Nel's New Day

April 6, 2017

GOP Senators ‘Break’ an Institution

The Republicans loved the filibuster. They used it to create an unprecedented blockade of President Obama’s nominees for judge and executive branch positions, leaving key positions unfilled. But that was four years ago with a Democratic president. Today, GOP Senators voted to get rid of the filibuster for the Supreme Court so that lying plagiarist 49-year-old Neil Gorsuch could be confirmed as a life-time justice. No longer does a permanent member of the Supreme Court need at least 60 bona fide votes to make law for the United States. Fifty-one votes are just fine, according to Republicans.

The decision to erase the filibuster for the Supreme Court was made less than a year since the Republicans, the majority of the 115th Congress, refused to even give a hearing to President Obama’s justice nominee, Merrick Garland. [The above cartoon is thanks to Robert Hulshof-Schmidt, husband of blogger Michael Hulshof-Schmidt.] In the past, Republicans maintained that a rule change, such as doing away with the filibuster for judges, requires a two-thirds super-majority, and that former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) decided to “break the rules to change the rules.” Over 60 percent of these senators who made these protests are still in the 115th Congress. The comments below from their opposition four years ago show that rules are in the eye of the beholder—in this case Republicans.

Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) used an example of a football game to whine that the Democratic majority just changes the rules if they don’t allow the result that they want.

Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) claimed that ditching the filibuster would be “irreparably damaging the Senate.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO) called the change four years ago a “power grab” that allows Democrats “to make decisions all on their own about every federal judge.” [Change Democrats to Republicans to show that the GOP senators did today.]

Sen. John Boozman (R-AR) described the “Senate Majority” change as “an act of desperation.”

Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC) cited the removal of the filibuster as “unchecked power by the Executive Branch” and accused the removal of the filibuster as a “way to pack the courts with judges who agree with them” with “lasting damage to bipartisanship, the Senate, and the nation.”

Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) complained about “embarking on a path that would circumvent the rights of the minority to exercise its advice and consent responsibilities provided in the Constitution.”

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) talked about her opposition to the 2005 GOP plan in erasing the filibuster, giving the majority part “unprecedented power to limit debate and block Senators from offering amendments” and opposed the Democrats taking the same action with a Democratic majority.

Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) described the change four years ago as “brute, raw force.”

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) referred to the change four years ago as “breaking the rules of the Senate in a raw exercise of partisan political power.”

Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) said that the change would “break the rules to change the rules and force through a number of executive nominations” and demanded 67 votes to change the rule

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) talked about how losing the filibuster “damaged the Senate” with “President Obama’s lawless disregard of our statutes and Constitution.”

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) claimed that weakening the filibuster will “weaken the Senate itself,” making it “more susceptible to the demands of a smaller majority.” He also called the action “incredibly short-sighted,” which could be very true in 2017.

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE) said that destroying the filibuster would “destroy the very character of the [Senate] by citing a story from Thomas Jefferson and George Washington to design the Senate  “as a deliberative body to produce thoughtful policy. The solution to Senate gridlock is not changing the rules.”

Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) called the earlier change “a sad day in the Senate when Democrats are willing to ignore 225 years of precedent.”

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) reiterated the term “raw power grab” that “washed away” the “advise and consent clause” for executive and judicial branch nominations. [Actually, Republicans buried that clause last year by refusing to consider Garland.]

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) also repeated the “naked power grab” and asked why this moment was chosen “to hand the keys to the kingdom over to the President, a President with less check on his authority.”

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) lamented the “pre-scripted parliamentary hit-and-run, over in a flash and leaving Senate tradition and practice behind like so much confirmation roadkill.”

Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV) asked whether this decision would “apply to future legislation.” [McConnell claims it won’t, but he is unreliable in the truth sector.] Heller expressed his concern about protecting his state from a majority decision to move nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain. He should remain concerned.

Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) wanted to take a measured approach because “to break the rules means you have no rules.”

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) commented that overturning the filibuster “made the Senate’s constitutional role to advise and consent on nominations merely ceremonial.”

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) declared that the result would be “a runaway Senate” much like “a runaway House” and “that’s not good for the country.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) decried that “the rules are being changed in the middle of the game” in “a partisan political grab.” Republicans are specialists in doing this.

Mike Lee (R-UT) said that changing the filibuster “serves no other purpose than to stymie the rights of the American people to have their voices heard.”

Sen John McCain (R-AZ) declaimed:

“I feel this is a dark day for the Senate. I don’t know how we can get out of it. It is the biggest rules change — certainly since I have been in the Senate, maybe my lifetime, and maybe in the history of the Senate — where it has changed by a simple majority by overruling the Chair…. Senator Reid says: I appeal the ruling of the Chair. I ask my colleagues in the Senate to overrule the rules of the Senate, by a simple majority vote, to overrule the Parliamentarian and the Presiding Officer of the Senate. This is what happened. When our rules say to change the rules of the Senate, it takes a two-thirds vote.”

Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that without the filibuster that “advice and consent” means “nothing.”

Jerry Moran (R-KS) complained about breaking Senate rules.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) was “saddened” more than angered because the “change will fundamentally alter our operations and lead us to being a less tempered body.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) called the action bullying and breaking the rules and hundreds of years of precedent, “causing ore discord and disharmony.”

Jim Risch (R-ID) predicted that “the rule changes will have far ranging implications for the United States Senate and our democracy. “

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) claimed that “our rules have always ensured a voice for the minority in this body” and “cannot be changed without their consent — unless, of course, the majority decides it wants to break the rules to change the rules.”

Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) said that the change will “carry implications.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL) said, “If Democrats think that they deserve more power, they should earn it from voters at the polls in 2014, not swipe it with a drastic rule change in the Senate today.”

Sen.  John Thune (R-SD) also complained about breaking the rules of the Senate.

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-MS) described the change as “raw abuse of power” and “purely partisan efforts” that tarnished the integrity of the institution by ignoring 225 years of precedent and trampling the rights of the minority party and the millions of Americans we represent.”

In addition, a former senator called the change a “sad day” when the majority caused “the greatest alteration of the rules without proper procedure that we have probably seen in the history of the Republic.” That former senator is now Donald Trump’s Attorney General.

By removing the filibuster for Supreme Court justices, the Senate has encouraged presidents to pick ideologically extreme nominees, further politicizing the highest court in the nation. For many people, the Senate decision may be a blip on the disastrous media coming from the new rule of Dictator Donald Trump, including possible war with North Korea and Syria, but 55 Senators have voted to allow an unethical judge to make decisions for everyone in the United States for a possible up-coming 40 years. According to their own words, the Republicans have “broken” the Senate.

July 20, 2016

GOP Platform Goes Back to 19th Century

Republicans love to talk about the importance of following the U.S. Constitution being the party of Lincoln. Judges and legislation are bound by the Constitution. This year the platform of the self-proclaimed party of Lincoln has seven pages—ten percent of the content—in a section called “A Rebirth of Constitutional Government” (aka revisionist constitutional theory).

This section of the GOP platform proclaims that government exists to protect “God-given, natural rights”; in any difference of opinion, God wins. One of these God-given “inalienable right that predates the Constitution” is “the right of individuals to keep and bear arms” as “a natural inalienable right that predates the Constitution.” Another God-given rights are “to devote resources to whatever cause or candidate one supports” (such as influencing elections), influence elections), to “set their own membership standards” free from anti-discrimination laws, and the “freedom of Americans to act in accordance with their religious beliefs” often when those beliefs call for defiance of the law, as examples of rights that are “not given to us by the government but are rights we inherently possess.”

The platform gets worse by completely invalidating  the U.S. Constitution. “The government cannot use subsequent amendments to limit First Amendment rights.” Thus the GOP repudiates the way that legislators and judges are bound by the Constitution. Republican position is that Congress cannot propose and states cannot ratify, for example, a constitutional amendment overruling the Supreme Court’s campaign finance decision in Citizens United v. FEC, the Republican Party’s position is that this amendment would be null and void.

“Inalienable” means “impossible to take away or give up.” Therefore Republicans state that rights that they consider inalienable cannot be changed through constitutional process and no more amendments with the slightest connection to the First Amendment—religion, free speech, and financing—can be made.  Also “the unborn child” has an “inalienable right to life … which cannot be infringed.”

Stephen Rosenfeld has culled these excerpts from the 2016 GOP platform.

  1. Tax cuts for the rich.
  2. Bank deregulation.
  3. Elimination of consumer protection.
  4. Repeal of environmental laws.
  5. Shrinking unions and union labor.
  6. Privatization of federal railway service.
  7. Freezing or elimination of federal minimum wage.
  8. Cuts in government salaries and benefits.
  9. Appointment of only anti-choice Supreme Court justices.
  10. Appointment of only anti-LGBT and anti-Obamacare justices.
  11. Legalization of anti-LGBT discrimination.
  12. Christianity as a national religion.
  13. Greater campaign finance loopholes and dark money.
  14. Eliminate gun controls nationwide.
  15. An anti-choice constitutional amendment.
  16. Elimination of federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
  17. Permission to states in closure of abortion clinics.
  18. Opposition to stem cell scientific research.
  19. Condemnation of executive branch policy making.
  20. Retention of the electoral college.
  21. Requirement of citizenship documents for voter registration.
  22. Drawing congressional districts without consideration of undocumented immigrants.
  23. No labeling of GMO ingredients in food products.
  24. Work requirements for welfare recipients and cuts in food stamps.
  25. More oil and gas drilling on U.S. shores.
  26. Completion of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
  27. Expansion of fracking and burying nuclear waste.
  28. No tax on carbon products.
  29. Disregard of global climate change agreements.
  30. Privatization of Medicare.
  31. State administration of Medicaid.
  32. No increase of Social Security benefits by taxing the rich.
  33. Repeal of Obamacare.
  34. Monopoly control by internet service providers.
  35. English as the official U.S. language.
  36. No amnesty for undocumented immigrants.
  37. Wall along U.S./Mexico border to keep immigrants out.
  38. Government verification of citizenship of all workers.
  39. Penalties for cities giving sanctuary to migrants.
  40. Puerto Rico a state but not Washington DC.
  41. Support of traditional marriage but no other families.
  42. Privatization of government services to fight poverty.
  43. Mandatory bible study in public schools.
  44. Replacement of public schools with privatized options.
  45. Permission of abstinence-only approaches in sex education.
  46. Privatized student loans without lowering interest rates.
  47. Restoration of the death penalty.
  48. Dramatic increase in the Pentagon budget.
  49. Cancelation of Iran nuclear treaty and expansion of U.S. nuclear arsenal.
  50. Reaffirmation support for Israel and elimination of sanctions movement as anti-Semitic.

And that’s just a few of the issues covered in the platform. The GOP shows itself to be pro-rape, pro-gold standard, and pro-“right-to-work” while being anti-national parks and anti-mass transit.

The less rabid members of the Republican party who don’t follow all these positions blithely say that no one reads the platform or pays any attention. Yet the platform is the wish list of GOP leaders for Congress; it’s what they think they want to do to the United States. This platform calls for a drastic military buildup when a large percentage of taxes already goes to the Pentagon. This policy, combined with the massive tax cuts that they call for, follows the first term of George W. Bush which led to trillions of dollars in deficit and a recession that still hurts the nation’s economy.

In his speech tonight, GOP VP candidate, Mike Pence, called for the appointment of Supreme Court justices who will uphold the constitution, but the platform calls for justices who follow the GOP platform. During the convention, speakers consistently maintained that there is nothing progressive about the Democratic party, that it is the GOP that wants to move forward. In many ways, however, the platform resembles the conservative position of the mid-1800s except conservatives 150 years ago didn’t oppose abortion and immigration.

The theme of Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R-TX) speech tonight is that “freedom matters.” He’s right, but his party’s platform wants to take away freedom for many people in the United States—no freedom for LGBT people to have the same rights as heterosexual people, no freedom for women to have reproductive health care, no freedom from poverty and illness, no freedom to have clean water and air, no freedom for equal internet use, no freedom for people with any skin color to travel safely wherever they want, no freedom for people other than strict “Christians.” In short, no freedom for all—just the entitled.

Of course, Cruz was booed at the end of his speech for not endorsing  Donald Trump after he said that people should not stay away from the election in the fall and that they should vote their conviction. Then Cruz’s wife, Heidi, was escorted from the floor for her own safety. So much for GOP unity. Or maybe the entire situation was a set-up so that Cruz would make Mike Pence, who followed Cruz, look good.

As far as the platform and Donald Trump, however, anyone with sense knows that Trump won’t even read it—and he certainly won’t pay any attention to it. He only wants a wall between the United States and Mexico.

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