This year the Democratic leadership of the House and Senate made a strategic decision not to pass a budget for the federal government. They feared their spending priorities might not win the approval of voters in November’s elections, so they simply opted out of their budgetary responsibility.
That’s how Byron York starts off this article in the Washington Examiner: Unable To Govern, Dems Turn To Stephen Colbert.
To be fair, the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate claim that they’re waiting for the results of a bipartisan deficit commission study before they attempt a budget.
Neverthless, one of the cardinal duties of the House of Representatives is to pass a budget resolution. Despite a 77-seat majority, the House of Representatives is expected to adjourn for the elections without having even tried to pass a formal budget resolution.
Try managing your own spending without a budget. It’s nearly impossible. In fact, if you run into some one who refuses to set out a budget for themselves, it’s normally a sign that they not really that interested in controlling spending.
(For the record, I’ll stipulate that some GOP-led Houses of Representatives have failed to pass final budget resolutions. However, “never before” said GOP Representative Paul Ryan, “has the House never bothered to attempt to pass a budget, at least since 1974.” (Emphasis added). (FYI, 1974 was the year the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act passed. This act spells out the federal budget process).
More recently, the Democratic leadership made a strategic decision not to decide whether to extend the Bush tax cuts, which are set to expire Dec. 31. If nothing is done, taxes will rise for every American who pays income tax. But, as with the budget, Democrats worried that raising at least some taxes might not win voter approval, so they left the most pressing economic decision of the moment unresolved.
Again, to be fair, many Democrats—and many Americans—DO think that at least some taxes should be raised. However, apparently many other Americans do not. Tactically, then, it may be smart politics to punt the issue until after the elections, into the lame-duck session.
Neverthless, I’d think that House Democrats would want to avoid irritating the voters, or embarassing themselves, any more than necessary, in between now and November.
Fortunately for we GOP foot soldiers, Representative Zoe Lofgren, chair of the House Judiciary Committee’s subcommittee on Immigration, did not agree.
Democrats in the House invited comedian Stephen Colbert to testify, in character as a buffoonish right-wing anchorman, before an otherwise serious hearing on migrant farm workers.
First off, how do you swear in a witness that then testifies in character?
Secondly, in fairness, the Sesame Street character Elmo testified before a GOP-led House of Representatives…on the subject of children’s television. I’ll stipulate now that, if a GOP committee chair ever called a Muppet or Mighty Morphin Power Ranger or a member of the Fresh Beat Band to testify on health care reform or the status of migrant farm workers, that committee chair would deserve any derision they got.
Lastly, how does a committee chair turn over a Congressional committee platform to someone who obviously plans to have at least some fun with it?
Colbert did say some useful things during his testimony. His “gravitas” for testifying before the subcommitee came from his having recently participated in a program where he worked in farm fields for a day, doing the work migrant workers normally do. At times he spoke meaningfully on that subject. At other times, though…
- He tried to insert data from his colonoscopy into the Congressional Record.
- He said (in character, of course) that “cornpacker” was a slang term for a gay Iowan.
How bad of a spectacle was it? John Conyers, chairman of the entire House Judiciary Subcommittee, tried to get Colbert to leave. Apparently Conyers realized the PR Charlie-Foxtrot that was about to unfold. Conyers asked Colbert to submit his written testimony and leave.
Fortunately for GOP campaign operatives, Sub-Committee chair Lofgren quickly interceded and convinced Committee Chair Conyers to disregard his momentary flash of common sense. Conyers withdrew his objection, Colbert testified, both as himself and as his TV character…and there was much rejoicing in GOP circles.
Here’s some reaction to Colbert’s testimony:
Even some Democrats thought Stephen Colbert’s Capital Hill routine was more gaffe than goof.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer called the Comedy Central star’s bit, which had some laughing and others groaning last week, “not appropriate.”
“I think it was an embarrassment for Mr. Colbert more than the House,” the Maryland politician said on “Fox News Sunday.”
“What he had to say was not the way it should have been said,” Hoyer added.
(Source: NY Daily News, September 26th)
On the other hand, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi—the most powerful elected official in the House of Representatives, and third-in-line to the presidency—loved Colbert’s testimony.
GOP campaign commercial makers loved it, too.