Where's the Fire, Buddy?
Thursday December 4, 2014
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You wouldn't know it from the way the press is covering the lame duck session of Congress in Washington, but the Democrats still control two of the three levers of legislative power.
In spite of the results of the elections exactly one month ago, Harry Reid and his 54 Democratic colleagues still control the Senate.
The GOP won't take over until the 114th Congress opens on January 6, 2015.
Nevertheless, the breathless reporting out of here would almost make you believe that Republicans have already taken over and anything that isn't done between now and the end of the 113th Congress will have been the GOP's fault.
I think this is correct: There will be at least 70 freshmen in the House and Senate, Rs and Ds:
Senate - 12 Republicans (probably 13 after the Louisiana runoff in two days); 1 Democrat
House - 41 Republicans; 17 Democrats (there are still three seats undecided)
Remember, some freshmen won seats previously held by their party so they don't count as a pick up or a loss.
If I were one of those 70 incoming Members I might well sidle up to a member of the Leadership in my chamber and of my party and say something like:
"I was just elected by running on a number of these bills you guys are trying to hustle to the floor.
There are a couple of things that must - or should - be worked on between now and the end of the year.
First and foremost is keeping the government open. You will remember that the only reason the GOP is still a living, breathing organism in Our Nation's Capital, is because when the government shut down in October 2013, it was immediately followed by the total collapse of the Obamacare website and the spotlight shone on that failure for months.
The current planning appears to be to pass a bill paying for everything except the Department of Homeland Security through the end of the fiscal year, September 30, 2015. DHS funding will only go through mid-February (more-or-less).
Why? Because DHS is where the border patrol and similar agencies live and the anti-immigration legislation wing of the House GOP wants a separate vote on them to make even clearer how far President Obama overstepped his authority by changing the existing law by Executive Order.
The House, earlier this week, voted overwhelmingly in favor of short-term "tax extenders" that will be in effect until the end of this calendar year. The vote in the House was 378-46.
The term "tax extenders" is classic Washington Double-Speak. The bill does not extend taxes. The bill extends tax breaks in favor of things like business deductions for research and development. It also includes, according to Politico.com
I am not happy at the prospect of having a bunch of these issues decided by the very people we have just hammered into retirement."
"tax breaks for individuals including a deduction for mortgage debt forgiveness, a break for state and local sales taxes paid as well as breaks for teachers and commuters."
That's the House version. The Senate is taking up a bill that also includes tax breaks for laid-off workers and, a favorite of Senate Finance Committee chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore) a tax break for the "purchase of electric motorcycles."
And here you thought the Democrats in the Senate weren't paying proper attention to the big problems.
Electric motorcycles. Imagine Marlon Brando on one of those babies.
The best part of the tax bill negotiations is that it exposed another (as we described it early this week) a Crack in the Dems.
Seems that the House and Senate were on the cusp of working out a deal to have these tax breaks run through the end of 2015, instead of the end of 2014 (three weeks away).
Without consulting Harry Reid - the senior Democrat in the Senate, remember - the White House made it clear it would veto such a bill.
National Journal pronounced that "another humiliation" for Reid at the hands of the White House.
The National Journal's Sarah Mimms wrote, that after the WH veto threat,
"Reid threw in the towel-walking away from the negotiations and leaving the mess for another Democrat to sort out with Republicans, who are enjoying the fractious show across the aisle."
See what I mean? Let's don't let the press corps rush the House and Senate Republicans into premature action on legislation that can wait until 2015.
Where's the fire?
On the Secret Decoder Ring today: Links to a pretty good website that shows new members in a number of selectable ways, the Politico piece on tax extenders, and the National Journal article on the growing split between Harry Reid and Barack Obama.
Also a license plate Mullfoto that is self-explanatory.
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