From One-Party Rule to Cry-Baby Caucus from This Modern World 2009-02-04
It’s astounding to me that the Republican party can complain with a straight face that they aren’t getting enough input into the stimulus package (or any other Obama Administration agenda items). I think every Democrat who appears on TV (both of them) should do nothing but remind America how things worked in D.C. a few short years ago when the Republicans held a slimmer lead :
Congress’s majority parties have always dominated legislative action, but they typically have given the minority some voice — even if it has amounted to little more than a floor vote on a sure-to-lose alternative bill, or conference committee recommendations destined to be rejected along party lines. Often, majority party leaders have made enough concessions to attract a few votes from across the aisle, withstand some intra-party defections and tout a piece of legislation as “bipartisan.” (The conference on the original Medicare bill in 1965, when Democrats controlled the White House and Congress, included Republicans. Roughly half of all House and Senate Republicans voted for the final legislation.)
Recently, however, GOP leaders have largely dispensed with such niceties. Senate Republicans rewrote a massive (and still-pending) energy bill with zero Democratic participation. And top House and Senate Republicans negotiated the complex Medicare bill with only two conciliation-minded Democrats — Sens. John Breaux (La.) and Max Baucus (Mont.) — in the room. (When some House Democrats barged in one day, Thomas, the Ways and Means chairman, halted the meeting until they left.)
. . .
These hardball techniques underscore a paradox of current U.S. politics: The electorate is almost evenly divided, but federal policymaking is increasingly one-sided. With only the narrowest of House and Senate margins, Republican leaders are deploying scorched-earth, compromise-be-damned tactics, as if they ruled the nation 80-20, not 51-49. Rather than building broader consensus, they have decided they can’t afford centrist compromises that might attract some Democratic support but lose even more votes from the GOP conservative wing.
. . .
Whereas House Republicans berated Democratic speaker Jim Wright in 1987 for extending a roll call — normally 15 minutes — by 10 more minutes, Hastert last month obliterated that record in order to cajole and badger enough colleagues into backing the Medicare bill. Sometimes the leaders’ partisanship seems almost cartoonish, as when Thomas summoned Capitol police to evict Democrats from a quiet meeting room. (The cops refused.)
Lest we pretend that the Republicans in Congress are sincere about their opposition to the tax-and-spend (get a new line, guys) nature of the stimulus bill, lemme remind you of what the GOP did when they controlled every branch of the federal government :
[Former Treasury Secretary Paul] O’Neill had been preaching that a fiscal crisis was looming and more tax cuts would exacerbate it. But others in the White House saw a chance to capitalize on the historic Republican congressional gains in the 2002 elections. Surely, Cheney would not be so smug. He would hear O’Neill out. In an economic meeting in the Vice President’s office, O’Neill started pitching, describing how the numbers showed that growing budget deficits threatened the economy. Cheney cut him off. “Reagan proved deficits don’t matter,” he said. O’Neill was too dumbfounded to respond. Cheney continued: “We won the midterms. This is our due.”
To sum up the last eight years, we’ve had one-party rule in Washington D.C. which had “fiscal conservatives” feeling entitled to spend taxpayer money like drunken sailors (which exacerbated the very fiscal crisis that the current Congress is trying to address). When the minority party tried to insert themselves in the legislative process, they were not only shunned completely, but the GOP leadership would shut down meetings until they left, hold open votes for hours until they got the results they wanted, and would actually call the police to have Democrats removed from meetings. Where the HELL do these guys get off complaining about partisanship?
This quote from the first article serves as a prescient coda on the hyperpartisan Bush years :
Nearly half the electorate — people who chose Democrats to represent them in Congress — are, to an increasing degree, disenfranchised. Their representatives aren’t simply outvoted on the House and Senate floors, they’re not even present when key legislation is discussed and refined. The pendulum always swings back eventually, though, and should the White House and Congress shift hands, this year’s brutal and partisan practices may ensure a retaliatory cycle in which each aggrieved party feels compelled to wreak vengeance, lest it be viewed as wimpish.
Even GOP Sen. John McCain of Arizona recently warned: “The Republicans had better hope that the Democrats never regain the majority.”
Much to the chagrin of many on the left, Barack Obama is actually sincere about reaching across the aisle. He has added Republicans to his cabinet, made multiple efforts to include Republican leaders in the legislative process, and has made it clear that he wants to work in a bipartisan manner. If the Republican leaders want more, they can piss off. They’re getting a much better deal than Democrats ever got (nobody has called the cops yet). The GOP got their asses handed to them two election cycles in a row. The American people have soundly rejected the last eight years of Republican domination.
We won. This is our due.
posted by Greg Saunders at 10:05 PM | link