Republicans in the House of Representatives have officially scheduled a vote to repeal health care reform for January 12, according to a spokesman for Eric Cantor. Before you get excited, remember that said vote—which will almost certainly pass, given the Republicans’ 242-seat majority—stands not a charwoman’s chance of actually repealing anything. Senate Democrats have vowed to block any such bill in their chamber, and even when they eventually renege on that promise because they heard 17% of Americans would think they were reds if they didn’t, the President will surely exercise his veto. Basically, the repeal vote is a symbol. It’s also officially the GOP’s number-one priority for the 2012 congressional term, which is odd, considering that they presumably know the lay of the land as well as we do. It turns out, though, that the newly Republican-controlled House has laid out a whole agenda of purely theoretical governance.
For example, there’s the plan to cut $100 billion in domestic spending. That would make good on a party-wide campaign pledge led by John Boehner, but so far GOP reps haven’t specified what they intend to cut. They have said what’s off-limits, though: spending on the military, domestic security and veterans’ benefits. They haven’t said it, but they probably don’t plan to cut Medicare, Social Security payments or any of the other “good” entitlements enjoyed by a disproportionate number of the Tea Party base. Hitting the $100 billion target will therefore necessitate cuts of more than 20% across the board to, as the Times puts it, “education, law enforcement, medical and scientific research, transportation and much more.”
Students of history may question the wisdom of massive spending cuts during an economic recovery, particularly when the people advocating those cuts seem to have selected the number first and looked for opportunities second. Why not cut $350 billion and really fix that darn deficit? My opponents might accuse me of loving America too much, but I think we ought to cut $900 billion. Such discussions are about as relevant as anything else, given that Senate Democrats have vowed to block that legislation, too, and the same presidential veto lurks at the end of the road. Like the repeal of Obamacare, the House GOP’s plan for massive, nonspecific and impossible spending cuts is almost* completely symbolic.
Drafting legislation for Kirby’s Dreamland is not without its advantages. For one thing, the absolute zero risk that any of their proposed bills will become law has freed top Republicans from the already-loose shackles of reason. When you’re arguing about a plan with no details to cut a budget that won’t get passed, you don’t need to marshall a lot of evidence. You just need to make your position known. Hence the recent statement from Boehner spokesman Michael Steel (not the funny one):
No one believes that the job-killing healthcare law will lower costs, because it won’t. That’s why we’ve pledged to repeal it, and replace it with common-sense reforms that will actually work.
Ah, yes—the “everyone agrees with me because I’m right” defense. Here Steel refers to the one aspect of health care repeal that abuts an actual policy: the GOP’s new House rule that any proposed legislation be paid for in advance. Remember that, according to the Congressional Budget Office, Obamacare will reduce the deficit by $143 billion over the next eight years. Repeal would therefore cost $143 billion, forcing the proponents to explain where they’ll get that money. Several analysts have disputed the CBO number, and Republicans argue that reform will actually add to the deficit. They haven’t produced any actual numbers themselves, though. Instead, GOP leaders in the House have exempted repeal from their new rule, 48 hours before it even goes into effect.
It’s hard to fault them for that, given that there’s no chance their repeal legislation will ever pass, anyway. Still, to paraphrase Cicero, shit seems disingenuous. Michael Steel’s “common-sense reforms” and “pledge to repeal” ring especially cynical in the empty theater. One would hope for a house of US Representatives who refrained from promising to do things they knew were impossible, and didn’t use “common sense” as a synonym for “things we haven’t thought of yet and won’t need to think of later.”
One is governed by the House one gets, however. Now that the Republican Party has successfully insisted on $700 billion in tax cuts and can dedicate itself entirely—okay, situationally—to fiscal responsibility in symbolic bills, I’d like to suggest the following legislation. Everybody supports these laws because they will work and create jobs, and the best part is, they’re completely deficit-neutral:
1) The Keep America Cool Act, which provides a free Harley Davidson to any senior citizen still able to grow a ponytail, using the money saved from, I dunno, welfare abuse or something
2) A vote demanding that all funny chicks stop being fat but still have enormous boobs (opposed by Snowe, Bachmann, McCain)
3) When you eat a piece of cake and fall asleep immediately afterward, the cake is back in your fridge when you wake up.