Political Animal


January 26, 2013 1:53 PM Four years later, is the GOP finally ready to legislate?

By Samuel Knight

It’s been a rough few months for the GOP. Barack Obama is no one-term President; Mitch McConnell’s dream has been consigned to the dustbin of history. The only reason John Boehner wasn’t exiled to K Street is that his party retained the House through gerrymandering — Dems’ slim command of the aggregate popular vote only netted the party eight additional seats. The GOP also lost high profile Senate races to progressive Dems in Massachusetts and Wisconsin.

But somewhat shockingly, the party appears to be embracing logic by distancing itself from the right-wing extremism that saw it spanked raw in November.

According to The Hill, at a private meeting on Tuesday, Boehner said, in previously unreported remarks, that it was “time to deal” with immigration reform — an issue dear to President Obama — and that a bipartisan group of lawmakers in the House have a deal that they’re ready to advance.

“My theory was, if these folks could work this out, it’d be a big step in the right direction,” Boehner said. “So I would think you’d hear a lot more about immigration reform on the House side soon.”

The details haven’t been divulged, but Boehner said lawmakers involved include “some of the hard heads on our side, and some of the people involved on immigration reform on their side.” The latter makes it seem likely that a path to citizenship is involved in the deal.

Who’d have thought that bipartisanship might finally incorporate the wishes of the Democratic Party’s base? And it’s being driven by the House of Representatives, to boot.

But wait! There are even more signs that Republicans are ready to eschew the intransigence of the last four years.

According to The Hill, again, former Republican Congressman gone-MSNBC-turncoat Joe Scarborough, “tested his Republican bona fides at the National Review Institute summit on Saturday, and emerged a favorite of the conservative crowd.”

And Scarborough won over the mob, despite reading Republican brass the Riot Act.

Scarborough…got the panel’s biggest round of applause when he savaged the record of former President George W. Bush.
“Bush was a big-government Republican,” Scarborough said. “When you say this and start going down the list, some Republicans get offended…but he completely muddied the brand in terms of what has always been our core issue….we are the party of small government…what George W. Bush did over eight years was destroy our brand.”
Scarborough has been criticized by some on the right for breaking with the party on a variety of issues, including gun control and what he’s called the GOP’s tax increase “absolutism.” On Saturday, Scarborough criticized the GOP for not pushing to break up the big banks and for embracing fringe issues, like contraception, on the campaign trail.

Maybe Republicans — particularly those in the House — have realized that they need to start reaching across the aisle if they want to make gains in 2014 and 2016. It would help explain why Michele Bachmann failed to get a single cosponsor for her umpteenth attempt to repeal Obamacare.

In the long run, this could be bad news for Democrats. As the GOP seeks to widen its appeal, it might actually succeed. But it’s good news for Americans. Republican obstructionism — the manufactured debt ceiling crisis, and the fiscal cliff creation and aversion that it led to — has only damaged an already sluggish economy.

Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.


  • GOPStillCrazyAfterAllTheseWeeks on January 26, 2013 3:18 PM:

    The GOP could very well come to their senses, as Power not Ideology is the ultimate objective of many, but I dunno.

    However, your evidence is largely coming from the perspective of the GOP Elite. Even though Scarborough is an apostate to some, he's not really that far off from the corporate interests of the GOP who want the lunatics to pipe down so that they can gut regulation, cut taxes, etc. The national review is not exactly tea party central.

    And I am also skeptical about Boehner's pronouncements. The fact that he didn't allow the debt ceiling fight to blow up is perhaps a sign that he has his caucus under control, but I wonder what he had to give up. Indeed, now that he asked the knuckledraggers to give up on the debt ceiling fight (for 3 mos), it may make them even less likely to compromise on other stuff.

    Bottom line: A good solid third of our country are nativists bordering on racists who hate the fact that brown people are entering the country illegally. Are we really saying that they have suddenly seen the light because an MSNBC pundit got a good reception at a speech? I'm skeptical.

  • John on January 26, 2013 3:23 PM:

    That Scarborough speech just likes the same thing Republicans have been saying about Bush for the last four years - that he was a bad president because he wasn't conservative enough. That's not a new departure.

  • Rabbler on January 26, 2013 3:53 PM:

    If we can convince ourselves that the Republicans are moderating, the easier it will be to continue the relentless march to the right.

  • c u n d gulag on January 26, 2013 4:58 PM:

    Joe is a slick shill for these sh*theads.

    And yeah, W was a big-spender. So was Reagan. H.W. Bush was too, but at least he tried to pay for his spending - and lost.

    If/when Republicans get power again, they'll cut taxes for the richest, and spend a ton of money on the military.

    Nothing to see here. Move along...

  • candideinnc on January 26, 2013 5:15 PM:

    Any movement to be reasonable will be welcome. It might actually come on immigration. It is also great to hear them talk about breaking up the big banks, but I wouldn't hold my breath on that one. The right is owned by the corporations.

    In the long run, I don't care who implements the policies, Democrats or Rethugs. To have a functioning government that works on problems rather than power politics is our ultimate goal.

    That doesn't mean I would ever actually vote for a Republican, though. "W's" failures weren't, as Scarborough said, in being big government. He put reactionaries on the Supreme Court, he fought all efforts to improve the environment, he stonewalled the rights movements of all minorities--women, blacks, Hispanics, gays, and he made militarism the national policy, destroying America's reputation standing in the workld community. There are plenty of reasons to hate the party, even if they were to reform a bit.

  • Mad_nVt on January 26, 2013 5:53 PM:

    Yo Sam,

    Hard to believe that the GOP can turn a corner after a steady 30 years of "cut taxes, more defense, more war, more God, less civil rights, less voting rights, more the-rich-get-richer-everybody-else-gets-screwed."

    Maybe. Or maybe the GOP sees the spineless slug Dems in the Senate go all squishy on filibuster reform, so figure that they can lull them some more by talking sweetly.

    We'll see. Actions speak louder than words.

  • Joe Friday on January 26, 2013 6:38 PM:

    "Bush was a big-government Republican," Scarborough said. "When you say this and start going down the list, some Republicans get offended ... but he completely muddied the brand in terms of what has always been our core issue ... we are the party of small government ... what George W. Bush did over eight years was destroy our brand."

    This is a dodge.

    Sure, Chimpy Bush spent on two wars and on a Corporate Welfare for the pharmaceutical companies, all unpaid for, but the massive federal deficits & debt are from the numerous rounds of tax cuts which overwhelmingly benefited the Rich & Corporate, which remains a core issue for the Republicans.

    What destroyed their brand was the repeated failure of their favorite core policies. Chimpy Bush was merely blamed by the American people for implementing them.

  • rrk1 on January 26, 2013 6:53 PM:

    Breaking the sacred commandment for Rethugs - thou shalt not speak ill of another Rethug - is becoming routine, and may it flourish and flower. The uneasy coalition of racists, religious fascists, corporate fascists, anarchists and the dumbanti-intellectuals that Reagan assembled is coming undone as it had to.

    But the Rethugs seem to have learned little if anything from their November spanking. The war on women continues, Boner doesn't have control of his caucus as we'll see when something comes up for a vote. He will need Democratic support for any immigration reform that emerges, and that will only weaken him with his gang of thugs.

    Unfortunately, Harry Reid has dealt Obama a lethal blow by capitulating, I know it's his style, on the filibuster. The country will continue to be ungovernable, and I fear the Rethugs will take the Senate in 2014, which will effectively make Obama useless. He's pretty close to that now.

  • Anonymous on January 26, 2013 7:22 PM:

    Unfortunately, Harry Reid has dealt Obama a lethal blow by capitulating, I know it's his style, on the filibuster

    This is bad for appointments, but totally irrelevant in terms of the next two years of legislating. As long as Republicans control the House, it doesn't make any difference whether we have a 60 vote Senate or a 50 vote Senate.

  • DiTurno on January 26, 2013 11:08 PM:

    The Republicans might be moving to the center, because Joe Scarborough made a speech? Right.

  • superdestroyer on January 27, 2013 8:47 AM:

    The Democrats cannot scream gerrymandering when the majority-minority districts created to elect liberal black and Hispanic Democrts leaves the rest of the districts with fewer automatic Democratic Party voters.

    The Democrats could easily have a majority of the seats in the House if they would break up the majoirty-minority districts that the current Voting Rights Act requires.

  • Domage on January 27, 2013 9:12 AM:

    Republicans can't move in any direction except ever more rightward. As long as the Teahadists control the primary process, the GOP is stuck. And thanks to Dick Armey, the Tea Party will have an iron lock on the primaries as far into the future as the eye can see.

  • CharlieM on January 27, 2013 11:14 AM:

    Moderating their intransigence? Puh-leez.
    Anyone who would believe this is a dupe.
    These guys are doing exactly what they said they would do - work on their messaging. This is all about form, not substance.
    They're putting lipstick on a pig.

  • Rick B on January 27, 2013 5:11 PM:

    To answer your question: Is the GOP finally ready to legislate? No.

    There is no effective legislation that will stop the steady erosion of local power towards the federal government. Urbanization and modernization require federal standardization of markets. Those markets in our economy provide not only end product goods and services but also the input to companies in terms of raw materials and labor. All of those markets must be made transparent and open if free markets are to exist. America's continued development and modernization requires the standardization and regulation that only the federal government can provide.

    That standardization is, among other things, the source of the civil rights movements of racial, ethnic, and gender groups. Modern society requires a labor force educated in a mass public education system that provides relatively standardized education and it requires a labor force motivated by the belief that everyone is equal (no priviliged classes as in rural small towns) and has generally equal opportunity to succeed at jobs they work hard at.

    The alternative is to allow a balkanized system of tiny quasi-monopolies to exist around America, each dominated by an independent ruling class that is above the law. That defines much of the rural small town set of economies that are the source of the conservatives. They are the "red" counties.

    Any effective federal legislation will limit the power of the local oligarchies, represented by people such as Paul Ryan. It's that erosion of local power wielded by the local dominant class which the conservatives are fighting against. So will the GOP legislate at the federal level?

    They can't. That is surrender to the masses in the cities.