuster.  Despite the primary challenges they face, both Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and John Cornyn of Texas were among the 12..

One Vote, Just One Damn Vote

A three-month extension of unemployment benefits for 1.7 million of us failed today in the Senate by just one vote.  They had 59 votes, which is of course a majority, but because of the filibuster you need 60.

These four Republicans voted in favor:  Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Susan Collins of Maine, Dean Heller of Nevada, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

The NRA Has Already Won

Oh, big whup — the debate on gun reform is going to proceed after a GOP filibuster attempt was defeated 68-31.  And shame on you, Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Pryor of Arkansas for voting with the GOP.  That special circle in hell for cowards awaits.

Nothing like walking by your dead child’s room and thinking, “What a great victory to stop that filibuster.”

So we’ll get a debate on gun reform, we’ll get votes on gun reform, we just won’t get any real gun reform.

Broader background checks?  Sure, a good thing if the Manchin-Toomey deal passes.  But we need to deal with the semi-automatic weapons and large ammo clips, and that ain’t gonna happen.  More dead kids?  That’s definitely gonna happen.

The Great GOP Unraveling

No sooner was John McCain faced with Jeb Bush’s challenge on immigration from his right, as Jeb did an about-face on his past support for a path to citizenship, when he had to pivot and face Rand Paul’s challenge on drone policy from his left, as Paul filibustered John Brennan’s CIA nomination because he feared Obama was about to launch drone strikes on Americans sitting in cafes in San Francisco.

Today, McCain called Paul a “wacko bird,” along with his pals Ted Cruz and Congressman Justin Amash of Michigan.

Now you can say that John McCain is 76 and on his way out, but remember that his little sidekick Lindsey “Butters” Graham is 57, and their new amiga, Kelly Ayotte, who replaced Joe Lieberman, is only 44.

This isn’t a John McCain problem, this is a GOP problem.

The libertarian wing of the Republican Party has now latched on to the Tea Party element, strengthening both.  Paul and Cruz are both Tea Party guys and libertarians.

The GOP has taken up the Tea Party cry to cut government spending, while trying to protect defense spending.  But the Tea Party/libertarian types don’t want to spare defense any more than they want to spare social programs.  They want to cut the whole damn thing, which makes it impossible for them to co-exist with the neo-cons.

Interestingly, neither McCain nor Paul reflects where the country is.  Since we’re war weary, we’re not with McCain that we should have stayed longer in Iraq and should stay in Afghanistan forever.  But since we’re war weary, we like the drones, which keep the terrorists at bay, while allowing our guys to go safely home at night to their families after they’ve taken out a bad guy.  And while Rand Paul isn’t as extreme on foreign policy as his dad Ron, his lack of concern about Iran’s going nuclear isn’t where the country is either.  So in Goldilocks terms, neither McCain nor Paul is just right for the country, one is too hard and the other is too soft.  If the country is sick of the neo-cons, they don’t want them replaced by neo-isolationists.

Adding to the mix — and the mess — you’ve got the primaries of 2014 and 2016.  Immigration and drones are two very different issues, but having gotten blindsided by Jebbie, Marco Rubio felt he had to support Paul on the filibuster to placate the Tea Party people he will need for a 2016 run.  Similarly, Mitch McConnell felt compelled to praise Paul because he fears a Tea Party primary in 2014.

Then there’s  the money.  The Koch Brothers are libertarians first and Republicans second.  Their financial support will redound to those who spout the libertarian line.  By contrast, Sheldon Adelson, who basically bought Newtie a campaign in 2012, has said that he doesn’t care about gay marriage or abortion, he just cares about Israel.  So his money will go to those who toe the neo-con line.

The GOP is trying to accommodate some very strange bedfellows — and it looks as if no one will get a good night’s sleep anytime soon.

No Sequester Solution, but Plenty of Kabuki Theater

The Senate voted down both the Dem and GOP (feeble) attempts to end the sequester today.  For those of you keeping score at home, we name names below.

The GOP had the opportunity to give the President more flexibility on the cuts, so that they wouldn’t be mindlessly across-the-board.  But that bill, proposed by James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania, didn’t cede Congress’ spending authority to Obama.  Obama would have had to preview how he was allocating the cuts, and Congress could have overridden his choices.

The bill lost a vote to break a Dem filibuster, 38 to 62, with nine Republicans opposing it.  They were John McCain of Arizona, Lindsey “Butters” Graham of South Carolina, Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, Marco Rubio of Florida, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Dean Heller of Nevada, Mike Lee of Utah, and Susan Collins of Maine.  Two Dems voted for it — Max Baucus of Montana and Mark Warner of Virginia.  I would have voted for it.

Then there was the Dem bill that would have cut defense and agriculture and raised taxes on millionaires as a substitute for the sequester (although the CBO scoring showed that it fell $7 billion short).  It would have passed 52-48 (51-49 at the end because Majority Leader Reid switched his vote so the bill can come up again), but the GOP filibustered it, so it needed 60 votes.  Three Democrats voted against it — Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.  I would have voted for that one too.

But although I would have voted for both these bills, I mostly think the sequester is much ado about a measly $44 billion (not $85 billion) in a $16 trillion economy.

Obama and Congress supposedly wanted to threaten cuts that were so apocalyptic they would never be allowed to happen.  Obviously, these cuts weren’t it — they’re happening, and they’re not the end of the world.

McCain Says Hagel and Obama Are Welcome on His Lawn

John McCain says the White House has answered his questions about Benghazi to his satisfaction.  Now he’s trying to get answers to Ted Cruz’s questions about Chuck Hagel himself.

If they can make Cruz happy (good luck with that), there won’t be a filibuster, and there will be an up or down (and it will be up) vote on Hagel tomorrow, and he can catch his flight to the NATO meeting in Brussels.

The GOP really doesn’t need another empty chair photo.


GOP to Filibuster Hagel

On Friday, the Senate will vote on whether or not to end debate on Chuck Hagel’s nomination.  It will take 60 votes to move forward to a vote on Hagel himself.  If the Dems get the 60, then it will take a simple majority for Hagel to be confirmed.

This is the first time a nominee for Secretary of Defense has been filibustered.

Supposedly, some GOP senators will vote to end debate, but then vote against Hagel himself.

So far, 21 GOP senators have said they oppose Hagel’s confirmation, only 2 have said they support it.

Stay tuned…

McCain Tells Obama To Get Off His Lawn

… and take Chuck Hagel with him.

Having agreed that he wouldn’t filibuster Chuck Hagel’s nomination, John McCain now says that he might, unless President Obama provides more information about his conduct on the night of the Benghazi terror attack.