Sweet Spot: The GOP Is Winning the Lame Duck Congress

Looks like the 111th Congress will soon be drawing to a close with a few hot-button issues left unresolved. So far, we've really been hitting the Free Will sweet spot in terms of achieving conservative/Tea Party goals:

The Bush tax rates are going to be signed into law by a pouting President Obama. For all the right wing caterwauling, this is a remarkable achievement in terms of policy and politics. Here, let me bring in Powerline to explain:

For some years, we have assumed that 2011 would see a massive tax increase. That this will not happen is a great benefit to both taxpayers and the economy. That the Republicans could achieve this result despite not controlling any of the three entities involved in the negotiations--the House, the Senate and the White House--is rather remarkable. I think it was made possible by the fact that many Democrats, including President Obama, recognized the damage that a tax increase would do to the economy.

For this reason, the symbolic value of the agreement for conservatives is huge. For nine years, Democrats have gnashed their teeth at the "Bush tax cuts" and have vowed to reverse them. Democrats have now controlled Congress for four years, and have made no effort to do so. When they couldn't put off the issue any longer, what happened? A majority of House Democrats and a large majority of Senate Democrats voted to perpetuate the Bush administration's tax policies. By doing so, the Democrats have implicitly admitted (in some cases, the admission was explicit) that the Republicans were right all along: the sort of punitive tax burden for which the Left hungers is economic poison.

I'm not a smoker, but if I were, I would light a cigar to celebrate the day when Congressional Democrats and the leader of their party's left wing, Barack Obama, gave in to reality and endorsed the Bush tax cuts.

I don't think we've paid enough attention to that last one. Democrats have been righteously denouncing tax cuts since the Reagan era. We've heard over and over the last two years that tax cuts are part of the tired old routine that no longer works. But, it turns out that the tired old routine was being performed by Democrats who, when given absolute freedom and opportunity to let the Bush tax rates expire, shrank away. This really is a great moment, the domestic equivalent of winning the Surge.

Meanwhile, Harry Reid has pulled the trillion dollar ominous omnibus budget, and will continue to fund the government through continuing resolutions. Some say this is the appropriators' last hurrah. We'll see:

Tonight may indeed may be a “seminal moment,” as McCain said. This was to be the appropriators’ last hurrah. In the end, they couldn’t see it through, and it’s not going to get any better for them next year.

Why did it go down? You had Jim DeMint rallying outside opposition, and pushing Reid’s back against the wall procedurally with the threat to have the whole monstrosity read on the floor; that was time Reid presumably couldn’t afford to waste given everything else he wants to jam through.

Then, you had Mitch McConnell on the phone all day with Republican appropriators–Reid’s base of support on the bill–twisting their arms to come out against it. My understanding is that by the end he had all the appropriators committed against it, with the exception of two who were undecided. McConnell told the appropriators that passing this bill, and passing it this way, would represent a rejection of everything the mid-term election was about, and ultimately he prevailed. Again and again over the last two years, McConnell has done what a minority leader needs to do–keep his troops united.

And, finally, there was McCain. He was out there, too. On “Hannity” last night, he sounded like a tea-partier, urging people to use social media and to flood the phone lines in opposition. It must have been particularly sweet for him, after all these years battling appropriators, doing a victory jig all over the bill on the senate floor a little while ago.

Again, we'll see. The best part is that the omnibus had a billion dollars worth of Obamacare funding in it, which will now be left for the next Congress to appropriate, if they can.

Next on tap are votes on START, DADT, and the DREAM Act. With one exception, these are minor matters that shouldn't ruin anybody's Christmas

START looks to be heading towards passage. Some Cold Warriors are muttering darkly about this, as well they might. But, this drive to pass START is like waiting in line for Paul McCartney tickets. Yeah, it might be relevant, but the real excitement is decades in the past. Conservatives complaining about START should really be asking why Democrats seem hell-bent on silently acquiescing to a nuclear Iran.

DADT? The best reason to pass this is so we no longer have to watch querelous news stories about dedicated gay soldiers being drummed out of the service. (after they "told"). I am sympathetic to the idea that we shouldn't abide liberals using the military to play-act a civil rights melodrama. But, I'm comfortable betting that the number of gays who will join the military when they can serve openly will be so small as to render the military readiness argument moot. The real question is, what issue will anti-war leftists use as a proxy to protest the military once DADT is no longer in place?

Unlike START and DADT, the DREAM Act is a big deal, would affect everybody, and would be a disaster if passed. That's the hill to die on.

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