Earlier today, in what can only be summarized as an epic meltdown, NJ governor Chris Christie proceeded with an even more epic rant against House speaker John Boehner, in narrow terms, and House Republicans in broader, for killing the $60 billion Sandy Assistance bill, whose funding would have offset one full year of the just legislated tax hikes on the rich which would add $62 billion annually to the Treasury (or alternatively would have been unfundable for the next 2 months while the US struggles to pay its mandatory bills courtesy of having breached the debt ceiling). Alternatively, all Americans could just agree to accept less welfare and entitlement benefits to show their solidarity for New Jersey and fund the recovery of the Tristate area by a "shared sacrifice" instead of going the default route and demanding even more deficit spending - something that would naturally saddle the next generation with even more pain, not the current, far more entitled one - but in this country that is an absolutely ludicrous proposition. Below is a clip of the entire Christie performance which is a must see for sheer indignation entertainment value alone.
While we understand Christie's frustration and escalation in what is obviously a personal vendetta between the two men, as so often happens, much was left unsaid. For example the fact that the proposed bill was also chock full of pork spending such as:
- $150 million in funding for fisheries in Alaska,
- $5.3 billion to the Army corps of engineers,
- $56.8 million for charting the debris from last year's Japanese tsunami,
- $41 million for eight military bases including Guantanamo Bay
- $100 million for the federal Head Start day care program,
- $188 million for new Amtrak lines (not repair, new lines)
- $20 million for a nationwide "water resources priorities study",
- $4 million for the ... Kennedy Space Center?
And others. Some more from the Weekly Standard:
One of the big objections to the bill was that Senate Democrats had filled it with pork.
In fact, "Democrats expanded the legislation during a mark-up to include not just areas affected by Sandy, but also to provide money for 'storm events that occurred in 2012 along the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Coast within the boundaries of the North Atlantic and Mississippi Valley divisions of the Corps that were affected by Hurricanes Sandy and Isaac,'" we reported previously.
The expansion of the bill was a way to provide a financial incentive for senators from red states--"two Republicans senators from Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas, and the one Republican senator from Louisiana"--to vote for the bill. "The Sandy kickbacks provide an incentive for those Republicans to vote on the bill," we wrote.
Yet, the war may already be lost by Boehner. The Hill reports that the first thing sacrificed by Boehner is what he prized himself in most: one-on-one talks with Obama - those are now over.
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is signaling that at least one thing will change about his leadership during the 113th Congress: He’s telling Republicans he is done with private, one-on-one negotiations with President Obama.
During both 2011 and 2012, the Speaker spent weeks shuttling between the Capitol and the White House for meetings with the president in the hopes of striking a grand bargain on the deficit.
Those efforts ended in failure, leaving Boehner feeling burned by Obama and, at times, isolated within his conference.
In closed-door meetings since leaving the “fiscal cliff” talks two weeks ago, lawmakers and aides say the Speaker has indicated he is abandoning that approach for good and will return fully to the normal legislative process in 2013 — seeking to pass bills through the House that can then be adopted, amended or reconciled by the Senate.
"He is recommitting himself and the House to what we've done, which is working through regular order and letting the House work its will,” an aide to the Speaker told The Hill.
The shift could have immediate ramifications as Congress heads into its next showdown over raising the debt ceiling and replacing steep automatic cuts to defense and domestic spending that are now set to take effect in March. It will also impact other presidential priorities like immigration reform and gun control.
Republican lawmakers say they expect the House majority to draft and pass its own debt-ceiling proposal, which would then add pressure on the Democratic leadership in the Senate.
For Boehner in particular, it will be easier said than done.
What this means is that the debt ceiling debate, which culminates in 59 days, is now open for everyone, and as a result the compromise will be that much more difficult.
Boehner and his aides have said the Speaker remains committed to a principle he first articulated in 2011 — that any increase in the debt limit must be accompanied by spending cuts and reforms that exceed the amount of new borrowing authority.
The Speaker is also expected to resist Obama’s push for another increase in taxes to offset the restoration of spending cuts from sequestration. “As far as we're concerned, the tax issue is off the table,” the Boehner aide said.
Conservatives, however, are likely to want even more.
“I’m looking for dramatic and drastic spending reductions,” Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) said Wednesday.
The influential editorial page of the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday urged Boehner to “from now on cease all backdoor negotiations and pursue regular legislative order.” Linking to the article, a top adviser to Boehner posted on Twitter: “That’s the plan.”
Another aide cautioned that Boehner is not cutting off all contact with the president. "It doesn't mean the Speaker isn't going to meet with the president or talk to the president" when appropriate, the aide said.
Duncan said he was encouraged by Boehner’s commitment in recent days to return to “regular order,” saying it was imperative that the House not simply accept bills driven by Democrats in the White House and the Senate.
If anything, the sudden change in Boehner's MO will simply mean that it will be more complicated to mask the fact that when it comes to spending and deficits, the two parties are really one. But if it does indeed lead to more openness and transparency at least the myth of a more democratic process may return for a few more weeks.
It will also make the next season of Congressional theater, that which picks up in 2013 with a focus on the Debt Ceiling where the 2012 Fiscal Cliff season left off, that much more exciting and dramatic. Just as intended.