Despite a slow economy and a relatively high unemployment level, Americans spoke on election day. They wanted the Republicans to change. The Republican leadership hasn't listened. Instead, they are digging in their heels as if they
were the ones getting the mandate from the electorate.
Exhibit A in this "business as usual" parade of frustration is the budget battle. The Republicans painted themselves into a corner by first putting the trigger into law, and then allowing the trigger to occur. Now they either have to agree on a budget, or the budget changes are created for them. That means the Bush tax cuts expire and spending gets slashed. As has been discussed elsewhere and on these pages, it's not quite the onerous fiscal "cliff" that gets bandied about in the media, but if that's what it takes to get action, then so be it.
The president has stated what he wants and what he will veto. The House Republicans scoffed at his opening bid
. Note that they didn't say it was interesting but they had other ideas. They immediately went with derision:
Obama's proposal, delivered by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner to Republican House Speaker John Boehner, called for $1.6 trillion in new tax revenues over 10 years plus some $400 billion in savings in popular entitlement programs including Medicare, the government health care plan for seniors. It also included some relief for Americans hit by the home foreclosure crisis and an extension of both the payroll tax holiday and unemployment assistance.
The offer landed with a thud on Capitol Hill, where Republicans bluntly rejected it and expressed shock that the president would essentially stick to the plan he trumpeted starting in September 2011 and all through the campaign. It includes tax increases on the richest Americans, something Republicans have publicly refused to approve.
"I remain hopeful that productive conversations can be had in the days ahead, but the White House has to get serious," Boehner told reporters. "This is not a game. Jobs are on the line. The American economy is on the line. And this is a moment for adult leadership."
Yes, that's it exactly. We need adult leadership - from Congress.
There is one Republican congressman who has shown some moxie in voicing support for doing the right thing: Tom Cole (R-OK)
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.) made headlines this week when suggested that his Republican colleagues should join with President Obama on a quick "fiscal cliff" fix by voting to extend the Bush tax-rates for everyone but the highest income earners, and leaving the rest of the debate for later.
Cole's plan, which was first reported by Politico, was rejected by House Speaker John Boehner, who told reporters, "I disagreed with him…This is not the right approach." But his comments have gotten a lot of attention, and both Republicans and (perhaps less surprisingly) Democrats have come forward to say they agree with Cole.
"I have to say that if you're going to sign me up with a camp, I like what Tom Cole has to say," California Republican Rep. Mary Bono Mack said on CNN on Thursday.
"I'm hopeful that he can persuade other Republicans to do the right thing for middle class families and small business across the country," Democratic Senator Patty Murray told reporters on Wednesday.
So maybe there will be a mutiny. That would be a promising change.
The House is also once again playing games with Gitmo. In the latest NDAA, they are trying to restrict what the president can do with the prisoners there (even though the president is the Commander-in-Chief). Obama has threatened to veto it
. Here's hoping he actually does it this time.
Finally, everyone is aware of the disfunctionality that is the Senate. The problem is the filibuster, in that it requires 60 votes (instead of 50 as specified in the Constitution) to get anything passed. Democratic Senators have been considering changing the rules so that a filibuster may temporarily - but not permanently - delay moving legislation into the main chamber for a vote. How does Speaker John Boehner fit into this? He shouldn't - but he's inserting himself into the debate nonetheless by threatening to rebuke any legislation from the Senate that is passed due to filibuster rule changes
It used to be that Republicans tried to slow down change by debating the policy and the laws they were considering, and changing the legislation through persuasion. Now they just throw roadblocks in the way, and play games of chicken with the president, with the American people, the economy, and the military the victims of the results. This is no way to run a country. Americans are sick of it, and spoke loudly on Nov 6.
It's time for the Republicans to listen. It's time for an end to business as usual.