So for now it’s over. Back to work, all yea federal government workers!
Here is a pretty concise explanation of things in Washington these days from Republican Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana: “Our country was founded by geniuses, but it’s being run by idiots.”
The January 2018 shutdown of the federal government may be over, but given the climate that exists in national politics, governance problems are far from being solved. Things are pretty screwed up and there is not a lot of reason to think that it will get better any time in the near future.
There are many, many issues, and for sure, they are very complicated: approving three-week budgets; DACA and other immigration issues; the children’s health program; community health centers; funding for disaster relief; and the extension of the federal debt limit, which is right around the corner. Undoubtedly these are issues that would also boggle the minds of the “geniuses” who founded the country.
An important difference between the founders and the current president and members of Congress, however, is a lack of willingness to compromise. It was easier for the founders to compromise because parties hadn’t yet come into existence, which of course meant that party bases also did not exist.
Ah, the bases. The extreme portions of both parties, both dedicated to their own exclusive principles, and both sure they are right in all things. Both bases abhor compromise as a sell-out.
The thing is, as the expression goes, elections have consequences. This means when one party wins an election their base gets to tag along. It also means that that base, however small in numbers it may be, often winds up with some outsized power.
The base that belongs to the governing party assumes that they are entitled to dictate policy and legislation. The problem is that the majority of the majority might not buy into extreme positions.
The base that belongs to the party in the legislative minority, on the other hand, has difficult issues too. They also think that they are entitled to dictate policy and legislation, but the minority party base has two problems: (1) the majority of the minority might not buy into extreme positions; and (2) they do not have enough votes to do anything unless the majority party allows them to do it. In the Senate, the Democratic base at the moment needs to understand that 49 is less than 51. In the House, the Democratic bases needs to understand that 194 is less than 218. Not in the majority? Deal with it.
As the January 2018 shutdown came to an end there were hard feelings all around in both bases. Republican far-righters are ticked off about any concession to Democrats. Democratic far-lefters see any movement toward the center as treason, their position being that getting nothing and standing on principle is better than getting something.
Like it or not, the something in the recent deal was a six year extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). That is something, the pundits tell us, that everyone supports. The program ended last September and the congressional majority held nine million children and their families hostage ever since – a shameful and cynical act. But politics ain’t beanbag.
Pretty much standing on the sidelines through most of the past few days, except for a few tweets, was President Jell-O. “Negotiating with President Trump is like negotiating with Jell-O,” Minority Leader Chuck Schumer complained. “It’s next to impossible.” President Snowflake (a better nickname) evidently spent the weekend brooding in Washington about missing his celebratory gala at Mar-a-Lago.
Trump is more than useless because he keeps gumming up anything that is going on. His positions change by the hour, often controlled by the crew of “Fox and Friends.” Even Senate Leader Mitch McConnell was complaining last week, noting “I’m looking for something that President Trump supports, and he’s not yet indicated what measure he’s willing to sign.”
Trump continues to promote the idea that the Senate should invoke the “nuclear option” by changing their rules to eliminate the filibuster option, allowing legislation to be approved by a simple 51 vote majority. That procedure has already been changed for judicial, cabinet and sub-cabinet confirmation votes. Such a move would turn the Senate into just a smaller version of the House of Representatives with longer terms in office. It’s the type of “reform” that would sooner or later allow a Democratic president and Congress to get things taken care of expeditiously.
Finally, the last monkey wrench in the whole messed up picture comes from the 32-year-old twerp who controls Trump’s mind, alt-righter Stephen Miller. Senator Lindsay Graham notes that “every time we have a proposal it is only yanked back by staff members. As long as Stephen Miller is in charge of negotiating immigration, we’re going nowhere.”
Miller is noteworthy for having been recently escorted off the set of a Sunday talk show by security officers when he went into a rage. And who can forget Miller at a White House press briefing early in 2017 when he uttered the immortal words, “the president’s authority will not be questioned.”
So there we have it at the moment. Another three week extension of the federal budget, that will be followed the same sort of theatrics, likely followed by another short extension of the budget; and then possibly another and another. The upcoming extension of the debt ceiling debate should be a real show stopper.
As a former participant and longtime observer of politics, I totally get the idea that people can get worked up about positions they believe in. That doesn’t, however, make the world go round. Compromise is difficult and boring and essential.
It’s very hard to imagine any long-term solutions to the problems the country faces while Donald Trump is president. A man who is wishy-washy, believes in nothing but himself, is not too bright, lacks any attention span, and who is surrounded by extremist advisors is doomed to failure.
So in the meantime, we should concentrate attention on more manageable matters, such as control of the House of Representatives. Gee, there is a congressman right here in Western New York who seems to keep stepping in doo-doo and who needs some attention.
Follow me on Twitter @kenkruly