Tom Coburn

GOP senator warns of ‘anarchy’ and ‘violence’

While the Senate debates the bipartisan budget plan, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a longtime deficit hawk, outlines his annual Wastebook which points a critical finger at billions of dollars in questionable government spending,  Dec. 17, 2013.

While the Senate debates the bipartisan budget plan, Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., a longtime deficit hawk, outlines his annual Wastebook which points a critical finger at billions of dollars in questionable government spending, Dec. 17, 2013 | J. Scott Applewhite/AP

MSNBC – Rachel Maddow Blog

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele appeared on MSNBC yesterday, and when host Alex Wagner asked what kind of advice he’d give his party’s leaders in Congress, Steele offered some sound advice. “The first would be, ‘Get a grip,’” he said.
Steele’s comments came to mind after reading this report published last night by USA Today.
Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn warns there could be not only a political firestorm but acts of civil disobedience and even violence in reaction to President Obama’s executive order on immigration Thursday.
“The country’s going to go nuts, because they’re going to see it as a move outside the authority of the president, and it’s going to be a very serious situation,” Coburn said on Capital Download. “You’re going to see – hopefully not – but you could see instances of anarchy. … You could see violence.”
The far-right senator went on to say, “Here’s how people think: Well, if the law doesn’t apply to the president … then why should it apply to me?”
It’s hard to know what to make of such an odd perspective. If Coburn is correct, why weren’t there similar outbursts of anarchy and violence when Presidents Reagan and Bush took very similar executive actions? If the masses are so deeply concerned about separation of powers and the often-ambiguous lines surrounding executive authority, wouldn’t we have seen instances of pandemonium before?
As a practical matter, I’m not even sure how this would work. The Obama administration has limited resources, so it appears likely to prioritize deportations for criminals who entered the country illegally. So, in Coburn’s vision, anti-immigrant activists will become violent, perhaps literally rioting in the street, until more unobtrusive families are broken up?
Brian Beutler reminded Republicans overnight that “just because right-wingers are blind with rage doesn’t mean Obama’s immigration action is illegal.”
It turns out that the laws on the books actually don’t say what you might think they say. Other presidents have discovered this, too. And since nobody wants to write a “maybe I should’ve asked some lawyers first” mea culpa column, they shifted the debate from the terrain of laws to the murkier terrain of political precedent, norms, and procedure. […]
What’s new is that Republicans have perfected a strategy of rejectionism with the help of a media amplification infrastructure—Fox News, Drudge, Limbaugh—that the left hasn’t adopted and doesn’t yet enjoy. Rather than simply fight to reverse the policy in Congress and on the campaign trail—as liberals do when Republicans weaken environmental enforcement—the right can also now scream “Caesar!” without reference to any objective standards, and get a full hearing.
“Get a grip,” indeed.

Tom Coburn To Leave Senate At End Of 113th Congress

tom coburn senate

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) | Tom Williams via Getty Images

What’s going on in Congress that’s driving so many politicians to end their terms?

The Huffington Post

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn will finish out the current congressional session and then resign from his seat nearly two years before his term is scheduled to end, he said in a statement released late Thursday.

The 65-year-old Republican said he would give up his seat at the end of the current session in January 2015. His term was scheduled to end in 2016, and Coburn already had vowed not to seek a third.

Coburn, a physician from Muskogee, recently was diagnosed with a recurrence of prostate cancer, but said his decision was not about his health.

“Carolyn and I have been touched by the encouragement we’ve received from people across the state regarding my latest battle against cancer,” Coburn said, referring to his wife. “But this decision isn’t about my health, my prognosis or even my hopes and desires.

“As a citizen, I am now convinced that I can best serve my own children and grandchildren by shifting my focus elsewhere. In the meantime, I look forward to finishing this year strong.”

Known as a conservative maverick during his three terms in the U.S. House in the 1990s, Coburn continued that role after being elected to the Senate in 2004. He was a fierce critic of what he described as excessive government spending, and was most vocal about opposing the earmarking of special projects.

His resignation is certain to draw the interest of a deep bench of ambitious Republicans in Oklahoma. State law requires the governor to call a special election in the case of a vacancy.

Senators Admit Congress Really Sucked In 2013

Joint Session of Congress

The Huffington Post

[...]

Below are the full reactions of senators, lightly edited for clarity:

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)

“That’s a good question. We were not attacked, uh, to the extent that we were on 9/11.

“We showed a level of dysfunction that has seldom been reached. Maybe the only other time was before the union dissolved. The good things are that it could have been worse. The final story on 2013 for me is it could have been worse.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa)

“What good happened? A lot of the things Obama wanted to get done didn’t get done, like he wanted to avoid sequestration, which would have put one and two-tenths trillion [dollars] back into spending.

“That’s very positive. We got 17.2 trillion in debt, and you don’t want to add another one trillion and two-tenths to it.”

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.)

“Well, the government isn’t completely closed, is it? What good happened this year? I only have three years left, that’s what happened that’s good.”

(Why was it so bad?) “That’s all about leadership. If you have good leadership, you have good progress. If you don’t, you don’t. And that’s not a partisan statement — that’s both sides.”

Sen. Dan Coats (R-Ind.)

“Oh, man. That’s the toughest question I’ve had all year.

“It is surprisingly hard. This is the most frustrating year of any of my years in the Congress — House or Senate — because so few major issues went addressed, starting with the fiscal situation, and then bumping along through all the crises and so forth. What good happened this year? The best thing that happened this year is that we finally got word late last night [Dec. 19] that we’re going to be done. I think we all believe that it can’t get worse than this year, so maybe next year will be better.”

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.)

“That’s a really, uh … you know, look, from my perspective, not a great deal. I mean our foreign policy, our credibility around the world is continuing to shatter. Look at Syria. I can’t think of a lot of good, I really cannot. I have to tell you, this year in many ways for me has been one of the most productive. But as I leave here and look at just overall what’s actually happened, it’s not been a good year for the United States, so it’s hard for me to think of much. I’m sorry. I’m usually very upbeat and optimistic. I’m sorry.”

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), walking with Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.)

Rubio: “What good happened this year? Well, I’ll get back to you.”
Casey: “We got a budget bill!”
Rubio, yelling as elevator doors close: “We’re still America — that’s what’s good!”

Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)

“We finally got a semblance of a budget. We had the student loans — try to get some stability to that, lower interest rates. And we were able to drive both sides further apart. I don’t know if that’s good, but that’s what happened. That’s facts.

“With [Republican Sen.] Susan Collins, we were able to put a bipartisan group together. We got the governors caucus started, which is really bipartisan, so we’ve got to see if we can carry that and hopefully get a little better direction to get things accomplished. It’s gonna happen if you have relationships, so you have to work on that.”

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)

“We elevated the stories of survivors of sexual assault to make it a national debate and make sure victims’ voices are heard. It was one of my highest priorities.

“I have lots of personal successes, but those are all for [sons] Theo and Henry. I think that’s it.”

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), walking with Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.)

Whitehouse: “We cleared the filibuster away from nominees …”
Wicker: “We were not attacked by foreign governments.”
Whitehouse: “The economy continued to improve.”

Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.)

“There are a lot of good things. You know, we’re all blessed. This country’s blessed. We’re still standing. There’s a lot of things where people said the sky is falling, but it hasn’t fell.”

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.)

“What good happened this year? [Chuckle, pause, asks if that means with his family or the Senate.] A good report from the president’s review committee on the NSA.”

Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.)

“Give Lizzie, my press secretary, a call, and we can set something up.”

Sen. David Vitter (R-La.)

“My son did great in soccer and cross country. When you said good, I immediately thought of home, not Washington, D.C.”

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)

“You know I think, uh, I’m having trouble trying to come up with something good. I think it’s good that we have exposed the surveillance of Americans without a warrant, and we’re going to try to do something about it. It seems like there’s some consensus in that direction.”

[It’s pointed out that his example is actually rather negative.] “I tried to turn it into a positive. You know, really, we abandoned the sequester caps, and really, I go home disappointed with the year.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)

“I think that the budget thing was good. I think that will avert another shutdown. I can’t think of a hell of a lot of things besides that, to be honest with you. The observers say it’s the least productive Congress in history, and I don’t disagree with that. We did some good stuff on that defense bill. Did some good stuff on that. I’m digging for the pony here.”

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.)

Murphy: “The Red Sox won the World Series.”
Booker: “That’s painful. That’s bad!”
Murphy: “Cory Booker got elected to the United States Senate.”

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)

“What good? [Chuckle] Well, you really threw me for a loop. Oh, God. We did pass some bills — the WRDA [Water Resources Development Act] bill. There’s a whole series of bills that people worked on — the compounding [pharmacies] bill — they worked pretty hard on. These are bills that did not make the front page or even the first five pages, but they’ve made a big impact to the folks that really care about them. In fact, I even have a list of eight or nine of them, but they really haven’t attracted any attention. On those bills — they were bipartisan — we worked hard, mostly on the HELP [Health, Education, Labor and Pensions] Committee.

“You know, everybody talks, ‘Where’s the farm bill? Why didn’t we get all of the high-profile stuff?’ — and then turning the Senate into the House, which is a bad thing, and our response. Everybody focuses on that. But I think there’s a reservoir of commitment here, on tax reform, on the tax extender package, and other things that really count. Foreign policy is a big one. I just think you have to understand that there are two very different opinions and philosophies here on the part of Republicans and Democrats, but we can occasionally build a bridge. And we’ll keep doing it in spite of 2014, which happens to be an even-numbered year, and you know what happens then.”

Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.)

“What good happened this year? Well, I think a lot of Senate relationships were strained by what happened late in the year, but I think they’re going to survive. In the Senate, those relationships and friendships matter because you only have 99 colleagues. And, uh, uh, most of the good things that happened for me were with my family and friends, and while people had their challenges generally, this was a good year for my family and for most of the people I know.”

Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.)

“I had a lot of good experiences with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, in getting amendments, working together on amendments and bills, and getting them passed by the Senate. I think the Senate took on a lot of tough issues. If you look at what the Senate passed, it was a number of big issues, from budget to immigration, and gun control was up, and I think the list goes on and on.”

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.)

“I think we’re getting close on the farm bill. Obviously passing a budget. I think ENDA [Employment Non-Discrimination Act] was a good outcome, immigration reform. I think as we focus on all the negative, there were some pretty amazing things. I don’t think anyone felt we were going to do comprehensive immigration reform. ENDA had been hanging around for a long time. And I think the budget, as I understand, is the first time since 1986 that a divided Congress has produced a budget. I tend to look at the good side of things. There was plenty bad, though.”

Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska)

“We passed a budget for the first time in four years. … That’s not a bad thing. We got a defense authorization. A lot of appointments done. The economy, I think the economy, we saw the report yesterday — 4.1 percent GDP — better than people expected. Economy’s better, retail sales are up, consumer confidence is up, and deficit is down. That’s good news.”

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine)

“Number one, getting the first budget in four years. And I don’t know if you were aware, but I just learned this is the first budget out of a divided Congress, with the House [under a] different [party], since 1986. I think that’s significant. It wasn’t the most picturesque process in the world, but it was done though bipartisan negotiation. That’s a big deal. That’s a very big deal. Getting the defense bill done, I feel positive. We had some good bipartisan work on immigration. We had some good bipartisan work on student loans. So there were some bright spots. Not a very productive year — I’m not going to argue that.

“I think this whole business with the rules, we need to have some continued discussions. It’s trying to find the right balance between respecting minority rights and not facilitating obstruction.”

[He’s asked whether he’s still glad he ran for the Senate last year.] “Absolutely. Absolutely. Yeah. You’re dealing with public policy at the highest level, and for a person like myself who’s curious, likes public policy and likes to try to fix things, it’s a great place to be. I’ve had some very frustrating moments. The shutdown, the vote on [gun] background checks was a downer, but by and large, I feel pretty good.”

Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.)

“I think a number of things. We’re right on the verge of getting the farm bill done, we’re piecing that together. We got the WRDA [Water Resources Development Act] bill done. So really a lot of things have gotten done when you take away the budget issues. That’s really where we, you know, where we have a problem agreeing — in the amount of money we’re going to spend in the future and increase taxes, increase revenue to get those dollars. That’s really where the concern is at.

“I’d like to have seen a lot more things voted on. I don’t have any problems at all casting votes. I think the amendment process needs to be fixed, [so] members can offer amendments. That’s how you avoid what happened with the military pay issue that we’ve got, how things like that are allowed to go forward. That doesn’t happen if everybody’s consulted.”

5 ways the ‘defund ObamaCare’ crusade hurts Republicans

The cause has further fractured the Republican Party.

The Week

Well, the faux-filibuster that Senate conservatives attempted wasn’t enough to stop cloture, but at least we proved a point, right?

Wrong. Still, you can expect that supporters of the “Defund ObamaCare” crusade will likely attempt to spin this as some sort of a moral victory. If anything good happens down the road, they will argue this laid the groundwork for that by “starting the conversation” with the American public about how bad ObamaCare is. I’m not buying it.

Here are five reasons why conservatives are worse off for having fought this battle:

1. Conservatives are more divided as a result. In an era when Republicans have too often been split, opposition to ObamaCare should have been a unifying cause with broad conservative consensus. Instead, conservatives managed to invent a way of making ObamaCare into a divisive issue on the Right. This is a truly remarkable feat. It is like frat brothers fighting over whether or not Giselle is hot. What is more, those who opposed the move based on strategic (not philosophical) grounds were labeled part of the “surrender caucus,” and compared to Nazi appeasers. It’s gotten so bad that on Thursday morning, Sen. Tom Coburn told MSNBC, “I’m now no longer a conservative according to the standards that have been set by the expectations of this process.”

2. There were better, more popular alternatives. Pushing for ObamaCare’s implementation to be postponed a year would have been a much easier sell. After all, big business already benefits from the employer mandate having been delayed. Why shouldn’t lunch pail workers get the same deal? Obama has already opened the door to delays. In fact, just this week, it was reported that he would “delay online ObamaCare enrollment for small businesses in federally operated health-care exchanges until November 1.” As Steve Forbes writes, “A postponement would be immensely popular and would be a huge setback to ObamaCare.”

Another more populist approach would have involved forcing elected officials like the president and members of Congress, plus congressional staff, to sign up for ObamaCare and forgo a special exemption that subsidizes their premium payments. Conservative opinion leaders like Charles Krauthammer and David Freddoso have argued this would have been a wiser hill to die on. (This would have allowed Republicans to essentially say that Washington elites must play by the same rules as the American people.)

Aside from picking a battle that might win public support, different positioning might have split the Democratic caucus, putting pressure on vulnerable red state Democrats to take a tough vote. Would Mark Begich and Mark Pryor really want to go on the record with a vote giving D.C. elites special taxpayer-subsidized health-care support?

It’s easy to see why conservatives rejected these ideas. They would have caused turmoil and chaos among Democrats. No, it’s much better to create division amongst conservatives.

3. It changed the subject from Obama’s failings. Think of where we were a week or so ago. President Obama had allowed Syria to cross the red line. His efforts to get congressional approval for intervention had crumbled. Enter Vladimir Putin, who outmaneuvered the president, making him look incredibly weak. But sensing their opponent was in the process of committing suicide, Republicans chose to interfere. The same thing happened after Benghazi when Mitt Romney interrupted the narrative. See the trend? When left to his own devices, President Obama looks small. It is only when he is judged in comparison to Republicans that he appears, in contrast, to be competent and capable.

4. It misled the base. Lying to your supporters is never a good idea. Neither is setting expectations, raising hopes, and then failing to deliver (sort of like saying, “If you cross this red line…”). Unfortunately, the defund idea was always premised on convincing supporters to do something that almost everyone who is knowledgeable and intellectually honest knew was impossible. Some supporters have even posited a Machiavellian rationale:  ObamaCare needs to be defeated, but to do so, we have to build lists of supporters. And the only way to build lists of supporters is to manufacture exciting events to get people fired up. Why does this matter? Presumably, you can only cry “wolf” so many times, and the conservative movement will eventually pay a price for misleading the conservative base.

5. It reinforces the negative stereotypes people have about Republicans. Republicans have an image problem, and this reinforces at least two of the worst stereotypes. First, it’s a reminder of the recalcitrant “party of ‘no.’” It says that, by asking for ridiculous concessions, Republicans aren’t interested in governing, but instead, in gridlock. Additionally, this plays into the “war on science” meme. Just as Republican poll “truthers” were shocked — SHOCKED! — to learn that Mitt Romney didn’t win by a landslide, they may be equally stunned to discover that — having lost two presidential elections and a Supreme Court decision — they don’t have enough votes to stop ObamaCare.

The good news, of course, is that a handful of senators and conservative groups made a lot of money and garnered a lot of press. So I guess that’s something.

Bill Flores: House ‘Would Probably’ Vote To Impeach Obama

TeaPublicans always talk about impeaching the president but no one seems to have any specific charges against President Obama.

The Huffington Post

Rep. Bill Flores (R-Texas) said he thinks the House of Representatives would vote to impeach President Barack Obama, BuzzFeed reports.

“I look at the president, I think he’s violated the Constitution,” Flores said at a town hall event on Thursday. “I think he’s violated the law. I think he’s abused his power but at the end of the day you have to say if the House decides to impeach him, if the House had an impeachment vote it would probably impeach the president.”

Flores noted that any efforts to impeach the president would likely fail in the Senate, and would also risk Rebublicans losing the speakership.

“If you try and fail are you willing to put Nancy Pelosi back in the Speakership. I’m not,” Flores said.

Flores is hardly the first Republican to bring up a potential Obama impeachment. In August, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) warned President Barack Obama is “getting perilously close” to the standard for impeachment, and Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) made comments similar to Flores’.

“I’ll give you a real frank answer about that: If we were to impeach the president tomorrow, you could probably get the votes in the House of Representatives to do it. But it would go to the Senate, and he wouldn’t be convicted,” Farenthold told a constituent.

But not all Republicans are buying into the impeachment talk. Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) denounced Republicans for saying Obama should be impeached, and Former Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele called impeachment comments “asinine.”

(h/t BuzzFeed)

No, a government shutdown won’t kill ObamaCare

The president’s signature domestic policy achievement is sticking around — so far, anyway.

The Week

Even if the government were to temporarily close down later this year, ObamaCare would still live on, according to a new report from the Congressional Research Service.

The nonpartisan government agency said this week that even if lawmakers fail to pass legislation to fund the government, it would not prevent the bulk of the Affordable Care Act from taking effect. Some conservative Republican lawmakers have floated the idea of agovernment shutdown as a way to block the law and force President Obama to ultimately scrap it.

“It appears that substantial ACA implementation might continue during a lapse in annual appropriations that resulted in a temporary government shutdown,” the report said.

That’s primarily due to two factors. First, the government can keep spending during a shutdown using “no-year discretionary funds” and reserves set aside for mandatory expenditures. The ACA specifically set aside billions of dollars for its own implementation that won’t be touched by a shutdown.

Second, the report said ObamaCare could fall under one of the limited exceptions in which the government is allowed to allocate funds in lieu of a spending bill from Congress.

In short, the White House would have the money and the power to keep the ACA up and running even if the lights go dark in Washington.

Plus, the centerpiece of the law, the individual mandate, would be completely unaffected by a government shutdown because it’s a tax, not a line item expenditure. Though it’s tempting to wish that taxes would cease to exist while lawmakers squabble over a budget, that’s just not how the government works, the report said.

“If a government shutdown were to occur during calendar year 2014, the lapse in funding would not automatically suspend the requirement of the individual mandate,” the report explained. “In other words, during the time period that the government is shut down, taxpayers who fall within the coverage of the individual mandate would still be accruing penalties for any months in which they lacked minimum essential coverage.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) is trying to rally others in his party to refuse to pass a continuing resolution to fund the government unless that bill cuts off funding for ObamaCare. Even if such a bill made it to Obama’s desk, the president, barring a stunning change of heart over his signature domestic policy achievement, would certainly veto it.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who has been critical of such a gambit, requested the CRS report and then made it publicly available Tuesday.

“I’d be leading the charge if I thought this would work,” Coburn told the Washington Examinerlast week of the defunding drive. “But it will not work.”

Still, the very fact that Republicans needed to be convinced not to purposefully shut down the government, once considered an extreme measure, was seen as further evidence of systemic dysfunction in the ruling class.

And the report is unlikely to end the GOP’s internal debate over shutting down the government. On Tuesday, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who like Lee is a Tea Party stalwart, insisted a shutdown wouldn’t be bad for the party, adding, “If there is ever a time to defeat ObamaCare, it is now.”

Oklahoma Senators Repeatedly Opposed Disaster Relief Funds

Jim Inhofe Tom Coburn

Undoubtedly, they’ll have a rapid “change of heart” now that this horrible devastation has it home…

The Huffington Post

As frantic rescue missions continued Monday in Oklahoma following the catastrophic tornadoes that ripped through the state, it appeared increasingly likely that residents who lost homes and businesses would turn to the federal government for emergency disaster aid. That could put the state’s two Republican senators in an awkward position.

Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn, both Republicans, are fiscal hawks who have repeatedly voted against funding disaster aid for other parts of the country. They also have opposed increased funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which administers federal disaster relief.

Late last year, Inhofe and Coburn both backed a plan to slash disaster relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy. In a December press release, Coburn complained that the Sandy Relief bill contained “wasteful spending,” and identified a series of items he objected to, including “$12.9 billion for future disaster mitigation activities and studies.”

Coburn spokesman John Hart on Monday evening confirmed that the senator will seek to ensure that any additional funding for tornado disaster relief in Oklahoma be offset by cuts to federal spending elsewhere in the budget. “That’s always been his position [to offset disaster aid],” Hart said. “He supported offsets to the bill funding the OKC bombing recovery effort.” Those offsets were achieved in 1995 by tapping federal funds that had not yet been appropriated.

In 2011, both senators opposed legislation that would have granted necessary funding for FEMA when the agency was set to run out of money. Sending the funds to FEMA would have been “unconscionable,” Coburn said at the time.

Hart said Coburn had “never made parochial calculations” about Oklahoma’s disproportionate share of disaster funds, “as his voting record and campaign against earmarks demonstrates.” Hart added that Coburn, “makes no apologies for voting against disaster aid bills that are often poorly conceived and used to finance priorities that have little to do with disasters.”

A representative for Inhofe could not immediately be reached for comment. Inhofe earlier tweeted: “The devastation in Oklahoma is heartbreaking. Please join me and #PrayforOklahoma. Spread the word.”

Coburn also put out a message on Twitter, writing, “My thoughts and prayers are with those in Oklahoma affected by the tragic tornado outbreak.”

Oklahoma currently ranks third in the nation after Texas and California in terms of total federal disaster and fire declarations, which kickstart the federal emergency relief funding process. Just last month, President Barack Obama signed a disaster declaration for the state following severe snowstorms.

And despite their voting record on disaster aid for other states, both Coburn and Inhofe appear to sing a different tune when it comes to such funding for Oklahoma.

In January of 2007, Coburn urged federal officials to speed disaster relief aid after the state faced a major ice storm.

A year later, in 2008, Inhofe lauded the fact that emergency relief from the Department of Housing and Urban Development would be given to 24 Oklahoma counties. “The impact of severe weather has been truly devastating to many Oklahoma communities across the state. I am pleased that the people whose lives have been affected by disastrous weather are getting much-needed federal assistance,” he said at the time.

The cost of the recovery effort for this week’s tornadoes is likely to be high. After a spate of tornadoes in the state in 1999, Oklahomans requested and received $67.8 million in federal relief funds.

Top Republican: Conservatives Are Too Scared To Debate Popular Gun Safety Bill

No surprise there…

Think Progress

Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA) joined the growing chorus of lawmakers calling for conservative to allow a vote on gun safety legislation, telling CBS’ This Morning on Tuesday, “we have not seen the final draft of the legislation that was produced…I think it deserves an vote up or down.”

But 14 Republicans — including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (KY) — have pledged to filibuster any comprehensive gun safety legislation, though all refused to appear on CBS to discuss their opposition, Norah O’Donnell reported. Gun advocates are running online campaigns calling on lawmakers to prevent the package from ever being considered, though a vote on the motion to proceed to the legislation could occur on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Rep. Peter King (R-NY) — one of the only Republicans in the House to support the gun package — added that the filibuster effort is “wrong” and “makes it seem like they’re afraid of something.” “I don’t know what they’re afraid of, but if they’re so sure of their position, let it come to a debate,” King said on CNN.

Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) have also condemned the obstruction, arguing that the measure should come to a vote since Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will allow senators to offer amendments to the legislation. The bill will expand restrictions against gun trafficking, invest in school safety and provide for universal background checks of all gun purchases, though the final version of that provision is still being negotiated. Polls indicate that more than 90 percent of Americans support background checks on all gun purchases.

“They’re not just saying they’ll vote no on ideas that almost all Americans support,” Obama said Monday of the filibuster threat during a speech in Connecticut. “They’re saying they’ll do everything they can to even prevent any votes on these provisions. They’re saying your opinion doesn’t matter, and that’s not right.” Some pundits are making a similar case, arguing that the party is undermining its rebranding effort and siding with “rapists” and criminals in the gun debate.

Obama Circumventing Republican Leaders To Revive Sequester Talks

09020_graham_barr

Well, I say Bravo!  Nothing wrong with trying something different.  GOP “leaders” are hog-tied by the Tea Party.  Good luck Mr. President!

Alan Colmes’ Liberaland

With the Republican leadership not engaging with the president, Obama is reaching out to a dozen Republicans to revive talks.

Mr. Obama has invited about a dozen Republican senators out to dinner on Wednesday night, after speaking with several of them by phone in recent days, according to people familiar with the invitation. And next week, according to those people and others who did not want to be identified, he will make a rare foray to Capitol Hill to meet separately with the Republican and Democratic caucuses in both the Democratic-controlled Senate and the Republican-controlled House.

Since the weekend, the president has called at least a half-dozen Republican lawmakers, mostly senators, in a bid to revive talks toward a long-term deficit-reduction agreement and to press for action on other issues, including immigration, gun safety and climate measures.

“Maybe because of sequestration and frustration with the public, the time is right to act, and what I see from the president is probably the most encouraging engagement on a big issue since the early days of his presidency,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, who received a call from Mr. Obama on Tuesday.

Speaking of the deficit reduction impasse, Mr. Graham added, “He wants to do the big deal.”

Mr. Obama’s call to Mr. Graham followed other conversations with Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Rob Portman of Ohio and Bob Corker of Tennessee, all Republicans. Mr. Corker called his conversation with the president “constructive.”

GOP Threatens To Hold Disaster Relief Hostage To Spending Cuts — Again

Think Progress

The White House last week requested $60 billion in federal disaster relief to rebuild the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy, but some Republicans are again threatening to hold disaster relief funding hostage unless it is offset by other budget cuts.

A day after Rep. Scott Garrett (R-NJ) called disaster relief for Hurricane Sandy “wasteful spending,” Reps. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Steve King (R-IA), Raul Labrador (R-ID), and Jeff Landry (R-LA), all from the more conservative wing of the House GOP, told The Hill that they will demand offsets for disaster spending:

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), who sits on the Appropriations Committee, said she will need to see offsets on Wednesday as did Rep. Raul Labrador (R-Idaho).

We have these emergencies every year and we should prepare for that in our budget,” Labrador said.

“No pun intended, we should have a rainy day fund,” Rep. Jeff Landry (R-La.) said.

After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, then-House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-TX) rebuked conservative members of his caucus for demanding spending cuts for disaster relief. “It is right to borrow to pay for it,” he said. But since the GOP took over the House in 2010, it has routinely made such demands. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) promised to block disaster funding in the wake of tornadoes that devastated Missouri, an earthquake that hit his own state, and Hurricane Irene.

House Republicans also cut disaster relief funding in a 2011 spending measure and cut it this year to preserve military spending. The GOP also reneged on a deal it struck with Democrats to make emergency disaster relief funding easier in the future.

UPDATE 

Politico reports that other Republicans, like Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK), want spending offsets for disaster relief:

This country can’t continue spending money that they don’t have,” said Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). “So rather than go borrow the money, we ought to say, ‘What’s a lower priority than helping the people of Sandy?’ And that’s how we ought to do it.”

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) told Politico, “Anything needs to be offset right now.” And Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) added, “If you look at what we’ve pushed for in the past, it’s to properly fund for disasters and when we fund for disasters, we also control spending in other places. We can’t give up our desire to control spending on any front.”