The deal that Trump suddenly struck with Democratic leaders Senator Chuck Schumer and Representative Nancy Pelosi is at once promising and perilous. It is promising in that it avoided, at least for the time being, the twin disasters of a government default (failure to increase the debt ceiling) and a government shutdown (failure to approve[…]
There is a broad consensus that Hillary Clinton won the Democratic “Debate.” We put the term in quotes because the event resembled not so much a debate as a joint press conference. With that qualification, we would not quarrel with the assessment that Ms. Clinton performed well and no doubt solidified her status as a front-runner. It is not that the other participants did poorly: they all seemed knowledgeable and well prepared, there were no egregious misstatements, and the event was happily free of personal sniping. Yet none of the others had the kind of breakout moment that each must have hoped for. All in all, the range of the conversation was, with few exceptions, from center left to far left and the interrogators asked few probing questions to get below the surface.
Given the cornucopia of commentary, we thought the most interesting exercise might be to note some questions that we hope might be asked in the next round. (The questions involve issues that Republican candidates will also have to address sooner or later.) […]
It is still early days, but there are some encouraging signs that Republican leaders in the Senate and House have found the ability to get things done—actually legislate—despite Democratic opposition and the Oozlums of the right gnawing at their ankles.
The first major milestone came two months ago when Republicans abandoned the quixotic attempt to block the President’s executive actions with respect to immigration. While we had disapproved of those actions, the response of holding up funding for Homeland Security seemed to us to make as much sense as treating a toothache by hitting yourself on the head with a hammer. […]
The 2014 elections produced an outpouring of commentary and analyses from the Cacophony of Pundits (Cf. Pride of Lions, Murder of Crows). The products of the Cacophony began with explanations to why the elections came out as they did and proceeded to consider the prospects for cooperation between President and Congress going forward. Given the volume of the punditry, it may be difficult to provide observations that readers will not have already come across somewhere else. Nevertheless, we will attempt to provide, as briefly as possible, our own perspectives. […]
On a recurring basis a rather troubling vision comes to mind. It is a reprise of that night on August 11, 2011 when Bret Baier said to the assembled candidates:
“I’m going to ask a question to everyone here on the stage. Say you had a deal, a real spending cuts deal, 10-to-1, as Byron [York] said, spending cuts to tax increases…. Who on this stage would walk away from that deal? Can you raise your hand if you feel so strongly about not raising taxes, you’d walk away on the 10-to-1 deal?”
All eight candidates dutifully raised their hand. It was then, if not before, that the image of Mitt Romney as human pretzel began to form. […]
Tuesday was a good day for the Republican Party because it brought the resounding victory of Governor Chris Christie. Christie demonstrated convincingly that, even in a decidedly “blue” state, a Republican can win with an appeal that crosses economic and ethnic boundaries. As the Wall Street Journal argued, Christie is a “conservative” and not a “moderate:”
The Governor has by and large governed as a conservative reformer. He vetoed a tax increase on millionaires and capped property taxes. He pushed tenure reforms that will make it easier to fire bad teachers, and he extracted far more pension reform out of a Democratic legislature than did Democratic Governors Jerry Brown in California or Andrew Cuomo in New York.
Senator Patty Murray and Representative Paul Ryan have drawn the short straws: they chair the Conference Committee that is charged with reaching a budget agreement that will avert a second round of crises over a government shutdown (January 15) or a collision with the debt ceiling (February 7). The entire committee, totaling 29, consists of the entire Senate Budget Committee (12 Democrats and 10 Republicans) and 7 House members (4 Republicans, 3 Democrats).
No one, it is fair to say, is overly optimistic about the outcome. If the Grinch does not steal Christmas, he will be hovering not far away. It is a positive sign that Senator McConnell has expressly ruled out the use of a shutdown, and by implication a threat of default, as bargaining chips. As he put it rather colorfully, “One of my favorite sayings is an old Kentucky saying, ‘There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.’ ” Nevertheless, Ted Cruz and his cohorts in the Senate, and the Tea Party Oozlums in the House appear to have an appetite for mule kicks that is not easily satisfied. Moreover, the Conference Committee itself is hardly lacking in gritty conservatives: 9 of the 14 Republicans, including Ryan, voted against the bill that ended the just concluded crisis. (As noted in a prior blog, however, their votes were “free” in the sense that they were not required for the passage of the bill and may not reflect a tolerance for shutdown or default.) […]
The latest episode of our Washington soap opera descended into self-parody, recalling Carol Burnett’s classic “As the Stomach Turns.” Faithful to the formula, the episode ended with the major characters surviving but faced with dire predicaments just ahead. So it was with the bill finally passed by the Senate and House to end the government shutdown and the threat of imminent default. The crisis is over, but not for long: the operation of the government has been continued only through January 15 and the debt ceiling suspended only through February 7.
The most popular phrase to describe Wednesday night’s Congressional action is “kicking the can down the road.” If the beloved William Safire were still among us, he would no doubt enlighten us as to the origin of what has now become a cliché. In Safire’s absence, Timothy Noah of New Republic used Nexis to trace the term back to arms control discussions in the eighties. Noah suggested that kicking the can down the road had not been a bad idea in the earlier context and, writing last January, argued that it might even be the best approach to the budget deficit. Indeed, even in the most recent crisis it was certainly preferable to allowing a government default or even prolonging further the shutdown. But surely enough is enough. Lurching from crisis to crisis is not only a distraction from addressing other important issues, it also deepens public cynicism, and exacts a toll on the economy when we can ill-afford such a burden. That toll could be dubbed most fittingly “The Tea Party Tax” (or in the lexicon of RINOcracy.com, “The Oozlum Tax”). […]
Ted Cruz and the Oozlums have worked their will and the government has shutdown, at least in substantial part. (Newcomers to RINOcracy.com see Blog No. 12 for a definition of Oozlums.) Ironically, owing to the structure of appropriations laws, and arcane interpretations of the Anti-Deficiency Act, one part of the government that will not shutdown is…Obamacare. But elsewhere pain aplenty there will be.
Blog No 12 pointed out that a neither a shutdown, nor a default precipitated by a failure to raise the debt ceiling, are likely to escape punishment by the financial markets. Evidence of that result has already begun to accumulate. The losses in the stock market have thus far been manageable, but if the shutdown continues very long, or as the specter of default draws closer, the financial consequences will inevitably become more severe. At that point, Senator Cruz and the Oozlums will be widely recognized for their accomplishments as Wealthbusters. […]
Issues involving race often provoke strong emotions that make them difficult to discuss. Republicans know that difficulty full well. Although, as we sometimes remind ourselves, our party is “The Party of Lincoln,” we are too often seen as insensitive or even hostile to the rights and aspirations of minorities. Needless to say, Democrats work hard to reinforce that impression and it is an impression that can be costly at the ballot box. Taking thoughtful and constructive positions on racial issues is not only an ingredient of responsible governance, but clearly has electoral consequences. As conservative columnist Ross Douthat recently wrote: […]