December 9, 2010

A Complex and Tricky Scheme Republicans Can Use to Force Lower Spending in 2011

Hatched by Dafydd

It's a bit hard to follow, filled with parlimentarian maneuvers (like votes and such) and much hand waving (by frustrated Democrats); and readers not steeped in congressional jargon may have difficulty understanding the machinations (just as Barack H. Obama believes liberals opposed to his anti-tax-increase deal with the GOP just don't understand his genius); but I'll give my best shot to clarifying and simplifying this labyrinthian, byzantine, Rube Goldberg-ian gimmick:

  1. On January 3rd, the incoming Republicans will have a strong, 242-193 majority in the House of the 112th Congress.
  2. Anticipated Streaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH, 96%, and pronounced "BAY-ner," for all you Beavis and Butthead viewers) will have a much greater control over that body than will Senate Majority Leader Harry "Pinky" Reid (D-Caesar's Palace, 95%) over his. This is because senators are more egotistical and autocratic than representatives, and because they have the filibuster in the Senate but not in the House.
  3. Here's where the maneuvering gets really, really hard to follow: Since any bill must pass the House in order to pass Congress and land on the president's desk, Streaker Boehner must lead his Republican caucus to vote down any budget bill, appropriations bill, or spending authorization bill that increases overall spending -- or better, that fails to reduce overall spending by, say, 2% over the previous year's spending. (I realize how difficult that is for lay readers to comprehend; if you're confused, consult an expert in congressional rules and traditions.)
  4. Moreover, the Streaker can refuse even to bring a bill to the floor for a vote. Thus Boeher can announce in advance that no spending bill will even get a vote if it raises overall spending; if a bill raises spending on one place, it must reduce it somewhere else by that amount (or more). Thus, even if too many Republicans defect and want to vote for a bill that raises spending, Boehner can refuse to schedule a vote. (The only way around that is via a rare and politically dangerous House discharge petition.)
  5. So if Republicans stand firm on the principle to reduce spending, which was the most basic and obvious message of the "Tea Party" elections of 2010, they can prevent any 2011 spending that exceeds 2010 spending (or better, that fails to reduce it). The Democratic Senate alone cannot pass a bill, and the president cannot spend money without full congressional authorization (except for what is already authorized). So either Democrats and the president accept a spending freeze (or reduction), or they move nothing at all to the president's desk. Period.

If Democrats scream about a "government shut down," Boehner just politely and non-confrontationally -- not like Newt Gingrich! -- explains, "cut the spending, and we'll be happy to vote. If we don't cut spending, we'll drown in a sea of unmanageable debt." I think the American people will get it; they're much smarter than most members of Congress.

Whew! Tough sledding to get through all those intricate manipulations and prestidigitation, I know; but I hope it's at least reasonably clear what control of the House can accomplish.

Hatched by Dafydd on this day, December 9, 2010, at the time of 12:31 PM

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The following hissed in response by: MikeR

Sounds good to me. That's probably because I tend to think that the "nonessential" services of the US government (which get shut down in a government shutdown) are probably mostly not good ideas anyhow. And those which are could be passed in stand-alone bills. Maybe I wasn't paying attention during the 1996 shutdown, to see why the Republicans backed down. But maybe people weren't as budget focused as some of us are now.

Since we're kind of on the subject, I want to ask about earmarks. It seems to me that people are confused. Just giving my own opinion: I have absolutely no problem if Mr. Smith goes to Washington and proposes a bill to build a boys camp in his home state. If others vote for it, it's because they think it's a good idea and a good use of taxpayers' money. That's all fine, and I don't see why the Republican Party should have voted not to do it.
My problem is always when such bills are used as payoffs, by making them part of some other bill. When someone who doesn't support the Health Care bill votes for it, because some others, who don't support building an airport in his state, are willing to let him pack it into their bill. That's where the corruption comes in.

The above hissed in response by: MikeR [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 10, 2010 5:36 AM

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