Because federal spending levels for this fiscal year and the next are already set, there was no practical reason for House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to unveil a budget blueprint last week. Indeed, since it'll never be approved by the Democratic Senate, the mere introduction of the plan was an obviously political exercise -- more a statement than an attempt at governing.
House Republicans put an exclamation point on that statement in a vote this afternoon.
The House narrowly approved Rep. Paul D. Ryan's spending blueprint Thursday, 219-205. It's an important symbolic victory for the Wisconsin Republican and potential GOP presidential contender.
No Democrats voted for the 10-year-spending plan and the bill won't go anywhere in the Senate, but the document has come to represent a marker for where the Republican Party, its leaders and rank-and-file House members stand on fiscal policy.
Twelve Republicans defected.
There was some chatter last week that House GOP leaders were worried about a possible defeat, but it appears members largely fell into line after some behind-the-scenes lobbying and arm-twisting. That said, 12 defections is a little high -- when Ryan budgets came to the floor in 2013 and 2012, 10 Republicans broke ranks and opposed the plans in each instance. [Update: here's the roll call for today's vote.]
Regardless, this is a very far-right budget plan, which drew the backing of 95% of the House Republican caucus -- even in an election year, even though they knew its provisions have no chance of becoming law.
And that's a vote that will very likely launch a thousand Democratic TV ads. As Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said last week, "Thank you, thank you Congressman Paul Ryan, for reminding us what Republicans would do if they had control."
What's worse than a politician saying something that's demonstrably untrue? The politician repeating the falsehood after learning it's demonstrably untrue.
Gov. Rick Scott is standing by two misleading campaign ads that falsely suggest 300,000 people in the state already lost their health insurance plans due to Obamacare.
"Clearly, the ad's accurate," Scott told reporters Wednesday in Miami, declining to elaborate.
Clearly, Scott isn't being honest with the public.
At issue is Florida Blue, the state's largest private health insurer, which has already said Florida's Republican governor, in the middle of a tough re-election fight, is wrong.
In a public statement, Florida Blue spokesman Paul Kluding said, "To date, most of the members in our pre-ACA plans have kept their plans.... Technically, there were a couple of hundred members with unique plans that were not continued. We chose to migrate those plans to new ACA-complaint ones instead of making changes to their existing benefits."
The statement added, "Other than those unique members, no one else lost coverage due to the ACA."
Also note, Florida offered an extension to Florida Blue to leave the old plans in place until 2015, making the governor's claim that much less believable.
Confronted with facts, Scott repeated the falsehood -- and then expanded it.
A few hours after a Senate Republican filibuster killed the Paycheck Fairness Act, President Obama spoke at a fundraiser for Democratic congressional candidates in Houston, and Congress' inability to legislate was apparently on his mind.
President Barack Obama sharply criticized what he called the least productive U.S. Congress in modern history on Wednesday in a fund-raising speech that he used to try to energize Democrats to vote in November congressional elections.
Obama blasted Republicans in the U.S. Senate for blocking a Democratic-supported bill earlier in the day aimed at addressing a gap in pay between male and female workers. Republicans argued that pay discrimination is already illegal.
Obama also cited Republicans' refusal to agree to an immigration overhaul and an increase in the minimum wage as examples of what he called obstruction by his political opponents.
Though the president's remarks were not recorded, the pool report quoted him as saying, "This has become the least productive Congress in modern history, recent memory. And that's by objective measures -- just basic activity."
The notion of a do-nothing Congress comes up from time to time, so it's probably worth pausing occasionally to ask whether Obama's criticism is true.
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is widely seen as an unusually weak Speaker because his ostensible followers routinely ignore him. Boehner has no meaningful legislative accomplishments after three years with the Speaker's gavel in large part because he's found it difficult to legislate with far-right members who have no use for his attempts at leadership.
Indeed, when Boehner sought a second term as Speaker last year -- a vote that was supposed to be a foregone conclusion -- his margin on victory was narrow enough to cause some intra-party heartburn.
But Boehner continues to muddle through, passing no bills, occasionally shutting down the government, and watching assorted extortion plots fall apart, all while overseeing a restless caucus that tells him not to govern, compromise, or any concessions on any issue, ever.
National Journal's Tim Alberta reports today that this may not last much longer.
Several dozen frustrated House conservatives are scheming to infiltrate the GOP leadership next year -- possibly by forcing Speaker John Boehner to step aside immediately after November's midterm elections.
The conservatives' exasperation with leadership is well known. And now, in discreet dinners at the Capitol Hill Club and in winding, hypothetical-laced email chains, they're trying to figure out what to do about it.
There are reportedly competing options, but the most "audacious" move would look to oust Boehner from his post at the end of this Congress. According to the organizers of this far-right contingent, 40 to 50 far-right House Republicans would commit to electing a new Speaker, which would deny Boehner the GOP support he'd need for another term.
The same article added that "the masterminds of this mutiny are trying to stay in the shadows for as long as possible," though if they're talking to National Journal about their possible plot, they're obviously not making too great an effort.
The obvious question, then, is how serious a threat this might be.
Not long after Ronald Reagan completed his two terms in the White House, conservative activists launched something called the "Reagan Legacy Project." The fear was that history would be unkind to the Republican icon -- when an administration sells weapons to an enemy to finance an illegal war in central America, then covers it up, then lies about its misdeeds, it leaves a mark -- so the right needed to give the president a public-relations boost.
It's worked out quite well. At Republicans' urging, Reagan's name is everywhere -- schools, bridges, courthouses, highways, airports, children, etc. -- and the former president's reputation is better now than when he was actually in office. Last year, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) even tried to rename nearly all of the water surrounding the United States after Reagan.
Lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Committee Wednesday advanced a bill that would name a Nevada mountain peak after the late President Ronald Reagan.
Rep. Joe Heck (R-Nev.) proposed the legislation that would name part of Frenchman Mountain, located east of Las Vegas, "Mount Reagan."
Committee members approved the measure by voice vote Wednesday, according to The Associated Press.
Of course, the measure was only approved after committee Democrats openly mocked the GOP's preoccupation with the man the RNC once literally referred to as "Ronaldus Magnus." In fact, one unnamed Democratic lawmaker "suggested the entire planet be named after the 40th president."
Perhaps Dems shouldn't give Republicans any ideas.
It's worth noting that the United States already has a Mount Reagan -- it's in New Hampshire -- but for GOP lawmakers, that's apparently not quite good enough.
At this point, House passage appears likely, though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told the AP he has higher priorities for his home state.
But as we've discussed before, what I find especially curious about all of this is that today's Republican Party, radicalized to an extent unseen in the United States in recent history, has absolutely no use for the Reagan legacy. None.
Going into this morning, economists projected a slight improvement in initial unemployment claims, but the new figures from the Labor Department were far better than expected.
The number of people who applied for U.S. unemployment benefits last week fell to a nearly seven-year low of 300,000, a sign the labor market might be experiencing a spring revival. Initial claims in the seven days ended April 5 sank by 32,000 from a revised 332,000 in the prior week, the Labor Department said Thursday.... Economists polled by MarketWatch expected claims to total a seasonally adjusted 320,000.
The average of new claims over the past month dropped by 4,750 to 316,250, marking the second lowest read since the end of the recession.
To reiterate the point I make every Thursday morning, it's worth remembering that week-to-week results can vary widely, and it's best not to read too much significance into any one report.
Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday asked Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday to investigate Lois Lerner, the former head of the IRS's tax-exempt division, the latest in a series of desperate moves intended to pretend this is a legitimate "scandal."
But it's not. In fact, the most striking thing about yesterday's House antics was the shamelessness with which Republican lawmakers conducted themselves. Dana Milbank was right to call out Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.) for organizing a pointless circus.
The House Ways and Means Committee chairman was ready to send the panel's files on former IRS official Lois Lerner to the Justice Department for a possible prosecution -- a handover that could have been accomplished with a simple phone call to the attorney general. Instead, Camp put on a show.
The Michigan Republican invited the press and the public to the committee's storied hearing room Wednesday, only to call an immediate vote to kick them out. This way, the panel could meet in a closed session to debate Lerner's fate -- a dramatic but meaningless gesture because the sole purpose of the secret meeting was to authorize releasing the committee's files on Lerner to the public.
Good political theater can at least occasionally be entertaining, but the Ways and Means Committee put on an elaborate show for no reason, struggling to maintain the facade that this fiasco had substantive value.
Milbank added, that Camp, who recently announced he would not seek re-election after his own party ignored the tax-reform plan he spent three years writing, was "on course to retire with dignity -- at least until he allowed his committee room to be turned into a circus tent Wednesday. It was a folly wrapped in a charade and shrouded by farce."
If the point was to generate some media attention for a "controversy" that was discredited several months ago, Camp's manufactured drama hadsome of the intended effect.
But GOP members of the Ways and Means Committee, which has traditionally been home to a slightly more serious approach to policymaking, went through the motions while hoping that no one asked some pretty obvious questions:
The House vote on the Paul Ryan budget today is a test of party unity. (WSJ) Russia didn't share all details on Boston bombing suspect, report says. (NY Times) Marriage equality's winning streak to be tested in higher court. (AP) GOP Connecticut mayor criticized for leaving gun control group. (TPM) Judge slaps State Department over Blackwater. (AP) We are one step closer to "Mount Reagan." (The Hill) read more
“Every track on that record has a line that you just want everyone in the room to shut up and listen to.” http://t.co/lDNz7X1dL4
New Jersey Assemblyman John Wisniewski talks with Rachel Maddow about his reaction to a new court ruling on the bridge lane closure investigation committee's subpoena power, and why he's not discouraged. watch
Rachel Maddow reports conclusively that David Samson, former head of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is not being investigated by the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York at this time. watch