A second nuke is about to be dropped in the Senate. Metaphorically, of course. Democrats are about to mount a filibuster against Donald Trump's Supreme Court nominee, and in response Republicans are about to do completely away with the ability of the Senate to filibuster Supreme Court nominees. That all seems certain, at this point. But it does raise a larger question: is the practice of filibustering legislation also in danger of extinction?
Archive of Articles in the "Domestic Policy" Category
There's a meme running around inside the Beltway this week concerning the likelihood of Democrats in Congress working with Donald Trump to get some legislation passed. However, much of the gossiping ignores one key question, because so far the speculation has mostly been focused on: "Will they or won't they work together, and what will it mean politically for both?" That's a valid thing to ponder, but the essential part most of this speculation misses is that any collaboration between the two is going to heavily depend on the substance of the issue, and precisely what's being proposed. Substance matters, in other words, even if it is more fun to wonder what the political fallout may be.
A little more than two months in, Donald Trump's presidency is already unique in a number of ways. One of these that has so far gotten little attention (since there's so much else going on) is Trump's complete lack of a honeymoon period with the public. Trump's job approval polling started out pretty bad and it's only gotten worse. The first few months of a presidency isn't always indicative of how successful any president will wind up, of course, but Trump is truly in a category of his own in the polls so far -- and not in a good way.
Never were the words of the Grateful Dead so fitting in the world of politics. "Trouble ahead, trouble behind" is indeed a perfect description of the spot Paul Ryan and Donald Trump found themselves in today. Because Casey Jones faced precisely the same no-win situation, and it didn't work out so good for him, either.
The Tea Party is, once again, flexing its muscles. Little noticed in the 2016 election results was the changing ratio between Tea Partiers and the Republican caucus as a whole in the House of Representatives. Republicans lost seats, but not many of these losers were Tea Partiers. This meant the relative strength of the Tea Party increased, overall. The real power dynamic, though, is that when the Tea Partiers hang together, they've got a big enough bloc to halt any Republican-only legislation cold. Which is what they've just accomplished, on the Ryancare bill. Paul Ryan was forced to concede that there will be no vote today, which means he will be robbed of symbolically voting on Obamacare's replacement on the day Obama signed it into existence, seven years ago.
You'll have to forgive me for writing this so early, since the tradition is to give a new president 100 days before such an evaluation, but these are not normal times. It's only been two months since Trump took office, but it certainly feels like a lot longer than that. Trump's pace has been pretty frantic during this period, which is the main reason why I decided to take a quick look at how Trump's presidency measures up to his campaign rhetoric.
What are the chances that the Ryancare bill will pass Congress? We are now two days from its first test, and the answer is as unclear as ever. Whatever happens is going to take the measure of the relative political strength of Paul Ryan, Donald Trump, and the Tea Party wing of the Republican Party. If the Tea Partiers win this struggle, it could doom any chances for actual governance from the Republican Congress for the next few years. If the Tea Partiers lose, there may be a frenzy of primary challenges for sitting Republicans in Congress in 2018. Either way, the next two days could be definitive.
This was a tough choice to make, for a Thursday column. After all, this was a fairly big week in punctuation news, which normally would be catnip for a pedant such as myself. Not only was the president's spokesman trying to use the old "it was in quotes" defense (or should that be the "it was 'in quotes'" defense?), but there was a recent court ruling which actually hinged on the "Oxford comma." The plaintiffs won because they (correctly) argued that absent the final comma in a list, the final two items have to be taken as a single item, at least legally (it hinged on the phrase "loading for transport or delivery" -- which is different than "loading for transport, or delivery"). As you can see, I could easily have gotten a fun (to me, at any rate) column out of those juicy grammatical items alone.
The myth of Paul Ryan is in serious trouble. This was likely inevitable, but it certainly is on stark display in the debate among Republicans over his "Ryancare" bill, which was supposed to be the "repeal and replace Obamacare" answer to all conservatives' dreams. Quite obviously, Ryan's bill fell far short of this lofty goal. It is currently being savaged from all sides within the Republican caucus alone. But beyond the bill's likely failure, the myth surrounding Ryan is also on life support.
In the hyperkinetic political era we live in, change happens very quickly. President Trump is the driving force behind this increased speed of the political discourse, but Paul Ryan gamely tried to capitalize on the new frenzy by passing his own favored "repeal and replace Obamacare" bill as quickly as humanly possible. He was going to whip it through the House so fast nobody would know what was in the bill, and then the Senate was magically going to refuse to even debate the bill and instead move it directly to the floor for a vote. This would all happen at blinding speed, and then everyone in Congress could go home for the Easter holiday, having already put the bill on Trump's desk. Problem solved!