Republican political theater stars Bohener, McConnell and CantorThe big engines of the Republican Party's mid-term Bamboozlement Express were a promise to cut $100 billion from the federal budget this year and repeal health-care reform. The promises were, of course, as empty as the party's Pledge for American and both deader than door nails even before newly minted Speaker John Boehner gavelled the House into session.
Boehner knew that the $100 billion promise would be impossible to come close to keeping given the fine print attached to the pledge by party bigs even as they coddled the Tea Party acolytes among them. The fine print included Social Security, Medicare and defense and homeland security spending being off limits. In other words, the bulk of the budget.
If the budget-reduction promise was good political theater, the health-care reform offensive is worthy of a group Grammy. This is because . . . um, reality will once again rear its pug-ugly head. Even if the GOP-controlled House were to repeal reform in an up-or-down vote on House Resolution 2 (no messy committee hearings for this gang) once it gears back up post-Tuscon rampage, it stands a snowball's chance in hell of being repealed in the Senate.
But there is another reason as well: Health-care reform is as popular as the twin wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are unpopular. No slaves to public opinion, except when it suits them, the Republicans dare not ruffle defense contractor feathers by tampering with Pentagon spending even if it is the biggest drag on a federal budget that it piously claims to want to slash.
Health-care reform happens to be popular among the millions of Americans who desperately need it. This typically does not include what remains of the Republican base, including voters upon whom a sense of privilege has been bestowed by birth and the aforementioned Tea Partiers upon whom a sense of grievance has been bestowed by myopia and additional attention because the anti-government vitriol in which they wallow was behind the wounding of an congresswoman and murder of six other people in Arizona over the weekend.
The people who embrace reform are not, of course, the Republicans' favorite targets -- illegal immigrants and layabouts who would rather collect unemployment insurance than work -- but rather middle class voters whose lives have been ravaged by the Bush Recession. An especially appealing provision allows these moms and dads to keep their children on their family insurance plans until age 26.
Then there is the reality of what repeal would mean economically.
According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, enactment of HR2 would increase the federal budget deficit by $145 billion to $220 billion and leave about 53 million non-elderly Americans without health insurance, or roughly eight million more than were uninsured before the reform provisions began kicking in. (Oh, and by the by, 6.5 million Americans lost job-based health insurance in 2009.)
Meanwhile, in a sop to Tea Partiers, the name of the Committee on Education and Labor has been changed to the Committee on Education and the Workforce. And Darrell Issa, a California congressman who is no stranger to corruption, has announced six investigations he plans to conduct as the new chairman of the House Committee on Oversight into various nooks and crannies of the Obama administration.
An inauspicious but not surprising start for a gang who promised change, change change. But then it's only theater, playacting at being leaders and legislators as the party relearns the harsh lesson that governing is harder than campaigning.