The GOP Exposed

Andrew Sullivan —  Jul 12 2013 @ 2:43pm

John Boehner Holds Weekly Press Briefing At The Capitol

The House Republicans just pushed through a farm bill with extremely generous farm subsidies while scrapping the usual corollary food stamp aid. It doesn’t get clearer than that. There’s no small government consistency here – just an embrace of subsidizing Big Ag and a contempt for the needy in a long, protracted growth recession. Are they trying to make themselves look like total douchebags? Chait is unsurprised:

It’s no longer novel that conservative Republicans have positioned themselves to Obama’s left on domestic spending that benefits their own constituencies. We have seen three years of Republicans attacking Obama for robbing Grandma’s Medicare. But at least Medicare is a justifiable program. The existence of farm subsidies is insane, and the fact that a party that hates government so much it engages in a continuous guerilla war of shutdowns, manufactured currency crises, and outright sabotage can’t eliminate it may be the most telling indicator of the GOP’s venality. They only hate necessary government spending. Totally unjustifiable spending is fine with them.

Or they are simply acting out on deeper cultural fears and biases? Even Douthat takes the GOP to task this time:

This is egregious whatever you think of the food stamp program, and it’s indicative of why the endless, often-esoteric debates about the Republican future actually matter to our politics. Practically any conception of the common good, libertarian or communitarian or anywhere in between, would produce better policy than a factionally-driven approach of further subsidizing the rich while cutting programs for the poor. The compassionate-conservative G.O.P. of George W. Bush combined various forms of corporate welfare with expanded spending on social programs, which was obviously deeply problematic in various ways … but not as absurd and self-dealing as only doing welfare for the rich.

Bernstein wonders if Boehner should have killed the bill:

What’s not clear to me is whether John Boehner is better off with this thing passing. As Ed Kilgore notes, it’s not real likely that anything can come out of conference that can pass. It’s not really clear, right now, if the separate nutrition bill can pass. It’s not clear what Boehner had to promise to conservatives about conference to get them to stick on this vote. It’s not clear what the next step is.

It seems to me that Boehner did have another choice. If the GOP-only farm-only Farm Bill fails, then maybe he can push the mainstream of his conference to support a bipartisan bill, leaving the conservative fringe out entirely. It won’t work on everything, but on the Farm Bill, it really might. Maybe. And if it works on the Farm Bill and there’s little fallout, that might strengthen Boehner’s ability to gather different coalitions on the next tough one that comes up.

Good luck with that. Plumer foresees gridlock:

The Senate and House could try to reconcile their two very different bills in conference — and the final version could well include food-stamp money. But any reconciled bill would still need to pass the House again — and conservatives there don’t want to vote for the Senate’s food-stamp formula, which would cut spending by just $3.9 billion over the next 10 years. The House could pass its own food-stamp bill later this month. Alternatively, the House could approve its own separate bill to reauthorize the food-stamp program. Indeed, Robert Greenstein of the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities thinks the GOP will eventually come up with “a still harsher SNAP bill designed to pass solely with Republican votes.”

What does he mean? Recall that the previous House farm bill would have cut food-stamp funding by $20.5 billion over 10 years. That legislation failed to pass because the cuts were too steep for many House Democrats and not steep enough for many House Republicans. If the next food-stamp bill made even sharper cuts, then Republicans might be able to pass it on their own. But, again, the final product would still have to get through the Democratic Senate. There’d still be an impasse.

(Photo: House Speaker John Boehner speaks to the media during his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill, July 11, 2013 in Washington, DC. By Mark Wilson/Getty Images.)