Rain of Foolishness
Terry H. Schwadron
Jan. 27, 2023
We’re witnessing enough of a bombardment of foolishness from House Republicans that even Senate Republicans are turning away in disgust.
It’s not just one issue or one action: The series of mobilizing on the political Right for vengeance and retribution for perceived partisan wrongs, the advancement of ridiculous and futile legislative homages to tax-and-spend ideas that seem to be going nowhere, the dominance of partisan personality slaps and feigned ignorance of real ethical lapses is simply annoying.
Nothing is getting done by this Republican House majority in a spectacularly wasteful — and often contradictory — way.
It is difficult to see how this approach bows to even the most extreme expressions of protest against the Biden administration if nothing sticks.
It is more than being seen as the party of striking out at selected Democrats in retribution for the last session’s decision to strip extreme Republicans of committee assignments; Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s moves against Democrats Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell and Ilhan Omar just look like playground antics, not governing — and McCarthy make even lack the votes to make the Omar move stick. To do so while specifically ignoring the obvious ethical issues of the lying Rep. George Santos (R-NY) just makes it worse.
The consideration of bills to eliminate the Internal Revenue Service, to roll back money approvals to hire approved IRS hires and to replace the income tax world with what amounts to a 30 percent tax on goods we purchase make no financial sense and apparently just appeal to campaign promises to create chaos. They have no chance of even coming up for a vote in the Senate.
And these same Rightists, who are demanding bipartisan “negotiations” to cancel already approved spending before they vote to pay our national debt bills, are losing credibility by never coming forth with even a statement of what they want to see happen. In its place, Democrats are freely wandering the spending range with legitimate arguments that there is nothing to negotiate about.
Proposals Don’t Add Up
If McCarthy, speaking for the Freedom Caucus wing now running his whole House majority, is now promising — against earlier promises — not to touch Social Security, Medicare and selected other programs, it is even difficult to see how he and his mates expect to achieve a substantial enough cut in spending though these non-negotiations to make a dent in a $31 trillion federal debt.
You don’t pay down debt by proposals to cut tax revenue and promote futile refusals to pay for already incurred bills.
McCarthy has pushed himself to the front of his party by selling off his speakership support to his most right-wing supporters and their slogans at the cost of getting anything passed in Congress.
Indeed, even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell seems to be ready to leave McCarthy and his nutty view that debt ceiling payments are somehow optional hanging in the breeze without the necessary backing of his own party colleagues in the Senate.
Even the first innings of confrontation with the administration through a maze of oversight committees are being turned back.
The Justice Department has rejected the idea of offering demanded documents about live cases, including the details of what has been retrieved from classified documents found at the homes of Donald Trump, Joe Biden and Mike Pence, and the CIA is resisting characterizing the contents of the documents until told by the two special counsels put in place by Justice that they can do so. The Treasury Department has resisted serving up documents about Hunter Biden without explanation from House committees about why they need them.
Other current and former administration officials are responding to congressional inquiries by asking what the investigating committees want to know rather than turning over zillions of documents for open-ended fishing in public for ways to throw shade at the Biden group.
In short, if these first weeks of Congress have been an audition for McCarthy and the Freedom Caucus, it would be impossible to give them a grade above public embarrassment.
Of course, it’s early, and McCarthy’s tactics to keep his Speaker’s job are dangerous enough that he may yet earn a chance to pressure the White House, the Senate, Democrats and the U.S. economy over debt payments.
There are too many congressional tricks and workarounds to guarantee that anything resembling governing might yet emerge. Smartly, McCarthy has met with Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who needs to look spending-conscious before his own reelection campaign in a red state.
Eventually, Santos will be challenged legally, giving McCarthy the shade to eject a public relations disaster, and the special counsels looking at classified documents will relent to a degree of bipartisan pressure to allow at least a categorization of whether these different cases have put any intelligence sources at risk. The committees to challenge the “weaponization” of government will get underway even if there is no substantial reason for their existence.
McCarthy might even notch a victory for rationality by proposing a bipartisan group to look at what gets classified and why outgoing administrations cannot have disappearance-proof procedures for moving any government documents.
Somehow, it seems as if McCarthy is doing exactly what he wants to be doing — failingly supporting bad ideas for the personal privilege of being Speaker even at the expense of orderly government.
But from the cheap seats, it all seems like reason to turn off the television, skip the news and hope that they all stop talking. It’s hard to see that as political success.