Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy

Reporter

Tim Murphy is a senior reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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House GOPers Pushing for Anti-Birth-Control Measure in Debt Ceiling Deal

| Tue Oct. 15, 2013 11:51 AM EDT
"Really, guys?"

On Tuesday morning, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) held a meeting to brief House GOP members on his new plan to stave off a US government default and end the government shutdown. The proposed package would include a two-year delay of the Affordable Care Act's tax on medical devices, eliminate the health insurance employer subsidy for members of Congress, and require income verification for people who qualify for federal subsidies under Obamacare. It would also prohibit the Department of the Treasury from taking "extraordinary measures" to postpone a debt crisis. The measure would fund the government until mid-January and raise the debt ceiling until early February.

Immediately, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Boehner's plan would be DOA if it ever reaches the Senate. And initial reports noted that it did not have the full backing of Boehner's caucus—partly because tea partiers were upset that this plan would still allow employer subsidies for the health insurance of congressional staffers. Many members who left the meeting declined to say how they'd vote. Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) pried open an elevator door to escape reporters hurling questions at him. But several Republican legislators said there was another provision they wanted included in the legislation: a so-called "conscience clause" that would exempt employers (citing religious objections) from having to provide coverage for birth control as part of the health care plans they offer employees. This idea has been on the Republican wish list for years—Obamacare already has this sort of exemption for churches, mosques, and other places of worship—and with Washington in full-on crisis mode, GOPers are looking to exploit current circumstances to win this long-running fight.

"There are a lot of people, and I'm one of those, who are really pushing for a conscience clause to be included," said Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), a former consultant and End-Times novelist who was elected last fall. "They want to have some principle that they could go home and say, 'we fought for this, and we got this.'"

Rep. Billy Long (R-Mo.), who came out of the meeting undecided on the Boehner proposal ("We were in there for two hours and I don't think I know" what's in the package), said he'd "love to see" a conscience clause added to the legislation. Asked if he could support a final bill that didn't include such a measure, Long paused: "I wanna wait and see what the final thing looks like." Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), an influential leader among House conservatives and the chair of the Republican Study Committee, and Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) each said that the birth control provision was among the extra items being discussed by his colleagues during Boehner's latest last-ditch effort. "That's something that's very important," Jordan remarked.

Rep. Andy Harris (R-Md.) noted that he was supportive of the idea—he specifically cited the Catholic charitable organization Little Sisters of the Poor—but he discounted the odds: "That's not an issue that would cause it to succeed or fail in the conference and the president or the majority leader in the Senate have not mentioned it as a possibility." Yet given the current House GOP chaos, there's no telling what lines the die-hard tea partiers will be drawing as default nears. Many of them are still clinging to their anti-Obamacare crusade—which means Boehner may still be far from crafting a plan that can win support in the House, let alone the Senate.

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Unpacking the Dumbest Thing Said by a GOP Congressman About the Debt Ceiling

| Mon Oct. 14, 2013 12:08 PM EDT

Make way for liberty!

Congratulations, Rep. Morgan Griffith (R-Va.): You just said the most ridiculous thing anyone in the House of Representatives has uttered about the debt ceiling in…at least a few days. Griffith, asked by the Capitol Hill daily The Hill about the urgency of raising the debt ceiling, suggested the nation might be better off if it defaulted—even if that triggered a new recession and perhaps a global economic crisis—than if it continued to spend money at the current rate. He's not the only Republican congressman to make this claim (Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) suggested a default would calm global markets). But Griffith's spin was, to put it charitably, unique:

We have to make a decision that's right long-term for the United States, and what may be distasteful, unpleasant and not appropriate in the short run may be something that has to be done. I will remind you that this group of renegades that decided that they wanted to break from the crown in 1776 did great damage to the economy of the colonies. They created the greatest nation and the best form of government, but they did damage to the economy in the short run.

This is an absolutely backward understanding of US history. Breaking away from Great Britain was indeed a hugely disruptive economic event—so much so that it almost proved to be the nation's undoing. States were swimming in debt and unable to pay soldiers, who in turn staged open rebellions, which, in turn, prompted politicians to get together to come up with a better governing document.

The central problem was that the nation had basically no access to credit, because it was $77 million in debt with no real means to pay it back. (It owed about $12 million of that to foreign creditors.) The solution, as outlined in Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton's First Report on the Public Credit, was to absorb all state-level debts (totaling about $25 million), issue new bonds to fund the federal government and allow it to start borrowing money again, and then raise tariffs to pay off the debt.

Griffith's right that the revolution caused an economic mess, but he should've read the next chapter in his history book—America didn't get out of that economic mess until it had demonstrated to foreign creditors it was good on its word. Whether that's still the case is up to Griffith and his colleagues.

South Carolina Tea Party Republican Laments Confederate Loss at Gettysburg

| Fri Oct. 11, 2013 10:55 AM EDT
South Carolina state Sen. Tom Davis (left) and Gen. James Longstreet.

South Carolina state Sen. Tom Davis is a leading light of his state's Republican party, and a favorite among tea party conservatives who hope he reconsiders his decision not to mount a primary challenge to Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.). He also has some interesting thoughts about the Civil War.

A tipster passes along this photo, from Davis' Facebook page this week (it has since been taken down), featuring a man standing next to a barrier he had moved to the side of the road at Gettysburg National Battlefield Park, allowing vehicles to access the site of the 1863 battle. Davis' comment was brief: "If only Longstreet had employed this flanking maneuver."

Sen. Tom Davis/Facebook

Davis' comment refers to confederate General James Longstreet, one of Robert E. Lee's top generals at Gettysburg, who on the second day of the battle was slow to act on a directive to attack the Union's vulnerable left flank. The theory is that if Longstreet had employed the flanking maneuver, he could have rolled through the Union lines and scored a crushing victory that would have turned the tide of the war in favor of the dysfunctional breakaway republic united by a doctrine of white supremacy. If only!

Thu Oct. 1, 2015 10:23 AM EDT