It is a long-established tradition: A collection of Beltway Elders releases a report lamenting the failure of “Washington” to tackle problems. A great deal of hand-wringing ensues. And then, everyone agrees that “Washington” is failing the American people. Meanwhile, individual lawmakers shrug, because when “Washington” gets blamed, it doesn’t necessarily harm them politically in the least.
Today, two new reports along these lines are getting released. And they neatly illustrate the real reason “Washington” is dysfunctional — even though many of the Beltway Elders behind them won’t say so openly.
The first of these, USA Today reports, will be released today by a bipartisan panel of former officials. It calls for a range of reforms to make the Senate more functional, from filibuster reform to allowing more votes on amendments. Luminaries like Trent Lott and Olympia Snowe lament our broken system and say it cannot continue.
The second of these, the New York Times reports, features a range of former officials from both parties lamenting what will happen if we don’t address climate change:
More than a million homes and businesses along the nation’s coasts could flood repeatedly before ultimately being destroyed. Entire states in the Southeast and the Corn Belt may lose much of their agriculture as farming shifts northward in a warming world. Heat and humidity will probably grow so intense that spending time outside will become physically dangerous, throwing industries like construction and tourism into turmoil.
That is the picture of what may happen to the United States economy in a world of unchecked global warming, according to a major new report being put forward Tuesday by a coalition of senior political and economic figures from the left, right and center, including three Treasury secretaries stretching back to the Nixon administration.
Here is a stark illustration of the basic problem here. While talk of Senate process reform is all to the good, there is bipartisan agreement about a major long term challenge facing the country, yet only one of the two parties is seriously trying to address it. Obama has rolled out new EPA regs designed to curb carbon emissions. The response from Republicans who refuse to entertain any solutions to climate change in Congress has been to attack Obama for going around Congress.
Let’s try a thought experiment. Take this series of solutions to many of the major challenges we face: 1) New EPA regs that fall short of the carbon reduction targets we need and give states implementation flexibility while making global climate talks more likely to succeed over the long term. 2) Immigration reform that combines increased border security (which Republicans want) with legalization (which Dems want). 3) A combination of short term job-creation stimulus with spending cuts and tax loophole closings to bring down the deficit.
Broadly speaking, Democrats have proposed variations of all of those things. Even if you quibble around the margins — by arguing, for instance, Dems have not proposed enough in spending cuts or long term debt reduction — it is still broadly true that Dems have offered multiple solutions to major challenges facing the country that require concessions by both sides. Broadly speaking, Republicans have said No to them. And yet, is there any doubt that Olympia Snowe and other former Republican officials who regularly wring their hands about generalized “polarization” and “Washington dysfunction” would support these general outlines of solutions?
* AMERICANS WANT TO STAY OUT OF IRAQ: A new New York Times/CBS poll finds Americans believe by 50-42 that the U.S. should have removed all troops from Iraq in 2011; that 57 percent say the U.S. doesn’t have the responsibility to stabilize the country now; and that Americans oppose sending in manned aircraft by 51-43; and that they support sending in military advisers by 51-42.
Yet only 36 percent approve of Obama’s handling of foreign policy and 52 percent disapprove of his handling of Iraq.
* AMERICANS WANT TO STAY OUT OF IRAQ, CTD.: Meanwhile, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll finds that 65 percent oppose sending in ground forces to combat Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Yet Americans disapprove of Obama’s handling of Iraq by 52-42.
* MISSISSIPPI SENATE GOP PRIMARY SET FOR TODAY: Voters go to the polls today in Mississippi, where Tea Partyer Chris McDaniel has a real shot at ousting longtime GOP Senator Thad Cochran. McDaniel is pretty clear about the stakes here:
“Ladies and gentlemen, next time Ted Cruz stands on that floor, next time Mike Lee stands on that floor, next time Rand Paul stands on that floor to fight for you, a son of Mississippi will stand next to them,” Mr. McDaniel, a state senator, said to a crowd of appreciative supporters in a Biloxi parking lot on Sunday, citing the partisan warriors he hopes to join in Washington next year.
McDaniel hopes to strengthen the Ted Cruz/Rand Paul wing of the GOP. Meanwhile, if McDaniel does win, solid Dem recruit Travis Childers would mean Dems now have three shots at a surprise pickup (with Kentucky and Georgia), any of which would probably put the GOP majority out of reach.
* ROVE GROUP ENTERS ARKANSAS SENATE RACE: Karl Rove’s American Crossroads is up with a new ad backed by a $440,000 buy that declares, “Mark Pryor has voted with Barack Obama at least 90 percent of the time,” including: “Pryor cast the deciding vote for Obamacare.”
The key context, laid out recently by Chuck Todd, is that one-third of Obama-disapproving voters may be backing Pryor, which, if it holds, will be key to his survival. By the way: Given the centrality of Obamacare to attacks on Pryor, has anyone pinned down GOP challenger Tom Cotton’s position the Arkansas Medicaid expansion?
* GREEN GROUPS ENTER IOWA SENATE RACE: A coalition of environmental groups is going up with a new ad in Iowa, backed by a $1 million buy, targeting Iowa Republican Senate candidate Joni Ernst. The ad argues Ernst has promised to “abolish the EPA, giving polluters a pass,” concluding that “the billionaire Koch brothers want Ernst in Washington,” which signals she is “too extreme” for Iowa.
Ernst has dabbled in climate skepticism, while Dem Bruce Braley has earned an 89 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters. The ad is a reminder that the prevalence of climate skepticism among GOP candidates, combined with the presence of the Kochs (who have bankrolled climate skepticism), may mean climate figures more prominently in this cycle.
* AND A PREVIEW OF TED CRUZ’S PRESIDENTIAL RUN: Jeffrey Toobin’s long piece following around the Texas Senator is a must-read, including this nifty preview of how Cruz will reach out to a far right slice of GOP primary voters:
“If ever there was an issue on which we should come to our knees to God about, it is preserving marriage of one man and one woman. And this is an issue on which we need as many praying warriors as possible to turn back the tide…we need to rise up and we need to turn this country around. We’ve got an election coming up in 2014, and, let me tell you, it’s going to be phenomenal. We’re going to retake the U.S. Senate! And I’ll tell you this: as good as 2014’s going to be, 2016’s going to be even better!”
So Cruz is going to campaign on “turning back the tide” on gay marriage, which is to say, the culture’s evolution on gay rights, while turning the GOP primary into an anti-amnesty sludgefest? What could go wrong?