Last year members of Congress, at the urging of some centrist pressure groups and coming in the wake of Rep. Gabby Giffords' shooting, decided it would be cute to sit next to their colleagues in the opposite party to promote civility. So: How did they civility thing work out last year? Let's not answer that just yet, because the important news here is that they're going to try it again at this year's State of the Union.
Look, people, we appear to have figured out what it takes to get House Republicans to agree on something: Having every other person on the planet scream at them for several days! The official announcement will come at 5:00, but everyone's now reporting that House Republicans will agree to the Senate's bipartisan compromise to extend the payroll tax cut and assorted other things for two months, before resuming work on the full extension in 2012.
One should never underestimate House Republicans' ability to save face after attracting the entire political world's ire, but this latest corner they've trapped themselves in over the payroll tax cut extension will require some stunningly creative moves to escape. Maybe Rick Perry can teach them some of these moves? Otherwise, yikes.
We've been trying something different, as Congress has been pretending to nearly shut down the government or arbitrarily destroy the global economic system for the fourth time this year: Not biting! They'll always reach an agreement, after acting out a months-long scripted fight that we've seen before. But now we're at the stage when children lawmakers begin channeling action movies for inspiration, so we'll take that as our cue.
It's time for your daily dose of news about the important debates taking place in the World's Greatest Deliberative Body, the United States Senate. What critical public policy issues are its senior statesmen debating in good faith today? Who knows! Sens. John McCain and Chuck Schumer are pretending to fight over a Long Island joke, though. That's something, ain't it?
Who is to blame for the failure of our glorious experiment in government engineering, the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction a.k.a. the supercommittee, to meet the public's desire for trillions of dollars in spending cuts and tax hikes that the public doesn't want? Our best guess is that it's the supercommittee that is to blame for the failure of the supercommittee. Others would disagree!
Remember that old joke regarding Dick Cheney's 18% approval rating, about how there's a higher percentage of dentists who recommend chewing sugary gum than there is of Americans who approve of Dick Cheney? Now let's do a version of that with the 112th and current Congress, with its comical, dumpy rating of 9%.
Here's a brief guide to congressional debt politics in 2011: In the debt ceiling deal, $1 trillion in spending cuts (or caps on future spending, mostly) was made, while punting at least $1.2 trillion in additional savings to be determined by a supercommittee, later. The supercommitee, now, is considering this brave solution as its deadline nears: Making trillions in additional spending cuts, while punting decisions on additional tax revenue to be determined by congressional finance committees, later.
The congressional supercommittee established in the debt ceiling deal has about a month left to come up with trillions in deficit reduction and then move its plan through Congress, lest the dreaded "trigger" go into effect that would viciously cut defense spending and more. So what if the supercommittee gets stuck on, say, tax increases that Republicans will never accept? Will they just give up and let the trigger go into effect? Nope! Old man John McCain let us onto the real Plan B yesterday.
What's the latest and greatest jobs proposal from the pride of the nation, your 112th Congress? This week, it's called "taking the week off." But when the House comes back for its light work schedule next week, longtime Alaska Rep. Don Young plans to introduce this... thing: A bill "to repeal every single federal regulation put in place since 1991." Lord knows how many all-nighters his staff pulled tweaking the details of this beast.
The congressional dispute over how to replenish FEMA's disaster relief coffers — which, if not resolved by September 30, could shut down the government — will resume on Monday. Go enjoy a national park while you still can! How about the Washington Monument? Oh, nevermind, the earthquake cracked that sucker good. In that case, do whatever the hell you want.
The unprecedented dumb carnival stunts that were struck as part of the deal to allow the government to issue debt for spending measures it's already passed popped up again earlier this week, as the House passed a meaningless "resolution of disapproval" for the latest $500 billion in borrowing authority. But some Republican members of Congress were so used to voting "no" on anything tangentially related to the debt ceiling that they accidentally voted against the resolution of disapproval, like clowns.
In a gratuitously and joyously dickish move today, the White House announced that it would address a joint session of Congress next Wednesday at 8 p.m., right when the long-planned NBC/Politico debate for Republican presidential candidates is scheduled to take place. And this afternoon, Speaker John Boehner issued the President his formal invitation to visit Capitol Hill — only for the next night.