What the Republicans Risk By Having Won the House

Posted on Nov 10 2010 - 1:00am by Harrison

Let's hope not.

It’s been a little over a week since the Republicans re-took the House of Representatives and the Asti Spumante parties have surely died down.  They can coast for two more months until the seats change hands and the real work begins.

Although Capitol Commentary’s articles revolve almost exclusively around what the Democrats are doing, it’s really a little more complicated than that… it’s what the Democrats say versus what they do.  What are the Republicans saying that they will do beginning on January 20th?

“We can’t have 500 congressmen and senators who think it’s their job to bring home the bacon – and that’s what’s going to change,” South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint told CBS’ “The Early Show. “One of the first thing we’ll do in the House and Senate is ban earmarks as Republicans – that’ll get our eyes back on fixing our tax code, fixing social security and Medicare, getting America back to work.”

There will be 240 Republicans serving in the House next year… a pick-up of 61 members.  Republicans will have a clear majority over their Democratic rivals of 53 votes (assuming the party retains unity).  Tea Party darling DeMint is promising to prevent all 240 Republicans in the House from voting on “earmarks” (otherwise known as pet projects or pork)?  He’s going to convince all 46 Republicans in the Senate from voting for earmarks?

It hasn’t been that long ago (October of 2009) that 39 Republican Senators condemned the “stimulus” yet this didn’t stop them from bringing home the bacon to their districts:

Lugar was among the 39 members of the Senate, all Republicans, who sought to halt consideration of the stimulus package championed by President Barack Obama and voted against the measure when the stalling tactics failed.

And yet when it was time for the spending to come home, Senator Lugar said this:

One of the six Lugar letters dispatched to Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood touted the Spencer County Port Infrastructure Investment Project, saying the stimulus funds would be used to build a road, railway and port infrastructure.

“I commend our officials for this worthwhile effort,” Lugar said. “I hope you will give thorough and thoughtful review to their request for assistance.”

In life, we have a word for this: hypocrisy.  You’re either against the “stimulus” or you’re for it but not both.  Republicans may be the only alternative in the eyes of voters to the Democrats but that doesn’t mean they can be hypocritical about things.

All it will take is one Republican to insert an earmark into a bill for the entire party to look bad.  And when you have the eyes of so many journolists looking at the situation, that one earmark will receive more coverage than the sinking of the Titanic did.

As if on cue, we have an AP story titled: Sen. DeMint forces battle within GOP over earmarks:

“Ending earmarks is an important first step toward getting our fiscal house in order. These special pet projects have become a symbol of Washington’s ‘pay-to-play’ culture that must be stopped,” said Sen.-elect Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

But the newcomers are running into a phalanx of old school Republicans who defend the practice. They argue that they know the needs of their states better than Washington bureaucrats and that earmarks totaled only about one-half of 1 percent of the $3.5 trillion 2010 federal budget, about $16 billion.

At the same time, DeMint is unpopular with many Republicans. He helped tea party favorites like Ken Buck, R-Colo., Sharron Angle, R-Nev., and Christine O’Donnell win their nominations but prove to be weak candidates in the general election.

I have nothing against Jim DeMint, I only think he’s writing checks his political party won’t be able to cash.

The other thing Republicans need to carefully monitor is how many investigations they launch against their political foes:

If President Barack Obama needed any more incentive to go all out for Democrats this fall, here it is: Republicans are planning a wave of committee investigations targeting the White House and Democratic allies if they win back the majority.

Republican staffers say there won’t be any self-destructive witch hunts, but they clearly are relishing the prospect of extracting information from an administration that touts transparency.

Barack Obama claimed, when he was running for president, that he would have the “most transparent and open administration ever.”  And Nancy Pelosi said she would “drain the swamp.”  Not even close on either count.  There are issues with are eating away at many Conservatives such as the New Black Panther Party possibly obstructing a polling place and the suspicion that Attorney General Eric Holder killed the case.  If laws were broken then there should be investigations however Republicans need to understand the journolists and spin machine will be watching so they should tread carefully to say the least.

Democrats did make life for Bush and his officials miserable when they took power in 2006 and the press spent too much time reporting on things such as Travelgate, Jack Abramoff, and Valerie Plame but Republicans should not adopt the same tactics because Americans will see it as being nothing more than petty political packback.

The way to avoid the journolist/Spin Machine is to only promise what you can do and only do what you promise and avoid retribution.

There are more serious tasks at hand.

9 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. LD Jackson November 10, 2010 at 5:46 AM -

    Great article, Harrison. I have been saying all along that it will be a mistake if the Republicans start a witch hunt against the Obama administration and the Democrats. It will look petty and it will count against them in 2012.

    Concerning earmarks, I am completely against them. I also realize that they will probably continue to happen, at least under the current system. Case in point is my home state of Oklahoma and it’s two senators, Tom Coburn and Jim Inhofe. Coburn refuses to request earmarks and he is not bashful about telling you how much he hates them. On the other hand, Injofe is just as open about going after everything he can get for our state. He sees nothing wrong with that.

    Until we have a change in philosophy about this, it will be like rowing upstream against a very strong current. It is unlikely to change.
    LD Jackson recently posted..The shame of US cotton subsidies

    • Harrison November 10, 2010 at 8:08 AM -

      Earmarks make up a tiny percentage of the budget but it’s an attitude thing I think, and I agree it does need to change. McCain fought this battle when he ran back in 2000 and got nowhere. I doubt it will change today.

  2. Dean November 10, 2010 at 9:17 AM -

    Good analysis, Harrison.

    Tricky issue as you point out that earmarks are pretty insignificant in the broader overall budget scheme but they are high profile, never the less, as they are synonomous with “pork” in the eyes of the public.

    • Harrison November 10, 2010 at 9:46 AM -

      Thanks Dean. Earmarks are insignificant and I’ve read that snarky Liberals are already mocking this pledge because it is such a tiny percentage of the budget. To me, $50 billion is a start. Besides, reading stuff like Federal funding for a joke machine just pisses me off.

  3. fleecem November 10, 2010 at 12:11 PM -

    Earmarks might not make up much of the “overall” budget, but that serves as no excuse for not eliminating them (damn, that’s like a triple-negative), it is still a waste and misuse of Taxpayer money. Why American’s think they need to send money to the federal government so they can launder it and send it back to us is beyond my capacity for reason.

    As far as Demint making promises his party can’t fulfill, I see this totally as a political ploy. He has already set himself up as the “Tea Party” guy. He is the “real” maverick in the GOP senate, unlike the other guy with the same nickname. Making this promise, when he knows it will be broken by his “fellow” GOP will establish that “maverick” image even moreso. He can say, “I tried to stop this practice at least within the GOP, but alas they are too entrenched in the Washington mindset. That’s why we need someone who thinks outside the beltway.” He has an eye on 2012, and this image along with the Tea Party will be his defining characteristic.
    fleecem recently posted..Obama A Little Too Interested In The Fact That Communists Are Part Of India’s Mainstream via Nice Deb

    • Harrison November 10, 2010 at 1:48 PM -

      Pretty interesting take on DeMint’s motives (and rather Machiavellian). Could be the reason because he surely won’t prevent every Republican from seeking out earmarks for their locality.

  4. fleecem November 10, 2010 at 2:24 PM -

    Well, I could be wrong. =)

    Something about being a professional cynic. lol
    fleecem recently posted..Criminalizing Conversation- Unions using the Department of Labor to chill employer speech

  5. Matt November 10, 2010 at 9:26 PM -

    I see your point. Earmarks have more of a symbolic effort, but they are a start.

    The GOP has to stick to their promises, because people are watching more than ever.
    Matt recently posted..And WE’RE the Violent Ones Lib Writer Calls for Violent Revolution- and MSNBC Talking Head Agrees