Not that it is unusual, but you may have noticed that Congress is in a dither. It is especially bothered by the efforts to replace ObamaCare by the Republicans…and there are even Republicans who think the current effort is too skinny. I saw a piece today seeking Rep. Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) ouster as House Speaker…and that came from a theoretically conservative group outside government.
We have discussed the Freedom Caucus before, but the current malcontents seem to be made up of more mainstream Republicans and they complain both about the skinny nature of the proposed replacement plan as well as about the fact that it is too rich. It is easy to see that these two complaints are not easily rectified given the nearly opposite thrust involved.
As usual, it is sometimes impossible to determine just what is going on, who might really be behind it, and what it is intended to accomplish. Since the attack seems aimed at the Speaker, we can assume that both Democrats and Republicans are involved. He has antagonized, not intentionally but by the proposals made for what the Speaker believes is the good of the country, both sides of the aisle. He has been behind the effort to rewrite ObamaCare and that brings the knives out of their sheaths on both the left and the right.
We know that Rep. Ryan is not sufficiently conservative for the Freedom Caucus and that he is likely not ‘middle-of-the-road’ enough for some of the more mainstream Republicans. In this setting, the long knives can well be brandished by almost every brand of Republican and be subtlely pushed by the Dems, too. It is almost as if it is now 434 to 1.
Congress has a long history of ‘going along to get along’ and that is what seems to be the target today. Those in the majority believe it is their right to insist on how things will be done. They have waited a long time for this level of power and it is nearly unthinkable that the power would not be used. The Speaker of the House needs to be true to his party, BUT he also needs to be able to work with the opposition if things are to be accomplished. Case in point:
The Freedom Caucus can hold its votes and force the Speaker to try to find from 20 to 30 Democratic votes to pass bills. The Dems understand this and feel they are in the position to drive a hard bargain if they are to twist the arms of their members in order to gain their agreement to vote contrary to the way they might have voted otherwise. It is this reality that makes governance more difficult. Congressmen and women have their own issues ‘back home’ and must be aware of the expectations of their voter bloc, the people that sent them to Congress. They may have met with their constituents back home during the recent recess, and they may have heard some anger in those voices. That would make any ‘deal’ very difficult to be reached.
We don’t like to admit it, but when the 435 seats are split as evenly as is the case today and with the Freedom Caucus in play, we set ourselves up for watching the uglier side of governance. I doubt there are many readers who could really see themselves thriving in such an environment; they are likely more disgusted that this is a part of Washington, D.C. Add some rebuke from the folks back home, and we have the makings of a knock-down, drag-out battle. Add some additional push by the media in whichever direction each part of the media aligns, and we have a real problem getting anything done.
Usually, after a few days or weeks, someone finds the thread to pull in order to bring calmer minds to the table and a deal of some sort gets done. When the President is taking most of the oxygen from the room, this gets more and more difficult to fashion. Imagine the worst examples of elected officials that you can conjure up, and then try to put yourself in the spot of needing to make nice to get things moving.
We elect the people we believe can get the job done when the water is not quite so roiled as it appears to be today. Then we expect them to overcome these problems but without getting any dirt on their hands. We then object and the press picks up on those objections and ratchets up the thermometer more to keep the ‘news’ flowing. Add to this, the lies (as those they apply to see them) that begin to be bandied about by the sides, and you understand the emotion that has to be set aside to get anything done.
These are all big boys and big girls; they knew or should’ve known what it was they were trying to get into. Many run for re-election every two years and others every six years. They are protective of reputations made; they believe they are doing precisely what we sent them there to get done. We do need to cut them some slack but also keep our eyes open to be sure that they are doing what we wanted them to do even though they sometimes do it in a mud pit.