Friday, May 24, 2013

Last Call For The Gang Of Eight

Theory:  The GOP's relentless pursuit of "scandals" give them what they believe is perfect political cover to refuse to pass any more legislation whatsoever, including immigration reform.  Democrats can see this coming a mile away, so they're wisely calling them out now.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) said Friday that the “Gang of Eight” immigration bill doesn’t have enough votes to pass the Senate.

The bill won approval from the Senate Judiciary Committee in a 13-5 vote, but Menendez said it lacks the 60 votes necessary to clear the Senate — despite the bill's four Republican co-sponsors.

“We don’t currently have 60 votes identified in the Senate,” Menendez said in an interview with Univision. “We need to add more votes on the floor. That means that the community in your state, in every state, should be contacting your state’s two U.S. Senators saying that they want comprehensive immigration reform, that they are going to judge their political future based on this vote.”

Supporters of the bill are pushing for a strong bipartisan vote of 70 or more to put pressure on the House to take up the legislation.

70 votes is a pipe dream.  Tea Party Republicans are going to overplay their hand and murder this bill in the Senate.  The few smarter political heads may or may not be worried about Harry Reid's nuclear option as reprisal, but they are damn worried about Latino voters in 2014, just as they found out the hard way in 2006, 2008, and 2012.

If Republicans burn this bridge now, they're done and they know it.  And the Tea Party Hate Machine will make sure that bridge goes up in flames...and along with it the GOP in 2014 and 2016.

Drones, Gitmo, And Goalposts

President Obama's speech on Guantanamo and the use of drones on Thursday was folded into a larger and much more vital larger picture:  the end of Warren Terrah.  Greg Sargent:

In the national security speech Obama delivered this afternoon, the President himself defined the challenge we face as this: How do we balance the need to do all we can to protect our citizens with the need to adhere to our values and ideals as a free society? The speech was the most ambitious and detailed effort to answer this question that he has yet attempted.

His answer to the question was that, at a time when the nature of the terror threat is changing — over a decade after the 9/11 attacks led to a massive buildup of our national security apparatus that strayed into massive overreach – we must acknowledge the cost of all of that excess, and give more priority to American values and the rule of law than we have been giving. However, in policy terms, he offered mainly incremental, though welcome, moves in that direction.

Indeed, the upshot of the speech is that Obama defined his own role — that of commander in chief — as one that requires him to ultimately compromise core values and principles if he deems it necessary to maintain security. While the speech did offer some steps that civil libertarians will welcome, it also fell short of the wholesale commitment to rule of law they had hoped for — indeed, forthrightly so.

And that bolded point is the most important.  There are times where national security issues arise, where the loud purity pundits are not going to have all the information.  President Obama admits that this will always be true.

The president is clearly aware that his current policies are falling short of the mark constitutionally,” Anthony Romero, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, told me. “While these are important and welcome steps, they are incremental changes that pale in the face of the constitutional questions confronting the administration.”

Obama might agree to some degree with that assessment, with a qualifier. Indeed, the speech seemed quite forthright in defining the role of commander in chief as one that requires him to ultimately prioritize security over strict rule of law where he deems it necessary — even as he implicitly asked us to trust that he’s doing his best to get the balance as close to right as he can.

So now, we've moved the goalposts again, from "You need to explain yourself" to "This is unconstitutional!"  That's a pretty nice excuse, because now we've moved responsibility from the legislative and executive to the judicial.  There's literally nothing POTUS can do to satisfy the purity patrol because what's constitutional or not cannot be determined by the executive, only the judicial.

Conveniently, this goalpost shuffling extends the argument against Obama infinitely, so the cottage industry of fundraising while attacking Obama from the left can keep going in perpetuity.  How convenient...

More Of The Steep Lerner Curve

A day after her bizarre combination of opening statement and pleading the Fifth on everything else, IRS director Lois Lerner has been put on "administrative leave" after she was asked to resign and refused to do so.

Lois Lerner, the IRS staffer who is under fire for her role in the agency’s targeting of conservative groups, has been placed on administrative leave, according to congressional aides.

She will still be paid while on leave, a congressional aide said, as required under civil service rules.
Lerner, who heads an IRS division that oversees tax-exempt groups, first disclosed the extra scrutiny the agency gave to Tea Party groups almost two weeks ago when answering a planted question at a Washington legal conference.

Since then, lawmakers from across the political spectrum have said that they believe Lerner misled them and called for her dismissal.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), a senior Republican on the Finance Committee, said in a Thursday statement that the new acting IRS commissioner, Danny Werfel, had asked Lerner to resign – and that Lerner was only placed on leave after she declined that request. Aides on Capitol Hill confirmed that Lerner had refused to resign.

Now civil service rules do prevent people getting fired willy nilly.  It's to prevent, you know, a massive purge every time a new administration comes to power (not that the Bushies didn't try their hardest, especially in the DoJ).  But I predicted yesterday morning that Lerner would be canned, and I was right.

We'll see what happens from here on out, but the one guarantee I can make now is that Lerner's departure and replacement will not satisfy Republicans, who will not stop until Lerner somehow implicates every member of the Obama family, including Bo, and the IRS is shut down.


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