The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Betsy DeVos behaving as predicted

When you have someone with the background, education, and beliefs of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, you know you're not going to get any policies that benefit education. Sure enough, yesterday she started rolling back reforms begun under the Obama administration that tried to correct the abuses of the student loan industry:

The former president's administration issued a pair of memorandums last year requiring that the government's Federal Student Aid office, which services $1.1 trillion in government-owned student loans, do more to help borrowers manage, or even discharge, their debt.

But in a memorandum to the department's student aid office, DeVos formally withdrew the two Obama memos. The Obama administration's approach, DeVos said, was inconsistent and full of shortcomings. She didn't detail how the moves fell short, and her spokesmen, Jim Bradshaw and Matthew Frendewey, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

DeVos' move "will certainly increase the likelihood of default," said David Bergeron, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank with close ties to Democrats, who previously worked under Democratic and Republican administrations during his more than 30 years at the Education Department before retiring as the head of postsecondary education.

It's an absolute scandal that student loans, which are some of the safest investments a bank can make because they can't be discharged in bankruptcy, have high interest rates and a history of predatory collection practices. DeVos has investments in the for-profit education companies that benefit directly from this situation. And people wonder why the Republican Party has a reputation for screwing the disadvantaged in favor of rich businesses.

The man who broke the Senate

When people see their fortunes waning, they get desperate. Enter Mitch McConnell, leader of the Senate Republicans:

No man has done more in recent years to undermine the functioning of U.S. government. His has been the epitome of unprincipled leadership, the triumph of tactics in service of short-term power.

After McConnell justified his filibuster-ending “nuclear option” by saying it would be beneficial for the Senate, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said this: “Whoever says that is a stupid idiot.”

After Justice Antonin Scalia’s death was confirmed last year, it took McConnell less than an hour to say that the vacancy should be filled by the next president. He called keeping Obama’s nominee off the court “one of my proudest moments.”

Two years ago, when a Democrat was in the White House, McConnell said he would only abolish filibusters of Supreme Court justices if there were 67 votes for such a change. This week, he employed a maneuver to do it with 51 votes. It suited his momentary needs, but the damage will remain long after McConnell’s tombstone is engraved.

Again, the Republican Party doesn't care about governing; they only care about winning. And now the dog has caught the car.

Why try to filibuster Gorsuch?

Josh Marshall says the filibuster is already dead, so it's the right thing to do for Democrats in the Senate to force the Republicans to take the next step:

If Gorsuch will be confirmed one way or another, why go through the nuclear option motions? I would say it's important for this reason. I've heard a number of pundits arguing that the real issue here, or much of the issue, is that Democrats still haven't gotten over the treatment of Judge Garland. That argument is both deeply flawed and entirely correct. This really is mainly about Judge Garland.

As Rep. Adam Schiff put it yesterday on Twitter, Mitch McConnell's historically unprecedented and constitutionally illegitimate decision to block President Obama from nominating anyone a year before he left office was the real nuclear option. The rest is simply fallout. Senate Republicans had the power to do this. But that doesn't make it legitimate. The seat was stolen. Therefore Gorsuch's nomination is itself illegitimate since it is the fruit of the poisoned tree.

Democrats likely have no power to finally prevent this corrupt transaction. It is nonetheless important that they not partake in the corruption. Treating this as a normal nomination would do just that. There are now various good arguments to vote against Gorsuch's nomination on the merits. But to me that's not even the point. Democrats should filibuster the nomination because it is not a legitimate nomination. Filibustering the nomination is the right course of action.

The Senate is scheduled to vote tomorrow on the nomination.

Stuff to read after After Hours

Now that we're four days from Apollo After Hours, of which I'm the committee chair, and given that I still have work to do at work, the articles I need to catch up on keep piling up:

OK, back to the mines...

Governing is hard

Brian Beutler warns that the Republicans in Congress have gone so long without actually thinking about government that they're about to wreck it completely:

Republicans appear unable to meet even basic governing obligations on their own. This will mean, at the very least, shelving campaign promises and long-term ideological objectives; most likely it will mean seeking help from Democrats. But this augurs disaster. Democrats rightly won’t cooperate with attempts to demolish their legacy, while everything we know about Trump—and about the empty promises Republicans made to their voters over the years—suggests the GOP will be loath to empower Democrats. Yet failure to do so will end in ruin for all of us.

There are things Republicans can do without Democratic help, particularly in the regulatory realm. They may even be able to pass a regressive income tax cut on their own, so long as they don’t tinker with the tax code too much in other ways. But we are not at the dawn of a conservative counterrevolution that will command lofty descriptions in history books years from now. If Republicans remain in denial about that, they will court a government shutdown or an even larger crisis.

The Federal government's spending authority lapses on April 28th. Can't wait to see how they pass a spending bill...

Are y'all for real?

No. Just no. Really, no, they're not:

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) admitted as much as he left the meeting Friday. Reporters asked why, after Republicans held dozens of nearly-unanimous votes to repeal Obamacare under President Obama, they were getting cold feet now that they control the levers of power.

“Sometimes you’re playing Fantasy Football and sometimes you’re in the real game,” he said. “We knew the president, if we could get a repeal bill to his desk, would almost certainly veto it. This time we knew if it got to the president’s desk it would be signed.”

Barton, for what it's worth, was one of the loudest proponents of ACA repeal. Until, you know, it was possible.

Why does anyone take the Republican Party seriously? I mean, really?

You don't have the votes, you don't have the votes!

Despite controlling two of three branches of government and most of the third, the Republican Party suffered a humiliating defeat this week when Paul Ryan couldn't muster enough votes to destroy health care in the U.S. We can all breathe a little easier:

House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, facing a revolt among conservative and moderate Republicans, rushed to the White House Friday afternoon to inform President Trump he did not have the votes to pass legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act and to decide whether to pull the bill from consideration.

The president and the speaker faced the humiliating prospect of a major defeat on legislation promised for seven years, since the landmark health legislation was signed into law. President Trump had demanded a vote regardless, which has been scheduled for Friday afternoon. But House leaders were leaning against such a public loss.

[Ryan] said 30 to 40 Republicans planned to vote “no”; House leaders can afford to lose only 22 votes and still pass the bill.

So 24 million Americans get to keep health insurance, and we can actually move a little closer to parity with the rest of the developed world.

Did I miss a scare piece on Fox News?

Apparently we're now frightened of everything:

Passengers on foreign airlines headed to the United States from 10 airports in eight majority-Muslim countries have been barred from carrying electronic devices larger than a cellphone under a new flight restriction enacted on Tuesday by the Trump administration.

Officials called the directive an attempt to address gaps in foreign airport security, and said it was not based on any specific or credible threat of an imminent attack.

The Department of Homeland Security said the restricted items included laptop computers, tablets, cameras, travel printers and games bigger than a phone. The restrictions would not apply to aircraft crews, officials said in a briefing to reporters on Monday night that outlined the terms of the ban.

The new policy took effect at 3 a.m. E.D.T. on Tuesday, and must be followed within 96 hours by airlines flying to the United States from airports in Amman, Jordan; Cairo; Istanbul; Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia; Kuwait City; Casablanca, Morocco; Doha, Qatar; and Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates.

Because, hey, if it's illegal for the administration to block people coming from those countries, maybe we can simply make them not want to come here? Oh, right. This is only going to stop people who need to work on those long flights; i.e., people we probably want to come here.

Great work, DHS. Nice.

Top o' the mornin'!

No. Just no.

That's what Irish officials visiting Washington are saying today, after American politicians made a cringe-worthy series of gaffes on St. Patrick's Day:

“Top of the morning,” said Vice President Pence, as he hosted Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny at his residence for breakfast Thursday.

Really? The reaction by Irish on social media was palpable.

“Literally just shouted ‘NOBODY SAYS THAT’ at the TV,” a journalist in Ireland tweeted. “I’ve literally only ever heard that said by Americans,” another person said.

At [a] luncheon, Trump shared what he claimed was an “Irish proverb.”

“As we stand together with our Irish friends, I’m reminded of an Irish proverb — and this is a good one, this is one I like, I’ve heard it for many, many years and I love it,” Trump said. “Always remember to forget the friends that proved untrue, but never forget to remember those that have stuck by you.”

Irish tweeters immediately displayed skepticism.

These guys have attitudes about fellow Americans that would embarrass Roger Taney, so is anyone really surprised they get it all wrong with everyone else too?