President Obama thinks “extremists” caused the shutdown. “Morning Joe” Scarborough complains that “Cruz has no strategy” — as if Sen. Cruz caused the shutdown.
But Bloomberg BusinessWeek has a different story. It headlines its cover: “John Boehner Doesn’t Run Congress. Meet the Man Who Does” — former Republican Sen. Jim DeMint, president of the Heritage Foundation.
The inside story tells how DeMint lobbied all summer long against Obamacare and now has persuaded enough Republicans in the House to stand fast.
DeMint thinks ahead. As a former member of the House, he knows the Hastert Rule — never call any bill that doesn’t have approval of the majority of Republicans.
First, DeMint gets Boehner pledged to the Hastert Rule (named for a former Republican speaker of the House); then he engineers votes in the House against Obamacare 40 times.
Then, having voted 40 times against Obamacare, Republicans will not vote to fund Obamacare.
And Boehner, pledged to the Hastert Rule, can’t call a vote for a clean continuing resolution to fund the government without breaking his pledge.
The many tortured analyses of the shutdown miss the point that the people have lost control of their government to the lobbyists.
In 1966, when I became senator, Republicans and Democrats were the best of friends. When Republican Senator John Cooper came all the way to my backseat on the Democrat side to change my vote, saving me trouble, I was a John Cooper man from then on. I never had a better friend than Republican Ted Stevens of Alaska. When they dedicated the Anchorage Airport to Ted, Danny Inouye and I were the speakers. Republicans and Democrats legislated, swapped votes, “wheeled and dealed” — earmarking.
Earmarking is the grease that oils the political machine and the glue that gets politicians together.
Chris Matthews constantly tells how President Reagan and Speaker O’Neill got along so famously. That’s because O’Neill earmarked Reagan’s Defense figure, and Reagan earmarked O’Neill’s extended highway over the Boston Bay.
In 1973, we limited spending in federal campaigns. President Nixon signed it into law. The Supreme Court reversed the law and, without limits, Republicans and Democrats started raising money against each other.
Partisanship took hold, and was set in concrete when Congressman Gingrich prevented any Republican votes for the Democrats’ initiative to balance the budget in 1993.
We paid for all wars, depressions, and recessions for over 200 years before reaching a $1 trillion debt in 1981.
President George W. Bush cut taxes, waged wars, added prescription drugs to Medicare, stimulated and bailed out, without paying for them, increasing the debt by $5 trillion.
The Republicans and Democrats have increased the debt $10 trillion in 12 years and, according to the White House, another $759 billion this fiscal year. Republicans and Democrats have no trouble spending — paying is the problem.
To be elected the seventh time to the United States Senate in 1998, I raised and spent $8.5 million. This factors out to $27,000 each week, every week for six years. Located amongst 12,000 lobbyists, congressmen have six years to fundraise morning, noon and night. For 30 years, Congress has tried to limit spending in campaigns with McCain-Feingold, public financing, etc.
Only a simple amendment to the Constitution will suffice: “The Congress is empowered to limit or control spending in federal elections.” The governor’s conference called and wanted the states included so there is no doubt about ratification.
This amendment doesn’t bind Congress; it only permits later Congresses to determine the solution. Sen. Tom Udall with cosponsors has proposed such an amendment — but there’s been no vote. Senators don’t want to lose their advantage and they don’t want to vote against limits — so no vote.
Today the lobbyists “wheel and deal,” fixing the vote long before the roll is called. In fact, they tell the speaker or majority leader when to call the roll. Solution: Limit spending.
Once spending is limited, fundraising is limited, partisanship is limited, lobbyists are limited, and Congress retains control of the government and can go back to work.
Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings, a Democrat, served as governor of South Carolina from 1959-63 and in the U.S. Senate from 1966-2005.
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