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Archive | January, 2017

Merkley: “This is a Stolen Supreme Court Seat”

We’re going to wrap up a very long day in the U.S. Senate by hearing from Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) who comes right out and says it — this is a stolen Supreme Court seat. Let’s get ready to rumble, folks.

“The most fundamental thing that must be understood about tonight’s announcement is that this is a stolen seat. This is the first time in American history that one party has blockaded a nominee for almost a year in order to deliver a seat to a President of their own party. If this tactic is rewarded rather than resisted, it will set a dangerous new precedent in American governance.

“This strategy of packing the court, if successful, could threaten fundamental rights in America, including workers’ right to organize, women’s reproductive rights, and the rights of ordinary citizens to have their voices heard in elections rather than being drowned out by the corrupting influence of dark money from the richest Americans.

“If President Trump were serious about healing the divisions in America and undoing the damage wrought by Senate Republicans last year, he could have named Merrick Garland to fill this seat. Garland is a centrist jurist who is respected on both sides of the aisle. Instead, he doubled down on division by picking an ideological and extreme nominee to satisfy the far right.

“This is a stolen seat being filled by an illegitimate and extreme nominee, and I will do everything in my power to stand up against this assault on the Court.”

Sherrod Brown on Gorsuch Nomination

“The people of Ohio deserve Supreme Court Justices who will defend the rights of working families over Wall Street and corporate special interests – and Judge Gorsuch’s record doesn’t pass that test.”

That’s Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), whose statement tonight gives us some other information about Judge Gorsuch:

“Senator Brown thoroughly reviewed Judge Gorsuch’s record ahead of tonight’s expected announcement and found a record that is far outside of the judicial mainstream. Gorsuch’s record includes:”

  • Ruling that corporations are people;
  • Ruling against women’s rights to basic healthcare at places like Planned Parenthood;
  • Arguing against the rights of working Americans to band together to hold Wall Street and corporations accountable for abuses;
  • Hostility toward anti-discrimination and criminal justice protections, including opposition to equal protection for LGBTQ Americans; and
  • Judicial theories that oppose protections that ensure clean air and water and safe food and medicine.

GOP Senators Decry Obstructionism – With Straight Faces

The Senate Republican leadership is holding a news conference right now whining about what went down in committees today and railing against — gasp! — obstructionism in the U.S. Senate. And I have to admit, it was an interesting bit of gamesmanship by the Democrats today.

I should have guessed something was up when Democratic Senators Feinstein, Leahy, Blumenthal and Hirono each talked for a really, really, long time in the Judiciary hearing and repeated things they had said in previous meetings. They were dragging it out so the hearing would go beyond two hours and Minority Leader Schumer could invoke the “two-hour rule” to shut things down for the day.

Democrats on the Finance Committee took the easier way out — they just didn’t show up. So unable to establish a quorum, the committee could not meet and the votes on Tom Price (Health and Human Services) and Steven Mnuchin (Treasury) were postponed.

I like it. I like it a lot.

Cardin Calls Trump The “Demagogue President”

While debating the nomination of Rex Tillerson to be the next Secretary of State, Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) this afternoon questioned if Tillerson has the “moral compass” for the job and referred to Donald Trump as the “demagogue president.”

“It remains to be seen whether Mr. Tillerson has the moral compass necessary to counsel the President towards a coherent U.S. foreign policy that advances our national security and embraces our values and ideals,” said Cardin. “Or if he will be another ‘yes’ man, enabling the risky, chaotic whims of a demagogue President who is leading us on a march of folly.”

“The American people deserve to know because if the last 10 days are any indication, the Trump administration is on track to be the most dangerous and divisive in history. And nothing so painfully illustrates that point as Friday’s executive order banning refugees and certain Muslim immigrants from entering the United States.”

Senate’s “Two-Hour Rule” Explained

You’re all about to start hearing about something called the “two-hour rule” in the U.S. Senate, which I’m delighted to tell you Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) just used to stall a vote in the Judiciary Committee on Jeff Sessions’ Attorney General nomination. Back in the day, Senate committees were not allowed to meet while the Senate itself was in session. To allow Senators time to multitask, the two-hour rule was put in place in 1977 to permit committees to meet for the first two hours while business was done on the Senate floor.

So, why then do you see Senate hearings running all day? The rule can be waived if the Majority and Minority leaders both agree, which they almost always do. In this case, I believe Schumer is refusing to waive the rule to poke a sharp stick at Mitch McConnell and President Mini-Mitts. So Sessions must wait until at least tomorrow to be voted out of committee and go to the floor for a confirmation vote.

Senate Confirms Chao for Transportation

The Senate just confirmed Elaine Chao as Donald Trump’s Transportation Secretary by a vote of 93-6. Voting no on Chao’s confirmation were Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).

Trump Makes Durbin Long for Bush’s “Wisdom”

I was writing about the Senate for a good part of the George W. Bush administration and I watched many times as Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) kicked the hell out of Bush from the Senate floor. There was no love lost there.

Which is what made it even more meaningful to me yesterday when Durbin showed how low Donald Trump was by comparing him very negatively with the “wisdom” of George W. Bush.

“There was a Republican President, George W. Bush, whom I disagreed with many times, but thank goodness after 9/11 he had the wisdom and showed the leadership to come before the American people to say that we were not going to condemn the Muslim religion,” said Durbin. “We were going to go after those who corrupted it but we were going to honor it as a religion of peace. How different President George W. Bush, that Republican President, was from President Donald Trump, this Republican President.”

Trump’s got to be pretty damn bad to be compared that unfavorably to the man who is now the second-worst President of our lifetimes.

Schumer: Yates Firing “Monday Night Massacre”

A few minutes ago, during a late-night Senate session, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) discussed Donald Trump’s firing of acting Attorney General Sally Yates, calling it the “Monday Night Massacre”. Yates was fired earlier today after refusing to enforce Trump’s ban on certain Muslim citizens entering the U.S. and expressing the opinion that the executive order was illegal and maybe even unconstitutional. Here’s Schumer earlier this evening:

“We’ve had a large number of eloquent speeches about the President’s executive order and while they were going on, of course, we had a Monday Night Massacre. Sally Yates, a person of great integrity, who follows the law, was fired by the President. She was fired because she would not enact, pursue the executive order on the belief that it was illegal, perhaps unconstitutional. It was a profile in courage. It was a brave act. And a right act. And I hope the president and his people who are in the White House learn something from this.”

Meanwhile, Trump’s diminutive minion Sean Spicer also weighed in tonight saying “Ms. Yates is an Obama administration appointee who is weak on borders and very weak on illegal immigration.”

Debate Ended on Tillerson Nomination

Rex Tillerson’s nomination for Secretary of State moved another step closer to confirmation when the Senate voted today to invoke cloture (end debate) and move to an up-or-down vote, probably on Wednesday. The vote was 56-43 and, with the 2013 filibuster rule change, 60 votes are no longer needed for cloture on cabinet nominees.

No Republicans voted against cloture but I’m guessing what you really want to know is who strayed from the Democratic caucus and voted to move forward with a confirmation vote. Here they are: Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND), Mark Warner (D-VA) and Joe Manchin (D-WV) along with Angus King (I-ME). All but Warner are up for reelection in 2018.

As to the other obvious question, no, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III did not recuse himself, as he should have.

With this as a bellwether, look for Tillerson to be confirmed later this week.

Mattis Out of Loop on Immigration Executive Order

I think newly-minted Defense Secretary James Mattis is starting to see already that he may have made a mistake signing on with Team Trump as the only truly qualified cabinet member. It looks like bringing Mattis into the loop on the rollout of his disastrous Muslim ban was an afterthought for Trump — and I would bet former-General Mattis is not accustomed to being an afterthought.

According to this article, Mattis only saw the executive order when it was a done deal and a couple of hours before it was released. It also appears that Mattis’s input on the order was not sought. Which is not surprising given that, during the presidential campaign, Mattis was sharply critical of Trump’s yapping about a ban on Muslim immigration.

Anyone taking wagers on how long before Mattis eventually resigns?

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