Today the Trump administration announced it was rescinding DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), the Obama era directive giving close to 800,000 individuals who entered the country as undocumented minors deferred action on deportation. It was a humane policy.
This evening close to three hundred individual gathered at Mill Creek Park at the entrance to the Plaza to express their support for the continuation of DACA.
The unfolding Russiagate scandal is serious. Its implications go far beyond the partisan posturing that we became accustomed to during the Obama administration made-up scandals and the sooner we accept that and stop pretending that Russiagate equals Benghazigate or emailgate, the better off we’ll all be. The problem is getting the new Republican ascendancy to stop playing partisan politics and get serious about serious issues.
We’ve got an incompetent clown in the White House, pretending to be the supreme leader. What’s worse, he seems to have made his way to his position thanks to the intervention of a hostile foreign government in our last election. When it comes to questions of whether or not he or proxies in his campaign colluded with that government, the Clown-in-Chief seems to have no other goal than to create the appearance of guilt, whether it involves firing – and then bragging about firing – the FBI director leading the investigation in order, el payasoexplicitly claimed, to ease Russia-related pressure, or efforts to deliver what smells like payback to the Russian government.
The accumulation of one after another damning disclosure has forced the House and Senate, despite their reluctant GOP majorities, to mount investigations – of varying degrees of probity, admittedly. Additionally, a special prosecutor has been appointed, and there is an ongoing FBI investigation – or investigations. The threat to national security and the integrity of our election process is so great that were the entrenched GOP majority in Congress not so determined to make full use of the idiot bill-signing machine in the White House, articles of impeachment would already be in the process of being drawn up.
There is no better example of the Republican desire to gloss over the dereliction and incompetence that emanates from the White House than the behavior of our own Senator Roy Blunt. Blunt sits on the Senate Intelligence Committee and is in a unique position to represent our national security interests. However, faced with the fact that a President who failed to get a majority of the popular votes may have engineered his electoral college victory via the machinations of a Russian dictator desirous of sowing chaos in U.S. political life, Blunt just rolls over and salutes el Presidente.
Blunt showed his colors last week when, as Chris Cillizza observed, he joined other GOPers in trying to mitigate the effect of former FBI Director Comey’s damning testimony:
Blunt was, somewhat surprisingly, one of Comey’s most aggressive questioners last week. In retrospect, I shouldn’t have been surprised. Blunt just got reelected in 2016 and has always been a guy who toes the party line. He was in House leadership before coming to the Senate, after all.
The only thing that was surprising is that Cillizza is surprised at the alacrity with which Blunt takes the low road.
This week, when the iron-shoe was on the foot of a member of the Trump administration, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Blunt was all gracious bonhomie and went out of his way to make nice with what The Guardian characterized as an “extremely friendly line of questioning” – in spite of the fact that Sessions’ answer to Blunt’s question about the disputed meeting with the Soviet ambassador at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel contradicted earlier testimony:
In his opening statement, Sessions broadly declared: “I did not have any private meetings nor do I recall any conversations with any Russian officials at the Mayflower Hotel. I did not attend any meetings at that event.”
But later, when questioned by Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Sessions said that “it’s conceivable that [a conversation with Kislyak] occurred” but that it included “nothing improper.”
Then, in response to questions from Sen. Roy Blunt (R-MO), Sessions said: “I didn’t have any formal meeting with him. I’m confident of that. But I may have had an encounter during the reception.”
Blunt did not pursue the matter – although Sessions has a record of misleading congressional investigators about his pre- and post-campaign contacts with representatives of the Russian Government. You’d think, given the centrality of the question of Sessions’ credibility on the issue of his meetings with Russian officials, Blunt might have pressed the issue? Just a little?
But that, of course, might upset the Supreme leader.
Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskll didn’t waste any time. As soon as we learned that current Attorney General and former Trump campaign advisor, Jeff Sessions, not only met privately with the Russian ambassador at the height of the Russian hacking exercise – a little gift, our intelligence agencies tell us, from Putin to Trump – but lied about it while under oath during his confirmation hearings, she did the right thing and called for his resignation. Get this straight: she didn’t just demand that he recuse himself from investigating his White House patron, but that he resign. Nor are McCaskill’s demands part of a fatuous partisan exercise. The Russian mess is serious and the implications for the Trump administration are potentially huge.
And even if it weren’t about possible collusion with a foreign power, there’s ample precedent to call for Session’s resignation. Perjury is a big deal. Republicans justified impeachment proceedings against President Clinton based on the claim that he lied to Congress while under oath. In 2013, the House Judiciary investigated AG Eric Holder based on claims that he lied under oath and, although they could not substantiate the claim, vociferously called for his resignation. Acting AG under Richard Nixon, Richard G. Kleindienst, was not only forced to resign, but was prosecuted for lying to the Senate Judiciary Committee during his confirmation hearing.
So McCaskill’s not just whistling some partisan dixie. And, of course, she’s taking hate for standing up. Here’s what the spinning-like-a-top Missouri Republican Party has to say about the woman they hope to brand “Lyin’ Claire”:
Today Senator Claire McCaskill used her platform on Twitter in an attempt to discredit U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions. The problem? Her tweet was a blatant lie that was exposed by her very own earlier tweets.
And indeed McCaskill did tweet that she met with the Russian Ambassador in 2013 – but not in her role on the Armed Services Committee – the rest of the tweet cited above that begins “Off to a meeting with Russian Ambassador” continues ” upset about the arbitrary/cruel decision to end all US adoptions, even those in process.” McCaskill clarified the situation via twitter later. Her spokesperson elaborated:
McCaskill spokeswoman Sarah Feldman said McCaskill’s interactions with Kislyak were materially different than Sessions’. Sessions met with Kislyak one-on-one around the same time Russian actors are believed to have been meddling in the election. McCaskill, on the other hand, met him in a group setting to discuss adoption policy and in a brief phone call about the Iran nuclear deal, Feldman said.
Hardly in the same league as Jeff Sessions. Actually, given the full context, she wasn’t lying at all – despite an absurdly literal response on the part of Politifact. A group meeting with the Russian Ambassador on business other than that of the Armed Forces Committee does not undercut her implicit assertion that members of that committee – apart from Trump campaign surrogate Jeff Sessions – had little or no reason to have contact with the Russian ambassador. In fact, The Washington Post has confirmed that no other member of the committee met with the ambassador last year. Just Jeff Sessions. Who, under oath, denied that the meetings had taken place. Wonder why?
But hey, with Trump and his Russian buddies, his financial conflicts of interest, his strategically unavailable tax returns and, most recently, his bungled Yemen raid, Republicans have got a tough road to hoe when it comes to accountability – especially if they hope to make full use their idiot bill-signing machine to realize the Republican dream of killing New Deal America.
As Michael Tomasky observed about Sessions’ appointment to the AGs office, it was “corrupt for Trump to name him in the first place. It’s becoming clearer and clearer why Trump wanted an attorney general he could trust not to investigate him.” And if they’re not careful, the Republicans springing to Trump’s defense right now are going to be tarred with the same brush – so we can’t blame them for trying to do unto others first, can we? After all, as we have learned over the past eight years, it’s the Republican way.
Question: On the Nomination (Confirmation: Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, to be Attorney General )
Vote Number: 59
Vote Date: February 8, 2017, 06:58 PM
Required For Majority: 1/2
Vote Result: Nomination Confirmed
Nomination Number: PN30
Nomination Description: Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, to be Attorney General
Blunt (R-MO), Yea
McCaskill (D-MO), Nay
Yep, too racist to be a federal judge, okay for Attorney General.
Wanna know what happened this evening in the confirmation hearings for Senator Jeff Sessions to be Trump’s Attorney General (note I don’t say our Attorney General)?:
Senate Republicans passed a party-line rebuke Tuesday night of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for a speech opposing attorney general nominee Jeff Sessions, striking down her words for impugning the Alabama senator’s character.
In an extraordinarily rare move, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) interrupted Warren’s speech, in a near-empty chamber as debate on Sessions’s nomination heads toward a Wednesday evening vote, and said that she had breached Senate rules by reading past statements against Sessions from figures such as the late senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and the late Coretta Scott King.
The statements contained in Mrs. King’s letter and Senator Kennedy’s speech speak directly to the reason that Senator Sessions is unfit to hold this position. Silencing Warren means that the GOP is now a political organization dedicated to achieving power for themselves and their wealthy supporters and that in that ugly pursuit they do not scruple to openly support an authoritarian racist while ruthlessly suppressing any dissent. This is not the way a democracy works.
Let Blunt know that his party has overstepped the line and that if he voted to suppress these statements, his party will face a reckoning in 2018 – and that we will not forget the role he has played in facilitating the despicable Trump. Also ask him why Republicans are so afraid to have a truly open debate. Here a link to his email contact form; there are also links to his office with phone numbers.
Addendum: Here’s a link to Mrs. Kings letter, also checkout #LetLlizSPeak on Twitter.
But the other side of the coin is the prospect of a creeping normalization of what is happening to both the executive and legislative branches of our government – and potentially to the judicial if this administration survives. We’ve seen how the norms of what have kept these institutions functioning for decades are being slowly eroded in a way that too often goes unchallenged.
A perfect example was the silencing of Sen. Elizabeth Warren last night on the Senate floor when she attempted to read Coretta Scott King’s letter in opposition to the nomination of Sessions to be the Attorney General. While those of us who follow these kinds of things closely were appalled, most Americans will either never know it happened or will simply assume that it is business as usual in a divided Senate. That is how this kind of thing gets normalized.
Addendum 3: Here’s what Elizbeth Warren has to say to say about how the unsavory incident could help mobilize the resistance that will be necessary to keep such events from becoming business as ususal:
“People all over this country need to see how Donald Trump is trying to transform America into a meaner, more hateful place,” Warren said. “Democracy is not a machine that runs itself. It requires people.”
I believed over a year ago that spending caps were an important part of our effort to fight the deficit. Jeff Sessions(R-AL) and I worked hard and came very close to passing the Sessions -McCaskill spending caps. While I was able to secure 16 of my Democratic colleague’s support, we fell just short of the 60 votes needed. The leadership in my party was opposed to our effort and fought to defeat these caps. Keep in mind that this was a cap on BOTH domestic and defense discretionary spending that took into account our current fragile economy, and placed caps on spending for the next three years. It was supported unanimously by the Republican senators…
Honest…Three times…and no one should EVER watch a segment of a Jeff Sessions interview three times, I don’t care how strong ones constitution is. It just shouldn’t be done, because if the person being subjected to his nonsense repeatedly isn’t a ridiculously hyper-partisan douchebag, or if you don’t handle cognitive dissonance very well and can’t just let it roll off your back, you run the risk of a cranial event like the one pictured that I just experienced.
I’m going to share the video, but please, promise you will only subject yourself to it once…
No — don’t watch it again — he really did say that the trillion dollars in debt reduction in President Obama’s proposed budget is chump change and does nothing to get us on sound financial ground — right before he touted the same savings as ‘significant’ when in the context of what republicans want to do budget-wise.
Here are his exact, transcribed words when asked about the Obama budget that was rolled out today:
“No, it’s not. This is a ten-year budget. It sets the president’s plans and what the country should do for the next 10 years…. $1 trillion reduction is insignificant and does not get us off the right course.”
And here are his exact transcribed words on republican plans to reduce the deficit:
“[E]ven the $100 billion House proposal in reducing spending will amount to $1 trillion. And that’s a step. I mean, because, you carry it out for ten years and you save $1 trillion in that fashion.”
Keep in mind — this obviously-addled joker is the top republican on the Senate budget committee.
I weep for my country. Care to grab a box of kleenex and join me in a good cry?
The republicans aren’t serious about the deficit and the national debt. You know it. We all know it. You even showed everyone in attendance at your Concordia, Missouri town hall:
….And the final vote on the deal, perpetuating dubya’s tax cut windfall for the top 2%:
Question: On the Motion (Motion to Concur in the House Amdt. to the Senate Amdt. with Amdt. No. 4753 to H.R. 4853 )
Vote Number: 276 Vote Date: December 15, 2010, 01:02 PM
Required For Majority: 1/2 Vote Result: Motion Agreed to
Measure Number: H.R. 4853 (Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2010, Part III )
Measure Title: A bill to amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to extend the funding and expenditure authority of the Airport and Airway Trust Fund, to amend title 49, United States Code, to extend authorizations for the airport improvement program, and for other purposes.
Vote Counts: YEAs 81
Bond (R-MO), Yea
McCaskill (D-MO), Yea
….Do us a favor. Spare us those lectures on the deficit. Otherwise, you’re just telling us it’s raining.
The “bipartisanship” continues in a press release from Senator McCaskill’s office:
Bipartisan ‘CAP Act’ would put binding cap on all federal spending
February 1, 2011
WASHINGTON – As the Congressional Budget Office reports a record $1.5 trillion U.S. deficit for fiscal year 2011, U.S. Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) are introducing legislation to force Congress to dramatically cut spending over 10 years.
“At a time when many families have been forced to tighten their pocketbooks, Congress must also learn to do the same. This bill isn’t just about cutting back this year or next year; it’s about instilling permanent discipline to keep spending at a responsible level,” Senator McCaskill said.
“Washington continues to borrow and spend, and despite the pleas of the American people, there is no end in sight,” said Senator Corker, “As we approach our debt limit of $14.29 trillion and more and more Americans – Republicans, Democrats and Independents – call on Washington to get spending under control and reduce our deficit, I see no better time to change course. What Senator McCaskill and I are offering is a legislative straightjacket, a way of forcing Congress to dramatically cut spending over 10 years. The beauty of the CAP Act is that it imposes fiscal discipline and smaller government, while incentivizing lawmakers to pass policies that promote economic growth.”
The Commitment to American Prosperity Act is a simple, 10-page bill that does four things:
1. The bill permanently limits all federal spending – both discretionary and mandatory – to a responsible level compared to our economy using historical markers to set limits.
2. It eliminates oft-used budget gimmicks in order to take into account the true reality of our economic situation.
3. It authorizes the Office of Management and Budget to make evenly distributed cuts throughout the budget to bring down spending if Congress fails to meet the annual cap.
4. It requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress to override the binding cap.
The Corker-McCaskill CAP Act is cosponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and John McCain (R-Ariz.).
In 2009 the federal government spent $1.4 trillion more than it took in, borrowing nearly 40 cents of every dollar. The gap between spending and revenue is almost four times the historic average. Even when the U.S. reaches historic revenue levels, we are still projected to be spending nearly six percent more of our gross domestic product than we take in, and the gap will continue to widen. By 2035, on our current trajectory, U.S. debt will reach 185 percent of GDP. If this occurs, interest payments on our national debt will reach nearly nine percent of GDP – as much as we currently spend on national defense, education, roads, and all government agencies combined.
Have you asked Senators Corker (r), Alexander (r), Burr (r), Chambliss (r), Inhofe (r), Isakson (r), Kirk (r), and McCain (r) what they think of President Obama’s one trillion dollar budget cut, as opposed to the republican controlled House’s one hundred billion dollar cut (maybe over ten years)?
Senator Sessions (r) wasn’t available? Just asking.
And why don’t republicans ever bother to address the impact of dubya’s tax cut windfall for the top 2% on the deficit and wealth redistribution upward in this country?
Apparently, it’s always raining in Washington, D.C.
While digging around on the Web, I came across a couple of blog posts concerning Claire McCaskill. In response to a letter concerning the miscues of Democrats in Congress, McCaskill sent the blogger this response boasting about her wise stewardship of tax dollars – and addressing none of the concerns about which the blogger had contacted McCaskill. This inappropriate, one-note response struck me as a perfect representation of McCaskill’s one-note public persona – the fiscally responsible legislator who, like a thrifty aunt, understands the value of a dollar just as well as any of the good folks back home.
The problem comes when McCaskill confuses the discipline of economics with the ledger book – or, in McCaskill’s case, perhaps, assumes that her constituents lack the vision to see beyond the ledger book. For example, McCaskill has been in the forefront of those so-called moderate Democrats who ballyhoo a simplistic approach to debt and deficit reduction that is designed to play well at home, but is not likely to address any of our real economic problems.
Most recently McCaskill has once again joined Republican Jeff Sessions (Alabama) in introducing an amendment that would freeze spending for three years. As Pat Garofalo of The Wonk Room notes:
…the notion that a blanket freeze is a good way to reduce deficits is severely misguided. For one thing, it locks in funding without any debate as to whether current levels are appropriate, and it will limit the ability of the Congress to respond to changing demands … . As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich has pointed out, this makes it hard “to do much of anything for the middle class that’s important” going forward.
A freeze removes any sense of prioritization from the budget (building effective programs while eliminating ineffective or duplicative ones), and simply whacks away a chunk of funding across the board. As CAP Senior Fellow Scott Lilly has pointed out, programs that are under the radar, but vital to the nation’s functioning, will likely end up on the short end of a freeze.
It seems as if McCaskill’s ersatz fiscally responsible bad angel is once more leading her astray. Certainly her auditor persona has its good moments – her work on government contracting, which President Obama referenced last Wedensday, comes to mind, as well as her principled stand on earmarks – but she should certainly give the deficit bashing a rest. There are, after all, plenty of Republicans with nothing more constructive to do than to bang on that particular empty drum.
Update: If you are interested in what a nuanced, as opposed to simplistic take on deficits, spending and role of government, actually looks like, take a look at this set of graphs and accompanying commentary.
Image created by Viktor Voight from the Wikimedia Commons.