Tuesday, October 08, 2013


The Speaker of the House of Representative is more than just the leader of the majority party, this office controls committee appointments and, more importantly, the legislative schedule. Nothing comes up for a vote without the permission and approval of the Speaker of the House.

Since Newt Gingrich, Republican Speakers have used an unofficial "rule" whereby no bill comes up for a vote unless a majority of the GOP is in favor. This rule, called the Hastert Rule (named inexplicably for Dennis Hastert, Gingrich's successor as Speaker and the guy who broke the rule most often - and not to be confused with Dennis Haysbert, noted worshiper of the god Jobu), is entirely responsible for the current Government Shutdown.

Yup, that's right. It's not about health care. Yeah, the GOP hates Obamacare and they'd love to repeal it or defund it or delay it - although the spending bills being held up right now have nothing to do with any of those things. Adding such a repeal to the bill is akin to adding an extra ten bucks to your mortgage payment and asking them to deliver a pizza.

Of course Congress does stuff like that all the time. Odd as it is, it's become common practice: to put outrageous things people don't care that much about on the same bill as something hugely important. Except, usually they combine stuff together to get it to pass. This time they've bastardized a bill to keep it from passing, all to get leverage for the next spending bill, the debt ceiling, which needs to be passed next week.

It's crazy good politics for sure. There's a sense of foresight and understanding of political realities that the current crop of Democrats could never dream of figuring out. I suspect they'll get a banner deal in exchange for the debt ceiling vote. It's also wildly irresponsible.

This is the perfect example of an "ends justify the means" mentality that I so often excoriate around these parts. Almost a million government employees are going without paychecks for a few weeks just so the GOP can get better leverage to lower spending on projects that have no real contribution to the National Debt.

In the end, we have to remember politics is politics, which means most everything anybody does is for public perception. Welcome to the land of dysfunction: there are no winners here.

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