Sunday, January 7, 2018

The problem with Cory Gardner's argument

or any Republican for that matter

Cory Gardner took exception to Jeff Sessions switch on marijuana.  The Colorado senator claims that Sessions promised he wouldn't go after state legalized cannabis but it seems the Attorney General has had a change of heart.  Sessions has long made it known he doesn't like all this pot being made freely available, and it was only a matter of time before he used his federal authority to contain it.  He not only has the blessing of Trump but many state governors, who have file suits against states that have legalized pot.

The problem goes well beyond marijuana.  Gardner wants to present himself as a moderate Republican by voicing his libertarian view on pot.  This is similar to Rand Paul, who has also been pro-pot.  But, these senators have no problem going after health care and other issues that blur state and federal lines.  Both voted for the tax cuts bill that will eliminate federal mandates for buying state and federal health insurance.  They had previously voted to gut the ACA, and in fact have stuck to the party line on almost every issue.  Gardner has a whopping 94.6 score of voting along with Trump's position on issues.  This is double how he was expected to vote in 2017, according to fivethirtyeight.  The only place he seems to have veered is on pot, which makes you wonder if he bought stock in marijuana companies, which are currently taking a nosedive.

This is a pattern that has emerged over and over again.  Collins, Murkowski and McCain were treated like heroes for voting down Mitch's last ditch effort to gut the Affordable Care Act, only to vote for a tax cuts bill that did the very same thing.  In fact, every single Senate Republican voted for the final version of the notorious bill, including Bob Corker, who had previously been the lone Republican to stand against it.  Yet, we keep hoping that one of these Republicans will emerge to challenge the party orthodoxy.

They won't because they are part of a political party that is run like a mafia.  The Republican leaders make very few concessions, instead they threaten their party members by either pulling election funding or reminding them that there is a strong core of Republicans that continues to support Trump, no matter how daft he might be.  In other words, they face certain defeat in the primaries if they go against the grain.   This leaves young turks like Cory Gardner, Ben Sasse, and Rand Paul in a tough bind.  They might want to challenge the orthodoxy, but if they want to stay in the Senate they have to succumb to Mitch's lead.  

It's a little harder to figure out Jeff Flake and Bob Corker, who have said they will not be seeking re-election this Fall.  They love to attack Trump, but in the end pretty much go along with his position on key issues.  Both have a Trump score over 85% on 538.  Susan Collins flirted with running for governor of Maine, but has since decided to stay in the Senate, where she is once again proving loyal to the party, although her score of 82% puts her a little bit in danger in the primaries.  She hopes her vote on the tax cuts bill makes up for it.

In fairness, the Trump Score is a bit deceiving.  It isn't so much that these senators are voting along with Trump, as Trump has taken the party line on almost every issue.  It's his volatility that worries Republican senate leaders, like that time he went along with "Chuck and Nancy" on a short-term spending solution, kicking the budget down the line.  In the end, however, this worked out well for Republicans as they were able to get their tax cuts bill through budget reconciliation rather than bringing it to a full vote in the Senate where they would have needed 60 votes to pass.  Basically, Trump will take a "win" anyway he can get it.  Since that little relapse, he has been very harsh on the Democrats, much to Mitch's approval.

There has also been a long history of the Republican Party letting its members stray on their pet issues, as long as they don't go against the big issues.  As far as Mitch is concerned, Young Cory can go after Jeff Sessions on cannabis, as long as he sticks to the party line on tax cuts, repeal of "Obamacare," cuts in Medicare, overhaul of Social Security, and so on.  

The orthodoxy was a upset with Murkowski, Collins and McCain over the health care vote, but they brought these wayward senators back into the fold when it came to what really mattered -- a sweeping tax bill that used cuts in health care to help fund the $1.5 trillion cost of the bill.  They all plan to eventually seek re-election.

One can argue that we see a similar situation with Democrats.  After all, they were only able to get the Affordable Care Act through Congress by "bullying" some of their wayward members and convincing Arlen Specter to switch parties.  It was much tougher as the Democrats needed 60 votes, and at most had 59 in 2009, until Arlen joined them.  

I think Mitch never forgave the Democrats for this and has demanded total loyalty from his members ever since.  As you might recall Mitch was thrilled as punch when Scott Brown won the Massachusetts Special Election to fill John Kerry's vacated seat in late 2009.  Number 41 they called him.  Democrats were unable to pass anymore major legislation after that upset victory.

It doesn't stop Democrats from hoping they can steer disgruntled Republicans to their party.  They flirted with Murkowski, who won as an "independent" in Alaska after being "teabagged" in the primaries in 2010, but she chose to caucus with the Republicans, and ran as a Republican in 2016.  So, don't let her defiance on some issues fool you.  She knows which side of her bread is buttered.  She along with Susan Collins and John McCain are not "heroes" because they stand up to their Republican Party from time to time.  They consistently vote along the party line, even when it is against their own best interests.  Murkowski introduced the bill to open drilling in the Alaskan Arctic Circle.  Kind of like making Lisa shoot a family member to prove her loyalty to the party.

As for Young Cory,  he is essentially making a big fuss about nothing in an attempt to endear himself to Coloradans after voting for the noxious tax bill.  Jeff Sessions' position on pot is largely symbolic.  It is doubtful that federal prosecutors will aggressively crack down on possession, cultivation and distribution of cannabis in states where it has been made legal.  Like everything else in the Trump administration, it was about erasing the Obama legacy, which had adopted a policy of non-intervention.  Sessions wanted other states to not become part of this "reefer madness" by placing a federal warning on pot.


  1. Whatever happened to "states' rights"? I guess I'm one of those little-minded people Emerson disdained.

  2. States only have rights as far as they toe the conservative line.

  3. States rights don't exist when it comes to granting sanctuary for ME refugees. As for those who love the old Confederacy, such rights are generally ok under most other circumstances.