Over at New Republic yesterday, Danny Vinik wrote, John Boehner’s Ridiculous Excuse for Blocking the Deal on Unemployment Benefits. You probably know at least part of the story. And you can probably guess the rest. Extended unemployment benefits ended in December. This is a huge problem because we have a huge long-term unemployment problem. Well, after months of wrangling, the Senate has managed to put together a compromise bill that is expected to pass next week. Hooray!
But not so fast. Yesterday, House Speaker John Boehner announced that it was a no go. As Vinik notes, in the past, there have been two things that the Republicans have complained about. First, there is the idea that extended unemployment benefits make people lazy, refusing to take all those jobs that aren’t available. This is rubbish, but that hardly matters. What is more important is that while Republicans generally think this, only people like Rand Paul are going to make a big public deal out of it. The second thing Republicans always claim is that the benefits must be paid for. Well, this bill is paid for. (Note: as soon as Republicans are back in charge in Washington, this business of paying for everything will be gone gone gone.)
Now Boehner has two all new complaints. One has to do with a National Association of State Work Force Agencies report that claims the law would be unworkable. But it proposes a fix. The other is that it does nothing to strengthen the economic recovery. That one is a howler! Over the last three and a half years, the Republican controlled House has not been interested in anything that helps the recovery. Quite the opposite. Remember Sequestration that is still dragging down the recovery? And for that matter, letting extended unemployment benefits lapse is a drag on the economy. No: we haven’t gotten any legislation from the House to improve the economy, unless you think that 50 votes to repeal Obamacare would stimulate the economy. (It wouldn’t, although in RepublicanLand, it would do that and so much more.)
What these new demands from Boehner are really all about is the desire to cause as much pain and suffering on the American people as possible. As long as a Democrat is in the White House, the Republicans know that their best course of action is to harm the economy. The Democrats will get the blame, even though John Boehner has an effective veto on everything. What’s more, this gets into the whole “of course—if only” approach to legislative obstruction. Of course John Boehner is for extending unemployment benefits, if only these two problems were fixed. Note that one of the problems is open ended: create more jobs. He will say that anything that actually would create jobs won’t. And his idea of job creation will just be a bunch of Republican wish list items: tax cuts for the rich, spending cuts for the poor, more oil drilling. But even if somehow his demands were met, there would be another. There is always another.
You may be wondering why it is that Republicans will allow nothing to get done when a Democrat is president, but Democrats do get things done with Republican presidents. It is quite simply that the Republicans are now a revolutionary party. What conservatives say about Obama is exactly what conservative extremists said about Clinton. The Republican Party is now almost nothing but those old conservatives bomb throwers. Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism is now what the vast majority of congressional Republicans believe. You don’t negotiate with evil, you destroy it and that is why the Republicans now have this all-or-nothing approach to legislation.
Of course, Boehner isn’t exactly one of these revolutionaries—at least anymore. He’s calmed down a lot from the 1990s. I think of him more as the banality of evil. Like a lot of older politicians, he is only interested in hanging onto power for as long as he can. Of course, power that you wield only to hang onto it is not real power. I wrote about this before, Boehner’s Paradox of Power. So in the name of his futile efforts, the nation suffers. And as far as his caucus is concerned, that’s just great.