Welcome to TIME subscriber Q&A, with Washington correspondents Zeke Miller and Alex Rogers.
We will start posting questions and responses at 1 p.m. EST and stay online for about 30 minutes.
We have been gathering reader questions all week but will also take questions in the comments below or on Twitter with the hashtag #askTIME.
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deconstructiva asks, We know that the Tea Party members of Congress say and practice extreme things, but when YOU two interview them and their staffs, how are they personally towards you, compared to how the Establishment R’s and the D’s treat you? Are the extreme Congress folks polite in person or are they rude? Do they tend to be upfront or stonewall, honest or lying? Spin, of course, is to be expected from nearly everyone.
Alex: I don’t really see a connection between political ideology and personal behavior in terms of politeness. Some senators, like Elizabeth Warren and Ted Cruz, rarely do hallway interviews unless it’s something they’re very passionate about. They both will say just call the press office. Leadership members like Sens. Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell will breeze by you if you ask them a question they don’t want to answer. You can’t ever grab Pelosi or Boehner for a question during votes. Rep. Paul Ryan started the trend of putting his Apple ear buds in as he walked in and out of meetings. He’s also pretty fast walker. Sen. Chuck Schumer prefers the finger raise, “I’m on a phone right now” move. Congressmen also are pretty good at ducking into elevators. I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s what Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.) has been doing since Wednesday.
I think the most surprising thing that has happened to me on the Hill was Rep. Virginia Foxx, 71, sprinting away from me when I had a question for her during the shutdown. I had a big, gross red beard then so maybe that was it.
In terms of the Tea Party, the hard-line conservative members are great to talk to about what’s going on in the GOP conference meetings. I remember Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas was an easy quote from a conservative during the shutdown because he stayed around after votes and meetings for awhile. Rep. John Fleming (Who, like, Huelskamp, made the Atlantic’s 32 Republicans Who Caused the Government Shutdown) usually comes out of closed-door GOP meetings to talk with us.
Classified briefings are a whole different batch. Those Congressmen that do come out and speak to the press are usually so few that they will pop up in almost all of the stories on that topic. For example, in June there was a classified Administration briefing to convince senators that Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, America’s final Afghanistan prisoner of war, was in poor health and needed to be taken back home. Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) probably spent 20 minutes with reporters to talk about the “proof of life” video. He gave such great detail that I’m sure he popped up in every story on that.
hivemaster asks, Why is Senator John Walsh’s plagiarism a top fold story, and yet Senator Rand Paul’s SERIAL plagiarisms don’t merit a story or even a mention in the Walsh story?
Alex: The New York Times actually did mention Sen. Paul in their A1 story Thursday. Why the Times didn’t put their Sen. Paul plagarism story on A1 is up for debate. I assume it’s because Paul’s plagarism is on a different level; he didn’t copy a third of a final paper to get his master’s degree. Sen. Walsh is also a veteran and up for reelection when Democrats are desperately trying to hold onto the Senate.
Sue_N asks, I’m curious as to what you (either or both) think Ted Cruz’s end game is. He won’t be president – yes, he is the Tea Party hero, but I can’t imagine Wall Street and the Chamber of Commerce ever allowing his nomination to happen. And even if he did somehow get the nomination, he’s so extreme and so polarizing that his candidacy would guarantee a Democratic victory.
Zeke: I think it’s likely right now that Sen. Cruz runs for President. He’s one of the most dynamic and engaging potential candidates on the Republican side, but, like all candidates, he will have to answer tough questions about his experience and his ideology. Especially with so many Republican governors contemplating bids for the White House—and with the dominant theme for the GOP over the last six years being President Obama’s difficulty managing the federal bureaucracy—Cruz may have a tough time making his case.
nflfoghorn asks, Is this legislative shutdown (IMO, crusade against Barack Obama) ideological or personal, and why?
Zeke: Probably a bit of both. Both parties are have grown increasingly polarized, and the institutional grease of earmarks are a thing of the past. Lawmakers get out of D.C. at the soonest possible moment and don’t build too many friendships across the aisle—especially in the House. But the problem is also at the very top. Check out this great Washington Post story on the animosity between Leader Reid and McConnell. But there’s also a cyclical component to this. We’re in the sixth year of a presidency is facing new foreign policy headwinds. It’s a midterm election year. It’s natural that there’d be a slowdown in the legislative process, but there’s no doubt it’s been exacerbated by those other factors.
yogi, If the GOP retains the House after the election, does Boehner win another term as speaker? Does he want another term as speaker? How strong of a tea party challenge to his right will he get? deconstruciva asks, How does John Boehner REALLY feel about the Tea Party wing in the House and their misbehaviors? Angry? Amused? Indifferent? Takes them seriously or blows them off? (no pun intended) I’m guessing he doesn’t say much in public or insists his true feelings be off the record, but in DC, not everyone is on board 100 percent about keeping secrets, so what are you two hearing or your best observations?
Zeke: First off, it’s hard right now to see Democrats regaining the majority in the House. It’d take A LOT to change that between now and November, but let’s just assume that’s not going to happen. Eric Cantor’s primary defeat all-but-assures that Speaker Boehner will stick around for another term, and if he does that he’ll run for Speaker once again. He may face the rebellion from conservatives that was supposed to occur last year, but he’s been a stellar fundraiser for his conference and has a deep bench of personal support (even if he has difficulty sometimes bringing his conference along on legislation.) So safe bet is Speaker Boehner will be Speaker Boehner this time next year.
Gathering from conversations from folks on the Hill, the White House, and around town, I think the consensus is that Boehner is trying to do the best he can in a conference where right now he is a leader of a group that doesn’t want to be led. I wouldn’t speculate as to what the Speaker’s personal feeling are, but he’s suffered some public setbacks in a job that has been pretty thankless, and I’m sure that’s not ideal.
Alex: I’ll just add that the Democrats aren’t going to take back the House this year. The Washington Post forecasting model has the Democrats’ chances at 1%.
And I would take Speaker Boehner at his word on the Tea Party. After the shutdown he said that outside conservative groups have “lost all credibility.”
deconstructiva 21 hours ago #askTIME for Alex and Zeke – As you two probably know, many commenters here ponder the growing split between the Tea Party and the Establishment GOP. Though there could be more of the same and the battle ultimately fizzles out, I think one group will leave and form a third party, but unsure who leaves and who stays in the GOP. From what you two hear daily, how do you see this playing out? Also, how do the serious money players feel about this split – the Koch Bros. have backed the Tea’s, but whither the Fortune 500 corporate giants who no doubt would lose Congressional support if the Tea’s and Establishment divorce?
Zeke: It’s too soon to tell. We’ve seen some new divisions opening up recently over reauthorizing the Export-Import Bank, and there’s the still-simmering fights over immigration reform and tax reform. From an electoral standpoint, the establishment folks have dropped some incredible resources this cycle in primaries, and that’s only exacerbated the tensions. But I don’t think we’ve seen much evidence yet that disaffected tea party voters will home in general elections. As wide as the divisions are with the establishment, they are an ocean apart from Democrats. I don’t think that’s going to change anytime soon. What the big-dollar donors and GOP-leaning corporate donors will do if this split continues to have policy ramifications is, I think, an open question. Does the Chamber of Commerce back some Democrats over tea partiers? What would be the ramifications of that? I’m not 100 percent sure, but I’d sure like to cover that story. This has been the dominant storyline of 2014 so far, and I think it’s safe to say it will be a central theme of the 2016 race as well.
Alex: The Ex-Im fight is going to be a pretty good indicator of how powerful the conservative bloc is within the House GOP conference. Incoming House Majority leader Kevin McCarthy says he opposes it, flipping his position two years ago, but I think that he and Speaker Boehner will allow it to pass through in this fall’s spending bill. It’s going to be interesting to see the how the new Whip, Steve Scalise, handles the position. He hasn’t stated how he’s going to vote on the bill addressing the border crisis. I think he’s a go-to person on figuring out the temperature of the conference. If he backs something publicly, I would be surprised to see it fails.
@phd9 asks, What is it about Dick Cheney and John McCain that makes them impossible to get off of TeeVee.
Zeke: Easy – they’re irresistible to television bookers because they always, always make news. They’re experts at saying just the right thing, at just the right time, in just the right way that just beg to to be replayed over and over again. That skill has probably contributed heavily to their enduring political relevance.
Alex: Cheney is more relevant in the news now because of Iraq. Without President George W. Bush on the circuit, Cheney becomes the top guy to discuss the Bush legacy. McCain always has a quote ready. When the U.S. was trying to figure out who shot down the Malaysia Airlines MH 17 flight, McCain said there would be “hell to pay” if Russian separatists were behind it. What that meant no one knew. But google “McCain ‘hell to pay.’” There are probably 15 outlets that reported that quote.
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