When House Republicans line up to vote on the appropriations bill they have crafted to keep the federal government running, there won’t be much suspense about the result. The real intrigue lay in the story of how we got here, in which the 80 House Republicans who signed onto a letter urging GOP leadership to adopt this strategy played an outsized role.
The narrative goes something like this: Those members, and the constituents and advocacy groups that pressured them during the August recess, launched a right-wing rebellion that forced their colleagues to adopt defunding Obamacare as their central budgetary goal. But in truth, a look at just who signed GOP Rep. Mark Meadows’s letter shows that this pressure came not from the House Republican conference’s right wing, but from its core. Those members hail from districts all over the country that, overall, look a lot like the average constituency represented by Republicans in Congress.
Time and time again, when House legislation draws controversy, some question, or lament, or gloat, that the GOP conference is “held hostage” by an unreasonable few. But these members are an accurate representation of their colleagues — which is why this legislative push, like others in the past, has become the party position.
There are some important differences between the letter-signers and their colleagues, especially at the vulnerable end of the political spectrum, according to figures compiled by Polidata for the Cook Political Report and the Almanac of American Politics. None of the 17 Republicans who represent districts President Obama carried in 2012 signed the letter. About one-third of GOP members are from turf where Romney got less than 55 percent of the vote, but their signatures appear at half that rate on Meadows’s letter. But those members fit into a broader pattern in the Republican House, where representatives toward the more vulnerable end of the spectrum have gladly signed onto some of their party’s more daring legislative moves over the last three years, especially as compared to Blue Dog Democrats who helped moderate their party’s legislative efforts during Obama’s first two years in office and often abandoned them outright. That pattern will soon play itself out again, when House Republicans’ continuing resolution comes up for a vote.
As far as the letter goes, a look at the overall political situation across those 80 members’ districts is particularly instructive. In the 234 House districts controlled by Republicans, their 2012 presidential nominee won a little over 58 percent of the vote. Romney carried the letter-signers’ seats by only a little more (under 61 percent). Looking at either the mean or median, the average Republican who signed the letter isn’t from a district that’s meaningfully more conservative than that of the average House Republican overall.
The group of letter-signers is dominated by Southerners and new members — but so is the Republican conference as a whole. Nearly half of House Republicans are from the South, a ratio that just ticks over 50 percent on the letter. And although 58 percent of the names on the letter were first elected to Congress in 2010 or 2012, including members who returned after previous service, so were nearly half of House Republicans as a whole.
One central group is heavily over-represented on Meadows’s letter: members of the Republican Study Committee, the Hill’s club for card-carrying conservatives. Seventy-six of the 80 letter-signers are RSC members. But so is a majority of the House Republican majority. The group of representatives that made the latest Obamacare vote happen live up to their titles — representative — as far as the GOP conference goes.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."