Some Senate Democats Are, Well, Idiots

Sam Stein, of HuffPo, posted a piece yesterday that just floored me:

Democrats Contemplate How To Forfeit Their Power Upon Regaining The Senate

It began:

After watching Senate Republicans lower the threshold for confirming a Supreme Court justice in order to vote Neil Gorsuch onto the court, Senate Democrats are openly talking about making it harder for themselves to do the same, if and when they regain power.

Over the past few days, a number of Democratic lawmakers have said they’d be open to bringing back the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees.

“When the Democrats return to the majority and capture the presidency ― which we will, that day is going to arrive ― we will restore the 60-vote margin,” Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) told MSNBC on Monday. “We will ensure that for the Supreme Court, there is that special margin that any candidate has to reach, because that is essential to ensuring that our country has a confidence in people who are nominated, rather than just someone who passes a litmus test.”

Image result for knife fightIf you ever wondered why Democrats get rolled so often by ruthless Republicans, now you can see why. Jeez. If the Democratic Party wants people to support it, wants people to knock on doors for it, wants people to send it money, its leader better put out a retraction of this bullshit right now. I ain’t working to support a party that would have its throat cut by Republicans in a fight, and then when it wrestles the knife out of Republican hands, uses that same knife to cut its own throat.

Oh, my.

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Thank You, Senator McCaskill. You Got My “I’m With Her!” Pledge For 2018

Here’s the headline from The Hill:

Key Dem McCaskill to oppose Gorsuch, back filibuster

The lede:

Image result for claire mccaskillSen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) on Friday said she will vote to support a filibuster of President Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

The announcement makes it significantly harder for Gorsuch to muster the 60 votes he needs to overcome a filibuster and advance to a final confirmation vote.

The fight isn’t over, of course. We still have to worry about these senators:

To avoid a showdown over the rules, it now becomes crucial for Gorsuch to pick up the support of the two remaining undecided Democrats who face reelection next year in strongly pro-Trump states: Sen. Jon Tester(Mont.) and Sen. Joe Donnelly (Ind.).

Gorsuch would likely also need the support of senior Democrats such as Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the ranking member on the Judiciary Committee, and Sen. Patrick Leahy (Vt.), who might be concerned about preserving their power to filibuster for the next vacancy on the court.

Other Democrats up in the air are centrist Sens. Mark Warner (Va.) and Chris Coons (Del.), along with Independent Sen. Angus King (Maine), who praised Gorsuch earlier this year as “exceedingly independent.”

But, dammit, it’s good to know that my senator, Claire McCaskill, for whatever reason, decided to do the right thing. To quote a phrase: I’m With Her.

Dear Claire McCaskill: Regarding The Filibuster Of Gorsuch

Dear Senator McCaskill,

I am disturbed by what I read today. CNN reported the following regarding Democratic efforts to filibuster the confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch:

As of Monday morning, 10 Democrats have said or suggested they will filibuster. Another eight Democrats have said they’ll opposed Gorsuch in the final confirmation vote, but it’s unclear where they stand on the filibuster.

I searched that article for where you stand on the filibuster. Nothing there. I searched elsewhere. I found nothing. I wrote your office. So far, no answer. Here’s the deal for me:

I knocked on doors for you here in southwest Missouri during  your last election against that freak, Todd Whatshisname. And even given how nuts that guy was, believe me I ran into a lot of stiff opposition to your candidacy. But I thought the rather mild verbal abuse I got from knocking on the wrong doors was worth the effort, because the thought of Todd Whatshisname sitting in the United States Senate was too much to tolerate, if I could help stop it. And it turned out well. You won. You’re in the Senate and he isn’t. That meant something then, and it means something now.

What it means is that you are in a position to do something about holding Republicans accountable for stealing a Supreme Court seat from us last year. I know you know they really did steal that seat, that all-important seat. I’m pretty sure that fact disturbs you as much as it disturbs me. At least I hope it does. But I understand there is a strategy being contemplated by some Senate Democrats that involves a slick manuever of letting the Supreme Court filibuster survive—meaning some Democrats will not support a filibuster against Judge Gorsuch—but will vote against his conformation later to register their opposition. No. No. No. In case you didn’t hear me: No. No. No. Don’t be a part of that. And, further, tell your colleagues not to be a pImage result for claire mccaskillart of it either. It’s not right. It’s phony. It’s cowardly. It’s morally wrong to allow, without putting up a fight, the Republican Party leadership in the Senate to get away so easily with robbing President Obama of his constitutional right to get a vote on his nominee for a seat on the Court.

The other theory I have heard being tossed around is that you guys should not die fighting on the Gorsuch hill, since he merely replaces Scalia and the original “balance” would remain in place. I don’t want to be crude, Senator, so I’ll simply say that idea is the stupidest thing I’ve heard since whatever Tr-mp’s last tweet was. Balance my butt. The Court was not balanced when Scalia was above ground. It was decidedly tilted toward the right. We got the destructive Citizens United decision, among other bad rulings, under that mythical “balanced” Court. This dumb theory envisions moving the fight to the next nominee, where our side will have more leverage. More leverage? How so? Depending on what vacancy comes up, we may have less leverage. We will have lost the immediate force of our moral standing to right an obvious wrong, plus we will be closer to an election year in which, if Republicans are seeking to replace, say, Judge Ginsburg, they will be under great pressure from the right to replace her with another judge straight off Tr-mp’s right-wing list of robed reactionaries. Mitch McConnell will be more likely to kill the filibuster under those circumstances than he might be now.

Waiting and taking such a chance is not worth it, especially when we have the superior moral argument on our side now and the increasingly effective enthusiasm of our base. Senate Democrats shouldn’t squander either by undertaking a strategy of surrender today in hopes of winning some uncertain concession from Republicans tomorrow. And, need I remind you, Republicans are notoriously ruthless when it comes to these things.

President Obama was not three-fifths of a man or a president. Even as our first African-American POTUS of a country that has a racist past, he still had rights that white Senators were bound to respect, though they ultimately decided, in the tradition of the racists before them, not to respect them. He at least deserved the courtesy of getting his nominee a hearing and a vote, even if that nominee, as qualified as he was for the job, might not have ended up getting the necessary votes to sit on the Court. You may not like my reference to racism in this context. I understand that. But Barack Obama faced so many “firsts,” so much unprecedented treatment (“Where’s your real birth certificate?”), that racism, mostly in its subtle, softer form, is as good an explanation as any for the unprecedented treatment he received. And, I might add, treatment he endured with the dignity of a saint.

Another consideration is important, too. That is the fact that we have a man in the White’s House who doesn’t belong there. No. Really. He literally does not belong there. Not only is he mentally disturbed, but the Russians, whatever the outcome of the ongoing FBI investigation is, helped him win. And he begged them to help him win, right out in the open in front of God, Mitch McConnell, and, if hell is real, the smoldering soul of Antonin Scalia. Tr-mp is not a morally legitimate president for a lot of reasons, but none more delegitimizing than what he did on July 27, 2016:

Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 e-mails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press. Let’s see if that happens.

That was said eight months ago and it still parches my potty portal as much today as it did then. That plea for Russian intervention from his friend Putin should have been disqualifying in itself, but it turned out not to matter to enough Americans. Well, it should have mattered. It should have mattered then and it should matter now, especially to a sitting United States Senator, especially a Democratic one, and especially one who, like you, still gives a damn about what we used to call, without irony, patriotism.

And I haven’t even got to the fact that Tr-mp lost the popular vote. Sure, it matters in our system that he won enough electoral college votes to technically win the presidency, but it also matters that he used information stolen by the Russians to win at least some of those crucial votes in the Rust Belt states. So, the question is, why should a morally illegitimate president, who begged the Russians for help, who openly practiced racism against President Obama, get to fill a Supreme Court vacancy that was stolen by Republicans? Why should the Grand Wizard of the birther movement get to do that? Moreover, why should a man who recently and falsely and delusionally accused President Obama of a grievous “wiretapping” crime get to fill a Court seat that Obama should have filled? Huh?

The bottom line is this, Senator McCaskill: I voted for you and spent some time working on your behalf because I expected, while in office, you would always do your best to do the right thing. I always knew that you and I wouldn’t agree on every issue. I’m a liberal. You have the reputation of a “moderate,” which you enthusiastically embrace sometimes to my chagrin. But I understand the political dynamics of our state. I moved here 30 years ago and this isn’t the same state it was then. Politically, we look more like Louisiana today. Thus, I understand why you sometimes don’t take positions I would take. But I also I understand that most of the time you take the positions I don’t like based on your own principles, not merely to please the mostly rural constituents who I ran into while knocking on doors for you in 2012. You are a principled politician. This is one of those times when principle should triumph over everything else.

This fight involves an issue where I think you cannot afford to vote against what I know has to be your conscience. You were rightly and openly outraged by what the Republicans did to Merrick Garland and President Obama. And the only proper response to what happened is to demand another nominee, one who is comparable to Judge Garland in judicial temperament and philosophy. That’s the only way the constitutional wrong done last year can be made close to right, if such is possible.

You and your Democratic colleagues need to support Minority Leader Schumer’s announced filibuster of the Gorsuch nomination. If that means forcing Mitch McConnell to do away with the filibuster for all time—if that’s what he wants to do to protect the nominee of a “president” who is illegitimate, under a cloud of suspicion for conspiring with our Russian adversaries, and who is a pathological liar—so be it. If McConnell wants to walk that plank, let him do it. Some day, we (Democrats) will control the proceedings. We will only need a majority vote to get our folks on the Court. Then maybe people on our side will take elections more seriously, especially in non-presidential years. Maybe they won’t play games with fringe candidates like Jill Stein and Gary Johnson when so much is at stake.

In any case, what we need now is a fierce stubbornness in this fight. But we also need a fierce patience to compliment that stubbornness. John Dryden said, “Beware the fury of a patient man.” Kierkegaard said, “Patience is necessary, and one cannot reap immediately where one has sown.” Today we filibuster an injustice. Tomorrow the filibuster may be gone. And some fine day in the future we will decide, with a simple majority, who sits on the Court.

Or, maybe, just maybe, Mitch McConnell will not want what’s left of his reputation to die on a hill with Tr-mp’s tattered and tainted flag planted on it. Maybe he will keep the filibuster, Gorsuch will go back to the Tenth Circuit, and we will have a more moderate, less Scalia-like nominee. We will never know, though, unless Democrats stand up and fight like hell. I’m asking you to be one of the 41 fighters we need to filibuster Gorsuch’s confirmation. And I’m asking you to lobby your fellow Democrats, those who may be considering too-clever-by-half strategies, to also support, not just in spirit but with their votes, a principled filibuster.

Sincerely,

Duane Graham

 

Harry Reid Sings Along With Mitch

Here’s how HuffPo sees the filibuster deal between Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell:

filibuster rulesThe opening paragraph from the HuffPo report:

Progressive senators working to dramatically alter Senate rules were defeated on Thursday, with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and his counterpart, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), set to announce a series of compromise reforms on the Senate floor that fall far short of the demands.

So, although there are some marginal improvements in the filibuster process, individual Republicans remain free to sabotage the government in anonymity and thus with relative impunity.

The truth is, though, that given the current constitution of the House of Representatives, still gripped by Tea Party extremism, reform of the Senate filibuster is the least of the country’s worries.

More Hell From Harry Reid

One of the biggest failings of the mainstream press over the past few years has been its lack of clear and continual reporting on Republican obstructionism in Congress, particularly how Republicans in the Senate have used the filibuster to obstruct Democratic—and democratic—governance.

I would guess that most regular folks, even people who are routine consumers of news but maybe not political junkies, don’t really understand how the modern filibuster—which traditionally meant talking a bill to death—works and don’t understand why it is that in a body of 100 members, in a Democratic society, that it takes 60 votes to get any real business done.

And that lack of understanding of how the U.S. Senate works is partially the fault of the press, which tires rather quickly of reminding folks of such technical matters, even though those technical matters matter a lot, in terms of what has been happening in Washington.

Read this stunning paragraph from Ezra Klein:

Filibusters used to be relatively rare. There were more filibusters between 2009 and 2010 than there were in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s combined. A strategy memo written after the 1964 election by Mike Manatos, Lyndon B. Johnson’s Senate liaison, calculated that in the new Senate, Medicare would pass with 55 votes — the filibuster didn’t even figure into the administration’s planning.

Think about that. Medicare, a remarkably large social program, was not only not filibustered, it wasn’t even expected to be filibustered. Compare that to these days of Republican minority obstructionism, where even mundane matters—like whether a bill should even be debated—are subject to the filibuster, requiring the majority to invoke cloture and, if 60 votes can be rounded up, to end the filibuster and move on to the matter at hand.

As Klein says,

Today, the filibuster isn’t used to defend minority rights or ensure debate. Rather, the filibuster is simply a rule that the minority party uses to require a 60-vote supermajority to get anything done in the Senate. That’s not how it was meant to be.

There is serious talk among Democrats, including Majority Leader Harry Reid, of changing the rules regarding the filibuster. It turns out that on the first day of a new Congress, the next new one is scheduled to meet on January 3 of next year, there is a method available—now known as the “nuclear option” — for adopting rule changes in the Senate with only a simple majority vote—a filibuster wouldn’t work.

Now, obviously Democrats have to be careful here. They likely won’t always be in the majority in the Senate, and it would be foolish to set a precedent that would completely shut down the minority, much like the minority in the House is made irrelevant by its rules.

To that end, Harry Reid, who should have acted before the opening of the last session of Congress in 2011, is proposing what he calls “a couple of minor changes” to make the Senate “more efficient.” Those changes include:

♦ eliminating the right to filibuster the debating of a bill, but not the right to filibuster the final passage of the bill itself

♦ forcing filibustering Senators to actually stand on the Senate floor and conduct the filibuster, as opposed to merely invoking a filibuster from their offices

Those sound like sensible changes, some would even say too sensible, since the filibuster would still exist and 60 votes would  still be needed to pass legislation, given what mood Republicans have been in since the Dawn of Obama.

So, how did the leader of the obstructionists, the man whose one self-admitted priority four years ago was denying Barack Obama a second term, how did that guy, Mitch McConnell, react? Come on, you know how. He got pissed. He called it a “temporary exercise of raw partisan political power,” and a “naked power grab.”

Other Republicans were equally outraged. Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, no stranger to overstatement, threatened something, but I’m not sure what:

I think the backlash will be severe. If you take away minority rights, which is what you’re doing because you’re an ineffective leader, you’ll destroy the place. And if you destroy the place, we’ll do what we have to do to fight back.

Do what we have to do to fight back” ? Huh? Is he going to blow up the place? Because if he’s not going to wedge a grenade down Harry Reid’s trousers, what else is available? Obstruction? That’s what Republicans have been doing.

As Reid said of such threats,

What more could they do to us?

What more, indeed.

For his part, Ezra Klein says that Reid’s minor reform effort “doesn’t go nearly far enough.” He writes:

The problem with the filibuster isn’t that senators don’t have to stand and talk, or that they can filibuster the motion to debate as well as the vote itself. It’s that the Senate has become, with no discussion or debate, an effective 60-vote institution. If you don’t change that, you haven’t solved the problem.

Defenses of the filibuster tend to invoke minority rights or the Constitution’s preference for decentralized power. It’s true the Founding Fathers wanted to make legislating hard. That’s why they divided power among three branches. It’s why senators used to be directly appointed by state legislatures. It’s why the House, the Senate and the president have staggered elections, so it usually takes a big win in two or more consecutive elections for a party to secure control of all three branches.

But the Founders didn’t want it to be this hard. They considered requiring a supermajority to pass legislation and rejected the idea. “Its real operation,” Alexander Hamilton wrote of such a requirement, “is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of government and to substitute the pleasure, caprice or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent or corrupt junta, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority.” Sound familiar?

Of course that sounds familiar. We have been living with Hamilton’s description ever since Mitch McConnell declared war on President Obama. And it is McConnell who has led his “corrupt junta” into unprecedented abuse of an important Senate rule, a rule that must be used judiciously or else it becomes, in Ezra Klein’s words, “a noxious obstacle” :

Filibusters are no longer used to allow minorities to be heard. They’re used to make the majority fail. In the process, they undermine democratic accountability, because voters are left to judge the rule of a majority party based on the undesirable outcomes created by a filibustering minority.

Yes, voters are left to judge. But they need critical information to properly judge. And that critical information comes largely from the press, which did not do a good job of explaining how dogged Republicans were in their pursuit of those “undesirable outcomes” that Klein referenced.

But despite that, despite the trembling economic recovery, despite an entire cable news channel and almost all of talk radio against them, Democrats were able to largely prevail in November.

And making a couple of modest changes to the filibuster rule in the Senate may just make governing a little easier. If it doesn’t, if Republicans dig in their obstructionist heels even deeper, then at least the American people will be able to see them, day after obstructionist day, standing on the Senate floor holding up progress.

And that in itself would be progress.

More Anti-Democracy From A United GOP

Silly discussions on cable TV about how President Obama designed his jobs bill just for political purposes are the norm these days (Morning Joe was the latest offender, just this morning).  Don’t you know that the President wasn’t really serious about his proposal, knew it wouldn’t pass, and was hell-bent on campaigning against a do-nothing Congress? 

That’s the conventional wisdom among Beltway journalists.

But  a day after unanimous Republicans (along with two conservative Democrats and whatever it is that Joe Lieberman is) once again used the engine of anti-democracy, the filibuster, to stop a piece of President Obama’s jobs bill—one that would have put teachers and policemen and firemen back on the payrolls. Matthew Yglesias pointed out today:

I believe headlines like “Republicans Block Popular Piece of Obama Jobs Bill” are the kind of thing the White House communications shop is hoping for. That said, nothing would boost the president’s re-election hopes more than the actual enactment of bills that actually help the employment situation.

Of course.  The best chance Obama has of defeating Mitt Romney next year is an improving economy, something that Republicans in Congress and on the presidential campaign trail are well aware of.  Most of us who have been paying attention believed that the President would fail to persuade unpersuadable Republicans bent on his political destruction, but it was worth the try.

What was he supposed to do? Nothing?

For the record, the just-defeated “Teachers, First Responders Back to Work Act” proposed to keep employed or rehire about 400,000 teachers and firefighters and police officers, and was part of the larger American Jobs Act, which likewise fell to undemocratic forces in the U.S. Senate.

For Republicans, the price was apparently too high: It would actually have helped the economy—and thus Obama—and it would have been paid for by levying a 0.5 percent surtax on incomes above $1 million.

Joe Biden said of the tax:

If you make $1.1 million…you would pay next year $500 more in taxes.

But, Joe, just think what those millionaire-job creators could do with that 500 bucks.

As A Matter Of Fact, Majority Doesn’t Rule

On Tuesday, Mr. Obama told ABC’s Jake Tapper the following regarding the President’s efforts to get his jobs bill passed:

…even though we’ve gotten a majority of senators in the Senate willing to move forward on this, because of the filibuster, because of the rules that are set up in the Senate, those things are blocked.

Last week, Missouri Senator Roy Blunt—who supported the filibuster that cost Missourians thousands of jobs—appeared on Your World with Neil Cavuto, guest hosted that day by the fact-challenged Foxer, Eric Bolling. 

Blunt, in Fox fashion, gave a completely dishonest interview (for instance: Obama’s “plans have made this economy worse“), and Bolling, in Fox fashion, did a completely dishonest job of asking the questions.

But something Blunt said may come back to haunt him and all Republicans in 2013. About President Obama’s jobs bill he spurted:

So I think all the effort today is just to see how many Democrats they can hold on to in the Senate, not talking about how they get any Republicans or anywhere close to the 60 votes it would take for this bill to move forward. This is all a political charade. And I think everybody in Washington knows that.

Blunt’s matter-of-fact declaration that a bleeping jobs bill needs 60 votes to move forward is, well, off-putting, to say the least. 

Republicans have used parliamentary gambits, including “secret holds” and record-setting filibusters—which can only be trumped by herding 60 senators—to block nearly every action, big or small, in the United States Senate.*

And the notion that Democrats, as a matter of normal business, should design every piece of legislation to satisfy that 60-vote threshold—essentially giving Republicans veto power—is breathtakingly undemocratic.

Should Republicans take over the Senate next year, they will, of course, resent turning every issue into one that requires a super-majority of senators.  Their chances of obtaining a 60-vote Republican majority next election is, well, only a fantasy that toesucking Dick Morris can afford to entertain. Even if Republicans have a good year next year—and that is far from certain—if they win enough seats to win nominal control of that body, they will not have enough to govern—that is, if Democrats choose to do what Republicans have done.

The question is should Democrats choose to do so?

Damn right they should. If only one side plays the filibuster game to the extent Republicans have, then that one side dooms itself to political irrelevance.

In 2012 the American people should hold Republicans accountable for their undemocratic obstruction—especially the shameful filibuster on the jobs bill.  Anything less will only validate the GOP strategy of sabotage and will guarantee gridlock as far as the eye can see.

____________________________

* Just considering nominations to vacant federal judgeships, the Alliance for Justice reports:

In terms of numbers, President Obama steadily lost ground to entrenched Republican obstruction in the U.S. Senate, ending his first two years with almost double the number of vacancies that he inherited. Of the 105 nominations submitted by President Obama during the first two years of his term, only 62 — 2 Supreme Court justices, plus 16 courts of appeals and 44 district court judges — were confirmed. That is the smallest percentage of judicial confirmations over the first two years of any presidency in American history.

Liberal Media? What Liberal Media?

“Republicans think that if the economy improves, it might help President Obama. So they root for the economy to fail and oppose every effort to improve it.”

— Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, just before Republicans voted en masse Tuesday to give the finger to the unemployed in America

 

Let me preface this piece with this: There are 14 million Americans out of work today. Keep that in mind as we go on.

Reporting on the Senate vote on President Obama’s jobs bill on Tuesday, it took The New York Times three paragraphs to even mention that the failure of the bill to pass was—only partly—because of “a solid phalanx of Republicans in opposition.” 

The real news, you see, was that two wayward Democrats, Ben Nelson and Jon Tester, did not vote with the other 51 Democrats to support the measure.

And that’s the way the Beltway Press operates, unfortunately.

Here’s the photo and caption headlining the report in the Times:

The caption reads: “Democrats have designed this bill to fail,” the Republican leader Mitch McConnell said.

So much for the “liberal” New York Times.

As for “liberal” MSNBC, here’s a screen shot from that network’s best political morning program, The Daily Rundown:

Notice the vote: 49 votes against—including all 47 Republicans.

Notice the headline: “BILL NOT SUPPORTED BY ALL DEMOCRATS

Such is the state of so-called liberal Washington journalism these days.

Roy Blunt, one of our Missouri senators, appeared on MSNBC this morning and essentially said to 14 million jobless Americans, in his best Italian: Fuhgettaboutit until after the next election.

Nothing much will get done, mused Roy, given the fact that those callous Democrats just want to play politics.  Here’s what Blunt said about President Obama:

It is clear what he’s trying to do. I have Harry Truman’s old office in the Russell Building and his desk on the floor of the Senate.  And what the President wants to do is say this is a “do nothing Congress.” What he’s forgotten is that his party controls half the Congress and he’s not giving us anything that even Democrats really want to do.

Now, if you put your ear to the ground, you just might hear the sound of Harry Truman pounding furiously on the lid of his coffin, trying to make his way to the throat of the man who gave Roy Blunt his old office and desk.

But beyond that, let’s look at what Blunt said more closely.  He alleges that Democrats control “half the Congress.”  Wrong. Given that Republicans have chosen to use the filibuster as an instrument of constant obstruction, the Democrats do not in fact control the United States Senate.  Neither party does. It is, as Blunt suggested, a paralyzed body. 

You should notice that the vote on the jobs bill was not actually a vote on the jobs bill. It was a procedural vote to see if the jobs bill could actually be “considered” by the Senate. 

And you should also notice that if the Senate were truly democratic—if majority ruled—then we would be talking today about how the Senate actually passed the jobs bill. After all, it did get 51 votes (Reid changed his vote for strategic reasons), which used to be a majority in the Senate.

Now, let’s examine Roy Blunt’s last assertion, that Mr. Obama is “not giving us anything that even Democrats really want to do.”  Notice how that fits nicely with the way the Beltway Press reported the vote in the Senate yesterday.  All along, Mitch McConnell and the Republicans have been framing Obama’s job bill as something that Democrats don’t even support.  And if you follow the news closely, you understand that is the way the thing has been reported: Obama’s real problem, don’t you know, is with Democrats.

The truth is, of course, that 51 Senate Democrats—96 percent—voted for the jobs bill, and 100 percent of Republicans, including Roy Blunt, voted against it.  Yet, the “news” is that the jobs bill represents a failure on the part of Democrats.

Get that? It’s the Democrats’ fault the thing failed.

You figure it out, because I can’t.

In the mean time, there are those 14 million unemployed Americans who can’t figure it out either.

The Plot To Kidnap The Middle Class Worked

“I feel a little bit like I’m in the twilight zone.”

Claire McCaskill, after today’s Senate vote on tax cuts

Two Senate votes this morning, one that would have extended tax cuts for all taxpayers up to $250,000, the other up to $1 million, managed to get a majority and thus should have been decisive.

But not in the Republican-controlled United States Senate.  Oh, I know the Democrats have essentially 58 members in their caucus and thus are supposed to control the Senate.  But that’s not the way it works these days, because Republicans are willing to play chicken with every vote and demand a 60-vote majority to break their filibusters.

And guess what?  It has worked time and time again.

This time, we have President Obama to thank for his substantial role in the Democrats’ failure to get the 60 votes needed to pass what a strong majority of Americans want passed.  Because of Mr. Obama’s post-election signal that he would be willing to compromise on the Bush-era tax cuts, Republicans, being of strong will, if not of sound mind, knew they could vote against tax cuts for all in both the House and the Senate unless they included all of the income of the country’s wealthiest people.

As Claire McCaskill pointed out this morning, what Republicans are saying to the country amounts to this:

If you don’t give people a tax break on their second million, no one gets one.*

Well, actually, it’s on their second, third, fourth…one hundredth…one thousandth…million and beyond. 

And because President Obama received the wrong message from the Democrats’ defeat on November 2, or because he genuinely but mistakenly believes he has the power to charm enough Republicans to work with him for the next two years, he has essentially enabled Republican kidnappers to hold the middle class hostage in exchange for what Sen. McCaskill called, “deficit-busting, China-borrowing, print-more-money” tax cuts for folks who can get along quite well without them.

Whatever the reason, Mr. Obama has seriously undermined those on his side who want to at least keep some semblance of fealty to the principles of the Democratic Party.  There are those of us who supported candidate Barack Obama who could never have dreamed of the day in which we would have to admit that, by his wavering as President of the United States, he would aid and abet the right-wing of this country in their attempt to make the world even more comfortable for millionaires and billionaires.

After the vote this morning, President Obama said he was “disappointed” in today’s vote.  Clearly, by virtue of his other remarks today, he is ready to make a deal on tax cuts in order to get Republican support for an extension of unemployment benefits and other issues being held hostage by the GOP. 

That, folks, is confirmation that the Republicans have successfully pulled off their crime and will soon be exiting the Capitol in their Rolls-Royce getaway cars, plotting their next caper.

_________________________

*Here is the context for that remark from Senator McCaskill’s post-vote speech today:

Don’t take these guys seriously about deficit reduction. Don’t take them seriously. It’s a joke.  It’s a joke. I mean, some of these people who voted “no” just now didn’t even vote for the Bush tax cuts.  Really. Some of the people who just voted no on giving a tax cut to everyone in America on their first million—some of the people who voted no didn’t even vote for the Bush tax cuts. They knew they were irresponsible at the time.  But now they have somehow tried to convince the American people that they are looking after them. 

As I said yesterday, I’ll tell you who they’re looking after. They looking after the families who are deciding which home to go to for Christmas. “Should I go to my home in Florida or my home in California or maybe up in the mountains or should I stay in the city?” Or the people who are deciding, “Where should we spend New Year’s Eve?”  “Should we go to Paris or maybe we should go to Rome for New Year’s Eve.”  They’re not focused on the folks who are trying to figure out if they can get what their kids want for Christmas…

It’s depressing to me that we’ve got to this level of posturing.  That they really are saying,”If you do not give people a tax break on their second million, then nobody gets one. ” I’m going to say it again: “If you don’t give people a tax break on their second million, nobody gets one.”  Really? 

The Case Of The Shrinking Testicles

Senator Ben Nelson, the conservative Democrat from Nebraska, in a naked attempt to save his political keister in 2012, has said he will join a Republican filibuster involving one of Obama’s nominees to the National Labor Relations Board, Craig Becker.

This is not good news for unions or American workers.  And, of course, it’s not good news for Ben Nelson, who polls show would lose to Jesus in a head to Godhead contest.

The NLRB is an extremely important agency charged with administering the National Labor Relations Act, the federal firewall protecting unions from total annihilation at the hands of employers.  Thus, conservatives and libertarians generally hate the NLRA and are suspicious of anyone a Democrat might appoint to the Board.  

In any case, the five-member Board adjudicates cases involving labor/management disputes and currently has only one member and four vacancies.  Yes. Only one. And four vacancies.

My experience with the Board was this: Under President Clinton, it was pro-labor.  Under George Bush Part Deux, it was pro-management.  Why?  Because presidents, especially ones who indisputably win elections, get to appoint members of the board. So, each president will appoint members in line with his beliefs about the utility of unions.  Doesn’t that sound reasonable?  I mean, among the many things that happens when a candidate wins an election, is that he gets to put his people in positions like serving on the NLRB.

Except that’s not what happens now that Republicans have found some potential in using filibuster steroids. 

Just like the way we have decided to call the days when Mark McGwire was using his juiced-up biceps to crush baseballs, “the steroid era,” these times will someday be known as the “filibuster era” in Senate history, with all the associated ignominy.

And one of the famous side effects of steroid use—shrinking testicles—is now evident in the Senate: Someone check Ben Nelson’s ball sack.

It’s not that Craig Becker killed anyone or called Rush a retard.  It’s that, according to Nelson, he may actually believe in all that union stuff. He may even interpret the NLRA in ways conservatives don’t like.  Imagine that!

Nelson’s lame reasons for joining the filibuster, which can be found on his website, are an example of the kind of politics that conservatives—now including conservative Democrats—are playing these days.  Here is just one example, in which Nelson quotes a 1993 Minnesota Law Review article. I will supply the emphasis:

…Becker asserted that employees should be compelled to join labor unions: it could be argued that industrial democracy should be made more like political democracy by altering the nature of the choice presented to workers in union elections. Such a reform would mandate employee representation, and the question posed on the ballot would simply be which representative.”

Just like that, Nelson turned a passive, “it could be argued,” into a emphatic, “Becker asserted.”

At this point in our stagnant politics, I don’t care if  Mr. Becker has in his basement a freezer full of  conservative carcasses, carved like chicken chunks.  Democrats, including Obama, should put up a fight for him.  Make Ben Nelson become part of the steroidal filibuster tag team by actually forcing Republicans to conduct their filibuster. 

That way all would know he was juicing up with Republicans.  Who knows, maybe someday Nelson could become a hitting coach for the Cardinals.

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