Wiretap: Tea Party victory elevates less hardline majority leader

The Tea Party defeat of House Majority Leader Eric Cantor may translate as more moderate leadership in the House, “moderate” being a relative term, of course. California Rep. Kevin McCarthy rose as the likely successor to Cantor after Texas hardliners Pete Sessions and Jeb Hensarling bowed out. The New York Times with a pithy summary of what it means beyond the world of politics-as-spectator-sports geek fascination: “Besides the prestige factor, the majority leader is the official keeper of the House floor schedule, choosing what legislation to consider and what bills to stymie. And while the House speaker ostensibly leads the whole chamber, the majority leader is free to be a partisan figure.” So, McCarthy, if he wanted to, could change the House’s famously narrow agenda. Or not.

The Times also yesterday reported that the Cantor defeat “tore open divisions among Republicans on Wednesday, setting off a new wave of fear that the internecine feuding would stymie policy-making and imperil Republican presidential prospects in 2016.”

Yes. But “stymie Republican policy-making”? What Republican policy-making? The Republican House that Cantor has navigated as Majority Leader has been good at a lot of things — like holding cul-de-sac Benghazi hearings — but what it has been best at is preventing bills from becoming laws and passing bills with no chance of becoming laws. As a matter of record, the 113th Congress has been the least productive congress in U.S. history.

In the wake of the Cantor loss, pundits are saying immigration reform in Congress is more dead now than it has ever been dead before. Republican House members have become so fearful about the topic that they won’t touch it, which leaves GOP pollsters banging their foreheads with their fists. A new poll, for example, finds it wasn’t immigration policy that turned voters against Cantor.

And a slew of polls find that Republican voters want immigration policy reform more than they want to maintain the status quo. The pollsters say that passing reform is the best hope the party has of winning the White House in the foreseeable future. Greg Sargent at The Washington Post reviewing these developments writes that analysts are telling him now that the split in the party on immigration isn’t between the establishment and the Tea Party wings but between those who want to win the White House and those who want to win congressional seats. He quotes Rob Jesmer, a longtime NRSC operative: “If your sole concern is winning congressional elections, you’re not concerned about passing immigration reform. But if you want to win the White House, then you do want to pass reform, because you understand that not doing this dramatically increases the chances of Hillary Clinton becoming president.” Sargent says there’s a school of thought developing that believes some Republicans have decided to just “hunker down and accept the possibility that demographic realities mean the House will remain their sole stronghold…”

At Slate, Mark Joseph Stern digs into U.S. Supreme Court case history and lays the 1947 arguments made against mixed-race marriage heard in Loving v Virginia beside arguments made last year against same-sex marriages in the DOMA and Proposition 8 cases. The words are different. The arguments are the same. As he puts it: “No matter how deftly they dress up their language in polite euphemisms, gay marriage opponents are still stealing directly from the Loving playbook. And it’s working no better today than it did 47 years ago.”

The school reform movement’s court victory in California this week — where Los Angeles Judge Rolf Treu struck down the state’s teacher tenure laws — was supported by a breathtaking statistic concerning the number of “grossly ineffective teachers” who are crushing student futures but whom the state can’t fire. But the alarming statistic was wholly speculative, as the guy who came up with it readily admits. The ruling is a math teacher’s nightmare fail. Via Slate.

Electric car maker Tesla wants you to steal its technology. Let’s all make better cars! Will Oremus on the latest Tesla gambit.

Reading is changing, a lot. You know it is. How can it not be? Tim Parks at the New York Review of Books takes the time to properly explore that flickering awareness that scratches at the tip of your consciousness every night as you watch your hand move to plug in your phone over the top of a bedside table cluttered with a TV remote, a stack of books, three magazines and a Kindle Reader.


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