Tea party class of House Republicans fades
By LISA MASCARO
AP Congressional Correspondent
Monday, June 4
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican newcomers stunned Washington back in 2010 when they seized the House majority with bold promises to cut taxes and spending and to roll back what many viewed as Barack Obama’s presidential overreach.
But don’t call them tea party Republicans any more.
Eight years later, the House Tea Party Caucus is long gone. So, too, are almost half the 87 new House Republicans elected in the biggest GOP wave since the 1920s.
Some, including current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and White House budget director Mick Mulvaney, joined the executive branch. Others slipped back to private life. Several are senators.
Now, with control of the House again at stake this fall and just three dozen of them seeking re-election, the tea party revolt shows the limits of riding a campaign wave into the reality of governing.
Rep. Austin Scott, R-Ga., who was president of that freshman class, objects to the tea party brand that he says was slapped on the group by the media and the Obama administration. It’s a label some lawmakers now would rather forget.
“We weren’t who you all said we were,” Scott said.
He prefers to call it the class of “small-business owners” or those who wanted to “stop the growth of the federal government.” Despite all those yellow “Don’t Tread on Me” flags and anti-Obama health law rallies, Scott said the new Republican lawmakers wanted to work with the president, if only Obama would have engaged them. “We didn’t come to take over the country,” he said.
Yet change Washington they did, with a hard-charging, often unruly governing style that bucked convention, toppled GOP leaders and in many ways set the stage for the rise of Donald Trump.
By some measures, the tea party Republicans have been successful. The “Pledge to America,” a 21-page manifesto drafted by House Republican leadership, outlined the promises. Among them: “stop out of control spending,” ”reform Congress” and “end economic uncertainty.”
They forced Congress into making drastic spending cuts, in part by threatening to default on the nation’s debt, turning a once-routine vote to raise the U.S. borrowing limit into a cudgel during the annual budget fights.
Republicans halted environmental, consumer and workplace protection rules, and that rollback continues today.
Perhaps most notably, the GOP majority passed $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that Trump signed into law, delivering on the tea party slogan penned on so many protest signs: “Taxed Enough Already.”
But former Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Kan., said the “most egregious failure” was the GOP’s inability to undo the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature domestic achievement.
Huelskamp said the class never really stuck together. When he arrived that first week in Washington in January 2011, he was stunned to find the leadership slate already set with then-Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, as speaker-in-waiting, facing little resistance.
“That was a sign: The establishment in Washington was happy to have our votes, but not to follow our agenda,” said Huelskamp, who lost a primary election in 2016 to a political newcomer and now runs the conservative Heartland Institute. It was “just a clear misunderstanding of what the people wanted.”
Over time, budget deals were struck with Democrats, boosting spending back to almost what it was before the revolt. Combined with the tax package, the GOP-led Congress is on track to push annual deficits near $1 trillion next year, as high as during the early years of the Obama administration when the government struggled with a deep recession.
Maya MacGuineas, president at the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, said Republicans talked a good game promising to balance the budget, but with control of Congress — and now the White House — they failed to tackle the tough tax-and-spending challenges needed to get there.
“That’s a whole lot of talk and zero follow through,” she said.
Other proposals to improve transparency in government — a pledge to “read the bill” and post legislation three days before votes — remain works in progress. House bills are typically made public, but sometimes just before midnight to conform with the three-day rule.
Frustrations within the ranks grew, and the new class splintered. Not all of them had been favorites of their local tea party groups. Some joined other conservatives to form the House Freedom Caucus, which nudged Boehner to early retirement in 2015.
Former Florida Rep. Allen West, among the more prominent class members who lost re-election and is now a Fox News contributor living in Texas, said the challenge for House Republicans heading into the fall election is, “Who are they? What do they stand for?”
House Republicans are wrestling with a midterm message at a pivotal moment for a party that Boehner says no longer exists.
“There is no Republican Party. There’s Trump’s party,” Boehner said at a recent policy conference in Michigan.
Boehner’s successor as speaker, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., also is stepping aside. He was a conservative up-and-comer long before the tea party, but has run into many of the same challenges Boehner faced in managing a fractured majority. He will retire after this term.
In fact, there are an unusually high number of House Republicans retiring this year, including nearly a dozen from the tea party class. Several are running to be governors or senators, though some have already lost in primaries. Others, including Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., another rising star, are simply moving on. Some resigned this year amid ethics scandals.
Jenny Beth Martin, a co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, says every movement “goes through phases.” As the group looks to elect the next “Tea Party 100” members of the House, it’s seeking “tested and proven” candidates beyond the “citizen legislators” who powered the early days.
Another 2010 leader, South Carolina’s Tim Scott, now a senator, says he has no problem with the tea party label that’s now etched in history.
But he reminds his colleagues as they campaign that to keep the majority they must also eventually govern and that “promises made should be promises kept.”
Follow Mascaro on Twitter at http://twitter.com/LisaMascaro
States take expanded health care coverage to the ballot
By Jordan Rasmussen, firstname.lastname@example.org, Center for Rural Affairs
Recently, Utahns surpassed the threshold of signature collection to place Medicaid expansion on the November ballot. Idaho is following close behind. The residents of these rural states seek to extend access to coverage that has been denied by their state governments. If passed in November, health care coverage will be made available to those who earn less than $17,000 annually for a single family household.
Similar ballot initiatives are underway in Nebraska and Montana, where citizens of each state seek to re-authorize the Medicaid expansion set to expire in 2019.
These initiatives, carrying forward the momentum of Maine’s successful ballot initiative last fall and reinforced by Virginia’s expansion of Medicaid through the legislative process, demonstrate people see the value in providing health care coverage to their hard-working neighbors.
Residents of rural communities are already at a disadvantage in their ability to access health care coverage. The limited availability of health care providers and facilities, greater travel distances, and limited financial resources make access to care challenging. A failure to expand Medicaid creates another barrier to care for hard-working rural people and the rural hospitals and clinics that seek to provide them with care and services.
By offering signatures now and taking a vote to expand Medicaid this fall, voters are deciding on a more positive future of expanded health care coverage for their neighbors.
Established in 1973, the Center for Rural Affairs is a private, non-profit organization working to strengthen small businesses, family farms and ranches, and rural communities through action oriented programs addressing social, economic, and environmental issues.
San Diego Border Wall Will Include ‘Anti-Climbing Plate,’ Construction Begins
June 2, 2018
Construction began on a section of President Donald Trump’s border wall along the U.S. and Mexico border and will include an “anti-climbing plate” in one of its sections.
The new “anti-climbing plate,” according to FOX 4 News, will take over 14 miles of improvised border fencing and is created from scrap metal in Border Field State Park in San Diego, California. The new feature will start half a mile from the Pacific ocean and will stand between 18-30 feet tall, FOX 4 reported on Friday.
Chief of Customs and Border Patrol of San Diego, Rodney Scott, told the news station that construction of the wall and the new plate will help keep the public safe.
“The construction of this new substantial wall will improve overall border security, the safety and effectiveness of Border Patrol agents, the safety of the public, and will enhance the atmosphere for business and commerce in the area,” Scott said.
The Texas construction company, SLSCO, is in charge for building the San Diego part of the wall. The construction will cost an estimated $147 million, according to FOX 4. This will be the third project in San Diego County.
Ronald Vitiello, U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Acting Deputy Commissioner said the beginning of the construction is an “important milestone” and will “upgrade our existing infrastructure in San Diego.”
“Under this President’s leadership, we have a renewed commitment to secure our border,” Vitiello said. “The new primary wall-project represents an important milestone in our work to secure the international border. Not only does it significantly upgrade our existing infrastructure in San Diego, it also marks the third concurrent wall project in the U.S. and reflects CBP’s unwavering commitment to secure our borders and protect our Nation.”
U.S. Customs and Border personnel are not the only ones that think construction of the wall is vital for the U.S. More than 300 sheriffs across 40 states signed a letter in March to call on to Congress to build the border between the U.S. and Mexico borders.
“Without border security and immigration reform, more Americans will continue to be victims of crime. Now is the time to act,” the letter from the National Sheriff’s Association read.
Funding for the construction of the wall has become a problem for the Trump administration, as Mexico as has refused to pay for it. In March, Trump suggested using funding for the U.S. Military to pay for the construction, according to multiple sources from CNN.
More from Newsweek
Trump Threatens to Cut Foreign Aid to Stop Illegal Immigration at U.S. Border
Who’s Paying for Trump’s Border Wall? Americans Will Crowdfund It, GOP Congresswoman Proposes
Trump’s Border Wall Must Be Built, 380 Sheriffs Tell Congress
‘Roseanne’ Shouldn’t Have Been Revived To Begin With, Says Michelle Wolf
June 2, 2018
Comedian Michelle Wolf doesn’t think we should be cheering ABC for their decision to cancel “Roseanne” this week, because, she says, the show shouldn’t have been revived in the first place.
On the newest episode of her Netflix show “The Break,” Wolf takes aim at the network for ignoring Barr’s history of controversial comments and behavior.
“Everyone’s been saying it’s so brave of ABC to cancel their biggest hit show, but the bold move was actually putting this lady Hitler chef back on the air in the first place,” Wolf said in her segment “Internet Goofs.”
“Lady Hitler” is in reference to a 2009 photos-hoot Barr did for the Jewish satirical magazine Heeb. Barr dressed as Hitler and pulled cookies shaped like people from an oven.
“So kudos to ABC, it takes a lot of courage to fire someone after they’ve been openly racist for the thousandth time,” Wolf said.
ABC canceled “Roseanne” this week after Barr made a racist joke on Twitter about former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett.
Barr said she begged ABC not to cancel the show and claimed the drug Ambien was partly to blame for the racist tweet. The makers of Ambien very swiftly rejected the idea that their product was at all responsible.
Comment: And yet more people watched a single episode of Roseanne than have even heard of Michelle Wolf.
Melania Trump won’t travel to G7, Singapore summits
By Brett Samuels – 06/03/18 The Hill
First lady Melania Trump will not travel with President Trump to the Group of Seven (G7) summit later this week or the meeting with Kim Jong Un in Singapore on June 12.
Stephanie Grisham, the first lady’s communications director, confirmed to The Hill that Melania Trump would not join the president for either event. She attended last year’s G7 summit in Italy.
ABC News first reported that Trump wouldn’t be attending.
The first lady has been absent from the public eye since May 19, when she returned to the White House five days after undergoing a procedure for a benign kidney condition.
The first lady and President Trump have at various times called the procedure a success and indicated she is feeling well. However, she has not been seen in public since a few days before the procedure and did not join the president on his weekend trip to Camp David.
The White House and first lady’s office have not offered an explanation for her absence, but Melania Trump criticized the media last week for speculating on her whereabouts.
“I see the media is working overtime speculating where I am & what I’m doing,” she tweeted. “Rest assured, I’m here at the @WhiteHouse w my family, feeling great, & working hard on behalf of children & the American people!”
Leaders from the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Japan and the European Union will convene in Quebec on Friday and Saturday for the G7 Summit.
President Trump will then travel to Singapore for a June 12 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The anticipated summit — which Trump initially canceled before reversing course — comes as the U.S. pushes for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.
Trumpism Is the New McCarthyism
Just as as McCarthyism did decades ago, Trumpism conceals the Republican Party’s long-term program to dismantle the public sector.
By Ellen Schrecker
May 21, 2018
Nearly 70 years after Joseph McCarthy produced his first list of alleged government subversives at a West Virginia Republican banquet, the Wisconsin senator still haunts us. As historians and others ransack the American past searching for predecessors of our current president, McCarthy’s name often tops the list—but usually for the wrong reasons.
Even though the Donald doesn’t drink and “Tail-Gunner Joe” was a lush who died of liver failure, the two men are similar in many trivial and not-so-trivial ways. Like McCarthy, Trump is a sociopathic personality whose aberrant behavior facilitated a right-wing campaign against core democratic values.
Consistency is neither man’s hobgoblin. As blatant opportunists, neither was or is loyal to anything beyond themselves. After initially flirting with the social liberalism of their day, both switched parties and ideologies. During his early career as a judge in Appleton, Wisconsin, McCarthy was criticized for granting the quickest divorces around (at a moment when divorce was still considered scandalous, something reserved for abandoned women and film stars). While in his pre-Republican mode, Trump was a self-professed New York Democrat who was once, as he told Meet the Press in 1999, “very pro-choice.”
The two men have a remarkably similar relationship with the truth. McCarthy, like many politicians, exaggerated his wartime record while publicizing his ever-changing lists of—was it 81, 57, 205?—Communists in the State Department. No need here to detail Trump’s prevarications. The Washington Post says it’s an average of six or seven a day. Denial is his default mode.
In this, Trump may well have been following the advice of McCarthy’s former staffer, the notorious legal sleaze Roy Cohn, whose good connections and tainted ethics enabled him to service both McCarthy’s irresponsible allegations as well as the current president’s unprincipled business dealings.
Like Trump, McCarthy had, in the words of Boston lawyer Joseph Welch at the Army-McCarthy hearings of 1954, “no sense of decency.” The Wisconsin senator cared little about the human damage his reckless accusations caused. When he chaired his congressional investigations of supposed Communists in the government, he would bully witnesses, destroy their lives and livelihoods, and then, when the cameras were off, turn on the charm and hug their lawyers. Trump, as we know, has mocked a disabled reporter, compared immigrants to animals, and boasted about sexually assaulting women.
McCarthy, like the current president, played the media with panache. The press loved him. He fed its members juicy stories. They asked few questions. How could they? McCarthy tended to release his most sensational charges so late in the day no one could fact-check them before they made the front page.
Yet, to focus so heavily on the aberrant behavior of the two men is to distort the stakes.
McCarthy and Trump, though certainly worthy of condemnation, were and are but the public face of more serious problems within the American polity. The fixation of the media on their antics, as Eric Alterman’s recent column shows, not only diverts us from those problems, but also makes it harder to deal with them.
Just as McCarthy did, Trump now operates within a polarized political world in which partisan advantage frequently overwhelms the common good. Though presenting themselves as populists, the two men actually front for the Republican Party’s business-friendly establishments of their eras. Their outrageous conduct allowed and still allows the GOP to conceal its program of dismantling the New Deal and, in Trump’s case, President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society as well.
Ironically, given the damage they would cause, both men came late to the political agendas they pushed. The xenophobic and socially conservative campaign against the welfare state, the environment, and the most vulnerable members of society that Trump so blatantly abets had been decades in the making before his presidential run (as Nancy MacLean so brilliantly explains in her recent book, Democracy in Chains).
Similarly, McCarthy signed on to the anti-Communist crusade a few years after it had begun. His tactics were only a more flamboyant version of the scenario that Republican politicians had been disseminating ever since President Harry Truman’s surprise reelection in 1948 revealed that the electorate still supported the New Deal. At that point, since the GOP needed a new program, its leaders took advantage of the public insecurity that accompanied the Cold War and turned to red-baiting. They blamed the Soviet Union’s supposed victories on subversives within the Democratic administration. Communists in government, so they said, had given the bomb to Moscow and “lost” China to Mao.
McCarthy amplified that message. Instead of following President Richard Nixon’s successful tactic of leaking FBI files, he simply lied—encouraged, it should be noted, by some the GOP’s most highly respected politicians. “If one case doesn’t work out,” the Senate’s leading Republican, Robert Taft, advised his colleague, “bring up another.” And so, he did. And another. And another.
McCarthy’s wild allegations flummoxed the White House. After all, Truman and his Cold War liberal allies had already enlisted in the anti-Communist cause. Because they needed to convince the American public to provide the resources for the foreign aid and beefed-up military deemed essential for waging the Cold War, they demonized the Soviet enemy and its American appendage, the small, isolated, but legal, Communist Party.
Thus, some three or four years before Joe McCarthy appeared on the scene to give his name to the crusade against domestic Communists, Truman and his allies were already pushing to eliminate from American life the party and all the ideas, individuals, and institutions associated with Communism and the left.
They were not alone. The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) and similar congressional investigating committees, state and local politicians, right-wing journalists, and, most importantly, J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI all helped out, pushing the loyalty programs, blacklists, and criminal prosecutions that soon spread throughout American society.
The liberal establishment did not resist the purges. Instead, in response to pressure from the right, it turned against the left. It seemed more important to its members to avoid being labeled “soft on Communism” than to defend the Bill of Rights and the welfare state. Their timidity in the face of the Republicans’ red-baiting merely increased the power of the witch hunters.
But the liberals did oppose McCarthy. They just did so in a way that diverted attention from the real danger. They attacked the Wisconsin senator as an individual, rather than as the face of a broader wave of political repression. Their own anti-Communism had undermined the integrity and effectiveness of their alleged opposition to what they branded as “McCarthyism.” They focused their campaign on the unscrupulous charges against “innocent” liberals. As long as McCarthy et al. picked their targets correctly, many (though by no means all) moderates and liberals simply looked away. In fact, it was not until the Wisconsin senator turned on the conservative establishment that his outrageous activities brought him down.
But the damage that McCarthy—the “ism,” not the man—wreaked on the American polity remains. Its main legacy is a narrowed political spectrum in which egalitarianism is suspect and blinkered politicians and journalists focus on political minutiae while blaming “both sides” for the inequities that deform our society.
A similar process is at play today. While the pundits stew about Trump’s every scam and Twitter, they overlook the way the current regime and its judicial and legislative allies are incrementally hollowing out the democratic state.
Admittedly, Robert Mueller’s document drops cannot be ignored. They may, in fact, provide a tool for resolving the immediate crisis. Like McCarthy, Trump may become so unpalatable to the American public that the Republican establishment may finally abandon him. When that happens, we will no doubt be treated to the standard celebration of how “the system worked.” But unless we keep our eye on the structural issues involved—as we did not after Watergate or McCarthy’s demise—the current assault on the public sector will simply go underground temporarily to resurface when the present furor abates.
Trump’s erratic behavior endangers all living creatures. But, except for the encouragement that his crudity and flagrant racism have given to contemporary fascism, it is clear that the president did not write the script for his administration’s all-too-successful onslaught against the common good. That accomplishment is the product of decades of well-funded right-wing organizing and institution-building. The inevitable backlash against Trump may provide an opportunity to change our political discourse. But without a long-term commitment to intensive grassroots organizing, that chance to reclaim the United States from bigots and oligarchs may fade away. It has done so before.
In today’s Supreme Court decision in Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, baker Jack Phillips won absolution from legal liability for refusing to sell a wedding cake to a gay couple. On the surface, the 7-2 decision, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, appears to not be the disaster that many LGBTQ rights advocates had feared. It is limited to the specific facts of this case, where the majority found that statements of some commissioners, along with the commission’s treatment of discrimination claims brought by another customer who claimed that secular bakers refused his requests to bake cakes with homophobic messages, were evidence of the government’s “hostility” to Phillips’s religion. A different case, without those particular facts, could lead to a different result.
So while the decision is not a sweeping exemption from anti-discrimination laws, as some on the right had hoped, it’s hardly a harmless bump on the road to full equality. Less noticed, perhaps, but no less crucial to Phillips and his allies, was how assiduously Justice Kennedy labored to find government “hostility” to Phillips’s religion, and therefore a violation of his Free Exercise rights.
Kennedy’s decision demonstrates that this Court has absorbed some of ADF’s arguments about the supposed conflict between LGBTQ equality and religious liberty, and has adopted a potentially wide-ranging definition of government “hostility” to religion. If the Court can accept claims of government “hostility” on the tepid evidence on offer in Masterpiece, it will embolden other Jack Phillips to refuse to serve LGBTQ customers, and hope for a “slip-up” by a public official as uncontroversial as “religion should not be used as an excuse to discriminate.”
Just three years ago, Kennedy inflamed Christian right activists with his majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, making marriage equality the law of the land. But today, he may have redeemed himself in their eyes by breathing new life into their claims that laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation are at odds with religious liberty.
In the six years it took to wind its way through the legal system, Masterpiece became the cornerstone of this Christian right public relations campaign. In 2012, David Mullens and Charlie Craig, a gay couple, had visited Phillips’ shop to inquire about a cake celebrating their wedding; Phillips refused, claiming it violated his sincerely held religious convictions against same-sex marriage. Mullens and Craig sued under Colorado’s public accommodations law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission found in their favor, as did the Colorado Court of Appeals. Phillips and his attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom litigated the case to the Supreme Court, which today found that the Commission had violated Phillips’ constitutional rights.
At oral arguments last December, Kennedy fixated on one statement by a single member of the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, who had simply observed that religion had throughout history been used as “an excuse to hurt others.” In his opinion today, Kennedy focused again on that same statement, along with the commission’s decision finding no violation of the state non-discrimination law in the case of a customer named William Jack. Three separate bakers had refused Jack’s requests for cakes with Bible images and homophobic messages on the grounds that they found those messages derogatory. Jack claimed he was refused service because of his religious beliefs.
“The treatment of the conscience-based objections at issue in these three cases contrasts with the commission’s treatment of Phillips’ objection,” Kennedy wrote, concluding, “the Commission’s consideration of Phillips’ religious objection did not accord with its treatment of these other objections.” In other words, Kennedy reasoned, the secular bakers were given more leeway to act according to their conscience than Phillips was—something he viewed as proof of anti-religious animus.
That difference in treatment, though, is based on how non-discrimination laws work. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg pointed out in her dissent—in which she was joined by just one other justice, Sonia Sotomayor— Jack’s claim “scarcely resembles Phillips’ refusal to serve Craig and Mullins: Phillips would not sell to Craig and Mullins, for no reason other than their sexual orientation, a cake of the kind he regularly sold to others.” In contrast, the secular bakers would have refused to bake the homophobic cakes for any customer, thus not violating Jack’s right to be free from discrimination. Jack, Ginsburg wrote, “suffered no service refusal on the basis of his religion or any other protected characteristic. He was treated as any other customer would have been treated—no better, no worse.”
In his opinion, Kennedy cites Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, a 1993 case in which the Court found a free-exercise violation when a city council passed a resolution that appeared aimed at barring the animal-sacrifice ceremonies of a minority religious sect, writing that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was therefore “obliged under the Free Exercise Clause to proceed in a manner neutral toward and tolerant of Phillips’ religious beliefs.” But in Masterpiece, there was no evidence that the Colorado legislature passed the civil-rights law with any hostility towards religion; instead, Kennedy is arguing that the conduct of the commissioners in enforcing the law can be examined for evidence of such hostility.
What will be the evidence of such supposed animus in the next case? A question from a judge at oral arguments? Deposition questions by government attorneys? That is the crucial open question from Masterpiece—not that the next case will be more winnable for a gay couple without Masterpiece’s specific facts, but how hard opponents of LGBTQ rights will work to convince the courts that similar specific facts exist in that case, too.
Today, the Court did not foreclose LGBTQ people from suing under anti-discrimination laws. But it did open the door for ADF to use one of its favored tropes—that the government is hostile to religion—to continue to chip away at those protections. And there is really no telling how that will turn out.
Sarah Posner is a Reporting Fellow with the Investigative Fund and expert on the intersection of religion and politics.