Posted by | August 1, 2010 14:02 | Filed under: Top Stories

by Stuart Shapiro

Mark Schmitt looks forward and backward to project the actions of a Republican Congress.

So let’s look at the movie from 1995. After the failed government shutdown, the Republicans turned to the basic legislative agenda that had been part of the Contract with America — notably welfare reform. (It’s often credited as a Clinton initiative, but his role was to sign it, after vetoing it once.) Welfare reform and anti-crime legislation were the big substantive initiatives of the Republican agenda, and they had the advantage of being popular and acting on things Clinton had promised to do but hadn’t.

The current Republican Party lacks a similar basic, manageable agenda. It’s all or nothing. And the GOP no longer seems to have the capacity to get policy plans developed into legislation that is written, negotiated, and signed into law. The GOP has made a political choice to cut off a lot of its policy capacity. That’s why it has no budget plans other than [Rep. Paul] Ryan’s super-unpopular one.

There’s a cost for being the Party of No.  Schmitt describes how their signature issues, repeal health care reform, stymie regulations, etc. will all fail (remember that they all require presidential signatures).  Then they will actually have to do something or repeat the political disaster of the 1995-6 shutdown.

People offhandedly remark that there are benefits to divided government.  There seem to me to be two problems with that.

1. This Republican Party (unlike even the Gingrich folks of 1994) has no agenda with any popular support.  How can they controlling any branch of government lead to anything productive?

2. Because of the change in the use of the filibuster, we essentially have an element of divided government right now.  With both health care reform and financial reform, Obama had to compromise with the center-right represented by Senators Ben Nelson and Joe Lieberman.  Both pieces of legislation, while good, were far from progressive dreams.  This type of compromise is healthy and good for the republic.  Compromising with nutcases is not.

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Copyright 2010 Liberaland
By: Stuart Shapiro

Stuart is a professor and the Director of the Public Policy
program at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy at Rutgers
University. He teaches economics and cost-benefit analysis and studies
regulation in the United States at both the federal and state levels.
Prior to coming to Rutgers, Stuart worked for five years at the Office
of Management and Budget in Washington under Presidents Clinton and
George W. Bush.