Free Markets, Free People
As the GOP takes control of the House, one of the first things they’ll do is try to pass a bill repealing ObamaCare. It won’t get anywhere after the House as everyone knows. I.e. it has more symbolism than real chance of passing. That symbolism is an important way for Republicans to underline the rest of their agenda. The GOP will own the “funding” mechanism in the House. And that will be significant. Part of that will be obvious in some of the packages they plan to offer, such as a package of recissions.
Republicans in the House say they plan to move on to offer a far more sweeping package of "recissions," or elimination of spending previously approved, that will aim to bring domestic spending back to where it was before Mr. Obama became president. The skirmish over that proposal for spending cuts, coupled with related fights over government regulation and health care, will set the battle lines for the next two years, as Washington returns to divided government.
If, in fact, the Republicans do this correctly and continue to push it through 2012 regardless of what the Senate or President do to the product of their work (refuse to pass it or veto it), they will set themselves up well for that year’s elections. As the WSJ notes, if there was a mandate in this election it is “cut spending”.
House Republicans have also set their sights on scaling back environmental regulations and tightening border security.
Actually all regulation should be examined, especially the newly passed regulation. It should be examined in light of whether it helps create jobs or hinders such creation. That includes those the EPA is poised to implement or has implemented as well as regulations by other agencies such as the FCC, and any departments which have decided to rule by regulatory fiat. Again if they do that, the GOP will position themselves well for the next election.
A word of caution though. Investigations, while proper and necessary to perform the oversight function that Congress is charged with must be kept under strict control and not wander into what most would see as “witch hunts” that are based in partisan politics. Republican Darrell Issa of California is the incoming chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He plans extensive hearings on a broad range of subjects, to include Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, Medicare fraud, TARP and other issues. He also intends to look into the practices of the DoJ.
All well and good and definitely necessary – but he needs to conduct all of them as an adult and avoid even the appearance of partisanship unless he wants what he is trying to do to become the headline issue which masks the other work the GOP is attempting. Do the job, avoid witch hunts, avoid the appearance of partisanship and avoid fiery rhetoric that he has to walk back or explain away, and it is a procedure that again can benefit the GOP in 2012.
This is the Republican’s one-shot chance to show they’ve listened, heard and will put into practice the will of the people. If not, they’re on temporary assignment for two years as it should be clear the voters have committed to 3 successive wave elections and are certainly not averse to a 4th.
And it’s a pretty pointed one showing a very solid Republican lame duck caucus – at least on this particular issue:
Senate Republicans promised Wednesday to block legislative action on every issue being considered by the lame-duck Congress until the dispute over extending the Bush-era tax cuts is resolved and an extension of current government funding is approved.
All 42 Senate Republicans signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, vowing to prevent a vote on "any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers."
If you’re wondering about the 42 Republicans, don’t forget Mark Kirk was sworn in yesterday as the new junior Senator from Illinois.
So there’s some solidarity that Democrats have to address if they want to pass anything else this session because with 42 automatically saying no, there’s nothing going to cloture and a vote.
Democrats are trying to pass several pieces of legislation before a more Republican Congress is sworn in in January, including the START nuclear arms treaty with Russia, a repeal of the ban on gays and lesbians serving openly in the military, and the so-called DREAM Act, which would create a path to citizenship for young illegal immigrants.
Naturally, Mr. Reid isn’t happy:
Reid blasted the GOP letter on the Senate floor Wednesday morning, calling it part of a "cynical" and transparent" Republican strategy to "obstruct" and "delay" legislative progress while blaming the Democrats for failing to effectively govern.
I thought “transparent” was good? Heh … is this anymore cynical than trying to push through all the garbage on the Dem agenda while they have their last shot when the American people have said “jobs and the economy?” Yeah, I didn’t think so either.
And for once, Reid is at least partially right – this is a tactic to obstruct the majority party’s intention to do as it wishes without having to contend with the minority’s desires. That, as I’ve observed over the last few decades, is how minority parties have acted on both sides of the aisle in Senatorial politics. I get a little tired of both sides complaining about it. That’s the reality of the rules the yahoos making the complaints agreed upon (and used – Harry Reid was the minority leader once as well, and was very complimentary of the Senate’s tradition of protecting the rights of the minority party to have a say).
Anyway, the gauntlet is thrown. Other than whine, it’s going to be interesting to see how Reid, et al, react to this. Time is running out rather swiftly.
I‘m not sure he does if his press conference yesterday was any indication. He handled it all right, I suppose, but his basic message was that he didn’t communicate his basic message. Not that his agenda had been rejected or that his policies were at fault. It was simply a matter of the poor dumb public not understanding what he was about and what he was doing. Victor Davis Hanson does a good job of dissecting the press conference (so I don’t have too) and states the problem I saw pretty darn well:
President Obama came close, but he still just cannot admit that his radical policies and their effects on the economy are the cause of his devastating political rebuke. For most of his press conference, an oddly depressed Obama voted present, as he all but said that the problems are mostly ours, not his — or at least not his agenda but perhaps an occasional inadequate communication.
In clingers fashion, he once more is talking down to us, explaining that we confused his necessary solutions with a bogeyman increase in big government, and so typically, in fright and ignorance, lashed out at his party. He is claiming the outrage grew from the same frustration that elected him, rather than arising precisely because of him and his agenda. In short, we are angry because his EU-socialist agenda is progressing too slowly and hasn’t delivered as promised — as it will in time. Perhaps then we will thank him for his proper big-government, big-spending solution.
The reasons this is so are many, but primarily they are because Obama doesn’t consider his ideas as radical or "big government" or, except out of an emergency necessity, "big spending." But obviously, given his year long focus on health care reform that involves much more government than ever before, he does think government is just not doing enough and is the solution for the majority of our problems. How he’s unable to reconcile that with not being a "big-government", "big-spending" type is left between he and his psychiatrist as the CEO of NPR might put it.
He seems bewildered (for the first time?) that his popularity as a campaign rhetorician did not last when he became responsible for actual governance. For most of the press conference, a humbled but deer-in-the-headlights Obama half-heartedly argued that the populist outrage against his own massive debt, huge wasteful government, and elitism was really outrage against the economy he inherited, an outrage that he shares. We don’t know it, the president hints, but we are still angry at the Bush years, and yesterday mistakenly took our wrath out on Obama’s methodical, albeit too slow, efforts at recovery. In short, there was little admission whatsoever that Obama’s message and the way he pushed it turned off millions — there was no repentant Clinton, circa autumn 1994, here; instead, a shocked Obama who seems hurt that we do not appreciate him.
That was pretty much my reaction as I watched him navigate the session (which, btw, was a press conference for only a selected number of journalists, called by name – the rest could have stayed home). While he offered some hint he might be willing to compromise, the ideologue in him made it clear that such compromise would only take place at the margins. When asked about the possibility of health care compromise to save it from repeal, Obama brought up the 1099 issue (something which has little if anything to do with health care but was a provision of the health care bill) as an example of something he might be willing to consider compromise on. But it was clear there’d be none on the major provisions of the monstrosity passed by his administration.
He admitted he was insulated (a danger for all presidents). He said “getting out” was good for him, implying that if he just did more of it, this pesky communication problem would clear itself up and all would be right with the “Hope and Change Express”.
Except it won’t. Even when he “gets out” he goes to carefully staged and managed events. How he can think that he’s getting the true feelings of Americans out there after Tuesday night remains a mystery. As Hanson says, he seemed bemused and bewildered by what had gone down. He finally, well into the presser, called it properly a “shellacking”.
He mused about how it was the public’s perceptions about what he’d done in an “emergency” which was part of the problem and the other was the economy he inherited. However he didn’t seem to understand that the public’s perception rests on how he reacted to the crisis – by expanding government and government spending. And at almost light speed. How he thinks he can now lay any legitimate claim to wanting to reduce the deficit after driving it to historic highs in each of first few budgets is beyond most. But apparently he thinks all he has to do is communicate properly.
He threw out the usual platitudes about being the president and thus being responsible for what happened Tuesday, but you got the impression he really didn’t mean it. He really didn’t think he or his policies were at fault. Instead you felt he thought it was the voter’s fault for not being collectively bright enough to understand all the wonderful things he’d done. All in all, despite some of his rhetoric, he seemed very disinclined to change his ways.
Hanson throws a little reality check the GOP’s way in his piece as well:
Some things also have to change on the conservative side. Congress must not remain hostage to farm-state representatives and senators, for whom the huge agricultural subsidy programs are sacrosanct; a decade ago, we went from “eliminating” those programs via the “Freedom to Farm” Act to calling farm pork a post-9/11 matter of national security. On the budget front, I doubt we will hear much talk, at least in the short term, of massive tax cuts that eventually will result in greater supply-side growth and thus greater revenue. Instead, I assume that any Republican tax-cut attempt will have to be matched in the here and now by a commensurate cut in spending, dollar for dollar — or rather, given the deficits, one dollar in tax cuts, two dollars in spending cuts. I also don’t think we will see representatives bragging of the new pork-barrel community centers they brought home, with their own names plastered on them — at least for a while.
If Boehner, et. al, don’t have a detailed plan in hand that address subsidies, corporate welfare and a number of other spending cuts when they take over this next January, they’re in for a 2 year run. There are any number of recommendations for them out there they can incorporate into such a plan. They had better show up serious about spending cuts or as I say, their days are numbered. I don’t give a rip what Obama may do with the veto pen – the point is make him do it. The can has been kicked as far down the road as possible. Time to man up and live up to the principles the party claims it holds.
Meanwhile, expect Obama to cluelessly continue to try to polish up his message. As far as he’s concerned, the agenda is okey-dokey and he intends to proceed as if it is.
Is this a tacit admission that despite all the whistling past the graveyard that many Democrats are doing by "guaranteeing" they’ll win in November, the White House expects a GOP majority in at least one chamber of Congress?
If they’re not smoking the same thing as Joe Biden, then yes, it is.
What would that agenda look like?
They are talking about a new, more incremental approach, championed by former Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, to fulfilling campaign promises on energy, immigration and on closing the military prison at Guantanamo Bay. The new White House chief of staff, Pete Rouse, is far more steeped than Mr. Emanuel in the culture of the Senate, where comprehensive approaches to some of these issues have fared poorly. White House officials hope Mr. Rouse’s expertise will help navigate smaller measures through the chamber.
"We weren’t able to do a lot of those other things even with this Congress. That obviously calls for a new approach," one White House official said.
Ya think? If indeed the GOP is able to take the House and narrow the majority in the Senate, they’ll run into a new obstacle – the GOP legislative agenda. And most expect that agenda to butt heads on everyone of the issues outlined above as priorities for the administration.
Energy will most likely be limited by Republicans and climate change will probably not be a part of any such legislation. As Ryan Lizza points out in The New Yorker, Obama and the Democrats stood on the dock and watched that ship sail a while ago. And most believe it hit an iceberg and sunk, never to be seen again or until the next all Democratic Congress and administration manage to get themselves elected to office – which ever comes first.
Immigration will also most likely not see a comprehensive plan offered. Instead, whatever the administration wants will run smack dab into the “secure the border first” demand from the GOP.
Same with GITMO – the GOP and many Democrats are not going to be happy or comfortable moving terrorists into the homeland from Cuba.
Then there’s the real priorities that one hopes the GOP will focus on instead:
Retiring Rep. David Obey (D., Wis.), the longtime chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said nothing would get done on immigration and climate change until the economy has fully recovered, and that the incoming class of Republicans would be in no mood to compromise on economic measures.
And that’s precisely the way it should be – in fact, must be, considering that lack of focus on what concerns the people out there in fly over land as reflected in town hall meetings and Tea Party protests says "it’s the economy stupid". The GOP had better heed the point and act.
The underlying question of interest is what Obama will we see when and if the GOP have a majority in the House? Will he be more conciliatory, drop the anti-GOP rhetoric and be prepared to try to work with Republicans? Or will he turn harder to the left, whine about obstructionism and use his bully pulpit to further demonize the opposition in hopes of garnering enough sympathy votes to squeak him through the 2012 election?
At the moment I’m inclined toward believing the latter is much more the real Obama.
Anyway, it appears reality is beginning to settle in a bit now. I’m sure Joe Biden is exempted from that since he’s rarely seen reality much less recognize it. But this announcement seems to point to some understanding that the window is almost closed to the grand, costly and socialistic programs that the liberal side of the spectrum holds so dear.
POLITICO points out that the House Republicans are planning to announce their election agenda within the next two weeks. That ought to be an interesting exercise. This is supposedly a result of their “America Speaking Out” initiative, an online, grass-roots effort to build ideas from voters across the country.
Two things that have leaked out sound great but most likely will have about the same impact as PAYGO:
One of the GOP proposals would require bills to have a specific citation of constitutional authority, on the heels of criticism that Democrats breached their constitutional limits in Congress with big-ticket bills like health care reform. If a member questioned whether the House had constitutional authority to pass a bill, that challenge would receive debate and a vote.
The second major initiative would encourage — though not require — members of Congress to read bills before they vote. According to a senior House GOP source, Republicans plan to push for a new rule that would require the House to publish the text of a bill online at least three days before the House votes on it, also giving the public an opportunity to review legislation.
The first is like closing the barn door after the horse has escaped. That nag fled decades ago. Obviously I’d like to see the Constitution followed as it should be, but I find it highly unlikely that a body of lawyers would have any trouble rationalizing almost anything they come up with as “Constitutional”. I mean, look around you.
The second is, well, window dressing. While it sounds great, I have little confidence that a 2,500 page bill posted on line for 3 days allows anyone enough time to read it much less understand and react to it. I cannot think of any bill that Congress considers and debates that couldn’t wait a month for enactment (other than perhaps some funding for a natural disaster, etc). In that time a real reading could be done, and the appropriate debate among “the people” could take place. What effect even that would have on the House is unknown, however, it certainly would raise the visibility of the debate to much different levels than now and provide a little accountability so sorely missing.
We’re still digging horse apples out of the ObamaCare law. It was passed in haste precisely because of the crap it had hidden inside. Yet there is no reason whatsoever that bill couldn’t have been available on line for 30 days prior to House action. None. Making that a requirement (and if there’s a schedule that the House feels it must keep on certain reoccurring items like the budget – adapt. Move the House work schedule for that bill back a month) would certainly go a lot further to keeping House members honest and between the ditches than anything.
The rest of the agenda remains veiled in generalities:
Other bills and initiatives that are likely to be launched alongside the agenda include tax policy proposals, health reform proposals and jobs-related measures, though GOP aides involved declined to release any specifics ahead of the unveiling.
POLITICO says some of them will be designed to appeal to the Tea Party vote. The first is obviously designed to do that – but is it really something which can and will be enforced? And if it is, will it actually have an effect. Again, you’re asking a body of lawyers to vote on their interpretation of what the Constitution says, and most are going to fall back on “precedent”, i.e. the fact that in the past what many say is an unconstitutional expansion of government – see Commerce clause – has been upheld by the Supreme Court. How in the world would this change that?
Anyway, given my dissatisfaction with the first two, the GOP does indeed need to roll out reasons to vote “for” them, rather than just against Democrats. And most importantly, if they’re able to successfully appeal to the voters to vote “for” them, they better damn well execute.