16 December 2010

It Was A Fight Before Christmas

It is challenging to sort through all the shenanigans occurring during the Lame Duck session of Congress.  But the fighting between the House and Senate and the family feud within the parties is taking the form of a dysfunctional family’s holiday gathering.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed “The Deal” that was cut between President Obama and Senate Republicans to maintain current tax rates in exchange for a bevy of other scolerotic social spending.  This vote in itself was a constitutional curiosity because a non-nuanced reading of the founding document of the government requires that all spending bills originate in the House of Representatives.  But the grey-hairs who consider themselves the world’s greatest deliberating body figured that the 81-9 vote approving “The Deal” would allow the upper chamber to jam down their will upon the House of Representatives.

The current majority of the House of Representatives were not content at granting upper income taxpayers maintaining the current 35% tax rate, as they want to stick it to the man.  Democrat House Liberals focused their discontent on the death tax.  Instead of raising the estate tax from 0% to 35%, they want to modify “The Deal” to raise the estate tax to 45%.

When “The Deal” was brought up for debate in the House, the Democrat leadership tried to bring the legislation up without allowing for dissenters to be heard.  Enough Liberal Democrats were thought to be siding with the Republican minority that “The Deal” had to temporarily be withdrawn from the House and the chamber was put into recess.  The House Leadership is meeting behind closed doors to accommodate their disgruntled members and to try to ensure a clean vote.  The best case scenario for Speaker Pelosi (D-CA 6th) is if the Class Warfare Congressmen consent to airing their grievances during debate and then are voted down to adopt the Senate terms en toto.

If the House changes a jot or tittle from “The Deal”, then the bill would either have to go to a Conference Committee and then be voted upon again by both chambers or the Senate would have to accept the jam down from the House.   Senate Republicans were remarkably timid when negotiating the terms of “The Deal”, which they accepted in a rush to avoid raising tax rates right near the IRS deadline.  By materially changing the terms of “The Deal”, it would give Senate Republicans an opportunity to redeem themselves by not accepting a deal at any price, highlighting the dysfunction of this Congress and allowing the cavalry of the 112th Congress to fix the problem.

Then there is the Omnibus spending bill which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) sprung on his colleagues this week in response to the expiration on Saturday of the Continuing Resolution that Congress has been using in lieu of writing a real budget. The 1,924 page legislation which was not circulated until Wednesday afternoon.  Initially, the package was thought to cost $1.1 trillion, which works out to $575 million per page.  But overnight, the costs increased by $100 billion.  Perhaps there were more than the 6,488 earmarks than were initially thought.  Or maybe it was just a rounding error.

To try to stall passage through this Congress and emphasize the enormity of the earmarks, Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) did not accede to Unanimous Consent to a pro-forma reading of the Omnibus bill. Thus the clerk of the Senate will have to read the 1,924 page bill, which is estimated to take 40 hours on the floor.  In retaliation, the Majority Leader will hold the Senate in session through Christmas and possibly to the bitter end of the 112th Congress on January 4th.

While it may be amusing for a political junkie or a party animal to observe from afar, is this any way to run a government? Needing to pass a bill to know what is in it is exactly the sort of legislative legerdemain that infuriated the Tea Party.  When estimated costs of a bill jumps by $100 Billion overnight, it shows that it is poor public policy that could be a blank check.

Senator Reid may try to foist a few Christmas trees on an unwitting public, but his cantankerous kith may kill these bad bills in a fight before Christmas.

UPDATE 12/16/10  Michelle Malkin.com reports that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will not force the Senate to vote on the Omnibus Budget bill.

Also, the House Leadership has crafted a vehicle for proceeding on "The Deal" for maintaining the current tax rates for all Americans for the next two years.  The procedure is as follows: 1) Vote to amend a rule for the Tax Rate bill that had already been submitted.  If that passes 2) Vote on the amended rule to allow for dissenting debate 3) Vote on raising the estate tax rates to 45% (a.k.a. the Pomeroy Amendment).  If that passes 4) Vote on final passage.

On the Hugh Hewitt Program, Representative Tom Campbell (R-CA 15th) indicated that Obama's people have been working the antechambers and dissenting Democrats think that the deal has been fixed.  If that is true, this is a dog and pony show that allows for Liberal Democrats to save face and have a vote for class warfare for their constituents before voting for the clean Senate bill.  To paraphrase Senator John Kerry (D-MA), they can be against the bill before being for it. 

Via: Michelle Malkin

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