House passes controversial budget: stalemate on Capitol Hill

Posted on February 22, 2011

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CNN$ gives us a preview

2011 may go down in American history as the year of no government and no football.

Republicans are purposefully calling for the most outrageous of spending cuts in hopes of pulling the middle ground of the inevitable compromise further to the right.  John Boehner does not actually want to go down as the Speaker who took PBS off the air… does he?  Clearly, most of the cuts please the Republicans’ tea-party base, but they are very unpopular among American voters in general.  Boehner knows this won’t become law, but the question is, does he want it to?

What they’re cutting

I actually applaud the Republican party for at least attempting to throw a bone to the nutcases that won them the House in November 2010.  If only the Democrats could be so obliging to their own base.  What if Nancy Pelosi’s House had passed a single-payer healthcare bill in 2009?  Sure, it never would have made it through the Senate, but it certainly would have charged up the liberal base.  Could such a move have even ended up swaying the eventual law to the left a bit?  We can never know.

This is, in fact, the way democracy is supposed to work, is it not?  Each party comes to the table with a proposal that represents the ideas of its base, regardless of how extreme or unrealistic the ideas are.  Then, the moderate members of each party hammer out a piece of legislation that combines ideas, splits babies, and scraps the ridiculous.  All the legislators make a big fuss to their constituents about how the bill is imperfect, about how they wanted more of this, less of that, but that in the end the evil bureaucrats got in the way, politics is politics, ’tis simply the art of the possible, democracy is the worst government besides the all the rest, for love of country and all that hogwash.

But in this particular instance I cannot envision a clean conclusion any time soon.  If you thought the shutdown of government in ’95 was ugly, imagine if more than 50% of Republicans had suspected Clinton of being a Kenyan terrorist.

Perhaps the most crucial aspect of the 2010 midterms was not the fact that it shifted power in congress to the right, but rather that it hollowed out the center of the spectrum.  Not only were centrist Democrats replaced by far-right tea-partiers, but middle-of-the-road Republicans (and even rather conservative ones) were replaced by these types as well.  These Republicans were thrown out for refusing to use the filibuster in every possible circumstance and for conspiring and even striking deals with the enemy (Democrats).  In other words, they were thrown out for “governing”.

So, not only is there barely anyone left in the middle to strike a deal that will both please Boehner’s soldiers and warrant Obama’s ink, but even if there were a formidable center, what incentive would they have to lead a coalition of compromise if they’d only be punished for it at the polls?  Therefore, the most likely scenario is a shutdown of government, and with the polarization we have seen in Washington recently, it could be a long hibernation.

What would be best is if both parties could simply agree to raise the debt ceiling and keep spending as is, as long as we engage in a serious discussion over the next two years about reforming defense and entitlement spending.  Of course, neither side seems to be willing to suggest such a thing, so the stalemate holds.  Who knows, maybe the Republicans and the tea-partiers will be happy to see a shutdown of government.  After all, isn’t that what they’ve been asking for all along?  Now is America’s chance to actually see the tea-party platform in action!

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Posted in: Budget Battle