White House

President Obama Outplayed Republicans Again – So Stop Complaining

It is a safe bet that everyone, at some point in their lives, has jumped to a conclusion based on errant information or, worse, failure to see beyond their own biases. On more than one occasion, President Obama has been the recipient of unfair criticism from the left and members of his own party simply because they failed to comprehend he was thinking several steps ahead of them. Republicans have still not learned this lesson and despite outrage from the left, the so-called CRomnibus passed and John Boehner and Mitch McConnell now understand that the President just punked them again; he also won some major victories in getting the funding bill passed. In fact, as a former anonymous congressional staffer remarked, Obama deftly manipulated Republicans into what is a “Total public repudiation of their ultra-right wing nullification caucus they had planned for the rest of his term.”

First, John Boehner never intended for Congress to pass the CRomnibus. His deceitful plan was to insert what he thought were a couple of poison pills Democrats would rail against so Republicans could pass a very short-term funding bill. In fact, House leadership promised to pull the CRomnibus for lack of votes and replace it with a short-term continuing resolution that would push the entire funding debate into early next year when Republicans could enact their “Obama nullification” agenda for the Koch brothers.

Now, a Republican-controlled Congress has lost its “power of the purse” to eviscerate several federal agencies in 2015. Remember, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had already promised the Koch brothers last June that when Republicans controlled the House and Senate, they would “go after the federal government, all of it” in 2015 by threatening to shut down the government unless Obama caved. It was an ill-advised plan that President Obama anticipated and thwarted.

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The Republican leadership intended to use a rash of short term government funding emergencies, and a series of shutdown crises, to force Obama’s hand on several issues including repealing Dodd-Frank in its entirety, eliminating the Environmental Protection Agency, reverse the President’s immigration action, and repeal the health law. It is important to remember, that Republicans were not too concerned about blowback from shutting down the government because they did not suffer any negative repercussions from the October 2013 shutdown as evidenced by their midterm victories last month.

Indeed, there is still a relatively large contingent of Republicans and conservative voters who support using the shutdown threat to blackmail the President to enact a “purely conservative agenda.” That threat is now non-existent because Obama eliminated Republican’s promised plan to use funding the government as leverage to advance the Koch brothers’ agenda for the rest of the President’s term. Republicans cannot use the shutdown threat throughout 2015 and they certainly will not try it going into the 2016 presidential primaries.

There was, and still is, outrage among progressives and liberals alike about the so-called end of the 2010 financial reform law (Dodd-Frank), but the provision inserted into the CRomnibus is relatively insignificant. The lion’s share of the 2010 financial reform law is completely intact, and since the President prevented a Republican Congress from using funding the government to repeal the entire law, it is safe. There is an easy to understand explanation of why the “push-out” rule governing “some” commodities is the least important aspect of Dodd-Frank here. Not only does the provision in the CRomnibus not affect all derivative swaps, it has no impact on most of them and leaves the highly effective financial reform law intact and Republicans have no leverage to repeal or gut the successful law.

One has to give Republicans credit for creativity in devising so-called poison pills to kill the funding bill such as allegedly eliminating the Clean Water Act’s enforcement power. The provision in the CRomnibus prohibited the EPA from using the CWA to regulate backyard and agricultural ponds and ditches, a provision that was already firmly entrenched in the law. However, without investigating exactly what the Republican rider actually said, the idea drew outrage from environmentalists concerned the CWA was finished; including this column.

Even though the idea of cutting retirement benefits is abominable, the rider in the CRomnibus was supported by unions and multi-company plan administrators because some badly-managed pension funds are on the verge of insolvency; and soon. The director of the National Coordinating Committee for Multi-employer Plans saidThis bipartisan agreement gives pension trustees the tools they need to maintain plan solvency, preserves benefits for the long haul, and protects the 10.5 million multi-employer participants. With time, and money, running out on the retirement security of millions of Americans, moving this bipartisan proposal forward now is not only timely, but necessary.” The danger, however, is allowing the Koch brothers’ State Policy Network and American Legislative Exchange Council use the threat of insolvency to go after other pension plans, including public sector plans that are very healthy due to Wall Street’s growth thanks to President Obama’s handling of the economy.  But now that Republicans cannot use funding the government as a hostage, their promise to the Koch brothers will go unfulfilled.

Once again, President Obama has out-maneuvered Republican plans to further wreak havoc on the nation, and although a clean funding bill would have been ideal, it was never going to happen because Republicans. Boehner once again miscalculated the President’s ability to see through a dirty devious plan to hold the country hostage every 60 days with government funding crises that were certain to last throughout the rest of the President’s term. With no shutdown threats to extract concessions the people would regret in the short and long term, the President not only saved the people a world of misery, he outplayed Republicans and eliminated their ability to use the budget process to enact the Koch brothers’ agenda.


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