Diary

Congress: What's Plan B

OK, Plan A didn’t work. For those of us who hoped that 54 seats in the Senate and 245 seats in the House would allow Republicans to put bills on the President’s desk, it was a false hope with three fatal flaws:  Senate rules require 60 votes to get a bill to the floor; there are at least 50 members of the House who are more afraid of a more conservative primary opponent than they are of the House leadership; and the Pelosi/Reid combination is a lot more savvy than the Boehner/McConnell duo. And at the end of the line there is the President’s veto. So, what’s Plan B?

For those committed to optimism, and posessing a longer term view, Plan B has three parts:

1. The Courts. Obama’s theme of expanding executive power beyond all precedents puts many of his initiatives at risk. There is, after all, a Constitution.

– Immigration. Federal District Judge Andrew Hanen, a George W Bush appointee in Texas, has issued an injunction on Obama’s unilateral “amnesty”,  agreeing  with 26 states that the Obama administration violated the 1946 Administrative Procedures Act by not publishing his non-enforcement order for 4.7 million illegal immigrants in the Federal Register and soliciting public comment. Resolution awaits an appeals court full of judges appointed by Republicans. For years Obama told Hispanic audiences that he did not have the authority to offer immunity from deportation and grant work permits; now he has done it. This case isn’t dealing with the substance of work permits and financial benefits, but procedural grounds are OK if that is all that you can get.

– Obamacare. Chief Justice John Roberts gave a pass on Obamacare in 2012, ruling that the “individual mandate” to buy insurance was an acceptable tax, but the Supreme Court is getting a second bite at the apple. In very clear language the Affordable Care Act provides subsidies for those using exchanges “established by the states”. Since 36 states did not establish exchanges, but instead relied on a federal exchange, proponents are left to argue that the Congress didn’t really mean what it said. A literal decision would cause substantial temporary disruptions, and the Supreme Court may rule that clear language should be obeyed.

– Net Neutrality. The Federal Communications Commission’s recent regulations requiring that providers treat internet services as a utility without discrimination among customers or blocking, has settled into a partisan battle with Republicans claiming that the current open system has attracted innovation and capital, while utility-like regulation would stifle growth. The lawsuits have just begun, with the hope that Congress rather than the Democratic FCC will lead on a necessary regulatory update.

2. The states. With 31 governors and control of 69 of the state legislative chambers, Republicans can make a lot of changes to things that affect people directly.

– Tax reductions. In 2014 fourteen states reduced taxes, mostly to become more attractive to business, but also to increase the amount exempt from capital gains.

Public employee pensions and healthcare. The movement to get control of public employee pension and healthcare costs is widespread, with a general direction of moving from defined benefit retirement plans to defined contribution plans – as private industry largely did a generation ago. Employee contributions are becoming more common. Retirement ages are being increased, and benefits for new hires are being reduced. In the case of Detroit’s bankruptcy, retirees had their pensions reduced.

– Right to work laws. As of this week, Wisconsin joins recent converts Michigan and Indiana to become the 25th state to have a “right to work” law, banning mandatory union membership for employment.

–  Education. Several states are providing greater support for charter schools. The debate about national Common Core math and English  standards is playing out state-by-state with several of the original 34 participating states having withdrawn or being currently engaged in active debate.

3. The Presidential election. On the major substantive issues – healthcare; immigration; national security; tax reform – not much can be accomplished without a change of presidents. But,

– As Obama becomes increasingly committed to imposing his Leftist agenda by regulation, regardless of the will of Congress or public opinion, the more difficult it will be for Hillary to avoid antagonizing the progressives by disagreeing with him, or antagonizing the centrists by appeasing the Obama / Warren wing of the party. Hopefully, the media will eventually ask “do you have anything to declare?”

– Lasting change requires national consensus contained in legislation. Things like Obamacare which received no Republican votes remain on fragile ground, and much of Obama’s regulatory overreach can be fairly easily undone by a Republican president.

And a footnote for those still pining for Plan A: how could it have worked? [mc_name name=’Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY)’ chamber=’senate’ mcid=’M000355′ ] could not have unilaterally disarmed by committing that there would be no government shutdown; [mc_name name=’Rep. John Boehner (R-OH)’ chamber=’house’ mcid=’B000589′ ] could have demanded caucus discipline by removing dissidents from committee assignments; McConnell could have retaliated for Obama vetoes with things which he controlled such as cabinet and judicial appointments; and both could have put forward incremental legislative proposals for immigration and healthcare that Obama would have been hard-pressed to veto. There was an opportunity – emphasis on the was.

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This week’s video calls up the three year old controversy about Huma Abedin, the aide to Hillary Clinton at the White House, during her 2008 campaign, and at the State Department, (also Anthony Wiener’s wife), whose Indian and Pakistani parents were involved with the Muslim Brotherhood. During the period that President Mubarak of Egypt was ousted, and replaced by Morsi who was in turn ousted by General al-Sisi, Hillary and Abedin apparently both communicated with folks in Egypt by illegal, secret e-mail accounts which are now the subject of numerous Freedom of Information Act requests and legal challenges.

www.rightinsanfrancisco.com – 3/6/15