by John Lawrence / Will Blog for Food / December 25, 2010
The last days of the lame duck session of Congress were remarkably successful with passage of ratification of the START Treaty, repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, aid for first responders, extension of unemployment benefits, the Food Safety bill and the tax bill.
All of these things were things that Obama clearly wanted and did his best to get passed. He deserves a lot of credit as do Harry Reid, Nancy Pelosi and the other Democrats and a smattering of Republicans who made this possible. Obama’s personal favorability rating is high and he is cementing his reputation as the last rational man in Washington. Might as well throw in the last sane and compassionate man as well.
But the Grinchy side of me says whoaa! on the Hosannahs. Why should it be a great victory for Obama or anyone that legislation that was a total no brainer like ratification of the START treaty, that had the active support of every prominent Republican that had anything to do with foreign policy, became so difficult to get passed that it was considered a major victory? Why should legislation that any rational, intelligent half way compassionate person was in favor of like aid for the first responders be considered such a great victory? In any rational, compassionate country these bills were total no brainers that would have been passed without any great brou ha ha or fanfare. They would have been passed as a matter of course, just another day at the office, because they were the right thing to do. They would have been passed without any huge struggle. They would have been passed because the American people and all the experts were totally in favor of them. Ditto for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Only in the US where you have a great number of malignant Republican Senators who are against any humane legislation or any legislation which would actually contribute to the security of the nation would these bills be considered to be great victories.
Meanwhile, these rather modest and obvious bills have had everyone worked up into a tizzy while our eyes have been completely taken off the ball of the economy: joblessness is still at 10% official, 17% unofficial, the tax cut bill drilled a trillion dollar hole in the deficit needlessly by giving tax cuts to the rich, people are being foreclosed on and tossed out of their homes illegally, student loan debt now exceeds credit card debt while students do not have normal consumer protections like bankruptcy. The economy is still in a shambles while some measures have been passed which any rational dictator would have passed. Why should this be considered a wonderful victory for Obama? The crux of the matter is that Republicans have done their level best to defeat the most rational, the most humane and the most supported-by-the-people acts of legislation. They have delayed, they have obstructed, they have whined, they have complained, they have used every parliamentary device they could to defeat all of these bills. They have filibustered every routine piece of legislation no matter how mundane. The only thing that seemed to sway them to do the right thing in the final analysis is that they didn’t want to be inconvenienced by missing their dinner or their Christmas vacation. That’s the crux of the situation not the fact that some minor rational, humane bills got passed and everyone then thinks “Oh, what big victories for Obama!” Obama and most Democrats wanted only what any rational person would want. When they managed to get it, the reaction should be “why was this so difficult, why was this like pulling teeth” not “oh waht a wonderful victory.”
Rep. Anthony Wiener of New York put it succenctly and I paraphrase, “the passage of these bits of legislation that were supported by virtually everybody should only draw attention to how dysfunctional the Senate is.” Harry Reid has a chance to change the arcane Senate rules on January 4 which can only be changed at the start of a new session. Let’s pray that he is able to change them in such a way as to end the abuse of the majority by the minority.
Despite the legislative victories of which Obama can be justifiably proud, we are still left with a continuing budget which has essentially defunded Obama’s major legislative programs like health care and regulation of the banking industry. We are still left with the situation in which Republicans will threaten to shut the government down rather than fund those programs when the budget has to be renegotiated three months from now. While Obama credits bipartisanship with all these legislative outcomes, he should really be talking about the fact that any sensible person would have voted for them without any great to do. And what lies ahead is probably not more bipartisanship, but Republicans threatening to shut the government down unless they get their way, and their way is to defund social programs while enlarging the military budget. Democrats are the only sensible party; they are actually trying to do something which would benefit the country. Republicans’ only interest is to benefit the rich and large corporations because they are their corporate sponsors.
Harry reid In the final analysis it wasn’t an ouitpouring of bipartisanship or the holiday spirit which got these humane measures passed into law. It was the fact that Harry Reid was willing to keep Republicans in Congress through the Christmas holidays if necessary to get this legislation passed. It was the legitimate use of political force, the only thing Republicans understand, which carried the day. We are thankful at this time of year for Harry Reid’s chutzpah and his willingness to back the Republicans to the wall, and, when it comes right down to it, Republicans will only do the right thing if it means that they won’t have to be inconvenienced. Otherwise, they will be willing shills for their corporate sponsors.
We wish President Obama, his family and team the best of luck in the coming year and applaud him for his successful efforts. He has accomplished great things so far despite ridiculous odds, and he deserves our praise.