In the run-up to the most recent mid-term election, Republicans promised their voters that if put in charge of the Congress they would demonstrate how well they can govern. With that motivation, conservatives flocked to the polls in high numbers that far exceeded the Democrats’ lackluster turnout. The result was that the GOP took control of the Senate, and added to their already formidable majority in the House. Come January 2015, the proverbial “table” was set so good governance would surely follow. Is that what has happened over the last 1.5 months? Let’s check the record.
Senate Republicans certainly get props for negotiating with their Democrat cohorts and passing a comprehensive immigration reform bill with a 68 vote majority. In this time of super-charged hyperpartisanship, that was an extraordinary achievement, and here, it is recognized as such. That piece of important legislation was then sent off to the House where, unfortunately, John Boehner promptly killed it with no debate, and no attempt to construct an alternative.
The reason for this abject failure to rise to the occasion and govern is directly traceable to the Speaker’s morbid fear of his Tea Party Caucus whose members are vehemently opposed to dealing with the immigration issue in any form, and to him, more specifically (1). Unable to count on their support, and unwilling to pass something with a simple majority based on the votes of House Democrats, the Speaker decided to provide the Tea Party-types with a sop; i.e. he let them vote to repeal Obamacare for the 56th time, a legislative act that speaks volumes about how committed many Republican members of Congress are to standing against proactive, problem-solving governance.
Not content with their successful obstruction, GOP House members now decided to hold hostage, funding for the operation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). That support would be provided only if the President canceled his 2014 Executive Order (EO) that offered some temporary relief to several million illegal immigrants already in the country. Apparently, GOP-think was that in this time of terrorist attacks everywhere, Obama and congressional Democrats would cave rather than jeopardize the public’s safety by allowing the DHS to stop functioning out of a lack of money. To date, that cave-in hasn’t happened and early polling results indicate that if funding isn’t provided, the blame will fall on Republicans. It may well be that poll respondents remembered the GOP-orchestrated government shutdown of early 2014 and decided that the same party was up to its old disruptive tricks.
Coincidentally, over in the Senate, the hostage-taking gambit enjoyed some initial Republican support. But, as Obama and the Democrats refused to capitulate, and the aforementioned poll numbers started to roll in, some of those same senators began to withdraw their backing. A few even publicly said that Obama’s EO ought to be dealt with completely apart from funding for the DHS which should be provided forthwith.
What the foregoing dynamics reveal is not a party intent on building a record of good governance. Rather, it is one of a group that is at war with itself on at least two fronts: (1) You have more centrist House Republicans vying with their Tea Party members; and (2) you have the Senate’s GOP majority at odds with the House, the Tea Party Caucus in particular. IF this pattern persists over the next year, the GOP will head into the 2016 election at a disadvantage, having been unable to shed its current brand as the party of obstruction and “no”!!!
1. Boehner’s problems with Tea Party Caucus opposition was covered in the recent blog “Obama’s Triple Play”, published at this site on 1-19-15.