Political Animal


February 12, 2013 12:37 PM What You See Is What You Get

By Ed Kilgore

It was bad enough that House Republican Leader Eric Cantor’s Great Big Speech at the American Enterprise Institute on February 5 was largely barren of anything like the new policy ideas it was advertised to offer. The worse news, from Roll Call’s David Drucker, is that the speech was a template for a host of “messaging bills” House Republicans intend to introduce and promote in the weeks and months ahead:

Cantor said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that bills on the topics he discussed in the speech, including education, economic growth, health care and immigration, would be rolled out in the coming weeks and months. And, in fact, sources said Monday that the Virginia congressman vetted the speech with Boehner, GOP committee chairmen and other leaders before delivery to secure support for moving legislation through the House.
Republicans are still bracing for brutal fights over federal spending, enacting a fiscal 2014 budget and raising the debt ceiling, and many are relishing the debate.
But just as Obama has moved to broaden his agenda beyond fiscal issues and turned to executive orders to implement change opposed by the GOP, House Republican leaders hope to take control of the political debate by eschewing fights with the president and pursuing a more diverse policy course than that which guided the first two years of their new majority and focusing attention on what they would do if they ran Washington.

Interesting parallel, eh? Obama’s moved to executive actions because congressional Republicans have obstructed any legislative progress on any of the country’s big problems. Congressional Republicans are moving to “messaging bills”—which unlike executive actions have no impact whatsoever—because they have obstructed any legislative progress on any of the country’s big problems.

More generally, the coffee’s really getting stale in the waiting room for Republican “new ideas.” Yeah, they can dust off school vouchers, block grants, tax subsidies for child-bearing, tax bribes for corporate investment, and so on and so forth, but at some point they have to move from anecdote and example to an actual agenda. Since the Ryan Budget is the closest thing they’ve produced to one of those in many years, that’s all we’ve really got to go by. Otherwise, what little you see is what little’s you’ll get.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • c u n d gulag on February 12, 2013 1:10 PM:

    The Republicans, having determined to roll-back this country to at least the Gilded Age, haven't had any new ideas since they ran against Woodrow Wilson.

    And the only contructive things they've helped with, is the building of the interstate national highway system, and helping pass civil rights, the EPA, and OSHA.

    Everything else has been focused on wiping out any vestiges of "The Great Societ;" and "The New Deal;" civil rights for blacks, women, and now gays; and giving the robber barons and their monopolies in this country free rein to run the country any way they choose - as long as it's done with some Jesusy goodness.

  • schtick on February 12, 2013 1:19 PM:

    The only time the teapubs have a new idea is when the dems come up with one and they try to push it as their own. In order to come with ideas, they have to have a brain and they can't find the yellow brick road to Oz to get brains.

  • Josef K on February 12, 2013 1:25 PM:

    but at some point they have to move from anecdote and example to an actual agenda

    Why on earth would they "have" to do that?

    I think we can agree these bills are designed from the start to be nothing but theatre, the illusion of Congress Actually Doing Something But Was Stopped By The President So He Is To Blame For How Bad Things Are.

    The only people likely to take this seriously is some of the newer GOP officeholders (who seriously think these retreads of discredited ideas will actually work), the GOP base voter (who doesn't realize its just theatre) and maybe the Sunday morning pundits (who probably realize its theatre but have a vested interest in ginning up controversy).

    As such, and as the GOP conference is so well insulated from the negative consequences of their failures, exactly why should they develop a real agenda? They're playing bread and circuses again, and have already demonstrated they don't give a hoot how moldy the bread is or worn out the acts are.

  • OKDem on February 12, 2013 1:35 PM:

    Can anyone explain how this differs from countless anti-abortion bills, defunding of arts, genetic research, renewable energy and PBS?

    All I hear is more of the same, only louder and more stupid.

  • rdale on February 12, 2013 3:20 PM:

    Ah, message bills! This is something the Utah State Legislature is famous for; rather than actually, you know, trying to solve problems, they'd rather make a big show of "sending a message" to whomever. I've started calling these "middle finger bills." Middle finger to the citizens, middle finger to the environmental community, middle finger especially to the hated FED'ruhl GUB'mint.

  • Rick B on February 12, 2013 3:23 PM:

    How can the Repubs possibly base their policies on good practice and workable governance when as currently established the Republicans are the reaction to the Civil Rights Movement and all its spin-offs. The spin-offs include feminism, the surfacing and main streaming of LGBT people as normal humans (rather than moral and criminal deviants to be oppressed) and most recently the continued and no longer ignored influx of workers from Mexico.

    All of these newly acceptable groups have moved to cities while the farms are to a surprising degree becoming depopulated. The last 60 years have seem massive social changes in America and the older white dominant class has been repeatedly order by the federal government to accept the changes or else.

    Technology and population growth have forced the changes, but that is not clear to the frightened conservatives who just want the changes to STOP! Bill Buckley said it for them in the 50's.

    As long as people look at those changes rationally and try to accommodate them - as good government requires - those changes will continue. So conservatives retreat into irrationality and act blind in the face of the large social changes they hate. They fantasize that they can elect politicians who promise to return to the old stable society where everyone knew their place and the white race dominated the lesser beings who are currently the symptoms of change.

    The Republican policies are to remove power from the federal government - and thus (they fantasize) stop the changes. Defund the government, prevent it from goveerning (EPA, FDA, etc.) and shrink the government workforce. Much of the power of the federal government came from WW I, the Depression and WW II with Korea. By the late 1960's it was clear the USSR was no more threat to America than China is today, so the federal government did not need the power it used to force integration. (The Reagan people were lying about the Soviet threat to gain political power.)

    And now Bush and the Great Recession have proven we can't go back, but the conservatives will not accept that answer. They are just going to have to die off. And they are doing it. Ryan and Rubio are just political opportunists riding the wave of conservative fear as far as they can.

    Abortion and contraception were great markers in the destruction of the patriarchal society that is going on even now. They remain battle grounds for the freedom of women.

  • Rick B on February 12, 2013 3:42 PM:

    Sorry for the double post. The server gave me an error message so I tried again. Then both appeared.

    [fixed - mod.]