Regardless of who wins the special House election in Pennsylvania on Tuesday, the Democratic candidate, Conor Lamb, has already accomplished something impressive by showing that his party ought to contest every election — no matter how daunting the odds.
“You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take,” goes the line often attributed to the hockey great Wayne Gretzky and quoted in school gymnasiums ever since. It’s a lesson that bears repeating to Democratic Party leaders, who in recent years effectively surrendered many seats to Republicans under the mistaken belief that Democrats had no chance. For example, the party did not bother fielding candidates during the 2016 and 2014 elections for Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District seat, which recent polls show Mr. Lamb could narrowly win on Tuesday. While Donald Trump won the district by 20 percentage points, it has a large population of union members and more registered Democrats than Republicans.
“Even if Mr. Lamb loses on Tuesday,” the editorial continues, “analysts say he could easily win in November, when Pennsylvanians will vote under a new congressional map ordered by the State Supreme Court in an important gerrymandering lawsuit. Further,
It would be foolish to conclude that Mr. Lamb is doing well only because Mr. Saccone is not a good fund-raiser or that he has backed anti-union policies — two of the many criticisms leveled at him. Mr. Lamb has done what many Democrats have been unwilling or unable to do: speak directly and plainly to voters about their concerns. Smartly, he has not turned this race into a referendum on Mr. Trump’s popularity, which has been a losing proposition in other races, including in the 2016 presidential election. In this, he appears to have learned from the examples set by Mr. Jones and Democratic candidates who have won state legislative races in Virginia and elsewhere since the 2016 election.
In a sense, Lamb has already won by showing that Democrats can be competitive in historically-red districts, with good candidates, a well-organized campaign, a clear message and strong union support. Lamb has provided a potentially-powerful victory template for Dems, and they should make good use of it.
Citing “genuine reasons for optimism” even in Texas, including “a huge enthusiasm gap in favor of Democrats,” a doubling of the 2014 turnout rate and “a new state record for early voting in a non-presidential election,” vanden Heuval notes that polls indicate that Democrats now have a realisic chance to pick up three House seats, as well as electing progressive Beto O’Rourke to the Senate. Further,
These chances for flipping seats aren’t unique to Texas. Across the country, including states and districts that Democrats have written off in prior elections, sustained grass-roots energy is boosting the party’s prospects. Yet there is also serious cause for concern, as some Democrats seem intent on sapping that energy in an attempt to reassert control of the party.
In late February, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), House Democrats’ official campaign arm, infuriated progressives by clumsily inserting itself in the primary in Texas’s 7th Congressional District. Although it’s not unusual for party committees to pick sides in primaries, the DCCC took the extraordinary step of publishing opposition research against Laura Moser, a progressive, pro-choice woman who has been a leader in the resistance to Trump. In 2017, Moser drew national attention when she created Daily Action, which enables subscribers to receive a text message every morning with a political action to take that day. But the DCCC disingenuously condemned Moser as a “Washington insider,” a particularly rich attack considering the source.
The cheap hit revealed how actual Washington insiders often work in the shadows to undermine progressives. The Intercept recently highlighted a number of primary races in which the DCCC and allied groups have taken sides based on wrongheaded views of candidates’ viability that largely come down to their ability to raise money. Also disheartening is that there are several cases of Democratic women attempting to thwart strong female candidates whose opponents are less progressive but more connected to donors. There is evidence suggesting that Emily’s List, which works to elect pro-choice women, has endorsed candidates (including one of Moser’s primary rivals) on the strength not of their progressive values but of their fundraising potential.
Tensions between the party and the progressive movement are threatening to bleed beyond this year’s midterms into the 2020 presidential race. Democratic National Committee members met last week to discuss proposed changes recommended by the Unity Reform Commission that was formed in the wake of the 2016 primary to make the nomination process more open, fair and inclusive of insurgent campaigns and their supporters. A vote on the proposals could come as early as this week, but there is a sense among those close to the debate that the party is unlikely to embrace the sweeping reforms that progressives are pushing for.
Vanden Heuval concludes with a warning that Democrats “may well never win in Texas or other similar places by quashing the passion of those who have been roused in this past year.”
Considering the divisive fallout in the wake of the DNC’s bias favoring Clinton over Sanders in 2016, the DCCC’s meddling in the Texas Democratic primary could prove costly in November if the Republicans hold these districts and Cruz’s senate seat by close margins. The same goes for other states.
There are compelling reasons why the DNC, DSCC and the DCCC and other party institutions at the national and local levels would be wise to avoid taking sides in the primaries. There are plenty of other vehicles for supporting specific candidates for those who feel strongly about taking sides. But tainting the integrity of Democratic Party institutions by favoring candidates over other Democrats in primaries is a bad practice that is poised to backfire, perhaps in a big way. Neutrality in primaries is the safest bet for the DNC, DSCC and DCCC.
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigned for Democrat Conor Lamb in his race to represent PA-18, amped up the buzz for Biden’s possible 2020 campaign, and provided Democrats with an eloquent, heartfelt rhetorical template for appealing to white working-class voters across the Rust Belt.
Speaking at Robert Morris University Yorktown Hall in Moon Township, PA, Biden showed how Dems that there is a way to reach both blue collar workers and college students with the same appeal. As J.D. Prose writes at the Beaver County Times:
After rallying union workers at the Carpenters Training Center in Collier Township, Biden and Lamb, a Mount Lebanon resident, joined about 750 people packed into a banquet room inside Robert Morris University’s Yorktown Hall residence building on University Boulevard.
“My name is Joe Biden and I’m from Scranton, Pennsylvania … and I work for Conor Lamb,” Biden told the crowd shortly after taking the stage just past 7 p.m.
With a week to go before the March 13 special election, Biden hammered home that Lamb, a former federal prosecutor and Marine veteran, understands western Pennsylvania, middle-class values and would fight to protect the social safety net that Republicans have chipped away at under President Donald Trump.
Saying that Lamb reminds him of his late son Beau, Biden said it is because both served in the military and care about helping people. “It’s always been about the other guy with Conor,” Biden said.
Pointing out that Lamb’s Republican opponent was primed to cut Social Security and Medicare in line with GOP speaker Paul Ryan’s agenda, Biden said Lamb would “throw himself in front of a train before he allows that to happen.”
Calling Lamb a candidate “with real character” and a leader who brings “selfless integrity to public service,” Biden said Lamb reminded him of his late son, “He reminds me of my Beau because with Beau and with Conor, it’s about the other guy,” Biden said,” notes Daniel Uria in his report for U.P.I. “He believes in hard work, he believes in labor. He’s not afraid to say the word ‘union.”
Lamb also connected with Biden, hailing the former V.P. and native of Scanton, PA as “a leader that everybody likes…who “knows in his bones the struggles” of workers.”
“Biden commended Lamb for withstanding “one of the biggest barrages of negative campaign advertising,” notes Uria. “Why are they so afraid of him?,” asked Biden. “Do you think they’re spending all this money … because they’re fearful he’s going to hurt the middle class? Do you think they give a damn about that?”
Biden also noted a critically-important benefit of a Conor Lamb victory on March 13th:
He also said a win for Lamb –the first Democrat to run in the district since 2012– could cause multiple Republicans to retire….”The impact would be profound. I promise if you if he wins you’re going to see probably another half a dozen Republicans say they’re not running again.”
Republicans who hope to hold Rust Belt seats in the House and Senate have a lot to worry about when Joe Biden shows up for Democrats. The former Veep not only helps individual Democratic campaigns; he shows his party how to connect effectively with working-class voters with heartfelt appeals to their sense of fairness, as well as self-interest. Democratic candidates should pay close attention.
In presidential elections, Ohio has long been a swing state. Its voters supported Obama in 2008 and 2012, then swung right in 2016 to support Donald Trump. On the state level, however, Republicans have dominated for the past two decades. Only partly due to gerrymandering, they have a 12-to-4 advantage in the U.S. House of Representatives, and Democrats hold only nine of the 33 seats in the Ohio Senate and only a third of the 99 seats in the Ohio House. Republicans have also held the governorship for all but four years since 1990. Progressive U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, now seeking his third term, remains the only Democratic candidate to consistently win statewide elections.
Why has the Democratic Party lost so much ground in Ohio? To a large extent, it’s because they have lost the support of white working-class voters.
As in other Rust Belt states, a majority of Ohio voters are white people without college degrees. Fully 55 percent of the state’s voters belong to this demographic, while only 31 percent are white and college educated. In the polling booth, the gap between those with and without higher education has steadily increased, according to pollster Ruy Texiera. To win in Ohio, he argues, Democrats must “find a way to reach hearts and minds among white non-college voters.”
After two decades of losses, you might think that the Ohio Democratic Party would have figured that out. But for the most part, it has not. Instead, the current crop of Democratic candidates has focused on critiques of Trump, Kasich, and the Ohio legislature. They’ve raised concerns about gerrymandering and voter suppression, the opioid crisis, Ohio’s pitiful record on women’s issues, and the almost uniformly bad performance of for-profit charter schools. Valid concerns all, but the Democrats running for office in 2018 have offered almost nothing in the way of concrete economic platforms.
For the first time in nearly 15 years, Republicans in Pennsylvania’s 18th Congressional District are starting to get nervous…On its face, the March 13 special congressional election in the southwest corner of Pennsylvania should be a breeze for the GOP. The Cook Political Report rates the district R+11 (due in part to partisan gerrymandering that the state Supreme Court recently ruled unconstitutional).
…Focused on recapturing blue-collar workers, Lamb’s campaign represents one school of thought — going back to labor-liberal economic values and working with unions to retake territory in Midwest and Rust Belt states that voted for Donald Trump in 2016. Others say the party must look to its future: voters of color and young people who represent its energized base, like it did to pull out a win for Doug Jones in Alabama’s December special election for US Senate.
Yet, “Republican and Democratic operatives in Pennsylvania agree on two things,” writes Nilsen. “Lamb is still very much the underdog in this race, but by getting support from unions that used to back Murphy and capitalizing on national Democratic enthusiasm, he has a fighting chance.” Also,
A recent Monmouth poll shows the Republican with a slight lead, hovering around 49 percent to 46 percent (models with lower turnout give Saccone a slightly larger lead). Given the steep odds, these numbers are extremely good for Lamb,” who is getting high marks for generating voter enthusiasm, while worried Republicans afre pouring money into defeating Lamb.
As for Lamb’s focus on key issues, Nilsen writes that Lamb’s platform addresses “jobs, protecting entitlements like Social Security and Medicare, organized labor, and helping end the heroin crisis currently ravaging the state…A practicing Catholic, he says that while he personally opposes abortion, he supports Roe v. Wade as the law of the land. As a veteran, he is also pro-Second Amendment.”
If Lamb has an edge going forward, it is likely from his strong support from labor unions. PA-18 includes 87,000 union members, including “energy workers,” building trades and teachers. Also, “Steelworkers are active, and although the district’s last coal mine recently closed down, tens of thousands of retired union coal workers and their spouses remain in the area.” According estimates, they could make up 20 to 30 percent of the electorate.
Lamb’s campaign is doing well in fund-raising. But so far Republicans have spent an estimated $4.7 on TV and radio ads, compared to the Lamb campaign’s $300K. Those who want to help the Democrat level the playing field can contribute to his campaign here.
The heat is on in Florida, where informed and articulate high school students are leading protests that have Republican politicians like Sen. Marco Rubio and Governor Rick Scott squirming in the headlights as they parrot the NRA party line. As Julie Turkewitz and Alexander Burns report at The New York Times, “In addition to the students amassing in Tallahassee, Democrats in Florida have vowed to make gun control a central campaign issue in 2018, and a national gun-control group is already targeting Mr. Scott with television ads that say he neglected public safety…The developing clash over firearms has the potential to define Florida politics in a critical election year, thrusting the state into the center of a stalemated national debate around gun violence and the Second Amendment. In a politically divided state where the National Rifle Association has held broad influence for decades — every governor for 20 years has been an ally of the group — even fierce supporters of gun rights now believe Republicans cannot afford to seem passive in response to gruesome scenes of violence.”
N.Y. Republican Rep. Claudia Tenney may have just nuked her prospects for re-election with her lame comment that “so many” mass murderers “end up being Democrats.” As Virginia Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, ” wrote on Twitter that she “owes America a sincere and abject apology.” And her expected Democratic challenger this year, State Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, said in his own Twitter post that her “toxic rhetoric” was “a new low” and that “inserting politics into a national tragedy is beyond the pale & disgusting.” The NY-22 district was already considered a solid pick-up possibility for Democrats. Independents, moderates and Dems who are disgusted by Tenney can contribute to Brindisi’s campaign right here.
Here’s a Brindisi ad for the NY-22 race:
In his PowerPost article “For some Democrats running for Congress, a strategic navigation of gun issues,” Paul Kane notes that a number of Democrats running for House seats this year, including Connor Lamb, Paul Davis, Jeff Van Drew and Jason Crow, are taking cautious stands on gun violence prevention. Kane also quotes Adam Jentleson, a strategist at Democracy Forward, a liberal research group, who says “A tectonic shift is underway on guns. Democrats have tried making nice with the NRA and been burned again and again…More and more Democrats are coming around to seeing that there’s no upside to courting the NRA — they’re going to spend millions casting you as a gun-grabber regardless of your actual position, so what’s the point?”
Conservative apologists for Russian meddling in our elections are all bent out of shape because Twitter is putting an end to giving Russian bots free reign. As Jessica Guynn explains at USA Today, “Fake accounts on Twitter have been traced to a Kremlin-linked “troll farm” accused of inflaming political divisions on hot-button national issues such as gun control after last week’s Florida school shooting. According to researchers at the University of Southern California, conservatives retweeted Russian trolls about 31 times more than liberals and produced 36 times more tweets…An organization that tracks Kremlin-backed Twitter accounts — the Alliance for Securing Democracy — says such influence operations have remained active since the election, serving to amplify disputes bubbling on the Web. On Wednesday, #twitterlockout and #twitterpurge were the top and trending hashtags used by the accounts linked to Russian influence operations tracked by the Alliance’s Hamilton 68 project.”
Reasonable people can disagree about whether Rev. Billy Graham was truly nonpartisan, even though he was perceived that way by many, and certainly the mass media. His influence waned substantially in recent years, as he faded from the scene and his politically-strident son, Franklin Graham, became more of a right-wing public figure. But Billy Graham’s death does add a bit of a punctuation mark to the end of the era when most prominent evangelical leaders proclaimed their nonpartisanship and valued a semblance of moral rectitude in the political candidates they supported.
WaPo conservative columnist Jennifer Rubin takes a look at the political moment, and offers this take: “One can look at guns and dreamers as discrete issues, but they can also be seen as issues on which Democrats want to change the status quo, while Republicans would prefer a logjam. The GOP is a prisoner to its anti-immigrant base and to the NRA, both of which would love for nothing to be done on their respective issues. Democrats not only have substantive support for legalizing dreamers and toughening gun laws, but they can make the case that the GOP is thwarting the will of the people and is beholden to special interests. That is a dangerous position for Trump — who promised to shake things up — and his party to be in. By contrast, Democrats need to impress upon voters that they are the problem-solvers and have responsible, concrete solutions. In a midterm election, when the party out of office can capitalize on the White House’s failure to live up to expectations, Democrats have reason to be encouraged.”
Aaron Blake has an amusing peek at Trump’s “empathy deficit” at The Fix. Blake’s article features a photo of Trump’s enumerated notes for his “listening session” with high school students. As Blake notes, “Yep, right there at No. 5 is a talking point about telling those present that he was actually listening to them. After what appear to be four questions he planned to ask those assembled, No. 5 is an apparent reminder for Trump to tell people, “I hear you.”…Even No. 1 is basically a reminder that Trump should empathize. “What would you most want me to know about your experience?” the card reads. So two-fifths of this card is dedicated to making sure the president of the United States assured those assembled that he was interested in what they had to say and their vantage points.”
…Some liberal groups see a danger in Democrats focusing too much of their 2018 messaging on the Russia probe, its ties to the Trump campaign, and issues like corruption in politics.
Priorities USA, another prominent left-leaning group, put out a memo last week arguing that Democrats should stick to an economic and health care-centric message in the months heading into the midterms…“When voters hear the Democratic argument on health care or on taxes and then hear the Republican side, they side with Democrats,” Priorities USA Communications Director Josh Schwerin said.
The group wrote in its memo that its internal polling shows Trump’s approval rating climbed four points since November, from 40 percent to 44 percent. However, specific policies, like the tax law Trump signed late last year, and the GOP’s repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, remain unpopular, the polling shows.
However, writes Yarvin, “In a report released last week, the influential liberal Center for American Progress group outlined several potential ways that Democrats could use the investigation and alleged collusion to their advantage this fall.” Further,
The CAP report cited several instances in which Russian money may have flowed to the Trump Organization through Trump’s business associates, including the real estate developer Felix Sater. Highlighting those connections could help build the case with voters that Trump can’t disentangle his work as president from his global business empire — an issue critics argue raises questions about corruption and conflicts of interest.
There is “a sense of out-of-control sprawling corruption that goes across a wide number of issues,” Jesse Lee, a senior advisor at the Center for American Progress, said in an interview.
The report describes “the fluidity with which Sater has shifted from real estate to geopolitics” and makes the case that “business relationships can be repurposed as pathways to foreign influence.”
There is ample polling data which indicate that corruption is a potent issue for assembling electoral majorities. This was true even before Trump, and it now looks like a huge gift staring Democrats in the face. Democrats also have a range of reforms to address corruption, including:
The report pointed to the DISCLOSE Act, which would ban campaign contributions from American corporations that have at least 20 percent foreign ownership. The bill was first introduced in the House by then-Rep. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and in the Senate by Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. in 2010. Since then., Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., has repeatedly introduced the legislation, most recently last July.
Trump’s particular corruption issues, along with the fact that McConnell, Ryan and other GOP leaders have produced zero reforms to address corruption, remain a glaring political reality. Their inability to enact any anti-corruption legislation whatsoever, despite the GOP’s “trifecta” majority, amplifies the case against Republican-driven corruption.
The Russia probe escalates the Democratic edge on the corruption issue even further. To fail to leverage this advantage would be gross political malpractice, though it should be thoughtfully balanced with other specific campaign issues and tweaked for each electorate.
Trump’s approval rating has clearly gone up in the last month, from a little under 40 percent to a little under 42 percent, according to the 538 composite. That’s not nothing and, all else equal, good for the Republicans. But it doesn’t change much about expectations for the upcoming election, which are still quite poor for the GOP.
Models, of course, disagree on how grim the forecast is for the Republicans, so any given model should not be taken as the last word. But Seth Masket at Mischiefs of Faction cites a midterm model that illustrates how difficult the situation is for them. The model is a simple one that relies on just Presidential approval and growth in real per capita disposable income (RDI). What it says is this:
[The model] predicts Democrats will pick up 45 to 50 House seats this fall, and take over 15 to 20 state legislative chambers. A loss of just 24 House seats would flip House control to the Democrats….
Most years, this model works fairly well. It predicted Democrats losing 46 House seats in 2010 (they lost 63), and it predicted Republicans losing 40 House seats in 2006 (they lost 31).
You can see in the chart above how this works, with Trump’s approval running a little over 40 percent and RDI growth around 1 percent in the last year. It’s apparent that moving Trump’s approval rating around a little bit at a given level of economic growth does not change the forecast much. Plus Trump’s approval rating have been bouncing around between 37 and 42 percent since early last April so it’s hard to see the kind of mega-spike that might really change things.
A huge increase in RDI growth seems unlikely also though, of course, anything is possible. But as Masket observes:
Even if RDI growth jumped to 3 percent…the model would still predict Republicans to lose 37 House seats, more than enough to lose control of the chamber, and 14 state legislative chambers.
So the fundamentals don’t look good for Team Red. But it’s just one model so should be treated with caution. After all, there are lots of other factors like the various structural advantages Republicans take into an election like this. But even those have been declining as Nate Cohn has pointed out, knocking a couple of points off of the GOP’s “thumb on the scales”. This includes the effects of anti-gerrymandering court decisions, Democratic fundraising and candidate recruitment and Republican retirements.
It’s a long time ’til election day. But the basic story continues to be a positive one for Democrats, as these data and the results of recent special elections suggest.
The U.S. is now averaging more than one mass shooting every day, and in just just 44 days into 2018, there have been 19 school shootings. The 19-year old who bought a semi-automatic AR-15 and mowed down at least 17 students in a Parkland, FL high school from which he was expelled provides yet another a tragic example of how easy it is for just about anyone to get weapons of mass murder, in this case, depite his threats and worrisome tips to law enforcement from students who knew him.
It’s crickets for recipients of NRA contributions, other than their usual “thoughts and prayers” response. As in so many other mass shootings, there was no “good guy with a gun,” as the NRA argues is the best solution to the problem of mass shootings. Eventually they will respond with the usual parroting of misleading statistics and other aguments of distraction, as they bide their time until the outrage melts away.
Democrats have to provide some significant leadership for gun safety because it is a national security issue, of more immediate urgency than any of our military conflicts in other nations. The lack of common sense restrictions on weapons of mass destruction is a matter of urgent national security because it is facilitating the murder of American children, not in some imagined future, but right now.
The challenge for Democrats is to keep the heat on for gun safety reform at the federal, state and local levels. Every Democratic candidate, from school board to the presidency, must become an informed, articulate champion of common-sense restriction on semi-automatic weapons, and it wouldn’t hurt for rank and file Democrats to press the case through November 6th in social media, town hall meetings and all engagements with their elected officials. We owe that much to the children who have been slaughtered by semi-automatic weapons. There is no better way to honor their lives and help their families.
To become better-informed advocates for responsible gun safety reforms, check out “America’s unique gun violence problem, explained in 17 maps and charts” by German Lopez at Vox. Lopez has done an outstanding job of producing some easy to understand, but striking graphics, which can be especially useful in social media. We’ll share one of them here, urge you to read the whole article and make good use of the graphics, as Democrats press the case for actual reforms, instead of only ‘thoughts and prayers.’
When Trump Republicans passed the historically unpopular Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, they continued a 3-decades long GOP effort to reshape the tax code in ways that are hard to reverse. Relying on what political scientists call path dependency, Republicans have steadily moved us toward a tax system that increases inequality and that makes it harder and harder to sustain most of what the federal government does to fulfill its Constitutional responsibility to “promote the general welfare.” What they have done would be more appropriately titled the Consolidating the Oligarchy Act.
Republicans are betting that a reasonably strong economy and a series of small tax cuts for almost everybody in 2018 will make them more popular going into this year’s mid-term elections. If Democrats want to win this fall, they cannot be satisfied to merely attack the GOP’s “tax reform,” the vast majority of whose benefits go to corporations and the top 1% to 5% . They need their own bold tax fairness plan that frankly taxes the rich to pay for a wide variety of government activities that majorities of the public firmly desire – everything from a long-term modernizing infrastructure program and increased funding for education and veterans to deficit reduction and real lower-income and middle-class tax cuts. Such a program would be wildly popular (see recent Gallup and Pew surveys), with the potential to win back millions of white-working-class swing voters as well as to regain huge margins and turnout among working-class people of color.
Simply removing the tax code’s bias that favors investors over workers, consumers, and home-owners would provide enough revenue ($300 to $500 billion a year) for a progressive government to really make a difference in working people’s lives and prospects. And unless we do that, the government will increasingly lack the resources to address any of our problems that cost money to solve, which is almost all of them. What’s more, systematically advocating how to unrig the tax code would provide Democrats a rich opportunity to reveal how American oligarchs have been buying and renting our government to suit their purposes – especially when contrasted with the Trump GOP’s hypocritical insistence that what they have done is a “middle-class tax cut.”
A lot of media outlets reported the unexpected defeat of the Farm Bill in the House this week. But there’s quite a significant backstory, which I wrote up at New York.
Back in the day, the Farm Bills enacted every five years to reauthorize major agriculture and nutrition programs were the model of bipartisanship. Indeed, the food stamp program (now called “Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program”) was first devised in part as a way to extend support for Farm Bills to include urban legislators who didn’t know a combine from a snowplow.
The defeat of the latest Farm Bill on the House floor shows how far the old formula has unraveled.
In more recent and ideologically driven Congresses, the bills have sometimes attracted heat from the right, involving both libertarian-ish objections to crop subsidies and hostility toward food stamps as “welfare” programs for those people. Indeed, in 2013 the whole enterprise nearly went down (and wasn’t finished until 2014) over SNAP funding, with House conservatives not thinking cuts went far enough and Senate Democrats thinking they went too far.
With Republicans now controlling both Houses, the big initial Farm Bill controversy has been over the GOP’s desire (lashed along by the Trump administration) to toughen SNAP’s already significant work requirements. Indeed, this became a signature cause for lame-duck Speaker Paul Ryan, and a sort of shriveled booby prize for his frustrated plans to clobber entitlement programs and “welfare” before leaving Congress.
The SNAP provisions of the current Farm Bill guaranteed united House Democratic opposition, and also cost the votes of a few GOP “moderates.” But the bigger problem emerged when conservative members of the House Freedom Caucus looked at the overall dynamics and decided to take the bill hostage to their demands for an immediate House vote on the Goodlatte immigration bill — a measure more conservative than the president’s own in that it offers no permanent succor to Dreamers in exchange for the reductions in legal immigration and border wall funding. This in turn was a response to a very different maneuver by a group of endangered Republican moderates in blue- or heavily Latino districts to join with Democrats and force a vote on a bill that is significantly friendlier to Dreamers without all the nativist filler in the Goodlatte and presidential proposals.
In the end, all these problems were too much of a lift, and the bill went down decisively by a 198–213 margin, with 30 Republicans (actually 29, plus Ryan, who voted no to preserve the right to make a later motion for reconsideration) opposing it. As the GOP defectors keep pointing out, the program authorizations covered by the Farm Bill don’t run out until the end of September, so there’s time to work something out on both immigration and SNAP in time to avoid the mess that occurred last time around. But with so little else of substance on the House agenda this year (at least the Senate has confirmations to absorb its time), it’s entirely possible the Farm Bill will continue to attract hostage-takers until the end of the session….
Meanwhile, Paul Ryan’s desire for a little trophy he can take home to Wisconsin representing his desire to liberate poor people from the government’s help in making ends meet will be delayed one more time.