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Rewriting the Rules of Presidential Succession

By Norm Ornstein

American politics is deep into the theater of the absurd—but unfortunately, it is a deadly absurdity, like being in a horror funhouse where the creatures leaping out at you have real knives and chainsaws. Americans now have to face at least the possibility, a tangible one, that the election itself was subverted by a hostile foreign power in league with the winning presidential campaign, with implications all the way down the ballot.

What to do if that proves to be the case? It is a question I have been asked a lot; my stock answer begins with, “The Constitution does not have a do-over clause.” But I am now rethinking the response: Maybe it needs a do-over clause. And it does not have to require a constitutional amendment.

From the day after the 9/11 catastrophe, I threw myself into creating a set of safety nets for the constitutional system, ensuring that the United States would have a rapid, orderly, and legitimate set of ways to ensure the continuity of government in the event of a terror attack that could decapitate one or more of its three branches. It started with Congress, and the need to have emergency interim appointments if an attack dropped either or both of its houses below the constitutionally mandated quorum of half the membership to do any business, until reasonable, deliberative elections could be held to fill vacancies.

But the Continuity of Government Commission that Tom Mann and I worked to create also focused on presidential succession. Unlike Congress, this did not require a constitutional amendment, but could be done legislatively. It was clear to us that there were real problems in the Presidential Succession Act of 1947. It was enacted at the urging of President Harry Truman, when, in the dangerous environment just after the war, he …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Can Religious Charities Take the Place of the Welfare State?

By Emma Green

President Trump’s initial budget proposal would end aid for poor families to pay their heating bills, defund after-school programs at public schools, and make fewer grants available to college students. Community block grants that provide disaster relief, aid neighborhoods affected by foreclosure, and help rural communities access water, sewer systems, and safe housing would be eliminated. Mick Mulvaney, the director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, suggested recently that even small amounts of federal funding for programs like Meals on Wheels, which delivers food to house-bound seniors, may not be justified.

With billions of dollars worth of cuts to federal social services likely ahead, the wars of religion have begun. Bible verses about poverty have suddenly become popular on Twitter, with Republicans and Democrats each claiming to better know how Jesus would think about entitlement spending. While conservatives tend to bring religion into public-policy conversations more than liberals, the valence is often switched when it comes to the budget: Liberals eagerly quote the Sermon on the Mount in support of government spending, while conservatives bristle at the suggestion that good Christians would never want cuts.

But it’s more than posturing. If government steps back, religious organizations may need to step up. Much of the infrastructure and money involved in the charitable provision of social services is associated with religion, whether it’s a synagogue’s homeless-sheltering program or a large aid organization such as Catholic Relief Services. People like the Cato Institute’s Michael Tanner believe these private services could potentially be expanded even further. While some government programs should be scrapped altogether, he argued, “other programs may well be replaceable by private charity—either dollar-for-dollar, or more likely, they can be done more effectively and efficiently.”

I spoke with roughly a half dozen scholars from a variety …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Obamacare Isn’t Out of the Woods Yet

By Vann R. Newkirk II

At least for the moment, the American Health Care Act is dead.

After two weeks of last-minute changes, Congressional Budget Office estimates, and an escalating tripartite skirmish between two wings of the Republican Party and the Trump White House, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced late Friday afternoon that a floor vote on the GOP’s Obamacare replacement would be canceled and the legislation pulled. Facing a 17 percent national approval rating for the bill and loss of support from both the conservative Freedom Caucus and moderate Republicans, Trump and congressional lawmakers appear willing to walk away from health care for the moment. It’s a reprieve, at the very least, for Obamacare.

The Affordable Care Act’s supporters are celebrating, and it’s not hard to see why. The strategy of forcing Republicans to choose between keeping their repeal promises and keeping the most popular parts of the law looks like Sun Tzu wrote it at this point. For now, the projected consequences of the AHCA won’t come to pass: 24 million people won’t lose insurance coverage, premiums won’t quintuple for low-income near-elderly people, and Medicaid funding for states won’t be cut over the next decade. But even if the current congressional battle over repeal-and-replace is over—or temporarily postponed—Republicans still have plenty of tools at their disposal to dismantle key pieces of Obamacare.

The GOP backup plan, according to President Trump, has always been to “let [Obamacare] be a disaster,” and blame Democrats for its failings while moving on to other elements of the Republican policy agenda. Ryan seemed to agree on Friday, although not in as cynical terms, saying during a press conference that “the worst is yet to come with Obamacare.” He warned of its imminent collapse via a “death spiral.” There is, as of yet, no evidence that such …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Nobody Knew Governing Could Be So Complicated

By McKay Coppins

The Republican Party’s marquee legislative initiative had just imploded in spectacular, and humiliating, fashion Friday afternoon when Paul Ryan stepped up to a podium on Capitol Hill. The beleaguered house speaker wasted no time in diagnosing the failure of his caucus. “Moving from an opposition party to a governing party comes with some growing pains,” he said. “And, well, we’re feeling those growing pains today.”

Ryan wasn’t wrong. The GOP’s inability to maneuver a health-care bill through the House this week—after seven years of promising to repeal and replace Obamacare—is, indeed, emblematic of a deeper dysfunction that grips his party. But that dysfunction may not be as easy to cure as Ryan and other GOP leaders believe.

That’s because it has been nearly a decade since Washington Republicans were in the business of actual governance. Whether you view their actions as a dystopian descent into cynical obstructionism or a heroic crusade against a left-wing menace, the GOP spent the Obama years defining itself—deliberately, and thoroughly—in opposition to the last president. Rather than engage the Obama White House in a more traditional legislative process—trading favors, making deals, seeking out areas where their interests align—conservatives in Congress opted to boycott the bargaining table altogether. Meanwhile, they busied themselves with a high-minded (and largely theoretical) intra-party debate about what 21st-century conservatism should stand for. They spent their time dealing in abstract ideas, articulating lofty principles, reciting memorized quotes from the Founding Fathers.

In many ways, the strategy paid off: Republicans took back Congress, slowed the progress of an agenda they genuinely opposed, and ultimately seized control of the White House. But it also came at a cost for the GOP—their lawmakers forgot how to make laws.

Indeed, without any real expectation of their bills actually being enacted, the legislative process mutated into a platform for point-scoring, attention-getting, …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



It’s Never Trump’s Fault

By David A. Graham

Speaking in the Oval Office Friday afternoon, President Trump surveyed the wreckage of the Obamacare repeal effort and issued a crisp, definitive verdict: I didn’t do it.

The president said he didn’t blame Speaker Paul Ryan, though he had plenty of implied criticism for the speaker. “I like Speaker Ryan. He worked very hard,” Trump said, but he added: “I’m not going to speak badly about anybody within the Republican Party. Certainly there’s a big history. I really think Paul worked hard.” He added ruefully that the GOP could have taken up tax-reform first, instead of Obamacare—the reverse of Ryan’s desired sequence. “Now we’re going to go for tax reform, which I’ve always liked,” he said.

As for the House Freedom Caucus, the bloc of conservatives from which many of the apparent “no” votes on the Republican plan were to come, Trump said, “I’m not betrayed. They’re friends of mine. I’m disappointed because we could’ve had it. So I’m disappointed. I’m a little surprised, I could tell you.”

The greatest blame for the bill’s failure fell on Democrats, Trump said.

“This really would’ve worked out better if we could’ve had Democrat support. Remember we had no Democrat support,” Trump said. Later, he added, “But when you get no votes from the other side, meaning the Democrats, it’s really a difficult situation.”

He said Democrats should come up with their own bill. “I think the losers are Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, because they own Obamacare,” he said, referring to the House and Senate Democratic leaders. “They 100 percent own it.”

Trump was very clear about who was not to blame: himself. “I worked as a team player,” the president …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Killed Bill

By Elaine Godfrey

Today in 5 Lines

House Speaker Paul Ryan pulled the GOP’s new health-care bill, after meeting with President Trump to tell him that Republicans didn’t have the votes to pass it. During a news conference, Ryan said it is a “disappointing day” and that Republicans will now “move on with the rest of our agenda.” In an interview with The New York Times, Trump reportedly blamed Democrats for the bill’s failure, predicting they would want to make a deal after “Obamacare explodes.” Earlier in the day, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes walked back his claim that communications from Trump and his transition team were collected incidentally by U.S. intelligence. TransCanada, the company behind the Keystone XL pipeline project, said the Trump administration granted them permission to begin construction, reversing an Obama administration directive.

Today on The Atlantic

  • Michael Anton’s Influence: Under a pseudonym, Anton wrote a now-infamous essay last year on what he called the “Flight 93 election,” in which he made the case for Donald Trump. Rosie Gray traces his rise from “relative obscurity” to running communications for the new administration’s National Security Council.

  • The Art of the (Political) Deal: If Trump lost in a business deal when he was operating in the private sector, he could recover from it. He’d lose money, writes David A. Graham, but “his reputation as a business mogul [would remain] unscathed outside of actual business circles.” The president may have a different experience now that Congress failed to pass its health-care bill.

  • Scared Away: The Trump administration’s harsh stance on immigration has sparked a “climate of fear” among immigrant communities throughout the country, Annie Lowrey writes. Now, a number of social-service organizations have reported a decline in program enrollment among legally eligible families.

Follow stories throughout the …read more

Via:: <a href= class="colorbox" title="The Atlantic Politics & Policy Daily: Killed Bill” rel=nofollow>The Atlantic



Who Will Republican Voters Blame for the Failure of the GOP Health-Care Bill?

By Clare Foran

After House Speaker Paul Ryan reportedly told President Trump that Republicans lacked enough votes to pass the GOP health care bill, Republicans canceled a vote on the American Health Care Act on Friday, putting the president’s promise to repeal and replace Obamacare in jeopardy.

It’s the first major setback to the president’s agenda in Congress, but Republican voters are likely to hold Republican congressional leaders, rather than the president, responsible.

Ahead of the vote, Trump said Ryan should keep his job as House speaker even if the vote was unsuccessful. The president also told Robert Costa of The Washington Post that he doesn’t “blame Paul,” in the immediate aftermath of the news that the vote had been canceled. But the White House has reportedly been gearing up to point the finger at Ryan if anything went wrong. “Behind the scenes, the president’s aides are planning to blame Ryan if there is an embarrassing defeat on a bill that has been a Republican goal for more than seven years,” Bloomberg reported earlier in the day, citing an unnamed administration official.

And if Trump and Ryan clash as a result of the outcome, Republican voters may side with the president. In February, the Pew Research Center found that a majority of Republican voters were more likely to trust Trump than Republican congressional leaders in the event of a dispute. The survey also reported that Republican voters had a far more favorable view of Trump than they did of Ryan or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. An overwhelming majority of Republican voters—at 86 percent—had a favorable view of Trump, compared to just 65 percent who held a favorable view of Ryan and just 57 percent who felt warmly toward McConnell. That suggests that Republican congressional leaders could face …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



The Republican Waterloo

By David Frum

Seven years and three days ago, the House of Representatives grumblingly voted to approve the Senate’s version of the Affordable Care Act. Democrats in the House were displeased by many of the changes introduced by Senate Democrats. But in the interval after Senate passage, the Republicans had gained a 41st seat in the Senate. Any further tinkering with the law could trigger a Republican filibuster. Rather than lose the whole thing, the House swallowed hard and accepted a bill that liberals regarded as a giveaway to insurance companies and other interest groups. The finished law proceeded to President Obama for signature on March 23, 2010.

A few minutes after the House vote, I wrote a short blog post for the website I edited in those days. The site had been founded early in 2009 to argue for a more modern and more moderate form of Republicanism. The timing could not have been worse. At precisely the moment we were urging the GOP to march in one direction, the great mass of conservatives and Republicans had turned on the double in the other, toward an ever more wild and even paranoid extremism. Those were the days of Glenn Beck’s 5 o’clock Fox News conspiracy rants, of Sarah Palin’s “death panels,” of Orly Taitz and her fellow Birthers, of Tea Party rallies at which men openly brandished assault rifles.

The conservative establishment in Washington caught the same fever that then raged among conservatives across the country. At that time, I worked at the American Enterprise Institute, the most high-toned of Washington’s conservative think tanks. In later years, AEI would provide a home for the emerging “reform conservative” tendency. Its president, Arthur Brooks, would speak eloquently of the need for conservatives to show concern for the poor and the hard-pressed working class. But all …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



‘Trump Hasn’t Been the Wrecking Ball I Anticipated’

By Chris Bodenner

In the wake of the shocking results of November’s election, readers in Notes had a robust discussion titled, “Will Trump Voters and Clinton Voters Ever Relate?” One of the most revealing and contentious entries came from a Trump supporter who “voted for the middle finger, the wrecking ball.” He began by countering some common stereotypes about Trump voters:

I have a Masters degree. My kids go to public school with kids of all races, colors, and creeds. Our neighborhood has immigrant families, mixed-race families, minorities, and same-sex couples. Our sports teams are multi-cultural, diverse, and play beautifully together, on and off the field. I have neither the time, energy, or room in my heart for hatred, bigotry, or racism.

His was a protest vote:

I am tired of the machine rolling over us—all of us. The Clinton machine, the Republican machine, the big media, investment banking, hedge fund carrying interest, corporatist, lobbying, influence peddling, getting elected and immediately begin fundraising for the next election machine—they can all kiss my ass.

Maybe Trump won’t do a thing to change or fix any of it. Hillary definitely would not have changed any of it.

Many readers disagreed here. Another one, Susan, emailed this week asking, “Could we have an update from the guy who ‘voted for the middle finger, the wrecking ball’? I’d be very interested to know what he thinks of the first two months of President Trump.”

I actually wondered the same thing in early February, when I emailed the wrecking ball reader to see if his views on Trump has shifted during the presidential transition and his first few weeks in office. Here’s the reader’s verdict on February 9 (followed by a reply to Susan’s request):

It’s too early to tell, really—kind of like calling the Falcons to win after their first …read more

Via:: The Atlantic



Steven Mnuchin Wants You to See The LEGO Batman Movie

By Jeremy Venook

Before his confirmation, the most controversial part of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s past was his role running a bank that critics dubbed a “foreclosure machine” at the height of the financial crisis. But it’s his role as the executive producer on The LEGO Batman Movie that is landing him in his first dustup.

At an event held by the online news outlet Axios, Mnuchin was asked about the many movies on which he has served as a producer. Mnuchin at first hedged: “Well, I’m not allowed to promote anything that I’m involved in. So I just want to have the legal disclosure that you’ve asked me the question and I am not promoting any product,” he said, seemingly referring to a federal rule that “An employee shall not use his public office for his own private gain, [or] for the endorsement of any product, service or enterprise.”

“But you should send all your kids to LEGO Batman,” he continued.

Critics immediately cried foul. Mnuchin, they said, was violating the very rule that he had just apparently acknowledged. “In my view, the Secretary is using his public office for private gain in violation of” the rule, Norm Eisen, who served as an ethics lawyer for the Obama administration, said via email. “There can be little doubt that [Mnuchin] was invited to speak because of his position, and about issues related to it.” At the time of this writing, the White House has not yet responded to a request for comment on Mnuchin’s interview.

Eisen sees Mnuchin’s statement as part of a series of similar ethical lapses on the part of the Trump administration. “He is promoting a product, just as Conway promoted Ivanka’s brand and was found to have violated the rules,” Eisen continued, invoking the controversial incident in …read more

Via:: <a href= class="colorbox" title="Steven Mnuchin Wants You to See The LEGO Batman Movie” rel=nofollow>The Atlantic


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