Why Would Anyone Possibly Think that the Republicans Would Ever Fix Anything?
By Laurence M. Vance
It’s 1995 all over again.
The new Congress—the 114th—is solidly in Republican hands after winning big in a midterm election. The Republicans have a 246-188 majority in the House (there is one vacancy) and a 54-46 majority in the Senate (the two independents caucus with the Democrats). But like back in 1995 (Clinton), the Republican-controlled Congress in 2015 has to govern with a Democratic president (Obama).
When the Republicans gained control of Congress in 1995, it was the first time since the 83rd Congress of 1953-1955 that they had controlled both Houses of Congress. Between 1955 and 1995, the Republicans never had a majority in the House and only had a majority in the Senate during the first six years of Reagan’s presidency.
The Republicans held on to their majority in the Senate until May 24, 2001, when Republican senator Jim Jeffords switched from Republican to Independent and ended Republican control of the Senate. Republicans regained control of the Senate in the 2002 midterm election, and then remained in control of both Houses of Congress until their shellacking in the 2006 midterm election.
For the last two years of Bush’s presidency and the first two years of Obama’s presidency the Republicans were in the minority in both the House and the Senate. The Republicans then regained control of the House in the 2010 midterm election and the Senate in the recent 2014 midterm election.
So here we are again. Just like twenty years ago, we have a Democratic president and a newly reconstituted Republican Congress. And just like twenty years ago, Republicans think they have a mandate from the people and have big plans for the next two years. And just like twenty years ago, they also have an excuse at their disposal who sits in the Oval Office.
But after looking at the Republican record for the past sixty years, why would anyone possibly think that the Republicans would ever fix anything once they had a majority in the Congress?
It doesn’t matter if you look at when the Republicans had absolute control of the government with a Republican president (Eisenhower, Bush II), when they had a majority in both Houses of Congress under a Democratic president (Clinton), when they controlled just the Senate under a Republican president (Reagan), when they controlled just the House under a Republican president (Bush II), when they controlled just the House under a Democratic president (Obama), when they were in the minority in Congress under a Republican president (Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush I, Bush II), or when they were in the minority in Congress under a Democratic president (Kennedy, Johnson, Carter, Clinton, Obama). The conclusion is still the same.
Why would anyone possibly even begin to think that the Republicans would ever do anything significant to restore individual liberty and property rights, abolish government agencies and regulations, cut the budget and the debt, end federal tyranny at home and abroad, and rein in the CIA and the military once they had a majority in the Congress?
If ever Roosevelt’s New Deal could have been repealed in its entirety—and even Social Security nipped in the bud—it was when the Republicans had a majority in the Congress for the first two years of Eisenhower’s presidency (1953-1955). But just look at Eisenhower’s attitude toward doing so:
Should any political party attempt to abolish social security, unemployment insurance, and eliminate labor laws and farm programs, you would not hear of that party again in our political history. There is a tiny splinter group, of course, that believes you can do these things. Among them are H. L. Hunt (you possibly know his background), a few other Texas oil millionaires, and an occasional politician or business man from other areas. Their number is negligible and they are stupid.
When the Republicans controlled the Senate for six years under Reagan, they were able to get House Democrats to cooperate with them to lower marginal tax rates. However, Republicans never even tried to repeal Johnson’s Great Society. Instead, the budget increased, the deficit exploded, the national debt expanded, and Social Security and Medicare tax rates were raised.
During the period of the Republican revolution that wasn’t (1995-2001), when the Republicans controlled both Houses of Congress for six years under Clinton, the federal budget increased every year, Republicans created the State Children’s Health Insurance Program and overwhelming supported the Iraq Liberation Act that declared it was U.S. policy to support “regime change” in Iraq. All we heard from Republicans during this time was how they needed a Republican president to complement their Republican majority in Congress.
The Republicans got their Republican president when George W. Bush was elected in 2000. When they regained their majority in Congress in the 2002 midterm election after the defection of Senator Jim Jeffords in 2001, the Republicans had four straight years of an absolute lock on the White and the Congress. Yet, the damage done by Republicans when they were in complete control of the government is incalculable: the arcane Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security, the nationalization of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, federal bailouts, farm bills, free-speech zones and other infringements on civil liberties, the draconian PATRIOT ACT, the repulsive TSA, the Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act that made criminals out of Americans who wanted to purchase Sudafed for their stuffy nose, a tremendous expansion of the budget of the Department of Education, endless wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, skyrocketing congressional spending, doubling of the national debt, assassinations, torture, and drone strikes, illegal surveillance. And then there is the No Child Left Behind Act, which further federalized local public schools; and the Medicare Prescription Drug Plan, the largest expansion of the welfare state since Lyndon Johnson.
All we will hear from the Republicans during the next two years until the end of Obama’s second term is whining and crying about how they need a Republican in the White House so they can pass or repeal certain pieces of legislation.
Let’s hope not.
We have more government, more government debt, more government spending, more government regulations, and more government tyranny at all levels of government than ever before. Yet, since the so-called Republican revolution, we have had more Republicans elected to office on the federal, state, and local level since Reconstruction. The Republican majority in the House is the largest in recent memory. The Deep South has only one Democratic Senator left in Congress (Bill Nelson of Florida). In twenty-three states, Republicans control both houses of the legislature and the governorship (Nebraska has a unicameral, nonpartisan legislature, but it is made up of mostly Republicans). In six other states, Republicans control the governorship. In six other states, Republicans control both houses of the legislature. In seven other states, Republicans control one house of the legislature.
Why would anyone possibly think that the Republicans would ever fix anything? They are part of the problem, not the solution. There is no greater illustration of the definition of insanity attributed to Einstein (doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result) than conservatives (and some libertarians) voting Republican and hoping that this time things will be different.