Monday, December 16, 2013

Paint By Dumbers

Weekends near the end of the year are rarely slow and boring for most people in the world, and this past weekend was seemingly no different than most.

Some Americans - including President Obama and his family - held a moment of silence for those who died in Newtown, Connecticut, even as some sympathetic thoughts went to the victims of the latest school shooting in Colorado. South Africans buried the man they think of as the modern father of their nation, Nelson Mandela. Meanwhile, violence continued to rage in Syria, while the Great Pyramids of Egypt fell under a blanket of snow for the first time in 112 years. A strong progressive woman also won re-election for President in a landslide in Chile, much like New York City's progressive mayor-elect Bill De Blasio won his election in the U.S. earlier this year.

In other words, the worldwide situation over the weekend was relatively normal, and mostly boring, though still kinda screwed up.

Nowhere is this twisted but normal state more obvious than in Washington, DC. That's where the Senate took an unexpected break this weekend, before wrapping up its work for the year. Unless the Republican extremists in the Senate dump their party - and the rest of the world - into a fiscal hole by voting down the crappy two-year Ryan/Murray budget that the House finally passed at the end of last week, things in Washington, DC should get fairly quiet by about Wednesday of this week.

Of course, the fact that the Tea Partiers could paint themselves, and the entire world, into a disastrous financial corner is still a very real possibility. That's according to Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin, who did the Senate math in front of the whole world on CBS' 'Face The Nation' on Sunday morning. Sadly, he's right.

While the Ryan/Murray deal might be ugly - and it does "suck" as Nancy Pelosi noted - many consider it better than another shutdown. Unsurprisingly, an important contingent of GOP members seems to disagree about that.

Senators Mitch McConnell, Rand Paul, Mike Crapo, and Marco Rubio - a tea-stained group that has shown some serious influence over Republican colleagues in past votes - have all already said they'll be voting against the deal . Add to their opposition the fact that this budget vote will be less about the actual budget and more about garnering cash for the 2014 election, and we tend to agree with Senator Durbin, that this crappy Ryan budget bill could fail in the Senate.

Of course, that's probably not what you were hearing over the weekend. The political media this weekend was filled with legislators from both the Democratic side and the Republican side already claiming a victory on this budget bill, while bragging and blustering about what they want to do in 2014. Unsurprisingly, on the weekend shows, Democrats said they want to help the long-term unemployed - who got screwed in the Ryan/Murray budget - get unemployment insurance again. Of course, Congressional Democrats also continued to push responsible reinvestment in America. Republicans, as usual, have said they'll start 2014 trying to comfort the comfortable and inflict pain on everyone else with more attempts about Obamacare repeal (which will never happen), "tax reform" (which means cut taxes for the rich, which everyone else will be expected to pay for), and threats of a potential new fight over the debt ceiling.

All of those blatherings were just a group of holiday wish lists. The fact is, if the Republicans in Congress want to accomplish anything this next year before the elections, they're going to have to handle the war going on within their own party before they do anything else.

And right now, the Tea Party is rapidly painting the GOP into a political corner - and into a hole that may drag the rest of us right along with them if another shutdown happens on January 15.

Bet that boring weekend the world just had looks a lot better now than it did a few minutes ago.