The credits haven’t even rolled yet on US default Part 2 and already a flurry of articles anticipating the sequel in January/February. However, it is JUST possible that this could be the beginning of a very positive and productive year ahead for the US Congress and the nation as a whole.
Per my Oct. 10 post, it all depends on Speaker John Boehner. As Boehner-San fires up his Zero’s engine; is he planning on coming back or is this a one-way Kamikaze mission to glory?
- If he focuses on getting himself re-elected as speaker at the start of the new Congress (in 2014), we are ALL screwed.
- If he focuses on his legacy with a plan to “retire” the Speakership in 2014 (ahead of being thrown out), things look incredibly hopeful.
Boehner clearly doesn’t have a functional Republican majority. He does, however, have a very functional center-right majority. He can pretty easily cobble together 218 votes from middle-spectrum Republicans and Democrats for a whole array of business friendly, economy friendly, generally-good-idea initiatives.
These are the issues that matter to an old-school, small business, Rotary Club Republican like John Boehner. Heck, if the Republican Party was actually made up of John Boehners, I’d probably even vote Republican (assuming they also got out of women’s private parts and everyone’s love-lives). For example.
- Tax Reform/simplification
- Sensible changes to bend the curve on entitlement programs.
- Immigration reform.
- More questionable pork-barrel stuff like crop insurance, but you gotta grease the wheels somehow.
If Boehner does go Kamikaze, he goes from impotent weakness to immense power.
- EVERYONE (especially Senate Democrats) will understand that there is a very limited time clock to get things done. Either until the next Speaker election in 2014 or until enough Wacko Republicans get together to force him out.
- The negotiation dynamic for Boehner becomes “how little leftward do I have to move to get a few House Democrats to vote along with my rump parliament* of Rotary-Club Republicans?” Given that many Clinton-era Democrats are basically Reagan -era Republicans, that isn’t very far left.
- The Senate Democrats’ end up either passing whatever right-leaning-but-reasonable bills that come out of the House or passing nothing at all. I think they’d pass a whole lot of it.
As good fortune would have it, there is also a lot of centrist, economy-friendly, generally-a-good-thing legislation teed up.
- The “Grand Bargain” of 2011 is still on the table. Dusty and a little shopworn, but still there. It reads like a Republican wet dream. Or at least a Rotary Republican’s wet dream. Big cuts to entitlement programs. Admittedly some tax increases. But this year’s tax increase means the next revenue raise can be hidden in the….
- …major re-write of tax code lurking in the wings. Remarkably little talked-about so far, the Camp/Baucus (Republican and Democratic) leaders of the House and Senate tax-writing committees have been cooking up a major tax reform package for the past year. In it are all sorts of goodies for businesses (especially a re-write of the foreign profits/repatriation tax). There is also a lot of tax-code simplification that, if twisted in the right direction, can yield a lot of additional revenue without looking too nakedly like a tax increase.
- Don’t forget Immigration: The Senate Bill is still live and pretty extraordinary. It is a very reasonable, seemingly workable step forward on a chronic problem that has held back the nation for too long. Sort’ve like, ahem, Obamacare.
Obama is also likely to sign whatever hits his desk. As I wrote before, Obama has been desperately trying to throw his liberal supporters under the (fiscal) bus since he took office. If only the Republicans would get that damn bus rolling.
Who knows if this comes to pass. But we could end 2014 with a simpler Tax Code, more affordable entitlements, realistic immigration laws, and an-at-least-semi-rational healthcare system. Who woulda thunk it?
Of course, 2015 might bring an even more extremist wave of wackos into the House. And that could take us toward re-enacting the Salem Witch Trials, or McCarthy-ism (Notice how much Ted Cruz resembles McCarthy? – that man is CREEPY), or Southern Secession. Or all three! But lets focus on 2014’s possibilities just for a brief, moment of hope.
* Rump Parliament: Wikipedia entry excerpt below, my emphasis added. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rump_Parliament
Since 1649, the term “rump parliament” has been used to refer to any parliament left over from the actual legitimate parliament…. Within the active third of the [original] rump, there were many family allegiances, local allegiances and most importantly, common interest groups. The majority of active rumpers could fit into one of the two common interest categories:
- Members of Parliament who were professional lawyers and cooperated to oppose the reformation of the English Legal System.
- Members who were particularly concerned with commercial matters and politics in the city of London.
Although lawyers and merchants were a minority compared to the large number of rural land lords that occupied the Rump Parliament, their interest groups’ energy and cohesiveness was able largely influence Rump politics.