Sunday, October 23, 2016

In 1994, after being out of power for 40 years, Republicans got control of the House of Representatives by pledging Republican Revolution, return of 'citizen lawmakers,' etc. Once in power, they backed out of their pledges. By Jan. 2003, to the country's great misfortune, they couldn't have cared less: 'You're going to see extreme arrogance on display...the same thing that brought down the Democrats,' said an observer-USA Today, 1/19/2003

In 1994, the GOP won control of the House of Representatives for the first time 40 years. By Jan. 2003, their arrogance was so great it was clear they were headed for a fall:

Jan. 19, 2003, "Republican Revolution fades," USA Today, Andrea Stone
"Eight years after wresting control of the House of Representatives, the party that waged the "Republican Revolution" has become somewhat less revolutionary. 

House Republicans have grown less enamored with term limits. They have reversed some ethics reforms and rules aimed at budget discipline. Their leaders have tightened their grip on power.

As they begin their fifth two-year congressional session in control of the House, some of the practices Republicans attacked in 1994 after 40 years of Democratic rule don't seem so bad after all.

"Republicans have gone native," says Ross Baker, a Rutgers University political scientist. "They've got a raging case of Potomac Fever. Having won the battle, they don't want to relinquish power." 

The clearest example of that came in the opening moments of the 108th Congress earlier this month. House Republicans forced through nearly 30 rules changes, many of which eased tight restrictions they imposed on themselves in 1994. Among the casualties was the eight-year limit imposed on the House speaker when Newt Gingrich, the revolution's leader, held the job. Now, House Speaker Dennis Hastert of Illinois can serve indefinitely. 

Longtime Congress-watchers aren't surprised that Republicans are doing things they once condemned. "They are coming around to the realization that that's what majorities do," says Norman Ornstein, a congressional expert at the American Enterprise Institute. "They were naïve."

Many of the original revolutionaries who authored the GOP's "Contract with America" platform in 1994, including Gingrich and his top deputy, Dick Armey, have left office. Gingrich could not be reached for comment. Those who remain feel empowered by last November's election, when Republicans won a Senate majority and widened their House edge. 

"It's hard to continue to revolt when you're in charge," says Rep. Deborah Pryce of Ohio, head of the House Republican Conference. 

Signs the revolution is over:

At least 10 current House Republicans have reneged on term-limit pledges. Among them: George Nethercutt of Washington state, who unseated Speaker Tom Foley, D-Wash., with a vow to limit himself to three terms. Nethercutt is now in his fifth term.

Republicans are demonstrating "a belief that they are going to stay in the majority," says Thomas Mann, a political analyst at the Brookings Institution. "They have to think less as revolutionaries and more as a party capable of drawing on experience and leadership to reach objectives."

In one of their first orders of business after taking control, House Republicans voted to limit the speaker's term to eight years and committee chairs to six years. Pryce calls the speaker's term limit "a 'Newt-ism.' It was not part of the Contract with America."

Stacie Rumenap, executive director of U.S. Term Limits, an advocacy group, says the change shows that Republicans have "become part of the insider system...If term limits are good enough for the president of the United States,
they're good enough for the speaker of the House."

The limit on committee chairs remains. Still, leaders made an exception for Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., who was allowed to continue as head of the intelligence panel beyond his six-year limit.

  • Ethics rules. Strict ethics rules imposed in 1995 have been eased. A new, so-called pizza rule makes it easier for lobbyists to deliver food to congressional offices. It gets around a $50 gift limit set by Republicans five years ago, when they relaxed an earlier rule forbidding all gifts, by allocating the value of the food against the gift limits of all who eat it.

A second change reverses a 1995 rule that discouraged lawmakers from attending charitable events at resorts. Republicans had assailed those trips as free vacations. Junkets that lobbyists pay for are still forbidden.

Armey, now with the advocacy group Citizens for a Sound Economy, jokes that the travel change "can be put down to the commitment, energy and zeal of the golfers' caucus." 

Matt Keller, legislative director of the watchdog group Common Cause, disagrees. He predicts the rules changes will presage other Republican moves to loosen ethics rules and consolidate power. 

"They've been chomping at the bit," he says. "You're going to see extreme arrogance on display...the same thing that brought down the Democrats." 

Pryce calls the changes "fine-tuning" but agrees they could be seen as hypocritical. "Some might say lessons have been learned," she says. "Not all the things (the Democrats) did was wrong."

Among them, apparently, are rules that make it harder for the minority party to propose alternative legislation or move its own bills through the House. The new rules include a series of arcane changes that will strengthen the majority party's power to control the policy agenda.

  • Balanced budget. Republicans cited an "out-of-control" Democratic-led Congress in their 1995 call for a balanced budget amendment to the Constitution. But the war on terrorism and President Bush's deep tax cuts have silenced the GOP on the issue of deficit spending.

Last week, Republicans reinstated a rule scrapped in 2001, when the federal government was running a budget surplus. The rule allows the House to raise the limit on the $6.4 trillion public debt without holding a separate, and potentially embarrassing, vote. 

"We find ourselves in very unusual times. A time of war, a recession," Pryce says. "There was a decision to take that one back."

Rep. Martin Frost of Texas, the top Democrat on the House Rules Committee, says he knows why.

"Now they've decided the ways Democrats were doing things when we were in control is OK," he says. "They want the perks back. The revolution has grown old.""

(Related item: Loosening the rules)


Comment: I find it instructive that for 40 straight years the GOP couldn't get it together to get a majority in the House (which turns over every two years). I hadn't known about the 40 years until I heard Rush Limbaugh mention it some years back. It's further evidence that we don't have a two party system, that the GOP prefers being junior democrats. It makes sense that they hate Republican voters as much as they do. To them, voters have nothing to do with anything. It's preferable to permanently "out of power," because you can get voters off your back by saying, hey, you can't expect much from me because Democrats are in control. Looking at it now, 1994 seems more like a one time stunt, especially since they blew off most of what they "pledged" and became arrogant assholes. They'd been perfectly happy in the minority. I do believe Rush Limbaugh was influential in cheering along that one big year--after they'd been out of power for 40 years. I hasten to add, I don't think Limbaugh has been--or has wanted to be--an effective leader for a mass GOP movement since then. He could've helped, but he hasn't wanted to. His first love is the establishment, and he has to keep them happy in order to remain on the air. Moving on, there were almost no Republicans left in the House after the Nov. 2008 elections, and deservedly so. In Nov. 2010, we gave them a huge grassroots landslide majority back from Siberia. Which enraged them. They hated voters more than ever, did nothing but bitch and complain about the people we gave them, said the Nov. 2010 landslide was the source of all their problems, spent all their time after that figuring out how to get rid of the new people. The important point is that Republican voters don't have a political party that represents their views and haven't had for many decades. If you mention this fact to most elected Republicans, they'll flip their lid. They just want us to shut up. We've been waiting for Donald Trump for a very long time.



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