Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) announced last month that the state would sharply curtail food-stamp availability to struggling families. His latest defense isn't quite persuasive.
First, a little background. As Alan Pyke recently explained, federal rules require able-bodied, childless adults, after three months, to either work or attend a job-training program in order to receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (also known as food stamps). But during economic downturns and times of high unemployment, Washington will give states waivers, allowing struggling workers to receive food aid for more than three months.
As far as the Department of Agriculture is concerned, the economy is not yet strong, so states can continue to extend SNAP benefits beyond the three-month cap. But Pence doesn't want to -- the Republican governor thinks the economy is plenty strong to reapply the pre-crisis limits. It means tens of thousands of Hoosiers will lose their benefits.
"I'm someone that believes there's nothing more ennobling to a person than a job," Pence insisted. "And to make sure that able-bodied adults without dependents at home know that here in the state of Indiana, we want to partner with them in their success."
"You know, it's the old story," he continued. "Give someone a fish, and they'll eat for a day. Teach them to fish, they'll eat for a lifetime."
So, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) is blocking health care benefits for low-income families in order to help them "live the American dream" and Gov. Pence is curtailing food aid in order "ennoble" people.
Just a few months into the Obama presidency, the New York Times ran a report on Republicans reaching for new rungs on the rhetorical ladder. The old insults had gotten stale and lost their efficacy, so conservatives searched for more searing language.
Saul Anuzis, a former head of the Michigan Republican Party who ran for the RNC chairmanship, decided it was time for his party to throw around the word "fascism" to add weight to their condemnations. "We've so overused the word 'socialism' that it no longer has the negative connotation it had 20 years ago, or even 10 years ago," Anuzis said. "Fascism -- everybody still thinks that's a bad thing."
In context, it was clear that Republicans who accused Obama of "fascism" didn't know what "fascism" means, and they didn't much care. The definition of the word was meaningless -- all that mattered, Republicans said in 2009, was "finding something that raises the consciousness of the average voter." If that meant changing the meaning of words, so be it.
More than five years later, in the immigration debate, Republicans are committed to the "amnesty" talking point, since they assume it sounds bad. But when Betsy Woodruff asked GOP lawmakers what the word means, many of them had no idea.
Some of the top legislators who frequently use the term can't actually explain what amnesty is. I spent the past few days asking Republican senators what they meant when they referred to amnesty in terms of immigration policy. The answers I got were intriguing. That's because while Republican congressional leaders are always eager to discuss their opposition to this vague, amorphous concept, many of them are downright befuddled when asked to explain what that concept looks like in real life. Their responses ranged from straightforward to nonsensical.
When I asked Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican, what specific immigration policies he was referring to when he used the term amnesty, he said, "I don't understand the question."
Woodruff's report is hilarious, in a depressing sort of way, and it's well worth your time. My personal favorite was Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) who said amnesty "would be a pathway to citizenship" for undocumented immigrants. Told that meant, by definition, Obama's plan wouldn't constitute "amnesty," the Arkansas Republican replied, "That might require whatever."
Well said, senator.
I don't mean to sound picky, but the basic argument here is simple.
The Republican-led House took at least modest steps towards reforming the NSA's surveillance powers in June, approving a measure fairly easily that would prohibit the search of government databases for information on U.S. citizens without a warrant. It wasn't a sweeping overhaul, but it was the first time in recent years that either chamber tried to limit the government's controversial spying powers.
The vote raised hopes that more meaningful NSA reforms might still be possible before the end of the Congress. Those hopes were dashed last night when a filibuster derailed legislation that would have made broad reforms to the National Security Agency. Nick Ramsey reported overnight:
The bill would have ended the mass collection of phone records by the secretive government organization, instead keeping much of that information in the hands of telephone companies. It also included reforms to the regulatory body that oversees NSA activity, known as the FISA court.
The legislation, which was introduced in July, was sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy. The Vermont Democrat was joined by a bipartisan group of cosponsors which included some of the Senate's most conservative Republicans like Ted Cruz and Mike Lee, as well as some of the chamber's most liberal Democrats, including Ed Markey and Cory Booker.
The bipartisan group of proponents apparently did little to shape the final outcome. The Senate tally was 58 to 42, two short of the votes needed to overcome a filibuster. Of the 42 opponents, 41 were Republicans -- including Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), a frequent NSA critic, who claimed the bill didn't go far enough.
The Leahy bill will fare no better in the new year -- incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voiced strong opposition to NSA reforms during yesterday's debate -- but provisions of the Patriot Act will need reauthorization in 2015, so NSA critics will have another opportunity to at least try to advance the debate in the new Congress.
House Republicans have selected white men to chair all but one of their standing committees next year.
The secretive Republican Steering Committee announced its recommendations late Tuesday after an all-day meeting to pick the heads of 17 committees, with all of those slots going to white men. Rep. Candice Miller, who was previously reappointed by Speaker John Boehner to lead the House Administration Committee, will remain the only woman to wield a gavel.
As Rachel explained last night, "This is your Republican Party in Washington in all its glory. It should be noted, this is the cross-section of America they're offering to the American people now that they've taken power."
Of course, these are just the committee chairs. The House Republican leadership has also taken shape and it will feature three white men and one white woman. In the Senate, the incoming Republican majority has not yet announced its committee chairs, but the GOP leadership team in the upper chamber will be compromised entirely of five white men.
Diversity in the ranks has been a problem for a while, though Republican officials evidently do not yet have a solution.
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