Below is my column on the unfolding future of the Supreme Court after the confirmation of Justice Neil Gorsuch and the elimination of filibusters in the selection of Supreme Court nominees. For years, commentators have been discussing the timing of the retirement of our older justices, including Justice Ginsburg. There was rising concern when Ginsburg decided to stay on the Court past the midterm mark of the second Obama term. Those concerns have now been magnified and realized with the Trump election and filibuster elimination. Of course, the same concerns are raised by the possible retirement of Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote on the current Court. New rumors have arisen this week about Kennedy. However, of all of the older justices, it is replacement of Ginsburg that could produce the most profound changes for the country.
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Replacing Scalia, a conservative icon, the ideological tilt of the bench is not likely to shift. He will restore a 5-4 majority that Republican appointees have held on the court for years.
Lisa Mascaro and David G. Savage report: President Trump’s nominee, Judge Neil M. Gorsuch, was confirmed Friday for a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court, filling a 14-month vacancy after a dramatic Senate showdown that risked long-lasting repercussions to both institutions.
The confirmation will deliver a much needed political victory to Trump, whose administration is struggling in its first 100 days to make progress on many campaign promises amid infighting in the White House and on Capitol Hill.
Only three Democrats joined Republicans in voting to confirm Gorsuch. Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) all represent conservative-leaning red states that Trump won in the election. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who is recovering from surgery, was absent.
It was the narrowest approval of a Supreme Court nominee since the 52-48 confirmation of Clarence Thomas in 1991.
Vice President Mike Pence presided over the vote as Republicans sat in their seats and onlookers, including conservative legal activists, filled the visitor galleries. But Friday’s vote, arguably Trump’s most enduring achievement to date, was largely upstaged by the U.S. airstrikes in Syria, which dominated news coverage.
The 49-year-old Gorsuch, who is expected to be sworn in on Monday, is a respected conservative who has worked for years on the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. He is expected to bring a “textualist” approach to the court, relying on an exact reading of legal language.
Since he is replacing Scalia, a conservative icon, the ideological tilt of the bench is not likely to shift. He will restore a 5-4 majority that Republican appointees have held on the court for years.
“He’s going to make an incredible addition to the court,” said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). “He’s going to make the American people proud.”
Democrats had staged a highly unusual filibuster to block the nominee. Republicans responded by changing long-standing Senate rules to allow filibusters of Supreme Court nominees to be broken with 51 votes rather than the previous 60.
Now Trump and future presidents will find it easier to choose Supreme Court nominees without needing much consent from the minority, opening the door to more ideological and partisan appointments. Read the rest of this entry »
It’s the Reid Option. Get it right. https://t.co/ngAXGt8zfp
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) April 3, 2017
The blasé manner in which the media describes opposition to Trump from within the bureaucracy is stunning.
Matthew Continetti writes:
…The same forces that opposed Trump during the Republican primary and general election are trying to break his presidency before it is a month old. At issue is the philosophy of nation-state populism that drove his insurgent campaign. It is so at variance with the ideologies of conservatism and liberalism predominant in the capital that Washington is experiencing something like an allergic reaction.
“The message this establishment is sending to Trump? Conform or be destroyed. The outrage at the president’s executive order on refugees and travel was a sample of what is coming. Trump is used to fighting the media and campaign opponents, but he has little experience with the professional and supposedly nonpartisan bureaucracy.”
Nation-state populism diverges from Beltway conservatism on trade, immigration, entitlements, and infrastructure, and from liberalism on sovereignty, nationalism, identity politics, and political correctness. Its combative style and heightened rhetoric offend the sensibilities of career-minded Washingtonians of both parties, who are schooled in deference, diplomacy, being nice to teacher, and the ancient arts of CYA.
“Not only are there two Americas. There are two governments: one elected and one not, one that alternates between Republicans and Democrats and one that remains, decade after decade, stubbornly liberal, contemptuous of Congress, and resistant to change. It is this second government and its allies in the media and the Democratic Party that are after President Trump, that want him driven from office before his term is complete.”
The message this establishment is sending to Trump? Conform or be destroyed. The outrage at the president’s executive order on refugees and travel was a sample of what is coming. Trump is used to fighting the media and campaign opponents, but he has little experience with the professional and supposedly nonpartisan bureaucracy. That is why his firing of acting attorney general Sally Yates was so important. She ordered her department not to defend an executive order that had been cleared by the White House counsel and her own Office of Legal Counsel. For Trump to have delayed or done nothing would have been an invitation to further subversion. He let Yates go within hours.
The blasé manner in which the media describes opposition to Trump from within the bureaucracy is stunning. “Federal workers turn to encryption to thwart Trump,” read one Politico headline. “An anti-Trump resistance movement is growing within the U.S. government,” says Vanity Fair. “Federal workers are in regular consultation with recently departed Obama-era political appointees about what they can do to push back against the new president’s initiatives,” reports the Washington Post. Read the rest of this entry »
He guaranteed Neil Gorsuch elevation to the Supreme Court.
…Donald Trump for winning the election. Hillary Clinton for losing it. Mitch McConnell for holding open the high court seat through 2016, resolute and immovable against furious (and hypocritical) opposition from Democrats and media. And, of course, Harry Reid.
God bless Harry Reid. It’s because of him that Gorsuch is guaranteed elevation to the court. In 2013, as Senate majority leader, Reid blew up the joint. He abolished the filibuster for federal appointments both executive (such as Cabinet) and judicial, for all district and circuit court judgeships (excluding only the Supreme Court). Thus unencumbered, the Democratic-controlled Senate packed the lower courts with Obama nominees.
Reid was warned that the day would come when Republicans would be in the majority and would exploit the new rules to equal and opposite effect. That day is here.
The result is striking. Trump’s Cabinet appointments are essentially unstoppable because Republicans need only 51 votes and they have 52. They have no need to reach 60, the number required to overcome a filibuster. Democrats are powerless to stop anyone on their own.
And equally powerless to stop Gorsuch. But isn’t the filibuster for Supreme Court nominees still standing? Yes, but if the Democrats dare try it, everyone knows that Majority Leader McConnell will do exactly what Reid did and invoke the nuclear option — filibuster abolition — for the Supreme Court, too.
Reid never fully appreciated the magnitude of his crime against the Senate. As I wrote at the time, the offense was not abolishing the filibuster — you can argue that issue either way — but that he did it by simple majority. Read the rest of this entry »
Japan is warily welcoming Donald Trump as the US president, wondering what his administration will mean for their security alliance and already seeing what it means for their trade relationship.
But there are no such mixed feelings about Trump’s eldest daughter: Ivanka Trump is widely revered as the perfect woman here.
“This is the woman I like now. Ivanka Trump. I love it that she’s not only beautiful but also clever and has a graceful air. I think women should be kind and gentle.”
— Sachiko W. on a portrait that Trump had posted on Instagram
Among some Japanese women, Ivanka Trump is seen as an aspirational figure who has combined motherhood and career while managing to look perfectly put-together all the time (although her glamorous Instagram photos never show the retinues of nannies and assistants and hairdressers that answer the question of “how does she do it all?”).
Japan remains a highly patriarchal society, where men spend long hours at the office and women are often expected to give up their jobs after getting married or having babies.
“She is a good example that a woman can do an outstanding job and handle a misogynist father like Trump, without pushing too much of a feminist agenda or confronting men too much.”
— Shinzato, 32, a freelance writer and mother of a 6-year-old daughter.
But Trump offers an example of how to be strong but not scary, said Yuriko Shinzato, 32, a freelance writer and mother of a 6-year-old daughter.
“She is a good example that a woman can do an outstanding job and handle a misogynist father like Trump, without pushing too much of a feminist agenda or confronting men too much,” Shinzato, who blogs about Ivanka Trump’s fashion and lifestyle, told the Japan Times.
“That is something that Japanese women want but have a hard time doing in a still male-dominated society.”
As a result, the Trump daughter has quite a following here. The Japanese internet was abuzz after the election at a tabloid report that Trump might be the next American ambassador to Japan, and she won Japanese fans when she posted a video of her daughter, Arabella Rose, performing the song “Pen-Pineapple-Apple-Pen” by the Japanese comedian known as Pikotaro.
Japanese women gush about her on social media.
“This is the woman I like now. Ivanka Trump. I love it that she’s not only beautiful but also clever and has a graceful air. I think women should be kind and gentle,” wrote Sachiko W. on a portrait that Trump had posted on Instagram.
“Trump’s eldest daughter Ivanka-san, who made it into the administration transfer team. She waved at me when I called out to her at the Trump Tower.”
— Mari Maeda, on Twitter
On Twitter, news announcer Mari Maeda posted a photo of Trump in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York.
“Trump’s eldest daughter Ivanka-san, who made it into the administration transfer team. She waved at me when I called out to her at the Trump Tower,” Maeda wrote.
“What a figure she has even after having three children. So frank and cute! Her jewelry brand is popular but some fans say they want her to become the president because of her intelligence and beauty.” Read the rest of this entry »
It’s official. ‘Mad Dog’ is defense secretary.
Mattis initially faced a hurdle to becoming the new Pentagon chief, needing a waiver from Congress to assume the role despite having been less than seven years from active military duty. Upon being sworn in Friday, Trump signed the passed waiver into law, clearing the way for Mattis’ confirmation.
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) was the only member of the Senatorial committee to vote against confirming Mattis as defense secretary. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) had previously voted against the waiver, but ultimately supported Mattis’ confirmation. Read the rest of this entry »
The intelligence community’s response: Fuhgeddaboudit.
Byron York writes: President-elect Trump stirred yet more controversy Saturday night when, as he entered his New Year’s Eve party at Mar-a-Lago, he said he is not convinced the intelligence community is sure about allegations Russian hackers sought to influence the election.
“I just want them to be sure, because it’s a pretty serious charge,” Trump told reporters, “and I want them to be sure.”
The next morning, Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, scoffed at Trump’s statement. “This is the overwhelming judgment of the intelligence community and, frankly, all of the members of the intelligence committees in Congress, Democrats and Republicans,” Schiff said on ABC Sunday. “None of us have any question about this. The only one who does apparently is Donald Trump.”
That is not the case. There are, in fact, members of the intelligence committees who do have questions about this. Yes, many Republicans believe Russian hackers tried to mess with the U.S. presidential campaign in some way, mostly because they believe Russian hackers are always trying to mess with U.S. systems and institutions. But when it comes to solid information on precisely what was done, and on evidence of motives, many Hill Republicans are mostly in the dark — because the intelligence community has kept them there.
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Remember that before Christmas the intelligence community refused to brief the House Intelligence Committee, telling lawmakers they can wait until intel officials finish the investigation ordered by President Obama. In response, House committee chairman Rep. Devin Nunes argued that the Director of National Intelligence was “obligated to comply” with a House request, and that the committee was “deeply concerned” by the DNI’s “intransigence.”
The intelligence community’s response: Fuhgeddaboudit.
So the wait to learn more goes on. Meanwhile, a number of Democrats are arguing that the evidence is so overwhelming that Congress must establish a special investigating committee, even though there will already be multiple investigations of the Russia matter in the standing committees of Congress. Read the rest of this entry »
This post will unpack the leak from the CIA published in the WaPo tonight.
emptywheel writes: Before I start with the substance of the story, consider this background. First, if Trump comes into office on the current trajectory, the US will let Russia help Bashar al-Assad stay in power, thwarting a 4-year effort on the part of the Saudis to remove him from power. It will also restructure the hierarchy of horrible human rights abusing allies the US has, with the Saudis losing out to other human rights abusers, potentially up to and including that other petrostate, Russia. It will also install a ton of people with ties to the US oil industry in the cabinet, meaning the US will effectively subsidize oil production in this country, which will have the perhaps inadvertent result of ensuring the US remains oil-independent even though the market can’t justify fracking right now.
The CIA is institutionally quite close with the Saudis right now, and has been in charge of their covert war against Assad.
This story came 24 days after the White House released an anonymous statement asserting, among other things, “the Federal government did not observe any increased level of malicious cyber activity aimed at disrupting our electoral process on election day,” suggesting that the Russians may have been deterred.
This story was leaked within hours of the time the White House announced it was calling for an all-intelligence community review of the Russia intelligence, offered without much detail. Indeed, this story was leaked and published as an update to that story.
Which is to say, the CIA and/or people in Congress (this story seems primarily to come from Democratic Senators) leaked this, apparently in response to President Obama’s not terribly urgent call to have all intelligence agencies weigh in on the subject of Russian influence, after weeks of Democrats pressuring him to release more information. It was designed to both make the White House-ordered review more urgent and influence the outcome.
So here’s what that story says.
In September, the spooks briefed “congressional leaders” (which for a variety of reasons I wildarseguess is either a Gang of Four briefing including Paul Ryan, Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and Harry Reid or a briefing to SSCI plus McConnell, Reid, Jack Reed, and John McCain). Apparently, the substance of the briefing was that Russia’s intent in hacking Democratic entities was not to increase distrust of institutions, but instead to elect Trump.
The CIA has concluded in a secret assessment that Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than just to undermine confidence in the U.S. electoral system, according to officials briefed on the matter.
The difference between this story and other public assessments is that it seems to identify the people — who sound like people with ties to the Russian government but not necessarily part of it — who funneled documents from Russia’s GRU to Wikileaks.
Intelligence agencies have identified individuals with connections to the Russian government who provided WikiLeaks with thousands of hacked emails from the Democratic National Committee and others, including Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman, according to U.S. officials. Those officials described the individuals as actors known to the intelligence community and part of a wider Russian operation to boost Trump and hurt Clinton’s chances.
[I]ntelligence agencies do not have specific intelligence showing officials in the Kremlin “directing” the identified individuals to pass the Democratic emails to WikiLeaks, a second senior U.S. official said. Those actors, according to the official, were “one step” removed from the Russian government, rather than government employees.
This is the part that has always been missing in the past: how the documents got from GRU, which hacked the DNC and John Podesta, to Wikileaks, which released them. It appears that CIA now thinks they know the answer: some people one step removed from the Russian government, funneling the documents from GRU hackers (presumably) to Wikileaks to be leaked, with the intent of electing Trump.
Not everyone buys this story. Mitch McConnell doesn’t buy the intelligence. Read the rest of this entry »
The White House rammed through an agenda that could be quickly undone by a Republican president.
Phil Gramm and Michael Solon write: President Obama seems to aspire to join Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan as one of the three most transformative presidents of the past hundred years, and by all outward signs he has achieved that goal. But while Roosevelt and Reagan sold their programs to the American people and enacted them with bipartisan support, Mr. Obama jammed his partisan agenda down the public’s throat. The Obama legacy is built on executive orders, regulations and agency actions that can be overturned using the same authority Mr. Obama employed to put them in place.
“If the new president proves as committed to overturning these regulations as Mr. Obama was to implementing them, these rules could be amended or overturned. And because Senate Democrats “nuked” the right of the minority to filibuster administration nominees, the new president’s appointees could not be blocked by Democrats if Republicans retain control of the Senate.”
An array of President Obama’s policies—changing immigration law, blocking the Keystone XL pipeline, the Iranian nuclear agreement and the normalization of relations with Cuba, among others—were implemented exclusively through executive action.
Because any president is free “to revoke, modify or supersede his own orders or those issued by a predecessor,” as the Congressional Research Service puts it, a Republican president could overturn every Obama executive action the moment after taking the oath of office.
“To accelerate this process, the new president should name cabinet and agency appointees before the 115th Congress begins. He could declare an economic emergency and ask the agencies to initiate the rule-making process promptly. On the first day in the Oval Office the president could order federal agencies to halt consideration of all pending regulations—precisely as President Obama did.”
At the beginning of the inaugural address, the new president could sign an executive order rescinding all of Mr. Obama’s executive orders deemed harmful to economic growth or constitutionally suspect. The new president could then establish a blue-ribbon commission to review all other Obama executive orders. Any order not reissued or amended in 60 days could be automatically rescinded.
“The Affordable Care Act also grants substantial flexibility in its implementation, a feature Mr. Obama has repeatedly exploited. The new president could suspend penalties for individuals and employers, enforce income-verification requirements, ease the premium shock on young enrollees by adjusting the community rating system, allow different pricing structures inside the exchanges and alter provider compensation.”
Then there’s the trove of regulations used largely to push through policies that could have never passed Congress. For example, when President Obama in 2010 couldn’t ram through his climate-change legislation in a Democratic
Senate, he used decades-old regulatory authority to inflict the green agenda on power plants and the auto industry.
“These actions could begin dismantling the most pernicious parts of ObamaCare and prevent its roots from deepening as Congress debates its repeal and replacement.”
This is far from the only example: Labor Department rules on fiduciary standards; the National Labor Relations Board’s ruling that franchisees are joint employers; the Environmental Protection Agency’s power grab over water ways; the Federal Communications Commission’s attempt to regulate the Internet as a 1930s telephone monopoly. All are illustrations of how President Obama has used rule-making not to carry out congressional intent but to circumvent it. Read the rest of this entry »
Source: Chris Moody – Twitter
“I’m kind of like Martin Luther when he was on trial, and he said, ‘Here I stand. I can do no other.’ I mean, I dedicated my life to this,” Koch said. “The ideas we’ve been talking about transformed my life, and so it’s my mission. I feel a moral obligation to help other people learn these and transform their lives.”
“It’s frightening for the future of the country to have these public officials try to hurt and destroy private citizens who oppose what they’re doing rather than have a conversation and maybe find, as we’ve done with the White House, find areas where we can work together on things we agree to make the country better instead of this vitriol and these dishonest attacks.”
Read more at The Corner
Elaina Plott reports: House Freedom Caucus members confirmed that they were not able to reach the 80% threshold required to endorse Paul Ryan for Speaker.
“Paul is a policy entrepreneur who has developed conservative reforms dealing with a wide variety of subjects, and he has promised to be an ideas-focused speaker who will advance limited-government principles and devolve power to the membership.”
— the caucus said in its statement
Representative Raul Labrador called it a “supermajority support” for Ryan. “We were not able to reach a consensus” on an official endorsement, he told reporters, but added that “two thirds of the caucus will be voting” for a Ryan speakership….(read more)
...The Freedom Caucus met with Ryan for an hour in the Capitol earlier in the day. Many of its members had balked at the conditions Ryan attached to his decision to serve as speaker, and the meeting represented their first chance to question him directly on his intentions.
The meeting broke up without resolution, setting up a high-stakes decision for a group that played a key role in easing the current speaker, John A. Boehner, into retirement and blocking Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s bid to succeed him….(read more)
The Wall Street Journal reports:
…Members of the Freedom Caucus said their offer of support—less-resounding than what Mr. Ryan had sought—thrusts the decision back on Mr. Ryan, who has been publicly reluctant to take the job.
“Paul Ryan needs to decide now what he’s going to do,” Mr. Labrador said. “He’s got to decide whether that’s sufficient for him.”
Mr. Labrador also noted that the caucus had not agreed to a series of conditions Mr. Ryan had set, but declined to say which of the Wisconsin Republican’s demands had triggered the most concern.
In a statement released Wednesday night, the group praised Mr. Ryan, who met with them earlier Wednesday. Read the rest of this entry »
Michael Barone writes: Sean Trende of RealClearPolitics provides more detail and argument in support of the proposition, advanced in my own initial reflections, that John Boehner was an effective speaker of the House — from a conservative point of view. First, Trende shows that federal spending has been held down more sharply during Boehner’s tenure as speaker than at just about any other time since World War II. That five-year tenure included five years of a Democratic president and four years of a Democratic-majority Senate.
Second, Trende shows that the October 2013 government shutdown, a model admired by many and perhaps all of Boehner’s critics, was electorally disastrous for Republicans.
I suspect many of Boehner’s critics are simply unfamiliar with these numbers, just like the great majority of citizens. The hold-down of federal spending was accomplished by the sequester procedure which has stayed in place now for four years. It’s not the optimal way to form a budget. But if your goal is holding down spending — and reducing spending from 25 percent of GDP to 20 percent — then the sequester has been very effective, and so has Boehner.
In listening to Boehner critics, I have the sense they do not understand or appreciate this at all. Similarly, on the shutdown I hear from them a bland assurance that Republicans won a House majority in November 2014, so the shutdown in October 2013 was not a political liability. Take a look at the chart Trende presents, and see if you don’t conclude, as I do, that that’s political wishful thinking. Read the rest of this entry »
Ted Cruz Zings Outgoing John Boehner Over ‘Early Reports’ That He ‘Cut a Deal’ With Nancy Pelosi Before ResigningPosted: September 25, 2015
“I will say, the early reports are discouraging. If it is correct that the speaker, before he resigns, has cut a deal with Nancy Pelosi to fund the Obama administration for the rest of its tenure, to fund Obamacare, to fund executive amnesty, to fund Planned Parenthood, to fund implementation of this Iran deal — and then, presumably, to land in a cushy K Street job after joining with the Democrats to implement all of President Obama’s priorities, that is not the behavior one would expect of a Republican speaker of the House.”
Cruz told reporters at the conservative Values Voter Summit in Washington.
“Boehner resigning at end of October,” a Republican representative texted National Review from the House conference meeting. A second congressman confirmed the news.
Boehner has been under pressure from a group of rank-and-file conservatives for months, culminating in the House Freedom Caucus vowing not to vote for any continuing resolution to fund the government that contains money for Planned Parenthood. That pledge came after an HFC member, North Carolina Representative Mark Meadows, filed a motion to vacate the chair — that is, depose the speaker — in August.
Boehner considered holding a vote on the motion, according to one House Republican familiar with his thinking, but did not do so out of concern that he would not have the support needed to defeat the motion outright.
Edward-Isaac Dovere writes: President Barack Obama and his aides launched a full-court press to save his trade package on Thursday, as House Democrats’ internal struggles pushed Obama’s top legislative priority perilously close to defeat.
As Obama made phone calls to reluctant Democrats from the White House, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew and Labor Secretary Tom Perez went face-to-face with trade opponents including AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a testy closed meeting on Capitol Hill…(read more)
The final vote divided Senate Republicans, with 23 voting ‘yes’ and 30 voting ‘no,’ and senators seeking re-election in 2016 split on the issue
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congress approved sweeping changes Tuesday to surveillance laws enacted after the Sept. 11 attacks, eliminating the National Security Agency’s disputed bulk phone-records collection program and replacing it with a more restrictive measure to keep the records in phone companies’ hands.
“This is a step in the wrong direction…does not enhance the privacy protections of American citizens. And it surely undermines American security by taking one more tool form our warfighters at exactly the wrong time.”
— Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell
Two days after Congress let the phone-records and several other anti-terror programs expire, the Senate’s 67-32 vote sent the legislation to President Barack Obama, who said he would sign it promptly.
“This legislation will strengthen civil liberty safeguards and provide greater public confidence in these programs,” Obama said in a statement. The bill signing could happen late Tuesday or early Wednesday, but officials said it could take at least several days to restart the collection.
The legislation will revive most of the programs the Senate had allowed to lapse in a dizzying collision of presidential politics and national security policy. But the authorization will undergo major changes, the legacy of agency contractor Edward Snowden‘s explosive revelations two years ago about domestic spying by the government.
“I applaud the Senate for renewing our nation’s foreign intelligence capabilities, and I’m pleased this measure will now head to the president’s desk for his signature.”
— House Speaker John Boehner
In an unusual shifting of alliances, the legislation passed with the support of Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, but over the strong opposition of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. McConnell failed to persuade the Senate to extend the current law unchanged, and came up short in a last-ditch effort Tuesday to amend the House version, as nearly a dozen of his own Republicans abandoned him in a series of votes.
“This is a step in the wrong direction,” a frustrated McConnell said on the Senate floor ahead of the Senate’s final vote to approve the House version, dubbed the USA Freedom Act. He said the legislation “does not enhance the privacy protections of American citizens. And it surely undermines American security by taking one more tool form our warfighters at exactly the wrong time.”
“Power is not a means, it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship.”
— George Orwell
The legislation remakes the most controversial aspect of the USA Patriot Act — the once-secret bulk collection program that allows the National Security Agency to sweep up Americans’ phone records and comb through them for ties to international terrorists. Over six months the NSA would lose the power to collect and store those records, but the government still could gain court orders to obtain data connected to specific numbers from the phone companies, which typically store them for 18 months.
It would also continue other post-9/11 surveillance provisions that lapsed Sunday night, and which are considered more effective than the phone-data collection program. These include the FBI’s authority to gather business records in terrorism and espionage investigations and to more easily eavesdrop on suspects who are discarding cellphones to avoid surveillance.
In order to restart collection of phone records, the Justice Department will need to obtain a new order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Read the rest of this entry »
Key Patriot Act provisions will expire at midnight
In addition to the bulk phone collections provision, the two lesser-known Patriot Act provisions that also lapse at midnight were one, so far unused, to helps track “lone wolf” terrorism suspects unconnected to a foreign power; the second allows the government to eavesdrop on suspects who continually discard their cellphones.
The Senate failed Sunday to strike a deal to extend the NSA’s phone surveillance program before the midnight deadline.
Members of the GOP-controlled chamber returned Sunday to Capitol Hill in a last-ditch effort to extend the National Security Agency’s authority to collect Americans’ phone records in bulk to search for terror connections and to authorize two other programs under the post-9/11 Patriot Act.
“Heaven forbid we’ve got a problem where we could have prevented a terrorist attack or apprehended someone who is engaged in dangerous activity, but we didn’t do so simply because of inaction in the Senate.”
— President Obama
The Senate attempted to either pass a House bill that would have altered the collections of the so-called phone call metadata or simply extend the program.
The 100-member chamber passed the first of two procedure hurdles, known as cloture, to proceed with the House bill. The vote was 77 to 17.
“The sky is not going to fall.”
— Anthony Romero, American Civil Liberties Union executive director
But no final action was expected before Sunday’s midnight deadline after Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul served notice that he would assert his prerogatives under Senate rules to delay a final vote for several days.
“The people who argue that the world will come to an end and we will be over by jihadists (by not passing the bill) are using fear,” Paul, a 2016 presidential candidate, said on the Senate floor.
Still, the program is all but certain to be revived in a matter of days, although it also looks certain to be completely overhauled under the House-passed legislation that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reluctantly blessed in an about-face Sunday evening.
With most senators opposed to extending current law unchanged, even for a short time, McConnell said the House bill was the only option left other than letting the program die off entirely. The Kentucky Republican preferred extending the current law. Read the rest of this entry »
BREAKING NEWS – The Republican-led Senate blocked a House bill early Saturday that would have ended the National Security Agency’s bulk of collection on domestic phone records.
The vote was 57-42, short of the 60-vote threshold to move ahead. It leaves the fate of the key provisions in the Patriot Act in doubt with a June 1 deadline less than two weeks away.
The Senate also failed to advance a two-month extension of NSA programs as well. The vote also needed 60 votes to get to the Senate floor. The vote was defeated 54-45…(read more)
Matt Wilstein writes: At this point, it’s fairly undeniable that Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s presence, even without entering the Democratic race for president, will push Hillary Clinton to the left on certain issues. But will that ultimately help or hurt her chances in the general election?
“You’ve got the energy of the Elizabeth Warren faction kind of driving the agenda, pulling Hillary Clinton further to the left, which, by the way, I think is useful for us in the general election next year. The biggest divisions these days are not among Republicans but among Democrats.”
While many progressives believe a challenge from Clinton’s left to be a good thing for the candidate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell argued in a new interview with CNBC’s John Harwood that it could end up helping Republicans.
“Energy is on the left in the Democratic Party. And I don’t know what she really thinks but she’s being pulled in that direction because of her campaign for president.”
McConnell gave President Barack Obama a rare “compliment” for “the way he took on the base, his own base last week,” referring to the president’s push on an international trade deal that failed to move forward in the Senate because of Democratic opposition. “He took on Elizabeth Warren, he took on the labor unions,” McConnell said. Read the rest of this entry »
Ben Kamisar reports: Capitol Police officers misplaced their loaded guns in plain sight on at least three separate occasions, including once when a small child found the weapon, according to a Roll Call analysis of a Capitol Police Board report.
“The Department takes very seriously all breaches of Department rules and has established policies that address such matters.”
— Lt. Kimberly Schneider, a Capitol Police spokeswoman
One officer assigned to protect Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) left his gun in a toilet seat cover holder in a bathroom stall in the Capitol Visitor Center in January, according to the paper.
Another assigned to the detail of Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) left a firearm in the bathroom of the Speaker’s suite, where a 7- or 8-year-old visiting child discovered the gun. The Glock pistol left by Boehner’s detail does not have a traditional locking mechanism and could still be fired when left out, Roll Call reported.
“Each disciplinary matter is thoroughly investigated and reviewed, employees are held accountable for their conduct, and they are provided due process in adjudicating these matters. Depending on the nature and seriousness of the violation, an employee’s record, and other required considerations, an appropriate penalty is applied, up to and including termination of employment.”
A janitor found the third pistol out in the Capitol Police headquarters, according to the paper.
The report on the January incident reportedly shows that police brass recommended a six-day suspension without pay for the officer from McConnell’s detail as punishment, but Roll Call reports that the other two incidents are still under investigation.
“As a matter of policy, the Department does not routinely discuss internal personnel matters, in order to maintain the integrity of the Department.”
Boehner spokesman Michael Steel declined to comment on the incidents, referring questions to Capitol Police. Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Harry Reid: ‘I think a lot of people, as I read, they kinda don’t like me as a person, and I think that’s unfortunate’Posted: April 15, 2015
Reid Denies He Got Beat Up By The Mob
“Why in the world would I come up with some story that I got hurt in my own bathroom with my wife standing there? How could anyone say anything like that?”
“In the last few days, a bunch of people are saying, ‘Reid, he didn’t have an exercise accident. He got beaten up by the mob,’” Harwood said.
“You know, I don’t really care. I think they’re all losers.”
“It shows the credibility of Rush Limbaugh. He’s the guy who got that started,” Reid responded. “Why in the world would I come up with some story that I got hurt in my own bathroom with my wife standing there? How could anyone say anything like that?”
“I think a lot of people, as I read, they kinda don’t like me as a person, and I think that’s unfortunate,” he added.”
Health care, Wall Street, the Internet—by the time President Obama leaves office, there may not be much of the economy left for his successor to take over. The better news is that his attempt to do the same to the energy industry is meeting heavy resistance in the states.
The Environmental Protection Agency is finishing a rule—expected in June or July—that requires the states to meet carbon-reduction targets by reorganizing their “production, distribution and use of electricity,” as the EPA puts it. This is an unprecedented federal usurpation of what has been a state responsibility since the invention of the modern steam turbine in the 1880s.
States are normally allowed as much as three years to comply with EPA mandates that are far less complex than this one. But the EPA will instruct them to submit implementation plans by summer 2016 and make interim progress as soon as 2020. The rule is intended to impress the greendees of the Paris climate conference this year, so Mr. Obama can announce a global climate deal.
The plan hangs on an obscure section of the 44-year-old Clean Air Act. That law’s section 111(d) was well understood but the EPA has published a new interpretation of these several hundred words that runs 1,200 pages. No less a dean of legal liberalism than Harvard’s Larry Tribe is stunned by this attempt to nationalize U.S. electric generation.
States will be told to meet the targets using four “building blocks.” The first is uncontroversial: improving the efficiency of fossil-fuel power plants and installing pollution-control technology like smokestack scrubbers. But for the first time the EPA is also telling states to roam “outside the fence line” of power plants to force coal and eventually natural gas to shut down, mandate quotas for renewables like wind and solar, and impose energy conservation.
The problem is that the federal government has no legal power outside the fence line. Last year the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals slapped down the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s bid to claim authority over “demand response” on the electric grid.
Thus the EPA is trying to coerce the states into doing what it can’t do itself. Read the rest of this entry »
…In its written pledge, known to climate negotiators as an Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, the U.S. did not offer an exact formula for how it would achieve the remaining reductions. Yet it pointed to an array of steps Obama has taken or is taking to curb emissions. Obama has ordered higher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks, methane limits for energy production, cuts in federal government emissions and unprecedented pollution rules for new and existing power plants.
Many of those steps have drawn the ire of some Democrats and almost all Republicans — not to mention the energy industry. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has been urging U.S. states not to comply with Obama’s power plant rules, and argued that the U.S. could never meet Obama’s target even if those rules do survive.
“Considering that two-thirds of the U.S. federal government hasn’t even signed off on the Clean Power Plan and 13 states have already pledged to fight it, our international partners should proceed with caution before entering into a binding, unattainable deal,” McConnell said… Read the rest of this entry »
[VIDEO] Reid’s Obstructionist-Era Senate Ends, McConnell Era Begins : Already More Amendments Voted On Than All Of 2014Posted: January 24, 2015
Catalina Camia reports: Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid is in a Las Vegas hospital following injuries sustained while exercising at home.
A statement issued Friday by Reid’s office said doctors expect a “full recovery.”
“A piece of equipment Senator Reid was using to exercise broke, causing him to fall and break a number of ribs and bones in his face,” according to the statement. “Senator Reid will return to Washington this weekend and be in the office Tuesday as the Senate prepares to reconvene.”
“A piece of equipment Senator Reid was using to exercise broke, causing him to fall and break a number of ribs and bones in his face.”
Adam Jentleson, the senator’s spokesman, told the Associated Press that the accident occurred when an elastic exercise band broke and hit the 75-year-old Reid in the face, causing him to fall. As the senator fell, Jentleson said, Reid struck part of the equipment and broke several bones near his right eye. Reid broke several ribs as he hit the floor. Read the rest of this entry »
“I’m the president of the United States, I’m not the emperor of the United States. My job is to execute laws that are passed.”
At The Corner, Brendan Bordelon writes: President Obama is planning to enact executive amnesty any day, despite a chorus of voices urging him to reconsider. House Speaker John Boehner warns that the White House will “poison the well,” while incoming Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell cautions against “waving a red flag in front of a bull.” Liberal law professor Jonathan Turley even laments that the move will “tear the very fabric of our Constitution.”
But perhaps the most convincing statements against the legalization of millions without congressional action? They’ve come from the president himself. Read the rest of this entry »
Crushed by Massive Congressional Election Losses, Enraged, Isolated President Moves Forward with Plan to Punish NationPosted: November 19, 2014
Paying taxes, obeying the law, and playing by the rules is for suckers. America deserves to be punished
President Obama will announce Thursday that he will use his executive authority to expand temporary protections to millions of undocumented immigrants, according to several individuals who have been briefed on the decision. Obama will travel to Las Vegas on the heels of that announcement to rally support for his initiative on Friday.
“If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for Congressional action on this issue – and many others.”
— Michael Steel
Congress will receive official details on the move Thursday, according to a senior Democratic Party official.
Even before final confirmation of the president’s plans, outside advocates began readying events to promote the administration’s immigration policy.
“We hear there will be a prime time Thursday evening announcement (to preview) and full unveiling in Vegas on Friday,” immigration advocate Dawn Le wrote in an email to other activists, which was later inadvertently sent to a group of reporters Wednesday morning. “Can folks begin to work and plan watch parties for Thursday and/or Friday? Unclear whether Thursday night content will be what is “celebratory”, but Friday will be where we need a lot of energy guaranteed.”
So, just asking, what happens if Ferguson Grand Jury announces during Obama’s amnesty speech?
— Jonah Goldberg (@JonahNRO) November 19, 2014
Obama launched his push for immigration reform in January 2013 in Las Vegas, outlining a plan that would allow many of the nation’s 11 million undocumented immigrants to earn citizenship.
The president’s decision to speak at the city’s Del Sol High School highlights the administration’s intensified push to convince Latinos that the Democratic Party is committed to addressing the dilemma of millions of undocumented immigrants. The president is preparing to use his executive authority to expand temporary protections to millions of these individuals, as well as to broaden visa programs for highly-skilled technology workers and perhaps also stiffen security along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Brendan Bordelon writes: House majority leader John Boehner struck his most aggressive tone yet against President Obama’s promised executive amnesty for illegal immigrants, vowing to fight the White House “tooth and nail” and threatening to throw a wrench in the president’s plans for the next two years.
“I’ll just say this. We are going to fight the president tooth and nail if he continues down this path. This is the wrong way to govern. This is exactly what the American people said on Election Day they didn’t want!”
Boehner couldn’t say how congressional Republicans will fight the expected executive actions, but promised that “all actions are on the table…(read more)
From pot to crony capitalism, here are suggestions for the Republican-controlled Congress.
So Republicans have taken back the Senate and in January will control both houses of Congress. That brings them to the question posed by a famous political book: You won — Now what?
[Glenn Reynolds‘ book “The New School: How the Information Age Will Save American Education from Itself“ is available at Amazon]
The problem for Republicans is that because they do not have a veto-proof majority, they can pass bills but can’t get them past President Obama. It doesn’t mean that they’re doomed to futility. They can pass three kinds of bills: those Obama will want to sign; those he won’t want to sign but will have to; and those he’ll veto, but where a veto is unpopular. With that in mind, I have six suggestions for the new GOP-controlled Congress:
1. End the federally imposed 21-year-old drinking age. The limit was dreamed up in the 1980s as a bit of political posturing by then-secretary of Transportation Elizabeth Dole. It has been a disaster. College drinking hasn’t been reduced; it has just moved out of bars and into dorm rooms, fraternities/sororities and house parties. The result has been a boom in alcohol problems on campus. While drunken driving has declined, it was declining before the age was raised and has declined just as fast in Canada, where the drinking age is 18 or 19 depending on the province.
As John McCardell, vice chancellor of the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., writes, “If you infantilize someone, do not be surprised when infantile behavior — like binge drinking — results.” Easing pressure on states to raise their own drinking ages is consistent with GOP ideals. Obama hasn’t been hot on lowering the drinking age, but it’s hard to imagine him vetoing this.
2. Decriminalize marijuana at the federal level. Many states have legalized marijuana, but it remains illegal under federal law. That’s bound to change sooner or later — and the GOP might as well get ahead of it. Would Obama veto it? Doubtful. Read the rest of this entry »