If you think governmental dysfunction has been alleviated by the midterm elections, think again. As the Republicans prepare to take control of both houses of the Congress, the same elements that have produced gridlock between the legislature and the presidency remain in place despite pledges from key players to try to make things work for a change.
Barack Obama, for his part, seems determined to take immigration reform into his own hands with executive action. The GOP conservatives in the House and Senate are threatening once again to shut down the government in an attempt to dissuade the president.
All this prompts most Americans to utter in unison, “Give us a break, for crying out loud!” Well, at least it ought to.
Caught in between the hardliners in their caucuses and Obama’s determination to make his last two years as a meaningful politician less of a disaster are House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose step up in power may be the consummate cautionary tale about being careful what you wish for. By the Election Day in 2016, McConnell may be struggling for his sanity.
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His (and Boehner’s) pledge (if it can be called that) to keep their party’s radicals from pushing the stop-work button may already be so strained that it will become just another historic note of failed good intentions even before the new majority takes over.
Rightists who want to use the funding of the federal government as leverage to stop Obama’s plan to prevent the deportation of millions of illegal aliens through his executive power are offering a short-term solution that would keep the shutdown at bay until early next year when they assume control of the Senate.
Their own version of immigration reform seems to be simply ramping up southern border security with no steps toward amnesty even for those who have been here for years. The GOP’s hard-nose wing wants the road ahead for a whole batch of undocumented workers to lead straight back to where they came from, no matter their productivity. The motto of this approach appears to be only “get the (chose your expletive) out!”
Complicating any sort of detente between Capitol Hill and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is the president’s decision to veto anything he doesn’t think advances his agenda, whatever that is. His first use of this power may be a bill approving the Keystone XL Pipeline that would transport oil from Canada’s tar sands to the Gulf of Mexico. Having indicated some time ago that he favored the pipeline, but having done nothing to implement it, he now apparently has decided it is an environmental threat that needn’t be risked because the oil would be meant for overseas. It wouldn’t help the nation’s petroleum situation a tad.
This, of course, ignores the valid argument that the pipeline poses less of an environmental threat than putting the stuff in trucks and rail tankers and hauling it south through cities and countryside. The approval bill now making its way through the Congress is one designed to influence the outcome of the Senate race in Louisiana between incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu and Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy. Both have supported the legislation.
It would be easy to assign much of the blame for America’s governmental dysfunction to intransigent conservatives, who at times seem more like anarchists who desire not merely smaller central control but none whatsoever. But that would be to ignore the chief executive’s inability to connect not only with the lawmakers he must depend on but also with much of the electorate, his two triumphs at the polls notwithstanding. Disappointment would be the byword for those who took heart in his promises only to realize later that his personality and experience were woefully inadequate for the inside game of politics.
So if you have any hope that dysfunction is about to end and that the sun will rise tomorrow on a more reasonable and less reactionary Washington, you should write your congressman and your president and see where that gets you.
Email Mr. Thomasson at email@example.com.