April and May, 2013 brought an irresistible impulse among House Republicans to chase extreme legislation. That extremism, pursued so zealously, it left little to the imagination what would happen if Republicans ever governed our whole country.
We have seen the fanatical devotion to extremism in at least four areas: defense and national security policy, stripping away the safety net in hunger and nutrition, severely limting women on their right to choose and undoing George Bush the Younger’s No Child Left Behind.
Apart from the security of a presidential veto, and a Democratic Senate with its liberal and moderate majority in place until at least the 2014 elections, the House has twice risen up, and for reasons beyond extremism, reversed the extremism.
I. Defense and National Security Policy:
The House Armed Services Committee (HASC) was hell-bent on spending unneeded dollars on weapons the Pentagon doesn’t need or want while reducing available funds to get rid of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), get rid of weapons that terrorists may obtain (Nunn-Lugar provisos) and prevent the Pentagon from implementing the New Start treaty or even safely go beyond it by reducing spending and weapons to move away from the needed Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI). HASC stands in direct conflict with our US Armed Services leadership. That leadership is united in taking the most prudent steps for our protection through planned and orderly weapons reductions.
HASC even wanted to slow down our withdrawal from Afghanistan. On that they were reversed on the House floor by the effective efforts of Representatives McGovern (D-Mass) and Jones (R-NC). Their amendment encouraged a faster withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and most important, if troops stayed longer, Congress had to specifically approve the step. Congress could no longer avoid its responsibility.
The House overwhelmingly voted for the McGovern-Jones Amendment getting the votes of nearly all Democrats and a majority of Republicans. That amounted to a blow to the HASC and the Republican House leadership.
For a superb analysis of all this see Council’s Kingston Reif’s article: http://armscontrolcenter.org/issues/nuclearweapons/articles/do_you_even_have_to_hasc_house_republicans_still_love_the_bomb/.
II. Food Stamps and Nutrition
The farm bill, usually bi-partisan, had a tough road to hoe. Yes on crop insurance and the subsidies for crops and animals. But the Republicans emasculated food stamp and nutrition programs. Legislation to benefit food distribution would provide the parodox that leads to hunger and feed malnutrition.
Meanwhile enough Tea Party Republicans opposed helping the farmers and poor people. The unlikely alliance between the liberal House Democrats and the Tea Party killed the farm bill, thereby handing Boehner, Cantor and the Republican majority a devastating defeat. (As an old House patroller of legislation, that Boehner and Cantor were surprised by their defeat provides a devastating commentary on their leadership. Their competence is severely lacking. They should hang up their spikes as they can no longer lead or govern!)
Representatives McGovern (D-Mass) and DiLauro (D-Conn) led the pro-food stamp efforts and gained the support of nearly 90% of House Democrats to combine with the Tea Party rebels to defeat the farm bill. Primarily rural Democrats voted for the farm bill.
Lessons for Republicans, and I hope learned, but I’m not holding my breath, is don’t sabotage people’s safety net efforts that really work. But given the punitive amendments that were adopted, and ultimately failed with the bill’s defeat, the lesson stays unlearned.
III. Women’s Right to Choose
The House Judiciary Committee, in a partisan vote, rushed to the House floor legislation denying abortions after 22 weeks. Only six House Republicans voted against the measure. If they controlled the Senate that’s what they would try to do.
The legislation is arguably unconstitutional if it were to become law. But who knows with
our current Supreme Court conservative majority?
IV. Killing No Child Left Behind
House Republicans may want to abandon Bush the Younger’s legacy. But they don’t choose Iraq, Afghanistan, the Patriot Act. Instead they focus on what helps children, No Child Left Behind, (imperfect as it may be) and perhaps immigration reform where Bush was constructive albeit ineffective.
House Republicans have rushed a bill through Committee to make states less accountable in the use of federal education money for K-12. It lets states set their own standards, determine state’s accountability and what to do about those who under perform.
House Republicans have an Articles of Confederation mentality as they abandon anything compassionate in George W. Bush
House Republicans have demonstrated that they cannot resist extremism no matter how much it damages national security and the social fabric of our country. It speaks to the importance of the 2014 mid-year elections and the importance of securing the right to vote so it is not filled with obstacles.
June 21, 2013