Congress’s cop-out

Over the past couple of years congressional Republicans have repeated the same pattern: thumping their chests and issuing stern warnings to President Obama about their constitutionally guaranteed power of the purse, authority over the budget and check on executive power, only to slink away from those same responsibilities any time there is a politically risky decision to be made as their chain gets yanked by the likes of Dick Armey’s Freedom Works or Grover Norquist. 

And within the sound and fury about tax cuts and job creation, not a single Republican can explain: Where are the millions of jobs that should have been created by the Bush tax cuts they voted for?

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Just as in 1996, they might have gone too far this time with the appeasement as they ignore poll after poll showing an increasing majority of Americans (the people they are actually supposed to represent) disapproving of the way congressional Republicans are handling matters, and neither trusting nor agreeing with their approach. As the latest CBS News poll shows, 71 percent of Americans disapprove of the way Republicans in Congress are handling things, and as a Pew poll showed a few weeks ago, Congress is the least trusted institution in America.

Given this week’s GOP-orchestrated theatrics, it’s easy to understand why. The symbolic vote on “cut, cap and balance” was manufactured to give Eric Cantor and the reckless freshman fringe another chance to vote for the “throw momma from the train” budget plan by Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan (R) rather than deal with the impending default crisis they helped create. 

Fearful of a Tea Party-backed primary challenger, Sen. Orrin Hatch has created his own drama — the balanced-budget amendment. More of an admission of failure than solution, it is ironic that the self-declared party of “smaller government” is now pressing the need for the creation of new rules, regulations and government bureaucracy to force the people now occupying Congress to do the job they were elected to do. So they denounce regulations to keep our water and air clean, but now argue that because they themselves can’t be trusted to follow the law, America needs more rules?

The emerging McConnell-Reid “grand cop-out” is also a punk move. Democrats would be fools to fall for it. Despite having voted to raise the debt ceiling numerous times, and in spite of the “trickle-down” policies and budgets that destroyed our economy, they now want to abdicate all responsibility and push all blame to Obama and the Democrats. We had a deficit commission — ever since it came out with its recommendations, more energy has been focused on how to avoid following the recommendations than implementing them.

Two people can close the curtain on the kabuki theater. One, John Boehner, has thus far been more afraid of losing his Speakership than what could happen to America if we default. It’s an open secret on Capitol Hill that Eric Cantor and his staff work overtime to undermine Boehner, as Cantor did last week when he again ran the process into the ground. Boehner must put Cantor in his place and stand up to the freshman fringe. The truth is that Boehner could have the votes to pass a bipartisan deal if he included closing tax loopholes and letting the Bush tax cuts expire to get Democrats on board.

The other, President Obama, cannot let himself be punk’d again by Mitch McConnell, and must stay firm on protecting America’s middle class, Medicare and Social Security.

Finney is a political analyst for MSNBC and Democratic consultant.