Theater in D. C.: political impasse once again


Those of you who keep up with the news are aware of the House Republican leadership’s torpedoing the Senate’s recently passed legislation allowing for a two month continuation of the payroll tax, unemployment insurance, and an increase in Medicare reimbursement fees for doctors. It waited until the Senate adjourned for the holidays to turn up the heat in getting a bill more to its liking in its severer aspects, contending a one year extension is less disruptive to the market place.

Although House Speaker Boehner has announced the appointment of eight House Republicans to serve on a compromise committee to work out the differences, Senate Democrats appear unwilling to return to Washington to secure an agreement by year’s end. The House had passed its own version on December 13, but it included several controversial measures including provisions for financing the legislation.

In fairness to House Republicans, however, the House passed bill called for a one year extension of the payroll tax cut and unemployment benefits, which President Obama had also called for. It also preempts a 27% Medicare reimbursement cut for doctors through 2013, or a two year extension.

The bottom-line behind the Republican action in the House lies in the under reported details of the House version.

Key aspects of the House passed bill:

Blocks the EPA from imposing new restrictions on industrial boilers.

Requires the President approve the Keystone XL oil pipeline with 60 days, unless he declares the project as not serving the nation’s interests.

Requires a freeze on he pay of civilian federal employees through 2013.

Raises fees charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for mortgage insurance.

Eliminates Medicare coverage for preventative medical care.

Raises Medicare premiums for retirees exceeding $80,000 income, which would include social security and pensions.

Prevents illegal immigrant parents from collecting child tax credit refunds.

Cuts off food stamps and unemployment benefits for the wealthy.

In short, House Republicans desire a fuller implementation of their bill’s provisions. Its foot-dragging is, doubtless, a throwback to the November, 2010, election that replaced many incumbents with militant Tea Party devotees, who feel they must fulfill their mandate to the electorate.

To do so, they are willing to resort to brinksmanship.

Likely outcome:

Despite only a ten day countdown remaining and the usual media stint for promoting a worse case scenario, I am confident the House and Senate will resolve their differences. I take the speaker’s defiance to be simply theater. Do Republicans really want to risk the fierce censure of the American public come January 1 and new elections?

House Republicans have gotten themselves into a corner in their back-room tactics, to say the least. The danger is that they may choose to save face rather than reconcile with their Senate colleagues, which includes many Republicans.

While we may not always like it, good politics often calls for pragmatic approaches to secure the welfare of the people, not the narrow interests of ideologues callous to the suffering of millions of their citizenry.

Do House Republicans dare to go there?

Do they dare to repeat by their actions Marie Antoinette’s damning dictum: “Let them eat cake”?

I think not.

Measures, complicated to be sure, nonetheless exist to save face and resolve the crisis. A settlement will be reached, though even then, not to everyone’s liking.

Author: RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.

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