The 114th United States Congress will be sworn in this week and political hacks like me will be watching to see if the new version performs any better than its predecessor.
Republicans take control of the reigns pledging to find areas “where we can make some progress for the country.” But before conservatives can demonstrate their ability to govern the country they have to find a way to govern their caucus.
The first order of business tomorrow will be to elect the party leadership. Odds are John Boehner will be re-elected Speaker. His appointment will not come without some effort to placate his seriously pissed off party base. The right is still fuming over the way party leadership rammed through the CR/Omnibus spending bill at the close of the last session. Boehner, McConnell, Reid and Pelosi crafted the $1.1 trillion dollar continuing resolution behind closed doors and then gave membership just two days to review debate and pass the 1600 page bill. The message was clear…fall in behind leadership and pass this bill or spend your Christmas vacation in Washington in a protracted debate.
Boehner has pulled stunts like this before. Last March Boehner did not feel that he had the votes to pass an unfunded $10 billion dollar Medicare spending bill. After postponing the vote twice he told members that he was going to recess. Less than a minute after his members had dispersed he gaveled the House back into session and passed the bill on a voice vote with less than a dozen members in the chamber.
The problem that Boehner’s detractors have is that if any effort to defeat Boehner fails those involved will most certainly see their time in congress short lived. The Speaker has almost unlimited power in terms of committee appointments and fund raising efforts. He decides if a bill that a member has worked tirelessly to craft every see a vote on the floor. Cross the Speaker and you do so at your own peril.
Then there is the matter of Party Whip and third ranking Republican, Steve Scalise (R-LA). In 2002 Scalise agreed to speak before a white supremacist group called EURO. The invitation had been extended by Kenny Knight, a long time ally of David Duke. Duke is a former Grand Dragon of the KKK.
At first Scalise said he didn’t know that EURO was affiliated with the Klan. Then he said he made an error in judgment in accepting the invitation. The question for the Party is do they want a guy who has a history of hanging around with the Klan sitting at the leadership table.
If the Republicans can ever get past their internal strife perhaps they can try their hand at governing the country.
We’ve heard all the repeated talking points about finding areas “where we can make some progress for the country.” Actions speak louder than words and first accounts are that instead of compromise the Republican majority’s first actions will look more like same old, same old.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has listed trade, infrastructure and tax changes as areas where congress and the White might find agreement. Yet it appears that the first item on the Republican agenda is to pass legislation to build the Keystone Pipeline; a bill the president will probably veto. The second item on the agenda is legislation to repeal the Affordable Care Act; a bill the president will definitely veto.
The 114th session of the United States Congress!
Meet the new boss…same as the old boss.