Archive for the ‘john boehner’ category

Dreaming of America’s Next Third Party?

October 10, 2015

Congress is quite the scene these days. With Speaker Boehner’s offer to resign, the Republican faction simply needs to pick a replacement and get on with business. Following the Kevin McCarthy false start, Paul Ryan is home this weekend contemplating whether he should step forward. Alas, the wheels of progress seem hopelessly misaligned. Instead of meshing, these wheels are grinding. Hmmm.

The cause for Boehner’s resignation is the same cause for the GOP’s inability to pick a replacement Speaker. There are about 40 strongly conservative (Tea Party children) who caucus as Republicans but who are unwilling to follow Boehner’s leadership. This pack of 40 are quite comfortable with brinkmanship tactics such as shutting down the Government and defaulting on the Nation’s debt. While the rest of the GOP caucus members would not be confused with Democrats, these 40 stand alone in their conservative positions and their choice of tactics.

So, maybe we should think of them as a third party. Forty members is a reasonable start for a Congressional transition to a multi-party body. In today’s Congress, the 114th, the Republican caucus consists of 247 members. Democrats list 188 members. The total for the House is 247.

So where is the third party?

If the block of 40 were to caucus by themselves, the Republican caucus would drop to 207, still larger than the Democrats’ 188 but no longer a majority of all Representatives. No majority, no leadership positions.

Several members of the group of 40 speak passionately that the feud with the main Republican group is more about process and transparency. They claim Speaker Boehner keeps all matters to a small group and simply expects these 40 to vote as directed. These spokesmen say that if only it were an open process and they could put forth whatever amendments they wished, they would be prepared to accept the outcome of the vote and life would be great.

Speculation, however, leads one to think this is a clever tactic to build a voting record for the other GOP Representatives (look Representative so and so voted against this or that). The idea would be that in future elections, with plenty of negative advertising, to purge the less conservative Representatives from the roles. Pretty clever way to hijack a more centrist GOP.

Getting from here to there may prove testing. The 40 claim the majority (the other 207) are only interested in making deals with special interests and are too quick to abandon “principles”. If the 40 were to gain more members or unintentionally spawn the creation of other “third parties, what would lobbyists do?

I can just imagine how the K-Street crowd might react if they woke up to five or six parties in Congress. How would they convince enough to vote for their clients? How much more money would it take?

Don’t think this could happen? Consider the Bernie Sanders movement. Big banks have certainly earned the imposition of new rules, betting the average person’s money on high risk transactions where if successful, banks won, if unsuccessful depositors lost. Hmmm.

How about a new “green” movement? With South Carolina having just experienced a Biblical proportion flooding, the possible connection to global warming is troublesome. With a few more of these calamities, even Southerners might take note.

Even more worrisome would be future parties centering on labor (read unions) or economic class. Or how about a “people’s party” reminiscent of Argentine’s Perone?  This may seem out of the question but when Social Security is slashed, Medicare is cut back and Medicaid is held hostage, a “peoples” outcry might not be so far fetched.

America’s two party system has worked well over the years. It is based upon the principle that a one vote plurality is sufficient to win (until the next vote). The gang of 40 must make up their mind whether to separate and part from the GOP caucus, or change their strategies and stick it out playing within the rules.  Openness and transparency are worthy goals but with the current backdoor deals financed by special interests, this goal is unrealistic even though worthy.

Wishing for a third party might not bring ones desired results but with a continuation of the group of 40, a third party is not so farfetched.

What Should GOP Hopefuls Talk About Next?

September 28, 2015

With the GOP Presidential nomination marathon heading into October, still over a year away from the general election, the quandary of what candidates are to talk about is becoming evident. Donald Trump has gotten the pole position by slamming his opponents. Who could be next? Ben Carson has risen to number 2 by speaking sanely (until his remarks on a Muslim President). Sanity, however, seems it can only get one so far.   Carli Florina has jumped into the top group by saying the obvious about Trump.  More of that is old news.   And, Marco Rubio has kept his head above water by appealing to like minded voters with his fresh face and charm.  At some point, Rubio needs to appeal to a broader group.

Jeb Bush appears a bit like a “birthday balloon” slowly loosing its air. He seems to lack spirit (energy) and totally has not found any reason to put forward why he should be nominated. Huckabee is purely an opportunist and after his Kim Davis gambit, he is eyeing a block of Southern States which would make him a contender at the convention. The rest of the crowd at this point are going nowhere even though John Kasick continues to speak like a real Presidential candidate.

So what’s next for these candidates?

Over the weekend, the contenders weighed in on Syria and the recent Russian activity. Each of their speeches took a similar form. “President Obama failed to do this or that, and what he tried to do failed”. As political speech, why not?

John Boehner has the answer. Boehner was speaking about the GOP Tea Party-ers who thwarted almost everything Boehner tried to get done, said “beware of false prophets, they promise more than they can deliver”.

President Obama’s Syrian policies have been handicapped by a nation tired of war and a Congress unwilling to increase tax to pay for a war. The President’s Middle East strategies have been prescient in view of the changing global political realities but ran will into the demagoguery over Isreal. Committing military resources to the Middle East will do nothing to deal with China, Russia, or rogues like North Korea.

The prospects of arming “good” Syrian insurgents and guiding them to eliminate ISIS and ultimate overthrow Basher al Assad is simply delusional and mostly a fools errand. But it does make good political talk.

The country as a whole needs a reminder about false prophets more than once. Some people actual believe that Social Security and Medicare will be changed with a GOP President or accept lock, line, and sinker that Obamacare will be repealed (and replaced). False prophets will promise these actions but will never be able to deliver.

On the other hand, there is a need for a Middle East policy which combats ISIS (or whatever group comes after it). There is a need for ensuring Social Security becomes financially secure. And healthcare (Medicare, Medicaid, and Obamacare) are woefully deficient compared to other global healthcare models.

In other words there is plenty of room to propose specific measures on the Middle East, entitlements, and healthcare but these policies must be set within a greater context of Domestic and Foreign affairs and most importantly, how the country will fund them.

John Boehner’s “Courageous” Decision?

September 26, 2015

Speaker of the House, John Boehner, announced his resignation as Speaker and also from the House effective the end of October. The announcement surprised Washington and confused the world outside the Beltway. Why did he resign when the fight was still in progress?

Several reasons have already been given and almost certainly more theories will be put forth. From many of the new Tea Party members, the words are “good riddance”. Others say no compromise within the GOP is possible, so a new leader is ok. Still others lament the loss of a realist. But why did he resign?

Opponents had vowed to unseat him as Speaker and after a distinguished career this would have been a sad way to end ones time in office. Others were sure Boehner could survive any challenge and this is what Boehner himself professed. So why did he resign?

In Belgium, whenever the Parliament approves a spending project for the Flemish speaking region (the northern part), there is a equal appropriation which calls for spending in the south (the French part). In many regards this is what Federal Governments are about. How to distribute general taxes (or debt obligations) in a manner which keeps the peace. Most of Boehner’s opponents are fundamentally against government spending and so an incentive of money to their district has much less attraction.

Someday on “60 Minutes” John Boehner may say why he resigned. He may say he was sick and tired dealing with a faction within his own party which preferred legislative action hurtful to the GOP and to the Country (despite their protestations to the opposite). Most likely Boehner resigned in frustration. Everything he had learned about Government did not hold with this crop of Representatives. Boehner simply could not get anything accomplished which he could support. At some point he said I am not waiting until these Tea Party Representatives grow up.

Boehner’s future is nothing we should worry about. If he chooses to work, he can make a fortune as a lobbyist. He could just as easily earn an handsome income as a University President or a senior officer of a Financial institution. With Boehner’s connections and experience, he will not starve.

The question of whether Boehner’s resignation signals a courageous decision is quite another matter. While the GOP, as a whole, has stood for privilege and not the common person for many years, our system requires two healthy and constructive parties. One party’s policies should stand ready to offset the poor consequences of the other. Once in power, however, a party should be allowed to implement its policies and after a period of time, voters should decide to continue or switch to the opposition. This no longer happens in Washington.

Lack of action might seem acceptable except that essential services are being treated the same as controversial ones like abortion. If Boehner resigned because he could not figure out how to bring the House back into responsible functioning, I would say this was a great act of courage. If Boehner just found a way to satisfy his frustration (and maybe disgust), then regardless of how understandable, resignation is not very courageous.

Easy Decision

February 26, 2015

Senate Democrats, for reasons not clear, invited Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet with them in a “closed door” session during his upcoming Congress visit. Netanyahu declined for reasons most likely related to trying to keep Democrats from mass boycotting his speech to Congress. So tell me again why Netanyahu is speaking before Congress?

AIPAC (America Israel Public Affairs Committee) is meeting during the same week that Netanyahu visits. AIPAC is an un-apologist for all matters dealing with Israel and solid supporter of its conservative lead government. AIPAC is also quick to intimidate or congratulate (with $$$) US political figures based upon their level of unquestioning support for Israel. Netanyahu is a regular visitor to AIPAC conventions. Hmmm.

So in the world of Washington dysfunctional politics, Speaker John Boehner’s invitation to Netanyahu to speak before a combined session of both Houses of Congress, two weeks before the next Israeli general election, while unprecedented, came as no surprise. Netanyahu’s acceptance, however, was surprising.

Netanyahu undoubtably knows that Boehner is not leading a well oiled machine. With a huge majority in the House, Boehner’s majority has voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to deny funding for the Homeland Security Department (by attaching conditions which he knows in advance cannot pass in the Senate). His legislative activity is not exactly speaking for all Americans.

But then Netanyahu’s views for Israel do not speak for all Israelis, or for the best interests of Israel’s neighbors. Divide and conquer, however, is and has been a well known strategy to win in tactical situations. Why not try it in Washington.

President Obama has done well to keep his rhetoric controlled and above the gutter where Speaker Boehner and Netanyahu seem comfortable. The President and Vice President will be out of town or unavailable to meet with Netanyahu, and now Congressional Democrats must decide whether they will attend Netanyahu’s speech. (I can imagine the pressure which the combination “threat and reward” AIPAC money can mean in the life of Democrat Congress members.)


Any Congress member who wants to know Netanyahu’s thoughts (as if they don’t already) can go to the AIPAC meeting. Republican members will understandably follow Boehner’s lead and attend the Congressional speech. But why should Democrats even think about this for a moment?

Netanyahu’s speech is a partisan speech and unfit for the floor of Congress. It should be an easy decision to spend the day instead at the National Gallery where Congress members could learn something.

Whose Bluffing Who?

November 7, 2014

President Obama said in an interview that he would put forth new rules covering immigration by year end unless Congress moved to pass comprehensive reform. That’s pretty clear (although the President has said that before). House Speaker John Boehner in a different interview said the President was playing with fire and the President might get burned. Boehner implied that any hope of cooperation would go out the window if the President acted unilaterally. Hmmm.

So, are these two bluffing?

Hmmm. I wonder.

Or is Speaker Boehner using these words “playing with fire” to hide the “I” word? Impeachment would be relatively easy to accomplish with the GOP House majority. Conviction is at least conceivable with a GOP controlled Senate. But would moderate Republicans go along with this? Would any sensible Republican go along with this?

The Democrat calculus may be that since the GOP has no interest in cooperating on any substantive legislation in any case, why not begin doing what will appeal to Democrat voters (at least Hispanics) through executive orders?

The more clever Democrat strategists may also seek to invite dysfunctional GOP behavior so they can say, “see we told you Republicans cannot govern”.

The “congratulations on your victory” mood which President Obama had presented appears very short lived. The 24/7 news media couldn’t be more thrilled with the prospect of venomous sound bites filling hours of mindless TV and radio talk shows.

With so many Republican Senators up for reelection in 2016, a dysfunctional Congress might be well received by Democrats.
Of course, fire often burns both ways…