Those Other Guys Did It

Those Other Guys Did It

By Ruth Marcus - July 30, 2014

WASHINGTON -- Ted Cruz must be Texan for chutzpah.

The Texas Republican gave an interview to NBC's Kelly O'Donnell the other day during which he was asked about political dysfunction in Washington. Without a trace of irony, embarrassment or self-awareness, Cruz placed the blame for political dysfunction solely on Democrats.

"It should embarrass all of us, and it's the result of a deliberate partisan decision," Cruz lectured. "Let's take for example the crisis on the border. The crisis on the border, unfortunately President Obama and Harry Reid have demonstrated no interest in solving it.

"President Obama a couple of weeks ago was down in Texas. He went to Democratic Party fundraisers, had plenty of time to pal around with fat cats in the Democratic Party, and collect their checks for politics," Cruz continued. 'But he had no time to go to the border. He had no time to visit the Air Force bases where these children are being held, are suffering because of the failures of his immigration policy and his lawlessness."

Agreed, the president's dismissive balking at a border visit -- he disdained a mere "photo op" -- was dumb, if only because it offered ammunition to Cruz and company.

But, really, for Cruz of all people to complain of congressional dysfunction, and for him to single out immigration of all issues as an example of Democratic irresponsibility and disinterest, is breathtakingly galling.

First, the Senate in which Cruz served passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill, 68-32. Cruz, unsurprisingly, didn't vote for it, but 14 of his Republican colleagues did. The measure went to the House, where it would pass by a majority vote -- if it were allowed to come to the floor. Thirteen months later, this hasn't happened, nor will it.

Remind me: Who hasn't demonstrated an interest in solving the immigration problem?

Second is the current crisis on the southern border. There is a fair criticism that the administration waited too long to respond to the flood of unaccompanied minors. But the president asked Congress more than three weeks ago for funding to help deal with the influx.

Now, Congress is poised to leave on a five-week break without having provided a dime. Reasonable Democrats and Republicans can disagree on how much is required and for what purposes, but not about the fundamental need for additional resources. Cruz's helpful contribution to the debate has been to demand that Obama suspend the program granting a reprieve from deportation to undocumented youth who have been in this country for years -- a total nonstarter.

Remind me: Who hasn't demonstrated an interest in solving the problem?

Cruz's it's-all-their-fault attitude wouldn't be so troubling if it were not a mainstream GOP position. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan, speaking to NBC's David Gregory on "Meet the Press," similarly blamed what he characterized as a do-nothing Senate.

"We've passed over 300 bills in the House, bills aimed at job creation, fixing problems, that are just sitting in the Senate, going nowhere because the Senate has chosen basically to not legislate and give the president a free hand," Ryan said. "Trust me, we're frustrated as much as you are, David. We've been passing solutions, we've been passing bills, and the Senate's been walking away."

Right, like from immigration reform.

Look, the Republican-controlled House and the Democratic-controlled Senate have fundamental and legitimate ideological disagreements. Some of these might not be capable of resolution. Thus, in addition to immigration reform, the Senate votes to extend emergency unemployment benefits or pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act; the House balks at following.

How is that any less recalcitrant -- "walking away" -- than the Senate declining to go along with the House's umpteenth vote to repeal the Affordable Care Act, or impose abortion restrictions or extend corporate tax breaks?

And there is an alternative to walking away, which is called legislating. But that would involve compromise, elevating imperfect solutions over ideological purity, which makes it a no-go in current-day Washington.

This brings me to Republicans' legitimate gripe, with Senate Majority Leader Reid's near-absolute refusal to permit Republican amendments (or Democratic amendments, for that matter) to come up for debate. Republicans have been able to offer just 12 in the last year.

Reid justifies this practice by pointing to Republican efforts to force votes on politically treacherous topics (as if Democrats haven't done the same) and abusing the filibuster rules (a fair complaint.)

Reid needs to ease up. Republicans need to get real. 

(c) 2014, Washington Post Writers Group 

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