One of the strange conceits Beltway pundits have is that most politicians actually give a fig about policy outside of how it affects their political prospects. Consider this from Ezra Klein:
So far, the lame-duck session has managed to pass an $850 billion tax-cuts-and-stimulus deal, the repeal of DADT, the Defense Authorization bill, a continuing resolution to keep funding the federal government, the START treaty, the food-safety bill, and probably a few more pieces of legislation I'm forgetting. [. . .] The question is why the Republicans didn't just drag their feet and let things expire and then come back to everything in 2011,The answer, I think, is that there are plenty of Senate Republicans who aren't too comfortable with the class of conservatives who got elected in 2010.
The answer actually is that Republicans took credit for the things that help them politically (tax cuts, stopping the spending bill) and avoided blame for things they do not want to be attributed to them. Let's consider Ezra's list of "accomplishments:
The 850 billion dollar "stimulus" is basically extension of the Bush tax cuts. The GOP got precisely what it wanted there. That there are additional tax cuts is gravy. That the extension of unemployment insurance benefits was forced on them by "spendthrift" Democrats is icing on the cake -- they won't be hammered for not caring about the jobless.
Indeed, it is hard to imagine a better bill for Republicans in this lame duck Congress than The Deal. The GOP drank Obama's milkshake.
The repeal of DADT was obviously not a GOP goal, but its passage over their opposition in a lame duck Congress does not hurt them politically. More importantly, it HELPS Republicans like Scott Brown and Susan Collins who are up for reelection in 2012. The political advantages are mixed here though, as it clearly helps Dems as well as they delivered on an important promise.
Passage of the Defense Authorization bill seems like a no brainer. I'm not seeing why or how this would be blocked by anyone in the Beltway.
The passage of a continuing spending resolution through March is a HUGE victory for the GOP. Now they get to craft the spending for most fiscal 2011. And they get the added bonus of having stopped "feckless" government spending by the Dems. A clear cut and huge win for the GOP.
In terms of the START treaty, blocking it was a clear loser for the GOP because, in the end, they were going to pass it anyway. better it be passed on the perceived Dems' watch now than on the GOP watch later. Plausible deniability. The political calculus was obvious imo.
I do not know anything about the food safety bill in terms of substance, but I'm pretty sure it did not have any political resonance. Maybe this was one where they actually cared about the policy. I doubt it though.
After all, pols are pols, and do what they do.
Speaking for me only
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