Tag Archives: Mitch McConnell

Summer Part 2: August Agony!!! Looking Back: August 3: Mick Mollifies Big Spenders

Business Insider reported that Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney is reneging on promises to even marginally address the perilous finances of the United States.

mick mulvaney

If you can’t take the heat, give the big-government filth everything they demand and crawl home without your testicles.

While Mulvaney had previously promised he would demand spending cuts in exchange for “raising the debt ceiling” (a near-annual occurrence in which the Feds stare down our unprecedented $20,000,000,000,000 national debt, shrug, and pretend we’re solvent by simply increasing the amount of cheddar the Feds themselves may borrow–backed by taxpayers–without any significant reform in spending to even dent the $250 billion we pay in annual interest), he now advocates a “clean” increase. This just means we’ll keep spending beyond our means, but with a bipartisan consensus that our children should inherit at least one year of our GDP in financial obligations.

It’s all quite confusing, because:

The debt limit, the level of outstanding debt the federal government is allowed to carry, was technically hit in March. Since then, the Treasury Department has been using “extraordinary measures” to prevent a breach of the limit. The department has said Congress must pass a bill to increase the limit by the end of September to avoid a breach.

[our emphasis]

While Trump threw a transient bone to the fiscal conservative crowd shortly after his election by imposing a federal “hiring freeze,” that minuscule measure towards fiscal sanity was abandoned not even three months later. By…Mulvaney:

Summer Part 1: Stories We Shelved!!! April 11–Federal “Thaw”

Even more willing to live beyond our means is Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who made news for all the wrong reasons on August 21 by reportedly using a government jet to travel to Kentucky for front row seats in viewing the SOLAR ECLIPSE.

Mnuchin was delivering a scheduled speech alongside Senate Majority Leader Sellout Mitch McConnell (who actually hails from Kentucky and might be able to justify billing his citizens for a ticket out of D.C.)

Mnuchin might have gotten away with the alleged waste of taxpayer dollars, too, except his wife, Louise Linton, got on the Instagram to brag about the brands she was wearing on the excursion. Her selfie captured the jet in the background:

Watchdog requests documents about Mnuchin and wife's Ky. trip timed with eclipse

Linton responded to the haters, who were justifiably wondering why a luxurious lap in a federal jet was necessary for a famous actress estimated to be worth $300 million to view a three-minute natural phenomenon, with:

“Pretty sure the amount we sacrifice per year is a lot more than you’d be willing to sacrifice if the choice was yours. You’re adorably out of touch.”

Although she later apologized for her behavior, Citizens for Ethics and Responsibility in Washington (who for some reason acronymed themselves as “CREW”) have filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for any records of Mnuchin’s government-funded travel up to and including the eclipse excursion since he took office.

In related news, USA Today noted in February that fiscal year 2016 was a boon for taxpayer-funded government travel. Congressional records estimate they spent at least $14.7 million from the little people, which would be 27% more than in f.y. 2015.

Mnuchin’s own Treasury, however, estimated it was actually nearly $20 million. Treasury got their data from the State Department, and both outfits refused to explain the increase.

Using the $20 million figure, f.y. 2016 represents the highest government travel amount ever recorded, and includes 557 trips by Congress and their staffers that cost at least $10,000 per person.

Thanks to our sources:

https://finance.yahoo.com/news/trumps-budget-director-caved-one-202231113.html

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/347713-watchdog-requests-documents-about-mnuchin-and-wifes-trip-to-ky-theres

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/02/27/taxpayers-fund-first-class-congressional-foreign-travel-boom-overseas/98351442/

Summer Part 1: Stories We Shelved!!! April 7–Neil Gorsuch

SENATE GOES NUCLEAR!!!

Demented DC fixture Senator John McCain (R-AZ) had some hateful speech for the Senate majority as he joined his colleagues in changing the body rules to confirm U.S. Tenth Circuit appellate judge Neil Gorsuch (below) to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Judge Gorsuch official portrait.jpg

Democrats had filibustered the nomination of Gorsuch, 49. Republicans, who hold 52 Senate seats, were unable to muster a supermajority of 60 votes to break the filibuster. Instead, they held a 52-48 party-line vote to implement a “nuclear” option: the Senate will now require just 51 votes to allow a vote on Supreme Court justice appointments.

Yahoo! had more:

“It’s a bad day for democracy,” McCain said before entering the Senate chamber, where he later voted with fellow Republicans to change the rules. “I think it’s a terrible mistake that we will regret for many, many years to come.

[…]

There’s not a single senator in the majority who thinks we ought to change the legislative filibuster, not one,” he told reporters Tuesday. “We all understand that’s what makes the Senate the Senate.”

McCain speaks to reporters after the Senate voted to remove the filibuster rule for Supreme Court nominees on Thursday. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

[McCain (above) was re-elected in November with 53.7% of the vote.]

“I find myself torn between protecting the traditions and practices of the Senate and the importance of having a full complement of justices on the Supreme Court,” he said. “I’m left with no choice. I will vote to change the rules an [sic] allow Judge Gorsuch to be confirmed by a simple majority.”

[our emphasis]

According to Yahoo!, McCain’s April 4 statement on the matter was even more patronizing to the American people who are apparently supposed to stomach the notion that the six-term senator, 80, has any integrity at all:

I would like to meet that idiot, I’d like to meet the numskull that would say [changing the rule for Gorsuch is a good thing]. Whoever says that is a stupid idiot, who has not been here and seen what I’ve been through and how we were able to avoid that on several occasions. And they are stupid and they’ve deceived their voters because they are so stupid.”

[our emphasis]

Democrats, led by then-Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV), similarly changed filibuster rules in 2013, requiring only a 51-vote majority in the Senate to break filibusters on all presidential nominees except Supreme Court justices (i.e., executive branch and all other judicial appointments). Once the filibuster is broken, these nominees can be confirmed by a similar, simple majority vote.

USA Today notes Reid and the Democrats felt unrelenting Republican filibusters of Obama nominees for necessitated the rule change:

The turning point in the decades-long debate over Senate filibuster rules was Republicans’ decision to block all three of Obama’s latest nominees to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, the nation’s second-most-powerful court with vast jurisdiction over federal agencies and regulations.

April’s was therefore the second “nuclear” rule change for the U.S. Senate in four years.

“The American people believe Congress is broken. The American people believe the Senate is broken. And I believe they are right. The need for change is so very, very obvious.”–then-Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)

Reid (above; thanks, galleryhip.com) retired in 2016.

Then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY)famously warned the Democrats: “You will no doubt come to regret this, and you may regret it a lot sooner than you think.”

Fifty-two of the fifty-five Democrats and their common-caucusing Independents voted for the 2013 rule change. Of the three Democrats in opposition, only Joe Manchin (WV) remains in the Senate today.

At the time, Dianne Feinstein noted: “I’ve sat on the Judiciary (Committee) for 20 years and it has never, ever been like this. You reach a point where your frustration just overwhelms and things have to change. I think the level of frustration on the Democratic side has just reached the point where it’s worth the risk.”

McCain, per USA Today, called the decision “foolish” and squarely blamed junior Democratic senators. “There are members that have never been in the minority who have been here a short time who basically drove this,” he said.

And Obama praised Reid’s maneuver: “A deliberate and determined effort to obstruct everything, no matter what the merits, just to re-fight the result of an election is not normal, and for the sake of future generations, we can’t let it become normal[.]”

*

For Mr. Gorsuch’s confirmation, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer shamelessly misled the public by attempting to goad the Republicans into “changing the nominee” to allow Democrats to contribute at least eight votes to reach a 60-vote threshold. This is the number needed to end the filibuster Schumer orchestrated. Washington Post:

“If this nominee cannot earn 60 votes — a bar met by each of President Obama’s nominees and George Bush’s last two nominees — the answer isn’t to change the rules. It’s to change the nominee.”

Also according to Post, Schumer decided to lead a filibuster because “[Gorsuch] was unable to sufficiently convince me that he’d be an independent check” on Trump, and Mr. Gorsuch was “not a neutral legal mind but someone with a deep-seated conservative ideology[.]”

Washington Post was complicit in Schumer’s fantasy that all Senate proceedings require 60 “yes” votes to break a filibuster (a sort of holdover from the Obama administration when Republicans filibustered ruthlessly and lead Dirty Harry to change the rules, as above) and not a simple majority of 51:

Among recent Supreme Court nominees, the 60-vote threshold has not caused a problem. President Barack Obama’s choices of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena ­Kagan each received more than 60 confirmation votes. Samuel A. Alito Jr., chosen by President George W. Bush, was confirmed 58 to 42 in 2006, but 72 senators voted to defeat a possible filibuster and allow his confirmation vote to go forward. Indeed, only Alito — among the last 16 Supreme Court nominees — was forced to clear the supermajority hurdle to break a filibuster.

President Obama had nominated chief justice of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. circuit Merrick Garland in March 2016 following the unexpected death of conservative Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Republicans, who held the Senate majority, refused to hold a confirmation vote for Garland, leaving an eight-member court for about one year and prompting allegations they “stole” an additional Obama-appointed Supreme Court seat. The issue became more of a sore spot for liberals with Trump’s unexpected capture of the presidency, ensuring Hillary would not make the next nomination.

After the rule change, Gorsuch was confirmed 54-45 with 51 Republicans (led by now-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell) joined in the affirmative by three Democrats: Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Manchin, and Joe Donnelly (IN). All three are up for re-election in 2018. Republican Johnny Isakson (GA) did not vote.

We were unable to find a quote from Obama reacting to the rule change and ensuing Gorsuch confirmation.

Thanks to our sources:

https://www.bloomberg.com/politics/articles/2017-04-06/gop-begins-nuclear-rule-move-to-advance-trump-high-court-pick

https://www.yahoo.com/news/mccain-filibuster-change-bad-day-democracy-172058093.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Senate_election_in_Arizona,_2016

https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/gorsuch-confirmation-hearing-to-focus-today-on-testimony-from-friends-foes/2017/03/23/14d21116-0fc7-11e7-9d5a-a83e627dc120_story.html?utm_term=.a9fa2a9f85fa

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2013/11/21/harry-reid-nuclear-senate/3662445/

Spring Break Blitz: Stories We Sat On!!! February 27–Justice Department and EPA

Associated Press reported that new EPA head Scott Pruitt is under scrutiny for using personal email to communicate official business while Attorney General for Oklahoma, and lying about it to Congress.

A review of Pruitt emails obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request showed a 2014 exchange where the Republican emailed a member of his staff using a personal Apple email account.

Emails released under court order last week in response to a different public records request yielded additional examples where emails were addressed to Pruitt’s private account, including a 2013 exchange with a petroleum industry lobbyist who emailed Pruitt and a lawyer on the attorney general’s staff. That suggests Pruitt made his private email address available to professional contacts outside his office.

It is not illegal in Oklahoma for public officials to use private email as long as they are retained and made available as public records. Pruitt’s use of the private account appears to directly contradict statements he made last month as part of his Senate confirmation.

Pruitt’s deception came from the forward-thinking 2020 presidential hopeful, New Jersey’s Senator Cory Booker in a written inquiry for Pruitt prior to his confirmation hearing. Cabinet nominees apparently respond to written questions for vetting because it is more efficient for the Senate panels to process nominations.

Mr. Booker apparently sought to avoid the confusion caused by both Obama’s Secretary of State and Attorney General, who used personal emails throughout their tenures to flout Freedom of Information Act lawsuits:

Hillary Updates

The FOIA avoidance is especially relevant recently, because the National Security Archive FOIA Audit released March 11 revealed that only 38 out of 99 federal agencies have updated their FOIA regulations in compliance with the FOIA Improvement Act of 2016.

This allows about 60% of our agencies are ignoring the new improvements on FOIA, which require agencies to notify citizens of their right to seek assistance with the FOIA liaison and prohibiting the charge of search or duplication fees when the agency fails to meet the notice requirements and time limits set by existing law.

Oh well.

Interestingly, Elijah Cummings said of the FOIA reform during 2016 floor debate:

“This is a simple improvement that every agency should adopt, and I look forward to working with Chairman [Jason] Chaffetz [R-Utah] in the years ahead on such commonsense [sic] reforms.”

[our emphasis]

Cummings Not Going

Let’s see if the career criminal Cummings holds his own future moves to the same standard of transparency.

The Hill:

Booker […] asked Pruitt whether he had ever conducted state business using personal email accounts. Pruitt responded: “I use only my official OAG email address and government issued phone to conduct official business.”

[…]

AP and other news organizations reported last week that 7,500 pages of emails released following a lawsuit filed by a left-leaning advocacy group showed Pruitt and his staff in Oklahoma coordinated closely on legal strategy with fossil-fuel companies and special interest groups working to undermine federal efforts to curb planet-warming carbon emissions.

The emails were released after an Oklahoma judge ruled that Pruitt had been illegally withholding his correspondence, which is public record under state law, for the last two years.

[…]

Pruitt’s use of private email was first reported earlier this month by FOX 25 television of Oklahoma City.

The Hill notes that Republicans rammed through Pruitt’s confirmation vote earlier in February prior to the release of the emails. Senator Booker joined all but two of his fellow Democrats in voting against Pruitt, who was confirmed 52-46.

FILE - In this Feb. 21, 2017 file photo Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt speaks in Washington. Pruitt occasionally used private email to communicate with staff while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, despite telling Congress that he always used a state email account for government business. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

Pruitt.

***

The Pruitt predicament is interesting, because it was only one month ago (January 26) that…

Outgoing DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson and three other officials fought Obama-appointed US District Court Judge Randolph Moss‘s order to preserve their emails for public record.

Conservative group Judicial Watch was conducting a Freedom of Information Act investigation of Johnson and his lackeys using private emails on government computers. Judge Moss declared the emails should be copied for official record for “an abundance of caution.” Just in case Johnson wanted to delete them. Like Hillary.

Politico:

“DHS’s present understanding is that the former officials are not independently aware of how to transfer e-mails from a web-based account (i.e., Gmail) to a thumb drive and that DHS information technology staff who were consulted did not have any particular knowledge about how to transfer the e-mails, either,” Justice Department attorneys wrote.

The filing suggests the ex-officials and DHS staff are also unsure about how to copy part of the private emails archives, since the suit sought only work-related emails between certain dates in 2013 and 2015.

If Moss won’t lift his order, the Justice Department asked that he let the officials move the messages to encrypted DVDs instead of thumb drives or hard drives.

As brilliant and dedicated as our “public servants” are, moving an email to a thumb drive is apparently beyond their capabilities. But burning “Legally Blonde 2: Red, White & Blonde” on a DVD? Easy.

As we have referenced above, disgraced ex-Attorney General Eric Holder deliberately used the email alias Lew Alcindor for official government proceedings to shield his official communications from FOIA lawsuits.

*

For all the missteps and truly troubling actions of his nascent leadership, Trump appeared to actually propose meaningful conservative budget reforms this week, reducing spending for State Department and EPA in a budget draft. The Hill:

The Trump administration is proposing a 37 percent spending cut for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), according to multiple reports.

U.S. officials say the suggested decrease would likely require laying off employees, including security contractors at diplomatic facilities overseas, The Associated Press said Tuesday.

[…]

The agencies together received $50.1 billion during the current fiscal year, it added, a little more than 1 percent of the total federal budget.

Career Republicans in Washington whose careers depend on lavishing their constituents’ money (which they exhausted $20 trillion ago) were not pleased.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday said he would oppose drastic cuts to the State Department. 

“Probably not,” he said when asked if Congress could pass a 37 percent reduction at the department, according to Fox News.

The leaked EPA budget proposal suggested Trump will cut spending by 24% (a reduction of $2 billion to $6.1 billion), possibly reducing the EPA “work”force by about 20% to “only” 12,000 employees.

Pathetic presidential hopeful, carpet-bombing and corporate welfare advocate Lindsey  Graham had equally strong reservations as McConnell on the proposal.

Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Tuesday said Trump’s reported plans for his first budget were “dead on arrival.”

“It’s not going to happen,” he said, according to NBC News. “It would be a disaster. A budget this lean would put those who serve overseas for the State Department at risk. And it’s not going to happen.”

Ex-Im Bank Updates

The Trump budget will reportedly not touch the entitlement spending that is financially dooming everyone who does not die in the next 20 years.

Defense spending will increase by $54,000,000,000. That amount will be cut from non-defense spending.

As a reminder, the earlier full Trump budget proposal increased the national debt by $9,700,000,000,000 over the next 10 years. Rand Paul was the only Republican to vote against it.

*

Washington Free Beacon had some damning juice on the EPA this week as well.

Environmental Protection Agency employees used their government purchase cards to spend $14,985 on fitness memberships, according to an audit by the inspector general of the agency.

[…]

Three other transactions [from the audit] were made to vendors who were considered high risk[.]

[…]

Auditors also noted that this is not the first time the agency did not have adequate oversight of the purchase-card program. In March of 2014, the inspector general released a report noting that of the $152,602 in transactions that they evaluated, $79,254 went to purchases that were prohibited, improper, or erroneous.

[Less than 50% of sampled spending was allowed…that’s success, right?]

After the most recent findings, the inspector general said that the risk for the purchase-card program “is high enough to warrant an audit.”

The EPA did not respond to requests for comment by press time.

All emphasis is ours.

Thanks to our sources:

http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2017/01/justice-department-dhs-officials-emails-234253

http://freebeacon.com/issues/epa-purchase-card-fitness-memberships/

https://www.yahoo.com/news/records-show-epas-pruitt-used-private-email-despite-203908715–politics.html

http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/321605-trump-pitches-37-percent-cut-to-state-budget-reports

http://nsarchive.gwu.edu/news/20170311-2017-FOIA-Audit-shows-3-in-5-Agencies-Failed-to-Follow-New-FOIA-Law-Instructions/

FOIA Reform Adopted after Years-Long Battle

Federal Government Resumes “Equitable Sharing” Funding

Justice Department Resumes Police Confiscation of Poor Peoples’ Assets

Attorney General Loretta Lynch (above) has instructed the Justice Department to resume “equitable sharing” practices.

“Equitable sharing” is when state and local police get to prosecute the property (usually money) they confiscate from overwhelmingly poor and minority citizens under Federal law as opposed to state law. The federal funding of these prosecutions logically allows the police agents to keep more of the money they either seize or obtain by selling everything else they take without probable cause, arrest, or legal authority, because prosecution of the property is subsidized by the Federal Government.

In the most recent Federal Government spending bill, the payments that assisted local cops in equitable sharing–so named because the police get to “share” your money or property if you smell like marijuana or look like a poor person who cannot sue to get your seized property returned–were temporarily suspended. According to The Washington Post:

While we had hoped to minimize any adverse impact on state, local, and tribal law enforcement partners, the Department is deferring for the time being any equitable sharing payments from the Program,” M. Kendall Day, chief of the asset forfeiture and money laundering section, wrote in a [December 2015] letter to state and local law enforcement agencies.
In addition to budget cuts last year, the program has lost $1.2 billion, according to Day’s letter. “The Department does not take this step lightly,” he wrote. “We explored every conceivable option that would have enabled us to preserve some form of meaningful equitable sharing. … Unfortunately, the combined effect of the two reductions totaling $1.2 billion made that impossible.”

While the Justice Department of your Federal Government tried as hard as they possibly could to encourage your local police to take your stuff and sell it to fund future law enforcement “operations,” the country’s trillions of dollars in debt caused a brief lull in that practice.

Fortunately for government agents–as well as the lawyer industry, which the little people have to fund to get their property returned–equitable sharing has been restored, the Post confirmed today.

“In the months since we made the difficult decision to defer equitable sharing payments because of the $1.2 billion rescinded from the Asset Forfeiture Fund, the financial solvency of the fund has improved to the point where it is no longer necessary to continue deferring Equitable Sharing payments,” spokesman Peter J. Carr said.

And not a moment too soon. Police lobbies such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the National District Attorney’s Association, among others, released a statement in the wake of last December’s budget cuts that protested “a significant and immediate impact on the ability of law enforcement agencies throughout the nation to protect their communities.”

It’s a lot easier to protect uncharged, innocent citizens when you take their stuff and make them hire attorneys to sue and get it back.

Mrs. Lynch oversaw more than $100,000,000 of property seized from innocent people during her reign as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.

The Justice Department is anticipated, as are most of the hundreds of Federal Government agencies, to request a budget increase for the upcoming fiscal year.

The Post notes that in 2015, civil asset forfeiture took more from citizens than burglars:

The practice of civil asset forfeiture is respected by both major political parties. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) rammed through Mrs. Lynch’s confirmation to replace Eric Holder as Attorney General for President Obama in a bipartisan vote. As well, the latter Post article notes, both New Hampshire Senators Kelly Ayotte (R) and Jeanne Shaheen (D) demanded the Justice Department restore equitable sharing payments in January.

Thanks to  Christopher Ingraham at Washington Post for our source material:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/12/23/the-feds-just-shut-down-a-huge-program-that-lets-cops-take-your-stuff-and-keep-it/?tid=a_inl

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/03/28/the-feds-have-resumed-a-controversial-program-that-lets-cops-take-stuff-and-keep-it/