Saturday, December 1, 2012

Fantasy politics league

I've been wondering for the past couple of years if it would be possible for somebody in the House of Representatives to function as a kind of prime minister pro tem, running an ad hoc "non-ideological" coalition to get various essential business done while Boehner postures and Cantor conspires. Even though Congress's approval ratings are down around those of wood termites, they keep getting reelected, but one of these days people are going to start figuring out that there's a connection between the voting and the results, and when that happens members are going to want to be able to claim that they did something during their term beyond getting funding for the West Butternuts Museum of Miniature Golf.
Sheep and goats. Karel Dujardin, 1673, London National Gallery.

The stumbling block would be that the person in question would have to come from among the Republican members, and not just any Republican but one of the ones who are theoretically not nuts, and those guys are really keeping their heads down (assuming generously that they exist at all outside of the rumors of Republicans so pusillanimous that they actually will vote the way Boehner demands).

But here comes an alternative in the form of Nancy Pelosi, proposing to push that old Obama tax bill onto the floor, the one that revokes the Bush tax cuts for income up to $250,000, which has already passed through the Senate; because it's old business from the Senate that has languished in the House for more than 30 days, she can make it the subject of a discharge petition, and, if she can get 20 Republicans to sign on to the petition, bring it to a vote.

I don't know whether the program is to embarrass the Republicans by making them vote against a tax cut or actually to pass it. The latter would be a development along the lines I'm imagining. It wouldn't make her prime minister, of course: she'd need a different strategy for passing appropriations bills, which must originate in the House.

However, one of the consequences of passing the tax bill would be its effective drawing of a line between the congressional sheep of the people and the goats of Grover Norquist—the former being plausible members of the Pelosi coalition and the latter comprising the Cantorial rump, you should excuse the expression. One of the temporary Pelosistas could surely be Representative Hal Rogers of Somerset, KY ("Prince of Pork" and a sometime target of Tea Party spite), who was perhaps the first Republican member to give voice to the possibility of breaking up with Grover, just a year ago, when he suggested that your Unbreakable Vow to Norquist is only Unbreakable during the term you make it in.

They're a sleazy bunch of old cusses, that Haley Barbour generation of Southern Republicans, but fond of spending and arguably less racist than their fathers or their sons. I'd way rather be in a coalition with them than with a bunch of your cork-in-the-ass sourpuss Blue Dogs, even though the latter call themselves Democrats. With Rogers as—ah—Chancellor of the Exchequer, you could pass just about any kind of stimulus bill you liked, as long as there was something in it for the Old Kentucky Home and the Harold Rogers Expressway. And doesn't fun count for something?
So I'm like, I wouldn't touch that sheep with a ten-foot pole, and she's like, well, Jesus would. Artist unidentified. From

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