Jan 6, 2011

Is this what the Republican Majority Is Going to Look Like?

Now that the Republicans have claimed their majority in the House of Representatives, what do they plan to do with it? On their first day in office, they set about reading the Constitution on the floor of the House. (More on that to come.)  Their next order of business was to start the doomed process of trying to repeal last year's health care reform legislation (I just wrote about this). In a similar vein, some of them are also trying to repeal the 2010 financial overhaul, the Dodd-Frank Act, which enacted much-needed regulation of the banking industry, whose unregulated actions led us into the financial and housing crises. Like the health reform repeal, the Dodd-Frank repeal has no real chance of passing.

The Republicans are doing these things for the same reason they seem to be doing most things these days: to score political points so that the next time they run for re-election they can run ads saying that they "voted for the repeal of Obamacare" or "voted to make government smaller." It's too bad, for them but mostly for us, that there's actual work to be done governing the country in between elections. They seem much more interested in spending their time reading the Constitution aloud, working on legislation that will never pass, and holding hearings about the Obama Administration's actions than actually passing laws that might help their constitutents.

That’s partly because they’re having trouble coming up with real policy proposals. After loudly promising during the Congressional campaigns to immediately cut $100 billion in domestic spending from the budget, now that they’re in office they’re quickly scaling back those expectations. And even some of the loudest supporters of such dramatic spending cuts are unable to say what they would actually cut. As I wrote earlier, the problem is that there isn’t actually $100 billion, or anywhere near that much, of clearly wasted domestic spending in the budget. If anything, many welfare and social programs are desperately underfunded.

If this were a game, it would be sort of fun to sit back and watch the implosion of Republican campaign promises. But it’s not a game. This is real life, and there are real people whose futures depend on whether Congress can get it together to pass legislation that will create jobs, fund good education, invest in health care, provide basic services to the poor, and protect the environment. So I’m chuckling a little on the inside, but I’m also pretty scared about what the next few years are going to bring.

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