Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Last Call

Maybe, just maybe, the Republicans in the Senate are going to lose this gun violence legislation battle after all, especially if somebody doesn't shut GOP Sen. James Inhofe up fast.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said Tuesday that the gun control debate doesn't have anything to do with the families of the Newtown, Conn., shooting victims, and that the only reason those families think it does is because President Barack Obama told them it did.

Eleven family members of Newtown victims were in Washington on Tuesday, meeting privately with senators to urge them to support a forthcoming gun package that would impose tighter background checks, crack down on gun trafficking and enhance school safety measures. Speaking to a handful of reporters, Inhofe said he feels bad for those families because they're being used as pawns in a political fight.

"See, I think it's so unfair of the administration to hurt these families, to make them think this has something to do with them when, in fact, it doesn't," Inhofe said.

When it was suggested that the families of Newtown victims actually believe the gun debate pertains to them, Inhofe said, "Well, that's because they've been told that by the president."

My main argument Saturday was that Republicans weren't going to pay a political price for opposing background checksIt's entirely conceivable that Inhofe's idiotic statement here may just have changed the calculus on that, big time.

To recap, a sitting US Senator just told the families of the victims of a bloody massacre of six-year-olds that they have nothing to do with the gun violence debate, and that they are nothing more than pawns.  Even if Inhofe believes this, to actually say something that unrelentingly cold to reporters is a pretty awful thing to do.

Suddenly, the villain in this kabuki play isn't the caricature of Tyrant Obama, but Inhofe's own words.  That's a pretty big shift, potentially.

Still virtually no chance of this getting through the House.  But the Senate, well...there's light at the end of that tunnel.

The Senate will hold a preliminary vote on gun control legislation to break the Republican filibuster on Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced, after the Democrats pulled together enough votes from Republicans.

“We’re going to vote Thursday,” Reid said. “I’m going to file cloture on the bill tonight.”

Though Democrats do have the numbers to break the filibuster, they still might not have enough votes to overcome other procedural hurdles and hold an up-or-down vote.

They will after Inhofe's story gets wide play.  Cowardly Dems will have nowhere to hide on this one and neither will a number of Republicans.  If the point of President Obama's push on gun legislation was giving the GOP enough rope to hang themselves, Inhofe jumped at the chance to go first.

Ashley, Alison, And The Turtle, Part 5

MoJo's David Corn has yet another blockbuster tape, this time of a recording of Old-Age Mutant Nimrod Turtle's opposition research meeting on Ashley Judd.  It reveals that McConnell was going to spare no expense to go after Ashley Judd with brutal personal attacks.

On February 2, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the US Senate, opened up his 2014 reelection campaign headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky, and in front of several dozen supporters vowed to "point out" the weaknesses of any opponent fielded by the Democrats. "They want to fight? We're ready," he declared. McConnell was serious: Later that day, he was huddling with aides in a private meeting to discuss how to attack his possible Democratic foes, including actor/activist Ashley Judd, who was then contemplating challenging the minority leader. During this strategy session—a recording of which was obtained by Mother Jones—McConnell and his aides considered assaulting Judd for her past struggles with depression and for her religious views.

The meeting was truly vile stuff.

For much of the Judd discussion, McConnell was silent as aides reviewed the initial oppo research they had collected on Judd and weighed all the ways they could pummel her. The recording was provided to Mother Jones last week by a source who requested anonymity. (The recording can be found here; a transcript is here.) McConnell's Senate office and his campaign office did not respond to requests for comment.

The aide who led the meeting began his presentation with a touch of glee: "I refer to [Judd] as sort of the oppo research situation where there's a haystack of needles, just because truly, there’s such a wealth of material." He ran through the obvious: Judd was a prominent supporter of President Barack Obama, Obamacare, abortion rights, gay marriage, and climate change action. He pointed out that she is "anti-coal."

But the McConnell gang explored going far beyond Judd's politics and policy preferences. This included her mental health.

And they were going to just paint her a hippie weirdo flake.  They were fully prepared to destroy her personally as well as politically and professionally.  And yet this career politician, who has used his office to enrich himself by tens of millions of dollars, is the good guy here.

Now the McConnell campaign is demanding a full FBI investigation, claiming President Obama authorized "Watergate style tactics" of bugging the meeting, and promising anyone involved will be fully prosecuted...when of course McConnell ran into that ugly incident where his campaign left a recording device at the debate podium of opponent Bruce Lunsford in 2008.

The GOP is accusing Mother Jones and David Corn of bugging the meeting.

Mitch has got to go, folks. 

Bobby's World Is Falling Apart

No state was willing to go the route of full-blown GOP austerity for the 99% like Bobby Jindal's Louisiana.  His tax plan was the logical endpoint of Grover Norquist's wet dreams: the elimination of the state's income and corporate taxes, replaced by a massive hike in the state's sales tax.  And that would of course mean huge additional budget cuts in a state that had already made deep and damaging cuts to education through a voucher scheme to privatize schools and even shutting down a number of parish libraries.

But the people of Louisiana have finally had enough.  His tax plan to put the burden of the state's revenues on the poorest souls in a scheme that would almost certainly require even steeper sales tax hikes or more likely, massive new health care and education cuts in a state where both have been slashed by hundreds of millions of dollars already, all to give the state's richest a $25,000 tax cut each?

Dead on arrival.

Governor Bobby Jindal (R-LA), considered a leading presidential contender in 2016, is suffering a political meltdown in his home state. His approval rating plummeted to 38 percent in a poll last week by the non-partisan Southern Media Opinion & Research, down from 60 percent just a year ago. In an ominous sign for national Republicans, the immediate cause is a sweeping economic agenda with strong parallels to the House GOP’s latest budget.

On Monday, Jindal scrapped his own proposal to eliminate the state’s income and corporate taxes and replace them with a statewide tax on sales and business services. His retreat was a concession to the reality that the proposal was headed towards a humiliating defeat — and taking Jindal down with it along the way. Jindal said in a speech to lawmakers that the backlash against his plan “certainly wasn’t the reaction I was hoping to hear,” but that he would respect the public’s wishes and start again. 

Those ideas are now opposed by a majority of  Louisiana Republicans, because the math is brutal.  Jacking up the state sales tax from 4 to 7% on everything, including "business services" was going to take a huge chunk out of the hides of small businesses, and big corporations didn't have loopholes to hide behind anymore.  Meanwhile, the poorest Louisianans would have seen their taxes jump by hundreds of dollars, and the middle-class would have seen an even bigger tax hike.  Meanwhile, the richest state citizens could simply avoid paying any state taxes altogether by buying over the border in Texas, Arkansas, or Mississippi.  The resulting tax gap would have left the state short by billions, meaning more cuts or more hikes.

The left, right, and middle have revolted as a result, and Bobby Jindal's political career is, for the moment, as dead as his tax scam.


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