The public dislikes the Republican tax bill, polls show, and that’s because they think it’s a tax increase. Of the 70 percent who would see their taxes cut under this bill, fewer than 1 in 4 know that they stand to benefit, not lose. Of the one-third who believe the bill will hike their taxes, fewer than o1 in 5 will see their taxes rise.
In short, the public is woefully ignorant of the truth about the bill.
News media bear primary blame for this, as their disinformation was so relentless that Andrew Breitbart’s moniker for the media, “the opposition party,” fit more aptly than ever.
But Republicans are also to blame. Has a party ever been so consistently incapable as the GOP has of selling their message effectively? It has lacked decent communications ever since former President Ronald Reagan left office.
But it's also not just about messaging. It's also about process. A better process and a more legislatively adept party would have been able to hold its own against Democratic deception and a recalcitrant, dishonest news media.
The GOP is again guilty of political malpractice. Republicans eschewed an open, transparent, and deliberative lawmaking process in favor of one that was closed, irregular, and rushed. You can’t blame voters for assuming the worst. If Republicans aren’t doing something dastardly, why are they rushing these votes? There is, of course, a partial answer in the fact that it was necessary to get legislative points on the board by the end of the year, but their desperation to do this created by their failure to legislate transparently throughout the bulk of the year that they devoted to trying and failing to repeal Obamacare.
Voting without all the official scores in. Voting shortly after the bills were published. Curtailing floor debate and committee oversight in both chambers. Conducting all negotiations behind closed doors.
This is not the traditional way a bill becomes a law. Those traditions have a good purpose. Transparent and deliberative debate over legislation is a necessary element of governing with the consent of the governed.
Now, Republicans are rushing again. They need to pass a continuing resolution before midnight Friday to keep the government open. We’re not suggesting they slow-walk the measure. We’re pointing out that they shouldn’t be in position.
There was a time when the budget and appropriations process followed a regular order. The president would propose a budget. The House and Senate budget committees would pass their own budget resolutions. The final package would guide appropriations. A dozen committees in each chamber marked up bills. Then, there were floor debates and amendments.
No more. Now appropriations are all lumped together into massive continuing resolutions. Worse, these get pushed to the last minute where they become must-pass bills to avoid government shutdowns. So, party leaders use these must-pass vehicles to adjudicate sticky policy fights.
Legislating by continuing resolution is bad legislating. It avoids the transparency and deliberation that Congress owes the public.
There’s nothing to do now about the need to pass a new continuing resolution. Just pass it, as cleanly as possible. The tax bill is behind us.
But a new year is coming. Congress should use this as a new beginning and get its life in order.
Republican leaders haven’t figured out how to run Congress in this post-earmark post-McCain-Feingold, post-Citizens United world. Next year, if they don’t get it together, they won’t have to worry about running Congress, for they will lose their majorities.