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Rewarding Republican Behavior


Last week, veteran journalist Larry Margask wrote that Republican control of the House has a lot more to do with the 2012 elections than it does with, well, governing. The new House leaders plan to hold Obama’s feet to the fire on every instance of spending, we are told.

What would they cut? Well, not Medicare, not Social Security, not funding for the two wars, so they must settle for small actions, like blocking Obama’s bill to provide health care for ailing 9/11 first-responders, which was signed into law despite Republican objections, and the Child Marriage Prevention Act of 2010, which Republicans opposed because the tone of the law was soft on abortion. Beyond that, Republicans plan to rein in the EPA, though less than a year after the BP tanker explosion and oil spill one can hardly imagine Americans wanting less environmental protection. And so, the Party of No convened in the House today, passing rules that will make it easier to obstruct anything Obama might try to pass, and they’ve had a good start. Filibusters have skyrocketed to record levels since 2007, the year the Republicans became the Minority Party in both houses.

But what’s surprising is how the journalists reporting Republican bluster all agree with them. They don’t agree with the Republican goals, but with how the Republicans would define success. The narrative goes like this: “If the Republicans can indeed block everything Obama and the Democrats do, then they’ll have a good chance of winning big in 2012.” Let’s get this straight: If Jim and Mitch and their gang can successfully derail and divide, hinder and halt everything and anything coming out of Congress for the next two years, we should pat them on the back? Oh, really? At this time of unprecedented economic crisis, and fighting wars on two fronts, we should applaud the Republicans if they are genuinely able to make a mess of things? Hmm. I seem to recall weaning my kids off of that kind of behavior when they were about eight.

What’s baffling is that no national journalist reporting on this subject has pointed out the absence of a Republican plan to turn the economy around, to create jobs, or make America more competitive in the world. Indeed, while we were reading about the new House Speaker’s bravado, President Obama was quietly signing into law an overhauled Food Safety system. Also, a few days ago, American automakers reported profits all around, thanks to Obama’s actions in April 2009. So while the Republicans get ready to throw fits, the grownups must govern. Obama and the other adults in the room must try to find solutions to our problems while the Republicans proudly announce their plans to go ballistic at every turn, and just generally be in the way. I can’t believe anyone would actually applaud such actions.

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