Making the click-through worthwhile: weighing the options of Ohio’s Jim Jordan or California’s Kevin McCarthy to be the next GOP House minority leader; Amazon’s wildly lucrative deal with Virginia and New York appears to have hit a snag; Beto O’Rourke stands out among a geriatric set; and brilliantly simple but powerful words from the late, great Stan Lee.
To Lead the House Minority . . . Air Jordan?
Jim Jordan might make a really good Republican House minority leader. In fact, if being in the minority requires more metaphorical bomb-throwing at the majority and rallying the base and less coalition-building than being speaker of the House, Jordan might be ideal for the job.
Back when Jordan was hoping he would have a shot to be speaker, he criticized the current leadership of outgoing Speaker Paul Ryan and House majority leader Kevin McCarthy as simply not getting it done. Jordan’s attitude towards President Trump is wildly enthusiastic. He characterizes the current leadership as simply lacking the will to enact key parts of the GOP agenda.
It’s not widely known that under Ryan, the House of Representatives “passed 1,032 bills and joint resolutions in the current session, the third highest number in the last 30 years.” Most notably, the GOP House passed its version of health-care reform; it couldn’t pass the Senate once John McCain voted “no.”
Ryan himself notes, that “Of those roughly thousand bills, over 80 percent of them are bipartisan bills. So we’ve tackled opioids. We’ve tackled human trafficking. We’ve rebuilt the military. All of those are bipartisan. But they don’t get reported. It doesn’t sell.” This Congress passed and President Trump signed tax cuts; the repeal of the individual mandate from Obamacare; drilling in ANWR; new sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia; the Right to Try Act for experimental medication; reforms of the Department of Veterans Affairs; laws designed to make it easier to fire federal workers; expansion of job training and technical-education programs; a sweeping change to copyright law; reducing the impact of Dodd-Frank on banks and repeal of at least 15 last-minute regulations enacted under the Obama administration. Sentencing and prison reform may get done before the end of the year.
Jordan wants the Senate to change the rules on the filibuster. But Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell isn’t going to do that, and even if McConnell wanted to do that, he would need 50 votes to change the rules of the Senate. It’s not clear that 50 Republican senators would vote to do that. Earlier this year, Ted Cruz discussed four ways to work around a filibuster, and assessed that only half of the caucus was willing to get rid of it.
Jordan and President Trump saw the filibuster as the primary obstacle to enacting their shared priorities and agenda. That isn’t going to change anytime soon, and now there’s a Democratic House for at least the next two years.
For a long time, some conservatives argued that the primary obstacle to enacting their agenda was their own leadership — that the leaders of the party in either or both chambers were too compromising, too milquetoast, too easily satisfied with half a loaf, and that they weren’t “fighters.” No amount of legislative success could ever really dispel this simple narrative.
Maybe it’s time to let this crowd have a chance at the steering wheel. I think if we could look into alternate universes and see what 2019-2020 looks like with Jim Jordan as minority leader and Kevin McCarthy in the same position, we would not see earth-shaking differences. (I suspect both men will grumble at that assessment.) It’s fascinating to hear Fox News describe McCarthy as “a moderate — some would argue at times liberal — Republican” when he’s got a lifetime American Conservative Union rating of 86.66. McCarthy has voted with Trump’s position 98.9 percent of the time. Jim Jordan scored a perfect 100 score in his lifetime ACU rating, and votes with Trump 85.7 percent of the time. (Jordan disagreed with the administration on the “compromise” immigration bills, the appropriations bills, the farm bill, and FISA reauthorization.)
But if the House Freedom Caucus thinks it can do such a better job, maybe it’s time they were given a chance to put up or shut up. For the next two years, the primary job of House Republican leadership will be making the argument against what the House Democratic leadership is doing.
There are two primary obstacles to enacting the conservative agenda. First, yes, the filibuster; a lot of proposals and ideas might get 50 votes but getting 60 votes is nearly impossible.
There was a time when ten or more Democrats might vote for various GOP ideas, but that time has passed.
But the more consequential obstacle of the conservative agenda is that it simply is not as popular as its adherents wish it were. People like smaller government in the abstract but lash out once spending cuts are proposed for government programs that they like. Far too voters see entitlement programs as ticking time bombs; they will refuse to step away from the explosive devices until the last second, if then. There’s little evidence that a decisive portion of the electorate sees itself as overtaxed. General economic anxiety about health-care costs, education costs, and the impermanence of employment has made people more interested in expanding government-run social-welfare programs, not less. The ideals of social conservatism are more often breached than honored, by both the general populace, less scrupulous GOP lawmakers, and at times the president himself. The general population is tired of war but oblivious or nonchalant about a world with significant and growing dangers and military threats.
That’s the task before conservatives, and it is a mission that is likely to loom large long after the Trump presidency ends.
Finally, I suspect that as minority leader, Jordan would continue to never wear a jacket.
According to reports this morning, Trump wants to see a compromise — McCarthy as minority leader, Jordan as ranking member of the Judiciary Committee.
Sinking In the Amazon
Yesterday I wrote about how awful the Amazon deal is for northern Virginia residents and Virginia taxpayers. This morning . . . one has to wonder if this deal is actually going to go through after all, at least up in New York City:
City Council members fumed Tuesday after Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo cut them out of a deal to build one of Amazon’s new headquarters in Queens, obviating one of the city legislature’s most important functions…
“This is beyond top-down, I’m not even sure what to call this,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams, also a candidate for public advocate. “This was done with no stakeholders in the room at all.”
“I also don’t understand why a company as rich as Amazon would need nearly $2 billion in public money for its expansion plans at a time when New York desperately needs money for affordable housing, transportation, infrastructure and education,” [Speaker Corey] Johnson said in a statement.
[City Council Member Jimmy] Van Bramer questioned the political wisdom of the move, saying the de Blasio administration and the governor “misread the moment” and the level of outrage that the deal would trigger.
“I think if the takeaway from the recent election in Queens, New York City and nationally is that we should actually step up corporate subsidies and billionaires getting billion-dollar bailouts — if that’s the takeaway, somebody’s not got their fingers on the pulse of Democrats, certainly, but people generally in this country,” he told POLITICO in a phone interview.
As Matthew Walther puts it, “So-called economic development benefits the developers, not ordinary people.”
Beto the Rock Star, in More Ways Than One
Last night, I dreamt Beto O’Rourke had rebounded from his unsuccessful Senate campaign by forming a band and going on a nationwide concert tour. Considering that a new poll shows him to be the third-most popular option among Democrats for the 2020 presidential nomination, maybe that isn’t such a weird dream. The figures around him look like a retirement home: Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren.
ADDENDUM: An absolutely beautiful two-paragraph essay from Stan Lee in the back of a Marvel comic of 1968:
Let’s lay it right on the line. Bigotry and racism are among the deadliest social ills plaguing the world today. But, unlike a team of costumed super-villains, they can’t be halted with a punch in the snoot, or a zap from a ray gun. The only way to destroy them is to expose them — to reveal them for the insidious evils they really are. The bigot is an unreasoning hater — one who hates blindly, fanatically, indiscriminately. If his hang-up is black men, he hates ALL black men. If a redhead once offended him, he hates ALL redheads. If some foreigner beat him to a job, he’s down on ALL foreigners. He hates people he’s never seen — people he’s never known — with equal intensity — with equal venom.
“Now, we’re not trying to say it’s unreasonable for one human being to bug another. But, although anyone has the right to dislike another individual, it’s totally irrational, patently insane to condemn an entire race — to despise an entire nation — to vilify an entire religion. Sooner or later, we must learn to judge each other on our own merits. Sooner or later, if man is ever to be worthy of his destiny, we must fill our hearts with tolerance. For then, and only then, will we be truly worthy of the concept that man was created in the image of God ― a God who calls us ALL ― His children.