Shorter Question Everything
I know, AGAIN. But this time, even Republicans themselves know how far they’ve gone.
• New York area-lawmakers in both parties erupted in anger late Tuesday night after learning the House Republican leadership decided to allow the current term of Congress to end without holding a vote on aid for victims of Superstorm Sandy.
• Republican New York Congressman Peter King was near tears on Wednesday as he threatened to leave the Republican Party, while excoriating the leadership and other members after they reversed course and refused to pass a relief package for victims of Hurricane Sandy. “Boehner is the one,” the New York Republican explained. “He walked off the floor. He refused to tell us why. He refused to give us any indication or warning whatsoever… I’m just saying, these people have no problem finding New York — these Republicans — when they’re trying to raise money. They raise millions of dollars in New York City and New Jersey, they sent Gov. [Chris] Christie around the country raising millions of dollars for them. I’m saying, anyone from New York and New Jersey who contributes one penny to the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee should have their head examined. I would not give one penny to these people based on what they did to us last night.” King recalled that Boehner refused to even speak to the Republican lawmakers from hurricane-stricken areas, at one point yelling, “I’m not going to meet with you people!” “I was chasing the Speaker all over the House floor last night,” he said. “So he wouldn’t tell us why, he just decided to sneak off in the dark of night.” “I would say that the Republican Party says that it’s the party of family values,” King continued. “Last night, it decided to turn its back on the most essential value of all. And that’s to provide food, shelter, clothing and relief for people who have been hit by a natural disaster. And I would say that the Republican Party has turned its back on those people. And it’s going to be very hard for me to ask any of those people to vote for the national Republican Party.”
• New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie: “There is only one group to blame,the House Majority and John Boehner.” “Last night, the House Majority failed most the basic test of leadership and they did so with callous disregard to the people of my state.” “It was disappointing and disgusting to watch.”
Observing the Congressional Republicans repeatedly stumble in and out of their caucus clown car, blowing loud kazoos and muttering angry threats, should be painful, embarrassing and highly instructive to any American voter with the patience to watch. When their latest performance concluded late Tuesday night with a 257 to 187 vote passing the stopgap fiscal deal negotiated by the Senate and the White House, an unavoidable question lingered: What is wrong with those people?
The simple explanation is that the House of Representatives has increasingly been dominated over the past two decades by a coterie of tantrum-prone extremists, who lack the probity and steadiness required for democratic self-government. Their diminished capacity is reflected in the low quality of leadership they have chosen during this long twilight, from Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay to John Boehner and Eric Cantor, even as their politics have grown more and more extreme.
Under the stress of their incoherence, the Republican caucus is unable to escape one humiliating mess after another. The damage they routinely inflict on the country’s economy and future is reaching incalculable levels — and is almost certain to grow worse when they again hold the debt ceiling hostage next month.
• House GOP blocks Violence Against Women Act: House Republicans insisted the bill is too supportive of immigrants, the LGBT community, and Native Americans — and they’d rather let the law expire than approve a slightly expanded proposal. Vice President Biden, who helped write the original law, tried to persuade House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) to keep the law alive, but the efforts didn’t go anywhere. And so, for the first time since 1994, the Violence Against Women Act is no more.
• House Speaker John Boehner couldn’t hold back when he spotted Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the White House lobby last Friday. It was only a few days before the nation would go over the fiscal cliff, no bipartisan agreement was in sight, and Reid had just publicly accused Boehner of running a “dictatorship” in the House and caring more about holding onto his gavel than striking a deal. “Go f— yourself,” Boehner sniped as he pointed his finger at Reid, according to multiple sources present. Reid, a bit startled, replied: “What are you talking about?” Boehner repeated: “Go f— yourself.”
• House Republicans Derail Bill Targeting Rapists: The Sexual Assault Forensic Evidence Registry Act, also known as the SAFER Act of 2012, was introduced by Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) in the Senate in May, and by Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) in the House in December. It would have reallocated $117 million to help make a dent in the nationwide backlog of untested “rape kits,” which contain forensic evidence collected after sexual assaults that can help identify perpetrators. There are some 400,000 untested kits sitting in labs around the country. As long as this DNA evidence goes unanalyzed, it’s easier for rapists to avoid arrest and prosecution.
In other news
• Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton was released from a New York hospital on Wednesday, three days after doctors discovered a blood clot in her head. Clinton’s medical team advised her Wednesday evening that she was making good progress on all fronts and said they are confident she will fully recover, said Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines. Doctors had been treating Clinton with blood thinners to dissolve a clot in a vein that runs through the space between the brain and the skull behind the right ear.
• The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said Wednesday that it was saddened by a New York’s judge’s decision to keep secret most details pertaining to an Obama administration program that has so far assassinated three American citizens, including one who was not accused of being involved with terrorism. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the ACLU, seeking to determine the administration’s legal justification for killing American citizens without charge or trial, was shot down Wednesday (PDF) by the U.S. District Court Southern District of New York. The court ruled in favor of the administration’s motion for summary judgement on the basis that deliberations over the program were privileged communications, and the ACLU failed to show why they should be exposed to the public. The three Americans killed by the military’s anti-terrorist strikes are Anwar Al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, and Al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son Abdulrahman.
• Emergent BioSolutions, Inc., recently announced that it had signed an exclusive licensing agreement with the biotech company VaxInnate Corporation. The Maryland-based company said that it has acquired the rights to manufacture and sell VaxInnate’s recombinant pandemic influenza vaccine candidate in the United States. The vaccine candidate is able to be produced quickly and in large quantities, making it suitable for use in an emergency.
• Canadian scientists recently published a study detailing their successful efforts to develop an antidote for ricin poisoning. The team from Defense Research and Development Canada created four ricin-resistant hybridoma clones that secrete antiricin monoclonal antibodies with ricin-neutralizing capabilities. Their effectiveness was determined through an in vitro neutralization assay that showed success in mice subjects against multiple ricin challenges. One of the experimental antidotes, called mAb D9 in the study, proved exceptionally effective against the toxin. When administered up to six weeks before or six weeks after a ricin challenge, it successfully protected or rescued all of the mice used in the trial.
• A freelance American reporter who contributed videos to Agence France-Presse (AFP) in recent months was kidnapped in war-torn Syria six weeks ago and has been missing since, his family revealed Wednesday. US journalist James Foley, 39, an experienced war reporter who has covered other conflicts, was seized by armed men in the northern province of Idlib on November 22, according to witnesses. Foley who last supplied AFP with video material the day before he disappeared, was picked up in the town of Taftanaz by four men who later released his driver and translator, the witnesses said. The reporter was travelling with another journalist who has also been reported missing, but whose family has requested that he not be identified.
• Canada opens Colombia to exports of banned automatic assault weapons: Canada quietly eased its ban on the export of assault-style weapons to Colombia after Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird recommended an order amending the Automatic Firearms Country Control List (AFCCL). That opened the door for Canadian gun merchants to sell fully automatic weapons with high-capacity magazines — banned in Canada — to Colombia. “Colombia’s addition to the AFCCL opens new market opportunities by providing residents of Canada with the opportunity to explore and compete for contracts in Colombia for items controlled under the AFCCL,” says a government notice, posted Tuesday.