What About The House?

[ Posted Monday, January 22nd, 2018 – 18:19 PST ]

The Senate Democrats ended their government shutdown today, not with a bang but with a whimper. They did not achieve their stated objective, to force a vote on a bill to save the DACA program, but they did at least raise awareness of the issue in Washington, so it can't conveniently be swept under a rug for the foreseeable future. The moderates and the Democratic Senate leadership point to a rather squishy promise made by Mitch McConnell to hold a floor vote on a DACA bill at some point in the next two months, which was apparently enough of a commitment to assuage the fears of a majority of Democratic senators for now. But lost in all the recriminations is one glaring question: what about the House?

Before we get to that, though, let's take a look at where Democrats currently find themselves. The Dreamers and their advocates are pretty upset with the party, and they have good reason to be angry. When President Trump announced he was singlehandedly ending the DACA program, Democrats swore up and down it would be one of their highest priorities in Congress. They promised that they wouldn't agree to a budget unless the DACA problem was fixed by the end of 2017. Since they made those promises, they voted -- twice -- to kick the budget can down the road without addressing DACA (once in early December, once at the end of December). This was a slap in the face to the Dreamers, so they were already pretty upset with congressional Democrats even before the recent shutdown.

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Friday Talking Points [468] -- Shutdown Showdown!

[ Posted Friday, January 19th, 2018 – 18:46 PST ]

Where we find ourselves as a nation: this week, the not-at-all-liberal Wall Street Journal broke the story that Donald Trump paid off a porn star mere days before the 2016 election, to the tune of $130,000, to keep her silence about an affair they had right after he had married his third wife. It was later revealed by In Touch Weekly magazine that Trump had compared the porn star (stage name: Stormy Daniels) favorably with his daughter. And yet this news didn't even really break onto the front pages. After one year of President Trump, such a revelation is considered minor news, in other words. That's where we find ourselves as a nation, folks.

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A Simple Budget Process Fix

[ Posted Thursday, January 18th, 2018 – 18:17 PST ]

As I write this, the House of Representatives appears to be ready to hold a vote on the one-month budget extension (continuing resolution), which likely means Paul Ryan has successfully twisted enough arms of the Freedom Caucus ( Tea Partiers) and now has the votes he needs to get the bill passed. Up until a few hours ago, even this was uncertain, showing how Republicans are struggling even among themselves to get anything done. And that's before the bill goes over to the Senate, where it will likely die. Will this lead to a government shutdown tomorrow night? Or will some last-minute deal be struck to keep the doors open? At this point, nobody knows.

If a shutdown comes to pass, the next thing on the agenda in Washington will be the blame game. Both sides will be spinning like crazy, hoping that the public buys their version of events. Who will succeed is an open question, at this point. But what few in the media are bothering to point out is that this didn't just appear out of the blue. What preceded it is indeed the real problem.

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Democrats Flip Another Statehouse Seat

[ Posted Wednesday, January 17th, 2018 – 18:50 PST ]

Last night, Democrats successfully flipped another state legislature seat, this time in Wisconsin. This was a pretty stunning upset, and one that bodes well for Democratic chances this November in the congressional midterm elections. Their continuing string of victories in special elections just adds fuel to the speculation that this year will see a rather large Democratic "wave election" cycle. There are, of course, no guarantees, but so far things continue to look very good for Democratic candidates.

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Playing The Shutdown Game

[ Posted Tuesday, January 16th, 2018 – 18:09 PST ]

As Congress returns to Washington, the question on everyone's mind is whether the federal government will shut down Friday night or whether some sort of deal (whether long or short term) can be agreed to at the last minute. As of this writing, it's impossible to tell what the outcome will be, but then that is the very nature of such games of brinksmanship. If there wasn't an edge to be close to, then there wouldn't be any threat, to put it another way.

While the Republicans control the House of Representatives, the Senate, and the White House, they do not have big enough majorities to just pass whatever they want without Democratic input. They will need at least nine Senate Democrats to agree with any plan for it to successfully pass. This gives Democrats some major leverage in the negotiations.

Will the Democrats play hardball and demand that a DACA fix pass before any budget extension can be voted on? If so, it could indeed lead to a shutdown. So far, the Democratic leadership has shied away from making this demand explicit, although many rank-and-file Democrats in both the House and Senate have already sworn they will not vote on a budget bill until DACA is fixed. But no accurate whip count seems to exist as to how many of them feel that strongly. I did hear one Democrat proclaim that "a majority of the Democratic caucus" had taken this stand, but that may not be enough to block a last-minute deal.

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Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech

[ Posted Monday, January 15th, 2018 – 18:26 PST ]

[After last week, it seems we've got a long way still to go to get to the point where "all men are judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin," to put it mildly. But I've always felt that the best way to observe Martin Luther King Junior Day is to listen to his words -- and not just the words from his most famous speech. King had a lot to say on a lot of subjects -- war and peace, nonviolence, injustice of all kinds, institutionalized racism, and economic inequality. Limiting him to one soaring "I have a dream" speech ignores a huge part of his true legacy. So instead, I offer up one of my favorite King transcripts, his acceptance speech for winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Giving King the prize was incredibly controversial at the time (as hard as it is to realize this today), and even led J. Edgar Hoover to try to blackmail King into committing suicide before he could accept the award (this is historical fact, and a lot of American tax dollars were spent in service to Hoover's hatred of King). Times have changed, but racism still rears its ugly head in the highest reaches of our government, so we obviously still have a long way to go in this regard. Hope everyone had a thoughtful Martin Luther King Junior Day this year.]

-- Chris Weigant


December 10, 1964, Oslo, Norway

I accept the Nobel Prize for Peace at a moment when twenty-two million Negroes of the United States of America are engaged in a creative battle to end the long night of racial injustice. I accept this award in behalf of a civil rights movement which is moving with determination and a majestic scorn for risk and danger to establish a reign of freedom and a rule of justice.

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Friday Talking Points [467] -- Our Racist President

[ Posted Friday, January 12th, 2018 – 18:17 PST ]

The mainstream media crossed two cultural lines this week, in reaction to one of the most offensive things any American president has ever been caught saying. The first line crossed was to overrule the censors. Standards and practices can't complain when a word used on the news is a direct quote from the president, after all. That would be censorship of a different (and darker) type. Still, last night we were rather surprised to here a reporter on the evening NBC news broadcast actually use the word "shithole." No bleeping, no asterisks, just: here is what the president called some African countries. On broadcast (i.e., non-cable) television, at 5:30 P.M. (not some late-night broadcast, in other words). That is a first in America, to be sure. The Washington Post used Trump's unexpurgated, unbowdlerized quote in so many headlines today it was tough to keep an accurate count.

The second line crossed in the media is that it is now absolutely impossible for honest reporters to deny a basic fact about Donald Trump. He might have gotten away with some lame explanation of "what he really meant" if he hadn't brought up Norway, which made such revisionism all but impossible. Here is how CNN anchor Don Lemon began his show last night:

This is CNN Tonight, I'm Don Lemon. The president of the United States is racist. A lot of us already knew that.

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Democrats Looking Good For House Midterms

[ Posted Thursday, January 11th, 2018 – 17:44 PST ]

Republican Representatives Darrell Issa and Ed Royce both announced this week that they will not be running for re-election in their California House districts. This brings the number of such announced GOP retirements nationwide to 32 for this midterm election cycle. As CNN has been tracking, this is an extraordinarily high number of retirements for so early in the campaign season. As filing deadlines approach, that number will doubtlessly go even higher. Comparatively, only 16 House Democrats have announced their retirement. This is just one indicator, but it shows Democrats well-positioned to make gains in the House races this November.

Of course, none of these races is guaranteed to go Democrats' way. But it remains a fact that it is a lot easier to flip a seat in an open race than it is to unseat an incumbent running for re-election. And so far, Democrats have twice the opportunities for doing so than Republicans.

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Media Giving Trump A Pass On Lack Of Press Conferences

[ Posted Wednesday, January 10th, 2018 – 18:02 PST ]

Why is the White House press corps giving such a giant pass to Donald Trump for his lack of solo press conferences? We are days away from marking his first year in office and in all of that time, Trump has only held one formal solo press conference -- a whopping 328 days ago, on February 16. And yet there is nary a peep from the press corps about this remarkable lack. Previously, when presidents have stiff-armed the press for months on end, news organizations begin running countdown clocks (technically, they're actually count-up clocks) showing how many days and months it has been since the last presidential presser. Haven't seen anything like that this time, though.

Even giving Trump a slight break on the definition doesn't improve the situation much. On two occasions since that February press conference, Trump has essentially hijacked what were supposed to be short announcements with others and transmogrified them into solo press conferences. The first of these was in August, when Trump appeared in Trump Tower for what was supposed to be a boring announcement on infrastructure. Trump took over and answered questions himself for a long stretch of time, qualifying it as a press conference in all but formal name. The second time Trump did this was after a lunch with Mitch McConnell, where they were supposed to give a short "everything's hunky-dory" statement to the press. Again, Trump took the reins and turned it into a de facto solo presser. This was on October 16, which was 86 days ago.

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A Face-Saving Border Wall Compromise Everyone Could Live With

[ Posted Tuesday, January 9th, 2018 – 17:43 PST ]

President Trump sat down today with the Democratic and Republican congressional leadership, in an attempt to hash out a compromise on immigration (specifically, the DACA program that Trump suspended). The larger budget negotiations may hinge on getting such a deal, but at this point the two sides are pretty far apart. Where Trump stands on the issue is pretty clear, which is to say he just wants to sign something and doesn't really care what's in it. This was evidenced by him appearing to agree with Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer about the need for a "clean DACA" bill in the negotiations, only to be yanked back by the Republicans in the room who want a whole lot more than a clean DACA bill. But it's obvious Trump just wants a bill to sign, no matter what it contains.

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