Jamelle Bouie answers the question as to why the Republicans are going forward with their kill people for tax cuts bill despite the fact that it's the most unpopular piece of legislation in history:
The 2018 House map still favors Republicans, and the party is defending far fewer Senate seats than Democrats. Aggressively gerrymandered districts provide another layer of defense, as does voter suppression, and the avalanche of spending from outside groups. Americans might be hurt and outraged by the effects of the AHCA, but those barriers blunt the electoral impact.
The grounds for political combat seem to have changed as well. If recent special elections are any indication—where GOP candidates refused to comment on signature GOP policies—extreme polarization means Republicans can mobilize supporters without being forced to talk about or account for their actual actions. Identity, for many voters, matters more than their pocketbooks. Republicans simply need to signal their disdain—even hatred—for their opponents, political or otherwise. Why worry about the consequences of your policies when you can preclude defeat by changing the ground rules of elections, spending vast sums, and stoking cultural resentment?
It seems, then, that we have an answer for Republicans insist on moving forward with the American Health Care Act. Because they can. And who is going to stop them?
It appears they also have a foreign country helping them get elected, for which they seem to be very grateful.
They don't fear the voters because they have managed to create an alternate universe for them in which everything bad that happens to them is the fault of hippies, feminazis, immigrants and people of color and everything good that happens is because of them. When liberals scream they laugh with delight because it means we are seeing justice at their hands.
And they've successfully created an electoral system than keeps them in the majority through undemocratic means. It's a sweet scam. No wonder they are so confident. They have staged a silent coup and we just have to live with it.
Misplaced faith an inevitable "demographic wave" to deliver lasting majorities in Congress have cost Democrats control of state legislatures across the country as well as the national one in the District of Columbia. But, Franklin Foer writes at The Atlantic, "the presidency could offset these losses." Or so Democrats believed. Demographics would deliver. And so they might. In the meantime, there's President Donald Trump.
Foer's article examines how Democrats went from ascendance to resistance in a few, short years. The Resistance, while giving the illusion of comity within the party, heightens the tension between the concerns about race and class within the ranks,something pollster Stanley Greenberg studied for years. Foer writes:
The cultural left was on the rise for much of the Obama era (and arguably, with the notable exception of Bill Clinton’s presidency, for much longer). It squares, for the most part, with the worldview of socially liberal whites, and is given wind by the idea that demography is destiny. It has a theory of the electorate that suits its interests: It wants the party to focus its attentions on Texas and Arizona—states that have growing percentages of Latinos and large pockets of suburban professionals. (These states are also said to represent an opportunity because the party has failed to maximize nonwhite turnout there.) It celebrates the openness and interdependence embodied in both globalization and multiculturalism.
While this cultural left has sprung into vogue, the economic left has also been reenergized. It has finally recovered from a long abeyance, a wilderness period brought on by the decay of organized labor and the libertarian turn of the post–Cold War years. As the financial crash of 2008 worked its way through the Democratic Party’s intellectual system, the economic left migrated from the fringe protests of Occupy Wall Street to just outside the mainstream. While the cultural left champions a coalition of the ascendant, the economic left imagines a coalition of the despondent. It seeks to roll back the dominance of finance, to bust monopolies, to curb the predations of the market. It wants to ply back the white working-class voters—clustered in the upper Midwest—whom Greenberg deemed persuadable.
Neither strain of activism has much disagreement with the broad goals of the other. On paper, they can peaceably coexist within the same platform. But political parties can have only one main theory of the electorate at any given time—and the prevailing theory tends to prioritize one ideology. The Republican Party’s pursuit of the South shaped its view of race; the Democratic Party’s wooing of professionals led it to embrace globalization.
Foer's account of — to borrow from Charles Atlas — the dynamic tension between the cultural and economic left suggests it does not represent a real split in the party ranks. They can peacefully coexist, he believes. If there is any disagreement it is over where the party should place its focus. Part of that tension springs from the ascendance of historically marginalized groups — women and racial, ethnic, and cultural minorities — feeling their oats and leery of having the party's attentions diverted from their hopes and the long-overlooked needs. White people, especially white men, have had their turn. For millennia. But for both a generation of millennials and a working class staring at limited opportunities and a declining standard of life, the crumbs metastatic, globalized capitalism offers are as galling as prejudice is strangling to the cultural left.
Their interests are common, not competitive. But progressives and even conservative Democrats speak the language of politics and policies, not the language of values. They will explain in the finest detail how this policy or that program will enhance the lives of this marginalized group or that one. This enhances the nervous perception that for one group in the coalition to get ahead, the interests of another must go to the back of the bus or get thrown under it. Progressive politics is a failure if it is that kind of zero-sum game.
But that is how voters increasingly perceive America. Republicans are more than happy to help drive wedges between members of the Democratic coalition and between Democrats and those who might someday be again. What interests they all share, however, get lost in the endless policy talk. Democrats love to talk about policies and expect voters to infer from these their principles. But voters don't. Principles should be stated up front. Only a few Democrats do.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is one. Foer continues:
... Warren is most focused on the concept of fairness. A course she taught early in her career as a law professor, on contracts, got her thinking about the subject. (Fairness, after all, is a contract’s fundamental purpose.) A raw, moralistic conception of fairness—that people shouldn’t get screwed—would become the basis for her crusading. Although she shares Bernie Sanders’s contempt for Wall Street, she doesn’t share his democratic socialism. “I love markets—I believe in markets!” she told me. What drives her to rage is when bankers conspire with government regulators to subvert markets and rig the game. Over the years, she has claimed that it was a romantic view of capitalism that drew her to the Republican Party—and then the party’s infidelity to market principles drove her from it.
At the core of Warren’s populism is a phobia of concentrated economic power, an anger over how big banks and big businesses exploit Washington to further their own interests at the expense of ordinary people. This fear of gigantism is a storied American tradition, descended from Thomas Jefferson, even if it hasn’t recently gotten much airtime within the Democratic Party. It justifies itself in the language of individualism—rights, liberty, freedom—not communal obligation.
That is wrong. There is no divide between individualism and communal obligation. That is what conservative think tanks would have us believe. It is both-and, not either-or. Gouverneur Morris began his Preamble to the Constitution, "We the People," concluding that among the purposes of this government is to "promote the general Welfare" (mentioned again in Article I, Section 8). It is something conveniently forgotten by those who find no "we" in America, only "I" and "me."
But it is fairness that is lost today and fairness Democrats should champion. Fairness is the language they should speak before skipping ahead to economic and racial inequality and their plethora of policies. "You've got to stand for something if you want to win," Howard Dean shouted. Stand for that. Stand for fairness. Coast to coast, red to blue, urban to rural, Americans believe in it even when they don't practice it. The gnawing failure of fairness drove a lot of Americans last fall to give both major parties their middle fingers.
Foer quotes a speech Warren gave last year:
“When Big Business can shut out competition, entrepreneurs and small businesses are denied their shot at building something new and exciting.” In making a Jeffersonian argument, she has begun to deploy Jeffersonian rhetorical trappings. “As a people, we understood that concentrated power anywhere was a threat to liberty everywhere,” she argued. “Competition in America is essential to liberty in America.”
Policing that threat to basic fairness is a communal obligation, one the Republican Party and far too many Democrats have failed.
The system is rigged, Warren argues, as does Sen. Bernie Sanders. But more fundamentally, the system is unfair. People know it. People feel it. On fairness, Americans from all walks of life and all partners in the Democratic coalition can agree. That people who work hard and the unfortunate among us who cannot should be treated fairly and decently, as well as equitably in the abstract, is something that should be fundamental and explicit in our conversations, especially with Americans outside the Democrats' diverse, multicultural, multiethnic, progressive urban base.
"A decent liberalism, not to mention a savvy party," Foer writes, "shouldn’t struggle to accord dignity and respect to citizens, even if it believes some of them hold abhorrent views."
In this society, we are conservative about the values and principles which we cherish; but we are forward-looking in protecting those values and principles and in extending their benefits. We have rejected the discredited theory that the fortunes of the Nation should be in the hands of a privileged few. We have abandoned the "trickledown" concept of national prosperity. Instead, we believe that our economic system should rest on a democratic foundation and that wealth should be created for the benefit of all.
President Harry Truman continued (1949):
The American people have decided that poverty is just as wasteful and just as unnecessary as preventable disease. We have pledged our common resources to help one another in the hazards and struggles of individual life. We believe that no unfair prejudice or artificial distinction should bar any citizen of the United States of America from an education, or from good health, or from a job that he is capable of performing.
The attainment of this kind of society demands the best efforts of every citizen in every walk of life, and it imposes increasing responsibilities on the Government.
The Government must work with industry, labor, and the farmers in keeping our economy running at full speed. The Government must see that every American has a chance to obtain his fair share of our increasing abundance. These responsibilities go hand in hand.
We cannot maintain prosperity unless we have a fair distribution of opportunity and a widespread consumption of the products of our factories and farms.
Our Government has undertaken to meet these responsibilities.
There were challenges, many challenges, to be sure, Truman told Congress, but,
The strength of our Nation must continue to be used in the interest of all our people rather than a privileged few. It must continue to be used unselfishly in the struggle for world peace and the betterment of mankind the world over.
This is the task before us.
It is not an easy one. It has many complications, and there will be strong opposition from selfish interests.
I hope for cooperation from farmers, from labor, and from business. Every segment of our population and every individual has a right to expect from our Government a fair deal.
Congressman, you have stated you will be carrying a gun everywhere in your district.
The Personal Questions
Do you have liability insurance in case you have an accident with the gun and injure someone?
What does your policy cover? What is exempt?
What are the limits of your insurance coverage?
If you have gun insurance, how much does it cost every year?
How does gun insurance costs compare to your auto insurance? Homeowners Insurance? Your umbrella liability policy?
Who pays for your insurance? You or taxpayers?
To put liability limits in terms of your state-required auto insurance, for example:
New York auto insurance minimums are $25,000 - $50,000 limits for bodily injury for each person accidently injured in a car accident. Gun injuries can cost much more. For gunshot survivors, the cost is much more than a single bullet. (Link)
“It's not uncommon for us to have a patient who has a total hospital bill for their acute inpatient hospitalization of over a million dollars,” Doherty said. “And in that situation, that patient has no insurance. Essentially, that's free charity care provided by the (Advocate Christ) hospital.” American Aljazeera, 2015 by Sarah Hoye
How Big Is Your Gun Insurance Coverage?
Is there a lifetime cap on the medical bills it will pay?
What if you injure someone with your gun and your insurance policy tops out? Do you have additional coverage such as an umbrella policy on your homeowners insurance?
Would your homeowners' insurance cover this? Some policies won't cover you if you are breaking the law when your gun accident happens. ( I don't know how much training you have, but my gun-carrying friends remind me that "negligent discharge of the firearm" is a more accurate phrase than "gun accident" which the media uses.)
You decide to break that law and carry your gun concealed into the gun-free zone then BANG! You didn't intend to have an accident, but you did intend to break the law by bringing your gun into a place it was prohibited. Violating that law could mean you are not covered by insurance.
Collins' lunch was at Micheal's Catering & Banquet.
They hold weddings where alcohol is served.
* Micheal's Catering & Banquet probably has a policy banning guns except those carried by licensed security guards and police officers. That might have been the reason Collin didn't answer the question if he was carrying a gun. Property owners can ban guns on their property, they have that right.
Micheal's also has a financial reason to ban guns at their events. They hold wedding and events where alcohol is served and people get rowdy (see photo). For insurance reasons they might ban guns on their property.
If they do not allow guns on their property and Collins defied them, their insurance carrier should be informed. Yes it's after the fact, but insurance carriers either raise rates or cancel policies if they find out management allows people who have unknown levels of training and blood alcohol carrying guns onto their property.
The Big Questions
Who pays for the medical costs of the person injured by Collin's gun?
What if the injured person needs long-term medical care?
What happens if the injured person has a pre-existing condition because of the gun shot?
Congressman Collins voted yes on HR1628, the Trump/Ryan Bill on American Medical Care.
That bill blocked people with pre-existing conditions from getting coverage if they were without coverage for over 30 days. (Say for example they lose their job during the weeks it takes to recover from a gunshot wound. That job loss also means losing their employee health care. )
If someone who is injured with the congressman's gun now has a pre-existing condition, they would be denied medical insurance in the future.
Gun owners are not required to be financially responsible for the gun accident injuries they cause while legally carrying guns in public.
Is Collins financially responsible for the consequences of decision to carry a gun everywhere? If not, why not?
Who should pick up the medical bill for gun injuries if the responsible gun owners who caused them won't?
If the congresspeople start carrying everywhere the public should know:
How well trained are they?
When they are carrying a gun. People should be able to choose not to be in the same room with them.
If they are following the law when they are carrying. In many states it's prohibited to drink alcohol while carrying.
If they cause an accident while carrying the medical bills of the injured will be paid.
The injured will have guaranteed health care if they have a pre-existing condition that arises from being accidently shot by a congressman.
One of the Senate Republicans charged with negotiating an Obamacare replacement expressed frustration Tuesday with the secret process, saying that even he hasn’t seen the proposal set to be released in two days for a possible floor vote next week.
“I haven’t seen it yet, either,” said Senator Mike Lee of Utah amid complaints by other Republicans that they don’t know what’s in the health-care measure being drafted by their own party’s leaders.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he plans to release a "discussion draft" Thursday and that it will go to the Senate floor for a vote "likely next week."
A week or so to examine the bill isn’t enough, said Lee in a video posted on his Facebook page. As one of about a dozen members of a health-care working group, he criticized the closely held process of drafting the measure.
"Even though we thought we were going to be in charge of writing a bill within this working group, it’s not being written by us," Lee said. "It’s apparently being written by a small handful of staffers for members of the Republican leadership in the Senate. So if you’re frustrated by the lack of transparency in this process, I share your frustration. I share it wholeheartedly.”
I have to say that the fact that only a half dozen Republicans have expressed any concerns with this tells you everything you need to know. Then again, it will only take three to tank it so that's better than nothing.
John McCain is an asshole of course, who will almost certainly vote for whatever mutant horror they produce,but he does gt off a good quip from time to time. This was from the same article. Asked whether he has seen the bill he said:
No, nor have I met any American that has. I’m sure the Russians have been able to hack in and gotten most of it.
A major asthma drugmaker has been quietly investing in coal on the side. The pharmaceutical company that just months ago was embroiled in a price-gouging scandal over its life-saving EpiPen now finds itself at the center of another potential controversy. According to Reuters’ Michael Erman, Mylan N.V. has for the last six years been buying up refined coal in order to reduce its tax bill and boost its bottom line:
Since 2011, Mylan has bought 99 percent stakes in five companies across the U.S. that own plants which process coal to reduce smog-causing emissions. It then sells the coal at a loss to power plants to generate the real benefit for the drug company: credits that allow Mylan to lower its own tax bill.
These refined coal credits were approved by Congress in 2004 in order to incentivize companies to fund production of cleaner coal. They are available to any company that is willing to invest the capital, and are set to expire after 2021.
The story gets even sketchier. Mylan Chief Executive Heather Bresch, Erman notes, “is the daughter of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, the second largest coal-producing state in the country.” And Mylan would not explain to Erman why it adopted this particular strategy, though an anonymous source said the coal operations “have increased Mylan’s net earnings by around $40 million to $50 million in each of the past two years.” Mylan is apparently the only publicly traded pharmaceutical company to partake in this type of tax aversion strategy.
The sketchy part which Reuters did not point out is that two out of Mylan’s five specialty brand-name drugs treat pulmonary problems that are exacerbated by air pollution, a lot of which comes from coal. The company makes Perforomist, an inhaler that treats symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as well as prevents asthma attacks and exercise-induced bronchial spasm.
Multiple studies have linked exacerbated COPD symptoms to air pollution, though those links are suggestive and not conclusive. Mylan is also in the asthma treatment market; the company makes EasiVent, which attaches to asthma inhalers to help the medicine more easily reach the lungs, and it recently failed to get regulatory approval for a generic version of the blockbuster asthma drug Advair. Peer-reviewed science has been linking coal combustion to more severe asthma since at least 1972.
The coal that Mylan is investing in is refined, which means it burns cleaner than normal coal (hence the tax credits for companies that fund it). But cleaner coal is still coal, the dirtiest fuel source on the planet. Continuing to promote coal, in any form, is shown to be bad for the environment and public health. It’s good business for asthma drugmakers, though.
This company is like a cartoon superhero villain. I can't wrap my mind around this level of cynicism.
And hey, Joe Manchin, good work. You've managed to drag the Democratic Party right down in the same sewer with the Republicans on this one. But hey, I'm sure your constituents will be very happy. They are the ones who'll get COPD and asthma but then they'll blame you for your association with San Francisco liberals and elect a Republican who'll promise to kick all the hippies and gays and give them jobs they can't deliver. But at least your daughter is making big bucks so it's all good.
CBS News released a new poll Tuesday focused on the public’s attitudes toward the Russia investigation. It contained very bad news for President Trump. His overall approval rating sits at a new low of just 36 percent, a drop of 7 points since their last poll in April. He’s even down 11 points among Republicans. And this drop is largely due to his handling of the Russia probe. Trump is underwater on terrorism and the economy as well, with 50 percent disapproving of his handling of the former and 51 percent disapproving of the latter. But on Russia, he’s at a whopping 68 percent disapproval rating. Drill down and it gets worse: 81 percent of the public believe Trump should not stop the investigation and an amazing 64 percent believe that Trump is more interested in protecting his administration from investigation than he is in protecting the United States.
So,this isn’t going well for our fearless leader. While his hardcore base is sticking with him he is starting to lose Republican voters in very worrying numbers. His own culpability in this, so far, seems to be tied to his insistence that former national security adviser Michael Flynn not be investigated for his activities with respect to Russia. He tried to get FBI Director James Comey to drop it and then fired him. He was reported to have asked Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats and NSA Director Mike Rogers to intervene. He even held a rambling press conference not long after he fired Flynn and he said this about the whole matter:
Mike Flynn is a fine person, and I asked for his resignation. He respectfully gave it. He is a man who there was a certain amount of information given to Vice President Pence, who is with us today. And I was not happy with the way that information was given. He didn’t have to do that, because what he did wasn’t wrong. … And, you know, you can talk all you want about Russia, which was all a, you know, fake news, fabricated deal, to try and make up for the loss of the Democrats, and the press plays right into it.
Trump had known for weeks by this time that the FBI believed Flynn was subject to blackmail by the Russian government. He either didn’t believe it or didn’t care.
In the same press conference in which he defended Flynn, Trump made clear he was very upset by a Wall Street Journal story published that day saying the intelligence community was withholding information from him. He read a statement from the acting CIA director that denied it. This is interesting because the New York Times ran a big story Tuesday night pertaining to that question.
[N]early every day for three weeks, the new C.I.A. director, Mike Pompeo, sat in the Oval Office and briefed President Trump on the nation’s most sensitive intelligence — with Mr. Flynn listening. Mr. Pompeo has not said whether C.I.A. officials left him in the dark about their views of Mr. Flynn, but one administration official said Mr. Pompeo did not share any concerns about Mr. Flynn with the president.
Of course we cannot know for sure that Pompeo never expressed any worries about Flynn to Trump. But it’s astonishing no matter how you look at it. If the CIA failed to tell its new director about important questions regarding the national security adviser, and allowed him to pass on classified secrets to a potentially compromised person, that’s a problem. If Pompeo continued to brief someone he knew his agency believed was subject to blackmail, that should disqualify him from the job. But if Pompeo did tell the president and was ordered to keep on briefing Flynn anyway — that’s even worse. We already know that Trump disregarded the warnings from Acting Attorney General Sally Yates because he believed she was a Democratic stooge. But if he did the same with his own handpicked CIA director, he’s even more of a rogue president than we knew.
If there’s one thing clear by now it’s that Donald Trump demands loyalty from the people around him and that when he doesn’t get it, he gets very upset. But he has rarely shown such loyalty in return. For some reason he has shown tremendous loyalty to Michael Flynn and the reason for that has to be one of the major lines of inquiry in the investigation into Flynn’s activities.
Flynn’s story gets crazier by the day. This week we’ve seen new reporting that shows him being in involved in even more nefarious business deals than we knew before. There was a jaw-dropping article by Jeff Stein of Newsweek reporting that Flynn tried to broker a previously overlooked $100 million deal between Russia and Saudi Arabia to build nuclear power plants in the Middle East. That’s right, they actually thought it was a good idea to create nuclear material in the middle of a violent, sectarian religious war zone. What could go wrong?
It’s a complicated deal involving some of Flynn’s business associates as well as some ex-military types and others who apparently saw it as a way to form a Middle East security perimeter manned by the Russians, the Europeans and the Saudis, while isolating Iran — and making huge profits. It’s all very byzantine, and the Obama administration was opposed to any version of it for good reason.
On Tuesday, Reuters reported that the FBI is investigating the co-founder of Flynn’s lobbying company, a man named Bijan Kian, who seems to have aroused their interest over his high-dollar dealings with certain Turkish and Russian businessmen. It’s unclear if this is a new direction for the investigation or simply one that follows on Flynn’s previously reported activities.
Meanwhile, Justice Department special counsel Robert Mueller is continuing to beef up his team. He has added the Russian-speaking Elizabeth Prelogar, a former law clerk to Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Elena Kagan, to his team. In another Reuters report we learn that Andrew Weissmann, former chief of the Justice Department’s criminal fraud section, another recent addition to Mueller’s team, has the Trump people concerned because he’s known for his skills at getting people to flip on their superiors, friends and colleagues.
Weissmann may not be required to use his expertise on Flynn. According to speculation by two Democratic members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., it looks very much as if Flynn is already cooperating with the FBI. Stay tuned. digby 6/21/2017 12:00:00 PM
You say you want a revolution?
Well we have one. It's a right wing revolution. And they are winning.
The Republicans will do anything to destroy all attempts to provide universal health care to the American people and give themselves and their rich friends and heirs a huge tax cut by any means necessary. So far they have passed gigantic legislation without waiting for the CBO score that would outline the costs and the impact on our citizens. And they've changed the 10 year window for a deficit increasing tax cut, something they insisted on in the past. We knew they didn't really care about deficits but they aren't even pretending anymore.
Republicans appear ready to make a small, but significant change to historic Senate procedure in order to advance their legislation to rework the U.S. health insurance system, a move that could have notable impact on the future of the chamber’s operations.
GOP leaders are sending signals that, if necessary, they plan to invoke a seldom-used rule included in the Congressional Budget Act that would allow Senate Budget Chairman Michael B. Enzi to skirt a decision from the chamber’s parliamentarian, a key gate-keeper for the budget maneuver known as reconciliation that Republicans are using to advance their health insurance measure.
Such a decision would have ripple effects far beyond the tenure of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a careful practitioner of the chamber's procedural rules, and open the door for future leaders to more easily advance legislation under a 51-vote threshold.
“It is the Parliamentarian’s office that determines whether or not a reconciliation bill is in compliance with the rules of the Senate. This is not a function of the chairman of the Budget Committee,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, the ranking member on the Budget panel, said in a floor speech this month. “I am extremely concerned that the chairman of the Budget Committee, in an unprecedented manner, appears to have made that determination himself with regard to the Trump-Ryan health care bill.”
The Senate could vote as early as next week on the health measure. Reconciliation permits legislation to pass the Senate with only a simple majority of members supporting it, but the bill must also comply with a set of chamber rules governing the process.
Congress set up this process earlier this year when it passed the fiscal year 2017 budget resolution. That measure included reconciliation instructions that laid out the requirements any bill must meet in to advance under the simple majority threshold.
In this case, that was $1 billion in deficit savings over 10 years from the provisions in the legislation under the jurisdiction of four committees: the House Ways and Means and Energy and Commerce committees and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions and Finance committees.
Under ongoing debate with the Senate parliamentarian is whether the House bill would actually achieve the required savings under the HELP Committee. The Senate parliamentarian has yet to make a formal decision on the matter.
Democrats argue that a provision to repeal the 2010 health care law’s cost-sharing subsidies falls within the jurisdiction of the finance panel.
Republicans have yet to formally submit an argument to the parliamentarian outlining why they believe the section that would end those payments should be considered under HELP’s purview, one senior democratic aide said. The GOP is expected to submit that argument on Wednesday, a senior Republican aide said, and the decision by the parliamentarian is expected to come before the Senate votes on the measure.
A spokesman for the Senate Budget Committee did not respond to request for comment.
The jurisdiction in this case is critical. If the parliamentarian was to side with Democrats in her decision, then the House bill as a whole may not comply with the fiscal 2017 reconciliation instructions.
While the Senate is writing its own bill, McConnell must first introduce the House measure on the floor to file a substitute amendment to it with the new language. If the House bill were deemed to be noncompliant, however, then the GOP would need the standard 60 votes instead of 51 to advance it, a likely impossible task given no Democrats are expected to support it.
But Republicans appear ready to invoke a section of the Congressional Budget Act that they say would effectively give the Senate Budget Chairman authority to determine whether the legislation meets the required deficit reduction levels.
“Final decision on the score rests with the majority Senate Budget Committee Chairman, but it has to be within reason, I can’t just pick a number out,” Enzi, a Republican from Wyoming, told Roll Call.
Essentially they are saying that they get to decide what the law requires rather than the parliamentarian. Might makes right.
They will argue that nobody cares about process. And frankly, they're right. In order to have an orderly, decent, political system you need responsible patriots running it, people who care about the fundamental principles of democracy.
We don't have that. We have a radical majority party bent on siphoning off as much of the money currently used to help the poor and middle class survive as they can in order to give it to their rich cronies. They have no other purpose. It is now a real kleptocracy that's enabled by a corporate sponsored right wing media that feeds the resentments of half of the people in the country with lies and propaganda. And they even make a tidy profit at it.
Donald Trump could not have happened if it weren't for the Republican party paving the way.
And just one word about Democrats. Yes, they have their share of corruption and weakness and lack of imagination and everything else everyone hates about them. But they aren't this bad. And they are the only vessel we have to fight this back. Just a little note to remind people that you have to pick your battles in this life and arguing about what color the house should be painted while it's going up in flames is not a wise strategy.
Did all the money thrown into the Georgia 6th District congressional runoff between Karen Handel and Jon Ossoff matter? For Democrats, not enough. Handel won the heavily Republican district formerly held by Newt Gingrich by just under four points. Not bad for Ossoff in a district Tom Price won by 20 points before leaving to lead Donald Trump's Department of Health and Human Services. Less impressive if one considers Hillary Clinton only lost it by one point. Name recognition and a track record counts for something.
As Nate Silver predicted cannily, there are hot takes aplenty this morning. Democrats are demoralized. Republicans are buoyed. Does the outcome really matter? The first thing we do, let's kill all the consultants. (There might be something to that one.)
But it's early and the numbers haven't all been crunched. Josh Marshall had these observations last night:
My take is that the most realistic way to see this result is that it is one of a string of special elections in which Democrats have dramatically over-performed in Republican districts. Yet they haven’t been able to win any of them yet. There were two before this (Kansas and Montana) and another tonight (South Carolina) where the Democrat also lost but got a lot closer than people expected.
If you take the average Democratic over-performance in these districts and apply it to the entire House, Democrats are quite likely to take the House next year. What I take from this is that Republicans are struggling under Trump and Democrats are energized. But Democrats need to keep refining both their message and improving their electoral infrastructure. The most challenging takeaway I take from these races for Democrats is that even though Republicans have lost substantial ground and are operating in a tough environment they’ve nevertheless been able to mobilize money and partisan affiliation to hold on in tight races. That can’t be ignored. It’s also very significant.
But there is also the improving "their electoral infrastructure" part of Marshall's equation. There is certainly an over-reliance on a priesthood of consultants, data geeks, and technological terrors for solving what are essentially human relations problems. Voters are human beings, not data points or cattle to be herded. It might help if campaigns treated them as such. But if my area is any indication, there is also this. Few county organizations have built up the institutional memory and skills for running effective get-out-the-vote programs year to year, mid-term to presidential to municipal. Activists age out of high-intensity campaign work and take what they've learned (if anything) with them. Many smaller counties rely on national coordinated campaigns to parachute in every four years (if they do) to tell them what to do when the ambitious twenty-something staffers don't know themselves.
Winning an election is not just a contest of ideas; it is a contest of skills. At a meeting recently, one county Democratic officer expressed interest in learning about all these "high-tech" tools we use. I think that meant computers. Democrats need an upgrade from the grassroots up as much as from the top down.
All that aside, Charlie Pierce had the perspicacity not to lose sight of what really happened last night:
Lost in all of the noise is that Georgia is sending a real awful person to Congress.
Apparently, Americans are allowed to shoot through the border fence and kill people on the Mexico side. Or, at least, we think we are. This story is just awful. We'll have to see if the shooter is held liable for what he did:
A 16-year-old Mexican teenager killed by a U.S. Border Patrol agent appeared to be on the ground as the agent fired 13 of the 16 shots through the border fence in Nogales, a partial video of the 2012 killing showed Monday.
Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguezwas lying facedown on the ground and did not appear to be moving as Border Patrol Agent Lonnie Swartz fired two of the three volleys that hit Elena Rodriguez in the upper back, upper arms and head, a video reconstruction by federal prosecutors showed.
The portions of the video, along with the video reconstruction, were shown for the first time Monday in a U.S. District Court hearing in Tucson. Swartz has pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder in the teen's death.
Swartz's trial is scheduled to begin in October. Defense attorneys have asked the judge not to permit the video to be shown at trial, arguing the video evidence is unreliable. District Judge Raner C. Collins has not yet ruled.
Araceli Rodríguez, mother of Jose Antonio Elena-Rodriguez, who was shot to death by the Border Patrol in 2012, marches along the border fence in Nogales with family, friends and human-rights groups protesting the Border Patrol's use-of-force policies.
Jose Antonio Elena Rodriguez, 16, died after being shot multiple times by one or more U.S. Border Patrol agents in Nogales. Sonora state police say they found Elena Rodriguez's body "with various gunshot wounds on different parts of the body." The body was found four blocks from the border crossing in downtown Nogales, at a spot where there is a roughly 20-foot drop from the base of the fence to the street below.
The video in question shows Swartz fired 16 times through the fence in three bursts:
First, he went to the fence and fired three times from the U.S. side to the Mexican side, where Elena Rodriguez was.
Swartz then moved west along the fence and fired 10 shots through the slats in the fence.
The agent reloaded and then fired three more times into Mexico.
It was during the second and third volleys that Elena Rodriguez appeared to be lying on the ground next to a building, barely moving, according to the video shown in court.
A reconstruction of the shooting by expert witness James Tavernetti showed that he believed Elena Rodriguez could have been shot once in the back while standing up, but the remainder of the shots hit him in the head, back and arms while he was still on the ground.
Tavernetti's video offered several potential scenarios of how Elena Rodriguez was stuck by the 10 bullets, but said the most plausible was that almost all of the bullets hit him while he was lying facedown on the ground.
Prosecutors also showed graphic photos of a deceased Elena Rodriguez taken during his autopsy.
The video viewed Monday was shot from two border cameras operated by the Border Patrol. One was was mounted on a pole near the scene of the shooting, just west of the primary port of entry in Nogales. The other was mounted about 2,500 feet away and east of the port of entry.
The video shown in court melded images from both cameras and showed that two individuals were climbing back into Mexico from theU.S. and got stuck for a period at the top of the fence. Later, two individuals — perhaps the same two people — are seen making six throwing motions, like they were throwing rocks. Seven rocks were found on the U.S. side, the video reconstruction showed.
In the very grainy and dark video, which was shot at night, Elena Rodriguez can be seen walking up to the two individuals on Calle Internacional from a distance away before Swartz starts shooting from the American side.
It is unclear exactly how close Elena Rodriguez got to the individuals throwing the rocks before shots were fired. The other two individuals ran behind the closest building, a doctor's office, while Elena Rodriguez was hit and went down.
Elena Rodriguez's mother, Araceli Rodriguez, held her head down for much of the hearing, either looking at the floor or holding her head in her lap as prosecutors showed detailed three-dimensional images of the crime scene. She left the courtroom with other family members as the video and pictures were shown.
China has invited President Donald Trump’s daughter and son-in-law to visit later this year, according to people familiar with the matter, in the latest sign of the first family’s growing influence over foreign affairs.
Details of the possible trip by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, both of whom have official jobs in the White House, were still under discussion, according to a U.S. official and a Chinese official who asked not to be identified. The visit may also help prepare for a trip by the president himself, said the Chinese official, who asked not be identified disclosing plans that haven’t been announced.
Kushner and Ivanka Trump hosted the U.S.’s newly sworn-in ambassador to China, Terry Branstad, for an introductory dinner Sunday at the Trump Hotel in Washington, according to the U.S. official, who asked not to be identified confirming a meeting that hasn’t been made public. The former Iowa governor, who has known Chinese President Xi Jinping since the 1980s, is expected to depart Friday and arrive in China next week after meetings in Honolulu.
The discussions highlight Trump’s reliance on the couple to manage some of the U.S.’s thorniest issues. Neither Ivanka Trump, 35, who has been an executive in her father’s company and started her own fashion line, or Kushner, a 36-year-old property tycoon, has any prior government experience. Kushner will to travel to the Middle East this week to push for a Israeli-Palestinian peace deal. He also visited Iraq in April.
It's mind-boggling that we're putting up with this. These two people are totally unqualified to do anything in government much less play this important role. It's an outrage.
To think people were freaking out that Chelsea Clinton hadn't promised to enter a cloister and never show her face while her mother served in the White House. There were demands from all sides that she resign from the board of the Clinton Foundation and any other charitable work and go back to school to become a pediatrician or a kindergarten teacher in order to ensure there was no conflict of interest. You can be sure that unless she completely withdrew from all public appearances, including going out to dinner or taking a vacation to a foreign land, we would have had multiple investigations into the outrageous nepotistic corruption on display.
But hey, par for the course. Republican presidents are now allowed to hire family to work in the White House and serve as high ranking government officials in foreign affairs while keeping their private businesses a secret. It's all good.
President Trump's job approval rating has dipped in recent weeks, pushed down by negative reaction to his handling of the Russia investigations, and he's seen some slippage among Republicans as well. A third of Americans say his approach to the issue has made their opinion of him worse, and his handling of that matter gets lower marks than any of his others, like the economy or terrorism, for which he rates higher.
Americans of all stripes do seem inclined to want to get to the bottom of things: most believe that the Special Counsel Mueller's investigation will be impartial, and that the president should not do anything to try to stop it -- a view that also runs across partisan lines.
But divisions remain not only over what happened in the Russia matter, but whether it is serious or not. Most who approve of the President say it is not serious. Most Republicans feel the President is being criticized more than his predecessors and for some of them, that just makes them back the President even more.
Of the issues on which Americans evaluated President Trump for this poll, they give the president his most negative marks on his handling of the Russia matter -- just 28 percent approve, while 63 percent disapprove. A third say the president's approach to this issue has made them think worse of him.
Republicans approve of how Mr. Trump is handling the Russia issue, but in far lower numbers (at 57 percent) than their support for the job he's doing on the issues of the economy (80 percent) and terrorism (77 percent).
Even as some in their ranks disapprove of how the President is handling the investigation, most Republicans don't think the issue is serious. Just one in five Republicans thinks it is a critical security matter, and more than half call the investigations a political distraction that should be put aside. Even among Republicans who think it at least somewhat likely the Trump campaign had improper communications with Russia, just a third view the issue as critical to national security.
I would just like to invite you to imagine what Republicans would be saying if the show were on the other foot. It's unfathomable that they would be so sanguine about a Democratic presidential campaign having operatives involved with Russia.
More Americans say their opinion of Mr. Trump has grown worse, not better, because of his handling of the Russia investigations. Still, for most (including majorities of Republicans and independents), his approach to the issue hasn't caused their view of him to change.
The percentage of Americans who thinks it is at least somewhat likely that Mr. Trump's campaign associates had improper contact with the Russian government has also risen a bit in recent months -- from 59 percent in March to 65 percent today.
Movement here is driven primarily by Republicans: 40 percent now think it is at least somewhat likely that Trump associates had improper contact with the Russian government, up from just a quarter in March.
More than six in 10 Americans now believe Russia tried to interfere in the 2016 presidential election, an increase from March when only half believed this, but less than half think this interference was in order to help Donald Trump get elected. Republicans are also more likely now than they were in March to think Russia interfered in the 2016 election (though most remain skeptical that it was in order to help the Trump campaign).
By a margin of more than two-to-one, Americans think Donald Trump is more interested in protecting his administration from investigation (64 percent) than protecting the United States from Russian interference (30 percent). Here, most Republicans break with Democrats and independents in defending the President, but one-third do feel the President is more concerned about his own Administration.
They believe all this about him and it's fine with them. They don't care.
A majority of Americans think at least something improper occurred in those meetings with James Comey, though just over a quarter think his actions rise to the level of illegality. Most Republicans don't think the president did anything wrong at all.
Of course not. If he'd gotten a consensual blow job, that would have been an impeachable offense. If he'd had private email server they would have wanted him locked up in jail.
It's just partisanship. But still, this stuff is different than anything I've seen in my lifetime. We've never had a counter-intelligence investigation inside the oval office and we've never had a president who failed to take something like the intrusion in the election by a foreign power seriously.
The good news is that we'll never have to take their flag-waving, USA! USA!, "these colors don't run" crapola seriously ever again.
A few days ago a Republican Senate aide was asked by a reporter why the GOP leadership felt the need to keep all the discussions for the health care bill completely under wraps and he replied, "we're not stupid." They know that what they are planning is so poisonous to the voters that if they were to let anyone see the monstrosity they are constructing before the bill is hurriedly voted on and signed by President Trump into law, it would cause riots. After all, only 17% of the American people approve of the bill as it currently stands.
The fact is that Republicans are willing to destroy the health and financial security of millions of Americans so they can give massive tax cuts to Ivanka and Jared and others like them who are lucky enough to be vastly wealthy already. This is their first real chance to enact permanent tax cuts since 1986. (See this Vox explainer as to why this is.)They've been chasing this dream a very long time. It is their white whale, so important that even the prospect of millions of people suffering and going bankrupt is not enough to make them think better of it. They are willing to hold hands, jump over a cliff and commit political suicide for it, that's how important it is to them.
Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell is insistent that they get this hugely unpopular piece of legislation done as quickly as possible, preferably before the Fourth of July recess when Senators would have to go home and face their desperate and horrified constituents. The Wall Street Journal reported last night that he plans to release the text later this week then have the Congressional Budget office release its estimate of the cost and the devastation to human lives early next week followed by an immediate vote and then a quick getaway out of town so they can spend the holiday counting up all the money they've just voted to give themselves and their rich friends.
In the meantime, the GOP leadership is dealing with the avalanche of criticism they're receiving the way their puerile president has taught them. Here is Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas:
Trumpcare by the numbers: 850% premium spike for elderly, 14 mil lose healthcare in 1st year, 1 in 6 w pre-existing conditions lose coverage
Unlike the current Senate process the ACA went through dozens of hearings and amendments (many of them offered and accepted by Republicans.)
If they manage to get this passed in the Senate, presumably they will hammer out some kind of compromise in conference with the House where they will pretend to have a big fight over some details that they will then "fix", telling the public that the bill is now going to provide everyone who needs it with cheap, excellent health care. It will be a lie but it won't matter because they'll hurriedly get it to Trump's desk so he can declare that it's no longer a "mean" "son of a bitch" and stage his greatest, signing photo op show on earth.
And then, according to the Wall Street Journal, they will immediately pivot to the next item on their bucket list, you guessed it: tax reform.
That's the plan anyway. At this point it's unknown whether McConnell can pull it off. He only has two votes to spare and it looks like Collins of Maine and Murkowski of Alaska have called dibs. (It was nice of them to give those to two of the five GOP women Senators since they didn't bother to invite even one of them into their boys only health care club.) We'll have to see if there is even one other Republican Senator with any empathy for the people they are going to make suffer or any sense about the terrible risk they are taking with the American economy. Since they have done virtually no research, held any hearings or consulted with experts (according to health care industry leaders) they may just manage to destroy the entire health care sector, which comprises one sixth of the US economy. But they'll have their tax cuts.
Last week, Ezra Klein wrote a piece that made a "heightening the contradictions" case laying out the probability that this repeal will end up pushing the Democrats to fight for Medicare For All in the future. And why not? They tried to do a nice market based plan that would preserve many of the features that Republicans insist they care about and it was met with fierce resistance from the start. There is little margin for Democrats to try to appease them in the future.
But it's a mistake to see this as a silver lining. For one thing, there is no guarantee that this will be successful. American politics of the last half century are littered with the dead political careers of people who tried to reform it. This may be a turning point but there are no guarantees and it could take years before a new plan is passed and implemented. And there's no telling what the Supreme Court would do to it even if Democrats had full control of the congress and the presidency. So it's very important to remember that in the meantime the human cost of this repeal would be devastating to millions of our fellow citizens.
If the final plan follows the general contours of the House bill, the list of various categories of your fellow Americans who will be hurt is very long. Via Vox, here's a partial list of those negatively affected starting with working poor people who gained Medicaid under Obamacare, seniors, disabled people, and others who qualified for Medicaid even before Obamacare, states hard hit by the opiate crisis, pregnant women and new mothers, people with preexisting conditions, families with chronic conditions, low-income Americans not on Medicaid, older people on the exchanges, children in special education programs, people in states that take a Medicaid “block grant,” who could see dramatic cuts in coverage and Planned Parenthood patients. These people aren't simply collateral damage on the road to a better program down the road.
If the Democrats have finally reached a consensus that they must run on and deliver guaranteed universal health care, that's great. Let's hope they won't have to do it on the backs of all those people whose lives will be ruined by what Mitch McConnell and the Republicans are planning to do next week.
The polls are open for the special election runoff in Georgia's 6th Congressional District. Recent surveys show the most expensive congressional race in history between Democrat Jon Ossoff and Republican Karen Handel too close to call. If Ossoff pulls out a win in this red, suburban Atlanta district, it won't be simply the money that won it, but an army of really pissed off women:
“I tell people that I am fresh out of fucks,” says Tamara Brooking. “Seriously. I’m done. I’m done pretending that your hateful rhetoric is okay. I’m done pretending that people like us must be quiet to make you feel comfortable.”
The race is much more than a vote to fill out the remainder of former U.S. Rep. Tom Price’s term after President Donald Trump’s tapped him to be health secretary. Both parties have poured unprecedented resources into the race — the cost now tops $50 million — and both see it as a chance to send a message to the American electorate.
Democrats hope an Ossoff victory could deal a blow to Trump’s presidency and the GOP agenda, while giving other candidates a path to flipping more conservative strongholds. Republicans see a Handel win as a chance to bolster incumbents in competitive districts who are nervous about allying with Trump.
Ossoff's post-Trump, post-Women's March foot soldiers are nervous no more. The campaign reports 12,000 volunteers. “There’s something of a renaissance of civic engagement and political activism afoot, and it’s being led by women,” Ossoff told New York magazine's Rebecca Traister. Liberal Moms of Roswell and Cobb Counties (LMRC) and Pave It Blue sprang up once the shock of November 8 began to sink in:
Especially surprising is that the closeness of the race can largely be attributed to the obsessive energies of the sixth district’s women, an army of mostly white, suburban working mothers who had until now lived politically somnambulant lives. In the wake of Donald Trump’s November defeat of Hillary Clinton, many of these Georgia women have remade their lives, transforming themselves and their communities through unceasing political engagement. To visit Georgia’s sixth in the days before the runoff is to land on a planet populated by politically impassioned women, talking as if they have just walked off the set of Thelma & Louise, using a language of awakening, liberation, and political fury that should indeed discomfit their conservative neighbors, and — if it is a harbinger of what’s to come — should shake conservative America more broadly.
And in finding their voices, Traister writes, women like Ann White, 63, found each other:
“My favorite slogan,” she said, trying to keep from crying as she spoke, “is ‘You are not alone.’ I found my people.” Like almost all of the Ossoff women I spoke to, White described her political awakening as a coming out. “I am no longer in the closet,” she said. “I am out, I am out blue. Everybody knows now that I’m a Democrat, that I’m liberal. And they’re kind of tired of it, but that’s okay. I’m not done. I’m just getting started.”
Woman after woman shared this sentiment. “I never even put a sign in my yard because I wasn’t sure how it would be received if it wasn’t a Republican sign,” said Cherish Burnham, 43, of her life as a Democrat, growing up in the red sixth district. On the morning of November 9, she said, consumed by hopelessness, she went to volunteer at her triplet sons’ elementary-school science class, where she saw two other mothers who also looked stricken. After tentative inquiries, the trio realized they were all upset about the same thing; they stood outside the school in conversation for an hour; they told her about LMRC. The expression of primal, agonizing anger that followed Trump’s election meant that for the first time, some women — even those who’d been living in proximity to each other for years— could hear each other for the first time.
“Every time I see an Ossoff sign I feel like I have an ally,” said Tamara Brooking, a 50-year-old research assistant to a novelist.
"Signs don't vote" is received wisdom in the campaign world. Clinton supporters last fall (and Obama supporters before them) were mystified that their candidates' signs were unavailable at our local Democratic headquarters — even to buy. I apologized repeatedly to Hillary Clinton supporters upset at the proliferation of Trump signs along the roadside. Statistic-spouting campaign professionals refuse to spend money on them, I explained. Signs are expensive. And they just get stolen, run over, and defaced. The pros prefer to focus on direct voter contact.
Grassroots volunteers are unimpressed. Signs are about territory for them, like gang symbols. But what yard signs can do is create buzz for candidates lacking name recognition. What their presence has done for Democratic women in Republican north Atlanta is make it safe for them to come out of hiding, find each other, and amplify their voices.
Many women have put LMRC magnets on their cars; if they spot a magnet on the parked car, they turn it 180 degrees as a kind of greeting. “It’s to let each other know, ‘my sisters are here,’” said Jennifer Mosbacher, 42. “It’s this feeling of camaraderie in an area where you have often felt very isolated and disenfranchised. But now you can go to your neighborhood grocery store and get flipped, and you’re like cool, someone else is here.”
Today they have to deliver. They have to, as one unofficial slogan says, "vote your Ossoff."
A former congressional staffer, Ossoff has run a very un-Bernie-Sanders-like, middle-of-the-road campaign as a technocrat who wants to cut wasteful spending. Handel is an anti-choice, former Georgia secretary of state with a penchant for vote suppression and a reputation for nearly destroying the Komen breast cancer charity. While the anti-Trump sentiment has garnered Ossoff ground troops among suburban women, what counts is turnout. Can the bland, 30 year-old inspire people, especially young people, to carry him over the finish line? Early voters have cast 140,000 ballots, including over 36,000 who did not vote in April.
“It’s showing in the early vote that Ossoff may not be exciting the young leftists that he got last time since his tone has changed,” Rountree said, pointing to Ossoff’s strategy of appealing to moderates as an explanation for a Democratic drop off. “His messaging in the runoff has been very bland and neutral.”
However, it could pay off in crossover votes: A source familiar with the Ossoff campaign said their modeling shows that 10 to 15 percent of Republican voters could break to Ossoff, who is also winning virtually every Democratic voter. Analysis by a GOP analytics firm after the April primary showed that Ossoff was already attracting a small but significant share of cross-party support at that point.
Democrats noted that 33,000 new voters have participated in early voting, a group that is trending “more diverse, so more likely to be African-American by a significant margin, and more likely to be women,” said Tom Bonier, a Democratic strategist and CEO at TargetSmart, a data-analytics firm.
Nate Silver believes the race is a tossup, and any "takes" on the outcome will likely be overblown unless the margin of victory is greater than 5 points. By Silver's reckoning, Ossoff leads by a "not-very-safe" 2 point margin, adding, "You’d rather be 2 points ahead than 2 points behind, however." He continues:
As I said, however, the vote comes at a critical time for Republicans — and extracting any signal at all from Georgia might be enough to influence their behavior. Republicans really are in a pickle on health care. The AHCA is so unpopular that they’d have been better off politically letting it die back in March, at least in my view. But I don’t have a vote in Congress and Republicans do, and they’ve tallied the costs and benefits differently, given that the bill has already passed the House and is very much alive in the Senate. The central political argument Republicans have advanced on behalf of the bill is that failing to pass it would constitute a broken promise to repeal Obamacare, demotivating the GOP base. That argument will lose credibility if a Democrat wins in a traditionally Republican district despite what looks as though it will be high turnout.
Here are some methods to forecast Georgia-6 for you to cherry-pick from. Keep these handy for Tuesday night. pic.twitter.com/8GILHgIkBf
Nervous Republicans in Congress will watch this race for a sign it is safe to "come out," much as Democratic women did in Georgia's 6th. Should Handel lose, it may encourage them to begin standing up to Donald Trump and his legion of Republican doom. Then again, they may wait until they've secured their tax cut bill to do it. If even then.
Such deep concern over the partisan affiliation of a special counsel or an independent counsel is something new for the Republicans. None of them voiced any qualms when, under the old Independent Counsel Act, a panel of three Republican judges consistently appointed Republican prosecutors to investigate a Democratic administration, as they did several times when Bill Clinton was president.
Blatantly biased against Clinton, that judicial panel — headed by an intemperate, outspoken, and extremely rightwing jurist named David Sentelle — was caught rigging the appointment of Kenneth Starr to replace the first Whitewater independent counsel, Robert Fiske. Although Fiske too was a Republican, he was an experienced prosecutor and a straight arrow who was disposing of the Whitewater charges against the Clintons too swiftly and dispassionately to serve his party’s purposes. Frustrated Republicans on Capitol Hill and in the media demanded his removal.
As Fiske’s successor, Starr had no prosecutorial experience but his partisan credentials were certainly in order: a former Republican judicial appointee and solicitor general, active in the Virginia GOP and the Federalist Society, adviser to right-wing nonprofits and counsel to the tobacco industry and many other Republican-oriented corporations. He was perfect, if perfection meant an independent counsel who would squander tens of millions of dollars, prosecute irrelevant defendants, and instigate a wholly unrelated probe of Clinton’s sex life, all in order to bring down the Democratic president.
Starr himself had no idea how to conduct an investigation. But he immediately hired a thoroughly ideological Republican staff that did — including deputy independent counsel Hick Ewing, a former U.S. Attorney in Memphis renowned for his right-wing fundamentalist zeal; and deputy independent counsel Jackie Bennett, a former federal prosecutor in south Texas, where he pursued cases against Democratic officeholders with mixed success and came to be known as “the Thug.”
Starr’s operation reflected the political orientation of nearly all of the independent counsel investigations under Clinton. And when Starr left, his replacement was Robert Ray, who actually ran for the Republican U.S. Senate nomination in New Jersey in 2002, only months after he filed the Office of Independent Counsel’s final report on Whitewater.
With few exceptions, every independent counsel or special counsel since the Reagan era has been a Republican, whether the investigation involved a Democratic or Republican administration. If a Democratic judicial panel had appointed a series of Democratic prosecutors, the Republicans would still be screaming two decades later.