Despite what you may have heard from President Obama, both Republicans and Democrats in Congress favor extending low interest rates on student loans that are set to expire in July. The problem is they’re conflicted over how to pay for it. While Democrats support a payroll tax hike on certain businesses, the House GOP is planning to introduce a bill that would pay for the extension with some of the advanced appropriations included in ObamaCare. Politico reports:
House Republicans will announce by the end of this week their own bill to keep student loan rates from doubling, several Republican leadership sources said.
The GOP will offset its cost with money from what they dub a “slush fund” in the Democrats’ 2010 health care law. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is holding a media availability in the Capitol Wednesday afternoon to announce the effort.
The specter of government-subsidized student loan rates doubling is the most recent attempt by the White House and Democrats on Capitol Hill to paint Republicans as the model of inaction. President Barack Obama is on a nationwide college tour, slamming congressional Republicans for allowing the Stafford loan rate to jump on July 1. In reality, Republican leadership on Capitol Hill didn’t address how they would deal with the July 1 deadline, which would have allowed government subsidized student loan rates jump from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent.
Because the Republican Party will nominate the one candidate who, at least at the outset of the contest, Tea Partiers seemed to have the least affinity for, many political observers have concluded that the movement’s time has come and gone. But as the results from a number of Senate races testify, reports of the Tea Party’s demise are, at best, premature. In Utah, longtime incumbent Senator Orrin Hatch is being forced into a Republican primary to hold on to his seat. But an even better argument for the group as a force that should be reckoned with came in Pennsylvania, where the state GOP establishment’s choice was humiliated in a primary yesterday to determine the party’s nominee to oppose Senator Bob Casey.
While the Pennsylvania GOP Senate race received minimal attention even in the Keystone state, the collapse of Governor Tom Corbett’s attempt to handpick an unknown for the nomination is noteworthy. Corbett and the state party wanted Steve Welch, a 35-year-old entrepreneur who was a registered Democrat as recently as 2009. But Tea Party activists embraced Tom Smith, a coal millionaire from the Western region of the state. Though Smith, 64, was a lifelong Democrat, he was able to harness the anger of the party’s grass roots and won by a huge margin over Welch, and Sam Rohrer, a state representative who also sought to appeal to Tea Partiers.
Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. may have been outclassed when he went up against Paul D. Clement arguing the case to uphold the constitutionality of ObamaCare before the Supreme Court of the United States. But today, when the pair once again matched up in the same forum when the high court met to hear arguments about the state of Arizona’s controversial immigration law, it appears that the result was no different. As the New York Times reports, even the liberal justices inclined to be on the same side of the administration, which wants the law struck down, gave the impression that they thought the solicitor general was something of a flop.
While Verrilli’s second humiliation — even Justice Sonia Sotomayor was so unimpressed with his presentation that she felt the need to tell him, “You can see it’s not selling very well” — was noteworthy, even more important was the fact that it appeared that the key provision of the Arizona law would not only be upheld but that most of the justices — even the liberals — seemed to agree that there was nothing unreasonable about it. Given the opprobrium that the mainstream media has heaped on Arizona and the way that most of the chattering classes had spoken of the law and its supporters as racists, the reaction of the court must be a shock to the administration and to its liberal supporters.
Jonathan is right, Marco Rubio is far more prepared for the VP slot than Sarah Palin in 2008. Case in point: he delivered an impressive speech on foreign policy earlier today at the Brookings Institute. He even lost the last page of his remarks (every speaker’s nightmare) but managed to take it in stride.
The full text of the speech is worth reading here, but his direct repudiation of the isolationist streak within his own party is drawing the most attention:
I am always cautious about generalizations but until very recently, the general perception was that American conservatism believed in a robust and muscular foreign policy. That was certainly the hallmark of the foreign policy of President Reagan, and both President Bush’s. But when I arrived in the Senate last year I found that some of the traditional sides in the foreign policy debate had shifted.
On the one hand, I found liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans working together to advocate our withdrawal from Afghanistan, and staying out of Libya. On the other hand, I found myself partnering with Democrats like Bob Menendez and Bob Casey on a more forceful foreign policy. In fact, resolutions that I co-authored with Senator Casey condemning Assad and with Senator Menendez condemning fraudulent elections in Nicaragua were held up by Republicans. I recently joked that today, in the U.S. Senate, on foreign policy, if you go far enough to the right, you wind up on the left.
Yesterday, the U.S. Census Bureau and the Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that seasonally-adjusted annual rate of sales fell 7.1 percent from February. The March figures for home sales were the lowest in four months. Today, we learned that new orders for manufactured durable goods in March decreased $8.8 billion — or 4.2 percent — to $202.6 billion. And this comes after a jobs report that showed in March we produced only 120,000 new jobs, as more and more people continued to drop out of the labor force.
As this McClatchy Newspaper story puts it:
Rather than a breakout surge in economic growth, mainstream forecasters say, Americans should expect the U.S. economy to slog forward for another couple of years.
The economy grew at a subpar annual rate of 1.7 percent last year, down from 3 percent the year before. The consensus forecast for this year now is for growth of 2 to 2.5 percent.
The U.S. economy is expected to slow later this year… A spate of recent indicators punctuated fears that the economy is stalling. March delivered only 120,000 new jobs, and the latest manufacturing and real estate data softened.
Mitt Romney’s speech after the primaries last night contained language that was simple, straightforward, and at times elegant. But there was also an impressive political intelligence behind the address.
Take as examples these three sentences:
* “Everywhere I go, Americans are tired of being tired.”
* “The last few years have been the best that Barack Obama can do, but it’s not the best America can do.”
* “Tonight is the beginning of the end of the disappointment of the Obama years and the start of a new and better chapter that we will write together.”
These sentences tapped into the mood of the public, taking pre-existing sentiments of many Americans, giving voice to them, and channeling them to Romney’s advantage. While most Americans don’t dislike President Obama personally – quite the contrary — they are deeply disappointed in his record. They are tired. They are ready to move on. And they are ready to write new and better chapters in the American story.
Mitt Romney’s unopposed sweep of the five primaries yesterday brought him that much closer to the Republican presidential nomination that is already his in all but name. But it also will turn up the heat on the search for his running mate. With nothing else to discuss — other than the issues, that is — anyone whose name is under consideration can expect the sort of examination that has, up until now, been restricted to presidential contenders.
The chief recipient of this intense scrutiny will undoubtedly be the man many believe is the frontrunner for the number two spot on the GOP ticket: Marco Rubio. Along with the other main contenders, Paul Ryan, Rob Portman and Chris Christie, his career and life is going to get a going over with a fine tooth comb not just from Romney’s vetting team but from a press corps that no longer has a nomination battle to cover. One of the first shots at Rubio’s credentials came yesterday from John Dickerson at Slate, who attempted to tag the Florida senator as being another version of 2008 GOP veep pick Sarah Palin, which is about the most unflattering comparison possible.
Lee Smith has already noted at the Weekly Standard’s site the irony of the Obama administration creating the Atrocities Prevention Board at the very moment the administration is choosing to do nothing substantive to stop the atrocities being perpetrated in Syria.
There is another layer of irony, as noted by Michael Dobbs at Foreign Policy, namely that the driving force behind the Atrocities Prevention Board, NSC staffer Samantha Power, the author of an important history of American responses to genocide, had noted the propensity of U.S. officials to oppose “genocide in the abstract while simultaneously opposing American involvement in the moment.” It is hard to better that as a description of the U.S. response, or lack thereof, to the massacres occurring in Syria.
The U.S. has responded with empty calls for Bashar al-Assad’s resignation and tough sanctions which have done much damage to the Syrian economy but have not stopped the killing or shaken the regime, which continues to be supported by Iran, Russia, and other unsavory actors. The latest attempt to save the Syrian people has come courtesy of the UN, which is introducing monitors to Syria. Not surprisingly, the Syrian regime has not been cowed by the presence of these unarmed observers; Syrian security forces have cracked down hard in cities such as Homs where the people have dared to protest the regime during the fleeting visits of the UN observers.
The discussion of Peter Beinart’s The Crisis of Zionism is no longer a conversation about what Beinart wrote. It has morphed into what I believe is a much more useful conversation about the conception of Judaism that lies at the core of Beinart’s worldview and what I take to be his assault on it. In my review of his book in the Jerusalem Post, I suggested that part of what makes Beinart so uncomfortable with Israel is the fact that for Beinart and many like him, for whom the erotic draw of the sirens of universalism are too powerful to resist, Israel is a reminder of Judaism’s people-centeredness. In his book, Beinart used the word “tribal” for “people-centeredness,” so I did the same in my review. And I showed that every single time (not most times, but every single time) that Beinart used the word “tribal,” it had a distinctly negative connotation.
In his inevitable response, Beinart insisted, “I am a Zionist and a tribalist.” He did not explain why, if that is the case, every use of “tribal” in the book was negative, but such is invariably the nature of the “you said I said but I really said” of book reviews and responses thereto. Nothing particularly noteworthy there – except that Beinart has thankfully acknowledged that Judaism is tribal, and that (at least now) he thinks that’s a good thing.
But that is not so for Peter’s amigos. A brief glance at some of the responses to my response affords a sense of just how raw that universalist nerve is. “You can critique Beinart’s book all you want,” they essentially say, “but if you dare suggest that my abandonment of Jewish particularism is a departure from one of Judaism’s core values, well, then, I will come after you.”
Mitt Romney is getting much, much better at addressing issues about his personal wealth and his history in the private sector. In his speech last night, there was none of the hesitancy that we saw when he tried to defend his Bain Capital record against Newt Gingrich’s attacks several months ago. And he showed that he will run unabashedly on his record as a turnaround artist, despite the fact that the Obama campaign will undoubtedly raise the Bain Capital issue again:
I’d say that you might have heard that I was successful in business. And that rumor is true. But you might not have heard that I became successful by helping start a business that grew from 10 people to hundreds of people. You might not have heard that our business helped start other businesses, like Staples and Sports Authority and a new steel mill and a learning center called Bright Horizons. And I’d tell you that not every business made it and there were good days and bad days, but every day was a lesson. And after 25 years, I know how to lead us out of this stagnant Obama economy and into a job-creating recovery.
“60 Minutes” is getting a lot of pushback for its recent “expose” blaming Israel’s presence in the West Bank for the dwindling population of Christian Palestinians in the area. The piece smacks of the sort of journalism in which the facts are assembled to fit some pre-conceived “fresh” storyline (Muslim extremists persecuting Christian Arabs? Dog bites man. Israel persecuting Christian Arabs – now that’s a story!)
The premise of the “60 Minutes” piece is that Israel’s wall and checkpoints – security measures to prevent terrorism – are a real hassle for Palestinian Christians when they travel to Jerusalem to pray or visit family. There are waiting lines, permit requests, unaccommodating government administrators. It’s basically a bureaucratic nightmare. And that, according to “60 Minutes,” is why the Palestinian Christian population in the West Bank has decreased by two-thirds since 1964 (just ignore that annoying detail about Israel’s security fence being built in 2003).
I understand that late-night comics can’t be expected to have anything more than a basic comprehension of the political issues they discuss. Their job is to be funny, not to grasp the details of a legislative bill, or understand the political posturing in both parties. But Jimmy Fallon and his producers got so spun up by the White House last night that it was embarrassing to watch.
President Obama appeared in Fallon’s “slow jam the news” bit to express his support for the student loan extension bill and blast the GOP for supposedly opposing the extension. Using a late-night show with a college-aged audience to push such a distorted, partisan message may be a little unseemly, but Fallon got in on the act too, shilling for the bill and basically endorsing the president’s claim that Republicans simply want to raise interest rates on students:
President Obama: Now there’s some in Congress who disagree. They say keeping the interest rate low isn’t the way to help our students. They say we should be doing everything we can to pay down the national debt. Well, as long as it doesn’t include taxing billionaires. But their position is that students just have to make this rate increase work. Frankly, I don’t buy it.
Jimmy Fallon: The Barackness Monster ain’t buying it. We all know our legislative bodies in the House tossing and turning late into the night. But Republicans disagree and could even filibuster. But if they do, the president said they’re gonna feel it buster.