New Congress at war over everything

&tIn a closed-door meeting before the last vote on the children’s health care bill, House Majority Leader Steny H. Hoyer appealed for the support of about 30 wavering Republican lawmakers. What he got instead was a tongue-lashing, participants said.

“And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring;”
—Luke 21:25

“But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.”
—Luke11:17

The GOP lawmakers, all of whom had expressed interest in a bipartisan deal on the SCHIP legislation, were furious that the Democratic leader from Maryland had not reached out to them in a more serious way early on. They also criticized him and Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel of Illinois for failing to stop his allies outside Congress from running attack ads in their districts, while they were discussing a bipartisan deal.

The result was a predictable one for this bitterly divided Congress. The House vote for a second SCHIP bill was a healthy majority, but not the two-thirds needed to override another veto vowed by President Bush. Only one Republican switched his vote — to oppose the measure.

Democrats accused Republicans of hurting kids. Republicans howled about a heavy-handed, uncompromising Democratic majority. And another chance at bipartisan consensus slipped away.

“They spent $1.5 million through their various shill outreach groups attacking me and a handful of my colleagues,” Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fla.) said before the Hoyer meeting, “but they did not spend five minutes to approach me to ask for my vote.”

This us-against-them mentality has been an ongoing storyline of the new Democratic -controlled Congress. On the big items — Iraq, health care and spending — party leaders have shunned compromise.

Democrats are under tremendous pressure from liberal activists to take a hard-line approach against everything Bush. Republicans face similar pressure from their own base to stick with the president and prove they are serious about curtailing spending, even if it means less cash for a popular state-run health care program for children not covered by Medicaid.

Bush has only inflamed those tensions. He has threatened to veto Democratic legislation 46 times this year, according to data compiled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). House Democrats have circulated a tally that puts the number at 35.

Whatever the number, the White House has been predictably confrontational — and so have Democrats.
The irony of the feud is that huge chunks of both parties are actually not far apart on the details of these big bills.

Consider Iraq. A large number of Republicans and Democrats would like to see limitations on both the duration of the war and the role of the U.S. military. And moderates such as Rep. Jim Walsh (R-N.Y.) have made it clear they could back a delicately constructed compromise. In fact, Walsh issued an open-ended statement urging Bush and Congress to implement a new strategy for the war the same morning Army Gen. David Petraeus testified in the House about the military situation in Iraq.

“I owe it to the people in my district to explain where I stand on the war,” Walsh said. But Democrats, convinced they could not force the war’s end, rejected calls by some in their own party to find a consensus and instead shifted focus to other concerns, including corruption and wasteful spending in Iraq.

The SCHIP debate is similar. Almost every Democrat, and a large bloc of Republicans, wants to increase spending for the popular program. But Democratic leaders have consistently framed the issue along party lines, arguing Republicans won’t spend as much on children. And some mostly moderate Republicans complained to Hoyer and Emanuel last week that they had not seriously reached out to would-be allies on the other side of the aisle. Now, discussions for a serious compromise are finally underway.

The partisan deadlock is also creating more problems for the new majority. Rank-and-file Democrats have turned on their leaders this fall in a series of minor upheavals, forcing them to suspend consideration of bills to update warrantless wiretapping laws, reclassify the killing of ethnic Armenians almost a century ago, expand workplace protections for gays and lesbians and require all electronic voting machines to produce paper records.

Republicans, meanwhile, have done everything in their power to slow the legislative apparatus with the few procedural tools available to them.

It is possible, though unlikely, that the survival instinct will eventually force a behavioral change in the new Congress. Neither side wants a government shutdown, so it is likely they’ll cut a budget deal — even though conservatives are bracing for a showdown.

Both sides are alarmed by the public’s low regard for the jobs they are doing. The Republican brand is in tatters; Democrats are reviewing poll after poll showing sagging popularity not only of Congress but also of their congressional leaders. So, some lawmakers have begun to argue, it just might be in everyone’s interest to show that Washington can actually tackle a serious issue without all of the theatrics and games.

The energy bill might be the turning point. With both sides desperate for a legislative achievement, Bush and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) have displayed rare, if quiet, cooperation on the issue. Both are attracted to the idea of providing new incentives to spur the development and use of alternative fuels, and a mix of spending and tax cuts to limit environmental damage.

But Republicans and some Democrats on Capitol Hill are already grumbling that the two leaders will cut them out of the negotiations on what could be an important political fight for both sides, creating a significant hurdle for legislation that has not yet been unveiled.

  1. Warren, 30 October, 2007

    Has anyone noticed that this type of thing is common now? I mean, every day there is someone that is willing to argue with you about something. But not just argue but become very emotional about it, as if they are right, not matter what you might say. even if you have facts to back you up.

    The Bible says it like this and “everyone is right in their own eyes”

  2. Lance Gilman, 30 October, 2007

    American’s can’t agree on the foundation established 200+ years ago at Independence Hall(*if they know about it!), let alone agree on energy policies, education, health care reform or anything else.

    Whatever happened to self-evident truth’s?
    Like faith in God (the Biblical Triune and only living God)?
    The one more than 95% of the founders believed in and worshipped and wrote the governing documents with His wisdom and commands in mind.

    Largely the Democratic controlled congress has been a waste of time.
    Won’t get better until the next election or two.
    Bad leadership, no vision that unites us. Just unrelenting criticism of the presidents policies for one purpose – to try and win the White House and discredit republicans. Forget about what they were elected to DO.
    They ought to be ashamed of themselves.

    Just like my grandmother used to say,
    “Makes me so mad, I could just spit!”

    * One day while in home Depot I randomly asked a half dozen people if they knew what event happened back in 1776 that made this country so great. Nobody gave me the answer, not even close. From teenagers to adults in their 50’s. They all said, “ummm…I don’t know.”
    I was shocked. Scary!

  3. Linda, 30 October, 2007

    They didn’t seem to have a problem voting in a pay increase & a 4-day work week for themselves!
    Instead, it should have been pink slips for all & mandatory 6-day work weeks until they started behaving like statesmen rather than flunkies.

    (that’s what we would get for that kind of job performance)

  4. Sebrena, 02 November, 2007

    Amen sister Linda!!

    In the last days the Word tells us that men will be prideful, boastful, lovers of themselves, on….and on…..

    Seems to me we are living in the final days before The King of Kings comes to reign.

    Come Lord Jesus Come!

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