GOP Agenda

10 things you need to know today: June 1, 2015

(AP Photo/Cliff Owen)


1.Controversial bulk-surveillance program expires
The government’s authority to collect bulk phone records expired at 12:01 a.m. Monday after Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) blocked an extension of parts of the Patriot Act. “We can still catch terrorists using the Constitution,” Paul said. The Senate began debate on a bill that would revive a limited version of the National Security Agency’s controversial bulk data collection programs, shifting phone-record storage from the government to phone companies. The House passed its version of the bill last month.

Source: The New York Times, CBS News

2.Lindsey Graham joins a crowded GOP presidential field
Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) plans to announce Monday that he will run for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination. Graham in January launched an exploratory committee he called “Security Through Strength.” He is a military hawk, but conservatives in the GOP have criticized him for being too liberal. He joins an increasingly crowded Republican field as an underdog, as he scores in the low single digits in the latest polls.

Source: The Washington Post

3.Obamas visit Biden after his son’s death
President Obama visited Vice President Joe Biden and his family on Sunday to express condolences for the death of Biden’s eldest son, Beau. The president and first lady canceled a Sunday reception at the White House to pay their respects. The younger Biden died Saturday from a recurrence of brain cancer. He was 46. Beau Biden served as attorney general of Delaware for eight years, and had planned to run for governor before his health problems emerged. He had a mild stroke in 2010 before his cancer was diagnosed in 2013.

Source: Reuters

4.College drops Hastert’s name from government and economics center
Ex-House speaker Dennis Hastert’s alma mater, Wheaton College, announced Sunday that it was removing his name from its government and economics center. The move came following Hastert’s indictment last Thursday on charges that he lied to the FBI as part of an effort to hide $3.5 million in hush money he allegedly paid someone to cover up sexual molestation claims. The misconduct allegedly occurred when Hastert, an Illinois Republican, was a high school wrestling coach and teacher.

Source: Chicago Tribune

5.Baltimore’s homicides rise to highest level in 43 years
Three fatal shootings on Sunday made May the deadliest month in Baltimore in more than four decades. The city had 43 homicides in the month, the most since August 1972, when there were 45. Baltimore experienced a surge in killings in May as the number of arrests dropped sharply. Some observers attributed the changes to heightened scrutiny of the city’s police after the death of Freddie Gray, who was injured in custody. His death provoked protests and rioting.

Source: Reuters

6.Beijing smoking ban takes effect
Beijing launched an ambitious new smoking ban on Monday, prohibiting people in the Chinese capital from lighting up in restaurants, office buildings, and public transportation. Individual violators will be fined 200 yuan ($32). Businesses that allow smoking will pay up to 10,000 yuan ($1,600). After three violations, public smokers will be shamed on a government website. The World Health Organization’s Beijing representative called the ban a “major advance” in tobacco control. A previous ban in 2008 was widely ignored.

Source: CNN

7.92-year-old becomes oldest woman to finish a marathon
Harriette Thompson, 92, on Sunday became the oldest woman ever to finish a marathon. Thompson — a Charlotte, N.C., grandmother of 10 — crossed the finish line of the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon in 7 hours, 24 minutes, and 36 seconds. She was met by confetti cannons at the end of the 26.2-mile race. “I can’t believe I made it!” she said. “Around Mile 21, I was going up a hill and it was like a mountain, and I was thinking, ‘This is sort of crazy at my age.’ But then I felt better coming down the hill.”

Source: The Charlotte Observer

8.Bob Schieffer hosts his last Face the Nation broadcast
Bob Schieffer on Sunday ended his 24-year run as host of the CBS News’Face the Nation, which he called “the best job in the world.” The 78-year-old anchor, after more than half a century in journalism, thanked his viewers before signing off. “I’ll be honest. I’m going to miss being in the middle of things,” he said, “but the one thing I will never forget is the trust you placed in me and how nice you were to have me as a guest in your home over so many years.” CBS political director John Dickerson will replace him.

Source: Face the Nation, Entertainment Weekly

9. Friday the 13th actress dies
Actress Betsy Palmer, who played the killer camp cook in Friday the 13th, has died in hospice care at age 88. Palmer had roles in many films, Broadway productions, and TV shows over a career spanning decades before playing Mrs. Voorhees in the campy 1980 horror film, in which young camp counselors were murdered one after the other. Her character was the mother of Jason Voorhees, who had died at the camp years earlier and would come back to life in several sequels.

Source: The Associated Press

10.San Andreas gives actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson his biggest opening yet
San Andreas raked in more than $53 million at the box officer over the weekend, crushing the competition. It was the biggest opening gross ever for a film with former professional wrestler Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as solo leading man — rather than as a member as an ensemble cast as he was in Furious 7.  The massive opening for the earthquake disaster film came despite a weak start in Thursday previews, where it earned just $3 million.

Source: The Oregonian, Seeking Alpha

Top Republicans pretty sure they don’t like Iran deal, whatever it is

Mushroom cloud from a nuclear bomb

Don’t worry, that’s just Tom Cotton formulating his opinion | attribution: Dreamstime

Daily Kos

The Republican reaction to the seemingly very good news that we will not be needing to bomb Iran quite just yet, as told in tweets.

Cotton: “There is no nuclear deal or framework with Iran; there is only a list of dangerous U.S. concessions”…

If you were watching Fox News right now, as I am, you would have no idea the president just announced a major deal with Iran. None.

.@SenatorKirk says of the #IranDeal: “Neville Chamberlain got a better deal from Adolf Hitler.”

Fox News is talking about melanoma, Indiana LGBT law and visiting Cuba. I’ve watched two blocks and haven’t heard the word “Iran” yet.

Arizona’s @RepMattSalmon on framework of Iran nuke deal: “Today, it sounds like we’ve set ourselves on a disgraceful path.”

.@marcorubio says initial details on Iran deal “appear to be very troubling.”…

Fox News reporting on the change in McDonalds grilled chicken recipe. Still no Iran.

Congress must be allowed to fully review details of any #Iran agreement before any sanctions are lifted… #IranTalks

To be fair, now Fox News is talking about the Iran deal. To criticize it.

All right, so that’s one Hitler reference and some breaking chicken sandwich news. Glad we got that cleared up.

Mike Pence flip-flops on Indiana’s license-to-discriminate law, says it ‘doesn’t need to be fixed’

U.S. Representative Mike Pence (R-IN) looks at his notes before a news conference about the goal of permanently extending Bush-era tax rates at the U.S. Capitol in Washington December 2, 2010. Pence told reporters on Thursday his view on stripping the Fed

“Fix? It don’t need no stinkin’ fix.” | attribution: REUTERS

Daily Kos

At Tuesday’s train wreck of a press conference to defend Indiana’s new license-to-discriminate law, Gov. Mike Pence spent nearly 45 minutes alternating between lies, whining and complaints about being smeared, but he also guaranteed that this law would be fixed:

Let me say I believe this is a clarification, but it’s also a fix … I think it’s important that we take this action this week.

And yet just hours later, Pence scurried over to Fox News to assure Sean Hannity:

Well look, I stand by this law, uh, the law doesn’t need to be fixed, we need to fix the perception.

So there you have it. At least until the next time Pence talks to a non-Fox audience.

GOP’s New Kamikaze Plan: Punish Doctors If Obamacare Isn’t Chopped


AP Photo / J. Scott Applewhite

No words…


House Republicans have a bold new strategy to attack Obamacare, which involves huge pay cuts for physicians unless Democrats agree to delay the law’s individual mandate to buy insurance.

GOP leaders intend to vote on legislation this week, aides say, to delay the individual mandate in order to fund a “doc fix” that avoids a 24 percent pay cut to physicians under Medicare — which will automatically take effect on April 1 unless Congress acts. Inaction would disrupt the health care system, in part by causing many doctors to stop accepting Medicare patients.

The strategy is unlikely to succeed and could backfire on Republicans. Delaying the individual mandate is a nonstarter for the Democratic-led Senate and White House. By demanding a largely partisan unraveling of Obamacare in exchange for must-pass bipartisan legislation, they risk being blamed by seniors and the health care industry if the doctor pay cuts go into effect. When Republicans insisted on such an approach for federal funding last fall, the governmentshut down and they took most of the blame.

“This bill represents a new low, even for House Republicans,” fumed Drew Hammill, a spokesman for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), who decried the plan as “irresponsible and dangerous” and promised it’d be a “legislative dead-end.”

The House voted last week to delay the individual mandate for one year. It was the GOP-led chamber’s 50th vote to repeal or dismantle Obamacare. The doc fix is a lose-lose dilemma because it requires offsets simply to maintain the status quo, and imposing cuts to influential industry players like hospitals or drug companies is problematic in an election year. It’s plausible that Republicans won’t insist on the mandate delay if their bill stalls, and may be willing to look elsewhere for offsets to patch the cuts.

“It gives them an easy off ramp to a patch while still saying they tried,” said a health industry lobbyist and former congressional Republican aide.

A bit of background: in 1997, Congress enacted a formula to limit Medicare reimbursement rates to physicians, known as the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR). Starting in 2002, it began imposing significant cuts to doctor payments. Congress responded by routinely passing short-term patches to stave off the cuts (and instead giving doctors pay raises), usually by cutting health care spending elsewhere. There is virtually unanimous agreement in Congress that the cuts shouldn’t go into effect, but the formula remains in place because replacing it with a bipartisan alternative would cost a whopping $138 billion over a decade.

Rep. Mike Conaway (R-TX) said Thursday that the House bill will “replace the flawed SGR formula” and be “completely paid-for.” A one-year mandate delay would save the federal government $9 billion, according to the Congressional Budget Office, so that alone won’t suffice. Conway said that “the specifics of the pay-for have not yet been finalized.”

In recent months, there has been some hope that Congress will finally replace SGR with a more viable formula because the price tag has fallen dramatically from $300 billion, where it was in recent years. The American Medical Association, an influential physicians group, has been aggressively lobbying Congress for a permanent fix. But finding $138 billion in savings that can pass a Congress this divided remains a tall order, especially by the end of this month. Many believe short-term patches are inevitable for the foreseeable future.

The Republicans’ latest strategy is actually a step away from bipartisan negotiations for a fix.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) warned that the Senate would reject a bill that chops the individual mandate, and said the GOP’s approach makes it harder to fix the SGR problem in time. “Obviously there hasn’t been agreement [to roll back the mandate] in the past,” he said, “and if we use that as a pay-for, it seems to me it puts at risk meeting the March 31 deadline.”


GOP’s 2014 – 2016 Agenda

Mario Piperni

I have no doubt that the actual chalkboard at a GOP strategy session looks much like the one depicted above. It is clear enough to anyone that’s been following the right’s clown show that Republicans have no desire to govern for the next three years. It’s all about obstructing and dismantling and what they can’t get done at the federal level, they’ll try to implement at the state level. They’ve already accomplished much with voter suppression and anti-choice laws in red states…but here’s a bit of good news breaking out of Texas.

A federal judge in Texas on Monday blocked an important part of the state’s restrictive new abortion law, which would have required doctors performing the procedure to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

The decision, one day before the provision was to take effect, prevented a major disruption of the abortion clinics in Texas. It was a victory for abortion rights groups and clinics that said the measure served no medical purpose and could force as many as one-third of the state’s 36 abortion clinics to close.

Nice but you know that this is going to end up in the Supreme Court soon enough. The crazy people refuse to take no for an answer.




The Huffington Post

144 Republicans Vote For Shutdown & Default… SURPRISE! Conservatives Rally Around Boehner… Senate GOP Leadership SPLIT… Cruz: ‘A Terrible Deal’… McConnell Sneaks In Earmark… POLL: Tea Party Hits New Low…

The government shutdown is dead. Obamacare is alive.

The Senate voted 81 to 18 Wednesday night to reopen the federal government and raise the nation’s borrowing limit, hours before the Treasury Department faced the possibility of being unable to pay all of America’s bills for the first time in modern history.

The House followed suit, voting 285-144, to end the latest damaging battle of divided government in a polarized Congress.

President Barack Obama signed the legislation early Thursday. He said he would reopen the government immediately to “lift this cloud of uncertainty and unease” that settled on the nation and start fixing the damage.

“There is a lot of work ahead of us, including our need to earn back the trust of the American people that has been lost over the last few weeks,” Obama said in a brief speech at the White House.

The standoff began over the summer, when tea party Republicans, led by Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, demanded that the House of Representatives lock government funding in a chokehold unless Democrats and Obama defunded  the Affordable Care Act.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said no, at first. But he later gave in, ignoring the advice of other Republicans, from Mitt Romney to John McCain (Ariz.) and Tom Coburn (Okla.).

Democrats opted for defend over defund, with Obama declaring he would not negotiate over his signature law, the budget or the debt while Republicans were holding hostages.

It set up 16 days of furloughed federal workers, closed parks, halted safety inspections, and the estimated loss of $24 billion in economic activity. The ugly headlines overshadowed the bumpy rollout of Obamacare.

Boehner and the tea party were finally forced to release their grip Wednesday by a bipartisan coalition in the U.S. Senate that said enough is enough, and the looming deadline of potential default starting Thursday.

“The House has fought with everything it has to convince the president of the United States to engage in bipartisan negotiations aimed at addressing our country’s debt and providing fairness for the American people under ObamaCare,” Boehner said after he finally waved the white flag. “That fight will continue. But blocking the bipartisan agreement reached today by the members of the Senate will not be a tactic for us.”

All that Republicans got for the bruising battle was a fig leaf provision on Obamacare and record low approval ratings.

The bill agreed upon by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will fund the government through Jan. 15 and extend the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling through Feb. 7. It also includes back pay for unpaid and furloughed federal workers and an agreement that both chambers would open a budget conference committee for the first time in years.

The lone change to Obamacare was minimal, and Democrats said they liked it. It involves putting tighter restrictions on income verification standards for people receiving subsidies in the Affordable Care Act’s new insurance marketplaces. It was a far cry from defunding or delaying the law, as many Republicans conceded the strategy to focus the fight on Obamacare had been wrong from the start.

Republicans did notch a significant victory in the final deal. It funds the government until mid-January at the sequestration levels specified by the 2011 Budget Control Act that ended the last debt showdown. But Republicans had won that concession from Democrats weeks before the House set out on its doomed effort to strangle Obamacare.

“The sad truth is, we ended up where we started,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.). “We achieved our goal, but at a cost. It never should have been this way.”

Cruz grabbed one final moment in the spotlight, railing on the Senate floor against letting the Treasury Department pay the debts Congress has run up and putting federal workers back on the job.

“This is a terrible deal,” Cruz said. “This deal embodies everything about the Washington establishment that frustrates the American people.”

But even as Cruz spoke, he conceded defeat by accurately predicting the bill would pass “by a big margin,” and accused his Senate colleagues of abandoning House Republicans in the fight against Obamacare.

“I ask you to imagine a world in which Senate Republicans united to support House Republicans,” Cruz said. “It is heartbreaking to the American people that Senate Republicans divided as they did and decided to direct their criticism, direct their attention, direct their cannon fire at House Republicans and at those standing with the American people.”

“They became the Air Force bombing our own troops — bombing House Republicans, bombing conservatives,” Cruz said.

One of Cruz’s top GOP critics, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), countered later that the Texan’s strategy is what did the damage to their party.

“The one thing that politicians want is approval from the people. They strongly disapprove of all of us — they just disapprove of the Republicans more,” McCain said. “So hopefully we learned the lesson not to do this. This is a hard blow to the Republican Party. We’ve got a real task ahead of us to dig ourselves out.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) voted with Cruz, but nevertheless said he thought the fiasco had been entirely predictable because it was obvious Democrats and the president would never end Obamacare, and they control two of the three relevant parts of government. He had a tart piece of advice for Cruz and others: “Have a coordinated strategy that’s based on reality rather than one that’s not.”

Obama promised to keep his pledge to negotiate once the crisis ended, and focused on the budget conference as the opportunity. “We now have an opportunity to focus on a sensible budget that is responsible, that is fair, and that helps hardworking people all across this country,” he said.

Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), the House Appropriations Committee chair and a veteran lawmaker who has long bemoaned the abandonment of regular legislative procedures, sounded nearly as eager as Obama for the budget conference, which he has sought within his own conference.

“It’s time to take the threat of default off the table,” Rogers said before the measure passed in the House. “It’s time to restore some sanity to this place, to do this we all have to give a little.”


Pat Toomey: Background Checks Died Because GOP Didn’t Want To Help Obama

Pat Toomey Background Checks

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) blamed partisan politics for the failure of his bipartisan push to expand background checks for gun sales. (Photo by Jeff Fusco/Getty Images)

Most folks knew this since Robert Draper’s book came out.  It’s not often that a GOP Senator spills the beans in this way though.  Bravo Sen. Toomey…

The Huffington Post

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) revealed that some members of his party opposed expanding background checks for gun sales recently because they didn’t want to “be seen helping the president.”

Two weeks ago, only three Republican senators voted for the bipartisan background checks amendment sponsored by Toomey and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), despite overwhelming popular support for such a measure.

“In the end it didn’t pass because we’re so politicized. There were some on my side who did not want to be seen helping the president do something he wanted to get done, just because the president wanted to do it,” Toomey admitted on Tuesday in an interview with Digital First Media editors in the offices of the Times Herald newspaper in Norristown, Pa.

The Times Herald noted that in “subsequent comments,” Toomey “tried to walk that remark part-way back by noting he meant to say Republicans across the nation in general, not just those in the Senate.”

Last week, Toomey placed more of the blame on the president himself, telling the Morning Call, “I would suggest the administration brought this on themselves. I think the president ran his re-election campaign in a divisive way. He divided Americans. He was using resentment of some Americans toward others to generate support for himself.”

Manchin has argued, however, that the National Rifle Association’s decision to score the vote was the main reason the compromise amendment on background checks failed. Without it, he believed, 70 senators — well above the 60-vote threshold needed for passage — would have supported it.

Opponents also pushed a significant amount of misinformation before the vote, including the myth that the legislation would lead to a federal gun registry. In fact, the bill would have made the creation of such a registry a felony carrying a prison sentence of up to 15 years.

Toomey was pessimistic on Tuesday about the prospects of gun legislation moving forward, saying it’s “not likely to happen any time soon.”

“The bill is available right now and Sen. (Majority leader Harry) Reid could bring it up for a vote at any time, but we need five people to change their minds,” he said.

Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and other lawmakers who voted against the background checks legislation have seen drops in their poll numbers since opposing the legislation.

Toomey, on the other hand, has seen his poll numbers rise.


Worried Too Many Minorities Are Voting Republicans Try To Rollback the Constitution to 1913


Seems like an effort in  futility to me.  This demonstrates yet again, the GOP’s constant folly of walking the thin line between optimism and delusion


A group state representatives in Georgia are proposing a resolution that would ask Congress to begin the process of repealing the 17th Amendment, which provides for the direct election of U.S. Senators.

One of the representatives behind this effort, Rep. Kevin Cooke said, “It’s a way we would again have our voice heard in the federal government, a way that doesn’t exist now. This isn’t an idea of mine. This was what James Madison was writing. This would be a restoration of the Constitution, about how government is supposed to work. The fact that this coincides with the 100th anniversary gives us a pretty good snapshot of what has happened to the federal government since then. The federal government has grown exponentially since the amendment was ratified. This would restore the constitution to what it was in 1913.”

Of course, this isn’t really about states’ rights or the intentions of the Founders. The movement to take away the people’s right to directly elect their senators is about keeping Republicans in power. A recent PPP poll of Georgia found that if Max Cleland could be talked into running for his old Senate seat in the state, he would lead each of the top five Republican contenders. If the Democratic candidate is Rep. John Barrow, he would trail the Republican nominee by an average of four tenths of a point. Depending on who the Republicans nominate, the Democrats may have a chance at picking up a Senate seat in Georgia.

The idea of repealing the 17th Amendment is just the latest extreme example of how far Republicans are willing to go in order to hold on to power. Instead of trying to appeal to the changing face of the electorate, a group of Republicans would rather takeaway the popular election of United States senators. 

Georgia’s demographics are changing quickly. People of color make up more than 40% of the state’s population. There is also an age gap, as 73.2% of Georgia residents over age 60 are white, but only 46.9% of the state’s school age children are white. The electorate in Georgia is shifting towards the Democratic Party.

Instead of changing with the times, some state Republicans have decided that the answer to their problems is to roll back the constitution to 1913.
Why stop at 1913? If they really want to hold off the demographic wave, they should also seek to repeal the 13th Amendment.

After all, the Founding Fathers also intended for slavery to be legal too.

BIll Maher Obliterates the Republican Lie that Obama Hasn’t Created Any Jobs


When Republican consultant David Avella tried to push the lie that Obama has not created any jobs, he was completely destroyed by Bill Maher and Howard Dean.

Here is the video:

David Avella of GOPAC tried to spread the Republican myth that Obama has not created any jobs, but Bill Maher called him out on it.

Maher said, “That’s not true. That’s just a lie. What are you talking about he hasn’t created any jobs?” Avella said that there are no net new jobs since he started his administration. Maher responded because he started from the hole, but Avella interrupted him and expressed the Republican point of view that it doesn’t matter how many jobs were lost before Obama took office. Maher said the Republican no net new jobs meme is categorically untrue.

Panelist Howard Dean jumped into the conversation and said, “This is like listening to Paul Ryan on the budget. It’s ridiculous. They were going like that. Finally, they leveled off. After what Bush did which was borrow us into oblivion. From the bottom of the recession, there’s about five or six million new jobs created under Barack Obama. Is it enough? No, we need to do more stuff. I think we ought to put the old campaign behind us and talk about the new one.” Maher built on Dean’s point, “Also this week, if Mitt Romney had been taking the oath this week, he would be taking credit now for the news we got this week. Housing starts are up. Stock market is way up. Unemployment claims are way down. He’s the worst socialist ever, this Obama.”

This idea that Obama hasn’t created any jobs is a favorite Republican lie. At the 2012 Democratic convention, former President Clinton took apart this falsehood, “The Recovery Act saved and created millions of jobs and cut taxes for 95% of the American people. In the last 29 months the economy has produced about 4.5 million private sector jobs. But last year, the Republicans blocked the President’s jobs plan costing the economy more than a million new jobs. So here’s another jobs score: President Obama plus 4.5 million, Congressional Republicans zero.”

As of last fall, even if you count all of the job losses that continue to pile up before the president could implement his own policies, Obama still had a net job creation record of +325,000. Republicans try to claim that Obama has not created any jobs by including 2009 and saddling Obama with Bush job losses from the first day that he took office. The stimulus wasn’t passed and signed into law until February 2009, but it just so happens that the job losses in January 2009 were the worst in 34 years. Before Obama has even had two full weeks in office, the economy lost 540,000 jobs. Those job losses belong to George W. Bush, but Republicans put them on Obama in order to make their dubious jobs math work.

A more accurate assessment of Obama’s jobs record should begin 2010, when his policies were implemented. By that standard Obama has created over 5 million jobs. The truth is that no matter how you slice the numbers, Republicans are still clinging to a flat out lie that Obama hasn’t created any jobs.

Voters didn’t buy the Republican funny math during the 2012 election. They aren’t going to buy it in 2014 or 2016 either. Bill Maher and Howard Dean were right on the money to call this out.

Republicans still haven’t figured out that they are only fooling themselves with their bogus statistics. You can fool some of the people all of the time, especially if those people watch Fox News and vote Republican.