Don’t Trust Republicans When it Comes to Fighting Anti-Semitism and Racism

By Joshua Runyan

“Proud Boys, stand back, and stand by.”

As president of the United States, Donald J. Trump had one job to do: Call out racism and anti-Semitism for what it is and to tell the modern incarnation of the Nazi Party in America that the hatred that they spew has no place in what passes for proper discourse in the greatest nation that the world has ever known.
President Trump failed at that task, the latest in a long string of failures that have plagued 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and the rest of this great nation since Jan. 20, 2017.

Make no mistake: For all the talk that Republicans give the scourge of racism and anti-Jewish hatred over the past four years, the Grand Old Party, in actuality, cares not about hatred, about ethnic identities, about common decency. The president who gave you “decent people on both sides” when faced with the image of torch-bearing neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Va., is the same president who cannot, when teed up for the easiest putt the Northern hemisphere has ever known, call out hatred for what it is.

“There is blame on both sides!” he fumed, when challenged years ago. And again, when Fox News journalist Christ Wallace invited Trump Tuesday night to denounce hatred from the podium of the first presidential debate of the 2020 campaign, the president prevaricated.

This is nothing new.

Two weeks ago, when the House of Representatives voted on H.R. 2574, the social media world was treated to the headline, “162 Democrats Vote Against Amendment to Protect Jewish Students from Antisemitism at School.” The smear was spread against Democratic politicians from Rep. Madeleine Dean (PA-4) to Rep. Susan Wild (PA-7). In truth, the vast majority of Democratic congressmen and congresswomen voted against a Republican-backed amendment that would have included “anti-Semitism” as among the types of discrimination prohibited under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

The problem is, the actual story is much more complex, and much more inapposite to the partisan hatchet job that voters, including in the Jewish community in southeastern Pennsylvania, were treated to. With H.R. 2574, the Democratic-led House attempted to create a new private cause of action for discrimination faced in education. Republicans, who by and large, opposed the measure, sought to stick it to Democrats, trying to send up an anti-Semitism amendment via a “motion-to-recommit.”
As legislation, the amendment was poorly drafted, neglecting to contain a definition of “anti-Semitism.” But as a necessity, it was suspect, considering that since at least the Obama and second Bush administrations, the Justice Department – who is tasked with enforcing the Civil Rights Act – has always considered anti-Jewish discrimination to be prohibited under Title VI.
Nevertheless, Republicans saw fit to introduce what they later claimed was groundbreaking legislation under a legislative provision that when fronted by a minority party in the House is always defeated by the majority party in power. And that’s what happened: Democrats, including Dean and Wild,voted against the amendment.

But the amendment passed. And the now-amended legislation passed by overwhelming numbers, with Dean and Wild, and countless other Democrats, supporting it. Republicans? Joined by the sponsor of the anti-Semitism amendment, 187 other GOP representatives voted against the legislation that they later claimed was a strong statement against “anti-Semitism in education.”

An equally truthful headline would have been, “188 Republicans Vote Against Legislation to Protect Jewish Students from Antisemitism at School.”

The fact is, if the Republican Party really cared about anti-Semitism, they wouldn’t have empowered their social media minions to smear Democrats in southeastern Pennsylvania.

The fact is, if the White House really cared about racism and hatred, and about uniting this great country instead of dividing it, the president wouldn’t have been so timid when invited to denounce the Proud Boys.

As a Jewish American, and, more importantly, as an Orthodox rabbi who has experienced his fair share of anti-Semitism, I care more about the party and the candidate who will actually do something about the hatred that has been the hallmark of the last few years of American life. Time and again, President Trump and the Republican Party have ignored the opportunity to denounce anti-Semitism for what it is, and to commit this country upon a path of understanding and peace.

President Trump has failed at his task, and the Republican leadership in Congress has enabled him. It’s time to transfer the reins of power.

Rabbi Joshua Runyan is an Orthodox rabbi and former editor of Philadelphia’s Jewish Exponent and the Pittsburgh Jewish Chronicle. He is an attorney in Philadelphia.

The Trump of Our Fears: Where Fear Begins

— by Annette H. Sabbah

Annette H. Sabbah

Annette H. Sabbah

A few months ago, I watched a spy thriller starring Ben Affleck and Morgan Freeman. It was based on a conspiratorial plot that set in motion the cataclysmic eventuality and ensuing consequences of a nuclear clash between the United States and Russia. The film was titled The Sum of All Fears and rightly so, as it could scare the hell out of anyone, and it sure did me.

Yet, in some strange fashion, the fearful events evoked in that doomsday scenario seem to pale in comparison when juxtaposed against the fears evoked by Donald Trump’s inflammatory speeches, harmful rhetoric and reckless diatribes. Palpable apprehension is raised by his willful exploitation of people’s xenophobia and ignorance in a manner never seen before.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

[Read more…]

Mr. Costanza goes to Washington…and keeps the filibuster

Part 7 of American Vision by Bruce Ticker

“This is how they negotiate in the Bizarro World’
– Jerry Seinfeld to George Costanza, and perhaps to Harry Reid

Harry Reid negotiates the George Costanza way, as they do in Seinfeld’s Bizarro World.

Reid, the Senate majority leader, reached an accord with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Jan. 27, 2011, to retain the filibuster power that Republicans earlier employed to block any kind of government-run health-care system and persist with tax cuts for the wealthy.

Reid and Mitchell’s pact allows Republican senators to submit nearly all the amendments they want to a given measure, and in return Republicans will limit their use of the filibuster.

More after the jump.
Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon said, “There is nothing that touches the impact of the filibuster on amendments and nothing that touches the impact on bills, so we still may see the same obstruction we’ve seen before.”

Merkley’s fears were realized on Tuesday, May 17, 2011, when Democrats proposed ending tax breaks for five major oil companies accused of unfairly padding industry profits, according to The New York Times. The measure would have passed if a majority vote was sufficient, but the 52-48 vote fell short of the 60 votes required to end debate.

Even more deplorable developments swiftly came to light. Senate Republicans have blocked the confirmations of a wide range of presidential nominees, prompting two of them to withdraw their nominations. The same GOP senators also refused to reauthorize a 46-year-old economic program which they automatically supported in the past.

On the day after the oil subsidy vote, Reid issued a fundraising e-mail distributed for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee in which he complained: “It’s a no-brainer: Big Oil doesn’t need taxpayer subsidies. After all, the five largest oil companies raked in profits of $32 billion in the first quarter of 2011 – while Americans are paying four bucks a gallon at the pump. And yet, they continue to collect billions in tax dollar handouts at a time when we need to cut spending.

“It’s unfair, and MUST stop. But last night, Republicans derailed a Democratic bill that would end this double-fisted cash grab and save $21 billion.”

Another “no-brainer”: Big Senate doesn’t need a filibuster. Four months ago, Reid “derailed a Democratic bill that would end this double-fisted” power grab and save us all lots of aggravation.

Merkley was joined in January by Tom Harkin of Iowa and Tom Udall of New Mexico in a bid to “to end this double-fisted” filibuster power

Any senator can filibuster, or threaten to filibuster, proposed legislation without taking to the floor to make their case, as James Stewart did in the 1939 film Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. The Senate needs 60 votes to end a filibuster, not a plain majority of 51 votes. The process is called cloture.

The trio pressed for a resolution to require that all senators who invoke the filibuster must address the legislation on the floor. Most Democrats voted for the measure, but it could neither get past the 67-vote barrier nor even a majority vote.

On a typical day, you can compare just about any antics in the Senate to Jerry Seinfeld’s Bizarro World. Seinfeld fans should recall that George spoiled their talks with NBC to produce a show about “nothing” because he was aggrieved that their $13,000 offer fell way short of Ted Danson’s package.

Once the magnitude of his blunder dawned on him, George begged for reconsideration. NBC offered $8,000 this time.

Jerry explained to George that the idea of negotiations “is to get your price up, not down. This is how they negotiate in the Bizarro World.”

Or how Harry Reid negotiates in the Senate.

Reid has worked hard to press for legislation that would benefit the public, but how does it help anyone to hand the Republicans a decisive weapon like the filibuster?

Why? Reid in the past defended the filibuster when Republicans controlled the Senate, and Democratic senators feared losing this device if they return to the minority. Democrats also might have feared that they would be demonized by the Republicans if they curbed or ended the filibuster.

Democrats might have sustained some political damage in the short term, but they would have ensured themselves a level playing field if they took decisive action against the filibuster.

Reid’s negotiating style reflects the operational patterns in the Senate, which can also be known as Bizarro Washington World. You cannot pass a measure with a majority vote, but 41 votes – or 41 percent – can be allowed to obstruct legislation?

When Harkin, Merkley and Udall sought to revise the filibuster rule, three of their GOP counterparts intent on retaining the filibuster proved that Jimmy Stewart’s legacy for his classic, fictitious filibuster is safe.

The day prior to the debate, Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander recited a quote from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington at a Heritage Foundation function on Jan. 4, 2011, that the filibuster gives a senator “the right to talk your head off.” Alexander lied his head off when he claimed that the Affordable Care Act was “rammed through” the Senate in March 2010. Obama and congressional Democrats repeatedly reached out to Republicans and watered down the law in hopes of ending their filibuster.

Alexander contended that a 60-vote threshold to end debate allows for a “consensus” among senators so that legislation has more broad-based support. The price for this consensus is weakening laws so they provide minimal aid to average citizens and give business interests hefty concessions.

Many jobless citizens received unemployment pay for the next 13 months because Obama acceded to Republican demands in December, 2011, to continue tax cuts for the wealthy another two years.

Both Alexander and former Sen. John E. Sununu (New Hampshire) suggested that the Constitution’s framers created the filibuster. As Harkin pointed out, the Constitution authorizes each chamber to make its own rules, not establish the rules itself. Their suggestion was made during Alexander’s televised remarks and a Boston Globe commentary written by Sununu.

Also on television, Pat Roberts of Kansas rambled on for several minutes, recalling that Democrats opposed filibuster adjustments when Republicans controlled the Senate. That must mean that two wrongs make a right.

John Cornyn of Texas crowed that anyone who tries to change Senate rules is “playing with fire.”

The filibuster issue surfaced in the public consciousness as Republicans employed the filibuster to obstruct Democratic legislation, particularly the health-care plan and elimination of tax cuts for the rich.

Earlier in 2010, hearings on the filibuster rule were held before the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration. Had Alexander, Roberts and Cornyn followed the proceedings, they would have learned much about the history of the Senate where they have served for a combined 30 years.

Next excerpt: A Burr (as in VP Aaron Burr) in the Senate

Dear GOP: Why do you hate me? An Open Letter

Crossposted from Democratic Convention Watch

Dear GOP:

What have I ever done to you to make you hate me so much? 

I was born female and somehow you want to deny me, and all the other women and girls, things you consider sacrosanct for men. Oh wait, not all men, just those that are straight, white and Christian. But I digress. I look at the abominations of legislation you are trying to pass in state after state, and ask myself what would have become of me had you passed those things when I was a girl.

Luckily for me, I was born into a family that valued education for both sons and daughters. My dad paid for his college education with help from the GI bill. As adults, with children, both my parents earned graduate degrees: a Masters for my mom, and Masters and a PhD for my dad. From the day I started school, it wasn't a question of whether I'd go to college, but where. Same for my brother. And in our generation we too have a slew of degrees. 

One of the reasons I was able to get an education, and make great use of said education was because I had access to birth control. If you, as a party, had your way, I wouldn't have educational opportunities: I'd be home raising kid after kid, home-schooling them (how, I don't know since I wouldn't know anything).

I admit, I have trouble sticking with a specific career path, but I've succeeded in a number of avocations. Things I learned in one area have led to accomplishments in another. I used my education to build large-scale transportation projects for the FAA, the FWHA, and in Europe, I built pollution models for the EPA, I've done defense work, and designed, developed and delivered training programs in the fields of medicine, logistics and manufacturing. Above all, I became a doctor and I've saved lives. On the side there has been a slew of volunteer work with functional illiterates, and I was even a Mensa officer. Accomplished, for a blonde girl. And yet, you want me barefoot and pregnant. Why would you condemn me to have either spent my life unaccomplished, or completely devoid of love and sex. I don't get it.

To add insult to injury, now your presidential candidate front runner, Rick Santorum, has decreed that ALL public funding for ALL education should cease. Really. Watch:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

So I guess what you're saying is that not only should I have been denied birth control, but my mother should have had to give up HER career to stay home and school my brother and me. And what of my mother's mother, who is currently rolling in her grave after having been a suffragette and having worked with Margaret Sanger on the whole birth control thing back in the teens and twenties. 

So let's move this a few decades into the future under the Republican doctrine. Here I would be, an uneducated mother having poorly schooled my children while my husband worked two jobs because in this economy that's pretty necessary. Likely, he would die young from overwork. I wouldn't have a bunch of friends (many of those friendships forged in elementary school and still vibrant today), I'd have no skills, I'd be 75 years old, with no Medicare, no Social Security, having never made a decent contribution to society and I'd be toothlessly pushing a shopping cart around downtown Philly looking for something to eat, an indoor bathroom, and a safe place to sleep at night. 

And that IS the logical outcome of a Republican idea set that evokes more the 1850's then anything else. I can only conclude that you hate me, or you'd never want to put me, and all the other women, in that position. Your position shows a lack of foresight, and a lack of character. Character matters.

I stand with Andrew Shepherd. I stand with Barack Obama. I stand with every other American who wants to continue our rise from the economic mess you Republicans put us in, who believes in education, birth control, climate change caused by humans, science, evolution and all that this country stands for. You want to lead this country into darkness. I stand with the light. 

Mitt Romney’s Dog Seamus: The Rest of the Story

Reprinted from Democratic Convention Watch

My dog Fiona would not run away
My dog Fiona would not run away.

You've certainly heard Mittens Romney talking about how his dog Seamus “liked” being strapped to the roof of the family car for 12 hours. I never believed that because I'm a dog lover, and I know dogs like to be IN the car. Some are good car-riders and will sit in the back seat enjoying the scenery and some air. (As an aside, if you're going to go on long trips, and your dog likes to stick his/her face out the window, consider eye protection to prevent eye damage from flying bits of debris and road dirt.)

H/T Dan for letting me know that there is now proof that not only did Seamus not like riding on the top of the car, shown by having diarrhea which went down the back window of the car, but once the Romneys arrived in Canada, the dog ran away. Source.

Now I'll admit that Fiona is well cared for. That's a picture of her in a soft-material mini-cart at the pet store. Before you yell “spoiled” please be aware that her paw had been injured at camp and she's got a phobia about walking on shiny floors. We were at the store to buy a shoe for her foot because it was going to snow overnight, they were going to salt, and salt is bad on open wounds. We're actively working on the fear thing, and her paw is all healed. (Fiona wants to be a rough and tumble puppy, but she's actually a tumble and OWWW! puppy. Her first birthday was last Saturday.)

It takes a certain type of person to strap a dog to the top of the car for TWELVE hours. The Seamus stories indicate that the dog wasn't let out of his cage for  the entire trip. It's not just that I wouldn't leave a dog strapped to a  roof for twelve hours, I wouldn't leave a dog alone in a house for 12  hours. When my friend Libby and I went out to Illinois to pick up Fiona at 10 weeks, we stopped every two hours to let her out, give her some water, not to mention that one of us was with her at all times in the back seat of the car because she was so young. It caused the trip (which was about the same travel distance as Mitten's vacation trip) to take two days to allow for enough time to give her appropriate rest breaks out of the car. Olivia traveled up and down the east coast with me, and there were always rest breaks.

More after the jump.

How someone treats those who are weaker says a lot about the person that can easily be extrapolated. Mistreat a dog? A being dedicated to loving you unconditionally? There is something terribly wrong with someone who shows such disregard. Kind of like people who mistreat their children. Or other people's children. The most common kind of financial theft against the elderly comes from their children. Again, the stronger preying on the weaker.

Bo and Barack
Bo doesn’t have to ride on the roof.

So here we have this guy running for president, and he's a bully. He mistreats his dog. Quite unlike someone else running for president, who knows how to treat a dog while in the car. Mittens is also a serial liar: I don't even need specific examples here. Pick a topic and he's been on at least three sides of it. It is not surprising that he is against women's rights, education and the safety net. Like kids who swing cats by their tails, they just don't grow up right in the head. Rumour has it that when Mittens is done stealing the nomination with a lot of help from the GOP establishment (Exhibit A) he'll pick Bob McDonnell as his running mate. Yup, the governor of Virginia, which is about to become the only state that sanctions the forcible rape of women. (Exhibit B)

I consider myself an informed voter. I keep lots of files on political players. Have a lot of stuff on Romney which was relatively mundane (for a Republican) prior to his self-immolation this year. I had thought he'd be the toughest possible opponent that President Obama could have this year. But once he's someone whose dog followed the lead of Vietnam draft dodgers and escaped to Canada just to get away from a terrible situation you have to say that while a lot of the Republican field (real and potential) is nuts (Bachmann, Spunky, Santorum) morally degenerate (Cain, Gingrich), stupid (Perry), outright dangerous (Paul, Perry, Gingrich), theocratic (Santorum, Bachmann, Spunky, Cain, Perry), Mittens takes the cake.

Remember: elections are decided by those who vote — get involved and make sure that this animal abuser never gets anywhere near the White House except on the public tour.

An illegitimate Congress? You betcha

Part 2 of American Vision by Bruce Ticker

The Republican leadership is asking its members to make a silly vote. — House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, April 1, 2011

Blame Congress.

Even more, blame the rules of the game that enable the Congress we have.

More after the jump.
Congress is hardly the only culprit responsible for bad government, but Capitol Hill is the starting point. The majority in Congress can declare war, or shift this power to the president; raise or cut taxes, especially for the rich; send troops…not to mention the National Guard…to fight Muslims in two unstable countries; and provide or deny our most vulnerable citizens housing, food, health care and quality education.

Congress can also violate the U.S. Constitution, as did 221 members of the House of Representatives via some bizarre legislation on April 1, 2011.

All 221 members ignored Article 1, Section 7, of the Constitution which was recited on the House floor on Jan. 6, 2011. All supporters of the bill in question were Republicans, the very ones who insisted that the Constitution and its 27 amendments be recited when Congress opened its 2011-12 session.

All Democrats and 15 Republicans voted against H.R. 1255. Rep. Louie Gohmert, a Texas Republican, said the bill “violates my conscience and the Constitution, and I cannot vote for it.”

Our system is not perfect, but the 221 representatives who voted for the bill cheapened our way of doing the people’s business.

H.R. 1255 required that a fiscal year 2011 spending bill, already passed by the House, would become law if the Senate would not pass a spending law by April 6.

There is a reason the bill never became law after that date – the Constitution, which requires that a bill can only become law after both houses pass a law and the president signs it, or the president refuses to sign and both houses override his veto by a two-thirds vote.

The provision reads, “Every bill which shall have passed The House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it becomes a Law, be presented to the President of the United States: If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a law.”

In the less than genteel debates over the April 1 budget bill, The Hill newspaper quoted House Majority Leader Eric Cantor saying,

Funding the government at the levels passed by House Republicans might be what Senator Reid wants, but surely even he would agree that it’s a better alternative than shutting down the government.

Cantor, a Republican from the Richmond, Va., area, was referring to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada.

Some Democratic representatives recommended that Cantor and his flock read children’s books on the Constitution such as House Mouse, Senate Mouse, according to The Hill. Then-Rep. Anthony Weiner of Queens quipped, “It’s a much thinner book and it rhymes.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of San Francisco invoked the most mature comment when she declared, “What you see on the floor today is no example of democracy in action. It’s silly. The Republican leadership is asking its members to make a silly vote.”

On the surface, Congress is representative government. After all, each of us can claim representation by one member of the House of Representatives and two members of the Senate, with the exception of those living in Washington and the U.S. territories.

Some Americans are represented better than others. In reality, Congress neither represents the majority of Americans nor adequately protects the rights of minorities. Congress is mainly hobbled by two inherent mechanisms and one of its own making.

First is the constitutional mandate for disproportionate representation in the Senate allowing each state equal clout – whether a senator represents 544,000 citizens or 36.9 million. Second is the stifling two-party system which thwarts meaningful participation of third parties and independent candidates in the political process. If more independents could get elected, is it possible that neither party could claim a majority in either chamber? The Senate’s composition is aggravated by the filibuster rule, which the Senate majority can revise or eliminate.

On May 30, 1787, the Virginia Plan was introduced to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia proposing a national government consisting of a legislature, executive and judiciary. The concept for a legislature subsequently materialized as two houses of Congress – each to represent American citizens on a proportionate basis. On June 9, New Jersey delegate William Paterson declared, “New Jersey will never confederate on the plan before the Committee. She would be swallowed up.”

Virginia was the most populous state at that time, followed by Pennsylvania. New Jersey was among the small states, yet now New Jersey outranks Virginia, respectively 11th and 12th in population. New Jersey was joined in opposition by delegates from Delaware, Maryland, Connecticut and New York, the latter of which is now our third most populous state. Despite Delaware’s current ranking of 45th, all five states are part of the northeastern bloc that traditionally adheres to moderate and liberal policies. Each is represented by centrist or liberal Democrats in the Senate.

On June 11, Roger Sherman of Connecticut proposed “that the proportion of suffrage in the first branch should be according to the respective numbers of free inhabitants; and that in the second branch or Senate, each state should have one vote and no more…As the states would remain possessed of certain individual rights, each state ought to be able to protect itself; otherwise a few large states will rule the rest.” Sherman revised his proposal on June 20 and was joined by fellow Connecticut delegates Oliver Ellsworth and William Samuel Johnson on June 29 in proposing a comparable plan, later to become known as the Connecticut Compromise.

“Too many – both among the large- and small-state delegations – were simply not in a mood to embrace compromise,” Richard Beeman writes in “Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution.” “One by one, they rose to defend their ideas and, more importantly, the interests of their particular states.” The delegates ignored all three versions of the Connecticut plan until July 16, when they decided to split the composition of the two chambers. Members of the House of Representatives would each represent the same amount of constituents (that number now averages 720,000) and each state would be represented by the same number of senators.

Madison and four other delegates gathered the next morning, July 17, to discuss the July 16 decision. They found no takers to reconsider the Connecticut Compromise, which was formalized in Article 1 of the Constitution. Most delegates, displeased with the final product for varying reasons, signed the Constitution on Sept. 17, 1787, because their choice was to persist with the status quo or formalize the governing mechanism produced by the convention.

In the Federalist Papers, Madison argued for Section 3 of Article 1, which authorizes creation of a Senate with equal representation. The Constitution was ratified by 11 of the 13 states, and Congress as we know it today convened on Wall Street in lower Manhattan on March 4, 1789. George Washington was inaugurated as our first president on April 30, 1789.

Nine states were required to ratify the Constitution, made official by New Hampshire on June 21, 1788. North Carolina and Rhode Island made it unanimous soon after the government was formed.

Washington strenuously warned against the formation of political parties in his 1796 farewell address in part because “it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.” Political parties indeed emerged. After the Civil War, the political process settled into a pattern dominated by the Democratic and Republican parties.

In 2006 and 2008, voters upset with Republicans mainly had Democrats as an alternative. In 2010, Republicans benefited. Independent or third-party candidates typically divert votes from the more preferred party candidate.

The filibuster was rooted in Vice President Aaron Burr’s verbal critique of Senate rules. He singled out a Senate rule requiring the majority to cut off debate, and the Senate scrapped the rule in 1806 without replacing it. More than a century later, political pressures produced the filibuster in 1917, requiring a so-called super-majority to end debate. The filibuster carried debate to the extreme in which debate could clog up Senate business indefinitely.

A tsunami warning buoy

The upshot of these events is a dysfunctional system that in 2011 produced a possibly illegitimate Congress; cuts to a tsunami-warning system; and the criminal conviction of an impeachment leader.

The swearing-in for 433 House members of the 112th Congress was held on Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 5, 2011, as two other members – Michael Fitzpatrick of Bucks County, a Philadelphia suburb, and Pete Sessions of Dallas – attended a reception a few hundred yards away, in the Capitol Visitor Center, for more than 500 of Fitzpatrick’s constituents.

As Speaker of the House John A. Boehner administered the oath of office on the House floor, Sessions and Fitzpatrick watched Boehner on live television and recited the oath without leaving the reception, at 2:15 p.m. Predictably, House parliamentarians told them they must be officially sworn in, and Boehner administered the oath of office on Thursday.

Fitzpatrick said he thought that the Jan. 5 swearing-in would be held at 2:45, not 2:15. Any situation could arise that might prevent a member of Congress from attending the swearing-in.

Their failure to show up for the oath does not by itself jeopardize the operations of Congress. The act of casting votes for six legislative measures – before taking their oath of office – could be problematic.

Because two illegitimate congressmen cast votes, can these measures be legitimate?

If Sessions and Fitzpatrick paid attention when the Constitution was recited on Thursday morning, they would have been aware of Article VI, Clause 3: “The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution.”

Sessions and Fitzpatrick violated Clause 3 when they voted to establish the rules of the House and a 5 percent reduction in congressional office allowances, according to The Washington Post. Their votes were stricken from the Congressional Record on Friday, but was that sufficient?

This fact remains: The House passed six measures in which two illegal votes were cast for each. That could make the entire package of bills illegal. Any one of these bills which, if they need to be ratified by the Senate and signed by the president, could be illegitimate because illegal votes were cast in the first place.

Sessions even chaired a committee meeting on Thursday.

They should have arranged to be sworn in before casting any votes. It takes plenty of gall to cast votes without abiding by the constitutional requirement to be “bound by Oath or Affirmation.” They should have known better. Sessions spent the previous 14 years in Congress and Fitzpatrick was first elected in 2004, defeated two years later and elected again the preceding November.

Their allies might argue that these measures would have passed without their votes, so it is okay to maintain the results. However, the initial inclusion of these votes could taint the end result.

Congress disregarded our constitutional principles. The House took legislative action that was not legitimate. The only way to make it legitimate is to wipe the slate clean and hold the votes and the committee meeting again.

The House not only violated the Constitution when it took on those six votes. The House persists in violating the Constitution so long as it refuses to straighten out its self-inflicted mess.

This is not parsing. The law is the law is the law. If our own Congress cannot abide by the law that binds it, then our system is automatically violated.

Next excerpt – Profiles in absurdity

Remarks by the President on the Status of Efforts to Find a Balanced Approach to Deficit Reduction

1:02 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, everybody.  I’m going to make a very brief statement.

    I just completed a meeting with all the congressional leaders from both chambers, from both parties, and I have to say that I thought it was a very constructive meeting.  People were frank.  We discussed the various options available to us.  Everybody reconfirmed the importance of completing our work and raising the debt limit ceiling so that the full faith and credit of the United States of America is not impaired.

    What we decided was that staffs, as well as leadership, will be working during the weekend, and that I will reconvene congressional leaders here on Sunday with the expectation that, at that point, the parties will at least know where each other’s bottom lines are and will hopefully be in a position to then start engaging in the hard bargaining that’s necessary to get a deal done.

More after the jump.
  I want to emphasize that nothing is agreed to until everything is agreed to.  And the parties are still far apart on a wide range of issues.  But, again, I thought that all the leaders here came in a spirit of compromise, in a spirit of wanting to solve problems on behalf of the American people.  Everybody acknowledged that the issue of our debt and our deficit is something that needs to be tackled now.  Everybody acknowledged that in order to do that, Democrats and Republicans are going to be required in each chamber.  Everybody acknowledged that we have to get this done before the hard deadline of August 2nd to make sure that America does not default for the first time on its obligations.  And everybody acknowledged that there’s going to be pain involved politically on all sides, but our biggest obligation is to make sure that we’re doing the right thing by the American people, creating an environment in which we can grow the economy and make sure that more and more people are being put back to work.

    So I want to thank all the leaders.  I thought it was a very constructive meeting.  And I will be seeing them back here on Sunday.  A lot of work will be done between now and then.

                       END           1:05 P.M. EDT

RJC Elevates Gingrich Despite Abandonment of Jewish Community

— by Brad Bauman

The National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) today chided the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) for hosting Newt Gingrich as its keynote speaker this Sunday during its Summer Bash in Beverly Hills, CA because of Gingrich’s outright abandonment of the mainstream of American Jews both in his words and his actions.

“The sad irony of the RJC’s decision to have Gingrich attend their Summer Bash is that he abandoned American Jews years before his campaign staff decided to abandon him,” said David A. Harris, President and CEO of the NJDC. “The fact that they are sticking with Gingrich shows just how far removed from the mainstream of American Jews the RJC has become and how desperate Gingrich is to promote his badly damaged brand.”

The majority of American Jews expect a candidate to adhere to high standards of integrity and civility. Gingrich has repeatedly demonstrated that he does not meet those basic criteria. The Jewish Week even reported that “many Jewish GOPers aren’t betting on [Gingrich]” to increase the GOP’s share of the Jewish vote because of Gingrich’s extreme positions and outrageous behavior. [ The Jewish Week, May 10, 2011]

More after the jump.
If Gingrich emerges victoriously from the Republican primary season, the RJC is likely to find that no amount of whitewashing can cover up Gingrich’s abandonment of the American Jewish community.

Gingrich’s abandonment of the American Jewish community includes:

Gingrich has a history of making statements that politicize the U.S.-Israel relationship and send the false message to Israel’s adversaries that the Obama Administration is anywhere but behind Israel. Most recently, Gingrich urged both houses of Congress to incorrectly condemn President Obama for a position that he does not hold. [ TPM, May 20, 2011]

Gingrich wrongfully and disturbingly claimed that America is run by an “anti-Jewish elite.” [ JTA, March 28, 2011]

Gingrich frequently invokes the Holocaust to make political points, demonstrating a lack of respect for the memories of those who perished. Two notable instances include him comparing the proposed mosque near ground zero to “neo-Nazis protesting outside the Holocaust museum” [ Politico, August 16, 2010], and writing in his most recent book that “The secular-socialist machine represents as great a threat to America as Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union once did.” [ NJDC Blog, May 21, 2010]

Gingrich stridently opposed President Obama’s health care reform plan and has pledged to repeal it should he become president [ WMUR, May 25, 2011].

Gingrich is staunchly anti-choice and is only one of many Republican contenders who is out of step with the vast majority of American Jews when in comes to women’s rights. [ Life News, May 11, 2011]

Gingrich renounced his support for environmental protection and now claims ignorance on climate change in order to beef up his credentials among the Republican base. [ Fox News, May 12, 2011]

Gingrich opposes equal rights for all Americans, including gays and lesbians. Gingrich said that “there is a gay and secular fascism in this country that wants to impose its will on the rest of us.” [ Media Matters, November 17, 2008]

Gingrich lacked the political courage to take on his party over the congressional Republicans’ budget that slashes much of the funding for essential social safety net programs and reduces Medicare to a voucher system. [ USA Today, May 22, 2011]

Gingrich orchestrated a shutdown of the Federal Government during his tenure as Speaker of the House and encouraged another government shutdown this year over spending negotiations. [ The Huffington Post, February 25, 2011]

Gingrich offensively pandered to conspiracy theorists when he accused President Obama of having “Kenyan, anti-colonial” views. [ TPM, September 13, 2010]

Last year, the RJC Summer Bash featured “special guest” Orly Taitz – who had been labeled the “Birther Queen” for her leadership within the Birther movement.