Friday, December 4, 2015

Mollifying the Insurgents

Congress has until a week from today to pass a spending bill or face another government shutdown. That means that Sen. Mitch McConnell and Speaker Paul Ryan have their work cut out for them. The last thing they want is to have the American electorate watch them shut the government down as we head into a presidential election year. And yet the insurgent wing of their party has been pushing for the inclusion of several "riders" to the spending bill that Democrats oppose and President Obama has promised to veto. They include:

* Making changes to the refugee program that would basically eliminate Syrian and Iraqi refugees

* Defunding Planned Parenthood

* Repealing Obamacare

There has also been talk about riders that would roll back Dodd-Frank Wall Street reforms and EPA's environmental regulations.

One of the things McConnell and Ryan have been doing to forestall a shutdown is to bring up bills that include these items and allow votes on them separate from the spending bill. So as we saw in the immediate aftermath of the Paris attack, the House voted on the changes to the refugee program. There has still been some effort to include it in the spending bill, but as I mentioned recently, that push is starting to fade.

Last night McConnell pulled off a two-fer with a vote on separate bill that would both defund Planned Parenthood and repeal significant parts of Obamacare. Since it was brought up under a process called "reconciliation," Democrats couldn't filibuster and so it required 51 votes to pass - it got 52. No one doubts that President Obama will veto the measure. So the spin Republicans are putting on this is fascinating.
Republicans hailed it as a political messaging victory and a fulfillment of their promise from the 2014 midterm election to force President Obama to veto the landmark healthcare reform law named after him.
A "political messaging victory?" Does that sound like the kind of thing their angry base is looking for? Ha-ha!

And someone is going to have to find a reference for that 2014 midterm election promise about forcing President Obama to veto a repeal of Obamacare. I've looked and can't find where they said that.

All this drama is really all about trying to find a way to mollify the insurgents in their party and get them to back off of attempts to shut the government down. After explaining some of the shenanigans McConnell had to pull off to get last night's vote, Kevin Drum summed it up pretty well.
In today's Washington, passing bills isn't a matter of getting Republicans and Democrats to agree. They can usually manage that. The trick is somehow neutering the wingnut faction of the Republican Party. Once that's done, negotiations between the two parties are (relatively speaking) a piece of cake. Welcome to 2015.

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