Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
There were signs of trouble yesterday when it took some Senate cloakroom arm-twisting of Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and holding open a procedural vote for nearly four hours until Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) could return from North Dakota to break a GOP filibuster, and to finally approve the nomination of B. Todd Jones as the director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. Senate
confirms ATF director for first time since 2006.
The new Senate GOP "compromise caucus" that emerged a couple of weeks ago in an agreement with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to approve the president's executive department nominees fell apart today when the GOP's scorched earth policy of total obstruction returned with a filibuster of the transportation and housing bill. Greg Sargent writes, The great GOP crack-up will have to wait:
Senate Republicans just successfully filibustered the transportation and housing bill, with most of the Republicans who had voted for
the bill in committee siding today with the GOP leadership and the Tea
Party against letting it move forward. Republicans blocked it in a 54-43
[In a true democracy, without the filibuster, the bill would pass by a majority vote of the Senate.]
Democrats, obviously, had been hoping for a better outcome. They had
viewed this vote as a test of whether Mitch McConnell was losing control
of his caucus. Dems had been trying to drive a schism into the Senate
GOP, in hopes of winning over a handful of compromise-minded Republicans
(as happened on executive nominations and, to a greater degree,
immigration reform) to work with Dems to fund government functions
(transportation, housing) at a higher level.
That didn’t happen. Instead, Republicans maintained a filibuster
against funding to the transportation and housing departments because it
spent at higher levels than the sequester.
Obama and Democrats were hoping for renewed signs that they could win
over a few Republican Senators in hopes of avoiding a debt limit
showdown and replacing the sequester. But today’s events seem to confirm
that the coming GOP crack-up Dems are hoping for will have to wait.
Breaking with sequester level spending is still an ideological Rubicon
that even a handful of Senate Republicans appears broadly unwilling to
* * *
Yesterday, by pulling their version of the transportation bill, House Republicans confirmed
that they can’t pass anything that actually cuts the government to the
sequester spending levels they theoretically prefer. Dems had hoped
that, by peeling off a few Republican Senators to join with them in
talks to replace the sequester, it might end up putting pressure on the
House GOP leadership to cave and let something pass with Dem support.
That was always going to be a long shot, but today’s outcome in the
Senate — by reminding us that the GOP caucus can stay unified against
compromise — casts further doubt on that possibility.
In truth, a short term “continuing resolution,” or CR, to fund the government might be the best
case scenario. It’s still unclear whether House Republicans will be
able to get such a thing passed — particularly if Dems want it to fund
the government at a higher level than the sequester. Dems will probably
be willing to agree to a CR at current funding levels if absolutely
necessary. But it even remains to be seen whether House Republicans can
pass that, given the growing determination of conservatives to
insist that even a temporary funding measure must defund Obamacare
(yesterday’s vote confirms this uncertainty). Sober-minded Senate
Republicans will have to push House Republicans to get them to support a
CR, but it’s anyone’s guess whether they will succeed.
Dems will have hope that in the longer term, Republicans
(particularly “defense hawks”) will come to the table to negotiate on a
longer term spending agreement at higher levels, out of a concern that
current levels are unsustainable for defense.
But even that is uncertain. For now, the only thing that’s clear is
that GOP-imposed crisis to crisis governing will continue through the
fall and likely beyond.
Ezra Klein adds, Republicans need a budget deal. They need a budget deal bad.:
The House’s bill to fund transportation, housing, and urban development
(THUD) was pulled from the floor on Wednesday. Thursday, the Senate bill
to clear a filibuster as Mitch McConnell mounted an aggressive,
last-ditch effort to give House Republicans cover. Absent that sudden
and overwhelming political imperative, the legislation likely would’ve
passed: It got six Republican votes coming out of conference, and was
being managed on the floor by the bipartisan team of Patty Murray
(D-Wash.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine).
But amidst all these failures, something actually is changing, and
very much for the better: Republicans are coming to realize that
sequestration is both a political and policy disaster for them, and they
need a deal that replaces it.
“Sequestration — and its unrealistic and ill-conceived discretionary
cuts — must be brought to an end,” said Hal Rogers, the Republican chair
of the House Appropriations Committee, after THUD’s failure.
* * *
The key budget story since January has been the Republican Party’s
rediscovery of the fact that sequestration is bad policy — and thus bad
politics — for them.
Ryan’s budget tried to get around sequestration by restoring some of
the money to defense and taking a corresponding amount from domestic
programs. The failure of the THUD bill came because even Republicans
can’t stomach cutting that deeply into domestic programs. And THUD isn’t
even where they need to make the toughest cuts: That designation goes
to labor, health and human services — and that bill, which was supposed
to be unveiled last week, has been pulled from the schedule.
And all this is coming in the early days of the sequester. This is
the low-hanging fruit, such as any exists. It will only be worse next
year. And the year after that. And the year after that.
“Several months ago we were dealing with [sequestration] in the
abstract,” says one Republican aide who’s involved in the budget
negotiations. “But now that we’re moving into it people are realizing
that it’s not the best way to do things.”
The problem is that Republicans can’t get out of it on their own.
Doing so would mean admitting the Ryan budget — which they all voted for
— is too draconian even for Republicans.
The only way out is a deal with Democrats, where they can get cover for
the apostasies by chalking them up to the demands of the deal. As
Politico’s David Rogers reports,
the Republican strategy now “is to slow walk decisions into the fall.”
That gets them to end of the government’s funding and then the hard
limit of the debt ceiling, both of which will force some kind of
* * *
Seven months ago, Republicans had fooled themselves into believing they
could get a better deal by doing nothing and letting the sequester take
over. Now they realize they need a deal that gets sequestration off the
This is what happens when an ideology divorced from economic reality gets in the way of rational, fiscally responsible policy. The "Grand Obstructionist Party" is a political party entirely incapable of sound governance.