Paul Waldman asks if it’s too soon to declare the current Congress a failure.
In fairness, with a Democratic president there really isnâ€™t much that a Republican Congress can achieve unless itâ€™s willing to compromise, which this Congress isnâ€™t. But after six years of waiting for the moment theyâ€™d take complete control, youâ€™d think theyâ€™d have some kind of plan. If they do, itâ€™s hard to discern how itâ€™s supposed to work. Every conflict they have with the president only seems to make them look worse, and they seem to be lurching from day to day with no idea how to do anything but fall on their faces.
Ironically, the Republicans had a lot more power when they were in the minority than they do now. With a Democratic Congress, the administration set out an ambitious legislative agenda, which Republicans were able to obstruct and subvert as long as they stayed unified, which they did very well. But once they took control, the administration all but gave up on legislating (apart from unavoidable tasks like passing budgets to keep the government open), which leaves Republicans with no fights to wage apart from the meaningless ones they manage to concoct on their own. And they canâ€™t even figure out how to win those. Winning Congress has put Republicans in a position where they have little choice other than to make things worse.
The box they’ve put themselves in is that they can’t actually do anything. Even if they were capable of doing something, they can’t allow themselves to do it. The few things they might be able to do, like approve the XL pipeline, will be vetoed, and anything that wouldn’t be vetoed would probably get them in hot water with the base. Waldman continues,
They could come to an agreement with President Obama on infrastructure spending, which everyone used to agree is absolutely necessary. They could make tough but realistic demands on the budget, and pass something that Obama will be willing to sign but still manages to move governmentâ€™s priorities in the direction theyâ€™d like â€” even if tea partiers call it a betrayal, because tea partiers will call any compromise a betrayal. If the Supreme Court rules in their favor in King v. Burwell and takes insurance subsidies from millions of people, they could be ready with a plan to help them immediately, instead of just celebrating the fact that they successfully made so many Americansâ€™ lives worse.
All that could happen. But based on their first month with control of Congress, does anyone think it will?
The health care issue more than any other reveals how hamstrung they are. They’ve been promising their own version of health care reform since the bleeping Clinton Administration. Where is it? The one halfway workable idea they came up with ended up becoming Obamacare, which they have sworn to destroy.
Recently the GOP announced it was creating a task force, headed by Paul Ryan, to come up with an alternative plan in case the SCOTUS screws with the subsidies. CNBC reported,
The GOP has been criticized for their continued opposition to President Barack Obama’s signature health law without offering a serious alternative to the program, which is credited with significantly reducing the number of uninsured Americans last year.
But the pending Supreme Court case, due to be argued in March, has spurred what could turn out to be serious action by Republicans.
But … but … but … for years they’ve been saying they do have an alternative plan. Lots of them, actually. Here on this very blog I have written about them. For example, I wrote about a plan back in 2009 that, remarkably, is a lot like their other plans. These plans largely are designed to provide talking points so they can fake having a plan. They survive scrutiny about as long as a Popsicle in July.
They’re in the same box regarding presidential politics. They may not allow themselves to address real issues or propose workable solutions, because it will piss off the base. Michael Tomasky wrote,
I finally sat myself down and watched that Scott Walker speech from last week that everyone is raving about. If this was the standout speech, I sure made the right decision in not subjecting myself to the rest of them. It was little more than a series of red-meat appetizers and entrees: Wisconsin defunded Planned Parenthood, said no to Obamacare, passed some kind of law against â€œfrivolousâ€ lawsuits, and moved to crack down on voter â€œfraudâ€â€â€”all of that besides, of course, his big move, busting the public-employee unions. There wasnâ€™t a single concrete idea about addressing any of the major problems the country faces.
There’s lots of noise that Walker is the front runner this week.
Heâ€™s gained because those itemsâ€” kicking Planned Parenthood, denying your own citizens subsidized health-care coverage, pretending that voter fraud is a thingâ€”are what pass for ideas in todayâ€™s GOP. Walker is even more vacuous on foreign policy, as Martha Raddatz revealed yesterday, twisting him around like a pretzel with a couple of mildly tough questions on Syria. The Democratic Party has its problems, but at least Democrats are talking about middle-class wage stagnation, which is the countryâ€™s core economic quandary. Rick Santorum is, in fairness, but a) his solutions are the same ones conservatives have been advertising for years (lower taxes, less regulation, more two-parent families) and b) heâ€™s not going anywhere in the polls so far, undoubtedly precisely because heâ€™s trying to drop the homosexuality-is-bestiality shtick and talk about actual economic problems.
This vacuity works for them sometimes, especially when they can blame screwups on Democrats and OH LOOK MUSLIMS SHAIRA LAW MOSQUES BOOGA BOOGA. So, one can argue, they don’t need to accomplish anything; they just have to persuade enough voters that Democrats will take away their guns / give them cooties / hate Jesus. So we’ll see.