Happy New Year’s Eve, Eve, Fairfield!
At this time of year, it’s traditional for journalists and reporters to recap the past year’s major stories. I took the high road in this Daily Republic column during 2013, and instead of shamelessly bragging about how right I was about everything in 2012, we reviewed how wrong Fox News had been. This year, let’s take another look at the blooper reel and examine the congressional highlights of 2013.
As you probably know, the past few Congresses have been the least productive in history. In my Feb. 20, 2012, Daily Republic column, “Kick out the jams, America,” I noted that for the year 2011, Congress had passed only 90 laws, “a modern-era low.” Even the infamous 80th Congress of 1947-48, which President Truman notably dubbed the “Do-Nothing Congress,” passed 1,729 bills. We’re at the one-year mark of the current, 113th Congress and so far, only 58 laws have been enacted, another new low. Many of these new laws are simply to rename some federal building in honor of a local celebrity.
What was Congress’ biggest accomplishment for 2013? Would you say it was the bipartisan budget that was signed by President Obama last Thursday? Not me. I would give the coveted, fictional trophy for their federal government shutdown in October.
Some of you might question, “Why not Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster or Ted Cruz’ 21-hour filibuster?” Well, these were funny, sure, but bottom line, they were pointless ego trips. But the government shutdown, now that actually accomplished something.
The accomplishment was not putting government employees out of work during tough economic times, nor the massive infusion of uncertainty into the American business community and financial markets, nor even the fact that it cost our fragile economy $24 billion, just before Christmas. It was that the giant media lens was focused on the radical right-wing, tea-party fringe of the Republican Party. They held the spotlight for a full 16 days and they finally got their chance to really show America what they could do.
When the government shutdown was over, while the fringe tea partyers took victory laps, the real Republicans, feeling the sting of voter poll numbers, reached across the aisle and started to work with Democrats in Congress. Our new, bipartisan federal budget would have never happened without the tea party debacle.
A defiant, animated and unusually butch Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, spoke to the press on Dec. 12 and took shots at conservative groups – such as Heritage Action and Freedom Works – that forcefully opposed the bipartisan, Ryan-Murray budget deal, even prior to the disclosure of its contents.
“I just think that they’ve lost all credibility,” he said. “They pushed us into this fight to defund Obamacare and to shut down the government. Most of my members know that wasn’t exactly the strategy I had in mind. But if you’ll recall the day before the government reopened, one of these groups stood up and said, ‘Well, we never thought it would work.’ Are you kidding me?”
No, they weren’t. The shutdown was just one more Republican stunt in a continuing, five-year series, trying to prove that Obama’s government is broken. But the latest opinion polls show that most American voters are not that gullible and reasonable Republicans are starting to move away from their radical fringe. Leaders such as Paul Ryan and John Boehner are desperately trying to regroup around the traditional Republican core.
This New Year’s Eve, I’ll toast to their success, and America’s. Cheers.
Mike Kirchubel grew up in Fairfield and is the author of “Vile Acts of Evil – Banking in America.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.