U.S. Rep. Markwayne Mullin waded into the “Duck Dynasty” controversy on Thursday with a public statement in support of the television program’s Phil Robertson.
“America is currently witnessing a contradiction in its core principles,” the Oklahoma Republican said in a news release. “The fundamentals that founded our great nation included the freedom of speech and religion. Unfortunately a man who simply voiced his religious belief, which is protected by our constitution, is now being punished.
“The Robertson family is standing up for what they believe,” Mullin continued, “and our fundamental, core principles of this nation clearly protect them. I support their rights and their view of traditional marriage that is between a man and a woman.”
For the first time since they took back the House in 2010, a strong majority of Republicans have rejected the political absolutism encouraged by the professional right that mired Congress in gridlock for years and culminated in a government shutdown this fall.
Speaker John Boehner could barely contain his glee as he knocked the outsiders for the second time in two days on Thursday afternoon.“Frankly I think they’re misleading their followers, I think they’re pushing our members in places where they don’t want to be, and frankly, I just think that they’ve lost all credibility,” Boehner said during his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill.
The groups — usually glad to cause a ruckus — have hardly responded, even when the writing was on the wall Wednesday.
While conservative leaders signed a group statement on Wednesday condemning the Hill activity, there is little evidence that they are prepared this time to execute the kind of concrete steps they have during other big debates.
The most they could muster Thursday was the release a photo of a Republican Study Committee staffer, Paul Teller, who was ousted Wednesday for allegedly dealing with the conservative groups. They labeled him a true conservative and used “#TeamTeller” on social media.
But unlike during the government shutdown of October, groups didn’t organize a flood of phone calls to urge lawmakers to vote against the budget. It ended up passing without a peep, even though some outside groups urged lawmakers to vote against it.
House Republicans have downplayed how tethered they are to outside GOP groups – whose coffers are filled to the brim with conservative cash.
“There’s a lot of frustration out there and it boiled over yesterday, and I’m hoping people will understand that we all are in this together and we have to figure out how to move forward and govern while representing our principles,” Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) said.
Unlike the past, Republicans are criticizing these groups in broad stroke — they’re calling them out for specific misstatements. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas), who chairs the House Rules Committee, said some conservative figures were spreading rumors that this budget deal would provide a pathway to complete a comprehensive immigration reform, or enact strict gun control.
“Every single member wants to be able to effectively communicate with their people that are back home or groups that they are interested in about what the real bills are about,” Sessions said Thursday. “It frustrates people when theoretically they are on your same team.”
Congressman Tom Cole offered the following remarks today on the House Floor in support of H.J. Res. 59, the Bipartisan Budget Act FY 2014.
I rise today in support of the rule and the underlying legislation, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013. I had the privilege of sitting as one of the budget conferees, and it was an interesting process but a productive one.
This is the first time, in a long time, we’ve had a genuine compromise in this body and frankly, between this body and the Administration and between this body and the other chamber.
I particularly want to praise Chairman Ryan and Chairman Murray, who worked together in good faith and worked together well. Neither one of whom violated their core principles but both of whom came together and did some pretty extraordinary things in what is a modest bill.
First of all, they actually added to deficit reduction over the [10-year] window. Literally, we will have a somewhat smaller deficit and debt because of what they did than if we keep the current situation.
Secondly, they did something we all know needs to be done: they dealt, a little bit, with mandatory spending and redistributed those savings over to the discretionary side of the budget. It’s because they were able to do that that we’re probably going to be able to protect our military from what would have been really devastating cuts under sequester. That’s a pretty amazing achievement.
But the achievement to me that is most impressive of all is that they managed to find a compromise that will restore regular order. We all know if this legislation passes, the appropriators from the Senate and the appropriators from the House will be working over the holidays, we’ll probably come back and have an omnibus or some series of minibuses. But we will actually have had a somewhat normal appropriations process. And even more importantly, because they’ve set a topline number for Fiscal Year 2015, we can have regular order work in this chamber all year next year. And we will be spared the prospect of a government shutdown in January.
Those are exceptional achievements. I wish it would’ve been more and different. I know I would’ve written it differently; I know my friend would’ve, I know my friends on the other side would’ve.
But we ought to take a step back and thank Chairman Ryan and thank Chairman Murray for what they did to restore the institution, as much as what they did to try and work on the budget. They did it the right way. They did it together. It’s an example we ought to follow.
So I urge the passage of this rule and the support and passage of the underlying legislation.
Seven tea party challengers are running against Republican incumbents in next year’s Senate primaries, and it’s entirely possible that every last one of them will lose.
But it doesn’t really matter: The tea party has already won.
Though the movement’s candidates are underdogs in most of the 2014 contests against the Republican establishment, the mere fear of conservative challengers has the grassroots chalking up victory after victory on Capitol Hill.
The tea party shut down the government over Obamacare, put immigration reform on life support, and is holding the farm bill hostage over food stamps. Hard-liners long ago torpedoed hopes of a “grand bargain” over the budget and debt limit. And in a sign that budget compromise with Democrats continues to be verboten, conservative groups from Heritage Action to FreedomWorks were rejecting a deal between Democratic Sen. Patty Murray and Republican Rep. Paul Ryan Tuesday — before it was even announced.
So even if Republicans facing primary challengers from the right are not in real danger, their rivals will keep bringing the heat, scrambling the potential for deals by a Congress already making history for doing so little.
“The tea party has racked up important victories electorally but also ideologically, and that pressure on establishment Republicans will continue,” said James Hartman, a Louisiana-based political consultant advising tea party-backed congressional candidate Rob Maness. “The compromises being blocked are absolutely favorable in terms of public policy. No, we don’t want tax increases. No, we don’t want Obamacare.”
The battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party expanded in the past week to include challenges against Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran and Texas Sen. John Cornyn, bringing the total of GOP senators facing primary opponents to seven. All of the incumbents are favored to beat their opponents. But that doesn’t mean they’re free to cut any deals across the aisle; doing so would be risky in a highly polarized political climate that sees compromise as betrayal.
“Members of Congress are risk averse, and if they can avoid getting attention from the bullies, they will,” said Republican consultant John Feehery, a former Capitol Hill staffer.
Former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, chairman of the board of the pro-immigration reform America Action Network, says he doesn’t see any Republican senators in jeopardy. But he acknowledged that what he called the “fringe of the tea party” will make it extremely difficult to reach agreements on a pathway to citizenship and other issues.
“Elements within the tea party are definitely pushing Republicans to the right really hard and pushing a purist approach,” he said. “If folks are saying ‘don’t compromise,’ that obviously makes it harder to find common ground.”
Some of the Republican insurgents, including House candidate Bryan Smith in Idaho and Senate candidates Chris McDaniel in Mississippi and Matt Bevin in Kentucky, were already calling on members to reject a budget deal to keep the government open after Jan. 15 — before the agreement was finalized. Their objection is that it would eliminate some of the spending cuts that were mandatory under the so-called sequester.
“The Ryan-Murray deal is a complete abdication of Washington’s governing responsibility,” said McDaniel, who announced his challenge to Cochran last week. This kind of incendiary rhetoric makes it harder for members to reach even a short-term agreement.
Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist called the sequester “the great accomplishment of the tea party movement” on Twitter – a sign, he said, that the tea party has succeeded in changing the culture in Washington and beyond.
“Earmarks were previously viewed as a sign of virility and power,” he added in an email. “They are now viewed as akin to shoplifting. That cultural shift in the GOP caucus is enduring.”
While conservative rivals will keep Republican incumbents on their heels, Brian Walsh, a former spokesman for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, said the primaries will ultimately strengthen the party.
“I think the lesson everyone drew the last two cycles is that Republican incumbents can’t take anything for granted,” he said. “To the extent that they win those primaries and fend off those attacks, the stronger the party will be in the future.”
The public’s approval rating for Congress has finally hit rock bottom: For the first time, America has a higher opinion of car salespeople.
A new Economist/YouGov.com poll put the approval rating of Congress at a historic low of 6 percent. A December 2012 Gallup poll comparing Congress’ approval ratings to other occupations had car salespeople at the bottom at 8 percent and Congress at 10 percent. Now Congress is the cellar dweller.
The nation’s bad opinion of Congress, impacted by inaction, budget fights and the battle over the filibuster, has also spread to Senate leaders. Just 19 percent approve of Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell while 54 percent disapprove. Democratic leader Sen. Harry Reid’s ratings are 52 percent unfavorable, 25 percent favorable.
“What Americans are sure about is how they feel about Congress in general. They don’t like it, and haven’t liked it for a while,” said the poll. “But Congress’s approval rating in this week’s Economist/YouGov Poll matches its all-time low. Just 6 percent approve of the way Congress is handling its job. 72 percent disapprove.”
“Only 10 percent of Democrats, 7 percent of Republicans, and 3 percent of independents approve of Congress.”
Senator Tom Coburn says he’s trying to decide if he’ll serve out his entire term in the Senate.
Fighting cancer again, Coburn made the revelation in an interview with The Oklahoman’s Chris Casteel:
Sen. Tom Coburn has beaten melanoma, colon cancer and prostate cancer. He is now in the midst of fighting prostate cancer again.
Last week, Coburn, R-Muskogee, kept up his usual hectic schedule on Capitol Hill and, in an interview in his office, he was as impassioned as ever on topics such as health care and the Senate’s operations.
Coburn, 65, a physician, was first elected to the Senate in 2004, and he limited himself to two terms. He won the second term in 2010 and has three more years of service.
He said he is giving a lot of thought to leaving early because of the recurrence of prostate cancer, but then said the decision ultimately would be dictated by whether he and his staff could still make a difference.
First District Rep. Jim Bridenstine stands on the balcony of the Rayburn House Office Building in Washington, D.C., shortly after his election in November 2012. A recent poll shows that 36 percent of Tulsans agree with his vote against ending the government shutdown. Tulsa World file
Randy Krehbiel Tulsa World
Responses to recent Oklahoma Poll questions concerning first-year 1st District Congressman Jim Bridenstine were probably not surprising.
Tulsa conservatives like Bridenstine.
Tulsa liberals, and to a certain extent moderates, do not.
Overall, 44 percent of those surveyed Nov. 1-5 by SoonerPoll said they approve of the job Bridenstine has done during his first 10 months in office.
Thirty-three percent disapproved, and 23 percent were neutral or had no response.
The survey included only voters in the city of Tulsa, which tends to be somewhat less conservative than the First District as a whole.
“I think highly of him,” said poll respondent Richard Freeman. “He started off good and he’s just going to improve as time goes along.”
“I have a low impression of him,” said Ruthie Ball. “I don’t like his views.”
Ball said Bridenstine is trying to do “things that make it more difficult for poor people.”
During his short time in Washington, Bridenstine has attracted attention for not being afraid to challenge party leadership. He was among a group of Republicans that forced a showdown on food assistance spending and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
The latter resulted in a 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government and a potential financial crisis.
Bridenstine and others blamed Democrats for refusing to back down, but national polls indicate public displeasure is mostly directed to Republicans.
The Oklahoma Poll produced similar results. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed, including one-third of Republicans, disapproved of Bridenstine’s vote against the final compromise bill that lifted the partial shutdown.
“I don’t think he handled it very well at all,” said David New. “It was kind of like, ‘to hell with the country, I want what I want.’ I feel like he represents a very, very small portion of the Republican party.”
But those who described themselves as “very conservative” hold Bridenstine in high regard. Nearly two-thirds of them approved of his vote on the temporary budget extension, known as a continuing resolution. More than 70 percent approved of his job performance overall.
Just 10 percent disapprove.
“I’m all for him,” said Tim Belford. “He represents a lot of my views I like him to get after stuff, stir things up up there.”
“He stands up for what’s right,” said David Embry. “When the emperor has no clothes, somebody’s got to tell him. I like the fact he’s against Obamacare. I like the fact he does what he thinks he needs to do to get the debt under control.”
People who described themselves as somewhat conservative were only slightly less supportive. Sixty percent approved of his overall job performance and 49 percent approved of his vote on the continuing resolution.
Bridenstine has argued it is President Obama and the Democratic leadership that has been unwilling to engage in meaningful negotiations.
Moderates and liberals don’t seem to be buying the argument.
Among those identifying as very or somewhat liberal, Bridenstine’s approval rating is below 20 percent, and more than half strongly disapprove.
New said he believes Bridenstine represents a “close-minded” segment of voters.
“I just feel like this is a time when we should work together,” New said. “You have to have some kind of dialogue, even if it’s your worst enemy.”