Congressmen and senators have departed Washington, D.C., for the July 4 recess. But unlike ordinary Americans who may take a break from their normal jobs for the holiday week, Republicans will be busy — taking time to rally voters and prepare for the giant legislative battles which await them upon their return.
Roll Call reports that Republicans are hoping to call attention to cap-and-trade, health care, and other items on the liberals’ wish list:
Using the Independence Day break to malign the work of the majority party is a time-honored tradition in Washington, and Republicans hope to live up to tradition by branding Democrats as a “far left” party intent on “big government takeovers,” “bringing terrorists to the U.S.” and purposefully inflating the debt through “wasteful spending,” according to recess messaging documents prepared for House and Senate Republicans.
At the top of the list will be Friday’s vote on cap-and-trade. Minority Leader John Boehner provided some dramatic moments in a mini-filibuster and some 44 Democrats defected from one of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s primary legislative proposals. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that it passed and Republicans will face a conservative base fuming about eight Republicans who crossed over to support a huge energy tax and massive expansion of government regulation. It is not accurate to say that the Republican 8 were responsible for the bill’s passage. There is little doubt that the requisite number of Democrats would have been strong-armed to remain on board to make up for any of the eight Republicans who might have been convinced to stick with their party. Nevertheless, the Republican 8 didn’t help matters by blurring the partisan divide and by helping some Democrats avoid casting an unpopular vote.
Despite the eight defectors, Republicans will make hay over a bill that imposes “a huge tax” (as Warren Buffet put it) during a recession. Of all times to impose a bevy of new regulations and squeeze already suffering heartland industries, this seems a particularly inopportune one. How high must unemployment go before liberal Democrats decide to make it easier, not harder, for American employers?
And for Americans increasingly concerned about the increase in the size and scope of the federal government, the measure will give Republicans additional fodder to argue that Obama is fundamentally remaking the American economy in the image of European social welfare states. The Wall Street Journal explained:
The 1,200 page bill — formally known as the “American Clean Energy and Security Act” — will reach into almost every corner of the U.S. economy. By putting a price on emissions of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, the bill would affect the way electricity is generated, how homes and offices are designed, how foreign trade is conducted and how much Americans pay to drive cars or to heat their homes. …
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers lobbied against passage. Groups that represent airlines, oil producers and mining companies expressed disappointment, saying the bill, if enacted, would lead to onerous new costs to consumers. “It will affect every aspect of the American economy, harming our ability to compete in the world and provide secure and affordable energy to American consumers and businesses,” the National Mining Association said in a statement.
Republicans will argue that, not unlike the Obama stimulus plan, the cap-and-trade measure is long on government and short on jobs.
And jobs are increasingly a worry for Democrats. Even liberal columnists like Bob Herbert complained:
Some months ago, the Obama administration and various mainstream economists forecast a peak unemployment rate of roughly 8 percent this year. It has already reached 9.4 percent, and most analysts now expect it to hit 10 percent or higher. Economists are currently spreading the word that the recession may end sometime this year, but the unemployment rate will continue to climb. That’s not a recovery. That’s mumbo jumbo.
Why this rampant joblessness is not viewed as a crisis and approached with the sense of urgency and commitment that a crisis warrants, is beyond me.
Then there is health care. Democrats are stalled over a funding mechanism and perplexed about how to sell the “public option” to the public. We have reached the point where a liberal columnist like Ruth Marcus sounds like a conservative critic of ObamaCare, pleading with Democrats to give up on “their focus on a public plan [which] will sap time, attention and political capital from more crucial questions about the overall structure of the new insurance ‘exchange’ that would allow those without employer-provided insurance to purchase coverage.”
What Republicans have yet to do is adequately explain their health care alternatives and convince the public that Obama’s plan will inevitably increase costs and decrease quality — as all government monopolies eventually do.
So while American families are watching baseball games and heading for the beach, Republicans will try to capture the public’s attention and galvanize public opinion in an effort to block Obama’s major legislative initiatives. Along the way they may find thousands of tea party protestors out for a repeat of their April 15 events — with plenty of evidence that Obama is bent on pursuing tax and spend policies which are precisely the wrong answer to what ails America’s economy.
For both political parties, the most important factors occur outside the Beltway — GDP, unemployment, home sales, the markets, and the public’s unease with a gigantic expansion of government.
As long as the economy remains in the doldrums and more and more Americans lose their jobs, Democrats will have trouble convincing the public that more of the liberal wish list is the way to restoring America’s economic health. And Republicans will then be poised (they hope) to argue that they tried their best to say “no” and to offer alternative policies which address the concerns of ordinary voters.