Friday, November 11, 2005

Well, I'll be!

"Every victory brings another...."

The House of Representatives has been debating a so-called "deficit reduction" bill that proposes cuts across a variety of social programs - including Food Stamps, Medicaid, child support enforcement, and more - to the tune of a total of $54 billion over the decade. It looked for a time like another wingnut juggernaut.

But believe it or not, a group of at least titular moderate Republicans forced the House leadership to drop from the plan a provision to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska to oil drilling, AP reported late Wednesday. The GOPper minif├╝hrers
also dropped from the budget document plans to allow states to authorize oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts - regions currently under a drilling moratorium.

The actions were a stunning setback for those who have tried for years to open a coastal strip of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil development, and a victory for environmentalists, who have lobbied hard against the drilling provisions.
A group of 25 House Republicans sent a letter to GOPper leaders wanting the provision stripped from the bill and saying that they could not vote for the budget if it wasn't. Given the narrow GOPper hold on the House and the overwhelming Dummycrat opposition to the measure because of the deep cuts it makes in social programs, Hastert and company knew they couldn't afford those defections.

So they dropped the provisions. And oh my Undefined Intelligent Designer of Life, the Universe, and Everything, what do you know? They still can't get the votes they need! So says the Washington Post for Friday:
House Republican leaders were forced to abruptly pull their $54 billion budget-cutting bill off the House floor yesterday, amid growing dissension in Republican ranks over spending priorities, taxes, oil exploration and the reach of government.

A battle between House Republican conservatives and moderates over energy policy and federal anti-poverty and education programs left GOP leaders without enough votes to pass a budget measure they had framed as one of the most important pieces of legislation in years. ...

The House budget vote was supposed to reestablish the Republican commitment to a smaller government that would change the federal approach to Medicaid, food stamps, agriculture subsidies, student loans and a host of other programs.

But moderate Republicans made it clear that was not the way they wanted the party defined. ... [P]olicy changes were hitting the nation's most vulnerable citizens just as the party was preparing another round of tax cuts that would benefit the most affluent.
That is, another round of gutting the poor to fatten the rich - and some GOPpers are starting to feel the political winds shifting to the point where that is no longer a platform on which they wish to run.

Another attempt to pass the bleed-the-poor bill will be made next week. But, the Post says, "lawmakers conceded it will not get any easier" as GOPper "moderates" (wingnuts with some grip on reality) square off against GOPper "conservatives" (wingnuts, minus the grip).

Don't get too excited; this is yet an uphill battle and the real argument, even among the Dims, remains not whether to cut (much less whether to increase) but only how much to cut. Still, it is a hopeful sign that we might be nearer the crest of that hill than we thought a few days ago. As for ANWR, well, that too is still under threat: Senate conferees are supposedly determined to get the region opened up and may be thinking this will be their best chance for some time. The chances of keeping Big Oil's greedy mitts off ANWR remain not good, but they're better than they were.

Footnote: The Post also said that
the Senate Finance Committee broke up in disarray yesterday morning after failing to secure support for a tax package that would have extended the president's 2003 cut to the tax rates on dividends and capital gains. Joining the panel's Democrats, Sen. Olympia J. Snowe (R-Maine) declared she could not support a tax cut that primarily benefited the rich as Congress was trying to cut programs for the poor. But when the panel's chairman, Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), tried to win approval of a tax package without the investment tax cuts, panel conservatives refused to go along.
This despite the fact that
Bush's call to make his first-term tax cuts permanent has had so little support that Grassley drafted a bill that would simply extend some of the Bush tax cuts for a single year. Even that may go nowhere.
It seems the real wingers are sticking to their "More, more, I'm still not satisfied!" way of thinking. Considering that in the past, what has usually brought down reactionary regimes of one sort or another has been the tendency to overreach, I say, good.

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