When the Russian Federation sanctioned a number of Members of Congress and other Washington officials, they did what any red-blooded American would do: They celebrated. A number took to Twitter to snipe at Russian President Vladimir Putin, generating the hashtag “#SanctionedbyPutin”. Senator John McCain probably had the best response: “I guess this means my spring break in Siberia is off, Gazprom stock is lost & secret bank account in Moscow is frozen”. Others on the list include Speaker of the House John Boehner, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez of New Jersey, and Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana. President Barack Obama was not on the list, making one wonder how the sanctioned were selected.
U.S. Senators are probably not too worried about being sanctioned by Putin, but there are a number that are a little more concerned by the actions of the CIA. About a week and a half ago, Senator Dianne Feinstein, the Chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, let loose upon the CIA in a Floor speech, claiming that the spy agency…well…spied on Senate staff. She alleged that CIA agents accessed computers her staff were using to investigate the agency. Members of Congress should defend their prerogatives against encroachment by the Executive Branch. They often fail in that duty, but a number were particularly alarmed at the suggestion that the CIA trespassed on their territory. To get to the bottom of this, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has asked the Senate Sergeant at Arms Terrance Gainer to investigate. Reid also sent CIA Director John Brennan and Attorney General Eric Holder letters informing them of the investigation. “The developments strike at the heart of the constitutional separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches. Left unchallenged, they call into question Congress’s ability to carry out its core constitutional duties and risk the possibility of an unaccountable intelligence community run amok”, Reid wrote to Holder.
In the face of a number of Tea Party obituaries, another politico has undertaken to suggest an alternative scenario. Matt Purple of The American Spectator argues that the Tea Party movement is not dead, but has transformed the Republican Party. The movement, he contends, reacted to high spending, big-government initiatives and the war in Iraq. Its goal was to alter the Republican Party to favor its own positions. “To call the group dead is to miss that the Tea Party and the GOP are becoming one and the same, and the latter is being assimilated into the former. It’s an intellectual adjustment, not a perpetual campaign against incumbents”, Purple writes.
If the Republican Party has in fact evolved to represent the Tea Party and if it remains as such, it would be a major change in American politics. Another change, perhaps less noticed, is the evolution of the rural and urban electorates. Not too long ago, Democratic Members of Congress frequently represented rural areas; now very few rural areas have Democratic Members. Additionally, President Barack Obama took urban areas by a larger percentage in 2012 than President Bill Clinton did 20 years earlier. “Politics hangs on culture and lifestyle more than policy”, David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report said.
And for our latest post: More Nuclear-Option Fallout: Senate Blocks Presidential Appointment