The 113th congress was sworn in yesterday and took up the task of doing the people’s business. There is little doubt that the circus has returned to Washington. Let the clown show begin.
Here are some of the highlights.
John Boehner was elected to a second term as Speaker of the House. But not before a revolt by radical right members of his caucus threatened his seat. In an embarrassing challenge to Boehner’s leadership, twelve conservative members cast votes in opposition or voted “present.’ Another 20 members were ready to join the open rebellion but backed off at the last minute. The vote was a clear shot across the Speaker’s bow by the far right. Their message was clear. The speaker will listen very carefully to the more conservative members of his caucus given the reality that they have the numbers to vacate his seat at any time.
Michelle Bachman offered the first piece of legislation for the new congress to consider…the repeal of Obamacare in its entirety. Haven’t we seen this movie before?
Boehner announced that he will no longer participate in one on one negotiating sessions with the president. Apparently Boehner has decided to take his ball and go home…which is just as well because every time he and the president strike a deal Cantor and the Tea Party bunch shoot it down.
Speaker Boehner announced that he would finally allow the House to vote on the $60 billion aid package for victims of Hurricane Sandy. Inexplicably the House will vote on $9 billion in relief today and the remaining $51 billion on January 15?? Hurricane Sandy victims have waited 68 days and counting for congress to approve this relief aid package. It only took 10 days for congress to approve a similar aid package for Katrina victims.
Boehner had come under scathing criticism from within his own party for cancelling the vote on the Sandy relief package following the passing of the fiscal cliff tax bill. Yesterday, members of the Republican caucus praised Boehner saying that Boehner was right to pull the vote because the relief aid bill contained billions in pork.
Avowed capitalist and anti-socialist Mitch McConnell proved that he can be quite flexible in his ideological beliefs when it comes to his constituents. McConnell who has railed against the president for what he believes are the president’s socialist tendencies had no problem adding a “European socialist style” agricultural subsidy to the fiscal cliff tax bill. The subsidy provides direct cash payments to extremely profitable dairy producers. Unlike in the case of the Sandy relief bill, McConnell’s pork infused agricultural subsidy did not hamper passage of the fiscal cliff legislation.
Republicans kicked off their media campaign for the upcoming debt ceiling in debate. The president has said that he would not negotiate over raising the debt ceiling believing that the country must pay for goods and services that congress has enacted into law. Republicans spun this refusal to negotiate as a presidential power grab. They accused the president of wanting a blank check and ridiculed his willingness to max out one government credit card after another. Perhaps these congressmen have failed to read the constitution which clearly states that only congress…not the president…controls the nation’s purse strings. And perhaps they have forgotten that a large chunk of the nation’s debt stems for congressional approval to wage two unfunded wars.
For the past ten years Republicans have said that there was no need to offset the Bush tax cuts with like cuts in spending because the tax cuts would pay for themselves through economic growth. Yesterday, the Republicans said that the middle class tax cuts that the president left in place would have to be offset by spending cuts. They proposed that these offsets be part of the upcoming debt ceiling debate.
And there you have the first day of the 113th Congress of the United States of America.
Meet the new boss…same as the old boss.