The New Rules

Well, yesterday was the first actual day of business for the House of Representatives, after their week of game-playing and juvenile tactics.  I spent many years of my career in management positions and while I always tried to be fair, I didn’t put up with any b.s. and expected staff members to work as a team to get the job done, whatever it took.  Today, we are all in management positions in a sense of the word … our elected officials are our staff … we pay their salaries with our hard-earned tax dollars, we are their employers and they serve at our will, and are expected to do the best job possible on our behalf.  So, let’s take a peek in at what they accomplished on their first day on the job.

The main thing they ‘accomplished’ yesterday was to pass a new set of rules for the House for the coming two years.

It really isn’t any wonder, is it, that the House Republicans want to eliminate the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) … I mean, ethics?  They aren’t quite sure what the word means, but they know that they have none, so why do they need an agency for something they don’t have?  They couldn’t quite just eliminate the office altogether, so they chose to hamstring it instead.  They set term limits of eight years for all members, and any sitting members of the OCE who have already been there for eight years are out as of now.  This effectively removes all but one Democrat from the OCE.  Coincidence?  Of course … such honest people wouldn’t attempt to pad such an important office, now, would they?  I’m certain it is merely coincidence that the OCE was preparing to open an inquiry into certain Republican congressmen over their conduct related to the January 6th attack on the Capitol.

As expected, the new rules package includes a rule that permits a single lawmaker to force a vote to “vacate the chair,” allowing a snap vote to remove the speaker.  This is gamesmanship and nothing I really care about, beyond the fact that it has McCarthy by the short hairs and pretty much assures he will give in to the whims of the radical right branch of the Republicans rather than follow his … um … conscience?  Oh yeah … sorry about that … I sometimes forget that he has no conscience … he sold it long ago.  The only reason I do care somewhat is that it will lead to instability and I strongly suspect McCarthy won’t last as Speaker until the end of the calendar year.

In 1979, the House passed a rule called the Gephardt rule after then Representative Dick Gephardt, that automatically raised the debt ceiling when a budget was passed.  It prevented passing legislation but not funding it, a trick that had been used more than a few times.  Yesterday, however, the House eliminated the Gephardt rule … a move that will almost certainly lead to chaos by mid-summer when the national debt reaches its current ceiling.  Now, the Republicans either don’t understand the debt ceiling, or they know their constituents don’t understand it and therefore they can play their usual games and pull their rabbits out of the hat to fool some of the people all of the time!  The latter is my guess.  I will no doubt be writing more in-depth about the debt ceiling soon, for it is possibly one of the most pressing issues, or will become so, of this Congress.  The consequences of failing to raise the debt ceiling are potentially lethal.  I wonder, though, how the Republicans will sell it back in their districts when elderly people are being evicted from their homes and cancer patients are dying?

They also included a rule that will make it harder to raise taxes, as any bill that would raise taxes would require a 60% majority to pass.  Gee, you don’t think they did this because Democrats have said they plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest people and corporations, do you?  Nah, surely not!  Well, if you want to fund a government, you need income as well as outflow, and right now, the wealthiest in the nation do not pay their fair share … percentage-wise, they likely pay less than you or I do!  But they have something you and I don’t have … they own the congressional Republicans.  We the People cannot afford to give millions of dollars to political candidates, and thus they favour the wealthy 1% over the rest of us.

Passing this rules package was likely the only thing the House of Representatives will actually accomplish this year, for the focus of the majority party in the House is not governance, but rather obstruction.  As their employers, I am going to be suggesting that we continually monitor their activities and call/email/write when we are displeased with what they have done or are doing.  The things the Republicans have said they will do border on fascism, my friends.  It’s easier to nip it in the bud than to oust it once it has taken root.  We will also need to take any and every opportunity to educate those who don’t understand, who fall for the lies and rhetoric of the Republicans, and who are easily distracted by the shiny objects such as all these ‘investigations’ they are threatening to conduct that will come to naught, but will be excitement for their followers.

Fools Rush In

Well, friends, Kevin McCarthy got his wish … it took him four full days and 15 ballots, but he is Speaker of the House of Representatives … for now.  But here’s the thing … in order to get the necessary votes, he made numerous deals, promises, compromises and gave away some things that were not his to give.  For all who voted Republican last year or in 2020, I don’t want to hear a damn word of complaint later this year when the prices of food and fuel skyrocket, when the economy tanks, and Social Security & Medicare are on the chopping block, all because Kevin made a ‘deal’ not to allow the debt ceiling to be raised.  They asked for it, they got it.  Now it’s theirs to own.

In the end, Kevin McCarthy’s greatest legacy will be that he is a coward, a sell-out, and that he had a larger-than-life role in the attempt to bring down democracy and silence the voices of the people of this nation.

And that’s really about all I have to say that’s printable at this moment.  Let the circus commence.

Robert Reich Says “The Party’s Over”

I watched about 20 minutes of the vote for speaker of the House of Representatives.  Rather boring, but I felt compelled to watch a bit of it, anyway.  Within those 20 minutes or so, it was clear that there will be a second vote.  Democrats unanimously voted for Hakeem Jeffries, while on the right-hand side of the aisle there were several votes for Andy Biggs of Arizona and a few for Jim Jordan of Ohio.  Neither Biggs nor Jordan will have more than a handful of votes, but it will be enough to keep Kevin McCarthy from sliding right on into the Speaker’s position as he had hoped to do … in fact, I hear he has already moved his belongings into the office!  The vote confirms what we already knew:  the Republican Party is in chaos.  Robert Reich takes it a step further and says the party’s over, that the legitimacy of the GOP, the initials of which once stood for ‘Grand Old Party’, is null and void.  I’m inclined to agree with him, if saner heads don’t step up and take control, and there probably aren’t enough of those saner heads left in the Republican Party.

The Party’s Over: The end of the GOP

It has gone through three phases over the last four decades, and no longer has any reason for being

Robert Reich

03 January 2023

Today, as House Republicans convulse over electing their next Speaker, the civil war in the Republican Party comes into the open. But it’s not particularly civil and it’s not exactly a war. It’s the mindless hostility of a political party that’s lost any legitimate reason for being.

For all practical purposes, the Republican Party is over.

A half century ago, the Republican Party stood for limited government. Its position was not always coherent or logical (it overlooked corporate power and resisted civil rights), but at least had a certain consistency: the GOP could always be relied on to seek lower taxes and oppose Democratic attempts to enlarge the scope of the federal power.

This was, and still is, the position of the establishment Republican Party of the two George Bush’s, of its wealthy libertarian funders, and of its Davos-jetting corporate executive donor base. But it has little to do with the real GOP of today.

In the 1990s, Newt Gingrich and Fox News’s Roger Ailes ushered the Republican Party into cultural conservatism — against abortion, contraception, immigration, voting rights, gay marriage, LBGTQ rights, and, eventually, against teaching America’s history of racism, trans-gender rights, and, during the pandemic, even against masks. At the same time, the GOP was for police cracking down on crime (especially committed by Black people), teaching religion with public money, for retailers discriminating against LBGTQ people, and for immigration authorities hunting down and deporting undocumented residents.

Gingrich and Ailes smelled the redolent possibilities of cultural conservatism, sensed the power of evangelicals and the anger of rural white America, saw votes in a Republican base that hewed to “traditional values” and, of course, racism.

But this cultural conservatism was so inconsistent with limited government – in effect, calling on government to intrude in the some of the most intimate aspects of personal life – that the Party line became confused, its message garbled, its purpose unclear. It thereby opened itself to a third and far angrier phase, centering on resentment and authoritarianism.

The foundation for this third phase had been laid for decades as white Americans without college degrees, mostly hourly-wage workers, experienced a steady drop in income and security. Not only had upward mobility been blocked, but about half their children wouldn’t live as well as they lived. The middle class was shrinking. Good-paying union jobs were disappearing.

Enter Donald Trump, the con-artist with a monstrous talent for exploiting resentment in service of his ego. Trump turned the Republican Party into a white working-class cauldron of bitterness, xenophobia, racism, anti-intellectualism, and anti-science paranoia, while turning himself into the leader of a near religious cult bent on destroying anything in his way – including American democracy.  

A political party is nothing more than a shell – fundraising machinery, state and local apparatus, and elected officials, along with a dedicated base of volunteers and activists. That base gives fuels a party, giving it purpose and meaning.

Today’s Republican base is fueling hate. It is the epicenter of an emerging anti-democracy movement.

The Republican Party will continue in some form. It takes more than nihilistic mindlessness to destroy a party in a winner-take-all system such as we have in the United States.

But the Republican Party in this third phase no longer has a legitimate role to play in our system of self-government. It is over.

What we are seeing played out today in the contest for the speakership of the Republican House involves all of these pieces – small-government establishment, cultural warrior, and hate-filled authoritarian – engaged in hopeless, hapless combat with each other, and with the aspirations and ideals of the rest of America.

Republicans Must Not Be Allowed to Retake the House

Mid-term elections are just fifteen months away … or, to phrase it another way, mid-term elections are fifteen months away, approximately 450 days, and a lot can happen in fifteen months.  In all my history as a political animal, I’ve never put a lot of importance on the “party”, but more on the individual.  Today, though, that has all changed as we are in the age of uber-partisanship and the values of the two parties are miles apart.  From where I stand, the Republican Party shoots itself in the foot a little more every day, but I also understand that not everyone shares my viewpoint.  However, I think that in the midterms in some 450 days, it will be the end of this nation as we know it if the Republican Party manages to capture a majority in both chambers of Congress.  And folks … it could happen.  Every day they lie through their teeth to voters who may not be inclined to seek the truth, but find it easier to believe what they are told by the likes of Kevin McCarthy, Louie Gohmert, Mitch McConnell and others who long ago sold their consciences.

Our friend TokyoSand over at Political Charge has written a post showing just one reason that the Republicans cannot be allowed to re-take majority roles in Congress.  I strongly urge you to read her post and give this some thought …

Republicans Must Not Be Allowed to Retake the House

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The Republicans don’t deserve to govern.

Last night, reports surfaced that Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy was at an event, raising money for the midterms, where he riled up the crowd by saying he wanted them to watch Nancy Pelosi hand him the Speaker’s gavel after they won the midterms. He followed up by saying, “It will be hard not to hit her with it.”

Read that again.

The top Republican in the House chose to casually suggest violence against the female Speaker of the House because he knew that’s what his supporters and voters want to hear. This, after Trump supporters specifically sought out Pelosi during the January 6th insurrection.

… Read more of this post

Pelosi Rules

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives … some love her, some hate her, but love or hate her, she knows her job and does it like a pro! Our friend Jeff has summarized her most recent accomplishment … impeaching the most corrupt president in history! Thank you, Jeff!

On The Fence Voters

And Trump can’t stand it

A few weeks ago, I wrote about House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s all-in decision to bring articles of impeachment against President Trump. She spoke loud and clear then, and she spoke loud and clear last night as the House of Representatives approved two articles of impeachment against the president. Speaker Pelosi is, without a doubt, the most powerful woman in the United States of America. And it drives Donald Trump crazy.

The way she’s handled the whole process, from beginning to end, should be a lesson for all future Speakers. In my lifetime, I don’t know that there’s ever been a Speaker with her skills. Some describe her as being like a conductor of a symphony. Considering the whole process took less than three months, the speed and precision of her rule certainly deserves high praise for such a virtuoso performance.

But it’s not just the…

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Why the Shutdown is Stuck & What We Can Do

Yesterday, fellow blogger tokyosand published a post that gave the clearest, most concise explanation of how the current government shutdown came to be, and what we need to do about it … how we can use our voices to, hopefully, make a difference. Please take a minute to read this fine post, for it may answer some questions you’ve had, or help clarify what you already know. Thank you tokyosand, for this fine post and for your generous permission to share it with my readers!



Millions of Americans are already affected by the shutdown. Federal employees aren’t getting a paycheck (right at the end of the holiday season no less.) Others are being told their food stamps aren’t guaranteed if the shutdown continues. There is already real damage happening, and it will only get worse.

How did we get here? Why is it still a problem? Is there anything we can do?

How did we get here? 

At the end of the 115th Congress, we hit a deadline to renew funding for a third of the federal agencies. Ideally, we’d have an annual budget that took care of all of our agencies for one year, but since Congress hasn’t been able to agree on the budget, we’ve been patching together funding for these agencies with something called continuing resolutions.


Since the President sends his requests for the budget to Congress, having the leaders…

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So Long, Paul — It’s Been … Interesting

There was a time when I thought Paul Ryan was a man of conscience, a decent man.  I don’t judge people … or at least I used not to judge people … by their political party affiliation, so it didn’t matter to me that Paul was a republican, only that he act in the best interest of the nation.  One of the reasons, perhaps the main reason, that I believed he had integrity came from a May 2016 interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper.  When Tapper asked whether he was supporting then-candidate Donald Trump, Mr. Ryan said …

“Well, to be perfectly candid with you, I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now.  I think what a lot of Republicans want to see is that we have a standard-bearer that bears our standards. I think conservatives want to know, ‘Does he share our values and our principles on limited government, the proper role of the executive, adherence to the Constitution?’ There are lots of questions that conservatives, I think, are gonna want answers to, myself included. I want to be a part of this unifying process. I want to help to unify this party.”

In August 2017, there was another moment when I believed perhaps he had a conscience and would finally stand firm against the abomination some call a president.  It was during the aftermath of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, after Trump’s ignominious speech saying that some of the white supremacists and neo-Nazis were ‘very fine people’.  Ryan, again interviewing with Jake Tapper, said …

“I do believe that he messed up in his comments on Tuesday when it sounded like a moral equivocation or at the very least moral ambiguity when we need extreme moral clarity.”

Well, he talked a good talk, but when it came time to walk the walk, it was another story altogether.  Paul Ryan went on to become just as much a sycophant, a boot-licker, as his buddy in the Senate, Mitch McConnell.

And perhaps his perfidy had early beginnings that we just overlooked, for in a March 2017 interview with Rich Lowry of the National Review, Ryan said …

“So Medicaid, sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate. We’ve been dreaming of this since I’ve been around — since you and I were drinking at a keg. . . . I’ve been thinking about this stuff for a long time. We’re on the cusp of doing something we’ve long believed in.”

Taking health care from the poor … something he’s been thinking about since college.  And Wisconsinites elected him to the House of Representatives nine times!  But then, Wisconsinites are gluttons for punishment, for they elected asshole Scott Walker to the governorship three times.

Ryan has received some ‘fond’ farewells from the press …

In truth, he leaves Congress after his Republican brethren were drowned in the biggest blue wave since 1974. He leaves Congress with his conservative ideals in tatters. He leaves Congress having consoled himself, as he remarked on December 3, “that in a democracy, sometimes you fall short.” – The Atlantic

Ryan’s burden [was] the fact that he had to work with a president who was his opposite in every measure but party affiliation, and it’s easy to think Ryan’s speakership was doomed from the start. – Roll Call

But now, as Ryan prepares to leave Congress, it is clear that his critics were correct and a credulous Washington press corps — including me — that took him at his word was wrong. In the trillions of long-term debt he racked up as speaker, in the anti-poverty proposals he promised but never passed, and in the many lies he told to sell unpopular policies, Ryan proved as much a practitioner of post-truth politics as Donald Trump. – Ezra Klein, Vox

Look, the single animating principle of everything Ryan did and proposed was to comfort the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted. Can anyone name a single instance in which his supposed concern about the deficit made him willing to impose any burden on the wealthy, in which his supposed compassion made him willing to improve the lives of the poor? So how did such an obvious con artist get a reputation for seriousness and fiscal probity? Basically, he was the beneficiary of ideological affirmative action. – Paul Krugman, New York Times

And to these tributes, I would like to add a few words of my own.

Paul, you had an opportunity to stand against a madman, to stop the madness before it set this nation on a path of destruction, and frankly, you blew it.  You started out, maybe, with some values and even a bit of integrity, but you sold your soul downriver the day you threw your lot in with the Donald Trump gang.  You could have argued against a tax bill that provided huge amounts of cash to those who already dine on steak, and gave nothing to those of us who struggle to put a chicken leg on the table.  You had the unique opportunity to speak out against horrible policies that have enabled the fossil fuel and other industries to further damage our environment, our very planet. 

So many times, all you had to do was say, “No, Mr. Trump, I will not support you in ______________” (fill in the blank with any of hundreds of examples).  You were a huge disappointment to the people who looked to you to use your power, your office, to stop Donald Trump from killing us, and instead you smiled, looked into the camera with your sad-puppy eyes, and lied to us.  You fell on your knees before King Trump and when he said “Jump!”, you asked “How high, sir?”  You sold us downriver and I cannot say that I’m sorry to see you leave Washington.  I wish that I could wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors, but the truth is that, as Melania might say, “I don’t really care”.

Clown vs Cleric

One of the chief clowns in the circus that was once the federal government of the United States took it upon himself to fire the House chaplain, Reverend Patrick Conroy, a Jesuit priest.  Speaker of the House, soon to be just a plain-ol’-Joe like the rest of us, decided that the priest praying for the poor, for peace, and for equality was a firing offense.  Hmmmm … think about that one for a minute, folks!

Ryan has warned Conroy before about praying for the things that seem to have dropped off the agenda of the government, such as compassion, but the prayer that broke the camel’s back came last Friday when Conroy prayed “for all people who have special needs” and “those who are sick” and for those “who serve in this House to be their best selves.”

Now, folks … you all know by now that I am not religious.  However, I cannot find a darn thing in the Padre’s prayer with which to take umbrage.  Not.  One.  Thing.  Conroy’s firing may well be the clue to exactly what our government, such as it is, has become.  It has become a group of self-serving men and women who feel threatened when they are reminded of the majority of this nation whom they have harmed in one way or another.  They are offended by those who would have the gall to remind them that there are people in this nation who are suffering from such things as illness, starvation and homelessness.

Ryan’s statement of the priest’s termination came on April 16th, but was phrased in such a way that nobody realized what happened, for Ryan merely said that Conroy would be ‘stepping down’:

“As chaplain, Father Conroy has been a great source of strength and support to our community. He is deeply admired by members and staff. Father Conroy’s ministry here has made a difference, and we are all very grateful to him.”

Sounds fairly innocuous, eh?  Until this week when Conroy’s letter of resignation was made public.  The first line says it all:

As you have requested, [emphasis added] I hereby offer my resignation as the 60th chaplain of the United States House of Representatives.”

Paul RyanConroy later said in an interview that his resignation was requested on behalf of Ryan by Ryan’s chief of staff … he couldn’t even be bothered to do his own dirty work.  Or … was he afraid to face Conroy, knowing there would be questions?

One prayer that earned Conroy a rebuke from Ryan last November, when the bill that would give huge tax cuts mainly to the wealthy was being debated on the floor, included:

“May all members be mindful that the institutions and structures of our great nation guarantee the opportunities that have allowed some to achieve great success, while others continue to struggle. May their efforts these days guarantee that there are not winners and losers under new tax laws, but benefits balanced and shared by all Americans.”

And Ryan took umbrage.  A few days after, a staffer from Ryan’s office came to Conroy and said that Ryan felt the prayer was too political and was upset.  And then one day, as Conroy and Ryan passed in the halls of the Capitol, Ryan said, “Padre, you just got to stay out of politics.”

I wonder if Ryan would have been happier if Father Conroy had prayed for the continued wealth of the members of Congress, or the good health of Donald Trump?  Perhaps he should have prayed for the people of the United States to all develop amnesia and forget the abominations that have been thrust upon us since 20 January 2017.

In the grand scheme of today’s environment in Washington, the firing of the House chaplain is not the most important issue, not the biggest news of the day.  But it speaks volumes and speaks them loudly, I believe.  It sends the message, once again, that among republicans in the federal government, there is little if any concern for the people of this nation, and any who believe otherwise will not be tolerated in the ‘hallowed’ halls of our government.  In truth, I no longer think of it as a government, but rather as either a circus or a train wreck, depending on the news of the day.

Some members of both parties are outraged and demanding more information regarding the priest’s firing.  Representatives Walter Jones, a republican from North Carolina, and Gerald Connolly, a democrat from Virginia, are circulating a letter for their colleagues to sign, asking Mr. Ryan for more information.  Jones said …

“I’m very upset. If this is true about the prayer, and we have freedom of religion in America, how about freedom of religion on the floor of the House? The members of the House vote for the chaplain. This is not a one-man decision. The House should have the facts of whatever the problem is.”

On Friday, House democrats attempted to establish an investigative panel to look into Ryan’s decision to fire Conroy, but the House republicans, predictably, succeeded in shutting down the idea before it even sprouted wings.  Ryan spokeswoman AshLee Strong issued a statement saying, “The speaker made the decision he believes to be in the best interest of the House, and he remains grateful for Father Conroy’s many years of service.”  Yeah, sure he does.  Ms. Strong must be practicing to get Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ job someday.

As one writer for The Washington Post puts it: “Only in this perverted time could a priest lose his job after committing the sin of crying out for justice for the poor.”  I think that says it all.