Down two touchdowns after the first quarter, the House Republicans think they are winning.
That’s a big problem, and not only because they are losing the great positioning battle in the run-up to President Obama’s last great campaign — the 2014 congressional elections — but also because the House GOP is destroying what’s left of its already badly disfigured brand in the process.
Obama shellacked the Republicans on Nov. 6, then knocked them around for the two months that followed and walked away with a huge tax hike and a badly bruised Speaker John Boehner. Those are the two touchdowns.
The president hasn’t scored since as the GOP wisely withdrew from battles over the debt ceiling and the continuing resolution. The GOP even made a couple of first downs, passing a budget that forced the Senate to do its own.
And then Harry Reid fumbled, allowing the Senate to vote 79-20 to repeal the onerous, job-destroying medical device tax of 2.3 percent, a sales tax on everything from bed pans to artificial hearts and da Vinci robotic systems.
Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell appealed to his House colleagues to quickly adopt and pass a repeal of the medical device tax and send it to his chamber.
Minnesota Republican Rep. Eric Paulson, a rising superstar, collected 218 co-sponsors on just such a bill, meaning a clean repeal would pass if “regular order” were to prevail: a subcommittee hearing and markup in Ways and Means, then a full committee hearing, a trip to Rules and a House vote. Touchdown!
Except word came via Roll Call’s David Drucker and via interviews on my radio show with Paulson, and Reps. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., and Tom Price, R-Ga., that the committee had no plans to bring the bill up in regular order.
Unnamed sources told Drucker that House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., didn’t want to endanger his negotiations with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont, over a huge tax reform bill.
Roskam and Price told me a lot of things, including that some GOPers feared Reid’s disfigurement of the bill and a volley back of a bill laden with other tax hikes. (Transcripts are posted at HughHewitt.com.)
Camp’s dream of unicorns-on-the-moon tax simplification is known to be absurd by almost everyone. It wasn’t what the GOP campaigned on and it isn’t a priority for large swaths of the GOP.
Helping Baucus position himself as a moderate to survive another close election in Montana is another toxic byproduct of Camp’s “strategy,” but the dysfunctional House lets committee chairmen do what they will even when their absurd agendas endanger the majority and cost real jobs every week that real tax repeal is delayed.
Looming over this breakdown of basic common sense and political purpose are the gun control and immigration debates. On the former, the GOP must just be reasonable in response to whatever the Senate sends over and on immigration it need only insist that at least half the border be fenced — really fenced, with access roads between big double fences — for the two big debates ahead to be, at worse, a draw.
Americans don’t want mentally disturbed people to get guns. Most don’t want mass deportation. Most do want regularization of most of the 11 million to 14 million people here illegally.
Almost everyone absolutely does want real border security, which means real fences that can be patrolled — the sort that exist wherever real security operations exist to keep people out, such as military bases and Israel’s borders.
What needs to be done and said is obvious. Starting with repeal of the medical device tax. But the House GOP would rather sit on their two-touchdown deficit and think they are playing a really smart game. That’s a losing strategy that is, well, losing.