Optimism and Gridlock in the Senate: YOU SHALL NOT PASS

Shall Not Pass

A criticism of conservatives in the last several election cycles — this past Tuesday being a momentous exception — is that they weren’t interested enough in watching the movements and emerging talking points of the “other side.” They were beaten time and again because they were constantly reacting and playing defense, instead of observing their opponent’s gameplan and coming up with some anticipatory plays of their own.

Tuesday may represent a shift in that attitude. However, there’s only so much time to relax before figuring out where the Progressives want to go next. And they’re already revealing it. Gridlock, people. And it’ll be the Republicans fault. I saw it on Twitter yesterday, from a Progressive who has an uncanny ability to distill the marching orders and throw them out there first: to paraphrase, he said the more things change, the more they stay the same. It’s on the Republicans to govern now and he expects more gridlock.

You got that? Republicans will be governing and so the gridlock will be theirs.

Noah Rothman at Hotair has an excellent piece deconstructing — and offering some advice about — this not-exactly-new Democrat meme, which Jonathan Chait, as is his way, has introduced to the cresftfallen kids who are wondering just what the hell happened Tuesday:

This is a truly impressive bit of spiral thinking. During the previous two years, gridlock was bad. For the next two years, it’s bad that the GOP still wants to create gridlock to avoid taking responsibility for governing, but we need to let them continue gridlock to avoid having people get excited about them. Oh… and we just need to wait for Hillary.

Chait has recognized the importance of at least looking like you’re getting something done, even when significant accomplishments are scarce. I said it yesterday and I’ll say it again today. The gridlock dunce hat must be taken off of McConnell’s head and placed on Obama’s. Strike fast with a few quick items which might get through (start with Keystone) and then pass a series of bills designed to fix actual problems. Let Obama sign them or veto them. In terms of 2016 it honestly doesn’t matter which. If he signs them into law you have the chance to test drive your theories and show the voters that you can set things to rights. If it’s the veto pen, then you’ve done your job and it’s the White House who is blocking the lanes.

Of course what’s hilarious about Chait and my Twitter acquaintance’s assertion is that what happened Tuesday was a direct response to the gridlock of the Harry Reid style of Senate leadership. Reid was like the troll that lived under the bridge in the children’s story The Three Billy Goats Gruff. Or better yet, he was simply this.

About everything.

But there’s a pretty decent chance this new “Republicans already own the gridlock” nonsense won’t hold. (And, to be fair, if, when they begin to work, they legitimately are being untenable in their positions, then that’s a reasonable accusation. Until that time however…) President Obama, at his post-midterm press conference even expressed a sense of optimism about the future, and went so far as to adopt — I thought rather unbelievably — a friendly and almost admiring tone about Speaker Boehner and soon to be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, even talking about grabbing some bourbon with the Kentucky Senator. And, much as it would nice if it were the case, this is not because our President has, overnight, become a charitable soul. No, it’s more likely he’s reading the news (that tends to be how he gets briefed you know. (Sorry. Couldn’t resist.)). And it’s saying things like this:

If Republicans control both houses of Congress, that will give them more than their current ability to frustrate the designs of the president and his allies in the Senate. Majorities on both sides of the Hill will enable them to actually pass bills on key issues. If they do–and given the stark divisions in the House as well as in the Senate GOP caucus, that is not a given–that will put the ball in the president’s court as he will then be forced to sign or veto legislation.

And this:

“A new Republican majority wouldn’t mean we’d be able to get everything you want from Washington. But it would mean we’d be able to bring the current legislative gridlock to a merciful end,” McConnell said Saturday. “Under a new majority, our focus would be on passing legislation that improves the economy, that makes it easier for Americans to find jobs and that helps restore Americans’ confidence in their country and their government.”

He argued that six years of a Democratic president and Senate hasn’t resulted in policies that move the country forward and instead “caused Democrats to abandon trying to fix the economy in order to focus almost exclusively on protecting their control of Congress - seemingly at any cost.”

Democrats block even bills that have bipartisan support, McConnell said, in order to protect the president from having to sign or veto legislation that might anger one faction of the Democratic Party.

And even this. Which, very likely, is going to play a huge role in the leveraging of what stuff gets done because I’m not sure the ego of our current President will ever allow his signature legislation to be completely dismantled. Obamacare has become a tool in McConnell’s legislative belt.

Instead, Mr. McConnell signaled the Republican Congress will challenge Mr. Obama’s veto pen by trying to scrap the least popular aspects of Obamacare, such as a tax on medical device sales and an employer insurance mandate that defines full-time work as 30 hours per week instead of 40.

Americans “hate” the individual mandate requiring them to hold health insurance if they can afford it and do not qualify for an exemption, he added.

“I think we will be addressing that issue in a variety of different ways,” the senator told reporters.

In any event, if conservatives are smart, they will start now in a concerted efort to challenge the absurd and premature gridlock ownership question. Because the accusations from the other side are already flying. And they don’t care if they sound absurd as long as they win. That is the true ideological difference.


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