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The House of Representatives performs history?s first repeat hara-kiri

Uploaded: Feb 27, 2015

How does it feel to have The Gang That Can't Shoot Straight in charge of our most fundamental national well-being? From where I sit it's a sad spectacle, as the GOP-controlled House of Representatives failed to pass a routine bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

Let's review: in 2013, the Senate passed an immigration bill (we'll get to homeland security in a minute) with bi-partisan support. Over the intervening 609 days, the House has been incapable of considering the Senate bill, or crafting its own version. Some say they were too busy repealing ObamaCare 56 times; cynics suggest instead that any bill that emerges from the House will demonstrate such virulent anti-immigrant bias that it will virtually ensure election of a Democrat to the presidency in 2016. Take your pick.

Faced with this inaction on a problem of some national urgency, the President either exercised or exceeded his powers as the nation's Chief Executive and has ordered that certain immigration actions be taken. To his credit, he pleaded with the House to pass something ? anything ? in two successive States of the Union addresses, to which all the Congressfolk were invited. At least that would have framed the debate, an outcome which tends to lend some credence to the cynics' explanation, above. Litigation to resolve the Separation-of-Powers issue is ongoing, with the GOP having won an early round.

Not content with that state of affairs, and now in charge of Both Houses of Congress, the Republicans gratuitously glommed their immigration outrage onto an otherwise routine spending bill to fund the one federal agency that even they probably agree is a proper exercise of government: Homeland Security, the anti-terrorism folks. They conditioned passage of that bill upon repeal of the President's utterly unrelated immigration initiative. Without funding, part of the Department goes home. A larger fraction of the Americans we have tasked with keeping us safe would be expected to work for free (Congress, we're told, would continue to be compensated for these shenanigans).

Now, students of recent calamity may recall a similar incident in October, 2013, wherein a similar tantrum was exposed as a bluff, but only after much larger parts of the federal government were shut down. The GOP lost that pot ? they took nothing away from those efforts except a big black eye from folks who pay attention. Truth told, they did splatter a bit of their muck onto the President too, in the view of their base, many of whom don't pay much attention. It was a huge uproar, and an abject tactical failure. That said, it was also high drama, and so much fun that they just had to try it again.

Someone, somewhere, must have actually believed that this time it'd be different ? but it's not. The Prez simply called the hand: 'send me a clean bill to fund the agency, and I'll sign it.' That is, after all, how it used to work. The GOP-controlled Senate had the good sense to fold, as Majority Leader McConnell rightly concluded that he held losing cards. He may even have decided that national security trumps partisan hi-jinx -- if so, the man can be credited with knowing the value of a good protective shell.

The Senators sent a clean bill to the House. As of late Friday afternoon, the Representatives could not bring themselves to acknowledge the obvious fact that they've got nothin'. They have flipped over the table and sent the game into turmoil, refusing once again to enact legislation.

Stay tuned ? we cannot be sure what will transpire next, but even right-wing partisans like David Brooks on the News Hour today were shaking their heads, and calling this a foreseeable, avoidable catastrophe for the House leadership, into which they blundered voluntarily. This is Governing 101, and if they can't get anything done except to symbolically repeal ObamaCare for a fifty-seventh time, they need to get lost.

This incident does make it ever more obvious from whence the Washington intractability has emanated for these past six years. Even the GOP Senate had to concede that point today by cutting loose their self-destructive kin. If only we could hope that this time the ritual suicide finally succeeds.

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Posted by Michael Austin, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Feb 28, 2015 at 2:12 pm

Michael Austin is a registered user.

What a mess in Washington!

Congress is cruel, malicious, merciless, resentful, retaliatory, ruthless, spiteful, unforgiving, and vengeful in order to be most unproductive.

This manner of unproductive business in Congress started four years after Nixon was impeached. It has had its ups and its downs since. the last six years have been the most unproductive, do nothing congress.

The next two years will be the worst ever.

The democrats had control in both houses of Congress and the white house for four years. They screwed it up so badly, the republicans took control of the house and the senate. In two years the republicans will take control of the white house. it will be a great opportunity for them to screw it up even more so.

Posted by Damon, a resident of Foothill Knolls,
on Feb 28, 2015 at 4:26 pm

"Now, students of recent calamity may recall a similar incident in October, 2013, wherein a similar tantrum was exposed as a bluff, but only after much larger parts of the federal government were shut down. The GOP lost that pot..."

LOL! I remember that well. After that incident I thought to myself "Well, at least the Republicans in Congress won't try that stunt again". Kind of amazing that they would try a similar stunt so soon after that first one that blew up in their faces. Reminds me of an old cartoon of a character repeatedly stepping onto a rake and hitting himself in the face.

Posted by San Ramon Observer, a resident of San Ramon,
on Mar 1, 2015 at 3:47 pm

San Ramon Observer is a registered user.

What puzzles me is why the Republicans in Congress are targeting Homeland Security for defunding. This was a George W. Bush agency formed after 9-11. I don't know if the new Republicans in the House don't care if residents of liberal states are blown up or gunned down. Maybe they just think everyone should have our own arsenals for self-protection.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Mar 2, 2015 at 8:42 am

Roz: It's hard to figure, but was quite deliberate. Homeland Security was The One agency purposely left Out of a broad spending package passed last December -- at the insistence of the House GOP caucus, thus setting up this continuing showdown that the GOP cannot 'win.' The agency's budget itself is not controversial.

I do not know who masterminded this strategy, but I do know I would like to play cards with him.

Lost in the heat of this prefabricated crisis is the so-called "opportunity cost" of this kind of turmoil: to the extent that Congress dissipates its time and energy on matters that Ought to be routine, it renders itself unable to focus on actual governing -- like, say, coming up with a comprehensive immigration proposal as an actual solution to a problem.

Maybe that's the method to the TeaPers' madness -- I consider the distraction to be a Bug in the legislative system -- do the enemies of government consider it a Feature?

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of Alamo,
on Mar 2, 2015 at 8:58 am

In other news, correspondent Cokie Roberts referred-to the House GOP membership as a "raucous caucus" this morning. I intend to seek royalties. :-)

Posted by Herman Glates, a resident of Danville,
on Mar 2, 2015 at 1:57 pm

Herman Glates is a registered user.

Tom is freaking out that TSA won?t be there to protect us from 80-year-old grandmas trying to smuggle explosives onto planes in their Geritol supplements.

Tom can relax. The core security functions of DHS would continue, even if unfunded, as 85% of DHS?s 240,000 workers are deemed essential and would still report for duty.

Tea party Republicans need to relax too. There?s no need for this fight. Obama?s illegal immigration order basically died last month when a federal court issued a preliminary injunction against implementing it. Like most of Obama?s illegal orders, it will never take effect. It will be litigated to death before finally being discarded and forgotten.

Did you read the article in the left-wing National Journal, titled ?The Emerging Republican Advantage? about how working class Americans voted heavily Republican in the last election and how Republicans are likely to carry that group for the foreseeable future? Web Link It was AWESOME. Is there anything better than watching liberals wring their nervous hands?

Republicans can win the immigration debate. They need to focus their efforts on how illegal immigrants harm American blue-collar workers. Republicans can win elections on pocket-book issues like that.

Posted by Ed, a resident of Pleasanton Meadows,
on Mar 2, 2015 at 2:29 pm

No wonder I keep reading about all the Americans that are moving out of the country to someplace far away and are renouncing their citizenship. I don't blame them. How can I feel my vote counts when time after time, something will be passed by a majority of voters just to be overturned in court (the 9th Dist for example).

Posted by Herman Glates, a resident of Danville,
on Mar 2, 2015 at 3:44 pm

Herman Glates is a registered user.


People are renouncing their U.S. citizenship not because of court cases, but due to heavy U.S. taxes. For example, Obama liberals at the IRS recently sued the Mayor of London, trying to tax him on the sale of his London apartment. He had dual citizenship. Why U.S. liberals think they should be entitled to tax a sale of UK real estate is mind-boggling.

Liberals want to tax everything, and it?s lead people to make foolish decisions, like renouncing their U.S. citizenship.

Posted by Tom Cushing, a resident of another community,
on Mar 2, 2015 at 4:23 pm

Although the blog and Glates' description of it are complete strangers, that's not news.

The news is, Glates, that this nice li'l old lady would like a word with you ...Web Link ... bend over, blogfriend.

Posted by Damon, a resident of Foothill Knolls,
on Mar 2, 2015 at 4:27 pm

Herman Glates: "Why U.S. liberals think they should be entitled to tax a sale of UK real estate is mind-boggling. Liberals want to tax everything, and it's lead people to make foolish decisions, like renouncing their U.S. citizenship."

In my view you conservatives and those "liberals" that you decry are not so different. Those "liberals" may be "tax-and-spend", but you conservatives are "spend-and-spend". You're not shy about spending - you just don't like the taxing part, preferring to put the bill on the tab instead. Supply-side economics anyone?

Posted by Conservator, a resident of Danville,
on Mar 3, 2015 at 10:10 am

Dear Herman,

I wouldn't do the happy dance just yet. I will concur that the Judis (certain irony if that 'i' was but an 'a') authored piece that you provided was well written in a scholarly and intellectual manner. However, your characterization that the 21st century spinoff (Nat Journal) of the proud Atlantic Monthly that Emerson and Longfellow founded is "left-wing" is just pandering and diminishing to your broader message.

Knowing that most would not read more then the author's headlining title, you must not have gotten to the author's disclaimer statement "NONE OF THIS is to suggest that America is headed toward an era of Republican domination. Going forward, the country's politics is likely to remain on a seesaw."

More so, to enable the Rapture moment that the author has proposed is possible, Judis (again, no 'a') states, "The Democrats' best chances in next year's elections will come if Republicans run candidates identified with the Religious Right or the tea party or the GOP's plutocratic wing. If Republicans are smart, they will nominate for president someone in the mold of George W. Bush in 2000 or the numerous GOP Senate candidates who won last year?a politician who runs from the center-right, soft-pedals social issues, including immigration, critiques government without calling for abolishing the income tax and Social Security, and displays a good ol' boy empathy for the less well-to-do." That's a mouthful but so true.

So in order to produce such a candidate, the GOP will have to ensure that the primary process doesn't take a perfectly fine, moderate, church going, anti-tax, government isn't evil but it's not best, kind of person and transform them into the kind of 'good ol' boy' that any self-respecting conservative living within a 100 mile radius of either an SEC university or a NASCAR track could get behind is surely a long, long, long shot.

The unfortunate transfigurations have started already. Did you see the criticism this morning of Jeb and his dad by St. Norquist over not taking his coveted oath? How about front-runner Walker's decision yesterday to walk back a moderate approach to deportation in favor of Elian Gonzalez-styled home raids by g-men in black? Bombastic examples for sure but can't you get see how the orthodoxy with the GOP will take the early primary persona (think business Mitt) and transform that promising candidate into the one we all voted upon (think 47% Mitt)?

You know, it's quite possible that you may see a Pax Republicania by January 20th, 2017. It's also quite possible that the current GOP leadership will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory by that time as well. Much like the author's name, change the 'a' in Pax to an 'o' that may just occur, as well.

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