More evidence that gridlock, not Obama policy, is fixing the economy

Washington Gridlock

From the 2012 election to the recent State of the Union Address, President Obama has claimed responsibility for the growing economy and job creation. His dutiful praetorian guard in the press has defended his claims. But there’s just one problem: The Republican House majority elected just two years into his first term kept most of Obama’s policies from being implemented. A new study released this month provides even more evidence that the failure of Obama policies to be passed has improved the economy, not the policies themselves.

The study, released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, measured employment changes across the states over 2014 after unemployment benefit extensions were not reauthorized by Congress in the late 2013 budget deal. The extensions were opposed by Republicans but supported by Democrats and were ultimately left out of the deal that Obama signed.

As common sense and Econ101 would suggest, the study found that when you stop paying people not to work, they tend to go back to work.

In levels, 1.8 million additional jobs were created in 2014 due to the benefit cut. Almost 1 million of these jobs were filled by workers from out of the labor force who would not have participated in the labor market had benefit extensions been reauthorized.

Primary challengers face long odds, but accountability and choice matter

Political insiders from both parties blame the rise in primary challenges for the gridlock we’re seeing in Congress. You’ve heard it before. Talking heads will that Republicans, for example, have to appeal to their base to avoid an insurgent conservative primary challenger.

Though it’s true that some incumbents have been knocked off by primary challengers in recent election cycles, Robert Boatright, a political science professor at Clark University and author of Getting Primaried: The Changing Politics of Congressional Primary Challenges, challenges the conventional wisdom that primary challenges are responsible for gridlock in Washington:

There’s just one problem with the idea that primaries have become more common and more important: It’s dead wrong. By my count, there’s nothing unique about the number of competitive primary challenges occurring today. In fact, there were more competitive primary races run in the House during the 1970s (an average of 49 per election) than there have been in the last decade (the average has been 45 each election). Today’s primaries only look competitive because the late 1990s had so few of them. The pattern in the Senate is similar.

Gridlock in the Senate basically Harry Reid’s fault

If you listen to hardline Democrats in the Senate, Republicans are to blame for the gridlock that has slowed movement on legislation and, until recently, confirmation of President Barack Obama’s judicial and executive appointees.

Though it’s true that Republicans aren’t receptive to President Obama’s agenda, the root cause of the friction between the two parties ultimately lies at the feet of one person: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV).

Not only has the Democratic leader severely limited minority rights in a chamber that thrives on tradition, Reid has also soured the atmosphere by limiting the number of amendments that senators can offer to legislation, which one of the reasons there has been so much tension between the two parties:

Republicans direct much of their ire at Reid, the hard-nosed majority leader who seeks to protect vulnerable Democrats from tough votes on hot-button issues like health care, the Keystone XL pipeline and abortion. More than any other leader before him, Reid has closed off the amendment process by an arcane procedural maneuver known as “filling the tree,” prompting howls of protest from GOP senators who complain they’ve been shut out of the process.

Harry Reid goes “nuclear” on the filibuster

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and most members of the Democratic conference voted today to eliminate the 60-vote threshold for executive nominations, excluding Supreme Court appointments, after Republicans blocked three appointments to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Executive nominees now need only 51 votes to win confirmation from the Senate. The change was approved by the Senate by a vote of 52 to 48. Three Democrats — Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI), Joe Manchin (D-WV), and Mark Pryor (D-AR) — joined every Senate Republican to vote against the rule change.

Reid complained that Republicans had forced him to call for the change in Senate rules because of, what he called, “unprecedented obstruction” and claimed that the it’s “something both sides should be willing to live with to make Washington work again.”

“The American people are fed up with this kind of obstruction and gridlock. The American people – Democrats, Republicans and Independents – are fed up with this kind of obstruction and gridlock,” said Reid from the Senate floor. “The American people want Washington to work for American families once again.”

The rule change is an attempt to change the narrative. President Obama and Democrats have talked up “gridlock” in government to get attention off of the problems with Obamacare. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) made that point to colleagues this morning.

Harry Reid once again calls Tea Party “anarchists”

Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has gone off the rails again. During an interview Nevada Public Radio, the Senate Majority Leader attacked the Tea Party presence in Washington, comparing them to “anarchists” who want to destroy the government.

The host of the segment asked Reid about the “gridlock” in Congress and any way out of the legislative “standstill.” Reid called the current Congress the “least productive in the history of the country.” And that’s when he took the opportunity to slam the Tea Party.

“Who is the Tea Party? Well, understand, when I was in school, I studied government, among other things, and prior to World War I and after World War I we had the anarchists. Now they were violent — you know, some say that’s what started World War I, the anarchy movement — but they were violent,” Reid told KNPR. “They did damage to property and they did physical damage to people.”

“The modern anarchists don’t do that. That’s the Tea Party. But they have the same philosophy as the early anarchists,” he continued. “They do not believe in government. Anytime anything bad happens to government, that’s a victory to them. And that’s what’s happened.”

“We have absolute gridlock created by a group of people who represent few Americans. But it makes it extremely difficult to get things done,” he added.

Poor Harry Reid doesn’t like gridlock in Congress

During an interview last week with PBS NewsHour, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) expressed his frustrations to Judy Woodfruff about “gridlock” in Congress and claimed that the Republican-controlled House is “doing nothing” in terms of legislating.

Reid cited a poll recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showing that 83% of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing. Woodruff then asked Reid if he thought Americans’ perception of Congress was accurate.

“Yes, of course they’re right. Gridlock. We have gridlock. We have a House of Representatives — they’re doing nothing. My friend the speaker was on television on one of the Sunday shows and he said, my job isn’t to pass laws; it’s to repeal them,” noted Reid. “Well, by that metric he’s failed every place because he hasn’t passed any laws and he damn sure hasn’t repealed any.”

Woodruff asked Reid if he thought Democrats deserve some blame because, after all, they have control of the Senate. Republicans have passed measures to repeal ObamaCare or to delay the mandates in the law for one year, but the Senate won’t take them up, despite polls showing that a majority of Americans disapprove of the law and favor its repeal.

Will we see a government shut down if the GOP takes back the House?

On Friday while speaking at the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington, Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) floated the idea of a government shutdown similar to that of 1995 during the fight over the budget with Bill Clinton if Republicans win back the House of Representatives:

Westmoreland said his caucus — presuming it takes control of the House come November — aims to pass spending bills that Obama is likely to veto. He predicted Republicans would not be able to override such a veto, creating a standoff that could cause Congress to grind to a halt.

“If the government shuts down, we want you with us,” he said.

The congressman recalled a similar shutdown that took place in 1995, when Newt Gingrich — also a speaker at the conference — was serving as House speaker. A future standstill could temporarily close national parks or delay payments from the government, Westmoreland speculated.

“We have put Band-Aids on some things that need to be cleaned out,” he said. “That is going to take some pain. There’s going to have to be some pain for us to do some things that we’ve got to do to right the ship.”

GOP plans to investigate Obama Administration

Should Republicans regain control of the House of Representatives this fall, Politico reports that we should expect investigations into the Obama Administration on a wide range of issues:

If President Barack Obama needed any more incentive to go all out for Democrats this fall, here it is: Republicans are planning a wave of committee investigations targeting the White House and Democratic allies if they win back the majority.

Everything from the microscopic — the New Black Panther party — to the massive –- think bailouts — is on the GOP to-do list, according to a half-dozen Republican aides interviewed by POLITICO.

Republican staffers say there won’t be any self-destructive witch hunts, but they clearly are relishing the prospect of extracting information from an administration that touts transparency.

And a handful of aggressive would-be committee chairmen — led by Reps. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and Lamar Smith (R-Texas) — are quietly gearing up for a possible season of subpoenas not seen since the Clinton wars of the late 1990s.

Issa would like Obama’s cooperation, says Kurt Bardella, spokesman for the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. But it’s not essential.

“How acrimonious things get really depend on how willing the administration is in accepting our findings [and] responding to our questions,” adds Bardella, who refers to his boss as “questioner-in-chief.”

Health Care Summit Sham

Despite all the talk about bipartisanship and a willingness to work with Republicans on health care reform, Democrats are pressing forward on ObamaCare:

After a brief period of consultation following the White House health reform summit, congressional Democrats plan to begin making the case next week for a massive, Democrats-only health care plan, party strategists told POLITICO.

A Democratic official said the six-hour summit was expected to “give a face to gridlock, in the form of House and Senate Republicans.”

Democrats plan to begin rhetorical, and perhaps legislative, steps toward the Democrats-only, or reconciliation, process early next week, the strategists said.
Democrats plan to take up the president’s comprehensive, $950 billion plan — referred to on the Hill as “the big bill.” The alternative would be a smaller — or “skinny” — bill that would provide less coverage and cost less. But that would amount to starting the complex process over.

“It’s probably the big bill or nothing,” said a top Democratic aide. “If we don’t get the big bill, I am sure some will push for a skinny bill.”

Democrats’ strategy of giving “a face to gridlock” backfired. Obama was arrogant and defensive and Republicans, for the most part, were prepared to take on the president and Democratic congressional leaders.

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