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Declares ‘Mistrial’

DeMint’s New Obamacare Stunt

Fresh off a humiliating shutdown defeat, the Heritage chief says Americans didn’t really OK the Affordable Care Act—as though the 2012 elections never happened. By Jamelle Bouie.

This was supposed to be Jim DeMint’s moment. As head of the Heritage Foundation, chief sponsor of Heritage Action, and founder of the Senate Conservatives Fund, he had positioned himself as the Lex Luthor of American politics, a schemer who—with the help of like-minded ideologues like Texas Senator Ted Cruz—had whipped conservatives into a frenzy. With their control of the House of Representatives, and the debt ceiling and the continuing resolution, they would defund the Affordable Care Act, and land a mortal blow to the legacy of Barack Obama.

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Former Senator Jim DeMint speaks to attendees during the Heritage Foundation Defund Obamacare Tour at the Cool Springs Marriott in Franklin, Tenn. on Thursday, August 22, 2013. (Luke Sharrett/Getty)

Strategic recklessness aside, the chief problem with the plan was that it needed a weak, feckless opposition. But Obama and the Democrats wouldn’t oblige. They held their ground, and when it became clear they would make no concessions, the scheme fell apart.

But rather than concede and move on, DeMint has redoubled his efforts to dislodge the president’s health-care law. To wit, in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, he announced he will “continue to fight” to “protect the American people from the harmful effects of the law.”

Irrational Shutdown

Talk Radio Vs. Democracy

The government ground to a halt because extremists wanted Congress to perform miracles—and Mark Levin, who demanded that conservative Sen. Ron Johnson come up with a ‘strategy,’ is an excellent example, says talk radio personality Pete Dominick.

If you want to know what led to the government shutdown, all you need to do is listen to the argument between the popular conservative radio host Mark Levin and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI). Johnson, one of the most conservative senators in the country, was elected in the 2010 Tea Party wave. Since the beginning of the shutdown crisis, I and many others have argued that the issue is between moderate and extreme Republicans, not Republicans and Democrats. The Levin-Johnson argument demonstrates that point perfectly.

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Getty

At the height of the shutdown crisis, Levin demanded that Johnson come up with a “strategy” to defund Obamacare and accomplish everything Levin, his listeners, and supporters want. That’s just plain silly. It’s not possible. The strategy Levin supports is great for ratings but terrible for the country and the Republican Party.

Please understand: Johnson is a really, really, really conservative guy. Like, way out there on the right. He says, believes, and votes in a very conservative way. He voted against the Employment Non Discrimination Act. He has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association. He doesn’t believe abortion should be legal. He believes marriage should be only between consenting adults with opposing reproductive organs. He doesn’t trust scientists on climate change. He even voted against a bill to benefit the disabled and supported by former Republican leader and World War II veteran Bob Dole. In front of Dole! On the Senate floor! I looked hard to find Johnson saying or voting for anything a liberal American would agree with and came up empty.

The Morning After

5 Facts About the Debt Deal

After 16 days of gridlock, Congress finally settled on a deal to end the government shutdown and avoid a default on the national debt. Here are the five things you need to know about the bill

It was touch and go there for a while but Congress has finally done it! At the eleventh hour a budget deal was passed to end the government shutdown and avoid default before the October 17 debt ceiling deadline. Granted, not everyone was on board. Rep. Paul Ryan and Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz defiantly—though ultimately symbolically—opposed the bill that President Obama signed eagerly with the promise of reopening the government “immediately.” So what else is in this stop-gap legislation?

National Park Worker Removes a Closed Sign

A National Park worker removes a closed sign at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial after it was re-opened to the public in Washington on October 17, 2013. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

The Government Shutdown is Over

The Republican strategy of obstruction collapsed in a late deal that averted default and re-opened the government. Ben Jacobs reports on how the party surrendered.

The government shutdown did not end with a bang or even a whimper. Instead, it ended with a stenographer screaming about the freemasons.

After the Senate approved the Reid-McConnell deal by a vote of 81-18, the bill to reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling quickly moved over to the House, skipping all procedural hurdles as it raced towards approval. It was finally passed by a vote of 285-144, with every Democrat voting in favor but more than 60% of House Republicans still opposed.

An assessment of how other countries reported on the U.S. government shutdown.

The final approval of the bill was punctuated by a House stenographer who, as the vote was winding down, ascended the podium and started shouting. The stenographer, who has been identified by other outlets as Dianne Reidy, "had kind of a crazed look" in her eyes according to Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX).  The microphones in the chamber were off during the vote so that what she was saying was unintelligible on the floor. However, after she was escorted out of the House chamber by several staffers, she shouted: "He will not be mocked!" referring, presumably, to God. She went on to proclaim that the United States "was not one nation under God, had it been, the Constitution would not have been written by freemasons. They go against God. You cannot serve two masters. Praise be to God. Lord Jesus Christ."

Her outburst visibly disturbed a number of members and staffers, including House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), both of whom ran out of the chamber after her.

Word Games

How to Survive the Shutdown

The government shutdown has reached such absurd levels that a whole new vocabulary is needed to talk about it. Liesl Schillinger to the rescue with a bevy of words that might help you make sense of it all.

What do you call a long-winded member of Congress whose opinions infuriate you? Ambrose Bierce, a century ago, in his Devil’s Dictionary called such a blowhard a “harangue-outang.” If Congress is controlled by harangue-outangs, can the country prosper?  Bierce would have called such a prospect “incompossible.” 

Given the intractable problems between today’s Republicans and Democrats in Congress, it’s a pity there isn’t a fresher lexicon than Bierce’s to describe the ills of contemporary politics. Oh wait…hold on, there is! In Wordbirds: An Irreverent Lexico for the 21st Century, my illustrated (by Elizabeth Zechel) dictionary for the new millennium, I’ve coined a collection of 200 new words that diagnose the zeitgeist and its afflictions. These multi-purpose definitions emerged over the last three years, as the Tea Party has steeped Congressional discourse into a bitter brew.

Let these eight Wordbirds-for-the-Shutdown serve as a linguistic life raft to float you to safe harbor.

Conservachism

Courtesy Simon & Schuster

C’Mon

What About the Sequester?

Today’s deal does nothing to address the deep military cuts enacted earlier this year. Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta rails against the ‘self-inflicted wound.’

The deal struck by Senate leaders is just one more example of America being governed by crisis, not leadership, and fails to address the serious negative impacts of the sequestration policy, according to former Defense secretary and Congressional budget committee chairman Leon Panetta.

The shutdown according to everyone else.

The deal, which could end the government shutdown but also cements the cuts to the Defense Department under the sequestration policy, is a positive but incomplete step toward ending a “shameful and tragic period in our American history,” Panetta said Wednesday at a press conference organized by the nonpartisan advocacy group Fix the Debt. But now, the administration and senate leaders must push for a budget conference that works towards undoing sequestration, he said, or America could face a period of national decline.

“The fundamental challenge that faced [Senate leaders] was to do what’s necessary to end the government shutdown and to extend the debt limit…A fight could have been done on sequester,” Panetta said. “They made a choice. My hope is that once you get into a budget conference and once you get into the bigger issues…that the decisions you make will not only help in terms of debt reduction an putting this country on the right path towards ending the deficit, but also will end sequester.”

OUCH

The Cost of Dysfunction

The current battle over the budget and debt ceiling may be coming to an end. But we shouldn’t discount the long-term economic costs of brinksmanship.

The budget and debt end games are still playing themselves out on Capitol Hill; and judging by its current behavior, Congress has developed the political equivalent of a brain tumor.  A toxic byproduct of an ongoing power struggle inside the Republican Party, the cancer has caused incapacitating seizures that have virtually crippled the national government’s capacity to take care of the most elemental aspects of governance. Even if House Republicans finally agree today or tomorrow to fund the government and raise the debt limit, the tumor they have spawned will continue to damage our economy -- and the longer term prognosis is not encouraging. 

Speaker of the House John Boehner

Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, addresses reporters at a news conference in the U.S. Capitol about the deal to reopen the government and avert the debt ceiling crisis on October 15, 2013. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call, via Getty )

The current fight will not diminish the education and skills of American workers, or erode the technological and organizational assets of the businesses they work for. The rash demands of the radical right also won’t lessen the competitive pressures that drive our businesses to develop new goods and services, and to adopt the innovations of others.  And whatever Congress does this week, the United States will remain the world’s largest market.  The catch, however, is that all of these strengths also depend on steady streams of low-cost capital, which the House GOP has now put at risk. 

For nearly 70 years, the United States has been the world’s number one place to invest and lend to. The economic reason is straight-forward– with considerable consistency, American businesses generate stronger returns than their counterparts in other advanced economies. But  another factor is at play here as well, one especially important to foreign lenders and investors – namely, confidence that the United States will preserve and maintain the political conditions required to protect those healthy returns. 

GOP Struggle

Ghosts of the Confederacy

Republicans have let their Tea Party minority take over, and now they’re suffering the consequences—ugly racism and confederate flag-waving that may damage the party further after the shutdown and debt debacle is over, says Eleanor Clift.

You reap what you sow, and Republicans are paying the price for elevating a minority within their party. It is democracy run amok when the country teeters on the edge of default because of a small number of Tea Party anti-government absolutists, some 30 to 40 by most counts, plus another 70 sympathizers, and most of the remaining half of the House Republican caucus too scared to speak out. The standoff coming to a head feels like an existential struggle, and that’s an invitation to the most aggrieved fringe of the GOP to come out in full force.

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Michael Ashmore, of Hooks, Texas, leans against the White House fence with his confederate flag. He and other demonstrators have walked here after attending a rally at the WWII Memorial to protest its' closing on October, 13, 2013. (Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post, via Getty)

On Sunday, conservatives in town for the Values Voter Summit stormed the closed World War II memorial, tearing down the barricades and carrying them to the White House, where a protester gleefully posed for the cameras holding a confederate flag. Larry Klayman, a fringe player during the anti-Clinton mania of the ‘90s, told the crowd they were being “ruled by a president who bows down to Allah.” He urged President Obama “to put the Quran down” and come out of the White House with his hands down, or up. Klayman wasn’t quite sure which one.

Assertions about Obama somehow not being fully American have been a feature of the right wing for some time, but these protestations are growing more overt, and there’s nobody in charge on the Republican side to call a timeout or denounce the purveyors of hate. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who spoke at the Sunday rally along with Sarah Palin, another blast from the past, issued a statement condemning the media for being distracted by side issues. Over the weekend, Joe the Plumber, star of the 2008 Republican Convention, weighed in on Twitter: “America needs a white Republican president.” Samuel Wurzelbacher (his real name) followed up with another tweet, “Sorry MSM, I’m not a racist, I’m an American!”

Debt Chaos

Tea Party Donor Freakout

Business leaders warned about the dire consequences of default, but in some ways they got what they paid for—they overwhelmingly backed GOP congressional candidates in 2012, including Ted Cruz.

At the very moment that congressional negotiations over the debt ceiling broke down Tuesday, a group of business and economic experts were issuing a dire warning to Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA) and nine other Democratic members of the House Financial Services Committee about what will happen if Congress fails to raise the debt ceiling this week.

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Douglas Graham/Getty

“It would be a recovery killer,” said Scott Talbott, senior vice president of public policy at the Financial Services Roundtable. “Whatever recovery we’re experiencing now, it may be modest, slow, and we may be bouncing along the bottom, but at least we’re moving in the right direction. A default, a real default, would halt that and reverse it.”

James Chessen, chief economist for the American Bankers Association, told the panel, “If there is actually a default, that will send ripples through the economy that will not only affect the credibility of the United States but every business decision that is made here.”

The nearly half-decade movement to repeal and replace the medical device tax reached a crescendo on Tuesday.

Many House Republicans streaming out of their caucus on Tuesday expressed a guarded optimism about the newest proposal from Speaker John Boehner to avoid a default and to end the government shutdown. Their problem is that many is not enough for the proposal to pass.

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Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Boehner's proposal would reopen the government through mid-January and keep the government from hitting the debt ceiling until February 7. It would also include longer-term negotiations on the budget, limiting the ability of the Treasury to take “extraordinary measures” to avoid a default; a two-year delay in the medical devices tax that is part of Obamacare; and would deny health-care subsidies to government officials as a modified version of the Vitter Amendment.

Fall Awakening

Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

Sorry to be the pessimist, but even if Congress reopens the government and agrees on lifting the debt ceiling, we’re in for a rocky ride come the new year. Welcome to the year of the groundhog. By Daniel Gross

The budget wars are almost over! Long live the budget wars!

On Monday night the contours of a deal to defuse the ticking fiscal bomb emerged in the Senate. The government would reopen and stay funded through January, and the debt ceiling would be increased to get the nation through February. The Affordable Care Act would remain essentially intact. The two houses of Congress would agree to hold talks about long-term budget deficits. In other words – take two delays and agree to keep arguing over the same topics in the morning.

Tuesday, the House GOP reacted to the emerging deal by throwing its usual fit. But the histrionics in that caucus are simply a prelude to an ultimate cave. In the end, as he always does, Boehner will turn to Democrats and the minority of sane Republicans to pass a crisis-defusing deal. Whether a resolution comes today, Wednesday, or Thursday, it is likely to closely resemble the nascent Senate deal.


Get Ready

Bring On the Collapse!

A group called the Oath Keepers wants Americans to form armed “citizen preservation” teams before the coming societal breakdown. Caitlin Dickson talks to the movement's leader.

“We are flat running out of time and we need to get as prepared as possible as fast as possible.”

2nd Amendment Rally

Second Amendment Activists gathered at the foot of the Washington Monument in the nation's capital.. (Mark Peterson/Redux)

That’s the explanation Oath Keepers founder and president Stewart Rhodes offers at the end of a lengthy email to members of his patriot movement on why they’ve decided to “go operational.” Since its inception in 2009, the Oath Keepers have advocated arming and training civilians in order to protect themselves in times of crisis and fight back against unconstitutional acts by the government. But, according to Rhodes, the United States is on the fast track to economic ruin and Americans need to learn to protect themselves now because the government soon won’t be able to. That’s why the Oath Keepers are recruiting veterans, retired doctors, and EMTs to train “civilization preservation” teams in communities throughout the country.

“We think this is what Americans should do anyway, but now we see that we’re seriously in a vulnerable position because most Americans don’t,” Rhodes told The Daily Beast. “After Hurricane Katrina and Sandy, we saw Americans dependent on FEMA, on a government that can’t do anything. People have been desperate, vulnerable to crime and vulnerable to dying” in such emergency situations, he said.

Yipes

Panic Sets In

When the normally level-headed titans of high finance start to sell off in a frenzy, you know things are bad. Daniel Gross on the debt ceiling's newest freak out.

The Davos crowd – bankers, finance ministers, central bankers, large-asset managers – is generally not prone to panic. These are people who traffic in incremental change, who wear stiffer upper lips to match their bespoke suits, who avoid hyperbole the way they avoid flying coach.

Wall Street

Traders work on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange October 10, 2013. (Richard Drew/AP)

But as the U.S. government remains shut down for a third week, and as America careens toward the debt ceiling, this normally unflappable crowd is starting to sweat. It’s as if they haven’t been paying attention to the absurd pageant of brinksmanship that has been playing out in Washington over the last few years, and are only now waking up to the horror that one house of Congress – and hence a branch of government – is essentially controlled by a group of people who care not a whit for the prerogatives of global bondholders.

Fidelity Investments, among the largest, most-sober asset managers in the world, said it had sold the short-term government bonds held in its money-market mutual funds that were supposed to mature around the debt ceiling cut-off date. In theory, it sounds like a smart move. Who wants to be caught holding the bag if Republicans really decide not to raise the debt ceiling? And since investors tend to treat money-market funds like cash, it makes sense for funds to maintain maximum flexibility. In practice, though, perhaps it was not a particularly smart move. One way or another, the government will pay the interest and principal on the bonds in time. And should the government actually default on those bonds, the evasive maneuver won’t really count for much. The bonds sold account for only a small percentage of the company’s overall U.S. Treasury bond holdings, which are sprinkled liberally throughout other Fidelity mutual funds. And their value would surely plummet in the event of a default.

New Radicals

Can Big Biz Break the Right?

Forty years ago, business interests banded together to push back against the left—and succeeded brilliantly. But now the monster they created has turned on them, says Michael Tomasky.

Back in the early 1970s, corporate America got together and developed a plan of action to combat the takeover of America by what they saw as an unremittingly radical left. If we don’t act and get politically engaged, these corporate titans said, this country is going down the chute.

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Thomas "Tom" Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) CEO Summit in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. "We've reached the point to put politics aside and do the economics and for the president and the leaders of the House and Senate to get into the same room," Donohue said. (SeongJoon Cho/Bloomberg via Getty )

Forty years later, corporate America beholds the monster it created. And now, these same institutions need to step up and rein in an unremittingly radical right. Only they can stop this nonsense, and it will take an effort as concerted and well-organized as the one they undertook in the 70s.

Here’s what happened then. In the 1960s and early 70s, a good chunk of America’s corporate elite really did feel that the free-enterprise system was under threat. In 1971, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce asked Lewis Powell, then a corporate lawyer in Richmond who would soon be nominated to the Supreme Court by Richard Nixon, to tell them how to save America. The result was the famous Powell memo, which urged the Chamber to start fighting back to protect the system before it was too late in the following arenas: on college campuses; in the media; in the courts; at stockholder and shareholder meetings; and in the political realm.

Shutdown Scheme

Impeachment on the Cheap

Republicans have lost at the ballot box and the Supreme Court, so they’ve decided to nullify President Obama another way: keep his government from working, period.

The dance over the debt ceiling and the fight over the government shutdown are nothing less than impeachment on the cheap: a chance to negate the will of the majority by ostensibly placating the letter of the law. Unable to win the last two presidential elections or to persuade a Supreme Court majority that the Affordable Care Act was unconstitutional, House Republicans have arrived at a point where default and closure are the next best things. This combustible brew of race, class, and economic anxieties bubbles all too closely to the surface.

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The Jefferson Memorial is seen with its entry closed off in Washington October 1, 2013. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)

These days, the GOP comes across as hating Obamacare more than loving their countrymen, and the nation is returning that ire (PDF). Less than a quarter of Americans view the Republicans favorably, and a majority dislikes them, three-in-10 intensely. The GOP’s goal of recapturing the Senate in 2014 is now looking more like a dream than a reality, as Republicans are “forced to explain why they are not to blame and why Americans should trust them to govern both houses of Congress when the one they do run is in such disarray.” Indeed.

Unfortunately, the calamity of a potential default has tempered neither judgment nor passion. On Saturday, Ted Cruz—the man who lit the match, won the Values Voters Straw Poll with 42 percent of the vote. Channeling her inner Glenn Beck, Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) concluded that the President “committed impeachable offenses.” Bachmann also proclaimed that civil disobedience was a potential response to Obama’s “thuggery,” and compared the Obama presidency to Egypt’s deposed Muslim Brotherhood.

The Shutdown According to Everyone Else

The U.S. Government shutdown has ended and the debt ceiling crisis has been averted for now. Americans feel relieved, but how does the rest of the world feel about it?

inside the policymaking machine

Washington Bureau

Kate Upton Beats a Serial Cheater

In a given year, 4 percent of married people have extramarital affairs. Find out more stats about infidelity tied to the new comedy ‘The Other Woman,’ with Cameron Diaz and Kate Upton.

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