Monday, December 13, 2010

The Whole Package

The economy and the recession were the big issues that drove voters to the polls in November and got them to put the Republicans in offices across the country, including taking over the House. But what they’re getting is more than just alleged fiscal conservatives. Cry havoc, and let slip the dogs of the culture war.

A leading Congressional opponent of abortion rights, who is in line to take charge of an influential House panel, plans to press for much stricter limits on the procedure.

The selection of the lawmaker, Representative Joe Pitts, Republican of Pennsylvania, as chairman of the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health presages a major shift on abortion and family planning, according to opponents and supporters of abortion rights.

Opponents of abortion gained about 45 seats in the midterm elections, and they count the next speaker, Representative John A. Boehner, Republican of Ohio, as a staunch ally, virtually guaranteeing more conflicts with the White House on the issue.

Mr. Pitts was chosen last week as the chairman of the subcommittee, which has jurisdiction over private health insurance, Medicaid and much of Medicare, as well as the Food and Drug Administration and the National Institutes of Health.

In urging Republican leaders to choose Mr. Pitts, the National Right to Life Committee said he had “made the protection of the sanctity of innocent human life the cornerstone of his service in the House.”

I don’t know why anyone would be surprised by this. It’s not like the GOP has ever said they were giving up on issues such as abortion, gay rights, or other culture-war issues like school vouchers, immigration, and affirmative action just because they were focused on giving more tax breaks to millionaires.

There used to be moderates in the GOP who favored a measured approach to reproductive choice and such issues. No longer. Most have been driven out or forced into the closet for fear of being challenged in a primary by some Tea Party fanatic who thinks the United States Constitution was just fine before those meddling liberals in the 1870’s gave citizenship to people born here. For the few remaining moderates, the recession and the deficit has given them cover. Last week Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said she would be happy to vote to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but not before we did something about extending the Bush tax cuts.

The hope of some Democrats is that all we have to do is let the Republicans in the House go nuts with their far-right agenda and let the voters see what a collection of draconian and medieval measures they come up with, such as tax credits for chastity belts, state-sponsored nativity scenes on every courthouse lawn, internment camps for undocumented immigrants, repeal of anti-discrimination laws against gays and lesbians and who knows what else they’ll dream up in their goal of “smaller government and more freedoms.” We tried that, though, and we still have people like Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) and James Inhofe (R-OK) running around the Capitol.

Those two may be easily distracted (“Squirrel!”), but say what you will about the GOP, they can still multitask, and when you vote for them on one issue, you’re getting the whole package, including the nutsery. In for a penny, in for a pounding.