Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Last Call For The Late Great Planet Earth, Again

Just in case there were still goofy-ass voters out there who voted for Trump because "He couldn't possibly be as cartoonishly evil as people make him out to be," please meet the incoming head of America's Environmental Protection Agency, Oklahoma GOP Attorney General Scott Pruitt.

Pruitt’s selection, while not a surprise, signifies a complete rethinking of the EPA. 
Environmental groups were appalled by the selection, saying it was a win for polluters and a loss for the American public. 
As with so many of President-elect Donald Trump’s cabinet and transition staff, Pruitt does not accept the scientific consensus on climate change. As attorney general, Pruitt has routinely backed fossil fuel interests over those of environmental regulators and has rejected the EPA’s authority to regulate carbon dioxide, the leading contributor to human-caused climate change. 
Pruitt’s ties to fossil fuel companies run deep. He received some $300,000 in fossil fuel money to support his campaign for attorney general. 
In one instance, Pruitt used talking points from an energy company in a letter to the EPA, opposing air pollution standards for natural gas production. According to reporting from the New York Times, Devon Energy, an Oklahoma-based oil and gas company actually wrote the 2011 letter, which Pruitt submitted on state letterhead.

In other words, the worst possible person for the job, somebody professionally dedicated to destroying the EPA.

“Every American should be appalled that President-elect Trump just picked someone who has made a career of being a vocal defender for polluters to head our Environmental Protection Agency,” Earthjustice President Trip Van Noppen said in an emailed statement. “He has fought Environmental Protection Agency pollution limits on toxic substances like soot and mercury that put us all at risk for increased cancer, childhood asthma and other health problems. He falsely claims that fracking doesn’t contaminate drinking water supplies.”

You know, Oklahoma, where the earthquakes come sweeping down the plain due to massive fracking that has so destabilized the geography there, that the state is now the new quake capital of the US and that it will take a decade to get things back to normal at the minimum.

But now the agency in charge of regulating fracking is under control of the state's point man on suing the EPA out of existence.  Energy companies have to be drooling in anticipation, and that's just the fracking part.  Wait until the EPA reverses or eliminates regulations on clean air and water too.

I sure hope you don't breathe or drink in 2017.

Obstruction Construction

As Politico's Michael Grunwald points out in this article, in 2008 Democrats had control of the federal government and a majority of states, and the GOP tactic of obstructing President Obama's agenda at every turn not only succeeded, but voters across the country rewarded Republicans for it with total control of the federal government and a majority of the states eight years later.

This strategy of kicking the hell out of Obama all the time, treating him not just as a president from the opposing party but an extreme threat to the American way of life, has been a remarkable political success. It helped Republicans take back the House in 2010, the Senate in 2014, and the White House in 2016. This no-cooperation, no-apologies approach is also on the verge of delivering a conservative majority on the Supreme Court; Republicans violated all kinds of Washington norms when they refused to even pretend to consider any Obama nominee, but they paid no electoral price for it—and probably helped persuade some reluctant Republican voters to back Donald Trump in November by keeping the Court in the balance.

So the party’s anti-Obama strategy has ended up working almost exactly as planned, except that none of the Republican elites who devised it, not even Vice President-elect Pence, envisioned that their new leader would rise to power by attacking Republican elites as well as the Democratic president. President-elect Trump was really the ultimate anti-Obama, not only channeling but embodying their anti-Obama playbook so convincingly that he managed to seize the Republican Party from loyal Republicans. And in the process, he has empowered an angry slice of the GOP base that has even some GOP incumbents worried about the forces they helped unleash.

Still, for the most part, obstructionism worked. Americans always tell pollsters they want politicians to work together, but as Washington Democrats decide how to approach the Trump era from the minority, they will be keenly aware that the Republican Party’s decision to throw sand in the gears of government throughout the Obama era helped the Republican Party wrest unified control of that government—even though the party establishment lost control of the party in the process. Unprecedented intransigence has yielded unprecedented results.

Opposition parties always oppose, especially in a country as polarized as America. Republicans impeached Bill Clinton, and Democratic fury at George W. Bush helped pave the way for Obama. What has distinguished the opposition to Obama is not just the intensity—a GOP congressman shouting “You lie!” during a presidential address, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell’s admission that his top priority was limiting Obama to one term—but the consistency. Before Obama even took office, when official Washington was counseling cooperation and moderation for a party that seemed to be on a path to oblivion, Cantor and McConnell laid out their strategies of all-out opposition at private GOP meetings. And on just about every issue, from Obamacare to climate to education reforms that conservatives supported until Obama embraced them, Republicans have embraced that strategy.

Washington Republicans took plenty of abuse over their “Party of No” approach, especially when they flouted Washington traditions by threatening to force the government into default, or actually shutting the government down. Their approval ratings drooped to levels associated with crime lords, journalists and Nickelback. They endured plenty of setbacks, as Obama managed to enact much of his agenda over their dissent, won a comfortable reelection, and now enjoys the highest approval ratings of his tenure. But they can now claim victory, even though their maximalist no-compromise approach helped launch the anti-establishment GOP insurgency that cost Cantor his seat in a primary—he was accused of failing to fight Obama hard enough—and ultimately propelled Trump to the nomination over their preferred candidates.

No wonder then that Democrats in the Senate are starting to realize that the new game in town that needs to be played, starting with as much blanket opposition to Trump's cabinet picks as they can, and as often as possible.

Multiple Democratic senators told POLITICO in interviews last week that after watching Republicans sit on Merrick Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court for nearly a year, they’re in no mood to fast-track Trump’s selections.

But it’s not just about exacting revenge.

Democrats argue that some of the president-elect’s more controversial Cabinet picks — such as Jeff Sessions for attorney general and Steven Mnuchin for treasury secretary — demand a thorough public airing.

“They’ve been rewarded for stealing a Supreme Court justice. We’re going to help them confirm their nominees, many of whom are disqualified?” fumed Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). “It’s not obstruction, it’s not partisan, it’s just a duty to find out what they’d do in these jobs.”

Senate Democrats can’t block Trump’s appointments, which in all but one case need only 51 votes for confirmation. But they can turn the confirmation process into a slog.

Any individual senator can force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to hold procedural votes on nominees. Senior Democrats said a series of such votes are likely for many of Trump’s picks.

Good.  Make it take months to get these cabinet picks filled, if not longer.  Of course, it remains to be seen if Democrats can play the game as well as the GOP did when they were in the minority (and so far it's been a dismal failure in the House and Senate over the last two years of GOP rule.)

Still, it's the only real shot they have, and at least somebody's willing to go on record to say they are going to start fighting.

New tag: The Resistance.

The Heartbeat (Bill) Of America

Ohio Republicans in the Trump era are wasting no time in preparing to test both GOP Gov. John Kasich and possibly any Trump Supreme Court nominees on state restrictions on abortion.

An Ohio bill that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected is headed to the governor’s desk. 
Lawmakers in the Republican-controlled state House voted to approve the so-called “heartbeat bill” Tuesday night after it passed in the Senate earlier in the day, clearing the way for what would be one of the nation’s most stringent abortion restrictions. 
The legislation would prohibit most abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy after the first detectable heartbeat
Gov. John Kasich, an abortion opponent, has previously voiced concerns about whether such a move would be constitutional. He has not said whether he plans to sign the measure. 
State Senate President Keith Faber, a Republican, said the twice-defeated bill came back up again because of Donald Trump’s presidential victory and the expectation he will fill Supreme Court vacancies with justices who are more likely to uphold stricter abortion bans.

Asked if he expects the Ohio proposal to survive a legal challenge, Faber said: “I think it has a better chance than it did before.” 
The ban would make an exception if the mother’s life is in danger but not in cases of rape or incest, he said. 
NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio said the move would block access to abortion before most women even know they’re pregnant. “This bill would effectively outlaw abortion and criminalize physicians that provide this care to their patients,” said Kellie Copeland, the group’s executive director.

So again, two questions here: One, will "moderate" Kasich sign the nation's most restrictive abortion law (or more likely just wait ten days and it will become law automatically) and two if he does, how will the Trump administration handle the almost certain injunction against the measure?  This would almost certainly come before Trump's new SCOTUS nominee if it went to the high court in a couple of years.  It's very possible the court will refuse to hear the case after it's struck down, as similar measures in Arkansas and North Dakota were left unconstitutional when SCOTUS refused to take up either state law.

But it's also possible that a new justice and a new court could want to take it up, too.

It's a stupid law designed solely to see if SCOTUS will let states get away with banning abortions after six weeks.  I don't know if Kasich will join this mess or not, or if it even matters because Republicans would only need three-fifths of both the Ohio House and Senate to override a veto and they'll almost certainly have to numbers to do that. Odds are even if this survives a Kasich veto that the fight will end up being a big embarrassment to the state and cost taxpayers millions.

That certainly hasn't stopped Republicans elsewhere.


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