A year ago, few in the business of political prognostication would have predicted that House Democrats would be on the verge of ending their first session in the majority since 1994 with record-low approval ratings and a stunning lack of accomplishments.
What’s more, in today’s papers, it’s Republicans who are naming the terms of the big battles. Not one time in their dozen years in the minority did Democrats control the conversation like we are today.
There’s a lesson in this for Republicans nationwide. Unity pays off. And standing on conservative principle brings conservative change.
Just to get their veto-bait bills to the Senate, let alone the president’s desk, Democrats have had to, time and again, cobble together fragile coalitions with scotch tape and bailing wire.
With each passing empty moral victory, Democrats have had to give significant ground to common-sense conservative Republican positions.
When Nancy Pelosi was asked why, like four out of every five Americans, she disapproved of the job Congress was doing, she said it was because Democrats had not done enough to end the war in Iraq. Over 40 times Democrats have tried to halt our efforts to win in Iraq, and each time they have been turned back.
And when Majority Leader Steny Hoyer admitted that Democrats would most likely capitulate to what has been our position all year long – get our troops the funds they need and deserve without having their commanders’ hands tied – it did not go over well with the Speaker.
MoveOn.org, of the “General Betray Us” ad, has been humbled from its summer bluster, relegated to quietly circulating petitions beseeching lawmakers not to vote for war funding without withdrawal timelines inserted.
Twenty months ago, Speaker Pelosi promised a “commonsense” energy bill to reduce gas prices. We are still waiting. In January, we were told that the Fourth of July was going to be “Energy Independence Day.” Maybe next year.
Last week, Democrats managed to push through an energy bill that was full of higher taxes, broken promises and veto bait – but no energy. It was so counterproductive to our energy and economic needs that some of its worst criticism came from Democrats on the Energy and Commerce Committee.
One such committee member, Virginia’s Rick Boucher, called the electricity standard “extremely controversial. It’s not fair and on its merits it deserves to lose.” Another, Gene Green of Texas, acquiesced to our argument, that the bill would “raise prices for consumers.”
Just before the August recess, 41 Democrats joined Republicans to close the terrorist loophole and pass the temporary Protect America Act. Democrats came back in October with a bill that required intelligence agencies consult lawyers before it could wiretap al Qaeda. Hugely embarrassed, Democrats had to pull the bill for a time.
And now, time is running out. The Protect America Act expires on February 1st, and Democrats don’t plan to reconvene the House until January 15th. If Democrats fail in the next week to pass a FISA bill that has proven bipartisan support, then we will have precious little time in January to get this critical work done. This is no way to run the House, and it’s no way to protect America.
At this moment, 23 million Americans stand in the cross hairs of the alternative minimum tax, and the refunds of tens of millions more are at risk. America has spoken on this issue — editorials have been written all over the count — this is money Americans count on, especially after a winter of holiday shopping and home heating expenses.
Led by Jim McCrery, we have stood together to insist a patch become law in short order without permanent tax increases — a solution that everybody but Nancy Pelosi and Charlie Rangel knows we are going to get. After the Senate voted last week to send back an AMT patch the Wall Street Journal called Democrat PAYGO a “farce.” That is what we have been saying all along.
This year’s appropriations process represents everything that is wrong with this Congress. Wasteful pork-barrel spending concocted behind closed doors. Egregious spending levels. Misguided public policy. Shortchanging our veterans. With only one of the dozen annual appropriations bills passed by Thanksgiving, Democrats offered to dishonestly split the difference, and now they have offered to come the whole way.
What accomplishments this Congress has had have really been Republican ones. Democrats are working their tails off to paint us as obstructionists. That’s flat out wrong. We made the minimum wage law better by including tax relief for small business owners. The 9/11 bill did not include proper protections for terrorism tipsters before Pete King led the charge to make it happen. We have the opportunity to add the budget to that list.
Democrats are out there desperately looking for a life raft right now, worried about their PR problems, looking over their shoulder to see if their MoveOn.org-led liberal base is still with them. Meanwhile, we’re pounding the pavement, looking out for the young couple trying to buy their first home, the working family looking at the new semester’s college tuition bill, the retiree worried that their savings won’t last. It’s their money, not ours.
This is not about political positioning anymore. These are good fights for the American people, who right now are fed up with the direction of the country, frustrated with Washington, and are actively looking for leaders. They are looking for us.
Democrats are drawing dead. Right now, there are more Republican victories to be had than there are Democratic ones. It’s any team’s dream to be down to the end of the season and control their own destiny. That’s the position we are in.
– Congressman Adam Putnam (Fla.) is chairman of the House Republican conference.