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A New Congress but House Republicans Promise to Waste Everyone’s Time in 2013
There are many different concepts of time, and one is it is neither an event nor a thing, and yet humans devised a dimension in which events are ordered from the past through the present into the future using measurements of durations of events and the intervals between them. Human beings become extraordinarily interested in time as it relates to schedules and deadlines whether it is how much time one has to live, or how much time one has to complete a task, and it is during those instances that one may think they squandered precious time. As the 112th Congress comes to a close, Republicans in the House of Representatives have the distinction of wasting precious time members of the Senate devoted to passing very important legislation during 2012, and John Boehner’s recalcitrant caucus assures the Senate they will waste time in 2013 passing the same legislation they worked diligently on in 2012.
When the 112th Congress officially came to a close, so did the legislation passed in the Senate that was left to languish on John Boehner’s desk. There is outrage among many Americans right now over the House’s refusal to vote on the Senate’s relief for states and residents affected by hurricane Sandy, and although there is no excuse for Republican inaction, it is a recurring theme that shows no sign of letting up in 2013. There were other bills the Senate passed with bipartisan support such as the farm bill (June 2012) and Violence Against Women Act (VAWA – April 2012) that were held up by Republicans seeking ways to cut spending on social safety nets. Indeed, the Republican notion of denying funding earmarked to help the American people is the primary source of all GOP intransigence and obstruction, and one just needs to look back at the past few days to recognize that if there are not Draconian spending cuts, Republicans will obstruct, block, and waste precious time to punish Americans.
It is noteworthy that House Republicans failed to act on the VAWA and farm bill because neither bill cut enough spending on programs that help Americans. In fact, spending cuts that Republicans were never concerned about when a Republican was president have been the be all end all issue throughout the 112th Congress, and will be the driving force for Republican action heading into 2013 that is certain to include a brand new farm bill, VAWA, and hurricane Sandy relief that were all passed in the Senate in 2012.
Shortly after President Obama announced a deal to avert the Republicans’ fiscal cliff, Speaker Boehner released the Republican plan for 2013, and as expected, it was all spending cuts and corporate tax breaks. He said, “The federal government has a spending problem. 2013 is the year we finally enact entitlement reform and pro-growth tax reform to begin to solve our country’s debt problem.” One persistent claim by Republicans that contributed to their refusal to act on any piece of legislation is that spending, not revenue, is the only reason there is a deficit, and accordingly, they never focus on revenue; only cutting “entitlements” for Americans, and taxes for so-called job creators.
Entitlement reform in Republican parlance is cutting Social Security, food stamps, Medicare, Veterans’ benefits, Medicaid, and any program that puts money into the economy and helps Americans instead of the wealthy. The so-called entitlement reform canard notwithstanding, it is the Republican “pro-growth” tax reform that should enrage Americans who believe revenue is this country’s problem. One persistent Republican claim is that corporate tax rates are killing jobs and punishing American businesses, but as usual, the Republicans are lying through their teeth to spend more Americans’ tax dollars on corporations.
The “real” corporate tax rate Republicans complain is eviscerating big business and killing jobs is 12.1% and ranks as one of the lowest in the world. It gets better for 280 of the biggest, most profitable Fortune 500 corporations that, among other things, paid no net federal income taxes and many were in negative tax rate category. Still, Republicans will waste time in a couple of months when they hold the debt limit increase hostage for steep cuts in the already small corporate tax rate and slash safety nets they claim should have been included in the fiscal cliff negotiations that will be Republicans’ biggest waste of time in 2012 and 2013.
Republicans and their think tanks like the Heritage Foundation are livid the fiscal cliff was avoided without spending cuts, and they are working themselves into frenzy for the debt ceiling talks in March. The truth of the matter is that President Obama offered Republicans a very good deal that included spending cuts, “entitlement” reforms, and the same tax deal the House just passed in the waning hours of New Year’s Day. If Boehner’s caucus had accepted that deal when it was offered, the GOP would have the spending cuts they wanted, chained CPI reforms, debt ceiling increase, and permanent Bush-era tax rates for 98% of the American people. But like the farm bill, VAWA, and hurricane Sandy relief bill, there were not drastic enough cuts to satisfy extremist Republican, so they will waste more precious time and, if they are lucky, end up with approximately what semi-civil Republicans in the Senate negotiated for in 2012.
The 112th Congress already went down in history as the least productive group in 70 years, and it is a travesty that House Republicans squandered bipartisan legislation Senate Republicans worked through in good faith and good governance only to see their work timed out as the 112th Congress came to an inauspicious end. It is unfortunate, but a fair portion of 2013 will be wasted re-working the same pieces of legislation that were completed in the Senate just to be squandered in the completely dysfunctional Republican House. If Boehner’s caucus thinks they have a better advantage in 2013, then they missed the results of the election that gave Democrats a greater majority in the Senate and Republicans a weaker majority in the House as well as a President who has had enough of GOP hostage taking and intransigence for the sake of intransigence.
As bad as wasting the Senate’s time on legislation was, the American people lost out on the benefits of Senate bipartisanship because of House Republican’s ideological purity. The VAWA, Farm bill, and Hurricane Sandy relief will all have to be reintroduced, negotiated, and passed in the Senate again, only to await House Republicans hostage taking, obstructionism, or additional cuts to delay enactment for the sake of retribution. The real travesty is that House Republicans deliberately tabled Senate-passed bills in hopes of more leverage in the 113th Congress, and as the Party fragments into disparate factions jockeying for power and influence, Americans will be left in the lurch waiting patiently for their elected officials to do the jobs they were sent to Washington to accomplish, and while the people wait, Republicans will set a new record as the least productive Congress in 71 years.