Political Animal


January 25, 2012 4:20 PM House GOP wants something to show for their efforts

By Steve Benen

House Republicans, both the leadership and rank-and-file members, are not unaware of their circumstances. After massive wins in the 2010 midterms, GOP officials started 2011 with high hopes.

Things haven’t exactly gone according to plan. Republicans have seen their popularity deteriorate; they’ve failed to persuade much of anyone as to the value of their policy agenda; and most independent projections suggest the GOP will lose quite a few seats, if not their majority, in November.

With this in mind, Republican leaders realize 2011 was a horrid year, and have sketched out a game plan for 2012, sharing a legislative agenda with its caucus. Jake Sherman reports today that rank-and-file GOP members have seen the plans and think it’s “lame.”

Staring nervously at a high unemployment rate, with the November elections around the corner, GOP lawmakers are concerned that what their leadership is revealing for this year’s work is simply not enough.

In short, they’re yearning for more than Speaker John Boehner’s signature infrastructure and energy production bill, and they worry they’re going to go home to campaign with a light legislative resume.

“We need to get more done,” said Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), when asked if what has been laid out is enough. “Our unemployment in Ohio is still too high — it’s 8.5 percent. I remember when Ohio had 4.5 percent unemployment.”

And with Congress’s approval ratings in the gutter, Republicans are sick of blaming the Senate for their inaction. They want real legislative victories, not just GOP bills that pass out of the House and go nowhere on the other side of the dome.

This is a healthy attitude for lawmakers to have, and it’s a fairly pleasant surprise to hear the perspective coming from a radicalized caucus. Right about now, there should be hundreds of House members coming to a clear realization: in about nine months, they’re going to ask their constituents for another term, and they’ll have nothing to show for two years worth of work.

Granted, Republicans won’t be eager to hand the White House any election-year victories, but at a certain point, self-interest also kicks in — voters are probably more inclined to like lawmakers who can point to some accomplishments. “Look at all the bills that didn’t go anywhere” makes for lousy campaign commercials.

But there’s an element here that the House GOP may not fully appreciate: if they’re going to actually legislate in 2012, they’re going to have to (cue scary music) compromise. There is, after all, a Democratic-led Senate and a Democratic White House. If any bill of consequence is going to become law — a big “if,” at this point — it’s going to need bipartisan support.

Are those saying “we need to get more done” prepared to accept concessions? Are they prepared for give and take? Are they ready to accept less than 100% of what they want, knowing that Democrats may get some of what they want?

“We can’t blame everything on the Senate. The average American doesn’t realize that,” Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) said. “We need to quit passing bills over here and cheering for ourselves when we know they’re dead on arrival over there.”

Yes, you do. And yes, the agenda put together by Boehner/Cantor is probably very thin and uninspiring.

But House Republicans who want to accomplish something are going to have to meet Democrats at least part-way, and for a long while, the very idea has been rejected by the GOP as unacceptable, if not ridiculous.

GOP members want to do something meaningful? It’s up to them to be responsible, take policymaking seriously, and sit at the big-kids’ table. I’m not optimistic.

Steve Benen is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly, joining the publication in August, 2008 as chief blogger for the Washington Monthly blog, Political Animal.


Post a comment
  • Brenna on January 25, 2012 4:25 PM:

    They're just now figuring this out? This is not a bright GOP congress.

  • pol on January 25, 2012 4:31 PM:

    Well, duh.

  • cmdicely on January 25, 2012 4:33 PM:

    They're just now figuring this out? This is not a bright GOP congress.

    I'm not sure they are just figuring it out. I think that lots of them expected that their leadership would obstruct to the extent necessary to assure that Democrats in the Senate and White House didn't see the House Republicans as pushovers, but also work to deliver some actual results that members could campaign on.

    And I think there are some indication that the leadership itself was inclined that way, as well.

    Unfortunately for almost everyone, there were also a dedicated, loud, and significant group in the caucus that actually want the leadership to say "no" on anything that the White House or Democrats in either chamber might be positively inclined toward, and that group has proven effective in redirecting the leadership in those times when it has started down the road to a compromise.

  • ComradeAnon on January 25, 2012 4:37 PM:

    We all know where this is going. Obviously they haven't blamed the Dems enough or they've compromised too much.

  • Danp on January 25, 2012 4:40 PM:

    And to think just a few short months ago "Nothing" was 98% of what Boehner wanted. That's what they got in the debt limit fight. And Nothing was supposed to be the economic cure-all. Suddenly Nothing is not enough? And Lynn Westmoreland is the one to figure out they need Something? This is the guy who couldn't name 4 commandments on the Colbert Report. I can't imagine him coming up with much.

  • zeitgeist on January 25, 2012 4:46 PM:

    it is true that to get accomplishments they will have to break ranks with the unified Republican "give Obama no accomplishments" approach. but there are a couple of hundred R's in the House and only one person will really be helped by the House falling on its sword to prevent Obama from success and that is either Mitt or Newt.

    one has to suspect breaking from the strategy is easier if you really aren't that fond of your Presidential candidate to begin with. just speculating a bit. . .

  • Sgt. Gym Bunny on January 25, 2012 4:50 PM:

    In other words:

    Oh, SHIT!!!! We need legistlative accomplishments?!?!?!

  • RepublicanPointOfView on January 25, 2012 4:53 PM:

    Our Congressional Republicans are willing to compromise with Obama on how big a surrender flag he must wave.

    Our Congressional Republicans have worked extremely hard since they retook the House and have earned every bit of their decline in popularity.

  • T2 on January 25, 2012 4:55 PM:

    the hallmark of this GOP House is that a few loud hardliners can bully the rest of the TeaBag contingent into line on most anything, and from there they bully Boner. I don't see that core wingnut bunch doing much. As a matter of fact, I'm not sure the can actually draft any significant legislation at all, much less act on it. In the end, it's going to be No Wins for Obama, and only the election can put a stop to that.

  • zeitgeist on January 25, 2012 5:01 PM:

    In the end, it's going to be No Wins for Obama, and only the election can put a stop to that.

    That may be overstating it. The message/lesson I'd really really like Team Obama to take from this is that this talk of the House needing to do something only arose after Obama starting acting unilaterally. That is, he ruined the "we'll suffer a downturn if it costs Obama, too" strategy by actually finding a way to make the House suffer alone: he got his "wins" (albeit smaller) via executive branch action. That substantially changed the equation -- and the leverage.

    Having now seen what progressive activists were trying to tell Team Obama all along -- that strength works -- perhaps they will decide to stay in this mode throughout a second term. (ok, ok - but I can dream, right?)

  • c u n d gulag on January 25, 2012 5:33 PM:


    I'll believe it when I see it.

    Bye, Steve!

    Don't fare will - fare better, fare best!!!

    We'll miss you.

  • chopin on January 25, 2012 5:40 PM:

    Nancy Pelosi got a huge amount of bills passed. Perhaps the electorate should see to it that she gets her old job back. And if the lame senate would rewrite the fillabuster rules, all kinds of got stuff might happen.

  • Darsan54 on January 25, 2012 5:48 PM:

    Being a total collective bunch of d**kwads and a**wipes is probably not a good, long-term and successful legislative strategy.

  • Jon on January 25, 2012 5:55 PM:

    Time for Democrats to start making enormous demands. They should be happy with the current narrative of a Do-nothing GOP House. It should cost the GOP a pretty penny to buy themselves a less unhappy ending.

  • bdop4 on January 25, 2012 6:23 PM:

    Anything that Dems propose and gets rejected by the GOP is a CAMPAIGN ISSUE. They need to embrace that.

  • Patango on January 25, 2012 9:04 PM:


    ""Having now seen what progressive activists were trying to tell Team Obama all along -- that strength works -- perhaps they will decide to stay in this mode throughout a second term. (ok, ok - but I can dream, right?)""

    Here hear bdop4 & zeitgetst....Obamas poll numbers have come up since he started acting like a real dem , imagine that , since it is how he won the election in a land slide , you can here emanuel scratching his pin head from here ..

    The wingers whose vcoters elected them to obstruct the black liberal will have to do little or nothing to get re elected of course , but then you have people like the gent from ohio there , who campaigned on creating jobs , then got to congress and said "government does not create jobs" ( another head scratch here )

    We have heard it 100 times over , roomers the GOP will be negotiating in good faith now , give it up folks , there is nothing honest and straight forward with these people....