House Speaker John Boehner (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
At midnight tonight, the current funding resolution expires, and in the likely absence of compromise between the White House and congressional Republicans, we should expect a massive shutdown of government services.
Not that this comes as a surprise; since this Congress began, Republican radicals have kept a hold on the legislative process, demanding harsh cuts in a variety of social services, while refusing to compromise with Democrats on anything of substance. It was only a matter of time before right-wing House conservatives pulled the Republican Party into a game of budget brinkmanship, where cooperation is impossible, and the only acceptable outcome for Republicans is total victory.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at a news conference following two votes on tax cuts during a rare Saturday session of the U.S. Senate on Capitol Hill earlier this month (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
When Barack Obama took office two years ago, four far-reaching problems stood above all others he had to face: the free-falling economy, the war in Iraq, the health-care crisis, and the threat of global climate change. If he could make real progress on those four, his presidency could stand among those of Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Ronald Reagan as the most consequential of the last hundred years, no matter what else he did or didn't do.
Richard Romo hands in an employment questionnaire at a Maricopa County job fair. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Today, 800,000 people lost their unemployment-insurance benefits. Almost 2 million more will lose theirs in January if the government does nothing.
Unemployed people are losing their insurance because Congress can't agree on a plan to extend benefits for people who have been jobless for more than 26 weeks. That's six and a half months of unemployment, which may sound long, but consider that there are 2.9 million job openings for 14.9 million unemployed people -- one job opening for every five applicants.
For decades, libertarian Rep. Ron Paul has criticized the Federal Reserve Bank, putting him outside both parties: Democrats who hoped the central bank could manage sustainable growth and Republicans whose policy idol was conservative monetary economist Milton Friedman.
Now, when Congress reorganizes in January, Paul is likely to be placed in charge of the House panel that oversees the Federal Reserve, and his fellow Republicans, led by Rep. Paul Ryan, are mounting an extensive critique of the Fed's latest policy, even suggesting it's time to rewrite the institution's operating mandate. But Paul is still not exactly on the same page.
"I think they're missing the whole point," he says. "I don't want the Fed to have any power!"
In the days before the midterm election, President Obama makes a final get-out-the-vote push for Democratic candidates at Midway Plaisance Park in Chicago. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
In charting the last two years, from the euphoria of election night 2008 to the despair of election night 2010, I keep returning to Mario Cuomo's famous dictum that you campaign in poetry but govern in prose. The poetry of campaigning is lofty, gauzy, full of possibility, a world where problems are solved just because we want them to be and opposition melts away before us. The prose of governing is messy and maddening, full of compromises and half-victories that leave a sour taste in one's mouth.
Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel (White House/Pete Souza)
The dribble of leaks from the White House suggests Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel will soon announce his decision to run for mayor of his native Chicago. I'll spare you the anecdotes about his temper and his language, but Emanuel's larger-than-life personality has been reflected in his larger-than-usual impact on Washington. Emanuel has been deeply influential in national politics since taking over the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee in 2005; he was one of the chief executors of a hard-nosed strategy to lift his party after successive defeats in the first three national elections of the new century.
Rep. Anthony Weiner, D-NY. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
A fundraising e-mail blasted to a list of 1.2 million progressive activists a few days ago gets straight to the point: "Insider Democrats scored another epic fail."
The e-mail came from Democracy for America, the progressive group that emerged from Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign; it was triggered by Congress' failure to pass legislation to provide health-care benefits to people injured in the 9/11 attacks. Arshad Hasan, DFA's executive director, blamed Democrats for the bill's fate: "Democrats brought up the bill under special rules requiring two-thirds support to pass. So even though the bill had clear majority support, it still failed. … This isn't the sort of bold progressive leadership I fought for in 2006 and 2008."
William Lerach makes a point outside a federal courthouse in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
As members of Congress debated new laws for Wall Street last week, Rep. Maxine Waters of California offered an amendment. She wanted Congress to reverse a recent Supreme Court decision that removed liability from auditors and accountants who knowingly abetted financial fraud, making it harder for injured shareholders to hold responsible parties accountable.
Rep. Ed Royce, a Republican from California, rose in opposition to the amendment, referring to "bogus cases" brought by "the worst legal fraudsters" that result in "huge payouts by companies that then want to avoid litigation costs." He described how a lawyer who pioneered these lawsuits went to jail in 2008. Though he didn't mention a specific name, there was no mistaking to whom he was referring: William Lerach.
Glenn Beck, the self-pitying shock-jock of Fox News, has over the past year and a half become the master of a very old medium: the blackboard. Sometimes it's a whiteboard, sometimes a set of PowerPoint slides, but most often it's the classic school blackboard with chalk dust and erasers on which, with swirling and intersecting lines, photos and logos, he diagrams the great socialist conspiracy to take over the country. Various figures, often unknown to viewers, are revealed to be "the wizard" or "the mastermind" behind all or part of the little-understood socialist plan to take over America, a complex he now refers to as "Crime, Inc."
New York Mayor John V. Lindsay, March 3, 1966. (AP Photo)
In the familiar sad story of the decline of liberalism and the rise of the right in the 1970s, New York City deserves a particularly long chapter. The aphorism, "A conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged," originated in New York, where robberies rose 900 percent from 1964 to 1974. The first generation of neoconservatives, defined more by their cautious domestic policies than by global hawkishness, was bred in the experience of New York in the late 1960s.
DNC Chair Tim Kaine and President Barack Obama (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
The signs of an intraparty rift are easy to spot, and tensions are rising between a Democratic White House concerned with its own image and congressional allies facing their toughest election in years. A muted public (and political) reaction to the Democratic National Committee's big 2010 campaign roll-out was followed by public complaints from Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chair Chris Van Hollen.
Now, the establishment is taking notice: Flagship center-left think tank the Center for American Progress hosted an event Tuesday that echoed the concerns of the congressional wing of the party and its critiques of the president and his DNC chair, Tim Kaine.
D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Yesterday in Washington, D.C., the Peter G. Peterson Foundation convened the 2010 Fiscal Summit: America's Crisis and A Way Forward to, in its words, "launch a national bipartisan dialogue on America's fiscal challenges." Top billing as participants in the six-and-a-half-hour session on reducing long-term budget deficits went to former President Bill Clinton and then to the two men whom President Barack Obama appointed to chair the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, former Sen. Alan Simpson and former White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles.
Fabrice Tourre, Goldman Sachs executive director, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, April 27, 2010. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Sen. Jon Tester will tell you that he is just a simple Montana farmer. He's savvier than the image he presents, but nonetheless he played the role of the outraged populist well yesterday, joining Sens. Carl Levin of Michigan, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Tom Coburn of Oklahoma in interrogating four former and current Goldman Sachs employees. “It’s like we’re speaking a different language here," Tester marveled at one point.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, center, speaks during a press conference on the Nuclear Posture Review at the Pentagon April 6, 2010. (DoD/Chad J. McNeeley)
On Tuesday, the Department of Defense released the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), setting forth the government's position on the procurement and use of nuclear weapons. But unfortunately for the Obama administration, no one seemed particularly thrilled with it.