Sunday, November 29 , 2015, 7:04 pm | Fair 54º

Joe Conason: Fiscal Deal Passes as House GOP Clown Car Crashes — Again

By Joe Conason |

Observing the congressional Republicans repeatedly stumble in and out of their caucus clown car, blowing loud kazoos and muttering angry threats should be painful, embarrassing and highly instructive to any American voter with the patience to watch. When their latest performance concluded late Tuesday night with a 257-187 vote passing the stopgap fiscal deal negotiated by the Senate and the White House, an unavoidable question lingered: What is wrong with those people?

The simple explanation is that the House of Representatives has increasingly been dominated over the past two decades by a coterie of tantrum-prone extremists, who lack the probity and steadiness required for democratic self-government. Their diminished capacity is reflected in the low quality of leadership they have chosen during this long twilight, from Newt Gingrich, Dennis Hastert and Tom DeLay to John Boehner and Eric Cantor, even as their politics have grown more and more extreme.

Under the stress of their incoherence, the Republican caucus is unable to escape one humiliating mess after another. The damage they routinely inflict on the country’s economy and future is reaching incalculable levels — and is almost certain to grow worse when they again hold the debt ceiling hostage next month.

By the end of the current episode, which is only an interlude rather than a true resolution, the top Republicans in the House had split, with Boehner casting a rare vote in favor, and House Budget Committee chair and former vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan voting yes, along with 84 fellow Republicans and almost all of the House Democrats, while House Majority Leader and would-be Speaker Cantor voted no. On the floor, House Ways & Means chair Dave Camp tried to claim that this bill is “the largest tax cut in history,” although he might have difficulty explaining why more than 150 Republicans voted against it.

The Republicans’ incompetence in government is inextricably connected with their ideological extremism, as the latest events demonstrate. Hogtied by the craziness of the ultra-right Tea Party faction, the House GOP leadership cannot even cooperate with other Republicans in the Senate — who overwhelmingly voted for the “cliff” deal negotiated with Vice President Joe Biden — let alone conduct serious discussions with the White House.

Having refused to support the leadership’s “Plan B” scheme to raise taxes only on households making $1 million or more annually — despite confident claims by Boehner and Cantor that they had counted the necessary votes — the Republican caucus made both themselves and their leaders look ridiculous. It was a dreadful right-wing plan, but still much too liberal for too many of them. Tacitly acknowledging that he could no longer manage his restless wingnuts, Boehner insisted that the Senate and White House should come up with an emergency measure on their own.

Yet when the Senate leadership, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, offered a bill negotiated with Vice President Biden — just as Boehner had urged — the House Republicans descended into crisis. Their leaders couldn’t endorse the bill, fearing that the GOP caucus crazies would defenestrate them. But they could hardly employ their usual partisan tactics to keep the bill off the House floor, after the Senate had passed it by a vote of 89-8 with only five Republican defections. They might have noticed as well their declining numbers in every public poll, with the latest Republican-leaning Rasmussen survey showing a Democratic lead in the generic congressional contest of 11 points and climbing.

Astonishingly, they nevertheless wasted several hours debating whether to amend the bill with new spending cuts and then send it back to the Senate, where leaders of both parties would have surely and justly rejected such tardy handiwork. Consistent only in their ineptitude, the House Republicans were reportedly unable to agree among themselves on exactly how to change the bill, in any case.
Finally, they folded — or at least their leaders did — and proclaimed that they were girding themselves for the battles to come over the budget and the debt ceiling, which have now been postponed for another month or so.

The deal itself is not a bad one, from the Democratic perspective, raising significant new revenues from the wealthiest taxpayers and excluding any “grand bargain” (or raw deal) to weaken Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. Its specific provisions are still far too generous to the highest-income taxpayers and will not, in the long run, raise enough revenue to sustain decent government, rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and prepare for the future.

The struggle over what government should do and how to pay for its functions continues, almost immediately. And perhaps soon the president and his party will explain, without hesitation, what this brief tumble over the “cliff” has shown us, and what we may hope they have finally learned: That there is no negotiating partner among the House Republicans, who must be defeated if progress is to be possible.

Joe Conason is editor in chief of Click here to contact him, follow him on Twitter: @JConason, or click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

comments powered by Disqus

» on 01.03.13 @ 05:52 PM

They should get off of this, unless there are better solutions available.

Speaker Boehner has to privately deal with a Tea Bag caucus in his House majority way to the right of the Flat Earth Society.

The problem is that all these angry, Red States amateurs, with lots of ideology and passion, and little knowledge or experience in their sworn federal duties, were openly, honestly elected by the Red State districts they represent.

Which means either that the voters there believe the same stuff as their electeds,
or that they were bamboozled by election propaganda from Rove, the Club for
Growth, the Koch Brothers, et al.

I suspect the latter, since when Tea Bag candidates publicly espoused their true
beliefs, whether on rape, choice, astrology, whatever before the elections, most

Until Boehner gets re-elected as Speaker in the next week, he has to treat these
weird, angry colleagues with the same deference as if they were Webster, Clay,
or Calhoun.

That’s politics.

If America wants a higher quality Congress, we as individuals have to recruit,
then elect, better, brighter quality people for those positions. Period.

It is possible.

People who saw the movie “Lincoln” are amazed that the Republican Party was
founded as the party of civil rights, and that they found time to create land-
grant colleges, charter the trans-continental railroad, and Yellowstone National
Park, even in the middle of the Civil War.

If the heirs of Lincoln, TR, Ike, Nixon, Ford, Reagan ever get off their sofas and
reclaim their party, as Brooks Firestone and Dan Secord have tried locally, we
could easily see a future House speaker who was more than the mouthpiece
for a Party of NO!

» on 01.03.13 @ 06:40 PM

If Conason’s diatribe wasn’t bad enough now you have the legions of leftist nit wits chiming in, led by Publius a true drive by commentator if there ever was one.

First, the term “tea bag” used exclusively by the left is a foul and vulgar term coined in our esteemed prison system to connote a vulgar homosexual act. People like Publius who consistently use this term show zero class and indicate a lack of intelligence right off the bat.

Second, this entire fiscal cliff farce could have been avoided had the pimp in chief decided to rein in spending BEFORE asking for more revenue. Nope, emboldened by his pathetic slobbering main stream media and a country of looters, gamblers and credit junkies, Obama seems quite content in spending this nation into abject poverty.

It is a well documented fact, that raising taxes always reduces revenue to government, regardless of what the legions of idiot economists like Publius spout. It is also a well documented fact that raising taxes in a recession or when you have a net trade deficit always makes the economy worse not better. When we had the highest taxes rates we also had the best economy to support them. This has led idiots on the left to make the ass backward assumption that the good economy was due to the high taxes rather than seeing it was the other way around. Idiots!

If Publius would spend less time spewing vulgar commentary and displaying his incredible ignorance for all to see, he might read a book or two, do some research and figure out that the only ones saying no to rational, logical fiscal policy are his own party of dim witted Marxists.

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