Sunday, April 03, 2011

GOP validates America's hatred of Congress

The Republican Party has validated the American public's growing frustration, annoyance, and near-historically low disapproval of Congress with a bill proposed this week that epitomized the do-nothing reputation and partisan bickering of politicians on Capitol Hill.

The proposal, which Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia touted as a safety measure against the looming threat of a government shutdown, would make the Republican Party's February budget proposal the "law of the land" if Congress fails to enact a budget resolution before current government funding expires on April 8.

The Republican Party's February budget proposal, H.R. 1, called for $61 billion in discretionary spending cuts, most of which targeted popular social programs that the Democratic Party vehemently opposed. The bill earned a veto threat from President Obama even before it passed in the House, and after it passed it was deemed dead-on-arrival in the Democratic-controlled Senate. Nobody so much as blinked when the bill died on the Senate floor due to a lack of bipartisan support.

So what will it take to pass this new proposal and to avoid the potentially devastating effects on the economy and job creation if a government shutdown occurs?

In short, a miracle.

In order to become law, Cantor's bill requires that the same Democrats who so staunchly opposed the GOP's $61 billion in spending cuts on March 17 then turn around not two weeks later and vote for those very same cuts.

Not even Rod Serling could have thought up this one.

But lest you should be fooled by the media's claims that this is yet another "symbolic" measure put forth by the ever-unserious GOP, Cantor was quoted Wednesday telling reporters, "We are serious."

The Hill reported that "aides could not immediately explain how their new bill would solve the crisis or whether they expected the Senate to approve it."
According to Cantor spokeswoman Leana Fallon, "[I]t is our hope that this bill will, at a minimum, spur the Senate to pass some bill funding the government for the rest of the year so that we can work quickly to resolve any differences." If Congress fails to act, she added, "passing this bill would at least keep the government open."
She is correct. Passing this bill would indeed keep the government open. Unfortunately, it would also eliminate the incentive for Republicans to continue negotiations with Democrats. If their original proposal becomes law, there is no need to "spur the Senate to pass some bill funding the government," because Republicans can sit out the remainder of the talks, wait for current funding to expire, then throw a party for their Tea Party constituents when health-care reform is defunded, the Environmental Protection Agency is gutted, and a slew of other social programs are forced to cut core services and, in effect, jobs, on April 9.
Putting a new title on an old policy won't change the hearts and minds of Democrats in the Senate. It won't convince the public that Republicans are serious about reaching common ground on the budget. And it definitely won't quell the animosity that Americans feel toward Congress. (According to the latest Gallop poll, Congress has an 18 percent approval rating.)
If there is a silver lining to this cloud, it's that voters across the nation, particularly Virginia voters, and especially deficit-hawk conservative voters, begin calculating a taxpayer-based cost-benefit analysis of the type of leadership that comes with paying majority party leaders a salary of $193,000 a year.
Or maybe Cantor needs a pay raise.
(Cross-posted at Muddy Politics.)

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