Here we go again.
After the bruising battle of the debt ceiling debate left public opinion of both parties in Congress a bit worse for wear, the House of Representatives managed to not pass a continuing resolution to fund the operation of the government past the end of the month.
A stopgap spending bill to keep the government funded past Sept. 30 collapsed in the House late Wednesday in a return of the same brinkmanship politics that so soured voters on Congress in the debt fight over the summer.
Republicans lost 48 of their own members on the 230-195 vote, even as Democrats took advantage of the GOP’s vulnerability by pulling back their support in protest of spending cuts affecting the auto industry.
There is a common and completely understandable impulse among much of the base to break out in applause whenever Republicans lay down in front of the tanks in terms of spending. Further, there are obviously some in the progressive base, still smarting from losing the majority in 2010 and the drubbing they took in the debt ceiling fight, who want to see their leaders in the House poke a finger in John Boehner’s eye whenever the opportunity presents itself. For people on both sides, if I could borrow a phrase from Larry David, you might want to curb your enthusiasm in this case.
This continuing resolution is strictly Off Broadway stuff. The real battle is taking place on the big stage of the super committee, and that’s where we’ll find out how serious Congress is about setting the nation’s fiscal house in order. Turning this continuing resolution into a sideshow may provide a short term sugar rush for some, but the American public seems to be growing tired of this schtick.
Some of the Republicans appear ready to die on a hill which represents $24B out of a pie which is well in excess of a trillion. And those figures will likely vanish in a puff of smoke once the super committee gets close to the finish line anyway. The bone of contention appears to be a few billion in disaster relief which they want to offset, in part, with cuts to a largely idle pool of funds for an advanced technology program for the auto industry. It’s a program which Democrats will falsely, but probably successfully paint as a jobs initiative.
The GOP may want to keep in mind that you’re making an argument against disaster relief, at least in the public’s mind. And against a jobs initiative. You still need to get elected again next year, folks.
As for the Democrats, you’re playing too close to the power lines again. The programs getting a trim right now are just a shadow of what’s to come. The times aren’t just changing… they’ve already changed. We’re going to be spending a lot less money going forward and this is the sort of bitter pill you’d best get used to swallowing.
But if the two parties insist on turning this into another round of Theater of the Bizarre, things are only going to get uglier among the masses. If you can’t come together for a short term piece of nominal housekeeping work, people are going to be questioning if you have the capacity to get anything done. What’s next? Will one party begin boycotting the quorum call until the housekeeping staff starts buying cheaper vacuum cleaner bags?
The House is supposed to be in recess next week for Rosh Hashanah, so something needs to get done by the weekend. This would probably be a good time to step back, take a deep breath, get your work finished quietly and prepare for the larger battle to come.