Santa Cruz came to town this week, when Sen. Ted Cruz (R, Texas) inadvertently gave Senate Democrats an early holiday gift. Democrats taunted Cruz and Republicans cursed him for pulling a parliamentary shenanigan that let Democrats push through two dozen nominations that Senate Republicans would have blocked next year.
Just as Majority Leader Harry Reid and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell were close to getting a Senate vote on the $1.1 trillion “CRomnibus” bill, Cruz got cute and demanded a vote to defund President Obama’s executive action on immigration. Reid seized the opportunity to push through 24 nominations that would otherwise have gone nowhere. As a result:
- America finally has a new surgeon general. A year and a half after Republicans blocked his nomination over his support for gun control, contraception, and Obamacare, Vivek H. Murthy was confirmed as the 19th surgeon general of the United States. Remember when wingnuts were squawking for an “Ebola Czar,” while keeping us from having a surgeon general during the Ebola crisis?
- The Senate cemented President Obama’s judicial legacy. With enough confirmations this week to put him at 89 district court and circuit court confirmations this year, and 305 during his six years in office, President Obama has surpassed his predecessors at this point in their presidencies.
- The judiciary became more diverse. Of President Obama’s judges: 42 percent are women, 19 percent are black, eleven percent are Hispanic, and 11 are gay. The Fifth Circuit, which includes Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, just got its first openly gay judge, and North Carolina got its first black female district judge.
No wonder Sen. Lindsey Graham (R, South Carolina) told Roll Call, “I think most Republicans think that Christmas came early for Democrats.” “I haven’t seen Harry smile this much in years, and I didn’t particularly like it,” Graham added.
On Wednesday, President Obama announced that the US will begin working to reestablish diplomatic relations with Cuba. The change was helped along by Cuba’s release of American aid worker Alan Gross, and special assistance from Pope Francis.
Ending the last of America’s “cold war” staring contests will lead to many changes, including the beginning of the end of the US embargo against Cuba, and the opening of an American embassy in Havanna. American companies are already scouting business opportunities in Cuba, which could boost Cuba’s lagging economy. The new policy could also open up new opportunities for economic growth in the American South. Southeastern states in particular could benefit from increased agricultural exports.
Cause to celebrate, right? Not if you’re a wingnut:
- Sen. Mark Rubio (R, Florida) lashed out at the president for dealing with a regime that “harassed, imprisoned and even killed” its own people.“ ”This is going to do absolutely nothing to further human rights and democracy in Cuba,” Rubio said in a statement. Just one week ago, Rubio was like “Meh,” over the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report describing CIA torture tactics like waterboarding and “rectal feeding.”
- Rubio’s criticism was at least bi-partisan. Rubio also lashed out at Sen. Rand Paul (R, Kentucky) for supporting the policy shift, saying that Paul “has no idea what he’s talking about.” This could make the GOP presidential primary debates very interesting, if both of these guys run.
- Rush Limbaugh called the president’s move “chump change,” compared to what else he says President Obama has in store for the next two years. “Everything Obama thinks this country’s guilty of and needs to apologize for, he’s gonna take care of,” Limbaugh said.
- Radio host Michael Savage asked,“What’s next?” Savage added, “Are they going to lift sanctions on North Korea in a week or two while you’re celebrating Christmas? Will they then impose sanctions on Israel, and what will happen then?”
- Pat Robertson told “700 Club” viewers that “I am for opening up to Cuba,” but against it because America’s half century of sanctions were just about to work, before the president handed Cuban leaders a “bailout.” Robertson also criticized “King Obama” for hiring aides who “don’t love America,” and for failing to help release political prisoners in Cuba. Like Alan Gross, and the 53 others the Cuban government agreed to release.
- In an interview on Newsmax TV, Former House Republican Majority Leader and “Dancing With The Stars” reject Tom DeLay said that President Obama “surrendered” Cuba to help “his socialist friends.”
The president plans to lift several more restrictions against Cuba on his own — and he’s got some crucial popular support to do so. A Florida International University poll showed that 68 percent of Cuban-Americans in South Florida support normalizing relations with Cuba. Among younger Cuban-Americans, support jumped to 88 percent. The only age bracket of Cuban-Americans opposed to normalization is the over–70 crowd — the Republican base. (Did President Obama just give Hillary Clinton a political give for 2016?)
After 54 years of an embargo that’s accomplished little more than giving the Castro regime a convenient excuse for its economic failures, Republicans want to keep doing the same thing and expecting different results. Republicans in Congress are casting about for a strategy to block the president’s efforts to update US-Cuban relations. But they can’t do so without alienating a very important voting block in an electorally important state, and ticking off another important group by robbing businesses of potential profits.
Even if Republicans muster the votes to to pass sweeping legislation to block President Obama’s efforts, he still has veto power, and Republicans don’t have the votes to override. That’s a lose-lose for the GOP, but it leaves the president looking like one heck of a powerful “lame duck.”
Here’s the rest of the best of the worst in wingnuttery this week:
- Fox News exploited the deadly hostage crisis in Sydney to justify torture, of course.
- Rep. Michele Bachmann (R, Minnesota) told WorldNet Daily that she “defeated” progressives by outsmarting them, during her tenure in the House. Insert your favorite Bachmann blooper reel here.
- Bachmann also told WorldNet Daily that “any normal human being” would support the tea party.
- First, there was Michele Bachmanns’ “bomb Iran” Christmas wish. Now, this. Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly related her lame attempt to trash talk President Obama at the White House holiday party. It went something like this: President Obama asked Kelly if she thought the White House was a “pretty fun place.” “It is,” Kelly responded, awkwardly. “Maybe we’ll be here in two years.” The White House has got to be more careful with its holiday party invites.
- In one final act of obstruction, Sen. Tom Coburn (R, Oklahoma) blocked passage of the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act. Coburn claimed the bill “throws money and it doesn’t solve the real problem,” and isn’t offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget. Keep in mind that Veterans and active-duty military personnel in Oklahoma are killing themselves at twice the rate of civilians.
- Just before convening the new legislative session, Republican leaders in Montana devised a dress code for female lawmakers and floor visitors, warning women to be “sensitive to skirt lengths and necklines.” What? No burkas?
- Missouri Republican state Rep. Rick Brattin proposed a law requiring women to ask a man’s permission before seeking an abortion.
- Fox News host Tucker Carlson said that Satanist holiday display should be banned from the Florida state Capitol where a Christian nativity had been erected, because they don’t practice a “legitimate religion.” “Legitimate” as determined by Carlson, of course.
- Former sports announcer and failed senate candidate Craig James actually doesn’t know if gays should be executed or not. At least that’s what he told a caller on the Family Research Council’s “Washington Week” radio show.
- Pat Robertson told a caller on “The 700 Club” that “those who are homosexual will die out because they don’t reproduce.”
- During an appearance on The Lars Larson Show, columnist Ann Coulter suggested that women who report rapes are just “girls trying to get attention.”
- Attorney and gun-lover Steve Hallbrook, on the NRA’s “Cam & Company” news show, called the families of Newtown shooting victims, “extremely irresponsible” for suing the NRA corporate donor that made the gun used to kill their loved-ones. Halbrook added that the families should pay the gun manufacturer instead.
- Bill O’Reilly told Martin Luther King III that blacks should wear t-shirts that say “Don’t Get Pregnant At 14.” Seriously.
- Glenn Beck says that he is the most discriminated-against person in America., after President Obama dared discuss his own experiences with racism.
- Glenn Beck told his audience “I see the future,” and begged them “not to listen to experts in this country anymore.” Then, just to prove his point, Beck travelled forward in time to 2054 so that his 90-year-old self could explain that 2014 was the year that “we all went dead inside.”