Nel's New Day

January 24, 2015

GOP Can’t Rule

Congress has become a joke. For example, a letter writer to a local newspaper stated that the new Congress can now begin its job—getting re-elected in 2016. Satirist Andy Borowitz wrote about how people with 33 weeks of paid leave a year and an annual salary of $174,000 want to stop others from having six weeks of paid leave and a higher annual salary than $15,000.

In control for less than three weeks, the GOP members of Congress have made a huge number of gaffes and failures. Even the ultra far-right Fox network is appalled at the House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Without consulting the president, Boehner asked Netanyahu to speak to Congress “on the grave threats radical Islam and Iran pose to our security and way of life”and lobby for a U.S. war on Iran by extending sanctions.

On Fox Shephard Smith read a statement from Israel Martin Indyk, former ambassador to Israel:

“Netanyahu is using the Republican Congress for a photo-op for his election campaign, and the Republicans are using Bibi for their campaign against Obama. Unfortunately, the U.S. relationship will take the hit. It would be far wiser for us to stay out of their politics and for them to stay out of ours.”

Chris Wallace agreed “100 percent” and said, “I have to say I’m shocked.” He added that the “deliberate and pretty egregious snub” smacks of “dicey politics.”

Although no one will probably prosecute Boehner, there could be grounds for doing so. The Logan Act of 1799, still in effect, prevents any unauthorized American citizen from negotiating with foreign leaders. Only the executive branch can do that. Boehner could also be guilty of sedition, inciting people to rebel against the authority of a state or monarch, with his invitation to Netanyahu. If Republicans benefit from Netanyahu’s appearance, Boehner might also be violating Federal Elections Commission law by accepting something of value from the Israeli.

Boehner’s action comes after GOP Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) pledged allegiance to Netanyahu during a trip to Israel by promising him increased U.S. sanctions on Iran. In Jerusalem, Graham said to Netanyahu, “The Congress will follow your lead.”

In their disdain for women and minorities, the Senate Republicans deleted the words “Civil Rights and Human Rights” from a key subcommittee, leaving it only the Subcommittee on the Constitution. The committee chair, John Cornyn (R-TX) made this change his first order of business. As the Washington Post wrote:

“The committee name-change comes as Republicans take control of the Senate during a pivotal moment in which much of the country remains locked in emotional conversations about race, policing, and civil rights following the high-profile police killings of several unarmed black men last year.”

It’s also a time when women fight for equal pay and reproductive rights and the Supreme Court has struck down an important part of the Voting Rights Act.

Congressional Republican members are also suffering from rifts among GOP philosophies and between the two chambers. This past week, the House pulled a bill to further destroy women’s reproductive rights by preventing abortions after 20 weeks because Boehner couldn’t muster enough Republican votes. The failed abortion bill was moved to the front of debate by a suspension of “regular order” because of its urgency. Nothing was said about abortion during the campaigns, but the GOP can now forget any job legislation.

GOP senators are also frustrated by the House focus on passing bills that cannot survive the Senate. The House legislation overturning President Obama’s executive actions giving legal status to immigrants illegally brought into the country as children or related to citizens and permanent residents is connected to funding for the Department of Homeland Security that currently expires on February 28. An unnamed GOP senator pointed out that senators tried to explain to House members the difference between the two chambers: “Look, we don’t have 60 votes. We can’t operate like the House does.” He added, “It’s going to be very difficult to achieve what the expectations are out there. Candidly, impossible.”

The 113th Congress was famous for the gridlock in Washington as the House sent bills to the Senate that could not be passed. Boehner has begun the same pattern in the 114th Congress. Tea Partier Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) told conservative lawmakers, “It’s uncanny to me that our leadership … is already sending the message that we’ve already lost this battle.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) promised to keep the amendment process open lasted only three weeks. He now justifies his recent unwillingness to let Democrats present amendments by saying, “The success of Congress is not determined on how many amendments people vote on.” The honeymoon is over.

A former committee chair, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), was well known for his indiscriminate use of aggressively issuing subpoenas. Committees are supposed to debate and vote on sending subpoenas, but Issa saved them the time—no debate and no vote. In the new Congress, at least seven House committee chairmen will have unilateral subpoena authority with no input from Democrats, allowing them to also go rogue with their abuse of power and harassment.

The despicable nature and hypocrisy of the GOP is already oozing out. across the nation. Rep. Steve King (R-IA) referred to Ana Zamora, who attended the State of the Union speech as Michelle Obama’s guest, as a “deportable.” Zamora is a student at Northwood University in Texas who was granted temporary deportation relief and work authorization through President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DREAMER) program in 2012 after being brought to the U.S. as a toddler.

Even Republicans were lukewarm about Sen. Joni Ernst’s (R-IA) response to the president’s SOTU speech, but they did like how she described her poverty as a child. Ernst omitted the fact that her family has received almost $500,000 in federal subsidies and over $200,000 in government contracts. Ernst promised to do away with federal student loans—that she used to attend college. During her first 18 years of poverty, 14 of them had Republican presidents, including Ronald Reagan’s “trickle down” economy that didn’t give her more than one pair of shoes.

Ernst whined about growing up poor in Iowa in a major speech to millions of people, but another senator, Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), grew up even more poor in Oklahoma. The contrast between the two of them is Ernst’s sense of entitlement and Warren’s humility. Ernst wants to keep people in poverty while Warren wants to help people rise above their poverty through health care, higher minimum wage, paid sick leave, unions, and closing loopholes that let the wealthy avoid their fair share of taxes.

The real losers of the last election—other than most of the people in the United States—are the Republicans who want to be moderate. Those are the centrists who would have been conservatives 25 years ago because the GOP is the most ideologically extreme since after the Civil War. An example of these moderates is Rep. Charlie Dent (R-PA). “I prefer that we avoid these very contentious social issues [such as abortion],” he said after he summarized the first three weeks’ awkwardness in the new Congress—fighting about the House speaker election, fighting over deporting children, and talking about “reportable rapes and incest for minors.” He finished, “I can’t wait until Week Four.”

Last November, Dent told his party that they could be “strong, rational and measured” without “a hysterical reaction.” Nobody paid any attention to him. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) baited a group In Defense of Christians during a keynote address so that they booed him, and Dent called his behavior “outrageous and incendiary.” After the GOP put the culture war above the economy, Dent said, “The stupidity is simply staggering.”

A group of GOP moderates called the Tuesday Group hopes to influence the party’s direction away from knee-jerk extremism. From past GOP behavior, there’s not much hope for Dent’s attempts in the 114th Congress.  Maybe they can start a new party.

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