Sunday, October 11, 2015

Message To House Democrats: Put A Price Tag On Putting The House In Order

To those of you who, up until now, contented yourselves in believing that farce for Republicans is limited to the presidential wing of the party, guess again.

First, John Boehner steps aside from both the Speaker's chair of the House of Representatives, to avoid being taken out forcibly through a motion to vacate that chair.  Next, Kevin McCarthy, the House majority leader and presumptive heir-apparent as Speaker, unexpectedly drops out of the race to succeed Boehner, amid rumors of an extra-marital affair clouding his chances for election to the post.  Finally, the chattering classes have mentioned this Tea Party Person or that Tea Party Person as possibilities, while also reflecting on the obvious fact that none of them can get 218 votes (a bare majority of the House).

And, for the piece de resistance (or the coup de grace, depending on your perspective), most members of the House GOP caucus are reduced to begging yet another Tea Partier, Paul Ryan, to step up and unify the House by seeking the job Boehner can't vacate fast enough.  Proving himself to be no fool, and rather than sacrifice both his powerful Ways and Means Committee chair and his family time, Ryan has thus far resisted the siren call to jump off a cliff for the sake of his party's control of the House.  And, further proof that Ryan's no fool:  despite being the man who made his policy bones on balancing the budget by repealing Medicare, he has been formally deemed to be insufficiently conservative by none other than the High Priestess of the VRWC.  (Sorry, Peggy Noonan, but Phyllis has been around a lot longer.)

About a year ago, when it look like progressivism had fallen off the cliff, I consoled myself with the thought that, in modern politics, a year is an eternity and that, by late 2015, things would look a lot different.  I was all the more certain of that given the fact that, due to a combination of gerrymandering and low turnout, the Republican's apparent overwhelming triumph created little more than a Potemkin majority, one whose actual legislative efforts would melt under the sun of the real progressive majority that has given the Democrats the popular vote in three out of the last four presidential elections.  I'm not going to gloat; I can't, given the magnitude of the disaster that the GOP has brought on this country.  But I allow myself the luxury of saying that I'm not surprised.

I admit, however, to being slightly surprised by the fact that the House Republican dilemma is so great that there is now open discussion about the possibility of non-Tea-Party Republicans in the House joining together in a grand coalition with their Democratic counterparts to select a compromise candidate that can govern the House until next year's election and perhaps, at a bare minimum, accomplish the rudimentary basics of governing.  You know, pass a budget for the whole fiscal year, raise the debt ceiling, fund highway projects and re-authorize the Export-Import Bank. In other words, do the bare minimum to keep the government and the country running.

It's not clear, of course, that things are quite that bad yet in the House.  But it's pretty easy to imagine them getting there, and soon.  Which leads me to yet another modest proposal about how House Democrats should respond to this sorry state of affairs.

It should begin with three simple words, forcefully stated:  "NOT SO FAST!"

And then the dialogue should continue thusly:

If you want our help in electing a Speaker to govern the WHOLE House, which is the Speaker's Constitutional job in the first place, we want assurances that the interests of ALL the people will be reflected in the legislation considered, debated, amended and voted upon by the WHOLE House.  That has not been the case for nearly five years.  Instead of being a legislature, you have been little more than a barricade against a future to which you cannot adapt and which you otherwise cannot stop.

That ends now.

We want the right to introduce legislation, on the following issues, that will be fully debated, amended and voted upon by the WHOLE House, to be sent to the Senate for further consideration and, with their approval, ultimately sent to the President's desk:

  • Carbon taxation;
  • Student debt forgiveness;
  • Sensible, proven regulation of gun ownership and use;
  • A reinstatement of the Voting Rights Act; AND
  • Comprehensive immigration reform.  Specifically, we want a floor vote on the bipartisan legislation stonewalled by the last Speaker so that the bourbon spigot would not be turned off for him.  Now that he has turned it off, it's time to take up this essential aspect of the people's business.  That's because it's ABOUT people--11 million stateless souls, whose fates you have allowed to languish for the sake of clawing more power toward you.

Give us this right, and we will help you elect a Speaker.  Otherwise, you have earned your fate, and we can do what you did when confronted with the opportunity to save the souls of the 11 million:  wait for the next election.

In the words of a former cultural hero of mine, Stan Lee, 'nuff said.

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