Sunday, February 19, 2017

Republican Congressmembers Are Meeting Their Angry Constituents-- Or Hiding From Them


Friday, the editorial board of the NY Times asserted that "What America has seen so far is an inept White House led by a celebrity apprentice", pointing out that Señor Trumpanzee "did not inherit 'a mess' from Barack Obama, as he likes to say, but a nation recovered from recession and with strong alliances abroad. Mr. Trump is well on his way to creating a mess of his own, weakening national security and even risking the delivery of basic government services. Most of the top thousand jobs in the administration remain vacant. Career public servants are clashing with inexperienced 'beachhead' teams appointed by the White House to run federal agencies until permanent staff members arrive."

That same night, filmmaker Jon Favreau tweeted that he doesn't get angry at Trump when he sees these tweets; "I get angry at Republicans in Congress. Their cowardice is why we're dealing with this." I think there are a lot of people-- an increasing number of people-- feeling that way across the country. Trump isn't up for reelection until 2020-- if he makes it that long-- but Paul Ryan and every single member of the House will face the voters in 2018. Right now there are 5 special elections for open House seats coming up-- starting in about 2 months-- in Los Angeles, Montana, South Carolina, Kansas and the suburbs north of Atlanta. These will be opportunities for American voters to send a message. Trump did worse than Romney in 3 and slightly better than Romney in two.
CA-34- Romney- 14.1%, Trump- 10.7%
GA-06- Romney- 60.8%, Trump- 48.3%
KS-04- Romney- 61.6%, Trump- 60.2%
MT-AL- Romney- 55.4%, Trump- 56.5%
SC-05- Romney- 55.1%, Trump- 57.3%
The potential for the biggest headlines would come from the race in GA-06-- to replace the new Medicare slashing Health Secretary, Tom Price-- a district which Trump barely managed to keep red and where Democrat Jon Ossoff could well displace whichever Republican manages to make it into the June 20th runoff after the April 18th jungle primary. The GOP establishment is praying for ex-state Sen Judson Hill but may get stuck with anti-Choice kook and controversial ex-Secretary of State Karen Handel or one of the two unhinged Trumpists, businessman Bruce LeVell or Johns Creek ex-Councilman Bob Gray. (Price's wife, state Rep. Betty Price, dropped out at the last minute.)

Or, perhaps, Trump and his cohorts in Congress haven't gone far enough yet, haven't convinced enough voters-- including Republican votes, who, after all, dominate 4 of the 5 districts-- that a loud, ringing message is necessary or even desirable. (Polls indicate most Americans are ready though, Trump's approval rating sinking by the day.

Yesterday Lisa Mascaro, in an article picked up by NationalMemo, noted that the relationship between Trump and GOP leaders in Congress started as a marriage of convenience, "thrown together by necessity and sustained on the promise of pushing a Republican agenda into law." Ryan and McConnell "tolerated Trump's turbulent debut because they agreed with the direction the White House was heading-- or were confident they could nudge it in the desired one... But the newfound partnership is showing signs of serious strain. Growing discomfort about the Trump team's ties to Russia, daily dramas at the White House and the increasing unrest at town hall meetings with constituents back home have prompted many in Congress to express second thoughts about the alliance." Mark Sanford (R-SC) went out of his way to savage Trump and separate himself from the White House sociopath the day before and the day after he visited Sanford's district in Charleston, a city (and county) Trump lost in both the primary and against Hillary.
As the first 100 days tick away, and rank-and-file Republicans head home for a weeklong recess, there is a growing worry that Congress will face a drip-drip-drip of new revelations about the Trump White House that will overshadow the rest of the Republican agenda, such as repealing Obamacare, enacting tax reform and cutting government spending.

"That's what the fear is," said one Republican senator, granted anonymity to frankly discuss the outlook. "It's not a good situation. You can't let this go and not look at it."

...One former GOP leadership aide said "there's not a single Republican anywhere" who's not stunned by some of Trump's comments. But they focus instead on the GOP priorities they see taking shape, he said.

"In the end, we're still talking about tax reform, Supreme Court-- all the stuff is getting done," the aide said. "Most of the stuff is sort of within the lines of what Republicans want anyway. People by and large think progress has been made."

Trump has already started signing into law bills sent by Congress to roll back President Barack Obama's regulatory clampdown on coal pollution and overseas corporate bribes. More are on the way to his desk.

Republicans have put their trust in Vice President Mike Pence, the Cabinet secretaries and a legislative team culled from the halls of Congress-- even though it is unclear how much sway those voices ultimately have with the occupant of the Oval Office.

And areas of significant disagreement with Trump lie ahead, such as his $1-trillion infrastructure plan, having Congress pony up funds for the border wall with Mexico, and a massive military buildup.

But the questions about Russia are threatening to overshadow Republican goals. Emboldened Democrats are calling for independent inquiries into alleged contacts between Trump's campaign team and Russian intelligence officials, and demanding the release of a transcript of a wiretapped conversation between Flynn and a Russian diplomat.

The Republican leadership has tried to contain the congressional investigations to the House and Senate intelligence committees, where hearings are often conducted in secret because of the classified nature.

...But a growing number of top Republicans, including Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, are calling for a deeper and more transparent dive into Russia's role in the November election. That could take weeks, or more likely months.

"What the hell went on? That's what's on my mind," McCain said. "We know they tried to affect the outcome of the election... Now we've got all these other issues."

And, with lack of cohesive-- let alone coherent-- leadership from the White House, naturally-fractious House Republicans from the party's various wings have been fighting each other. One top-ranking Republican staffer told me that "the only thing everyone agrees on is dismantling Dodd-Frank... The rest is completely up in the air and the parameters shift with every one of his early morning tweet storms." Sail Kapur, reporting this week for Bloomberg, pointed out that "some conservative House Republicans are objecting to a major part of the Obamacare replacement outline presented to them by party leaders, underscoring the party’s continuing inability to agree on an alternative health plan."
The proposal would allow Americans who lack insurance to buy coverage with refundable tax credits they can receive before the end of a tax year. House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady said he and other leaders presented the idea during Thursday’s private conference of the House GOP.

Some conservatives say they oppose the idea because it could amount to a new government subsidy by allowing people to receive a larger credit than they pay in taxes. They prefer a mechanism that would preclude people from getting any more money than they paid in taxes.

"I don’t like the refundable tax credit," says Representative Ted Yoho of Florida. "I don’t want people getting money back."

"This is Obamacare light," Yoho said, adding that he told Brady about his views.

Representative Trent Franks of Arizona said tax credits "should be predicated on those taxes paid in, not a refundable tax credit, because it can so easily become a major and unstoppable entitlement."

The dispute over tax credits is one of many issues facing Republican leaders as they seek agreement on how to fulfill their promise to repeal and replace Obamacare. Also discussed Thursday were a proposal to cap the tax break for employer-provided health insurance, and efforts to restructure Medicaid. Republicans are set to face their constituents during a week-long congressional recess next week.
Saturday, Tom Reed's town halls in Ashville and Cherry Creek, New York-- he was way too scared to accept an invitation from Mayor Svante Myrick to hold one in Ithaca, the biggest city in NY-23-- drew large raucous crowds. When Reed tried selling the crowds on Ryan's health care replacement (bogus health savings accounts) people were furious and started yelling "We want your health care! We want your health care!" Reed was also peppered with uncomfortable questions about Trump's embrace of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin and about Trump's failure to pay income taxes-- Reed was sounded boo-ed for voting in committee against a proposal that would have forced Trump to release his tax returns-- and the crowd wound up chanting "What are you covering up?"

When Reed tried to avoid fighting about Putin, he pivoted back to Medicare, that had his constituents yelling at him that they like it the way it is and weren't going to accept Ryan's tax credits and voucher bullshit instead of actual health care. People in Cherry Creek, where he held his second town hall of the day, were shouting that rather than repeal Obamacare, Congress should turn it into a single-payer system (as Bernie Sanders has been advocating).

In 2012, the DCCC viciously sabotaged progressive Democrat Nate Shinagawa when he ran against Reed. Because of DCCC hostility Reed managed to eke out a 52-48% win and never faced a serious competitor again. In the 2018 cycle it will be the responsibility of Joe Kennedy III, the new DCCC vice-chair for the region to make sure a progressive like Shinagawa is the recruit and that he gets support, not shade.

Next door in Syracuse-based NY-24, where, once again DCCC incompetence and a craving for an inoffensive, unelectable Republican-lite crap-candidate-- and fear and loathing for the Berniecrat-- resulted in the inevitable, reelection of John Katko in a solidly blue district Obama won with 57% and even Hillary managed to win against Trump 48.9% to 45.3%. Katko announced Friday that he won’t attend any town hall meetings with his constituents and won’t let outside groups "hijack service to my district or disrupt meaningful engagement with my constituents." If Joe Kennedy recruits a real Democrat and not another vapid New Dem or Blue Dog, Katko will be wiped off the face of the political map in 2018, along with Reed.

The NY Times also noted how angry grassroots constituents are at Republican members of Congress right now. Regardless of what fools like Katko try to say "national organizers concede they are playing catch-up to a 'dam-bursting level' of grass-roots activism that has bubbled up from street protests and the small groups that have swelled into crowds outside local congressional offices."
Several Republicans, including Mr. Trump, have dismissed the pro-health care act crowds as “paid protesters,” not constituents. Sean Spicer, the White House press secretary, without offering evidence, called the protests a “very paid, AstroTurf-type movement,” unlike the Tea Party demonstrations against the drafting of the health care law in 2009, which he characterized as “very organic.”

In fact, some of the most formidable and well-established organizing groups on the left have found themselves scrambling to track all of the local groups sprouting up through social media channels like Facebook and Slack, or in local “huddles” that grew out of the women’s marches across the country the day after the inauguration.

...The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is keeping track of Republican lawmakers who do not hold town-hall-style meetings. Some events have been canceled, and Representative Tom MacArthur of New Jersey said he had done so because the meetings have been “hijacked” by groups hostile to Mr. Trump. The committee plans to run internet ads trying to shame lawmakers for not facing their constituents in public since voting last month on a procedural motion aimed at repealing the health law.

Some of the most creative activity is coming from people who are new to political activism. In Plymouth, Minn., Kelly Guncheon, a financial planner who described himself as an independent, has organized a “With Him or Without Him” meeting for Representative Erik Paulsen, a Republican who has not scheduled any of his own. A volunteer offered to make 400 cupcakes decorated with a “Where’s Waldo?” picture of Mr. Paulsen’s face, and Mr. Guncheon said he planned to project onto screens legislation that Mr. Paulsen had supported. Participants will be asked to write down questions, which will be delivered, along with a recording of the event, to Mr. Paulsen’s congressional office after the recess.

Mr. Guncheon, like other new activists, said he was not looking to traditional political groups for guidance.

“In this new culture, this new era, we have to figure out new ways to do things,” he said. “There’s certainly no leadership at the head of the Democratic Party, or the state party. Not that I’m a Democrat anyway, but that seems to be the opposition party.”

Other new groups organizing on Facebook have arranged similar events, calling them “no-show” or “empty-chair” meetings, for Senators Cory Gardner of Colorado and Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania, as well as for Republican lawmakers from California, New Jersey and New York.

In response to Mr. Gardner’s complaints that the people showing up at his office to request town-hall-style meetings were paid protesters from other states, one group showed up at his office with a banner on which members had written their Colorado ZIP codes.
Crackpot wing nut Dana Rohrabacher-- whose Orange County district Trump lost to Hillary-- claimed that constituents asking for town hall meetings are "enemies" of democracy and political "thugs." He's literally talking about the voters in Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Costa Mesa, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Laguna Niguel and Aliso Viejo. He's one of scores of aloof, unaccountable Republican congressmembers hiding from their own voters (unlike less dishonest Members like Justin Amash and Jim Sensenbrenner who have scheduled and gone to numerous town halls). Among the shadiest and most dismissive congressmembers have been Peter Roskam (R-IL), Chris Collins (R-NY), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ed Royce (R-CA), Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Roger Williams (R-TX), Paul Cook (R-CA), Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Mike McCaul (R-TX), Bill Flores (R-TX), Steve Knight (R-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Duncan Hunter (R-CA), David Valadao (R-CA) and Rodney Davis (R-IL).

Nick Kristoff Times column this weekend dealt with how to get rid of Trump and his Nazi regime before they do some existential damage to America. "[F]or now," he wrote, "it’s hard to imagine a majority of the House voting to impeach, and even less conceivable that two-thirds of the Senate would vote to convict so that Trump would be removed. Moreover, impeachment and trial in the Senate would drag on for months, paralyzing America and leaving Trump in office with his finger on the nuclear trigger... [I]t’ll be up to Republicans to decide whether to force Trump out. And that won’t happen unless they see him as ruining their party as well as the nation."
“The only incentive for Republicans to act-- with or without the cabinet-- is the same incentive Republicans had in 1974 to insist on Nixon’s resignation,” Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia told me. “The incentive is survival.”

Trump does have one weakness, and it’s parallel to Nixon’s. Republicans in Congress were willing to oust Nixon partly because they vastly preferred his vice president, Gerald Ford-- just as congressional Republicans prefer Mike Pence today.

If I were betting, I’d say we’re stuck with Trump for four years. But as Sabato says: “Lots of things about Donald Trump’s election and early presidency have been shocking. Why should it stop now?”

And what does it say about a presidency that, just one month into it, we’re already discussing whether it can be ended early?
Wednesday there'll be a big rally in front of Paul Ryan's house in Janesville, Wisconsin, since he adamantly refuses to meet with his constituents. They'll meet at Parker Park at the corner of Harrison Street and East Court Street (53545) at 10:30 AM.

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At 4:47 AM, Anonymous Hone said...

Getting rid of Ryan would be so wonderful. Is there good progressive candidate in the works for his re-election? Fingers crossed that the Republicans' control of the House is threatened. Please, let's have it for Keith Ellison!

The way things are going with Trump, each week is a new "Hell's Gate on the Cyclone roller coaster, where you stare down at the abyss and then your stomach needs to catch up with your body. Is barfing as we go down by the seat of our pants next on the agenda?

At 8:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hone, you seriously misunderstand that district. A "good progressive" couldn't make it out of the primary.

Those voters want the guy who lusts to kill people from deprivation and who wants the gummint to merge with corporations for mutual profit.
Oh, and taxes... they want no taxes.

Rs, particularly house Rs, might be facing anger in town halls, but 95% of them have nothing to worry about from their voters. Town halls bring out the anger... those happy with how things are shaping up won't waste their time. Everyone knows this.

Town halls are more a pr stunt than anything substantive. The reps don't give a flying fuck what their voters want. They care what their DONORS want. They hold town halls to keep the rubes believing the opposite... and get a feel for what sorts of charades they'll need to conduct to keep their voters delusions alive.

At 5:55 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You left one thing out. These "representatives" can use the videos generated at these meetings as proof that "the professional left" is attacking them. Then they can hit up their donors for even more swag.

At 5:40 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

5:55, true. During cheney's reign of terror, there were several R town halls where hired agitators showed up to perform in front of yoooge press coverage who magically knew to be there for it. There was one or two media sources who interviewed a few folks NOT causing the agitation who swore they had no idea who those assholes were. Never saw them before. Never saw that much press before.

All that audio/video somehow found its way to fox only. nobody else. The rest of the fascist press who ran it used the same fox a/v.

connecting the dots is trivial... except for American fascist media and a dumbfucktard public. We keep falling for it every time.


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