This is an incredible statistic about Tuesday’s vote in the U.S. House to raise the debt limit through March 2015:
The 28 members of the Republican majority who voted for the bill — a meager 12 percent — was the lowest percentage for a majority on passage since the House began publishing electronic data on votes in 1991.
The clear implication, says Carl Hulse of The New York Times, is that the vast majority of House Republicans voted against a measure that they actually wanted to pass: The “vote no, hope yes” phenomenon. This pattern—public opposition coupled with private support—is utterly dysfunctional, says Hulse, and the amazing thing is that at least one House Republican agreed with him:
“The incentives are not aligned,” one House Republican acknowledged in conceding that the debt limit vote was not exactly what the framers intended when they drew up the plans for how the House would operate.
On issue after issue, what we’re seeing is a House of Representatives in which the majority party is utterly incapable of governing, whether it’s immigration reform or the government shutdown or turning to Democrats to save the country from default. And it’s pretty clear, not just from that quote above, that Republicans—at least the somewhat smart ones—understand the dysfunction.Take, for example, what happened when House Speaker John Boehner told his caucus that he would allow Democrats to supply the votes to avoid default:
But they didn’t speak up or clap. Boehner just stood there for a moment after he finished, eyed the room, and walked toward his seat. On his way there, Boehner shook his head, then turned to the nearly mute crowd and wondered aloud why he wasn’t getting applause. “I’m getting this monkey off your back and you’re not going to even clap?” Boehner asked, scowling playfully at some tea-party favorites.In a second, attendees snapped back and dozens of them applauded, but there were no cheers. “There was, how do I say it, a polite golf clap,” one House GOP veteran said. “But that, thank God, was the end.”
Think about that: Boehner not only announced to his caucus that Democrats would be doing their job for them, but he saw it as an accomplishment—and wanted to get some credit for it. In a sense, it’s hard to argue that Boehner did the right thing by sidelining his party and letting Democrats prevent an economic catastrophe. But the real lesson shouldn’t be that Boehner deserves credit for figuring out how to govern despite having a caucus divided between crazies and hypocrites—the real lesson should be that if Boehner always needs Democrats to bail him out, then next November, voters should make his job easier by putting Democrats back in the majority.
These Charts Show Just How Good Congress Was At Being Terrible In 2013
Congress did very, very little in 2013 — setting all-time records for both most unproductive and most unpopular Congress ever. Both the House and Senate have passed dozens of bills that the other chamber ignored, leaving only 65 bills to make their way to the White House and be enacted into law. This count is the latest as of Monday, Dec. 23, and includes the most recent eight bills signed into law by President Obama on Friday, Dec. 20.
House Speaker John Boehner had this to say about what’s been accomplished: “The House has continued to listen to the American people and to focus on their concerns. Now, whether it’s the economy, whether it’s jobs, whether it’s protecting the American people from ‘Obamacare,’ we’ve done our work.”
The House is only scheduled to work eight days between now and January 7, when members return for the second session of the 113th Congress.
The House had 239 days off scheduled during 2013, and they have even more off days scheduled for next year.
The 2014 calendar for the House, released in October by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), shows members will only work only 113 days. That’s down from 2013, when House lawmakers were scheduled to meet for 126 days. Only 107 days were scheduled in 2012.
As HuffPost reported in July, the 113th Congress is on pace to be the least productivein modern history. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has been defensive of that report.
“We should not be judged on how many new laws we create,” Boehner told CBS News’ Bob Schieffer in July. “We ought to be judged on how many laws we repeal. We’ve got more laws than the administration could ever enforce.”
Who banks a $174,000 annual salary and works less than a third of the year?
Members of the House of Representatives, apparently.
The 2014 calendar for the House was released Thursday by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.), and shows members will only work only 113 days. That’s down from 2013, when House lawmakers were scheduled to meet for 126 days. Only 107 days were scheduled in 2012.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called attention to the House’s sparsely populated 2013 schedule in July 2013, highlighting the fact that the House had only nine workdays scheduled for September.
HuffPost reported in July that the 113th Congress was on pace to be the least productive in history. Many House members are running for reelection in the 2014 midterm elections and will spend part of their time campaigning.
Sometime in the next week, Congress will either get it together to pass a new budget resolution or the government will shut down (all but essential services). Two weeks after that, the federal government will reach its debt limit. If it is not raised, nobody really knows what will happen. The only sure thing is that it would roil the financial markets and cause some damage to the global economy.
So, we have another fiscal cliff. This contrived crisis is even more irrational than those of the past few years because Republicans in Congress have not only taken a hostage that they can’t shoot, but are demanding that Democrats ditch their signature achievement of the Obama presidency: the Affordable Care Act.
Here are seven things you need to understand about how wacky all of this really is.
1. The plan …
Political observers expect to see some serious kabuki theater in the next few weeks. Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) caved in to tea party pressure and passed a budget resolution last week that includes a measure “defunding” the act.
Senators Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Mike Lee (R-UT) have been attacking House Republicans for not passing such a bill. In all likelihood, they will now filibuster the bill they have been begging for in order to try to block Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) from stripping out the defunding language, which he can do with a simple majority.
Because many Republican senators think this is all crazy – John McCain referred to Cruz as a “wacko-bird” a few months back, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, said he won’t support the effort — the filibuster will only be a delaying tactic. In the final days or hours before the government shuts down, the Senate will send a budget to the House. At that point, Boehner will either attract enough Republican votes by promising a showdown over the debt limit in a couple of weeks and pass the budget with a bunch of Democratic votes or let the government shut down.
Then there’s the debt limit. Boehner has promised his members that they will get another bite of the Obamacare apple, but he faces a big problem: Obama’s insistence that it is Congress’ duty to pay the bills it ran up, and his refusal to negotiate on the matter.
The Washington Post’s Paul Kane reports that Boehner may hold a vote this week on a bill laden down with conservative goodies — including the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, Medicare means testing, tax reform and a one year delay of all the health care act’s provisions — in order to get his caucus to raise the debt limit through 2014, but it is not clear whether any debt limit hike can attract 218 Republican votes, especially one that would be dead on arrival in the Senate.
2. Everyone knows this is all a scam …
Everyone in Washington knows that these budget shenanigans have zero chance of success because the vast majority of the funding for the health care act is “mandatory spending,” which means that a shutdown will have no effect. Only a bill passed by the (Democratically controlled) Senate and signed by Obama could defund the health care law, which is about as likely as the Loch Ness monster singing the national anthem at this year’s World Series.
Ted Cruz offered an alternative this week when he urged the House to continue sending bills funding various elements of government to the Senate. “If Harry Reid kills this bill in this Senate, I think the House should hold its ground and begin passing smaller continuing resolutions one department at a time,” Cruz told Fox News this week. “It should start with a continuing resolution focused on the military. Let’s see if Harry Reid is willing to shut down the military just because he wants to force Obamacare on the American people.”
As Roll Callnoted, the House approved a defense authorization bill back in July.
Democratic congressional staffers told TheWashington Post’s Greg Sargent that they would not pick a fight over the sequester-level funding because the budget resolution is temporary — it will only keep the government afloat for three months — and they do not want to shift blame away from Republicans if a shutdown or default occurs.
5. Republicans are deluding themselves about the public’s opinion of Obamacare.
“The American people don’t want the government shut down, and they don’t want Obamacare,” John Boehner said after the House passed its bill. “The House has listened to the American people.” This is a common refrain from Republicans who support the effort to defund the law, and it is a product ofbeing stuck in the conservative media bubble.
The truth is that while Americans are divided on the health care law – with slightly more opposing it than supporting it – poll after poll shows that large majorities disapprove of the effort to defund it by threatening a shutdown or messing with the credit of the US government.
It’s a weak hand. But he is really caught between a rock and a hard place: He has got little control over his caucus but is set up to be the fall guy if it all goes badly. It is no wonder that it has been widely rumored that he is not interested in another term as speaker.
7. Not raising the debt limit in a timely manner will increase the national debt …
Former Senator and Senate Finance Committee Chair Judd Gregg, R-N.H., explained this irony in an op-ed urging Republicans not to play “Russian Roulette with all the chambers of the gun loaded”…
A default would lead to some level of chaos in the debt markets, which would lead to a significant contraction in economic activity, which would lead to job losses, which would lead to higher spending by the federal government and lower tax revenues, which would lead to more debt.
Meet the Press: NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre; Mother of Aurora, CO Shooting Victim Sandy Phillips; Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT); Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA); Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN); Roundtable: Bill Kristol(Weekly Standard), Kim Strassel (Wall Street Journal), Former White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and Tavis Smiley (PBS).
Face the Nation: Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV); Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK); Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ); Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger; Roundtable: Nancy Gibbs(TIME), Bobby Ghosh (TIME), David Sanger (New York Times) and John Dickerson(CBS News).
This Week: Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD); Rep. Tom Graves (R-GA); Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA); Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich; Gwen Ifill (PBS);Jonathan Karl (ABC News).
Fox News Sunday: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX); Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO); Roundtable:Brit Hume (Fox News), Amy Walter (Cook Political Report), Republican Strategist Karl Rove and Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH).
State of the Union: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); Joe Hagan (New York Magazine); Former Chief Spokesman to President Bill Clinton Joe Lockhart; President of the American Conservative Union Al Cardenas; Republican Strategist Kevin Madden; Democratic Strategist Donna Brazile.
Congress comes back into session on Monday after a five-week August recess and is expected to consider a wide array of pressing legislative priorities from a resolution authorizing the use of military force in Syria to a new farm bill. With just 39 legislative days left before the end of the year, here is ThinkProgress’ guide to the issues confronting Congress:
Syria. President Obama kicks off a lobbying campaign to win Congressional approval for a resolution authorizing force against Syria. While whip counts show that Congress is still skeptical, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is expected to schedule the first test vote in the Senate as early as Wednesday. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said that he will wait for the Senate to act before bringing the measure to the floor.
Keeping the government open. The House of Representatives will start work this week on a short-term spending bill to keep the federal government functioning at current funding levels through Dec. 15. The measure, which could include riders to defund the Affordable Care Act, has to pass before the end of the fiscal year on Sep. 30 to avoid a government shutdown.
Debt ceiling. Congress will have to vote to raise the nation’s borrowing limit, which stands at $16.7 trillion, by mid October, when the Treasury Department estimates the U.S. will hit the debt limit. A vote to raise the debt ceiling would pay for the spending Congress has already enacted and is not a determination of how much much the nation should spend or whether it will raise the money to pay for spending. In a memo to lawmakers, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) pledged that “the House will act to prevent a default on our obligations before” the limit is breached, although Republicans have insisted that will be accompanied by spending cuts. Leaders have previously claimed that they plan to hold the national debt ceiling increase hostage until President Obama agrees to mandatory spending cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act. The Obama administration has pledged not to negotiate over the debt ceiling.
Immigration reform. The House of Representatives has been slow to take up immigration reform since the Senate passed a bipartisan comprehensive bill that includes a path to citizenship in June. Although several top Republicans have indicated that they could support eventual citizenship for at least some undocumented immigrants, House leadership insists that it would not bring the Senate bill to a vote on the floor. On Sunday, Rep. Raúl Labrador (R-ID) said “he expected Syria to delay a debate on immigration, potentially halting action until 2015.” Immigration advocates remain optimistic, however, “citing the broad coalition behind the legislation ranging from Silicon Valley to evangelical groups and the political reality that Republicans are unlikely to ignore the issue before the midterm elections.”
Farm bill. In July, the House voted to sever food stamps funding from the federal spending that guarantees the agricultural industry a baseline income, one month after the Senate approved a sweeping measure that finances “dozens of price support and crop insurance programs for farmers and food assistance for low-income families.” With the two chambers at a standstill, the farm-bill programs could lapse at the end of the month while food stamps “is expected to be continued at current levels after Sept. 30, unless Congress decides to change them.” Meanwhiole, Republicans are expected to propose$40 billion in reductions to food stamps, double the amount they tried to pass in June.
Defense authorization bill and reforming sexual assault. A bipartisan proposaloffered by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to remove the chain of command from the adjudication process on sexual assault and other serious crimes in the military is expected to be introduced as an amendment on the floor during debate over the National Defense Authorization bill. The measure has attracted broad bipartisan support — from the likes of Sens. Rand Paul (R-KY) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) — some advocates fear that the Syria conflict may move the issue to the back burner.
The ten Republicans in question have collected about $6.7 million in federal farm money dating back to the 1990s, according to analysis by the Environmental Working Group. Over the years, they’ve also justified cuts to the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) with a variety of smears against recipients and misrepresentations of the program’s nature and performance. Rep. Stephen Fincher’s (R-TN) erroneous biblical argument for cuts that would knock two million Americans off of food aid drew attention last month given that he’s gotten nearly $3.5 million in farm subsidies over the years. But some of his colleagues deserve similar scrutiny for their apparent hypocrisy with regard to the House farm bill.
No, the above question was not meant to be facetious. I’m quite serious. I’ve thought about this for quite some time and I’m convinced that if you’re an African-American, Latino or woman and you are a registered Republican you either must hate yourself or you simply haven’t been paying very close attention. The analogy is like being stuck in an abusive marriage. No matter how hard you try to make things work out, in the end you always wind up with a black eye.
I have never seen a political party so completely go out of its way to so thoroughly alienate so many key constituencies the way the Republican Party has. Pick a group, any group, and the list of egregious conduct is appalling. When it comes to myopia, racism, homophobia, chauvinism and misogyny, the GOP is a virtual treasure trove of spoils.
Whether it’s African-Americans being denied the right to vote; Hispanics who have to listen to derogatory words like “wetback;” women having to deal with “legitimate rape” comments and threats of vaginal probes; or gays and lesbians being compared with farm animals, it’s astonishing that the GOP isn’t comprised completely of white, heterosexual males by now. Though at the rate it’s offending these groups, that fate is inevitable.
At the risk of channeling my inner Nixon, I want to make this perfectly clear. This is not an indictment of conservatism in general. I fully understand and accept the fact that there are indeed conservatives out there who are African-American, Hispanic, female and even homosexual. They are just as much entitled to their beliefs as I am. It’s not their beliefs that I’m questioning, it’s their sanity.
Woody Allen once famously said that he would never want to belong to any club that would have him as a member. I would submit that for minorities and women, the reverse seems to be playing out. Despite demonstrative proof that they are not welcomed, some yearn all-the-more for membership.
You hear about this all the time from therapists who have clients that cling to failed relationships or put up with unacceptable behavior under the naïve belief that the offending party will come around and treat them with respect. But it rarely, if ever, happens. The abuse continues unabated. Why? Because there are no real consequences, that’s why.
Think about it. Despite getting soundly beaten on a national level in last year’s elections, Republicans continue to hold their majority in the House thanks to gerrymandered congressional districts. Even the most optimistic projections concede that it might well be several election cycles before the House flips back to Democratic control. That means that the GOP can be as crazy as a loon and not suffer the consequences of its actions. Translation: the circus shenanigans will continue.
The Republican Party has, for all intents and purposes, been kidnapped by the most outrageous, demented and hate-filled bunch of individuals ever assembled under one tent. The only question that begs to be answered – the one I opened up with – is this. Why would any rational minority or woman with a modicum of self respect want to be anywhere near that tent, much less under it? Who would belong to such a club?
You can say many things about Texas Rep. Kenny Marchant – that he is one of the most extreme members of the House, that he hasn’t sponsored a bill in a year, that he has missed 7.3% of votes – but you can’t accuse him of lying. At least not on the subject of immigration reform. Marchant, whose district is 24% Hispanic, told the AP on Monday:
“The Republican primary voters, they’re being pretty vocal with me on this subject.” Besides, “if you give the legal right to vote to 10 Hispanics in my district, seven to eight of them are going to vote Democrat.”
And there you have the real reason why Republicans are fighting the immigration bill while still trying to look like they are seriously considering it. Oh sure, they say things like this:
“… amnesty rewards those who choose to break our nation’s laws, and only serves to encourage and incentivize the flood of illegal immigration plaguing our nation today.”
But this isn’t about morality. They say that they have the country’s best interest at heart. They don’t. All they are interested in is winning, power, control. And they will do anything to get it and keep it. The GOP-controlled House is especially bad about it and they will kill this bill, make no mistake. They talk a big game and I’m sure many of them realize that it’s hurting their party to be this stubborn but they have been this way for so long that they won’t be able to change. They simply don’t like brown people of any shade.
This dichotomy – the love of power vs. the need to reach out to Hispanic voters – is causing a rift in the Republican party. They know that the lack of support from Hispanic voters hurts them, they know that they will be blamed if reform doesn’t go through but they also fear their base. They especially fear being primaried and they know that a vote in favor of immigration reform is apt to trigger that scenario.
Despite the RNC’s post-election “autopsy” and the advice of Senators like Lindsay Graham, House members are likely to be short-sighted – placing their personal needs before those of their party. There are only 40 Congressmen who represent districts with a Hispanic population over 20% and 16 whose district is more than a third Hispanic. Nate Silver writes:
“In all, 84 percent of House Republicans represent districts that are 20 percent or less Hispanic.”
Yet those 40 Congressmen may hold the future of their party in their hands. It all boils down to whether or not the needs of the many – the Republican Party – will outweigh the needs of the few. The bill has issues, such as amnesty and border security, that sharply divide the GOP and that split may be the thing that finally pushes the GOP over the cliff.