Two very different approaches to legislative activism will clash as Congress convenes during the final year of President Obama’s term. As an election looms, some will seek to stake out aggressive ideological positions, while the House leadership will retreat to familiar go-along-to-get-along territory. From Bloomberg News:
[House Speaker Paul] Ryan is already lowering expectations of major legislative achievements in 2016, saying he wants to focus on spelling out a conservative agenda. Far-right Republicans say they want more — and that they’ll push Ryan for votes on their top priorities, such as making significant tax changes, reining in entitlement programs and enacting a new health care law.
That tension — between Ryan’s push to set out broad principles and the Freedom Caucus’ impatience to force higher-profile confrontations — could intensify this week as House Republicans go to Baltimore to sort out their agenda. If the three dozen members of the conservative Freedom Caucus don’t like the outcome, they say they are prepared to push him just as hard as they pushed Ryan’s predecessor, John Boehner, who quit.
Ryan’s course proves consistent with past Republican leadership, erring on the side of not rocking the boat rather than potentially offending voters. However, there’s little evidence to suggest that such an approach proves beneficial, either in terms of getting Republicans elected or achieving anything legislatively after an election.
Republicans have been backed against the wall in terms of legislative defeats throughout Obama’s two terms. So it seems there’s very little to lose from rocking the boat. As things stand, legislative tepidness before an election seems to indicate legislative tepidness after one. Perhaps it’s time to demonstrate the opposite. After all, if winning only accomplishes holding seats and not doing anything with them, what’s the point of winning?