Sunday, September 27, 2015

Now That Speaker Boehner Is Out, What Next?

'Gang of Seven': Boehner, 2nd row, 1st on left
Quick question for all you 'reformers' out there:

'Name the Members of the 1990 'Gang of Seven' who toppled Democrat Ways and Means Chairman Danny Rostenkowski and helped pave the way for the 'Contract for America' and the GOP takeover in 1994?'

Right. One of the leaders was none other than John Andrew Boehner whom many on the right are today not toasting his service to our country but cheering his departure.

Others include former NC Congressman Charles Taylor who was never considered a squish by any measure. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania was in that class of freshmen.

Jim Nussle of Iowa was so incensed about unethical behavior of Democratic leaders in the House over the House banking scandal (which involved cashing in postage stamps for cash among other things) that he resorted to wearing a brown paper bag over his head because he was so 'ashamed' to be part of the same Congress.
Not the 'Ain'ts'

Nussle, of course, went on to become Chairman of the House Budget Committee in 2001 and Director of OMB in 2007. See what a little 'theatrics can do for you in politics?

John Boehner came into the US House 4 years before we left Congress in 1995. He was a solid conservative intent on reforming the federal government which meant, back then, reducing it in size and expense and intrusion into your daily lives via regulations and legislative fiat across-the-board and, of course, balancing the federal budget for the first time since man walked on the moon in 1969.

(We went to a wonderful reunion of former staff and campaign aides for retired Congressman Alex McMillan last weekend where now-Governor and Presidential Candidate John Kasich, another reformer who was in Congress during the 1980's and '90's, wrote a very nice letter congratulating Congressman McMillan on his efforts to help guide efforts that led to the first balancing of the budget in 1997 'since man walked on the moon' so we decided to lift that phrase for this brief history lesson today)

'What happened to Boehner?' many on the far-right are asking today. 'If he was such a 'reformer' when he came into Congress, why did he leave as such a RINO (or whatever insult they care to cast his way)?'

'REALITY' happened to John Boehner. And the 'US CONSTITUTION' happened to John Boehner.

Just as it will happen to whoever takes the job as the next Speaker of the US Congress. And the next. And then next. And the next.

If you can't understand that, you are going to be perpetually perplexed, bewitched and bewildered by the US political scene. You might want to consider taking up horticulture or catfish-farming as a hobby since they would be far easier to understand and master.

The Founders did something pretty amazing back in 1787 when they were writing the second Constitution for the United States, the Articles of Confederation being the first, which bombed by the way or else there would have been zero need to go to Philadelphia and essentially 'overthrow' the first Constitution and replace it with the second.

They gave us the 'rules of the game' for playing in this democratic republic and essentially laid out a game plan for operating a capitalist economy under governance of the voting electorate, not a king or sovereign as had been the norm forever on the face of the earth until then.

They made it exceedingly difficult for any one person, faction or party to get 100% of what they wanted in any one session of Congress. They had just fought a war of independence from such tyrannical rule, in their opinion, and they were going to set up a government where that could never take place again on American soil.

Very few times in American history has one side or the other had a chance to get close to 100% of what they wanted to get done in any one session of Congress. 2009-2011 saw President Obama and the Democrat House and Senate push through major legislation including Obamacare mainly because they had 60, or close to 60 Democrat Senators in the US Senate with a massive majority in the US House and a Democrat leading the way in the White House with a pen in his hand to sign whatever Congress sent to him.

You may not like what they sent to him, but they did it (mostly*) according to the rules set up 238 years ago in Philadelphia by men such as James Madison, Alexander Hamilton and Benjamin Franklin.

What have been the main impediments for the past 5 years now for the Republicans who have controlled the US Congress to getting their agenda passed and overturning what the Democrats have done?

#1 is President Obama in the White House who has the same pen that can sign bills into law but he can use to veto any and all Republican bills that he doesn't want to see enacted into law.

#2 was the Democrat-controlled Senate under Majority Leader Harry Reid from 2008-2015. There was no way in Hades that a Republican snowball, no matter if it was the size of the Capitol itself, was going to roll downhill and get passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama.

Not without substantial input, negotiation and compromise from the Democrats, that is. In which case, the bill would look more like Dodd-Frank or ACA than the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 passed by a Republican House and Senate and negotiated by Erskine Bowles on the part of Southern Democrat President Bill Clinton that lead to the only 4 balanced budgets most of us will ever see in our lifetimes.

So what was the solution by many on the angry far-right of the political spectrum?

'Shut down the government!'

We have seen it done before. We have been a part of the chorus who said the same thing in frustration many times when we were 85-seats in the minority for a decade in the US House.

Try It At Home! You'll Get As Much Done As
You Would Shutting Down The US Government!
Know what it ultimately accomplishes 999 times out of 1000?

Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It accomplishes about as much as flicking these red white and blue Jello squares with your finger and watching them wibble and wobble for a few seconds on the plate....and then ultimately, they return to stasis and have made absolutely zero progress to any goal anywhere.

Know what would make a HUGE difference?

Getting a Republican elected President of the United States in 2016. That would make a huge difference for those of you who didn't think Mitt Romney was 'conservative' enough to meet your lofty standards of purity in political philosophy in 2012 so you decided to not work for him or, in millions of cases, decided to sit at home and not even vote for him.

How's that working out for ya?

The second thing that would really make a difference is for everyone to take a close look at the US Constitution again and understand just how deeply entrenched 'compromise' is in that sacred document. The Founders were 'serial compromisers' as our friend Neil Siegel of the Duke Law School likes to call them. There was not one single thing they didn't compromise on in 1787, unless, of course, you consider their punting of the slavery issue for 20 years not a compromise which it was for those who wanted to ban it outright immediately at the time.

You can wait, and wait, and wait until a Republican President who is 99.999% pure according to your standards wins the White House and the GOP maintains control of the US House and (somehow) gets to 60 US Senators....and THEN you can see all your dreams come true as the federal government is hacked back down to pre-World War II size.

The third thing you can do is take a lesson from Hall of Fame Coaches Dean Smith of Carolina and Coach K at Duke. Seriously. Both men adapted with the times and came up with new strategies to play college basketball based on 'reality' with each succeeding period and style of the game.

Coach Smith came up with the 'run-and-jump' trapping offense; the play-calling at the free throw line; the 'Finger Point' to praise the assist-maker, not the guy who made the easy layup and padded his scoring average and who could forget, the Four Corners offense that drove people crazy unless you were a Tar Heel fan watching yet another close game end with another Tar Heel victory.

Coach K has only managed to coach in 4 decades now with different players and different styles and different tempos and different ages. He won the NCAA title last year...and he used the ZONE DEFENSE a lot at the beginning of the year!  Talk about compromising your basic core principles of life! Coach K of 1986 would have strangled Coach K of 2015 for using any zone defenses...until he congratulated him on winning his 5th national title that is.

The point here is to say that there are other ways to get things done legislatively than shutting down the government. The Planned Parenthood videos are deeply disturbing to anyone who has seen or listened to them. Perhaps the funding for Planned Parenthood should be dealt with in a separate line-item appropriations bill that President Obama would have to sign or veto out in plain sight of day, not buried in the guts of a multi-trillion continuing resolution bill the general public has no idea of what it is in the first place anyway.

Congress has the power of the purse to fund or not fund the implementation of Obamacare or his executive action on immigration. 'Legislative supremacists' (their term) such as Henry Clay routinely challenged His Excellency, President Andrew Jackson, by not funding what the White House wanted and causing a ruckus that would make today's battles seem tame by comparison.

Maybe John Boehner could have done more on those tactical matters. Or maybe he had Chairmen of major committees and rank-and-file GOP members and/or Tea Party favorites unwilling to go even those alternative routes.

We remember hearing rebel GOP Congresspeople rail about 'cutting federal spending'...except the Appalachian Regional Commission or some farm program where they came from. Push on any Tea Party Rebel Congressperson today in the US Congress hard enough, and they will eventually spill the beans about the 2-3 federal programs they will not vote to cut because of the district and state they represent.

It is either that or compromise your rear end off which those on the far right still seem to feel is a 4-letter word. So do the same percentage of folks on the far-left who wouldn't know a good compromise deal if it fell off and hit them in the head like a ripe coconut.

All we know is that the next Speaker of the House, whoever he or she may be, will soon be called a RINO and worse by people who really have not read the Constitution or understand the rules of the game.

It is like playing golf with people who have not read the 'rules of golf', of which there are 34 basic rules and seemingly thousands of sub-rules. Something happens and then they get very angry and upset even though they don't understand the rules of the game to begin with.

Might as well follow the rules of the game as established by our Forefathers whom all of the right side of the political spectrum say they revere and respect and want to follow in the first place. Yes?

(We say 'mostly*' because the Democrats did use some parliamentary maneuvers such as budget reconciliation rules but they were not set up until after the 1974 Budget Control Act was passed post-Watergate)

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