Report: GOP Preparing to “hold government financing hostage” to gut Obama programs’ funding (UPDATED)

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As this point you may as well call it “election nullification” because the scope of this is unprecedented — and if this works it will indeed set a new precedent:

Congressional Republicans are moving to gut many of President Obama’s top priorities with the sharpest spending cuts in a generation and a new push to hold government financing hostage unless the president’s signature health care law is stripped of money this fall.

As Mr. Obama prepares to deliver a major economic address on Wednesday in Illinois, Republicans in Washington are delivering blow after blow to programs he will promote as vital to a more robust economic recovery and a firmer economic future — from spending on infrastructure and health care to beefing up regulatory agencies. While Mr. Obama would like to keep the economic conversation lofty, his adversaries in Congress are already fighting in the trenches.

On Tuesday, a House Appropriations subcommittee formally drafted legislation that would cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 34 percent and eliminate his newly announced greenhouse gas regulations. The bill cuts financing for the national endowments for the arts and the humanities in half and the Fish and Wildlife Service by 27 percent.

For the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1, Mr. Obama requested nearly $3 billion for renewable energy and energy efficiency programs — a mainstay of his economic agenda since he was first elected. The House approved $826 million. Senate Democrats want to give $380 million to ARPA-E, an advanced research program for energy. The House allocated $70 million.

A House bill to finance labor and health programs, expected to be unveiled Wednesday, makes good on Republican threats to eliminate the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. The labor and health measure — for years the most contentious spending bill — will protect some of the White House’s priorities, like Head Start, special education and the National Institutes of Health, but to do so education grants for poor students will be cut by 16 percent and the Labor Department by 13 percent, according to House Republican aides.

“These are tough bills,” acknowledged Representative Harold Rogers, the Kentucky Republican who leads the House Appropriations Committee. “His priorities are going nowhere.”

If this does work, the U.S. will have a far different democratic political system than it did in previous generation. It’ll be 100 percent power politics or bring the whole house down.

Will independent voters go along with it? Already polls show Americans are increasingly fed up with the way our politics operates. NBC’s First Read:

*** Who is going to get the message? At a time when Washington is battling over immigration and student loans, bickering (once again) about the health-care law, and gearing up for another showdown over the budget and debt ceiling, the American public has a simple message: “ENOUGH!” According to our NBC/WSJ poll, a whopping 83% of adults disapprove of Congress’ job, which is an all-time high in the survey. What’s more, President Obama’s job-approval rating (45%) has dropped to its lowest level since Aug. 2011, when the debt-ceiling showdown wounded almost every Washington politician. And nearly six in 10 voters (57%) say they would vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress if they had such an option on their ballot — another all-time high. “There is a palpable unhappiness with Washington,” says NBC/WSJ co-pollster Peter Hart (D). “Outside the Beltway, voters are saying, ‘You don’t get it.’” And that’s probably the best context in which to view Obama’s hyped economic speech today in Galesburg, IL at 12:55 pm ET, as well as the Senate’s effort last week to approve of the president’s executive-branch appointments. The true political contest over the next several months might very well be: Who best gets the message that the public is sending? It explains why Obama is getting away from DC today and Friday.

Wait! There’s another problem:

*** But what happens when they can’t even agree what the message is? Yet here’s the challenge in resolving these political standoffs: Politicians and the public can’t even agree on what they see as Washington’s problem. Asked to explain their dissatisfaction with DC, respondents in the NBC/WSJ poll cite — in order — 1) partisanship and the inability of Congress to get things done, 2) the middle-class being ignored, and 3) the Obama administration’s policies and leadership. But there’s a stark political divide: Democrats and independents point to partisanship and congressional gridlock as the chief culprit, while Republicans blame the president. Still, there are signs that Republicans are shouldering more of the blame for the situation in the nation’s capital: Just 22% believe the Republican Party is interested in unifying the country in a bipartisan way, versus 45% who say the same about Obama. And 56% of Americans think that congressional Republicans are too inflexible in their dealings with the president. Yet a plurality of GOP respondents say congressional Republicans are too quick to give in to Obama. Hence the problem: “In their mind, Republicans have been too quick to give in to Obama,” says NBC/WSJ co-pollster Bill McInturff (R). “For the average Republican House member, he or she is more likely to be concerned about a primary than general election.”

The sticking point again is the GOP’s base. I’ve long contended (and contend) the base is heavily influenced by the popularity of talk radio and the conservative entertainment media which portrays any sign of compromise as “caving,” and consensus as oh, so wishy washy 20th century.

If this is where are are today — precisely what does this portend as we move further into the 21st century?

Another question: if the White House and Democrats can see this coming down the road, are they prepared to deal with it — and how?

Andrew Sullivan on the Times report cited above:

In the NYT, there’s another account of the bizarre doings of a Congress that, despite an 83 percent disapproval rating, is far more concerned about nullifying the results of the last election through sabotage and gridlock than bringing about any change other than the kind of crude austerity that has clearly failed in Europe. The legislative nihilism is matched by total disrespect for the president.

Actually, it isn’t disrespect. It’s a virtual dismissive contempt with a tone of “Yeah? Well what are you and your friends gonna do about it?” This kind of attitude may have existed throughout the history of mankind, but it has now morphed into de facto election nullification.

Talking Points’ Memo clearly feels this ain’t gonna happen:

Running out of time and options, conservatives are exploring new ways to corner Congress into shutting down the government this fall unless Obamacare is defunded. But they aren’t likely to achieve much more than giving Republican leaders heartburn.

Conservatives and right-leaning Republican lawmakers have floated the tactic for years. But now, having lost the 2012 election, and with health care reform’s major provisions set to take effect, they’ve gotten more desperate, and see it as their last chance to stop the law.

In one example of an unusual move, the advocacy arm of the Heritage Foundation — Heritage Action — announced Tuesday it will grade lawmakers on the basis of whether they sign on as cosponsors of — not merely vote for — a bill by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to prohibit any funding of Obamacare in the annual budgeting process.

That legislation has won over more than just the usual suspects. Its 27 cosponsors — all Republicans — include Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-TX), both of whom are running for reelection in 2014 and are facing primary challengers from the right.

“We have one last chance to stop this if the White House won’t cooperate, and that’s through our budgeting process,” said Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), another cosponsor, who is eager to make nice with the right after his major push for comprehensive immigration reform. “Some will say, ‘Well, that’s crazy. You are going to shut down the government over Obamacare?’ No, what’s crazy is moving forward with this thing.”

Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) is escalating the push by circulating a letter promising not to vote to fund the government after Sept. 30 if Obamacare is not fully defunded. It has reportedly been signed by 15 Republican senators.

Defunding the government over Obamacare is, of course, a pipe dream. Democrats would block any such bill, and President Obama would veto it. And a seasoned veteran like McConnell, who was a senator through the 1990s, is well-aware of the perils of shutting down the government to extract ideological concessions from the party in power.

In fact, when asked Tuesday about the upcoming annual spending bill, McConnell, who has not signed Lee’s letter, told reporters he wants to stick by the 2011 budget agreement, which includes funding for Obamacare.

Perhaps this will be the outcome. But if a tactic like this works American democracy will never be the way again. And you’ll have to revise the old sentence “Elections have consquences.”

On the other hand, Obamacare is clearly increasingly unpopular:

A new CBS News poll finds more Americans than ever want the Affordable Care Act repealed.

According to the poll, 36 percent of Americans want Congress to expand or keep the health care law while 39 percent want Congress to repeal it – the highest percentage seen in CBS News polls. The poll also found a majority of Americans – 54 percent – disapprove of the health care law, 36 percent of Americans approve of it and 10 percent said they don’t know about it.

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  • slamfu

    If the GOP really wanted to convince me that Obama doesn’t know what he is doing they would actually let some items on his agenda be implemented so we can see how bad they are, and when they don’t work out, they can say “See, we told you so!”. However, by simply digging in their heels and not letting them pass, we have to wonder. Which leaves me with no data on what works and what doesn’t. Moreover, back in the Bush years, the GOP got to implement just about everything they wanted to do, I saw the results, and they were definitely not good. So as a voter, I’m left with data on the GOP which says everything they want to do pretty much sucks, and data on the President, who seems to have done well with what little he has been able to put into practice. Energy policy, Auto bail outs, increased taxes(deficit down to $600Bn from over a trillion in one year, WHAT?!), and a pretty solid foreign policy track record(again, adjusted from what his predecessor did performance wise). Why not let “Obamacare” get into play, let everyone see how it works, then campaign on its actual track record?

    The reason they don’t want to do that, is because if Obama could enact more of his agenda, things might get better, and the GOP game plan doesn’t want that. Or rather, doesn’t know how to compete against that.

  • Willwright

    There is nothing wrong with being a conservative, they are probably right on a lot of issues. The problem is that a lot of these people in the house are not conservatives, they are extremists. We need to start calling them what they are. The GOP today is not your fathers GOP of 30 years ago. The GOP is not a center right option to the Democrats that it once was. They need to be buried at the next couple of elections. They need to be forced to complete real reform or be relegated to minor third party status. What we have now is the tyranny of minority.

  • sheknows

    These Republicans are a vicious bunch! I don’t know if anyone could have predicted the lengths to which these creeps would or will go to get what they want. Well, they wanted the presidency but they clearly didn’t deserve it. Now they want to destroy a presidency as much as they can.
    The ONLY thing keeping this party alive is all the frickin money they receive from their plutocratic friends and obscenely wealthy corporate gods. Unfortunately, the majority of Republican voters that are and will be further hurt by their party are too ignorant to see how their policies are hurting them. All they know is their “Daddy voted Republican, and I’m against abortion”.
    Unless we can rid the House of these cockroaches in 2014, they will do greater and greater harm to this country. People have to wake up. These are NOT the republicans of Ronald Reagan’s day, or Bill Clintons day. These are the sorry a** guys that took over starting with Bush and spread like an untreated disease during Obama. This is a new breed of ugly, vengeful, bigoted and slimy.

  • http://cma-steadystate.blogspot.com steadystate

    sheknows: “Unless we can rid the House of these cockroaches in 2014, they will do greater and greater harm to this country. People have to wake up. These are NOT the republicans of Ronald Reagan’s day, or Bill Clintons day. These are the sorry a** guys that took over starting with Bush and spread like an untreated disease during Obama. This is a new breed of ugly, vengeful, bigoted and slimy.”

    Sadly, there’s little chance we’ll be able to vote out many of them. As someone who lives in a state faced with drastic changes (North Carolina), I’m all too familiar with the way they’re getting in at state levels, redistricting voting maps, and trying to ensure a permanent majority in the House. All the same, they’re doing it on the state level as well. This, as far as I can tell, is what has happened in WI, OH, IN and many of the other states that have elected GOP-majority legislatures and GOP governors (Note: Most of the legislation passed in all of these states are VERY similar and I’ve read reports that they’re originating behind ALEC’s closed-doors). There’s no doubt some slimy stuff is going on.

  • sheknows

    When you have wealthy corporations, banks, oil companies, pharma, etc. and wealthy 1% ers that completely run this country, it is not surprising that we are in trouble as a nation.
    The Republicans want to do away with everything that cannot make or sustain a PROFIT. That is their credo and that is what continues to feed the top layer. By the time their own constituents realize that they were lied to and screwed by the party they believed in, it will be way too late.
    Once Medicare, Medicaid, SS, SNAP, and dozens of other programs are reduced to in name only status, then the poorer among them will know the truth…maybe. They are nothing if not accomplished liars.

  • Rambie

    Joe, great article, noticed a small error: “If this is where are are today… ” should, I assume, be “If this is where we are today…”

    I’d love for the GOP to return to sanity of the Goldwater type. But alas, that’ll not happen.

  • petew

    There is a point where objective debate is useless because thugs—and I do mean THUGS!—are attempting to rob the legislative process of all reason and compromise. The pubic also needs to become aware of the fact that both parties do NOT share equally in the paralysis which is now halting every meaningful attempt to secure positive change with the wise use of compromise. THE REPUBLICANS ARE THE ONES who are creating this toxic climate in Washington—NOT DEMOCRATS!

    The reason the pubic is skeptical about Obamacare is that, from day one, the GOP has attempted to disseminate every possible lie they can possilbly fabricate about the program. We have been hesitant to give Obamacare a chance, basically because we have been TOLD NOT TO by propaganda experts!—ones now having access to massive amounts of money from unethical and undisclosed donors!

    Obamacare is being lied about not to save Americans from paying an impossible bill (go to factcheck.org. about that one), the reason is because affordable health care threatens the supremacy of the private healthcare market—on which is accustomed to completely dominating the economics of medical care, and, in maintaining its own profits above all else!—whatever eventually happens to the quality of health care because of their greed—reason be damned!! Private companies will still run the show!

    The more I hear about Republican attempts to blatantly sabotage our democracy, the more angry I become. If we get rid of anybody, let it be the tea party’s little dictators, for God’s sake!!

    I sincerely hope the public will catch on sooner, rather than later, and see the political shell game, and blame game, being so adeptly carried out by the GOP! I am tired of talking, and I hope American voters will come out in force, to defy ANY voter suppression attempts, and get rid of these DAMN POLITICAL DICTATORS!

    After so many reasonable words have continually bounced off of a brick wall of obstructionism, I kind of loose my patience—along with almost everyone else!
    Republicans will not get away with this scam forever!!

  • petew

    Willwright,

    You are absolutely correct that a better word for the crooks stealing our government would be “extremists,” However, they have most Republicans still capable of reason by the kahunas,and, they are wreaking havoc in the name of the GOP, and, exploiting the popularity of conservative values to seal the deal.

    All conservative ideas are not without merit, but unfortunately you are correct in wondering where the real conservatives are. The original species will eventually become extinct if it doesn’t wake up and adapt by becoming real legislators again!

  • DaGoat

    How is this election nullification when Congress is also elected, and the CBS poll today shows 54% disapprove of the health care bill while only 36% approve? It sounds like elected politicians following their constituents.

    My own view is the law should go forward since the toothpaste is essentially out of the tube at this point and nullifying it will cause too many problems, but the election nullification argument is pretty weak.

  • slamfu

    “How is this election nullification when Congress is also elected, and the CBS poll today shows 54% disapprove of the health care bill while only 36% approve?”

    Well I think much of that disapproval stems from the aforementioned disinformation campaign about what the ACA actually does. I have quite a few conservative friends and almost without exception, they have the wrong idea about it. Two of them think that the federal govt will actually be taking over hospitals. Its pretty outrageous, and the GOP and just about every guest on FOX News feed the fires every chance they get. There are other polls showing people very much in favor of the individual facets of the ACA, but they obviously don’t know that they are part of the ACA.

    And I am in general agreement with Petew about the GOP being far more responsible for our partisan gridlock. They have been shockingly blatant about it and seem to only be picking up more steam the more outrageous they get.

  • sheknows

    You are correct about the Republican rumors Slamfu. Two of my conservative friends have some pretty bizarre thinking. One of them tried to tell me that her mother’s doctor was going to be charging more for elderly patients that have Medicare and has already started to raise office fees because of Obamacare. She also hates Obama, ( never gives me a good reason though)so trying to tell her the truth about the mother’s doctor just being greedy would have only made her flip out. The other one just thinks Obamacare will end SSDI for his brother.
    I must say. The Republicans do a good job of brainwashing and conditioning their voters to mindlessly hate.

  • Chickenfarmer

    Recently I saw an article about Tea Party Health plan. It had plenty of flaws but at least there was recognition that the current health care system in this country is flawed.

    The interesting part about this proposal was the reaction from the Tea Party reactionaries. They immediately accused the author of not being a real Tea Party member and called for the repeal of all government mandates concerning health care. In other words let’s open the door to an unregulated insurance health insurance industry where con artists are free to sell policies that cover little if anything.

    The most amazing part of this debate is that there are mountains of evidence that the single payer health systems that exist in most of the industrialized world produce better health outcomes at a lower costs. In spite the criticisms hurled at the health care system of Canada for example, more then 80% of the Canadians polled prefer the their system to ours. Less then 10% would prefer the US system.

    Obama Care will no doubt have glitches but it is a better alternative to the current train wreck of a health system that we currently enjoy.

  • sheknows

    BTW..can someone please explain to me what the Republican ideals are? I have asked many conservatives here and never got a real answer. Would like to know if they have any and how those ideals are applied to their offices.

  • petew

    sheknows,

    I suspect Republican’s can provide no answers, because if they have any ideals left at all, they are eclipsed by the desperate fight to keep private healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and big oil companies in charge of our economy. If they are honest for even a moment, they run the risk of turning even more middle class Americans against them!

  • sheknows

    Thank you petew, I suspect you are right. I don’t think we will see a Mission Statement anytime soon. I suppose if both parties had one they would be R = Committed to keeping Government small. D= Committed to keeping corporations from becoming our government. :)

  • JSpencer

    The sad truth is that republicans (and especially their media standard-bearers) convince thier constituents largly through scare tactics, and disinformation. I too hear inaccurate information regularly parroted by conservative friends and acqaintances. How long can the GOP/TP survive on a political philosophy based on negatives? What I don’t understand is why the implosion hasn’t happened by now,.

  • sheknows

    JSpencer, that is simple. Psychology shows that people are far more inclined to adopt negative thinking than positive. We all tend to believe the worst easily and readily. Some have attributed that to our survival instincts. That also accounts for why we are fascinated by horrible accidents and natural disasters. Believing the worst of situations is what we do best. Consciously fighting that is the challenge. We call that optimism. Republicans know this simple truth and use it to their advantage.

  • slamfu

    “What I don’t understand is why the implosion hasn’t happened by now.”

    It is happening right now. If the GOP wants to be stupid enough to mess with “shutting down” the govt and the debt ceiling again, its going to go rough on them. Like “Obamacare”, the debt ceiling is an issue where the GOP has misinformed people about what is actually happening. Ask most of the fiscal conservative voters out there if not raising the debt ceiling is good, they will say sure. But most of those are confused about what the debt ceiling is, and how it interacts with the deficit, which is not at all. They think not raising the debt ceiling means not spending more money, and the GOP folks who are playing chicken with the debt ceiling do what they can to perpetuate that misconception. Capitalizing on ignorance, nice way to run a party, and a nation, into the ground.