Getting Stuff Done
The GOP fought long and hard to retake control over Congress. In the 2010 midterm elections, they took control of the House of Representatives from the Democrats, vowing to repeal the Affordable Care Act – calling it Obamacare. Since then, they have voted over 50 times to repeal the law, only to have it die in a Senate controlled by the Democrats. Since the Republicans took control of the House, Congress has lurched from one deadline to the next, basically accomplishing less than any Congress in modern times. They barely avoided a debt ceiling crisis, limped along with continuing budget resolutions rather than a budget and even culminated in a two-week government shutdown in 2013 before agreeing to short-term funding.
In 2014, the GOP finally retook control of the Senate with another dominating midterm election performance. The House is now more thoroughly dominated by the GOP than it has been for decades. They can basically pass anything they want. If only they could get the Senate Republicans and a few Democrats to agree to it. There’s the rub. The Senate is still subject to the same rules as when the Democrats were in control, meaning most measures need 60 votes, not 51, to pass, due to filibusters. The Republicans in the House are far from a unified group on many issues. Yet they still cling to the demands of those calling for repeal of the Health Care law and continue passing that legislation knowing full well it will neither pass in the Senate nor survive a certain Presidential veto were it ever able to get that far.
Many Congressional Republicans were outraged when the President signed executive orders attempting to at least partially fix a broken immigration system that would have been largely repaired by a bipartisan bill that passed in the Senate, but which the Speaker and House Republicans refused to even vote on. Trying to get the executive orders cancelled or overwritten, they decided to play a new budgetary hostage-taking card by passing funding bills enabling the government to function through the end of the current fiscal year, which ends September 30. The one exception involved only funding Homeland Security through February. That’s less than two weeks away, and Congress is in one of its frequent recesses this week. To top that off, before heading off on recess, Congress (both House and Senate) passed and sent to President Obama a bill authorizing the building of the Keystone XL Pipeline, setting up the first of many possible veto confrontations between the President and the Republican Congress.
As for Keystone, the avowed reasoning behind GOP backing of the project is an abject sham. They tout it as a job creation bill, even though it would create fewer than a hundred jobs that lasted longer than it takes to actually build the pipeline. Environmental concerns, including the impact the pipeline and the oil it carries would have on climate change, far outweigh the economic impact of the few American jobs it creates, not to mention that the oil transported through it would ultimately be exported abroad and not improve gas prices in this country in the least. The potential (or should I say inevitable) environmental degradation caused by massive oil spills across the American heartland means that the main upside of the project goes to the Canadian firm strongly backing it, not to the American economy or workers. Trying to make us think we are drinking Koolaid which tastes an awful lot like dirty petroleum won’t work. The project should’ve been quashed years ago, but was kept alive for political reasons and potential corporate profits. The time has come too put an end to it, once and for all.
Building a time bomb into the Crominibus that Congress passed last December seems counterproductive, to say the least. The immigration bill passed by the Senate was far from perfect, though the President has said he was willing to work with it. Included in that are provisions which strengthen border security. Many people who opposed the bill did so on the grounds that it places too much emphasis on further militarizing the border (primarily the one with Mexico, of course). What sense does it make to show disapproval of the President’s loosening of restrictions on immigration as outlined in his executive orders by shutting down the government department most closely assigned to executing the laws pertaining to border security?
Instead of working on an acceptable immigration bill that can be signed into law, Congressional Republicans are putting themselves into a position where they may, in fact, cause at least a temporary shutdown of a key government department that it needs in order to just maintain the status quo dealing with immigration issues, rather than solve and improve on them. They continue to duck the main issue by refusing to pass the legislation they think is needed to resolve the many pressing long-term issues dealing with immigration. Shutting down Homeland Security will be blamed squarely on House Republicans, should it happen, and rightfully so. Mitch McConnell spoke with glee as he foresaw a new era of getting stuff done now that Republicans have control of both the House and Senate. At this point, it would appear that rumors of the death of DC gridlock were greatly exaggerated.
Once they extricate themselves (and us) from the Homeland Security mess, they get to deal with the whole budget for the next fiscal year, which promises to be as cantankerous as ever, judging from the proposals put forth by the Administration and the grumblings coming from the likes of Paul Ryan and the other Republican Congressional leaders dealing with government funding. Every single progressive-sounding proposal coming from the White House seems to be met with more of the tax-cuts-for-the-rich-and-big-corporations and cut-all-domestic-social-welfare-programs that we have learned to know and loathe from the GOP ever since Ronald Reagan gained the White House back in 1980. To top it off, they appear to remain unwilling to raise revenues to pay for ongoing and desired (by them at least) military adventures in the revised War on Terror.
President Obama may be willing to act more boldly to forge a lasting positive legacy for his administration in its remaining tenure, but I see no signs yet that the largely intact Republican leadership in Congress is any more willing to compromise for the good of the people (and by extension, the nation) than they were during their last session. Makes some of us wonder if not only the Chief Executive needs term limits. Incumbents seem comfortable with business as usual. We certainly need to take action to curb the undue influence of big money in our political campaigns and all sorts of laws affecting the election of legislative bodies and other officials at all levels who make up the government controlling our lives. Cut the crap. Do your jobs. Get stuff done. Pass laws, confirm appointments, fix problems to the benefit of the many, rather than the few who paid big money to get you elected and serve their interests. You govern the people. You allegedly represent all of us. Make it so the word “allegedly” has no place in that last sentence.
Further Suggested Readings: