Republicans’ Congress Lull Could Impede A Clinton Presidency

Republicans’ Congress Lull Could Impede A Clinton Presidency

REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Photo

The National Memo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Republicans in Congress are planning a light legislative agenda as they return from their long summer break on Tuesday, a strategy some say is designed in part to bog down Hillary Clinton if she becomes president.

It is not uncommon for the Congress to take it slow in an election year and legislative delays could work in Republicans’ favor if their nominee Donald Trump takes the White House in November.

But the strategy will also pay dividends if it is Clinton who takes office on Jan. 20. She will be forced to deal with old baggage rather than focus on her agenda of infrastructure investments and immigration and Wall Street reforms.

“If Hillary wins, we force her to waste time, resources, momentum, early good will and political capital – all on cleanup duty,” said a senior aide to one Republican senator.

If all goes as expected this autumn, a U.S. Supreme Court seat, vacant since Feb. 13, will remain unfilled until sometime next year. A sweeping Pacific free-trade deal negotiated by President Barack Obama will be on hold, if not doomed.

And if many conservative Republicans get their way, government agencies will run on stop-gap funding from Oct. 1 until sometime in February or March. That means that the next president would have to negotiate a longer-term deal or face the prospect of government shutdowns in the early days of a new administration.

Senior congressional aides have told Reuters their agenda for the coming months include bills to keep the government funded, combat the spreading Zika virus and renewing laws guarding the nation’s water resources.

Other items would help the majority Republicans score political points with key constituencies before the November elections, even though they have no chance of becoming law.

These include scolding the Obama administration for a $400 million payment to Iran in January after Tehran released American prisoners, anti-abortion measures and, once again, proposals to repeal Obama’s landmark healthcare law.

Ron Bonjean, a Republican strategist and former aide to Republican leaders in Congress, acknowledged that public opinion polling is trending in Clinton’s direction.

If Clinton wins, Bonjean added, “The whole mindset (among Republican leaders in Congress) would shift to taking care of the most important business to help Republicans and unloading the more difficult, tense issues for a Clinton administration to deal with.”

Clinton has maintained a lead in most polls since Republican and Democratic conventions, but some surveys showed that lead narrowing. A Reuters/Ipsos poll released on Sept. 2 showed Trump effectively pulling even with the Democratic nominee.

Yet one veteran Republican congressional aide said more and more Republicans in Congress brace for the White House to stay in Democratic hands for the next four years, even if their party manages to maintain control of Congress.

Trump’s trouble in appealing to important groups of voters, such as Hispanics, African-Americans and Asians, and self-inflicted wounds “have made it pretty clear he’s highly unlikely to get there,” he said.

Leaving the Supreme Court nomination and other high-profile disagreements for 2017 “does bog down” a new administration, “no question about it,” the aide said.

Some election years mean a slow autumn in Congress, but this is not always the case. In 2012 for example, lawmakers dramatically labored all the way through New Year’s Eve addressing a “fiscal cliff” of expiring tax and spending laws.

Not all of the delays in passing legislation are purely on Republican shoulders though.

While Trump has blasted free-trade deals, leading Democrats, including Clinton, also have criticized Obama’s Trans-Pacific Partnership pact that would create a free-trade zone ranging from Japan to Chile.

Stephen Hess, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, downplayed the challenges Clinton might face early on. “She knows how to deal with Congress. She’s been there,” he said referring to Clinton’s years as a senator representing New York.

Besides, he added, if Trump loses, Republicans will be busy dealing with their own problems.

“They’ll have to think seriously about how they got themselves in the trouble that they’re in.”

(Reporting By Richard Cowan; Editing by Julia Edwards and Tomasz Janowski)

WATCH: Fox Host Unexpectedly Declares Support Of Assault Weapon Ban On The Air

WATCH: Fox Host Unexpectedly Declares Support Of Assault Weapon Ban On The Air

Fox News Screenshot


When even Fox News begins to call for gun control, it’s a clear sign that Republicans and the NRA better start compromising.

Gretchen Carlson has been one of the most vocal hosts on the conservative network for years, and she has consistently toed the Republican Party line throughout her years as co-host of Fox & Friends and now throughout her tenure hosting her own solo program.

But in the wake of a domestic terrorist attack that killed 50 people in an Orlando night club this past weekend, Carlson could no longer sit back and be a puppet for the gun nuts, which is why she went totally off script during her show and declared her support for banning assault weapons such as the AR-15 used in the massacre.

“There’s no doubt Omar Mateen was able to kill so many people because he was firing an AR-15,” Carlson said. “A military-style assault weapon, a weapon easier to buy in the state of Florida than buying a handgun. Florida sets a three day waiting period for purchasing handguns, but the state mandates no waiting period for any gun that requires two hands to hold.”

Carlson’s remarks on Florida gun laws appear to be a rebuke of Florida Governor Rick Scott, who not only just offered thoughts and prayers instead of acting to prevent future mass shootings in response to Orlando, he’s the one who weakened Florida’s gun laws over the last five years.

Carlson further justified her stance by pointing out that 58 percent of Americans support a ban on assault weapons.

“Do we need AR-15s to hunt and kill deer? Do we need them to protect our families?” she continued. “I’m in favor of people being able to carry. I think some of these mass shootings would have been less deadly if that were the case.”

But despite her support of Second Amendment rights, Carlson said banning assault weapons is just “common sense” and stated that it is time for Americans to take a stand in order to prevent mass shootings in the future.

“But I’m also with the majority today, taking a stand. Can’t we hold true the sanctity of the Second Amendment while still having common sense?”

89 percent of Fox viewers, however, refused to shake off the brainwashing the NRA has drilled into them over the years by overwhelmingly rejecting passage of a new assault weapons ban.

Here’s the video via YouTube.

America once did have a ban on assault weapons in place, but Republicans let it expire and refused to renew it. And mass shootings have increased ever since.

According to the New Century Foundation in 2012,

In the eight years since the Assault Weapons Ban has expired, there have been 28 mass shooting events. That equals an average of 3.5 a year—an increase of over 200 percent. That is a startling jump, by any measure.

During the ten year duration of the ban between 1994 and 2004, there were 15 mass shootings. In 2015 alone there were at least six major mass shootings that occurred, more depending on what statistics and definition you use. So this is a continuing problem that isn’t going away by praying. It’s going to take action such as the action taken by Australia in 1996. After five mass shootings between 1987 and 1996, the country finally had enough of the carnage and banned assault weapons. There hasn’t been a mass shooting ever since.

But it’s different in the United States. We have a Second Amendment, therefore it is harder to ban guns entirely. However, banning assault weapons isn’t the only change we could demand. We also need better background checks and we need law enforcement to have the ability to ban people from having guns if they are on the terrorist watch list. Had Republicans not refused to do that latter action, perhaps those 50 people would be alive today because Mateen, who was an ISIS sympathizer, would not have been able to legally buy the AR-15 he used to slaughter them.

Gretchen Carlson deserves props for supporting a ban on assault weapons, even though she definitely risks being fired for doing so.

By Stephen D Foster Jr

President Obama To Senate GOP: Seriously Guys, Do Your F*cking Jobs Already (VIDEO)


President Barack Obama had plenty of obstacles when he took over from the Bush administration. The country faced a recession not seen since the Great Depression and the U.S. was embroiled in the Iraq war which left hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis along with thousands of American soldiers in what has turned out to be one of the most catastrophic American foreign policy blunders in history. One would think that the Republicans would help the young president fix what they had broken. Unfortunately, since Obama took office, the Republicans have done nothing but try to stifle him, even at the cost of shutting down the government.

Fast forward more than seven years and we still see an unbroken theme with the Republicans — continued obstructionism that has prevented the government from functioning properly and has kept vital decisions from being made. In the latest round, the Republicans in the United States Senate refused to give Chief Judge Merrick Garland a fair hearing and a vote despite the fact that it’s been 45 days since the president nominated him for the United States Supreme Court. In his address,the president made it clear that the U.S. Supreme Court must remain above partisan politics and the senate must do its job.

Unfortunately, as they’ve done in the previous seven years, the Republicans are unlikely to heed the president’s advice and suggestions. In the end, it’s the American system and ultimately the American people who suffer from the partisan politics which have become so dysfunctional.

Watch the video here: 

Author: Marcus Aurelius

The SCOTUS Time Bomb That the GOP Are Freaked Out About


Anita Hill – The GOP’s worse nightmare | attribution: ANITA HILL


It’s been under the radar for the most part, but an upcoming docudrama on HBO is going to blow the lid off the Capitol Dome this coming Spring, unintentionally timed, as it is for release in mid April, just as the Senate will be forced to confront what was only a few weeks ago unthinkable: another Obama Supreme Court nomination as the current, already-off-the-charts election season is fully underway.

The film is “Confirmation,” a dramatic retelling of the Clarence Thomas Supreme Court nomination hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee chaired by then-Senator Joe Biden. The synchronicities surrounding this made-for-TV movie, its timing, and the personalities both from the infamous ‘91 hearings and the current cast of political players in Washington DC will provide a surreal backstop to the contemporaneous vortex of news cycles that will be juxtaposed to it.

The screenplay for Confirmation was crafted by Susannah Grant, the film’s Producer who also wrote the screenplay for Erin Brockovich. Both films relate the story of a brave and principled woman standing up against huge institutional forces intent on crushing her. The Brockovich story ends well, with Erin scoring a major victory against the unconscionable pollution practices of CA utility, PG&E; Anita Hill’s saga, on the other hand, ends with the man who sexually harrassed her, Clarence Thomas, ascending to one of the most powerful and unassailable positions in the world — and with her reputation assaulted eggregiously by, among many others, Thomas himself.

Kerry Washington, who plays Hill in the film, says that she met with Hill to help herself get into the character, and that she was inspired by her.

One more note about the supposition that the script for this film isn’t GOP-friendly: Kerry Washington is the Lead.

“Under The Radar, For the Most Part”

While I’m not privy to the script (there’s not even a synopsis available yet), some folks who have seen the script are pretty agitated, those folks being the defenders of Thomas who smeared Hill in the hearings: Alan Simpson (of Catfood Commission fame), Jack Danforth (for whom Thomas was a Senate aide), and Thomas’ lawyer at the time, Mark Paoletta. They’re monumentally pissed and they threatened to sue just a few days ago if the version of Grant’s script that they were provided (when the producers were looking for pre-production input) is used. Whether their threats of legal action were prompted in any way by the upcoming SCOTUS brouhaha I have no idea (although it must be noted that their collective umbrage did suddenly find public expression — after many months of silent gestation, it must be assumed — just 5 days after Scalia’s death), but it’s certain that this film, given the “serendipitous” timing of its release (April 16), will rile more than just a few aging sexists in the GOP old-horse pasture.

As a side note, it’s interesting to speculate whether Joe Biden’s choice not to enter the Dem POTUS primary was in any way influcenced by the advent of this film. He was certainly also asked for script input prior to shooting, and his role in the story was one of enablement of Thomas’ supporters, in that he scuttled the testimony of corroborating witnesses in support of Anita Hill.

The Upshot:

Thomas is the person the the High Court bench who was closest to Scalia (he gave a scriptural reading at Scalia’s funeral), and most dependent on him (he said Scalia took him under his wing when he came on board), whose now-open seat has become the likely focus of the upcoming Presidential Primary and General Election year.  It will be very interesting to see who Obama nominates for the post, and how that might play out, juxtaposed with the buzz from the Confirmation story as it re-enters the collective American psyche.

I hope Obama nominates another female for this vacant SCOTUS seat. It’s been almost a century since women were given the right to vote and the court is still 2/3 male. It would enhance his legacy, make gender equality in the nation one step closer to reality, and give the court much needed female perspective, especially since Justice Ginsberg can’t be far from finishing her long, glorious stint. And, with the Thomas/Hill story having entered into the Zeitgeist via Confirmation, it would bring into sharp focus the fractious, toxic and corrosive nature of the Conservative movement in America.

And finally, the question inevitably presents itself: what about Anita Hill herself? Nowthat would be ground shaking. But I doubt seriously she’d want to sit in the same room with Thomas for the rest of his life.

By nailbender

Obama administration vacancies grow thanks to Republican Senate

US President Barack Obama speaks alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R), Republican of Kentucky, prior to a meeting of the bipartisan, bicameral leadership of Congress in the Cabinet Room at the White House in Washington, DC, January 13, 201

Attribution: none


In the final year of President Obama’s term in office, he’s facing a challenge that most lame-duck presidents deal with: an executive branch not running on full steam because staff are heading for the exits to secure new positions. The problem for this president, however, is made far worse than any recent president has faced because so many vacancies in the administration already exist, and have existed for a big chunk of his years in office. That’s because so many of his nominees have been blocked or just ignored by Senate Republicans.

New data compiled by the Congressional Research Service and obtained by POLITICO found that the Senate in 2015 confirmed the lowest number of civilian nominations—including judges and diplomatic ambassadors—for the first session of a Congress in nearly 30 years.The sheer number of vacancies is having a real-world effect on Obama, whose government is on high alert for terrorist attacks and still plans to wage domestic policy fights right up until the lights go out in January 2017. On the international stage, observers say Obama’s officials without confirmation don’t carry the same level of gravitas when meeting with their diplomatic counterparts. In domestic policy disputes, Senate-confirmed staff carries more weight than the equivalent department leaders with “acting” or deputy titles.

“It’s trying to run the executive branch on top of a block of Swiss cheese full of holes,” said Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.).

Check out this comparison: “Obama’s nominees from 2009 through 2014 faced confirmation lengths that were nearly twice as long as Ronald Reagan’s—an average of 59.4 days for the Republican versus 127.2 days for the current president.” For his immediate predecessor, George W. Bush, that wait was 97.4 days. For Clinton, 91.8, and for George H.W. Bush it was 67.3.

One prominent Republican says pointing that out is just whining. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) blames it on President Obama for delaying sending up nominations. “They don’t get them up here with any expedition,” continuing “and then they bitch about it, or cry about it, I should say, when it’s really their fault.” He also said the administration isn’t at all short-staffed. “In fact, if anything, they’re top-heavy with people. They act like they’re oppressed. My gosh, it drives you crazy.”

That’s quite a contrast to what Hatch had to say about Democrats under Bush the Younger. “They are not being fair to the president,” he cried. “They’re not being fair to the independents of the judiciary. They’re not being fair to the process, and the process is broken.” So, yeah, Orrin Hatch knows something about crocodile tears. And, like pretty much all Republicans, he’s absolutely fine with doing actual damage to the nation—at home and abroad—by keeping the government hobbled just to score political points.

Joan McCarter




WASHINGTON — The priority of Congress after the deadly shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado over Thanksgiving weekend should be to fix the nation’s mental health system, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) argued Tuesday.

Speaking to reporters after meeting with his members, Ryan offered his condolences to the families of the three people killed and nine injured in Colorado Springs on Friday, when a shooter opened fire inside the women’s health clinic.

“What happened is appalling, and justice should be swift,” Ryan said. “Clearly we can do more.”

As far as what more Congress could do, Ryan was not definitive, but he did not call for looking at some of the more popular measures proposed in Congress, such as beefing up background checks.

He said the “common denominator” in all the nation’s frequent mass shootings is mental illness.

“That’s why we need to look at fixing our nation’s mental illness health system,” Ryan said, noting that Rep. Tim Murphy (R-Pa.) has proposed a bill to address the issue.

“I’m sure that members of both parties have lots of ideas in this area, but we should make this a priority to prevent the violence to protect our citizens,” Ryan said. “The common theme with these kinds of shooting is mental illness, and this is something that we should not be ignoring.”

While Ryan did not rule out other efforts, he did not embrace steps that could kick in much more quickly than a full overhaul of the mental health system, such as enhancing background checks and closing loopholes that make it easy to buy guns.

House Tea Partiers to the World: Burn, Baby, Burn…

Ron Sachs/Zuma; Amanda Lewis/iStock


Chaos, chaos, and chaos. Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s withdrawal from the speaker’s racehas caused disarray—that is, greater disarray—within the House GOP conference. Hours after McCarthy’s announcement, there was no word of what comes next. Who might jump in? Would a caretaker candidate emerge? How long could Speaker John Boehner stay in the job? And, it seemed, the House tea partiers who had somewhat caused this crisis—they had succeeded in driving Boehner from the job and had deemed McCarthy insufficiently conservative—were yearning for more chaos. The House Freedom Caucus, the tea party GOPers, put out this statement:

Note that last sentence: “The next Speaker needs to yield back power to the membership for the sake of both the institution and the country.” In other words, we don’t want a speaker who is going to try to govern in a time of divided government; we don’t want a speaker who will endeavor to forge a compromise on behalf of the GOP conference and make the system work; and, as a government shutdown looms and a possible debt ceiling crisis approaches, we want a speaker who will step to the side and let the chaos reign. This is the congressional equivalent of “burn, baby, burn.”

The Pope’s Visit Couldn’t Come at a More Critical Time in American Politics


Pope Francis’ six-day tour of the eastern United States could not have come at a more critical moment. He has metwith President Barack Obama at the White House, addressed a joint session of Congress and will preside over massive audiences across three cities. Millions of Americans are watching the pope as he delivers a message of equality at a time of raised public concern over broad problems like homelessness, climate change, income inequality, tribal sovereignty and anti-black racism, all coming amid a presidential election cycle.

Some contenders in the current race to the White House are not sheepish regarding their religious affiliations. Republican candidates like Rick SantorumBobby Jindal and Dr. Ben Carson, among others, have spoken publicly about matters of faith. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, an ordained Baptist minister, for example, told the Huffington Post “God is much more real to me than the clouds.” These candidates, as well as American voters, say their faith informs their stances on issues as far ranging as same-sex marriage to women’s reproductive rights.

Faith can be dangerous when used to wrest freedom from the public, but as the pope — a contested symbol of moral and religious authority — illustrates, it can also produce visions of a more just society. So how can faith make an impact when it comes to transforming this country for the better?

Pope Francis's Visit Couldn't Come at a More Critical Time in American Politics
Source: Filippo Monteforte/Getty Images

Faith matters. The ways faith is wielded in the public sphere is equally important. Religious convictions can ultimately shape how the public votes in elections, the policies accepted or admonished within government, as well as the formation of social relationships in any given society. It is possible, however, to publicly profess religious belief without brandishing it as a weapon.

In an extensive 2004 interview by Cathleen Falsani, former Chicago Sun-Times religion reporter, republished bySojourners in 2012, then-Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama said, “I think there is an enormous danger on the part of public figures to rationalize or justify their actions by claiming God’s mandate. I think there is this tendency that I don’t think is healthy for public figures to wear religion on their sleeve as a means to insulate themselves from criticism or dialogue with people who disagree with them.”

But should public policy be determined by faith, or should it be guided by a principled commitment to equity and the public good? Faith can, in fact, inspire both politicians and the voting public to embrace justice and equity.

“As a religious leader, I know my tradition — reformed Christianity — offers an alternative vision of a good society,” the Rev. Duane Bidwell — associate professor of practical theology, spiritual care and counseling at Claremont School of Theology in California — told Mic. “That vision serves as a critical utopia or measure for how we live our public life together in the United States. It’s the bar we are trying to reach.”

Yet, there are some who fail to make a distinction between the state and church. Recently, for example, Rowan County, Kentucky, clerk Kim Davis made national headlines after being held in contempt of court and jailed for refusing to issue same-sex marriage licenses because of her religious convictions. She was lambasted by progressive critics and heralded the Rosa Parks of this cause by some Republicans.

Pope Francis's Visit Couldn't Come at a More Critical Time in American Politics
Kim DavisSource | Ty Wright/Getty Images

Beyond the obvious outrage stemming from the negative impact Davis’ actions have had on LGBTQ constituents in her municipality, her faith-inspired act ultimately revealed Christianity is not a monolithic religion. Not all Christians believe that same-sex marriage is wrong. In fact, some Christians view Davis’ actions as antithetical to Christian teachings.

“As a Palestinian-American Christian, who practices Quakerism, I refuse to allow the religious right in the U.S. to have a monopoly on Christianity,” Sa’ed Atshan, visiting assistant professor of peace and conflict studies at Swarthmore College told Mic. “For instance, I see deep faith and ethics based on compassion, not in the homophobia of Davis, but in the countless Christian leaders across the country helping young LGBT people reconcile their faith and sexuality.”

“Do no harm” is an ethic that should ultimately guide the ways faith is exerted in the public domain. Furthering inequality by failing to adhere to laws that protect vulnerable populations because of one’s selective reading of religious texts, like Davis did, is the wrong way to use faith, especially among elected officials.

As the Rev. Valerie Bridgeman, associate professor of homiletics and Hebrew Bible at Methodist Theological School in Ohio, told Mic, “The Bible does not ‘trump’ the constitution in this democracy. The state is not the church.”

Religious plurality is necessary and religious liberty is equally crucial. Protection from the power of religious influence on legislation advancing equality is vital too. Vulnerable members of the American public should not have to seek legal intervention because public servants caused harm based on claims of religious liberty and exemption. That is an example of faith gone wrong — a type of faith practice that the public should be wary about.

And yet, “nearly 3/4 of the public (72%) now thinks religion is losing influence in American life,” the Pew Research Center reported based on results from a 2014 survey it conducted on religion and politics. The most shocking finding, however, was Pew’s conclusion that “most people who say religion’s influence is waning see this as a bad thing.”

The sudden diminishing of religious influence in the U.S. may or may not be named a “bad thing” depending on those offering their assessments. The fundamentally religious, like presidential candidate Carson — who opposes same-sex marriage and has made has made Islamophobic statements — may identify the waning of religious influence as a troublesome trend. Groups for whom religious belief has been cited as a rationale for their inequitable treatment in the U.S. might view this trend positively, however.

Ravi Perry, associate professor of political science at Virginia Commonwealth University, said to Mic, “From Kim Davis’ illegal insistence on a right to express her faith even when it conflicts with the law of the government for whom she works, to Dr. Ben Carson’s belief that Muslims should not be president, to conservatives lamenting Pope Francis’ historic visit to the United States, the trampling of actual religious liberty in favor of right-wing conservative Christianity is rampant right now.” But there is more than one way to be Christian and express one’s belief.

Faith and politics in the U.S. are deeply enmeshed and have always been. Because of the confluence of faith and politics throughout U.S. history, the line that separates the church and state is often blurred. Aspects of American life that might otherwise be considered matters of faith are often politicized as a result.

Even the Pope’s visit has raised the ire of both the conservative right and liberal left. On one hand “Francis is [viewed] as a change agent who has deemphasized traditional concerns like contraception, abortion, gay marriage and stem-cell research” to the chagrin of conservatives, including the six Republican presidential candidates who are Catholic, according to the Washington Post.

And yet, as CNN’s Carol Costello wrote, “[W]hile the Pope has talked in a more merciful way about moral issues, the church still opposes same-sex marriage, women priests, married priests, divorce, birth control and abortion.” 

The answer to the question of which side is right must begin with an assessment of whether or not one’s faith is exercised with care or disregard for the public. The moral authority will always be on the side of those advancing the vision of a beloved community. As the Pope shared during his presentation to the U.S. Congress on Thursday, politics is “an expression of our compelling need to live as one, in order to build as one the greatest common good….”

His visit presents an opportunity to see where the U.S. and the Vatican fall along those lines. 

Darnell L. Moore