Friday, December 31, 2010

Republicans to prove that they can read

Via my libertarian older brother, the first order of business for the soon-to-be Republican leadership in the House of Representatives will be to read the Constitution on the chamber floor.  They also have some big plans for changes to the House rules:
Keeping with the theme, Republicans will also require every new bill presented on the House floor to cite which article in the Constitution authorizes the enacting of such legislation, a nod to the Tea Party, which made the Constitution a tenant of its movement throughout the midterm election cycle.
The Republicans say that among other changes, they intend to require a vote in order to raise the nation's debt ceiling; they will take attendance at committee meetings and publish the record; and they will require new mandatory spending to be offset by cuts to other programs. Also, the full text of bills must be circulated at least 24 hours before they are considered.
Some of the rules being introduced by Republicans are more expanded than they are new: The 111th Congress, which ended this year, had House Rule XIII, clause 3(d)(1). It required a "statement of constitutional authority of Congress to enact" to be included in every bill brought to the House floor.
House Republicans of the 112th Congress are taking it a few steps further. As Majority Leader–designate Eric Cantor's website explains, Republicans have a commitment to "require every bill to cite its specific Constitutional Authority" and are "recommending a change to standing Rules of the House to require that each bill or joint resolution introduced in the House be accompanied by a statement citing the specific powers granted to Congress in the Constitution to enact the proposed law."
This is a great plan.  I'm sure that when the Constitution is read, all those Representatives will be all, "Hey, we were totally off-base!  It's not that we have honest differences in Constitutional interpretation.  It's that none of us ever read it before!"

Then the Republicans will be all, "We've never even heard of the General Welfare clause!"

And the Democrats will be all, "And we've never even heard of the Militia clause!"

"Let us agree to place a statement on each bill citing the Constitutional Authority justifying it.

"Since we all agree now, we will never argue about what constitutes a valid Constitutional Authority again!"

"Good show, sirs!"

"Indeed, comrades!"

This isn't bullshit political grandstanding.  Not at all.

On a slightly less sarcastic note, some of the other rules they propose aren't all bad, but requiring "new mandatory spending to be offset by cuts to other programs" is ridiculous.  Taxes apparently aren't a valid way to pay for anything.  In fact, they can cut taxes even further with no such restrictions, as Paul Krugman points out in The New York Times (via Digby at Hullabaloo):

To be sure, there were renewed claims that tax cuts lead to higher revenue. But 2010 marked the emergence of a new, even more profound level of magical thinking: the belief that deficits created by tax cuts just don’t matter. For example, Senator Jon Kyl of Arizona — who had denounced President Obama for running deficits — declared that “you should never have to offset the cost of a deliberate decision to reduce tax rates on Americans.”
It’s an easy position to ridicule. After all, if you never have to offset the cost of tax cuts, why not just eliminate taxes altogether? But the joke’s on us because while this kind of magical thinking may not yet be the law of the land, it’s about to become part of the rules governing legislation in the House of Representatives.
As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out, the incoming House majority plans to make changes in the “pay-as-you-go” rules — rules that are supposed to enforce responsible budgeting — that effectively implement Mr. Kyl’s principle. Spending increases will have to be offset, but revenue losses from tax cuts won’t. Oh, and revenue increases, even if they come from the elimination of tax loopholes, won’t count either: any spending increase must be offset by spending cuts elsewhere; it can’t be paid for with additional taxes.
Here's an added bonus from Steve Benen at The Washington Monthly's "Political Animal" (via Atrios at Eschaton):
And then there's the other part of House Republicans' new budget rules.
A little-noticed detail in the new rules proposed by House GOP leaders would  greatly increase the power of Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., the incoming chairman of the House Budget Committee. As National Journal's Katy O'Donnell reports, the new rules say that, for fiscal 2011, the chairman will set spending limits without needing a vote.
If that sounds insane, that's because it is. Under the proposed rules, Ryan would be empowered to single-handedly establish spending levels if the House and Senate struggle to agree on a budget resolution. Just as important, Ryan's levels would be binding on the chamber, without even being subjected to a vote.
Awesome!  Apparently, Republicans can simply obstruct any budget plan, and then Rep. Ryan will be made Almighty Master of the Budget!  Where exactly is the Constitutional Authority for that?

Happy New Year!

UPDATE: Blue Texan at Firedoglake nails it.

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