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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Midnight Riders

In these uncertain times, you can always count on congressional Republicans to be consistently devious. Last night’s–or more accurately, this morning’s–votes in the House were a case in point. First, the House GOP leaders rammed through a rules change, known as “martial law,” which basically suspended all the normal rules, including the requirement that Members have 24 hours to read major legislation before voting on it. That paved the way for snap votes on secretly assembled defense appropriations and budget reconciliation bills, in the dawn’s early light. The “defense” bill included Alaska wilderness oil drilling, cleverly linked to a big batch of money for Katrina recovery, not to mention funds for the military itself. And the budget bill, hammered out in closed House-Senate conference committee discussions with zero Democratic input, incorporated most of the House’s obnoxious safety-net cuts, including higher copayments for Medicaid beneficiaries, higher interest rates for people obtaining student loans, and most obnoxious of all, a self-defeating major cut in funds used to collect delinquent child support payments. All this was in a 700-plus-page bill that nobody got to read before it was enacted on a 212-206 vote (every single Democrat voted “no,” joined by a mere 9 Republicans). Adding to the deviousness of this grim night’s work, congressional Republicans had earlier decided to strip out new tax cuts from the budget package, not because they don’t intend to push forward with them in January, but because they want to distract attention from the fact that their brave spending cuts simply pay for a fraction of the revenues they will sacrifice in their mindless and regressive tax cut campaign. The GOPers are also cynically calculating that they can get new dividend and capital gains cuts without the filibuster protection of a reconciliation bill, by linking them to the alternative minimum tax relief that Democrats and Republicans want. (It’s also important to recognize that January 1 will bring two new tax cuts almost exclusively targeted to higher earners, that were enacted back in 2001 but deferred as part of the originally devious Republican strategy of hiding the costs of their fiscal malfeasance). It’s a pretty amazing shell-game, when you think about it, and the ability of Democrats to expose it will be a critical test of whether we can truly hold this dreadful gang accountable next November.

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