I admit, I underestimated the zeal of congress, especially Republicans, to hand complete control of the federal government to the executive. To be fair, any remaining shreds of Republican ideology were put in a no-win situation, but last night minority leaders in the Senate moved consciously to strengthen the unitary executive.
While the talking craniums paint Senate inaction on the Detroit Downpayment as a failure, I think Reason's Nick Gillespie gets it just about right.
I'm glad to to see the auto bailout go down for this round (though I wish the same had happened to the financial services bailout in the version that passed). However, I find it troubling that Republicans are also interested in dictating terms to any business (the story says they would have passed it if they figured the deal would break the unions more than the passage of time already has). That just isn't Congress' job and it's been part of the problem in the U.S. for at least 80 or so years.
While Gillespie attributes the Republican's sudden willingness to “partisan Viagra”, I just can't shake the feeling of purposefulness to this move. Knowing that Bush nominally supported the deal and knowing the administration will make the loans without congressional approval, what did Senate Republicans hope to gain by taking a hard line against unions in the negotiations?
Is it possible that Republicans on the hill have learned what Democrats have known for a long, long time? That is, it's much more pleasurable to be a social-issue fetishist than actually concerned with the operations of government.
It is undeniable that congress has legislated itself out of any relevance when it comes to running the government. Congress now only votes on issues confronting government operations when allowed by the executive. The only functions congress has retained, beyond the purely ceremonial, is that of interfering in the lives of the populace (a function dubiously granted, if at all).
So, congress tinkers on the edges of the tax code but reserves the bulk of its time for the really pressing issues: steroids in baseball and the Bowl Championship Series. After all, if you don't actually do anything, no one can blame you when it goes wrong.
Is it a coincidence that the actions of Senate Republicans follow that trend exactly? Was the Detroit Downpayment a prime opportunity to hand more power, and therefore more responsibility for outcomes, to the executive?
Well, let's just say that, if I were advising hill Republicans, given the turd sandwich of two wars and a flailing financial sector the Obama administration is going to be saddled with, I would urge them to shift as much responsibility and blame to the executive as they possibly can. Spend the next eight years subpoenaing NCAA officials and playing Pin the Tail on the Donkey.
Obama's got big, expensive plans, yes, for socialized this and fascist that, but he's also going to find an ocean of red ink in the bank account, corpses of neo-con massacres overflowing from every closet, and quite possibly a hostile Democratic majority pushing and pulling all directions at once. Goodwill and “blame Bush” are only going to get him so far.
As a final note, the stonewall, failure, slap at the unions, whatever you want to call the Senate inaction already has at least one Democratic Senator cheering Bush to ignore the will of congress as well as the letter and spirit of the law:
Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said he is encouraged by the White House statement, adding that “the effort to provide emergency bridge loans to U.S. automakers is still very much alive.”
“Use of TARP funds is the fastest, most feasible, most immediate and most certain approach to provide the emergency bridge loans needed by the auto companies,” Levin stated. “It was always the intent of the TARP program to assist industries whose collapse would have a major impact on the economy, including the financial sector. I am hopeful that the President will act promptly to prevent this collapse and the resulting calamity for our economy.”