By now it shouldn’t be a surprise to most Americans that the United States Congress has entered an unprecedented era of dysfunction and inaction. Time and again, analysts have termed the 113th as the least productive Congress in history, and with a full month of August recess and precious few months in the term, that sad streak is unlikely to be reversed.
But what most Americans don’t know is that there are very specific cause for that inaction, and they cannot be blamed on President Obama or divided government.
When the President is of one Party and one or both Houses of Congress of another, it’s natural to expect some grandstanding, inflamed rhetoric, and yes a few “show votes” that have no realistic chance of becoming law. These are common occurrences of divided government. But when that division is happening within a Party, it has reached a level that can become harmful to the nation. And such is the case with members of the Republican caucus. Ever since taking the House majority in 2011, GOP Representatives have worked tirelessly to make President Obama the most hated man in the country. They block his initiatives at every turn, even when he’s putting forth ideas that they agree with.
It was this week in Washington that brought Republican division to another level. The GOP’s latest “blame Obama” tactic is to wage frivolous lawsuits against the President for taking executive actions, claiming that he is trying to circumvent Congressional authority. By doing this action, it would suggest that House Republicans want Obama to STOP issuing Executive Orders, right? Sure, that’s what they wanted until yesterday. Here’s more on the madness from Steve Benen of the Maddow Blog, because I can’t even explain it well enough…
Even by congressional standards, the mixed message from Capitol Hill this week was jarring. On Wednesday, House Republicans approved a civil suit against President Obama – the first such suit in American history – complaining that the White House shouldn’t circumvent Congress when making public policy.
Literally one day later, House Republicans killed their own border bill, prompting GOP leaders to issue a statement urging the White House to circumvent Congress.
On msnbc’s “Morning Joe,” Eugene Robinson asked Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a close ally to House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), to help reconcile the contradiction. The Republican congressman’s response was striking. For those who can’t watch clips online:
ROBINSON: There was a contradiction yesterday that I’m still struggling to understand. The leadership statement, when the [border bill] didn’t pass essentially said, ‘Well, there are plenty of administrative things that President Obama can do and should be doing at the border, and that was a day after the House voted to sue President Obama for taking administrative actions.
ROBINSON: So, how does that square?
COLE: Well, I’m not going to disagree with you because it’s a point I made myself in conference. Look, you can’t say on the one hand that the president’s overreaching by acting without legislative authority and direction, and then refuse to give him legislative authority and direction in another area. So, I don’t disagree with what you have to say at all.
Well, at least Congressman Cole is smart enough to figure it out.
Even the darkest times in recent partisan gridlock, like the Clinton-era shutdowns or impeachment proceedings, the one thing we could count on in divided government was for opposing sides to agree on some goals for their particular side. And even when they did draw attack lines for the election, those former Congressional sessions at least knew that some things had to get done, like infrastructure investments or disaster relief. But for this newest iteration of the GOP, all works of government are viewed as not necessary. Have they just decided to wait until the bridges actually collapse?
Democrats are far from perfect. There is plenty of disagreement and election-year politics to go around in that Party, and we see it every day. But the Republicans have reached a new, terrifying level of divisive behavior that, if left unchecked, could ruin the country. The only way to stop them in their tracks is to vote for Democrats in 2014. If this week’s antics are any indication, there’s only one sane option left on Capitol Hill, and it ain’t the GOP.
My only advice for Liberals when the Conservative blogosphere starts their crowing and whining about the Fiscal Cliff negotiations… GET USED TO IT.
After President Obama delivered his “opening bid” in the Fiscal Cliff negotiations, Republicans naturally became upset over the fact that there was not much for them to like. Conservatives from sea to shining sea will continue to feign outrage and disgust with this in an effort to scare the Left and the President into submission. They want the country to forget the 2012 elections ever occurred.
This is a test for Congressional Democrats and everyone that cares about our causes. This is ONLY a test. No matter how many threats they try to spin, Obama and Democrats are playing a new game right now. A game that is weighted by public opinion, inflated by an improving economy and mandated by the votes on November 6th. Before those on the Left consider cowering, let us be reminded of some very important facts…
1) On November 6th, the GOP lost the election. They lost eight net seats in the House. They lost 4 net seats in the Senate. They LOST the Presidency. And not only did they lose the Presidency, but they lost it on the very same issue being presented in the Fiscal Cliff talks. All polling shows that Americans want taxes for the wealthy to go up, and they don’t want to cut benefits on MedCare, MediCaid or Social Security. In other words… we want a balanced approach. So why is it an insult for the President to do what we’ve asked?
2) House Republicans may have retained control of the chamber, but only after the most aggressive gerrymandering plans in US history. Let them claim a mandate if they wish, but one can argue its strength quite easily by looking at the numbers. 3) If the House GOP feel “insulted” by Obama’s opening bid, it’s high time. The President has gotten little more than insults from this caucus since he was first sworn in… from the infamous shouting of “You Lie!” during a State of the Union address, to the constant conspiracy theories from Birthers, Truthers and whoever else-ers, to the all-out persecution of current Cabinet members Eric Holder and Susan Rice, this group of legislators have shown nothing short of contempt for the Obama Administration.
4) The clock is still ticking. The GOP now have 32 days to come to a deal, or the Bush Tax Cuts expire… never to return. If that happens, they lose all leverage on a bargain for lowering tax rates. As was said yesterday, the writing is on the wall.
For Democrats, this is the time to let the Right crow about insults and being unfair. And when the opportunity arises, simply remind them that if they really cared about insults, maybe they should have thought of the ones they started hurling in January of 2009.
On CNN’s Starting Point, GOP Congressman Peter King once again proved that he operates in a “Fact-Free Zone” when it comes to President Obama’s Foriegn Policy record. When pressed by anchor Soledad O’Brien to explain why thought Obama was apologizing for America, he continued to deny his actual speech content. O’Brien stated that FactCheck.org and other independent fact-checkers were all in agreement that Obama has never apologized abroad.
O’Brien: Everyone keeps talking about this ‘Apology Tour’ and apologies from the President…
King: It is
O’Brien: And I’m trying to find the words “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” in any of those speeches. I have the text of all those speeches in front of me. [It’s in] none of those speeches at all…
King: But Soledad…
O’Brien: And if you go to FactCheck.org, they’ll say the same thing…
O’Brien: They’ve fact-check the whole thing and they say this whole theory of apologies is…
King: I don’t care what fact-check says. I don’t care!
O’Brien Well ok you may not care, but they [are] a fact-checker.
King: But no, what I’m saying is [this]… Any common-sense interpretation of speeches shows the President is apologizing for the American position.
Umm, ok Congressman. But he never acutally said it. To most people, you have to use the words “I’m sorry” or “I apologize” or else it’s not an apology. Your facts come up as completely FALSE. Yet another Republican talking point… dismantled.
As entertaining as Peter King can be on the political talk show circuit, this interview reveals a systemic problem. If he’s perfectly ok saying that he doesn’t care about facts, then why is he in Congress? American taxpayers pay him a handsome 6-figure salary of over $160,000 per year. He has a top-of-the-line health plan and likely will retire with a pension. And beyond all of that, we pay him to make critical decisions that affect virtually every aspect of American life. What we don’t pay him to do is simply ignore facts and fact-checkers like they don’t exist.
As the aftermath of this weekend’s big political news continues, Democrats may be left to wonder what their next move should be. Some, like Rachel Maddow think it’s obvious… attack the “Ryan Budget” and all of its drastic cuts. This is a great strategy for the Democratic base, but it’s not going to advance the argument to low-information, undecided voters. Instead, here’s what Democrats should do…
Sure, there’s many people out there that are taking a first look at Paul Ryan. He just rose onto the national spotlight in 2010, and given his charm and looks, there’s a bit of a “Sarah Palin effect” going on. But the big difference between Ryan and Palin? He’s not a pure unknown. We’ve got a 14-yr voting record and history in Washington with Paul Ryan.
Lest we forget that Mr. Ryan is an elected official in Congress… the WORST performing Congress in United States history. Every American, no matter how little they have followed the Presidential Campaign, knows that Congress sucks right now. The addition of Ryan to the ticket is already causing issues for other Congressional Republicans in tight races. Remember that the GOP controls the House of Representatives. They promised the American People “jobs, jobs, jobs” in 2010, but instead they deliver a record number of anti-abortion bills, a persecution of the US Attorney General, and 33 votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act while wasting the precious time and money of American taxpayers. The President even sent them legislation like the American Jobs Act that wasn’t even brought up for a vote. Paul Ryan owns all of these votes, and that is fact that the American people need to know about. Here’s a link to Paul Ryan’s full voting record.
Finally after promising to run against the “Do-Nothing Congress”, Mr. Obama has actually been given a great gift in Paul Ryan. His campaign team (and non-associated Super PACs) can now attack both the Romney-Ryan ticket and Congress in one fell swoop! It’s time for Democrats to do this. Right now to most Americans, Paul Ryan is an unknown entity. If the Obama campaign can define him as a leader in a terrible Congress, then the advantage will remain with the Democrats.
But Ryan isn’t the main fight… it’s time for Dems to go all-in for exposing Romney’s flip-flops and lies. Our side continues to be very cordial to Mr. Romney by talking about tax returns and secret money. But in this era of big Republican money, that’s simply not going to be enough. Democrats have to show Mitt Romney for the flip-flopper that he is… every lie he’s ever told should be turned into a political ad. Even with the Ryan buzz providing a brief (and much needed) distraction for the Romney campaign, he is the top of the ticket. Romney is who America has to vote for, and ultimately who they have to trust to lead the country. The timidity for the Democrats has got to go. As we all know, if the shoe were on the other foot, the GOP would have already DESTROYED a candidate half as weak as Mitt Romney. If there was ever a time for the Left to grow a spine and FIGHT, this is it.
For Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney the heat is on, whether that be the heat of summer, or the election. But as “interesting” as the biting between these two men can be, I’m continually led to a question. Are we focusing too much on the Presidential race? I’m inclined to think so.
Take all of the mishaps that have occurred in Congress since President Obama was elected. The President is NOT a member of Congress… he no longer votes on legislation. He also cannot the agenda of legislation for the House and the Senate. If you think of a football game, the President is a coach. No matter how much he wants to at times, he can’t run into the field, take the ball and run it through to the endzone. He stays on the sidelines. Now he can yell, shout and turn over some chairs, but he’s not allowed to play.
So the question remains… if he’s not playing the game, why must all the losses be blamed on him? He’s not in CONGRESS. He can’t vote on legislation. And, thankfully for the GOP, he has no way to stop them from fouling up every initiative that Democrats have tried to pass. We know that nothing’s getting done in Washington right now, but for some strange reason, Americans want a singular figure to be representative of the blame. That almost, always turns out to be the President.
But does it make a difference to know that we are living in a time of insanely bad Congressional sabotage. Almost every single day since January 2011, members of Congress (mostly GOP) have wasted our tax money with “secret filibusters” and show votes. Ezra Klein noted very eloquently on the Rachel Maddow show, we are beyond even a “Do-Nothing Congress now. The 112th session may end up being the worst Congress in history. Take a look at this astounding chart…
The 112th… our current Congress… is at the very end. Even when compared to the other very low numbers, this Congress hasn’t passed half the amount of legislation as the others. Simply put, they are not doing right by the American People. We elected them to PASS LEGISLATION, and they’re not doing it. Everyone is upset that the job market is sluggish, but no one wants to talk about WHY it’s sluggish. Take a look at the chart. If the members of Congress were doing their job… the job we pay them to do… more Americans would be able to do THEIR jobs and not worry about the “Congressional Cloud of Uncertainty” that swirls around us.
The reason why hiring is so sluggish is because small-business owners have no earthly idea what the government is going to do. Are taxes going to go up or down? Will we be in a recession next year, or not? Will I have to pay for all of my employee’s healthcare, a part of it, or just incentivize them to buy their own. Business owners across the country are frustrated, because of the uncertainty. But here’s the critical thing to understand… most of this uncertainty has been caused by the GOP, NOT the President. The Supreme Court has ruled, and the Healthcare lawsuit is now OVER. The Affordable Care Act (what many refer to as “Obamacare” is national law. But if you listend to GOP Congress members, you’d think it was just one of hundreds of bills still being wrangled about. The way they talk, everything that has occurred during the Obama administration is up for debate. All of this belligerence and devisiveness grows the cloud of uncertainty.
So here’s my take… If you’re a Democrat, and a supporter of the President and Democrats, you have to keep some attention on the misbehavior within Congress. 33 votes to repeal the ACA? That’s WASTEFUL… it wasted America’s time and America’s money. The House could have voted on JOBS legislation during that time, and more people could be working today. They continue to block desperately-needed state and local funding to keep our roads repaired and good educators in our schools. Caught up in all of the partisan wrangling are US Postal Workers and public employees whose jobs are literally being funded month-to-month thanks to Congressional ineptitude. If Democrats and President Obama have any hope of re-election in November, this case must be made loud and clear.
For once, I have to agree with RNC Chairman Reince Priebus… No sense in demonizing the guy when he’s correct…
I couldn’t have said it better myself. A plurality of Obama’s jobs policies “simply are not working.” Funny thing about jobs policies though… they require a little something called ACTION, preferably by the Congress. The President can make plans, give speeches, and greet workers all he wants, but the true weight of the govenrnment lies in how Congress makes laws and applies financial resources of the United States.
If the Obama policies had been carried out, then we would be investing in our nation. All those bad roads and dangerous freeways that you drive on? President Obama’s policies would hire workers to fix them. Difficulties in our public schools? President Obama’s policies would hire more teachers and support staff to help our kids and make our schools better. Tired of having debit or credit card fraud? President Obama’s policies would empower agencies to protect consumers from an ever-growing crisis of electronic theft. Obama wants to create jobs, and he’s put for initiatives to do so since his first day in office. But Congressional Republicans have cried, whined, screamed and threw temper tantrums to stop his policies in their tracks. Yet now, they’re blaming HIM for the meager Recovery. As Steve Benen so eloquently points out, had the American Jobs Act been passed back in 2011, 1.3 million more people would be employed today. President Obama gave a rousing speech, only to have it killed by Congress. House Speaker John Boehner didn’t even bring the bill up for a vote, and it was filibustered by Senate Republicans.
Just so we’re clear, here’s a reminder of President Obama’s policies…
Mitt Romney loves to talk about “job creators”, it’s really one of his favorite phrases to cite. Though it’s odd to me that he NEVER mentions the nation’s largest job creator: the Government. Tens of millions of people work for federal, state and local government agencies. The government isn’t some evil villian just lurking around the corner to ciphon your money. It’s YOUR schools, YOUR policeman, YOUR firefighters, YOUR roads and bridges… I could go on and on. Yet Republicans have waged a war on the same government that they in fact work for. If they had their way, the government would slice and dice millions of jobs. According to the Economic Policy Institute, if the Ryan budget is enacted, it would eliminate 4.1 million jobs by 2014. If the current GOP plans go into place, it would be nothing more than economic genocide to our country. Romney’s “solution” to our job woes is to adopt this budget and decimate many American social programs that people depend on today more than ever. One thing is for sure… Democrats continue to lose the messaging war about government employment. If you want more of your friends and neighbors to lose their jobs, that’s what the Ryan budget seeks to do.
It’s easy for the GOP to talk tough when it comes to the economy, but they continue to flee from the truth of the matter. But on this tweet, Mr. Priebus and I do agree… Obama’s policies are not workng because they have not been applied. Think about it this way. You may buy a new treadmill and say “I’m going to get in shape.” You buy it, and put it in your room. But how are you going to get in shape if you don’t ever USE it?