Monday, January 3, 2011

And Let The Games Begin

Congress comes back to session this week with the newly-emboldened Republicans all set to do battle with the Obama administration. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) is planning on trying to prove what he said in October on Rush Limbaugh’s show; that the Obama administration is “the most corrupt president in modern times.” Except he told CNN yesterday that he really didn’t mean that and Rush Limbaugh forced him into saying that, and hey, look at the kitty.

ISSA: I corrected — what I meant to say — you know, on live radio, with Rush going back and forth — and by the way that was because Rush had me on to answer the question of — about coming together, having compromise. He didn’t like the compromise word, when I said we’re going to agree to disagree and then we’re going to find a kind of common ground, the kind of compromise that makes — and gets things done.

In saying that this is one of the most corrupt administrations, which is what I meant to say there, when you hand out $1 trillion in TARP just before this president came in, most of it unspent, $1 trillion nearly in stimulus that this president asked for, plus this huge expansion in health care and government, it has a corrupting effect.

When I look at waste, fraud and abuse in the bureaucracy and in the government, this is like steroids to pump up the muscles of waste.

HENRY: But first of all, on TARP, that was before the Obama administration. That was pushed through by the Bush administration, not — so how could you call the Obama administration one of the most corrupt ever if the Bush administration pushed TARP through?

ISSA: I was — I wasn’t talking about TARP legislation. What I said…

HENRY: But you said now that that’s what you meant.

When you hear Republicans carry on about corrupt politicians, the impression they leave is that they’re doing it as a professional courtesy: “Hey, we know all about being bought and paid for, so we know what to look for.”

Meanwhile, dealing with the Democrats could be the least of the GOP’s troubles. They have their own set of whack-jobs to deal with.

In mid-November, after the dust had settled from the midterm elections, incoming House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) acknowledged that he’s well aware of the fact that his chamber is going to have to extend the federal debt limit. He noted that’s already “made it pretty clear” to his own caucus that Republicans are “going to have to deal with it as adults.”

Boehner added, “Whether we like it or not, the federal government has obligations and we have obligations on our part.”

Dealing with the debt limit “as adults” doesn’t appear to be going well. This morning, two right-wing lawmakers — Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Rep.-elect Mike Kelly (R-Minn.) — reiterated their opposition to raising the debt limit on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

Soon after, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that failing to raise the debt ceiling “would be very bad for the position of the United States in the world at large.” Graham, however, quickly followed that by saying he’s prepared to hold the debt limit hostage “until a plan is in place” for the nation’s long-term fiscal challenges that meets his satisfaction.

So much for dealing with this “as adults.”

Thus Mr. Boehner and all of his colleagues who have been calling it from the cheap seats are now the ones who have to make good on all of their big talk for the last two years. The truth is that they really don’t care as much about what they do as as how it looks a year from now when they start ginning up for the 2012 elections. So they’re going to go for the big showy things like trying to repeal the healthcare bill entirely to prove that when it comes to being nothing but partisan hacks who only care about winning elections, they are the best in the business.

And lest we forget, the Republicans have to keep an eye out for the Tea Party.

In their final days controlling the House, Democrats succeeded in passing legislation that Tea Party leaders opposed, including a bill to cover the cost of medical care for rescue workers at the site of the World Trade Center attacks, an arms-control treaty with Russia, a food safety bill and a repeal of the ban on gay men and lesbians serving openly in the military.

“Do I think that they’ve recognized what happened on Election Day? I would say decisively no,” said Mark Meckler, a co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, which sent its members an alert last month urging them to call their representatives to urge them to “stop now and go home!!”

“We sent them a message that we expect them to go home and come back newly constituted and do something different,” Mr. Meckler said. “For them to legislate when they’ve collectively lost their mandate just shows the arrogance of the ruling elite. I can’t imagine being repudiated in the way they were and then coming back and saying ‘Now that we’ve been repudiated, let’s go pass some legislation.’ ”

“I’m surprised by how blatant it was,” he added.

But Tea Party activists did not reserve their criticism for Democrats. “The Republicans, frankly, have been a disaster,” Mr. Meckler said. “They stood strong on some things, but the only reason they stood strong is because we stood behind them with a big stick.”

Funny thing about those Tea Party people; they actually expect the Republicans to do what they promised they would do they took their money and their support during the last campaign, as opposed to the way they dealt with their base supporters in the past, like the evangelicals: lots of sweet talk and promises — “of course I’ll respect you in the morning, honey” — until the checks cleared. Then they never called back.

So while the Democrats aren’t in for an easy time, the next few months may prove that Mr. Boehner may really have something to cry about.