Governing is a lot harder than it seems.
This is the lesson that Republicans in Congress are learning the hard way.
Four months after a resounding midterm victory gave them a self-identified "mandate" and which gave the Democrats their own "Red Wedding" as Jon Stewart so accurately described, Republicans were excited, nay giddy, to have a chance to finally share their agenda with the American people.
The problem is that it's easy to be the armchair political party. Anytime the party in power does something, you have the chance to react to the situation with perfect 20/20 hindsight. ISIS is still on a rampage? Clearly, because we haven't put boots on the ground. We were able to dispose of Omar Gaddafi in Libya without boots on the ground? Clearly, we waited too long and should have disposed of him sooner. Boko Haram is running amok in Africa? Uhh, well, it's Africans killing Africans with no oil nearby so we don't care so we're not going to address this situation one way or another.
And the list goes on and on.
However, once Republican attained the largest Republican majority in over 80 years, it was now their time to shine. Mitch McConnell and John Boehner now had a chance to come forward and make up for five years of their stalled agenda due to a Republican-controlled House and a Democratic-controlled Senate. Now, with both branches of Congress under their control they could present their agenda loud and clear and then could either celebrate its success or could, as always, blame Obama for being a tyrant-dictator-Muslim-socialist king who hates America.
And so, what better way to show off your ideas than to have your first piece of meaningful legislation with the 114th Congress be a robust jobs bill that would create 35 jobs.
Yes, with 247 members in the House and 54 in the Senate, Republicans made the passing of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline their top legislative priority of the new year. Never mind that it wouldn't create any meaningful long-term jobs, never mind that it would potentially destroy the Ogallala Aquifer in Nebraska, never mind that its the dirtiest kind of oil to transport, and never mind that this would be Canadian oil being shipped to the world market, this particular pipeline would make all the difference.
Somebody forgot to tell President Barack Obama.
Thanks to years of grassroots environmental work as well as a coalition of true, legitimate progressive Democrats (you're dead to me now, Mark Warner), President Obama made the easy decision to veto the project. Despite Republican cries of King Obama, the president made the right call in using his veto pen for only the third time and vetoed the project that poor John Boehner had invested so much time, as well as stock in TransCanada, in trying to pass.
And so, Republicans moved on. Their next battle became the immigration front, because heaven forbid they use their control in both the House and the Senate to pass some meaningful form of immigration reform. Instead, they chose to push the Department of Homeland Security dangerously close to a shutdown in an attempt to reverse President Obama's executive order to help shield 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation. Because let's face it: Nothing keeps a border secure and keeps these illegal immigrants out better than shutting down the exact agency in charge of this security.
Yet in the end, not even the Suicide Caucus of the House Republicans could sell that argument. After passing a stop-gap funding measure, John Boehner again gave his Tea Party wing the metaphorical finger and brought the clean DHS funding bill to the House floor. Despite the fact that 167 Republican congressmen and women still voted against the bill, Boehner was able to count on his remaining members who aren't brain-dead morons to vote with Congressional Democrats and pass the clean DHS bill to fund the agency until September. Of course, come September we will rinse, lather, and repeat and do this whole song and dance one more time.
Despite these two temporary setbacks, Republicans were still content to show the American people they were the party in charge. What better way to do that than invite a foreign leader to speak without properly notifying the president. Yes, Republicans decided the way to win over the American people would be to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to speak to Congress, a mere three weeks before Israeli elections. The idea was simple: Bring in a foreign ally to speak without the president's knowledge and then hammer the president for being anti-Israel when he takes umbrage with the slight.
The problem? Barack Obama is smarter than that. He refused to meet with Bibi and expressed his concern over the invitation not because of any issue with the American-Israeli alliance but because he didn't want to give the appearance of American support of a political leader to close to an upcoming election. Yes, he played the democracy card, something that Republican leaders clearly hadn't thought about. So they were stuck with their invite to Bibi with a president unwilling to meet with him as well as prominent Democrats who chose to boycott the speech entirely.
Of course, in true Republican fashion, the Bibi speech went from bad to worse. In addition to openly criticizing the President, Bibi also reiterated how dangerously close Iran was to creating a nuclear bomb. The problem? Bibi said the same thing in September of 2012. It also doesn't help that Bibi made an ill-fated prediction in 2002 when he stated that there would be peace in Iraq if Sadam Hussein was taken out. When both liberal media outlets as well as Infowars are referencing the same speech, you know that Republicans backed someone who might not have been as reliable as they would have hoped. Thanks to all this, President Obama received a nice little 5-point bump in the latest Gallup poll from the time when Bibi first touched down on American soil.
And yet, Republicans still weren't done with the whole Bibi debacle. Thanks to freshman senator and Tea Party darling Tom Cotton (R-AK), 47 Republican senators, including presidential hopefuls Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz wrote a letter to the Iranian ayatollahs declaring that any Iranian nuclear disarmament deal would not be official because it was not approved by Congress. This most recent development has set off a firestorm of criticism levied against the Republican senators for interfering with an ongoing negotiation. The term #47traitors is trending on Twitter and there is now a petition on WhiteHouse.gov with 62,000 signatures to charge the senators with sedition for violating the Logan Act for being unauthorized citizens negotiating with a foreign government.
So here we are, two months in to the 114th Congress. We've seen Republicans use their control in both the House and the Senate to set a clear legislative agenda: Pro-big business, anti-environment, anti-immigrant, pro-Israel, and anti-diplomacy. We've also seen infighting with the Suicide Caucus as well as a large contingency of Senators who would rather negotiate with the Iranian ayatollahs than President Obama. And all this hasn't even gotten to the gaffes by presidential hopefuls Scott Walker, Ben Carlson, and Chris Christie over the past two months.
As disheartened as many progressives were with the 2014 midterm election results, having Republicans control the House and Senate might end up being a blessing in disguise. For the first time this decade, the average American citizen is seeing exactly what Republicans stand for and it's what many of us have known for a while: It is a party rife with in-fighting, one that is vehemently anti-immigrant, one that refuses to recognize civil rights moments like the one that occurred this past weekend in Selma, one that interferes with foreign elections, and one that will openly undermine the diplomatic process in making the world a safer place for the sole reason of denying our President a diplomatic victory.
Please proceed, Republicans.
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