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Senate Blocks Trump’s Ability To Make Recess Appointments

White House Capitol

Congress is effectively out of session for its August recess as of today and not set to return until after Labor Day, but the Senate has acted to make sure that President Trump will not be able to make recess appointments during that period:

Before the Senate left for its August recess on Thursday, lawmakers agreed to a series of pro forma sessions that ensures the Senate never officially goes on recess. The move effectively blocks President Donald Trump from making recess appointments while senators are away.

When Trump’s public humiliation campaign against Attorney General Jeff Sessions was at its peak, Democrats pledged to block any possibility of Trump naming a new attorney general while they’re away for recess.

“Many Americans must be wondering if the President is trying to pry open the office of attorney general to appoint someone during the August recess who will fire special counsel [Robert] Mueller and shut down the Russian investigation,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said in a late July floor speech. “First let me state for the record now, before this scheme gains wings, Democrats will never go along with the recess appointment if that situation arises. We have some tools in our toolbox to stymie such action. We’re ready to use every single one of them.”

The Constitution does give the President the authority to make appointments during the time that Congress is in recess, and provides that persons appointed pursuant to this power can continue in their position until the end of the then-current session of Congress. After that time, the Senate would need to confirm them formally for them to be able to continue serving. At the time the Constitution was drafted, of course, this power was necessary in large part due to the fact that Congress would take much longer breaks than it does now and that it was much more difficult for members to return to Washington, D.C. promptly in the event they are needed to act for some reason. With modern transportation and communications, that is no longer the case, and while Congress does take breaks, including the nearly month long August recess, it is far easier for members to return to Washington if needed, even with only a few days notice.

In recent years, though, Congress has often taken the additional step of holding pro forma sessions where the House and Senate would go through the process of convening roughly every three days for a session that quite literally only lasts a few moments. The intent of these sessions is to prevent the President from making recess appointments since Congress technically is not out of session. Typically, these sessions are presided over by a member of the House and/or Senate who either happens to be in town at a given time, or who lives in the nearby area. Several years ago, this led to a dispute between President Obama and Republicans in Congress when the President sought to fill several positions, including positions and the National Labor Relations Board and other agencies, during one of these recesses. Republicans contended that the appointments were invalid because Congress was not in recess as the Constitution defined it and, in a ruling issued three years ago, the Supreme Court agreed, holding that the President cannot make recess appointments when Congress is not really in recess, and that these pro forma sessions are sufficient to constitute Congress being “in session” for purposes of the Recess Appointment clause.

What’s unusual about this move, of course, is that both the House and the Senate are in Republican hands under a Republican President, and that Congress is continuing the practice of holding pro forma sessions. In part, this is due to the fact that Senate Democrats were united enough to prevent the Senate from agreeing to a joint resolution that would have put Congress into a formal recess. In this case, though, the move was also supported by many Senate Republicans, and appears to have been motivated by the fear that President Trump might have used the recess appointment power to remove Attorney General Jeff Sessions in an effort to try to undermine the Mueller investigation, or even set up the process of removing Mueller altogether. This became even more important in light of yesterday’s revelation that the special counsel had convened a Grand Jury and was expanding his investigation to possibly include the President’s finances or those of his businesses. The fact that members of his own party are seeking to rein the President in is a hopeful sign, perhaps one we’ll see more of when they return in September.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kylopod says:

    and appears to have been motivated by the fear that President Trump might have used the recess appointment power to remove Attorney General Jeff Sessions

    It is fairly amazing to see Jeff Sessions join the ranks of the cucks.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  2. de stijl says:

    It was a total dick move when Rs did it and it is a dick move now.

    Does a prior dick move precipitate an equal and opposite dick move? What does the law of the conservation of dickishness say?

    I admit to being somewhat impressed that D’s went full dick with this. They usually pull their dick punches.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 11

  3. James Pearce says:

    The fact that members of his own party are seeking to rein the President in is a hopeful sign

    I’ve long argued that the folks most able to restrain Trump’s worst impulses would be his colleagues in the GOP.

    Lefty resistance types, ahem, resist that idea because they still think they’re best suited to oppose Trump, despite their near-perfect record of being out-played by him.

    We have Republicans to thank for Trump, and when he goes down, we’ll have to thank them for that too. I know that sucks, but what are we gonna do?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 13

  4. CSK says:

    Boy, The Manatee with Hair is really having a lousy day, isn’t he? The Russian Prime Minister calls him an easily outwitted weakling on Twitter, Newsweek depicts him as a lazy slob on its cover, and the senate ties his teeny li’l hands.

    I love it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 1

  5. Kylopod says:

    @James Pearce:

    when he goes down

    You really are getting ahead of yourself.

    If the Republicans in power finally grow a pair and actually take down the Orange Wonder, tearing apart their own party in the process, I will be sure to give them credit. But until then…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 1

  6. Hal_10000 says:

    @de stijl:

    It was a total dick move when Rs did it and it is a dick move now.

    And a dick move when the Democrats did it Bush, too, right? Or did history start in 2010?

    I’m glad to see the R’s going in with this. Trump is bad enough with Senator approval.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 2

  7. James Pearce says:

    @Kylopod:

    If the Republicans in power finally grow a pair and actually take down the Orange Wonder,

    Of course it’s an “If.”

    I think the likeliest scenario is that Trump survives two terms in office, LaGuardia is renamed Trump International, your grandkids graduate from Donald J. Trump High School, and by then, they might even be “Trumpkins” themselves.

    The point is that if he goes down, it will be because Republicans, not Democrats, took him down. See: The senators from AZ.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 3

  8. de stijl says:

    @Hal_10000:

    What part of “It’s a dick move” did you not undetstand?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  9. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @CSK:
    You forgot the released transcripts of his calls with the Australian and Mexican leaders, which showed that Donnie is both incredibly stupid (cannot follow a basic conversation) and is a gawd-awful deal-maker.
    I’ve always wondered how anyone goes out of business running a casino. Those transcripts explain it quite clearly.
    I’m pretty sure he is the dumbest man to ever serve as President.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 1

  10. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    That’s nonsense. If he goes down it will be because he never got above 39% in polling and that now looks like a high water mark. And that goes to an organic rejection by the 60%. He has made zero inroads beyond his base because he is a loathsome creature despised by the majority of Americans.

    49 Republican Senators and a majority of the House GOP voted for legislation they knew to be wildly unpopular, ill-considered and destructive. Three GOP Senators – just three – voted like people who understood what was happening. If Trump had been embraced by the 60% to any significant degree, the bill would have passed. It is the utter rejection of Trump and Trumpism, and the willingness of Democratic activists to engage in protracted on-the-ground protest that has stopped Trump.

    In military terms the Trump blitzkrieg has been stopped by determined opposition from regular Democratic troops and partisans. And now, the counterattack: Operation Grand Jury.

    All due props to Collins, Murkowski and McCain, and respect to decent conservatives like Jennifer Rubin, Michael Gerson, George Will and others. But Trump was beaten by the Left and above all by his own stupidity. A small number of Republicans have joined in timidly. More may come, but to go again to a military analogy, they’ll be the Yanks showing up late to a war largely won by Soviets and Brits.

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 22 Thumb down 2

  11. CSK says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Well, the business with the Turnbull transcript was the other day. I’m just counting the revelations that have taken place within the past, oh, 4-5 hours.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  12. de stijl says:

    Australia and Mexico call leak:

    Spicer or Priebus?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  13. CSK says:

    @de stijl:

    It would be sweet revenge for either of them, wouldn’t it?

    Possibly McMaster?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  14. michael reynolds says:

    @de stijl:
    Or a foreign intel organization, a White House clerk, someone associated with the endless array of lawyers, some hacker getting into the WH computers, the Aussies and Mexicans separately. Or the Kremlin, because their stooge is disappointing them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  15. gVOR08 says:

    @James Pearce:
    If Trump goes down it may be by impeachment, 25th amendment, lost re-election, death or ill health, or resignation. The first two require a level of guts and patriotism on the part of GOP congress critters and therefore seem unlikely. The last is beginning to look fairly likely. Mueller may well find some pretty good blackmail material, leading to ‘resign or we bankrupt you and your family.’

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  16. Kylopod says:

    @michael reynolds:

    decent conservatives like Jennifer Rubin, Michael Gerson, George Will

    I agree with much of what you said, Michael, but I hope you’re being sarcastic here.

    Rubin and Will are decent conservatives? Are you kidding me? Rubin spent years behaving as little more than a shameless GOP shill. She defended Sarah Palin’s “death panels” lie, admitted she puffed up Romney’s image to help him win, and was in general completely silent about the Republican extremism she only now decries. It would be one thing if she apologized for any of this. Instead, she acts like she’s always been the sane, reasonable conservative. Maybe she’s vying for a slot on MSNBC.

    And Will? The guy who makes blatantly disingenuous arguments about climate change? Who spends much of Obama’s presidency bizarrely characterizing Obama as a raging narcissist and repeatedly propagating the debunked urban legend that he uses the pronoun “I” excessively?

    I give Rubin and Will a lot of credit for taking on Trump clearly and unambiguously, something I cannot say about many other conservative pundits, but it will take a lot more before I’d describe either of them as “decent.”

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 1

  17. teve tory says:

    The senate voted unanimously to stop trump from recess appointments.

    Wow.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  18. teve tory says:

    @Kylopod:

    And Will? The guy who makes blatantly disingenuous arguments about climate change? Who spends much of Obama’s presidency bizarrely characterizing Obama as a raging narcissist and repeatedly propagating the debunked urban legend that he uses the pronoun “I” excessively?

    I give Rubin and Will a lot of credit for taking on Trump clearly and unambiguously, something I cannot say about many other conservative pundits, but it will take a lot more before I’d describe either of them as “decent.”

    They are both jerks, to be sure. Will’s climate change gibberish was the last straw for me, and I stopped reading him years ago. But I think you could argue that they are ‘relatively’ decent conservatives, compared to the Trumper norm of belligerent, cowardly, sexist, racist idiots.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  19. teve tory says:

    that reminds me, I wonder what K-Lo is up to these days.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. michael reynolds says:

    @Kylopod:

    I see Rubin, Will, et al as people who’ve had the honesty to condemn the end result, but not the self-awareness to recognize their own decades of enabling that end result. All things are relative, and I take my allies as they come.

    Sometimes you get these situations which are both morally good and practical. Like not mistreating POW’s because it’s moral and on a practical level encourages your opponents to surrender. I’m big on redemption as a theme (it runs through a lot of my books), I want to make it easy for defectors and late-arrivals because it is both morally admirable to forgive, and politically practical.

    As happens sometimes, Jesus had it right with the prodigal son. It was kind and good of the father to forgive the prodigal, and on a practical level he just picked up another employee to help out around the Galilean goat ranch.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  21. CSK says:

    @Kylopod:

    To be fair to Rubin, she did end up trashing Palin. i used to enjoy reading her for that reason. And given that the Trumpkins absolutely loathe Rubin, she has to have something going for her.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  22. de stijl says:

    @CSK:

    It’s a weird situation because I want to know what was said and I want Americans to know what Trump said, but I also want any President to have secure communications.

    Then I read the transcripts and Trump was unprepared for both calls. Like, utterly unprepared.

    Trump’s not dumb. He could have prepped for both calls and he chose not to do so.

    He embarrassed himself and our country.

    If I was assured that someone somewhere shamed Trump on his performance, I would abjure the Mexico Australia leak.

    How do you square this circle? I wish that I didn’t know the details of every phone call Trump makes. But I’m glad that someone leaked because now we can apologize and address tbe rift.

    Perhaps we shouldn’t elect people who are unfit. Utterly unfit, not just people who like policies of which I disapprove.

    Maybe that’s a total dodge. P2P calls shouldn’t be leaked. And we also shouldn’t have to be in a situation where this is thing to worry about.

    Hopefully, the rest of the world gives us some slack. We elected a buffoon but he will be gone soon.

    Wow. I’m conflcted.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  23. CSK says:

    @de stijl:

    I think we’re going to have continue worrying about it. We have no choice. There are three circumstances that aren’t going to change:

    A) Trump is utterly unequipped to be president, and doesn’t have the temperament, the ability, or the inclination to learn how to conduct himself as a chief executive ought, or to fill the truly vast gaps in his knowledge.

    B) The West Wing is a snakepit, and it’s going to stay that way because Trump wants it that way. He loves chaos, because it’s the only way he can command the allegiance of his underlings, he thinks.

    C) Republicans and Democrats alike are frightened of Trump’s base, with some reason. It’s not just a fear of being voted out of office. A lot of Trumpkins and alt-righters are quite open about their desire for Civil War: The Sequel.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 1

  24. gVOR08 says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: I’ve been looking for examples of things Trump has said or written (like that’s gonna happen) in private or as routine business out of public sight. Is the public Trump really all there is? Surely there’s a private or official Trump who can at least take a meeting or hold a conversation in a normal way. These transcripts answer my question. What we see is all there is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    It is the utter rejection of Trump and Trumpism, and the willingness of Democratic activists to engage in protracted on-the-ground protest that has stopped Trump.

    And yet, Trump has not been stopped.

    As Doug’s Twitter feed reminds us:

    “Today is Day 196 of the Trump Administration. There are 1,189 days to go until Election Day 2020 and 1,268 days to go until 1/20/2021.”

    And now, the counterattack: Operation Grand Jury.

    If the Grand Jury is seen as a Dem “counterattack,” then whatever the Grand Jury hands in will be considered partisan bunkem. Yes, there will be folks who consider it to be partisan bunkem anyway, but we should be sure to keep this in a “partisans versus reasonable people” space instead of a “left versus right” space.

    More may come, but to go again to a military analogy, they’ll be the Yanks showing up late to a war largely won by Soviets and Brits.

    Or they’ll be Tom Hardy in Dunkirk, a late but powerful arrival that has the actual firepower and position to turn the tide because everyone else is just scrambling to stay alive.

    However you cut it, the small and timid few are going to be necessary because the opposition is not only outnumbered, they’re outgunned, too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 3

  26. de stijl says:

    @Kylopod:

    I can’t live in any world where Jennifer Rubin is accorded any polite convention.

    Her behavior in the run up to, and during the Iraq invasion precludes any forgiveness.

    I give two craps that she has been rehabilitated. Her words killed hundreds of thousands of people. She behaves now like she’s in my tribe, but fuck her. I cannot get past what she did and never will.

    I can easily forgive. In fact, it is my default action. I cannot forgive Rubin. She was not just wrong, she enabled evil.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. Kylopod says:

    @michael reynolds: I’m afraid that the strategy you described is basically the one adopted by Hillary Clinton in 2016.

    Clinton made a bid for “sane, reasonable Republicans,” by emphasizing that Trump was uniquely unfit for the office in a way that previous Republican nominees were not. Of course, she was absolutely right. But one thing she neglected to mention was that Trump was the end result of decades of GOP extremism. Essentially, she was attacking the Monster while praising Dr. Frankenstein. It was understandable that she took this approach: she feared that if she criticized pre-Trump Republicanism she would lose the chance to attract Republican-leaning voters who were turned off by Trump.

    And what did she get out of this, in the end? She didn’t win a single state that Romney carried in 2012, but she did lose 6 of the states Obama won that year, and came within a hair of losing 4 more.

    I understand the need to make allies. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to lie and pretend something rotten is healthy. I’m not a politician, I’m not trying to build coalitions, I’m simply trying to describe the world as I see it. That’s what I found so outrageous when Rubin admitted to cheerleading for Romney while he was running. I can forgive a pundit for being wrong, but they should always speak the truth as they see it. If the candidate I support says something I consider boneheaded, I’m not going to call it Churchillian wisdom.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  28. gVOR08 says:

    @michael reynolds: @Kylopod: It is a dilemma, isn’t it? Do we welcome allies against Trump, or do we remember that they’re still Republicans? Is the enemy of my enemy and friend of other enemies who are friends with the first enemy my friend or my enemy? Damned if I know.

    I’ll go with pragmatism. First, sorry Michael, this isn’t courage on the part of Will, Gerson, and Rubin, it’s a marketing decision. Second, nothing I say about them is really going to make any difference. Third, to the extent they’re useful, praise them, and when they’re harmful, correct them. And finally let us collectively hope that they are the leading edge of a wave of moderate defections from R to D. I’ve run across a lot of people who said they were lifelong Rs but left after W. Should be a similar run of defections from Trump. But there is a risk that they’ll take over the party at a time we desperately need a genuine left.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  29. de stijl says:

    @CSK:

    But if we allow certain behaviors now because Trump is apparently unfit, where does that end?

    If the cryogenic brain of megaEisenhower were elected in 2020 what expectations should we have about security of communications with other world leaders?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  30. teve tory says:

    It’s a weird situation because I want to know what was said and I want Americans to know what Trump said, but I also want any President to have secure communications.

    Then I read the transcripts and Trump was unprepared for both calls. Like, utterly unprepared.

    It is, absolutely, troubling that the calls leaked. World leaders have to be able to ave private conversations.

    That said, the horse is out of the barn. It’s clear from the calls, as it was from 100 prior pieces of information, that Trump is utterly incapable of effectively doing the job of POTUS. He lacks even the hint of adequate skills.

    I wonder if any of his supporters will read the Nieto call and understand that Trump’s begging Nieto to help him mislead his own supporters. He knows Mexico won’t pay for the wall, but he wants Nieto to stop saying that in public and join him in saying “We’re working it out.” because that’s vague and indefinite and not a clear admission of failure.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  31. de stijl says:

    @CSK:

    Solid lead-pipe prediction.

    Trump has damaged and will continue to damage the office of the presidency.

    The manner in which he has damaged the presidency will play out in an unexpected way.

    The next 3.5 years will be scary.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  32. michael reynolds says:

    @James Pearce:
    Stopped is not the same as destroyed. In six months we’ve already passed peak Trump.

    The grand jury will inevitably be seen through partisan lenses. The ‘base’ is indifferent to facts and are irrelevant for our purposes. What we are after is the difference between Trump’s ~35% base and the 46% who voted for him. I suspect Mueller’s reality will have an effect (indeed already has) on some part of that gap group who I think are made up of Republican loyalists and what someone dubbed the Trumpcurious.

    So far the economy seems to be picking up and that is freezing some of Trump’s support in place. If/when the economy goes south or Trump starts a war he’ll drop to his hardcore base. Look at the internals of recent polling – his support is remarkably less committed than his opposition. Trump voters are already having doubts while there is zero evidence of weakening on the Left.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  33. HarvardLaw92 says:

    @gVOR08:

    Speaking as someone who had to deal with him professionally for nearly a decade, what you see is what you get.

    There is no other “there” there. This is 100% who he is.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  34. CSK says:

    @de stijl:

    It’s not a question of us wanting to allow it, it’s a question of how we stop it, right? I want the man out of office and back to doing bad reality tv.

    @de stijl:

    Yes, the next 3-5 years will be scary. I was hoping he’d have gotten bored by now and resigned.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. michael reynolds says:

    @gVOR08: @Kylopod:

    It’s fine to think genuine Left if we’re talking economics. But there are two Lefts, one aiming to bring down the rich-poor gap, and the other being the social issues Left. That latter group has become increasingly obnoxious and loudly insufferable.

    I’m all for a Left that is aimed at improving economic conditions for the working poor, and I think that should be our direction. I don’t think that requires us to back off even a millimeter in defending the equality of all Americans, but when the Left strays into acting as thought police they lose me, and I suspect lose us more votes than they add.

    I’m strongly pro-choice and always have been, but a lot of the campus Left is insisting we exile any pro-life Democrat. I think that’s a mistake. I’m also very anti-gun, but I wouldn’t read gun people out of the party. I don’t see how we grow if we keep subtracting. And once we start down the path or purity-testing, we have no mechanism for pushing back against every interest group looking to exclude someone. Subtract gun lovers, subtract pro-lifers, subtract anyone who doesn’t like Common Core, subtract anyone who questions whether some environmental regulations really are nonsense, subtract anyone who thinks we have a right to control immigration, and you end up as a minority not just at the national level, but all the way down through the system.

    I try never to lie. I’ll be happy to tell a gun-nut he’s wrong, but I still want his vote. I’ll argue with a pro-life Democrat till the sun comes up, but I don’t want to push him out of the party. We are at present a minority party and if we want to be a majority party it can only come through addition.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  36. de stijl says:

    @CSK:

    Hopefully, 3.5 years not 3 – 5 years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  37. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @de stijl:

    It was a total dick move when Rs did it and it is a dick move now.

    While I will agree with you fully, I do have to note that when one is in the Kingdom of the Dicks…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  38. CSK says:

    @de stijl:

    I think 3.5 is the more likely case. I hope. Still, a lot of damage can be wrought in 3.5 years.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  39. Jen says:

    @michael reynolds: I agree with you. One would think that with the results of the Republican years of purity tests playing out in front of us that Democrats would take a more sane approach and take the pro-life voters as they come. Heck, if a former nun* wants to run on the Democratic ticket in a Republican, Catholic district, I’ll take it–and I have no understanding as to why anyone would seek to disqualify a candidate who reflects the district in which he or she is running, simply because they don’t pass a purity test.

    I’ve worked in politics–you win with candidates who match the district. Even if they aren’t your perfect national match.

    On the leaks: it is incredibly problematic that confidential calls are being leaked. Foreign leaders need to know that they can speak candidly on issues. I go back to my point that the leaks will stop when his staff stops feeling like their boss is punching holes in the bottom of the ship. (Mixed metaphor, to be sure, but appropriate for this administration.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  40. de stijl says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’nint cracker:

    In the Kingdom of the Dicks behave responsibly and prudently.

    Responsible and prudent behavior need not always be pleasant or polite.

    Just because some fool is a dick to you does not you automatically be a dick to them, but you should always tell them they’re being a dick.

    (I feel like first draft Sun Tzu.)

    The supreme art of dickishness is to defeat the enemy without war.

    Appear dickish when you are strong and strong when you are dickish.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  41. de stijl says:

    @CSK:

    Concur.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  42. Kylopod says:

    @michael reynolds:

    I try never to lie. I’ll be happy to tell a gun-nut he’s wrong, but I still want his vote. I’ll argue with a pro-life Democrat till the sun comes up, but I don’t want to push him out of the party. We are at present a minority party and if we want to be a majority party it can only come through addition.

    Look, dude, I agree with everything you said! But it’s far afield from what started this conversation, where I complained about your referring to Jennifer Rubin and George Will as “decent conservatives.” I wasn’t talking about divisions on the left, but on the right. And my problem with Will and Rubin isn’t their conservative beliefs, it’s their dishonesty and hackery.

    One of my biggest pet peeves is the way people are always lowering the bar for what constitutes “sane conservatism.” It’s an ongoing process. In the 1980s, a sane conservative was someone who recognized Reagan’s tax plan as “voodoo economics.” By the 2000s, old-school supply-siders like Jack Kemp were beginning to look like the last rational people left in the GOP. By the Obama era, a “sane conservative” was anyone who thought shutting down the government wasn’t the smartest method of achieving the goal of absolute opposition to Obama’s entire agenda (but threatening not to raise the debt ceiling might be).

    And now, you’re a “sane conservative” as long as you hate Trump. Even if some of the reasons you offer are pure BS, like saying Trump is an authoritarian like Obama (which, for the record, Will has actually said).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  43. DrDaveT says:

    @Kylopod:

    One of my biggest pet peeves is the way people are always lowering the bar for what constitutes “sane conservatism.”

    Hear, hear.

    Getting rid of Trump does not solve most problems. Indeed, it makes many of them worse, by putting the government into the hands of people who are just as batguano crazy as Trump, but much more highly functional and not going to be indicted any time soon.

    My current, much-debased standard for what constitutes a “sane conservative” is one who can change a position when they discover that they were wrong about the assumptions they were basing their position on. It’s not much, but it’s already beyond most of them, and I will not go any lower.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 1

  44. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    In six months we’ve already passed peak Trump.

    What does that even mean? Maybe we’ll reach “peak Trump” when the Republican party considers him merely an idiot instead of a useful idiot. We’re no where near that point.

    Also:

    his support is remarkably less committed than his opposition

    A lot of the time, I’m operating under the idea that the left isn’t committed.

    To anything.

    Oh, they’re dogged, that’s for sure, but committed?

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  45. Moosebreath says:

    Whoa!

    Dallas Morning News has a column that puts a very sinister spin on Republicans’s unwillingness to investigate Trump’s Russia ties:

    “Yet there may be another reason that top Republicans have not been more vocal in their condemnation. Perhaps it’s because they have their own links to the Russian oligarchy that they would prefer go unnoticed.

    Donald Trump and the political action committees for Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich and John McCain accepted $7.35 million in contributions from a Ukrainian-born oligarch who is the business partner of two of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s favorite oligarchs and a Russian government bank.”

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  46. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: I agree with you on a lot of this, but you lose me at the idea that the Democratic party should be flexible on abortion rights. Why would we ever trade away a core freedom of one half of this country’s population at a time when the other side is busy trying to take it away? Why do we feel that women’s rights are disposable as long as we can get jobs for white guys?

    I don’t hear centrist Democrats saying that we should support candidates who agree with us on most thing but want to bring back Jim Crow laws.

    And let’s face it, for most women, reproductive rights are economic rights. Nothing determines a woman’s economic future more than having an unwanted child.

    It’s great to be flexible, but a party has to have some core principles or no one will follow it. And the freedom to determine what happens to ones own body must be a defining principle of the Democratic party.

    Will there be times when an anti-choice Democrat is the only possible option? Then the party should support him — but quietly. To announce with great fanfare that the party is eager to welcome candidates who believe that half of the population should be subservient to the other is hardly the way to attract voters.

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  47. teve tory says:

    @wr: A few days ago I was on the ‘let anti-abortion dem candidates into the party if they’re good on all the other issues’ side. Then I listened to a buncha smart women I know on FB, and had to change my stance.

    Like you said, nobody would promote accepting dem candidates who agreed with us on everything except segregation. Nobody would promote accepting Dem candidates who agreed with us on everything except government-mandated forced conversion therapy for gays or muslims. How are women’s basic reproductive rights less important?

    i understand that people are sick of abortion politics. Who isn’t. And it’s true that dems could probably win some elections in places they otherwise wouldn’t if they deprecated abortion rights. I’m really sympathetic to that, because having a dem who will vote with you 80% of the time is better than a republican who will vote against you 100% of the time if only for spite. But sometimes you have to choose your principles of human rights even when there’s a political cost.

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  48. michael reynolds says:

    @wr:
    I’m not talking about trading anything away. 90% of Democrats are pro-choice. We are a decidedly pro-choice party and I will always push hard for women’s rights. The only question is whether we can stand beside someone who supports other Democratic goals but disagrees on this one subject.

    Person X agrees that we need to reduce the power of corporations, that we need to lessen the rich-poor gap, agrees that we must treat immigrants of all stripes with compassion, agrees that health care is a right, agrees that climate change is a serious threat. . . but is pro-life. To me that person is a Democrat. I want his vote.

    In practical terms if we are exiling pro-life Democrats we have zero chance of taking back the Senate, zero chance of taking back the House, zero chance of turning many state legislatures.

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  49. michael reynolds says:

    @teve tory:

    If we don’t get votes we have no power. If we have no power we can accomplish 0% of our goals.

    So in reality the question is this: shall we ignore every Democratic issue, leave everyone we care about without a political party capable of defending them? Shall we push Joe Manchin out of the party, lose any shot at retaking the Senate, lose any realistic shot of protecting immigrants and LGBT people all so that we can exile people who are in 90/10 agreement with us?

    And if we are going to allow ourselves to be litmus-tested by pro-choice, how do we avoid the same with LGBT rights, with immigration etc… Do those interest groups not also have a right to veto? And once we’ve peeled off every Democrat who is pro-life or wants to slow immigration or still harbors reservations about gay rights or likes guns, how the f— do we win an election?

    This is politics not academia. It’s not engineering. We aren’t looking for perfect ideological conformity, we aren’t looking for zero-defects, we are in the business of seeking power for the purpose of helping people. The people we hope to help – including women who need abortions – will have no defender if we fail.

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  50. teve tory says:

    All or Nothing is a false choice. Nobody’s saying “adhere 100% or GTFO”. What they’re saying is there are certain red lines that shouldn’t be crossed. As an Existence Proof of this fact, obviously segregation would be one. The argument I’ve been persuaded to, is that women’s reproductive rights should be another.

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  51. David M says:

    How about we worry about the quality of the majority after we have one? 3 more Manchins in the Senate and it’s a whole different ballgame.

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  52. James Pearce says:

    @michael reynolds:

    The only question is whether we can stand beside someone who supports other Democratic goals but disagrees on this one subject.

    What if this question has already been answered and the answer is No?

    @teve tory:

    What they’re saying is there are certain red lines that shouldn’t be crossed.

    What are they? Abortion, segregation, and what else?

    What do you do if you’ve been excommunicated for insufficient belief in the doctrine of white privilege? What if you’ve blasphemed the Clintons?

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  53. teve tory says:

    “What do you do if you’ve been excommunicated for insufficient belief in the doctrine of white privilege? What if you’ve blasphemed the Clintons?”

    I have no idea, because I live in reality, not whatever alternate region of the multiverse you’re talking about.

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  54. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: “The only question is whether we can stand beside someone who supports other Democratic goals but disagrees on this one subject.”

    I actually think it’s a question of how we stand behind that person. Support him, but tell him to shut the fvck up about abortion. Give him money but not if he runs around screaming about restricting abortions.

    Sometimes you go to war with the only candidate you can get — I understand that. It matters, though, that the party itself be absolutely clear on where it stands, even if some individuals within it differ.

    Just a matter of emphasis, really. You can believe whatever you want, but don’t campaign on it and don’t try to make us back you up on it.

    In other words, no purity tests on either side. The Democrats will accept you as a candidate and you will accept the Democratic ideals and not run against them.

    It’s not really that hard.

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  55. wr says:

    @teve tory: You have to forgive Pearce. If someone doesn’t reassure him that white guys are better than everyone else at least once a day, he get in a lather.

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  56. James Pearce says:

    @teve tory:

    I have no idea, because I live in reality, not whatever alternate region of the multiverse you’re talking about.

    Who’s president in your reality?

    34 states have Republican governors, compared with 15 states with Democratic governors.

    Republicans control 32 state legislatures, Democrats control 13.

    States with Republican legislatures and Republican governors: 26

    State with Democratic legislatures/Democratic governors: 6

    Like…I get it if you don’t like what I’m saying. Agamemnon didn’t like it when Cassandra* screamed of visions of blood, but he would have been wise to believe her.

    (*Yes, I’m saying I’m Cassandra. “The house fumes with the stench of blood!”)

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  57. Kylopod says:

    On the subject of pro-life Democrats, it’s worth reviewing how Obamacare was passed. First the House passed a bill in late 2009. Then the Senate passed a somewhat different bill, and what got the most attention at the time was its removal of the public option. Immediately numerous House members began voicing objections to the Senate bill. Kucinich complained that it wasn’t progressive enough. A bloc of pro-life Democrats, led by Michigan’s Bart Stupak (called “Bart Stupid” on a lot of blogs at the time), opposed the bill on the grounds that it could be used for abortion, even though the Senate bill had already cut a deal with its pro-lifers such as Ben Nelson.

    The original plan was to send the bill to the conference committee where they could make deals with the remaining holdouts in the House; then they’d put the finished product to a new vote in the House and Senate. But then Scott Brown scored his surprise win in the special election to fill Ted Kennedy’s seat in Massachusetts, suddenly depriving the Dems of their 60-vote supermajority for overcoming a Republican filibuster. That meant that the House had to pass the Senate bill unchanged–or Obamacare was dead.

    And for the next several weeks, the latter was the prime narrative in the media. (Fred Barnes of The Weekly Standard memorably declared, “The health care bill, ObamaCare, is dead with not the slightest prospect of resurrection.”) But then the Senate passed a new reconciliation bill (not subject to a filibuster), containing a few tweaks to the main bill, to meet most of the objections of the House holdouts. The problem was that under the rules of reconciliation, they couldn’t do much about a regulatory issue such as abortion. So Obama issued an executive order declaring that federal funds couldn’t be used for abortion, even though that was already the law of the land under the Hyde Amendment. The response from the Stupak bloc? They voted for the bill, and Obamacare passed by the narrowest of margins.

    Stupak declined to run for reelection that year, and his seat was won by a Republican.

    There is temptation to believe that Dems can regain a majority without having to deal with nonsense such as this again. It is probably wishful thinking. The 2010 midterms purged the Democratic Party of much of its moderate/conservative wing, for the simple reason that they tended to occupy seats in reddish districts. If Dems wish to regain their majority, they will not get very far sending Bernie clones to places like Tennessee.

    In some ways, I’m not even sure where the disagreement is here. Even to this day there are prominent pro-lifers in the party. There is Senator Bob Casey Jr., whose father lent his name to one of the biggest judicial challenges to Roe, 1992’s Planned Parenthood vs. Casey (which succeeded in placing some limits on the original decision) but who in other respects was a fairly conventional liberal. There is Harry Reid, the party’s last Senate Majority Leader. There is John Bel Edwards, the recently elected governor of Louisiana.

    @wr talks about “emphasis,” but what does that really amount to, in practice? Does it mean having the national party refuse to lend support to any pro-life candidates who defend their position on the campaign trail? Does it mean not boasting about being a “big tent party” but not altering their official policies? I’d like specifics here.

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