“It just reminds me of what my father always told me; it's not how you start, it's how you finish.”
— Rep. Kevin McCarthy
On Jan. 7, after five days and 15 contentious votes, Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., was finally elected Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives by a tiny margin. Another Republican tried to minimize the chaos of this election by saying Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was also elected Speaker by a slim majority.
The difference is, Pelosi was elected on the first ballot, as every Speaker has been since 1923. There was no conflict or back-room deals. In contrast, this circus of an election, administered by Republicans, gives good insight into the type of governance, or non-governance, they will exhibit for the next two years.
To emphasize their disinterest in actually governing, their first bill was based on a lie about the IRS which has been debunked repeatedly. On Jan. 7, Speaker McCarthy said, “Our very first bill will repeal the funding for 87,000 new IRS agents.”
The truth is, Congress passed $71 billion in additional funding for the Internal Revenue Service; this funding was signed into law by President Joe Biden. The funding will go toward replacing outdated technology and hiring IRS employees over a 10-year period. Much of the hiring will replace retiring workers.
“… the funding is going toward an understaffed federal agency in desperate need of personnel to perform its basic functions. The IRS’s staff size today is the same as in 1970, and there are a lot more tax returns to deal with today. The 87,000 figure refers to the total number of employees that would be hired by the Treasury Department.” (MSNBC, Jan. 11)
“In reality, the IRS is hiring only about 6,500 agents — and that’s over a decade.” (Washington Post, Jan. 13)
Republicans want to keep the IRS understaffed because that helps their wealthy donors avoid audits. Since tax returns of the wealthy are harder to audit, overworked IRS staffers focus more on middle and lower-income earners. That means ordinary workers carry more of the tax burden.
Cutting the $71 billion funding is the opposite of being fiscally responsible. “The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the additional funding will improve tax compliance and generate roughly $180 billion of revenue through 2031… Meanwhile the CBO says that the Republicans’ new bill would add $114 billion to the deficit over the next decade.” (MSNBC, Jan. 11)
Republicans love to complain about the deficit when a Democrat is president, although Democrats actually reduce the deficit. It seems Republicans should be in favor of increasing revenue without raising taxes. But since they have no real agenda, they are happy to whip their followers into a frenzy of anger, while protecting their rich friends.
The next big crisis Congress faces is raising the debt limit. The debt limit is not like increasing someone’s credit card limit. The debt limit controls how much money the government can borrow to pay expenses the government has already incurred. Refusing to raise the debt limit would ruin the “full faith and credit” of the United States and cause world-wide economic chaos and collapse.
Republicans want to take the debt limit hostage so they can achieve their goal of cutting Social Security, Medicare and other programs that help seniors, children, and other vulnerable groups. They have nothing positive to offer, so all they can do is criticize and destroy.
Republicans are like the dog that caught the car. What do they do now? We have real problems. What alternatives do Republicans propose to what Democrats have offered? Anyone can criticize. It’s a lot harder to propose actual, workable solutions.
Whatever happens in the House now is totally on the Republicans. If the government shuts down, it’s because of the Republicans. If the global economy collapses because the debt limit isn’t raised, it’s because of the Republicans. Republicans have offered no solutions to our problems; the consequences are now in their hands.
I’ve often said that Democrats know how to govern, while Republicans know how to tell a story. Now Republicans don’t even seem able to do that! They have no platform and no answers. All they have is grievance and vengeance.
As Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., said, “It’s not just that they won’t be able to govern. It’s that they are going to be an embarrassing public train wreck while they refuse to govern.” (Huffington Post, Jan. 4)
House Republicans started with chaos, confusion, and conflict. We’ll see how they finish.
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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