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Shields and Brooks on the Week in Politics

By The NewsHour, The NewsHour - February 18, 2011

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JIM LEHRER: And finally tonight, the analysis of Shields and Brooks, syndicated columnist Mark Shields, New York Times columnist David Brooks.

David, what do you make of the way the Republicans -- the House Republicans are running their spending-cut show at the moment?

DAVID BROOKS: Well, first, I love the process.

You know, with Gingrich or with Speaker Pelosi, you really had five people running the House. It was sort of a semi-dictatorship. Now we have got a process. It looks like a legislature. And it is messy and it's kind of ugly. But I think Boehner has actually done a great thing.

And he promised transparency. I thought he would back off when times got tough, but it's tough. He has lost some things. He has lost an engine firm that will help GE, which is big in Ohio, his home state. And he's stuck with the idea that it will be open. So, I think I'm -- all power to him, because it is a real legislature now.

Now, as for the cuts, I guess I don't agree with all of them, but I do think they're taking the deficit seriously. And to me, the most important thing that happened in the House this week was the Republicans announcing, when they do next year's budget, they are going to put entitlements on the table.

And that is a big step, much more than the president's willing to do. About this current continuing resolution this year, you know, I'm glad they are taking the deficit seriously. I don't quite see the exit strategy here. I see them voting on this stuff. I don't actually see it getting through the Senate, and certainly not through the White House.

So, is it -- are they positioning themselves for a compromise? Or have they thought about what the next step is going to be? I don't quite see it. And I get the sense from some of the Republicans I have talked to, some of the older ones, that it is a little -- getting a little out of their control.

And so I wish I knew if they had a next step, an exit strategy for what is happening in these days.

JIM LEHRER: What do you think, Mark?

MARK SHIELDS: I think, first of all, that you have a choice. You can be a strong speaker. Nancy Pelosi was a strong speaker. Newt Gingrich was a strong speaker. And that is, you have a very tightly controlled legislative forum and very few amendments even entertained.

And what you put together, and as we have in recent years, is two armies in the House of Representatives. You've got the Democratic army and the Republican army. And if you have got more Democrats, you can get all your army to vote for it, and the Republican votes against it, and you pass it.

What we saw this week was, all of the sudden, with the F-35 engine vote, 100 Democrats, more than 100 Democrats and more than 100 Republicans voting for it. I mean, that's...

JIM LEHRER: That's the new world order, isn't it?

MARK SHIELDS: That was the new world order.

JIM LEHRER: Yes.

MARK SHIELDS: And, I mean, I do -- John Boehner is -- by doing this, fails to be a strong speaker, which is what is coveted and sort of admired in Washington.

He is being true to his word. It is an open process. But I think what they are doing is they're letting off steam from an awful lot of the folks, the Tea Party people and the new people. They can vote for these things, but what happens when the point of frustrations comes, when they don't pass?

What -- they are using the appropriations process, Jim, to thwart and rewrite public law. I mean, whether it's the -- the Securities and Exchange Commission today, they defunded the Securities and Exchange Commission. Why? Because they hadn't done their job in 2000. They hadn't done their job properly.

They hadn't done their job properly in 2008, when they were not at the top of the previous administration's priority list. That wasn't -- they weren't looking for an aggressive SEC.

But this is a way of saying, we're not going to enforce the Wall Street reform act. And I think the same thing is true on Planned Parenthood defunding. It's a way of expressing their convictions, their passions, their beliefs. But it's not going to pass the Senate. It's not going to be in law. The president's not going to sign it.

And what we are doing, I think, is stumbling toward that moment where both sides could be facing a shutdown.

JIM LEHRER: You think so? Could it go that far?

DAVID BROOKS: Yes. Well, I'm, as I say, a little mystified.

You know, the Republican leadership has said quite clearly, we are not going to have a shutdown.

JIM LEHRER: Yes.

DAVID BROOKS: At the same time, they said they want to use the raising of the debt ceiling as leverage.

But the leverage is essentially, unless you come to our demands, we will throw ourselves out a window. I mean, it's not like it's leverage. It's -- the Democrat actually would love a government shutdown. They are clearly sort of rooting for it because of what happened in 1995, because, politically, it benefited -- redounded to their benefit.

So I'm not quite clear what the Republican leverage is here and why they have made such a central issue this year's continuing resolution and this year's budget, as opposed to next year's budget, which actually is where the real money is and where you can have -- actually have some real reform.

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