The hidden hand of Axelrod, the man leading the President’s re-election campaign, is the only explanation for the GOP’s dismaying performance so far. Day after day the Republicans provide voters with an on-going series of empty political gestures topped off by embarrassing fights between Tea Party loyalists and the Republican leadership.
Axelrod’s evil intent must be to get the voting public that last fall rejected the Democratic control of the House to reconsider. That Democratic majority is looking better than ever because the first six weeks of the Republican majority looks so bad.
Last week the Republican leadership called for a vote on renewing the Patriot Act. But Republicans did not have the votes to pass it. In fact 26 Republicans voted with Democrats to oppose it. The bill was passed this week but the embarrassing civil war inside the GOP ranks remains the big news.
That dismaying performance was followed by a failed vote to reclaim funding for the United Nations. New York Republican Peter King led the opposition to that bill. And then there was the failure to pass important adjustments to trade agreements with South American nations.
The Republicans vote to repeal President Obama’s healthcare legislation also went nowhere. No amendments allowed, no effort was made to correct any of the flaws of the bill, and there was no sign of any serious outreach to conservative Democrats who share Republican concerns. As a result the House repeal vote got no traction in the Senate. The final result was only to pander to anger in the Republican base.
A Pew poll done last week found “far more” Americans blaming Republicans than President Obama [31-19] for “not working together on the important issues facing the country.” That is the same as a year ago when Democrats ran the House. Even with Republicans in charge they have not gained public support in their battle with President Obama.
This week the GOP promised a new strategy to follow up on the futile repeal vote. They planned to vote to defund the health care bill. But the House Rules Committee, with eight Republicans and only four Democrats, had to tell Rep. Steve King, an Iowa Republican, that it is against the rules to use a spending bill to subvert legislation. Rep. Tim Scott of South Carolina pleaded with King to stop the charade: “Please, please, please don’t do this.”
The latest Republican plan to undercut health care reform is to amend the spending bill for the current year. Again, it has no support in the Senate and will be vetoed by the President. This is all posturing. In fact, a CBS poll this week found 55 percent of Americans oppose the Republican efforts to defund health care.
Then Republicans put forward a proposal to “reduce non-security spending,” but did not specify how much spending would be cut or where to find the cuts.”
With their huge majority in the House, Republicans should have entered this week’s budget negotiations with strong momentum for meaningful cuts. Instead the focus has been on disagreement among Republicans about the amount of the budget cuts. The Tea Party freshman wanted $100 billion. The leadership was looking to force Democrats to negotiate by offering a reasonable proposal. Now it is back at $100 billion but the President and the nation have moved on to discuss next year’s budget. The serious discussion that Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin called for in his response to the State of the Union has been lost in the noise created by extreme members of the Republican caucus.
Meanwhile, Republicans have decided that despite past criticism for not focusing on jobs this is just the time to start another chapter in the polarizing debate on abortion. One bill tries to permanently ban taxpayer funding for abortions in federal programs. That is a curious proposal since there has been no federal funding of abortion since the Hyde Amendment of 1976.
Republican House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor, had to spend time telling reporters that neither of two the anti-abortion bills was scheduled for a vote. His only defense was to say that making a show of opposing abortion is “obviously very important in terms of the priorities we set out initially in our pledge to America.” In other words, this was another pointless exercise in pandering to the base.
The Republican effort to re-elect Obama goes forward.
Juan Williams serves as a Fox News political analyst, a regular panelist on Fox Broadcasting's Sunday morning public affairs program, "Fox News Sunday," as well as the weekday political newscast, "Special Report with Bret Baier," and as a regular substitute host for "The O'Reilly Factor."
Juan Williams is a co-host of FNC's "The Five," where he is one of seven rotating Fox personalities.