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Archive of Articles in the "Congress" Category

Friday Talking Points -- Republicans Show Their True Colors

[ Posted Friday, January 27th, 2023 – 17:58 UTC ]

President Joe Biden gave a speech this week on the state of the American economy. On his watch, the economy has greatly improved as we all dug ourselves out of the pandemic recession together. So Biden deserves a victory lap. He also used the speech to draw a stark comparison between Democrats responsibly steering the economy and Republicans who apparently are salivating at the prospect of blowing it all up.

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Republicans Are Their Own Worst Enemy

[ Posted Wednesday, January 25th, 2023 – 16:32 UTC ]

The big fight shaping up in the new Congress is going to be over the debt ceiling, the news media tells us. Republicans are on one of their traditional "there's a Democrat in the White House, so we must now slash spending to the bone" quests, and so they're going to try to use the debt ceiling as leverage to force concessions from President Joe Biden and the Democratic Senate. But the big question, after you get past all the fulminating rhetoric, remains: What concessions? What are they even fighting for? And the answer, to me, lies in the past. Remember the big push to "repeal and replace" Obamacare? That's what seems almost certain to happen this time around, too.

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The Plot Thickens

[ Posted Tuesday, January 24th, 2023 – 16:35 UTC ]

This is all what should have happened last August. Also, at this point it's hard not to think: "Who's next? Jimmy Carter? Dan Quayle?" In fact, it's hard for me not to picture in my head right now the image of Attorney General Merrick Garland standing on a stage behind Oprah Winfrey, who is yelling into her microphone: "You get a special counsel... and you get a special counsel!... and YOU get a special counsel!!!"

This was my initial (and admittedly, rather giddy) reaction when the news broke that Mike Pence also had some classified documents in his possession, long after he should have turned them over to the National Archives. This complicates an already-complicated storyline, since Pence is now the third ex-president or ex-vice-president to have seemingly walked off with classified documents stuffed in a box with all the other papers they took with them when leaving office. And then nobody ever looked in the boxes until now -- at least in the cases of former Vice President Mike Pence and current President (but former Vice President and Senator, from when the documents were reportedly dated) Joe Biden. In the case of former President Donald Trump, the boxes at least should have been looked into, since he had already received and answered a subpoena for all documents marked classified.

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Will Sinema Even Run?

[ Posted Monday, January 23rd, 2023 – 16:34 UTC ]

Representative Ruben Gallego made some news today with his announcement that he is running for the 2024 Democratic nomination for a Senate seat in Arizona. If she were still a Democrat, this would be framed as Senator Kyrsten Sinema "drawing a challenger" or "being primaried" from within her own party, but since she became an Independent that is no longer true. With a Republican in the mix as well, there may wind up being a three-way contest for the seat. But then again, maybe not.

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Friday Talking Points -- Biden's First Two Years

[ Posted Friday, January 20th, 2023 – 18:27 UTC ]

Two years ago today, Joseph Robinette Biden Junior was sworn in as the nation's 46th president. So how is he doing at his job? His approval rating in public opinion polls has generally improved since the midterm elections, hitting numbers he hasn't seen in a year. But those numbers are still south of 45 percent (on average), which is fairly common for a first-term president but certainly nothing to brag about.

Biden has had some notable successes as president, and some notable rocky patches as well. He entered office as the COVID-19 vaccines were becoming widely and freely available, and things seemed rosy on this front for his first year, only to get a lot grimmer as the Omicron strain hit much harder than any of the previous variants of the virus. All of a sudden we weren't done with COVID-19 and life didn't return to normal as expected. But since then, the virus has become almost an afterthought and didn't matter much to voters in the midterms (even though it had been predicted that it would be a major issue).

Biden's legislative accomplishments are more impressive than any president since Lyndon B. Johnson. True, Biden did have a Democratic Senate and House to work with, but both of those had historically-slender majorities -- L.B.J., for instance, had as many as 68 Democratic senators to work with. Biden only had 50 -- including two who loved the media spotlight so much they didn't care if they torpedoed Biden's agenda in major ways. Biden also managed to pass some major bills with bipartisan support, which is almost miraculous, these days.

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The Republican Party Is Now Officially Amoral

[ Posted Wednesday, January 18th, 2023 – 16:51 UTC ]

Jerry Falwell must be spinning in his grave. For those that don't remember the era, in the 1980s, Falwell was at the forefront of the movement to instill his brand of Christianity into American politics, which at the time mostly meant influencing conservatives and Republicans. This was far enough back when "conservative" and "Republican" weren't as 100 percent interchangeable as they are today, I should point out. Falwell created his own group and called it the "Moral Majority" -- a name meant to highlight what he (obviously) believed was an amoral minority who had become too powerful in American politics. Moralism and being holier-than-thou were the watchwords of the day. Republicans would use all sorts of moral issues (today we'd call them "culture war" issues) as a big wedge to shame Democratic liberals and get more Republicans elected to office. This was long before the moralistic frenzy surrounding Bill Clinton -- that all came later. This is also what laid the groundwork for Republicans painting themselves as taking the moral high road while Democrats collapsed into degenerate "secular humanism." Those days, quite obviously, are gone. Because today's Republican Party is about as amoral as can be imagined -- far beyond the caricature of the godless liberals Falwell painted back in the day. Today's Republicans simply do not care one whit about morals -- any morals at all, it seems.

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Friday Talking Points -- Joe's Garage

[ Posted Friday, January 13th, 2023 – 17:43 UTC ]

With apologies to Frank Zappa, this week's big political story might be summed up as coming from "Joe's garage." But we'll get to all of that in a moment, down in the awards section (it shouldn't be any mystery which one he's going to get). First, though, let's take a look at the other momentous things that happened during the past week.

This column, of course, measures weeks from Friday afternoon to Friday afternoon. As we were writing last week, the House of Representatives was still deadlocked over who would become the next speaker. This continued far into the night, until Kevin McCarthy finally emerged victorious. Weakened, bloodied, diminished... but finally victorious.

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Biden's Biggest Mistake

[ Posted Wednesday, January 11th, 2023 – 16:48 UTC ]

Just for the record, that headline in no way refers to the current news frenzy over President Joe Biden's apparent retention of classified documents at an organization he controlled. It is indeed a subject worthy for another column, mostly to scoff at the false equivalency being offered up by the Republicans. There is an enormous difference between what Biden's team did and what Trump and his team were caught doing. In Biden's case, the documents were found and immediately they did the right thing -- they notified the National Archives and voluntarily turned all the documents over. Trump refused official requests for over a year, lied that he had turned over all the classified documents, got subpoenaed, lied some more about turning them all in and finally had a search warrant executed which turned up over 100 more classified documents. But there are plenty of people currently pointing all of this out, which is why this column is not about this at all. Biden's assumably accidental retention of a handful of classified documents may have been a political mistake (since already team Trump is saying "See? Everyone does it!"), but it is not the biggest one Biden has made to date.

The biggest political mistake Biden has made as president was to undercut -- twice -- the efforts by congressional Democrats to deal with the debt ceiling while they still had the chance. Later this year, this may come back to bite not just Biden but all of us. In what could be a catastrophic way.

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Let The Race Begin!

[ Posted Tuesday, January 10th, 2023 – 15:38 UTC ]

The 2024 campaign has begun. Not the big one -- not the race for president, that already started when Donald Trump threw his hat in the ring laughably early, in a naked attempt to avoid justice. Instead, this one is closer to home for me. Representative Katie Porter announced today that she is running for Dianne Feinstein's Senate seat. Which means California may get the first truly open Senate race since 1992 (when Feinstein first got elected). And since it's California, there is no real question of a Republican winning the seat, since they are all but irrelevant out here.

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A Parliament Of Badgers

[ Posted Monday, January 9th, 2023 – 17:51 UTC ]

After an excruciatingly-long battle, newly-anointed Speaker Kevin McCarthy began business in the Republican House of Representatives today. He's already reportedly having problems with the first order of business -- voting for a package of rules the House will operate under for the next two years. Some (especially on the left) are making bets on how long McCarthy will even be able to keep his gavel, since one of the new rules will allow any one House member to call what is essentially a "no confidence" vote to oust McCarthy at any time. Or to sum all of this up, the rollercoaster ride we all went through last week doesn't look like it's about to end any time soon.

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