Humiliating their leader again, House Republicans rejected Speaker John Boehner’s last minute, desperate attempt to fund the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for three weeks. Instead, in what is another sad look at how truly incapable of governing today’s Republican Party is, a one week emergency extension was passed with massive Democratic Party support.
Howls from the right-wing caucus seeking a knife fight over the DHS bill could be heard across Capitol Hill. And moderates are equally outraged that the GOP has been hijacked by the « delusional wing of the party, » as Rep. Pete King (R-NY) said.
There are now even rumors of a coup against Boehner as the anti-immigrant radicals of his party are still incapable of understanding the basic mechanics of how Congress works — namely, that without 60 votes in the Senate, Republicans cannot simply dictate legislation.
As Republican factions will continue to struggle this week with getting out of the DHS funding trap they themselves set, at this point seemingly incapable of advancing with a clean, long-term funding bill in the House in spite of the Senate’s overwhelming, bi-partisan vote in favor of funding America’s premier anti-terrorism agencies, the country looks on with a sinking feeling.
Sure, Republicans, at least since President Reagan, have identified « the » problem as the government itself. That, of course, did not keep Reagan from working with Democrats on a slew of reforms, including extending the lives of Social Security and Medicare. For a man who grew up in the Depression, the idea of old people falling into poverty after retirement was an all-too-clear possibility for Reagan — and Social Security had forever changed that grim reality of American society.
But as a few snowballs rolling off a mountain tend to do, the anti-government sentiments unleashed by the Gipper have now become an avalanche, threatening the very fabric of the American social compact.
Witness the awesomeness of Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-Wis.) budget. While its attack on arithmetic is monumental, the incapacity to learn from 35 years of failed trickle-down policies that it displays is stunning. Cut taxes for the rich and the U.S. Treasury will overflow with new tax revenue — except that has never happened. Under-invest in public education and people will be more educated, somehow. America has now gone from the No. 1 global ranking in public education outcomes to an objective disaster. Cut the safety net for the poor and people will make it, anyway — yet the United States now only beats wealth-challenged Romania for highest per capita number of poor children of the top 35 developed nations in the world.
And while these empirically challenged Tea Party policies would, in a free market, already be discredited and hounded out of the public debate for their sheer lack of efficacy, Gov. Scott Walker (R-Wis.), recently leading in the Iowa polls, will have to delay Wisconsin’s debt payments in order to balance his trickle-down budget.
Meanwhile, in Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback (R), a potential dark horse for the GOP nomination, has not only slashed more dollars from public education; he had to also raise taxes to fill the budget holes he created with the implementation of a full-frontal trickle-down Tea Party dream budget.
Of course, it’s anathema to Republicans to even utter, « George W. Bush, » but during Bush II’s administration, we first saw the full display of proto-Tea Party policies that led the country to double its national debt while simultaneously tipping the national and global economies into a broad-scale financial collapse. Aside from that, Bush’s tax cuts and erasing of regulations worked marvelously.
So why is the free market failing so badly in consigning trickle-down and the broader Tea Party agenda into the dustbin of history? Short answer: There is no free market of ideas in the United States. You have to pay to play in our democracy now.
The outsized influence of unregulated corporate and wealthy donor money that now lubricates American politics and policy-making has taken away the possibility to really debate and challenge Republican Party orthodoxy. In an unintentionally revelatory disclosure, anti-immigration hardliner Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), trying to justify the blocking of the DHS funding bill, told The Hill, « If I was a donor to some of these senators that just won election and was told things would be different in a new Senate, I’d be pretty pissed. We put [Senate Minority Leader] Harry Reid [D-Nev.] back in charge of the Senate again? »
The « we » in Huelskamp’s declaration refers to GOP donors. Without even blushing, the congressman betrays his true priorities: the opinion of hefty wallets driving their private agendas through big donations to people like Huelskamp and the rest of the GOP.
Conspicuously absent is any concern from the congressman about the voters — or even the citizenry at large — who could be put at risk should DHS lose its funding due to a Tea Party maneuver to destroy President Obama’s immigration executive order, a stunt that has now failed spectacularly.
This progression makes perfect sense. The Tea Party is a manufactured platform, created by Koch brothers money, executed by former GOP operatives, as well as Koch affiliates like Americans for Prosperity, and focused on electing a Congress that would reflect the will and priorities of special economic interests and their beneficiaries. The initial $12 million investment by the Koch machine into Freedomworks to get the ball rolling was a masterful exercise in Machiavellian pure power politics.
Americans are paying close attention to the gruesome, yet fascinating spectacle of a Republican civil war that seems to have spread with winning control of Congress. As next week unfolds, voters will be treated to yet another display of their government flaying around as it tries to fulfill the most basic of its Constitutional functions — funding critical national security agencies that protect the nation.
And that should worry the real Republicans as their party’s branding increasingly looks like the Whig Party’s, pre-implosion.