Rep. Steve Scalise Gives Congress an ‘A’
On Thursday, March 27, Representative Steve Scalise from Louisiana’s 1st District appeared (via remote video) on C-Span’s weekly interview program Newsmakers, ostensibly to talk about H.R. 4304 — or the Jumpstarting Opportunities With Bold Solutions (JOBS) Act, — a bill that he co-sponsored.1 At the start of the interview, host Steven Scully asked the staunch Republican Congressman what kind of grade he would give the GOP leadership in the House of Representatives, to which Mr. Scalise replied: “If you look at what the House has done, through our leadership, I would give them an A …“
Rep. Scalise, who is also the Chairman of the Republican Study Committee (RSC) — a 173 member organization that counts such conservative stalwarts as Michele Bachman (R-MN), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Steve King (R-IA), as well as former vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan (R-WI) among its rank and file — didn’t miss a beat after giving the House majority leaders of the most unproductive Congress in U.S. history such high marks,2 before smoothly transitioning into an unfavorable assessment of President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), saying:
“… [T]he problem is that you’ve got the President and Harry Reid in the Senate, who you’ve got to give an F, at best — frankly — because you can’t really tell what their plan is … I mean, look: we know the President’s Final Four brackets. He’s never missed a deadline to submit his Final Four brackets; yet, we don’t know what the President’s jobs plan is.”
After setting the tone in such a way, Rep. Scalise proceeded to bash Democratic opposition in Congress — and President Obama, in particular — for most of the thirty minute interview segment, sporadically elaborating on the JOBS Act for a few moments here or there before invariably segueing into still more harsh criticisms for the Commander-in-Chief and his allies in the Senate. During this long-winded rant, the Congressman seemed all too eager to paint himself as a Rembrandt level caricature of hyper-partisanship and hypocrisy, while simultaneously presenting a case study of the sort of thinking that has ground the Federal Government to a halt.
Considering that H.R. 4304 is essentially a “greatest hits” package consisting of ideas from a number of smaller bills that Republicans in the House have sent up to be rejected by the Senate, perhaps Rep. Scalise merely hopes to use the JOBS Act as an excuse to book appearances on the morning talk-show circuit, in an attempt to sway public opinion in the GOP’s favor before the November Senate elections. Since the Republican (legislative) agenda has been largely blocked by the Democrat-controlled Senate, it seems unlikely that Rep. Scalise and the rest of the RSC would have reasonably expected a bill that contains virtually the same ideas — e.g., approving the Keystone pipeline, deregulating Big Business, reducing the size and scope of federal agencies like the EPA and the IRS — to make it anywhere besides Senator Reid’s trash recycling bin. As the Congressman himself said: ” … [T]he President and Harry Reid … they won’t even bring any of these bills that have passed the House to the Senate floor for a vote.”
But instead of reaching across the aisle to find a middle ground that would satisfy both parties, Rep. Scalise and the RSC have decided to serve up yet another piece of hard-line conservative legislation that (we may safely assume) is doomed even before the ink dries. Eschewing compromise, this “my way or the high-way” method of doing business is ever present in Washington, and is largely responsible for the 113th Congress’ historic lack of productivity. Maddeningly, party leaders like Congressman Scalise talk the talk about meeting those with opposing views half-way for the greater good of the nation, then betray their unwillingness to do the same the very next instant.
For example, at several points during the Newsmakers interview, Mr. Scalise stated that the Republican party is ready, willing and able to join forces with the President to “get America working again.” In fact, the RSC website has an elaborate time-clock graphic that literally counts the seconds as the organization waits for President Obama to see reason and compromise. But when host Steven Scully asked the Congressman point-blank whether he thought the finger-pointing and bickering went both ways with Republicans and Democrats, Mr. Scalise refused to admit that he (and his party) were the least bit complicit in such behavior, nor of the government’s consequential paralysis.
Similarly, when Scully asked the Congressman to take one aspect of the Affordable Care Act that he would like to change and that he thought Democrats would work with him on, Mr. Scalise refused to entertain the question, choosing instead to fall back on a litany of conservative talking points that revolve around repealing the law altogether:
“Ya know, there are so many parts … Obviously, I wanna repeal this law and go back. In fact, the RSC has a bill with over 130 co-sponsors to replace the President’s healthcare law with real reforms that will put patients back in charge with lower costs. But just look at this 30 hour work week rule. The President has perverse incentives in his own health care law that are forcing employers to drop their workforce below 50 employees and to put people that are currently full-time workers into part-time status. The law encourages businesses to move people who were working 40 hours a week to now working below thirty. That is a 25% pay cut for American families that the President through his laws is incentivizing …”
Apparently, it didn’t matter to Rep. Scalise that the case he was making against ‘Obamacare’ amounted to little more than a rehash of the meritless accusations made by Florida Governor Rick Scott earlier this month (i.e., in an article by Politifact, it was revealed that Gov. Scott’s argument had been based on a distorted interpretation of the Congressional Budget Office’s February 2014 report).3 It became quite obvious during the course of the interview segment that Mr Scalise did not have a genuine desire to work with the President to solve the problems facing our nation, despite his magnanimous protestations to the contrary. Every question that the interview panel — which included Susan Ferrechio of The Washington Examiner and Burgess Everett of Politico, in addition to Scully — asked, was immediately re-directed by the Congressman into an assault on the leaders of the Democratic party. Few, if any, tangible solutions were suggested by Mr. Scalise for the problems facing America (unless you count the complete surrender of liberal ideology in favor of conservative ideology, at every level of government, a tangible solution).
A question about what should be done regarding the Ukraine crisis yielded plenty of criticism for the Democratic leadership’s handling of the situation, but no viable alternatives or strategic insight. The Congressman even managed to turn a completely unrelated question about the past indiscretions of Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) into a scathing critique of President Obama. Finally, in a ludicrous moment where Mr. Scalise seemed to willfully morph himself into a cartoon Republican parody, the Congressman named Ronald Reagan as his preferred presidential candidate for 2016 — to which Susan Ferrechio quipped back: “He’s unavailable!”
In the March 27, 2014, episode of Newsmakers, Congressman Steve Scalise of Louisiana represented the kind of obstinacy that has made the Republican party notorious in the eyes of many Americans. Rather than compromise for the good of the nation, Mr. Scalise (like so many politicians) chose to stand fast to his ideological post, and damn the torpedoes, even as the ship goes down. Fanning the flames of resentment with a piece of legislation (the JOBS Act) that personifies the wide chasm between conservatives and liberals, Congressman Scalise would rather burn bridges than build them. His tenacity (not to mention audacity) is truly incredible.
1. Scully, Steven (host) (2014 Mar 27). “Newsmakers with Representative Steve Scalise“. Newsmakers. Program ID: 318535-1. C-Span. [cited 2014 Mar 31]. Available from: http://www.c-span.org/video/?318535-1/newsmakers-rep-steve-scalise-rla
2. Cillizza, Chris. How Congress became the most polarized and unproductive its ever been [Internet]. Washington, DC: The Washington Post; 2014 Feb 3 [cited 2014 Mar 31]. Available from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-fix/wp/2014/02/03/how-congress-became-the-most-polarized-and-unproductive-its-ever-been/
3. Sherman, Amy. Rick Scott’s political committee says CBO report describes Obamacare as jobs killer [Internet]. St. Petersburg, FL: Tampa Bay Times – Politifact; 2014 Mar 25 [cited 2014 Mar 31]. Available from: http://www.politifact.com/florida/statements/2014/mar/25/rick-scott/cbo-report-describes-obamacare-jobs-killer-rick-sc/
3. ‘Time-clock graphic on the RSC website …’ by the Republican Study Committee (RSC), Public Domain (see link at No. 2 to learn more), via RSC website. [cited 2014 Apr 1]