Speaker of the House John Boehner just gets weaker by the day, it seems. Today, he had to pull a bill from consideration because he did not have enough votes to pass it. The reason he didn't have enough votes to pass it is because he cannot do anything without the approval of a small faction of extremists within his own ranks. The Tea Party tail just wagged the Boehner dog, once again. Boehner, unsurprisingly, is attempting to blame it all on President Barack Obama. It beats the alternative of admitting his own weakness and incompetence, I guess.
Archive of Articles for July, 2014
This is a rare week indeed in Washington, since it is one of those weeks when Congress actually attempts to get something done. There's a reason for this, of course, and it is the usual one: they're about to take another jaw-droppingly extensive vacation. They scurry about, in the days leading up to playtime, in an attempt to con the American people into thinking they can still get something done. It is, in fact, just about the only time any bills actually move forward -- when the threat of possibly having to cut their vacation short by a few days inspires them to action.
John Boehner is currently involved in playing what can only be called a "game of chicken" with his own party. To rev this metaphor up to the redline (warning: this entire column is really nothing more than an extended metaphor), Boehner is driving the Republican Party towards a head-on collision with the Tea Party, way out on the edge of town, down Impeachment Road. As is usual in these bouts of self-destructiveness, Boehner has already taken his go-to explanation out of his pocket, and tried to blame President Obama for the fine mess Boehner is creating for himself. In other words, welcome to the opening of "Silly Season, 2014."
Has marijuana legalization reached the tipping point, where positive change is now all but inevitable? That question might have been seen as wildly optimistic even just last week, but over the weekend the respected New York Times editorial board fully endorsed legalizing recreational marijuana at the federal level, in a piece aptly entitled: "Repeal Prohibition, Again." This has already shifted the debate so dramatically that some are now comparing it to the impact of Walter Cronkite coming out against the Vietnam War (after which, President Lyndon Johnson famously said: "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America"). While I'm cautiously optimistic and certainly think it will further the conversation, I have to say I think it might be just a little too early to declare this moment in time to be marijuana's tipping point. I think we're fast approaching that moment, but I don't think we've gotten there quite yet.
Back in Washington, we have one week to go before the opening of "Silly Season 2014," an annual event brought on by hordes of political reporters scrambling around, devoid of actual stories, while Congress is away on its six-week vacation. What will the main Silly Season story become, for pundits to endlessly obsess over this August? Your guess is as good as mine. Several candidates have already popped up ("Hey, let's all talk about impeachment!" for starters), but perhaps some lonely town hall meeting (with some hapless member of Congress) somewhere in the hinterlands will provide the fodder for this year's Silly Season obsession -- hopefully, with an epic rant caught on video!
For years, Harry Reid refused to act. He struck deals with Republicans (that always soon collapsed), and shied away from using what was called (at the time) the "nuclear option." As a result, judicial and other presidential nominations languished in the Senate, unvoted-upon. Because Republicans could filibuster any nominee they wished, they essentially decided to filibuster all of them. Finally, late last year, Harry Reid had had enough. He called for a vote to change the Senate's rules (fun historical note: the filibuster is not actually mentioned in the Constitution), and from that point on all executive and judicial nominees (below the Supreme Court) would be confirmed only by a majority up-or-down vote. We are about to see why this was so important, in the current "Obamacare can't give subsidies to customers of the federal exchange" court case.
I had intended to write a column today to take an overview of all the close races for Senate seats. Every so often, I like to take a look at what the chances are for both parties to make gains in November (or, this year, to see whether the Republicans are going to gain a majority, realistically). Instead, after seeing the recent news from the New York Times, what is now called for is kissing goodbye any chances that the Montana Senate seat up for grabs will stay Democratic. To be blunt: there is now exactly zero chance of that happening, and we should all chalk up one guaranteed Republican gain in the Senate. The revelations that John Walsh plagiarized a major paper in college have now completely torpedoed his chances for retaining the seat. To be fair, there was little chance that Walsh was going to win in any case. But the difference between "little chance" and "no chance" can be measured in hope. There is now no hope for Democrats in Montana, this year.
President Obama faces a dilemma on immigration reform, and it goes beyond the current problem of children at the border. If he sticks to his announced timetable, Obama will act in some way on immigration reform in the next month or so. The Republican House has already signaled that it not only won't vote on the bipartisan plan passed by the Senate last year, but also that it won't hold any votes on immigration reform at all in the foreseeable future (before the midterm election, in other words). This means if anything is going to happen, Obama will have to make it happen on his own. Obama's real dilemma is that no matter what he does, it's not going to satisfy everyone. In fact, it may not satisfy much of anyone. But it is sure to annoy and even enrage certain groups.
The biggest political event of the week (for Democrats, at any rate) was Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats rolling out a new campaign agenda -- the "Middle Class Jumpstart" -- in the tradition of Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America." But we'll have much more on this later, as we're turning over the whole talking points portion of the program to this rollout.