Congress officially adjourned for the year yesterday when Representative Michael Fitzpatrick (R-PA) brought down the gavel and declared class dismissed until January 2012. When Democrats protested that the majority had not allowed a vote on the bipartisan Senate deal to avoid raising the payroll tax on 160 million American workers, the GOP cut the microphones and cameras so Americans could not hear their protestations. This remarkable move prompted C-SPAN—responsible for filming the sessions so Americans can keep tabs on their lawmakers—to publicly exonerate themselves, tweeting, “C-SPAN has no control over the U.S. House TV cameras—the Speaker of the House does.”
It’s as if Speaker Boehner thinks that by shutting down the cameras, turning off the lights and going home, the movie is over. Only—to state what’s obvious to anyone who is not in the DC fog—this “movie” is a real-life nightmare for too many Americans. If this were a screenplay, this move would be a perfect way to wrap up the year defined by hyper-partisan gridlock. Cutting the C-SPAN feed that offers at least some transparency to Congress’s machinations puts an exclamation point on the ruthless serial political brinkmanship that now stands in for the business of governing the country.
Pundits and Democratic party officials have been quick to point out that Republicans bear the brunt of responsibility for this one. Representative Fitzpatrick closed the session as Representative Steny Hoyer (D-MD) was trying to bring up the Senate deal, and he literally walked out of the chamber with his Republican colleagues, leaving Hoyer to narrate their exit:
“You’re walking out, you’re walking away, just as so many Republicans have walked away from middle class taxpayers, the unemployed, and… those who will be seeking medical assistance from their doctors.”
See it for yourself here:
To add insult to injury, as this scene was playing out in the House chamber, Republican leaders were posing for a photo in Speaker Boehner’s office, mugging with pride at their “leadership” in refusing to bend.
By attaching poison-pill provisions to the original House bill and then refusing to take up the stop-gap Senate version, these “leaders” have sealed Americans’ fate. They will head into the New Year expecting somewhere between $900 to $1200 less money in their pockets in 2012. In real life, that’s a lot of money and a huge hit to many families already on the edge. This move will force people to choose among basic necessities: heat or food? Medical care or gas in the car to get to work?
Democrats are correct to loudly blame Republicans for this debacle. If there ever was a time for finger-pointing, this is it. Republicans are gambling that if they sink this bill, voters will take out their frustration at the tax hikes and hard times on the Dems, costing them at the ballot box in November. The scary thing is, they might be right. Even if the Dems win the blame game in the battle over tax hikes, it’s not the same as finding ways to provide relief for hurting people. And the GOP taking short-term hits in the polls should not be mistaken for Dems winning back the hearts and minds of the American people.