It’s true that the administration has failed to make a credible case for not coming to Congress. But lawmakers in the chamber overseen by John Boehner could hold their own vote if they were so inclined.
Democratic leaders in Congress have unforgivably dropped the ball here, to do the president’s bidding on war. But the Boehner argument is also a noteworthy dodge. As Steve Benen notes, one possible explanation for why GOP leaders don’t want to take a vote — and more ownership of the war — can be found in this highly candid quote from GOP Rep. Jack Kingston:
“A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”
Another possible rationale: A Congressional vote on war might complicate GOP efforts to make national security an issue in the midterms, by hitting Dems with ads featuring grainy, 2002-style footage of terrorists. Many Republicans support Obama’s approach to ISIS, but they have endorsed it grudgingly, as a mere step in the right direction, while saying they don’t think it goes far enough, in order to be able to continue hitting Democrats on the issue.
Example: Scott Brown is running an ad in New Hampshire hitting Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Obama for failing to understand the nature of the ISIS threat. But Brown is also suggesting to voters he supports Obama’s plan to arm the Syrian rebels:
“You know, I thought a lot about this and I do support arming them. But I’m frustrated with the incoherent policy that led us to this point.”
A full Congressional debate on war could make this sort of straddle harder to sustain, putting more pressure on GOP lawmakers — and candidates who hope to gain from international turmoil — to say what, precisely, they support doing instead. Like sending in ground troops.
* WHY REPUBLICANS ARE ATTACKING OVER TERROR: MSNBC’s First Read crew offers two reasons for the sudden explosion of GOP ads on terrorism:
The first: It’s embedded in the party’s DNA. Since the beginning of the Cold War, the GOP’s first instinct has always been to assert how it’s tougher and stronger on communism/terrorism than the Democratic Party is….The second reason: Republicans want to keep the midterms a nationalized election. And so when the national conversation turns away from health care and the economy to national security, the GOP’s TV ads and campaign messages will follow.
Wait, we’re not talking about Obamacare anymore? Who could have predicted that would happen?
* OBAMA MUST GO TO CONGRESS ON WAR: The New York Times editorial board absolutely shreds the Obama administration’s rationale for not seeking Congressional authorization for the escalation against ISIS:
He says he has justification for taking military action against the Islamic State and Khorasan, another militant group. But his assertions have not been tested or examined by the people’s representatives in Congress. How are Americans to know whether they have the information to make any judgment on the wisdom of his actions?
Meanwhile, Congress’ abdication of responsibility here remains outrageous.
* RACES CLOSE IN GEORGIA? A new 11Alive poll finds the Georgia Senate and gubernatorial contests are both very tight: David Perdue leads Michelle Nunn by 46-45, while GOP governor Nathan Deal trails challenger Jason Carter by 44-45.
* WATCH EARLY VOTE IN NORTH CAROLINA: The U.S. Elections Project is collecting early voting data in North Carolina. The latest: Democrats leading in absentee ballots returned by 42-35. According to political scientist Michael McDonald, this defies previous patterns, suggesting Democratic voter mobilization efforts — such as mail balloting — could counter the GOP “enthusiasm” advantage and benefit Senator Kay Hagan.
* KENTUCKY SLIPPING AWAY FROM DEMS? Kentucky Democrats are increasingly worried that Alison Lundergan Grimes has fallen so persistently behind Mitch McConnell that her candidacy may not recover. One major complaint: She has not effectively capitalized on McConnell’s unpopularity by spelling out clearly why voters should be for electing her.
The campaign is increasingly drawing a contrast with McConnell on the minimum wage and protecting Medicare, but the polling average shows Grimes behind by over six points.
* NEW REPORTS CALL FOR CLIMATE ACTION: The New York Times has an important piece on a new batch of research suggesting that acting to curb carbon emissions might actually carry hidden economic benefits, rather than requiring a tradeoff in the form of a damper on growth.
This is an andidote to what Paul Krugman has called “climate despair,” and could help produce a better result at the international climate talks, though the U.S. Congress will continue to be an obstacle to progress for the foreseeable future.
* AND OBAMACARE KEEPS FAILING TO FAIL: Jonathan Cohn brings the latest: New numbers suggest that many insurers are participating on the exchanges, after all.
That should translate to more options for people buying coverage. The increased competition should also help keep premiums relatively low….Obamacare critics hadn’t predicted the markets would evolve this way. On the contrary, they expected that that young and healthy people would stay far away from the new marketplaces, because the new coverage would be pricier than what they were paying before. Without enough business, the argument went, insurers would get skittish and withdraw. At best, the marketplaces would all become oligopolies and monopolies, with just a handful of insurers continuing to sell policies. At worst, the whole scheme would fall apart. That quite obviously isn’t happening.