Something unusual happened in Congress last week. The House of Representatives passed a bill. Not just any bill, but a budget bill. And it didn’t just pass it with one of those nose-holding majorities of one or two votes. It passed it with a crushing majority. The 332 yes votes against just 94 against included 166 born-again Republican, the same Republicans who not so long ago had been happily stillborn in the dead ends of the Party of No. It was an even larger majority than the one that finally reopened the government after last fall’s 16-day shut-down.
That shut-down proved mostly disastrous for the Republican politicians who orchestrated it after lending too slavish an ear to the tea party extremists who’ve been holding the Republican Party hostage for the past few years. It looks like those Republicans, the majority of them anyway, learned a lesson. Good for them, and thank you. Americans don’t like cry-babies, especially cry-babies willing to put their ideological never-never lands ahead of the nation’s welfare.
Governance isn’t pretty. It never pleases all the people all the time. It doesn’t happen without compromise. The art of compromise appeared to have vanished since Barack Obama’s election, replaced by a fanatical attempt among House Republicans especially to defeat him and anything he stands for, come what may. But just saying no isn’t governing. It’s suicide. The 113th Congress that just finished its first year is on pace to be the least productive in history. That’s saying a lot when you think about the Congresses that preceded the Civil War, the Great Depression or even the lost years of the recent Bush administration.
By Christmas, the current Congress had passed just 58 bills, many of them the sort that grant honors or rename a stretch of Interstate after sports heroes. There’s been no reform of the country’s barbarous gun laws. No reform of the country’s racist immigration laws. No reform of the country’s debilitating tax laws. Forget about climate change or farm subsidies, corporate welfare or even a little compassionate help for the unemployed. Whatever may have passed the Senate was decapitated in the House, where that minority of tea party zealots held sway. It all culminated with the shutdown.
But on Jan. 16, the House approved a $1.1 trillion budget even though the 1,500-page bill was dropped in members’ laps only two days before. When they want to make a political issue out of it, members of Congress who’d never read a two-page bill make a big to-do about fat bills, claiming that they’re never given time to read them, as if their staffs of two dozen and Washington’s machinery of analysts don’t have every word combed and parsed within a few hours of any bill’s release. But cry-babies will seize on any red herring to make their case. They did that again on Jan. 16.
This time, they were ignored, as most of their colleagues have decided to grow up, at least for now. Just 64 diehard Republicans opposed the budget, among them, sadly but unsurprisingly, our own Ron DeSantis, who thinks being a Congressman is a game of grandstanding and TV time rather than dealing with the more prosaic business of compromising in Washington and constituent services in his own district.
In his recent appearance at a lunch hosted by the Flagler Chamber of Commerce DeSantis went on and on about the ills of Washington and how nobody up there gets it, he complained about the last minute budget bill, he repeated his rote speech about the evils of Obamacare and the presumptions of government (the government he is a part of), and of course not once proposed the sort of reasoned, compromising solutions that might get him or us somewhere. That’s been the tea party method. Shout down, but never deal. Then play the victim. For a moment last week Congress managed to look past the shouting. It’s unlikely to last as midterm elections approach.
DeSantis by the way also voted against the relief bill after Hurricane Sandy, forgetting that he lives in Florida, and he voted against the Violence Against Women Act, forgetting that he doesn’t live in Afghanistan. Here’s one bill that passed that he did vote for: the Pandemic and All-Hazards preparedness act of 2013. We may yet be protected from the hazards of tea party nuts after all.