Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Political See-Thaw

Yes, that sound you heard out of Washington was not just John Boehner's rant against his conservative brethren, it might have been the long-awaited thaw in relations between the two parties in the Congress over the budget.

And you probably thought that Republicans didn't believe in warming.

Well, don't get too excited. After all, 94 House members voted against the bill and it looks like the Senate will manage only four GOP supporters when the bill lands on their desks. And this is a bill that I might have voted against because it basically sacrifices the long-term unemployed on the alter of perceived laziness and blame-the-victim politics that's the hallmark of the Republican Party (though Patty Murray must be terrific at selling unpopular ideas). The bill does modify and correct some of the most egregious sequestration cuts, but this budget deal was played on the Republican side of the field.

Is this a thaw? Possibly, though there are significant snowstorms ahead. The immigration bill is stalled in the House and it would be a monumental achievement for a law that includes a path to citizenship to pass in that chamber. Then again, Boehner is not a dumb politician and understands that the Republicans need to begin courting the Hispanic vote, so maybe he can shepherd a modified version of the bill through his caucus. Of course, Democrats will jump all over any perceived weakness int he GOP approach and will run with it in 2014 and 2016.

The Senate provides another ice sheet for progress. Although the two sides came to an agreement to pause the confirm-a-thon until Monday, the Republicans are still smarting from having the filibuster rug pulled from under their Gucci-shoed feet. Two of the president's DC Circuit nominees have been approved at the EPA Chief is up next. I see this as great progress and a future bulwark against Republican mischief via the courts in the years to come. "Young Democratic Judges" is a phrase I love hearing over and over.

So I'm not looking for a grand love-in on the floor of the legislative bodies over the course of the next year, but I do see a grudging push in the direction of getting things done, especially on the right. They can run against the health care law and probably keep the House and make inroads in the Senate in 2014. Their main concern, and a shiver up the spine, has to be the prospect of a Tea Party presidential candidate and the thought of defending 24 Senate seats in 2016. They won't win the former contest and could do serious damage to themselves in the latter if they persist with the nonsense they've been peddling since 2010.

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