The Pre-Xmas Fun
Gilbert N. Kahn is a professor of Political Science at Kean University.
The future direction of American politics for the next two years may very well be signaled by the events which transpire between now and Christmas on Capitol Hill. If there is a chance for Washington to address any of the serious issues facing the nation next year, it will require that the Republican leadership in Congress not only to permit the funding bill for fiscal 2015 to be extended until the end of September 2015 without a bloodbath, but also that it put off attacking the President’s immigration orders—except for the expected rhetoric—until the GOP is in full control in January. If there is mischief making approaching a Government shut-down before Christmas then the Republicans will be blamed and will be spending the next year wiping egg off their face just like they did last time.
What a shut-down will really show is that Speaker Boehner and Majority Leader to be McConnell will not be able to control their troops. Internal shenanigans within the Republican Party driven by the Tea Party wing and other extremists will demonstrate that they are determined to wreak havoc in Washington, whatever the cost in party support or a possible success in regaining the White House. If there is an effort now in the lame duck session to reach compromise and consensus with the President, the new Congress could actually rally the entire country around tax reform, budgetary solutions, free-trade proposals, the Keystone pipeline, and—perhaps even—some elevated Iranian sanctions.
All signs suggest that the December 11 budget deadline will be the first indication of where the politics in Washington is going. The Republicans may be upset about the President’s executive action on immigration, but if their anger results in their fostering a government shut-down, Obama will not hesitate to let it happen, if an omnibus Government funding bill does not materialize. On the other hand the President could be forced to accept a short-term extension or else he would be blamed for the shut-down. Here too, much will depend on whether the GOP leadership can placate angry extremists in their ranks who may want to already go for the jugular.
It has happened before that many pre-Christmas travel plans from Washington had to be re-scheduled until just before Santa Claus was ready to depart the North Pole.