Okay, I’m totally gobsmacked.
In the fall of 1995 and spring of 1996, I spent a great deal of time watching C-SPAN. My husband worked for the Federal government and our ability to feed our children depended on him getting a paycheck. So the Congressional mess that resulted in the government shutdowns mattered deeply to me. At other times when critical issues are on the table, I go back to C-SPAN to watch democracy in action. Sort of. Maybe. Mostly, I’ve learned, I’m watching political parties in action, not democracy or even a republican form of government in action.
Last night was the biggest WTF session I’ve have ever seen in Congress. The majority party could not agree to vote for their own bill, so it’s “hasta la vista, see you after Christmas”?
Do you know what would happen in the British Parliament if the Prime Minister, head of the majority party or majority coalition, failed to deliver enough of his own party’s votes to pass a bill? He would be calling new election. He or she would be toast. He or she would not retain the Prime Ministership, even if they didn’t hold a complete Parliamentary election. Anyone who cannot deliver his/her own party is gone.
John Boehner’s “Plan B” should have been a shoo-in. It raised taxes only on those earning more than a million a year, cut food stamps, cut Meals on Wheels, cut funding for Obamacare and financial services reform, and preserved the Defense Department’s bloated budget. It was almost everything every Republican claims they want. Keep the defense contractors happy and screw the poor! But when Boehner shut down the vote, with around 60 votes still to be cast, he had already lost 22 members of his own party.
As currently configured, until January 3, the House has 241Republicans and 191Democrats, with 3 vacancies. It takes 218 to pass legislation. Boehner suspended the vote and met in closed session with just the Republicans. Then, Boehner stopped the vote completely. It would have taken only 2 more Republicans to vote “no” and the bill would have been lost. Two, out of the nearly 40 remaining Republicans, and the caucus meeting showed him he would have lost at least two more.
Some Republicans voted against the bill because it raised taxes on the rich. We have no idea how many, if any, voted against it because it would have gutted popular social programs. It’s not like these guys and gals are facing re-election immediately. They were all elected on “screw the poor” platforms, weren’t they? John Boehner has thrown in the towel on negotiating the so-called “fiscal cliff.” His departing remarks as he left the building were that it is now up to the President and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to come up with a plan.
The House was supposed to adjourn for the year on December 14. They have been working for the past four days when they were supposed to be in recess. While it is possible for Speaker Boehner to reconvene the House on December 26, it is unlikely. The House is not expected to return until the start of the next Congress on January 3, the day we drive off the fiscal cliff. The Congressional Budget Office has predicted that if we go off the cliff, we will be in a second recession by the end of January.
In the famous words of The Hitchhicker’s Guide to the Galaxy “Don’t Panic!” This is how the fiscal cliff can play out: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senator Reid and President Obama will craft a plan.. The new House has 233 Republicans and 200 Democrats with 2 vacancies. Mrs. Pelosi and other Democrats can spend the rest of the recess rounding up 18 Republicans to vote with the Democrats, not entirely impossible since there are still a few Wall Street Republicans in the House, and intelligent Americans have twelve days to scare the beejeezus out of their Congresspersons. (Flood their House e-mail accounts, please.) Senator Reid will reconvene the Senate on January 3. On that first day, he plans to change the filibuster rules to make it harder for the Republicans to shelve legislation. On January 4, he can call a vote on the “fiscal cliff” plan and pass it, if Mrs. Pelosi has secured those 18 Republican votes in the House.
The majority of Americans not only voted for President Obama, they support raising taxes on the rich, preserving our social safety net and finding a compromise for the nation’s finances. Even people who voted for Republicans support a compromise. Tonight we not only watched a Speaker of the House lose control of his own party, we watched that party commit suicide.
I’m totally gobsmacked.