So what’s next?

This morning, we went over the preordained Republican takeover of the Senate. So, other than having to hear “Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell says” over and over, what will the next two years look like?

For the most part, you’d be correct in assuming that it’d look a lot like the last four years: With Democrat Barack Obama still the president, and a Republican-controlled House and Senate, it’s going to be a loud not much. Yet even with that caveat, we can still look into what a unified legislature is going to at least try, and perhaps succeed in.

The Staffing of Government

The past six years of the Obama administration have been particularly hard to staff. A significant portion of the government is appointed by the president, but needs to be confirmed by the Senate. The Senate has not been very kind about this during this administration. If you look over here, you’ll notice that there are still over 200 (!) nominees awaiting confirmation, and this is after the Senate changed its rules to kill the filibuster for nominees!* We currently have no surgeon general—despite Ebola!—because the nominee said something about gun control.

This is not to mention judges, who have been particularly difficult for the president to get confirmed.

You can expect that the next two years will see no progress on this front. The only nominees that will likely see office are those to fill cabinet-level posts, and those will be battles. It’s not clear who President Obama’s choice to be the next attorney general will be, but I certainly don’t envy them.

* Nearly half of all filibusters of confirmations in history have been Obama nominees.

Environment

The president is not without his victories, but probably his best overall achievement is environmental. During his administration, the EPA has issued strong rules limiting carbon emissions and gas mileage for cars. The stimulus program at the start of his term and an activist Department of Energy brought about an entire new and flourishing industry surrounding renewable energy. Wind power has doubled and solar power has grown six times. In a largely symbolic effort, he has pulled all stops to block the building of the Keystone XL pipeline that would funnel Canadian shale oil to the Gulf of Mexico.

Naturally, Senate Republicans aren’t such fans of this progress. They’ve been nothing but vocal about Keystone XL being a top priority for them, and that they’d overturn the EPA rules given the chance. Expect them to use whatever leverage they can muster (which is a lot) to force the administration’s hand on Keystone and chip away as much as they can against the EPA rules. It wouldn’t be surprising to see the president’s environmental legacy dampened.

Reproductive Rights

Sure, David Brooks thinks that women don’t care about affordable contraception. But you know who really does? The Republicans in Congress. They rail against the Affordable Care Act’s mandate to cover contraception, for surely it’s for sluts and not preventative medicine? Senator-Elect Cory Gardner largely neutralized Sen. Udall’s pro-women campaign by saying he is for making birth control over the counter. That sounds good, right? Well, over-the-counter means expensive and not covered by insurance, so there’s that. Expect that to be a battle in the next Congress.

Remember that the last time Republicans held both chambers they banned late-term abortion. In many of the states in which they control the legislature, they’ve enacted so many seemingly small anti-rights laws that it’s almost impossible for women to get reproductive care in those states. Why would you not expect them to bring that to the federal level?

The Rest

Sequestration (remember that?) cuts go into effect in 2015. Don’t expect this congress do to anything about that. This, of course, means draconian program cuts, government employee layoffs, and less help for the needy. Oh, and some choice tax credits also expire.

Speaking of, how about some shut-downs? Well, hopefully the lame-duck session will extend the debt limit—because it expires in March. But don’t expect the next Congress to let the debt limit extension pass cleanly like they did this year. Probably have to give up Keystone for that one.

And more budget and tax and debt ceiling argument will probably paralyze the economic recovery again. Which won’t hurt the new Republican senators, because President Obama will get the blame.

And don’t think cuts to Social Security will be off the table, because, well, that’s what they always have said they want to do.

 

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Alabama Republican candidate for Senate Will Brooke shoots ACA, completely rips off Sen. Manchin

A second quality advertisement today comes from Will Brooke, who is running in Alabama for the Republican nomination for the Senate race. Invoking the Second Amendment, he gets in his truck, taking a print-out of the Affordable Care act with him out to where he can shoot it with a handgun, a rifle, and finally in super-dramatic-slow-mo an assault rifle (that music!), before eventually putting the whole deal through a Will-Brooke-branded shredder.

However, this is such a rip-off of Sen. Joe Manchin’s campaign ad from 2010:

Republican Iowa Senate Candidate Joni Ernst wants to castrate Washington’s spending and make them squeal or something

Oh, man, it’s finally that time in the political cycle where we get back to some quality advertisements. Here we have Joni Ernst, a Republican from Iowa who is running for the Senate. In this spot, she basically says that she knows how to castrate pigs, so she’ll know how to stop spending, all while we hear the squeals of pigs in the background. It’s all kinds of creepy. Enjoy.

And she was just endorsed by none other than the Killa from Wasilla.

Alaska Republican candidate for Senate Joe Miller compares Senator Murkowski to a prostitute

Via Swing State Project. Alaska Republican (and tea party sweetheart) candidate for Senate Joe Miller : “What’s the difference between selling out your party’s values and the oldest profession? http://bit.ly/93kXBr #teaparty #tcot #alaska #ak”

The link is to the Daily Caller, which cites a report from the Daily Beast that someone inside Lisa Murkowski’s  senate campaign has said that if she does lose the Republican nomination, she might consider running under the Libertarian Party, because the deadline for filing as an independent has passed.

As unlikely a scenario this is, it’s not even relevant yet, as it could take weeks before anybody knows who officially won the primary. But, good to see this tea party candidate is just as classy as the rest of them.

Oh, and the answer to the riddle: Well, the former doesn’t make sense because your party doesn’t have any values anymore, and the latter has sex in exchange for money.

Update: Miller has apologized via Twitter: “Please accept my apologies. Staffer trying to encourage Libertarians not to sell out. http://bit.ly/93kXBr #teaparty #tcot #alaska #ak”

Welcome to the Terrordome

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Sometimes, it’s a little hard to like Majority Leader Harry Reid. Okay, not sometimes: Often. Sure, once in a while he’ll accomplish the historic passage of a Republican health care bill, but, generally, he’s blasé at best and offensively useless at worst. Or maybe just offensive.

Offensive it is, again. Yesterday, in addressing the recent (cynical) outrage over the planning of an Islamic community center near the World Trade Center site, his spokesman, Jim Manley said, “The First Amendment protects freedom of religion. Senator Reid respects that, but thinks that the mosque should be built someplace else.”

Built somewhere else, you say? Well, I’ll counter with this. No Mormon tabernacles should be built in or near Washington County, Utah. Washington County, see, was the site of the Mountain Meadows massacre, where Mormons, with help from American Indians, slaughtered betwee 120-140 men and women of the Fancher-Baker Party who were traveling from Arkansas to California.

The date of the massacre was September 11, 1857.

Before Americans hated Muslims, they hated Mormons, and before Mormons, they hated Catholics. Hell, even way before that, Presbyterians hated Anglicans, and Anglicans hated the Puritans. We have a long tradition of hating people of different faiths—and, being Mormon, Harry Reid should damned well know that.

Harry Reid had an opportunity and squandered the hell out of it. Rep. Keith Ellison, on the other hand, shows that Democrats could have seized this to show at least an iota of leadership (heretofore unknown to congressional Democrats):

“The truth is that we’re a party of principle. We believe in the idea of religious liberty.”

In 1773, a Baptist minister Isaac Backus wrote: “When church and state are separate, the effects are happy, and they do not at all interfere with each other: but where they have been confounded together, no tongue nor pen can fully describe the mischiefs that have ensued.”

Thomas Jefferson may be out of vogue in Texas educational circles, but in the  pantheon of the Founding Fathers, he cannot be ignored. And, he did famously write:

“Where the Preamble declares that coercion is a departure from the plan of the holy author of our religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting the word ‘Jesus Christ,’ so that it should read ‘a departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy author of our religion.’ The insertion was rejected by a great majority, in proof that they meant to comprehend, within the mantle of its protection, the Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, the Hindoo, and Infidel of every denomination.”

Way back in 2008, Colin Powell had quite a response when asked about then-Senator Barack Obama possibly being secretly a Muslim: “Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America.” That should have had the same stab-in-the-gut effect as your dad saying “I’m not mad, son, I’m disappointed.” But, for many—those without shame—it didn’t have any effect at all.

In the same way, folks screaming about the “GROUND ZERO OMG TERRORISM MOSQUE OMG 9/11 MOSLEMS,” need to step back and realize how un-American—how shameful—it is to tell people of any faith that they are banned from practicing wherever they want. That it’s their faith that drove planes into American buildings—good, Christian buildings.

How the fuck dare you.

Rand Paul is just afraid of imaginary beer

The Fancy Farm Picnic, a picnic held by the St. Jerome parish, is the traditional beginning of the campaign season in Kentucky. It’s a huge affair: so huge, in fact, that in 1985,  it was recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records as the “World’s Largest Picnic” for the consumption of 15,000 pounds of mutton, pork, and chicken at the 1982 picnic. Since it’s such an important event, you’d of course expect that Senate candidates Jack Conway and Rand Paul would have to make appearances.

Democratic candidate Jack Conway made some news this weekend when he told the crowd he was a “tough son of a bitch.” Of course, the RNC made an ad highlighting this use of profanity:

However, he’s not the one from which St. Jerome Parish demanded an apology. That honor belongs solely to, yes, Republican candidate Rand Paul, who gave, by all accounts, a mostly bland speech. However, that’s not what he did wrong. See, he told Sean Hannity that politicians were afraid of beer being thrown at them:

Paul told conservative radio personality Sean Hannity Tuesday that the picnic at St. Jerome Parish in western Kentucky Saturday was wild, partisan and that people boo the politicians. He also said politicians do worry that beer and other objects could be thrown at them.

The picnic does not serve alcohol because it illegal in the community. Though there was plenty of booing, nothing was thrown.

Of course, that’s not the end. Because, Randy being the guy he is, his campaign has apologized to the parish:

“Dr. Paul trying to convey just how enthusiastic the crowd was and did not mean to imply there was alcohol being served,” Jesse Benton, Paul’s campaign manager, said in an iPhone text to the Sun this morning. “Rand has always enjoyed Fancy Farm, thinks it is a wonderful event and apologizes to anyone he may have offended”

See, Randy didn’t mean to suggest that by being afraid of beer being thrown at him that there was actually beer. I promise that sentence was as difficult to write as it is to read. Let’s just say that Randy was just afraid that there would be some imaginary beer thrown at him.

(Also, how did the Paducah Sun know that the text came from an iPhone?)