Lamar Alexander

Tennessee Senate Candidate Explains How Abortion and Gun Rights Are Easy Issues Because The Answers Come From God

Tennessee State Rep. Joe Carr is one of this year’s crop of Tea Party candidates set to challenge Republicans in Congress who they deem too moderate – in Carr’s case, Senator Lamar Alexander. Carr told a radio show that issues like abortion rights and gun rights “really aren’t that difficult."

Twelve Republicans Who Broke Their Pledge To Oppose Judicial Filibusters

After waging an unprecedented campaign of obstructionism against President Obama’s nominees, Republicans are now crying crocodile tears over a rules change that would end the filibuster on certain judicial nominees.

NBC News points out that Republicans are not blocking judicial nominees over “concerns about ideology or qualifications, but over the president’s ability to appoint ANYONE to these vacancies.” This unprecedented blockade leaves Democrats with few options, as dozens of nominees are left unable to receive a simple confirmation vote.

It’s even harder to be sympathetic to Senate Republicans when you remember that just a few years ago, many of the very same Republicans who are today filibustering President Obama’s nominees willy-nilly were vowing that they would never, ever filibuster judicial nominees. Some even declared that judicial filibusters were unconstitutional and un-American.

But that was before there was a Democrat in the White House.

We take a look back at some of the Senate’s most strident opponents of filibustering judicial nominees, turned master obstructers.

1. Mitch McConnell (KY)

“Any President’s judicial nominees should receive careful consideration. But after that debate, they deserve a simple up-or-down vote” (5/19/05).

“Let's get back to the way the Senate operated for over 200 years, up or down votes on the president's nominee, no matter who the president is, no matter who's in control of the Senate” (5/22/05).

2. John Cornyn (TX)

“[F]ilibusters of judicial nominations are uniquely offensive to our nation’s constitutional design” (6/4/03).

“[M]embers of this distinguished body have long and consistently obeyed an unwritten rule not to block the confirmation of judicial nominees by filibuster. But, this Senate tradition, this unwritten rule has now been broken and it is crucial that we find a way to ensure the rule won’t be broken in the future” (6/5/03).

3. Lamar Alexander (TN)

“If there is a Democratic President and I am in this body, and if he nominates a judge, I will never vote to deny a vote on that judge” (3/11/03).

“I would never filibuster any President's judicial nominee. Period” (6/9/05).

4. John McCain (AZ)

“I’ve always believed that [judicial nominees deserve yes-or-no votes]. There has to be extraordinary circumstances to vote against them. Elections have consequences” (6/18/13).

5. Chuck Grassley (IA)

It would be a real constitutional crisis if we up the confirmation of judges from 51 to 60” (2/11/03).

“[W]e can’t find anywhere in the Constitution that says a supermajority is needed for confirmation” (5/8/05).

6. Saxby Chambliss (GA)

“I believe [filibustering judicial nominees] is in violation of the Constitution” (4/13/05).

7. Lindsey Graham (SC)

“I think filibustering judges will destroy the judiciary over time. I think it’s unconstitutional” (5/23/05).

8. Johnny Isakson (GA)

I will vote to support a vote, up or down, on every nominee. Understanding that, were I in the minority party and the issues reversed, I would take exactly the same position because this document, our Constitution, does not equivocate” (5/19/05).

9. James Inhofe (OK)

“This outrageous grab for power by the Senate minority is wrong and contrary to our oath to support and defend the Constitution” (3/11/03).

10. Mike Crapo (ID)

“[T]he Constitution requires the Senate to hold up-or-down votes on all nominees” (5/25/05).

11 . Richard Shelby (AL)

“Why not allow the President to do his job of selecting judicial nominees and let us do our job in confirming or denying them? Principles of fairness call for it and the Constitution requires it” (11/12/03).

12. Orrin Hatch (UT)*

Filibustering judicial nominees is “unfair, dangerous, partisan, and unconstitutional” (1/12/05).

*Hatch claims he still opposes filibusters of judicial nominees and often votes “present” instead of “no” on cloture votes. But as Drew noted: “Because ending a filibuster requires 60 ‘yes’ votes, voting ‘present’ is identical to voting ‘no.’ Hatch’s decision to vote ‘present’ is an affirmative decision to continue the filibuster.”

Tea Party-Backed Senate Candidate Once Tried to End Scholarships for Minority Students

After Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison announced her retirement after she was declared a top target of Tea Party activists, the race for the Republican nomination became even more crowded and contentious. Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams immediately became a Tea Party sensation and last week resigned from the Railroad Commission in order to be a full-time candidate.

The American Spectator today features a glowing profile of Williams, saying that “something about him says ‘Don’t mess with Texas.’”

Williams even won the endorsement of Tea Party leader Sen. Jim DeMint, who’s Senate Conservatives Fund lifted a number of far-right candidates like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell to victory in GOP primary contests.

But Williams first garnered the support of the Party’s far-right when he unsuccessfully tried to block scholarships for minority students when he worked at the Department of Education under President George H. W. Bush. The New York Times reported in 1990 that Williams caused uproar when he tried to prohibit “colleges and universities that receive Federal funds from offering scholarships designated for minority students.”

Michael L. Williams, the Education Department's Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, said yesterday that "race-exclusive" scholarships, or those based on ethnic origin, were discriminatory and therefore illegal.

College administrators and scholarship fund directors reacted with alarm, saying the decision could reverse decades of efforts to increase the enrollment of members of racial and ethnic minorities who have been historically underrepresented in colleges.

"We were shocked by this decision," said Richard F. Rosser, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, which represents 815 institutions. "We have been making enormous efforts to increase the numbers of minority students in our colleges and universities, and this has necessarily required a great deal of financial aid."

Neither Rosser nor anyone else contacted yesterday could say how many institutions, or what percentage of total financial aid to minority students, might be affected by the new enforcement policy. But the practice of setting aside money to attract qualified minority students and make college more affordable for them has been widespread for at least 20 years.

Ultimately, then-Secretary Lamar Alexander (now a Republican Senator from Tennessee) stopped Williams from implementing his policy, including his attempt to block the Fiesta Bowl from setting “aside $100,000 for a fund for minority scholarships.” As Williams happily notes in his campaign’s biography, he succeeded Clarence Thomas in his position at the Education Department.

In a Republican primary in Texas where each candidate has to demonstrate their right-wing credentials, Williams may try to use this case to his advantage.

Tea Party-Backed Senate Candidate Once Tried to End Scholarships for Minority Students

After Texas Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison announced her retirement after she was declared a top target of Tea Party activists, the race for the Republican nomination became even more crowded and contentious. Texas Railroad Commissioner Michael Williams immediately became a Tea Party sensation and last week resigned from the Railroad Commission in order to be a full-time candidate.

The American Spectator today features a glowing profile of Williams, saying that “something about him says ‘Don’t mess with Texas.’”

Williams even won the endorsement of Tea Party leader Sen. Jim DeMint, who’s Senate Conservatives Fund lifted a number of far-right candidates like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell to victory in GOP primary contests.

But Williams first garnered the support of the Party’s far-right when he unsuccessfully tried to block scholarships for minority students when he worked at the Department of Education under President George H. W. Bush. The New York Times reported in 1990 that Williams caused uproar when he tried to prohibit “colleges and universities that receive Federal funds from offering scholarships designated for minority students.”

Michael L. Williams, the Education Department's Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights, said yesterday that "race-exclusive" scholarships, or those based on ethnic origin, were discriminatory and therefore illegal.

College administrators and scholarship fund directors reacted with alarm, saying the decision could reverse decades of efforts to increase the enrollment of members of racial and ethnic minorities who have been historically underrepresented in colleges.

"We were shocked by this decision," said Richard F. Rosser, president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, which represents 815 institutions. "We have been making enormous efforts to increase the numbers of minority students in our colleges and universities, and this has necessarily required a great deal of financial aid."

Neither Rosser nor anyone else contacted yesterday could say how many institutions, or what percentage of total financial aid to minority students, might be affected by the new enforcement policy. But the practice of setting aside money to attract qualified minority students and make college more affordable for them has been widespread for at least 20 years.

Ultimately, then-Secretary Lamar Alexander (now a Republican Senator from Tennessee) stopped Williams from implementing his policy, including his attempt to block the Fiesta Bowl from setting “aside $100,000 for a fund for minority scholarships.” As Williams happily notes in his campaign’s biography, he succeeded Clarence Thomas in his position at the Education Department.

In a Republican primary in Texas where each candidate has to demonstrate their right-wing credentials, Williams may try to use this case to his advantage.

Throwing the Right Overboard to Save the GOP?

Yesterday, I noted that Tony Perkins was declaring Sarah Palin the "future of the [Republican] Party."  You know who will probably not become the future of the Republican Party?  Christine Todd Whitman, at least if the Religious Right has anything to say about it, because she says that Palin and people like Perkins are exactly what is causing the GOP to lose:

Following the conventional wisdom of the past two presidential elections, McCain tried mightily to assuage the Republican Party's social-fundamentalist wing. His selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, whose social views are entirely aligned with that wing, as his running mate was clearly meant to demonstrate his commitment to that bloc. Yet while his choice did comfort those voters, it made many others uncomfortable.

Palin has many attractive qualities as a candidate. Being prepared to become president at a moment's notice was not obviously among them this year. Her selection cost the ticket support among those moderate voters who saw it as a cynical sop to social fundamentalists, reinforcing the impression that they control the party, with the party's consent.

In the wake of the Democrats' landslide victory, and despite all evidence to the contrary, many in the GOP are arguing that John McCain was defeated because the social fundamentalists wouldn't support him. They seem to be suffering from a political strain of Stockholm syndrome. They are identifying with the interests of their political captors and ignoring the views of the larger electorate. This has cost the Republican Party the votes of millions of people who don't find a willingness to acquiesce to hostage-takers a positive trait in potential leaders.

Unless the Republican Party ends its self-imposed captivity to social fundamentalists, it will spend a long time in the political wilderness. On Nov. 4, the American people very clearly rejected the politics of demonization and division. It's long past time for the GOP to do the same.

You know who else probably won't become the future of the GOP? Susan Collins, Lamar Alexander, or Peter King:

As Congressional Republicans lick their political wounds and try to figure out how to bounce back in 2010 and beyond, they might want to consult with Susan Collins, Lamar Alexander and Peter T. King.

Senator Collins, Senator Alexander and Representative King were among Republicans who defied the odds in a terrible year for their colleagues. Their re-elections provide a possible road map for how the party can succeed in a challenging political environment. The answer, the three veteran politicians agreed, is not to become a more conservative, combative party focused on narrow partisan issues.

“What doesn’t work is drawing a harsh ideological line in the sand,” said Ms. Collins, of Maine, who early in the year was a top Democratic target for defeat but ended up winning 61 percent of the vote while Senator Barack Obama received 58 percent in the presidential race in her state.

“We make a mistake if we are going to make our entire appeal rural and outside the Northeast and outside the Rust Belt,” said Mr. King, of New York, who easily won re-election in a region shedding Republicans at a precipitous rate.

“We can stand around and talk about our principles, but we have to put them into actions that most people agree with,” said Mr. Alexander, of Tennessee, a self-described conservative who was able to attract African-American voters.

As much as I would love to see the GOP dump the Religious Right, I don't have much faith that it will actually happen.  In fact, the best chance the party had to do so was with John McCain, but instead of standing by his infamous "agents of intolerance" remark, the "maverick" utterly caved and capitulated to the Right.

Until the GOP can nominate a presidential candidate who openly eschews the Religious Right and still wins the election or the Right gets a dream nominee, someone like Rick Santorum or Sarah Palin, who makes the right-wing agenda the centerpiece of their campaign and then gets utterly destroyed at the polls, the Religious Right and the Republican Party are going to be stuck with each other for the foreseeable future, whether they like it or not.

It’s 1996 All Over Again

Over the weekend, the New York Times published two pieces – one by David Kirkpatrick, the other by Frank Rich - suggesting that the Religious Right’s long political relationship with the Republican Party is unraveling and that the movement is facing the possibility of complete destruction heading into the 2008 election.  

If that prediction sounds familiar, it is probably because the media wrote wove exactly the same narrative a little over a decade ago heading into the 1996 election.  

Back in 1995, Ralph Reed graced the cover of Time Magazine where he was declared “The Right Hand of God” for his role in helping Republican capture control of Congress the previous year from his position as the head of the Christian Coalition.   

The Religious Right, it seemed at the time, were the new political powerbrokers in Washington, DC; a movement that had fundamentally altered the balance of power and was set to dominate the scene for the foreseeable future. 

But then, just one year later, the press was reporting that they were in complete disarray and on the verge of imploding.   

Just a sampling of articles from that period demonstrate how little has changed since then, with GOP candidates pandering to James Dobson and the Right split over which candidate, if any, to back:   

Uh Oh – Fractures developing in the Right-Wing Coalition against Public Education

In today’s Wall Street Journal, voucher warrior Clint Bolick takes aim at Bush Administration Education Secretary Margaret Spellings. It seems Bolick doesn’t think the No Child Left Behind Act is destroying public schools fast enough and Spellings is to blame. Bolick is upset that not enough parents have yanked their children out of LA public schools.

The question is whether Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings--whose administration has made NCLB the centerpiece of its education agenda--will do anything about it. She has the power to withhold federal funds from districts that fail to comply with NCLB, and has threatened to do just that. Rhetoric, so far, has exceeded action.

Incredulous that parents would actually prefer to keep their children in public schools, Bolick laments that “as of yet private school choice is not an option under NCLB.” Bolick reminds us that right-wingers in Congress have proposed a national voucher bill, but until then, he says, the battle against public schools must be led by Secretary Spellings.

In response, Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and John Ensign and Reps. Buck McKeon and Sam Johnson have proposed adding private options under NCLB for children in chronically failing schools. But for now, the only hope for these kids is for Secretary Spellings to hold the districts' feet to the fire.

For her part Spellings, thinks NCLB is a nearly perfect law, but Bolick is not appeased. Pleading with her to withhold funding from LA public schools, Bolick issues a final warning to Spellings.

Will she or won't she? Margaret Spellings's actions in the coming days will determine far more than the Bush administration's education legacy.

Ouch.