The junior achievers

December 7, 2006

During the run-up to the mid-term election, we heard analysts like David Rebovich praising New Jersey Republican Rep. Chris Smith (R-4th Dist.) for his relative independence from the rest of the Republican mob. The thinking might be summarized as: Sure, he’s a howling opponent of reproductive choice who attaches anti-abortion riders to just about every piece of legislation that comes within his reach, but he’s also very moderate on other key issues, and anyway, isn’t it good that he’s at least willing to speak his mind and let people know exactly where he stands?

It’s true that Smith has taken a great many stands that I can approve, particularly in his support for additional benefits to veterans. But this independent soul is sure playing the good little soldier as the Republicans, in a final burst of petulance at having their gravy train derailed in Congress, do everything they can to trip up and delay in the incoming Democrat-controlled legislature. As the Wall Street Journal ($) reports:

Like a retreating army, Republicans are tearing up railroad track and planting legislative land mines to make it harder for Democrats to govern when they take power in Congress next month.

Already, the Republican leadership has moved to saddle the new Democratic majority with responsibility for resolving $463 billion in spending bills for the fiscal year that began Oct. 1. And the departing chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Bill Thomas (R., Calif.), has been demanding that the Democrat-crafted 2008 budget absorb most of the $13 billion in costs incurred from a decision now to protect physician reimbursements under Medicare, the federal health-care program for the elderly and disabled.

The unstated goal is to disrupt the Democratic agenda and make it harder for the new majority to meet its promise to reinstitute “pay-as-you-go” budget rules, under which new costs or tax cuts must be offset to protect the deficit from growing.

“I think we’re trying to get an accommodation,” said Speaker Dennis Hastert (R., Ill.) last evening. “You’re digging a hole now and filling up with money from ’08,” he said of Mr. Thomas’s demands. “He says he’s trying to move away from that.”

Smith’s contribution to this mass tantrum is the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act, HR 6099, which would require clinics to inform a woman about to undergo an abortion that her fetus will probably feel a great deal of pain, and ask if she would like anesthesia to be administered to the fetus. There’s about as much chance of the bill being passed as there is of seeing a figure-skating competition in hell, but the Republicans want to force a voice vote so as to provide ammunition with their base against the Democrats.   

A class act, these people. They did nothing to rein in Bush’s runaway spending, his abuse of the military, his multiple attacks on civil liberties or his degradation of America’s moral standing through his endorsement of torture. Their main contribution to the annals of American history has been a welter of sex scandals, corruption indictments and laugh lines for Jon Stewart.

Now they’re going to fritter away their last days in power by ignoring vital public business in order to throw cheap cuts of wormy red meat to their religious whacko base. Wonderful. And Chris Smith, his Congressional seat impregnable for the time being, happily pitches in. That’s a moderate Republican for you. I’ll bet that on their last day in D.C., they all use the men’s rooms and then leave without flushing. That’ll show those Democrats!

How should we salute the departure of this Congress? A parade and cascades of confetti doesn’t seem called for. Maybe a shower of eggs and rotten fruit would be more appropriate. All I have to say is: Would the last Republican to leave power please put the lid down?       

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