The Party of Hell No: What Republicans will do if they retake the House or Senate
During the Bush years, Republicans on Capitol Hill essentially rubber-stamped whatever the president wanted. Instead of checking and balancing, they enabled Bush and Cheney to expand the imperial presidency so much that the very foundations of American democracy buckled.
When Obama won in '08, with Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate, Republicans became the Party of No, a disloyal opposition party that sought to obstruct everything the Democrats put forward, largely though the filibuster rule in the Senate that effectively prevents majority rule and anything from getting done but also through the total rejection of compromise.
They occasionally talked compromise, such as on health-care reform, but that was always just to mask their real intention, which was to block the Democrats from governing (and winning an issue), and to come across to the public as something other than a party of obstructionism during a time of economic crisis, as well as to try to run the clock out as much as possible.
It looks like Republicans will win the House next month. And what will they do back in power, if only on that side of Capitol Hill? Work with Democrats, who will likely retain control of the Senate? Seek meaningful and productive compromises with Obama? Of course not. And we can thank one of their leaders, one of the true standard bearers of conservative Republicanism, for being open about their plans:
Republicans aren't interested in compromising with President Obama on major issues if they retake the House or Senate, a senior GOP lawmaker said.
"Look, the time to go along and get along is over," said Rep. Mike Pence (Ind.), the chairman of the House Republican Conference. "House Republicans know that. We’ve taken firm and principled stands against their big government plans throughout this Congress, and we’ve got, if the American people will send them, we’ve got a cavalry of men and women headed to Washington, D.C. that are going to stand with us."
Pence said his party wouldn't compromise on issues like spending or healthcare reform, two of the weightiest items on Congress's agenda next year, when the Republicans could control one or both chambers.
"Look, there will be no compromise on stopping runaway spending, deficits and debt. There will be no compromise on repealing Obamacare. There will be no compromise on stopping Democrats from growing government and raising taxes," Pence told conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Thursday evening. "And if I haven’t been clear enough yet, let me say again: No compromise."
Americans, rightly or wrongly, have had it up to here (you know where) with both parties, but right now much of that popular anger, in a time of economic difficulty, is being directed (unfairly) at incumbents, most of whom happen to be Democrats. This is what happens in a president's first midterms and also what happens when the economy is in bad shape and people are suffering. Voters will take it out on Democrats and give Republicans a shot, even if, for the most part, they don't like Republicans any more than Democrats and actually trust them less than the party in power. It's a case of anything but the status quo, even if that "anything" means unpopular Republicans who don't have much of an agenda beyond being obstructionist and pushing for the failed policies that sunk America into economic crisis and, as with the huge Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, continue to wreak havoc on the country.
But voters should know what they're getting with Republicans. They aren't just some innocuous alternative but the Party of Hell No, a party that is categorically opposed to compromise, to working with the president and Democrats to deal with the very serious problems the country faces.
Now, I actually think a Republican takeover of the House could be good politically for Obama, as he would have a more powerful opposition to push back against. And I also think that, in power (if only in the House), Republicans would make themselves look even worse, weakening what little popularity they have now. And maybe we need Republicans to expose themselves more than they have already so that the American people can see for themselves just what they're all about: obstructionism mixed with wild ideological extremism that is at odds with the American mainstream and with what the people seem to want, extremism that includes more tax cuts for the wealthy and for corporations, privatized Social Security, repeal of even the most popular elements of Obamacare, deregulation of Wall Street, and opposition to efforts to address climate change.
But at what cost?
Republicans are already able to obstruct whatever they want in Congress, given the filibuster in the Senate, and it would only get worse if they won the House and were able to spend their time playing partisan games, holding ridiculous hearings and conducting futile investigations, dragging Obama and the Democrats into the mud.
Is that really what the American people want? Is that really what the country needs at a time like this, if ever? And yet that's precisely what will happen if voters allow misguided and misdirected anger and anti-incumbent sentiment to get the better of them.