Today Is Failure Theater Day

We’re so naming it because today, the president finally secured the 34th commitment of a Senate Democrat to vote against the bill of disapproval of his Iran deal, meaning that even if the bill should pass there aren’t enough votes to override the president’s veto.

And that means that horrible, no-good, ridiculous Iran deal can’t be stopped in Congress.

The Iran deal is, for all intents and purposes, a treaty. The Senate could easily have deemed it as such, held a ratification vote and resoundingly beaten it, throwing the question into federal court where there is a reasonably decent shot that Obama wouldn’t be able to make the convenient fiction of alleging that the Iran deal isn’t a treaty stick.

But instead, we’re having a disapproval vote that Obama can veto. Meaning the GOP has to carry the burden of legislative success on this deal and Obama does not. Which is an insane circumstance, and one we can thank Mitch McConnell and Bob Corker, who passed an idiotic bill subjecting the deal to a disapproval vote rather than simply waiting and deeming it a treaty, for.

Corker’s moronic bill – and it’s worth noting that for some reason he had a great deal of support for it within the Senate’s GOP caucus, including from some of the good guys (Ted Cruz included, for some strange reason) – lowered the bar for approval of this deal and helped cause to flower the term “failure theater” to describe Republican flaccidity in the face of Obama’s insatiable usurpations of power.

Now that we know the Corker bill put us in a position to watch one of the worst diplomatic disasters ever to grace the international stage become U.S. policy, it’s worth just making a day of it. Failure Theater Day has a nice ring to it, anyway.

After all, we’re giving Iran, the world’s worst sponsor of international jihad, $150 billion to do with what they will and we’re going to allow them to do their own weapons inspections while their leaders continue chanting “Death To America.” That anyone would support this deal is unfathomable, much less an American president and Secretary of State and 34 members of the Senate. And yet this GOP majority we put in place last November can’t even stop it.

Yesterday, I had a sitdown with Rep. Steve Scalise, the House majority whip. The conversation we had wasn’t on the record, so I’ll only paraphrase it, but it’s safe to say that Scalise isn’t happy with McConnell and the Senate’s inability to use their majority to generate any value to their voters. After all, the House has passed 12 separate appropriations bills, each of which contains material forcing some tough choices on Obama. Not a single one of those bills is likely going to Obama’s desk, because the Democrats have filibustered every one. McConnell, who inherited the Senate from Harry Reid, the killer of the filibuster where judicial nominees are concerned, refuses to kill it for appropriations bills even though the budget rules indicate 51 votes is enough to get a reconciliation bill passed in the Senate. He could easily state that Senate rules on filibusters no longer apply to appropriations bills, and then there would be the ability to put Obama to the question on several of those appropriations bills without the entire federal government at risk of a shutdown.

And because of that fact, McConnell has us hurtling toward another year of funding the government through a continuing resolution containing the whole budget, meaning that there is no prospect of one agency being in a shutdown while the parties fight over a high stakes issue like Planned Parenthood funding while the others are unaffected. Instead, we’ll either have a full shutdown or Obama gets everything he wants. Just like in 2013.

Scalise was trying to put as brave a face on this mess as possible, and he did hold out the prospect of perhaps getting a bill passed that would allow oil exports – something that could help Louisiana’s economy to an extent – because so far there is no indication Obama cares about that issue. He also said he thinks there is a good chance of passing the Raines Act, which is a bill requiring every federal regulation with an economic impact to pass Congressional muster, through both the House and Senate (and naturally having it die on Obama’s desk, but that’s at least a victory forcing a veto of what would be a very popular bill). But he also didn’t attempt to mask the fact that without a new president the victories will be meager and few.

He’s in a rather tough position as the majority whip, particularly being the only actual demonstrable conservative in the House GOP leadership. Scalise joined the leadership in an effort to move it to the right, but unfortunately what’s been more apparent is that his position in the leadership has instead damaged his image as a conservative. House Speaker John Boehner calling Ted Cruz a “jackass” last week won’t help, though that stupid statement probably helps Cruz given Boehner’s lack of popularity.

And his tale is not a happy one, because conservative voters who did what was necessary to create GOP majorities in both houses really don’t want to hear that there will be no deliverables as a result of the 2014 midterm wipeouts. Scalise agreed that Donald Trump has become the frontrunner in the presidential race because of the inability to beat Obama in Congress, but he wasn’t going to lie and say there was any ability to do anything about it given the state of the Senate and the refusal of Obama to bargain in good faith.

So it’s a waiting game in DC, while the country burns.

Scalise is somebody I like, and people who get to know him usually do like him. But I told him half of me wants Boehner out of the House Speaker’s job so badly I’m willing to sacrifice him as the whip just to bring in some leadership willing to fight, and he didn’t begrudge me that.

I also told him this, which as disgusted as I am with Failure Theater I have to admit is true. Namely, that for all the faults of Boehner and McConnell and our understandable frustration and irritation with the lack of success in Congress, we are judging the GOP’s performance there on a standard no one else has had to meet in the history of the country. Never before has there been a president so completely divorced from the consensual give-and-take of the legislative process, never has there been a president so willing to govern by executive fiat and never before have we seen such blatant violations of the constitutional limits of power. Previous presidents have been accused of pursuing dictatorial ambitions, but this one is further along in that respect than ever in American history.

And we are asking our congressional leadership to effectively roll back these abuses – something which cannot be done without a sizable degree of sacrifice. Without question, Boehner and particularly McConnell aren’t up to the kind of sacrifices – our Founding Fathers pledged their lives, fortunes and sacred honors to the cause of constitutional governance, after all, and these guys aren’t even willing to put their political prestige at risk for it – necessary during this time. And for that we’re entitled to be disappointed. But how many previous leaders would measure up to a challenge this daunting?

Scalise, whatever his faults, is right about one thing: when Obama is gone things will be better. Failure Theater, or passive inaction, is all we can hope for while he occupies the White House.



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