On the surface, immigration reform is simply dead for the foreseeable future. House Republican leaders have retreated from their own policy "principles," which rank-and-file GOP lawmakers chose to either ignore or reject. Barring unexpected Democratic gains in this year's midterm elections, it would appear reform advocates will have to wait a long time for legislative relief.
Even the discharge-petition idea, which would seem to offer hope, is an unlikely path to success --- no Republicans are willing to sign it, at least not yet.
And yet, the nation's leading Republican lawmaker isn't done talking about the issue, as if there's still some chance of success. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) referenced immigration during an interview yesterday with the Cincinnati Enquirer.
In January, he and other GOP leaders outlined a set of principles to reform the immigration system. But shortly afterward, Boehner said he didn't think he could move an agreement this year, arguing that Republicans didn't trust Obama enough to implement border security measures.
On Monday, he told The Enquirer immigration was a key area of agreement between him and Obama and they talked about it at the White House last week. "He wants to get it done. I want to get it done," he said. "But he's going to have to help us in this process."
It's difficult to take any of this seriously. If Boehner wants to get immigration reform done, he can bring a bill to the floor and let the House work its will. The last I checked, he's the Speaker of the House.
But it's this notion that President Obama is needs to "help" House Republicans that's especially misguided.
House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) has been pretty aggressive in recent months about leaking word of his recent policy focus on poverty. The far-right congressman has periodically let major newsoutlets know he now hopes to "help" those who would suffer most under his own budget plan: low-income families.
And so, as Ned Resnikoff reported, it didn't come as much of a surprise when Ryan yesterday issued a 204-page report, called "The War on Poverty: 50 Years Later," condemning a variety of federal efforts to reduce poverty in the United States. It's apparently intended to serve as a precursor to the congressman's next budget blueprint, which, predictably, will seek more cuts to Medicaid, Head Start, and food stamps.
Ryan will justify his efforts, working from the assumption that many federal programs, aimed at helping those struggling, unintentionally make matters "worse."
The editorial board of the New York Times did a nice job summarizing the degree to which Ryan's ideas are "small and tired."
It's easy to find flaws or waste in any government program, but the proper response is to fix those flaws, not throw entire programs away as Mr. Ryan and his party have repeatedly proposed. It might be possible, for example, to consolidate some of the 20 different low-income housing programs identified in the report, but Congressional Democrats have no reason to negotiate with a party that fundamentally doesn't believe government should play a significant role in reducing poverty. (Similarly, Republicans complain endlessly about flaws in health care reform, but their sole solution is to repeal the entire program, not improve it.)
The report notes that some programs, including the earned-income tax credit, have been effective, but it fails to draw the proper lessons from those examples. The most successful programs, including the tax credit, Medicaid and food stamps, have been those that are carefully designed, properly managed and well-financed. For all their glossy reports, Republicans have shown no interest in making these or any other social programs work better.
It's a fair critique, but digging in a little closer, even more glaring issues arise.
From time to time, some on the right still question the merit of President Obama's 2009 rescue of the American auto industry. But as a rule, Michigan Republicans know better.
Michigan Democratic Rep. Gary Peters planned Monday to put Republican Terri Lynn Land on the defensive in their U.S. Senate race by highlighting her 2012 opposition to the federal bailout of General Motors and Chrysler, which is widely credited with saving the U.S. auto industry.
Peters and other Democrats were expected to draw attention to statements Land made at a Republican National Convention event two years ago in which she backed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney's anti-bailout position. Asked at a Washington Times-sponsored event about Romney and the bailout, she said "I'm with him on that" and noted that Ford survived without the rescue package.
For the record, Ford did not participate in the rescue, but it endorsed the policy and benefited from it indirectly.
Land, the Republican Senate hopeful, echoed a familiar conservative refrain, arguing that GM had come to be known as "Government Motors."
A spokesperson for the GOP candidate said yesterday in a written statement that Land wanted something to be done during the crisis, "but was not convinced on the specific plan that was proposed."
That's an odd position to take given the circumstances.
On Saturday, the President spoke with Putin for 90 minutes after Russian troops entered the Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula, but many detractors took to social media to rebuke his informal attire. [...]
Casual attire for Obama and his staff has become the norm, especially for weekend work, but one staffer from the Bush era can't help but chide the succeeding administration for disrespect.
Ron Christie, a former Bush/Cheney adviser, told the New York Daily News, "Talking with the President of Russia about an invasion in a button-down shirt and jeans is not up to the task."
He added that it "irks" him that casual attire in common in the Oval Office on weekends, but Christie said the president's informal wear over the weekend failed to send the "right message" about the foreign-policy crisis.
Of all the things for Republicans to be concerned about right now, this seems pretty silly.
I've been fascinated of late by Republican praise of Russian President Vladimir Putin, but as Rachel noted on the show last night, Rudy Giuliani appears to have taken this affection to a new level. For those who can't watch clips online, here's the former mayor talking to Fox's Neil Cavuto yesterday.
GIULIANI: Putin decides what he wants to do and he does it in half a day, right? He decided he had to go to their parliament. He went to their parliament. He got permission in 15 minutes.
CAVUTO: Well, that was kind of like perfunctory.
GIULIANI: But he makes a decision and he executes it, quickly. Then everybody reacts. That's what you call a leader. President Obama, he's got to think about it. He's got to go over it again. He's got to talk to more people about it.
It's not unusual, during a time of crisis, for Americans to rally behind a president. In Giuliani's case, the trouble is the New York Republican appears to be rallying behind the wrong president.
That said, it's nevertheless important to appreciate the fact that, in Giuliani's mind, the mark of an effective leader is seen in someone who acts unilaterally, invades a country, and doesn't stop to think too much about it. Real leaders, the argument goes, simply act -- then watch as "everybody reacts."
But here's the follow-up question for Giuliani and other conservatives swooning over Putin: if President Obama did act that way, wouldn't you be calling him a lawless, out-of-control tyrant?
Putin says 'unconstitutional coup' caused Ukraine crisis. (NBC News) Putin also says those aren't Russian forces in Crimea. (NPR) The lawyer for NJ Gov Chris Christie's campaign manager says his client appears to be the focus of the federal criminal investigation. (Bergen Record) Texas holds primaries today. (Texas Tribune) The Alabama House takes up a "fetal heartbeat" bill (a.k.a. six-week abortion ban) today. (AL.com) read more
Sen. John McCain sharply condemned President Obama on Monday, blasting the administration's foreign policy as "feckless" and partially responsible for the mounting crisis over the advance of Russian forces into Ukraine. [...]
"Why do we care? Because this is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy in which nobody believes in America's strength anymore," McCain said to the annual gathering of Jewish leaders in Washington.
McCain was apparently quite animated on the subject, going on (and on) about how President Obama is personally responsible for shaping world events in a way McCain disapproves of.
Reality, meanwhile, points in a very different direction. As David Ignatius explained this morning, "There are many valid criticisms to be made of Obama's foreign policy ... but the notion that Putin's attack is somehow the United States' fault is perverse."
Even after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) filed the paperwork to seek re-election, the rumors about his possible retirement didn't stop. Much of D.C. has assumed that Boehner would walk away at the end of this Congress, and after the Republican leader recently bought a Florida condo, speculation picked up about who the next Speaker night be.
But if Boehner's latest comments to the Cincinnati Enquirer are true, he's not going anywhere.
He plans to seek re-election as House Speaker and is confident that he will win the position.
"I think I'm in better shape with my own caucus than I have ever been in the last three years," Boehner said.
The purchase of a condominium on Florida's Marco Island "has nothing to do with my future," he said.
Whether or not Boehner is sincere is anybody's guess. Maybe the Speaker fully intends to stick around; maybe he's waiting to show his cards until the last possible moment.
But I continue to believe that if Boehner genuinely expects to hold the Speaker's gavel for at least another two years, this matters quite a bit to all Americans, not just those in his Ohio district.
After the 2012 elections, congressional Republican leaders not only recognized the severity of the gender gap, but also acknowledged that the party has struggled with a stagnant number of women in their ranks. By June, party officials had a solution in mind: Project GROW.
As we talked about at the time, the name stands for "Growing Republican Opportunities for Women." (Yes, the "G" in "GROW" stands for "grow.") The basic idea was to recruit, mentor, and elect more women candidates in 2014.
"We need more women to run," Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) said at the launch. NRCC Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) added, "Women are the majority, and we need to do a better job, and that's what this is all about." The RNC touted the effort with an unfortunate choice of words: "We need to be a party that allows talented women to rise to the top." (The DNC immediately responded, "Democratic women DO rise to the top. We don't need permission.")
There was certainly nothing wrong with House Republicans making a conscious effort to improve its gender diversity -- remember the committee chairmen chart? -- but Jay Newton-Small checked on Project GROW's progress and found that the party is "coming up short."
Thirty years ago, Republicans and Democrats had equal numbers of female politicians, but since then Democratic female representation has taken off dramatically. Part of the problem is that Republican female state legislators tend to be more moderate than their male counterparts and therefore have a tougher time getting through increasingly partisan primaries, according to Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women in Politics at Rutgers University. [...]
Indeed, last election cycle 108 Republican women ran in House primaries, according to data compiled by Walsh's center. Less than half won and only 20 were elected to Congress, most of them incumbents. The 19 Republican women currently serving in the House make up only 4.4 percent of the House, and only 8 percent of the GOP conference.