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.
As many readers know, Texas Leftist is in the midst of a very interesting interview process. I have submitted Candidate Questionnaires (on here as the TLCQ) to candidates on Houston’s November ballot. Thankfully, the process is going well, and I must say it’s quite fascinating to read the myriad of answers given by the candidates.
Houston municipal elections are also non-partisan, and I wanted to garner some information about the political views of each candidate. But rather than ask them outright what party they belong to, I decided to ask candidates to share why government is important. In my opinion, the answer to this question can reveal a deeper truth than a particular party affiliation. It lets readers know what motivates this person to devote so much time, energy and money into running for public office.
Given what’s going on in Washington right now, I keep trying to also interpolate the answer to this question from someone like Texas Senator Ted Cruz or Texas Congressman Louis Gohmert. Judging by their actions, one can only conclude that their answer would go something like this…
Government is important to me because it gives me something to screw up. It is a vehicle by which I make lots of money and garner lots of national attention. When not serving me with self-promotion, government is wasteful spending aimed at society’s losers.
It’s no coincidence that one might associate this view with the Republican Party writ large. Their long-held plan to shut down the government has finally been realized. Most Republicans did not go to Washington to govern this country. They went to ruin it, and beat Obama. Of course GOP leaders will turn right around and say “no… this shutdown was caused by Harry Reid and the President. We didn’t want this.” They’ve said that or something similar a bunch over the last few days, and they’ve been lying.
I know everyone doesn’t watch the Rachel Maddow show, but I sincerely hope that you take a few minutes to watch this clip. She goes back and traces every move by the House GOP caucus, and proves that they have wanted a government shutdown since 2010, and would stop at nothing to get it. Democrats have been the ones held hostage to each and every of their growing list of demands. This is worth watching.
Or perhaps a better question… do they really want to?
It’s worth contemplating because it seems that our lawmakers have something of a very short memory. At a time when Congress has hit a point of historic divisiveness and the country stands on the brink of another potential government shut down, House Democrats have remained mostly mum on the cause for all of this chaos. But Democrats are not the reason that Comprehensive Immigration reform hasn’t been passed. Democrats are not the reason that local communities are being deprived of vital funds to repair our nation’s crumbling infrastructure. And Democrats are not the ones threatening to make matters worse just to hold Obamacare hostage. All of these things are being done exclusively by the GOP.
Many are saying that John Boehner is possibly the worst speaker ever thanks to his abysmal record of not being able to influence his caucus… a problem that Minority Leader and former Speaker Nancy Pelosi never had in all her tenure. Yet, back in 2010, the GOP was able to take Nancy Pelosi’s Speakership and drag it so far through the mud that they booted her out of office.
Remember the “Fire Pelosi” bus tour? “Fire Pelosi” bumper stickers, campaign signs, pins and hats? It was a bold calculation by then RNC chairman Michael Steele to go after the Speaker of the House, and it was marvelously orchestrated. Rep. Nancy Pelosi became more hated than anyone else in Washington, and, perhaps most importantly, she became a house-hold name directly associated with all that was wrong in our government. The general public, even those that didn’t follow politics, knew that in order to “Fire Pelosi” you had to vote the Democrats out of the House. The phrase was everywhere in 2010, and the campaign was so successful in fact that it helped raise millions of dollars for the RNC. Even back in March of 2010, “Fire Nancy Pelosi” was trending on Google!! It’s a testament to the effectiveness with which the GOP apparatus operates. Who cares if the message wasn’t predicated in truth or facts? It WORKED.
Heard any talks of a “Fire Boehner” campaign? That’s because no one is even considering it. But we should be. The Republican brand is in crisis mode right now, and even the party faithful are beginning to question whether the GOP has a place for them. The National Memo even came out with a piece discussing the 5 reasons Republicans are worried they could lose the House, and Democrats should be at the ready to remind voters of these reasons. Chief among them is Boehner’s failure to act on Immigration reform. The Speaker knows that his party’s true intention for the bill is to see it die. But instead of exposing the GOP’s lies, Democrats have chosen to sheepishly hide from confrontation, and as a result, provide them cover to steal another election.
The Left has got to break this cycle of never fighting back. They’ve tried being the “nice guys”… hoping the GOP would eventually see the logic of doing the right thing. I’m here to tell y’all, it ain’t gonna happen in the House. It’s time for the party to wake up… there is a real possibility that Dems could lose the Senate in 2014. Republican control of both Houses of Congress would be unacceptable at this point. They have proven time and again that they have no interest in actually governing the nation. Eventually, the Left must admit to themselves that this kind of back-biting against the other party is necessary. We need to stand together and launch an attack on the GOP. If we don’t, Republicans might pull a fast one like they did in 2010.
To: Current House Minority Leader, Former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi
From: A Concerned Texan
As a man and proud American, I wanted to take this opportunity to write you a letter of gratitude to you.
Thank you for your dedicated service as Speaker of the House… an historic post for political leadership in this country. It was historic not only because you were the first woman to ever hold this post, but also because you were inarguably led one of the hardest working, most prolific Houses of Congress in American history. Under your leadership, the House of Representatives passed record amounts of legislation… healthcare reform (originally containing a public option), raising the minimum wage, the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, the DREAM ACT, and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Your Congress was a group of lawmakers that got things done, instead of voting on the same bill 33 times and wasting tens of millions of taxpayer dollars. Thank you for using your office, and the time and money of the American people, in more a more responsible fashion than House Speaker John Boehner and current Congressional leaders.
But as we are learning today, what you didn’t do is perhaps just as important. I also want to thank you and House Democrats for not endangering and infringing upon my rights as a male. Thank you for not forcing me to go through mandatory medical procedures. Thank you for not forcing me to spend ridiculous amounts of money on additional tests that I don’t need. Thank you for allowing me to make my own choices about my health care as a man, and not making those decisions for me. Thank you for sparing the men of America all of the atrocities that Congressional Republicans have tried to force upon American women. As controversial as the “debates” over Contraception as a part of women’s health have become, you somehow never sought to politicize the issues regarding reproductive health for men. You even supported Viagra to be covered as part of the Affordable Care Act!! No surprise, it is part of the law today, without any uproar.
When you did have to make decisions about men’s health, thank you for allowing male members of Congress to participate in those Congressional hearings. As men it is important that we get a say in critical legislation that affects our health care.
Lastly, thank you for representing a political party that doesn’t support ‘nonsense’ views like those recently expressed by Republican Congressman Todd Akin. Thank you for never once giving voice to those views in the Democratic Party, and thank you for calling them out at every turn. I’m greatful that the Democratic party leaders are ones that “don’t understand” the differences between how one is raped. They see all rape as a heinous crime that the victims shouldn’t be blamed for in any way. It’s clear from your legislative record on laws such as the Violence Against Women Act that you support women and families 100 percent, without having to question or doubt them in their time of need.
I am forever grateful for your service and dedication to our country.
Say what you want about the Republican Party, but there are a whole host of things that they are VERY good at. The level of cohesion and consistency with which they execute their directives is admirable, if not enviable. Often times in interviews and speeches, GOP politicians sound like a “broken record” because they rarely deviate from the script, and this script comes from the party leadership. They’re also extremely sore losers.
After their decisive defeat in 2008, Republicans crafted a plan of historic proportions to make Obama a “one-term President”. The 2010 elections marked the halfway point to that conquest, and boy did it work. The approach was comprehensive, passionate, and delivered to the most minute detail.
Remember the “Fire Pelosi” bus tour? “Fire Pelosi” bumper stickers, campaign signs, pins and hats? It was a bold calculation by then RNC chairman Michael Steele to go after the Speaker of the House, and it was marvelously orchestrated. Rep. Nancy Pelosi became more hated than anyone else in Washington, and, perhaps most importantly, she bacame a house-hold name that left a bad taste in one’s mouth. The general public, even those that didn’t follow politics, knew that in order to “Fire Pelosi” you had to vote the Democrats out of the House. The phrase was everywhere in 2010, and the campaign was so successful in fact that it helped raise millions of dollars for the RNC. Even back in March of 2010, “Fire Nancy Pelosi” was trending on Google!! It’s a testament to the effectiveness with which the GOP apparatus operates. Who cares if the message wasn’t predicated in truth or facts? It WORKED.
Seen any “Fire Boehner” materials this year? That’s because that campaign doesn’t exist. Do we need to be reminded who won in 2010??
Of course even Nancy Pelosi was not Grand Ole Enemy No. 1… that will always be President Obama. Their pledge to obstruct, weaken and destroy his policies has been the main objective, even when it hurts their damages their credibility by having to abandon previous positions. As the GOP is well aware, President Obama isn’t the far-left socialist they proclaim him to be. Many of the ideas and policies he supports were started by Republicans. This is true for the Dream Act, Cap and Trade legislation, and even the individual mandate. As journalist Ezra Klein points out in a recent New Yorker column, “Indeed, with the exception of raising taxes on the rich, virtually every major policy currently associated with the Obama Administration was, within the past decade, a Republican idea in good standing.” What they know very well is that in order for Obama to be the enemy, they must oppose him at every turn. They have placed party loyalty above our struggling economy, governing our nation, and even their own moral character. The GOP game plan is above all… especially in an election year.
Hopefully the President is starting to figure this out. But what about the rest of the Democratic Party? Dems are making a big mistake by hoping that the GOP will suddenly grow a conscience and play fair. So it’s high time that they play dirty. Liberals and Democrats should be calling out GOP hypocrisy at every turn. They should encourage left-leaning media sources to give equal treatment to their fallacies. But most importantly, the left has got to fight the money, ad and social media wars. At any given time of day, it’s apparent that Twitter has “more Conservatives than liberals”. But is this really the case? Probably not… but the Conservatives are more disciplined and tweet in concert so that their arguments dominate the Twittersphere. The GOP’s game plan is effective because they have put the time and effort in to perfect it. In the age of 24-hr news and a barrage of information, Liberals can no longer rely on facts and better argument to carry them through to election day. They need to get some real skin in the political game. Just remember Dems… the game clock is ticking, and pretty soon it will run out.