Congress convenes today, and congressional reporter Carl Hulse, a reliable Democrat defender and Republican critic, came loaded for bear against the Republican House and Senate, now fortified by a president from their own party, in his Tuesday New York Times column, “In Congress, Free to Govern and Face the Consequences.”
The online headline is harsher: “Republicans Stonewalled Obama. Now the Ball Is in Their Court.” The text box piled on: “Pressure rises on Republican leaders to get big things done.”
In it, Hulse made the same argument he’s been making for over a decade: Republicans are doomed.
It’s put-up or shut-up time for Republicans.
After a tumultuous decade that has seen profound changes in the makeup and character of their party, Republicans are poised to complete their slow but steady climb back to power as they seize control of the House, Senate and the White House for the first time since 2006.
That political triad will leave them with a splendid opportunity for success. But there is little room for failure if they hope to satisfy their impatient constituents and deliver on bold promises to reshape the nation’s health care delivery system, restructure the tax code, drive job creation, muscle up American foreign policy, rebuild a crumbling infrastructure and set America on a new course.
Republicans must also maneuver while facing slightly expanded Democratic minorities in the House and Senate, in a climate that is, in many respects, even more hostile than it was before the November elections. Democrats remain angry at how Republicans treated President Obama, including their refusal to consider the nomination of federal Judge Merrick B. Garland to the United States Supreme Court.
Perhaps most important, Republicans themselves are going to need something of an attitude adjustment. The contemporary Republican Party has been built out of fierce opposition to Mr. Obama and deep disdain for activist government. Nearly two-thirds of current House Republicans have never served with a Republican president and their entire time in Washington has been spent fighting the executive branch.
As a result, Republicans have had the luxury of being able to argue for positions that appealed to their conservative base but that they knew would not become law because Senate Democrats would block them or because the president would veto them. Now, if they can assemble the votes, their ideas will become law -- with all the attendant consequences.
Republicans who have shied from the responsibility of government will now be called upon to support increases in the debt limit, approve annual budgets, endorse spending bills and back other must-pass measures that they formerly left to the Democrats and some of their more compromising colleagues....
Hulse took the liberal line that today’s Republican Party is far more conservative than those in the past – a cliche Hulse and the rest of the liberal media have leaned on for decades, all harkening back to some more moderate past they somehow missed at the time, while they were calling the then-current Republicans right-wing extremists. (How much more “conservative” could the GOP get, at this rate?)
This isn’t the same style of Republican majority pushed from power after being routed in the 2006 midterm elections after the public backlash to the administration of President George W. Bush and his handling of the war in Iraq.
Forged by the Tea Party revolt that restored Republicans to control of the House in the 2010 elections, and in the Senate in 2014, this party is much more conservative with a membership that tends to see government as an impediment to be leveled, not as a force to be shaped to their views to the benefit of their constituents. Eight years of railing against the Obama administration has infused them and their constituents with a hostility and disregard for the government that Republicans must now lead rather than ridicule.
While they understand the challenges, Republicans are nonetheless jubilant at their enviable position.
Hulse has made a journalistic career out of consigning Republicans in Congress to the dustbin of electoral irrelevancy, year after year, either doomed to defeat or bracing for a backlash after a victory.
Here’s Hulse in 2005: “The last-ditch effort by the leadership to avoid an embarrassing legislative defeat was the latest symptom of party unrest arising from instability in the leadership and anxiety about the 2006 elections. Those concerns were heightened by election results on Tuesday that Democrats and some Republicans said exposed the party's vulnerabilities and threatened its policy agenda."
Hulse in 2009, when not even gubernatorial losses could dampen his Democratic enthusiasm: “Blaming election setbacks on a drop in voter enthusiasm, Congressional Democrats said Wednesday that losses in governors' races in Virginia and New Jersey -- and a striking House win in New York -- should give new urgency to their legislative agenda, including a sweeping health care overhaul....From a purely Congressional perspective, Tuesday was a positive night for Democrats as they retained a California seat in a special election and picked up the seat in upstate New York partly as a result of a Republican Party feud.”
And here’s Hulse in 2015 -- the headline of his front-page congressional memo: "Funding Fight Poses Dangers For the G.O.P. -- Battle on Immigration Puts Security at Issue." Some danger that turned out to be.