Friday, November 18, 2005


TAPPED: November 2005 Archives

WHEELS: STILL COMING OFF. It gets very tedious plugging Mark Schmitt posts all the time, but he wrote one over the weekend reflecting on the speedy collapse of the Republican governing operation that's highly worth reading:
A great deal of Bush/Rove/DeLay's success over the past five years has come from pushing through party-line votes as if they were confidence votes in a parliamentary system. Many of the votes pushed through with massive arm-twisting and unprecedented procedures, such as the Medicare prescription drug bill and the 2003 tax bill, were sold on the basis that the president needs the victory. You may not think this is good policy, wavering Republicans were told, but if the president wins, he gets reelected and we all win; we lose, and our whole edifice of power collapses.
And just as in a parliamentary system, that works until it stops working. And when it stops working, the government is finished. After reelection, the confidence vote argument lost some steam. Seeing Bush as a burden in 2006 rather than an asset for reelection, it loses still more. Having chosen to govern as a party, rather than national, leader, Bush has few of the resources that other presidents have had to salvage themselves, and the same goes for the Republican leadership in Congress.The breakdown has continued unabated this week, with the Senate dispensing with extensions of the president's capital gains and dividend tax cuts and House leaders still struggling desperately to pass the spending reconciliation bill. And when (if!) the spending and tax cut bills make it to conferences, of course, the difficulties in reaching agreements are only going to worsen. Most delightful of all for Democratic spectators is the looming specter of House Republican leadership elections in January. As subscription-only Roll Call reports today:
The willingness of more lawmakers to speak openly of January elections will likely depend on this week’s reconciliation vote. Floor action on the bill was postponed once already for lack of support and the final outcome will be viewed as a key test of not just Blunt’s ability to serve as both leader and Whip but also of the entire current leadership slate, all the way up to Hastert…
The talk of leadership elections has worried some DeLay backers. Earlier this week, Rep. Joe Wilson (S.C.) circulated a letter to his GOP colleagues reminding them, “During this time of challenge in our Conference, we must continue to support Tom.”
“I urge you to not only oppose any notion of having early leadership elections, but also to refrain from discussing the issue,” he wrote.Wilson and other DeLay stalwarts seem to have already lost this battle. More broadly, heading into 2006 it's a bit hard to think of what might serve as a force to reverse the trajectory of entropy and breakdown the GOP finds itself in now.
UPDATE: A huge appropriations bill went down for a startling defeat this afternoon on the House floor. (This was the same bill from which Arlen Specter trimmed over a billion dollars in pork, as Matt mentioned yesterday.) See Mike Crowley's two posts for some Hill sources' on-the-ground reports of the "anarchy" on the floor.
--Sam Rosenfeld
Posted at 02:51 PM
CATASTROPHIC SUCCESS? Looks like Samuel Alito is making Tom Davis nervous:
The Republican lawmaker who helped guide the GOP to an expanded majority in the House three years ago warned yesterday that a Supreme Court ruling overturning a woman's legal right to an abortion -- a possibility if the high court shifts further to the right -- could hurt his party's political prospects and cause a ''sea change" in suburban voting habits.
Representative Tom Davis of Virginia, who chaired the National Republican Congressional Committee through the 2002 election, said that if the Supreme Court threw out Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 ruling that established that abortion rights were protected by the Constitution, ''you're going to have a lot of very nervous suburban candidates."There's some debate in progressive circles about what the real-world impact of overturning Roe would be. I tend to come down with Scott Lemieux, who argues convincingly that the effects of a reversal would be so disastrous for women across the country that the political calculations simply don't matter.
But the political case, too, is unclear. It certainly wouldn't demobilize the Christian right, which would then fight on every front to regulate and criminalize abortion, but it might create a parallel mobilization on the left. That's clearly what Davis fears, particularly as any backlash is likely to concentrate itself in the suburban and exurban regions that have emerged as the new demographic base for Republicans. True or not, Davis' admission does show that there's a serious contingent of Republicans deeply concerned by the prospects of a successful social conservative agenda. With Alito looking like a clear vote against Roe and Republicans joining with Democrats to demand his honesty and forthrightness, we may be seeing the emergence of cracks in a Republican Party that loved the Christian right's support but was never onboard or comfortable with its vision. So long as they had no chance of implementing it, that scarcely mattered. Now, however, the success of the Christian Coalition's project looks possible. And while Davis was the first to sound the alarm, I don't think he'll be the last.
--Ezra Klein

No comments: