ALL 42 SENATE REPUBLICANS ANNOUNCE HOSTAGE PLAN…. The AP had an item late last night, noting that Senate Republicans were circulating a letter, “quietly collecting signatures” on a plan to “block action on virtually all Democratic-backed legislation unrelated to tax cuts and government spending.”
This morning, the Senate GOP leadership unveiled their letter — signed by literally all 42 members of the Republican caucus — declaring their intention to hold the chamber hostage until the tax policy debate is resolved.
“[W]e write to inform you that we will not agree to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to any legislative item until the Senate has acted to fund the government and we have prevented the tax increase that is currently awaiting all American taxpayers. With little time left in this Congressional session, legislative scheduling should be focused on these critical priorities. While there are other items that might ultimately be worthy of the Senate’s attention, we cannot agree to prioritize any matters above the critical issues of funding the government and preventing a job-killing tax hike.”
In practical terms, this means that the Senate Republican caucus will join arms and kill literally every piece of legislation in the lame-duck session — New START, funding U.S. troops, the DREAM Act, etc. — until the government is fully funded and they’re satisfied with the outcome of the debate on tax policy.
When the letter was being circulated yesterday, there was some hope that some of the less-conservative members — the Maine “moderates,” for example — might not go along with the hostage-taking strategy. This morning, however, we learned that every Republican is on board with this plan. Even Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) is saying our national security needs through the pending arms treaty must take a back seat to tax cuts.
It’s pretty obvious: funding the government is the first duty of Congress, and the Senate Republicans are absolutely right in holding strong and saying that, until that is done, nothing else gets done.
The Democrats had huge majorities in both Houses of the eleventy-first Congress; 255-180 in the House of Representatives, and 60-40 (later 59-41) in the Senate. Yet, with a 75 seat majority in the House, they could get only two of the twelve annual appropriations bills passed; in reality, they had quit even trying. In the Senate, they had a filibuster-proof majority until February of this year.
The two appropriations bills passed by the House are Military Construction and Veteran’s Administration, and Transportation and Housing and Urban Development; the remaining ten appropriations bills hadn’t even reached the House floor.
Amazingly enough, when the Democrats had smaller majorities in the 110th Congress, and still had to contend with a Republican President, the Congress got its work done; in the 111th Congress, where there was no need to compromise with Republicans, at least in the House of Representatives, they didn’t get [insert vulgar slang term for feces here] done! Oh, they labored mightily and managed to get the ObaminableCare bill passed last March, something they didn’t have to do, but when it came to doing what they did have to do, when it came to doing their most basic job, they failed, miserably, and didn’t really try.
Well, the current Continuing Resolution which keeps the government funded expires on Friday. It isn’t really anything all that difficult: the Congress can simply take the existing Continuing Resolution, change the dates, and pass it again. That the Republicans would even have to threaten to filibuster everything else until this gets done is astounding.
The big debate is over the extension of the 2001/2003 tax cuts; despite getting hammered in the elections a month ago, the Democrats still want to try to pass their class-warfare version of the tax cuts. The probable compromise is going to be a temporary extension (possibly three years) of the tax cuts, which is all that the GOP is likely to get. Three years would push the current tax rates through the 2014 tax year, by which time the voters will have a chance to replace the President and give the Republicans a Senate majority, so that the existing tax rates can be made permanent. Then, if the Congress decides that we need a tax increase, at least they’ll have to actually vote for one.
January 3rd, and getting some more responsible people into the Congress, cannot get here too soon!