What Do The Liberty Caucus Extremists Want? Are We Certain They're All Nihilists? Justin Amash For Speaker!
The 40 or so far right-extremists and libertarians who topped Boehner and denied McCarthy the speakership and are now deciding Paul Ryan's fate, are easy targets because they are generally misogynistic, homophobic racists. Some are neo-Nazis and even more are Confederates. But does that mean they're always wrong about everything? And, more to the point, what does that say about the bottom-up congressional rebellion they're leading against the House leadership rules now? Forget for a moment ,if you can, that Mo Brooks (R-AL) is a crackpot racist who's basically never right on any policies. In the clip above, though, Lawrence O'Donnell talked with him about what the Liberty Caucus is getting at from their own perspective. (Hint: he didn't say it was seceding from the Union again.)
How he believes John Boehner didn't follow them, and how the chamber’s next leader needs to. Amash and his crew want a robust committee process. They would like more amendments and no more end runs to fast-track legislation to the House floor. If the next leader does those things, he or she might not have to constantly worry about the Freedom Caucus. Return to “regular order,” and the Republican Conference just might be able to return to normal.And that reminded me of an amendment-- which started as a bill be co-wrote with progressive Democrat John Conyers in 2013 in an attempt to rein in the unconstitutional surveillance of Americans by NASA, the LIBERT-E Act. The bill attracted awesome progressive Democrats like Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and Judy Chu (D-CA) as Libertarian-leaning Republicans like Amash, Thomas Massie (R-KY), Walter Jones (R-NC) and Tom McClintock, as well as crackpots from both parties, like Kyrsten Sinema (Blue Dog-AZ), Paul Broun (R-GA) and Ted Yoho (R-FL). It didn't attract anyone from Boehner's circle.
“The problem isn’t that he isn’t conservative enough,” Amash told about 40 people here during a town hall meeting Wednesday evening, referring to John Boehner, who announced his resignation amid growing pressure from Amash’s group. “The problem is he doesn’t follow the process. He operated a top-down system, and still operates a top-down system because he hasn’t stepped down yet. Which means that he figures out what outcome he wants, and he goes to the individual members and attempts to compel and coerce us to vote for that outcome.”
Amash, a 35-year-old libertarian-minded Republican first elected in the tea party wave of 2010, is at the heart of a new power center in the House Republican Conference. With roughly 40 members, the Freedom Caucus has an outsized role in selecting the next speaker of the House. If its members vote as a bloc, which they say they intend to do, it essentially gives them veto power over the next speaker of the House.
Republican leaders see Freedom Caucus members as a bunch of bomb-throwing ideologues with little interest in finding solutions that can pass a divided government.
But that's a false reading of the group, Amash told his constituents. Their mission isn't to drag Republican leadership to the right, though many of them would certainly favor more conservative outcomes. It's simply to force them to follow the institution's procedures, Amash argued.
That means allowing legislation and amendments to flow through committees in a deliberative way, and giving individual members a chance to offer amendments and to have their ideas voted on on the House floor. Instead of waiting until right before the latest legislative crisis erupts, then twisting members’ arms for votes, they argue, leadership must empower the rank and file on the front end and let the process work its will.
“In some cases, conservative outcomes will succeed. In other cases, liberal outcomes will succeed. And that’s OK,” said Amash, who was reelected overwhelmingly last year after the U.S. Chamber of Commerce backed his Republican primary rival. “We can have a House where different coalitions get together on different bills and pass legislation. And then we present that to the Senate and we present it to the White House.
“The worst scenario,” Amash continued, “is where you have one person or a small group of people dictate to everyone else what the outcome is going to be in advance.”
In the end it was introduced as an amendment to a Defense Appropriations bill and was narrowly defeated 205-217 by Obama and Boehner. 111 Democrats and 94 Republicans voted in favor and they were edged out by 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats (mostly wretched Blue Dogs and New Dems like Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Jim Himes, Steve Israel, the same Kyrsten Sinema who claimed to be a co-sponsor, John Delaney, Jim Cooper, Ann Kuster, Sean Patrick Maloney, Lipinski, Hoyer, Cuellar, Costa... all the dreck) voting against.
Thinking about that amendment took me back to Michael Gurnow's 2014 book, The Edward Snowden Affair: Exposing the Politics and Media Behind the NSA Scandal, which talked about how Amash attempted to address the unconstitutional spying on Americans in the face of an unsympathetic Speaker (Boehner).
The LIBERT-E Act had over 50 sponsors. It was the product of two Michigan politicians. Amash, a Republican with Libertarian leanings and the sixth-youngest representative, had been joined by Conyers, a Democrat born in 1929 who was the second-longest serving incumbent on Capitol Hill now in his 48th year in Congress. But the two politicians knew the controversial law would not pass on its own. They judiciously took another approach. The decision wound up testing the moral fabric of democracy.
Unlike the Senate, where all members can force a vote, the House Speaker reigns supreme. If the speaker doesn’t deem a topic worthy of consideration, it isn’t put on the docket. Amash walked gingerly around Speaker Boehner, who had already decreed Snowden a traitor. He made his bill into an amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2014. Any lawmaker can propose an amendment to a bill so long as it can be proven to relate to the legislation it is trying to piggyback. The amendment’s relevance was obvious and irrefutable. It dealt with defense spending. Amash was calling to cancel the NSA’s authority to conduct blanket surveillance. There were two sides to the legislative coin. In theory, Amash’s proposal should have been agreeable to the fiscally conservative Republican-led House because it would cut costs. In reality, House Republicans strongly supported national defense, which the bill sought to limit. It was nonetheless Amash’s best bet for getting the law passed.
It was also a prime example of why politicians hate amend ment riders. Piggybacked legislation frequently puts them in a difficult position with their party, campaign donors and constituency. In the case of Amash’s proposal, a lose-lose scenario ensued. If the amendment was attached, a House member would be simultaneously voting for and against national defense, and the press and public rarely issued benefit of the doubt after final votes were cast. Because of this, leaders of the House started humoring the unthinkable. The amendment process was a liberty which assured all voices were heard. Talk about limiting the number of amendments to a bill began to circulate. Democracy remained intact for one reason. If an actual move toward blocking a vote on the amendment ensued, Amash’s legislation had enough support for the entire Defense bill to be held up. Republicans reluctantly consented. The amendment was ruled to be in order on Monday, July 22. It was then scheduled to be debated on Wednesday evening, July 24, before going up for a tentative vote the next day.
The White House was so nervous, it broke character. Carney publicly denounced the pending legislation during a press conference on Tuesday, “[ ... ] we [the White House] oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our intelligence community’s counterterrorism tools. This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open or deliberative process. We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.” The White House chose to ignore the irony of the statement being made moments after another closed-door briefing had come to an end.
The Republicans had a right to be worried. After 15 minutes of debate the day before, Amash’s amendment was narrowly defeated 205-217 on Thursday. Ninety-four Republicans and 111 Democrats voted in favor, 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats had been against the legislation. Surprisingly, the author of the PATRIOT Act, James Sensenbrenner, voted has come to stop it.” Since a majority of Democrats supported the amendment, it would have likely passed in the Democrat-led Senate. Aside from what might have been said by Alexander, a look behind the campaign contribution curtain suggests Lon Snowden was right. The 217 “nay” voices received 122 percent more money from the intelligence and defense industries than the 205 “yea” voters.
The $594 billion Defense bill was passed with over 60 amendments by a vote of 315 to 109. The tab was five billion dollars below current spending and the White House threatened to veto it in order to continue to fund the Pentagon. Its emotional appeal was that the reduced budget would force compensatory cuts to other programs such as health research and education.
However, one of the amendments that did pass relates to U.S. government surveillance. It was put forth by Mike Pompeo of Kansas and declares that the NSA cannot use its budget to “acquire, monitor, or store the contents [ ... ] of any electronic communication” of a U.S. citizen. It passed by a vote of 409-12. The reason Pompeo’s law was met with little fanfare and passed by an overwhelming margin is because it is essentially flaccid. It prohibits what the NSA stated it was not doing and currently steering around. Pompeo’s legislation does not ban the bulk collection of metadata.
|Boehner has something in his eye-- Justin Amash|