Friday, August 30, 2013

All Drama, No Responsibility

Round and round and round, we go. Where we'll land, nobody knows? Fall is fast approaching, so the G-O-TEA must manufacture a new crisis!

However, this manufactured crisis isn't actually new. Once again, the G-O-TEA gang are threatening a debt ceiling fiasco, federal government shutdown, and economic catastrophe all rolled into one. And now that the Senate Republicans who were thought to be interested in a budget deal are now walking away, we're likely in for another month of fiscal histrionics in September.

And of course, this also means House Republicans have a haute new excuse to kill comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). And so far, they look to be taking this path. And only that, but they're facing "TEA" tinged threats if they don't kill CIR.

"He has to hold the line. If he passes -- if he allows something to pass out of conference that looks anything like the Senate bill, and it is passed with a majority of Democrats, I think that will be the final thing he does as Speaker," [Senator Rand] Paul [R-Kentucky] told Laura Ingraham's radio show on Friday. "I think he knows that, and I think he's going to be very cautious." [...]

"I'm worried about conference," he said. "And what I would say is, the only way to avoid a problem with conference is for the Speaker of the House to say we are not going to conference and we will not allow a vote on anything coming out of conference that resembles a vote on the Senate bill."

Oh, yes. That's right. He went there.

And because Senator Rand Paul is also running for President in 2016, he is pandering hard to the 21st Century Know Nothings who comprise the contemporary Republican Party base. So of course, he has to set his hair on fire and threaten other Republicans who even utter any type of willingness to consider CIR. And of course, he has to condemn any attempt to pull his party away from his beloved cliff full of drama.

As we've discussed before, House Republicans are hoping to score a "two-fer"... No, make it a "three-fer". They're looking for an excuse to kill CIR, an excuse to force more austerity down Americans' throats, and something they can twist to embarrass President Obama. And right now, they think they found their hol(e)y three-fer with their latest and greatest manufactured crisis.

So much for Congressional Republicans demanding personal responsibility... (Why don't they ever take any?)

The Dream & The Arc

This week, we've been looking at the last 50 years of the civil rights movement, along with the way forward for the next 50 years. While we've seen plenty of accomplishments in the past half-century that would make Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., proud, there's still far more to do to fulfill the dream. We've been reminded of both this week.

As the rest of the nation was honoring Dr. King's legacy on Wednesday, some on Capitol Hill were playing petty political games. They whined about the lack of conservative/Republican speakers at the official commemoration on Wednesday. Well, why didn't any of them accept the invitation to attend?

And that's not all. As Brian Beutler reported this morning, not even pleas from Republican "leaders" weren’t enough to get them to the Lincoln Memorial! Why was that? Were they just too busy fear-mongering over rumors regarding Cory Booker's sexual orientation?

In this day and age, it's depressing that these kinds of homophobia laced "Girlie Man" personal attacks still exist in our politics today. But on the other hand, it's encouraging that the Democratic US Senate Nominee in New Jersey is taking on the homophobia head-on by tearing down the logical fallacy behind the insult, which is that gay men are not "man enough" to serve their communities and country. Finally, we're starting to see elected leaders break the cycle of institutionalized homophobia and transphobia.

Of course, bigotry still exists. Racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, religious hatred, and other forms of bigotry still reveal their ugly heads today.

There are many days when we notice the dream under attack. Yet despite the attacks, the dream lives on. And ultimately, the dream succeeds.

While hate remains, love can't be stopped. While bigotry remains, equality can't be killed. The arc of history may be long, but it ultimately bends toward justice.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Blame Game

This week, we're looking at the progress of civil rights, as well as the ongoing civil rights struggles of our time . On Monday, we examined the current state of the struggle for comprehensive immigration reform (CIR).

Unfortunately, it became clearer yesterday that G-O-TEA "leaders" were planning apl along to kill CIR. Their latest and greatest excuse now is that "budget negotiations" must take precedence over any immigration legislation. But in reality, they've devised yet another manufactured crisis to force-feed the nation with even more destructive austerity. And now, they're seeking a "two-fer" in using their austerity fetish as an excuse to kill CIR as well!

Today even more Republicans are whispering this, so it's looking increasingly official. Even as prominent Republicans, such as 2008 Presidential Nominee and current Senator John McCain (R-Arizona), beg their party to reconsider, the House G-O-TEA gang look to be dead-set against reform. And as Jonathan Bernstein noted yesterday, they're the ones to blame for CIR's tortuous demise.

What this is really about is looking for excuses, even far-fetched ones, for why they’re not doing comprehensive immigration reform without actually admitting that they’re against comprehensive immigration reform.

It’s not going to wash. Republicans don’t have to actually vote in favor of a bill, but if they refuse to allow it to be considered (and, therefore, to pass over their objections with a coalition of mostly Democratic votes), then the groups who want a bill are going to blame Republicans, and John Boehner, for it.

It remains very simple. If most mainstream conservative Republicans in the House want comprehensive immigration reform to pass, it will pass. If they don’t, it won’t. It really is that simple. Anything else you hear is poor analysis or spin.

Immigrant rights advocates are clearly frustrated over the lack of progress in the House. Some are even starting to go as far as saying there will be hell to pay if CIR indeed dies in the House by the end of the year. Perhaps this may be the only message Congress ultimately responds to.

It hasn't had to be this way. If enough House Republicans (hint: NV-02, hint: NV-03) were willing to sign a discharge petition, the House would be on the way to passing CIR legislation and getting this ordeal over with. But as long as they let the 21st Century Know Nothings call the shots, CIR will die a painful and ugly death on Capitol Hill.

And ultimately, they will be the ones to blame.

What's Holding Us Back

This morning, we got some good news. No really, we have good news to discuss! Unemployment claims slipped last week to 331,000. And not only that, but second quarter GDP growth was revised upward from 1.7% to 2.5%. Both numbers indicate improved economic conditions.

Yet while these numbers indicate economic growth and lower unemployment, they also indicate continuing slow recovery. While 2.5% quarterly growth is certainly better than none, we'll have to wait several more years to finish recovering from The Great Recession if we continue at this pace. And of course, that means it will be several more years before we ever approach full employment again.

So why is this? Simple: austerity. While federal divestment from the economy has not been enough (yet?) to throw us back into recession, it's held down growth.

After their austerity program did prolong recession there, more and more voices in Europe have called for an end to it. So why do we want to repeat Europe's great mistake? Why do we want to risk double-dip recession?

We've said it before, but it's probably worthwhile to say this again: Investment begets growth. Austerity and divestment just hurt growth. Just by repealing the Sequester that G-O-TEA intransigence forced the nation into, we can create 900,000 jobs and increase real GDP by 0.7%.

Austerity is holding us back. While our economy is apparently resilient enough to grow despite it, there's no reason to manufacture these obstacles to recovery and growth. Why should we prevent economic recovery at all?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Keep Pursuing the Dream.

Fifty years ago, he had a dream. Today, the dream is still here. We've come a long way since then, but there's still far more to do to fulfill it.

That's what we heard today from the official commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , described the dream at the March. And many are continuing the effort to fulfill it now.

Fifty years ago, John Lewis also spoke at the March. Today, Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) noted what's changed in the past half-century. He also reminded everyone of what still needs to change.

Two years after the March, the Voting Rights Act became law. That opened the doors to greater voter participation as "legalized" voter suppression was done away with. But now, voter suppression is on the rise again as Congress has not (yet) fixed what the Supreme Court broke earlier this year.

This is just one example of the many highs and lows we've experienced in the past fifty years. President Obama also spoke today. He highlighted all that's been achieved, but he also mentioned the problems that remain today. Another one has to do with economic inequality.

Even as we've seen progress on legal equality, economic inequality is still very much the norm. However, it doesn't have to be this way. Former President Clinton also spoke today, and he talked about what we can do now to begin fixing it.

We can reinvest in our schools. We can invest in the rest of our public infrastructure. We can give more people the opportunity to work. We can invest in a better future again.

But will we? Will we invest in our people? Will we ensure the fundamental right to vote? Will we demand more and better opportunities? Will we keep pursuing the dream?

For our sake, and for the sake of future generations, we must.

The DREAM v. The Nightmare

Today, President Obama, national civil rights leaders, and many more Americans are commemorating the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. That was when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. , gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech. 50 years later, there has been much progress... But there's also much more to do to achieve Dr. King's dream.

On Monday, we examined one major civil rights struggle in our time that we've yet to resolve: immigration reform. American families have been ripped apart, and many people still live in fear. Yet despite the US Senate passing comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) legislation back in June, the G-O-TEA run House has not taken any action on it. Instead, Republican House "leaders" are busy peddling manufactured crises (all over again).

And herein lies the newest problem for CIR. Because Congressional G-O-TEA "leaders" are demanding more manufactured crisis drama this fall, they plan to kill CIR by tossing it to the wayside in the midst of ongoing budget battles. Their plan is to essentially run out the clock on CIR by turning up the fiscal histrionics.

Of course, Jed Lewison is calling BS on the G-O-TEA's latest and greatest excuse for failing to act on CIR.

Saying that the calendar is the problem is the same thing as saying that the House has been too busy and will be too busy to deal with immigration reform. This House, too busy? Seriously, can you think of a dumber claim to make than that the laziest, most do-nothing House of Representatives ever was doing too much other stuff to deal with immigration reform?

Moreover, even if you accepted that line of thinking, you'd at least have to concede that in making room for other stuff, House Republicans were implicitly saying that it didn't think immigration reform was all that important. In other words, if they really thought it was important, they'd make time for it, right?

Yes, in September in October, they've got some fiscal stuff they've got to take care of, but they've known this forever. Even if you accepted the notion that they couldn't pass immigration reform at the same time as dealing with those fiscal issues, it changes absolutely nothing about the fundamental dynamics at play—or the fact that they have already had months to act and will still have plenty of time to act after raising the debt limit.

Never mind that the debt ceiling was never a crisis until Republicans decided to turn it into one. Never mind that the House had all of July to pass CIR legislation. And never mind that Republicans can still do the right thing by stopping the reckless hostage taking, letting a fair budget and debt ceiling raise pass, and resuming work on actually important issues (like CIR).

50 years ago, Dr. King had a dream. Today, many Americans are keeping the DREAM alive. But right now, the usual "TEA" tinged suspects in Congress are more interested in foisting an economic nightmare on the world than fulfilling the dream. That's the real tragedy here.

The dream is still here... But will enough Republicans finally agree to drop the nightmare threats and let the dream become reality?

It's Still Working.

It's coming. Starting October 1, the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange will officially be open for business. Five insurance providers are now set to offer plans on And most middle class families will be eligible for federal tax credits.

And this is all happening thanks to Obamacare (aka the ACA, or Affordable Care Act). As the ACA comes online, the exchanges are about to start. And so are the tax credits. And so is Medicaid expansion here in Nevada.

Over the past 33 months, Governor Brian Sandoval (R) decided to cooperate with the Obama Administration in implementing the ACA. And so far, it's succeeding.

Just don't tell that to Senator Dean Heller (R-TEA Curious) and Rep. Joe Heck (R-??!!). Even as the exchange is about to go live and other parts of the health law are already lowering costs & providing more coverage, they and other G-O-TEA Members of Congress are trying to undo all of it. And not only that, but they're even threatening to shut down the federal government and start another global financial crisis if they don't get their way in taking away people's health care!

There has often been talk of the "rocky road" the ACA faces. And it's all due to petty partisan politics. Yet despite this, it's still working. I wonder what would happen if Obamacare was actually given a fair shot to work.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Dream Reaches New Frontiers.

Tomorrow will mark the official 50th anniversary of the historic March on Washington. This is the march where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his now famous "I Have a Dream" speech. So of course, we've been talking here and elsewhere about how far we’ve come since then... As well as how far we still need to go to achieve that dream.

State Senator Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas) touched on this back in June, as Southern Nevada locals were celebrating the US Supreme Court's rulings on marriage equality. Those marked major achievements in LGBTQ civil rights. Yet even now, much more needs to be done.

In May, the Nevada Legislature passed SJR 13 to undo the state's current constitutional ban on marriage equality. It came after weeks of powerful testimony and nerve-wracking deliberation.

And it's still far from over. SJR 13 must pass the Legislature again in 2015 before facing voters for final approval in 2016. It's a long process to undo a horrible mistake made a long time ago.

This also reflects the current state of LGBTQ civil rights nationally. There have been some major achievements in recent years, but we still have more to do to achieve full equality under the law and in society. While the recent Supreme Court decisions were major steps forward, anti-equality campaigns in Arizona and New Mexico remind us of what still needs to be done.

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But then again, New Mexico is becoming the new state on the front line for marriage equality as four counties are now granting marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Even as some Republican lawmakers there are throwing a temper tantrum over this, at least one law suit there has already been decided in favor of equality. And the state's Attorney General decided not to defend marriage discrimination.

This week, we're being reminded of the ongoing struggles for civil rights. However, we're also having to notice current and emerging struggles for equality. The dream is far from over. Rather, the dream continues to expand to new frontiers.

Mo' Cliff, Mo' Drama

Deja vu? No, really. It's back... Or perhaps, it never really left.

Just weeks after narrowly avoiding what could have been the greatest manufactured economic disaster of our time, Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) claimed he was "tired of the drama". So what did he propose to put the unnecessary and unproductive G-O-TEA induced drama to an end? Nothing! Instead, he vowed to participate in even more.

And now, his G-O-TEA "leaders" are doubling down on their kamikaze mission to fulfill their austerity death wish. Thankfully, Steve Benen is here to remind us of just how batshit crazy they and their kamikaze mission are.

Everything about [House Speaker John] Boehner's [R-Tang] reckless chest-thumping is nonsensical. Last week, Republicans wanted a debt-ceiling crisis over the Affordable Care Act; now it's over Medicare and Social Security. In the spring, Boehner wasn't prepared to jeopardize the full faith and credit of the nation; now he is. In July, House Republicans weren't calling for dollar-for-dollar cuts as part of the so-called "Boehner Rule"; now the Speaker is calling for exactly that.

Throughout the Bush/Cheney era, Boehner supported adding two wars, two tax cuts, Medicare expansion, and a Wall Street bailout to the national debt; now he's prepared to crash the U.S. economy on purpose unless Democrats offer him a debt-reduction plan he deems acceptable.

To reiterate a point from last week, Boehner, who should be slowly preparing to move his party away from the cliff, is instead making matters worse, playing a dangerously stupid game. His comments yesterday reinforce a simple truth: House Republicans are less a governing party and more a group of intemperate children who like to play with matches.

As we discussed last week, G-O-TEA internal politics is increasingly resembling a "Lord of the Flies" script adapted for TV. Who knew they were angling for a reality TV show? Do they truly think they can hunt and play all day while neglecting actual work?

And now, they're even more desperate than ever. Why? Treasury Secretary Jack Lew just moved up the official "hit the debt ceiling" date to mid-October, which is right after the deadline to pass a budget for the new fiscal year. And on top of that, President Obama is repeating his vow not to negotiate over the debt ceiling.

So now, Congressional Republican "leaders" essentially have their backs against the wall. They've been making wildly unrealistic promises to their whacked out base, but deep down they know there's no way to keep those promises. So what do they do? For now, it looks like they're promising more manufactured crises and threatening more economic hardship.

Because the TEA tinged hordes are demanding another manufactured crisis, we may be doomed to endure another cliff full of drama next month. However, it can't last indefinitely. Neither the American people nor the financial markets will allow for that. At some point, Republicans must pull their own party away from the cliff. Either they do that, or their party is doomed to fall off it.

The Coming Storm

These past couple of days have been wet ones for the Northwest Vegas Valley. The heavy downpours from Sunday and yesterday may have caused as much as $500,000 worth of damage while closing many roads in the area. And it isn't even over yet.

More rain is expected this week. And while there's concern about more damage, there's also a sense of relief. After all, Nevada and the entire Southwest region have faced epic drought and wildfires.

Already, we've been feeling the effects of climate change. The warning signs are everywhere. As carbon emissions continue to cause overall global warming, climate patterns change. This leads to more extreme floods in certain locations along with extreme drought in other locations.

This week, we're finally getting a little break from our drought with some much needed rain... But how long will it last? How long before we're bone dry yet again? And even when we get storms like the ones hitting this week, are we prepared to handle the storms of the future?

This week, we're getting some long awaited rain. But even as this is happening, we can't forget about the coming (climate change) storm. And we can't forget about what we must do to prepare for it.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tenemos un Sueño (DREAM).

This week, we're remembering the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech and the historic March on Washington where he delivered it. Much has been accomplished since then. And there's still more to do now.

And it spans far beyond what some media pundits traditionally consider "civil rights". Case in point: comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). Millions of American families have been torn apart, millions of workers have been exploited, and many communities have been full of strife. And it's all due to (the lack of) nine digits.

So is there a chance to finally change this for good? Maybe. Nearly two weeks ago, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) met and prayed with immigrant rights activists. And while he had some encouraging words at his town hall last week, he wouldn't commit to backing those words with concrete action.

And why is that? Oh, he and other House Republicans still fear their 21st Century Know Nothing base. Never mind that a growing number of Republicans are urging their own party to shape up and pass CIR. Far too many in the G-O-TEA are too busy fawning over racist rodeo clowns and pandering to their base to do anything serious on immigration reform.

But as we've discussed before, it doesn't have to be this way. Republicans like Rep. Heck can do something truly bipartisan and get a real CIR bill to the House floor. There are real people suffering under the status quo. No one will actually suffer if CIR is brought to the House floor.

Fifty years ago, Dr. King had a DREAM. And now, the DREAMers and other immigrant rights activists continue to remind us of this. Will Congress be able to drop the petty politicking for long enough to realize this?

The Dream Still Lives (Despite Recent Nightmares).

Last Saturday, we reflected on the upcoming 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. We remembered how much our nation has grown since then. We also noticed what still needs to be done to achieve Dr. King's dream.

Today, the latter is becoming even more painfully obvious. For one, the usual G-O-TEA suspects continue to race-bait the already tragic shooting death of Chris Lane, the Australian student and baseball player attending a college in Oklahoma. He was allegedly gunned down by "three bored teens". Yet while Australian media have zeroed in on our dangerously violent culture and incredibly lax gun laws, right-wing media here are twisting facts and building up tension in a desperate attempt to prove "Reverse Racism!!! White people under attack!!!"

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And that's not all. Just over a month after his acquittal in the Trayvon Martin murder trial, George Zimmerman took his "victory tour" to the very factory that produced the gun he used to kill Trayvon Martin. No, I'm not even kidding.

Part of what made the Zimmerman acquittal hard to take was the shooter’s utter lack of remorse for killing Martin. Even if you believed every word of his self-defense claim, it had to be hard to imagine having no regrets about the death of a teenager. Even Sean Hannity, who normally appears conscience free, asked Zimmerman if he had “regrets” about getting out of his car and following Martin, which led to their confrontation and the boy’s shooting. “It was all God’s plan, and for me to second guess it or judge it,” Zimmerman told Hannity, his voice trailing off.

That’s the kind of cluelessness that would lead a guy to tour the factory that made the gun he used to kill Martin, and to pose grinning with a star-struck factory worker like he’s Frank Sinatra visiting a local trattoria.

It’s particularly sad that Zimmerman’s visit came on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, which was commemorated Saturday by a civil rights convening that included Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s parents. The issues of racial profiling, stop and frisk and stand your ground laws are animating a new movement for racial justice, and Martin has become a symbol of the way young black men are treated at the hands of police as well as vigilantes like Zimmerman. “Trayvon Martin was my son, but he’s not just my son, he’s all of our son, and we have to fight for our children,” said Fulton told the crowd.

Yet even in the wake of this, Sybrina Fulton marched in Washington. And she reminded us of what must still be done. She reminded us of the dream that still lives, even amidst her son's tragic death.

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Despite the compoinding tragedies and the constant setbacks, the dream still lives. The dream is still here. Do we want it?

Sadly, the radical right's celebration of George Zimmerman's slaying of Trayvon Martin and distortion of Chris Lane's untimely death are clear reminders of the recent setbacks. Yet despite all this, the dream still lives. Can we finally make it a reality?

Hamster Wheel of Drama

It shouldn't be all that difficult to understand. Investment begets growth. When we invest in our people and our communities, we grow our economy.

But for the last two years, the federal government has essentially been divesting from our economy. And as a result, economic growth has been more sluggish and inconsistent than it could be. While the ongoing austerity regime has not been enough to throw us into another recession (at least for now), it has been complicating the climb out of the last one.

So why are we stuck in this seemingly endless hamster wheel of austerity? It's not about the merits of the policy. Rather, it's about the heat of the politics. And as Salon's Brian Beutler notes, Congressional Republican "leaders" are now eyeing an extension of the austerity regime as a twisted "consolation prize" for losing the other fall budget battles.

Sequestration has always been a tough problem. Democrats hate what it’s doing to investments across the government, particularly its indiscriminate cuts to programs for the poor and medical research funds. Republicans don’t like it much either. But most of them, including party leaders, are unwilling to consider a replacement that includes even a penny of revenue collected by tightening or closing tax loopholes benefiting top earners. That, and it’s also kind of a trophy for them — a totem they can point to when the tribe becomes depressed to remind of the time they really stuck it to President Obama. [...]

That won’t constitute a new concession from Obama so much as an ongoing one. But if forcing Obama to choose between the House GOP’s government spending plan and quasi-permanent sequestration is the party’s victory badge in the budget wars, they’re going to be loath to give it up in a negotiated settlement.

Since the usual G-O-TEA suspects can't do anything productive, they're lauding austerity as their greatest "accomplishment". And they refuse to let it go, regardless of its harmful effects on the economy.

So now, we're stuck in this hamster wheel of austerity. And even though we know we have to get out of it to let our economy heal, we can't figure out how to do so with so many intransigent G-O-TEA critters in Congress. It's the manufactured crisis that continues to haunt us.

For all those Republican Members of Congress who claim they're "tired of the drama", they have put us into this hamster wheel of drama. So how do we get out of it?

Saturday, August 24, 2013

We Still Have a Dream.

Fifty years ago, he had a dream. Martin Luther King, Jr. let the nation and the world know it was time for change. He played a critical role in advancing civil rights and putting America on a path to equality.

Today is the day to reflect on half a century of progress. However, that's not all.

Today is also the day to realize the progress we must still make. Remember what Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia) said? Well, he also had something to say yesterday. After all, he was there with Dr. King that day.

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There have been many ups and downs in the past half century. We've experienced the sorrow of Trayvon Martin's passing. We've also experienced the triumph of Antoinette Tuff's amazing heroism.

We all have the right to vote, but can we all vote. We all have the freedom to choose, but what are our choices? We all have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but can we pursue any of it?

Today, we reflect on the past. And we notice the present. And we build a better future. And we never lose sight of the dream.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Lords of the Crazy

Every so often, we can't help but notice the wild and crazy antics on Capitol Hill. But now, they're wilder than ever. Even "The I Word" is attracting renewed buzz.

Wait... What?! Oh, yes. That's right. They're going there.

We even got a taste of it earlier this week, when Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) held a town hall meeting in the Summerlin area. Several G-O-TEA faithful asked him about "The I Word". He tried his best to dance around it...

But several of his G-O-TEA colleagues in Congress are barely containing their giddiness. In May, Scandal-mania was in full swing. But now, it's gone from Scandal-mania to Impeach-a-palooza!

Never mind that they don't actually have a reason to impeach President Obama. They just to get rid of the twice elected Democratic President.. . Well, just because!

Salon's Joan Walsh tried to make sense of all this madness earlier today, but ultimately concluded by saying this.

[Senator Tom] Coburn’s [R-Oklahoma] impeachment rambling comes on the heels of similar musings by other congressional Republicans at their August town halls. Just Monday, when asked why not impeach the president, Sen. Ted Cruz [R-Texas] genially replied: “It’s a good question. And I’ll tell you the simplest answer: To successfully impeach a president you need the votes in the U.S. Senate.” Actually, the supposedly brilliant Cruz ought to know that to impeach a president, you need the votes in the House – the Senate then votes on whether to “convict” him.

But you know, maybe Cruz is getting ahead of himself because he believes his fellow Texan Rep. Blake Farenhold, who recently told his constituents that Republicans have the votes in the House to impeach Obama. “If we were to impeach the president tomorrow, you could probably get the votes in the House of Representatives to do it,” he said. “But it would go to the Senate and he wouldn’t be convicted.”

Of course, reindeer farmer Kerry Bentivoglio thinks impeaching Obama would be “a dream come true,” but he sounded more skeptical than Coburn about the chances of doing it – though he admitted consulting lawyers about possible grounds. “Until we have the evidence, you’re going to become a laughingstock if you’ve submitted a bill to impeach the president, because number one, you’ve got to convince the press,” he said.

So let’s recap: Coburn, one of the Republicans the Beltway media regularly use as an example of someone willing to work with Obama, sounds more convinced the president might be impeachable than a former reindeer farmer who resides on the party’s wingnut fringe. Reporters have to stop covering the supposed attempt of the GOP to heal itself, because it’s not happening. Real change in the party will require Republican leaders leveling with their base. That means standing up to nuts like Mark Levin and Rush Limbaugh and the delusional extremists organizing “Overpasses for Obama’s impeachment” (yes, that’s a thing) and showing up to rant at town halls.

Tom Coburn doesn’t have the guts to do that, so he can’t be counted among the last few reasonable Republicans. Let’s hope Time magazine leaves him off its annual list of 100 “influential” luminaries next year. Or at least let’s hope Obama declines to write the tribute to his GOP “friend” next time around.

Perhaps this was on Rep. Joe Heck's mind on Tuesday when he was trying to tamp down the local outburst of G-O-TEA Impeach-a-palooza. But of course, he still had to throw them some "red meat". So he promised even more investigations into long ago debunked conspiracy theories, as well as some sort of convoluted "Defund Obamacare " gimmick.

No wonder why the Republican Party has become such a hot mess both locally and nationally. It's as if they're reenacting "Lord of the Flies". Do they remember how that novel ends?

Where There's Smoke...

Here we go again. Even more massive wildfires are burning in the American West. Right now, one is burning in Yosemite National Park in California.

And now, the smoke from Yosemite is blowing into Reno. Air quality in the Reno-Sparks area is now officially "unhealthy".

Yikes. Another day, another horrific Western wildfire. With conditions this hot and this dry, the region has become a tinder box. And believe it or not, some in this country continue to deny the reality of climate change.

We've recently had some alarming news on the hastening pace of climate change. Yet despite this, the usual G-O-TEA suspects continue to deny reality. They treat this as if this is all just a political game. They continue trying to spin away the grave consequences of inaction.

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We continue to see disturbing signs of what's to come. We also continue to see promising signs of a brighter future if we take action. So what are we waiting for? How much more smoke must we smell before we take care of this fire?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Deadly Blame Game

Yesterday, a number of local constituents gathered across the street from Rep. Joe Heck's district office to demand action on gun violence. Today, we reflect on even more saddening headlines of brutal gun violence across the nation.

Last Friday, Chris Lane was shot dead "for fun". He was an Australian national and budding baseball star studying at Oklahoma's East Central University. His untimely death sparked shock and outrage in both countries, but Australians have particularly noticed a dangerous aspect of American culture that contributed to Chris Lane's death.

Frank FitzGerald, who was the principal at St Bernard's while Mr Lane was a student, said Mr Lane had been an integral part of the school leadership. He said the violence of Mr Lane's death made it particularly difficult to bear.

"I think the rest of the countries around the world just look at that country and shake their head," Mr FitzGerald said.

"How many tragedies do they have and Chris is just one of many.

"When you hear of the ones in schools where they have massacres, I cannot conceive of what that is to deal with. We had a number of tragedies over the years at St Bernard's and it cuts right through."

But of course on this side of the Pacific Ocean, the usual G-O-TEA suspects have been quick to pile on the race baiting. They've even gone on bizarre rants over fried chicken and vegetables! After all, they're still trying to spin away the brutal death of Trayvon Martin. And of course, they have to find something to divert attention from the root cause of both their deaths, along with the untimely deaths of many more people in this nation.

Also this week, we saw another school shooting. This time, it was in Decatur, Georgia. Yet this time, there were no deaths.

How did that happen? Antoinette Tuff was able to talk down the shooter. And she was able to talk him down without using a gun. So of course, this has caused many G-O-TEA heads to explode.

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Tuff is, of course, the bookkeeper at Ronald McNair Discovery Learning Center in Decatur, Ga., whose work talking shooter Michael Brandon Hill into surrendering to police Tuesday was captured live on a stunning 911 tape that’s gone viral. The fascination at the heart of Tuff’s tale, the reason it’s riveting, is the way she used compassion and empathy to disarm a mentally ill man intent on killing. “Was the potential there to have another Sandy Hook? Absolutely,” the local police chief told reporters as he praised Tuff.

In this story, the only thing that stopped a bad guy with a gun was a good woman with a heart. Or to entirely rewrite Wayne LaPierre’s dumb Manichaean NRA propaganda: The only thing that stopped an emotionally damaged, despairing and unloved young man with 500 rounds of ammunition was a compassionate woman sharing her own story of damage and despair, and telling him she loved him.

Oh, and then there’s this: As we try to recover from the unnecessarily polarized aftermath of the Trayvon Martin killing and George Zimmerman’s acquittal, it’s worth noting that Tuff is a black woman who helped save a young white man from harm at the hands of police. Of course, the race-baiters at Fox News, who were so agitated about the crimes of young black men a few weeks ago, have hardly rushed to emphasize that a young white man opened fire at a predominantly black school – let alone that he was helped to save his own life by an African-American woman (for example, check out how they approach these facts here).

But of course, the usual G-O-TEA suspects have rushed to race-bait in the Chris Lane case. And of course, they continue to refuse to address the root cause of his death, the near miss at Antoinette Tuff's school, the police shootout here in Henderson that Desert Beacon discussed this morning. After all, it's easier to play deadly blame games than to get Congress to actually do something to save lives.

Cruel Joke

This was likely bound to happen. Last week in Sandy Valley, Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) tried to dismiss testimony from a local small business owner who's benefiting from Obamacare (aka the Affordable Care Act, or ACA). But this week, he backtracked somewhat. (And I'll have more on that this weekend.)

Why is that? Perhaps Clint Murphy can explain. He's worked on many Republican campaigns, including John McCain's 2008 Presidential Campaign. But when he was denied health insurance due to "pre-existing conditions", Mr. Murphy had an "aha moment". And now, he's asking his party to come to its senses on the ACA.

"I must say that I was really taken aback by [Handel's] position because I definitely expected a more nuanced position that would, you know, talk about the parts of the law -- obviously the one that affects me the most, affects a lot of people the most, the pre-existing conditions.

"But, you know, blanket defund, blanket repeal, those aren't realistic policies because they're never going to go anywhere. They're going to go anywhere. And so, the people out there talking that are doing nothing but scaring people. They are preying on the lowest common denominator politics, and it's really a disgrace, in my opinion.

"I'm really -- I think it's unfortunate that that's the position that her campaign has decided to take and I wish them all the well, but it's just a bridge too far for me to go on."

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This year, Clint Murphy was planning to work for Karen Handel, one of the Republicans running for US Senate in Georgia. But when he learned that she's endorsed the latest G-O-TEA kamikaze mission to destroy Obamacare and the global economy, he started having second thoughts. And really, can anyone blame him?

This is becoming a growing problem for Republicans. For over three years, they have been trying to undo the Affordable Care Act. But now that the ACA exchanges are about to come online, it's becoming increasingly obvious that the ACA is here to stay. So can they continue to deny reality indefinitely?

Many in "Tea Party, Inc." keep demanding it. And they're going to even crazier extremes to pursue it. In fact, they're even finally releasing their long awaited alternative to Obamacare: your local hospital emergency room! No really, they're going there. And Steve Benen has something to say about it.

It is, however, extremely expensive to treat patients this way. It's far cheaper -- and more medically effective -- to pay for preventative care so that people don't have to wait for a medical emergency to seek treatment.

For that matter, when sick people with no insurance go to the E.R. for care, they often can't afford to pay their bills. Those costs are ultimately spread around to everyone else -- effectively creating the most inefficient system of socialized medicine ever devised. [...]

For those with chronic ailments, DeMint's position is laughable -- is anyone going to stop by the emergency room for chemotherapy or diabetes treatments?

The reality is plain for anyone who cares: Americans die because they lack basic coverage. The Republican plan to deal with this national scourge doesn't exist -- the plan is to destroy what took generations to approve, and then hope for the best.

Obamacare's critics are offering a cruel joke, and little else.

Indeed, this is an awfully cruel joke. How on earth are we to expect hospital emergency rooms to solve all our problems regarding lack of access to regular health care? We already tried that. It failed miserably.

Obamacare, on the other hand, is working. Coverage is up, and costs are down. So why are so many Congressional Republicans continuing to threaten economic destruction, peddle nonsensical fantasies, and make even more cruel jokes?

It's all about petty politics. They've been fear mongering over the ACA for so long that they're just not prepared for it to succeed and become a mainstay in American society. Ultimately, they fear the joke turning on them.

From Talk to Action

Last week, we witnessed the ultimate convergence. Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) came face to face with DREAMers and other immigrant rights activists demanding action on comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). He even prayed with them. At least it appeared as if a glimmer of hope for final CIR passage was still alive.

Yet this week, we were reminded again of the 21st Century Know Nothings doubling down on their plan to kill reform. And as long as House G-O-TEA "leaders" continue pandering to them, CIR will never happen. That's why several constituents asked Rep. Joe Heck this past Tuesday to not just say the right words on CIR, but also lead the way in making it happen.

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On Tuesday, someone actually asked him that. Will he lead?

Rep. Heck was also specifically asked about the economic impact of immigration reform. He actually acknowledged the huge potential gains of passing CIR.

Yet when Rep. Heck had a chance to expound on his goals for immigration reform, he actually said he did not favor the CIR package that already passed the Senate in June. He claimed the path to citizenship in the Senate bill had too many exits and diamond lanes. He claimed the House is choosing a wiser path of doing immigration reform step by step.

Surely, he must be noticing those in his own party who don't even want to do that. And as long as they're allowed to continue calling the shots on immigration policy, CIR will never pass.

That's why activists have looked to find ways to bypass the intransigent anti-reform G-O-TEA faction. And this is why Republicans like Rep. Heck will have to be wiling to bypass them as well if they actually want to pass CIR this year. So are they?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Can't Ignore It Forever

Last night, several constituents asked Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) about gun violence. And while he (again) endorsed expanding background checks in theory, he wouldn't specifically support HR 1565. So today, a number of constituents gathered at Pebble Park (which is right across the street from his district office) to ask him to reconsider.

Teresa C & @OFA_NV #ActionAugust friends ask @RepJoeHeck ... on Twitpic

@OFA_NV & other #NV03 locals @DemandAction from @RepJoeHe... on Twitpic

And that's not all. A couple of state legislators also appeared. State Senator Justin Jones (D-Enterprise) recounted his own experience with gun safety. And he explained why Rep. Heck should care as well.

Bob Cavazos also spoke today. He's a local gun owner. He even used to belong to the NRA. But now, he's calling on Rep. Heck to stop taking orders from the NRA and start paying more attention to his constituents.

Linda Turner spoke up as well. In March, she was surprised to learn she would have no more appointments with her dentist. The dentist's abusive ex-husband had shot her dead before committing suicide.

These are real stories from real Nevadans. Oh, and the vast majority of the people who showed up today live in NV-03. They were asking their Member of Congress to support bipartisan legislation that the broad majority of voters in this district support.

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#NV03 #gun owners like Bob C @DemandAction on #GunViolence @R... on Twitpic

So will Rep. Heck pay attention? Will he listen to the broad majority of voters in his own district? He can't ignore this forever.

Fishing for a Diversion?

For some time, many here in Southern Nevada have been looking for answers from Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) on HR 1565 and gun safety overall. At a town hall meeting in the Southwest Vegas Valley last night, some started to surface. At Victoria Fertitta Middle School's gymnasium, Rep. Heck took several questions on a variety of issues.

@RepJoeHeck opening his #NV03 town hall in SW #Vegas gym #nvp... on Twitpic

SW #Vegas gym filling up 4 @RepJoeHeck #NV03 town hall #nvp2 ... on Twitpic

A few of them involved gun violence. Janice C specifically asked about HR 1565. Rep. Heck took the opportunity to reiterate general support for expanded background checks, but he wouldn't endorse HR 1565.

Rep. Heck said there were parts of the bill he couldn't support. He also said he's talked to the sponsors of HR 1565 about possible amendments.

That wasn't enough for the brother of Michael Boldon, the cab driver killed in February's Las Vegas Strip Shooting. While he complimented Rep. Heck, he also asked when he will finally lead the way on gun safety. Here's how Rep. Heck responded to him.

This week, gun violence is again making headline news. And again, the nation is facing serious questions about this matter. Yet even with over 180 cosponsors, a simple, bipartisan background checks bill can't make it to the House floor. And it seems like Rep. Joe Heck is trying to avoid taking a specific stand on this specific issue.

But ironically enough, Rep. Heck had no trouble taking a specific stand on the long ago debunked conspiracy theories surrounding last fall's attack on a US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. And not only that, but he wants Congress to waste even more time on G-O-TEA fishing expeditions scandal-mania! Oh, yes. That's right. He went there.

There are many issues facing Nevada and the nation that need Congressional action. Gun violence is one of them. G-O-TEA conspiracy theories are not.

I guess Rep. Heck doesn't want to see why Congressional approval has fallen so low this year.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013


This shouldn't really be a surprise. We've had plenty of warning signs right in front of us. But now, it's become even more obvious.

In 2007, the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report that got the whole world talking. It also moved some to action. Yet despite that, the US federal government failed to act.

This week, the IPCC released a new report. And this one is even more alarming than the last.

The report emphasizes that the basic facts about future climate change are more established than ever, justifying the rise in global concern. It also reiterates that the consequences of escalating emissions are likely to be profound.

“It is extremely likely that human influence on climate caused more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature from 1951 to 2010,” the draft report says. “There is high confidence that this has warmed the ocean, melted snow and ice, raised global mean sea level and changed some climate extremes in the second half of the 20th century.”

Yes, it's this serious. And yes, climate change will be even more dangerous if we try to ignore it.

What (else) will it take to get us to act? What else will we have to endure? How many more people must suffer? Can we save ourselves before we get burned?

Who's Afraid of Affordable Health Care?

Here we go again. Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) is again making headlines. But this time, there's a twist.

Remember when we discussed the push-back that Congressional Republicans were starting to get over their knee-jerk obstruction over Obamacare (aka the Affordable Care Act, or ACA)? Last week, it was Rep. Heck's turn. At a last-minute town hall meeting in Sandy Valley, NV-03 resident and small business owner Ron Nelsen directly confronted Rep. Heck over his opposition to the ACA. Mr. Nelsen explained how the ACA is saving his business money while also ensuring his employees have access to the health care they need, but Rep. Heck didn't seem all that interested in the facts.

All Rep. Heck could say was that there were a lot of pages in the ACA. Ummm... OK?! He does realize this law offers many long awaited reforms to the nation's health care system, doesn’t he?

Oh, and he claimed that "Republicans never had a chance to offer an alternative". Really? In order to offer an alternative, they must have one to offer. And Rep. Heck conveniently forgot that ACA/Obamacare is largely based on the conservative/Republican alternative to "Hillarycare"!

But alas, the very Heritage Foundation that laid the intellectual foundation for Obamacare is now on a kamikaze mission to destroy the Affordable Care Act while also crashing the global economy. So of course, Rep. Heck must now act like Obamacare is so awful and terrible and "COM'U'NIZMM!!!" and "UN'MUR'KIN!!!" And when confronted with reality, he must conjure up some excuse to dismiss it.

And of course, Rep. Heck and other G-O-TEA acolytes must continue in their efforts to kill Obamacare with their toxic TEA. After all, if it's allowed to work, they will receive none of the credit. And that's what actually scares them.

Yep, this is why Rep. Heck is afraid of affordable health care.

Get on the Floor.

Last week, a glimmer of hope appeared. Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) seemed to change his tune on comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). He made some promising comments Monday last week, then prayed with immigrants rights activists last Wednesday.

So does this mean we'll finally see the House pass CIR next month? Not so fast. While Rep. Heck did say some encouraging words, he still hasn't (yet?) called on his House Republican leaders to schedule a floor vote on the CIR package that passed the Senate overwhelmingly back in June.

And then, there's this.

In Murfreesboro, Tennessee, Josie Molina asked Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R-Tennessee) what could be done to stop her father's deportation. He essentially just said he should be deported. And the 21st Century Know Nothings in the audience cheered.

So there's that. And then, there's "The Gatekeeper" of any and all House immigration legislation, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Virginia). Last night, he doubled down on his opposition to any path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants.

Last month, many Republicans said they disapproved of the incendiary words of Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa). Yet despite that, they're still letting Rep. King dictate their party's immigration policy. For all the Republicans' talk of "change", it's increasingly looking like the House G-O-TEA will settle for more of the same old FAIL...

But it doesn't have to be this way. Rep. Heck and other House Republicans who say they're "pro-reform" can actually stand up and call for a floor vote. Will they?

Yet another conservative backed report shows how CIR benefits the economy. We've known for some time it's in our best economic interest to pass CIR. So when will Rep. Heck and other House Republicans call for a floor vote on CIR?

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Stories That Won't Go Away

Last week, we saw some amazing actions off the 215 Freeway near Henderson. DREAMers and other immigrant rights activists gathered to pray outside Rep. Joe Heck's NV-03 district office. And to everyone's surprise, Rep. Heck came down to listen to the activists. He even participated in a couple prayers.

Yet since then, we haven't seen a convincing indication of change from the G-O-TEA bloc in Congress. While Rep. Joe Heck seemed to change his tune last week, we've yet to see if this will translate into action.

Sanje S sharing w/ @OFA_NV #NV03 vol's why #cir matters ... on Twitpic

@OFA_NV vol & retired teacher sharing why #cir matters to... on Twitpic

This is why local OFA activists gathered at Pebble Park today. Just across the street from Rep. Heck's office, they shared stories on why immigration reform matters to them.

One local activist spoke of students she worked with when she taught in Southern California. Another shared his experience working with farm workers in Washington State. And Miguel, the local OFA organizer, shared his own family's story and opened up on the journey of his older brothers as DREAMers.

@OFA_NV organizer Miguel shared his family's story &... on Twitpic

@OFA_NV vol leader Dave H listening to #cir stories by @RepJo... on Twitpic

@OFA_NV activists reminding @RepJoeHeck #SiSePuede #cir #Time... on Twitpic

These are just some of the many stories that Rep. Joe Heck has had to encounter. These are just some of the many people in Southern Nevada calling for reform. These are just some of the many signs of Nevada's and America's future.

These are the stories that won't go away. This is a critical issue that won't go away. So what will Rep. Heck do next?

Just a Reminder

As this month began, we looked at what (little) the 113th Congress has accomplished going into August Recess. As the month has gone on, constituents have been letting their Members of Congress know what they think of what's on the agenda on Capitol Hill. And locally, some have done even more.

On Saturday, local OFA volunteers stood outside the Henderson DMV to collect signatures for a petition to Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) to support HR 1565, the bipartisan background checks bill. It's been out for some time, yet Rep. Heck has not taken a position on it. And what makes this even more awkward is that Rep. Heck himself endorsed the content of this bill just six months ago.

@OFA_NV vol's Linda C & Mike P doing #gun violence #... on Twitpic

Local @OFA_NV vol's busy w/ #ActionAugust AM 4 #gun safe... on Twitpic

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This is why OFA volunteers were gathering petition signatures Saturday. This is why over 100 people signed... Just that morning. And this is what Rep. Heck will be reminded of before he returns to DC next month.

This policy has broad, bipartisan support. It's now in Congress' hands. And it's truly the least Congress can do on gun violence prevention.

Sometimes, they have to be reminded... Even of the most basic things.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Consequences of Crazy

Yesterday, immigrants rights activists paid Rep. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) a visit to ask him to do the right thing. Even though Rep. Heck has recently signaled openness to comprehensive immigration reform, he's yet to demand a floor vote on it. Why is that?

Simple. It comes down to the G-O-TEA base demanding complete fealty to their extreme ideology, even when it leads to disastrous consequences. So instead taking any sort of meaningful action on immigration reform, infrastructure investment, climate change, or just about anything else that can solve major problems while also creating jobs, House G-O-TEA "leaders" are now trying to placate their crazy base with even more destructive and nonsensical drama.

So now, the latest and greatest manufactured crisis (again) involves threatening debt default. Apparently since they loved the results of the last time they threatened to turn America into a "deadbeat nation", they're at it again. Why? This time, I'll let Alex Pareene explain.

As Jonathan Chait points out, replacing the shutdown threat with a default threat is actually much crazier and more potentially disastrous. But [House Speaker John] Boehner [R-Ohio] couldn’t get Republicans to agree to just give up on defunding Obamacare this year. He had to promise to exchange their one crazy plan to do so with another one that will go into effect later. And when it is time for that one to go into effect, he will need to find something else to distract them for a little while, until the next crazy plan is ready to go. As Brian Beutler says, we’ve seen this play out over and over again. Boehner has to promise to let Republicans do some apocalyptic thing later in order to get them to avoid doing some apocalyptic thing now. So far we’ve avoided an apocalypse.

But the people Boehner is trying to deal with here don’t see any of these threats as particularly apocalyptic. They don’t really see anything at all that might contradict their ideological stances. The House members Boehner’s trying to walk back from the ledge don’t read the Times or the Post. They don’t care what Brookings or the CBO or CRS say. They believe every “nonpartisan” or “objective” information source to be a part of the vast liberal conspiracy, and they rely for their facts and predictions strictly on sources explicitly aligned with the conservative movement. And those sources are just telling them crazy, untrue things, all the time.

That’s Boehner’s problem: He’s trying to ease his members into the real world, where defunding Obamacare is impossible as long as Obama is in the White House, and where attempts to do so via incredibly unconventional means could have disastrous consequences. What makes his job more difficult is that this reality isn’t acknowledged by most of the conservative organizations his members, and his party’s voters, exclusively follow.

Yes, it still comes down to that. Because of incessant G-O-TEA whining about the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) actually providing more and better health care options for more Americans, House Republicans are still wasting time "strategizing" on how to take health care away from millions of Americans while also crashing the global economy. Yet again, House G-O-TEA "leaders" are going to such drastic and dangerous extremes to try to placate their extreme base.

Why? Simple. They're afraid of primary challenges. They're afraid of losing power.

What far too many Republicans in Congress fail to see is that they’ve already essentially lost power. They've already ceded so much of their policy making authority to "Tea Party, Inc." And with this latest manufactured crisis, they may very well outsource even more of their power to "Tea Party, Inc."

These are the consequences of the "leaders" of one party outsourcing so much of their governing duties to outfits that have no interest in actual governance. They only want to promote their extreme ideological agenda. And as a result, we all suffer.

This is what Rep. Heck, along with Senator Dean Heller (R) and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) must think long and hard about. How much more crazy are they willing to go along with? And are they willing to force their constituents to live with the consequences?