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House To Fight It Out for Leader, The Speaker Throwdown.

McCarthy Blows Election

With Kevin McCarthy's recent response to the simplest question about GOP accomplishments in Congress, from the friendliest interviewer,  Sean Hannity,  a GOPer could hope for, the future may as well be called Democrat. 

Here's what McCarthy offered if you happened to be away exploring conspiracies about liquid water on Mars: "Everybody thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable, right?" he said.   "But we put together a Benghazi special committee, a select committee. What are her numbers today?   Her numbers are dropping.   Why? Because she's untrustable."

The consequences of McCarthy's sleight of tongue can't be overstated.  It wasn't just a Washington gaffe, when someone accidentally tells the truth.   It was a self-inflicted, potentially fatal wound, not just to McCarthy but to Republicans more broadly, including those running for president.

One minute McCarthy was the near-certain next speaker of the House;  the next he was persona non grata as GOP colleagues, their own minds hurtling through various apocalyptic scenarios, hammered him.    Will they support him after he gave their secrets away?

McCarthy has since tried to cram the bad genie back into the bottle, but the damage has been done and can't be undone. 

Essentially, he had handed Clinton the keys to her prison cell.   Held hostage these past three years by a series of Republican interrogators about the September 2012 attack in Libya that killed our ambassador and three others, she has been liberated.     The only thing McCarthy didn't speak up on was that the GOP blocked money for extra security at the site, and this is already well known.

The Benghazi hearings that led to the private server, that led to the missing 30,000 emails, that led to the FBI investigation that thus far has led only to the conclusion that she was "hackable" have been reduced in the public mind to a political hit job organized to damage her chances of becoming the Democratic presidential nominee.   This is now the longest investigation in history and it is all a part of the republican quest for the presidency in 2016.   

This isn't necessarily the whole of it — House Select Committee on Benghazi Chairman Trey Gowdy and others certainly believe there's more to know — but the cement has set on what McCarthy implied.   At the very least, any previous suspicions that Republicans were just out to get Clinton have cleared the bar of reasonable doubt.   The republicans are still just out to get Clinton and one of their dumb members has given the secret away.     Thank you Kevin McCarthy for getting so caught up in the games you play that you forgot it was a game.

GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah presented himself as a new face who can unite the House in the wake of Speaker John Boehner's sudden resignation last month. Boehner's deputy, 

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, remains the favorite, but Chaffetz's candidacy ensures there will be no coronation.

The House GOP will vote by secret ballot on Thursday, following by a floor vote in the full House later in the month.

"I can bridge that divide between our more centrist members and some of the more far-right-wing members.   That's why I've entered this race," Chaffetz told "Fox News Sunday."

"The American public wants to see a change.   They want a fresh start, " Chaffetz said.   "There's a reason why we see this phenomenon across the country, and you don't just give an automatic promotion to the existing leadership team.   That doesn't signal change."

Chaffetz, the 48-year-old chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has used that post to launch high-profile investigations of the Secret Service, Planned Parenthood and other issues.

His candidacy, which took most lawmakers by surprise when news began to emerge Friday, underscores chaos in the House little more than a week after Boehner, R-Ohio, announced he would resign rather than face a possible floor vote to depose him pushed by hard-line conservatives.

In the days immediately following, McCarthy was viewed as the presumptive favorite to replace the outgoing speaker, who quickly endorsed his No. 2.

But that dynamic began to shift, particularly following McCarthy's gaffe last week suggesting that the purpose of a special House committee investigating the deadly attacks in 2012 of the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, was to drive down Hillary Rodham Clinton's poll numbers. Clinton, secretary of state at that time, is now the front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president in 2016.

McCarthy retracted the comment and said he regrets telling the truth, but it's given a potent weapon to Democrats ahead of a high-profile Oct. 22 appearance by Clinton before the committee.     This is considered a rookie mistake as republicans are well trained to avoid the truth at all costs.

The Benghazi attacks killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

Chaffetz acknowledged that McCarthy has the support of a majority of House Republicans, making Boehner's deputy the likely winner in secret-ballot elections set for Thursday.

But under House rules, that outcome does not guarantee that McCarthy will become speaker.   He also has to win a public vote of the full House later in October.   That outcome is less certain because of potential opposition to McCarthy from the same 30-plus hard-line conservatives who pushed Boehner out.

"You might have another one or two that step in the race to get their names in the race and I wouldn't be surprised by that,"  Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who is supporting McCarthy, said on CNN's  "State of the Union."    ''I do think McCarthy has the votes for it.    He did speak inartfully this week.    There's no doubt, that's something that has hurt him and I'm sure he wishes he could take it back and reposition."    Marsha can dance a jig around a cow pattie, she took her never tell the truth lesions seriously.

There are 247 Republicans and 188 Democrats in the House, and Democrats would be certain to vote against McCarthy.   That means McCarthy could lose only 29 Republicans and still come out with majority support.

Chaffetz asserted that it's a vote McCarthy cannot win.   "He's going to fall short,"  Chaffetz said.

Indeed, so far McCarthy has not claimed he has the needed 218 votes locked up.   But Chaffetz' ability to get 218 votes in the House seems even less certain.   Nor is it clear that the House GOP's hard-line faction will embrace him, especially because of an episode where he briefly revoked a subcommittee chairman's gavel to try to enforce obedience to leadership.

That suggests ongoing tumult ahead in the weeks leading up to the floor vote, even as Congress is confronting a weighty to-do list, starting with raising the government's borrowing limit in early November.    At the same time the presidential contest is riding an anti-establishment wave that's seen some of the leading candidates denounce 
Congress' Republican leaders.

Amid the disarray some lawmakers are seeking more time to consider their options. Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., planned to send a letter seeking a delay in elections to lower-level leadership posts.    But Rep. Steve Scalise's camp claimed Sunday he already had enough votes to win the race for House majority leader.

McCarthy's spokesman declined comment on Chaffetz's announcement.    Republicans don't have time for their own games much less govern the country.

But Republicans friendly to McCarthy began circulating material to reporters intended to discredit Chaffetz by pointing out some of his own occasionally controversial comments, such as refusing to rule out impeachment of President Barack Obama over Benghazi.    It is just wonderful when republicans attack each other, it makes Ronnie smile.

A hearing on Planned Parenthood that Chaffetz presided over last week also drew criticism from Republicans for failing to effectively prosecute the organization's practice of providing fetal tissues for research.    Republicans need fewer issues because they never settle one, they use it over and over and forget about it when they are in control.    Then the next time they are out of office they knock the dust off of it and talk it up big time.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., another McCarthy supporter, said on ABC's "This Week" that McCarthy's comments over Benghazi amounted to "a tempest in a teapot."

"I think some people are using it as an opening to get in the race.  That's fine.   This is politics. Hardball sport,"   Cole said.   "But I don't think it's going to change how anybody votes."   " I don't know if any of this will change a republicans mind but is is well known that facts will not change how they vote."

"I guess you folks see what I was dealing with now.    How could I keep all the idiots you elected in line and govern this country.    It is time for the voters to wake up and accept responsibility for the mess they have created.    Thanks to the Democrats for the many times they saved the country and me from the folly the radical house republicans had forced us to face."

"John Boehner"

Meet the Republicans who ousted John Boehner. They're just getting started

When the House broke for its August recess, Republican Rep. John Fleming went home to Louisiana to connect with voters.   He got an earful.

Fleming says his constituents see a GOP-controlled Congress failing to check President Obama, even as federal regulations are hurting them personally.   It doesn’t matter to them that the president has veto power, or that Democrats can still block Republicans in the GOP-controlled Senate.

“They just don’t want to hear that.   That’s an excuse to them,”  he says in an interview.   “They at least want a fight.”

Fleming is doing his darndest.

In January, he and eight other hard-line Republicans formed the House Freedom Caucus to challenge the GOP leadership, which they claim is not fighting hard enough for Republican priorities.    Now they’re bigger and they're emboldened.  They just succeeded in driving out Speaker John Boehner (R) of Ohio, who recently stunned Washington with the news that he will retire from Congress on Oct. 30.

In the weeks ahead, the Freedom Caucus will have plentiful opportunities to push the fight further – from the speaker's race to a combustible mix of fiscal deadlines this fall.   Though members say they have not yet settled on a strategy, one thing is certain:   They are not afraid of government shutdowns, fiscal cliffs, or any other hardline tactics that typically made Boehner wince.

Republicans have not gotten what they wanted, they say, not because these gambits failed, but rather because leadership didn't commit to them, heart and soul. 

And they want that to end now.


For this invitation-only group of about 40 members, which meets regularly at a Capitol Hill restaurant called the Tortilla Coast, the fight starts with the GOP's election for the speakership and other GOP leadership offices, which will take place in a secret ballot on Thursday.

Mr. Boehner said he wanted to spare his members and the institution the “turmoil” of an expected attempt to oust him.   But to many conservatives, like the members of the Freedom Caucus, turmoil is not the problem.   They want real change in the top-down way the House is run and are making demands.

That pressure bubbled over Sunday when Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) of Utah suddenly joined the race, challenging Boehner’s presumed successor, Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R) of California. 

Congressman Chaffetz says he was "recruited" as an alternative to majority leader McCarthy.   He doubts Boehner’s right-hand man can get enough conservatives to win a final floor vote for speaker without having to rely on Democrats.   That vote will occur at the end of the month.

"You don't just give an automatic promotion to the existing leadership team,"  Chaffetz said Fox News Sunday.   Voters “want us to take that fight to the Senate.   They want us to take that fight to the president.”

Beyond the race for the speakership, the House has a to-do list chock full of pressure points for the Freedom Caucus, including debt, budget, and tax deadlines.   Many in Washington are quaking over the deadlines.   They remember previous cliff-hanger negotiations between the Obama administration and Republicans in Congress.   They wonder whether the Freedom Caucus will trigger a government shutdown over federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the way hardliners did over Obamacare in 2013.

Caucus members see the coming weeks as an opportunity.   Exactly what their fight will look like  “is kind of fluid,” says Rep. Matt Salmon (R) of Arizona, another caucus founder.   But “as we go forward, we’re going to consider anything and everything,” he said last week.

Whether Republicans are fighting hard enough for their priorities is a matter of opinion, and forms a dividing line in the party that runs from voters, to Congress, to the presidential race.

Sixty percent of Republican voters say they feel “betrayed” by their political party, according to a September Fox News poll.   Two-thirds of GOP primary voters do not believe Republican majorities have done enough to block Obama’s agenda, the poll finds. 


“It’s somewhat subjective,  'Did you fight hard enough for your priorities?'   With Boehner, the answer is,  ‘No, you didn’t,’ ”  says Matt Kibbe, the former head of the tea party advocacy group Freedom Works.

Mr. Kibbe is the kind of person Boehner means when he rails against “false prophets” who gin up the base with unrealistic promises.   The speaker blames outside groups such as Freedom Works and Heritage Action for egging on the 2013 shutdown, a strategy he says was doomed to fail.   He and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R) of Kentucky have since vowed not to repeat a shutdown.

But Kibbe says it is Boehner who is the false prophet, promising in the 2010 GOP  “Pledge to America”  to roll back spending to 2008 levels and to repeal Obamacare if the Republicans won the House.

“You have to believe that they never meant it,” says Kibbe, who is now a senior adviser to Concerned American Voters, a super political action committee for GOP presidential candidate and libertarian,  Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky.

“This idea that shutting down the government is a fundamental loser for Republicans – I just don’t buy it,” Kibbe continues.   He notes that it was only after the shutdowns of 1995 and early ’96 that Republicans, under the leadership of Speaker Newt Gingrich, were able to strike a deal on welfare reform with President Clinton.

“Clinton took Gingrich seriously;  Obama has never taken Boehner seriously.”

Fleming couldn’t agree more.   He points to the stunning midterm election of 2014, which returned a historic number of Republicans to the House and handed the Senate to GOP control – despite the shutdown the year before.

Republicans rarely put a bill on the president’s desk that he doesn’t like, Fleming complains. Indeed, the president has only vetoed four bills in his seven years in office – though he’s made plenty of veto threats.

“We could be getting more than we’re getting now,”  Fleming says.   “By raising the white flag before the discussion debate even begins, we’ve already lost.”


Other Republicans – hardly moderates – don’t see it that way.

Take Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform.   He’s famous for his Taxpayer Protection Pledge to oppose tax increases.   Most Republicans in Congress have signed it.

Ideologically, Republicans are more united today than ever, he says.   What Republican is for Obamacare?   Or for tax increases?

Under Boehner’s leadership, he notes, the House scrapped earmarks.   Republicans negotiated permanent tax cuts for most Americans.   They got budget caps and the first real spending cuts since the end of World War II.   They reformed a part of Medicare in what’s known as the “Doc Fix.”   They even sued the president.

“People take progress for granted,” says Mr. Norquist.   "What you would like is not the question.    I would like rubies and diamonds.... It's, 'What can you accomplish?' "

In Congress, a backlash may be building against Freedom Caucus hardball tactics.   Last month, a caucus member quit, saying tactics were harming, not helping, the GOP cause.   Over in the Senate, Republican colleagues shouted down tea party favorite Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas last week over his procedural move related to spending and Planned Parenthood.

“There’s a lot of frustration.   In some sense, this group treats Republicans like they’re their enemy,”  says Rep. Tom Cole (R) of Oklahoma, a Boehner supporter.   “It’s always inappropriate to try and blackmail your teammates.”

The Oklahoman understands the anger of Freedom Caucus members.   The political roadblocks to the GOP agenda frustrate him, too, but anger clouds their judgment, he says.   The caucus pursues things that  “demonstrably don’t work,”  such as threatening to shut down the Department of Homeland Security over the president’s immigration policy.

Cole hopes that a new speaker can help calm the waters.   “I think we’ve got an opportunity for a little bit of a new beginning.”

Could we survive as a country with republicans running the whole show?

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House To Fight It Out for Leader, The Speaker Throwdown.


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